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Todd Woody's Posts

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Solar intervention

Portlandia to help wean Los Angeles from coal

Solar tech from Oregon is headed south to make California greener.Photo: SolarWorldPortlandia may not be the sunniest of places, but it's exporting solar energy in the form of photovoltaic panels used to build carbon-free power plants. On Wednesday, SolarWorld -- the German photovoltaic module maker that operates a big factory in Hillsboro, Ore. -- announced it would supply panels and help develop an 11.6-megawatt solar farm in the Southern California desert for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. That's a fairly small solar power plant. But it's notable in that SolarWorld is jumping into the solar power plant …

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Soft machine

If Watson can win Jeopardy, can IBM make cities smarter?

Photo: Rodrigo SennaIBM has generated a lot of buzz lately for Watson, its game-show-playing supercomputer that recently bested a couple of skin jobs on "Jeopardy." Less high profile is the expansion of Big Blue's computer and software systems designed to monitor and control municipal water, energy, and transportation systems. Developed under the umbrella of IBM's Smarter Planet effort, such systems are designed to cut water and energy consumption and save cities money. On Monday, IBM announced a series of projects showing that in the future, public works may be just as much about sensors and cloud computing as pipes and …

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The people want to topple the old energy regime

Schwarzenegger calls for Tunisian-style green revolution

Hasta la vista, air pollution.He's back. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday all but called for a Tunisian-style revolution to overturn the United States' old energy order. "It is breathtaking to see: people by the hundreds of thousands who want change ... who want to throw off the old order and subvert the status quo. It is fascinating to me how rapidly the debate in the Middle East shifted from -- could the people rise up to could the rulers hang on?" Scharzenegger said at the United States Department of Energy's ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in National Harbor, Md., according …

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Plugging in

Chicago to build electric car charging network

An electric car charging station next to a gas station in Lake Oswego, Ore.Photo: Todd MecklemFirst Chicago gets Rahm Emanuel, now electric cars. Well, at least an electric car infrastructure. In a move that indicates electric cars won't just be a phenomenon of Greater Portlandia, utility Exelon and the city will roll out 280 charging stations across Chicagoland by year's end. Two stations will even be solar-powered. It's part of a smart grid demonstration project, partially funded by the federal government, to get a jump-start on the potential impact on the electric system if Chicagoans start buying battery-powered vehicles in …

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Transphormational!

Google-backed startup claims energy efficiency breakthrough

Photo: Marcin WicharyOn Wednesday I joined a cadre of other reporters who had been summoned to the Googleplex in Silicon Valley for what was billed as the launch of a clean tech startup that has developed a revolutionary new technology. The big reveal came as we sat around a conference table at Google Ventures, the search giant's investment arm: super-efficient power conversion modules. What? You were expecting orbiting solar power plants or something? But if the Southern California startup, called Transphorm, makes good on its claims, it could have a dramatic impact on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from …

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High-priced voltage

Report: Californians paying too high a price for renewable energy

Is solar costing Californians a wad more than it should?Photo: Andrew MagillAre Californians forking over too much green for green energy? A new report [PDF] from a ratepayers advocacy group found that the price of electricity in 59 percent of renewable energy contracts signed by the state's three big utilities exceeded the market price referent, or MPR for all you utility junkies. Without getting into the nitty-gritty regulatory calculus, the market price referent is based on the price of electricity from a 500-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, the dominant power source in California. The MPR is a benchmark to gauge the …

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Solandia

Another Silicon Valley solar startup to build a factory in Oregon

A SolarWorld worker making panels. Photo: SolarWorldAnother Silicon Valley startup is planting a tree in Portlandia's solar forest, thanks to a United States Department of Energy loan guarantee. SoloPower, a San Jose, Calif., company that makes thin-film photovoltaic models, on Thursday snagged a $197 million federal loan guarantee to build a factory in Wilson, Ore., about 25 miles southwest of Portland. The startup is the second Silicon Valley thin-film solar startup to make the move north over the past year. Last July, San Jose's Solexant announced it would build a factory in Gresham east of Portland to make photovoltaic modules …

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Californication

Silicon Valley solar firm buys East Coast’s biggest photovoltaic installer

Volunteers install a solar PV array in Brooklyn, N.Y.Photo: 350.orgCalifornia solar companies are continuing their eastward expansion, with Silicon Valley's SolarCity on Wednesday acquiring the residential operations of one of the East Coast biggest solar installers, groSolar. With the acquisition, SolarCity, California's largest residential solar installer, will move into Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. SolarCity is on something of a spending spree­ -- in January, the company bought Clean Currents Solar, a Washington, D.C., solar installer, and expanded its operations to the nation's capital and Maryland. Meanwhile, Sungevity, an Oakland, Calif., solar installer, raised $15 million from investors …

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Batteries included

California to green its grid with energy storage

With intermittent sources like wind and solar becoming more common, energy storage is increasingly seen as crucial for greening the grid.Photo: mike_tnIn just about every story on renewable energy, there's a familiar cast of characters: green power developers, utilities, and sundry state and federal regulators. But there's one key player that often lurks in the background -- the grid operator. In the Golden State, most of the power grid is controlled by the California Independent System Operator. Based in a suburb of Sacramento, Cal ISO, as it's known, essentially ensures that electricity supply and demand stay in balance to prevent …

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Hi-ho, Silver State!

Southern California Edison signs another big photovoltaic farm deal

Solar farms could be sprouting in the Nevada desert.Photo: FotowatioSouthern California Edison on Wednesday announced another big photovoltaic power plant deal, this time to buy electricity from a 250-megawatt solar farm to be built by First Solar. Add that contract to 831 megawatts' worth of photovoltaic power purchase agreements the Los Angeles utility signed with SunPower and Fotowatio in January, and you're talking some serious solar -- more than a gigawatt. At peak output, that's the equivalent capacity of a big nuclear power plant. I wouldn't be surprised to see SoCal Edison execs tooling around town with "I ♥ PV" …