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Top 10 Most-read News Stories of 2011

2011 has been a year of highs and lows for the renewable industry, marked with trade disputes, record installations, bankruptcies, and technological innovations. To review the interesting year in this ever-evolving industry, here are the top 10 most-read articles of 2011.

The Peak Oil Catastrophe-in-waiting: The United States continues to slumber while a catastrophe lies in wait. Increasing numbers of analysts and policymakers are warning of another super price spike for oil and the likelihood of "peak oil" more generally. Peak oil is the point at which global oil production reaches a maximum and then declines. The speed of the decline is a key unknown and if it is relatively fast, the results could be truly dire for economies around the world. Read a recent follow-up here.

Solar Energy Becoming Cheaper than Gas in California?: We hear it every day: "Solar is too expensive." Well, not according to the California utility Southern California Edison. In a recent filing to the state's Public Utilities Commission, SCE asked for approval of 20 solar PV projects worth 250 MW – all of which are expected to generate a total of 567 GWh of electricity for less than the price of natural gas.

Calculating the True Cost of Solar Electricity: It goes without saying that solar investors want a good cost and performance analysis before deciding whether to pump money into a project. What many may not realize is the numbers they get often are superficial and too basic, said researchers from Argonne National Laboratory.

Germany-Greece in Talks Over Massive Solar Project: Greece is looking to the sun for a plan that will help it emerge from its deep economic troubles, and solar giant and EU powerhouse Germany may be the beneficiary. According to a report in Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea, a $29 billion project (€20 billion) could create as many as 60,000 positions in jobs-starved Greece by harvesting its abundant sunshine and shipping it to Germany, which has committed itself to moving rapidly away from nuclear power following Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis.

Wind Becomes Spain's Biggest Energy Source: Spain saw wind power become its main source of electricity generation last month, underscoring the country's progress in becoming one of Europe's greenest nations. Power network operator Red Electrica (REE) said Iberian wind farms generated 4,738 GWh of electricity in March to meet 21% of demand, 5% above the year-ago monthly rate, fueled by heavier winds than usual.

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A Buoyant Future for Floating Wind Turbines?: In recent years there have been two significant trends in the wind industry: developers seeking higher quality wind resources and turbines growing in size. In response to these developments, the idea of 'floating' offshore wind turbines is becoming increasingly popular. Because they float, these turbines can provide developers with better access to offshore wind resources, unconstrained by water depth. Done right, they include a support structure able to accommodate today's large, and tomorrow's even larger turbines. 

Abu Dhabi: Rise of a Renewable Energy Titan?: United Arab Emirates It's no secret that oil rich Abu Dhabi sees renewable energy as the theme for the next chapter of its place in history. The emirate already has invested billions of dollars to pave the way to this new economy. It has taken stakes in many wind and solar power energy projects, started its own solar panel manufacturing business and put money in other solar panel manufacturers in Europe, United States and Asia. It also has formed partnerships with multinational energy, automotive and information technology giants and begun building a city from scratch to showcase low-carbon technologies.

Ten Clean and Green Energy Stocks for 2011: These lists serve as a record of my thinking on the market which I can look back on and learn from over the following year. When I publish the list, I state my reasons for selecting each stock, and then track the portfolio's performance over the following year in quarterly updates. This allows me to not only track how well the portfolio performed, but to check that performance against what I expected over the previous year.

The Rise of Concentrating Solar Thermal Power: With big government help, a solar thermal power (CSP) technology boom seems to be coming in the United States. Regulators have issued permits for about a dozen power plant projects and construction is underway for a few. But the three main challenges for building a project — permits, finance and technology — remain big concerns for technology and project developers.

Industry Leaders: SunShot's $1 per Watt Goal Feasible:  Rapid growth in solar photovoltaics has brought installation costs within sight of $1 per watt for large projects and closer to competing with fossil fuels. Prices still hover around $3 per watt currently, so it will take multiple breakthroughs in technology, public policy and manufacturing processes before reaching the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot goal of $1 per watt by 2017.

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