MORE NEWS, 2-27 (WIND WILL DRIVE MICHIGAN; A CAR NEEDS A PLUG; UTILITY TO BUILD 500 MW OF SUN; GAMING OIL PRICES)
WIND WILL DRIVE MICHIGAN
Two Ann Arbor startups advance wind energy as viable energy option
Nathan Bomey, February 26, 2009 (Ann Arbor Business Review via MLive)
"Bolstered by concerns that existing wind energy technology isn't sufficient to meet renewable energy needs, two Ann Arbor startup companies are developing new solutions that could turn wind into a dramatically more viable energy option.
"One of the firms, Accio Energy, is developing a stationary "aerovoltaic" device that would be installed on rooftops, harvest wind and turn it into electricity - without the moving parts associated with wind turbines. Put simply, it would resemble a wind version of a solar panel…"
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"The second startup company, WindSight, is a spinoff of Ann Arbor-based Michigan Aerospace, an engineering firm that has gradually diversified its technology portfolio in recent years. WindSight, led by Michigan Aerospace CEO Peter Tchoryk, is set to commercialize a wind-farm site assessment technology solution.
"Together the two companies, albeit officially unrelated, underscore the Ann Arbor region's budding wind energy technology arsenal."
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"Accio President Dawn White, who founded successful Ann Arbor defense tech startup Solidica, said Accio aims to create a wind energy device that would generate double the electricity per square meter of traditional photovoltaic solar panels…[and] could ultimately present a way to harvest wind energy in locations where wind turbines aren't practical…
"WindSight, meanwhile, is in the midst of raising funds, but Michigan Aerospace CEO Peter Tchoryk said the firm expects to have its system in beta testing by this summer. WindSight's customers would be wind farm developers seeking site analysis tools and ways to optimize turbine performance…"
A CAR NEEDS A PLUG
A car without a plug is no car at all
Ken Bensinger, February 26, 2009 (LA Times)
"An increasing amount of attention has been paid of late to electric and plug-in hybrid cars…Much less scrutiny, however, has been given to a topic that's arguably far more critical to the future of electrified transportation: Where the heck will we plug these things in? …[T]hey need a wide-ranging network of places where they can be recharged. Charging at night in the family garage isn't enough…many people don't have garages to begin with, charging stations are necessary…
"But developing that infrastructure is a huge challenge, one that would likely cost billions of dollars and require careful planning and standardization. How that issue is confronted, as much as perfecting the chemistry and costs of high-energy-density batteries, is likely to dictate whether electrons will ever truly replace carbon molecules when it comes time to get from point A to point B."
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"…Announced this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability-focused think tank based in Snowmass, Colo., [Project Get Ready is] an initiative designed to coordinate, develop and promote efforts to prepare for a plug-in infrastructure…Among the group's concerns: Who will pay for the installation? How do drivers get billed for charging? And how do we make sure that every car will be able to charge at the same locations?
"…Project Get Ready [believes]…this matter is best dealt with on a local level…To that end, Project Get Ready has enlisted three cities -- Portland, Ore., Indianapolis and Raleigh, N.C. -- as original members. The cities will keep the group abreast of the work they do to prepare for the arrival of electrified vehicles, and will contribute business plans and other developments to databases on the Project Get Ready site."
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"The goal of the organization is to get at least 20 cities to join up, using their collective efforts to develop a benchmark or other certification program…The overriding point here is clearly that local governments must play a role in developing the infrastructure…private industry can and perhaps ought to play a role as well…Portland General Electric, the city's power company…[and] General Motors [are] collaborating…[A]utomakers need proof of a real market for their vehicles before they can truly commit…local governments can [also] play a role -- by pledging to buy plug-in vehicles for their fleets.
"… Project Get Ready hopes that a million electric and plug-in hybrid cars will be on the road by 2015…To date Tesla has sold about 100 of its electric cars -- the only electricity-powered, highway-legal production vehicle on the market today. Only 999,900 to go!"
UTILITY TO BUILD 500 MW OF SUN
PG&E To Own, Contract For 500 MW Of Solar Power
Cassandra Sweet,February 24, 2009 (Dow Jones Newswires via CNN Money)
"California utility-holding company PG&E Corp…. plans to develop 500 megawatts of solar power, both through projects the utility would own and through power-purchase agreements...PG&E plans to spend about $1.4 billion to develop 250 megawatts of solar-panel generation that the utility would own and sign contracts with independent developers for the remaining 250 megawatts, all within five years…
"Utilities are becoming increasingly active in developing renewable power, prompted by incentives such as a 30% renewable-investment tax credit recently granted by Congress. In addition, expected federal legislation would require greater use of clean-energy sources like wind and solar, and cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change. California utilities are required to use renewable sources for 20% of their retail power by 2010, with pending rules boosting that amount to 33% by 2020."
PG&E is moving up. (click to enlarge)
"…the economic crisis has put added pressure on utilities to help move renewable projects forward, as project financing has largely dried up and smaller companies have had difficulty raising money in the capital markets…[A]t some point in the future, PG&E would be interested in providing financing to renewable-power developers to enable them to build new projects. Such financing might include convertible debt, in which PG&E would make a loan with the option to convert the debt repayment into equity…
"PG&E's solar program will focus on projects from 1 to 20 megawatts in size, with solar panels mounted on the ground or on rooftops, within the service territory of PG&E utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The utility will strive to develop projects on land it already owns, near transmission infrastructure to cut costs and delays associated with hooking up to the state's power grid."
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"PG&E has signed renewable-power purchase agreements that represent more than 20% of the utility's future power deliveries…
"Due in part to inadequate transmission capacity, PG&E is unlikely to take actual physical renewable power deliveries worth 20% of its total portfolio by the 2010 deadline. But with state regulations that allow for "flexible compliance" and pending rules that would allow utilities to purchase renewable- energy credits to comply with part of their obligation, PG&E is unlikely to violate any state rules…"
GAMING OIL PRICES
CFTC Probing United States Oil Fund in Crude Trades
Matthew Leising, February 26, 2009 (Bloomberg News)
"The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it is investigating the involvement of United States Oil Fund LP and other investors regarding an increase in the price difference between two oil contracts this month…The investigation announced today is part of the CFTC’s larger national oil-market probe…
"The agency is investigating whether the United States Oil Fund and other investors affected the price of (West Texas Intermediate (WTI)] oil on Feb. 6.
To maintain its holdings in oil futures, the exchange-traded fund sells, or “rolls,” its front-month contracts and buys second-month futures on four predetermined days every month…"
How do you win in this market? Cheat. (click to enlarge)
"The United States Oil Fund’s size means the rolls can cause the front-month prices to decline relative to second-month contracts, widening the so-called contango…Market participants can predict this effect and potentially profit by making the same trade before the fund does…
"WTI prices on Feb. 6 for March, the contract closest to delivery, fell $1, or 2.5 percent, to $40.17 a barrel on the New York exchange, while the April contract rose 39 cents, or 0.9 percent, to close at $46.15. The front-month contract also fell, while the second month rose, on Feb. 4.
"A call to United States Commodity Fund was not immediately returned."