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19 May 2022

The world of renewables this week

Saudi Aramco is now – regrettably – the world’s most valuable company, having overtaken Apple in market cap this week. The company reported an 82% surge in quarterly profits, posting a net income of $39.5 billion – its highest since it listed publicly in 2019. Aramco identifies the result as a combination of improved refining margins through Covid-19, and the currently elevated price of oil, which is currently trading at around $110 per barrel – up over 60% from this time last year. Unlike many of its fossil fuel peers, Aramco has no plans to shift away from oil. Having increased total production to 13 million barrels per day over the past three months – up from 12.3 million in Q1 2021 – the company also hopes to increase natural gas output by 50% by 2030.

Vestas has released a new 4.5 MW turbine model – the V163-4.5 MW – which features a 18% increase in swept area compared to its predecessor. With 80.1-meter blade length, the model will have higher capacity factor and output at medium and low wind speeds. Vestas claims that this will result in a 10% in annual energy production compared to previous models.

UK energy regulator Ofgem will seek to increase the frequency at which it adjusts the price cap for consumers. Energy bills for more than 22 million households could change every three months rather than every six from October, under proposals published on Monday.

 

Gazprom has shut off its gas supplies to Europe through its Yamal pipeline, as part of Russia’s retaliatory sanctions on the continent’s gas companies. The pipeline runs from Russia to Germany, via Poland, and is now the second that the Kremlin is weaponizing in response to western sanctions on Russia’s assets.

Importing green hydrogen from abroad will be cheaper that Europe producing its own, according to analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute. According to research published this week, imported green hydrogen would cost around $3.75 per kilogram in 2024, falling to $2 per kilogram by 2030. Domestically produced hydrogen would also reduce to around this level by 2030, but would cost around $4 per kilogram in 2024. The production of blue hydrogen, using natural gas and carbon capture, will never be cost competitive with either source of green hydrogen, the report adds. Most expensive of all, due to carbon pricing, would be new European grey hydrogen production, which will cost $5 per kilogram in 2024.

The UK Government has failed in its pledge to deliver £241 million towards net zero projects, according to research by The Independent. Instead, that amount of funding was handed back to the Treasury in the last financial year by the business department. The money was supposed to be linked to the green homes grant scheme, set up to boost the energy efficiency of homes.

Electricity prices in the US have continued to rise through Q1 2022, compared to this time last year. In the PJM Interconnection, a rise of 51% to $80.28 per MWh has been reported on the wholesale market for the quarter. In the New England ISO, costs have soared 83% to $137 per MWh. Prices are being blamed on the rising price of LNG exports.

French retailer Casino is hoping to sell its renewable energy unit GreenYellow by the end of the year, with a potential value of $1.56 billion. GreenYellow, which produces low clean power for businesses, said in February it had raised about €200 million to support future growth.

Finland has become the latest country to stop receiving imports of Russian electricity, after it halted payments to the company on May 6. On Friday, Russian utility, Inter RAO, said it would stop exports. Finland’s electricity system operator, Fingrid, said that it would substitute Russian power imports, which accounted for around 10% of its energy needs, for Swedish ones.

Synthetic fuel – produced using power-to-liquid technologies – could start decarbonizing the aviation sector as soon as the mid-2030s, according to Australian airline Quantas.

 

US solar manufacturer First Solar has signed a deal with Scout Clean Energy to supply 378 MW of thin film solar modules. The deal was booked prior to the release of First Solar’s Q1 2022 earnings in April. Scout part of Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners from Boulder, Colorado, is developing a portfolio over 12,000 MW across 21 US states. Scout will use the modules in 2024. First Solar does not use Silicon but instead uses thin film CdTe and has been upgrading manufacture as fast as it can in the current silicon crisis.

US silicon anode maker Amprius Technologies, a supplier to lithium ion batteries will go public by merger with a blank-check firm in a deal that values it at $939 million. The deal is with Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp IV will fetch $430 million, $200 million of which is an additional equity financing from the special-purpose acquisition company’s account. This way of going public has proved more and more troublesome, and it is losing its sheen. Amprius offers a patented silicon nanowire anode.

Washington State based Sila Materials, another silicon anode designer, says that Mercedes-Benz will use its product in its G-Class EV. This has an energy density of 800 Wh per liter. Sila claims its technology enables up to a 40% increase in car range.

Li-Cycle said this week it has opened its Arizona lithium ion recycling center for business in Gilbert, Arizona. It will recycle full EV packs without dismantling them manually.

Swedish battery maker Northvolt and Norwegian aluminum supplier Hydro have partnered to create Hydrovolt, described as the largest battery recycling facility in Europe. It is in Fredrikstad, south Norway, and it has just begun operations. And can recycle 12,000 tons of depleted batteries a year, rising to 70,000 tons by 2025 and 300,000 tons by 2030. It is also fully automated.

Congress is being asked to reform US hydropower licensing by a group of industry and environmental and native tribal groups, and this group spoke to members of the US House Energy Subcommittee this week. Congress passed reforms in 2018 but few of these were ever implemented by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because they are deemed too sensitive. This has come about after a 3-year effort to get all relevant constituencies to agree on a new set of rules, currently it takes at least 10 years to get planning even for hydro pumped storage which does not affect water supplies. If hydro in the US does not find itself with new rules soon, hydro will not only be left out of the entire energy transition, but existing hydro will become less and less appealing to existing licensees, who will seek to exit the market, rather than repair old, outdated hydro. Whatever is agreed, it is unlikely much will change within hydro.

 

Perovskite manufacturer Saule Technologies, which we interviewed last week, is to participate with both Google Cloud and fellow Polish company Columbus Energy on Internet of Things (IoT) products.

Dongfang Risheng, Trina Solar, JinkoSolar, and Chint are among the companies pursuing large-scale manufacturing expansion of N-type solar cells this year. Within the N-type category, heterojunction offers higher current production costs and lower theoretical production costs, and is attracting a greater share of entrants from other economic sectors, while TOPcon is more compatible with existing production line infrastructure and has a higher theoretical efficiency, of 28.7% as compared to heterojunction’s 27.5%. JinkoSolar was one of the first to establish a TOPcon production line with 900 MW in 2019, which has grown to 16 GW in 2022, while Trina solar has 8 GW – and total TOPcon production capacity planned to be built as of 2022 comes to 60 GW.

Risen Energy’s new heterojunction product is a 740W, 210mm BIPV offering with 25.2% efficiency. Its half-cut cells are only 120μm thick, as compared to the industry standard of 160 μm or more. Polysilicon use is proportional to that thickness, and polysilicon factories are largely powered with electricity from coal plants, so that explains why this heterojunction product claims to be 30% less carbon-intensive than its rivals. before the recent polysilicon shortage mainstream wafers were still working with 175 μm thicknesses.

China’s Shaanxi Province has implemented a $150 per MWh electricity price for cryptocurrency mining, tax included.

The China Automobile Association has issued figures showing that 1,034 fuel cell vehicles have been manufactured in China so far this year, with 832 sold – the two figures are 640% and 340% higher compared to last year. As for pure electric vehicles, 1.605 million were produced and 1.556 million sold, up by 110% from last year. Of that total 1.278 million and 1.239 million were purely electric, but that subcategory grew by only 100%. In 2021, two million new EVs were registered in China.

China’s 2022 Coronavirus resurgence has spread across much of its eastern heartland, interrupting trade and industry. Polysilicon factories in the rural periphery have largely been spared, but the logistics for equipment and sometimes raw material supply has been disrupted, especially for new factories and construction work. We could guess that the impact has been relatively soft, causing price rises to intensify from 1% per week to 2%.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang has presided over a meeting of the State Council in which $7.4 billion in new renewable energy subsidies were allocated to central power generation companies, with another $1.5 billion for coal enterprises to upgrade and expand their output.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission has announced that construction has already begun on 85 GW of the 450 GW of wind-solar-storage desert hybrid complexes which have been planned mainly in China’s north. Another such project, the 2 GW solar 1.08 GW wind Bengbu Wuhe Integrated Energy Base, which includes unspecified storage, was approved this week in the centrally located Anhui Province. The Commission also stated that coal generation units consuming more than 300 grams of coal per kWh must be upgraded.