Renewable Energy – 2004 in Review: January – March

2004 was a banner year for renewable energy! PV production capacity reached the 1GW mark; Global Wind Power continued to blow at hurricane strength, even with a downturn in the U.S. market; Bioenergy gained critical momentum powered largely by biodiesel; Ocean Energy moved from a few ripples to serious swells in Europe and the U.S.; Green Energy purchases became synonymous with sustainable business practices; and lots more…whew! Today, read the first in a four part series presenting our choices of 2004’s top news. As always, please add your comments and opinion to our interactive Reader Comments at the close of this review. What was your top story?

Top News for January 2004
Howard Dean Campaigns for More Green Power Democratic Presidential candidate, former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean M.D., has reiterated his position on the environment and green power at a campaign stop in Peterborough, New Hampshire, the home base of Largest Solar Energy Project for Nevada Underway A massive 214.5 kW solar array, currently under construction on a Nevada business, will become the state’s largest photovoltaic (PV) installation, according to the project’s installers. Recent state legislation has helped created a market for the clean, locally generated electricity of such renewable energy systems. Solar Energy Provides Crucial Power for Mars Rovers Despite the high failure rates of previous Mars missions, the first of two NASA rovers landed successfully on the red planet’s surface, ushering in a new stage of interplanetary exploration. From beaming back high-resolution pictures of the craft’s surroundings, to doing the complex work of a geologist in hopes of uncovering signs of life, solar photovoltaic (PV) power is essential to the rover’s functions. BP Solar, UNEP, Bring Hope to India’s Poor Poor families in India are being given a New Year renewable energy life-line as a result of a donation by one of the world’s major solar power companies. Astropower Streamlines, Reduces Workforce AstroPower, which has recently weathered difficult financial times including delisting from the NASDAQ stock exchange, now initiated a reduction in its workforce by approximately 10% through a layoff of 45 employees. Breakthrough Poised for Organic Solar Energy While most solar photovoltaic (PV) companies are constantly refining and improving silicon cells in incremental ways, the industry as a whole, and those who support it, have been waiting years for a technological breakthrough that will drop the up-front price and mainstream the clean energy technology. Fringe PV technologies such as organic polymers might be poised on the edge of major commercial success, say Siemens engineers. Oklahoma Wind Farm Starts Spinning Rising high above their rocky limestone perches, 45 wind turbines turn gracefully against the Southwest Oklahoma sky. It’s technology at its latest capturing a natural resource to be used for energy by Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), the power supplier for 19 of Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperatives. Renewable Energy Fuels New Apollo Project An alliance of labor, environmental, civil rights, business, and political leaders has laid out a vision for a “New Apollo Project” to create 3.3 million new jobs and achieve energy independence in ten years. Named after President Kennedy’s moon program, which inspired a major national commitment to the aerospace industry, the Apollo Alliance aims to unify the country behind a ten-year program of strategic investment for clean energy technology and new infrastructure. Mars Solar Photovoltaics Offer Earthly Hope “Spirit,” the first of two NASA Mars exploratory rovers, that landed on January 4, has now taken its first steps on the Red Planet. From beaming back high-resolution pictures of the craft’s surroundings, to doing the complex work of a geologist in hopes of uncovering signs of life, solar photovoltaic (PV) power is essential to the Mars rover’s functions. Two-MW Solar PV Array Joins the German Grid Early January saw one of the world’s largest solar power plants in Neustadt, Germany join the electrical grid. A total of 2 MW of environmentally-friendly electricity will be generated over an area of some 70,000 meters squared (7 hectares) – corresponding to the size of seven soccer fields. Developers said it is large enough to continuously power 700 households. Expiration of Tax Credit Cripples Wind Energy Nearly 1,700 MW of new wind electric generating capacity – enough to serve approximately 425,000 average homes – were installed in the U.S. in 2003, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in a recent statement. The near-record performance for the American wind industry is overshadowed, however, by the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive energy legislation including a three-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), an incentive that is vital to the industry’s future growth. The credit expired December 31, 2003, leading to layoffs, stalled projects, and a negative near-term market outlook.
Top News for February 2004
The Energy Bill Returns It’s back. In the days after President Bush delivered his State of the Union address, Senate Energy Chairman Pete V. Domenici reaffirmed his commitment to passing H.R. 6, the nation’s first comprehensive energy bill in over a decade. And once again the contentious bill is exposing rifts in the renewable energy, energy efficiency, and environmental community. AstroPower Declares Bankruptcy, Sells Assets The horizons have dramatically darkened for what was once a bright light in the solar photovoltaic (PV) market. AstroPower, which has been plagued by financial difficulty since early last year, has filed for bankruptcy and reached an agreement to sell “certain” of its U.S. business assets to industrial heavyweight, GE Energy. Avian Issues Resurface at Altamont Wind Farm With as many as 7000 wind turbines turning at a time, Altamont pass, one of the oldest and largest wind farms in the world, also happens to be one of the most controversial. While a rare issue for modern wind farms, bird mortality at the 20 year-old Altamont pass has been a particularly visible and unfortunate subject, putting what many say is an unfair blemish on the wind power industry. Renewable Standard Introduced in Colorado A bipartisan group of Colorado State Representatives and Senators introduced legislation in he State yesterday calling for a renewable energy standard of 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy capacity by 2006, 900 MW by 2010 and 1,800 MW by 2020, according to the Colorado Coalition for New Energy Technologies. Remote Projects Test the Solar Energy Limits Solar-electric applications have enjoyed a steady transition from off-grid, battery back-up projects to grid-connected, battery-less systems. The recent boom of installations in California has been particularly telling of this trend. It’s easy to forget however, that one of solar’s greatest contributions is in remote power applications. Legislative Victory for Colorado Renewables Establishment of a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in Colorado moved one step closer last week as House Bill 1273, sponsored by Rep. Lola Spradley, (R-Beulah), passed the Colorado House of Representatives by a vote of 39-26. National Academy Questions Hydrogen Promise A transition to hydrogen as a major fuel in the next 50 years could significantly change the U.S. energy economy, reducing air emissions and expanding domestic energy resources, but technical, economic, and infrastructure barriers need to be overcome, says a new report from the National Academies’ National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. In the best case scenario, the transition to a hydrogen economy would take many decades, and any reductions in oil imports and carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be minor during the next 25 years, said the committee that wrote the report. Largest On-Shore UK Wind Farm Approved ScottishPower has been granted planning permission by regional regulators, the Scottish Executive, for a 143 MW, 62 turbine wind farm around 20 miles west of Edinburgh. The Black Law project — the largest onshore wind farm in the UK approved to date — will start generating power in spring 2005. Tides Turn for Ocean-based Renewable Energy UK-based Marine Current Turbines has successfully raised &pound3.0 million (US$5.4 million) in an equity funding round, that will help propel a program to develop a successor to the company’s ‘Seaflow’ Project, the world’s first 300 kW offshore tidal turbine. Renewable Energy Boom in San Francisco Joined by consumer groups, environmental groups and international leaders in renewable energy, San Francisco city officials announced new legislation this week to use the state’s “Community Choice” law, in conjunction with the City’s 2001 Voter-Approved solar “H Bond” Authority, to switch San Francisco to a new supplier for electricity service and build enough solar photovoltaic installations, wind turbines, efficiency and conservation installations, and hydrogen technologies to power 1/4 of the community with green power before the end of the decade.
Top News for March 2004
Hollywood Stars Shine Spotlight On Green Power While movie studios are “going for the gold” in preparation for Oscar Night, many movie stars are “going for the green.” Motivated by their desire to preserve the environment and reduce petroleum dependence, more and more artists in the entertainment industry are using their fame to shine a spotlight on the potential of renewable energy technologies. A Leaner Energy Bill Aims for Success in 2004 In another tumultuous chapter of the Energy Bill, Senate Republicans have reworked the comprehensive energy legislation into a smaller, leaner bill that cuts in half the bill’s tax breaks and other business incentives, reducing them from US$31 billion to less than $14 billion over ten years, and leaving in place many items of importance to the renewable energy industries. Massive New England Solar Array Plans Unveiled What do you do with a 27 acre site of land, capping industrial contaminants and off-grounds to development in a town that is 97 percent developed already? – You build the largest solar electric array in New England, of course. Spanish Solar Giant Isofoton Enters U.S. Market While U.S.-based photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers are increasingly looking abroad to gain new customers – taking advantage of the weak dollar that is fueling exports of US products in general – Spanish solar technology giant and manufacturer, Isofoton sees significant opportunity in the North American PV market. The Malaga based company will enter the U.S. market through a partnership with Energy Outfitters, a distributor of renewable energy products in North America. One-Year PTC Extension Moves Ahead According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) The wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) would be extended for one year (through December 31, 2004) as part of a package of expired tax credits being added to the foreign tax bill (also referred to as the corporate tax reform bill) (S. 1637) likely to pass the Senate in late March. Pelamis Wave Energy Converter is Launched Following six years of detailed design and development, UK-based Ocean Power Delivery has completed the build of the first full-scale Pelamis Wave Energy Converter. Similar in size and rating to a modern wind turbine the Pelamis is designed to harness the energy contained in ocean waves to produce electricity. The machine is the world’s first commercial-scale floating wave energy converter. New Mexico Passes Aggressive Clean Energy Legislation In a move sure give a major boost to renewable energy in New Mexico, the State’s Governor Bill Richardson signed legislation making it mandatory for utilities to source a certain percent of their energy from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydropower. Not only will New Mexico join a growing list of other states stepping forward and calling for clean energy, but it will be among the more aggressive in its pursuit. Maine’s First Wind Farm Proposal Gains Support Citing the need to reduce the impact of electricity generation on the health of Maine people and the environment, the Natural Resources Council of Maine announced its support of a proposed wind power project under consideration by the Department of Environmental Protection for Mars Hill, Maine. The Council also called for a statewide commitment to generate at least 5% of Maine’s electricity by wind power by 2010. First Solar Trough Plant Since 1990 Underway Arizona’s major electric utility APS broke ground on the state’s first commercial solar trough power plant, the first such facility constructed in the United States since 1988. Raleigh, North Carolina-based SolarGenix Energy, formerly Duke Solar, is the project developer and will provide the solar thermal technology. New Jersey, A New Solar Energy Capital Sure, it doesn’t sound like the most likely place for a boom in solar energy, but that’s exactly what’s starting to take place. The outlook for renewable energy – solar in particular – in New Jersey officially went from good to even better last week as the State finalized the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) for solar power, which calls for 90 MW of solar by 2008.
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Renewable Energy World's content team members help deliver the most comprehensive news coverage of the renewable energy industries. Based in the U.S., the UK, and South Africa, the team is comprised of editors from Clarion Energy's myriad of publications that cover the global energy industry.

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