Taxpayers Take Hit as Solar Industry Implodes

First Solar Logo

In a year where Solyndra became the face of the solar industry’s chronic failures, even the holiday season could not prevent one last flurry of layoffs in 2011.

The Mountain Enterprise (based in Frazier Park, Calif.) reported over the weekend that First Solar, Inc. – which the media sometimes identifies as the largest solar company in the world – laid off half its employees on Friday at its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project. The facility has been the subject of controversy in the local community over the effects it will have on land use, wildlife, and water usage.

In a September 30 press release that announced the sale of the 230-megawatt photovoltaic “farm” to Exelon (First Solar will still build, manage and operate the project), up to 400 construction jobs and as many as 15 operations positions were supposed to result. The Department of Energy, which provided a $646 … Read More ➡

Taxpayers’ Leaf: Four Recharging Stops Needed to Go 180 Miles

Nissan Leaf photoConsumer Reports has painted an ugly picture of the Nissan Leaf, as did an early enthusiast based in Los Angeles, who described his frustrations with the heavily subsidized, all-electric car in a recent column.

Now comes what must be the definitive example of the Leaf’s impracticality – this time from a (still) hard-core advocate, whose 180-mile Tennessee trek to visit family over the holidays required four lengthy stops to keep the vehicle moving.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, set out from Knoxville on Monday with his wife and son, headed for the Nashville area. His plan (appropriately) was to follow Interstate 40 West, where a series of Cracker Barrel restaurants – equipped with so-called “fast” vehicle chargers (if you want to call 30 minutes or more “fast”) along the route – would provide an electricity security blanket as the Leaf’s charge diminished. 

Only problem … Read More ➡

‘Beyond Petroleum’ Gives Up on Solar

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BP Solar, the alternative energy subsidiary of the oil industry giant which received a $7.5 million Department of Energy grant only four years ago, announced last week it would exit the solar business.

The unit just closed its only U.S. manufacturing facility, in Frederick, Md., last year. The company said it would outsource its production of solar photovoltaic panels to China and India. BP CEO Tony Hayward told the Washington Post at the time it was “moving to where we can manufacture cheaply.” BP auctioned equipment in January this year from the closed plant, and in a sign the overall industry – with bankrupt Solyndra as its face – is completely tanking, an experienced industrial auctioneer told the Frederick News-Post, “We’ve been doing more solar technology auctions lately.”

So much for the excuse that U.S. solar companies “can’t compete” because of the cheap, heavily subsidized production of panels in … Read More ➡

Facebook Caves to Greenpeace After Pressure Campaign

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Greenpeace, which has campaigned against technology companies for nearly two years over their coal-burning electricity use at “cloud computing” data centers, has convinced one – Facebook – to promise to use renewable energy at facilities they build in the future.

The international environmental pressure group’s members have singled out the popular social networking site in a drive to “Unfriend Coal,” in order to fight the global warming problem that is still vivid in their collective imagination. They are particularly incensed that Facebook has built data centers in Oregon (Pacific Power) and North Carolina (Duke Energy) that are customers of utilities that generate a large percentage of their electricity from coal. Greenpeace initiated its campaign using the site’s own online tools against it, by starting groups in English and Spanish that gather members who wanted “Facebook to run on 100 percent renewable energy.” The group also attempted to … Read More ➡

FERC Flunks Duke Energy-Progress Energy Merger Proposal, Again

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Fresh from its latest payoff of environoia groups in exchange for their support of their merger, Duke Energy and Progress Energy must return to the drawing board after the second rejection of their proposal by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

It’s a story of two Davids against a Goliath, and no, it’s not the utilities against the big bad government regulator. Rather, two small eastern North Carolina cities – Rocky (“Gonna Fly Now”) Mount and New Bern – convinced FERC that the merger plan would harm their ability to purchase electricity in a competitive environment. Both municipalities deliver power to their residents through a cooperative of cities and towns in eastern North Carolina, but dissented from their fellow members’ approval of the merger. Coastal New Bern has been led by Mayor Lee Bettis Jr., a former New York Mafiosi defense lawyer, who has vowed to “go it alone the … Read More ➡

Indiana Official Indicted After Improper Duke Energy Interactions

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The former head of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, who was fired in October 2010 by Gov. Mitch Daniels for improper contact with top officials at troubled Duke Energy, has been indicted.

The Indianapolis Star reported that David Hardy was charged on Monday by a grand jury with failure to disclose secret meetings with Duke executives, and for his aid to IURC’s top lawyer in his effort to get a job with Duke. The newspaper, after it obtained emails via open records request, had revealed over several months “that Hardy had been chummy with industry executives and autocratic with his staff. That raised questions about whether Hardy had compromised the agency’s mission of balancing the needs of utilities and ratepayers.” 

Indiana laws forbid private communications about active cases between regulators and company representatives. In one February 2010 meeting Hardy met with Duke Energy CEO James Rogers and two other … Read More ➡

Duke Energy Caves In to Pressure Groups’ Demands

Rogers photoIn yet another ploy to overcome opposition to their merger, Duke Energy and Progress Energy agreed with environmental groups last week to a few million more dollars in payoffs for “clean” energy schemes, and to implement energy efficiency programs that would reduce customers’ electricity use by seven percent of retail sales by 2018.

The deal has been planned for months, and when approved by state and federal regulators, will create the largest investor-owned electric utility in the nation. Combined the companies serve residents and businesses in Florida, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Southern Environmental Law Center all intervened in the hearings before the North Carolina and South Carolina utility regulatory commissions. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also must approve the deal.

NLPC reported in September that the environmental pressure groups – whose calling cards are … Read More ➡

It’s About More Than Polar Bears for Coca-Cola

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Recently NLPC has reported about Coca-Cola’s holiday ad campaign to protect polar bears with donations up to $3 million to the World Wildlife Fund, which was a barely disguised effort to fund environmental pressure groups’ fraudulent global warming fight.

But Coke’s passion to avert climate catastrophism runs deeper than the Arctic ice. The company even has a position statement that says “the consensus on climate science is increasingly unequivocal,” that “global climate change is happening” (everyone agrees with that – it always has changed and always will), and that “man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a crucial factor.”

“Across the Coca-Cola system, we recognize that climate change may have long-term direct and indirect implications for our business and supply chain,” the company Web site says. “As a responsible multinational company, we have a role to play in ensuring we use the best possible mix of energy sources, improve the … Read More ➡

Frito-Lay/PepsiCo Cashes in On Electric Truck Subsidies

Frito Lay Electric Truck

Last week Frito-Lay, the $12 billion snack foods division of PepsiCo, boasted it would add 10 all-electric delivery trucks in Orlando, Fla., as part of its plan to deploy 176 such vehicles in the U.S. and Canada by the end of year.

As is custom with corporate announcements that proclaim their eco-accomplishments, so as to pacify persistent climate alarmists, Frito-Lay said the vehicles would emit “zero” pollutants from tailpipes and release 75 percent fewer greenhouse gases than diesel. The ETs (electric trucks) can allegedly run 100 miles on a single charge, and Frito-Lay says the groundbreaking new haulers provide “a long-term economically viable solution” – apparently to solve global warming.

Regular readers of NLPC should know the Chevy Volt sticker price, before the $7,500 tax credit, is $41,000, and for the Nissan Leaf it’s $35,200. So the cost for an electric delivery truck must be somewhat higher, right? And … Read More ➡

Did U.S. Taxpayers Boost Bailout of British EV Investors?

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NLPC readers by now have learned there is more than meets the media’s eye when it comes to the Obama administration’s “Green” initiatives, and specifically, the government-subsidized electric vehicle program. Particularly egregious might be how American taxpayers have helped save a troubled EV company in the United Kingdom for its burdened investors.

Under the surface in this case is Kansas City-based Smith Electric Vehicles Corp., a company that did not exist in its U.S. form until January 2009. The company does not make passenger vehicles, but commercial trucks. Once Smith-U.S. established itself in Missouri, somehow that was enough of a track record for the Department of Energy to award the company $10 million in August 2009, and an additional $22 million in March 2010, for an ET (electric truck) demonstration program. 

The founders of Smith-U.S. did not come from the automobile or electricity businesses, or anything even … Read More ➡