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Alternative Energy

  • Ethanol Producers Poised To Gain From Oil Price Drop

    Energy stockholders have been watching in horror as their investments tank and those with a short time frame are considering cutting their losses, as the oil price rout looks certain to continue into 2015 and possibly beyond. But one area that could be poised to withstand the oil price carnage and might even toss out some gains for investors is the sector that produces an important, yet controversial element of gasoline: ethanol. As the prices of oil and gasoline have plummeted, so has ethanol, taking ethanol equities down with it. While that may seem like a good time to hit…

  • Kenya to Develop Africa’s Largest Wind Project

    Kenya may soon be home to the largest wind project on the continent of Africa. Danish wind company Vestas won a contract to provide 365 turbines for a 310 megawatt wind power project in Kenya. The Lake Turkana Wind Power project will be the largest of its kind in Africa, and is expected to generate 15-20 percent of Kenya’s electricity needs when completed. According to project developers, the site is a unique location that is favorable for wind. It is situated at high altitude (2,300 meters), and has consistent and predictable wind patterns. If the project sticks to its schedule,…

  • Iran Optimistic About Nuclear Energy Deal And End To Sanctions

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says he intends to reach a deal with West and end years of sanctions despite the objections of a “few” opponents who use their country’s crippled economy to enhance their own power. “Some people may not like to see the sanctions lifted. Their numbers are few, and they want to muddy the water,” Rouhani told an audience on Dec. 15 at the Central Bank in Tehran. He evidently was referring to hard-liners, including leaders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, who oppose any rapprochement with the West, to maintain their grip on the country's economy. “The overwhelming…

  • OPEC Decision Hits Renewables

    Is a solar supply glut on hand? Not exactly, but oil’s multi-month slide has largely overshadowed the sector’s emergent capacity. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the state of California, where the world’s largest photovoltaic power station is now online. Still, renewables did not emerge unscathed from the aftermath of OPEC’s decision to stand firm on production. Formerly rosy outlooks now take on an air of uncertainty as renewables growth looks to avoid becoming a casualty of an era of cheap oil and gas. Late last month, MidAmerican Solar’s Topaz solar farm reached full capacity to little fanfare. The…

  • The Cost Of Energy Storage

    I taught my students that intermittent renewable electricity (wind and solar) was third class compared with dispatchable fossil fuels (first class) and baseload nuclear power (second class). But that renewables may be turned into a first class electricity source with the development of affordable grid-scale storage. There are two important qualifiers to this statement and those are 1) affordable and 2) grid-scale. By grid scale I mean electricity storage that could power a medium sized town for a day or longer, or every night when the sun is down. In this short post I want to begin chronicling new storage…

  • China’s Nuclear Power Gamble Is Mind-Boggling

    The numbers that define China’s progress over the last 50 years are staggering. Over 300 million people lifted out of poverty. Over 160 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants. Over 630 million Internet users.. And now, following the recent climate change deal with U.S., China has a massive price tag of $2 trillion to implement climate policy changes. In order to cap carbon emissions and generate 20% of the country’s electricity from renewables by 2030, Bloomberg estimates this would require 1,000 nuclear reactors, 500,000 wind turbines or 50,000 solar farms. “The pledge would require China to produce either 67…

  • Google Gives Up On Renewables

    This is a post-mortem on a project initiated by Google – a master of innovation if ever there was one and a company with impeccable green credentials (see photo below) – the goal of which was to scope out an innovative renewable energy system that could compete economically with coal and other fossil fuels and which could be deployed quickly enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Google headquarters, complete with 1.6MW of PV panels Work on the project, which Google named RE<C (Renewable Energy cheaper than Coal) continued from 2007 to 2011, a period over which…

  • Waste To Energy Could Be Long-Term Renewable Solution

    On a recent business trip to Edmonton, in northern Canada, I was surprised to find, amid the bales of recycled materials and heavy equipment pushing around mountains of trash, a large facility that looked a lot like an oil refinery. The building was a couple of storeys high and consisted of a network of interlocking pipes, surrounded by a cage of steel framing and a number of platforms. When I asked about it, a landfill worker told me the facility is a waste to biofuels plant that essentially converts garbage into biofuels. Opened in June, the waste to biofuels plant…

  • Iranian Nuclear Talks To Continue Until July

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna before talks on November 24, 2014. Iran and six world powers have agreed to extend talks on Tehran's nuclear program until July 1, 2015, after failing to seal a deal before a midnight deadline on November 24. Diplomats said that under the terms of limited agreements reached after six days of high-level talks in Vienna, a political accord is to be completed by March 1, with final details contained in annexes to be sealed by July 1. It was the second time the negotiators…

  • This Solar Company Keeps Reporting Losses But You May Want To Buy It Anyway

    We all know that logically we should assess the value and prospects of any stock based on the profitability and prospects of the company. That is investing 101, but sometimes other factors take over. In the case of SolarCity Corp (SCTY), buyers seem to be motivated by anything but profitability. The company has never made a profit since the IPO nearly two years ago, but even so, despite losing a lot of ground since the high back in February, SCTY is trading at over five times what it was then. The gut reaction of any value investor when looking at…