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11 January 2023

The world of renewables this week

IEEFA points out this week that NV Energy has made a comparison on geothermal comparing it to the costs of nuclear and reckons that even the new NuScale Small Modular Reactor is way more expensive than existing geothermal state of the art. Two quoted projects – one at $69 per MWh and the other for $70 per MWh, which could be built virtually anywhere  – are both now way cheaper than the recently increased costs for NuScale of $89 per MWh. NV Energy will use them to retire coal plants.  One of these is with age-old tech and the other with Canada’s Eavor, which Rethink Energy has written up here.

EDF Renewables and the UK’s Luminous Energy are planning an 800 MW solar farm with battery at Springwell between Lincoln and Sleaford. It is early days yet and out for local consultation at this point.

Bloomberg revealed this week that Ford has changed its mind over who it will partner for a battery plant in Turkey – switching from LG from SK On for it Turkey battery plant. The factory is expected to begin operations by 2025 producing 30 GWh to 45 GWh. Ford wants to make 2 million EVs from this source by 2026.

The UK Guardian newspaper says that UK battery startup Britishvolt is in talks to sell a majority stake in its UK battery plants, with Indonesia’s the Barracuda Group, which is partnering with DeaLab an investor group based in the UK. The £160m rescue deal would leave existing shareholders with very little, around £30 million in value. The plan is to make 30 GWh of battery initially at a plant Blyth in Northumberland.

China’s CATL says it has started production of EV battery cells at its new €1.8 billion plant in Thuringia in Germany, which will initially output 8 GWh of battery rising to 14 GWh later by which time it will employ 2,000. Work began on the plant in 2021 and it more or less opened on time. Plans for a US plant for CATL in partnership with Ford seems to be up in the air after the Inflation reduction Act made it clear that Chines battery was not welcome in the US.

Factorial, an EV battery start up says it has developed a solid-state battery cell, and has shown it at CES on the Stellantis stand. They have been working on this since November 2021. Initially Factorial produced 40 Ah capacity cells and is working on a larger format. The fight to own the solid state space in EVs is massive, with energy density expected by some –  QuantumScape to name one – to double what has been achieved today on existing cells. This battery still uses Cobalt, but less than previous designs and Factorial only says it is 30% more dense – so around 350 Watt hours per kg.

Singapore-Swiss multinational commodity trading company Trafigura Group said today it has sold the 24.5% it holds in petrochemicals firm Nayara Energy to a subsidiary of investors Mareterra Group Holding. It has held this share since 2017 and it operates one of the largest refineries in India.

Korean solar maker Hanwha Qcells said that the Inflation Reduction Act has led to it making a major investment in a Georgia US solar factory to expand US polysilicon supply. It will make silicon ingots and wafers for the US solar market. This Wednesday is said it would invest $2.5 billion in two Georgia facilities testing the potential to build a US solar supply chain.

Hydrogen technology company Nel and Europe’s largest supplier of renewable energy, Statkraft, recently signed a deal for the delivery of 40MW of alkaline electrolyzers. This move is intended to solidify the value chain for production of green hydrogen in Norway. The electrolyzer stacks will be produced at Nel’s manufacturing plant at Herøya and used for the production of renewable hydrogen in one of Statkraft’s many hydrogen projects.

Two giga-scale wind projects in the Baltic Sea, belonging to Finland and Estonia, are set to advance. A 600MW extension to the existing 42MW Tahkoluoto wind farm in the Gulf of Bothnia will enter the permitting phase while the EIA (Environmental Program Assessment) program approved a 1.2GW project in the Gulf of Riga.

Chinese wind turbine OEM, CSSC Haizhuang, has unveiled the record breaking 18MW offshore wind turbine prototype with a 260 meters diameter rotor. The world’s most powerful wind turbine, the H260-18MW, will be able to produce 44.9kWh of clean, renewable electricity with every revolution and up to 74GWh of electricity per year.

Western Australian Government has allocated land for seven projects, most of which renewable, worth a combined AU$70 billion (US$48.5 billion). Boodarie and Asburton North Strategic Industrial Areas will house the seven projects backed by large mining and energy corporations, both global and domestic. These include Equus Energy and Fortscue Future Industries. The bulk of the projects will revolve around wind and solar farms aimed at green hydrogen production.

Belgium has postponed the phase-out of some of its remaining nuclear power plants following an agreement made with French firm Engie to extend the lifespan of three plants for another 10 years. Belgian law has since 2003 promised the gradual phase-out of the country’s nuclear plants, Russia’s war in Ukraine beginning in February of 2022 has been the primary impetus for this decision among Belgium’s coalition government. The country has kept plans to decommission two older plants. Belgium’s decision to extend the life of its nuclear plants in the short-term echoes decisions being made in neighboring Germany, as it chose to extend the life of three plants due for closure at the end of last year until April 2023.

Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will build its own EV charging infrastructure through a collaboration with ChargePoint. The company plans to have more than 400 charging hubs and 2500 high-power charging plugs operational by 2027, which will be open to all drivers. Limiting availability would be an utterly irrational decision on Mercedes’ part as a high-value, low volume manufacturer, and would severely hamstring the profitability of such a venture if it were to limit its own customers.

Audi has put forward plans to only launch new all-electric vehicles from 2026, and to phase out production of ICE vehicles from 2033. This will primarily see the company investing in existing plants and includes a €500 million training fund for employees. The company says that by 2029, all sites will be producing at least one electric vehicle model, while two sites are already solely producing EVs, its Böllinger Höfe and Brussels sites. Audi claims to wish to half factory costs by 2033, and will do so by “reducing the complexity of its vehicles where it does not benefit the customer”. The company claims that it will reduce production of ICE vehicles based on regional demand and local conditions.

Nostromo Energy is seeking an equity capital raise as part of getting a loan guarantee of $189 million from the US Department of Energy to expand its cold-storage energy solution throughout North America. The technology works by freezing water during off-peak periods and uses this ice to cool a building’s water systems during peak cooling periods, replacing chillers that would otherwise be used in an HVAC system. Nostromo claims that this system is entirely safe unlike its competitor in lithium ion and boasts an 85%+ round trip efficiency rating with no degradation since water can be frozen and unfrozen continuously without losing integrity.

Sunpower has expanded its supply agreement with Maxeon for the latter’s IBC solar module in order to serve growing US residential demand. This is the third major supply deal between the two companies, with the first being made alongside the original spinoff of Maxeon from Sunpower in 2020, and the second in February 2022.

The French parliament has progressed a bill to accelerate renewable energy development in the country, with President Macron’s minority government supported by the Socialists. The Green Party abstained and is demand certain alterations before it will lend its support to the law in another vote which will likely occur in the latter part of this month. The bill would set up dedicated “acceleration zones” in the country, grant some renewable projects public interest status to limit legal challenges to their development, and various less crucial points such as an obligation to install panels on outdoor car parks of over 1,500 meters square footprint.

China’s State Grid expects 80 GW of renewable energy capacity to be commissioned this year in the country’s Northwest region, which has a population of 100 million and doesn’t include Inner Mongolia.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos has garnered $13.76 billion of renewable investment pledges from nine Chinese corporations. State Grid already has a 40% state in the Philippines’ grid company. The Energy Secretary, Raphael Lotilla, repeated the government’s target of 27 GW solar by 2040 alongside 16 GW wind, with additional capacity offshore highly likely.

Naked Energy, a British rooftop solar thermal company we interviewed eight months ago, has partnered with Tech4Food in Portugal and with Menerga’s Greek division. The former supplies equipment to food, beverage, textiles and hospitality sectors while the latter supplies to hospitals, swimming pools and factories.