The new year brings continued solar strife

The turning of the new year didn’t make the solar industry any easier for solar manufacturers. Power electronics maker, Satcon Technology, announced Wednesday that it’s laying off 35 percent of its workers and shutting down its factory in Canada.

The tough market for solar in 2011

Companies continue to bow out of the solar market in 2011. This week it’s BP Solar, which is shutting down, as well as Solar Mlillennium, which has filed for insolvency. Last week it was German solar panel company Solon, which also filed for insolvency.

Solar struggles: Stirling Energy Systems files for bankruptcy

Solar thermal company Stirling Energy Systems has filed for bankruptcy, according to Renewable Energy World. Stirling Energy Systems developed solar concentrators based on stirling engines, which use the sun’s heat to produce electricity, and planned to build projects to sell the power to utilities.

Another major source of solar loans: The U.S. Ex-Im Bank

While an uproar has arisen over the loan guarantees for solar from the U.S. Department of Energy (namely the one for Solyndra), another federal agency has also been making hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans and loan guarantees to support the U.S. solar industry.

Facebook Launches Live Video Channel

Facebook is expanding its video capabilities and creating a new live video channel to connect with its users. Beginning today, the social media startup plans to use Facebook Live to keep users informed about new product features, giving them a deeper look into the social network.

Stirling Energy to Kick Off Its First Plant

As solar thermal firms like eSolar have started flipping switches on their first projects in U.S. deserts, I’ve been eagerly waiting the stirling engine solar folks to officially enter the game. Looks like we’re getting one project at the end of this month: Stirling Energy Systems and its developer partner Tessera Solar are planning an invite-only kick-off event for the media on Jan. 22 to inaugurate the first project to use Stirling Energy System’s “SunCatcher” solar dish.

Stirling Energy and Tessera have built Maricopa Solar, a 1.5MW solar project in Peoria, Ariz. (Maricopa County) that will use 60 SunCatchers to sell clean power to local Arizona utility Salt River Project. The ribbon-cutting event is supposed to feature Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Department of Energy Solar Program Manager John Lushetsky.
Read More about Stirling Energy to Kick Off Its First Plant

Massive Stirling Solar System Seeks Cali Approval

This week, Stirling Energy Systems submitted an application for certification (AFC) to California’s regulatory body, the California Energy Commission (CEC), for a planned 850 MW solar power plant, dubbed “Solar One,” in the Mojave Desert. This is the second large solar application the startup’s submitted this year — in June, Stirling handed in an application for a 750 MW solar plant, named “Solar Two,” that the CEC deemed “data adequate” in October.

While the CEC still needs to approve these projects, Stirling is at least a few steps closer to starting construction of the solar plants. If Solar One is approved, construction is supposed to start in late 2010 and take 40 months to complete, while construction of Solar Two could start in late 2009 or early 2010 and could also take around 40 months to complete. Solar One would be built on 8,230 acres of land in San Bernardino County, Calif., use 30,000, 25-kilowatt solar dishes, and will sell power to California utility Southern California Edison. Solar Two will use 6,500 acres of land in Imperial County, Calif., 30,000 25-kilowatt solar dishes and sell power to San Diego Gas & Electric.

In April Phoenix-based Stirling raised $100 million from Dublin, Ireland’s NTR, and in the process NTR took a 52-percent stake in the company, according to the Cleantech Group. Stirling’s technology, unlike most of the utility-scale solar providers, uses a combination of solar thermal concentration devices and engines to produce clean power.