It’s official: Gemini Solar Development, a new joint venture between Suntech Power Holdings and MMA Renewable Ventures, has scored its first project.
The City of Austin on Thursday awarded Gemini a $250 million, 25-year contract to sell electricity from a 30-megawatt solar power plant. The plant, which is scheduled to begin producing electricity in 2010 to customers of city-owned Austin Energy, will be built on 350 acres of city-owned land, the city said. Gemini, based in San Francisco, will be responsible for operating and maintaining the power plant.
The deal would help the municipal utility meet its goal of obtaining 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2020. Austin Energy wants the renewable energy mix to include 100 megawatts of solar power.
Suntech, a solar panel maker based in China, and MMA announced the creation of Gemini last October. Gemini’s mandate is to develop and operate large-scale solar power plants of 10 megawatts -- or more -- in capacity. The joint venture hopes to build projects and sell the solar electricity to utilities in the country, many of which have to meet state or local renewable energy mandates.
With the pending sale of MMA's solar assets to Spain's Fotowatio, Gemini is set to become a joint venture between Suntech and Fotowatio's U.S. operation.
Gemini is one of a growing number of solar project developers targeting the utility market. First Solar, also a solar panel producer, also is making a strong bid for utility customers. The company, based in Tempe, Ariz., said earlier this week that it would buy a portfolio of unfinished solar energy projects from OptiSolar.
The California Air Resources Board released a draft regulation Thursday to require the use of alternative transportation fuels in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
CARB released the proposal for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard that would promote alternative fuel use and enable the state to meet its emissions reductions goals. Fuel producers, importers, refiners and blenders will have to start providing fuels to meet the standard starting in 2011. The standard is based on calculations carried out by CARB's staff on the greenhouse gas emissions that can be produced by the production, transportation and use of various types of fuels.
One of the goals for enacting a new fuel standard is to replace 20 percent of the conventional fuels used by cars in the state with cleaner alternatives such as electricity, biofuels, natural gas and hydrogen, the CARB said.
The public will have 45 days to review and comment on the proposed standard.
The proposal is one of a series of regulations that CARB is drafting to meet the mandate of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a sweeping legislation designed to cut California’s greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 levels by 2020. The transportation sector, from fuel production to tailpipe emissions, is responsible for generating 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, the CARB said.
CARB issued a master plan last December for carrying out the climate change law. The plan included a program to cap and trade carbon emissions.
The proposed fuel standard will sure elicit strong opposition from some fuel makers. In fact, an ethanol advocacy group last October objected to the metrics used by CARB staff to determine what types of alternative fuels would pose more environmental harm than others.
The sticking point was the inclusion of the impact of indirect land use, such as emissions that resulted from clearing forestland for farming energy crops. Measuring direct land use impact would look only at the emissions that come from growing and turning crops into fuels.
Another ethanol group called Growth Energy reiterated the same objection Thursday. Measuring indirect land-use impact would unfairly punish ethanol makers, the group said
CARB recently passed other regulations aimed at reducing emissions, including one that requires big rigs truckers to add filters to their existing fleets between 2011 and 2014. A new law that took effect in January limits the amount of time long-haul truckers can idle the engines in order to cut emissions.
Ecolite Concrete (Ecolite) is a San Diego company that provides sustainable construction materials using proprietary modeling software and a patent-pending system for making pre-fabricated concrete (read the Sustainable Industries article here) The manufacturing process starts with project plans developed by the company’s EcoCad modeling and engineering software, which produces a shop drawing of each wall panel. Ecolite has filed an application to register the EcoCad service mark for “computer-aided engineering services for others (77194288_app.pdf). The wall panel info is sent to roll-forming machines, where the shop drawing is translated into appropriately sized and marked steel framing members. The steel members are snapped into place and fastened together into assembled frames forming the composite panels. These panels are covered by U.S. Patent Application Pub. No. 2007/0062151, entitled “Composite building panel and method of making composite building panel.
Concrete (12) is then poured into the composite panel (10), which includes the frame (14) and has a front face (16) and a rear face (18). The panel also has a high performance steel lath (not shown) attached to the assembled frames to provide additional strength. The concrete is then smoothed and cured, and the panels are kept in a storage facility or shipped to the construction site. The Sustainable Industries piece says that Ecolite’s automated steel system is the first of its kind in the U.S. It also provides benefits for green builders. According to the company’s Website, Ecolite’s concrete mix is made of about 25 percent recycled content and Ecolite walls can assist builders in achieving LEED green building ratings for their projects by providing credits in several LEED categories. Eric Lane is a patent attorney and intellectual property lawyer at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego, where he is in the Intellectual Property and Climate Change & Clean Technology practices. Eric is the founder and author of Green Patent Blog, which provides discussion and analysis of intellectual property law issues in clean technology.