PV Beats Wind for First Time; Mass. Procures 565MW of Clean Energy; Solar World Record Set; DOE Loan Program Resumes; Apple Wins EPA Award

Bloomberg: PV Beats Wind for First Time
Bloomberg New Energy Finance is predicting that 33.8GW of new onshore wind farms, plus 1.7GW of offshore wind, will be added globally this year. That means 2013 will be the first time that photovoltaic installations or PV (forecasted to be 36.7GW in 2013) has added more megawatts than wind. In 2012, wind – onshore and offshore – added 46.6GW, while PV added 30.5GW, record figures in both cases. But in 2013, a slowdown in the world’s two largest wind markets, China and the US, is opening the way for the fast growing PV market to overtake wind. Dramatic cost reductions in PV, combined with new incentives in Japan and China, mean a boon for PV, according to Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Europe is a declining market, because many countries there are rapidly moving away from incentives, but it will continue to see new PV capacity added,” she said.

Massachusetts Utilities to Procure Record 565MW of Clean Energy
Massachusetts’ four utility companies have filed with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) contracts for the largest procurement of renewable energy in New England, according to a press release from Governor Deval Patrick’s office. The contracts call for six projects to be built in Maine and New Hampshire by project developers First Wind, Iberdrola Renewables and Exergy Development Group. The joint procurement will be conducted by Northeast Utilities, which owns and operates NSTAR and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo); National Grid; and Unitil. It is expected to provide 565 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, enough to power about 170,000 homes. The procurement builds on the first major procurement of renewable energy the utilities did two years ago, via the 2008 Green Communities Act. The goals of that program were reached early, and its new goals will generate enough electricity to power 97 percent of Boston households. Currently, Massachusetts has 311 megawatts of solar power installed, with more than 130 megawatts installed in 2012 alone, or enough to power more than 46,600 homes. There has been an increase in wind energy from 3 megawatts to 103 megawatts since 2007, enough to power more than 30,867 homes and eliminate GHG emissions from more than 21,345 cars annually.

44.7% Solar Conversion World Record Set
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin have said they achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. A new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum’s energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity, according to MarketWatch. In May 2013, Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency.

Oak Ridge National Lab Plans 400+ Staff Cuts
Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory has announced plans to cut potentially as many as 475 staffers from its 4500 pool of researchers, technicians, and support personnel. The Department of Energy (DOE) lab hopes to meet the target through voluntary buyouts, and there are no immediate plans for layoffs. The current reduction is the second in 3 years, and would leave the lab with almost 1000 fewer workers than it had in 2010. Oak Ridge is one of 10 national labs run by DOE’s Office of Science, which took a 5% budget cut as part of as part of sequestration. The voluntary buyouts may help prepare the lab for a second round of automatic cuts that will occur in 2014 if Congress does not agree on alternatives to reducing federal spending. ScienceInsider reports that these cuts may indicate other reductions across all DOE labs.

Apples Wins Green Leadership Award
Apple won a Green Power Leadership award today from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its use of renewable energy to power its business, and specifically its data center in North Carolina, which is where Apple stores music, photos and videos. The EPA commended Apple for setting goals to power its data centers, corporate facilities, and retail operations with renewable energy – a move that Greenpeace praised in a press release. After Apple began investing in renewable energy in North Carolina, Duke Energy announced it would sell renewable energy to big electricity customers. That program has not yet begun.  Greenpeace says this demonstrates that when companies invest in clean electricity it does impact utilities and legislators around them.

Controversial Government Clean Energy Loans Resumed
The Obama administration will revive a controversial loan guarantee program at the Energy Department, despite the fact that the program is under congressional scrutiny because it lost hundreds of millions of in taxpayer money by investing in green energy failures Solyndra. The Boston Globe reports that the renewed program may put up to $8 billion to help coal and oil producers cleaner.  The program does not require congressional approval, and could help coal-fired power plants keep emissions from escaping into the atmosphere. Officials say subsidies are necessary to support the development of technologies that are too costly, complex, and risky for private investors and companies to pursue alone – but not too risky for taxpayer dollars. The Republican-controlled House Committee on Energy and Commerce, took a dim view of the program saying that the DOE loan guarantee program’s history of mismanagement, bankruptcies, and failure to deliver jobs raised significant concerns about risking billions in additional taxpayer dollars. Analysts and climate experts also questioned whether the program could make the technologies economically viable on a mass scale.

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