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Green Business Roundup – January 19th 2012

US Replaces China as Top Clean Energy Investor

Environmental Leader reports that in 2011 the USA took over from China as the worlds leading investor in clean energy.  The article quotes figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance which have US investment up a massive 33% from 2010 to $55.9 billion.  China had held top spot for the preceding 2 years.  Supports such as the federal load guarantee and Treasury grant programs expired last year and may well have had much to do with the surge.  Bloomberg notes that the Production Tax Credit is scheduled to end in 2012 and may cause a rush to complete projects this year.  Followed by a likely fall off in US investment in 2013.
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Study Shows Shale Gas Will Push Out Dirty Coal but May Stunt Clean Alternatives

On the National Geographic site, Mason Inman reports on economic modelling done by MIT researchers showing the likely effects of abundant shale gas.  Shale gas and fracking is a controversial subject but there is no doubting its importance.  Its production continues to grow and now accounts for a quarter of US natural gas.  This is likely to keep natural gas prices low for decades and that has impacts for other energy sources.  In short, it is likely to push out coal (which is a good thing in terms of emissions) but may stunt the growth of clean alternatives. 
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Spain Builds Twin 50 MW Solar Plants That Can Operate 7.5 Hours After Sundown

Storage is a big issue for energy.  Many renewable energy sources have unpredictable production and cannot be scheduled to supply energy when the grid needs it.  Not so for Solar Thermal and Brian Merchant at Treehugger reports on two new 50 MW solar thermal plants which are now live in Spain.  Each plant generates enough power for over 40,000 homes.  The plants use curved mirrors to heat liquid into steam and use the steam to power a generator.  The plants can store enough energy to operate for 7.5 hours after sundown which is pretty cool.  The only problem now is cost.
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