This is essentially a holiday week for Americans, who will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow (and the official start of the Christmas shopping season the day after).
But I don't want to leave without bringing you some interesting news and announcements. So here is my holiday offering:
Distributed Solar Company Can't Be a Utility: Maine's Public Utilities Commission has rejected a solar power company's bid to become an electric utility.
Apparently, Grid Solar believes it deserves the designation because it wants to develop a network of distributed solar generation projects. Those projects typically refer to commercial or residential rooftop installations that produce electricity for either onsite use or feeding the grid, or both.
Historically, utilities have preferred to build centralized power plants and transport electricity vial a network of transmission and distribution lines.
Grid Solar has opposed a $1.5 billion proposal by the Central Maine Power Co. to upgrade its transmission lines. Grid Solar said such a transmission project is a costly and less effective means of meeting the growing power demand in the state, particularly during peak hours (see Grid Solar's view here).
Grid Solar is proposing to build 100 megawatts of distributed solar projects over five years that would be connected to Central Maine's distribution network.
Blowing Up a 'Historic' Solar Thermal Power Tower: Southern California Edison has dismantled the central tower for two solar thermal power demonstration projects that stood near the eastern California desert town of Daggett for nearly 30 years.
Edison hired CST Environmental to demolish the tower, which hadn't produced any energy for about 10 years, reported the Desert Dispatch. CST attached explosives to two of the tower's four legs and detonated them Tuesday.
The two projects used flat mirrors to concentrate the sunlight for heating water in the tower to generate steam. The steam would then be piped to a generator to produce electricity. Companies such as eSolar in Pasadena, Calif., Torresol Energy in Spain and BrightSource Energy in Oakland, Calif., are developing this type of technology.
Solyndra recently broke ground on a new factory near its headquarters after securing a $535 million loan from the U.S. government (see Solyndra: Fab 2 Construction Begins). The company began production at its existing factory complex last summer.
The company's solar panels are unconventional. Each one is made up of 40 tubes lined with solar cells, which rely on a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenium to generate electricity (see Solyndra Rolls Out Tube-Shaped Thin Film). The company also has designed the rack for supporting those panels on flat commercial rooftops.
The company has announced more than $2 billion worth of contracts in the past year.
More Solar Thermal Power in Spain: Abengoa Solar of Spain and E.ON Climate & Renewables of Germany are teaming up to build two power plants that will use curved mirrors to concentrate the sunlight and heat a fluid for creating steam, which is then used to run a generator for electricity production.
Each of the two power plants would have an annual capacity of 50 megawatts and located in the southern Spanish town of Ecija. Spain has a feed-in tariff for solar thermal power plants that can be no bigger than 50 megawatts.
The two companies plan to pump €500 million ($756.8 million) to build the two plants. The power plants are scheduled to come online in 2011 and 2012.
Abengoa also is developing solar thermal power farms in the United States. The company has signed a deal to sell electricity to San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. from a yet-to-be built, 250-megawatt solar farm in San Bernardino County in Southern California. Abengoa also plans to build a 280-megawatt solar farm and sells the power to Arizona Public Service.
Czech Republic to Lower Feed-In Tariffs: The Czech government said it would cut its solar incentives by 5 percent for 2010.
Solar companies have considered the Czech Republic as one of the promising new markets in Europe, particularly after Spain decided last year to shrink its solar incentives and put a cap on how much new generation capacities would qualify for the subsidies each year.
Solar power project owners in the Czech Republic will get 12,250 crowns per megawatt hour next year, down from 12,890 crowns in 2009. The decline isn't a surprise, since the government had made it known before. Still, in any country that has a feed-in tariff policy, there tends to be a rush to complete projects right before the new rates are to take effect.
The feed-in tariff refers to the pricing for solar electricity, and it's used to encourage renewable energy generation. The pricing, set by the government, is higher than the pricing for fossil fuel-based power. That's because solar power is still largely more expensive than electricity from coal or natural gas-fired power plants.
The Czech Republic has a goal to generate 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.