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18 January 2023

The world of renewables this week

Utility Dive reports that the California Public Utilities Commission has approved projects with San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison which will add 800 MW of new solar and storage to the Caiso grid. The SDG&E deals are one solar+storage project, by June and two energy storage battery projects for mid-2024. The SCE’s deals are four energy storage projects.

Hydrostor, Canada’s Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage specialist has signed a 25 year PPA for 200 MW capacity and 1,600 MWh output from its Willow Rock Energy Storage Center. This contract is worth almost $1 billion over the 25 years and provides up to 8 hours of energy storage to Central Coast Community Energy.

The Greenko Group said this week it will invest about $1.2 billion in a pumped hydro storage project in India’s Madhya Pradesh, offering daily storage capacity of 11 GWh. It will be connected to the inter-state transmission system network and will be commissioned by December 2024 and generate 4,000 jobs.

Trafigura said this week it has agreed to purchase 50,000 tons of CO2 removal credits from the First Movers Coalition (FMC). FMC was launched at Cop 26, and coalition members commit in advance to purchasing a proportion of the industrial materials and long-distance transportation from suppliers using zero-carbon solutions, despite a premium cost.

The idea of Swansea in Wales having a tidal lagoon has never really gone away, but now it has come back in the form of one that required government cash, to one that doesn’t.  It was re-launched last week as a £1.7 billon project to by the Swansea Council called Blue Eden built around a 9.5km-long breakwater wall as part of a tidal lagoon, 72,000 square meters of floating solar panels and will include a battery factory and a data center run on renewable energy. The plan is being led by DST Innovations, which builds industrial batteries in the US.

Italy’s native EV battery maker Italvolt said this week it will license a fast-charging battery design from Israeli start-up StoreDot.

Cleantechnica reports that Ford dealers are digging in their heels over being asked to shell out close to $1 million become an electrified dealer, with 40% saying they won’t upgrade. The money is to install two Level 3 DC fast chargers and seven Level 2 chargers across the top 130 dealer markets.

Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée talking to Auto Express said that the world is about to fall out of love with SUVs, saying “The world of SUVs is done.” Sales numbers do not yet agree with him with SUVs making up for 50% of European car registrations since 2021. But he argues that aerodynamics deliver much better range, and SUVs, don’t have that on their side and estimates it will make 70 kilometers range difference.

The price of polysilicon has jumped 25% in the past week according to Shanghai Metals Market figures. It’s back up to $26 per kilogram, which is still less than two-thirds of the October 2022 price. The jump has several causes, such as the recovery of demand from the wafer segment, and the simple fact that the price decline was excessively rapid in the past few weeks – it isn’t surprising to see some bumps on the way. Perhaps most importantly, there was reportedly a recent meeting of several major polysilicon producers at a conference in Chengdu.

The Chilean arm of research institute Fraunhofer has published a study demonstrating that a combined PV-CSP system can replicate the dispatchability of gas power as a lower LCOE. Thanks to Chile’s excellent conditions, even a PV-CSP system that only supplied power at night-time could operate at $71 per MWh.

Tibet now has a 20%, 4-hour co-located energy storage requirement for solar power projects, on both counts double the requirement typically seen elsewhere in China, which reflects the Autonomous Region’s limited interconnection with the national grid.

The $30 billion Sun Cable project, which was to develop 20 GW of solar capacity in north-western Australia and sell the power to Jakarta and Singapore through a 4,200-kilometer submarine power cable, has entered voluntary administration. We could discuss technical, political and financial obstacles. But the simplest explanation is that any other type of solar project, except the one in the next paragraph, is lower-hanging fruit with a swifter payoff and easier financing. Sun Cable is by no means dead, but its time has not yet come.

Space Solar is to collaborate with Saudi Arabia’s NEOM megaproject to develop space-based solar farms which beam power back down to terrestrial receivers in the form of radio waves. It’s a fitting addition to the utterly grandiose nature of the $409 billion set of NEOM schemes. Which isn’t to say that space-based solar is a stupid idea – the power beam could be redirected across thousands of miles, obviating the need for a lot of expensive transmission development, and while orbital deployment is vastly more expensive than a normal solar project, it also enjoys ten times the irradiation and is consistent. Space Solar’s plans were backed by a meeting between the UK Business Secretary and Saudi Arabia’s Communications Minister.

A perovskite research team from the University of Queensland has described the technological barriers still in the way of commercializing the next-gen photovoltaic semiconductor. One main problem is the use of lead, a pollutant. Perovskite formulae that substitute tin for lead have inferior performance and lifetime, while tandem perovskites will require research into electrode materials with higher conductivity. The team also predicts that perovskites will need a recycling industry just as First Solar’s CdTe product does.

PowerChina’s 2023 solar module procurement bidding, 26 GW in scale, saw prices ranging from a high of $297 per kW to a low of $218 per kW. The average was $250 per kW.

An IEA report has found that global clean energy technology manufacturing will be worth $650 billion come 2030.

PJM Interconnection power plant operators may be fined a couple of billion dollars for their failure to maintain electricity supply during Winter Storm Elliot in December, according to a preliminary finding by the grid operator.

Amogy has successfully tested the first-ever ammonia-powered, zero emission semi-truck. After initially testing the technology in a 5kW drone in 2021 and then a 100kW tractor in 2022, Amogy has scaled up to 300kW for its latest test. The fueling of the truck took eight minutes, thus enabling the truck 900kWh worth of energy. The truck ran for several hours on the campus of Stony Brook University, New York. The next step for Amogy is a real-world operating condition test later this month.

Rolls-Royce has announced that it has conducted successful tests of a 12-cyclinder gas variant of the mtu Series 400 L64 engine running on 100% hydrogen. The test results showed that the engine running on hydrogen promising hydrogen can achieve good levels of efficiency, performance, emissions and combustion. The mtu engine is widely used in maritime applications. Rethink covered the topic of sustainable shipping in a previous article when shipping giant, Maersk, announced its advocacy for green methanol (CH3OH) as a future sustainable fuel through a deal signed with the Spanish Government.

According to Raj Jumar Singh, the Indian Minster of Power and Renewable Energy, India and the UAE have signed an agreement that will see the two countries collaborate on an interconnection of their electricity grids as part of the wider OSOWOG (One Sun, One World, One Grid) initiative. The two countries have also signed a MoU on green hydrogen development.

French utility Engie and the Belgian Federal Government have signed an agreement that will see the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power reactors be restarted in 2026 and operated for a further ten years. Both units are currently scheduled to be shut down in 2025.

Statkraft has announced a deal with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) as part of its plans to develop up to 2.2 gigawatts of offshore wind in Ireland. This partnership will see CIP acquire a 50% stake in Statkraft’s offshore wind portfolio in Ireland. Developing and building the projects included in the deal is expected to require an investment of more than €4 billion by the two companies by 2030.

The US Department of Energy has announced $42 million in funding for 12 companies as part of its Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living (EVs4ALL) program.

  • 24M will receive $3.2 million to develop its SemiSolid sodium metal batteries.
  • Ampcera will receive $2 million to further develop its solid-state battery technology.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory will receive $3.4 million to assess data representing the risk of next-generation cells.
  • Ohio State University will receive $3.9 million to scale its high-power battery technology that can both be rapidly charged with minimal degradation.
  • Project K will receive $2.6 million to develop its potassium-ion battery, which can be charged significantly faster than li-ion.
  • Sandia National Laboratories will receive $3.7 million to develop a novel predictive simulation/modeling and testing framework to evaluate battery material and cell safety.
  • Solid Power will receive $5.6 million to develop its Li-S batteries.
  • South 8 will receive $3.2 million to develop li-ion cells with a novel liquified gas electrolyte combines with its Lithium Nickel Manganese Oxide (LNMO) cathode material.
  • Tyfast Energy will receive $2.8 million to use new chemistries and electrolytes to develop a new fast-charging battery with a long cycle-life.
  • The University of Maryland will receive $4.9 million to research improvements in Li-metal solid state batteries.
  • Virginia Tech will receive $2.9 million to develop battery anodes from coal waste products.
  • Zeta Energy will receive $4 million to develop a high lithium content anode in search of higher performance battery characteristics.

The US state of Wyoming has motioned to pass a bill banning the sale of electric vehicles in the state by 2035. The state of just 550,000 people put forward the bill banning electric vehicles citing that “The oil and gas industry has long been one of Wyoming’s proud and valued industries”. The state produced 85 million barrels of crude oil in 2021, making it the eighth largest oil producing state. One of the bill’s proponents, Republican Senator Brian Boner, said “I’m interested in making sure that the solutions that some people want for the so-called climate crisis are actually workable.” Telling you all that needs to be known about the Senator’s scientific literacy. The bill is unlikely to have any meaningful effect on EV sales, as the state’s population isn’t even that of a small metropolitan area, but it could lead to other backwards states following Wyoming in banning electric vehicle sales in support of their oil-dependent backers.

Canada has green-lit the James Bay lithium mining project in Quebec, that will produce an average of 321,000 tons of spodumene concentrate over a 19 year mien lifespan. The project is owned by Galaxy Lithium Canada, a subsidiary of Allkem, the project will require an initial capital expenditure of $286 million, and is expected to have an after-tax return rate of 35.2% and a payback period of 2.9 years.