Todd Woody

Todd Woody is an environmental and technology journalist based in California who writes for The New York Times, Quartz, and other publications.

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 …

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 …

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 …

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” …

Accelerating change

Report: U.S. in fast lane to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015

More like this are on the way.Photo: Dave Pinter When President Obama in his State of the Union address called for 1 million electric cars to be on the road by 2015, skeptics scoffed. But in a report [PDF] released Tuesday, the Department of Energy basically said no worries. We’ve already arrived at our destination. That optimism comes from automakers’ existing projections of how many electric cars they expect to produce over the next five years. “The production capacity of EV models announced to enter the U.S. market through 2015 should be sufficient to achieve the goal of one million …

Blowing coal away

Wind power now competitive with coal in some regions

Photo: Vlasta JuricekMore good news on the renewable energy front Monday: The cost of onshore wind power has dropped to record lows, and in some regions is competitive with electricity generated by coal-fired plants, according to a survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a market research firm. “The latest edition of our Wind Turbine Price Index shows wind continuing to become a competitive source of large-scale power,” Michael Liebreich, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s chief executive, said in a statement. “For the past few years, wind turbine costs went up due to rising demand around the world and the increasing price …

Power trip

Solar gets big and cheap in California

A San Francisco solar installation. Photo: Gavin NewsomEarlier this week, I wrote about the green evolution in California regarding electric cars. Well, when it comes to solar energy, it’s starting to look more like a revolution. This week, utility Southern California Edison asked regulators to approve 20-year contracts to buy 250 megawatts of electricity from 20 small-scale photovoltaic farms. Nothing especially newsworthy about that until you start reading through the document submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (hat tip to Adam Browning of the Vote Solar Initiative). Turns out that in response to its request for bids, Southern California …

No charge for that

Bay Area hands out $3 million to install home electric car chargers

20 Blink commercial charging stations will be installed around the Bay Area.Photo: BlinkHere’s a mid-week dispatch from the green evolution in California. The Bay Area Air Management District on Wednesday granted $3.9 million to four companies as part of an effort to roll out electric car charging stations in 2,750 homes, as well as 30 fast-chargers along highways. Depending on the electric car, high-voltage fast chargers can “fill up” a battery in as little as 30 minutes. “The electric vehicle’s time has come, and its effectiveness as a means of improving air quality depends on a robust charging infrastructure,” Jack …

Spin Cycle

Smart appliances are coming! (Some day)

The time when your refrigerator can have an intelligent conversation with the local utility's smart grid could finally be on the horizon.

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