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09/17/2010 12:00 PM     print story email story  

Weekly Investor Roundup News

Germany's Elster Group, one of the world’s largest metering companies for electricity, gas and water, has filed for an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange to raise about $152 million. The company has more than 200 million metering devices employed in more than 130, and they are a significant player in the emerging Smart Grid market. A date hasn't been set for the IPO yet, but they announced a price range of $16 to $18 per Depositary Share. 16.2 million shares will be offered, and Elster intends to use the proceeds to pay off debts.

Spanish power company Iberdrola said it plans to invest EUR 4.8 billion in the United Kingdom over the next two years, particularly in Scotland, where subsidiary ScottishPower is becoming a major developer of wind power projects. Iberdrola acquired Scottish Power four years and it has an installed capacity of 816 MW of wind power, including Europes largest wind farm: Whitelee--located south of Glasgow. Iberdrola has partnered with Vattenfall to build the world's largest offshore wind farm, called the East of Anglia Array, which is planned for 7,200 MW. Other investments will go towards developing smart grid capabilities, carbon capture and sequestration and nuclear power.

Spanish wind turbine company Gamesa (GAM.MC) said it plans to triple its manufacturing investment in China through 2012. Gamesa has already invested about EUR 42 million to open five manufacturing facilities in China, and recently broke ground on a sixth. The company said it expects to invest another EUR 90 million through 2012, and it expects that about 30% of its sales will come from China. Some foreign wind turbine firms have had difficulty making sales to Chinese project developers, but Gamesa sidesteps this problem by developing its own projects. As of June 2010, the company said it had a wind farm project pipeline of 2,675 MW in China.

SunEdison signed a memorandum of understanding to develop 400 MW worth of solar projects in Korea. The agreement with a provincial government in the southeastern part of the country calls for the projects to be completed by the end of 2013. Since it was acquired by MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR) last year, SunEdison has gone from being primarily a U.S. project developer to an international player with a strong presence in Europe, and now a Asia. South Korean officials say they expect the projects to create 1,500 jobs.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (NSANY.PK) and Sumitomo Corporation (SSUMF.PK) established a new joint venture to find business opportunities for used electric vehicles (EV) batteries.  Battery packs are the most expensive single component of plug-in vehicles, and even when they no longer have the capacity to store and release the power needed to drive a vehicle, they still can be used in less intensive, stationary applications. Nissan will own a 51% stake in the company, called 4R Energy, and Sumitomo will hold 49%. 4R Energy is expected to be operational in Japan and the U.S. by late 2010, corresponding with the launch date for Nissan's all-electric LEAF vehicle. In Europe, Nissan will explore  battery recycling options with its electric vehicle partner, Renault (RNO.NX).

U.S. battery maker A123Systems (Nasdaq: AONE) announced the grand opening of its new plant in Livonia, Michigan. A123 says the plant is the largest lithium ion battery production facility in North America. The opening of the Livonia factory comes just over one year after A123 received a $249 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A123 has deals to provide batteries for electric vehicles made by Fisker Automotive, Navistar and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), but the company is also making large stationary batteries to store power on the electric grid and assist with the integration of renewable power.

Swiss company ABB selected the city of Huntersville, North Carolina as the site for a new manufacturing facility for high-voltage power cables that will be used to upgrade the U.S. power grid. The plant will manufacture high-voltage power cables for use in AC and DC transmission lines that are expected  to be in greater demand as the U.S. begins developing more renewable power in remote locations like the California desert and the Midwestern plains. Initial site preparations are expected to begin next year with construction slated for completion in the second half of 2012. ABB already employs more than 770 people in North Carolina and earlier this year the company paid $1 billion to acquire energy management software company Ventyx, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Solazyme, Inc. announced that the U.S. Navy wants an additional 150,000 gallons of its fuel made from algae. This follows the completion of an earlier contract for 20,000 gallons of the shipboard fuel the Navy purchased for testing. The Navy has set a goal of producing half its energy from renewable by 2020, and apparently they are satisfied with the performance of Solazyme's naval distillate fuel, which is similar to diesel fuel. The Navy is also testing Solazyme's algae-derived jet fuel. Needless to say, securing the Navy as a long-term customer would be a huge boost to Solazyme, which was founded in San Francisco just seven years ago.



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