News Round-up

A round-up of news from around the world.

White House sets renewables agenda

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama re-affirmed his new Administration’s commitment to address climate change through additional development of renewable energy. A key passage of the speech reads: ‘We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.’

Giving a clear signal that both climate change and security of energy supply were key issues for the new government, Obama said: ‘Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.’

In another phrase likely to be interpreted positively by the renewables sector, Obama also said the nation would strengthen the electricity transmission network, see Last Word on page 115.

Widely anticipated legislative agenda items include a long extension to the Production Tax Credit (PTC), the introduction of a national Renewable Portfolio Standard scheme, and a carbon cap-and-trade programme.

Obama and Vice President Biden have already developed a plan to invest in alternative and renewable energy, reduce demand for foreign oil, address climate change and create millions of new jobs. The Obama-Biden ‘New Energy for America plan’ aims to help create five million new jobs by strategically investing US $150 billion over the next decade, ensure 10% of US electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025 and implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Other aspects of the programme include putting 1 million Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) on the road by 2015, eliminating current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years and make the US a global leader on climate change issues.

In naming members of the cabinet Dr Steven Chu, currently the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and a physics Nobel Prize winner, is Obama’s choice for Secretary of Energy.

Making the nomination Obama said: ‘To control our own destiny, America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it. This is not a challenge for government alone – it is a challenge for all of us.’ President Obama added Chu would ‘make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission.’

Other key Administration figures in the environment and energy field include Lisa Jackson, who was chosen as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator. Meanwhile, Nancy Sutley will become the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Carol Browner is the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

In addition, the US House Ways and Means Committee has already approved $20 billion in energy tax credits and related financial incentives as part of the Administration’s economic recovery plan. The tax breaks benefit the wind and solar energy industries to the end of 2012, while other renewable resources would benefit until 2013. The bill also includes a long-term extension to the renewable PTC, which would cost the government $13.1 billion over 10 years.

AMSC in 10 MW superconducting wind turbine development plan with US DOE

A 10 MW-class superconducting wind turbine is to be economically evaluated under the terms of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the US Department of Energy and technology company American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC).

Together with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) AMSC Windtec, a wholly-owned subsidiary, will analyse the cost of a 10 MW-class machine featuring a direct drive superconductor generator.

The alliance allows the government and industry partners to optimize resources, share technical expertise in a protected environment and speed commercialization.

Windtec is separately developing full 10 MW-class wind turbine components and system designs and under the 12-month programme, will benchmark and evaluate the turbine’s economic impact, both in terms of its initial cost and its overall cost of energy.

Direct drive wind generator systems utilizing high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire are expected to be much smaller, lighter, more efficient and more reliable than conventional generators and gearboxes. AMSC estimates that its superconductor technology will give a 10 MW-class generator system weighing approximately 120 tonnes, below half that of equivalent conventional direct drive generators.

The new move into wind technology follows the development of a superconducting marine propulsion system for the US Navy.

Concurrent with the CRADA, AMSC and TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company (TWMC) have been working on a project since October 2007 to develop HTS and related technologies for large direct drive wind generators under an award from the National Institute of Science and Technology’s Advanced Technology Program.

Senior vice president and AMSC Superconductors, general manager Dan McGahn said: ‘HTS is one of the ‘disruptive technologies’ needed to break through wind power’s capacity barrier and significantly reduce its cost of energy.’

2008 sees Wind breaking all records

Statistics released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) show that 43% of all new electricity generating capacity built in the European Union last year was wind, more than all other technologies.

In 2008, a total of 19,651 MW of new capacity was installed across the EU. Of this, 8484 MW was wind, 6932 MW gas with a 35% share, 2495 MW oil, a 13% share, and at 4%, 762 MW of coal.

A total of 64,949 MW of wind was operating in the EU by the end of 2008, 15% higher than in 2007. EU wind investments came in at about €11 billion.

In terms of installations, Germany leads, with 1665 MW installed, against Spain’s 1609 MW. In 2008 Italy added 1010 MW to reach 3736 MW, France 950 MW to reach 3404 MW and the UK, 836 MW to 3241 MW. EWEA says that, overall, 2008 saw a much more balanced expansion led by France, the UK and Italy. Together with the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Ireland, 10 EU Member States now have more than 1 GW each. Austria and Greece have 995 MW and 985 MW respectively.

Furthermore, EWEA says, new Member States had their strongest year ever. Hungary doubled its capacity to 127 MW and Bulgaria tripled its capacity from 57 MW to 158 MW. Poland now has 472 MW up from 276 MW. Outside the EU, Turkey nearly tripled its wind capacity from 147 MW to 433 MW.

In terms of offshore wind, 357 MW was added in 2008, to reach 1471 MW, nearly 2.3% of the total.

However, according to new Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) figures for 2008, the US has become the world’s largest player in terms of total installed wind.

Worldwide, more than 27 GW of new wind was commissioned in 2008, a 36% increase on 2007, while total global wind capacity grew by almost 29% to reach close to 121 GW in a 2008 market worth about €36.5 billion (US$47.5 billion).

The US wind energy industry shattered all previous records by installing 8358 MW, a 50% increase on the total, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says. This saw 2008 investment of some $17 billion.

Wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42% of the entire new power-producing capacity added nationally last year and, countrywide, wind now stands at 25,170 MW. The top five states in terms of capacity installed are now Texas, with 7116 MW, Iowa, with 2790 MW, California, with 2517 MW, Minnesota, with 1752 MW and Washington, with 1375 MW. Together with Colorado, and Oregon, seven states now have more than 1 GW of wind installed.

With close to a third of all new capacity in 2008 installed in Asia, China also added about 6.3 GW, reaching a total of over 12 GW commissioned.

China’s total capacity doubled for the fourth year in a row and in its response to the financial crisis, the Chinese government has identified the development of wind energy as one of the key economic growth areas.

‘These figures speak for themselves’, said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of GWEC. ‘The 120 GW of global wind capacity in place at the end of 2008 will produce 260 TWh’.

IRENA in global launch

A global advocate to assist in the development of renewable energy has emerged with the creation of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Similar in brief to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it has an exclusive focus on renewable energies. Its main role will be to advise members on creating frameworks to support renewables development, building capacity, as well as improving financing and technology transfer.

Mandated by governments worldwide, IRENA has 75 signatories from a broad cross-section of developing and industrialized countries and its aim is to becoming the main driving force in promoting a rapid global transition. The agency will facilitate access to relevant information, including reliable data on renewables potential, best practices, effective financial mechanisms and state-of-the-art technological expertise.

Seen by some as a counterbalance to the IEA, which has faced criticism for its apparent focus on conventional fossil and nuclear technologies, the Agency plans to foster all types of renewable energy, and consider various renewable energy policies on the local, regional, and national level. Involving stakeholders from the energy industry, academia, institutions and civil society. Regularly consulting and co-operating with organizations and networks already engaged in the field, IRENA will also consider specific environmental, economic and socio-cultural conditions.

Launched by Germany and others, particularly Denmark and Spain, founding European member countries include France, Italy and Poland. From Africa come Nigeria and Uganda, from the Americas Chile and Argentina, and from Asia, South Korea and the Philippines. However, so far the USA and the UK have not signed, although the US under Obama, and other countries, are expected to join soon.

Members used the Founding Conference, in Bonn, Germany, to create the institutional framework that will allow IRENA to embark on the first elements of its working programme. The next session, in Egypt, is planned for June.

California in CSP/PV play

California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved plans to develop up to 245 MW of concentrating solar thermal generation in the state, under the terms of a deal between Edison International unit Southern California Edison (SCE) and plant developer eSolar.

The decision follows a 20-year power purchase agreement between Edison and eSolar for output from the facility, signed in June. CPUC approval allows Edison to recover the costs from consumers.

To be built in Kern County, the plant is to be financed by Google.org, Idealab and Oak Investment Partners.

In related news, First Solar, Inc. says it has completed a 2 MW PV installation for SCE which is installed on the rooftop of a commercial building in Fontana, California. This is the first project in SCE’s announced plan to install 250 MW of solar generating capacity on large commercial rooftops throughout Southern California over the next five years. Overall, the programme is expected to see some 150 solar installations developed across the state.

The distribution warehouse roof selected as the first installation site has been fitted with 33,700 thin-film solar panels making it the largest single rooftop solar PV array in California. First Solar engineered the system, manufactured the modules and supplied balance-of-system equipment.

Under a formal bid process, SCE has also announced the selection of First Solar for the second project of its 250 MW rooftop initiative, a 1 MW project installed on a commercial building in Chino owned by the Multi-Employer Property Trust.

Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of SCE parent company Edison International said: ‘A programme of this scale could transform solar generation, helping bring costs down and providing us with another important way to meet the environmental challenges of the future.’

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said: ‘Edison’s rooftop plan is the nation’s largest solar installation programme by a utility.’

Portugal’s PV tracker

A 46 MW PV power plant has been commissioned in Amareleja, Portugal, which is capable of producing 93 GW/h per year.

Spanning the 250 ha site are 2520 solar trackers supporting 262,080 photovoltaic modules. The €261 million project was developed by owner Acciona Energy.

In January 2007, Acciona acquired the total capital of Amper Solar (the company that owned the rights of the installation) from the latter’s shareholders Moura Town Council (88%), Comoiprel (2%) and the firm of consultants Renatura Networks.Com (10%).

The plant, in the municipality of Moura, in Portugal’s Alentejo region, is not far from the border with Spain. It uses Buskil trackers developed by Acciona, each with a surface area of 142 m2, 13 m long and 10.87 m high. Each tracker has 104 polycrystalline silicon modules with a capacity of 170–180 Wp.

The first 3 MW were grid connected in March 2008.

EU in energy infrastructure investment plan

The European Commission has proposed €5 billion of new investment in energy and communications infrastructure in 2009–2010 as part of an EU economic recovery plan.

The package presented contains a proposal for a regulation to grant Community support to strategic energy projects. A total of €500 million is proposed for offshore wind projects; gas and electricity interconnection projects, including the initiation of the first stage of a North Sea offshore grid, see €1.75 billion; while €3.5 billion is earmarked for carbon capture and storage.

In the current economic and financial climate, projects are finding it particularly difficult to access investment and the EU support is designed put these projects back on track. The projects focus on cross-border needs and on the development of new energy technologies.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: ‘The EU’s Recovery Plan is all about ‘smart investment’ – a short-term stimulus targeted on long-term goals.’ He added: ‘We need to learn the lessons of the recent gas crisis and invest heavily in energy.’

European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) chief executive, Christian Kjaer said of the move: ‘Committing EU funds to promote offshore wind energy represents wise long-term thinking. Investing public money to help unlock the largest European indigenous energy resource during the current economic uncertainty is equally strategic.’

He added the proposals should allow larger volumes of wind-generated electricity to be integrated quickly into the existing grid, provide new R&D opportunities to make the power sector more efficient and less expensive, improve operations and maintenance, and speed up market deployment.

Referring to the Aberdeen project, a joint venture between Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and utility company Vattenfall which may benefit under thje proposals, Professor Paul Mitchell, director of AREG welcomed the funding plan, saying: ‘This facility will greatly strengthen our opportunities for research and demonstration of wind energy technologies in an offshore situation.’

 


 

Geothermal JV for Germany from RWE innogy

RWE Innogy has set up a joint venture with Daldrup & Söhne AG in Ascheberg in order to develop, plan and construct a range of geothermal power stations, initially in Germany.

The first step of the joint venture will be to develop RWE Innogy’s existing deep geothermal drilling areas – for which permits have already been obtained – and to apply for further permits. However, plans are also in place to participate in geothermal and project development companies in Germany and other European countries.

Daldrup & Söhne is a publicly traded company that specialises in planning and conducting geothermal drillings while RWE Innogy had already obtained regulatory approval for two deep geothermal projects from the Munich mining authorities in October last year – in Wildpoldsried and Unterthingau in the Swabian rural district of Oberallgäu in the south-west of the country.

Over the next three years investigations will be carried out into the geothermal potential of this area which covers some 100 ha. Once the data has been analysed, RWE Innogy and Daldrup & Söhne plan to drill up to 4000 metres into the ground. Any geothermal facilities that are developed by the two partners are to be realised and operated by independent project companies.

Commenting on the alliance Professor Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE Innogy, said: ‘The use of geothermal heat for the production of electric power and heat has great potential – not just in Germany, but also in southern and south-eastern Europe. This joint venture enables us to ensure the systematic development of a relatively young form of energy in our latitudes and to use this energy on a major technical scale.’

Offshore giant for Germany

RWE Innogy has acquired ENOVA Energieanlagen GmbH, which includes the rights to a 960 MW wind development off the German coast.

Following regulatory approvals, the installation is to be built 40 km north of the North Sea island of Juist, within an area of around 150 km2 and in water 26–34 metres deep. Between 150 and 180 REpower wind turbines with a capacity of 5–6 MW each are planned for the wind farm. Site tests indicate it can run at around 4000 full-load hours and supply 3 TWh a year.

RWE Innogy and ENOVA expect to receive approval by the end of 2009 and initial preparations could then start in 2010. The first wind turbines should start running as early as 2011. The whole wind farm is expected to be completed in 2015 at a total investment of around €2.8 billion. The project, North Sea Windpower 3, will be renamed Innogy Nordsee 1 and, if developed, will be the country’s largest offshore wind farm.

Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE Innogy noted: ‘In contrast to other North Sea countries, we have to build comparatively far off the coast in deep waters. This requires the highest demands for planning, implementation and technology.’

RWE has also submitted a permit application and environmental impact assessment for its Tromp Binnen offshore wind farm to the Dutch Public Works and Water Management Authority. Initially composed of 59 wind turbines with a total capacity of approximately 300 MW, the project 75 km off Callantsoog will use a transformer on the coast of Velsen-Noord.

RWE submitted proposals to the Dutch authorities to build at least two major offshore wind farms of up to 2 GW. To date, the development will be the largest wind farm in the North Sea located furthest from the shore. The use of a concrete pedestal will make it unnecessary to drive piles into the ground and this technique will also be a first for the Netherlands.

Wind–wave hybrid unveiled

Green Ocean Energy Ltd has developed a wave power machine which attaches to an offshore wind turbine. The company says the economics of both machines are enhanced by sharing infrastructure such as the foundation and cabling.

The so-called Wave Treader comprises sponsons mounted on the end of arms both in front and behind the turbine’s column. Hydraulic cylinders are attached between the arms and an interface structure and as the wave passes along the device the sponsons and arms lift and fall stroking the hydraulic cylinders. The cylinders pressurize hydraulic fluid which, after smoothing by accumulators, spins hydraulic motors.

The device has been developed using the core concept of a stand-alone wave power device called Ocean Treader, which is also being developed by the company.

Each Wave Treader machine generates approximately 500 kW and can turn to face the direction of the wave train to ensure maximum efficiency. It has active on-board adjustments to allow for tidal range and a 25-year design life.

The company was able to develop the device after securing £60,000 (US$120,000) of funding from npower’s Juice fund which supports wave and tidal technology development. A full size prototype could be ready for testing in 2010, the company says.

The Wave Treader’s sponsons move up and down as the wave passes beneath them, moving hydraulic cylinders.

42 MW PV for Puglia

Econcern has announced plans to install 42 MW of solar capacity in Puglia, southern Italy as part of the so-called project Trullo.

Starting with the construction of seven 1 MW solar parks early in 2009, the facilities are expected to be operational by 2010. Once complete, Project Trullo will add 15% to Italy’s 280 MW solar PV capacity and is expected to produce approximately 60 GWh per year.

The project is being developed by a 51:49 holding company between Econcern and Ampere Equity Fund.

The company adds that it has ambitions to increase its Italian portfolio to at least 50 MW.

Econcern’s director of project development, Dennis Lange said: ‘The Italian solar market has exceptional growth potential. It is anticipated that it will grow from 280 MW by the end of 2008 to 5 GW by 2020.’

Latin American Wind Flowering

Acciona Energy has commissioned the first phase of a 250.5 MW wind park in Oaxaca, Mexico, whose power will be bought by cement company Cemex for its own use.

The park, named Eurus, cost some US$550 million (€427 million) and once completed will be the largest in Latin America, with 167 wind turbines of 1.5 MW each, covering 25% of the Mexican energy requirements of Cemex. Operations are expected during Q4 of 2009.

In related news, Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica has reached a €116 million deal with Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. for 76 of its 1320 kW 60 Hz wind turbines, amounting to 100 MW. Delivered through Gamesa subsidiary MADE, the turbines are destined for the first Venezuelan wind farm, located in the Paraguaná peninsula and assembly work will commence in Q4 2009.

Meanwhile, energy consultancy Natural Power has acquired Chilean firm LatWind Eolica Latinoamericana Ltda. Natural Power says the acquisition provides it with a base in Latin America to expand into the renewables market there.

Thin-film PV push from Abu Dhabi

Masdar PV has announced a multi-billion dollar investment in thin-film PV technology, as part of its drive to become a world leader in alternative energy.

The total investment of over US$2 billion represents one of the largest investments ever made in solar, and will fund a three-phased expansion strategy.

Phase one involves an investment of $600 million, which will fund the development of two manufacturing facilities – the first, in Erfurt, Germany will be operational by Q3 2009, and a second facility in Abu Dhabi which will begin initial production by Q2 2010. The combined annual production capacity of these two sites will be 210 MW, committed to major PV system installers in Europe and for Masdar’s own energy generation needs.

This German plant will act as a reference installation for technology and knowledge transfer to the larger Abu Dhabi plant by a joint German-Abu Dhabi team.

This approach represents a significant step in Masdar’s objective to transform Abu Dhabi into a developer and exporter of technology, rather than an importer. With a goal of reaching 1 GW of annual production by 2014 through capacity expansions and other new plants, this multi-country operation is envisaged to allow Masdar PV to become a global leader in thin-film PV.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, said: ‘Thin-film PV is a key part of our build-deploy-develop strategy to actively build a strong position in alternative energy. It makes sense to engage these new energy technologies and become a leader in alternatives.’ He added: ‘This marks a major milestone for Masdar and Abu Dhabi. It will not only establish Masdar as a major global PV player, but will be the first high-tech semiconductor nano-manufacturing facility of its kind in the region.’

The plants will use the latest generation of equipment capable of high-volume processing of ultra-large glass substrates at 5.7 m2.

High-volume manufacturing of thin-film PV, which requires less than 1% of the expensive semiconductor material compared to traditional PV, is key to rapidly driving down costs.

The company says that technology for grid-parity solar exists in most sunny markets and it aims to combine scale, plus proven technology, advanced manufacturing, and R&D to deliver lower costs.

Industry experts applauded the move. ‘This potentially represents a paradigm shift in solar, a real game-changer’, commented Dr Winfried Hoffmann, president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

In addition to low-cost manufacturing, thin-film PV requires only one year to pay back the carbon cost of production, and maintenance costs are minimal. It is ideally suited for hot sunny climates, as well as for building-integrated solutions.

The investment announcement follows the launch of a ‘Sustainability Action Plan’ by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company to create the first zero carbon city at Masdar City, near Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The city is part of the Masdar Initiative, the emirate’s multi-faceted investment in the exploration, development and commercialization of future energy sources and clean technology solutions. Construction of the city began in the first quarter of 2008 with the 6 km2 city eventually growing to hold 1500 businesses and 50,000 residents once completed and fully functioning in 2015.

Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, Director of WWF International’s One Planet Living initiative, said: ‘Abu Dhabi is the first hydrocarbon-producing nation to have taken such a significant step towards sustainable living.’

Renewable on-site cooling saves on costs

Geothermal and solar thermal cooling are being used to supply cooling to the six-story Prometheus Pyrphoros building in Paleo Faliro, Athens, Greece.

Sol Energy Hellas is using DuCool’s chiller-free, desiccant-based dehumidification and cooling technology in the development to cool the 600 m2 building.

Now cooled with only 6 kW of electricity, one tenth of its previous consumption, the installation saves $22,000 in energy costs per year, a statement from the company says. DuCool’s technology uses geothermal water and hot water from a solar thermal system to provide cooling and dehumidification.

Nikos Manioudakis, senior research engineer for Sol Energy Hellas, which designed and operates and maintains the Prometheus Pyrphoros building said: ‘These savings provide less than a three-year return on investment without even taking any possible tax savings into account.’

DuCool’s desiccant-based dehumidifier and cooling unit treats the outside air using only solar-heated water at approximately 65°C and geothermal well water at approximately 19°C.

Sol Energy had considered a conventional solution, using a 40 tonne refrigeration (TR) capacity cooling tower and chiller and a 5800 cubic metre per hour air handling unit. This approach would have cost approximately $47,000 and consumed 59 kW of electricity during 2650 annual hours of operation for an annual energy cost of $24,700, the company says.

The total investment in the renewable approach including the solar panels, geothermal well and chiller unit is approximately $105,000. The energy consumption is only 6 kW which amounts to a cost of only $2512 per year, a savings of $22,180 per year. These energy savings pay back the $58,000 additional investment in just over 2.6 years, the company says.

EU passes directive

The European Union begins 2009 with a clear mandate to expand renewables in its energy mix after reaching an agreement on its Renewable Energy Directive.

The deal paves the way for the EU to achieve its plans for a 20% renewables contribution to total energy demand and a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 – the so-called 20:20:20 plan. It means that more than a third of EU electricity must come from renewables by 2020.

Under the terms of the Directive, each Member State has a legally binding renewables target for 2020 and by June 2010 will have drawn up a National Action Plan (NAP) detailing plans to meet these targets. Member states will report on progress every two years.

European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) president Arthouros Zervos commenting on the Directive noted that the legislation will give much-needed investor confidence in the renewable energy sector.

Five projects in Severn tidal power shortlist

Five tidal generation schemes proposed for the UK’s Severn Estuary have been shortlisted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The shortlist includes a mixture of barrages and lagoon schemes designed to take advantage of the world’s second largest tidal range.

The largest proposal is the Cardiff Weston Barrage crossing the Severn estuary from Brean Down, near Weston-super-Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff. Its estimated capacity is over 8.6 GW and it could generate nearly 5% of UK electricity. Two of the projects are lagoon type proposals with 1.36 GW capacity each.

The Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband has also announced £500,000 (US$750,000) of new funding to further develop technologies like tidal reefs. With the proposed shortlist now subject to a three month public consultation, Miliband said: ‘The five schemes shortlisted … are what we believe can be feasible, but this doesn’t mean we have lost sight of others.’

BIPV showing EU growth

The European Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) market shows significant growth potential, a recent Frost & Sullivan report shows.

According to the research firm’s analysis, the 2007 Euro BIPV market was estimated at €143 million with a total installed capacity of 25.7 MW.

The largest market is currently Germany, followed by France, Italy and Spain. These stronger markets are paving the way for expansion, Frost says, adding that countries such as Greece, Portugal and Switzerland are also moving.

Frost & Sullivan research analyst, Akhil Sivanandan, says: ‘The common factor to all the best regions … has been the level of legislative support.’

41.1% CPV Efficiency

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) have achieved a record conversion efficiency of 41.1% using a concentrating PV system.

Sunlight is concentrated by a factor of 454 and focused onto a 5 mm² multi-junction solar cell made out of gallium indium phosphide, gallium indium arsenide on a germanium substrate.

The researchers at Fraunhofer ISE managed to localize defects in a region of the solar cell that is not electrically active. Even at a concentration of 880 suns, an efficiency of 40.4% was measured, Fraunhofer reports.

Prof. Eicke R. Weber, Director of Fraunhofer ISE emphasizes: ‘This is an especially good example of how the control of crystal defects in semiconductors can lead to a breakthrough in technology.’

Fraunhofer ISE is working together with Azur Space in Heilbronn as well as Concentrix Solar GmbH in Freiburg to make this technology competitive as soon as possible.

PV costs set to plunge

The cost of photovoltaic electricity is due to plummet in 2009, according to a new analysis by New Energy Finance.

Its latest Silicon and Wafer Price Index shows average silicon contract prices falling by more than 30% in 2009, compared with 2008.

The document shows an average perceived spot market price of solar-grade silicon during October and November of $332/kg. The weighted average price for polysilicon for delivery in 2009 under contracts signed in 2007 and 2008 was $113/kg, compared with $165/kg for silicon for delivery in 2008, a reduction of 31.5%.

At the 2008 contracted silicon price of $165/kg, silicon contributes an estimated $1.52/W to the current crystalline silicon module price of around $4/watt – or just under 40%. A silicon cost reduction to $113/kg in 2009 would therefore lower module prices for the majority of the market volume that uses contracted silicon by 12%. The silicon purchased on the spot market, though currently at much higher prices, could see larger falls.

Furthermore, with thin-film PV module manufacturing costs approaching the $1/watt mark, crystalline silicon-based PV will come under severe competition for larger projects, resulting in margins shrinking throughout the silicon value chain, the company argues. New Energy Finance forecasts that production of thin-film modules will more than quadruple to 1.9 GW in 2009, and thin-film will be competitive with crystalline silicon in larger space-constrained applications, such as commercial rooftops.

This may pressure crystalline silicon module manufacturers to reduce selling prices by more than the reduction in costs in order to retain their market and the company suggests that current silicon-based solar module prices of $4/watt could drop to $2.60/watt by the end of 2009.

For a ground-mounted plant in a region with good insolation, and based on a 6% real cost of capital, this could translate into an unsubsidised generation cost of $0.17/kWh for crystalline silicon, New Energy Finance concludes. Meanwhile, thin-film manufacturers can achieve unsubsidised costs of $0.13/kWh for the same large project by 2010.

Michael Liebreich, chairman and CEO, said: ‘We are about to see the convergence of two powerful forces in solar photovoltaics: the price premium accruing to silicon refining is about to unwind, at the same time as thin-film manufacturing is really starting to get to scale. We expect to see significant drops in the price of modules next year – with prices starting to track real underlying costs much more closely.

UK Technology Institute backs offshore energy

A public-private financed £1.1 billion (US$1.6 billion) Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has been launched in London to develop and deploy energy technologies.

The ETI is a private company so far comprising six partners – BP, Shell, Rolls-Royce, E.ON, Caterpillar and EDF Energy – as well as the public sector and scientific/academic institutions.

Over 10 years each partner is investing £50 million ($72 million) and the UK government has pledged to match this up to a potential overall fund of £1.1 billion.

Three offshore wind turbine projects and a marine project have already been named under the initial phase of the ETI programme.

The offshore wind projects include the Blue H consortium, which includes BAE Systems and EDF Energy, that is developing a deepwater 5 MW wind turbine mounted on a floating concrete, rather than steel, tension-leg platform. The low-cost turbine is to be tested at water depths of 60 m, 100 km offshore.

The Helm Wind Project, comprised of E.ON, BP, Rolls-Royce and the University of Strathclyde, is designing a low cost offshore wind turbine from scratch.

The third offshore wind investment is the NOVA (Novel Offshore Vertical Axis) project, whose members include QinetiQ. This is a potentially 5-10 MW, low-maintenance turbine.

The marine energy project is named ReDAPT (Reliable Data Acquisition Platform for Tidal) developed by Rolls-Royce, E.ON, EDF, Tidal Generation and the European Marine Energy Council (EMEC). A novel 1 MW design is being tested at EMEC’s marine technology site in Orkney.

Japan in Bio CHP move

A Japanese power plant is using biomass updraft gasification technology to deliver 2 MW of CHP to residents of a nearby town.

Located 400 km north of Tokyo, the plant uses technology licensed from Denmark-based Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S, a subsidiary of Babcock & Wilcox, to turn 60 tonnes of wood chips a day into wood gas.

Output from the plant is delivered to the nearby town of Murayama, in Yamagata Prefecture.

JFE Environmental Solutions Corp, the plant’s designer, licensed the technology in 2003.

In the updraft gasification process, moist biomass fuel is fed into the top and descends though hot gases rising through the reactor. The fuel is dried in the gasifier’s upper zone while pyrolysis occurs below. The biomass material then passes through a reduction zone (gasification). Updraft technology allows for a wide fuel mix and range of moisture content and is also scalable for units up to 20 MW of fuel input, the company says.

PV recycling declaration

Members of the European association PV CYCLE have signed a joint Declaration committing them to set up a voluntary collection and recycling scheme for end-of-life photovoltaic modules.

Signatories to the document are committed to collect a minimum of 65% of photovoltaic modules installed in Europe since 1990 and to recycle 85% of waste. The members of PV CYCLE are manufacturers or importers of photovoltaic modules in Europe and represent more than 70% of the European photovoltaic market.

Jan Clyncke, managing director of PV CYCLE acknowledged that the targets are ambitious, but nonetheless noted: ‘We will only be able to say that solar energy has become truly sustainable when the life cycle of photovoltaic modules is closed allowing industrial use of recycled raw materials necessary to their manufacturing.’

The declaration is supported by the French Presidency of the European Union and by the European Commissioner for the Environment. Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Spatial Planning commented: ‘It is for the first time that an industry organizes itself on a voluntary basis at European level to ensure the collection and recycling of its products and this with extremely ambitious targets.’

Meanwhile, Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for Environment declared: ‘I welcome the intention of the photovoltaic industry to commit to set up a voluntary system for the collection and recycling of photovoltaic panels and look forward to seeing the outcome of this proposal with high ambition levels.’

US offshore wind move

The US Minerals Management Service, the lead government agency in charge of the country’s offshore energy projects has released its 2800-page Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed 420 MW Cape Wind offshore wind project.

After seven and a half years of environmental review, many of public hearings and community meetings the (MMS) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) concludes that the site for the 130 turbine development – Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound – is environmentally and economically superior to the alternative site locations that were studied. It adds that building Cape Wind will create hundreds of jobs, and will not increase energy prices in New England. It could even lower energy clearing prices, the new report says.

The document concludes that most of the output from the development would be consumed on Cape Cod and neighbouring islands, where it will supply 75% of the region’s electricity and improve transmission performance

The MMS’ Record of Decision may grant a lease to Cape Wind by March, a final decision ‘would account for the regional, state, and local benefits and impacts as well as for the overall public interest of the United States.’

Project developer Jim Gordon said: ‘This report validates the project will create new jobs, increase energy independence and fight global warming while being a good neighbour to the ecosystem of Nantucket Sound.’

Drinks Free … of Carbon

Drinks company Diageo, which produces spirits such as Johnny Walker, Tanqueray and Smirnoff, is to develop a biomass-fired on-site energy facility at a new distillery in Roseisle, on Speyside, Scotland.

The plant is designed to utilise spent wash – a mixture of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water – from the distillation process to supply heat to the plant.

To be designed, built and operated by Dalkia, the Roseisle Distillery will use a bubbling fluidized bed boiler to combust both biogas and solid waste. Initially the spent wash is treated by separating solids and liquid with a belt press, before the liquid portion goes to an anaerobic digester to produce biogas. Liquid from the digester plant is further processed to provide water to the thermal plant and some of the distillery needs. The £40 million (US$60 million) distillery is due for completion this spring.

REW Asia Event is Coming!

October will see the first Renewable Energy World Asia Conference and Expo take place in Bangkok, Thailand. It is being held alongside the well established POWER-GEN Asia event, and will provide a high-level forum and focus for the ever-growing renewables sector.

The REW Asia theme is: ‘Strengthening energy security for sustained economic growth.’ The call for papers deadline is 13 March.

Full details and conference topics can be found at www.renewableenergyworld-asia.com.

NEWS IN BRIEF

GE Drivetrain Technologies has signed Letters of Intent to supply more than 900 gearboxes for China’s A-Power Energy Generation Systems’ Fuhrländer 2.7 MW wind turbines beginning in 2010. A second deal will establish a joint venture partnership for a gearbox assembly plant majority owned by GE Drivetrain Technologies and operated under the name GE Transportation.

Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier, is launching Good Energy HotROCs, the country’s first renewable heat incentive that pays domestic solar generators money for the heat energy they produce. The incentive is offset by a small premium on gas charges for the company’s dual fuel customers.

The 1200 MW Alto Támega pump storage hydro complex in Portugal is to be developed by Iberdrola. Around €1.7 billion is to be invested in 2012–2018 to build four new dams. The new plants, two with a combined 900 MW of pumped storage capacity and two pure turbine facilities with a combined 234 MW, are expected to produce some 2 TWh a year.

A 1.1 MW tracking PV system has become operational at the California HQ of dried fruit group the Mariani Packing Co. The more than 5800 PV panels from Evergreen Solar are expected to produce 1.9 GWh annually. groSolar and SunEdison constructed and financed the system under a long-term power purchase agreement.

Consent for the 4 MW Siadar wave energy project on the Scottish island of Lewis has been granted by the Scottish government. npower renewables, will be the operator of the planned facility with Wavegen, part of Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation, the technology partner providing the oscillating water column (OWC) machines.

Horizon Wind Energy has commissioned three US wind farms with a combined capacity of 500 MW. The projects are the 201 MW Meridian Way, in north central Kansas, the 103 MW Rattlesnake Road in Oregon, and the first 201.3 MW phase of Pioneer Prairie, in Iowa.

The VTT Technical Research Centre and partners have launched Enerfish, a three- year project to produce biodiesel from fishing waste. A biodiesel plant will be built next to the Vietnamese fish processing plant Hiep Thanh Seafood JSC.

An Energetix Group plc subsidiary is to supply 20 kW of compressed air energy storage systems to P&E Automation Inc. for a plant in Utah. part of a plan to integrate storage with renewables.

UK retailer Sainsbury’s has signed a decade-long power purchase agreement that will directly lead to the creation of a new 6 MW £8 million (US$12 million) wind generation project using 2 MW REpower MM82 machines at Lochhead in Scotland, due to be completed in mid-2009.

enXco has commissioned its Wapsipinicon wind farm in Minnesota. The 100.5 MW facility has 67 of GE Energy’s 1.5 MW turbines. Output from the site will go to Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.

RWE Innogy is to invest a total of €5.5 million in the Norwegian technology company, Revolt Technology AS, as part of a plan to develop novel energy storage technologies based on rechargeable zinc air storage systems.

Massachusetts-based Owl Power Company claims a world first for its waste vegetable oil-fired on-site CHP at the Finz Seafood & Grill restaurant. The so-called ‘Vegawatt’ device utilizes the waste vegetable oil from a deep fat fryer to produce 5 kWe and 15,000 BTU of heat.

Siemens Energy has installed a turnkey 810 kWp PV plant on the roof of the Siemens Healthcare x-ray systems manufacturing plant in Forchheim, Germany. The 3600 monocrystalline modules, rated at 225 Wp each, were supplied by Sunpower Solar and are expected to generate some 750 MWh a year.

Two methanol fuel cells are to supply primary power to a portable wind monitoring application for use in remote, off-grid sites for npower renewables. UPS Systems supplied the batteries, EFOY Pro 1600 methanol fuel cells and methanol fuel for the project.

Vestas has received an order from Vattenfall Wind Power for 300 MW of offshore turbines for the UK Thanet project. Consisting of 100 units of the V90-3.0 MW machine, the project will be located 11.3 km off Foreness Point in the Thames Estuary. Installation is due 2010.

The Altona, Chateaugay and Wethersfield Wind Parks have been completed, bringing a total of 330 MW to upstate New York. Producing 97.5 MW, 106.5 MW, and 124 MW respectively, the projects were developed by Noble Environmental Power LLC. All the projects use GE Energy 1.5 MW machines.

In a joint venture with marine technology group Wavebob Ltd, Vattenfall has acquired a majority stake in the Irish ocean energy site development company, Pandion Ltd, which has applied for sites on the west coast of Ireland for the commercial demonstration of over 250 MW of capacity.

The parent company of Qimonda Solar GmbH has filed for bankruptcy. Centrosolar Group AG – currently developing a joint venture PV cell production facility with the company in Portugal – says that the partnership has so far not been affected. But, in the event of the insolvency spreading, Centrosolar would continue operations alone, though they are planning to invite other partner companies.

The Bosch Group has revealed plans to invest some €530 million through to 2012 in expanding solar module production through its majority held subsidiary arm ersol Solar Energy AG. Start of production is planned for the beginning of 2010 and ersol hopes to nearly triple its present manufacturing capacity to some 630 MWp.

Suzlon Gujarat Wind Park Ltd. (SGWPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Suzlon Energy Ltd., has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government of Gujarat in India that could lead to the development of up to 1.5 GW of new wind capacity in the Kutch-Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

SunPower Corp is to build a 505 kW solar-diesel hybrid in Western Australia for Horizon Power. The ground-mounted installation will be located at two sites in Marble Bar and Nullagine and will be the largest solar tracking system in the country to date, featuring some 2000 panels. Construction is due to be complete by September 2009.

Engineering major Doosan Heavy has announced that it is close to finalizing development of a 3 MW offshore wind turbine, the WinDS 3000. The class 1a machine features three blades with a 92 metre diameter mounted on an 80 metre tower. The blades have an electrical pitch system. Doosan adds that the turbine has a lightweight gearbox, and a permanent magnet generator. A prototype is due to be erected during the summer of 2009.

Green Mountain Power and groSolar have built a 58 kW on-site solar installation at a service centre in Westminster, Vermont. The 300 ground-mounted PV panels supply two-thirds of the building demand.

Two REpower wind turbines at Deeping St Nicholas have been purchased by a local community group in the UK’s East Midlands. It follows a share offer raising over £2.6 million (US$5.2 million) from the members of Fens Co-op to buy the 4 MW project from developers Fenland Windfarms.

Siemens Energy is to supply the largest solar-powered steam turbine-generator set for the first commercial solar tower power plant to break ground in the US. BrightSource Energy, Inc. is to develop the 123 MW plant at its Ivanpah Solar Complex in Southern California. Operations are expected in Q4 2011.

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