• Another Win for Solar Power Grid Tie in Canada

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    Carmanah solar panelsCarmanah Technologies Corporation (TSX: CMH) (Pink Sheets: CMHXF) has been awarded a contract valued at approximately $1.8 million (CAD) to provide solar power grid-tied PV systems for two elementary schools in Southern Ontario. Architects and planners for both schools considered the integration of a solar PV system early in the building’s design process. This, in combination with the School District’s continued support of sustainable energy and available funding through the Renewable Energy Funding for schools program, contributed to the District’s decision to adopt the two solar PV systems. Carmanah was awarded both contracts based on the Canadian technology company’s successful history in the solar PV industry. This year, Carmanah celebrates its 10-year anniversary in the Canadian solar grid-tie industry.  Solar power grid tie systems are just one of the many products Carmanah are know for.

    “we are encouraged by the direction school districts are taking with regards to sustainable energy saving initiatives, such as the investment in a solar grid-tie system.”

    As part of the Ministry of Education’s Energy Management and Conservation Initiative through the Renewable Energy Funding for schools program, the School Board will construct two facilities in Grimsby, Ontario. While offering immediate benefits such as reducing energy consumption, each integrated solar power system will generate revenue for the district through the Ontario Power Authority Feed-In-Tariff Program. .

    Each school will be outfitted with a 100 kW rooftop system, consisting of more than 500 solar modules as well as a web-enabled data monitoring system where the collected information will be accessible for educational purposes. The grid-tie PV structure will be incorporated into the sloped infrastructure of the building with the arrays large enough to be seen from ground level. Once installed, the new system will showcase the School District’s movement towards alternative energy solutions.

  • Canada: Ottawa facility to manufacture solar inverters for Emerson

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    solar panelsSanmina-SCI (NASDAQ:SANM)’s Ottawa plant has won a deal to produce solar power inverters for Missouri firm Emerson, as part of the latter’s bid to get in on Ontario’s renewable energy projects.

    The deal will see Sanmina-SCI – which employs roughly 500 people in Ottawa – building grid-tie inverters to convert direct-current power from photovoltaic arrays into alternating-current power that can be placed directly on the electric grid. The inverters will be used by utilities and large-scale commercial uses, Emerson said.

    Emerson added the partnership would help it to comply with Ontario’s requirement that technologies used in renewable energy projects be built within the province.

    “Emerson’s market leadership in the solar energy industry, combined with our proven expertise in producing complex, large-scale industrial products, will help meet the rapidly growing needs of Ontario’s feed-in-tariff alternative energy program,” said Tom Clawson, executive vice-president of Sanmina-SCI’s Industrial Markets division, in a statement.

    Production of the inverters will begin this year, the companies said, noting that the inverters may also be used for solar energy projects throughout the rest of North and South America.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

  • NM utility unveils first large-scale solar plant

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    Rows of solar panels at the New Mexico 2 megawatt plant(AP)ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Without a cloud in the sky, New Mexico’s largest electric utility could not have picked a better day to unveil the first of five solar power generating stations it will build this year to meet state renewable energy requirements.

    Officials with Public Service Company of New Mexico and Arizona-based manufacturer First Solar joined city leaders Wednesday to dedicate the 2-megawatt photovoltaic plant.

    The massive collection of solar panels represents the utility’s first venture into large-scale solar development in a state that has been recognized in numerous studies over the years as one of the nation’s best spots for tapping the sun’s energy.

    It has taken years to set the regulatory stage for renewable energy development in New Mexico, but PNM bringing its solar arrays online this year couldn’t come at a better time since pressure from environmentalists to curb emissions is growing and state renewable energy standards will only become more stringent over the next decade.

    “This is a great new fuel source,” PNM president and chief executive Pat Vincent-Collawn said as the sun beat down on the panels behind her. “It’s not continuous, but it really helps us diversify our fuel sources, and as we’ve all seen with everything that’s going on, having diversity is very, very important to us.”

    Nearly two-thirds of the electricity PNM generates for its 500,000 customers comes from coal and natural gas-fired power plants. The utility’s portfolio also includes about 200 megawatts of wind energy, and it owns a stake in the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

    Vincent-Collawn said coal and nuclear-generated power give PNM a critical base load that is available around the clock for customers. She said the utility is working on storage technology it hopes will offset the intermittency of wind and solar.

    PNM’s Albuquerque Solar Energy Center — located just south of the utility’s decades-old natural gas fired Reeves generating station — is the largest collection of photovoltaic solar panels in the metro area.

    Made up of 30,000 panels spread over 20 acres, the array is capable of generating enough electricity to meet the needs of about 630 homes.

    It also marks the second major solar installation to open in New Mexico this week. On Tuesday, a Chevron subsidiary completed a 1-megawatt concentrating photovoltaic plant on a mine tailings site in northern New Mexico.

    In all, PNM plans to add 22 megawatts of solar-generated power to its portfolio by the end of the year. That will be enough to power about 7,000 homes and offset 44 million pounds of the utility’s annual carbon emissions.

    PNM’s $102 million investment in the solar arrays is driven by New Mexico’s requirement that 10 percent of the electricity provided by investor-owned utilities come from renewable resources such as wind and solar. That requirement will increase incrementally to 20 percent by 2020.

    About 30 states already have renewable energy standards, but there are some lawmakers who are pushing for Congress to establish a national standard.

    U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who attended Wednesday’s dedication, has been among the supporters of a national standard. He said PNM’s solar arrays mark “a big step forward” in how power is produced, how the electrical grid is managed and how the nation ensures its energy security.

    “Up to now, a lot of customers started this ball rolling by investing in their own systems,” he said.

    Experts agree that one of the factors delaying development of large-scale renewables has been cost.

    The cost of PNM’s solar arrays will be passed on to customers through rates beginning in July 2012 as part of an agreement approved by state regulators. Cost thresholds designed to protect customers are built into the state’s renewable energy requirements. The threshold this year is capped at 2 percent. It will be 2.25 percent next year.

    Vincent-Collawn said PNM was able to save some money by building the Albuquerque array on land already owned by the utility.

    The other four arrays will be built in Los Lunas, Deming, Alamogordo and Las Vegas. Those facilities will be more than twice the size of the one in Albuquerque.

  • Google Backs German Solar Farm

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    Google solar farm(Katie Fehrenbacher-GIGAOM.com) Looks like Google’s wind power investments last year aren’t its last clean energy bets. On Thursday afternoon Google announced on its European policy blog that it will invest €3.5 million ($5 million) into a solar photovoltaic farm in Brandenburg an der Havel, which is near Berlin in Germany.

    The 18.7 MW solar farm is already fully constructed across 116 acres, and Google says at least 70 percent of the farm is made up of solar modules made by German manufacturers. Private equity company Capital Stage invested alongside Google in the solar farm.

    There’s a couple reasons Google likes to invest in clean energy projects. First is just for the returns. In May of 2010 Google announced it planned to invest $38.8 million into 169.5 MW worth of wind projects developed by NextEra Energy Resources in North Dakota. As Rick Needham, Google’s green business operations manager, told me last year, the North Dakota wind farms “were attractive because they offered good returns for our capital, based on the risks of the projects, and allowed us to partner with experienced developers and investors.”

    Later that Summer Google followed up by announcing that its subsidiary Google Energy — which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved last year to buy and sell energy on the whole sale markets — would make its first deal and buy clean power from a wind farm in Iowa. Google said then that it wouldn’t actually be using the clean energy in Iowa to power any of its operations, but planned to instead sell that power back to the grid operator there in exchange for Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

    But as Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl (who will be speaking at Green:Net 2011 on April 21 in San Francisco) made it clear to us, Google Energy is also ultimately about being able to procure energy, specifically clean energy, to power the search engine giants data centers. Google can enter into a power purchase agreement contract with, say, a wind developer, agree to buy the wind power before the wind farm is built, and help the developer get a better interest rate for the financing of the plant. Given Google’s data centers largely already have their own power sources, Google could then sell the wind power on the open market until one of its data center power contracts expired.

    Google could theoretically do something similar with its solar investment in Germany. Google didn’t announce that it would buy the solar power via Google Energy, but perhaps that announcement is down the road somewhere, particularly if Google owns half of the farm with a private equity firm. Anyone know if Google has a data center near Brandenburg an der Havel?