Walmart is all about scale. And with its initiative to ultimately generate all it's power for its stores from clean energy it has potential to shape the market. That target does not have a date and given its 8,400 locations, it has a long way to go but it is taking steps. And today's announcement giving the nod to a couple Bay Area companies is notable.
Walmart is hiring SolarCity to install up to 15 megawatts of solar panels at 20-30 locations in California and Arizona. In its press release, Walmart highlighted its cash-rich ability to help lower the costs of the newer of the two technologies: solar panels from MiaSole that use layers of copper, indium, gallium and selenium to convert sunlight into electricity. First Solar, the publicly-traded leader in the thin film solar space, uses cadmium telluride as its semiconductor material.
The selection of thin-film panels for many of these locations signals the growing importance of thin-film. While less efficient it is less expensive and easier to deploy (roof weight capacity can be a point of concern with standard panels). And Walmart engaged SolarCity - sponsor of the BACC's recent Sustainable Cities event. USAToday reports:
With the new solar installations, SolarCity will own the panels and sell the power they generate to Wal-Mart at a set price for 10 years. Typically, such commercial power-purchase agreements run longer, often 20 years, so that the energy provider has more time to recoup costs.
In recent years, Wal-Mart has pressed for 10-year deals so that it has more flexibility to relocate stores, Ozment says. SolarCity has never done a 10-year power-purchase agreement, CEO Lyndon Rive says. It's doing so with Wal-Mart because of the deal's size and the future potential.
Walmart has gone the route of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) which has the effect of reducing or eliminating the up-front cost. BACC partners Joint Venture and SolarTech are advancing efforts to increase the use of PPAs since up-front costs remain one of the obstacles for many eager to install solar power.
The Bay Area Climate Collaborative (BACC) is thrilled to report a new partner in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC will be represented on the BACC's Steering Committee by Pete Skala, head of the CPUC Climate Strategies section.
Within the Commission, Mr. Skala’s team provides subject matter expertise and assists in the development of policies related to California’s emissions performance standard, combined heat and power facilities, electric and alternatively fueled vehicles, carbon capture and sequestration projects, and a variety of other energy sector greenhouse gas reduction technologies and initiatives.
Beyond the Commission’s own activities, Mr. Skala and his team provide energy sector expertise to the entities responsible for developing state, regional, and federal policies – most notably the California Air Resources Board, the California Climate Action Team, and the Western Climate Initiative – to ensure that the policies developed in these forums provide the correct incentives, signals, and resources to achieve energy sector emissions reductions.
The CPUC plays a critical role in advancing energy and water innovations, and we are looking forward to accelerating the clean energy economy together.
The world of electric vehicles received another boost as General Electric introduced its own version of an EV charger to the public. GE's WattStation is expected to rollout in 2011 and will likely be just one of many more clean technologies to come as the company plans to double its spending for research and development to $10 billion from 2010 to 2015.
GE also announced that it will provide $200 million for a clean-energy contest to spur innovation in the sector. Venture capitalists RockPort Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which both have offices in Menlo Park and fund Bay Area companies like Solyndra and Silver Spring Networks, are helping to fund and sponsor the clean-energy contest.
"GE, one of the world's biggest companies, with a large stake in the electricity industry, touted what it called the "GE ecomagination challenge" in an event that also featured venture capital firms that are teaming up on the project, which will promote production of clean energy and energy efficiency."
GE's entry is a direct challenge to BACC partners Coulomb Technologies and Better Place. Coulomb received federal funding for the ChargePoint America project which will allow nearly 5,000 Coulomb ChargePoint stations to be installed in nine regions across the US. Also, Better Place, which specializes in battery switch stations, has made inroads in Asia and Europe through partnerships with Chinese automaker Chery and the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Coulomb and Better Place are no doubt making significant progress, though with GE's announcement it will certainly increase competition in a growing market.
Over the last few weeks there have been a number of new world records that will continue to propel solar power as a driving force for renewable energy. One was the first ever 26 hour night flight of the Solar Impulse solar powered airplane. Another was an announcement by SunPower, a San Jose based solar cell manufacture, that the company has manufactured a solar cell at it's Philippines facility that can convert solar to electricity at a 24.2 percent efficiency rate. This milestone was a concerted effort by SunPower as over the last five years the company increased it efficiency levels by 4 percent.
"As we celebrate SunPower's 25th anniversary this year, I am thrilled to see the company achieve technology milestones that were inconceivable only a few years ago," said Dr. Richard Swanson, SunPower founder and chief technology officer. "SunPower's research and development and engineering teams have increased cell efficiency by a full four percentage points over the last five years while radically driving down manufacturing costs. We are extremely proud of their continued success."
SunPower's achievements set the stage for an increase in the nations reliance on renewable energy. In fact, a recent study by Pike Research claims that demand for solar power will increase by 24 percent each year between 2010 and 2013. This growing demand for solar power is visible with last weeks announcement that Educational Testing Services will partner with SunPower to install a 1.8 megawatt solar power system on two buildings in New Jersey.
"Using SunPower technology will maximize the amount of power generated, reducing ETS's annual electricity costs now and over the next 25 years or more," said Tom Leyden, managing director, SunPower. "We commend ETS for their leadership in environmental sustainability and for helping New Jersey attain its renewable energy goals."
This continued shift towards renewables highlights the reality of our nation's growing energy independence.
Coulomb Technologies has been granted $3.4 million from the California Energy Commission to expand its ChargePoint America program. The CEC grant supplements the $15 million in stimulus funds already provided by the Department of Energy.
ChargePoint Network stations provide a range of features including:
Providing open access for all drivers using any standards-based RFID card
Generating revenue for station owners to offset electricity and maintenance costs
Sending SMS or Email notifications to drivers for charging complete or interruptions in charging
Controlling access to eliminate energy theft and to enhance safety
Integrating with the utility Smart Grid for demand side management and preferred pricing
Timing of the grants will help ensure that charging stations will be available as auto manufacturers introduce a range of plug-in vehicles beginning at the end of this year.