Atlantic: Why the Saudis Are Going Solar

Prince Turki bin Saud Bin Mohammad Al Saud is helping Saudi Arabia -- the quintessential petrostate -- prepare to make what could be one of the world’s biggest investments in solar power.

Turki heads two Saudi entities that are pushing solar hard: the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, a national research-and-development agency based in Riyadh, and Taqnia, a state-owned company that has made several investments in renewable energy and is looking to make more. “We have a clear interest in solar energy,” Turki said. “And it will soon be expanding exponentially in the kingdom.”

Such talk sounds revolutionary in Saudi Arabia, for decades a poster child for fossil-fuel waste.

San Francisco Chronicle: Report Blasts Secret Talks Between Utilities, CPUC

The ability of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other utilities to engage in back-channel talks with top California Public Utilities Commission officials unfairly skews decisions in favor of big-money interests, and the practice should be banned in rate cases, a review requested by the state agency concluded Monday.

Such back-door communications became notorious last year when emails showed that a PG&E executive had engaged in a secret campaign to obtain a preferred judge in a $1.3 billion rate-setting case before the utilities commission. Those and other back-channel contacts -- known as ex parte communications -- are the focus of federal and state criminal investigations into whether commission officials violated influence-peddling or other laws.

Engadget: UCLA Discovers How Solar Cells' Charges Can Last for Weeks

Solar cells have always been inspired by photosynthesis, so it's only natural for researchers to take cues from different aspects of the energy-making process. A team of UCLA chemists, for instance, have developed a method that will allow solar cells to keep their charge for weeks instead of the few seconds of which current products are capable.

According to Sarah Tolbert, UCLA chem professor and one of the study's authors, the team looked into plants' nanoscale structures that can keep negatively charged molecules separated from positively charged ones. "That separation is the key to making the process so efficient," she said.

Marine Technology News: Fukushima Floating Offshore Wind Project Progressing

An experimental offshore floating wind farm project sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has been underway since March 2012. Participating in the project is a consortium comprising Marubeni (project integrator), the University of Tokyo (technical advisor), Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, Hitachi, Furukawa Electric, Shimizu, and Mizuho Information & Research.

Assembly work on the 7 MW oil pressure drive-type wind turbine on the three-column semi-sub floater at the Onahama port has been completed, and delivery of the floater to the testing area is scheduled to start shortly as part of the second term of the project.

Detroit Free Press: GM Hiring 300 to Build New Chevrolet Electric Car

General Motors will invest $245 million and eventually hire 300 workers at its Orion Township assembly plant in Michigan to build the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle and another as-yet-undisclosed vehicle, the company said Monday.

"Orion Assembly is a breeding ground for manufacturing innovation," said Cathy Clegg, vice president of GM North America manufacturing and labor relations, in a statement. "It serves as a model for how to engage the entire workforce at all levels to achieve success."