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Tesla to Complete SolarCity Takeover Despite Concerns

All-stock deal worth $2.6 bil, but critics cite conflicts of interest.

by on Aug.01, 2016

A series of SolarCity solar panel installations.

Despite concerns about potential conflicts of interest, Tesla Motors said Monday morning that it would complete its takeover of the solar power company SolarCity, a move it believes will lead to numerous synergies in its broader green energy strategy.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the all-stock, $2.6 billion deal will almost immediately result in $150 million in cost-savings, describing the deal as a “no-brainer” that “we should have done sooner.” But reaction has been skeptical since the proposed takeover was announced more than a month ago.

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Together, Tesla and SolarCity “expect to save customers money by lowering hardware costs, reducing installation costs, improving our manufacturing efficiency and reducing our customer acquisition costs,” Tesla said in a statement.

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VW Opens Huge Solar Park at Tennessee Plant

Chattanooga line called “world’s greenest auto plant.”

by on Jan.23, 2013

VW's new Chattanooga Solar Park covers 33 acres.

With a little help from the sun, Volkswagen has fired up what it is calling the biggest solar power array in use at any American auto plant.

The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park can produce a maximum 13.1 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 1,200 typical homes – or about 12.5% of the energy needs of the sprawling complex where the maker assembles its midsize Passat model.

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“The solar park is another proof point of Volkswagen’s worldwide commitment to environmental protection under its Think Blue factory philosophy,” said Frank Fischer, CEO and Chairman of VW’s Chattanooga manufacturing operations, “a broadly focused initiative for all Volkswagen plants to achieve more efficient use of energy, materials and water and produce less waste and emissions.”

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Plugging in on Pecan Street

Watch out for the Chevy Volt traffic jams.

by on Dec.17, 2012

Participants in program operate a number of battery cars, notably Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids.

“This is one of the few places where you can see a Chevrolet Volt traffic jam,” laughs Scott Hinson, the lab director for Pecan Street Inc., an alternative energy project in Austin, Texas.

More precisely, Pecan Street is part of the one square mile Mueller neighborhood in Austin, Texas that has become the heart of an ambitious project aimed at not only testing out alternative technologies – such as plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, as well as “smart grid” electric distribution – but also to run an incredibly detailed analysis of how effective such technologies really are at reducing energy consumption.

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The project has drawn the support of not only General Motors but a wide range of utilities and high-tech firms, such as computer maker Dell and chipmaking giant Intel. The U.S. Department of Energy has so far kicked in $10.4 million, private partners another $14 million.  But the critical piece of the puzzle has been getting local residents to sign up.

“The project is focused squarely on consumers, enlisting real people to gather data from these homes to help structure next generation energy systems,” Brewster McCracken, the project’s executive director, explained in a statement.

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GM Parterning with Solar Power Provider

Maker betting use of sun power will double by 2016.

by on Jul.28, 2011

Sunlogic solar canopies will be used at a variety of GM dealerships and other operations.

General Motors Ventures, GM’s private venture capital fund, will investment $7.5 million in Sunlogics PLC, a firm specializing in solar projects.The investment reflects estimates that the use of solar panels will double between now and 2016.

Sunlogics will shift its headquarters to Michigan and in the process create 200 new jobs in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills.

Officials say GM Ventures is looking for more projects in which to invest, and is particularly interested in projects in infotainment, advanced materials and advance manufacturing.

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“There is an obvious bias towards clean energy,” saiid John Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, the $100 million fund created last year to invest in companies with advanced technology.

About $45 million of the initial $100 million GM put into the fund has been invested in six different projects, Lauckner said. The fund has also assumed control of two investments in biofuels made before the fund was created.

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Chevy Goes Solar to Power Volt Plant

Massive solar array could keep 150 battery cars running.

by on May.11, 2011

GM will cover six acres at its Chevy Volt plant with solar power arrays.

General Motors has been telling potential buyers to plug in with the new Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.  Now the maker wants to do the same thing, plugging into a new solar power array at the Volt plant in Detroit.

The 516-kilowatt grid will be the largest in the region and is expected to provide enough power to keep 150 Chevy Volts fully powered at all times.  Were the system used to charge up the plug-in hybrids as they roll off the assembly line, before shipment to customers, the solar array would be able to handle nearly 55,000 of the battery cars annually – significantly more than GM has plans to produce in the near future, so surplus energy will help power the plant itself.

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“This array will significantly decrease energy consumption by combining solar power with ongoing efficiency tactics such as lighting and equipment upgrades and automating equipment shut-down,” said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy.

The 264,000 square-foot solar array is being developed in cooperation with local power provider DTE Energy, which is investing $3 million into the project.  That underscores the challenges proponents of green energy face making a viable business case.  The array is expected to cut GM’s energy bill by $15,000 annually, which means the so-called payback period would stretch out over several centuries.

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China Now Leads in Clean Energy Investments

Will new Obama proposals help U.S. regain lead?

by on Mar.30, 2011

As President Barack Obama exhorts Americans to get behind a coherent energy policy, a new study shows the U.S. falling  behind in the race to develop new, clean sources of energy, according to a new study by Pew Charitable Trusts.

Last year, clean energy investment across the globe grew by 30%, to $243 billion last year, with China continuing to solidify its position as the world’s clean energy leader by investing a record $54.4 billion in 2010.

China’s investment represented a 39% increase from 2009, the new Pew Study said.  Germany was second in the G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100% increase in investment, to $41.2 billion.

“The clean energy sector is emerging as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630% growth in finance and investments since 2004,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.

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“Countries like China, Germany and India were attractive to financiers because they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production and that create long-term certainty for investors,” she said.

The United States, which had maintained the top spot until 2008, dropped another rung in 2010 to third, with $34 billion invested.

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Biden Boasts Recovery Act Spurs Innovation

Four major science and technology breakthroughs promised.

by on Aug.25, 2010

The perfect campaign speech with promises that can't be checked for years.

Vice President Joe Biden has unveiled a new report that claims last year’s politically unpopular – and, gulp, $787 billion — Recovery Act contains $100 billion in investment in innovation that is not only “transforming the economy and creating new jobs,” but helping “accelerate advances” in science and technology.

More than the usual political folderol is involved here, in my opinion, as the Democrats turn up their rhetoric in defense of their management of a sputtering economy in the face of what appears to be an upcoming huge political backlash directed at tax and spend incumbents in the mid-term elections this fall. Biden’s assertions could also be the forerunner of a new move to propose another gigantic stimulus package if the Democrats remain in Congressional power after November.

The claims in the report, “The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy through Innovation,” are dubious in my view given the current state of the technologies involved, but ideal from a campaign perspective since they cannot be verified until years after the election – if anyone bothers or remembers.

And of course, there is no taxpayer “money back guarantee” offered from the Administration if the promises vanish into the ether and the companies and universities receiving the funding don’t deliver the innovations.

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Following Your Money!

Remember the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, which channeled millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars into national labs and the Detroit Three automakers in search of an 80 mpg car? Not one has been built to this day.

Worse, the real outcome was that Toyota, which was excluded from the pork festival for political reasons, went on its own innovation tear and with the help of the Japanese government developed its world leading hybrid technology while Detroit went back to investing in and building gas guzzlers and issuing press releases about a green future car that never arrived.

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U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior Announce New Solar Energy Demonstration Projects

The first project will advance renewable, solar created electricity at a former nuclear weapons testing site in Nevada.

by on Jul.09, 2010

Funding is by a combination of private and taxpayer supplied dollars.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada have announced the site of a “Solar Demonstration Zone” for emerging solar energy technologies.

The Solar Demonstration Zone will be located in the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site, a former nuclear site, on lands owned by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and administered by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Secretaries Chu and Salazar signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding that will enable the Department of Energy to develop “innovative solar energy projects” there.

These projects will serve as proving grounds for new solar technologies, providing a link between DOE’s advanced technology development and full-scale commercialization efforts.

“The Nevada Test Site is about to play a new role in securing America’s future – but instead of testing nuclear weapons, we will test new solar technologies that will help put America on a sustainable energy path,” said Secretary Chu.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees 23 million acres of Southwestern lands with solar potential, and could play an important role in supporting renewable energy goals.

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“These projects on BLM land in Nevada can significantly reduce the costs and environmental impacts of utility-scale solar power facilities and demonstrate the commercial viability of these facilities,” Secretary Salazar said.

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Solar Electricity From a Porsche Warehouse

The equivalent energy for 500 households will be made.

by on Feb.15, 2010

Porsche estimates 1,780 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be saved every year.

Porsche AG, Stuttgart, is making a 40,000-square-meter area on the rooftop of its central spare parts warehouse in Sachsenheim (Baden-Wuerttemberg) to install and operate approximately 8,500 photovoltaic modules there.

When completed, the system will generate nearly two million kilowatt hours per year — the equivalent to the average energy consumption of approximately 500 four-person households.

The latest development is consistent with a European trend toward solar power generation, boosted by government incentives.

Goldbeck Solar GmbH, Hirschberg an der Bergstrasse, starting later will install  in February the photovoltaic cells and operate the powerplant a few weeks later.

The electricity will be fed into the grid of the energy provider E&W Eichwald GmbH, Bietigheim-Bissingen.

“Progressive environmental protection and conservation of resources isn’t only a Porsche priority in production. Our central spare parts warehouse provides the ideal conditions for ecological energy generation,” says Wolfgang Leimgruber, Member of the Executive Board for Production and Logistics of Porsche AG.

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Porsche estimates that approximately 1,780 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be saved every year.

It claims the photovoltaic system in Sachsenheim will be one of the most modern and efficient in the Greater Stuttgart area.

New Honda Solar Power Hydrogen Station Debuts

It's designed for an 8-hour, slow fill of a fuel cell electric vehicle.

by on Jan.27, 2010

The Honda FCX Clarity electric vehicle shown is "fast fill capable," with a range of 240 miles.

Honda began operation today of a new solar hydrogen station prototype at its Los Angeles Research and Development Center. It is a prototype of a home refueling “appliance” capable of an overnight refill of a fuel cell electric vehicle.

The latest iteration reduces the size of the system, while producing enough hydrogen (0.5 kg) during an 8-hour overnight fill for daily commuting of as much as 10,000 miles per year for a fuel cell electric vehicle.

The Honda FCX Clarity electric vehicle is “fast fill capable” and offers an EPA-estimated driving range of 240 miles. One problem, among many, with hydrogen as a fuel is that it needs to be compressed at very high pressures in order for a vehicle to carry enough to have a usable range. However, hydrogen offers the tantalizing promise of being an emissions free fuel for vehicles.

The previous solar hydrogen station system required both an electrolyzer and a separate compressor unit to create high-pressure hydrogen. The compressor was the largest and most expensive component and reduced system efficiency.

Honda says its engineers have now created a new high differential pressure electrolyzer that eliminates the compressor.

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This development also reduces the size of other key components to make the new station what Honda claims is the world’s most compact system, while improving system efficiency by more than 25% compared to the solar hydrogen station system it replaces.  (more…)