Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Vinon-sur-Verdon Solar Park showcases Schneider Electric’s unique expertise as a solutions provider for renewable energies

On May 15, Schneider Electric inaugurated the Vinon-sur-Verdon Solar Park in southeastern France, in partnership with SolaireDirect and Caisse des Dépots.

With the Vinon-sur-Verdon photovoltaic solar farm, Schneider Electric sets the standard for safe, reliable, efficient, productive, green energy. Its ability to offer an array-to-grid solution and related services to manage and convert the electricity produced by the photovoltaic modules and feed it to the grid makes Schneider Electric the only market operator to provide end-to-end management of solar array intelligence.

Henri Lachmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Schneider Electric said: « The Vinon-sur-Verdon Solar Park is a tangible example of how we implement our ‘One’ company program. It combines all of the Group’s products and services in a seamless, end-to-end solution tailored to the customer’s specific needs. »

The Vinon-sur-Verdon photovoltaic solar park will produce enough energy to meet the needs of 4,000 people, without the 2,800 metric tons of carbon emissions an equivalent fossil fuel-fired power plant would produce. Built for Solaire Durance, a joint venture between Caisse des Dépots and SolaireDirect, the park sits on nine hectares of land and consists of 19,000 photovoltaic panels, for an installed capacity of 4.2 MW.

Claude Graff, Executive Vice President, Renewable Energies of Schneider Electric explained: « The park demonstrates Schneider Electric’s renewable energies strategy, consisting of an end-to-end solution and related services to convert and manage the electricity generated by the photovoltaic solar panels and ensure a reliable connection to the power grid. »

By offering an integrated, end-to-end solution and acting as the sole contact for plant management for Solaire Durance, Schneider Electric has demonstrated unique know-how that complements the expertise of solar panel designers and sets it apart from rivals. Its products and services cover every requirement, from photovoltaic solar cells to connection to the French national 20 kV grid. They include feasibility studies, power distribution architecture design, the supply of all types of equipment including junction boxes, inverters, prefabricated transformer substations, MV transformer substations, the supervision system and video surveillance, as well as operating and maintaining the site for 20 years.

Through its operating and maintenance services, Schneider Electric can guarantee Solaire Durance 97.5% availability, leveraging both preventive maintenance to anticipate problems and monitoring equipment installed at critical locations in the park. The monitoring devices provide a variety of data on the array’s operation — the status of the photovoltaic modules and inverters, the production modules, fault reporting and alarms — and enable Schneider Electric to respond in real time to correct malfunctions and resume operations as soon as possible.

Renewable energies are the key to meeting changing energy demand while reducing carbon emissions. Over the last several years, the Group has added to its stature as a major provider of renewable energy solutions, notably by acquiring companies such as Xantrex, a world leader in the inverter market for the renewable energies sector.

In addition, venture capital fund Schneider Electric Ventures is responsible for identifying new growth and innovation opportunities, focusing on emerging market and technology trends early and cultivating partnerships with startups on the cutting edge of their fields. For these reasons, it acquired a 20% interest in SolaireDirect.

The major sustainable development issues of lowering consumption, producing more efficiently, enhancing energy efficiency, protecting the environment and helping to drive renewable energy development are core focuses of Schneider Electric’s businesses and strategy. The Vinon-sur-Verdon Solar Park demonstrates its ability to deliver appropriate, integrated solutions and showcases its unique position in providing access to renewable energies.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saint-Gobain Solar launches a wide range of photovoltaic solutions for buildings

Saint-Gobain Solar, the Group's specialized solar power business, has just introduced a comprehensive range of photovoltaic solutions designed to fit into the building envelope. Saint-Gobain Solar now offers a full range of PV roofing, façades and glass roofs for residential homes, offices, industrial installations and farm buildings.

The offer is made up of three parts:
• Full PV systems: Saint-Gobain Solar designs, selects and supplies its partners with the whole set of components (PV panels, tiles and glazing, fixing systems, wires, inverters, junction boxes, etc.) required to make the solar solution operational.
• Installation through a network of qualified partner installers: Saint-Gobain Solar solutions are installed by experts trained on both the products and high quality standards of Saint-Gobain Solar.
• Related turnkey solutions: to facilitate the running and monitoring of projects, Saint-Gobain Solar backs its offer up with a variety of services ranging from feasibility studies to financing, and including administrative procedures and the certified training of its partners.

"Saint-Gobain Solar's aim is to see the envelope of buildings as a source of renewable energy which is both pleasing to the eye, economical and compliant with sustainable building requirements" explains Fabrice Didier, Saint-Gobain Solar's Managing Director.

Saint-Gobain Solar capitalizes on the unique know-how of Saint-Gobain, the global number one in the housing and construction sector and the world's leading manufacturer and distributor of building materials, and on its acknowledged expertise in PV technologies.

Monday, May 18, 2009

DOE to invest up to US$33.5m in wind energy projects

DOE announced on May 12 that it plans to provide Massachusetts with $25 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate the development of the state's Wind Technology Testing Center. Conveniently located in Boston Harbor, the new center will be the first commercial facility in the nation for large wind turbine blades. It will allow for the testing of blades longer than 50 meters to help reduce cost, improve technical advancements, and speed deployment of the next generation of wind turbines. DOE selected Massachusetts for the facility in June 2007, pledging $2 million to support the project. The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust also committed $13.2 million in grants and loans to develop the facility, and the state is now concluding the final design for the testing center. With the injection of Recovery Act funds, construction can begin in September and will be complete by the end of next year, creating hundreds of new jobs in the area. See the DOE press release.

DOE also announced on May 6 that it will invest up to $8.5 million in 53 new wind energy projects in 24 states, plus the District of Columbia. Funded with fiscal year 2009 appropriations, the projects will support the goals outlined in DOE's 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report, which found that the United States has enough wind resources to generate 20% of the country's electrical needs. The report also identified several challenges to this goal, including the need for investment in a national transmission system; larger electric load balance areas and better regional planning; reduction in wind turbine capital costs; improvement of turbine performance; resolution of siting and environmental issues; and workforce development.

The awards include four topic areas: market acceptance, environmental impact, workforce development, and distributed wind technology. Awards for two other topic areas—supporting wind turbine research and testing and transmission analysis; planning and assessments—will be announced at a later date. The awards went to colleges and universities, organizations, companies, and state governments in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, as well as Washington, D.C. See the DOE press release for a list of all of the awardees: http://www.energy.gov/news2009/7381.htm

Limbach Energy Solutions Embraces Demand for Energy Efficiency, Expands Into Eight New Markets

Limbach Facility Services, one of the United States leading specialty contractors, announced today that it is expanding its energy services portfolio designed to help building owners lower energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency. The Pittsburgh-based company, which has specialized in mechanical contracting for more than a century, will offer its suite of building retrofit services to building owners in eight new markets including Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Orlando, Tampa and Washington DC.

For the last 16 years, Limbach Energy Solutions has provided energy retrofit services to schools, hospitals and government buildings in Ohio. New government incentives and the prospect of rising energy costs, meanwhile, are prompting building owners across the country to update mechanical and electrical systems to generate substantial long-term cost savings.

“Limbach is a company steeped in tradition. We’ve survived a depression, more recessions than I can count, two World Wars and being acquired by Enron. We’ve succeeded this long because we’re not afraid to embrace changes that benefit our customers, our employees and our bottom-line,” said Charlie Bacon, CEO, Limbach.

Limbach’s roots as a specialty mechanical contractor and building service partner provide the company a unique perspective in the energy solutions market. By leveraging its entire portfolio of mechanical contracting services from building design to construction and all the way through building maintenance, Limbach provides a single source of accountability for building retrofits.

Qualified building owners are given a comprehensive energy audit and then provided a variety of options ranging from performance contracts to retrofit options, building re-commissioning, and operational improvement recommendations. The audit examines several options, including utility procurement, building envelope improvements, lighting system upgrades, HVAC equipment replacements and service, automatic temperature controls and building management systems, water conservation, and any other areas where owners spend money to operate their buildings. Building enhancements are ideal for hospitals, K-12 and higher education schools, and federal, state and municipal government buildings, as well as owner-occupied commercial and industrial buildings.

“We’re not just a project financier, equipment provider or general contractor,” said David Leathers, senior vice president, Building Service and Energy Solutions, Limbach. “We’re the single-source for the entire project. That reduces the number of touch points and layers of accountability and ensures that we deliver stellar results. Because we self perform, we control the project schedule and project quality. And because we’re vendor neutral, each individual customer can be assured we’re providing the best solution possible.”

In recent years, the company has contributed its energy-saving expertise to Ohio facilities such as Marion General Hospital, Worthington Schools, the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, and National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Duke Energy to Build up to 400 'Mini' Solar Power Plants in North Carolina

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) will build between 100 and 400 electricity-generating mini solar power plants throughout North Carolina over the next two years in one of the first large-scale initiatives of its kind in the U.S., CEO Jim Rogers said today.

"Solar and wind are both going to be key parts of our strategy going forward," Rogers told reporters following the company's annual meeting.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Wednesday issued a decision allowing Duke Energy to proceed with its $50-million proposal to install solar panels on the roofs and grounds of homes, schools, office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses and industrial plants, starting later this year.

Collectively, the solar sites will generate enough electricity to power 1,300 homes.

The electricity will flow directly from the solar sites to the electrical grid that serves all customers.

Duke Energy's solar initiative will be among the nation's first and largest demonstrations of distributed generation, in which electricity is produced at numerous micro generating sites rather than at a large, centralized, traditional power plant.

"We are redefining our boundaries. We're looking ahead and we're looking around the corner," Rogers told shareholders attending the meeting. "We believe the future is a low-carbon world. The 21st century mission of our company is to decarbonize our energy supply and provide universal access to energy efficiency."

Duke Energy will own and maintain the solar panels during their expected 25-year lifespan. The company also will own the electricity generated.

It will pay a rental fee to property owners who host the panels for use of their roofs or land, based on the size of the installation and amount of electricity generated at any given site.

Property owners interested in having their home, business or land considered as a potential solar site can register online at www.duke-energy.com/solar-host.

Properties must be located in North Carolina and currently served by Duke Energy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

PG&E and BrightSource sign record solar deal, 1310 MW

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced today that it has entered into a series of contracts with BrightSource Energy, Inc. for a total of 1,310 megawatts (MW) of solar thermal power.

These power purchase agreements, covering seven projects, supersede the agreements PG&E executed with BrightSource in April 2008 for up to 900 MW of solar thermal power.

The first of these solar power plants, sized at 110 MW and located in Ivanpah, Calif., is contracted to begin operation in 2012. BrightSource will build and place in commercial operation each of its plants as quickly as permitting and infrastructure allow. All seven projects are expected to produce 3,666 gigawatt-hours of power each year, equal to the annual consumption of about 530,000 average homes.

“The solar thermal projects announced today exemplify PG&E’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy we provide to our customers throughout northern and central California,” said John Conway, senior vice president of energy supply for PG&E. “Through these agreements with BrightSource, we can harness the sun’s energy to meet our customers’ power requirements when they need it most – during hot summer days.”

“Today’s agreements reflect the technological milestones that the BrightSource Energy team has achieved over the past year,” said John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy. “Our technology is setting the bar for efficient production of solar energy. We’re thrilled by the opportunity to help PG&E and other leaders bring energy customers more clean and reliable solar energy.”

Since 2002, PG&E has entered into contracts for more than 20 percent of its future electric power deliveries from renewable sources. On average, half of the electricity PG&E delivers to its customers comes from carbon-free generating sources, making the company’s energy among the cleanest in the nation.

Green light for world’s largest offshore wind farm

DONG Energy, E.ON and Masdar have today announced that they will invest €2.2bn in building the first 630MW phase of the London Array offshore wind farm in the Thames Estuary.

Once complete, the scheme will be the the world’s largest, and the first 1GW, offshore wind farm. The project will supply enough power for around 750,000 homes – or a quarter of Greater London homes - and displace the emission of 1.9m tonnes of CO2 every year.

Today’s announcement comes after the UK Government’s recent proposal to increase its support for offshore wind power. The partners are satisfied that the project is now financially viable and are now keen to push ahead with construction and to produce the first renewable power in 2012.

Anders Eldrup, CEO of DONG Energy, said: “Following the 2 ROC announcement, and our subsequent decision to build the Walney projects, I’m thrilled that we today also have the final investment decision on the London Array project. The decision to build the London Array offshore wind farm is a very significant cornerstone in DONG Energy’s strategy to increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. DONG Energy has built approximately half of all offshore wind farms in operation in the world today.

Entering into the world’s largest offshore wind farm project further strengthens DONG Energy’s leading position in this field.”

E.ON CEO Dr. Wulf Bernotat said: “I’m delighted that work can now get underway on the world’s largest offshore wind farm. The start of London Array will mark a key milestone in our roadmap as we continue with our ambitious strategy to take renewables to an industrial level. With this pioneering scheme, we see a significant increase in scale for offshore wind and also for E.ON as we aim to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm developer.

“Today’s announcement is proof that, if all interested parties work together, renewable power can be taken to its next level and so make a real difference to the fight against climate change.”

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, said: “The leadership of Abu Dhabi recognizes the importance of global collaboration and engagement to deploy renewable energy on a large scale. The London Array represents Masdar’s strategic approach to renewable energy, whereby real partnerships are formed between government and the private sector. This project is a great achievement for the UK government, E.ON, DONG Energy and Masdar, which exemplifies our commitment to build cooperation to take renewable energy further down the path to widespread global adoption.” Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “The London Array is a flagship project in our drive to cut emissions by 80% by 2050 and meet future energy needs. The UK is a world leader in offshore wind farms, creating jobs and prosperity for the economy. That’s why we have increased our support for this technology as we move towards a low carbon future. “E.ON, DONG Energy and Masdar are to be congratulated for their work on the London Array.”

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said: “This is another green light for green energy. It’s a vote of confidence in the support the Government has put into backing renewable energy.

“The UK is already the world’s leading offshore wind power and this multi-billion pound project will help keep us there, cut our carbon emissions and contribute to secure energy supplies.”

Onshore work is now due to start in the summer, with offshore work due to start in early 2011.

The scheme will be built around 12 miles off the coasts of Kent and Essex. The wind farm will be installed on a 90 square mile site and will be built in two phases. The consortium hopes the first phase of 630MW will be completed and generating in 2012. The first phase will consist of 175 turbines. The second phase will add enough capacity to bring the total to 1,000MW.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Launching of European Algae Biomass Association

The European Algae Biomass Association will be officially launched during the first EABA Conference–General Assembly to be held June 3-4 in Florence, Italy.

The University of Florence and the European Biodiesel Board, together with number of major stakeholders in the EU algae sector, have announced the launching of the association. The EABA was founded to foster synergies among science and industry, while cooperating with decisionmakers for the promotion of development in research and technology in the field of algae.

Algae and aquatic biomass are increasingly raising the interest of the scientific community, industry representatives and political decisionmakers as they represent one of the most promising renewable sources for a wide range of third-generation low-carbon applications in the field of renewable energies, biofuels (including jet fuels), nutrients, pharmaceuticals, animal feed or biobased products (bioplastics, biocosmetics, etc.).

In all these sectors, algae and aquatic biomass hold the potential to achieve a real revolution toward a fully sustainable economy. Algae have the potential to grow and produce impressive amounts of biomass using for instance sea water (a virtually unlimited raw material) and reduced surfaces (even of unproductive land) where a bioreactor or a pond can be installed to grow algae. This could be feasible today, but a number of technical, legal and scientific obstacles still need to be solved to bring down the final price of algae biomass to an economic level and to produce a fully reliable quality product. This needs to be improved, while avoiding over-enthusiastic announcements and promoting efficient and responsible research. This is the objective of the newly founded EABA, which aims to support the efforts of the various actors in the algae sector in order to make this happen. The development of research toward an algae industry deserves today to be supported as a priority in light of the major challenges Europe is facing to reduce greenhouse gases, improve energy supply security and promote technological excellence.

EABA members and supporters constitute a large and solid group of major stakeholders inside and outside of the EU, within academia, political and industrial decisionmakers, including the European Commission, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, the EBB, the University of Florence, the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, the Imperial College in London, the University of Wageningen and the companies Roquette and Diester in France, Repsol in Spain, Neste Oil in Finland, SBAE Industries in Belgium and many others, who will participate and contribute to the EABA conference.