Venture Capital Rushes Into Alternative Energy

Money is flowing into alternative energy companies so fast that “the warning signs of a bubble are appearing,” according to a report on investment in clean technology by a New York research firm, Lux Research.

The report also suggests that companies that make equipment to cleanse air or water, or that process waste, have been overlooked by investors.

Matthew M. Nordan, president of Lux, said that the amount of venture capital put into clean energy investments last year was $1.5 billion, up 141 percent from the $623 million of 2005, and that in the same period, initial public offerings by companies in this sector rose to $4.1 billion, from $1.6 billion in 2005.


7 amazing facts about renewable energy

The Sustainable Energy Coalition is hosting a big energy expo in D.C. today, and they have assembled a nice collection of interesting factoids about renewable energy. Here are 7 facts about the renewable market you probably didn't know:
. . . that renewable energy sources provided nearly 10% of both domestic energy production and U.S. electrical generation in 2008 with non-hydro renewable electricity expanding by 17.6% over the previous year; renewable energy will account for about a third of new electricity capacity added to the U.S. grid over the next three years.
. . . . that U.S. wind power grew by 50% in 2008 and accounted for 42% of all new power generation in the United States last year; wind energy could supply at least 20% of U.S. electricity needs by 2030 while avoiding 7.6 cumulative gigatons of carbon dioxide.
. . . . that grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) capacity increased 58% in 2008 and solar water heating capacity increased 40%; the PV industry today is 10 times larger than 1998 and likely to grow by 50% annually in the coming years; solar thermal plants covering an area equal to 9% of Nevada could generate enough electricity to power the nation; solar power is on the verge of reaching cost parity with conventional energy sources.
. . . . that there may be more than 90,000 MW overall of untapped water potential in the United States; through new hydropower technologies, such as advanced turbines, and new applications, such as tidal, wave, ocean currents, and in-stream hydrokinetic approaches, the industry could double its output over the next 20 years.
. . . . that six million Americans are using geothermal energy in their homes – three million receive electricity from geothermal power plants and another three million use geothermal heat pumps to heat & cool their homes; more than 100 new geothermal power projects now under development in 13 states will more than double the county’s geothermal capacity over the next five years.
. . . . that total ethanol capacity expanded 34% and E85 stations exceeded 1,800 in 2008; the fuel now represents more than 7% of the nation’s gasoline supply and can be found in more than 70% of gasoline gallons sold in the U.S.; the 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol produced last year added $47.6 billion to the nation’s GDP; moreover, cellulosic ethanol requirements are projected to boom during the coming decade.
. . . . that biomass is presently the largest U.S. renewable energy source with more than 200 existing biopower plants now providing electricity for 1.5 million American homes; manure-to-energy biogas projects are expanding and could power up to 3% of North America’s electricity needs.

What's The Advantage Of Renewable Energy?

So you want to know what is the advantage of renewable energy?

Thank you for visiting this page where you will learn about some obvious, and some not so obvious advantages of renewable energy.

Well, when using energy from sources that are easily replaced, you are using renewable energy.Examples are the use of sunshine, wind, flowing water, biological- and geothermal processes. They are often described as clean and green forms of energy because of their minimal environmental impact compared to fossil fuels.

One advantage of renewable energy therefore is the more sustainable use of finite sources of energy.

You probably are aware of that advantage already. But of course there is more. And by the way, there is much that you can do yourself about using renewable energy.

And many ready-made solutions to applying renewable energy in your home exist. Click here to visit the Alternative Energy Store for discount prices on solar panels, wind turbines and renewable energy equipment for your home.

No carbon-based planet warming and polluting

The advantage of renewable resources includes their inability to produce carbon-based warming and polluting agents into the atmosphere. The financial cost of its applications is not always cheap but if the environmental costs of using fossil fuels are accounted for, renewable energy wins hands-down. There are also indirect savings on health and its costs as there are no harmful emissions.

The great advantages of renewable energy then are:

  • We can use it repeatedly without depleting it.
  • No contribution to global warming,
  • No polluting emissions
  • Low cost applications when counting all costs
  • Saving on health and its costs

But there is still more.

Scientists make solar energy breakthrough

Researchers at Canada's National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and the University of Alberta say they have engineered an approach that is leading to improved performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells). The development of inexpensive, mass-produced plastic solar panels is a goal of intense interest for many of the world's scientists and engineers because of the high cost and shortage of the ultra-high purity silicon and other materials normally required.

Plastic solar cells are made up of layers of different materials, each with a specific function, called a sandwich structure. Jillian Buriak, a professor of chemistry at the U of A, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team, uses a simple analogy to describe the approach:

"Consider a clubhouse sandwich, with many different layers. One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device. Normally, the layers don't stick well, and so the electricity ends up stuck and never gets out, leading to inefficient devices. We are working on the mayonnaise, the mustard, the butter and other 'special sauces' that bring the sandwich together, and make each of the layers work together. That makes a better sandwich, and makes a better solar cell, in our case".

After two years of research, these U of A and NINT scientists have, by only working on one part of the sandwich, seen improvements of about 30 per cent in the efficiency of the working model.

Michael Brett, professor of electrical and computer engineering, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team is optimistic saying: "our team is so incredibly cross-disciplinary, with people from engineering, physics and chemistry backgrounds all working towards this common goal of cheap manufacturable solar cells. This collaboration is extremely productive because of the great team with such diverse backgrounds, [although] there is still so much more for us to do, which is exciting."

The team estimates it will be five to seven years before plastic solar panels will be mass produced but Buriak adds that when it happens solar energy will be available to everyone. She says the next generation of solar technology belongs to plastic.

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The Solar Energy Breakthrough Will Change the Energy Business Landscape

The cost of solar modules has fallen substantially over the past six months and is expected to fall still further. Photovoltaic solar energy is nearing its breakthrough point. This will happen once the cost of solar electricity equals the cost of electricity from the grid.

That point is referred to as "grid parity" and will vary from country to country depending on the market segment. In sunny California, the grid parity point for private households is near, as solar irradiation is high and consumers pay a high price for their electricity. In France– a little less sunny and with low electricity costs due to its cheaply available nuclear power– grid parity is a little further away.

Nevertheless, grid parity for solar PV will come to all countries eventually, because the cost of solar electricity will continue to fall, while the cost of electricity generated through fossil fuels will only increase. Solar modules and systems will become cheaper as a result of improvements in technology and the scaling up of manufacturing processes. The cost of electricity from the grid will become more expensive as a result of growing demand and the scarcity of fossil fuels. Increasing environmental concerns translating themselves into eco-taxes may raise the price as well. Grid parity could be reached in California and southern Italy in less than two years, while it may take a little longer in other countries, such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Other countries will soon follow suit. What can we then expect?

Once grid parity has been reached, consumers will be presented with a choice: (1) to buy all their electricity from traditional energy utilities or (2) to pay the same price and (partly) generate green renewable solar energy from their own roofs. Not only will the growing focus on green and sustainable development make solar power a preferential alternative, but even more important will be price stability. Following its installation, a solar energy power system will generate solar electricity at fixed cost for at least 25 years. Operation and maintenance costs are negligible. The cost of solar electricity will be determined by the depreciation schedule and the interest rate. Both of these can be forecast over a long period of time. Compare this to the annually changing cost of grid electricity. Is it likely that fossil fuel-based electricity prices will be stable over the next 25 years? This would seem to be an unlikely scenario when looking at growing concerns about climate change, Asia’s rapidly increasing energy demands, international political instability, and anticipated uncertainties about the easy exploration of oil reserves.

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Payback of Solar Energy Systems

A customer investing in a solar PV system should understand the economic payback on his or her investment, even if there may be strong non-economic (e.g. environmental) factors driving the purchasing decision.

The initial investment depends on the system size. A convenient factor that takes this into account is the price per peak Watt (Wp) of the system. Hence, a 2000 Watt peak (2kWp) solar energy system costing $16000 in total (i.e. including installation) will correspond to a price of $8/Wp. In some countries, you may be able to obtain a grant or rebate towards the cost of the system, which will obviously improve the economic payback on the purchase.

You may have different options to finance the purchase, but each of them has a cost. If you are investing cash then you lose its future interest; if you borrow the money then you pay a financing cost. Either way, there is a cost of financing the purchase that can be represented by a so-called "discount rate". The normal cost of borrowing may be reduced if local banks offer low interest loans for the purchase of solar PV systems. Alternatively, your bank might allow you to extend your home loan or mortgage; this may be the cheapest form of standard borrowing.

The economic return on your investment is the value of the electricity that you generate. This will, as a minimum, displace electricity that you would have otherwise bought from your utility or energy service provider during the day. Through certain schemes, it may be separately metered and rewarded at a defined rate (possibly related to the domestic tariff or set by a national or state program). Market incentive programs in certain countries offer some or all of the range of benefits from grants or rebates and low-interest loans to preferential electricity purchase rates. Your local Retailer (also known as "dealer") should be able to advise if any incentives are available to you.

The following graph shows the impact of the solar system price on the payback time of the purchase as a function of the value of the electricity generated, using a discount rate of 5%. As you would expect: the cheaper the Solar System, the faster the economic payback. The higher your regular electricity rate (shown on the bottom axis), the faster the payback on your Solar Energy System.

For example, if your average electricity rate is 20 US cents per kilowatt hour and your installed cost was $4 per Watt (this is achievable where government or utility programs are available), your payback time will be just over 15 years. If you are exposed to peak pricing on electricity rates, take account of tax incentives (available for Corporate purchasers), payback closer to 10 years is reasonable.

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Solar Energy Businesses in the World

Here you can find solar energy business oppurtunities throughout the world..

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Tax Incentives
Under the current tax code, the most favored investment is drilling for oil and gas. Development of natural gas and oil from domestic reserves helps to make our country more self sufficient by reducing our dependence on foreign imports so Congress provides tax incentives to stimulate this production by private sources. Many investments, which were previously thought of as tax shelters were reclassified under the Tax Reform Act of 1986 as “passive” activities (a business in which the taxpayer does not actively participate). The significant exception to this rule is drilling for oil and natural gas. It is specifically stated as NOT being a passive activity.

So what does this mean to you?

It means that as an investor in oil and gas drilling, one would have significant tax write offs. The first and largest write off is the Intangible Drilling Costs (IDC). Intangible Drilling Costs are expenses that are incurred during the drilling and developing of a well such as labor, testing, geological studies etc. Equipment, however, is excluded, as it is tangible. Usually 70-80% of the investment pays for intangible drilling costs and these can be written off in the year that they occur. Tangible Costs include well equipment and is depreciated over a 7 year period.

As each project and each company is structured differently, please see your personal tax advisors to see how these apply to your particular situation.

India close to solar energy breakthrough

SOLAR cells used to tap energy from the sun are made up of photovoltaic substances such as silicon which, when combined with suitable additives and exposed to sunlight, produce electricity. Extracting crystalline silicon from the compounds in which it is found is highly energy-intensive and the element itself accounts for upto 50 per cent of the total cost of producing photovoltaic systems. Crystalline silicon for photovoltaic applications costs about Rs 1500 (US $50) per kg in the global market. A little over 25 gms of monocrystalline wafers is required to produce one watt of electricity.

Amorphous silicon has a lower silicon content and costs half as much as crystalline silicon to produce because of its non-crystalline form. The Japanese have extensively used amorphous silicon cells in solar-powered calculators and watches.

The Department of Non-conventional Energy Sources (DNES) has been exploring the use of amorphous silicon technology to reduce the cost of photovoltaic solar cells. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Bangalore division, was assigned the task of establishing a plant to produce amorphous silicon solar cells and set up one at Gurgaon, Haryana, which was commissioned in July 1992. The Rs 16-crore plant produces amorphous silicon solar cells equivalent to 500 kwp (kilowatt peak output of electricity) per shift and has an annual capacity to produce 300 kg of Silane gas, an essential raw material. During pre-commissioning runs, the plant produced over 2000 modules of solar cells with different process parameters. Efficiencies of converting solar energy into electricity exceeding 7 per cent were achieved on individual cells in the modules.

According to R K D Shah, Executive Director (corporate planning and development), BHEL, "At present the production of amorphous silicon photovoltaic cells is still in an experimental stage. Though the potential applications are many, amorphous silicon cells are still being tested and tried in various systems and applications."

Scientists at BHEL say that amorphous silicon cells have half the efficiency of crystalline silicon cells but they cost less than half as much. According to Praveen Saxena, principal scientific officer, DNES, the cost of monocrystalline silicon, used in large-scale applications, is about Rs 225 per watt, while that of amorphous silicon, as yet used only in small systems, is Rs 150 per watt. According to BHEL sources, amorphous silicon cells produced in very large quantities can bring down the cost of solar panels to Rs 60 per peak watt.

Research in India has focused on increasing the efficiency of amorphous silicon, which is also unstable and loses efficiency at high temperatures.

Efficiency levels of over 12 per cent have been achieved by the Bangalore unit of BHEL. It has produced solar cells of 10 cm diameter which have achieved upto 14.3 per cent efficiency -- the highest achieved in the country so far. The conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices in the international market is around 17.5 per cent.

Work on photovoltaic solar cells began in India as early as October 1980, when the Central Electronics Limited, Sahibabad, was established to produce monocrystalline silicon cells.

A separate technology mission was, therefore, set up for the development of amorphous silicon technology in the seventh plan. Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, who has taken particular interest in solar energy development, asserted in Parliament, "We are at the point of achieving a breakthrough in commercial applications of photovoltaic technology."

S Mehrotra, an official at BHEL, says, "When we started working on the amorphous silicon technology, we were perhaps 15 to 20 years behind the developed countries. But now we have definitely closed the gap."


Green Mountain Coffee Roasters going solar

WATERBURY, Vt.—Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is hoping to cut its electric bill with a major solar power installation set for spring.

The Waterbury-based company plans to put 530 solar panels on top of its distribution center in a partnership with Green Mountain Power Corp., and White River Junction-based groSolar.

The project is expected to produce electricity equivalent to what it takes to run 16 houses year-round.

Paul Comey, the coffee roaster's vice president of environmental affairs, says the company sometimes draws up to a megawatt of electricity.

The project is getting helped along by a $250,000 grant from the state's Clean Energy Development Fund.


Information from: WCAX-TV,