New Hampshire, USA -- Last week India finally held its national solar auction, the first in two years, seen as the least risky of several national and state-level solar auctions held over the past few years.
Demand was as heated as expected: 58 bids were received pledging to develop more than 2.1 GW of solar energy capacity, nearly triple the 750-MW that state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI) was offering. Here's the full list of eager developers, which includes Azure Power India (200 MW), Welspun Energy (160 MW), Goldman Sachs-backed local developer ReNew Solar Power (50 MW), First Solar (30 MW), and a handful of state-run utilities. Part of the spur behind the activity was the government's promises to cover as much as 30 percent of project costs; part of the delay was the adjustment of payout period from one year to five years. And perhaps part of the huge interest was the delay of the auction to help clarify some of its structure and sooth investor and developer concerns.
More than half of the bids (36 bids for 700 MW) proposed to take advantage of the domestic content requirement (DCR), more than double what SECI expected. Developers appear to be hedging reliance upon domestic suppliers' ability to support projects by de-emphasizing those requirements in favor of Viability Gap Funding (VGF), points out Bridge to India's Jasmeet Khurana. Another positive takeaway is that more than half (60 percent) of the bids in terms of capacity would end up being managed as an independent power producer (IPP), a big increase in their level of participation. Pure-play solar IPPs don't enjoy some advantages of tax incentives such as accelerated depreciation, but separating such tariffs is giving pure-play IPPs a more level playing field, he added.
IN THE NEWS
Japanese Solar PV Round-up: Panasonic and Epco are investing ¥300 million to establish a joint-venture that aims to sell solar power, targeting a 2016 timeframe when electricity retail market will be relaxed to let consumers choose suppliers. (Note Toshiba is eyeing a similar thrust into Germany.) And ReneSola has secured a 420-MW supply deal for 10 ground-mount solar panels in Japan's mountainous regions to an unidentified domestic developer, said to be the company's largest order ever in Japan; shipment deliveries start this month and will continue through December 2015. Other Japanese solar projects getting off the ground: SoftBank and Mitsui (a 43-MW plant in Tottori Prefecture), Japanese homebuilder Daiwa House (6-MW solar power plant in the western prefecture of Nara), Etrion and Hitachi High-Technologies (100 MW in the pipeline by end of this year).
China Shooting Higher for Renewables Targets? Underscoring its aggressive pursuit of renewable energy, China now plans to install up to 14 GW of solar and 18 GW of wind capacity this year -- more than the 13-15 GW each that some predicted -- plus another 20 GW of hydroelectric plants, according to reports citing China's National Energy Administration.
National Wind Mission in India: India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has laid out coordination for the domestic wind energy sector into a National Wind Energy Mission, exploring everything from land availability, grid integration, long-term policy framework, formation of an offshore wind agency, and even the restoration of accelerated depreciation which expired two years ago. Here's the list of presentations from the meeting.
Thai Biomass Developer Reiterates Big Plans: Universal Adsorbents & Chemicals (UAC) is reiterating its plans for developing 21 biomass power plants in the north and northeast of Thailand, slated to come online later this year, despite the recent political upheaval. Most of the 1.5-MW plants, each with a pricetag of 130-150 million baht (U.S. $4.0-4.5 million), will use Naiper grass to generate biomethane gas.
Hanwha Q Cells Boosting Capacity: Hanwha Q Cells says it will add a 204 MWp production line at its plant in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, to come online by "early autumn" of this year, raising the facility's output to 1.1 GWp and total production capacity to 1.3 GWp. The company also said it wants to expand its business in residential and commercial/industrial rooftop solar in Europe and Japan.
Solar Helping Wildlife in India: Twenty five families in the Mayodia model Village, adjacent to the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, have received solar energy-based lighting systems (a solar panel, battery, and emergency light) thanks to the Wildlife Trust of India, the Department of Environment & Forest, Arunachal Pradesh, and Europaeische Tierschutzstftung.
Renewable Energy for Fukushima Farmers: Rebuilding from the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, a community project in the coastal city of Minamisoma is reusing contaminated farmland with solar plants. The emphasis here is combining community solar and specific crops, such as rapeseed -- and not large-scale solar projects also being planned in this area which would wipe out existing farmlands.
China Renewables Funding: Hanergy, Shufeng, CDB: Hanergy has secured a three-year, 20 billion yuan (U.S. $3.275 billion) credit line from the China Minsheng Bank and Asia Financial Cooperation Association, to support its businesses in solar PV and hydropower through both direct and indirect financing and unspecified "new financing instruments." Shunfeng Photovoltaic International reportedly plans to invest 25 billion yuan (U.S. $4.1 billion) to develop 3 GW of solar capacity this year, part of a 10 GW build-out over the next three years, with three-quarters of that sought from banks or capital; the company recently pulled in nearly 1 billion yuan from the China Development Bank to build 130-MW of solar plants in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. And speaking of the CBD, China WindPower Group obtained RMB 5.7 billion in loans from the CDB's branch in Qinghai Province to support more than 800 MW of solar projects over the next two years. CDB also is loaning RMB 400 million (roughly U.S. $66 million) to Jinko Solar for three solar PV projects in Xinjiang and Qinghhai provinces totaling 50 MW that were grid-connected at year's end, plus a credit line for up to RMB 3 billion ($494 million).
Ocean Power in Australia: Victorian Wave Partners has secured a "deed of variation" addressing its A$66.5 million grant from the Commonwealth of Australia through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to build and deploy a 62.5-MWp wave power station (a "PowerBuoy") off the coast of Portland, Victoria, Australia. New additions to the pact, including formal milestones for three stages of the project (and more of them, to increase cash flow) and accelerated reimbursement of expenses, collectively aim to make the project more attractive to investors. Ultimately the project seeks to deploy 28 PowerBuoys connected by an underwater substation and cabling to powering 10,000 homes.
Solar Project News in China: Yingli and the China National Nuclear Corp. of Beijing plan to jointly develop 500 MW of distributed solar PV in China, 200 MW of which will be on CNCC sites or those of its subsidiaries. It's the second pairing with Yingli and another energy provider, after a JV announced at the end of December with Datang Coal Mine Group. Elsewhere, Hareon Solar plans to build 200 MW of solar power plants in Inner Mongolia and Heibei Province, after bringing online eight other solar plants in northwest China totaling 220 MW at the end of 2013. And Canadian Solar just grid-connected a 10-MW solar plant in China's Jiangsu Province, four months after construction commenced.
Jinko Solar Seeks Development Spin-off, Adds Manufacturing Assets: Jinko Solar is mulling a possible spin-off or sale of its solar project development business, which it expects to exceed 500 MW of installed capacity this year. The company also is now operating Zhejiang Topoint's wafer, PV cell, and module manufacturing plants, and plans to take them over when that company finalizes its bankruptcy restructuring.
JA Solar, Insurance and Expansion: JA Solar and Solar Insurance and Finance (Solarif) plan to sell insurance as a supplement to JA's module warranty to cover expenses for material damage, additional labor costs, call-out charges, and loss of electricity production. Meanwhile the company and Powerway are jointly building a solar module plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, aiming to begin production in the latter half of this year with 150-MW of annual capacity.
Solar-Powered Dairy in New Zealand: A dairy farm in Putaruru is installing one of the nation's biggest solar PV systems (112 panels, 28 kW) on a shed to help supplement its energy use from what it uses off the grid. The system saves nearly $8,000 annually off the farm's $50,000 power bill and returning nearly 13 percent, but owner Hugh Chisholm colorfully identifies another benefit: "When you see it on the roof now, you think 'holy [expletive] that looks good.'"
A DEEPER LOOK
Aussies Split on Renewable Energy Target: While Europe roils over what to do about its post-2020 broad climate and renewable energy goals, Australia's mandatory federal renewable energy targets are still being debated. "We are going to have a good, long, hard look at this with the fundamental objective of doing what we can to get power prices down," Prime Minister Tony Abbott reportedly said, while environment minister Greg Hunt is mulling options including changing the RET from 20 percent by 2020 to 25 percent by 2025. Maurice Newman, chairman of the government's business advisory, wants the RET scrapped entirely.
Why Solar Energy Is Better Than Nuclear for India: Bridge to India makes the case why solar energy is a better option for meeting India's power needs: it's cost-competitive (and at the point of consumption, not generation), faster to approve and deploy, and it's distributed generation can avoid demand and grid problems. Also, Bridge to India's Akhilesh Magal takes a closer look at the Tamil Nadu government's new Tamil Nadu's 10,000 Solar Rooftop Policy, how it meshes with the state's recent net metering policy, and what options consumers will have to take advantage of them both.
The Evolving China-Europe Renewables Relationship: International law firm Taylor Wessing examines the recent decline in investment and M&A activity between China and Europe involving renewable energy, from unfavorable policy changes to delays in incentive schemes. (Note: site registration is required)
ON THE HORIZON
Building a Pan-Asian Energy Infrastructure: Updating the entire Asia-Pacific region's energy and information infrastructures could easily require trillions of dollars of investments. With China and Australia now holding key leadership positions in two influential groups (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and G20, respectively), it's time to think about doing just that. Grenatec lays out the case for the proposed Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) Trans-ASEAN Electricity Grid (TAEG) and Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline (TAGP) projects.
Net Metering Coming to Malaysia: Malaysia's Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) and the nation's largest utility, Tenaga Nasional, reportedly will launch a net metering program this year for commercial users. A previous net-metering program, the Malaysian Building Integrated Photovoltaic (MBIPV) project, ended in 2010. SEDA, meanwhile, is bumping up the renewable-energy surcharge for heavier energy users (affecting roughly 29 percent of all consumers), which goes to fund Malaysia's feed-in tariff program.
How Sydney, Australia Plans to Shift Completely to Renewable Energy: The City of Sydney has laid out its Renewable Energy Master Plan, a roadmap showing how the city could run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 -- a third of its electricity from renewables, and the rest from "trigeneration" of renewables with biogas. The city currently relies on coal-fired power plants for nearly 80 percent of its electricity needs.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Lead image: Auction with auctioneer holding wooden hammer, via Shutterstock