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A Different Financing Approach: Solar Millennium Sells 74% Stake in Solar Thermal Power Project

Ucilia Wang: July 10, 2009, 4:23 PM

Solar Millennium and MAN Ferrostaal are jointly selling 74 percent of their 50-megawatt Andasol 3 project in Spain to Stadtwerke Munchen and a holding company created by RWE Innogy and RheinEnergie.

Before the sale, Solar Millennium and MAN Ferrostaal jointly owned 100 percent of Marquesado Solar, the company set up to develop Andasol 3. They owned Marquesado through a joint venture called Solanda.

After the sale, Stadtwerke would own 48.9 percent of Marquesado. The holding company for REW and RheinEnergie would own 25.1 percent. Solanda would keep the remaining 26 percent.

The solar thermal power plant is currently under construction in southern Spain.

Solar Millennium, based in...

National Semiconductor Moving Into Home Automation,

Michael Kanellos: July 10, 2009, 1:56 PM

Two years ago, National Semiconductor started to push into solar. Now it wants to get into smart grid too.

The company, which turned 50 this year, is looking at ways to provide things like power management chips and microcontrollers to companies that will make smart appliances and technologies for controlling power inside the home, said CEO Brian Halla during an interview. (We visited him as part of a buildup to Intersolar U.S. taking place next year.).

Halla also expressed quite a bit of interest in controllers for streetlights and LEDs.

It makes sense. National essentially makes chips that control some of these functions in computers. One very interesting idea he suggested: the DC...

Oregon Startup Sets Up Shop ‘Lightening Fast’ to Sell Chinese Solar Panels

Ucilia Wang: July 10, 2009, 2:36 AM

Centron Solar settled on its name only last month and leased a 25,000-square-foot warehouse within two weeks. It received its $1 million, first shipment of solar panels from China a week ago.

Does Centron represent an emerging business model in the growing U.S. market? The Oregonian ran an interesting story about Centron, which was started by a former Solarfun executive and imports solar panels made by a cluster of companies near Shanghai. These companies produce different components, assemble them into panels and market them under the Centron brand.

The startup claims it could undercut competitors by pricing its panels at least 10 percent cheaper.

The founder, Ocean Yuan, was the...

ReVolt, BASF Sign Zinc-Air Battery Development Deal

Jeff St. John: July 9, 2009, 2:05 PM

Swiss startup ReVolt Technology will have chemical giant BASF's help in commercializing its rechargeable zinc-air batteries, the companies announced Thursday.

Financial terms of the deal weren't announced, but BASF said it would put its engineers on the task, as well as provide materials and subsystems to "help BASF to assess today's and future potential of this technology."

Metal-air batteries generate power by exposing metal and an electrolyte to oxygen, oxidizing the metal and releasing energy (see Electricity From Air and Zinc? A Growing Chorus Says Yes).

They can offer many multiples the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, but recharging them is a challenge, as the chemical...

SolFocus Raises $30.6M More to Close C Round

Ucilia Wang: July 9, 2009, 8:00 AM

SolFocus has raised an additional $30.6 million to bring the total amount for its C round to $77.6 million, the company said Thursday. The company said it had closed the first part of the funding in January this year.

The Mountain View, Calif., startup said it would use the money to transition from pilot to commercial production of its concentrating photovoltaic systems this year.

SolFocus has developed systems with curved glass reflectors and lenses to concentrate sunlight onto solar cells for electricity generation. The triple-junction solar cells are expensive and make use of gallium-arsenide, germanium and other materials in the III-V semiconductor group.

Through the use of the...

Ascent Solar’s CIGS Panels Get 10% Efficiency

Ucilia Wang: July 8, 2009, 5:34 PM

Back in March, Ascent Solar announced that it had begun regular production of its copper-indium-gallium-selenide panels on a 1.5-megawatt pilot line.

The Littleton, Colo.-based company has since submitted panels from the factory to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for testing. NREL has confirmed that the panels could achieve 10.4 percent efficiency – that is, they could convert 10.4 percent of the sunlight that hits them into electricity, Ascent Solar said Wednesday.

Unlike some other CIGS companies, Ascent Solar is depositing CIGS on plastic instead of glass, an approach that reduces manufacturing costs and makes the panels flexible for building-integrated projects,...

PG&E Picks Solon for First Utility-Owned Project

Ucilia Wang: July 8, 2009, 1:33 PM

Solon has become the first company selected by Pacific Gas and Electric for installing a solar energy project as part of the California utility's proposed plan to develop and own 250 megawatts of solar energy systems.

The German solar panel maker and project developer plans to contract Silverwood Energy to construct the 2-megawatt project, which would be located next to a PG&E substation in Vacaville.

PG&E first proposed the 250-megawatt project in February this year, an announcement that represented the utility's first plan to own and operate its own renewable energy generation facilities in over a decade, the company said at the time.

Aside from owning its own solar projects, PG&E...