Recent Posts:

Energy Storage: a Poor Idea for Solar-Thermal Power Project

Ucilia Wang: February 23, 2009, 8:48 PM


Solar-thermal power supporters often cite energy storage as a benefit the technology brings. But it may not be practical for commercial deployment. At least not now. 

Charles Ricker, senior vice president of marketing and business development at BrightSource Energy, said the company isn’t adding the energy storage component its projects because it doesn’t make financial sense.

“We have the ability to add storage, but we are not doing that in any of the projects we are doing,??? said Ricker during a panel at the UC Berkeley Energy Symposium Monday. “The return on investment isn’t there.??? The Oakland, Calif.-based companies have deals to supply solar power to PG&E...

Sen. Reid: Feds Should Trump States in Building the Smart Grid

Jeff St. John: February 23, 2009, 2:32 PM
When it comes to using billions of federal stimulus dollars to build out a "smart" electricity distribution grid, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't want state regulators standing in the way. That's the gist of comment the Nevada Democrat made at a Washington D.C. clean energy meeting Monday, according to Reuters. Reid plans to introduce energy legislation on Thursday to speed the building of transmission infrastructure to bring remote solar-thermal, wind and geothermal power sources to population centers — and the bill would, among other things, seek to give the federal government the authority to build new transmission lines whether or not states like it, he...

Beacon Power Lands AEP Contract

Jeff St. John: February 23, 2009, 11:59 AM
Beacon Power Corp. (NSDQ: BCON) has found a second customer — utility American Electric Power — interested in using its flywheel energy storage systems for so-called frequency regulation services. Beacon will build and operate a 1-megawatt facility for the utility's subsidiary Columbus Southern Power Company to help electricity grid operator PJM regulate the frequency of power over the transmission grid, the companies announced Monday. Like Beacon's existing project with ISO New England, flywheels will be used to keep grid electricity flowing at a constant 60 hertz, or cycles per second. Such frequency regulation takes up as much as 1 percent of all the power produced in...

With NRG Deal, eSolar Inches Toward Ausra Model in Solar Thermal

Michael Kanellos: February 23, 2009, 9:53 AM

It looks like eSolar is moving toward the equipment business too.

Power provider NRG Energy signed a deal with eSolar under which NRG has acquired the rights to build solar thermal power plants on three areas earlier secured by eSolar for $10 million. In turn, eSolar will provide the equipment for the project. The first solar plants from this deal should be operational by 2011. NRG will subsequently sell the power to utilities.

Under the deal, eSolar will become the equipment manufacturer and consultant, not the power provider.

If the contours of the deal sound familiar, that’s because they are. Earlier this year, solar thermal startup Ausra changed its business plans. The...

Shading a Problem for Solar Installers

Ucilia Wang: February 23, 2009, 8:51 AM
Solar energy system owners and installers know that shading -- shadows caused by chimneys, tree branches or dust -- is a problem. How bad is the problem? National Semiconductor paid for a survey to quantify the issue, right before it’s due to start selling chips that it claims can recover some of the energy lost from shading. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said the survey showed that 41 percent of solar installers have to deal with shading when they sell or install a system. Only a little over half of the surveyed, or 54 percent, said shading is not acceptable, suggesting that the issue might not be as dire as it seems. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research did the phone...

Algae Fuel: The Evolutionary Reason It Actually Works

Michael Kanellos: February 23, 2009, 8:33 AM
Everyone has heard the algae pitch by now. The rapid-growing, single-celled buggers produce an inordinate amount of oil. Approximately 30 percent of their body mass in a natural state is lipid content and genetic engineering and selective breeding can pop it up closer to 70 percent. The whole North Sea oil field was once a giant algal bloom. Algae proponents say they will ultimately be able to get 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of oil per acre per year from algae. That's better than cellulosic ethanol where the optimistic prognosis is 2,700 gallons. A couple of thousand square miles of desert land and you could provide all of the fuel the U.S. needs, in theory. Why so greasy?...