News Round-up

A round-up of renewable energy news from around the world.

New US production for European wind players

A number of major European wind technology companies have revealed plans to develop manufacturing capacity in the US.

Most recently, Siemens has said it intends to build a new production facility for wind turbines in the state of Kansas.

Construction of the 300,000 square foot (27,600 m2) nacelle production facility in Hutchinson, Kansas, is scheduled to begin in August 2009.

The nacelles will weigh 90 tonnes and the first is expected to be shipped in December 2010. All nacelles produced in Hutchinson will be used in the company’s 2.3 MW turbine range.

Initially, the factory’s planned annual output is approximately 650 nacelles – or 1500 MW – and 400 new jobs are expected to be created in the facility.

The company says that Hutchinson is near the centre of the continental United States and offers excellent transportation logistics. The factory will include direct loading onto rail as well as potentially utilizing the barge facilities at the port of Catoosa, located 250 miles from the plant.

‘The United States already is, and will continue to be, one of the world’s fastest growing wind energy markets,’ stated Peter Löscher, CEO of Siemens AG.

Siemen’s development follows recent news from Vestas, that the company has broken ground on two new manufacturing facilities in Colorado.

Vestas held a ground-breaking ceremony for a nacelle assembly factory and a blade factory in Brighton, Colorado, that will produce some 2000 blades and 1400 nacelles annually.

The factories are part of the significant manufacturing and research base Vestas is establishing in the US, and once the US$300 million factories are fully operational in 2010, they will create about 1350 jobs.

‘Vestas selected Brighton for its central location and access to rail services, highway infrastructure and a qualified workforce,’ said Ole Borup Jakobsen, president of Vestas Blades. He added: ‘We also chose Brighton for its proximity to the blade factory in Windsor, Colorado, that opened in 2008.’

Growth for PV predicted to 2013

In its latest analysis, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) says that in 2008, the Global PV market reached 5.6 GW, installing almost 15 GW, compared to 9 GW in 2007. Spain represented almost half of the new installations in 2008 with about 2.5 GW of new capacity, followed by Germany with 1.5 GW connected.

The US confirmed its upward trend with 342 MW of newly-installed PV systems, followed by South Korea which registered 274 MW of PV installations over the year. Meanwhile, Italy connected almost 260 MW, while France, Portugal, Belgium and the Czech Republic made good progress.

Given the current financial crisis, uncertainties over the market exist, though experts believe the market could reach up to 7 GW in 2009, with each country’s development influencing the final figure.

The PV sector is hoping markets such as the US, Germany, France and Italy will pull the demand upwards with favourable policy frameworks expected to further accelerate PV deployment in these countries. In 2013, the Global PV market could reach 22 GW if appropriate policies, such as Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), are in place, says EPIA.

Europe continues to lead the way, with more than 9 GW of PV equipment installed, representing over 65% of the global cumulative installed capacity. Japan and the US follow with 2.1 GW and 1.2 GW, representing 15% and 8%, respectively.

Given the potentially profound influence of national policy on market development, EPIA has developed two representative scenarios for the future of the PV industry.

The Moderate scenario is based on the assumption of ‘business as usual’ which does not assume any major enforcement of existing support mechanisms. The Policy-Driven scenario is based on the assumption of the follow-up and introduction of support mechanisms, namely FiT, in a large number of countries.

For 2009, EPIA expects the global PV market to grow to around 6.8 GW under the Policy-Driven scenario, though the association expects the market to stagnate at around 4.6 GW under ‘business as usual’. By 2013, EPIA foresees the market reaching 22 GW under the Policy-Driven scenario, giving a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 32% over the period 2008-2013. For the Moderate scenario, the annual market is expected to range just above 12 GW with a CAGR of 17%.

According to a recent survey among EPIA members, production capacities along the PV value chain are expected to grow 20% to 30% annually in the short-term.

Over the last three years, established polysilicon producers have more than doubled their total production capacity and many new players have entered the business. Due to this impressive increase in polysilicon production, EPIA expects the silicon shortage to end by the end of 2009 or beginning of 2010. This polysilicon shortage has offered a great opportunity for the thin-film industry, which is expected to reach more than 20% of the market share in 2010 with little more than 4 GW and will represent around 25% in 2013 with about 9 GW.

EPIA expects all thin-film technologies (CdTe, CI(G)S and silicon-based) to further develop during the coming years.

With the end of the polysilicon shortage, EPIA expects that module prices will fall back on their historical learning curve, which showed over the last three decades a 20% module price reduction each time the cumulative PV power installed was doubled.

The first signs of this price decrease became visible during the Q1 2009. If the price decrease is passed on to the final customer and leads to a decrease in PV system prices (which EPIA concedes is not always the case in every market), the generation cost (€/kWh) of PV electricity will compete sooner than anticipated with conventional retail electricity prices. If so, EPIA believes that the global PV market will grow even faster than expected in its Policy-Driven scenario and that the industry will grow accordingly.

Indeed, despite credit crunch, the solar photovoltaic industry is ready for further growth, speakers at EPIA’s recent 3rd International Conference on Solar Photovoltaic Investments heard.

Largest solar power tower on line

Abengoa Solar has begun commercial operations of the world’s largest solar power tower plant, a 20 MW installation.

The company claims that the performance of the power plant, the so-called PS20, has exceeded its design output in the wake of its three-day production and operational testing period.

Located at the Sol√∫car Platform, near Seville, Spain, the PS20 (pictured right) is the world’s second power tower plant in commercial use and features a number of significant technological improvements with respect to its predecessor, PS10. These enhancements include a higher-efficiency receiver, various improvements in the control and operational systems, and a better thermal energy storage system.

PS20 consists of a solar field made up of 1255 heliostats with a surface area of 1291 ft2 (120 m2) each. This reflects the solar radiation it receives onto the receiver, located on the top of a 531 foot-high (162 metre) tower, producing steam which is converted into electricity generation by a turbine. Plant construction was carried out by Abener.

Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar, said: ‘Generating more power during production testing than the design output, is indeed a significant milestone.’

Meanwhile, in related news, Acciona Energy has started work on its third concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in Spain. Located in Majadas de Tiétar, in the Cáceres province of southwest of the country, this 50 MW facility is due to enter service in the second half of 2010.

Representing an investment of €237 million, the facility will use solar trough technology and will have a solar field of 135 hectares. Eight hundred solar collectors will be installed on the site, covering a total of 48 miles (77 km), equipped with a total of 192,000 mirrors.

Major wind installation drive for US continues in first quarter of 2009

The US wind industry installed more than 2800 MW of new generating capacity in the first quarter of 2009, with new projects completed in 15 states, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has announced.

With new wind power projects adding up to 2836 MW, according to initial AWEA estimates, total wind power generating capacity in operation in the US is now 28,206 MW.

In state news, Kansas and New York now have over 1000 MW of wind power generating capacity – boosting the wind power ‘gigawatt’ state club to nine, led by Texas with 7907 MW. In Texas, another pahse of the large Roscoe project was completed, bringing the project up to 584.5 MW. The next 197 MW section is slated to be completed soon, which will take it to the top of the list of the nation’s largest operating wind power projects.

States with the most rapid growth in wind capacity in the first quarter include Indiana at 75%, Maine 55%, Nebraska 53%, Idaho 49% and New York with 34%.

AWEA CEO, Denise Bode, noted: ‘These brand new wind projects shine a ray of hope on our economy today, creating good jobs and powering homes with a clean, inexhaustible source of energy. But the nation still lacks the long-term signal that is needed to build up renewable energy on large scale. The time is now for a national renewable electricity standard (RES), a policy that over 80% of Americans favour and for which they voted; President Obama’s campaign position of generating 25% of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, will help revitalize our economy and protect consumers when they need it the most – when the price of the fuels used for electricity generation goes up.’

The full report is available at: http://www.awea.org/publications/reports/1Q09.pdf

European Competition support for renewables

New legislation opening up the European energy sector to further competition has been approved by the European Parliament.

With the objective of putting in place the regulatory framework needed to make market opening fully effective and to create a single EU electricity market, the package also aims to stimulate energy efficiency and guarantees that small companies, in particular those investing in renewable energy, have access to the energy market. Ensuring fair competition between EU companies and third country companies is another key objective of this new legislation.

According to the final text, national regulatory authorities will have to facilitate the integration of renewables into the power grid, and TSOs will have to grant electricity from renewable sources priority dispatch, confirming the requirement contained in the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive. This will help adjust the balance of the power markets, currently heavily tilted towards conventional fuels.

Under the terms of the bill, grid operators in the European Union will also co-operate and develop common commercial and technical codes and security standards, as well as plan and co-ordinate the investments needed at EU level. This would also ease cross-border trade and create a level playing field for operators.

‘A clear regulatory framework for a functioning internal gas and electricity market will help the EU to meet the challenges of climate change, increased energy import dependence and global competitiveness,’ said energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

However, while welcoming the move, Europe’s renewable industry does have some reservations. Two ‘opt-out’ clauses appear in the final text. These both allow European energy companies to retain their network assets, with either an Independent Systems Operator (ISO) overseeing network activities, or the day-to-day grid management being put in the hands of an Independent Transmission Operator (ITO).

Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) noted: ‘The newly-adopted market liberalization package will help open European power markets and allow a higher penetration of renewables, particularly wind power. One drawback comes in the form of possible opt-outs to full ownership unbundling.’

Kjaer adds: ‘If a member state chooses one of these alternatives to unbundling, it will be to the detriment of its 2020 binding renewables target and of the overall development of the internal energy market, as neither alternative will allow fully effective power market competition. Moreover, the opt-outs would both put a huge bureaucratic burden on the member state and grid operator in question.’

The development follows a declaration from Europe’s biggest generation companies that they will strive to develop a carbon-neutral power supply system by 2050.

Sixty chief executives from power companies across the EU 27 countries, jointly producing 2500 TWh electricity per year – equivalent to over 70% of total European power generation – presented the document to Piebalgs, but also noted that to achieve such ambitious targets means developing a single European market through progressive regional integration.

The executives called on European policy-makers to develop a framework giving access to a broad range of power generation options alongside new renewable energies.

A crucial factor here is also to simplify licensing procedures for new build, they say, adding that the European power sector will require some €1.8 trillion in investment in order to replace ageing plant, develop the transmission grid, meet new demand and deliver on environmental targets. The industry therefore needs a stable, coherent and market-oriented regulatory framework and access to liquid capital markets.

Summarizing the key points of the declaration, Eurelectric president Lars G. Josefsson, said: ‘The European electricity industry is making a clear commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral sector by mid-century. At the same time I and my fellow CEOs have reiterated our belief that a competitive functioning market is the best means to deliver on this goal in a cost-effective manner.’

UK Marine scoping study

A scoping study to determine the potential for marine energy in English and Welsh waters has been announced by the UK government.

In a first for the country, a new study will look at the potential for wave, tidal-stream and tidal range technologies around the English and Welsh coastlines.

The exercise is designed to better understand the timescale of when multiple devices will be installed and commissioned and will also build on data already gathered for the Offshore Energy SEA and the Welsh Marine Energy Strategic Plan.

The government will also identify any data needed to put in place a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) for marine energy devices in England and Wales, although it will exclude the Severn Estuary.

AEA and Hartley Anderson Ltd have been instructed to conduct the six-month screening exercise on behalf of The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has already produced a preliminary SEA for marine energy in Scotland, while Northern Ireland has also recently announced the appointment of consultants, to undertake a SEA of offshore wind and marine renewables in its waters.

Speaking at the recent British Wind Energy Agency (BWEA), tidal and wave conference, minister for sustainable development and energy innovation, Lord Hunt, said: ‘The marine energy sector has reached a pivotal stage with more and more devices ready to go into the water. The screening exercise is a significant step forward in our plans to harness the power of our seas and secure a renewable and low carbon energy supply.’

In related news, grid connection analysis consultancy TNEI has announced it will be working with Aquamarine Power to identify viable marine energy sites around the UK and Irish coastlines suitable for deployment of Aquamarine’s Oyster wave energy converter.

The company is aiming to develop sites capable of hosting some 1 GW of marine energy by 2020. Steve Ingram, principal consultant at TNEI explained: ‘There is considerable potential for such generation, but this brings new and exciting challenges in terms of grid connections.’

Flexible trading benefits

A new report commissioned by trade group Eurelectric argues that a flexible approach to supporting renewable energy systems can bring significant cost savings.

The document: ‘Reaching EU RES Targets in an Efficient Manner – Benefits of Trade’ shows that significant economic gains can be made if a flexible trading-based approach to support for renewable electricity is adopted across the EU.

The study, which was drawn up for Eurelectric by energy consulting group Pöyry, underlines the value of making full use of co-operation mechanisms – statistical transfers, joint projects and support schemes – provided by the new Renewable Energy Directive, to improve flexibility in reaching the targets.

Pöyry looked at three different scenarios, including full RES-trade (via tradeable instruments) in the EU-27; a domestic scenario where each country reaches its target unilaterally; and a partial trade scenario where 80% of the national target is reached through domestic action and the remainder through tradeable instruments.

The study concludes that a full trade scenario leads to annual savings of about €17 billion per annum by 2020, compared to a purely national-action scenario. This is the most cost-efficient approach as it exploits the lowest cost potential across Europe, the report concludes. Furthermore, even a partial trade scenario (80% from domestic action, 20% open to trade) shows a significant proportion of the potential benefits of trade being realised. However, a purely domestic approach will create severe problems in reaching the target for at least six countries, Pöyry finds.

The study also shows that the total cost of reaching the target for reducing GHG emissions will increase due to the parallel renewables target, especially in the absence of trading, even though the price of allowances in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be lower.

As both the potential and costs of various technologies are highly uncertain and liable to change over time, a proper trading mechanism can help reduce the impact of such uncertainties, Eurelectric notes.

World first as carbon budget revealed by UK

The world’s first carbon budgets have been unveiled by the UK.

As required by the new Climate Change Act, the measures set a legally binding 34% reduction in emissions by 2020 with respect to 1990 levels, an unprecedented level of ambition for UK climate policy.

The first three five-year carbon budgets form part of a long-term strategy of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050 and cover the first three five-year periods: 2008-2012, 2013-2017, and 2018-2022.

In addition, according to the government, the new financial budget for 2009 provides over £1.4 billion (US$2.1 billion) of extra targeted support in the low-carbon sector, including £405 million ($607 million) to support low-carbon industries such as new renewables development. Meanwhile, renewable and other energy projects stand to benefit from up to £4 billion ($6 billion) of new capital from the European Investment Bank, which the government says will remove blockages in project financing.

Offshore wind investments reaching financial close between now and 2011 will be supported through the revised Renewables Obligation, which is expected to bring some £9 billion ($13.5 billion) worth of investment.

Industry leaders welcomed the measures, which they say includes a potential £525 million ($787 million) of new money through a review of offshore wind. Electricity supply companies currently receive 1.5 ROCs for every MWh from offshore wind farms. Under the Chancellor’s plans this will rise to 2 ROCs for the financial year 2009-2010, and then fall back to 1.75 ROCS in 2010-2011.

Chairman of the British Wind Energy Association, Adam Bruce, said the budget ‘addresses the short-term economic hurdles we faced due to the fall of the pound against the euro, and the post-Lehman collapse in project finance.’

Nick Luff, group finance director of utility company Centrica, also supported the plans, saying: ‘We welcome the proposal to adjust the Renewable Obligation to help with the challenging economics of new offshore wind development.’

Dr Wulf Bernotat, chief executive of E.ON AG – one of the companies behind the flagship London Array offshore wind farm – further noted: ‘The enhanced incentives will help transform the industry and improve the economics for the pioneering London Array project. The government’s decision recognizes the difficulties that energy companies face when they look to build offshore wind.’

Florida’s Solar city plan

Real estate developer Kitson & Partners have announced a landmark agreement with Florida Power & Light (FPL) to build a 75 MW solar PV power plant at Babcock Ranch in Florida, USA.

The move will effectively make the 17,000 acre (6800 ha) Babcock Ranch the world’s first city powered by solar energy.

Also home to an integrated smart grid that will provide greater efficiencies and allow residents and businesses to monitor and control their energy consumption, all commercial buildings and homes in the new city will be certified as energy-efficient and constructed according to Florida Green Building Council standards.

Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, observed: ‘Babcock Ranch will be a living laboratory for companies, workers and families ready to reap the rewards of innovation. No other place in America will be home to such a concentration of new jobs and technologies, energy-saving advances and global economic leadership. I could not be more enthusiastic to be a part of this major step toward economic recovery and a sustainable future.’

Subject to State of Florida approvals, ground-breaking on the FPL solar facility is targeted for late 2009, with construction of the city centre targeted for mid-2010 and construction of the first residential and commercial buildings is targeted for late 2010.

A recent study conducted by independent research firm Fishkind & Associates found that the city of Babcock Ranch will generate 20,000 permanent jobs across a wide range of industries and income levels.

Bilbao biofuels boost as Acciona advances

Acciona Biocombustibles has commissioned a €25 million biodiesel plant in the Port of Bilbao, Spain, with an annual production capacity of 200,000 tonnes. Located at Zierbena, the biodiesel produced in the facility accounts for 27% of the target figure for the introduction of biodiesel in Spain in 2009.

The plant is on a site in the port of Bilbao belonging to the agribusiness and food company Bunge, which has a 20% stake in the capital of the development company. It will produce biodiesel from previously refined first-use vegetable oils (soya, rapeseed or palm), mainly from Bunge’s seed-crushing plant.

The Bilbao biodiesel plant is the second installed by Acciona after its 70,000 tonnes annually facility at Caparroso in northern Spain.

Legislation on the obligatory nature of the use of biofuels in transport establishes that 3.4% of the overall energy content of gasoline and diesel fuel sold in Spain for transport in 2009 should come from biofuels, and 5.83% in 2010 (in the first semester of 2008 the percentage was 1.47%). The legislation sets a minimum objective of 2.5% for 2009. This applies to both biodiesel in relation to conventional diesel, and bioethanol in relation to gasoline, and the difference can be made up to a total of 3.4% with any of the two biofuels. For 2010 the minimum objective for each biofuel increases to 3.9% and the overall figure to 5.83%.

In the specific case of biodiesel, and in the light of overall fuel consumption figures for transport in Spain, this means that a minimum of 740,000 tonnes of biodiesel should be incorporated into the system in 2009 and 1,070,000 in 2010.

In addition, under the legislation, biofuels imported into the European Union that have been previously blended with fossil fuels will not count towards the target.

Acciona says this should reduce the level of US imports, which benefit from dual tax exemption – at source and at destination – and which, it is claimed, are seriously damaging the Spanish industry.

EU approves RES support

Europe’s wind industry has hailed the newly-agreed EU Economic Recovery Plan as ‘the right economic medicine at the right time’ after the European Parliament passed the €5 billion scheme at a plenary session in early May.

Intended to tackle the financial crisis by encouraging investments in offshore wind and other types of infrastructure, the package includes cash for development of the continental transmission network.

Offshore developments set to benefit to the tune of €565 million under the package include grid integration developments, such as the Baltic Kriegers Flak I, II, III between Denmark and Sweden with a capacity of 1.5 GW which will get €150 million; and the 1.5 GW North Sea grid getting €165 million. It will include the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, France, the UK and Luxembourg.

New turbines, structures and components, and optimization of manufacturing, will get a collective €250 million for three projects,

‘By including offshore wind and electricity grids in the Plan, EU decision-makers have chosen the right areas to make a real difference long-term,’ said Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). He added: ‘The European Parliament’s approval of the Plan should give a real boost to the burgeoning offshore wind sector.’

Following a budget review by the European Commission in March 2010, any unspent monies could also go to renewables projects.

New Swiss Pumped storage contract first for Alstom

Alstom has been awarded a €125 million contract to equip the new 628 MW Nant de Drance hydropower station, near Finhaut in the southwestern Canton Valais of Switzerland, with its first variable speed pump storage power plant.

This partner project, between Swiss energy provider Alpiq, Forces Motrices Valaisannes (FMV), and Swiss federal railways SBB, is the first ever use of this type of technology in Switzerland.

Alstom will supply four 157 MW vertical Francis reversible turbines, four 170 MVA vertical asynchronous motor/generator units and further key equipment to the new plant, as well as handling site delivery, erection, supervision and commissioning.

The new installation integrates a conventional pump turbine and a variable speed pump turbine. The former pumps the water into a reservoir during periods of low energy demand and releases it to produce energy during peak times, while the latter regulates the level of energy it consumes, thus contributing to better grid regulation.

Alstom Hydro’s facilities in Grenoble, France, and Birr, Switzerland, will be in charge of the engineering and manufacturing of the equipment.

Australia closes in on RET

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has endorsed a 20% renewable energy target (RET) by 2020, which has been proposed by the federal government.

Endorsement by COAG is the penultimate step towards the creation of a national target, long resisted by the country’s previous government. The RET bill will now be tabled in parliament in coming weeks, and is expected to be approved swiftly.

Clean Energy Council (CEC) chief executive, Matthew Warren said: ‘The refined RET legislation incorporates crucial changes which will ensure accelerated investment in clean energy so the industry can play an immediate role in reducing Australia’s greenhouse emissions and help drive a new green economy.’ The CEC has been working closely with the government since January to fine tune the draft legislation, first released in December.

Renewable energy companies applauded the move, with Conergy Pty Ltd’s Rodger Meads saying the decision ‘will see Australia come out of the shadows in terms of renewable energy investment and has the potential to put Australia back in its rightful place as a world leader in the field.’

Advocates say the scheme will potentially result in A$20 billion (US$15 billion) worth of investment into the emerging Australian renewable energy industry.

Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm

Norwegian power utility Statkraft has joined forces with StatoilHydro to develop the 315 MW Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm off the coast of Norfolk in the UK.

The wind farm, which will consist of 88 turbines, is planned to start production in 2011 and when fully operational, its annual electricity production is expected to be around 1.1 TWh.

Previously, Sheringham Shoal had been wholly-owned by StatoilHydro, but under the new agreement Statkraft will acquire 50% of the shares in the project.

Total investments are estimated at approximately NOK 10 billion (US$1.5 billion) and the development is ready for construction, having already received all necessary permits and approvals.

Sheringham Shoal, between 17 km and 23 km off the coast of the town of Sheringham in northern Norfolk, will cover an area of 35 km2.

Construction will begin early this summer, and a gradual start-up of production is scheduled for 2011.

Siemens Energy has received a €450 million order from StatoilHydro and Statkraft to provide the 88 SWT-3.6 MW -107 wind turbines for the development. The company was also awarded a five-year initial service contract.

StatoilHydro is to be the operator during the construction phase and the company’s chief executive, Helge Lun, said: ‘We are pleased to announce our decision to go ahead with this project together with Statkraft. We believe our joint efforts will generate value.’

Sunfilm and sontor in merger moves

One of the world’s largest providers of tandem junction silicon-based thin-film photovoltaic modules has been created with a merger between German companies Sunfilm AG and Sontor GmbH.

The new merged company will be named Sunfilm AG and the companies say it will have the necessary size and expertize to significantly profit from the growing segment of thin-film solar PV, despite facing an increasingly crowded market.

In addition, Sunfilm says it can achieve a variety of cost savings, including those from synergies in purchasing and those from consolidation of overlapping segments.

Q-Cells SE, Good Energies and NorSun AS will be the shareholders of the new Sunfilm, which has an installed annual production capacity of approximately 85 MW at two sites in Bitterfeld-Wolfen and Grossroehrsdorf, Germany. An additional 60 MW of capacity is also under construction in Grossroehrsdorf.

Meanwhile, the centre for research and development will be located in Bitterfeld-Wolfen.

Q-Cells, currently the sole owner of Sontor, will hold 50% of the newly merged Sunfilm shares while Good Energies will hold about 35% and NorSun about 15%.

The new company currently has approximately 400 employees, but it is expected that additional jobs will be created in the mid-term as the expansion in Grossroehrsdorf comes on-line.

The merger is still subject to approval by the relevant antitrust agencies.

‘Thin-film is one of the most significant growth areas within the photovoltaic industry,’ says Wolfgang Heinze, COO and chairman of Sunfilm AG. ‘We believe the merger is the best way to capitalize on the enormous potential of tandem junction thin-film technology and to establish a leading company in the market,’ explains Dr. Sven Hansen, chief investment officer of Good Energies and chairman of Sunfilm.

In related news, Q-Cells and LDK Solar have announced formation of a joint venture for the development of PV systems in Europe and China. The venture is to focus on large PV systems and market development in Europe, they say in a statement.

Algae-based biofuel moves in the USA

Stellarwind Bio Energy, LLC, a producer of fuel oil from algae, has announced the opening of its new small-scale pilot production facility and corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

With a 400 m2 greenhouse, expanded office space and an advanced R&D facility, the features will allow the company to build a scalable pilot production facility deploying its so-called PhycoGenic Reactor and PhycoProcessor.

Will Kassebaum, president and CEO of Stellarwind Bio Energy, observed: ‘For years, science has known that algae are a far better producer of fuel oils than other biological sources. The problem has been to cost-effectively build a bioreactor that can inexpensively grow, harvest and process commercially viable quantities of fuel oil from algae. We are committed to deploying such a system.’

In related news, Aurora Biofuels, Inc. says that it has operated an algae biodiesel pilot plant in Florida for 18 months using low-cost open pond algae production systems. Aurora Biofuels says it has overcome the contamination problem commonly reported to hinder algae biofuel efforts, cultivating in seawater on non-arable land. ‘Our results prove that large-scale outdoor production of biodiesel from microalgae is entirely within our reach, and that our technology can be optimized and is ready to scale,’ said chief executive Bob Walsh. He added: ‘In the near-term we expect to demonstrate that the economics of this process can produce biodiesel that is price-competitive with fossil fuels.’

Renewables investment collapse

New figures from research firm New Energy Finance show that investment in clean energy has collapsed to just US$13.3 billion in the first quarter of 2009, down by no less than 44% on the fourth quarter of last year and 53% below the level achieved in the first quarter of 2008.

According to the company, it took until the first quarter of 2009 for the credit crunch and the recession to catch up fully with investment in renewable energy, low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency. And, despite the sector’s medium-term and long-term growth prospects, it suffered from a severe shortage of bank finance for projects and the parlous state of overall stock market confidence.

Over $150 billion of stimulus spending around the world has been earmarked for clean energy, but the figures show it has not started to flow fast enough to fill the current funding gap, New Energy Finance says.

The unprecedented fall in recorded investment in the first quarter reflects two influences. The first, and more significant, is a sharp drop in underlying activity. The second is the fact that many deals are taking longer than usual to complete because of the state of financial markets, and had therefore not been closed by the last day of the quarter.

The biggest single element in clean energy investment is asset finance of new-build projects, which amounted to just under $11.5 billion in the first three months of 2009. Venture capital and private equity finance for clean energy companies fell 22% compared with fourth quarter 2008 to $1.8 billion, its lowest in any quarter for more than two years.

Nonetheless, the weakest segment of all was public market investment. Stock market investors contributed less than $100 million to pure-play clean energy companies in the first quarter of 2009.

Michael Liebreich, chairman and CEO of New Energy Finance, commented: ‘Green stimulus plans may represent the light at the end of the tunnel for clean energy companies, but meanwhile the sector has been hit by an oncoming train. These figures highlight the need for policy makers and administrators in the US and elsewhere to ensure that stimulus funds start flowing immediately, not in a year or so. There is also a strong case for further measures, such as requiring state-supported banks to raise lending to the sector, providing capital gains tax exemptions on investments in clean technology, creating a framework for Green Bonds, and so on, all targeted at getting investment flowing. Many of the policies to achieve growth over the medium-term are already in place, including feed-in tariff regimes, mandatory renewable energy targets and tax incentives. There is far too much emphasis among policy makers on support mechanisms, and not enough on the urgent needs of investors right now.’

Liebreich added: ‘The medium-term and long-term outlook for clean energy is strong, given the imperatives for G20 economies to curb carbon emissions and improve energy security. We forecast that on current policies, annual investment in the sector will return to growth in due course and reach $350 billion by 2020.’

Record module efficiency from ECN

Researchers of the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) have achieved a conversion efficiency of 16.4% across the aperture area on a full-size solar module, a new world-record efficiency for photovoltaic modules with multicrystalline silicon solar cells.

ECN says the record, using cells made from wafers supplied by REC Wafer Norway and Deutsche Solar, was achieved using industrial-scale equipment for interconnection and encapsulation of rear-contact cells provided by the Dutch equipment builder Eurotron. Financed by the European Commission within the project CrystalClear and by the Dutch government through SenterNovem, ECN developed the new module design and manufacturing process based metallization wrap-through (MWT) rear contact solar cells which are interconnected in modules using conductive adhesives and a patterned conductive foil. This technology has similarities with surface mounting of electronic components on a printed circuit board. The MWT technology improves conversion efficiency as it avoids metal strips used in standard modules to connect the front of one cell with the rear of a neighbouring cell which block part of the incoming light, and require spaces between the cells. In addition, the use of a patterned conductive foil results in lower resistance losses than for strips, also leading to higher module efficiencies.

The second benefit is that very thin and fragile, solar cells can be used and the world record module was built with 36 cells of 120 micron thickness only; much thinner than standard 180-200 micron cells.

Solland Solar will be the first manufacturer to use the technology in commercial production, later this year.

The previous world-record for module efficiency was held by the USA’s Sandia National Laboratory, at 15.5% aperture-area efficiency.

Offshore wind for Great Lakes

Following the release of offshore wind development guidelines by President Barack Obama and interior secretary Ken Salazar recently, New York Power Authority (NYPA) president and CEO Richard Kessel have announced a major public-private initiative for the potential development of wind power projects in the New York state waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Development of a minimum of 120 MW is under consideration.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) to examine technical issues related to the viability of such projects is expected to be released shortly.

To carry out the initiative – known as the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project (NYPA) – wind power developers and the University of Buffalo is gathering a wide range of environmental, economic development, technical, financial and other information to serve as the foundation for the possible installation of wind power projects by one or more private wind power developers. This information will assist NYPA in determining the feasibility of taking the next step.

Orecon in as pelamis leaves Wave Hub

Energy company E.ON and partner Ocean Prospect have announced that they have withdrawn from the forthcoming Wave Hub project off the UK’s north Cornish coast.

The company was one of four developers looking at using the offshore transmission hub for the testing of arrays of wave energy conversion devices and had been looking at using the second generation of Pelamis wave power device at the site, which is due to be built next year.

However, following E.ON’s purchase of a Pelamis device which is to be tested at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, the companies decided to withdraw from Wave Hub for the time being so that other developers could take advantage of the project.

Dave Rogers, regional director of Renewables for E.ON, said: ‘Our aim is to concentrate on testing our Pelamis device, which means that it was unlikely we’d be in a position to connect to Wave Hub in the short term.’ He added: ‘We still believe Wave Hub is an excellent project – and we may well return to it in the future – but our initial goal is to get a machine into the water as quickly as possible, which we’ll be able to do in Orkney.’

Wave Hub is on course to be built and commissioned next year, with the first device expected to be deployed in 2011 off Hayle on the Cornish coast of south west England.

Three wave device developers have committed to Wave Hub so far: Fred Olsen Ltd, Ocean Power Technologies Ltd and, recently announced, Orecon Ltd. The project aims to be operational from August next year.

Orecon is to take the place of Australian company Oceanlinx, which had been expected to use Wave Hub for its installation. However, the company has since received a grant from the Australian government and subsequently decided to make its next deployment in Australian waters.

US Analysis on PTC, ITC, cash or Grant

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released a joint report titled ‘PTC, ITC, or Cash Grant? An Analysis of the Choice Facing Renewable Power Projects in the United States.’

Funded by the US Department of Energy, the report both quantitatively and qualitatively analyses the choice between the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) – or equivalent cash grant – as set out under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The document is from the perspective of project developers/owners and covers a number of different renewable energy technologies, including wind, open- and closed-loop biomass, geothermal, and landfill gas.

Quantitative analysis of these five technologies reveals that only two clearly favour one credit over the other, the report says. Open-loop biomass receives more value from the ITC in every combination of installed cost and capacity factor modelled, while geothermal mostly receives more value from the PTC. The other three technologies – wind, closed-loop biomass, and landfill gas – are more even, with the difference likely to be modest in most cases.

Given this, the document continues, qualitative considerations may play as much or more of a role in driving the choice of PTC or ITC (or equivalent cash grant), particularly among these other three technologies. Although the PTC provides greater investment liquidity, all other qualitative considerations discussed in the report favour the ITC. These include the option to elect an equivalent cash grant, no performance risk, more immediate use of tax base (if the equivalent cash grant is not elected), no penalty for subsidized energy financing, no power sale requirement, and the availability of leasing structures.

In combination, therefore, the quantitative and qualitative factors addressed in the report suggest that most wind, open- and closed-loop biomass, and landfill gas projects may benefit more from the ITC than they will from the PTC.

Furthermore, based on qualitative considerations alone, it is reasonable to expect those projects that are placed in service or begin construction in 2009 or 2010, to elect the equivalent cash grant rather than the ITC itself. Geothermal projects, on the other hand, are likely to prefer the PTC, unless qualitative considerations overwhelm quantitative.

The full report can be downloaded from: http://eetd.lbl.gov/EA/EMP/reports/lbnl-1642e.pdf

Enel commission Nevada geothermal

Two binary geothermal power plants with a total capacity of 65 MW have been inaugurated by Enel Green Power in Churchill County, Nevada.

The two new plants, called Stillwater and Salt Wells, are expected to generate over 400 GWh annually, with the output from the plants sold to the local utility, NV Energy.

Stillwater and Salt Wells are medium-enthalpy plants, meaning that they operate at temperatures between 130°C–150°C (266°F–302°F), using binary cycle technology that employs two fluids: hot water is extracted from the ground and brought into contact with a working fluid (in this case, isobutane) contained in a closed circuit.

The temperature of the geothermal resource in the Fallon area of Nevada is below the 204°C (400°F) considered ‘standard’ for typical operations. However, the cooler water is nonetheless able to flash isobutane to create the high pressure vapour that drives turbines, and subsequently generators.

The geothermal water is returned below ground and the secondary liquid stays within the closed circuit, ensuring no emissions of greenhouse gases or any other negative impacts on the local resources.

Developed and refined in the Larderello area (Pisa) of Italy, the geothermal technology is featuring in projects elsewhere too.

In Tuscany, Enel Green Power has 31 geothermal plants with a capacity of about 700 MW, capable of generating 5 TWh a year. In addition, last year an agreement was reached with the Region for the construction of new capacity and major investments in research. Meanwhile, in Chile, in agreement with national oil agency Enap, EGP is exploring a number of highly promising areas with a potential capacity of over 100 MW.

This technology gives the potential to develop plants in areas that might not otherwise be considered for geothermal operations, Toni Volpe, head of North America Area, Enel Renewable Energy Division says.

Construction on the Stillwater and Salt Wells projects began in 2007, employing more than 300 people. According to the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), the two new plants will have a positive impact on the area of over US$4 million and will create 25 permanent jobs for the next 30 years.

Enel Green Power is the new company of the Enel Group devoted to the development of renewable energy sources in Italy and abroad, and the entry of Stillwater and Salt Wells into service quadruples the amount of electricity generated from geothermal resources by the company in the United States. Also in the US, EGP has a pipeline of advanced-stage projects with a capacity of 150 MW in Nevada, as well as further projects in California and Utah. The company says it is also working with MIT on the possibility of combined geothermal and solar plants.


 

NEWS IN BRIEF

Xcel Energy has begun testing battery-storage technology for grid-connected wind energy, the first US application of the battery as a direct wind energy storage device. S&C Electric Company was contracted to install the battery and the S&C Smart Grid Storage Management System. The 20 x 50 kW battery modules located in Beaver Creek, Minnesota, will be able to store about 7.2 MWh.

Wave technology company Pelamis Wave Power Limited (PWP) is seeking a buyer for a major stake in the world’s first commercial wave farm, off the coast of Portugal, following the suspension of shares in collapsed Australian infrastructure company Babcock and Brown Limited, which owns a majority holding in the project.

Adelaide-based geothermal energy company Petratherm has signed an exclusivity agreement with Dalkia to assess the joint venture potential of its Geo-Madrid project in Spain. The project, which aims to service the heating and cooling needs of a university and government buildings, already has three wells previously drilled to depths of 3.1-3.5 kilometres – providing critical temperature, hot water flow rates and geological data.

Trina Solar has entered into three sales agreements totalling some 42 MW for PV modules for delivery in 2009 with customers in Germany, including 12 MW with Bull Solar GmbH. Trina has also announced completion of a 4.7 MW rooftop PV facility developed by ErgyCapital in the town of Serravalle Scrivia in Italy. The project is expected to generate apx. 5 GWh annually.

The UK’s Crown Estate says it received a total of 40 zone bids from 18 different companies/consortia in the recent competitive tender process for the licensing of nine Round 3 offshore wind zones – part of a plan to develop 25 GW of offshore wind by 2020.

SolFocus has announced an expanded agreement for concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology in Greece. Originally announced in November 2008 as a 1.6 MWp deployment between SolFocus and Samaras Group, this new agreement increases the size of the project to 10 MWp.

Econcern and Rabobank have reached financial close on a project that will see the establishment of a sustainable energy system on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, including an 11 MW wind farm supplied by Enercon, a 14 MW biodiesel plant supplied by MAN, and a 3 MW backup battery. Due for completion in 2009, the system will produce 75 GWh per year.

ABB has won a US$14 million order to provide a complete electrical balance of plant for a 150 MW integrated, combined-cycle solar power plant under construction in Algeria. The plant will be set up at the Hassi R’Mel natural gas field in northern Algeria. It will have two 40 MW gas turbines, one 80 MW steam turbine and two parabolic trough solar fields with a generating capacity of 25 MW. The project is expected to be completed by August 2010.

Conergy says it will begin legal action to contest a 10-year contract to supply solar wafers to its plant in Frankfurt (Oder) agreed with the US company MEMC Inc. at the end of 2007. It says the basis for this legal action is a number of invalid and, in particular, anti-competitive contractual provisions, which Conergy believes render invalid the entire contract.

RWE npower renewables has sealed a deal with Enercon to supply turbines for two new wind farms in Scotland, with 23 of the 800 and 900 kW turbines sited at An Suidhe Wind Farm, giving a total capacity of 19.3 MW. A further 12 turbines will be sited at Lochelbank with a total capacity of 9.6 MW. Both are due to be operational late 2010.

Acciona and Mitsubishi Corporation have signed an agreement giving Mitsubishi Corp a stake in Portugal¬¥s €261 million Amareleja (Moura) PV solar plant. The deal gives Mitsubishi a 34% stake in Amper Central Solar, the developer wholly-owned by Acciona. The 45.8 MWp installation is currently the world¬¥s largest grid-connected photovoltaic solar plant, it has an estimated annual production of 93 GWh from the 250-hectare installation.

BKW FMB Energy Ltd and the juwi Group have entered into a strategic partnership and founded a joint venture, BKWind. The aim of the partnership is to plan, build and operate several wind farms over the next few years at various locations in Germany by 2015, with a collective installed capacity of around 200 MW.

A 46 MW solar park across 250 hectares in Moura, in the region of Alentejo, in southern Portugal uses 70 Ingeteam supplies 70 Ingecon Sun 500 kW inverters, the company says. Owned by Acciona Energía, with an estimated annual production of 93 GWh, the plant also uses 2520 Buskil K18 trackers.

Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica has entered into agreements with Generaciones Especiales I, S.L. for the supply of 35 wind turbines. The first includes the supply of 19 G52-850 kW turbines for the Pumar Extension and Curiscao wind farms in the province of Asturias in Spain. The second involves 19 MW and includes the supply of 11 G58-850 kW and five G90-2.0 MW turbines, installed in the Calanhel and Beaurevour wind farms in northern France.

Germany’s EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG and Nordex AG have revealed plans to work together in wind farm development projects in Europe in the future. The partnership focuses on the turbines N80, N90 and N100 machines with a nominal output of 2500 kW.

Satcon Technology Corp has signed a master supply agreement with Ecostream to supply 330 MW of its renewable energy conversion solutions, including the PowerGate Plus line of solar PV inverters over a three-year period.

Leviathan Energy has announced that its Wind Lotus small vertical axis wind turbine is now commercially available. The company claims it provides twice the power of other similarly-sized turbines. It is available in both 3.5 kW and 5.0 kW versions.

Siemens Energy has built a €5 million ground-based multi-crystalline photovoltaic plant in Italy under contract to Ferrarelle S.p.A, the Italian bottled water company. The turnkey grid-connected solar power plant, with a peak capacity of 1 MWp, was constructed 50 km north of Naples in the Campania region.

Evergreen Solar, Inc. has entered into a frame agreement with China’s Jiawei Solar Co. and the Wuhan Donghu New Technology Development Zone Management Committee, for a significant expansion of String Ribbon wafer manufacturing in Wuhan, China.

Initial capacity is apx. 100 MW.

Czech utility company CEZ Group has signed a contract for the purchase of 100% of the shares of Czech Heat, a. s., which owns a biomass-fired combined heat and power station in Jindrichuv Hradec. The heat produced is supplied mainly to the central distribution systems of Jindrichuv Hradec.

Conergy SolarModule GmbH & Co. KG has installed a 378 kWp PV system on the roof of its factory in Frankfurt (Oder) using 1800 Conergy PowerPlus solar modules, generating over 331 MWh a year.

Siemens Energy and EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG have signed a contract for the supply of 21 SWT 2.3-93 wind turbines for the Baltic 1 offshore wind farm off the Darss/Zingst peninsula. The order is a milestone in the realization of Germany’s first commercial offshore wind farm. Maritime civil engineering work will start in 2010 and the 48.3 MW is scheduled to come on-line in Q4 2010.

aleo solar AG says it will supply 9180 solar modules for a 2 MW solar farm in Geiselhöring, Bavaria, in the district of Straubing-Bogen. The operator and project developer, GSW Gold SolarWind Management GmbH, is offering stakes in the grid-connected farm from €5000.

IPL and enXco have completed the 106 MW Hoosier Wind Project farm in Indiana, USA, which is expected to be in operation in late 2009. The farm near Fowler, consists of 53 REpower 2 MW turbines. Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) will purchase the power generated under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Tanner Creek Energy has completed the installation of a 35 kW roof-mounted system at the new Les Schwab Tire Centers headquarters in Bend, Oregon. Power generated by the PV panels will be fed into the grid and credited to the Les Schwab account.

ENN Solar Energy Co., Ltd. has announced first production of 5.7m2 tandem junction thin-film PV panels using a 60 MW SunFab Thin Film Line supplied by Applied Materials, Inc. Operations at the facility in Langfang, China, mark a first for the country.

Heat & Power (H&P), the Italian small-scale cogeneration ESCo has started its new 195 kWe biogas plant in Genova. The plant uses three 65 kW microturbines fed by waste water treatment biogas from the local Utility Mediterranea delle Acque.

DONG Energy has installed the first 3.6 MW Siemens turbine at the 172 MW Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm project in the Thames Estuary off the East coast of England. It is the first turbine to be installed in the Crown Estate’s Round 2 scheme, which has a potential of 7.2 GW. DONG Energy, Siemens and A2SEA also recently installed the first turbines at the 209 MW HornsRev 2 offshore wind farm in the North Sea.

Led by development in Spain, concentrating solar power (CSP) markets are entering a new growth phase, according to a new study from Emerging Energy Research. Amidst a tumultuous global economic landscape, the CSP industry is scaling rapidly with 1.2 GW under construction as of April 2009 and another 13.9 GW announced globally through to 2014.

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Renewable Energy World's content team members help deliver the most comprehensive news coverage of the renewable energy industries. Based in the U.S., the UK, and South Africa, the team is comprised of editors from Clarion Energy's myriad of publications that cover the global energy industry.

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