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26 October 2022

The world of renewables this week

Researchers from Swiss research institute Empa have produced a 22.2%-efficient flexible CIGS solar cell on plastic film, a record for that category usable in BIPV, vehicles, satellites and small-scale devices. Manufacturer Flisom is working with the institute on roll-to-roll printing of CIGS cells.

The photovoltaic semiconductor material Kesterite (Cu2ZnSnS4, CZTS) has seen some research progress with a paper laying out a technique to produce a 13%-efficient Kesterite cell. The previous record of 12.6% was set in 2013. This research comes from the Nanjing University of Posts & Telecommunications, Fudan University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Washington, with the team reaching 12.96% over a 0.11cm2 test cell and 11.7% over a 1.1cm2 test cell.

Vast Solar, the Australian liquid-sodium CSP company, has announced plans for a 1 GW CSP gigafactory of heliostats and solar receivers to be built in Australia itself. The company also intends to develop a 12-hour, 30 MW CSP project by 2025 at Port Augusta, South Australia – this project may then be scaled to 150 MW. Vast Solar has a pilot production line at Goodna in Queensland state, has been researching and demonstrating its technology at its 1.1 MW Jemalong installation since 2009, and is pursuing a 50 MW CSP project, part of a hybrid energy plant, at the remote mining town of Mt. Isa.

Many world-leading solar manufacturers have launched legal actions attempting to restore the US’ tariff exemption for bifacial modules. Informally stated, their legal logic is that the US doesn’t have its own bifacial production capacity and thus has no domestic industry to protect for this particular type of goods. Mostly it’s Chinese companies launching these lawsuits but there’s also activity from Hanwha Q Cells and Waaree Solar.

CATL, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, has filed a patent covering perovskite photovoltaic cells, preparation methods, and electrical equipment. In May the company announced development of its first perovskite pilot production line. Reportedly the patent involves use of ammonia gas in a sealed cavity between the transparent substrate and the backplane, with a volume fraction of 10-100% with the remainder being inert gas.

Utility Georgia Power in the US is accused this week by the solar industry of taking $1.87 billion more revenue since 2011 from US homes than it was approved to by the Georgia Public Service Commission. This is because Georgia Power’s altered residential tariffs to recover costs from households with rooftop solar . All of which was unnecessary according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, which has called for closer oversight by the Commission of Georgia Power.

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi based renewables business has acquired UK battery energy storage system (BESS) developer Arlington Energy, which has a 170MW pipeline of assets which it has built up in just two years. Masar plans to finance most of these projects. Masdar also said it would increase investment in offshore wind and other renewables in the UK.

Our pal Kingsmill Bond, over at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has put together a presentation on the energy transition in Europe where he maintains that fossil fuels in Europe have bene in decline 15 years, and by the end of 2021, fossil fuel demand had already fallen by 22% saying that fossil fuels are in retreat in every single area of demand and supply and that 80% of total capital flows were into clean energy and that Putin’s war has galvanized action further action. Europe will go on to teach other regions how to do this. See here.

Australia says it will build the world’s biggest grid battery so that Australia can to shut down its biggest coal plant. Akaysha Energy says it has won the contract this week to build an 850 MW /1,680 MWh battery called the Waratah Super Battery in New South Wales. It will sit where the Munmorah coal plant was and deliver to the grid to support the 2025 closure of Eraring, Australia’s largest coal plant. This battery would be about twice the size of the existing 3 phases of Moss Landing, but that site has more phases to build out, which if they arrive on time, will keep it as the world’s largest battery at 1,500 MW and 6,000 MWh at some unspecified date prior to 2030.

Sources in Canada told Reuters that it will provide C$ 970 million (US $708 million) to finance a new nuclear small modular reactor (SMR), as part of its plans to reduce emissions. It will be developed by Ontario Power Generation and be the first commercial grid-scale SMR in the Group of Seven wealthy nations. It will have to hurry to make that, it’s currently a race between the US and the UK.

Everledger a supply chain traceability company says it will launch a battery passport pilot with car maker Ford, so that it can prove it is being responsible around battery recycling from electric vehicles. This pilot relies on Everledger’s ability to track batteries throughout their lifecycle. Let’s face it everyone that wants to sell cars with subsidies from the US government is going to need something like this – so expect more such services and contracts. Ford will use it first on its Mustang Mach-E and Everledger claims its product uses both blockchain and AI. Probably true but how will that help if you start with a Chinese battery that won’t play ball with identification?

H2 Green Steel has completed an equity financing round worth €260 million to build the world’s first large scale green steel plant in Sweden. Investors such as Hitachi Energy, Kobe Steel, Kinnevik contributed with €70 million in new investments.

Chinese wind turbine manufacturer, Goldwind, is looking to build a factory for giant turbines in Brazil. The plant could be operational by 2024 and will produce systems rated between 6MW and 7.8MW.

 

Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Investment Company has acquired a stake in Skyborn Renewables and half of the 1.6GW Bluepoint Wind project in New York Bight. Skyborn has a current pipeline of offshore wind projects worth 30GW as well as stakes in five plants in locations including Germany, France, Taiwan.

Ørsted and Copenhagen Infrastructure partners agreed to co-develop four offshore wind projects in Denmark of about 5.2GW combined power. The projects correspond to more than double the current installed offshore capacity in the country. The target for this development is 2027/2028.

A city in the Chinese province of Guangdong intends to start work on a 43.4 GW offshore wind farm before 2025. The project would represent a higher capacity than all of Norway’s power plants combined.

GE Renewables is on course to lose $2 billion in 2020 and has set itself up for a round of restructuring. According to GE, the losses are largely due to the higher than anticipated warranty pressure, inflation, and lower demand. The planned restructuring is believed to have the potential to save GE $0.5 billion per year. GE lost almost $1 billion in Q3 2022 alone out of which $500 million in warranty related costs, but it was reported earlier this fall that the US based company plans to invest $600 million in its wind energy arm in an attempt to get it back on track and become profitable by the mid-2020s.

 

French minerals company Imerys has unveiled plans to develop a lithium mine in central France. Surveys suggest the plant could have the potential to produce 34,000 tons of lithium hydroxide annually from 2028 for 25 years. Enough to produce around 700,000 EVs per year. Estimated capital expenditure required would be around $983 million (1 billion Euros). This is however prior to local consideration and the EU’s potential classification of lithium as a hazardous chemical, which could raise costs or stop the mine opening altogether.

Rio Tinto has been in discussions with investment bankers looking to expand their lithium offerings. The company had originally intended to expand into lithium production through what would have been the largest lithium mine in Europe, but local opposition resulted in government intervention and the revoking of that particular license. Rio Tinto has since bought a mine in Argentina it is looking to get into production around 2024/2025.

There have been multiple reports of EVs in Florida that that have caught fire as a result of being submerged in salt water brought about by Hurricane Ian. While these fires have been brought under control, the flooding has raised issues concerning battery pack safety in disaster-prone areas. The batteries caught fire as a result of corrosion and contamination from the salt-water creating a thermal runaway event, but this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last instance of lithium-ion batteries presenting a fire risk.

Octopus Energy and Vauxhall have partnered to offer consumers incentives to switch to electric vehicles. The package includes an all-renewable smart tariff that claims to reduce energy bills from charging by up to £660 per year, so long as all charging takes place in tariff-reduced hours. New Vauxhall customers will have the cost of charger installation covered in the price of the vehicle, effectively a £1000 discount, and will enable drivers to use Octopus’ Electric Universe charging scheme.

 

China’s Zhejiang province now hosts an industrial molten salt energy storage project powered by green electricity – the province is not suitable to CSP, so instead the power input comes from renewable electricity generation. The scale of this installation in the Tianshi Low-Carbon Industrial Park is primarily reported as “50 tons per hour” – apparently a kWh or kW measurement would not be relevant, as converting from electricity to heat and back would be excessively inefficient compared to a normal battery. Instead the heat is used directly in the local chemical fiber printing and dyeing industry. This 50 ton/hour project cost $28 million and occupies 10 acres, and the developer Zhejiang Tiansheng Holding Group states that 32 GWh can be generated annually, suggesting the project’s scale is around 4 MW.