"April 15 News: Clean tech investments top $1 billion; Duke builds largest storage system at wind farm"
Clean technology investments top $1 billion, according to the latest MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
The Clean Technology sector, which crosses traditional MoneyTree industries and comprises alternative energy, pollution and recycling, power supplies and conservation, saw a 26 percent increase in dollars over the fourth quarter to $1 billion.
The report attributes the increase being driven by several large rounds, including five of the top 10 deals.
Last year’s report showed an 87 percent increase to clean tech. This quarter also marks the fourth time in history that Clean Technology investing exceeded one billion dollars.
With gasoline costs on the rise and the emphasis from governments to create alternative energy solutions, it’s no wonder that the clean tech sector has a boost in investment.
New investment in renewable energy dropped to the lowest in two years in the first quarter, weighed down by low natural gas prices in the U.S. and subsidy cuts in Europe, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.
Money flowing into the industry through asset finance, share sales, venture capital and private equity fell more than a third to $31.1 billion in the first three months of the year from a record $47.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, the London-based researcher said today in a statement.
Countries including Germany and Spain have announced reductions in the guaranteed prices that they pay for electricity from renewable sources while in the U.K. the government is reviewing the rates. Gas in the U.S. in September fell to its lowest price since 2002 amid a glut in production.
“The first quarter saw a bit of a hangover from the hectic investment activity seen in the final months of last year as financiers rushed to close deals to meet their internal targets or to catch feed-in tariffs due to expire in countries such as Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic,” New Energy Finance Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich said.
The first quarter’s investment in wind farms, solar parks and other means of renewable power is the lowest amount since the $20.5 billion spent in the first quarter of 2009, according to New Energy Finance.
Duke Energy Corp. (DUK), a U.S. utility that operates 986 megawatts of wind-energy capacity, selected Xtreme Power Inc. to design and install the world’s largest power-storage system linked to a wind farm.
The 36-megawatt storage system is expected to cost $44 million and will go into operation in the third quarter of 2012, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke said in an e-mailed statement.
The system will retain power generated when demand is low and can be tapped when electricity consumption is highest or the wind is not blowing. It will make the 153-megawatt Notrees wind farm in west Texas a more reliable source of energy, according to Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables.
Storage technology will “help our wind projects, and potentially down the road solar projects, interact with the grid, making sure that any of the potential negatives from an intermittent wind resource or a peak solar resource can be managed,” Wolf said in an interview.
Xtreme Power manufactures dry-cell battery systems for use with wind farms and solar projects, which cannot consistently deliver electricity.
Carlos Coe, the Kyle, Texas-based company’s CEO, said storage is beginning to catch on with renewable energy developers. The Notrees project will be the largest storage system in use with a wind project, and more are in the pipeline.
More Projects Planned
“We have a few projects of this size awaiting to be announced later this year or into next year that are related to either renewable integration on a large-scale or renewable integration under challenging transmission and distribution circumstances,” he said in an interview.
President Obama braced for months of tense budget negotiations yesterday by warning Republicans that clean energy funding and other “win the future” priorities will be defended during a summerlong assault on national spending.
His address comes at the headwaters of an economic debate that will likely consume Congress until October, when the 2012 budget is supposed to be in place. Before then, lawmakers will negotiate a contentious measure to raise the national debt limit, with visions of rising red ink and an American default to China acting as a backdrop.
Obama entered the debate yesterday by releasing an economic outline calling on Congress to enact “tough cuts” in next year’s budget. Those reductions and other measures would set the country on a course toward shrinking the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, Obama said.
His speech at George Washington University provided an alternative to the Republican budget plan released last week by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose effort Obama described as “deeply pessimistic” for proposing a 70 percent cut to clean energy programs, its overhaul to Medicare and reductions to other public programs.
California’s supreme court refused to consider a lawsuit filed by an influential environmental group seeking to delay construction of a solar plant because it might harm rare plant and animal species.
The state supreme court said it would not review the Sierra Club’s complaint against the Calico Solar Project — one of a string of lawsuits accusing solar power plant projects across the largest U.S. state of harming the environment.
The court offered no explanation. In its complaint, America’s oldest environmental organization argued to the courts that the California Energy Commission had approved the Calico project improperly, failing to take into account potential harm to native flora and fauna.
The commission cheered the ruling, while the Sierra Club said it would wait and see before taking further action. Complicating things, the project had recently changed hands — from original developer NTR’s Tessera Solar to K Road Sun, an arm of a New York-based investment firm.
David Graham-Caso, a spokesman for the environmental group, said the new developers may use different technology that might alter projections of how the giant project could impact the natural habitats of species like the desert tortoise and big-horned sheep. He said the group would keep a close eye on the project’s evolution under new management.
Next Tuesday, the Supreme Court hears American Electric Power v. Connecticut, a case that asks whether America’s climate change policy can be designed and managed by the federal courts. The answer should be a resounding no.
Hoping to force congressional action that would severely restrict greenhouse gas emissions, a series of lawsuits alleging “public nuisance” has been brought by various states, interest groups and activists. They claim that electric utilities and other large emitters of carbon dioxide have injured them by causing or contributing to global warming.
The case now before the Supreme Court was originally thrown out by ….