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World’s largest solar farm set for California
Todd Woody, Green Wombat (blog at Fortune)
Stealth Bay Area solar startup OptiSolar has quietly revealed plans to build the world’s largest photovoltaic solar farm on the central California coast – a $1 billion, 550-megawatt monster that would be nearly 40 times as large as the biggest such power plant operating today.
PV solar power plants essentially take solar panels similar to those found on suburban rooftops and put them on the ground. Unlike solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to heat a liquid to produce steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine, photovoltaic power stations generate power directly when the sun strikes the panel’s semiconducting cells. That means there’s virtually no moving parts or need for industrial infrastructure like power blocks, turbines and piping. (A photo of a PV solar farm in Serpa, Portugal, is above.)
But because photovoltaic solar is less efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than solar thermal and requires big swaths of land, it has not been considered economical to build large-scale PV power plants in the United States. (Unlike in Portugal, Spain and other European countries where utilities pay a premium rate for green energy.)
(24 April 2008)
Trade war brewing over US biofuel subsidies
David Gow, Guardian
European biodiesel producers triggered a fresh transatlantic trade war yesterday by urging the EU to impose punitive duties on cheap imports from the US.
Low-priced imports of biofuels, as part of the so-called “splash and dash” trade, are putting many European producers out of business, the industry group claims.
Their American rivals immediately hit back by urging the federal government to take action against any protective measures for the European industry.
… US biodiesel exports are subsidised by up to $300 a tonne. Some trading firms have also been shipping biofuels to the US, where they add a “splash” of mineral diesel to qualify for the subsidy and then send the fuel back to the EU. These exports have risen dramatically since last year, causing what the EBB calls “severe injury” to European producers.
(26 April 2008)