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Renewables Briefing: SunPower, Deepwater Wind, Paint-On Solar Panels

SunPower Corp. has begun construction on a massive, 1.1 million square-foot project on the roof of the Gloucester Marine Terminal’s refrigerated warehouse in Gloucester, N.J. near the Walt Whitman Bridge on the Delaware River. The privately funded project will cost $42 million to build and calls for the installation of 27,528 photovoltaic rooftop solar panels at the Delaware riverside site. Together the panels will generate n9 MW, or roughly enough to power 1,500 homes.

A Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling has allowed Deepwater Wind to advance the permitting and development of its planned Block Island Wind Farm, that, if completed to schedule, will be the first offshore wind farm in the nation, the projects backers have said. The Supreme Court upheld Deepwater Wind’s power purchase agreement with National Grid for the renewable energy generated from the planned Block Island Wind Farm. The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission had approved the power purchase contract in August 2010.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced funding for up to 25 awardees with ideas aimed at addressing key market barriers to rooftop solar installation. The Rooftop Solar Challenge is specifically targeted at streamlining and standardized permitting for such solar installations. There is a total of up to $12.5 million in the first year, the Energy Department says.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced offers of conditional commitments for loan guarantees worth approximately $4.5 billion, to support three alternating current Cadmium Telluride thin film photovoltaic solar generation facilities in California.  The Energy Department is offering the commitment for a $680 million loan guarantee to support the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project, conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees of $1.88 billion in loans to support the Desert Sunlight project, and conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees of $1.93 billion in loans to support the Topaz Solar project.  First Solar Inc. is sponsoring all three projects.

Thermal solar power plants are falling out of favor with developers and systems using photovoltaic panels are being snapped up instead, Reuters has reported. So far this year at least four solar projects in California, that together account for about 1,850 MW of power generation, have made such a switch, the news agency reports. The price of PV panels has fallen drastically over the five years since California mandated that the state’s power utilities draw 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources, Reuters says.

The declining costs of photovoltaic solar modules means that for the first the cost of the modules in a PV system will be less than the cost of the other compenents not used to directly harvest the sun’s energy, a report by GTM Reseach says. So-called “balance of system” components will assume a majority share of a PV project’s total cost per watt within the next year, according to Solar PV Balance of System (BOS): Technologies and Markets. In 2010, BOS costs accounted for approximately 44.8 percent (US$1.43 per watt) of a typical, utility-scale crystalline silicon (c-Si) project, with that percentage forecasted to increase to 50.6 percent in 2012, the report says.

Researchers in Melbourne, Australia, have developed solar panels that can be printed or painted directly onto a surface, Australia’s ABC News reports. PhD student Brandon MacDonald has created solar cells so small that they can be suspended in liquid such as paint. completed panels will use just one percent of the materials used in traditional solar panels, MacDonald said, ABC reports.

PowerVerde, Inc. has announced the completion and successful testing of its 50kw electric power renewable waste heat recovery system named the “Liberator.” PowerVerde will ship the first of five planned systems to Newton Investments BV the week of July 4th.

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