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4 October 2019

The world of renewables this week

CNN says the 700MW Mengneng Xilin Thermal Power Plant in Mongolia is pumping out ‘thick white smoke’ despite Chinese pledges to stop the construction in January 2017. This contradicts China’s pledge to reduce coal dependence and reach peak carbon emissions by 2030.

Coking coal imports in China have soared to record highs this Summer with 9.07 million tonnes imported since January, a 20% increase over the prior year. The primary use of coking coal is to refine coke for use in steel manufacture. Other coal imports to China are down.

Spain’s, Endesa subsidiary of ENEL says it will shut its largest coal plant there a 7.5GW traditional thermal plant and said on the Spanish Stock market coal is no longer a competitive for power generation. It proposes to write down $1.4 billion as result of the shutdown, including decommission costs. Spain is targeting 100% renewables by 2050 and Endesa wants a series of investments in solar, storage and electric vehicles.

Hanwha’s Q Cells solar panel factory has been operating since January and expects to be “running at full capacity by the end of the year” says director Scott Mokowitz. The factory is said to be producing over 10,000 modules per day, near to its target 12,000 capacity.

Xcel Energy says this week it has two deals which seem contradictory, one buying energy from the 240MW Bihorn solar plant, in Colorado, but secondly the procurement of a 720MW gas plant in Mankato, Minnesota.

Germany’s first floating solar PV facility has been announced by French floating specialist Ciel & Terre, which will provide 736 MWh per year from inside a quarry near Renchen. Energy will be used by mining company Ossola GmbH, with construction provided by Erdgas Südwest.

China’s National Energy Administration says the Fengning pumped storage project in Hebei province will come online prior to the 2022 Winter Olympics and be fully completed in 2023, offering 3.6 GW, one of the largest in the world. It uses reversible generators, pumped uphill and released downhill through a turbine, which came out of a collaboration between GE, Andritz and Dongfang Electric. It needs just 5 minutes notice to initiate grid supply.

Lithium carbon dioxide batteries have been demonstrated as rechargeable by materials researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This is significant because they have an energy density 7 times greater than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Carbon accumulation at the cathode has previously prevented lithium carbon dioxide batteries from lasting beyond just a few cycles. This was solved using a molybdenum disulphide cathode catalyst alongside a hybrid electrolyte, and now 500 cycles have been shown. Its early days, but the energy-dense batteries may also open up opportunities to use carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

GE Renewable Energy has been awarded energy storage contracts in both California and Australia adding 400MWh of battery storage to its global capacity. Convergent Energy and Power will use GE’s battery storage on three of its California-based projects, with 100MWh of capacity in total. In Australia, the 200MW Solar River project hopes the GE battery will provide a fast-reacting capacity for rapid renewable growth and turn solar power into a dispatchable resource.

Tata Power Solar Systems has been contracted to develop a 70 MW to 105 MW floating solar project in Kerala, India, to be used by government controlled NTPC. In a deal worth $48.8 million, including O&M for three years, the project is to be commissioned with 21 months.

AT&T has announced that its renewable energy purchases will surpass 1.5 GW with new additions from wind and solar deals with Invenergy and Duke Energy Renewables.

The planned offshore windfarms at Dogger Bank windfarm in the North Sea have chosen to use the GE Haliade-X wind turbines. These use a 107 meter long blade and will reach 260 meters in height.

US utility PacifiCorp said in a resource plan filed this week that it will rely solar plus batteries going forwards and wind power, for new long-term energy needs. It will therefore shut down economically hampered coal plants ahead of schedule. Its’ plan goes out to 2038. It would close 5 coal plants in Wyoming by 2028 but this is likely to set it on a collision course with local politicians who are coal lovers, who have brought in a law that says they cannot simply close them early but must try to sell them. The plan calls for 3.5 GW of new wind by 2025, and 4.6 GW by 2038.

Four British energy suppliers face an ultimatum to pay £14.7 million in cumulative Renewable Obligation fees or lose their energy licences after failing to pay up on time. Ofgem named Robin Hood Energy, Toto Energy, Gnergy and Delta Gas and Power. The payments are needed to buy renewable obligation certificates, demonstrating to Ofgem a transition away from fossil fuels.

The New South Wales government in Australia has announced plans for legislation which will prevent climate change being allowed to be given as a reason for blocking coal mine projects. Following the NSW Minerals Council’s disagreements over the scope of greenhouse gas emissions being used to reject projects such as the Rocky Hill coalmine, discussions are underway as to how to protect the interests of the coal industry.

On a more positive note, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced funds for two renewable hydrogen projects, focusing on ammonia production. The investment of nearly $3 million in total entails feasibility studies involving existing ammonia facilities owned by Queensland Nitrates and Dyno Nobel Moranbah, with research partners including Neoen and Worley.  Studies aim to enable 20% of gas consumption to be replaced with renewable hydrogen and ammonia generated through the electrolysis of water.

Norway’s Sovereign Wealth fund is to remove investment in companies dedicated to oil and gas exploration, but will maintain stakes in existing refineries and integrated oil firms. The $1.1 trillion fund aims to divert its finances away from oil and gas, with a reported $5.9 billion of oil and gas related stocks to be sold. Norway has said the decision aims to protect the country from any permanent drops in oil prices, rather than due to a moral environmental standpoint, detailing that divestments would take place gradually.

The Scottish government has confirmed this week a policy of continuing an indefinite ban on fracking.

Tesla has acquired DeepScale, a specialist in low wattage processors, to aid its development of computer vision within their autonomous vehicle projects. Few details have been published regarding the acquisition, although DeepScale had previously been reported to have raised nearly $20 million in venture capitalist funding.

Equinor has cashed in on half of its 50% stake in the Arkona offshore windfarm in Germany in a deal worth €500 million. Equinor will maintain a 25% interest, with RWE holding the remaining 50% following their takeover from E.ON this week.

Anheuser-Busch has announced their purchase of 21 fully electric trucks for their North American Class 8 fleet. The new trucks, designed by BYD, were funded by $11 million split evenly between the Californian Air Resourced Board and Anheuser-Busch stakeholders.

The Brussels based European Academies Science Advisory Council has advised governments to stop investing billions of euros in subsidizing biomass power plants. Due to the relatively low energy content of wood, net CO2 release can often be greater than when burning coal or gas of the same mass, and tree replacement is unlikely to be fast enough to provide a sustainable solution. The 628 biomass installations planned in the Netherland alone have a combined subsidy package of €11.4 billion. Invested companies such as RWE have referred to the advice as “bizarre and incorrect,” demanding compensation if subsidies are to be stopped.