Goldman Sachs calls Renewables ‘compelling’ commits $40 Billion

Originally published on RenewEconomy by Giles Parkinson

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs has declared the renewable energy sector to be one of the most compelling and attractive markets – and is backing up its talk with $US40 billion ($A46 billion) of made and planned investments.

Goldman Sachs is not the first big bank to talk up the renewable energy sector, or even “sustainable” investments. But it is one of the first to put real money behind it.

In 2012, the bank made a commitment to invest $US40 billion in renewable energy, and it has made a number of large equity investments, over and above the normal advisory and fund-raising work that is the usual bread and butter revenue for investment banks such as Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs finds this market incredibly compelling, said Stuart Bernstein, who heads the bank’s clean-technology and renewables investment banking group, told Recharge in a recent interview in a story titled Goldman goes Green.

It is at a transformational moment in time.

Bernstein said the bank is taking a decades-long view and is convinced that renewable energy will be an important component of global GDP growth.

He dismissed suggestions that it was part of a PR campaign – such as BP’s infamous “Beyond Petroleum” pitch of a decade ago where it appeared to spend more in marketing than it did in new technologies.

It will be important from a societal perspective, and it will be good business for us and our clients, Bernstein told Recharge.

We want to be extraordinarily focused, involved and have the best franchise in the area. That’s how we think about it.

Among Goldman Sachs’ key investments are a recently-approved $1.5 billion investment for a near 20 per cent stake in Danish offshore wind energy developer Dong Energy.

Renewable Energy in action. Ivanpah solar power tower (CSP) now online.
Renewable Energy in action. Ivanpah solar power tower (CSP) now online.

It has also a substantial investment in BrightSource Energy, which is about to bring its huge Ivanpah solar power project (pictured) into full production – it will be the largest in the world.

Goldman Sachs also provided $500 million of finance to SolarCity, to allow the biggest solar installer in the US to expand its solar leasing business. Goldmans is one of a number of banks to do that –the latest was Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

It has also been an early investor in First Solar, the largest solar PV manufacturer in the US, SunEdison, and made big money from the sale of Horizon Wind Energy to Portugal’s EDP for $2.15 billion in 2007.

Goldman’s commitment of $40 billion is based around a number of assumptions – that costs will continue to decline as efficiency improves, that solar and wind will reach grid parity without subsidies in the not-too-distant future, and that energy storage issues will also be solved.

It also believes that the position of coal at the top of the global fuel mix is eroding – something that it highlighted in a recent report that said the window for thermal coal was closing rapidly.

According to the Recharge article, much of Goldman Sachs’ investments will be focused on the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India and Mexico —along with developed economies such as Japan and South Korea that have also made a large commitment to renewables, and are reliant on expensive fossil fuel imports.

In Japan, Goldman Sachs has established a new independent power producer called Japan Renewable Energy (JRE) — to develop, build and operate solar, wind and other renewables projects. It is backed by the bank’s $3.1 billion GS Infrastructure Partners II fund (GSIP). It has already committed to a 250MW solar project in Okayama and a 40MW PV plant near Tokyo.

Goldman has paid more than $3400 million for a majority stake in an Indian wind energy business called Renew Wind Power, which plans to build 1GW of facilities within two years, and it is looking to build solar energy plants to supply mining operations in Chile, where even companies such as BHP Billiton are looking at alternatives.

Bernstein also heads Goldman’s venture-capital group, which has a key office in California’s Silicon Valley and which is focusing on late-stage venture companies. Recharge says it is also using its convening power to host conferences and forums for sector stakeholders.

Other investments include the FloDesign Wind Turbine, a start-up that was developing  an  experimental high-efficiency shrouded wind turbine, and South Korean wind turbine manufacturer CS Wind, which plans an IPO this year.

This article, Goldman Sachs Declares The Renewable Sector One Of The Most Compelling, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy with Giles ParkinsonGiles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

Wall Street Suddenly Hot On Solar Stocks

by Tina Casey.

Over the weekend, the New York Times noted that the solar power “craze” is partly responsible for Wall Street’s recent good times. The Times used the example of solar giant SolarCity, which has seen a sevenfold increase in its share price to $59.27 since it went public, but this could just be starters for the US solar industry. An international research team based at North Carolina State University has come up with a simple way to increase the efficiency of organic solar cells by more than 30 percent, leading to lower costs and a much bigger market.

That’s great news for companies like SolarCity. The company – another brainchild of Tesla creator Elon Musk – packages and installs solar systems, so it’s not subject to the kind of downward global pricing pressures that doomed US manufacturers like Solyndra.

In fact, down works good for SolarCity’s business model. Solar cells account for about half the cost of a fully installed and connected solar system, so a major drop in the cost of solar cells will have a significant impact on overall costs. That gives SolarCity and other solar packagers another opportunity to offer their systems at more competitive prices, and nudge conventional fuels out of the market.

Solar cell efficiency breakthrough courtesy of NCSU.

Solar cell efficiency breakthrough courtesy of NCSU.

A New Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough

With that in mind, let’s take a look at that NCSU solar cell efficiency breakthrough, which was just published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The research applies to organic solar cells, which refers to a relatively new class of solar cells based on polymers (loosely speaking, plastic). Organic solar cells are less efficient than silicon, which is still the gold standard, but they make up for it with the potential for a broader range of applications and a low cost manufacturing process.

The key to the breakthrough is the creation of a new low cost polymer by NCSU’s partner in the project, the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Called PBT-OP, the new polymer is made from two readily available monomers and a third monomer that can be synthesized with relative ease (monomers are identical molecules that can be bonded together into long chains as polymers).

The new polymer skips over a key hurdle for lowering the cost of organic solar cells, which is the use of fluorine. Typically, in organic solar cells a fluorine atom is needed in the polymer’s “molecular backbone” in order to increase efficiency, but that is a complicated processes and it introduces significant manufacturing costs.

PBT-OP has the fluorine advantage without the fluorine. To get a handle on that, all you need to know is that organic solar cells consist of an electron acceptor material and an electron donor material, each with its own molecular orbit.

The trick is to find the ideal difference between the highest occupied molecular orbit of the acceptor and lowest unoccupied molecular orbit of the polymer.

Once you get that nailed down, what you’ve done is to create a kind of super-efficient electrical highway, in which excitons (the energy particles created when a solar cell absorbs light) travel as quickly as possible within the interface of the donor and acceptor domains. That means you minimize the loss of energy that occurs in a conventional organic solar cell.

NCSU physicist Harald Ade breaks it down:

The possible drawback in changing the molecular structure of these materials is that you may enhance one aspect of the solar cell but inadvertently create unintended consequences in devices that defeat the initial intent. In this case, we have found a chemically easy way to change the electronic structure and enhance device efficiency by capturing a lager fraction of the light’s energy, without changing the material’s ability to absorb, create and transport energy.

Thank you, Harald. Now let’s also thank the U.S. Department of Energy, which funded the research project in partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

SolarCity And Tesla

Now let’s get back to that SolarCity/Tesla connection. Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk is best known for his innovation in the electric vehicle field, which seamlessly marries EV charging stations with onboard technology in the form of Tesla Motors’ Supercharger network, and he is also the Chairman of SolarCity.

Tesla has been introducing Supercharger stations powered at least partly by on site solar installations in the form of canopies, so it’s no surprise that SolarCity is providing the installations.

SolarCity is also the force behind solar-powered home EV charging stations and SolarStrong, which involves $1 billion worth of rooftop solar panels for military housing. Los Angeles Air Force Base and Fort Bliss are two examples, with Los Angeles being particularly interesting because the base has also been introducing electric vehicles.

Given SolarCity’s track record with thin-film solar cells and the solar/mobility connection with Tesla Motors we’re thinking that it won’t be long before both companies cook up new applications for organic solar cells as the cost of the technology continues to drop.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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This article, Wall Street Suddenly Loves Solar, Just In Time For New Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina CaseyTina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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Four ‘Good News’ Solar Stories

Clean Power

first solar

First Solar To Invest $100 Million Into Japanese Solar

Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill

Japan hasn’t been a target market for companies like First Solar, due in part to the country’s reliance upon nuclear technology. However, as Japan attempts to move herself away from reliance upon nuclear — in the … Read More

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Clean Power

Photo credit: OregonDOT / Foter.com / CC BY

500MW Of Solar Plants Due For Construction In Uganda

Published on November 18th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

The government of Uganda has just signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of four large solar power plants totaling 500 megawatts (MW) of capacity! According to PV-Tech, these solar power plants will be … Read More

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Clean Power

Image Credit: Chile Flag via Shutterstock

181 MW Of Solar Projects Approved For Chile

Published on November 18th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

The Environmental Evaluation Service of Chile (SEA) recently approved the construction of two solar power plants totaling 181 megawatts (MW). The plants are titled Project Pampa Sur and Project Pampa Norte. They are to be developed … Read More

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Clean Power

SolarCity-logoNEWS

SolarCity Leads Way Into Low-Interest Solar Financing That Could Be Huge Boost To Solar Industry

Published on November 17th, 2013 | by Giles Parkinson

Originally published on RenewEconomy. The solar industry has achieved another significant breakthrough, after US solar leasing specialist SolarCity issued the first asset back notes for the solar industry, and achieved an interest rate significantly below expectations. … Read More

BMW Partners With Solar City To Offer Solar + EV Bundle

by Nicholas Brown

Image Credit: SolarCity.
Image Credit: SolarCity.

BMW, a manufacturer that knows how to make cars sell, has partnered with SolarCity, which happens to be very good at selling its solar services to provide a package in which they could enjoy SolarCity’s famous solar leasing plan (but at a discount) when they buy BMW i series vehicles at any of the participating BMW i Centers in SolarCity’s territory.

According to SolarCity, BMW i vehicle owners will receive a 10% discount (for now) on SolarCity’s residential solar service with flexible financing options. This includes their zero-down solar leasing offer. As a reminder, the zero-down plan enables customers to obtain solar panels without any up-front payments, their electric bills are eliminated, and monthly, they pay SolarCity a fraction of what their electric bill used to be.

So, the 10% discount offered is on a plan which is already excellent!

“Experience with our MINI E and ActiveE field trials has demonstrated that driving electric is a lifestyle, where customers gain a keen understanding of their driving habits beyond driving and are often inspired to find ways to live more sustainably,” said Rob Healey, BMW’s EV Infrastructure Manager. “With help from SolarCity, BMW i customers will have the opportunity to maximize the commitment to sustainability. This reinforces the entire concept behind the BMW i3, which is engineered and produced by the most sustainable manufacturing process in the automotive industry.”

Electric vehicles are part of a bigger plan to reduce reliance on both fossil-fueled automobiles and power plants. Electric vehicles enable us to use clean energy to power transportation, as all sources of energy can be used to generate electricity.

Normally, the high initial cost of a solar system plus the high initial cost of an electric vehicle is a major problem. However, BMW and SolarCity’s bundle marks a big step forward towards zero emissions transportation, and away from that financial issue.

“This partnership makes the more sustainable fuel option—emissions-free solar electricity—also the more affordable one,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “By making renewable energy far more accessible and affordable for its customers, BMW is helping to bring clean transportation into the mainstream.”

Follow me on Twitter @Kompulsa.

This article, BMW Partners With Solar City To Offer Solar + EV Bundle, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

 

Nicholas BrownNicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.

 

These 5 Department of Defense Solar Energy Projects Will Forever Change What Fuels America’s Military

by Tim Bolger — Guest Contributor
Originally published on the Mosaic blog

In 2012, the Department of Defense announced its goal to deploy three gigawatts of renewable power and meet 25% of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2025 – enough to power 750,000 homes. Each armed forces department has separate timelines to reach their individual goals of one gigawatt of power (Air Force – 2016, Navy – 2020,  Army – 2025).

The Department of Defense intends to meet these goals without any additional costs to the taxpayer and aims to leverage private sector financing through authorities such as Power Purchase Agreements, Enhanced Use Leasing, Utility Energy Service Contracts, and Energy Savings Performance Contracts.

Below is a list of five innovative Department of Defense energy projects, listed in terms of energy power production.

1) Fort Irwin – Clark Energy Group and Acciona

bolger1

The Fort Irwin solar plant, located in the Mojave Desert, will cover more than 21 square miles (similar to the size of Manhattan) and produce more than 500 MW of power for the initial development plan with the potential of building of 1000 MW, making it the largest renewable energy project in the military’s history. Fort Irwin is utilizing an Enhanced Use Lease that allows private companies, in this case Clark Energy Group and Acciona Solar Power, to finance, construct, and operate a solar project in exchange for a long-term lease of Army land. In this case, Clark actually paid the US Army Corps of Engineers $150,000 for costs associated with its work on the project.

2) SolarStrong – SolarCity

bolger2

SolarCity’s five-year program, called SolarStrong, aims to provide privatized military housing across the nation with solar power. The program aims to provide solar power to up to 120,000 military housing units and create up to 300 MW of solar generation capacity—making it the largest residential solar photovoltaic project in American history.

3) Fort Bliss – El Paso Electric

bolger3

The U.S. military will soon begin it’s largest installation at Fort Bliss, which will be completed by 2015. El Paso Electric, the local utility, will construct a 20-megawatt solar farm for the Army Corps of Engineers. There is also talk of another 20-megawatt contract with El Paso Electric coming. Fort Bliss already hosts the Army’s second-largest array (1.4 megawatt), and has installed a 13.4 megawatt rooftop solar array on housing posts. Their ultimate goal is to make Fort Bliss net zero –producing as much energy as it consumes. This, along with other projects, will help the Army achieve its security goal of having 25 percent of its energy come from renewable energy by 2015.

4) Nellis Air Force Base – SunPower

bolger4

The Nellis Solar Power Plant is the single largest solar photovoltaic system in the US. The installation includes 70,000 solar panels with single axis trackers across 140 acres, generating 14.2 megawatts of power (25 gigawatt hours of energy annually), and saving the US Air Force ~$1 million each year. The U.S. Air Force did not need to make any out of pocket expenses. Under the terms of the SunPower Power Purchase Agreement, MMA Renewable Ventures financed and owns the system, selling power to Nellis at a guaranteed rate for the next 20 years. The local utility, Nevada Power also purchased the system’s renewable energy credits (RECs) in order to meet its renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

5) China Lake – SunPower

bolger5

SunPower installed a 13.78 megawatt solar photovoltaic power system at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California at the end of 2011. The system will reduce 30 percent of China Lake’s annual energy load and reduce electricity costs by ~$13 million over the next 20 years. The Navy is purchasing the power through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with no upfront costs. The installation was the government’s first solar power plant financed by a 20-year Federal solar PPA for energy for military installations. An affiliate of Metropolitan Life (MetLife) will be the owner of the plant that will be leased to a SunPower affiliate.

Learn more:

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This article, These 5 Department of Defense Solar Energy Projects Will Forever Change What Fuels America’s Military, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀

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