The rise of the big solar power plant owners

While 2011 will be remember as a troubling year for solar manufacturers, it also is a year when major U.S. power companies such as Duke, MidAmerican and Exelon took a plunge into investing and owning solar power plants.

Banks & Solar: It’s All About Established Players

Banks are willing to invest in putting solar panels on rooftops, but not surprisingly, are only willing to back established project developers. The latest example is Rabobank’s $50 million construction loan to SunEdison.

Solar Monitoring Startup Fat Spaniel Sold!

Inverter maker Power-One has bought venture-backed Fat Spaniel Technologies, adding to a list of renewable energy acquisitions this year. The deal is necessary for Fat Spaniel which has endured a tough market.

Sharp Buys Solar Developer Recurrent Energy for $305M

Why develop your own project pipelines when you can just buy them? That seems to be a strategy among large solar electric equipment manufacturers such as Sharp, which announced Tuesday its plan to buy Recurrent Energy for about $305 million in cash.

Earth2Tech’s Top 7 Cities for Cleantech

cleantechcityBack before the stimulus package or the Waxman-Markey bill, when no one was sure whether tax credits for renewable energy would be re-upped or allowed to fade away, U.S. mayors decided to adopt their own climate policy. In signing on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (a pact to strive for the greenhouse gas reductions targeted by the Kyoto Protocol), cities such as Seattle, Boston, and San Francisco sent a “we’ll do it on our own” statement in response to the lack of federal policy.

Since the launch of the agreement in 2005, some 500 more cities have signed on (and counting). And while some cities just signed the document and moved on, others have used the initiative to draft further innovative strategies that deliver meaningful reductions. The most effective strategies, by far, have been those that bring sustainability initiatives into the office of economic development and turn the city into an early adopter of “green” products and services. It’s exactly this sort of strategy that makes the following cities the best in the country to be a cleantech start-up. In a report, Living Cities Foundation interviewed sustainability directors and gathered data from city sustainability departments throughout the country. We’ve landed on the following seven as the best spots to start and grow a cleantech company (more interviews from the report here). [digg=]

First up: San Jose »

Image credit: arimoore.

Over 9,000 citations in one day in NYC for driving while using a cell phone

key2safedrivingThe issue of driving while talking on a cell phone has two distinct sides, and no matter which side of that issue you are on, if you spend much time in a car you see this every day.  We’ve all heard the stories of fatal car accidents caused by drivers on cell phones. Studies have indicated that talking on a phone while driving impacts the driver’s reaction time in a manner similar to intoxication.
Many major cities in the U.S. ban driving while talking, although most of those allow the use of headsets or other hands-free solutions.  Personally I think it’s the lack of concentration on driving due to the phone conversation as much as holding a handset, so I’m not sure that headsets make that much difference.  My own city of Houston has ordinances that ban the use of phones while driving in school zones which seems like a good thing.
New York City recently had a one-day clamp-down on driving while using a phone and issued over 9,000 citations to drivers talking on phones.  That number is amazing even for a large city like NYC, and it indicates the law is not impacting the practice enough.  Another statistic that I find amazing is that over 195,000 citations were issued in NYC in 2008. That plainly shows that the $120 fine is not a big deterrent to those who talk and drive. Maybe it’s time to force the use of gadgets that prevent phone calls in cars?  These are typically designed for teen drivers but they’re not the only ones doing all the texting or talking.
(via cellular-news)

Solar Consolidation Continues: Recurrent Energy Buys Assets of UPC Solar

recurrentenergylogoTough times mean the big companies get bigger and the smaller firms, well, drop out. On Wednesday morning renewable energy project financier Recurrent Energy will announce that it has bought up the solar project assets of Chicago-based UPC Solar, which has developed solar farms across the U.S. and Canada. Recurrent Energy’s CEO Arno Harris wouldn’t disclose a purchase price, but he said that Recurrent Energy started scouring the market for potential acquisitions soon after the current financial turmoil hit.

UPC Solar has a solar project pipeline of 350 MW and Recurrent now plans to finance, build and operate them, looking to put 100 MW of solar projects online by 2012. Recurrent has the capital to buy up its competition, because last July it raised a whopping $75 million from Hudson Clean Energy Partners. Harris says Recurrent could raise additional capital from Hudson if need be, but they haven’t disclosed a new round at this point. Beyond funding for operations and acquisitions Recurrent raises project financing for its solar projects, which it will continue to do throughout the year.

Consolidation is the name of the game right now in the solar industry. Spanish solar power developer Fotowatio plans to buy up some of the assets of San Francisco’s MMA Renewable Ventures in a $19.7 million deal. And rooftop solar installer Borrego Solar Systems decided to sell off its residential solar power installation business to groSolar and stick with commercial and government projects.

S3 Outage: the Aftermath

As covered both here and on our parent blog GigaOM, Amazon’s S3 storage service had a bad day yesterday. (So, by the way, did their Simple Queue System, but an outage in that service is less noticeable to most web users). How bad?

Intersolar: News From 5 Solar Startups

The first annual North American solar conference kicked off on Tuesday with a lot of insight and discussion from some of the solar industry’s bigger and more well-established players (Applied Materials. SunPower). But leave it to the wily fast-moving startups to upstage the big guys when it comes to news. Here’s five startups — Wakonda, Fat Spaniel, Recurrent Energy, Sopogy, and Ausra — that announced some interesting news for the show.

Wakonda Raises $9.5M Series A: A Boston-based maker of solar photovoltaic technology, Wakonda Technologies, says it has raised $9.5 million in a Series A round from Advanced Technology Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, Applied Ventures (Applied Materials VC arm) and the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund. Wakonda explains its technology as a wafer surface treatment that enables low cost metal materials to mimic the high efficiency of more expensive semiconductor material. Wakonda says this tech is “a revolutionary method” that will reduce material costs for the solar industry.
Read More about Intersolar: News From 5 Solar Startups