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Renewable Roundup: Ikea, Google, Time Warner

Here is a roundup of the latest news in renewable power installations and contracts:

Ikea has started operating a 290 kW solar energy system at its Burbank, Calif., store. The 35,000 square foot array has about 1,260 panels and is expected to produce 421,300 kWh of electricity a year. That should help IKEA reduce carbon dioxide by at least 334 tons – equaling the emissions of 58 cars a year.

Google will invest $168 million in equity in the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (pictured), a gargantuan 370 MW project being planned for southeast California. Developer BrightSource Energy said it has also finalized $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the project, which is due online in 2013.

BrightSource Energy estimates that the plant will power 140,000 homes, although the DOE puts that number at 85,000, Cnet reports. The power generated will be sold to California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Another massive solar plant, the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch, has just received a $1.187 billion conditional loan guarantee commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy. The plant in San Luis Obispo County is expected to power about 100,000 homes and will be one of the largest photovoltaic power plants in the world when complete.

SunPower Corporation is leading the development, and NRG Energy will assume ownership after completion, which is due in 2013.

Oceanic Time Warner Cable has completed an 856 kW solar canopy system at its Mililani Tech Park facility in Hawaii, in a partnership with Chevron Energy Solutions and Tioga Energy. Tioga will own and operate the installation under a 20-year power purchase agreement, and will sell the electricity back to Oceanic Time Warner at rates below those of the local utility.

Retirement home builder Del Webb is including a roof-integrated solar power system by SunPower Corporation at two new communities in the Phoenix area. The developments will offer about 11,200 homes, whose other environmental features will include high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, CFLs, enhanced attic insulation, tankless water heaters and low water use toilets and fixtures.

Refrigerated pasta company Pasta Prima has announced that it is now using 100 percent renewable energy. Last year, the company invested over $2 million in a rooftop solar array that is expected to produce 70 percent of the power for its Benicia, Calif., manufacturing plant. The remainder of the company’s power is now offset with Green-e certified renewable energy credits, and comes from wind power, Pasta Prima said.

A football stadium being built at the University of North Texas will be the first new collegiate venue with onsite wind power, according to designers HKS Sports & Entertainment Group. The 30,000-seat venue has secured a $2 million grant from the state Energy Conservation Office for the installation of three turbines, and is seeking LEED Gold or Platinum certification. It is due to open in September.

Finally, Oregon State University has won LEED Platinum certification for its new 6.5 MW cogeneration power plant, which combines heating and electricity generation. The facility generates nearly half of the university’s electrical needs and is the first LEED Platinum power plant in the country, Sustainable Business reports.

The plant runs on natural gas, but can also run on biodiesel and methane. It is expected to lower the university’s energy costs by about $650,000 a year.

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