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New rays of hope for solar power’s future

Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor
High cost of fossil fuel and advanced technology improve this energy source’s prospects.

Boulder City, Nev.

From five miles away, the Nevada Solar One power plant seems a mirage, a silver lake amid waves of 110 degree F. desert heat. Driving nearer, the rippling image morphs into a sea of mirrors angled to the sun.

As the first commercial “concentrating solar power” or CSP plant built in 17 years, Nevada Solar One marks the reemergence and updating of a decades-old technology that could play a large new role in US power production, many observers say.

“Concentrating solar is pretty hot right now,” says Mark Mehos, program manager for CSP at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Co. “Costs look pretty good compared to natural gas [power]. Public policy, climate concern, and new technology are driving it, too.”
(22 August 2008)

Will US Solar Businesses Weather the Coming Storm?

Glenn Harris, SunCentric Incorporated via RenewableEnergyWorld
With just over 120 days left before federal incentives expire, solar businesses in the U.S. are taking action to protect their core business. Layoffs, announced and unannounced, have started. Construction projects are being canceled or postponed and new sales have dropped dramatically. Uncertainty is forcing our solar businesses into difficult decisions — not if, but when to cut and, how deep to cut. The coming loss of talented people and companies should be viewed as a loss of our country’s intellectual property — and a national tragedy.

It has been my habit over the years to look for the silver lining when it comes to the solar business in the U.S. But today, it’s tough to find one.

A delay in a new federal program until a new administration can act in Q2 2009 is now a realistic scenario. This possibility makes it easy to imagine that U.S. grid-connected installations could fall to well below 100 megawatts (MW) in 2009, down from forecasts of 300 to 500 MW, which would represent a radical decline after years of steady growth. Each part of the channel and each business sector will be impacted.
(21 August 2008)

Biofuel Conference Call Including a New Biodiesel from Algae

Gail the Actuary, The Oil Drum
A few days ago I participated in a conference call (recording available here) about biofuels with an organization called Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). In this article, I will discuss some things I found interesting, including a new technique for making biodiesel that involves feeding biomass to algae.

The call had three speakers. The first, Jim McMillan of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory gave an overview of the current US biofuel situation. According to him, a lot of current interest is in cellulosic ethanol, since corn ethanol doesn’t scale up very well. At this point, the cost of cellulosic ethanol seems to be double or more that of corn ethanol. The economics are still being clarified by demonstration projects. Until there is some sort of climate legislation that raises the price of carbon, it will be difficult to overcome the price gap.

The second speaker was Reid Detchon of Energy Future Coalition, who spoke about political factors affecting biofuels. The big legislation they are looking forward to is the climate-change legislation that would raise the price of carbon, because they believe either McCain or O’Bama would support such legislation. Such legislation would make biofuels more cost-competitive. This fall, the EPA is scheduled to examine the carbon impact of various biofuels over their life cycles. This could have an impact on how corn ethanol is viewed relative to other biofuels.
(22 August 2008)
Nice coverage of a complicated subject by Gail Tverberg. I only wish the MSM would approach biofuels with as much sophistication.

On another subject, the introductory grafs had the best typo I’ve seen all year:

… they believe either McCain or O’Bama would support such legislation.

Love it! O’Bama, the latest in a long line of Irish Democratic politicisans – this is a meme that could go far.