Northwest Renewable News

Your Daily Source for Renewable Energy News in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana & Northern California

Bend contractor accused of stealing $1.5M in Solar Power Sysytems September 16, 2009

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 10:54 am
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A Bend contractor has been indicted on stealing more than $1.5 million in “the largest fraud case in Deschutes County history, according to the county’s district attorney.

Eric Robert “Gabe” Wisehart was arraigned this morning on allegations of stealing property from homeowners, according to a statement from the state Department of Justice.

The indictment says Wisehart, who did business as New Path Renewables, PacWind-Or and Solect Systems, Inc., returned to job sites of former employers and stole solar panels and other renewable energy equipment.

“This is the largest fraud case in Deschutes County history and it represents how local law enforcement and the attorney general can work together to crack down on consumer fraud,” said District Attorney Michael Dugan.

Lynne Terry, The Oregonian –


Solar Manufacturing: Sacramento Plant cuts 105 workers January 13, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Northern California,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 7:59 pm
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Solar panel maker OptiSolar Inc. is laying off nearly half of its workers, including 105 of the 175 employees at its McClellan Park plant, the Hayward-based firm announced Friday.

“It’s because of the terrible economy and our inability to access investment capital,” said spokesman Alan Bernheimer. The company also laid off 185 workers at its only other facility, in Hayward.

OptiSolar roared into the Sacramento region last year with plans to remodel former Air Force warehouses into a 1 million-square-foot factory that would employ up to 1,000 people – ultimately the biggest solar-panel plant on the continent, according to OptiSolar.

In March, Sacramento County supervisors approved a $20 million package of tax breaks for the company over 25 years.

In November, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stood before the OptiSolar factory as he ordered the state’s utilities to provide more of their power from renewable sources.

For most of last year, the solar business was an island of optimism in the darkening economy. The industry’s U.S. sales volume more than doubled in 2008, according to preliminary estimates, and in October, Congress extended a key subsidy program for eight years.

But now the downturn has caught up to solar as well. Local solar-panel installers have reported losing bank lines of credit. Financial giants that had been pouring money into solar have collapsed or pulled back.

OptiSolar is applying for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy which, if granted, would help the company raise money, Bernheimer said.

A small assembly line is operating at the McClellan site, producing solar panels for a photovoltaic energy farm OptiSolar is constructing in Ontario, Canada. The layoffs will not affect those operations, Bernheimer said.

But expansion of the plant is on hold until at least the second half of 2009, he said. Optisolar must dramatically expand capacity at the site to produce the panels for its flagship project, a 10-square-mile array of solar panels proposed for San Luis Obispo County.

At 550 megawatts, the project would be bigger than any solar power system yet built. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010, with costs estimated at $2 billion. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has signed a contract to buy the power beginning in 2011, but OptiSolar must finance and build the project.

Sacramento County’s package of tax breaks for OptiSolar hasn’t taken effect yet, said county Economic Development Director Rob Leonard. The discounts on electricity and property taxes are tied to employment and investment targets the company did not meet in 2008, he said.

Supervisor Roger Dickinson said Friday he believes OptiSolar will recover and that green tech remains a sound economic development priority for the region.

“Everyone’s struggling with finding capital,” he said. “I still think there’s an enormous amount of potential in the field of alternative energy.”

As required under state law, employees will receive full wages and benefits for 60 days after the announcement of the layoff.


Red Bluff, CA impressed with solar street lights January 5, 2009

Filed under: Northern California,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 11:49 am
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Things are brightening up in Red Bluff with a little help from the sun.Three solar-powered parking lot lights at Red Bluff Skate Park have made an impression on the city, and if they continue to prove their success, they may be the motivation for going green with lighting in other areas around town.

I think we took a chance, because we had never really seen solar parking lot lights in action, but they are a great thing and they work great, said Debbie Carlisi, director of Parks and Recreation Department.

The solar lights were installed in September, she said. They soak up the sun s rays all day and store the power in a battery.

The Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments decided to use solar lighting instead of traditional because it was more cost-effective, she said. These are the first solar lights the city of Red Bluff has used, but they will probably not be the last.

Of course, everybody wants to go green, Carlisi said. By using solar, that s helping.

They are also economically efficient.

We don t have to pay anybody as long as the sun shines, Carlisi said.

The city also saved with installation costs.

Traditional lighting estimates were more than $20,000 to dig trenches, run an electrical supply and for engineering costs for new service from Pacific Gas & Electric, said Public Works Director Mark Barthel.

The solar lights themselves were similar in cost to traditional lights, about $6,500 each, he said. The city estimates

it saves about $250 a year in electricity costs for the three lights, plus an additional savings from not having billing.We are thrilled with them, Barthel said.

The solar panels should have a 15-year lifespan and the batteries should last five to seven years, depending on how much they have to be cycled and recharged, he said.

We are going to give them a little more time to see how well they do, Barthel said.

But if the solar lights continue to prove themselves as an economically and environmentally efficient lighting method, the city will probably look into using them elsewhere, he said.

If some dollars came along for some green type of technology where we could apply solar lighting, we would probably look at some areas where we need lighting or need lighting replaced, Barthel said.


Intel finishes $800K solar array in Hillsboro, OR December 12, 2008

Filed under: Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 1:06 am
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Intel has installed an $800,000 solar electricity system at its Jones Farm campus in Hillsboro and plans to turn it on Monday, the first step in what the company says could be an “aggressive” plan to employ solar energy.

The company said it is also finishing a solar project to power data centers in New Mexico, and earlier this year built a solar thermal hot water project in India.

Once certified by Portland General Electric, the solar array will generate 100 kilowatts of electricity for Intel’s Jones Farm campus. PGE’s Steve Corson said that’s roughly the equivalent of the energy used by 10 homes. Though not close to the biggest solar projects in Oregon, he said it’s still among the top 10 percent of solar arrays in PGE’s territory.

This project is apparently separate from Intel’s SpectraWatt spinoff at Intel’s West Union campus in Hillsboro. Here’s more on Intel’s solar activities.


Solar may be 5 years from “tipping point” in pricing December 6, 2008

Filed under: Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 2:07 pm
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Consumers may find themselves paying no more for solar energy than they do for fossil fuels in the coming years, according to some experts.

This week, Ray Kurzweil of the National Academy of Engineers told the Christian Science Monitor that he believes “we’re within five years of that tipping point” where solar will become comparable in price to natural gas and possibly coal.

However, the newspaper noted that average solar prices will still need to fall from their present 32 cents per kilowatt hour to about 15 cents. Nonetheless, momentum does seem to be building behind solar energy and other renewable fuel sources.

The Monitor cites’s large investments in solar energy technology as well as another company’s development of a “thin-film” solar panel that it says can compete with the price of coal energy and a team of Massachusetts engineers who are working on their own project to produce cheaper solar power.

Another indication of the growing momentum for solar came this week when 600,000 square feet of solar panels went online in Fontana, California, the largest such installation in the state. This is part of an ongoing project to add solar panels to the roofs of various buildings in Southern California.


Powell’s Books in Portland installs 100KW of Solar November 21, 2008

Filed under: Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 9:13 pm
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Oregon’s second largest retailer (in volume) is going solar. The set-up will supply around a quarter of the power for their main retail store, and it looks like they have future plans for a green roof as well.

Powell’s Books is a great store for all things Northwest, and it gets the very rare business recommendation here at NW Renewable News. They are great folks. Make sure to check them out. Their on-line store is outstanding, and has a great selected of local NW and sustainable books: