What will the new year bring? A good starting point is reviewing the top news of the more than 2,000 postings published on SolarAccess.com last year. This is the third and final installment of our 2003 Renewable Energy News Review compiling the most relevant stories of the year.
As you reflect upon these important stories in the growing field of renewable energy, let us know if you agree. In 2004, we will strive to bring you the latest, most complete renewable energy news every day from around the world.
Best wishes for the holiday season,
The SolarAccess.com Staff
September 2003 Top News…
Renewable Industries Unite for Energy Bill – 9/9/2003
The renewable energy community joined forces in a fight to see key renewable energy provisions included in the National Energy Bill currently before the Conference Committee. In a letter to the lead Conferees, several renewable energy industry representatives urged that renewable energy measures be included in the final version of the bill.
California Solar Energy Legislative Success – 9/16/2003
One of the most pivotal bills for solar energy in California has recently passed the state’s assembly and is headed to the governor’s desk.
Solar Power Illuminates Villages in India – 9/16/2003
Thanks to subsidies provided by India’s Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, the village of Selas, near the Ooty Hill resort in Tamil Nadu now has electricity for the first time in history. The funding has provided for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays and battery back up systems, which exemplify a government trend towards providing electric power to remote villages.
Wind Farm Stalled by Study for the Birds – 9/18/2003
Following a formal complaint by an environmentalist organization, the European Commission (EC) has stalled plans for the construction of Germany’s first offshore wind farm to investigate the proposed project’s possible infringement of European environmental laws, including a threat to a potentially endangered species of bird. Meanwhile the company building the wind farm expressed perplexity over the debate, insisting that the project presents no significant threat to area wildlife species — and in fact will help to protect animal species by generating power through clean alternative means.
AstroPower Faces Tough Choices – 9/18/2003
It would be an understatement to say that solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer AstroPower has weathered some difficult times lately. In the next chapter of the company’s tumultuous ride, an investment banking firm has been hired to determine the company’s future which may include selling some or all of the company’s assets.
The Bush Administration’s Stance on the Energy Bill – 9/22/2003
Editor’s Note…Some major decisions concerning the future of energy policy in the United States are being explored right now in the halls of Congress. Behind closed doors, committee wrangling is working towards consolidating comprehensive energy legislation which has been passed by both the House and Senate. Even the slightest changes can have fruitful or devastating consequences for the many renewable energy industries for years to come. Curious how the Bush Administration feels about all the issues? Since that’s the last stop before any Energy Bill could become law, the administration’s stance is pivotal to the future of energy policy in the U.S. This week’s RE Insider by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Spencer Abraham summarizes the Bush Administration’s views on energy policy through a letter to Pete V. Domenici, Chairman, House, Senate Conference on H.R. 6….download the .PDF on SolarAccess.com
America’s First Mainstream Solar Community – 9/25/2003
The first home is now up on yet another housing development in the U.S. Yet this time, instead of a thoughtless clump of cookie-cutter dollhouses contributing to unsightly suburban sprawl and the increasingly gluttonous energy use in the U.S. – all 487 lots are reserved for off-grid solar homes.
$300 Million Federal Solar Energy Deployment – 9/25/2003
Congressional Conferees debating current energy legislation released draft legislative language that would authorize a new program to install 20,000 solar energy systems in Federal Buildings by the year 2010.
Massachusetts Launches Wind Collaborative – 9/26/2003
In a state better known for its forays into large wind energy installations like the proposed Cape Wind offshore project, Massachusetts communities are stepping forward and expressing interest in the other end of the spectrum – small community-based wind power projects, and the state’s public renewable energy trust is creating just the right atmosphere for them.
Ethanol from Genetically Modified Corn – 9/29/2003
Biotechnology industry giant Monsanto, best known for their somewhat contentious Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is teaming up with General Motors and the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) to deliver what the company calls “improved” corn for the dry mill ethanol industry, which aims to drive increased fuel ethanol demand and expand fuel ethanol infrastructure to support that demand.
Canada’s Largest Wind Farm Commissioned – 9/29/2003
The McBride Lake Wind Farm, Canada’s Largest wind farm at a single site, is now capturing the southern Alberta winds as Enmax Corporation and Vision Quest Windelectric announced the official commissioning of the CAD$100 (US$74) million renewable energy project.
Five MW Offshore Wind Turbine Unveiled – 9/30/2003
In another example of wind power technology increasingly moving towards economies of scale, Germany-based wind turbine company REpower has unveiled a five MW machine designed for off-shore use. With a rotor diameter of 126.5 meters and a rotor swept area of over 12,000 square meters, the new REpower 5M is now the largest wind turbine in the world, according to REpower.
October 2003 Top News…
Solar Tour Opens Doors to Sustainable Living – 10/3/2003
Rain or shine on Saturday, October 4, the 8th Annual National Solar Tour takes place with more than 1,200 homes, businesses and public buildings open to visitors in 480 communities across the U.S. Organized by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, the tour is expected to draw as many as 30,000 visitors nationwide.
Plans Unveiled for Integrated Bio-Refinery – 10/7/2003
A new project combining the efforts of both the private and public sectors aims to develop both fuels and value-added chemicals from corn or other renewable resources. DuPont and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced a joint research agreement leading toward the development of the world’s first integrated “bio-refinery” that uses corn or other renewable resources, rather than traditional petrochemicals, to produce a host of valuable fuels and chemicals.
Fuel Cell and Hybrid Vehicles Meet Challenge – 10/8/2003
More than 100 of the cleanest-running advanced technology vehicles on the planet participated in the fifth annual environmental vehicle competition, Challenge Bibendum. Created and organized by Michelin, the event brings together all participants in the transportation industry to highlight and discuss the progress being made towards sustainable mobility and environmentally positive transportation. Challenge Bibendum was centered at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway and featured fuel cell and hybrid vehicles from the many of the world’s automobile manufacturers. Competition results showed excellent progress on a variety of technology fronts.
Solar Power Heats Water for Canadian Airport – 10/9/2003
Vancouver International Airport Authority added a new solar-powered hot water heating system in the airport’s domestic terminal building that will contribute to savings of nearly CAD$90,000 (US$67,500) and 8,569 gigajoules (approximately 2.4 million kWh) per year. The 100 solar panels installed on the roof of the building, will help to generate enough energy to heat an average of 800 gallons of hot water at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) each hour.
Schwarzenegger’s Renewable Energy Vision – 10/10/2003
From the sweeping wind turbines at Altamont Pass to the thousands of solar-electric systems installed on homes and businesses, California has been a hotbed for renewable energy. If Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger holds true to his campaign promises, California’s dedication to a diverse, clean energy supply from renewable energy sources will only continue.
BP Solar Wires Remote Angolan Village – 10/15/2003
The 360 residents of the village of Paranhos in the African country of Angola will soon have reliable electricity from solar power, thanks to the joint efforts of BP Angola, the governments of Angola and the United Kingdom, the regional government of Bengo Province and the Paranhos Farmers Association.
Howard Dean Presents Renewable Energy Plan – 10/24/2003
Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, announced his six-point plan to create a thriving renewable energy industry to provide clean, reliable, and secure power for millions of Americans. Dean joined local Worth County residents in a discussion of the economic impact of renewable energy on communities in Worth County, home to a wind farm and future home to ethanol processing.
New Hampshire Seeks Coal Switch to Biomass – 10/28/2003
If granted final approval, a new energy project in New Hampshire will replace a large coal-fired power plant with a wood-fired unit, creating a market for the state’s low-grade wood waste, and contributing to cleaner electrical production.
Plans Finalized for Himalayan Hydro Turbine – 10/29/2003
The e7, an international group of energy companies, has finalized plans to construct a micro-hydro power plant to bring electricity for the first time to Chendebji, a small, remote village high in the Himalayan Mountains. Construction on the 70 kW project is scheduled to begin in Bhutan in November.
BioEnergy Conference Sets National Goals – 10/31/2003
Sponsors of “BioEnergy: The Future of Rural America” have set goals to improve America’s economy, environment and national security. They want to triple U.S. use of bio-based products and bioenergy by 2010, which could create US$15 billion to $20 billion in new income for farmers and rural America and reduce fossil fuel emissions by an amount up to 100 million metric tons of carbon. They also want to produce more biofuels from renewable, domestically supplied biomass, which presents an opportunity for the country to ease the burden of protecting U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf. The conference will be held on November 6.
November 2003 Top News…
Horror Show – 11/3/2003
Although October has passed and Halloween’s festivities are winding down, Congress is still in the throes of a masquerade. Behind closed doors, lobbyists are working to dress up corporate handouts as the answer to America’s energy woes.
Uni-Solar Brings 300 kW Online to Luxemburg – 11/3/2003
The largest solar photovoltaic (PV) system in Europe using triple-junction thin-film has been announced by Uni-Solar. The massive 300-kW ground-mounted array came online in Luxemburg.
U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Bid Faces Delay – 11/4/2003
An already drawn-out permitting process for one of the most anticipated and controversial wind energy projects in the U.S. stands a chance to take even longer and to cost the project developers more money.
Grants to Deploy Emerging Renewable Energy – 11/6/2003
In order to provide an immediate boost to renewable energy technologies that have undergone rigorous development and engineering but have experienced little testing in commercial scale applications, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) is awarding US$2 million in grant funding from the state’s Renewable Energy Trust to four emerging technology demonstration projects across the state.
The Hydrogen Hallucination – 11/10/2003
It’s being called the “freedom fuel”, capable of releasing us at last from the grip of the oil barons. The “hydrogen economy” is even the buzz of the bestseller list. But don’t break out the party balloons yet, because hydrogen hasn’t even the slightest chance of solving our energy problems. A bold assertion, perhaps, but the proof is contained in the simplest of facts: Hydrogen is not a source of energy.
$32 Million Targets Renewable Energy Developers – 11/14/2003
As any developer knows, getting financing can be the biggest challenge to the success of a renewable energy project. One of the most effective ways to make a project more attractive to would-be financiers is to show long term profits, and nothing does this better than securing long-term purchase agreements for the power.
Tapping the Federal Government for Renewables – 11/17/2003
The bottom line to providers of clean energy is that Uncle Sam is the largest owner of buildings in the world and the largest user of energy in the world. So when this national consumer makes energy decisions, state and local governments follow, and the private markets then follow. That’s the good news.
ASES Breaks from the Energy Bill Support Pack – 11/20/2003
Differing sharply from other major renewable energy industry organizations, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has spoken out against the comprehensive Energy Bill that is moving swiftly toward a final vote in the Senate.
Renewables Diverge from Environmentalism – 11/21/2003
The long, often-veiled process for the contentious comprehensive energy bill is speeding towards an end. Having passed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week, the bill is now in debate in the Senate and scheduled for a cloture vote this Friday. Should 60 Senators vote in favor of cloture, which effectively ends debate on the legislation, the bill will move toward a Senate vote that stands to be a close one.
Renewables Wait as Energy Bill Stalls – 11/24/2003
Thanks partly to a filibuster from Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), the energy bill faced its first major defeat in the Senate last Friday. Massive subsidies to the major energy industries and liability protection for the manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE were the main sticking points. The renewable energy industries must now hope for a successful vote in the next few days before the Senate begins the holiday break.
First Major Offshore Wind Farm for the UK – 11/25/2003
Britain plugged in to its vast natural wind power potential with the launch of the country’s first major offshore wind farm, off the North Wales coast. National Wind Power’s North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm was officially switched on last week, starting to generate clean, green electricity for some 50,000 homes across the country, just three months after the first turbine was erected.
December 2003 Top News…
Building a New Energy Economy – 12/1/2003
From Ben Franklin to Thomas Edison and beyond, Americans have always been world leaders when it comes to technology. Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington has been leading us away from innovation and into the arms of corporate interests. Nowhere is this clearer than in the critical field of renewable energy…
UK Commits to 15 Percent Renewable Energy – 12/2/2003
Just a week after the U.S. Congress failed to gain adequate support for a broad and contentious energy bill, the UK has passed their own comprehensive energy legislation. And it dwarfs the piecemeal efforts made toward renewable energy in the U.S. senate.
Germany Passes Laws to Push Renewable Energy – 12/2/2003
The World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE) and the European Association for Renewable Energies e. V. (Eurosolar) reported that the German Parliament is progressively supporting renewable energy in Germany through laws designed to promote photovoltaic (PV) technology and push the market introduction of biofuels by a 100 percent tax exemption. The Members of Parliament (MP) that initiated both laws included MP Hermann Scheer, the General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE) and President of Eurosolar; MP Hans-Josef Fell, the Chairman of the German section of Eurosolar; and MP Michaele Hustedt, who is also a member of Eurosolar.
Kansas Wind Power Looks Beyond Hurdles – 12/4/2003
Despite increased uncertainty in the wind power market due to an expiring federal tax credit, Kansas Wind Power has signed an agreement with Black & Veatch, a global engineering, consulting and construction company, to study the impact of new wind generation on the regional transmission system.
Arizona Utility’s Solar Incentives Double – 12/5/2003
APS customers will soon have twice the motivation to install solar systems on their homes and businesses.In an effort to further encourage its customers to use solar energy, the Arizona utility will double its current purchase credit to customers buying and installing solar systems under the state’s Environmental Portfolio Standard. Effective January 1, APS will pay $4 per watt – up from $2 per watt – for solar systems that are tied to APS’ electric grid, up to 50 percent of the system’s cost. In addition, APS will make a one-time $700 purchase credit to customers who install solar water heating systems, up from $350.
Bush Plan for Hydrogen Is Just Hot Air – 12/8/2003
President Bush hopes to reverse his dismal record on energy and the environment with what the administration trumpets as an alternative plan to address global warming and guarantee energy independence. But the proposal is only a Trojan horse to promote the interests of the coal, oil, gas and nuclear industries.
Energy Bill Failure Forces Downturn for Wind – 12/8/2003
The much contested energy bill’s failure in Congress has brought temporary relief to nearly every U.S. environmental organization, and even some renewable energy groups. The nascent wind industry however, has received a serious blow since renewal of their most important tax credit was tied up in the bill.
California Renewable Energy Incentives Frozen – 12/10/2003
California’s Emerging Renewables program, which has been crucial to driving many new solar photovoltaic installations in the state, has been temporarily frozen in response to a new order handed down from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Solar Cell PV Plant Is Underway Down Under – 12/12/2003
Construction is now underway on Origin Energy’s $20 million (US$14.8 million) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, which will manufacture solar power panels to demonstrate the company’s Sliver Solar Cell technology. The new plant was developed with the Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems.
Danish Wind Power Giants Merge – 12/15/2003
Two of the largest wind turbine manufacturers plan on combining their operations into one powerhouse Danish wind energy company, gobbling up 35 percent of the worldwide market, employing 8,500 people and boasting anticipated 2004 sales of EUR 2.7 billion (US$3.31 billion).
Mitsubishi Aims to Boost Solar PV Production – 12/17/2003
Mitsubishi Electric, which have been increasingly broadening their business into the realm of renewable energy through both their solar and wind power division, are now planning on giving their solar output a significant boost.
Offshore Wind Sites Unveiled in the UK – 12/18/2003
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), welcomed the government’s ‘Round 2’ announcement that fifteen projects, representing between 5.4 and 7.2GW of new wind capacity pot, will be offered leases to develop projects off the coast of the UK. When completed these projects could provide power equivalent to 4 million homes, or one in six of UK households.
Largest U.S. Geothermal Plant Gains Approval – 12/19/2003
The California Energy Commission voted to license the Salton Sea Unit 6 Geothermal Power Project. If constructed as expected, the facility would use geothermal steam from the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area to produce 185 MW. The power plant would be the largest using geothermal steam to generate electricity in the United States.