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19 July 2019

The world of renewables this week

Reuters reports this week that deforestation of the Brazilian rain forest has accelerated and in the first 15 days of July satellite data shows an area of 1,000 square kilometers was cleared, about 68% more than the entire July last year. This creates so much carbon release, and kills off carbon absorbing trees, that some voice in the EU are now saying that green factions are likely to use this fact to vote down a trade deal with Brazil.

National Grid Ventures has completed its $100 million purchase of Geronimo Energy, a wind and solar developer in the US. The deal was announced in March and the National Grid has also entered into a joint venture agreement with Washington State Investment Board. National Grid contributed $125 million for a 51% share in the JV, which acquired 379 MW of solar and wind generation projects from Geronimo Renewable Infrastructure Partners.

Shell has backed a blockchain business LO3 Energy, investing through Shell Ventures for its community energy networks which are said to roll out less carbon intensive microgrids, by providing local energy transactions and demand response energy management. Siemens has also previously invested in LO3, adopting its Exergy platform into its energy management division. Shell’s investment was alongside investment by the Sumitomo Corporation.

Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF) for the development of 500MW of renewable projects in Armenia based on 200MW of solar, 200MW of onshore wind and 100MW of floating solar. Armenia relies on hydro so it will have plenty of reservoirs on top of its dams which suit floating solar. Armenia aims to generate 26% of power from renewable resources by 2025.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Instituto de Credito Oficial (ICO) will finance the development of a 500MW solar project that Iberdrola is developing in Spain, the Nunez de Balboa solar plant, being built in Extremadura, claims to be the largest solar plant under construction in Europe. The EIB will lend €145m and the ICO up to €140m to the project.

The Oman Power and Water Procurement company is calling for developers for its Manah Solar I IPP and Manah Solar II IPP projects with a capacity of 500 MW and 600 MW, respectively. Both plants will be located at Manah which is around 150 km southwest of Muscat. Bidders will have until August 26 to pre-qualify for the tender.

E.ON grid operator Schleswig-Holstein Netz has started construction work

on the island of Sylt laying a submarine cable from the mainland. The cable, will be about 15 kilometers long and weigh 800 tons. Once the submarine cable has been laid, the E.ON network operator will begin dismantling the disused 60,000 volt overhead line.

We did a review of the beliefs and opinions of Ursula von der Leyen last week and she has been duly elected the first female European Commission president in a narrow vote. During her campaign she lifted climate change to being her “number one priority” for the EU and she proposed an EU carbon border tax.

The Wilderness Society has done a count, and found that Donald Trump’s leases of US public lands and waters for oil and gas drilling could produce more CO2 than the entire European Union. It estimates heat-trapping emissions from extracting and burning those fossil fuels could range between 854m and 4.7bn metric tons of CO2 while the 28 nations in the EU produced just 4bn metric tons of CO2 equivalent in its last reported year.

Meanwhile the green state of Los Angeles users energy from the Intermountain coal plant in Utah. It has been LA’s single-largest power source for three decades, supplying up to a third of the city’s electricity from out of state. When it shuts down in 2025, there are plans to replace it with a natural gas-fired turbine even though California has shut down three gas plants in its own backyard at a cost of $865 million. This will trigger a political bun-fight.

During Q1 the net additions of on-grid power generation capacity in Africa was 1,097 MW the lowest it’s been since 2011. Solar contributed the most at 556 MW according to data from African Energy Live Data. Close to 776 MW was added by independent power producers and just 283 MW of state-owned capacity. The fall in capacity additions is caused by factors such as the slowing of procurement cycle in Egypt and South Africa and a policy shift towards consolidation and environmental sustainability.

One of India’s biggest chemicals suppliers, Tata Chemicals said it will announced set up a lithium-ion battery plant in the western state of Gujarat – its first venture into lithium-ion battery production. The company also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organization whereby the lithium-ion cell technology developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre was transferred to Tata Chemicals. It will spend $580 million and eventually output 10 GW per annum. The news came days after tax incentives for battery production was announced by the government.

We’re not sure when anyone suggested that Vestas stopped being top dog in wind turbines, but according to a report out this week, it is back on top in 2018, according to Navigant Research. Wind power capacity decreased year-to-year from 52 GW to 50.6 GW, due to increased competition from solar and Vestas retook the top position from Siemens Gamesa in 2018 with a record 10.4 GW installed. If these are 2018 numbers why are they only out this week? It also says that while there are an impressive number of turbines in China, those players rarely play outside the Chinese market. It lists Vestas, Siemens Gamesa, GE Renewable Energy, Nordex and Enercon among the leaders and said that GE Renewable Energy retook the lead in the United States from Vestas.

Leading inverter designer SolarEdge said this week that its StorEdge inverters have been ordered by National Grid’s ConnectedSolutions program to be rolled out in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Owners of new and pre-installed StorEdge inverters are eligible to receive financial incentives for participating in the program that relies on SolarEdge’s centrally managed grid services platform.

Clean Technica says that in the sparsely populated Pilbara region of Western Australia there are plans for an Asian Renewable Energy Hub – a hybrid solar wind installation across 6,500 square kilometers planned for at least 11 GW of energy, which has now risen to 15 GW. Partners include InterContinental Energy, CWP Energy Asia and Vestas, with financial support from the Macquarie Group. While some energy will be sold locally the idea is to push most of it into a hydrogen manufacturing hub to be sold in Australia, Japan and South Korea, who want to use it in vehicles and industrial applications such as replacing coking coal in steel production.

A Virtual Power Plant in Oakland, California taking in 500 residential solar-plus-battery storage systems installed on low-income homes from solar giant Sunrun between now and 2022 hopes to offer grid reliability capacity and replace a 40-year old Oakland power plant, which burns jet fuel.

EU leaders are struggling to get Poland to give up its addiction to coal energy, mostly because Poland wants a lot of cash in order to achieve it. Poland was one of four member states which blocked a deal on net-zero emissions at the last meeting of national leaders in June. Poland seems to think it is in a very strong negotiating position, well get ready to pay out for some serous Carbon Credits – that bit’s not negotiable .

After the UK government cut its subsidies for energy saving improvements in UK homes, there was an 85% fall against the past five years. Paying for moves like loft insulation or boiler upgrades have fallen to 10,000 a month compared to an average of 65,000 a month in 2014.

The leading Chinese generator China Energy Group says it will add 6 GW of new ultra-low emission coal-fired capacity this year and build another 5 GW next year. The government now supports regions with poor wind and solar resources to use coal-fired power and China Energy had coal-fired plants up to 175 GW at the end of 2018, but confirmed it would shut down small and polluting coal-fired power units in time for emissions to peak by 2030.

BHP has said that it plans to cut thermal coal production next year in bid to diversify. BHP expects its New South Wales Energy coal production will fall as by 18% next year from 18M tonnes this year. BHP’s Australian thermal coal operations includes lower-grade coal, such as is often bought by China. It’s figures show that revenues are falling and actually it has little choice.

Stanford University has a new report out suggesting that excess renewable energy can be used to make hydrogen, not the first time we have heard that idea. Given that much of the renewable energy in the US is curtailed at times, this makes it cheap, which would make the hydrogen market viable. It is not really giving enough credit to renewables here, especially as a battery surge will push renewables as dispatchable power. However as the cost of electrolyzers come down there may be a viable case for using more hydrogen in the energy economy.