Tag Archives: California

Greening Oil Production: Chevron Taps BrightSource For Solar Scale Steam Technology

Solar-based oil production, a new business for the clean tech crowd
Solar-based oil production, a new business for the clean tech crowd

It’s all about market creation… That’s the logic driving today’s announcement that BrightSource Energy would for the first time deploy its solar steam production technology to improve oil production at Chevron‘s Coalinga field in Central California.

BrightSource, which counts both Chevron and Google as investors, is better known as a developer of utility-scale concentrating solar power plants for electricity generation. And in that business – on paper at least – the Oakland, Calif.-based company is doing well; it has signed supply contracts, mostly with California utilities, for some 2,600 megawatts of electricity generating capacity. The technology to be deployed at Coalinga will use the same core process: solar heat is collected by high efficiency mirrors and used to turn water into steam.

In the case of Chevron, the steam will be piped underground to heat Coalinga crude reserves, a process that eases the extraction process. Coalinga holds an estimated 58 million barrels in oil reserves.

Chevron will first assess how the steam process works at Coalinga before possibly deploying it to other fields.

BrightSource plans to deploy some 3,800 mirrors on a 100-acre (44 hectares) site owned by Chevron. Both BrightSource and Chevron declined to comment on the project’s costs.

BrightSource says it is counting on a government loan guarantee to finance part of the project, reports GreenTechMedia. Construction is expected to start early next year.

NRG inks (its second this month) long-term PPA for output of large, California solar project

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) , pressed by a California mandate requiring that utilities produce 20 percent of their electric output from renewable resources by 2010, has secured another 92 megawatts of solar power, signing a 20-year? power purchase agreement for the output of NRG Energy‘s Alpine SunTower project.

Alpine SunTower, located in Lancaster Calif., in Los Angeles County, will use technology developed by eSolar and is expected to begin operating in 2012. This is the second project NRG and eSolar are? jointly developing. Earlier this month El Paso Electric signed a PPA with for 92 megawatts of solar power to be generated by a plant to be developed by NRG in New Mexico, using eSolar technology.

In total NRG and eSolar?s plan to develop up to 500 megawatts of solar thermal power in California and across the Southwestern U.S. Earlier this year NRG invested $10 million in eSolar for the right to use the company?s technology.

PG&E bulks up its solar power portfolio

San Francisco utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E ) has announced plans to purchase an average of 592 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually from a 230-megawatt utility-scale solar power project being developed by NextLight Renewable Power, a startup that is also based in San Francisco.

The project, formally known as the AV Solar Ranch, will be built on agricultural land in Los Angeles County’s Antelope Valley and will use photovoltaic panels and inverters to capture solar energy and convert it to electricity. Dow Jones Newswires reports that the electricity price in the 25-year power purchase agreement  linking PG&E and NextLight is caped at $132.90/megawatt-hour. At this rate, NextLight would earn about $78 million per year.

The plant is expected to begin delivering electricity to PG&E in 2011 and become fully operational by 2013.

With a California state mandate requiring local utilities produce 33% of their electricity from carbon-free, clean energy sources by 2030, PG&E and the state’s other major utilities (Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric) are aggressively securing clean power from a slew of independent developers. Just  last month PG&E signed contracts for seven utility-scale solar power plants with a total capacity of 1,310 megawatts being developed by Google-backed BrightSource Energy.

A recent report by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), a Washington industry group, ranked California as the nation’s most solar-integrated state. For more on that see, here.

Smart grid developer Trilliant acquires SkyPilot

Trilliant of Redwood City, Calif., which develops solutions that capture data from smart meters and distribute the information to power utilities, has acquired SkyPilot Networks, which provides long-range wireless mesh network equipment for broadband.

With this acquisition, Trilliant is building itself up as a “one stop shop” serving electric utilities and their smart meter communication needs. SkyPilot’s WiFi-based mesh technology is unique because of its range of up to 10 miles (17 kilometers).

SkyPilot is based in Santa Clara, Calif. and has provided wireless networks for municipalities and rural areas. It has about 500 customers spread across 50 countries.

Since the beginning of the year, Trilliant has deployed about one million smart meter solutions. So far, the company has secured contracts for the delivery of more than three million meters, reports GreenTechMedia.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but VentureBeat notes that in the past, both companies raised large amounts of venture capital. SkyPilot raised $70 million over several rounds while Trilliant last raised $40 million in August.

California approves low-carbon fuel standard

California’s Air Resources Board approved the nation’s first fuel standard that will seek to cut green house gas emissions by 10% by 2020. The regulations are the first in the nation and will be gradually phased in, starting January 1.

The measure was approved in a 9-1 vote late Thursday. The regulations seek to reduce 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. In California  transportation accounts  for 40% of CO2 emissions.

While environmentalist strongly backed the measure, not surprisingly the oil and gas industry did not.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, executive director of the Western States Petroleum Association lobbying group pointed out that as is   there are not enough biofuels available to meet the demands of the new regulation. “It’s hard to comply with a regulation when we don’t have any other fuel to blend with ours to reduce its carbon intensity,” she told The San Jose Mercury News.

The new regulation was also opposed by the corn-based ethanol industry, which complained the measures gave ethanol a poor emissions score.  Ethanol, environmentalists have argued, that producing corn-based ethanol requires lots of energy and displaces food crop, driving prices. There is also concern that pushing demand for corn would result in pristine land being displaced to grow corn.

General Wesley Clark, a co-chair of the pro-ethanol group Growth Energy, said “this was a poor decision, based on shaky science.”

Roland Hwang, a program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council said that “instead of fighting… the ethanol industry [should] face this challenge with the same spirit of innovation that makes California the center of clean-tech investment.”

In and around the green

  • 10 Reasons To Celebrate/Grouse About Greentech on Earth Day [Earth2Tech]
  • Washington state can lead the way to a green economy [GristMill]
  • Majority Leader Reid: Senate to wait for House cap-and-trade bill, effectively delaying final bill until 2010. Here’s why that should be good news. [Climate Progress]
  • California Proposes Banning Energy-Guzzling TVs [EcoGeek]
  • Square Feet: Some of the Bright Lights of New York’s Businesses Are Powered by Wind [NYT – Energy & Environment]
  • Six VCs Sitting Around Talking [Green Light]
  • U.S. Lawmakers Begin Hearings On Major Climate Legislation [Yale Environment 360]
  • Economic analysis: Waxman-Marley Clean Energy Act can cut pollution, create $465 billion in wealth a year [The Wonk Room]
  • Disney’s ‘Earth’ treads familiar but important ground [USA Today]
  • 10 Most Incredible Globes: Taking Earth Day Literally [Environmental Graffiti]

This week in green energy

Times are a bit surreal in the clean energy sector these days. Despite billions of dollars in expected government support and growing demand, companies are reeling, unable to finance their growth or? even daily operations.? This is happening as research firms and industry groups are issuing positive year in review reports, touting the record growth in 2008.? See here, here or here. How things have changed.

Underscoring this reversal of fortune was Friday’s report that OptiSolar was shutting down its two plants, one in Sacramento? and the other in Hayward, Calif.? Just a year ago the company said it would build the massive 550 megawatts Topaz solar farm in California’s Central Coast. Pacific Gas and Electric had agreed to buy the plant’s electricity output. But even with this marquee backing, OptiSolar was unable to secure funding.

Earlier this month OptiSolar sold its pipeline of unfinished projects, including the Topaz farm, to First Solar in a $400 million all stock transaction.? At the time, the company was counting on a $300 million federal loanguarantee to stay in business as a manufacturer of thin-film solar cells.

Earth2Tech draws an interesting parallel between the end of the clean energy boom and the dot com bust a decade earlier. It writes:

The fallen dotcom firms of the past made a variety of mistakes like building services no one was ready for yet (Pets.com and Webvan), or making margins so slim that the business wasn?t sustainable (kozmo.com: free delivery of discounted goods in an hour and no tips!). But the faults of the struggling cleantech firms have been largely both underestimating how expensive it is to manufacture ?stuff? and not being able to reach a large manufacturing scale quick enough before the credit crunch hit. It seemed as if OptiSolar had announced it was building one of the largest solar photovoltaic projects ever built at 550 MW, before it had even disclosed its funders or explained how its technology was superior to any competitors.

Other clean energy companies announcing scale backs:? Biofuel maker Imperium Renewables laid off 24 employees;Spanish developer Acciona Windpower cut 65 jobs in the U.S.

Oil companies are doing the same. Royal Dutch Shell said this week that it would drop all wind and solar investments,? arguing returns were too small. BP, over the past year, has shut down a solar panel manufacturing plant in Australia and said it would only invest in wind projects in the U.S. and Europe.

Shut downs, lay offs…. consolidation. First Solar started the process a few weeks ago with its acquisition of the OptiSolar project pipeline.? That same week Spanish developer Fotowatio bought projects from MMA Renewable Ventures.? It continued this week with Recurrent Energy’s acquisition of a 350-megawatt project portfolio from Chicago-based UPC Solar. In Europe private equity fund HG Capital acquired controlling interests in three Spanish solar plants from AIG Financial Products, the embattled unit of insurer American International Group.

But, there are small rays of light.? This week, the Department of Energy, acting on its pledge to speed up processing of renewable energy loan guarantees, distributed the first of these to Solyndra, a California solar panel maker. It? plans to use the $535 million guarantee to grow production at its facilities in Fremont, Calif.

On the regulatory front, the Department of Interior and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)? signed a Memorandum Of Understanding to work on rules to regulate the development of offshore wind and solar projects.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on Tuesday that the cap-and-trade system proposed by the Obama administration,? could actually raise two-to-three times the White House’s $646 billion revenue estimate, generating roughly $1.3 trillion and $1.9 trillion for the 2012 -2019 period. As is, about $120 billion of? the trading platform’s revenues would fund clean energy projects.

In and around the green

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

In and around the green

  • Pelosi: energy bill should do it all (The Huffington Post)
  • Senators grill Google, regulators on smart grid rollout (Earth2Tech.com)
  • California dreaming: team Obama may not grant emissions waiver, Granholm says (Environmental Capital via The Wall Street Journal)
  • EDF maps 1,200 companies poised to benefit from climate law (GreenBiz.com)
  • Xcel Energy strikes waste-energy deal with Microgy (Denver Business Journal)
  • Sempra aims for mass-scale solar power (TheStreet.com)
  • 5 huge green-tech projects in the developing world (Wired.com)
  • Chocolate by-product produce sweet, green energy (The Green Blog via The Boston Globe)
  • Montana eyes change in renewable energy standards (Great Falls Tribune)
  • Demo: Tendril releases mobile app for home energy management (VentureBeat.com)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

California Energy Commission: $300M from stimulus for clean energy investments

The California Energy Commission expects to get $300 million, from the $787 billion? stimulus signed into law last month, to? “promote [energy] conservation, increase energy efficiency and expand renewable energy in California,” it said in a written statement emailed Tuesday.

The Commission also announced the launch of a stimulus Web site that will allow tax payers to track and have a say on how? stimulus monies are spent. for more, see here.

Last week — as reported by GER — the Commission issued a request for proposal for research in view of constructing a California smart grid. For more on that initiative, see here.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]