Monday, June 11, 2012

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Czech Solar Energy Industry Must Struggle with Retroactive Change in Support

Posted: 11 Jun 2012 04:38 AM PDT


I received the following news release just yesterday from the Alliance for Energy Independence in the Czech Republic. It covers a shocking policy change in the Czech solar industry that seems like it should be illegal (if it’s not), has almost no public support, and yet might hold. This is a very depressing thing to hear about on a Monday morning, but I think it’s important, warrants some citizen activism, and worth a share, so here’s the full piece:

Czech politicians have created conditions for investing in green technologies that are similar to conditions in other countries in the European Union. Despite this, the Czech Republic has become the only country that has decided to hamper the solar energy industry with a retroactive tax.

As part of an amendment to the Renewable Energy Act intended to reduce feed-in tariffs for solar energy, representatives have adopted a retroactive 26-28 percent tax that all owners of 30 kW and above solar energy plants put into operation in 2009 and 2010 must pay to the state.

"Retroactively changing the law and disrupting guaranteed investment returns and equality before the law may create a dangerous precedent which subsequent governments may abuse in other business sectors or for financial products intended for the public. It will not matter that the Constitutional Court's ruling was made in regards to solar energy," says Pavel Šich, the director of the Alliance for Energy Independence.

Those introducing the bill have been influenced by CEZ energy group's negative campaign against solar power plants. Martin Roman, the former general director of CEZ (who is currently suspected of awarding overpriced contracts to "friendly" companies), warned of up to a 22 percent increase in the price of electric energy as a result of growth in fixed price photovoltaic energy. At the same time CEZ has hushed up the fact that they purchased solar power plants that together have an output of more than 120 mW; these purchases were funded in part by loans from the European Investment Bank. Some of these projects cost double the price of the average solar power plant.

This tax however does not take into account differing project expenses in 2009 and 2010, nor differing investment costs based on whether the power plant is located on land or on rooftops. Paradoxically, this blanket tax most affects investors who have made efforts to incorporate cutting edge technology, including highly efficient panels, inverters and transformers.

Constitutional Court upholds the tax

On May 16 the Constitutional Court denied the objections of senators to the special tax on 30 kW and above solar power plants constructed in 2009 and 2010  (also known as the solar tax). This group of senators objected as they considered such a tax to break faith in the state's actions, decisions and laws.

Solar energy investors have only two ways to protect their investments. Foreign companies may get back promised funds through arbitration. Czech companies may protect themselves in court, but only if the return period exceeds the state guaranteed fifteen years as a result of this tax.

It seems that this intervention may make investing in clean technology an unstable affair. The Czech energy sector is dependent on fossil fuels and coal. Together these two sources produce almost 90 percent of electricity in the Czech Republic. Modern, renewable energy must fight for its place in the sun against the disinterest of politicians. For example, President Klaus vetoed a bill supporting renewable energy, which was then overridden by vote of the Chamber of Deputies. Prime Minister Nečas has been drumming up support for nuclear energy in the EU. The head of the Energy Regulatory Office has called for a stop to funding all renewable energy sources to go into effect in 2014; she has done so even though she lacks legal authority to make such a decision.

Martin Sedlák from the Alliance for Energy Independence describes the situation in the energy sector: "Support for renewable energy sources helped new market sectors develop in a market that had up that point been ruled by power company monopolies. Clearly, this support must be eventually gradually eliminated, but only for future projects.

A stable environment would ensure clean energy growth, through which we will be able to lower our independence on fossil fuels, clean the air of harmful pollutants, and in the long-run reduce the high price of electricity. The solar tax will turn the Czech Republic in to a living history museum of energy".

The state has not dealt with any other regulated components contributing to the price of electricity

Since proponents of this special "tax" on solar power plants use the argument that they are trying to avoid increases in electricity prices, then it is surprising that they have not made any attempts to intervene in the price of electricity distribution.

Data from the Energy Regulatory Office indicate that support for renewable energy sources is not the most expensive item contributing to overall electricity rates. In 2011 support for all types of renewable resources, including cogeneration and support for cofiring wood chips and brown coal, made up 10.4 percent of total electricity costs. This is while, according the very same Energy Regulatory Office data, the "line" owners (E.ON, CEZ and PRE depending on the region) eat up 35.6 percent of the total cost for distribution. In Germany distribution costs make up only 18 percent of the price of electricity.

Retroactive changes in business conditions have met with public resistance:

Only 9 percent of people think that the government should be allowed to retroactively change conditions for example by changing subsidy rules. Nearly 60 percent of the Czech population is directly against such changes. These are the findings of a survey that the Alliance for Energy Independence had the SCaS Agency conduct before the Constitutional Court's ruling.

The ruling to uphold the solar tax will have negative impacts on the business atmosphere in at least one industry, if not more in the future.

It lowers the promised returns on generated electricity guaranteed by the Energy Regulatory Office's Price Decision, and the fact that is has been upheld has impacted the legitimate expectations of affected businesses.

The blanket solar tax applies to projects from 2009 and 2010, although it does not take into account differing investment costs, nor the location of solar power plants.

The state is legally bound by the Renewable Energy Act to guarantee returns for at least fifteen years. Investors thus have a right to this support and this right arises on the date of bringing solar power plants into operation. The law however now limits the rights of investors and also limits the guaranteed returns, and thus a retroactive change in the legal system has been made.

The Alliance for Energy Independence (hereinafter the Alliance) is a non-governmental organization that connects renewable energy producers and energy efficiency experts with universities and the public sphere. The Alliance's aim is to maximize the utilization of clean energy sources in combination with highly efficient technology.  Our activities are focused on awareness raising, promoting modern trends and education. The Alliance endeavors to gradually transform the Czech economy so that it is driven by an independent, clean, and, when suitable, local energy system.

Image: Czech solar farm via Shutterstock

On Building & Driving a Solar Car…

Posted: 11 Jun 2012 03:56 AM PDT

Someone representing Stanford’s Solar Car team recently reached out and shared the interview featured below with me. It’s and interview with a multi-year member of the team. I thought it was interesting enough to post here on CleanTechnica, so here it is (reposted from CJEnvironmental):

Stanford's Solar Car, Xenith, cost about $480,000 in parts to build. Photo courtesy of Stanford Solar Car Project.

Stanford senior and Club Business Manager Wesley Ford spoke with CJ Environmental about the project, Xenith's last race, and driving down California's Ventura Highway in a carbon-fiber solar car that weighs only 375 lbs – less than half the weight of the world's fattest man (Xenith is street legal). As the business manager and member of the Stanford Solar Car Club since his freshman year, Ford has been involved in almost every aspect of the car's production: from contributing to the manifacturing of the car during his freshman year to acting as the team's financial manager. The Project is almost entirely student-run.

When the school year ends in mid-June, Ford and some other members of the squad will head to North Carolina to perform wind-testing on Xenith, in which they hope to gather data that will help them develop even better technologies for the next iteration of the solar car. Here's what Wesley had to say:


CJ: When did you join the Stanford Solar Car Project?

WF: I joined just after my freshman year. It's the largest student engineering project on campus, and it looked like a lot of fun.


CJ: So the club is between solar cars right now?

WF: Xenith raced in October, so we're starting a brand-new cycle. We're designing the car through this coming summer. Next fall, winter and spring we'll be building the car, and the following October (2013) we'll be racing it. So we're trying to improve the current design, see how well our computer models matched the real world performance of the car.


CJ: So how does the car itself work compared to a normal car?

WF: There are three big subsystems: The solar panels on top that convert solar energy into electrical energy that we can use, a battery pack that either charges or receives power from the solar panels directly, and a motor that propels the car forward on the highway.

Most of the other systems are the same (as a regular car). Same steering system, hydraulic brakes. It's street legal, but it's a little bit hard to see when you're in the car. But there are no worries about merging in traffic. Driving it isn't bad. It can go highway speeds. It's a bit loud on the side and the compartment's tight, and the car only fits one driver.


CJ: What's the fastest you've taken it?

WF: About 80 miles an hour using the battery pack to pass a car on the highway. But if we're cruising on solar power, we target speeds of 45 to 55 mph.


CJ: How long does the battery pack last for?

WF: Throughout the day you'll be charging or recharging the battery pack. Midday you're probably burning the pack more. One charge can go 150 to 200 miles with just the battery alone.


CJ: That's crazy. Who developed the battery?

WF: We developed it ourselves. The actual cells we sourced from Panasonic.


CJ: Doesn't the Nissan Leaf only go 100 miles on a single charge?

WF: We make compromises that most car makers wouldn't want to make. Our biggest motivations in designing a car are making it aerodynamic and light weight, with low power consumption. A normal car would be much heavier with a lot of different amenities and luxuries. Our intention is to get the best components we can to make it as efficient as possible. We build with no limits.


CJ: So what technologies can be taken to the real world?

WF: The solar panels we developed are being tested for how their efficiency ranks compared to those produced by the world record holders. Some of our battery monitoring systems are unique and new, as well.

We don't do a lot in terms of licensing technologies directly, but our alumni leave to use their expertise in their professional careers. JB Straubel (Chief Technology Officer of Tesla) worked on the solar car, and he presumably took some of the ideas he developed at Stanford to design the Tesla Roadster.


CJ: Since you can't reuse Xenith for the next race, what are you going to do with the car?

WF: Right now we're hoping to put it in a museum. Otherwise it'll be housed at an alumni's home. It's also good to use as a training tool for new members, and we also do a lot of outreach events with Xenith. We're going to visit schools, trying to show the connection between green technology and the automotive (world). We do a lot of outreach work to show the community what's possible.


CJ: Any big scares when you guys have taken Xenith on the road?

WF: Nothing too big. It's nice in the fact that we have escort vans in front of and behind the solar car that act as its eyes and ears. The one thing that does freak out other drivers is that the car can turn all three wheels in different directions to optimize airflow. All of a sudden a car on the other side of the highway will notice that the solar panels are pointed towards them (even though it's staying in its lane), and they'll suddenly veer off the road thinking it's going to hit them.


Stanford's Solar Car, Xenith, may look like it's heading right for the big rig, but it's three wheels are actually pointed parallel to the road. Three-wheel steering helps the car optimize windflow efficiency. Photo courtesy of Stanford Solar Car Project.


CJ: Tell me more about the last race.

WF: We place fourth in the production class (editors note: in the group of cars that were street legal) and 11th overall out of 40 cars. We had higher aspirations, but we had a breakdown on the first day and a bunch of flat tires. We fell to 17th after the first day but rallied back to 11th.


CJ: How long did it take?

WF: Five to six days. It varies from year to year. Last race was a slow year because there were thunderstorms. You do get some power production through the solar panels but it's much less than if there were clear blue skies.


CJ: Must be a fun experience, though.

WF: It's definitely exciting. We go down a few weeks before the race and do the press work, ship the car by ocean freight, test it in the Outback. The race itself is 3,000 km from coast to coast from Darwin to Darwin to Adelaide. You start at 8 or 9 am each day and you stop the race at 5 pm each day. Wherever you are, you just pull off the road and spend the night there. Hopefully you have your tents and water supplies ready. There aren't many towns in the outback, so you're setting up a tent and cooking in the dark.


CJ: So do you make the freshmen trek to towns for supply runs? 

WF: Not really (small laugh). By the time you get to Australia after two years of building a car you're going to be pretty good friends.


Your Chance to Direct CleanTechnica!!

Posted: 11 Jun 2012 03:34 AM PDT

It’s that time again — time for a CleanTechnica reader survey, our 2nd annual reader survey!

I think this should take about 1-2 minutes to complete (unless you have a lot of extra comments to make). And, if you have been following CleanTechnica for very long at all, I think you well know that we really will be taking your answers into account.

If you have any additional comments, you can enter them like normal in the comments below, or you can send me a private message via our CleanTechnica Facebook page or via Google+ (my personal account).

Here’s the survey (you can complete it below or via this link):


Vestas Looks to Latin America as US Wind Energy Expected to Fall 80%

Posted: 11 Jun 2012 03:03 AM PDT


Vestas continues to make headway as it looks to Latin American markets to make up for what’s expected to be drastically reduced demand for wind turbines in the US if Congress fails to renew the wind energy production tax credit (PTC). The world’s leading wind turbine manufacturer has completed an agreement with Alba de Nicaragua S.A. (Albanisa) that includes the sale of 22 V100-1.8 MW wind turbines.

The V100-1.8 MW turbines are to be installed on-site at Albanisa’s planned 39.6-MW Alba Rivas wind farm located in Hacienda La Fe. In addition to supplying and commissioning the wind turbines, the contract entails Vestas providing a VestasOnline Business SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system and a five-year, full-service AOM 4000 maintenance and service agreement, according to a Vestas press release.

Emerging Latin America Wind Energy Markets

Producing some 180 GWh of clean, renewable electricity per year, the Alba La Rivas wind power farm will avoid around 36,400 tons of annual CO2 emissions as compared to the Nicaraguan average for electricity generation. Delivery of the first turbines is expected in Q4, with the wind farm expected to be operational in Q2 2013.

Latin America is playing an increasingly prominent role in wind energy industry participants’ sales and business development plans, given ongoing economic weakness and troubles in Europe and the looming expiration of the wind energy PTC in the US. Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel today told EU European Affairs ministers that 2012 will be a very busy year in the US as wind energy project developers rush to start installations before the wind energy PTC expiration deadline.

That will prove to be a final rush of wind turbine orders from the US, however, he added. The prospect of Congress renewing the PTC before expiration is dim given this is an election year. The result: Engel and Vestas senior management expect the US wind turbine market will plummet 80% in 2013.

"Vestas is focused on developing new business opportunities in the Latin American markets and this project is a good example of this goal,” commented Juan Araluce, chief sales officer of Vestas Wind Systems A/S and acting president of Vestas Mediterranean.

“Our commitment with the expansion of the wind energy industry will bring a clean, competitive and predictable energy source into the Nicaraguan energy mix while contributing to the development of local quality employment and competencies. We are pleased to have been chosen as Alba de Nicaragua´s partner."

Vestas’ contract with Albanisa follows the signing of a contract that includes supplying 39.6 MW of its wind turbines for the La Fe – San Martin Wind Farm in Nicaragua, which is due to be connected to the grid in June.

The EV Black Knight Rides Again: John Petersen on Mortal Enemies

Posted: 11 Jun 2012 02:48 AM PDT


In commerce, a black knight is someone who makes an unwelcome takeover bid. John Petersen, of Seeking Alpha, has written many articles on electric vehicles from the perspective of commerce and would be familiar with the term. He is not an EV supporter. Rather, his disclosure exudes a contempt for the EV that is pervasive throughout his work, while he admits to a previous commitment to lead-acid batteries and a present ownership in Axion Power. He throws down the gauntlet again in a recent article as he tries to take over the EV conversation with seemingly intelligent arguments based upon private definitions and an air of authority and disdain: The Black Knight rides again.

The Feign+

The EV white knight will have to meet this dark challenger with a lance of clarity and the wisdom of rhetoric. He starts off the article by admitting that he was wrong. EV batteries can make improvements, but continues this to a slur. The improvement seems so minor that resistance to his later arguments is futile. In rhetoric, this is a "straw man" and it essentially sets up a target intended to fail in a fixed match. It is a nice move that sets up momentum for the piece but it's transparent and just a little punching bag inside a very small box.

As proof of his stand, Petersen relies upon the rhetorical "argument of authority" and brings in Professor Vaclav Smil to support his position that battery technology is not progressing according to Moore's Law. However, in science, we know that a proper control study should be untainted by our experimental object. If you are testing for X, then X should not be part of the control study. The quoted article talks about the slow transition from fossil fuels. We have to look no further than the Nickel-Metal Hydride story to find the common elephant in the room: fossil fuel interests slowing the pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies. We can find that same elephant slowing the pace of innovation in Congress, disproportionately using a party with similar symbolism.



We are presently witnessing a lot of this play between slowing progress and then having so-called authorities claiming progress is impossible or blaming a lack of progress on those resisting this beast. But it is a device and a technique, not a reality. John Petersen is a lawyer. Lawyers are quite used to very narrow definitions of terms and then logically connecting those terms to establish a very narrow meaning that may have no relationship to the real world. It is what makes a good lawyer, but not necessarily a good understanding, because it sometimes then takes another who is trained to think as a lawyer to deconstruct this legalese.

The Audience

The audience is an important part of any presentation. Petersen is writing for investors (see 6th paragraph), not those investors of their time or curiosity, but those interested in playing the stock market game. The game suggests some real-world connections like profits and balance sheets, but there are rumors of insider information, article mills, and large purchases that influence prices outside of expected norms. If you are looking at Petersen's articles because you have an interest outside of the stock market, you are going to have to translate what you read. You are not the intended audience, but you are caught in the same net. Be very careful of your assumptions.

But the author is not careful. He is writing for investors but makes asides to the “EVangelicals,” advocates of electric vehicles who threaten to undermine his authority. He dismisses them as the "Great and powerful Oz," dismisses the little man behind the black curtain upon whom its power is based.

The Definitions

"Range Anxiety" is a term invented by GM to sell the Volt, a range-extended EV. It was a selling point at a time when we were constantly being told by politicians to "be afraid" of the "enemy." Promoting a neurotic fear seemed good for business, if not a very nice thing to do. It is a good rhetorical technique as it stirs people's emotion and even Merlin might enjoy the misdirection it engenders, as the subtext is "Be afraid!" … so you don't think.

It is such an important technique that it was enshrined in the "Art of War" as the principal of "deception and shaping." Here, Peterson is saying that because the EV owner is neurotic and wants more range than they can be demonstrated to need, what he calls “EV efficiency” is affected.

The average driver only needs about 40 miles travel a day. Ignoring that this means 50% will travel further, he uses this calculation to suggest that any vehicle that has a battery larger than this wastes that capacity.

"EV Efficiency"

Petersen uses the term “EV efficiency.” It’s a term often associated with electric vehicles that can have an efficiency as high as 98%. Efficiency normally is a measure of useful work derived from a system in a ratio over the energy supplied to a system. This is usually expressed as a percentage less than 100%. He is telling us that the "EV efficiency" is limited, but Peterson is not following any standard definition of efficiency; he is not comparing similar energy values at all.

Rather, he is comparing the amount of material required for a particular sized battery to what is used. It is not a measure of energy but of material. It should properly be called EV conservation, not efficiency. Instead of giving him a gold star, we should send him back to school. His argument goes something like this: “Because you, the consumer, are neurotic and refuse to conserve, I have to give you a less advanced technology.” It is a bit like making the kids sit at the kiddie table in a high chair and cut up their food that they can only eat with a spoon when they are 16. What is wrong with this picture? If you have never trained your kids, this is what you might get. Dependents. A little education is not only part of your responsibility as a parent but can be a social responsibility as well.

It is on this basis that Petersen advocates hybrids and lead-acid batteries. Dependents are good for business. For this less than optimistic lawyer, people will always be wasteful and the investor can cash in on this failure. Education is bad for business.

The Back Door

Peterson has been a prolific writer with many articles published, but he is not educating us. He is telling us that, because we are incorrigible, we don't deserve electric vehicles. The logic is clear from its premise to its conclusions but like many such arguments it fails in its assumptions. The obvious point, education, is broad enough to take up in a planned separate article. Even more basic is the definition of what is an electric vehicle. There are nuclear ships, submarines, and submersibles that are electric vehicles. The largest land vehicles in the world: earth diggers, movers, and tunnel-boring machines are all electric vehicles. The transmission required by a diesel engine would simply be prohibitive for these vehicles. To supply power for them, a tether is often used to the mains or a diesel generator is used on the vehicle in a series hybrid diesel/electric configuration.

What Is An Electric Vehicle?

Series hybrids, solar cars, and fuel cell electric vehicles are electric vehicles that produce power on the vehicle. Cable cars, trams, and elevators are electric vehicles that are powered by a cable turned by an electric motor. A mag-lev train is an electric vehicle that does not use a conventional rotary motor. Subways and trolleys are electric vehicles that have electricity transmitted to them. Some vehicles will store electricity on the vehicle in batteries and ultra capacitors (or even flywheels). Batteries and electrical storage are not an essential component to an electric vehicle – no, John, not even your lead acid batteries. What makes an electric vehicle is electricity usage, not storage. The battery electric vehicle (BEV) is only a subset of what is possible. It is a little box in a big room.

Perhaps, as John has elsewhere suggested, we have gone too far, too fast in trying to use new battery technology. Perhaps we are presently overextending ourselves with batteries in electric vehicles. But without the battery, Petersen’s argument against the EV vaporizes. Studies have shown that the cheapest method to implement electric vehicles would be to send power to them. New tuned wireless transmission technology may make this possible, unnoticed by the operator.

How To Decide

I enjoy reading John Petersen. He has a clear perspective, knowledge, and although he might not admit it, some good instincts. I also might enjoy reading the horoscope and driving bumper cars. Perspectives, knowledge, and instincts can also play a part with these, but my daily decisions are not going to be based upon someone writing what they think I want to hear and my daily ride will hopefully not be "fun" like bumper cars. It is a mistake and perhaps dangerous to consider such extremes "normal."

I resent being told I make poor choices and can't learn. To an EV advocate, the investor's perspective on the BEV is extremely narrow and fails to take in the scope of what is possible with these marvels. It fails in its definitions and it fails on a test of thinking outside the box. The dark knights, like our fears and preconceptions, have no more power than we give them.

Photo Credit: George Shuklin/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

AWEA WINDPOWER 2012 Wrap-up; Microsoft & Sprint Push for PTC

Posted: 10 Jun 2012 05:46 PM PDT

Here’s another slightly belated repost for you all to enjoy. Here’s AWEA’s own wrap-up of its recent WINDPOWER 2012 conference, which we posted on a couple times. For anyone who’s been following wind industry news, there’s not a whole lot of new information in here, but some important news is that Microsoft and Sprint, two of the largest companies in the US, have now officially gotten behind extension of the PTC for wind power (a very important topic that needs acted on ASAP). Here’s AWEA’s full statement for more:

ATLANTA, Ga., June 6, 2012 – Major new supporters, including Republican strategist Karl Rove, emerged for the campaign to keep U.S. wind energy growing by extending a critical Production Tax Credit (PTC), as the global wind industry's largest annual gathering, WINDPOWER, entered its fourth and final day today in Atlanta.

Microsoft and Sprint delivered a new letter to Congressional leadership asking for an extension of the PTC. Microsoft and Sprint are the largest "wind customer" companies to endorse the campaign, ranking 37th and 90th, respectively, in the Fortune 500, with combined annual revenues of over $100 billion. They join 15 other major U.S. companies and consumer brands, including Starbucks, Nike, Campbell's Soup, Staples, Yahoo!, and Hewlett-Packard, who have committed to purchasing more renewable energy, and endorse the PTC extension.

And Tuesday, Karl Rove endorsed a PTC extension along with Robert Gibbs, a former spokesman for President Obama in a lively discussion during a general assembly appearance before an audience of thousands.

"We've got a growing economy that's increasing energy consumption and wind energy should be part of the solution," Rove said, describing how he saw wind energy's benefits in person while staffing then-Gov. George W. Bush in Texas. Extending the PTC "should be a priority," he said.

At the first WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition to take place in the Southeast, thousands of corporate leaders and wind power professionals dug deep into industry issues via a full slate of concurrent educational sessions and committee meetings on topics from federal legislation, transmission, and state policy, to operation and maintenance, safety, and the wind industry supply chain. Business discussions continue on the tradeshow floor, which this week has been home to over 900 exhibitors.

"With more than 90 wind-related manufacturing facilities located in Southeast – 20 of which are in Georgia – and the proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world's busiest airport, Atlanta was a natural fit to host WINDPOWER, and we are excited that AWEA chose Atlanta as the host city this year," said Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) Vice President, Supply Chain & Advanced Manufacturing Development Bob Pertierra. "Wind energy, renewable energy and clean technology represent one of the fastest-growing segments for economic growth in the world."

"WINDPOWER 2012 has truly been a phenomenal event, starting with the location of Atlanta—in the Southeast, where over 90 manufacturing plants now serve the wind power industry," said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. "This week we have seen that the energy that our industry brings to America—both in terms of electrons produced and jobs created—can and will not be stopped. But Congress must do its part and pass an extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy as soon as possible so that our industry can move forward."

The Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind power's primary policy driver, is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, and already the industry's supply chain is feeling the effects of the uncertainty. The PTC has been a key topic throughout WINDPOWER 2012 and will continue to be until Congress takes action. A recent study found that extending the PTC will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration will cause the loss of 37,000 jobs.

WINDPOWER 2012 helped send the message of the PTC's economic importance straight to Washington, D.C. Just in the last three days, Members of Congress received some 20,000 contacts from their constituents via the industry's grassroots action network, at

The event's reach is global as well as regional, as some 60 countries were represented at WINDPOWER 2012.

Industry finds value in meeting up

As WINDPOWER marches through its final day, thoughts already are turning to WINDPOWER 2013, which takes place May 5-8 in Chicago, as well as a busy schedule of AWEA fall events. Headed into WINDPOWER 2012, WINDPOWER 2013 sales were already 60 percent sold out of the space available. Prospective WINDPOWER 2013 exhibitors can still secure their space before leaving Atlanta, right at the AWEA Booth (#1609).

As for fall events, like WINDPOWER 2012, the 2012 Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition heads to the Southeast this year, underscoring the opportunity for an offshore wind energy supply chain to develop in coastal states. The event, set for Oct. 9-11, will take place in Virginia Beach, Va.

AWEA's slate of recently launched regional events is now in full swing as well, with the Regional Wind Energy Summit – New England (Sept. 5-6) happening in Portland, Maine, and the Regional Wind Energy Summit – Southwest (Dec. 5-6) headed for Houston, Texas. The Wind Resource and Project Energy Assessment Seminar, which takes place in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 13-14, is always a big draw for those working in the resource side of the industry, while one of the industry's cornerstone events this side of WINDPOWER is the high-level AWEA Wind Energy Fall Symposium, taking place this year in Chandler, Ariz., Nov. 14-15. For information on all AWEA events, go to

CASE’s Latest Solar Trade Dispute Statement

Posted: 10 Jun 2012 05:25 PM PDT

I’m a little late reposting this, but the following is CASE’s most recent statement on the US-China solar trade dispute:

case solar

WASHINGTON, DC – June 6, 2012 – The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) today joined other leading American solar industry associations and suppliers in calling for the US and Chinese governments to engage in a constructive dialogue to avert a destructive global trade war in the solar industry.

CASE's comments come amidst news reports that China-based companies and India-based companies are seeking anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations against companies entering their markets from the US and other countries. Such investigations would follow a process similar to the current US government investigation, instituted by firms producing PV modules in the US including, German-owned SolarWorld, which recently resulted in the preliminary application of significant US tariffs on Chinese solar cells.

"Unless cooler heads prevail, American solar companies could face even more direct and collateral damage than the 30% tax imposed on many of them last month," said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. "Already polysilicon companies in China are seeking retaliatory tariffs against US polysilicon manufacturers," said Shah.

Two of the largest US solar energy materials suppliers, DuPont and Dow Corning, also came to the defense of free and global trade. These companies are not CASE members, but are both concerned about growing trade tensions in solar energy.

David B. Miller, President of DuPont Electronics and Communications, stated, "A well-developed global supply chain has helped the production of PV panels to reach significant efficiency and economics of scale, bringing quality and durability up and prices down. This is good for global consumers, and good for the expansion of solar energy, creating jobs in the materials supply chain, much of it based here in the US, and for PV installers here in the US and elsewhere. It is important that trade be both free and fair, and important that countries resolve any trade disputes in ways that minimize disruptions in this important PV supply chain."

Similarly, Robert D. Hansen, President and CEO, Dow Corning Corporation, said, "The opportunity for solar technology to provide clean, renewable, domestically generated energy, as well as economic value and jobs is so great, that there are opportunities for all countries to benefit significantly. Trade discussions in fast-growth, new technology industries like solar, which also offer a tremendous amount of social benefit to the world, are best served by government and business leaders collaborating to develop free, fair and constructive trade policies  which enable and foster growth and cooperation."

CASE also applauds a recent statement by the US Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), an American solar industry association representing thousands of American solar companies, which expressed concern about the trade fight and called for a constructive dialogue and engagement between the US and China. "It's sad that SolarWorld feels compelled to oppose the rest of the solar industry," added Shah.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, issued a statement saying, "The escalating trade conflict in the global solar industry will ultimately hurt the entire market at a time when solar energy is on the cusp of widespread adoption. Companies from all nations will be the ultimate losers.  Exporters will find fewer and fewer destinations for their products.  Large project developers and local installers will find it more and more difficult to source products.  And consumers will see solar energy as a less competitive source of electricity. This is an absolutely unacceptable outcome."

In addition, the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), a global industry association representing thousands of semiconductor companies, has made a similar plea to reduce tensions and trade barriers.

"The current trade dispute is just one instance of growing trade barriers that are proliferating and encumbering the deployment of renewable energy. Other trade and market barriers have arisen in areas related to investment, government procurement, local content requirements and conflicting standards and certification requirements. PV solar and other renewable energy industries must begin the long and difficult process of developing a comprehensive and holistic world trade agreement that promotes free and open trade and accelerates adoption of renewable energy," SEMI said in a statement.

Despite the clear consensus in the American solar industry, and appeals by CASE, SolarWorld has so far steadfastly refused to come to the table to help diffuse the destructive solar trade war. In a recent statement, Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., rejected calls to seek constructive bilateral solutions, saying that, "We do not need talks and we do not need deals."

Many of the subsidies provided to SolarWorld typify the supply-side subsidies that could be targeted by future trade investigations, such as government-backed loans for SolarWorld exports to India, SolarWorld's partnership with the Qatar government on a new polysilicon facility and SolarWorld's receipt of more than US$100 million in direct industrial subsidies in Germany.

"Governments around the world have provided the solar industry with support as a bridge to help the industry mature and stand on its own feet. In particular, Germany has played a leading role in helping SolarWorld and the global solar industry become what it is today," said Jigar Shah.

CASE remains hopeful that SolarWorld will rejoin everyone else in the solar industry, including key industry associations like SEIA, to put the interests of the American and global solar industries ahead of their own corporate interests.

"SolarWorld's participation would be welcomed in seeking a constructive end to this destructive episode," said Jigar Shah. "Instead of raising taxes to offset subsidies, let's create a global free trade agreement in clean tech that ensures open market access and a level playing field for everyone. All solar industry leaders want to see a trade war averted. It's past time to move forward and put our industry first."

About CASE: The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), a coalition of American solar companies representing 97% to 98% of the US solar industry jobs, believes free trade and industry competition are critical to making solar electricity affordable for everyone. CASE is united in its commitment to creating jobs through the growth and development of the American solar industry. For more information about CASE, please visit:

Solar Panel Technology Advancements Infographic

Posted: 10 Jun 2012 05:20 PM PDT

This is a fun short infographic our friends at Solar Sphere recently shared with us. Check it out (to enlarge, hold down ‘ctrl’ or ‘command’ and click the ‘+’ key):

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