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Archive for July 2009

Suntech inks partnerships with CECIC, China Huadian

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BIPV2suntechChina’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., is joining forces with China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation to develop solar power projects in China over the next five years.

In addition, the company signed an agreement with the China Huadian New Energy Development Co. (HNE) to develop utility-scale and commercial rooftop solar projects totaling 500mw in China’s western provinces.

The recent announcements were the latest in a flurry of moves by the world’s largest crystalline photovoltaic module manufacturer, which has regional headquarters in Beijing, Wuxi, China and San Francisco.  Suntech trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol STP.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Under the partnership with CECIC, the state-owned energy conservation company will be responsible for project investment and solar project development, while Suntech will supply the solar products, system design and technical support. The plan is to develop large-scale, on-grid projects, urban building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) projects, rural off-grid projects and wind-solar hybrid projects.

CECIC focuses on energy conservation investment and also consults on conservation and policy to government agencies.

In the deal with HNE, Suntech will supply silicon solar modules along with system design and tech support. HNE will oversee investment and solar project development.

Suntech said the projects developed under the collaborations could include solar initiatives previously announced by the company in Qinghai province, Shaanxi province, Ningxia province’s Shizuishan city, Panzhihua in Sichuan province and in Jiangsu province.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 30, 2009 at 11:26 am

Small Step: U.S.-China Agree on Clean-Energy Research Center

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china_windThe transformation to a globally green and sustainable mindset eventually will happen if enough small steps are taken.

With that perspective in mind the agreement between United States and China to establish a jointly owned clean energy research center fits, or let’s hope so. The agreement between the planet’s two most prolific polluters involves an investment of only $30 million, but maybe it’s a precursor of more to come.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed recently by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Chinese Minister of Science Wan Gang, and Administrator of National Energy Administration Zhang Guo Bao, each nation will contribute $15 million to set up the research facility, which will have headquarter sites in each country.

According to the DOE the center will “facilitate joint research and development on clean energy by teams of scientists and engineers from the U.S. and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country.” The “priority topics” will initially include energy efficiency, clean-coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles.

“Working together, we can accomplish more than acting alone,” Chu said.

Facility locations haven’t been determined. The department says the objective is for initial operations to begin by year-end.

A fact sheet distributed by DOE says collaboration “on science and technology (S&T) has long been a cornerstone of overall U.S.-China cooperation.” The first agreement between the two countries after relations were normalized in 1979 was on S&T cooperation.

DOE currently manages 12 agreements with China under that S&T framework on a variety of energy, sciences and technologies including: building and industrial energy efficiency, clean vehicles, renewable energy, nuclear energy and science, and biological and environmental research.

Opportunities abound for U.S.-China cooperation on clean-energy technologies. It makes sense, and maybe eventually cents, to start somewhere.

In the world of diplomacy just getting to this point qualifies as significant. But in the real-world climate-change battle the follow-through is what we should watch, and especially whether the research center is sidetrtacked by the ‘clean-coal’ delusion.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 28, 2009 at 11:10 am

PNW gets ARRA funds for emissions reduction

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shorepowerThe Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Northwest Region Region 10 is awarding more than $3 million in federal recovery funds to the Port of Tacoma, and the City of Portland in moves intended to reduce diesel emissions, boost jobs and “protect human health and the environment.”

The agency, which is also about to issue rules regulating emissions from largo ocean-going cargo and passenger passenger vessels calling at ports nationwide, says $1.5 million of the total will go to the Port of Tacoma to reduce diesel and greenhouse gas emissions by retrofitting” two oceangoing vessels and installing shoreside electric plugs to provide the ships with access to alternative maritime power at the port’s Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) terminal.

In Portland, the EPA will dole out $1.6 million to reduce emissions from the city’s municipal fleet vehicles and construction contractor equipment.

“Investing in projects to reduce diesel pollution is essential to air quality and our quality of life in the Northwest,” says Michelle Pirzadeh, action regional administrator for Region 10.truckdiesel emissions

In each case the funds come from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. Under this program, Region 10 received more than 49 grant applications that sought more than $80 million to help fund various clean diesel emissions projects.

In Tacoma the money will enable TOTE to shut down its vessels’ diesel engines while in port and use shore power. This will reduce diesel particulate matter and GHG emissions by an estimated 90 percent for at-berth vessels by eliminating idling at the terminal.

EPA also said this project will help create or sustain an estimated 50 manufacturing and local installation jobs in a region where the jobless rate is more than the national average.

In Portland, in addition to reducing fleet emissions, the project grant will fund the installation of fuel-operated heaters — technology designed to reduce idling time — on 237 vehicles in Portland and the surrounding Multnomah County.

ARRA’s clean diesel campaign was alloted a total of $300 million, out of which the Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program received $156 million to fund competitive grants across the nation. ARRA also has $20 million slotted for clean diesel emerging technology program grants and $30 million for the EPA’s SmartWay Clean Diesel Finance grant program.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 24, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Dow and Exxon boost algae biofuel

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algae-2When Dow Chemical Co. and ExxonMobil get into the algae biofuel game it’s a sure sign that algae as a reasonable go-to alternative and renewable energy source has entered the big leagues.

Or is it? Is it more than the typical and familiar corporate lip service using green lipstick? For that answer, stay tuned.  It might take awhile.

Dow, Exxon and more recently the Department of Energy are giving algae biofuel major street cred while gaining huge PR benefits in the mainstream press and (ahem) the blogosphere.

Earlier this month Dow announced a hook-up with Algenol Biofuels Inc. to construct and operate a pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert CO2 into ethanol. The planned location covers 24 acres at a Dow site in Freeport, Texas. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Algenol has developed a third generation biofuel that makes ethanol directly from CO2 and seawater using hybrid algae in sealed clear plastic photobioreactors, a process the Bonita Springs, FL company has patented as its “Direct to Ethanol” technology. This process produces more than 6,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year. That smokes the 400 gallons of ethanol per acre produced from corn.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research, Inc. are also involved in the project mix with Dow and Algenol. They are contributing science, expertise, and technology to the pilot project, which they say will create a “breakthrough process for ethanol production.”

Algenol has also applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct the pilot. Upon approval of the grant, Dow and the other collaborators will work with Algenol to demonstrate the technology at a level that proves it can be implemented on a commercial scale.

Meanwhile DOE last week announced funding of up to $85 million over a three-year period from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the development of algae-based biofuels and advanced, infrastructure-compatible biofuels. The department said it wants leading scientists and engineers from universities, private industry, and government “to collaborate in developing a thriving domestic biofuels industry.” The collaborations “will allow different sectors in the biofuels industry to work together on new technologies for producing advanced biofuels that can be brought to market without requiring major modifications to the existing fueling infrastructure.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

July 21, 2009 at 10:04 am

GM spins green while rolling out of bankruptcy

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Note from wrd: I’ve been out-of-pocket this week on a big editing assignment, but I’m back in the saddle here, starting with a slightly revised version of one I did last week for Triple Pundit:

ecocarGMGM still doesn’t stand for Green Motors but the legendary company should get some props for trying at least.  The trick now is for the General and the other U.S. carmakers to get real about getting greener and to do it fast. It might save the auto industry while helping to save the planet.

Sarcasm and skepticism is easy when considering GM and its recent history of management failure, choices in car offerings, design, performance and quality and its late seating at the green table.

At the same time it is also possible that despite that company’s sorry recent past and desperate present it has learned a lesson for the future. It must do this or reap the whirlwind.

GM exited bankruptcy protection last week by selling its best assets to a new, leaner company creation in which the U.S. government will hold a majority stake. GM had filed for bankruptcy on June 1, vowing to emerge as a leaner, more profitable company once freed from its massive debts.

VoltMeanwhile GM has done some serious rebranding and public relations around the green theme. It’s a strategy that goes beyond the launch next year of the much-anticipated and ballyhooed Chevrolet Volt, a “range-extended” electric vehicle that could go a long way – if it really can go a long way between charges – to saving GM’s neck.  Many believe the vehicle could be a game a game-changer for the company, here and in Europe, where it will sell as the Opel Ampera.

GM maintains it is making “dramatic improvement” and investments to reduce the environmental impact of its worldwide manufacturing operations. It’s reducing energy and water use and seeking renewable energy opportunities and sustainable manufacturing methods while reducing waste at global facilities.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

July 17, 2009 at 9:07 am

Sunday feeling: the tire must roll

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CooperGFEAs long as we still have to use rubber on the road to propel our gasoline-powered vehicles – likely for a long time – we should try to make the process as efficient as possible from the ground up.

Cooper Tire and Rubber Company last week rolled out a new line of low-resistance, fuel-saving tires, the Cooper GFE.

The GFE stands for Greater Fuel Efficiency and the company says it is available now at tire dealerships nationwide.

It is Cooper’s first tire to focus on lower rolling resistance by using “advanced design and materials technology to maximize fuel economy.” This will save money at the pump, the company maintains, while providing “excellent” tread wear and traction.

It is designed as an all-season touring tire and is offered in eight sizes that are targeted for fuel-efficient vehicles. The line also includes popular broadline sizes. The GFE will fit Toyota’s Hybrid Prius, Corolla, Yaris and Echo; key Honda fitments include the Hybrid Civic and Fit.

The size range also covers “several vehicles” from GM, Ford, Chrysler and Nissan, the Findlay, OH-based Cooper says.

The tire showcases the Cooper Energy Return Technology, a new tread stock that features a “unique silica technology married with a specialized polymer to provide very low-rolling resistance, while maintaining outstanding wet grip and long tread life,” the company says.

It also features a new mold technology that uses traction compensating sipes that actually increase in length as the tire wears. The interlocking action of the sipes helps provide more stable handling when the tire is new, and adds length to the biting edges throughout the life of the tire, Cooper says.

Cooper says the all-season design employs a computer-enhanced, sound-quality system that “optimizes the tread pattern to produce a quiet ride.”

The GFE features a 60,000-mile tread wear protection warranty, is covered under Copper’s standard warranty and includes a free 45-day road test.

But the price to pick up a set was not disclosed.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

Posted in transportation

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Suntech gets $50 million loan from IFC; COO resigns

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suntechBIPV5Recent news from the word’s largest photovoltaic module maker, Suntech Power Holdings, is somewhat mixed.

On the upside, Suntech will close soon on a $50 million loan from the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation.

Suntech says the convertible loan will boost its new Pluto technology for silicon solar cells, along with debt financing requirements. The seven-year loan has a fixed-rate coupon of 5 percent per year payable twice a year on June 15 and December 15. If it is converted to a variable-rate loan, the conversion price is $18.00 per American depositary share, which was set at a premium over the average trading price during a span of 20 trading days immediately prior to IFC’s notice that it had approved the loan.

Under the agreement the New York Stock Exchange-listed company (STP) can draw down the loan after meeting certain conditions that it says it will satisfy within 30 days. Suntech has regional headquarters in Wuxi, China, Switzerland and San Francisco.

On the downside, Suntech said Tuesday that Johnson Chiang suddenly resigned as the company’s Chief Operating Officer on July 3, citing the ever-mysterious “personal reasons” for his departure. There was no further explanation for the move.

“We appreciate Johnson’s significant contributions to Suntech over the past year and wish him all the best in the future,” said Zhengrong Shi, chairman and CEO, in a brief statement.

Suntech’s stock has plummeted by nearly 65 percent over the past 10 months and the company’s revenue fell by nearly 25 percent in the first quarter though it was able to scratch out what analysts called a “surprise profit” for the period.

In other management changes, Suntech said Guangchun Zhang, vice president of Manufacturing Technology and Quality, will take over management of all crystalline silicon PV manufacturing operations in China.

Shi will temporarily oversee management of the Shanghai thin film plant, KSL Kuttler and BIPV manufacturing operations at Suntech Japan “until a suitable replacement is found.”

Regarding the $50 million IFC loan, Shi said, “These additional funds will strengthen Suntech’s financial position and support our transition to the high efficiency Pluto technology as we progress towards our goal of providing grid parity solar solutions.”.

IFC’s new investments in 2008 totaled $16.2 billion, a 34 percent increase over the previous year.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 8, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Posted in investment, solar

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PNW ports: Progress on clean air but EPA readies hammer

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1069718166691The ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Port Metro Vancouver, British Columbia released their first annual Northwest Clean Air Strategy implementation report, which provides an update on their efforts since 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Pacific Northwest.

On the same day the ports were issuing the clean air progress report, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed rules designed to slash harmful air emissions from ocean going cargo vessels, which are the among largest category of polluters in port and coastal regions. What has been a mostly collaborative and voluntary approach to air emission regulation, in the PNW at least, will soon become mandatory for ports and port stakeholders.

The ports’ 25-page 2008 Implementation Report follows up on the groundbreaking alliance they formed in 2007 that devised the region’s clean air strategy goals for 2010 and 2015. The goal of the regional partnership is to reduce maritime and port-related diesel and greenhouse gas emissions in the Pacific Northwest from current and future maritime port operations through specific strategies and actions within each category of port operation.

The strategy has three elements:

  • Reduce maritime and port-related air quality impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy
  • Reduce contribution to climate change through co-benefits associated with reducing air quality impacts
  • Help the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound airshed continue to meet air quality standards and objectives

The Implementation Report addresses goals for transparency, progress, and clarity around air quality. There remains a number of technical reporting standards to clarify between the three port agencies, but “there have been good benchmarks established for future collaboration, as environmental goals are met in the coming years,” the Port of Seattle said.

The report says that in Vancouver only 7 percent of ocean-going vessel calls to the Burrard Inlet and Roberts Bank port areas met or exceeded the Strategy’s 2010 performance target. In Seattle, 29 percent of frequent ocean going vessel calls – 100 percent or cruise and 7 percent of cargo container vessels met or exceeded the 2010 standard. Tacoma did much better, with 57 percent of vessel calls meeting or exceeding the performance measure by using distillate (0.5 percent sulfur) fuel for auxiliary engine operation.

It concludes that the ports and the other stakeholders in the region “have all demonstrated progress in meeting the 2010 performance measures established in the PNW clean air strategy.” It acknowledges areas where further improvements are needed, but it also says that the rate at which new clean technologies emerge “will assist the ports in devising implementation activities to reach both the 2010 and 2015 performance measures.”

In addition, stimulus funds could create further opportunities for ports to continue and possible broaden the scale of emission reduction efforts.

These efforts in the PNW likely will take a more urgent turn with the EPA’s pending rulemaking, which will set “tough engine and fuel standards” for U.S. vessels that will “harmonize with international standards and lead to significant air quality improvements throughout the country.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

July 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Big biomass supply contract for Green Energy Resources

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grassGreen Energy Resources signed a domestic biomass supply contract worth an estimated $300 million over 10 years with an unidentified U.S. power company.  Normally I would not write this up because the company is not named — what are they ashamed or something? — but it is a big deal and a lot of money so it is of interest. The player eventually will be known.

GRE, based in New York City, says the contract contains additional provisions for monthly fuel adjustments and yearly inflation increases over its 10-year span. According to Green Energy it is the “largest known U.S. supply contract to date for a single supplier.”   GRE estimated the biomass supply stream will begin in 2010.

Under the contract, the power plant requirements will exceed 1 million tons of biomass annually. “The contract is significant in reaching or exceeding Green Energy Resources projected revenue next year of $100 million,” it says.

Green Energy Resources, formerly New York International Log & Lumber Co, is publicly traded on the Pink Sheets under ticker GRGR.  Its mission is to become a major provider of low-cost, high-quality wood fiber fuels.

The company also recently announced a commitment from a group of private financiers, also unidentified, for up to $10 million. It said the private lenders have agreed that the first loan tranche will amount to $2 million.

It is working with various power generating utilities, government agencies and corporations on carbon emission strategies. It says it is 100 percent Kyoto Protocol compliant.

It  sources its biomass from urban wood waste streams, storm damage, cities and municipalities. It has been heavily involved in exporting wood chips to to European power plants.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

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