SunPower panels, which have achieved efficiencies of more than 21 percent, have generally been considered the most efficient, but SolarCity’s new modules will exceed that level, Mr. Rive said.
The company plans to begin using the panels primarily for rooftop installations for homes, schools and other buildings, but eventually plans to make them available for large-scale, ground-mounted installations. The panel’s design, which involves layers of different forms of silicon, could allow for the production of electricity on both sides, Mr. Rive said.
From NY Times
Energy & Environment
SolarCity to Make High-Efficiency Panel
By DIANE CARDWELL
When SolarCity, the fast-growing provider of rooftop solar electricity systems, announced last year that it would begin making its own equipment, executives said they would focus on creating high-efficiency panels in an effort to reduce the cost of the electricity they sell. They announced on Friday that they had done just that, with a panel that converts more of the sun’s energy into electricity than competing products.
The company plans to start making the panel — whose output has been measured at more than 22 percent — this month at a small plant in Silicon Valley, said Peter Rive, a founder, but will eventually produce it at the enormous factory it is building in Buffalo.
The move into manufacturing, a business that has proved deadly for many other upstart American solar companies, came with the acquisition of a start-up, Silevo, and is intended to help the company compete with conventional energy sources once generous federal subsidies begin to phase out at the end of next year.
Although 22 percent may not seem like a tremendous level of efficiency, the breakthrough for SolarCity is that it can produce the panels at a lower cost than it pays to buy standard models but get more electricity out of the same square footage, Mr. Rive said.
“You’re talking about a 40 percent increase in efficiency at a lower cost,” he said. “We have to get solar energy to be cheaper than natural gas or coal, and these breakthroughs get us there.”
Solar panels convert only a fraction of the sun’s energy into electricity — the process is limited by a number of factors, including heat and shading. This year, three companies, including the Chinese giant Trina Solar, announced records in efficiency, all in the high teens.
The utility said it would be targeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 240,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, the company proposed to receive $10 per tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent as an incentive, in addition to being eligible for other cost recoveries.
Cascade Natural Gas Corp. has been closely watching the proceeding, primarily looking to understand how much time is involved, the cost of implementing a proposal, the investment opportunity, the impact on ratepayers, and the magnitude of the incentive, according to Cascade parent MDU Resources Group Inc. spokesman Mark Hanson.
"While Cascade has not yet identified a project within our Oregon service area that might qualify as a S.B. 844 project we remain interested in the concept and will be tracking regulatory and program developments related to the initial activities of other Oregon natural gas utilities," Cascade said in its most recent integrated resource plan.
Despite the uncertainties, Hanson noted in a Sept. 25 email that Cascade is intrigued by the possibility of expanding its system and "the ability to have a positive impact on the environment at a time when the natural gas is abundant and low cost."
Meanwhile, NW Natural has also been working on an oil-to-gas furnace replacement proposal to serve the residential market, according to Moore. The company has completed its discussions with stakeholders, and the utility is working on the proposal which it intends to file in the near future, Moore said.
BYLINE: Sarah Smith
Under NW Natural's proposal, large industrial and commercial customers in the market could submit CHP projects for consideration, and depending on their carbon reduction potential, NW Natural would provide incentive funding based on the verified carbon savings, making the project more financially feasible for the customers.
"We've been collaborating with a variety of regional and state organizations interested in helping CHP gain more traction and working to leverage other existing funding streams," NW Natural spokeswoman Melissa Moore said in a Sept. 24 email. "In our view, this is an important effort that could provide a significant carbon reduction benefit for our customers and for Oregon."
Salmi Klotz noted that there are a host of methodologies for determining emissions factors, including the U.S. EPA's Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database, or eGrid, approach; a protocol developed by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council; a proposal by the Oregon Department of Energy; and methodologies in each of the state's electric utilities' integrated resource plans.
"I'm working through them to see which would be most applicable from the staff's perspective," Salmi Klotz said. "I don't necessarily see a winner right now."
The proceeding is also challenging the regulator and other stakeholders to explore different types of carbon markets and the value and price of greenhouse gas reductions, Salmi Klotz said.
"I think the state and the stakeholders are starting to understand that a price on carbon is different than a project cost for reductions of carbon," Salmi Klotz said, noting that this distinction will likely prove key in setting incentives and determining cost recoveries.
NW Natural proposed that CHP customers would receive $30 per verified tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent not released, although each CHP customer site would be capped at $4.5 million of incentive payments per year.
SNL Daily Gas Report
Ore. PUC hammers out details on 1st LDC plan to earn returns on CO2 cuts
s the Oregon Public Utility Commission moves forward on a carbon-cutting incentive program for gas utilities, stakeholders are grappling with questions about the costs and value of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and how to measure these reductions.
So far, Northwest Natural Gas Co., d/b/a NW Natural, is the only local distribution company that has applied to participate in the program, which allows utilities to earn a return from carbon dioxide emissions reductions. The Oregon PUC and the LDC are now working through some critical unknowns in the program, according to Jason Salmi Klotz, the commission's climate change lead.
Specifically, the Oregon PUC and regulated utilities will have to agree on both an appropriate methodology for gauging emissions factors and how the value of greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be calculated, Salmi Klotz said in a Sept. 25 interview. These decisions will likely set important precedents for future participation in the program, he said.
"There are some a priori issues that need to be worked out in this initial proceeding with NW Natural that will most likely affect any subsequent proposal from another gas utility," said Salmi Klotz, who is the PUC staff member in charge of the program's implementation. "I think it's quite challenging."
In 2013, Oregon enacted S.B. 844, which created a voluntary incentive program for natural gas utilities to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. NW Natural became the first LDC to formally express interest in participating in the program when it applied on June 24 to take on a combined heat and power project.
Natural Gas Rates to Drop for Intermountain Gas Customers
BYLINE: Targeted News Service
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission issued the following news release:
Rates for customers of Intermountain Gas Company will decrease an average 5.7% effective Oct. 1.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved the company's annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA). Under the PGA, rates are adjusted up or down every Oct. 1 to account for that portion of gas supply expense that changes every year.
Lower wholesale prices for natural gas and a decrease in transportation costs billed to Intermountain by its supplier, Northwest Pipeline GP, contributed to this year's reduction.
The $15.3 million passed on to customers is about a 6.1% decrease to customers who use natural gas for space and water heating, a 3.56% decrease to those who use natural gas for space heating only and a 5.6% reduction for commercial customers. The PGA portion of customer rates will be reduced from the current 39.5 cents per therm to 32.8 cents per therm. With the approval, Intermountain's combined residential and commercial rates are 35% lower than in 2005.
Other factors contributing to the lower rate include increased natural gas production and Intermountain Gas' management of its storage and firm capacity rights on its various pipeline systems.
"When we had equipment break downs, RDO made sure to get us the necessary parts as quickly as they could so our down time was very minimal. They would also check in with us, whether it was to see how the equipment was working or the part they replaced was correct or to see if we needed anything from them," Nick said.
A wide range of equipment was utilized, including Topcon GPS base and rover systems, to John Deere motor graders and dozers, and Topcon Paving sonic systems.
Kelly Snively, RDOIC Account Manager, commented, "This was the ultimate partnership between customer, manufacturers, and dealer. Our customer finished the job way ahead of schedule and commended this accomplishment on the level of technology, equipment, and support they had from our team."
Nick added, "The partnership with the Montana team was great. When a problem occurred, any individual I spoke with would have an answer for me right away. I got to know quite a few of them very well. These team members made my life a lot easier when it came to resolving issues. There was no taking a back seat with them - solutions were given in a favorable manner."
Vice President of RDO Integrated Controls, Kelly Gress, added, "Through a single enterprise approach, we truly demonstrated our ability to provide a total solution, which is a significant win for our entire organization."
From News Bites - Private Companies
RDO Equipment Co.: Knife River - Success in Belgrade, MT 29 September 2015
Knife River is one of the largest construction materials and contracting companies in the United States, with more than 4,800 employees in 19 states and their footprint is very similar to that of RDO Equipment Co.'s.
In Montana, Knife River is one of RDO Integrated Control strongest supporters in the industry of machine control and John Deere and Topcon integration.
For the East Belgrade Interchange project, Knife River completed a very detailed interstate project that involved construction of new bridges along I90. Beginning in August 2013, the project consisted of four phases, with an expected completion of this summer.
Nick McGregor, Knife River GPS Project Manager expected the Interchange project to be a 'no stakes in the ground' project, and except for an initial layout for visual effects, that was a true statement.
"Typically when most roads are built, a separate surveyor will provide staking, such as catch stakes. There is vital information we need to know as far as slopes, shoulders of the roads, and measuring fill material. Also, with three roundabouts that were incorporated into this Interchange Project, there were various amounts of grade changes with tight radii. But we were able to utilize our GPS equipment for all of it," commented Nick.
He added, "With the complexity of the Interchange Project, having machine control take over with no waiting period for survey stakes to be put in the ground, we were able to keep building as fast as we could import or export the material, giving us full advantage for early completion."
RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Integrated Controls, a united team, filled the needs of Knife River throughout every phase of the project, whether it was heavy equipment needs, machine parts and repair, or machine control service and support.
Also, renewable energy sources are simpler systems and have fewer mechanical problems and forced outages than traditional power plants, Eugster said.
“In some ways, they’re even more dependable than a traditional power plant,” he said.
Decreasing costs in battery storage systems should also make the electric grids more predictable and reliable in about five years or so, he said.
As such, CPS has no plans to build or buy new power plants any time soon, he said. Three years ago, CPS did buy a gas-fired power plant to partially offset the upcoming loss of coal generation.
Utility companies “tend to be really risk averse,” Eugster said, but companies are forcing themselves to move against their nature.
“These are exciting times for the utility and the customer,” he said. “It will be interesting to see who figures it out and who gets left behind.”
From Fuel Fix via Houston Chronicle
Wind, solar causing “upheaval” for utilities, San Antonio power exec says
By Jordan Blum
Utility companies in Texas and beyond must adjust for the future or fade into oblivion, said Cris Eugster, chief generation and strategy officer for San Antonio’s integrated utility company, called CPS Energy.
CPS Energy is planning to retire two coal-fired power plants ahead of schedule while pursuing a more diverse power portfolio with more wind and solar generation, Eugster said during the keynote address at the 2015 Deloitte Alternative Energy Seminar in The Woodlands.
Eugster said CPS and others have shifted to meet anticipated federal regulations on power plant emissions through the so-called Clean Power Plan.
“The utility industry is in the beginning stages of an upheaval,” Eugster said. “We’re going to feel that pain in this industry.”
However, he argued renewable power sources are becoming much more economical as well. CPS also relies on nuclear and gas-fired power plants.
“We’re big buyers of both solar and wind,” he said. “Some of those prices are really quite compelling.”
That applies to not only cities like San Antonio and Austin, he said, but also in the greater Texas grid through the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
“You’re talking about a big chunk of ERCOT capacity coming from renewables,” Eugster said.
CPS was an early mover on solar power, which is still in its early growth stages in Texas, as opposed to the state being the largest producer of wind power in the country. At certain hours of the day sometimes, Eugster said, half the CPS power load comes from renewable energy sources.
While a knock on wind and solar power is their intermittent natures — the wind needs to blow and the sun must shine — forecast modeling has improved a lot and renewable sources have become much more predictable, he said. So it is easier to prepare for when their is less wind and solar generation.
Some of the fear of rising rates is already built into the funds’ share prices, says Ms. Marfatia. James Chen, an analyst with Moody’s Investors Service, warns, however, that discounts on some funds could still widen; discounts reached 20% and 30% in the worst of the recession, he notes.
Meanwhile, the performance of funds’ underlying holdings will vary based on factors including credit quality and maturity. And funds will be affected by varying levels of leverage and the degree to which they have hedges in place that cap their borrowing costs.
Besides buying closed-end funds for their higher yields, some investors buy them rather than standard mutual funds because they are hoping over time for the discount to narrow, adding to return. Neil Epstein, a vice president at Moody’s, says there’s also a small possibility that with deep discounts, institutional-investor activists may get involved and try to force fund sponsors to take actions that would likely cause a fund’s discount to narrow dramatically or close.
Ms. Marfatia has a “buy” rating on two junk-bond closed-end funds: Western Asset High Income Fund II Inc., which currently trades at a 10.7% discount and pays a 12.3% yield; and Western Asset Managed High Income Fund Inc., a nonleveraged fund that trades at a 15.3% discount and pays a 9.1% yield.
Morningstar analyst Jason Kephart says some funds that are liked by the firm’s analysts and currently appear undervalued are Templeton Global Income Fund, Western Asset Emerging Markets Debt Fund Inc., BlackRock Credit Allocation Income Trust, Western Asset High Income Opportunity Fund Inc. and BlackRock Corporate High Yield Fund.
Markets | Your Money | Wealth Adviser
Why Some Pros Favor Closed-End Bond Funds Right Now
Closed-end funds that are trading at unusually large discounts may be a good buy
By Daisy Maxey
In anticipation of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, some investors are shifting dollars to cash and other low-risk holdings. But some professional investors suggest going in the opposite direction and embracing bond funds that come with amped-up interest-rate risk.
The funds in question are closed-end bond funds that typically use leverage, or borrowed money, to magnify their income distributions and their returns. If rising rates lead bonds to fall in price, that leverage could cause the value of these funds’ holdings to fall further than unleveraged portfolios.
The wrinkle, though, is that many of these funds are now trading at unusually large discounts to the value of their holdings, which just might make them a good buy for investors who will hold for many years. The “closed end” label indicates that the funds generally have a fixed number of shares outstanding; when investor interest dims, as it has recently, discounts widen.
“As far as long-term entry points, this is as good as I’ve seen except for the really bad days of the financial crisis,” says Maury Fertig, co-founder of Relative Value Partners, an investment adviser that focuses on closed-end funds.
The average discount for taxable-bond funds was 10.7% as of Thursday, up from 7.8% at the start of this year, according to Morningstar Inc. The latest figure is down from 12.6% late last month, the widest since March 2009, when the average discount hit 18%, Morningstar says.
The appeal to income-oriented buyers: Some funds are paying an annual distribution of 9% or 10% or more, says Sangeeta Marfatia, executive director of closed-end fund research at UBS Wealth Management Research-Americas.
There are many unknowns about how a Fed move would affect closed-end funds.
Making records public was just one change among a handful Idaho lawmakers made, many suggested by the Idaho Department of Lands. The agencys director, Tom Schultz, said after the legislative session that Idaho had made a big move to bring rules and laws up to date on a national level.
In general, industry experts say, making such records public facilitates competition among oil companies and provides information to potential investors.
Once information is made public, other people say, Ah, this is whats being found out there, said Eric Wilson, acting bureau chief for resource protection and assistance at the Department of Lands. If theyre interested in that sort of activity, then maybe theyll come to town and start bidding on leases and give competition to Alta Mesa.
Cockerham said Idahos public production law strikes a balance between protecting a companys investment and making enough information public.
You dont want to tip your hand too early to (competitors), but you dont want to go too late because voters want to know whats going on and they have a right to know, he said.
As far as the information released so far, Cockerham said it likely wouldnt draw that much attention. If you had another 15 of these wells and you had some that came in at a billion cubic feet, than you would see some interest, he said.
From Energy Monitor Worldwide
Natural gas production records from Idaho are released to the public
The first batch of production records from a natural gas well in Idaho have been made public following a new rule approved by lawmakers.
The Idaho Department of Lands earlier this week released the monthly records that span from February 2013 to July for a well named State 1-17 in southwest Idaho and operated by Houston-based Alta Mesa.
Records show the well is producing a comparatively small amount of natural gas â- 290,000 cubic feet in July. The gas is being sent to Intermountain Gas and used in the nearby town of New Plymouth.
What the state is disclosing is on par with what you see in other states, said Scott Cockerham, managing director of Conway MacKenzie Capital Advisors and an energy sector expert, after reviewing the records. Even at current prices it could be an economically feasible well.
Alta Mesa has more than a dozen other wells in the area that are generally believed to be capable of producing much more. John Foster, Alta Mesa spokesman, said the majority of those wells are now in production. Records from those wells arent required to be made public until next year, however.
Foster said the gas from those wells is being sent through an Alta Mesa pipeline to the Williams Northwest Pipeline. Idaho Power is buying the gas for use at its Langley Gulch Power Plant west of Boise.
The new rule approved by the Idaho Legislature last spring requires companies to turn over production records six months after a well starts producing. Six months after that, the state is required to make those records public.
Idaho lawmakers and regulators for the last four years have been trying to keep up with the nascent oil and gas industry thats being propelled by new technologies that have pinpointed what companies believe are profitable reserves.
From Bloomberg Business
Ferguson Lowered to Junk by Moody's With City Facing Insolvency
by Elizabeth Campbell
Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb that became a center of protests against racial injustice by police, had its credit rating cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service because of “severe and rapid” deterioration of its finances.
Ferguson was criticized by the Justice Department this year for violating residents’ civil rights with heavy-handed police tactics in order to raise money with fines. As it negotiated a settlement with the federal government, the city’s key revenues have fallen, Moody’s said in a statement Thursday.
Ferguson could become insolvent by the 2017 fiscal year, the credit-rating company said. The rating cut reflects “severe and rapid deterioration of the city’s financial position, possible depletion of fund balances in the near term, and limited options for restoring fiscal stability,” Moody’s said.
Ferguson became a national symbol of racial unrest after a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager there last year. The fatal shooting and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer set off violent riots in the city and demonstrations across the country.
Moody’s rating on the city’s general-obligation bonds was lowered from Aa3 to Ba1, one level below investment grade.
I have been searching for news... all I have seen is 3rd Quarter to allow time to comply with requirements of European regulators...... so before Oct. 1st?
it would be nice to hear some information...
From TrueNews blog
Armed Black Man Hires An Uber Car to do a Drive By Shooting on Chicago's War Torn West Side
West side drive by the other night - no hits, but the funny part is the driver, who happened to be working for Uber, came into the District desk to report the fare he picked up directed him to a certain side street where he rolled down the window and started blazing away at the dope boys before ditching the Uber driver to face the return fire alone.
I think it is from the business they derive from oil and gas industry. energy prices are down, so selling to this sector will hurt revenues.
I am not long DOV, I follow the stock very casually... I am not a pumper of DOV nor a basher....
No cases have publicly surfaced in Texas but in September 2012, FBI agents arrested Chinese nationals Ji Li Huang and Xiao Guang Qi for trying to pay $100,000 for stolen trade secrets from a Missouri plant that made materials used for insulating pipelines and liquefied natural gas storage tank bases.
A federal judge sentenced Huang to 18 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay a $250,000 fine while Qi was deported and fined $30,000.
But the FBI's Economic Espionage Unit Chief Bryan Van Deun told the San Antonio Business Journal that companies can also face threats from domestic competitors within the United States.
Van Deun said companies can protect themselves through their hiring practices and keeping important propriety information on computers that are not connected to the Internet.
FBI officials estimate that economic espionage cost Americans more than $400 billion in lost revenue during 2011 alone.
"We need to protect that know-how that we spent lots of blood and tears and treasure developing," Van Deun said.