solar power

Saving lives: The real power of renewable energy

Renewable energy can change lives in many parts of the world - places that aren't connected to the grid. It can power homes, help farmers become more productive and prevent death.

Solar, wind and other forms of clean energy enable parts of the non-electrified world to skip the grid the same way many Africans leapfrogged over landlines straight to cell phones (which in this case are being charged by solar power). It is costly to connect remote areas to the grid, and renewable energy can be a game changer.

This item talks about a big solar project in Tibet, where terrain is rugged and population centers are distant. In this story, the author talks about using solar power to bring water to an orphanage in Kenya. Kerosene pollutes and flashlights are often inadequate, so a California doctor working in Nigeria asked her husband to develop a "solar suitcase" that can be set up in a rural clinic. PBS has a story here.

Clean energy also improves the fortunes of farmers in underdeveloped nations. University of California, Davis, master's student Blake Ringeisen designed a solar-powered fruit dryer that boosts productivity of farmers in Tanzania. Here's our blog on his invention.

And clean energy can be an alternative to charcoal, making cooking safer and healthier. A sustainable cooking fuel facility opened in Mozambique that makes ethanol-based cooking fuel from surplus cassava. That's important, according to this story,  because the overwhelming majority of urban families in Africa buy charcoal to cook their food. Charcoal is getting expensive and, according to the story, "has the health impact of smoking two packs of cigarettes per day." Here is the New York Times version of the same story.

 Officials also are studying clean energy possibilities beyond local uses. How about exporting? This blog post talks about renewed - albeit, ambitious - efforts to create a solar network in the Sahara Desert that could supply power to Europe. Some heavy-hitter German companies are involved, but a stiff price tag of $500 billion and rough climatic conditions are possible stumbling blocks.

Clean energy can make a difference in many places, but the impact is greatest in places without an electrical grid.

Video of CleanStar Mozambique by Novozymes TV

Central California is becoming Solar Central

Summer is coming, and that means the Valley's famous triple-digit temperatures aren't far away. Utility bills will surge and Facebook status reports will be akin to: "Holy cow, I got my power bill today!" That's the G rated version anyway.

Solar really makes sense in Central California, where nature's most abundant resource blazes away up to 300 days per year. These solar projects have made news in recent days:  This appeared on The Fresno Bee web site. The police station is just a few miles from my house, and will be the largest public solar project in Clovis. That follows on the heels of this announcement of a packinghouse in Fowler adding 12 acres of solar panels and this one  of the massive 550-megawatt Topaz project breaking ground in San Luis Obispo County just west of us in Fresno.

But those aren't all. Analysts count about 70 proposals before county planners from Merced to Kern counties, with about 30 in Fresno County. Just the Fresno County proposals total about 10,600 acres.Those don't include smaller rooftop, municipal or some farming projects.

It remains to be seen how many are approved or become operational, but there is not denying Central California is a hot spot for solar power.

Photo: California Energy Commission photo of solar plant near Kerman in Fresno County

Solar power and grid parity in California

Skeptics of clean energy often say it's too expensive, when, in reality, prices are falling so fast that they are close to more traditional forms of power.

This item in CleanTechnica suggests California has already achieved that milestone, thanks to the state's aggressive support of renewable fuels, such as solar energy. This post also says that solar parity has arrived, while this blog suggests parity is still a few years away.

Either way, prices have dropped to the point where solar and other renewables make better sense economically, especially in California, where sharp minds and incentives are adding fuel. I like this idea: using a solar carport to help run EV chargers at a Metrolink station. Farmers, winery owners and municipalities are turning to solar to run portions of their operations.

Photo of Yosemite by dereklink.

Warren Buffett Shows Support For Solar Power In California

Warren Buffett's energy holdings company is buying a mammoth solar plant being built in the Carrizo Plain, just west of the San Joaquin Valley.

MidAmerican Energy Holdings said it is acquiring the $2 billion Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County from First Solar because it expands the company's renewable energy portfolio and because it, "...demonstrates that solar energy is a commercially viable technology without the support of governmental loan guarantees..."

The purchase occurred after First Solar failed to get a federal loan guarantee to secure construction of the plant, according to this Reuters story.

Buffett, known as the "Oracle of Omaha," already invests in wind energy and in China's BYD Co. Ltd., which makes electric cars and batteries, and has other green technologies, including solar. This purchase of a 550-megawatt photovoltaic power plant - enough to power 160,000 homes when it is finished in early 2015 - is a sign of support for the emerging solar industry. It also follows the high-profile implosion of Solyndra, a solar company that failed after receiving a $535 million government loan guarantee.

First Solar will build and operate the plant for MidAmerican. Construction began in November and will create about 400 construction jobs and 15 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The expected economic impact on the region during construction is expected to be abut $417 million over 25 years.

The Carrizo Plain, along with Kern, Kings and Fresno counties, is part of a region in Central California that is a potential hotbed for solar projects. Kern and Fresno counties alone are fielding more than 60 applications, according to this recent blog post. Those include a proposal for a huge solar farm in Westlands Water District that would cover 3,600 acres of retired farmland. Find out more here.

Meanwhile, officials in various counties and in the state are trying to balance the interests of farmers with those of this potentially new industry. Much of that conflict revolves around the Williamson Act, which protects farm land from development. A law signed in November, SB 618, attempts to help ease those conflicts. (Here is more on that bill)

Buffett wouldn't have invested in this solar plant if he didn't expect rosy returns, including some impressive government incentives, according to this blog post. And it remains to be seen how large the solar industry will become in Central California, but this investment by one of the nation's richest men shows that solar is becoming more viable, particularly in California.

Photo of Carrizo Plain National Monument from Bureau of Land Mangement

Stand Aside: The Rush To Solar Valley Is On!

My office sits in one of the most fertile agriculture regions in the world. I just have to venture a few miles to see crops in every direction. Farmers in Fresno County last year produced almost $6 billion worth of grapes, tomatoes, almonds and other commodities, and employed more than 59,000 people.

It's no wonder that Fresno County and the rest of the Valley is often called the nation's salad bowl.

The same resources - such as ample amounts of flat land and sun - that make the Valley so fertile also are prompting what Lois Henry, a former colleague of mine, described in The Bakersfield Californian as, "The great Central Valley solar rush."

Kern County is home to some 32 solar applications that would encompass 17,000 acres. Likewise, Fresno County is fielding about 30 applications on 10,000 acres that collectively could be worth $5 billion. Kings County also is a solar hot spot.

Everyone acknowledges the emerging potential of the solar industry on the Valley. Farmers in California lead the nation in the use of renewable power, especially solar. It could be another cash crop for growers, could slash their operational costs, bring new life to unproductive farm land, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (electricity contributes about 25 percent of the state's emissions) and help reduce a stubborn double-digit unemployment rate.

But at what price? The Fresno County Farm Bureau opposes solar projects on prime acreage, but solar developers need to be close to the power grid. In this story, Fresno Bee reporter Kurtis Alexander quoted Steve Geil, president of the Economic Development Corporation in Fresno County: "There's a window here of opportunity. The companies are saying, 'Are you going to welcome us or are we going to find obstacle after obstacle after obstacle?' "

Alexander has devoted many inches of copy to the subject lately, including this story where Fresno County supervisors approved the cancellation of a Williamson Act conservation contract to permit a 27-megawatt, 318-acre solar project near San Joaquin, a tiny community on the county's west side with a 35 percent jobless rate. The panel said the land lacked water and thus was suitable for solar development.

But local governments are proceeding cautiously while developing strategies. Fresno County formed a group to study how much and where land should be devoted to solar. Kern County, according to Henry, has approved 1,444 megawatts from five projects, but also is treading tenderly.

Even projects proposed for marginal land have met opposition at times. A proposed 400 megawatt, 5,000 acre solar photovoltaic facility on land with poor water access in the Panoche Valley in San Benito County drew strong opposition from local ranchers and farmers - even though the local farm bureau supported the use of solar, according to a new study by UCLA and UC, Berkeley.

The opponents expressed concern about the project’s potential impact on their
agricultural land. Environmentalists said it endangered the San Joaquin kit fox and giant kangaroo, and the Audubon Society said it could hurt one of the world's best birding sites.

The joint UCLA/UC Berkeley report could help reach that delicate balance between agriculture and solar interests. It's called "Harvesting Clean Energy: How California Can Deploy Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects On Appropriate Farmland."

Here's a link.

Meeting California's 33 percent renewables goal will require a mixture of large-scale and centralized solar projects, such as those on rooftops and along roads. The study reveals that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has received requests to build approximately 34
large solar thermal power plants, totaling roughly 24,000 megawatts, on more than
300,000 acres.

By December 2010, the California Energy Commission approved
10 solar-thermal projects - seven of them on BLM land - totaling 4,192 megawatts of generating capacity. In addition, developers proposed 8,000 megawatts of renewable energy projects using wind and photovoltaic technologies.

In 2010, California local governments permitted 1,097 megawatts of non-thermal renewable energy capacity on private land. Kern and Los Angeles Counties approved an 800 megawatt wind project, a 230 megawatt photovoltaic project, and a 10 megawatt photovoltaic project.

Solano County permitted a 37-megawatt wind project, Kings County approved a 20 megawatt photovoltaic project and, in March, Kern County permitted a 6,047-acre Maricopa Sun solar project south of Bakersfield. The Maricopa installation alone will produce an estimated 700 megawatts of clean power.

However, the authors of the UCLA/UC Berkeley report noted that farmland is disappearing at the rate of one square mile every four days, and that potential for conflict arises even though the amount required for clean energy is relatively modest.

Only about 1.3 percent of the state's 30 million acres of farm and other suitable private and public land would be displaced. An additional 3.7 percent of the land would be required for less disruptive energy sources, such as wind turbines and dual-use of solar with farms and other types of localized generation.

However, energy transmission is a bug-a-boo; the report quoted the California Public Utility Commission's estimated requirement of seven new transmission lines needed to accommodate the 33 percent renewables mandate by 2020.

The report recommends upgrading the transmission infrastructure to meet the clean-energy power needs from remote and impaired agriculture sites. Other recommendations include developing energy policies for agriculture land and streamlining the permitting process for projects on impaired and unproductive farmland.

With a little effort and cooperation, the San Joaquin Valley and the rest of California could become a leader in clean energy.

Solar Power's Industrial Revolution

I was going to write about advancements in solar-energy technology, but Karl Burkart at Mother Nature Network saved me the trouble. Here are 5 cool things that MIT is working on as solar goes through its own Industrial Revolution

This type of research is vital to the future of solar and other types of clean energy. There is some concern that subsidies are the main thing keeping the industry going, and that a big crash is on the horizon when the supports are pulled.

In this post, an econmist says it's crazy that so little of the investment into clean energy (we include energy efficiency in that) is directed into innovation and new technology.

I'll quote the economist, Tapan Munroe: "It does not make any sense for us not to lead the world in clean energy. We have the people to do it. We have the world's best high-tech innovation regions. We can and must be a leader in this field. This is a wonderful opportunity for America but we must be willing to make substantive long-term private and public investments in the clean-energy industry to assure its success."

Great strides are being made in clean energy, as the MIT work shows, but more can be done. Some people have called for a Manhattan Project to boost clean energy, which would help create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save money.

As Munroe says, clean energy "is a powerful tool capable of simultaneously addressing society's goals of economic growth, enhanced security, environmental health, and decarbonization."

Another Valley Agriculture Operation Tapping Into Renewable Energy

The San Joaquin Valley is home to one of the nation's largest cheese manufacturers. And like many other agriculture operations in California, it is going solar.

Read about it here in the Merced Sun-Star.

The San Joaquin Valley has some of the most efficient and productive growers and food manufacturers in the world. The Hilmar cheese facility is just the latest of those to turn to renewable energy sources to help power their facilities. Here is more on that trend.

Progressive farmers are another reason why the San Joaquin Valley can be a showcase for clean energy.

Utility To Operate Big Solar Farm Near Fresno

In the same week that Southern California Edison flipped the switch on its new 5 million watt solar project near Porterville, it was announced that a neighboring utility will build three solar plants near Fresno.

The three projects, which are part of Pacific Gas and Electric's commitment to increase solar power over the next five years, will generate a total of 50 megawatts of electricity - enough for thousands of houses.

Solon Corp will start constructing a 160-acre solar plant in April for PG&E somewhere "in the vicinity of Fresno," Solon officials said in this press release. At 15 megawatts, it could supply power for up to 15,000 homes when finished in October.

The system will be a cluster concept with fixed-tilt mounting, and will feature remote control and monitoring.

Not to be outdone, Cupertino Electric Inc. of San Francisco will build a 15 megawatt and a 20-megawatt plant for PG&E, also near Fresno, according to the Central Valley Business Times.

The proposed arrays are more examples of the San Joaquin Valley's emerging solar-energy industry. With vast expanses of open and flat land, easy access to the power grid and ample sun, the region from Stockton to the base of the Grapevine could be the new "Solar Valley," according to officials at University of California, Merced, which conducts solar research.

The San Joaquin Valley is one of the largest agriculture regions in the world. Many observers think think solar could be an additional cash crop on marginal or poor farmland.

photo by

Southern California Edison Turns On Solar In Porterville

A ground-mounted Southern California Edison solar project in the San Joaquin Valley - and one of the largest utility-owned sites in the state - is to be activated today. The impressive display of 29,400 panels is on 32 acres of city land adjacent to the Porterville Municipal Airport.

The panels will generate enough power for 4,300 houses, according to this Fresno Business Journal story from October. Talks of the project first arose as an inquiry more than a year ago and a lease was signed last summer. Here's an earlier story from the Porterville Recorder.

The installation is one of several owned by Edison in California. The panels are mounted and placed at a 25 degree tilt, optimum for this specific location. The utility paid the $18 million cost of the project, which is tied into a nearby distribution circuit.

Photo by

Sun, wind & geothermal get federal boost

The U.S. government has unleashed a relative torrent of measures -- but a relatively modest amount of cash -- to accelerate President Obama's clean energy objectives.

And because they involve wind, sun and geothermal, it's almost as if the god of thunder, also known as The Mighty Thor, son of Odin, played a role. The connection, I admit, is a little obscure, but Marvel just ran the first of the ads for its live-action movie on the wielder of the mystic Mjolnir during the Super Bowl.

The genesis of all this hubbub is the President's goal of generating 80 percent of the nation's electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to bring solar prices down to about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour with its "SunShot" initiative. It has a long way to go. reports that the high solar condition industrial industry index is 16.59 cents per kWh.

DOE's plan is to help reduce the cost for utility-scale installations by about 75 percent to about $1 a watt.

I can hear Thor say, "By the bristling beard of Odin," right about now. (Although I'm a closet comic buff, I got the phrase from Jared at

"America is in a world race to produce cost-effective, quality photovoltaics," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, in a statement. "These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry and help reach the President's goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years."

U.S. outlay: $27 million for "projects to support the development, commercialization, and manufacturing of advanced solar energy technologies."

Offshore wind received the coordinated might of the U.S. Department of Interior and DOE to "support offshore wind energy deployment and several high priority wind energy areas in the mid-Atlantic that will spur rapid, responsible development of this abundant renewable resource."

Wind remains a big departure from the old-style turn-it-on-and-let-it-run practices of years past in electricity production. Wind turbines are getting bigger and have to be in often remote areas where the wind blows, generating sporadic energy. Transmission lines have to be upgraded or new ones built. And back-ups into the existing grid have to be built to accommodate power spikes as more wind power comes on line.

In the Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research report "Electricity Transmission Infrastructure," out last year, officials wrote: "In order to reap the full benefits of renewable energy and smart grid technologies, the capacity and information-carrying ability of transmission systems must be increased substantially."

No easy task.

So Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Chu announced what they dubbed "major steps forward."

"This initiative will spur the type of innovation that will help us create new jobs, build a clean energy future, and compete and win in the technologies of the 21st century," Salazar said.

He also said the government is working to synchronize research and development initiatives with "more efficient, forward-thinking planning."

U.S. commitment: up to $50.5 million in project funding.

The final naturally occurring energy targeted (at least in this round) is geothermal.

The DOE wants to test the reliability and efficiency of geothermal power generation at oil and gas fields to determine the low-temperature technologies. Work will be done at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center near Casper, Wyo. to reduce costs.

DOE's Geothermal Technologies Program is currently paying for 17 projects with a capacity of 3 gigawatts, or enough to power 2.4 million homes by 2020, officials say.

One of the sites, Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 near Midwest, Wyo., produces oil and 45,000 barrels of 190-degree water per day from one formation and 28,000 barrels of 210-degree water per day from another. Initially discarded, heat is now extracted from the water and used to operate a 250-kilowatt generator.

Obama said we're going to have to go after and develop cost-efficient ways of extracting energy from all forms of alternative energy. And this pushes the needle forward.

I'd add that we'll have to do it more efficiently and with better regulation. And as my friend in the Texas oil patch says, "Don't forget oil." We will need the stuff and the assistance of the energy companies that produce it to improve our air and national security through domestic ingenuity.

And as for Thor? He'd be all for it. Just be careful of his brother the Evil Loki.

Photo: Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 waste water discharge courtesy

Molecule may take counter-culture solar mainstream

When I was a kid in Fairbanks, I spent a lot of time at Denny Mehner's cabin.

Denny was a former professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who had purchased a bit of remote land studded with old miners' cabins. A renaissance man and informal leader of our rather large counter-culture group, he painstakingly restored one of the buildings using wood he reclaimed from either the tumbledown facilities near the underground mine site nearby or from the many outbuildings slowly being reclaimed by boreal forest.

But his house had no electricity. Nor did it have running water. The outhouse was just off the front porch and behind a stand of trees. I once declined its use when I saw a somewhat angry 2-year-old brown bear in one of those trees one summer. Most of our homes were like his, small and easy to heat with wood stoves but without modern conveniences.  

To power his tiny turntable and play his Dylan, folk rock and Stones records, Denny used a number of automobile batteries that he rotated, charging them with jumper cables affixed to the old International pickup he'd purchased surplus from the Alaska Department of Transportation.

The system wasn't fancy, but it worked.

Remote power has gotten a lot more sophisticated since 1969-70. Should Denny have the cash, he could now purchase several solar panels for about $850 each and wire them up to his bank of batteries. Of course, there's the problem of Fairbanks winters when light dwindles to a trickle during the deep sub-zero winters.

Researchers at MIT have come up with a technological breakthrough that could make renewable-powered energy systems like Denny's self-supporting. In other words, a solar-powered home could be converted to supply electricity 24 hours a day without being hooked up to the grid.

Total independence. The hippies I grew up amongst would have loved it. Heck, I would have loved it. Kerosene lamps and candles, no TV and no electric pump to provide running water go only so far.

The breakthrough concept has to do with a molecule discovered in 1996 called fulvalene diruthenium. It absorbs sunlight then releases the energy as heat when combined with a catalyst.

According to an MIT press release, the process by which the molecule releases this energy while remaining stable indefinitely "could form the basis of a rechargeable battery to store heat rather than electricity."

One drawback. Fulvalene diruthenium is rare and expensive to the tune of about $650 per 100 grams of bulk product, according to The pure stuff is more than twice the cost. MIT officials said the team led by Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg associate professor of power engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, will continue its research to find to "find similar chemicals based on more abundant, less expensive materials."

Should the team's search for a replacement chemical prove successful, solar power could enter an entirely new and more versatile phase. No longer would homes and businesses have to rely on the grid after sunset.

"It takes many of the advantages of solar-thermal energy, but stores the heat in the form of a fuel," Grossman said in the MIT release. "It’s reversible, and it’s stable over a long term. You can use it where you want, on demand. You could put the fuel in the sun, charge it up, then use the heat, and place the same fuel back in the sun to recharge."

Denny's still around though I haven't spoken with him for more than three decades. His son is an artist and works at the same university where his father once taught. My family got running water when we moved from our 18-by-32-foot log cabin to Anchorage in 1976. (Showers!)

I heard Denny built himself a massive round-log home down Goldstream Road from our cabin. You can bet it had bathrooms and electric lights.

The philosophy of his band of merry pranksters back then was self sufficiency and doing more with less. They wanted to live with nature, not in competition with it. The Last Whole Earth Catalog and Diet For a Small Planet were amongst the best read and followed books. So was the concept of super-insulated homes as many of the counter-culture group were highly educated and part of UAF's engineering programs. Denny built many homes with huge R values before anybody really knew what that was.

Here's a link to with the latest book from Ed McGrath. I inherited the first book of his, published in 1978, from some of mom's friends after they stayed on our floor after hitchhiking from Fairbanks. I read and reread it and still believe it to be one of the standard-bearers of the superinsulated movement.

As I grow older -- I'm hitting 50 this month -- I realize that many of the goals they pursued have gone from the fringe to mainstream. Energy efficiency, green energy, net-zero energy buildings and the like continue to win greater popularity with each passing year.

I wonder what Denny would say.

Photo: Ruthenium courtesy Tomihahndorf.

Solar parking meters invade Los Angeles

The next time you pull up to a parking spot in Los Angeles, give the meter a once over.

It could be solar powered.

San Diego-based IPS Group Inc. this week said it has completed installing 10,000 of the new coin and credit-card parking meters throughout the city.

And they appear to be doing a good job. Company officials said Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and Council member Tom LaBonge have announced that the new meters have provided the city with a big boost in revenue -- an additional $230,000 in September. Officials believe the meters could generate an additional $2 million to $2.5 million in revenue annually.

Dave King, IPS president and CEO, said the cities of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Laguna Beach and Manhattan Beach are also installing the meters. In addition, he said Denver, Washington, D.C. and Eugene, Ore. are among the 45 cities in the United States and Canada that have installed IPS meters.

IPS officials said the Los Angeles is in a lease-to-own agreement with the company in the meter program. The meters communicate wirelessly with a centralized management system, enabling the approval of credit and debit cards.

The Portland, Ore. Office of Transportation, which installed its first solar meters in 2002 and upgraded six years later, attributed the increase in revenue -- estimated at 40 percent -- to the meters' ability to accommodate credit and debit cards. Officials said credit/debit cards account for 70 percent of transactions, "which greatly reduces coin collections, saving gas."

Ethan K. of reported that Boston is doing the same thing, saving money through credit card transactions. He reasoned that "emptying 8 million dollars worth of quarters a year can be a grueling task. That is about 32 million quarters a year."

However, Ethan K. also pointed out that "these parking meters will print out little receipts with a time stamp that would be placed on the car's windshield. So my question is, what happens to the receipts that are printed out? Where are those going? Most likely, they will get crumpled up and tossed to the ground."

Well, there's that.

Ethan K. also blogged that merchants where the solar parking meters were excited, and he said it showed added capabilities of solar power. "When people start to realize that solar power is capable of handling small tasks, we can start to change the way things are done. Solar energy may not power entire cities yet, but it sure can handle a credit card processing, parking meter."

I like his thought process. For instance, solar power in small doses could provide juice for quite a bit of tasks, relieving demand on the grid. One thing I just dreamed up is solar-powered remote charging stations for electric cars. That's a little bigger than a parking meter but no less cool.

Storing Energy Is Key to Renewable Power

Energy storage, as guest columnist Rick Phelps of High Sierra Energy Foundation, noted in this recent blog, is crucial to the whole renewables effort. After all, wind and solar are intermittent, and we need to find ways to economically save the power for later use.

That's where two projects come in. In the first, Colorado-based Ice Energy has received $24 million in investment financing to support its deployment of utility-scale energy-storage projects, including a 53-megawatt project under way with the Southern California Public Power Authority, which includes 12 entities, including Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and municipal utilities in Anaheim, Riverside, Burbank and Glendale.

The joint powers authority delivers electricity to 2 million customers over an area of 7,000 square miles.

In the other, Southern California Edison announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy for a $25 million stimulus grant to develop and conduct a comprehensive demonstration of lithium-ion battery storage for energy generated by wind projects.

The DOE funding is one of 32 stimulus grants awarded late last year to demonstrate advanced Smart Grid technologies and integrated systems under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
SCE will use the funds to integrate wind-powered generation from the Tehachapi region in Southern California into the electric grid to help the state meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.

The $25 million DOE grant matches funds totaling $30 million provided by SCE and its partners, including a $1 million grant from the California Energy Commission, resulting in a total project cost of almost $60 million.

Meanwhile, the Ice Energy project would help reduce peak energy demand in California by shifting up to 40% to off-peak periods, which improves the reliability of the power grid. That leads to lower daytime energy consumption, increased efficiency, lower bills and a smaller environmental footprint.

"By using storage to change how - and more importantly when - energy is consumed by air conditioning, we can offset enough peak serve the equivalent of 10,000 homes," said Bill Carnahan, executive director of the power authority.

Ice Energy's system stores energy at thousands of locations and uses Smart Grid technology to intelligently dispatch the energy during peak periods. The $24 million provides the company with working and capital growth. The money came from several investment groups.

Not to be outdone are two utilities in Hawaii, which received a total of $2.1 million in federal stimulus money for energy-storage programs. $1.2 million is going to Maui Electric Co. and $900,000 is earmarked for Hawaii Electric Light Co.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of