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9 December 2021

The world of renewables this week

RWE and Asia Cement Corporation have agreed to jointly develop offshore wind farms off the west coast of Taiwan in a move that may suggest a building momentum behind hydrogen-based cement production in the country. The agreement will see both companies work together to build new projects in the county waters of Hsinchu, Taichung and Changhua.

Shell has made a commercial decision to withdraw from its involvement in the Cambo field oil project in the North Sea. The historic oil major had had a 30% stake in the project, which has faced a consistent barrage of criticism from environmental campaigners. Majority stakeholder Siccar Point Energy has stated that it will continue talks with the UK government to develop the field, with drilling starting as early as 2022 to tap a resource of ‘hundreds of millions of barrels of oil’, although it is looking increasingly hard to such companies to find partners for these ventures.

Australia’s Infinity Lithium Corporation will collaborate with Germany’s Thyssenkrupp to explore the use of green hydrogen in producing and mining lithium. The pair will start with a pilot project at the latter’s facility in Germany, before exploring possibilities at Infinity’s San José lithium project in Spain.

Global commodities trader Trafigura Group has hit a record annual profit for the second year in a row, as the group capitalized on volatility and dislocations across the energy market. The Geneva-based company posted a net profit of $3.1 billion for the year, nearly doubling its total from 2020.

TransWest Express has agreed to sell 1,500 MW of bi-directional transmission line capacity to Power Company of Wyoming (PCW), running from Wyoming to Californian markets in southern Nevada. The acquisition aims to complement the latter’s plans to develop a 3,000 MW wind farm in Wyoming. TransWest plans to start building the $3 billion transmission project in 2022 and bring it online in 2025.

WoodMackenzie has made yet another update to its hydrogen production forecasts, now suggesting that green hydrogen will be available for $1 per kilogram by 2030 – a benchmark that Rethink Energy has been forecasting from the outset of its hydrogen coverage. The study, entitled Hydrogen costs 2021: getting ready to scale, predicts that the cost of alkaline and PEM electrolyzers are set to fall by 35% and 50% respectively by 2025, and that renewable energy at a cost of $10 per MWh and capacity factor of 50% will be needed for the $1 price point.

Siemens Gamesa has started working with OEM giant Strohm to develop pipeline infrastructure that will see green hydrogen, rather than electricity, distributed from offshore wind farms to users on land. The turbine maker has previously outlined plans to produce offshore wind turbines that have an on-board electrolyzer, while Strohm claims that its thermoplastic composite piping can operate for 30 years and has advantages of flexibility, cost and durability over steel pipe alternatives.

Zhonghuan Semiconductor has reduced the prices of its silicon wafers by 6%, 9%, and 12% for the G12, G1, and M6 size categories. Zhonghuan’s general manager Shen Haoping has asserted at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in Shanghai that the polysilicon price spike is already beginning to subside. Broader industry figures show a 6% fall for downstream components including modules, while mono-grade polysilicon has finally fallen 4%, from its plateau of $42.5 dollars to $40.6 dollars.

Like Austria’s module maker Energetica last week, Taiwan’s solar cell manufacturer Inventec has filed for bankruptcy, citing the same supply chain disruptions and cost increases; and both countries have announced restructuring.

Nova Innovation has secured $1 million from the UK government for tidal turbine O&M research, for remote areas, having also received $250,000 from a UK NGO for a feasibility study to be carried out for the Larantuka and Indonesian Tidal Energy (FLITE) project – concerning a prospective 7 MW tidal array in the Larantuka Strait between Flores and Adonara.

Mitrex Integrated Solar Technology has designed and released a 790 W solar panel which is two meters by two meters across, with a thickness of 4 cm and a weight of 42 kilograms. That is not very thick and 10 kilograms per square meter is also low – this is suitable for rooftops, and Mitrex is a BIPV producer.

A US-German research group at the Forshungszentrum Julich have developed a 50-year economic model for low-degradation solar modules in co-operation with First Solar, whose modules claim a 0.2% degradation rate. As the researchers point out, the common 25-year lifespan for solar projects is quite an arbitrary cutoff point.

Enel of Italy now has a license to sell energy retail in Australia and it plans to offer green only power combining renewables, VPPs and EV charging. Shell recently bought up Australia’s ERM and PowerShop. Enel already operates one of the largest solar farms in South Australia, near Port Augusta, and is will shortly bring online the Cohuna solar farm in Victoria. It also has plans for another 1 GW of wind, solar and battery storage.

The Public Utility Commission in Texas this week has dropped its scarcity pricing cap in the ERCOT market from $9,000 per MWh to $5,000 per MWh. It will still lead to a nightmare billing scenario if anything like the February freeze out happens again, but the ludicrously high bill will be somewhat smaller. It also has new rules which should prevent the electricity market cutting off gas turbine owners, who were trying to deliver gas for heat and electricity during the Freeze out, possibly the biggest shot in the foot encountered by any global grid. All it really needs to do it put them on the “do not cut off” list.

BP has acquired US firm Amply Power to gain entry into the car charging space. BP is active in EV charging in the UK, Germany and China already and this is a first move into the US. Amply Power offers charging and energy management for fleets of trucks, transit and school buses, vans and light-duty vehicles. Terms of the deal were not given.