Thursday, April 19, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Green Colleges Guide (with 322 “Green Colleges”) Released by Princeton Review & USGBC

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 07:18 AM PDT


If you are looking to go to college (or your child is) and you’d like to find a green one, Princeton Review and the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have released a free guide to a full 322 green colleges.

It’s actually the partnership’s 3rd annual green colleges guide and is 232 pages in length. Here’s some more information from this week’s news release on the guide:

“The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition” profiles 322 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada that demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. The 232-page book—the only free, comprehensive, annually updated guide to green colleges—can be downloaded at and The Guide was developed with generous support from United Technologies Corp (, founding sponsor of the Center for Green Schools.

College applicants using the guide will find in it:

  • School profiles with application, admission, financial aid and student enrollment information
  • “Green Highlights” write-ups detailing each school’s most impressive environmental and sustainability initiatives
  • “Green Facts” sidebars reporting statistics and facts on everything from the school’s use of renewable energy sources, recycling and conservation programs to the availability of environmental studies programs, and green jobs career guidance
  • A glossary of 40+ green terms and acronyms from AASHE to “zero waste”
  • Lists identifying schools in the book with various green distinctions – among them: those with LEED-certified buildings and those that are signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

green colleges universities guideLooks like a useful guide, and apparently the targeted audience, students looking to go to college, is very green-minded these days. ”Among 7,445 college applicants who participated in our 2012 ‘College Hopes & Worries Survey,’ nearly 7 out of 10 (68 percent) told us that having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school,” Robert Franek, Senior VP/Publisher, The Princeton Review. That’s a pretty impressive percentage for such a strong statement.

And the ‘purchasing power’ of incoming students is of course pretty tremendous, so universities and colleges would be wise to make getting on that guide and looking good there a priority.

“In this unique period of time during their college search, prospective students and their parents have a combined buying power of at least $464 billion,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC.

For more information, check out the news release or the green guide on one of these two sites:


No related posts.

Home Heliostats — Say What?!

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 07:03 AM PDT

home heliostats

CleanTechnica readers are probably most familiar with heliostats related to concentrated solar power (CSP) projects — they’re the mirrors that direct sunlight at the solar power tower. However, heliostats can be used for other purposes as well. A heliostat ”is a device that includes a mirror, usually a plane mirror, which turns so as to keep reflecting sunlight toward a predetermined target, compensating for the sun’s apparent motions in the sky.” So, any time you need to continuously direct sunlight somewhere, you probably need a heliostat.

Now, apparently, one company has gone and manufactured heliostats for home use that can help you to increase the natural daylight reaching into your home and decrease your artificial lighting needs.

The company notes that “heliostats traditionally have been expensive, costing thousands of dollars each, and only suitable for government research” — it does seem as though they would be a tad more expensive than the energy-efficient lighting options we have today. But this team of engineers and manufacturers at Wikoda Inc. in Concord, Massachusetts thinks it’s produced some heliostats that are truly practical and cost-effective enough for home use (I’ll let you decide).

“A single heliostat reflects up to 50,000 lumens of sunlight and can completely transform the mood of a room (one 60 watt bulb provides 1000 lumens),” the company writes. The Sunflower Home Heliostat sells for $399 USD.

“Based on a typical $0.15 per KWhr cost of electricity, the Sunflower Home Heliostat provides the equivalent of $2 per day of free natural lighting each sunny day. On a yearly basis, the Sunflower Heliostat provides $200 to $600 of free lighting per year depending on local sky conditions, making it a form of alternate energy with an unusual rapid payback.”

The product was first available in the US, but the company says that it’s been seeing high demand for this new product in other places as well, especially in countries such as Australia, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. The demand has been so high that “Wikoda Inc. pushed for, and received the European CE certification on an accelerated schedule to allow shipping into those regions with full government approval.”

What Does the Home Heliostat Need?

You’re probably wondering what kind of setup or programming this home heliostat needs. The company writes: “Unlike heliostats intended for industrial purposes, a home heliostat from Wikoda Inc. does not require any programming or scientific knowledge to set up. The computer, motion servos and sun sensors are all on-board and self contained.  It doesn’t even need batteries or a power cord because the heliostat itself is solar powered. All that is required are typical homeowner tools, like a screwdriver and wrench, and a sunny patch of yard. Once set up and operating, the heliostat tracks the sun every day and pumps sunlight in through a window providing free light and warmth.”

Aside from increasing natural lighting in houses or rooms, Wikoda notes that customers have used its heliostat for “grow indoor plants, provide warmth, melt icy roofs, dry clothes, dry woodpiles, discourage moss or mildew and jumpstart spring flowers.”

More info and heliostat videos via the Sunflower Home Heliostat site.

Source: PR Newswire
Images: Sunflower Home Heliostat website

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Mitsubishi x 3 = Smart Grid & EV Research Center

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 06:01 AM PDT

Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi Motors, and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation have just opened a smart grid–electric vehicle research facility, the "M-tech Labo" at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The lab’s focus is evaluating the potential for electric cars to stabilize the power grid, something we talk (and dream) about a lot here on CleanTechnica. Here’s more from Charis from a Gas2 post:

Mitsubishi Builds Smart Grid/EV Research Center (via Gas 2.0)

The potential of an electric car to be a rolling storehouse of electricity goes beyond just personal use, according to Mitsubishi; Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi Motors, and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation just opened a test facility to evaluate the potential for electric cars to stabilize the…

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World’s Most Efficient 1.5-MW Wind Turbine Makes 1st European Stop in Turkey

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 05:54 AM PDT


GE’s new 1.6-100 wind turbines, the most efficient 1.5-MW wind turbines in the world, will make their European debut in Turkey, a GE announcement this week from the annual European Wind Energy Association conference in Copenhagen noted. 31 of these wind turbines will be used in Fina Enerji's Tayakadin wind project in Istanbul, Turkey. The electricity produced from the wind turbines is expected to power 14,000 Turkish households.

worlds most efficient wind turbine

The 50-megawatt Tayakadin project is one piece of a Turkish plan to install 20,000 megawatts of wind power by 2023. Currently, the country has just 1,800 megawatts of capacity, but wind energy analyses have determined that the country has a considerable 48,000 megawatts of wind power potential.

most efficient 1.5 MW wind turbine in world

"GE's 1.6-100 technology builds on the broad experience of our 1.5 and 2.5 megawatt series, with more than 17,500 of those units installed today," said Stephan Ritter, general manager of GE's Renewable Energy business in Europe. "Featuring a 100-meter rotor diameter and 80-meter hub height, the 1.6-100 provides the highest capacity factor of any wind turbine for class 3 sites."

most efficient wind turbine 1,5 MW

Overall, the company intends to install 1,500 of these new 1.6-100 wind turbines around the world in the next two years. GE’s 1.6-100 1.5-MW wind turbines will also be used in a big planned wind energy project in Canada being developed by Chinese wind energy company Longyuan, as Andrew reported earlier today.

The 31 turbines for this Fina Enerji Tayakadin project are supposed to be shipped from a manufacturing facility in Salzbergen, Germany by the end of 2012. The project is supposed to be completed by the first quarter of 2013.

Source: GE
Image Credits: 1.6-100 wind turbine via GE (more technical details on that page)

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New Renewable Electricity Source, River Endpoints, Could Support Half a Billion People

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 05:25 AM PDT

The point where a river flows into the ocean could generate enough electricity to support over half a billion people according to a new analysis.

The process by which a river flows into the ocean is known as pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO). It was examined for its power-generation potential by Ngai Yin Yip and Menachem Elimelech from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University in the most recent edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

They note that enough electricity could be generated by tapping only one-tenth of the global potential of PRO, and that it would require no fuel to run, is sustainable, and would release no carbon dioxide. (Note: last year, Stanford researchers cam to a similar conclusion, finding that this renewable energy source could generate 13% of the world’s energy needs at that time.)

PRO exploits the difference in saltiness between the freshwater river and the saltwater ocean. According to the American Chemical Society, “in PRO, freshwater flows naturally by osmosis through a special membrane to dilute seawater on the other side. The pressure from the flow spins a turbine generator and produces electricity.”

Following the first prototype PRO plant being established in Norway in 2009, the researchers set out to better calculate the actual contribution to future energy needs under real-world conditions of a PRO system.

Yip and Elimelech conclude in their study that PRO power-generating stations which used only one-tenth of the global river water flow into oceans could generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 520 million people, and all without emitting any carbon dioxide. In comparison, the same amount of electricity generated by a coal-fired power plant would end up releasing over one billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gasses each year!


Source: American Chemical Society
Image Source: Randen Pederson

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China Wind Energy Developer Taps GE Turbines (“Most Efficient in Class”) for 100-MW Ontario Wind Farm

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 02:58 AM PDT


With renewable energy trade tensions and disputes on the rise, China’s wind and solar power companies are investing more overseas, focusing on markets where government subsidies and incentives improve renewable energy project finance economics.

GE announced yesterday that it will supply 31 of its 1.6-100 and 18 of its 2.75-103 wind turbines to Longyuan Canada Renewables, which is developing the 100-MW capacity Dufferin Wind Farm in Ontario’s Melanchthon County. The project is parent China Longyuan’s first venture overseas.

The only Canadian province to enact a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT), part of the province's Green Energy Act, Ontario’s become a driving force in the development and growth of Canada’s wind energy sector. Industry forecasters foresee another record-setting year for Ontario wind energy in 2012, following 2011′s record-setting installation of 1,688 MW of new wind energy capacity. Wind energy in Canada as a whole has increased nearly ten-fold in the past six years, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

China Longyuan is China’s largest wind energy project developer, and the fifth-largest worldwide. Longyuan added 2.1 GW (2,100 MW) of wind power capacity to its portfolio in 2011, more than any other wind energy developer in the world. Installed capacity of its wind power projects totals 6.55 GW, with half installed in Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, and Gansu provinces.

China Longyuan Realizing its Overseas Wind Energy Ambition

The wind power project developer raised $2.2 billion in a Hong Kong IPO in 2009, a year in which its profits doubled to 894 million yuan ($131 million). With capital in hand, management set off on a strategic program to expand internationally, with a company executive saying it wanted to invest in the US; Eastern European countries, such as Hungary; and South Africa.

"The Dufferin Wind Farm marks our first global wind project outside of China," said Wu Hao, president of Long Yuan Canada. "With rich wind power resources and strong supporting policies for its wind industry, Canada has created an excellent investment and operational environment for wind farms. For this very important project, we are glad to work with GE, a technology supplier with an outstanding global reputation and experience."

Participating in overseas projects is a strategic priority for company management. Their current plan calls for investing some 92 billion yuan ($14.6 billion) and installing at least 16 GW of wind energy capacity by 2015 in a bid to move further up the ranks of the world’s largest wind power developers. It currently ranks third, behind Spain’s Iberdrola Renovables and the US’ NextEra Energy.

Longyuan recently signed an agreement with Spain’s Gamesa, which calls for the two multinational wind energy leaders to partner in developing wind power projects internationally. “In Gamesa we have found the ideal partner for our growth strategy,” company president Xie Changjun was quoted as saying.

China Longyuan management sees national and local markets with renewable energy feed-in tariffs (FiTs) in place as prime investment opportunities. Wind tariffs in South Africa are high, at the equivalent of one yuan per kilowatt-hour (kWh), China Longyuan board secretary Jia Nansong told attendees at the 2010 Renewable Energy Finance Forum. That compares to Chinese feed-in tariffs ranging from 0.51 to 0.61 yuan per kWh.”

First Customer to Take Delivery of GE’s 1.6-100 Wind Turbines

Nonetheless, it’ll be GE, not Gamesa, supplying Longyuan with wind turbines to develop the Dufferin Wind Farm in Ontario. In doing so, Canada Longyuan will be the first customer to take delivery of GE’s 1.6-100 wind turbine, which the US multinational says is the most efficient in its class.

“Both of these wind turbines demonstrate our continuing commitment to innovation, with new efficiency and productivity features that lead to improved project economics for our customers,” said Vic Abate, vice president of renewable energy for GE. “As the competition grows across the global wind industry, the most cost effective projects with the best technology will win.”

The GE 1.6-100 features a 100-meter rotor diameter and wind-sweep area 47% greater than its predecessor, GE’s 1.6-82.5 model, resulting in a 19% increase in annual energy production at wind speeds of 7.5 meters per second (m/s), GE notes. In contrast, the larger, GE 2.75-103 wind turbine offers high efficiency even at low wind speeds, according to the company. New electrical system features and GE’s proprietary 50.2 blade design offer an annual energy production increase of 9% as compared to GE’s older 2.5-100 model.

GE expects to ship the wind turbines to Longyuan’s project site in Ontario in 2013. Commercial operation of the Dufferin Wind Farm is slated to begin in 2014.

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Siemens Figures Out What to Do With Night Wind

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 01:09 AM PDT


image via Shutterstock/benkei1975

German energy giant Siemens has a solution in the works to tap the unused wind-powered electricity that goes to waste at night because no one is up and about. The planet’s daily temperature swings stir up night-time winds, just when no one needs electricity.

Solving the storage issue is especially crucial for Germany, which, by cutting its nuclear power, is correspondingly scaling up its offshore wind power 20-fold by 2020 — when it will have 10 GW of wind power on the grid.

Using part of their annual 1 billion euro R&D budget ($1.3 billion), Siemens is working on devising large scale electrolysis that would convert wind energy into gas that can be stored — as electricity cannot be — and can then be shipped out, when it is needed, by pipeline.

Their electrolyser, a soccer-field-sized plant that converts power into storable hydrogen, is in the testing phase, Michael Weinhold, chief technology officer of Siemens' energy businesses told Bloomberg.

"We believe storage will make economic sense if more and more renewable power comes on-line and depresses power prices during peak supply times, a trend we will already witness this year," Weinhold said. "We are currently testing the technology with customers, and it's at the brink of being commercially viable."

With Europe so dependent on temperamental Russian gas supplies — recently yanked from under them over a political issue — their test is timely. But if successful, it will also address a larger problem, and one that affects wind power development globally, and not just at night.

It seems ridiculous to turn off good clean energy from wind farms when there’s too much hydropower on the grid, but that is what happened in the Bonneville Power Authority region in the Pacific Northwest in recent storms that supplied too many kinds of good clean energy for the grid to use.

Electricity can not be stored on the grid, the supply must be perfectly balanced with needs. Wind power is famous for having to be given away for free in the wee hours when no one is awake — they don’t call them off-peak hours for nothing.

In both Texas and Germany, wind power prices have on occasion even turned negative, making wind even cheaper than “too cheap to meter.” If wind power happens at the wrong time, developers can literally have to pay to offload their output.

"The main problem today is the mismatch of renewable power generation and demand," Weinhold said in an interview with Bloomberg. "If we can offer solutions to solve that, we have a business case."

Finding a job for wind energy to do at night, that translates its energy into a stored form, is essential to the fiscal health of the wind industry, and its health is essential to making the very big switch to clean power in the 21st century.

Siemens expects to have their turbine-powered night-time electrolysis ready by 2015.

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Ontario Leads Canada’s Record-Setting Wind Power Expansion

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 10:23 PM PDT

Photo credit: Steve Winter/NGS

The outlook for US wind power growth is cloudy and negative with the wind production tax credit (PTC) due to expire at year-end. The wind power forecast for 2012 is decidedly better north of the US border, in Canada, however. Canada’s wind power market should experience another year of record-setting growth in 2012, with the addition of some 1,500 MW of additional capacity, according to a Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) study released at the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) annual conference in Copenhagen.

Canada’s wind energy industry enjoyed a record year in 2011, installing around 1,267 MW of new capacity, an investment of $3.1 billion that created some 13,000 person-years of employment. That ranks 6th globally with a total wind energy capacity of 5,403 MW, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes, according to CanWEA and the GWEC’s 2011 annual industry reports.

Canadian wind power capacity is on a growth path that should see it easily exceed 10,000 MW by 2015, adding to the economic, social and environmental benefits that have already been realized. Wind energy can meet 20% of Canada’s electricity by 2025, according to CanWEA. Taking a broader view, more than 50,000 MW is expected to be installed across North America from 2012-2016, bringing total NA wind energy capacity to more than 100,000 MW, according to the GWEC’s five-year forecast.

“Canada, and in particular Ontario, has emerged as a very competitive destination for wind energy investment globally. This industry represents billions of dollars in new investments across the manufacturing and construction sectors,” said Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA.

“Wind energy is playing a growing role in delivering clean, safe and affordable energy as provinces look to build stronger electricity systems. Maintaining this growth and momentum will require continued commitments to aggressive targets for wind energy development and a stable policy framework.”

Ontario’s Renewables Feed-in Tariff and Wind Energy Growth

The only Canadian province with a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT) in place, Ontario’s leading Canadian wind energy growth. “Ontario built on its position as a North American wind energy leader by awarding feed-in tariff contracts for another 1,688 MW of wind, bringing the total capacity to be built under the program to nearly 3,200 MW,” according to GWEC’s 2011 report.

New wind energy installations with a total capacity exceeding 500-MW went up in Ontario in 2011. More than 5,600-MW of wind power capacity will be installed in Ontario by 2018, “creating 80,000 person-years of employment, attracting $16.4 billion of private investments (with more than half that invested in the province), and contributing more than $1.1 billion of revenue for municipalities and landowners in the form of taxes and lease payments over the 20-year lifespan of the projects,” according to CanWEA’s five-year forecast.

“SaskPower agreed to buy the output of three small-scale projects totaling 24.8 MW and received final bids in September in its request for proposals for 175 MW of large-scale wind, while Manitoba Hydro signed a power purchase agreement for a 16.5 MW expansion of the St. Leon Wind Farm,” as noted in the GWEC report.

Wind energy supplying 20% of Canada’s electricity will benefit Canada in many ways, CanWEA asserts, resulting in:

  • $79 billion in new investment
  • 52,000 new high quality jobs
  • $165 million in annual revenues for municipalities
  • Reducing Canada's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 17 megatonnes (17 million metric tons)

Go, Canada!

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What’s Up with First Solar?

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 06:41 PM PDT

First Solar, a world leader in the solar industry, made some pretty big restructuring and layoff announcements this week. In particular, this means scaling back manufacturing operations in Europe and Malaysia and reducing its global workforce by 2,000 employees (including approximately 120 U.S. employees). This is actually nothing surprising to those of us following the industry every day. Many things come to my head to discuss regarding this news, but some other top voices in the industry have already done chimed in with numerous good points, so I’m going to go ahead and share their words with you here.

Here are some key statements from the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Rhone Resch, on the news:

“Today’s announcement from First Solar demonstrates the impacts that result from inconsistent policy. Policy certainty is critical for all energy markets, and the solar industry is no different. With drastic policy changes in the leading European markets, First Solar has chosen to focus its activities in areas that provide a higher level of policy stability and product demand, including the U.S., First Solar’s largest market.

“Due in large part to the federal investment tax credit that is in place until 2016, the U.S. is on track to become one of the world’s largest solar markets. In 2011 alone, the industry grew by 109 percent over the last year in the middle of tough economic times.

“The U.S. has an opportunity to encourage companies large and small to expand their businesses and create jobs through smart, consistent policy. Steady, equitable government policy for all energy technologies, including solar, will help ensure industry leaders such as First Solar continue to focus on the U.S. market, boosting local and national economic growth, creating jobs and enhancing energy security.”

Here are some follow-up facts from SEIA:

  • The U.S. solar industry just completed its best year ever, growing 109 percent with nearly 1,900 megawatts of new capacity installed. This year, that number is expected to reach close to 3,000 megawatts installed;
  • Employment in the industry has more than doubled since 2009, with more than 100,000 Americans currently employed in the U.S. solar market;
  • Increasing economies of scale and intensified competition has led to dramatic cost reductions that have made solar accessible and affordable to more Americans than ever before;
  • Unlike many other nations, the U.S. enjoys one of the most resilient and diverse solar markets, in which all three major market segments ? residential, commercial, and utility ? are growing;
  • First Solar’s projects are continuing to drive the utility-scale market in the U.S. in line with its business plan and the U.S. remains First Solar’s largest market;
  • There are more than 5,600 solar energy companies operating across the U.S. today, in all 50 states.

And, for a more nuanced look at what’s going on with First Solar, here’s a good post by Eric Wesoff of Greentech Media, a site largely focused on the business side of cleantech (the remainder of this post is Eric’s article):

First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR) has revealed its consolidation plan.

The thin film market leader joins SunPower, the conversion efficiency leader, which is closing its 125-megawatt Fab 1 in the Philippines and moving some of those operation to Fab 2.

First Solar is closing its Frankfurt (Oder) manufacturing facility and indefinitely idling four production lines of the 24 lines in Kulim, Malaysia. The firm reports that it expects a savings of $100 million to $120 million annually as a result. First Solar also paid down $145 million in debt. The company is slashing headcount by 2,000 positions — about 30 percent of its workforce. The firm wants to get opex down to 8 percent of revenue.

Last quarter, First Solar closed four production lines at the Frankfurt Oder plant and put its Mesa, Arizona production facility on hold indefinitely.

First Solar stock is trading at $21.52. That’s up 3 percent, but still hovering near record lows.

This restructuring is being done “in response to deteriorating market conditions in Europe and to reduce costs and align its organization with sustainable market opportunities,” according to a statement by the firm. "After a thorough analysis, it is clear the European market has deteriorated to the extent that our operations there are no longer economically sustainable, and maintaining those operations is not in the best long-term interest of our stakeholders," according to Mike Ahearn, Chairman and Interim CEO of First Solar in a statement.

Hari Chandra Polavarapu of Auriga USA offered this analysis: “We view the restructuring as a sensible and realistic response to dislocated market conditions in solar PV that are aided by fickle subsidy policies in Europe impacting demand, and abetted by asymmetric competition/subsidies on the supply side from China.”

First Solar expects to see a benefit in price per watt post-restructuring.

First Solar is still the largest solar module firm by market capitalization, the largest thin-film solar firm, one of the largest solar firms by capacity and shipments, and certainly by cumulative profits. The company is in the crosshairs of every other solar firm and continues to set the bar in terms of solar panel value and corporate performance.

Here are the highlights and lowlights from the most recent quarterly earnings call:

  • Fourth-quarter production was 540 megawatts with net sales of $660 million, down from $1 billion last quarter.
  • Net sales were $2.8 billion for 2011.
  • Average conversion efficiency improved by 0.6 percent over the course of the year to an average of 12.2 percent — an encouraging number.
  • Average module manufacturing cost was reduced to $0.73 per watt, down $0.02 from the fourth quarter of 2010.
  • The company’s project pipeline is 2.7 gigawatts AC.

First Solar’s 2012 guidance:

  • Net sales reduced from $3.7 billion to $4.0 billion down to $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion.

Related posts:

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  3. U.S. Solar Energy in 2011

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