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The Asia Report: Brightsource and Alstom Target Australia and India with New Funding

U.S. solar thermal developer BrightSource Energy and Europe's second largest power-equipment maker Alstom said they plan to expand their geographical partnership to India and Australia, where solar conditions best suit BrightSource's tower technology and where Alstom has a strong track record in engineering and construction of power plants.

At the same time, Brightsource raised an additional $80 million in equity financing led by Alstom and California-based venture capital company VantagePoint Capital Partners – its two biggest backers.

“With these funds we will continue to build solar power plants for our U.S. customers, while significantly increasing our presence around the globe,” said John Woolard, chief executive of BrightSource in a statement.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) projects have stalled in recent years because developers opted for cheaper PV installations as the price of equipment plunged. But CSP is considered essential to the world’s clean energy future since it provides heat storage and the ability to dispatch energy when required to meet peak demand.

According to the International Energy Agency, solar energy, including both CSP and photovoltaics (PV) could account for 25% of global electricity by 2050 and cover a third of global energy demand after 2060. CSP alone could supply 11.3 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, the IEA said.

In Australia, Brightsource was an applicant in the federal government’s Solar Flagships program, but failed to make the shortlist. However, the company considers Australia to be a concentrating solar hotspot.

We strongly believe in the development and future competitiveness of the solar tower technology,” said Jérôme Pécresse, Alstom Renewable Power president. “This new investment reinforces solar thermal power’s position at the heart of Alstom’s strategy which is to provide leading sustainable renewable power solutions also spanning hydro, wind, geothermal, ocean and biomass.”

The financing also included existing backers Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DBL Investors, Goldman Sachs, California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the venture capital units of Chevron and BP. It comes just six months after BrightSource withdrew its IPO registration, citing adverse market conditions.

IN THE NEWS

Japan’s Softbank to develop up to 300MW wind power in the Gobi desert: Softbank, the Japanese mobile phone company, plans to develop wind power projects in Mongolia’s Gobi desert. SB Energy Corp, Softbank’s clean energy unit, will set up a venture with Mongolia’s Newcom as early as October to conduct feasibility studies on wind power generation. The venture will assess a site in the Gobi that may have a capacity of as much as 300 MW.

Korea’s Hanwha Q.CELLS becomes world's third largest solar manufacturer: With the purchase of bankrupt German solar cell manufacturer Q.CELLS, Hanwha now claims ownership of a total of 2.3GW of manufacturing capacity, making it the third largest solar manufacturer in the world. In addition to acquiring 200MW cell and 120MW module manufacturing facilities in Germany, Hanwha has also acquired 34 Q.CELLS patents and 1,225 employees.

Former IEA chief Tanaka doubts Japan's renewables goal: Japan will need to keep nuclear power in its energy mix as renewables are too costly and the country’s electricity grid is too decentralized, says Nobuo Tanaka, a former director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Tanaka, now a global associate for energy security and sustainability at the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan, told the Asia Future Energy Forum in Singapore that a low-nuclear scenario will be “a huge cost and loss of energy security” for Japan.

Ocean Power Technologies and Mitsui to steer wave device to possible Japan launchHydrokinetic power developer Ocean Power Technologies has received a $900,000 contract from Japan's Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding to further develop its buoy generation system for application in Japanese sea conditions. OPT says the contract will allow it to continue analyzing methods of maximizing its PowerBuoy units through modeling and wave tank testing.

Australia’s renewable energy on target for billions in investment: An independent report from strategic consultancy SKM MMA shows that Australia’s 20 percent renewable energy target has delivered $18.5 billion in investment, with the potential for $18.7 billion more if the policy is retained in its current form. On Friday, the Climate Change Authority recommended the target remained unchanged, after conducting a review.

ON THE HORIZON

Indonesia seeks big jump in renewables: Renewable sources will provide Indonesia with as much as 25 percent of its electricity by 2025, up from around 7% today, Djadjang Sukarna, the secretary of the nation's renewable energy directorate, said. The country plans by 2025 to have increased annual electricity generation from renewable sources to around 99 million tons of oil equivalent from around 10 million tons of oil equivalent today, Sukarna told Dow Jones Newswires.

Asia-Pacific energy storage market worth $12 billion in 10 years: A Pike Research report predicts that the Asia-Pacific energy storage market will be worth $12 billion by 2022, with a capacity of 25 GW. The 10 year Energy Storage Asia Pacific report predicts an annual compound growth rate for utility-scale battery storage of 135% a year until 2017, and a further 33% a year from 2017 to 2022.

A DEEPER LOOK

On an island crowded with clean energy movers: David Green, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, writes Australia has some of the best sunshine, wind and waves in the world, but it is certainly no Robinson Crusoe, alone on his island, when it comes to promoting a shift towards clean energy. Australia's renewable energy target continues to play a critical role in helping Australia make the transition to a low-carbon economy. It is the most efficient, low-cost way to source 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and it stands to deliver Australia more than $30 billion of investment and tens of thousands of new jobs.

Cloud hovers over China’s solar industry: Leslie Hook of the Financial Times writes that times are tough for Shi Zhengrong, the founder of Suntech, the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturer. He was once one of the richest men in China. Now his empire is in shambles.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"The unfortunate idea that floats around - that countries should focus on poverty reduction but don't really have to be too concerned with the environment at the early stages of development, get rich and then clean up the environment - this will not do” -- Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

HAVE YOUR SAY

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Oct. 19-26, 2012, Asia Report: First Solar Enters Nascent Indonesian Market with 100-MW Deal
Aug. 21-Aug.28, 2012 Asia Report: US Accused of Killing India's Solar Energy Industry
Aug. 6-Aug. 20, 2012 Asia Report: South Korean Solar Companies Make Strong Push Into U.S. Market
July 23-Aug. 6, 2012 Asia Report: World Takes Hard Look at India Grid, Promises of Solar

Lead Image: 3D render of globe showing Asia Pacific Region via Shutterstock 

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