Highlights of IDC Energy Insights Clean Energy Outlook

IDC Energy Insights hosted its semi-annual Clean Energy Outlook in Boulder, Colorado on Tuesday, September 28th. A series of speakers, including IDC Energy Insights analysts, spoke on a range of topics, many of which touched on renewable energy and the challenges and opportunities of renewable energy integration.

Scott Frier, Chief Operating Officer of Abengoa Solar, presented an overview of the company's numerous concentrating solar power projects around the world, with a focus on the 280 MW Solana project to be built in Arizona. Solana will use parabolic trough technology and will include several hours of thermal storage. Scott noted that the greatest challenges of building new renewable plants in the US today revolve around financing, and for these large projects he believes loan guarantees are the most critical government incentive available today for US projects. He believes the similarity between the Solana project and the SEGS power plants built in California during the 80's are responsible for their ability to obtain financing for the project: although there are newer approaches out there, banks are most comfortable with tried and true technologies.

Frank Novachek, Director of Corporate Planning for Xcel Energy, provided information on Xcel's Wind to Battery project, which paired a 1 MW NaS battery system with the 11.5 MW Minwind Energy LLC wind facility in Luverne, MN. The "Luverne Distributed Energy Storage System" (DESS) is providing Xcel with invaluable information about the strengths and weaknesses of storage paired with renewable energy installations. To date the battery has met expectations by successfully in all modes tested, including basic generation storage, economic dispatch (charging or discharging based on price signals), frequency regulation, wind smoothing, and wind leveling (effective in leveling 1 MW of installed wind capacity). The assessment of the DESS is ongoing, with a final report expected during the summer of 2011.

These and other findings shared during the conference highlighted the dramatic progress in renewable implementation being made by both utilities and the private sector, while underlining the importance of government stimulus in helping the industry bring down costs continue to grow.

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