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Tesla acquires Germany's Grohmann, plans European battery factory

Two recent announcements brings to at least five the number of large factories — often termed "gigafactories" — that are being built to manufacture batteries.

Tesla last month purchased German manufacturing automation specialist Grohmann Engineering and said it plans to open a European gigafactory to build batteries and cars.

And Grohmann’s former supply chain vice president, Peter Carlsson, is planning to open a battery gigafactory in Sweden.

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Corporate Investments in Energy Storage Reach $660 Million in Q3 2016

According to the latest edition of GTM Research and ESA’s U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, corporate investment in energy storage reached an all-time high in terms of quarterly investments in Q3. Disclosed venture funding and project finance totaled $660 million in the third quarter of the year, bringing the annual total to $812 million.

The largest announced deal during the quarter was $300 million in project financing from the Electric Gas & Industries Association for Tabuchi Electric. The report notes that Advanced Microgrid Solutions also closed a large project financing deal worth $200 million with Macquarie.

“Financing activities in this most recent quarter are noteworthy not just because of the scale, but also because project financing made up a significant portion of the total,” said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research’s director of energy storage. “While one quarter alone doesn’t constitute a trend, growth in project financing, especially in the residential segment, is a harbinger for further strengthening of deployment business models.”

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Four reasons 30% wind and solar is technically no big deal

Lower costs, enhanced capabilities, and an abundance of resources have set the United States and much of the world on track to increase renewable energy deployment and decrease carbon emissions from the energy sector.

Still, the question of whether the U.S. can reliably and affordably integrate large amounts of wind and solar confronts policymakers – so we’re giving you four reasons 30% wind and solar is technically no big deal.

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How Big Can Wind Turbines Get?

If you think today’s wind turbines are big, then just wait until 2030.

By then the median hub height for U.S. onshore turbines will hit 115 meters, 33 meters above the current average. And blade tips will swing higher than the Washington Monument’s 169 meters, according to 163 experts polled in a study conducted by four energy research organizations.

Offshore wind turbines, which are already larger than their onshore brethren, are set to achieve even greater heights by 2030, the experts said.

Today’s machines, averaging 4.1 megawatts with a hub height of 90 meters, will be replaced by 11-megawatt giants with hubs 125 meters off sea level and blades spanning 190 meters. Their blade tips will scythe the air at well over twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

And those could be average sizes.

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Clean Energy Advocates Praise Passage of Major Illinois Energy Bill

U.S. environmental and consumer advocates negotiated several other significant changes to Illinois’ energy policy as part of deal, including updates to the state’s renewable portfolio standard, an expansion of efficiency programs, and the preservation of net metering for rooftop solar projects -- a policy ComEd sought to end. The final bill also scrapped a controversial proposal to implement mandatory demand charges on all residential customers. Solar companies strongly opposed the proposal, and Governor Bruce Rauner’s office called the demand charges “insane.”

“For months, the potential for demand charges hung over the state like a dark cloud,” said Rebecca Stanfield, vice president of policy and electricity markets for SolarCity. “Demand charges fundamentally change the way consumers are billed for energy; instead of being charged for total usage, customers would be billed based on the intensity of consumption over a short period of time.”

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Wind Surges to Nearly 15 Percent of Texas Power Supply

Texas grid operator ERCOT announced a new record for wind on Monday. For the first time, wind provided more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity to the state on a single day.

The record wind on Sunday supplied an average of 41 percent of electricity throughout the day. But it was not an all-time record for wind in Texas. On one day in March, wind supplied more than 48 percent of load during one hour.

It is not the hour-by-hour records that are impressive, however.

Texas is already the clear leader in wind power in the U.S., and that lead is widening. Texas has more than 18,000 megawatts installed and another 5,000 megawatts under construction, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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Report: Michigan, Minnesota among clean energy ‘success stories’

Michigan and Minnesota are exemplar Midwest states when it comes to state-level policy pushing for clean energy development, according to a recent report from the Georgetown Climate Center. Michigan is credited largely for its commitment to energy efficiency, which has been emphasized by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration as state lawmakers craft sweeping energy policy reform. The administration has also been proactive in modeling the state’s electric-generation future in the context of the Clean Power Plan as well as the state’s largest utilities’ closing several coal plants. Meanwhile, the report credits Minnesota for reducing in-state carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 28 percent between 2005 and 2013 due to strong renewable energy and efficiency standards. The state’s Climate Solutions and Economic Opportunities project also identifies chances for more clean energy advancement, such as a 50 percent renewable energy standard and more investment in energy efficiency.

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The new Tesla is powering an entire island with solar energy

SolarCity, the company Tesla officially acquired on Monday, is powering nearly the entire island of Ta’u in American Samoa with solar power.

SolarCity developed a microgrid with 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity — enough to power nearly 100% of the island, according to a SolarCity blog posted on Tuesday. The microgrid is enabled by 60 Tesla Powerpacks, the company's large commercial battery, which can store solar energy at night. The solar array is composed of 5,328 solar panels that can run the entire island on solar energy for three days. The system can fully recharge with just 7 hours of daylight.

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EPA head: Clean energy train ‘has already left the station’

The outgoing head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is cautioning against going back on President Obama’s climate agenda. EPA chief Gina McCarthy didn’t mention President-elect Donald Trump by name at a National Press Club event on Monday, but repeatedly warned against the pitfalls of ignoring climate change or reversing what Obama has done to fight it. “Science tells us that there is no bigger threat to American progress and prosperity than the threat of global climate change,” McCarthy said. “And if you take absolutely nothing else from my speech today, take this: The train to a global clean energy future has already left the station.”

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