Konarka becomes 16th solar firm to go bust in past year

Konarka Technologies, a US thin-film solar manufacturing company, is to file for bankruptcy protection.

Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the company will cease to operate and a trustee will begin the process of liquidating its assets in order to pay off creditors, who must submit their claims to bankruptcy court.

Konarka is the 16th solar company to have gone out of business in the past year. Its chairman, Howard Berke, said the filing was a “tragedy” for the development of solar energy in America as well as for the company’s investors and employees ” more than 80 staff will lose their jobs.

Konarka received a $1.5m grant from the state of Massachusetts in 2003, which was personally delivered by then-governor Mitt Romney.

Romney is now under fire for the speech he made when delivering the grant in which he reportedly called for more money to be poured into the renewable energy sector.

Berke and Alan Heeger, the winner of the Nobel Prize for his work in conductive polymers, founded Konarka in 2001. The company is known for its photo-reactive polymer material invented by Heeger.

Its assets include a manufacturing plant in Massachusetts.

Siemens buys Brazil smart meter firm

Siemens Infrastructure & Cities has bought Brazilian smart meter company Senergy Sistemas de Mediàƒ§àƒ£o, which is located in Belo Horizonte and has about 100 engineers.

New regulations and utilities’ need to prevent and combat non-technical losses are expected to drive a boom in the Brazilian smart meter market. Jan Mrosik of Siemens Infrastructure & Cities said the acquisition would enable Siemens to support the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency “in their efforts to significantly reduce the annual economic damage caused by power losses over the long term”.

Investor stalls Chile’s biggest dam

Chile’s biggest hydroelectric dam project has received a blow after one of its investors puts its plans on hold over environmental concerns.

The project has also received negative publicity after protests over plans to flood 57000 ha of Patagonia wilderness.

Santiago-based power company Colbun, which holds 49 per cent of the 2750 MW HidroAysen, said it will suspend plans while it seeks environmental permission to build transmission lines to the capital.

US Army renewable energy spree puts focus on solar

The US military is becoming a major player in the biofuel and renewable energy markets.

Already, the US military spends more than $1bn a year on renewable power and utilises solar power.

But the army is planning a roll-out of initiatives that cover all forms of renewable energy.

Richard Kidd, the US Army’s deputy assistant secretary for energy, said: “We are specifically looking at wind, solar, geothermal for electric power and biomass.”

The army currently has 165 operational renewable energy projects, which are almost all under 1 MW. Yet its ambitions are on a much bigger scale, including a 500 MW, $2bn solar farm in the Mojave Desert.

He said the army was attractive to investors because it “can offer a very long-term power purchase agreement, up to 30 years, so we can provide a reliable and secure income stream.”

Kidd also told Platts Energy week that in Afghanistan the army was removing generators and bringing in solar panels and batteries.

Wave energy centre planned for Pacific

A marine energy centre is to be based off the US Pacific Northwest coast.

The project is being set up by Oregon Wave Energy Trust and Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre.

The new centre is targeted at harnessing the significant wave energy resources along the west coast. The centre will remove a major barrier to developing the marine energy technology industry in the US, by providing the region’s first standardised testing facilities in real-world conditions, said its owners. Experts from the European Marine Energy Centre will help establish the project.

JPMorgan leads investors in $220m US wind farm

JPMorgan Chase is leading a group of investors, including GE Capital, Enel Green Power and Wells Fargo, in providing $220 million to the planned 235 MW Chisholm View wind power project in Oklahoma.

As part of the deal, Enel Green Power will hold a 49 per cent stake in the project, and GE Energy Financial Services purchased the remaining 51 per cent in April.

The wind farm is expected to enter operations by the end of 2012 and will use 140 GE wind turbines.

Brazil: The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has provided a $48.6m loan for the export of equipment and services to the Novo Gramacho biogas project in Brazil. The plant is located at the Jardim Gramacho landfill ” one of the world’s largest solid-waste landfills – and will convert methane gas into clean, usable biomethane.

Brazil: State Grid Corp of China is focusing on Brazil’s electricity business, as it seeks to buy the Brazilian transmission assets of Spain’s Actividades de Construcciàƒ³n y Servicios for $531m plus debt of $411m.

Canada: Boralex subsidiary Boralex Europe is to acquire a 32 MW wind project in France. The Canadian company will oversee the project, which will comprise 16 Gamesa G90 turbines with a capacity of 2 MW each, for a total investment of CA$55m ($54m).

Canada: Q-Cells North America has completed the construction of a 69 MW solar photovoltaic plant in Ontario. The project is owned by Starwood Energy Global Group and consists of three plants and more than 300 000 of Q-Cells’ Q.BASE modules.

Colombia: Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group has won a contract to design a 180 MW coal fired boiler in Colombia. Hyundai Engineering awarded the engineering contract to US-based Babcock.

Nicaragua: Danish wind power firm Vestas has signed an order for a total capacity of 39.6 MW consisting of 22 units of the V100-1.8 MW turbine for the Alba Rivas wind power plant in Nicaragua.

US: US transmission company Clean Line Energy has received regulatory approval to start signing customer deals for a 800 km overhead line that will connect wind farms in Iowa with Illinois.

US: Southern California Edison has started the roll-out of smart meters in western Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County as part of a $1.6bn Edison SmartConnect programme.

US: FirstEnergy Corp is to invest between $700m and $900m over the next five years on a series of electric transmission projects to enhance service reliability across its five-state service area in the US.

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