Recent Posts:

First Solar Buys Rights to Projects From Ailing OptiSolar

Michael Kanellos: March 2, 2009, 12:45 PM
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. First Solar, the dominant player in thin-film solar modules, has bought the rights to build 1.8 gigawatts worth of solar fields from ailing OptiSolar as well as the rights to build solar farms on 136,000 acres of land that could ultimately produce 19 gigawatts of power. The deal marks a significant expansion of First Solar into power generation. The company bought Turner Renewable Energy, a solar farm developer, in November 2007. So far, First Solar has built a 10-megawatt solar farm. It has also signed contracts to build solar plants for Southern California Edison. The OptiSolar deals, however, dwarf them. The deal also likely...

Oerlikon Solar to Overtake Applied Materials in Near Term, Says Analyst

Ucilia Wang: March 2, 2009, 12:19 PM

Oerlikon Solar is pulling ahead of Applied Materials in a race to dominate the amorphous silicon thin-film solar market, wrote Weston Twigg, a senior research analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a research note Monday.

Both Oerlikon and Applied don’t expect to ink new sales contracts in the near future, a result of the tough market conditions. But Oerlikon has sharpened its competitive edge by lowering the initial capital costs to install and run its factory equipment, and by its recent alliance with Tokyo Electron, Twigg wrote.

Oerlikon’s customers have produced about 800,000 solar panels, compared with the 100,000 panels made by Applied’s customers, Twigg wrote....

Wind Turbines, Batteries Included

Jeff St. John: March 2, 2009, 11:13 AM

Wind power is the world’s most developed renewable energy source after hydroelectric dams, but it has one big problem — wind doesn’t blow at the same speed all the time, making variable output from wind turbines hard to integrate into the electricity grid.

Japan Steel Works is aiming to ease that problem by building wind turbines with batteries included in them, according to Nikkei via Asia Pulse. The maker of steel products including nuclear plant pressure vessels plans to start selling the turbines, built in conjunction with battery manufacturer Meidensha Corp. next year, according to news reports.

Whether the added cost — as much as twice that of conventional wind...

New Strategy Forces Entech Into Layoffs

Matthew Weinberg: March 2, 2009, 10:22 AM
It’s not a sunny day for the staff at Entech Solar, which plans to lay off 40 percent of its employees as it retools itself. Earlier this year, World Water & Solar, which garners most of its revenue from commercial solar installations, and Entech, a solar panel maker, merged to market a somewhat unusual system that combines silicon photovoltaic cells and a fluid-filled heat pipe. The PV cells provide electricity while the pipe can harvest heat for rooms or hot water. The companies are part of the far-flung Quercus Trust portfolio. The combined system harvests 60 percent of the energy the sun puts out, according to Frank Smith, CEO of Entech. "We will continue to search for...

What Drives Smart Grid? Fear!

Michael Kanellos: March 2, 2009, 10:21 AM
All this time you thought utilities were interested in smart meters and other demand response systems to save power and cut costs. They are, but fear has also become a big motivator, says Jesse Berst, Managing Director of Global Smart Energy, who stopped by our offices late last week to chat. Grid stability has become a major issue in the past few years. Potential transmission breakdowns used to occur once a week or so. Now, it's almost a daily occurrence. Sometimes, a utility can experience a transmission crisis a few times a day. "It is getting really scary," he said. Several utilities are also reaching maximum capacity. Harvesting inefficiently used power from the grid...

CO2 to Fuel: How Real Is It?

Michael Kanellos: March 2, 2009, 9:50 AM
Carbon Sciences -- which wants to turn carbon dioxide into consumer products -- says it has completed a prototype manufacturing system that shows how it can convert carbon dioxide, captured from a smokestack, into liquid fuels. Technically, Carbon Science uses biocatalysts -- i.e., enzymes and other naturally occurring catalysts -- into methanol, a liquid fuel. The fuel can later be upgraded through chemical processing into gasoline, butanol or other higher value fuels. For the past few years, the company has touted a system that can convert captured CO2 into calcium carbonates, white mineral powders that can be stored easily or transformed into things like baking powder or raw...