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5 May 2022

The world of renewables this week

Canada’s Hydrogen Optimized has announced plans to build a 5 GW per year electrolyzer factory in Texas, to support the development of the proposed 60 GW Hydrogen City project in the region. Plans aim to manufacture its yet-to-be-commercialized ‘high-current’ RuggedCell electrolyzer, which it claims can ramp up from 0% to 100% power load “in just a few seconds.” This is a similar dynamic response to proton-exchange membrane technology, but does not require iridium. The first 2GW phase of Hydrogen City is due to begin operations in 2026.

Western Power Distribution – the owner of the UK’s largest electricity distribution network – has agreed to pay £14.9 million after it was found to have let down vulnerable customers on several “totally unacceptable” fronts. Regulator Ofgem announced the settlement on Wednesday after a probe launched in 2020. Breaches include WPD not verifying that staff had the correct background checks, including criminal record checks, before visiting customers’ homes, Ofgem said.

John Cockerill Group has announced plans to increase its annual production capacity of pressurized alkaline electrolyzers to 8 GW by 2025, with new plants in China, Europe, India and the Middle East. The company has already announced plans to develop a 1 GW facility in France, as well as a 2 GW facility in India, adding to its 350 MW that is already in operation in China through subsidiary Cockerill Jingli Hydrogen. The company was responsible for 33% of global electrolyzer sales in 2021.

Kawasaki Heavy’s design for a huge long-distance hydrogen carrier vessel has been approved for development by Japanese shipping classification society ClassNK. The ship is designed with a capacity to store 160,000 cubic meter of liquefied hydrogen (equivalent to 11,200 tons) – 128 times more than the Kawasaki’s Suiso Frontier, the vessel that delivered the world’s first liquefied hydrogen cargo from Australia to Japan in February.

 

ArcelorMittal has successfully demonstrated the use of green hydrogen to reduce iron ore at one of its steelmaking facilities in Canada. Engineers at the Contrecoeur facility in Quebec replaced around 7% of the natural gas used over a 24-hour period with hydrogen produced using hydroelectricity.

Investment in new European wind farms fell by 11% in 2021 to €41 billion, according to WindEurope, despite the funding covering a record 24.6 GW of capacity (19.8 GW of which was onshore). This falls short of the 35 GW per year that the EU needs to meet its climate and energy security target.

The California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, has triggered an investigation into fossil fuel and petrochemical industries regarding their role in casing global plastics pollution. The statement on it says that for decades, these industries have aggressively promoted the development of oil-based plastic products and campaigned to minimize the public’s understanding of the harmful consequences of these products. The idea is to examine the industry effort to deceive the public and find out to what extent, these actions may have violated the law. He immediately issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil and said that just this year two studies found microplastics in human blood and living lung tissue.

The Center for Biological Diversity, CleanAirNow, Sierra Club, and 16 states have filed lawsuits in California federal court this week challenging the US Postal Service decision to replace its fleet with 150,000 ICE vehicles, instead of EVs. It has gone for a 90/10 split in favor of internal combustion engines, because it says they are cheaper and placed a huge order with Oshkosh Defense.

It may have been 7 years since Volkswagen’s Dieselgate cheat scandal but it rumbles on. This week Eurojust, Europe’s agency for criminal justice completed searches at the corporate HQ of Suzuki, Stellantis and Marelli designed to uncover evidence of faulty emissions controls on cars made for Italy in Hungarian, Italian and German plants. Once again faulty emission devices are alleged to being fitted in Italian-built diesel engines giving off huge uncounted nitrogen oxide emissions.

Clean Technica says that Volkswagen and Ford are jointly developing a midsize electric pickup truck based largely on the Amarok Volkswagen design. It is being designed in South Africa says the report and is expected to be announced in June. Seems odd given the dominance that Ford has with its own F150 Lightning. The Ford and Volkswagen versions won’t look the same, but will be virtually identical underneath the bonnet.

Canadian renewables firm Boralex which is mostly active in France, says it has just closed a deal with Energy Infrastructure Partners (EIP), a Swiss investment company to provide finance for its Strategic Plan across France with EIP taking a 30% stake in the French business. It plans to increase installed renewables capacity to 1.8 GW in 2025 and up to 3 GW in 2030 in both wind and solar power, and storage. Currently the French operation has 1.1 GW with a further 1.5 GW of projects and the business generated €134 million of business in 2021 and will result in €532 million (C$717 million) being made available.

Volkswagen and bp have signed a strategic partnership to roll-out EV fast chargers across Europe, using battery supported chargers so that new grid connections are not needed. The first units will go live now live in Dusseldorf, Germany, and up to 4,000 charge points are planned within 24 months in Germany and the UK. The existing bp charge points will be integrated into Volkswagen, Skoda and Seat/Cupra in-car dashboards and the partnership aims for up to 8,000 new charge points across Germany, UK and other European countries by end 2024.

JinkoSolar’s Q1 results have seen operating income of $2.2 billion up 86.42%, net profit up 66.39% to $60 million, and 8.031 GW of modules shipped, with 359 MW of cells and wafers, an increase of 56.7%.

First Solar’s Q1 results have seen a $0.41 loss per share, a 59% revenue decline from Q4  or 54% decline on Q1 2021, blamed on lower module sales volume, lower average prices, and the winding down of Japanese sales operations. But on the positive side it keeps racking up long-term orders, with expected shipments already amounting to 36.4 GW by 2026.

China has installed 13.21 GW solar in Q1 2022 – more than in the first six months of 2021. This reinforces predictions that the country will develop 80 GW or more this year, up from 55 GW in 2021. Within the 13.21 GW figure, 8.87 GW is distributed, and of that 2.547 GW is residential. Of the residential solar fully 1.82 GW, 72% of the total, comes from Hebei, Henan, and Shandong provinces – that’s the province surrounding Beijing and its two immediate neighbors to the south. A further 8.2% came from Anhui Province, inland from Shanghai. In the past 12 months only a third of Chinese solar installations have been utility-scale, a stark contrast to all previous years in which utility-scale installs were 50% of the total. Additionally, up till now the residential sector was a trivial fraction of the distributed category. The change is due to “whole country promotion” schemes, ordered by the central government but managed by municipalities.

Meyer Burger has announced a further increase of 400 MW to its manufacturing facility in Freiburg, Germany, bringing total output there to 1.4 GW, while its Goodyear facility in Arizona is intended to reach 1.5 GW, having begun preparatory works.

Indian module manufacturer Waaree Energies has signed a supply deal with CubicPV, which is the merger of US start-ups Hunt Perovskite Technologies and 1366 Technologies. CubicPV promises direct wafer production from a silicon bath, dodging the largest part of manufacturing expenses. No mention is made of perovskites in this context yet.

The Mexican opposition has promised free residential solar installations courtesy of state utility CFE, having previously defeated the government’s constitutional vote attempting to alter the power market.

India imported 9.7 GW of modules in Q1 module alone, with the 40% module 25% cell Basic Customs Duty imposed on April 1st, preceded by a zero-tariff grace period. That’s triple the usual amount, and means India has about a year of stocks to work through before it has to either pay through a tariff or work off its own nascent solar manufacturing industry.