Global environmental challenges
Today, research group New Energy Finance said first-quarter investment in so-called clean energy fell 44 percent from the fourth quarter of last year, which in the immediate aftermath of the credit crisis wasn’t exactly stellar itself.
The $13.3 billion of investment in the most recent quarter was 53 percent below the same quarter of last year, the group said.
Things are particularly bad in the United States, where financing of new renewable energy projects was only $500 million in the first quarter compared with $2 billion in the fourth quarter of last year and $5 billion in the first quarter of 2008, according to New Energy Finance.
New York state gave Big Sue, LLC, which has about 3,500 square feet of solar panels on its roof, the OK to sell any extra power it generates from the panels back to the grid.
On a British Antarctic research station, engineer Andy Binney (pictured above at work) and plumber Adam Gerrard have what must be one of the shortest commutes in the world – 10 cm.
Here is a picture of Andy at work — installing boilers that will be partly powered by solar energy at the Rothera research station in Antarctica — and pointing to the wall behind which he sleeps. For a story about Antarctica shifting to renewable energies, click here.
Are those green jobs Obama has been promising already on their way? Really?
Despite a weak global economy and all the gloom that has brought to the solar industry of late, two solar companies this week quietly bucked the trend by announcing new manufacturing plants here in the United States.
On Monday, Hemlock Semiconductor said it would invest up to $3 billion to expand U.S. production of polysilicon, the key raw material used to make solar cells and semiconductors. That will include $1.2 billion to build a new facility in Clarksville, Tennesee, and up to $1 billion to expand its current operations in Hemlock, Michigan. The company said the investment will create 800 permanent positions at the plants (and a few hundred more once Clarksville is expanded) and 1,800 construction jobs.
T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oil investor who is building the largest wind farm in the United States, is also setting his sights on solar power.
Pickens last month launched a campaign aimed at weaning the United States off its dependence on foreign oil and is in the midst of a nation-wide tour to promote it. Following a speech in Los Angeles, Pickens told me he is looking beyond his wind investments to solar energy and is eager to share his “Pickens Plan” with both of the U.S. presidential candidates. Here’s what he had to say:
But this graph forecasts that coal, the dirtiest power source in terms of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, will still dominate global power generation growth for decades into the future.
Solar power companies have been working around the clock to drive down the price of clean electricity from the sun so it can one day be as cheap as the energy we get from dirtier sources, like coal plants.
Until we get there, however, some solar panel installers have come up with a solution that they say will give more people access to solar energy. How are they doing it? By allowing customers to lease, rather than buy, the photovoltaic solar panels for their roofs.