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Duke Energy Says It Can’t Afford the $50M Solar Project

Ucilia Wang: January 30, 2009, 1:49 PM

Duke Energy might abandon a project to experiment with distributed solar energy unless North Carolina state regulators change their minds about how the utility can recover the project’s cost.

Duke petitioned the North Carolina Utilities Commission Thursday to remove the limits the commission set last December. Back then, the commission said Duke could only pass on part of the $50 million project cost onto ratepayers under the state’s 2007 renewable energy law. The utility might be able to recover the rest of the cost in a separate process.

Duke now says those restrictions could force it to violate federal accounting rules governing how the utility can take advantage of up to...

Manure-to-Energy to Get Federal Backing?

Jeff St. John: January 30, 2009, 10:31 AM

Could manure become cost-competitive as a source of energy?

U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson thinks so — with a little federal stimulation.

The Nebraska Democrat has introduced legislation to give tax credits for producing methane — i.e., natural gas — from manure, according to the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog.

That could help out manure-to-biogas producers like Environmental Power subsidiary Microgy or BioEnergy Solutions in California’s Central Valley (see Sixteen Ancient Technologies Reborn). They’re among about 120 projects around the nation now generating enough gas for about 256,000 million kilowatt-hours of power, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection...

Correction: SunPower CMO Is Still Around

Ucilia Wang: January 30, 2009, 9:45 AM

We broke the story yesterday about layoffs at SunPower, and reported that the company’s chief marketing officer, Brad Davis, was one of the casualties. But the company got back to us later to say that wasn’t true. We apologize for the mistake.

While SunPower wouldn’t confirm names of those who have been let go, its director of communications, Stephen Wright, pointed out in an email that all the executives listed on the company’s Website are still gainfully employed. That means Davis is still with the company.

SunPower, like many other solar companies, are cutting staff and costs to weather the economic downturn. The San Jose, Calif.-based company said yesterday it had let...

San Jose Mayor: Maybe Some of Tesla’s Facility Will Come Here

Michael Kanellos: January 30, 2009, 7:46 AM
San Jose Mayor chuck Reed isn't giving up on Tesla Motors. Speaking to an audience at the "State of the Clean Green Industry" held by the SD Forum at Sun's headquarters, Reed said that he is working with Tesla to put some operations within the city limits. In fact, he was touring real estate sites with Tesla execs. Tesla might put in R&D or powertrain assembly in the city. But what could be called a complete assembly facility? Probably not. "One site on Zanker road? That is probably not feasible." Last year, Tesla announced plans to build a massive facility here with the blessing and support of the city and state. Since then, however, the economy has gone south and CEOs...

SunPower Lays Off Dozens

Ucilia Wang: January 29, 2009, 8:03 AM

SunPower Corp. isn’t immune to a growing industry trend: layoffs.

The solar panel maker in San Jose, Calif. has laid off 60 to 75 people, a source told us. Among those folks who were let go included Brad Davis, the chief marketing officer, the source said. SunPower created the CMO position and hired Davis in 2007.

Other management-level employees who were laid off also included Whitney Thomlin, a manager at SunPower’s installation business, and Stephen Kelley, a sales director, the source said.

A SunPower spokeswoman said the company will respond to a request for information shortly.

UPDATE: The company said it let go 60 people in its non-manufacturing operations. That...

Ausra Update: Layoffs and a Change of Business Plans Confirmed

Michael Kanellos: January 28, 2009, 9:04 PM
On Monday, Ausra execs called up to confirm and clarify and earlier story we wrote about their layoffs. The solar thermal company confirmed it laid off about 10 percent of its staff, a spokeswoman said Monday. The layoffs occurred in January (laid off employees told us they began in December.) At the same time, she said the company is changing business plans. While it still plans to complete the solar thermal project it has with PG&E, it will now become an equipment supplier rather than a power producer. Since then, the company's been trying to schedule a meeting with us to further explain its change in lifestyle. In short, it will sell its mirrors, pipes and steam-capture...

Battery Startup Imara Makes Massive Breakthrough: Proves Naming Consultants Work

Michael Kanellos: January 28, 2009, 2:10 PM
Name consultants generally rank fairly low on the utilitarian/work-is-noble scale. They are more useful than coal scuttlers in the public mind, but way below tree root remover, corn-dog coater and people that paint themselves silver and pretend to be statues. But Imara, the lithium-ion battery manufacturer that used to be known as LiON Cells, has unearthed evidence that they actually work. When the company wanted to rename itself, it held a contest. Employees, the public relations firm and others submitted 320 names, said CEO Jeff Depew. A ringer, a branding consultant, also submitted names. The list was winnowed down to 10. Eight of the 10 were from the naming consultant,...