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Local Energy Briefs: Solar / Wind / Ethanol

Energy giant NRG has announced commercial operation of a 20 megawatt solar project in Kings County this month – the so-called Kansas South project. The solar farm developed by Recurrent Energy was acquired  by NRG earlier this year.The energy project is the second utility-scale solar farm in Kings County owned by NRG after the county’s first in rural Avenal. NRG is also developing California Valley Solar Ranch  in San Luis Obispo County, under construction now. Kings county has a pipeline of some 3 hundred MWs of solar projects approved by the county and one mega-5000 MW project – Westlands Solar Park in the EIR process.

Key issue in the decision of Acciona Energy not to pursue the Lompoc Wind Farm project appears to be a lack of a Power Purchase Agreement with PGE. That PPA had been in place for years with the big utility but a long wait for permitting allowed the agreement  to lapse says a county planner.The wind farm would use 65 wind turbines, each standing 389-397 feet high located on  the wind swept ridge above Lompoc to produce 97.5 megawatts, enough to power over 40,000 households. The alternative energy project had been proposed on grazing land but saw stubborn opposition in court and on appeal from a neighbor. The wind project was first approved back in 2008.

Pacific Ethanol Posts Profit : Sacramento-based Pacific Ethanol posted a profit in their second quarter of 2013 with net sales up 14%. The company reported increased profits to $736,000 in the quarter, compared with a $2.9 million loss a year earlier.

Improved margins for fuel ethanol from corn helped improve net income to $1.1 million compared to a loss of $10 million for the same quarter a year ago.
The company cited improved market conditions, increased plant ownership and “bottom line growth”.

Pacific Ethanol will install corn oil separation technology at all its plant offering this co-product to the poultry feed and biodiesel feedstock markets. In addition the company said it was continuing to use more sorghum instead of corn to cut feedstock costs and improve its carbon footprint.

The company reported its adjusted crush margin $/gallon rose from  a low of 35 cents last September to around 80 cents as of June 2013.
Investors liked what they saw pushing the firm’s stock to $4.62, up 11.5% today on the Nasdaq.

Boosting margins is the drop in corn prices as this falls harvest approaches. Corn is now $4.73 a bushel for December delivery on the futures market.The Midwest drought last year boosted prices above $8 last year hurting ethanol makers and the US livestock industry who blamed the ethanol companies.

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