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Renewable Briefing: AstraZeneca, Bloomberg, UPS, Total, ClearEdge

Industrial solar power company Solar Trust of America breaks ground Friday on the Blythe Solar Power Project, expected to be the largest solar thermal power facility in the world. The Blythe, Calif.-based project will have 1,000 MW of generating capacity, or enough to power more than 300,000 homes a year, making it the first solar facility to compare in scale to the largest coal and nuclear power plants, the company said. The Blythe Project received a conditional commitment for a $2.1 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy in April.

Biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has completed a 7,300 solar panel installation project at three structures on its Wilmington, Delaware, campus. The 1.7 MW solar photovoltaic system is expected to produce 2.1 million kWh/yr of electricity, and reduce CO2 emissions by 1,200 metric tons a year, the company said. The $9.5 million project was eligible for about $2.4 million in federal and state grants.

A 1.8 MW solar power system will be operational by December 2011 at Bloomberg’s Skillman, N.J., facility. The system will use SunPower solar panels and is expected to generate 58 percent of the facility’s electricity demand. It is Bloomberg’s first renewable energy project, part of the news-and-information company’s plan to develop 6 MW of solar power in New Jersey within the next three years. The power system will be owned by Solar Star NJ VI, LLC, a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Services.

UPS has installed a 250 kilowatt rooftop solar array at its Lakewood, N.J. facility. The company says the installation will provide nearly 30 percent of the building’s annual energy needs.

Total SA‘s $1.3 billion takeover of SunPower Corp. will enable the solar panel manufacturer to double its market share over the next year and a half, SunPower chief executive Tom Werner said, according to Reuters.

Shareholders holding a majority of SunPower’s capital – about 52.2 percent of Class A common stock and 74.2 percent of Class B common stock – have agreed to sell their shares to the French oil giant.

Siemens plans to spend over EUR 150 million ($212 million) to expand its wind business over the next two years. The announced investments, all set to take place in the company’s home base of Denmark, include two new research and development centers in the towns of Brande and Aalborg, expansions at Siemens’ Brande headquarters, more capacity at production plants and a new “Center of Competence” for its offshore business in Vejle.

Wisconsin-based healthcare software company Epic Systems is installing the state’s largest solar project, a system of 9,000 solar panels with a 2.5 MW capacity, due for completion in in mid-2012. So far this year 1,300 panels have been installed, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Renewable energy technology company Abengoa has been offered a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to build the Mojave Solar Project (MSP). The guarantee will support the construction and start-up of the $1.6 billion MSP, a 250 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The DOE is also making a conditional commitment to a $681.6 million loan guarantee to the Genesis Solar Project, another 250 MW solar-concentrating installation, which will be located on a Bureau of Land Management site in Riverside County, Calif. The two projects’ combined capacity will double the United States’ currently installed CSP capacity.

ClearEdge Power of Hillsboro, Ore., has won $2.8 million from the Department of Energy for a project to test the next generation of electric-power and heat-producing fuel cells at ten different businesses in California and Oregon. ClearEdge will install its ClearEdge5, a fuel cell system about the size of a refrigerator, designed for smaller commercial buildings.

The system reduces the fuel costs and carbon footprint of a commercial building by about 40 percent, the company said. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will monitor the systems and measure the energy savings provided.

The U.S. DOE has announced $70 million in new funding over three years for technology advancements in geothermal energy. Geothermal resources could add up to 30 GW of renewable power to the U.S. energy supply,  according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Key research areas of the initiative include advanced exploratory drilling, advanced well completion technologies, geophysical exploration technologies, and geochemistry and rock-fluid interactions.

DOE has also announced a conditional commitment for a partial guarantee for a $350 million loan for a Nevada geothermal project. The project, sponsored by Ormat Nevada, Inc., is expected to produce 121 MW from three geothermal power facilities.

Finally, the Department of Energy is offering up to $36 million to fund six small-scale projects that will advance the technology and process integration needed to produce “drop-in” advanced biofuels and other bio-based chemicals. The projects, in California, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin, aim to improve the economics and efficiency of biological and chemical processes that convert non-food biomass feedstocks into replacements for petroleum-based feedstocks.

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