Cleantech, Sustainability News Roundup

Clean Energy Loans from US Gov’t Resume with $259M for Alcoa

The U.S. Energy Department has revived a loan program intended to help develop clean technologies. The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program has made its first loan since a four-year break for fine tuning, lending $259 million to Alcoa, Bloomberg reports.

Alcoa will use the money to upgrade a factory that makes high-strength aluminum, which can be used instead of steel to improve gas mileage in cars and trucks.

The ATVM program was created in 2008 as part of a $25 billion effort to promote clean energy, and still has $16 billion to lend out, according to Bloomberg. The program, along with two related financing initiatives, came under intense political criticism due to the failure of some companies the programs backed, including Solyndra, Fisker and Vehicle Production Group. Among the program’s successes have been loans to Tesla Motors, Ford and Nissan Motor Co., Bloomberg says.

Peter Davidson, executive director of the Energy Department’s lending projects, tells Bloomberg that, despite the failed loans, the department’s portfolio’s losses have totaled less than 3 percent. Davidson calls that a “very good number.”

The loan programs’ previous focus was on automakers building electric vehicles. After the recent revamp, financing will now focus on suppliers, such as Alcoa, that are making parts that can help cars and trucks be more fuel efficient, Bloomberg reports.

Samsung Joins Tesla in Battery Microgrid Space

Samsung has joined a recent spate of companies making moves into the battery microgrid space, Investor’s Business Daily reports.

Samsung SDI, the Samsung unit that’s the world’s largest supplier of lithium-ion batteries, announced last week that it has partnered with ABB, an automation technology provider, to develop and market microgrid systems for energy storage, the newspaper reports.

Microgrids are networks of lithium-bio battery packs and can be used to smooth out the power flow from renewable energy sources.

Samsung SDI’s deal with ABB comes a few days after SolarCity and Tesla said they will work together to build microgrids using Tesla’s batteries, IBD says.

Waste-to-Energy Plants Break Ground in N.C., Mexico

New waste-to-energy plants are planned or under construction in at least two new locations in the U.S and Mexico.

In Charlotte, N.C. in late March, Bluesphere broke ground on a new plant that will produce 5.2 megawatts of energy by using uneaten food and other compostable waste, TWC News Charlotte reports.

The facility will sell the electricity it generates to Duke Energy, which provides power to consumers in the region.

The plant is slated for completion by year-end. Bluesphere is aiming to build 11 additional waste-to-energy plants by 2018, TWC News reports. It has agreements in place to build a plant in Johnston, R.I., the company’s website says.

Meanwhile, in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, European company EAWC Technologies has partnered with Mexico’s Tecnologias Verdes to build the first waste-to-energy plant in the country, EAWC announced.

The plant, with a “closed loop elemental recycling system,” will produce an estimated 95 million cubic meters of synthetic gas, CEO Ralph Hofmeier says in a press release.

The two companies have plans for more than 30 similar projects across Mexico, according to the release.

And the Sand Valley Landfill Gas-to-Energy (LFGTE) project in Collinsville, Alabama was named Electricity Project of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The project, developed by Republic Services, processes 1,600 tons of waste per day and powers 4,000 homes, generating up to 4.8MW of renewable power that is sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Republic Services has installed 72 LFGTE projects across the country, according to the release.

LFGTE projects capture methane from biogas produced by waste materials that can be converted into renewable energy.

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