Billionaire Buffett enters solar sector with Topaz acquisition

US multi-billionaire Warren Buffett is to enter the solar power sector via his utility company MidAmerican Energy Holdings.

MidAmerican has agreed to buy the $2bn Topaz solar farm, which is being built in California by First Solar and is due for completion in 2015.

First Solar will run the plant for MidAmerican, which is owned by Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway.

MidAmerican will in turn sell electricity generated by the 550 MW Topaz facility to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

MidAmerican already operates several wind power facilities and its chairman Greg Abel said adding solar energy to its generation portfolio “is a strategic move to invest in yet another renewable energy source”.

He added that the Topaz project “demonstrates that solar energy is a commercially viable technology without the support of governmental loan guarantees”.

Topaz may be the last large solar farm to qualify for the US Treasury Department’s incentive programme, which is set to expire this year.

First Solar projects that are currently being built will sell power for 14-16 cents a kWh, said company spokesman Alan Bernheimer.

Entergy eyes transmission sale to ITC

Entergy Corp is to spin off and merge its electricity transmission business with ITC Holdings Corp in a $1.78bn deal designed to allow the US energy company to focus on its power generation and utility operations.

Entergy operates power utilities in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, and also runs a merchant power plant business that sells electricity into the wholesale market.

ITC, the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company, will double its size through the deal, expanding its current base that covers Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

US college to get renewables overhaul

St Peter’s College in New Jersey has hired a UK renewables company to carry out a $6.3m energy overhaul of its campus.

ENER-G will fit a 200 kW solar panel system on several buildings, together with a trigeneration plant to supply low carbon heat, electricity and cooling for buildings.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems will also be upgraded to include new boilers and variable speed pumps. The project is due for completion next summer.

APR Energy clinches power deals in Peru and Argentina

APR Energy has been awarded two temporary power contracts, one from Peru’s national electric utility company, Electroperu, and the second from Argentine utility Energia Argentina (ENARSA).

For the Electroperu contract, APR will supply a 60 MW/138kV diesel fired power plant, which will be used to meet peak seasonal demands in the southern region of Peru.

The new plant in Mollendo is in addition to APR’s existing 60 MW power plant in Trujillo, which has been operating since mid-2009.

APR Energy’s existing customer in Argentina, ENARSA has awarded a new contract to APR for a 25 MW/33kV temporary power solution in the city of Magdalena, within the province of Buenos Aires.

The diesel powered plant will provide a temporary power source for the utility until more permanent power can be brought online.

APR Energy has been working with ENARSA to meet power needs in Argentina since the middle of 2008 and is currently operating four separate power projects within the country.

Exelon in 175 MW generation pledge

Exelon Corp and Constellation Energy Group have filed a brief with the Maryland Public Service Commission that increases their commitments related to a proposed merger.

Exelon and Constellation committed to build 175 MW of new generation in Maryland, including 55 MW of wind or solar capacity, which would increase the state’s total renewable capacity by more than 30 per cent.

The projects will be built within the state, for a total projected investment of $220″280m.

Exelon and Constellation expect to complete their merger in early 2012.

Progress Energy awards nuclear fleet contract

BWB Maintenance Services has won a five-year contract to provide fleet-wide services for Progress Energy’s nuclear power plants in North and South Carolina and Florida.

BWB will support the nuclear fleet with maintenance and craft services, project execution, radiation protection, and health physics.

BWB is a newly formed entity of BWB LLC, a joint venture between Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Maintenance Services and Bartlett Holdings.

Argentina: The country could be nearing a shale oil and gas boom as former state monopoly YPF eyes another 1bn barrel discovery adjacent to a Patagonian field whose reserves were more than six times bigger than thought, reported the Financial Times.

Brazil: Brazilian renewables company Areva Koblitz aims to spend $327m on projects in Latin America. The firm said the projects would total 200 MW by 2016 and would be focused on Peru, Chile and Uruguay in South America and Honduras, Panama and Guatemala in Central America.

Brazil: MPX Energia has said national development bank BNDES accepted its request for $890m to finance the construction of three gas-powered plants at Parnaàƒ­ba Thermoelectric Complex totalling 1500 MW.

Brazil: Construction of the 11.3 GW Belo Monte hydro plant is “irreversible”, said Brazil’s energy minister Edison Lobao. The project has faced fierce opposition from Amazonian communities, as well as international environmental groups.

Ecuador: State power generation holding group Celec has awarded China’s Harbin Electric International a contract to develop the 132 MW Esmeraldas II thermal power plant.

Mexico: Samsung Engineering has won a $150m thermal power plant order in central Mexico. Under the deal with the US-based power generation firm InterGen, Samsung will build the 210 MW gas power plant in San Luis de la Paz in the state of Guanajuato on a turnkey basis, with completion due by April 2014.

Mexico: State power company CFE is to launch a tender for 50 MW of new generation capacity at its 188 MW Los Azufres geothermal field in Michoacàƒ¡n state. Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and Alstom are expected to be among the bidders, said a CFE spokesman.

US: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded ground water pollution in Wyoming was probably connected to shale gas ‘fracking’. But Encana, the Canadian firm that carried out the drilling, said EPA investigations were inconclusive.

US: Ameren Energy Resources is to pull out of the $1bn government-funded FutureGen project to retrofit a unit at Ameren’s Meredosia power plant in Illinois with oxy-combustion carbon capture technology.

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