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24 October 2019

The world of renewables this week

The Government in Colombia has awarded $2.2 billion in contracts for wind and solar projects as part of attempts to diversify its electric grid. Hydropower currently provides 70% of the country’s electricity, although remains vulnerable to droughts. Five wind projects and three solar projects have been confirmed to currently undisclosed companies, contributing towards a 2.2 GW target of renewable energy by 2022.

 

NextEra Energy in the US has reported an increased development pipeline in renewables with its backlog rising by 1,375 MW in the quarter including 747 MW of solar and 340 MW of battery storage, all of which is to be paired with solar projects. This is despite a transmission upgrade impacting a number of existing deals which saw it take off 339 MW from its wind pipeline, but even then, it still had a net increase of 285 MW for wind.

 

Amazon has announced three new renewable energy projects as part of its pledge to reach 80% renewables by 2024. The projects in the US and UK are expected to produce 265 MW, supplying electricity to the data centers for Amazon Web Services.

Building taller wind turbines, with shorter blades can significantly reduce the number of birds affected in the areas around wind farms – according to a recent study published in Energy Science.

The Trump administration is to begin the US’s long-awaited withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Intentions of the move were first stated in 2015, and with the withdrawal taking one full year, the US will leave the agreement on the 3rd of November 2020, one day after the presidential election.

Cross-party politicians in the UK will attempt to ban fracking through an amendment to the Queen’s speech vote. In a series of disruptive amendments to the vote, calls will be heard to stop the practice, linked with the unprecedented release of methane, with immediate effect.

It is not a surprise that Exxon sowed doubt about how global warming was changing the climate, what is a surprise is that the US House of Representatives seems confident that it happened, and a court seems set on doing something about it. A show trial is perhaps something that is needed to change the tide of oil companies believing they can do what they like while the Earth burns. The trial in New York and the congressional hearing are running in parallel and likely to find the biggest polluter in the world guilty of something, which perhaps will provide the impetus to double up on renewables. ExxonMobil is to face trial after allegations emerge of misleading investors on climate crisis. In just the second time a climate-related case has gone to trial in the US, the oil and gas company will face scrutiny over its public statements regarding future greenhouse gas costs, which are reported to vary from internal estimates.

Energy Ventures Analysis has conducted a preliminary impact analysis on the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) in New York, indicating that upwards of $115 billion will be invested in new renewables by 2040. The study estimates that by 2040, the share of wind and solar in the state’s energy mix will reach 83%.

Equinor has reported adjusted earnings of $2.59 billion ($1.08 billion after tax), in Q3 2019. Both net income and net operating income were negative, following impairments of $2.79 billion which the company attributes to increased caution in price assumptions. It introduced a $5 billion share buy-back program over three years.

Statkraft recorded net earnings of $72 million in the third quarter of 2019, compared to $139 million this time last year. But average system prices fell 31% from €34.7 per MWh in 2018. What threw the earnings were currency fluctuations which resulted in $100 million in losses, compared to $44 million of gains last year. The increased generation of 1.8 TWh from Statkraft was primarily due to gas-fired power, which it says is far more efficient this year. So much for it being a renewables based company, as renewables did not rise.

Siemens Gamesa will supply 359 MW of onshore wind turbines to Chile, following the completion of three new orders this week to an undisclosed buyer. Turbine installation is scheduled to begin next year.

A consortium involving EDP Renewables, Aker Solutions and WindPower Korea is to develop a 500MW floating wind farm in South Korea, as part of the countries aim to install 13 GW of offshore wind by 2030.

Wind turbines may be more effective if built with four rotors, rather than one, says research from Aarhus University Denmark and Durham University UK. Computational models have shown that turbulence in the wake of such designs “recovers much faster” allowing downstream turbines to operate at greater performance.

Toyota has launched a new hydrogen car to hit the market by late 2020. The adaptation of the Mirai model claims to have a greater capacity to store hydrogen than its predecessors, allowing for a 30% longer range, estimated at 650 km.

Wells Fargo has entered a 10-year deal with NRG to power 400 of its Texas locations with solar energy. This is the largest renewable purchase by Wells Fargo and will provide 3% of the company’s national electricity consumption, after projects are completed in 2021.

Turbines for Scotland’s Seagreen project will be provided by MHI Vestas. 114 turbines with a combined capacity of 1.1 GW will be purchased by developer SSE Renewables, in a deal which breaks the run of orders of GE turbines in recent weeks.  These must be the 164 range of 10 MW turbines, names as such because the diameter of the blades is 164 meters, which were announced last year.

Siemens Gamesa and Vestas are likely to cut over 1200 jobs from manufacturing plants in Denmark and Germany, as new production facilities are created abroad. As demand is reduced in Europe, it is expected that blade manufacture will follow demand, shifting to the US and China.

New York will replace gas peakers with a 316 MW battery storage facility. The New York Public Service Commission announced on Thursday that the facility will be able to operate for 8 hours, after its three-phase construction, which will see the replacement of 16 units of gas peaker generation plants.

Major energy players including Shell and ESB are interested in the €100 million sale of the Codling Bank fixed bottom windfarm in the Irish sea. The vendors of the 1.1 GW project are reported to be considering another round of bids, as interest has soared since the Irish government announced its climate action plan.

Engineering firms in Australia are facing pressure from employees to abandon fossil fuel projects. Over 1000 engineers, and 90 organizations have signed a declaration to “evaluate all new projects against the environmental necessity to mitigate climate change.” One of the largest engineering firms Arup, has already signed on to Engineers Declare, pledging activity towards a low-carbon future.

South Africa announced on Friday that it will increase its use of coal-fired energy, to the dismay of climate groups. Following rolling blackouts, the Government released energy blueprints up to 2030, with coal-fired capacity to increase from 47 GW to 48.5 GW, contributing 59% of the nation’s energy.

Siemens Gamesa has completed a deal with Senvion to acquire €200 million worth of assets, including all 8.9 GW of its European onshore service business. The move to buy three Senvion subsidiaries will reportedly save around 2,000 jobs, around 60% of Senvion’s workforce. Senvion will however begin the wind-down of its offshore wind manufacturing segment, with a buyer yet to be found, to save assets for liquidation.

Ofgem has granted £64 million for 12 requests of additional funding for network solutions in the UK. This comes as part of the regulators Innovation Roll-Out Mechanism, to enable creative solutions to electricity distribution.

Tidal energy innovator Minesto has received approval for an EU funded project to install its ‘kite’ technology at the Paimpol-Brehat test site in France. The project gets a grant of €2.4 million for manufacture, installation and operation and the site will be managed by EDF.

“This is the year of the solar roof and Powerwall” said Elon Musk, at the launch of Tesla’s Model Y small crossover this Thursday. With all battery resources reallocated to the Model 3 electric vehicle earlier this year, now Tesla aims to refocus this capacity on residential energy solutions.

Vertical Aerospace has released footage of its ‘electric air taxi’ in operation. Using Formula 1 motor sport technology, the company become the first in the world to unveil footage of an eVTOL aircraft, capable of carrying 250 kg at speeds up to 80km per hour.

Leyline Renewables Capital has raised $150 million of private equity from Newlight Partners to finance new solar projects and anaerobic digestors backed by other investors. The North Carolina financer aims to help small-scale developers meet interconnection payments or post security deposits to facilitate early development.

President Trump has nominated Dan Brouillette to replace Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy after Perry announced his resignation last week. Perry’s long-rumored departure comes amid Trump’s impeachment enquiry and questions regarding his involvement with the Ukraine. “A total professional” in Trump’s eyes, Brouillette is likely to pursue similar policy to his predecessor and is a consistent backer of both coal and nuclear power.

Prysmian has been contracted to supply cables and assemblies for Siemens Gamesa’s turbine towers and nacelles. Prysmian claims its widespread production footprint is well positioned to supply technology across Europe, Asia and North America.

Vattenfall has been forced to scrap a 300 MW wind farm off the coast of Sweden, after the country’s military rejected a revised plan for the development which had been 10 years in the making.

Acciona has acquired 3 GW of solar projects and 1 GW of storage projects in the US from Nebraska-based Tenaska. The deal, announced on Monday, aims to see projects completed by the end of 2023, although uncertainty remains over how tax-credit schemes in the US may affect the timeline.

A group of 231 mayors in the US has sent a letter to Congress, supporting appeals to extend the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) by five years. While the extension would create over 100,000 jobs in the solar industry, worry remains as to how onshore wind will keep up, with no extension yet given to existing tax credits.

The mayor of San Jose, California, has proposed a multibillion-dollar buyout for PG&E, following the utilities bankruptcy and power shut-offs earlier this month. PG&E has insisted that facilities are not for sale, rejecting the offer of $2.5 billion for portions of the grid that serve the city of San Jose. The offer comes with the cities hopes to collaborate with other Californian cities to create a customer-owned utility, which would be the nations largest electric and gas cooperative.

Poland’s PGE has entered talks with Orsted regarding the sale of a 50% stake in two as yet unbuilt Baltic Sea wind projects, with a total capacity of 2.5 GW. It is planned to reach 1 GW by 2026 and complete in 2030.

Los Angeles start-up EV Connect has raised $12 million to fund a software expansion for its electric vehicle charging stations, to give customers greater control.

China has allocated funding for 17 new coal mines across the country, despite stated intentions to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Fracking in the UK is years behind schedule despite costs exceeding £32.7 million. In 2016, the government forecast that 20 wells would be fracked by the mid-2020s, but only three have been exploited so far.

 

Offshore Wind Consultants (OWC) is setting up a Scottish office in Edinburgh to allow it to support the country’s growing offshore wind market.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will support Greece’s push for renewables with an €18 million investment in a green bond owned by Terna Energy.

A new, anonymously funded group called The Empowerment Alliance has been formed to promote Americas natural gas ambitions. The organization, run by two Republican lobbyists, has referred to the Green New Deal as “radical and unachievable”, insisting Americas energy independence will depend on natural gas, despite methane emissions through the fracking process.

India is considering a plan to install 30 GW of renewable energy capacity along its western border. The desert region of the country will open opportunities for both wind and solar as it aims to reach 175 GW of renewable power generation by 2022.

D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI) has acquired two Utah-based projects from First Solar. The Cove Mountain and Cove Mountain 2 have a combined capacity of 180 MW of capacity and are both due for completion in 2020. The deal takes DESRI’s portfolio of First Solar-developed projects to 360 MW.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) will partner with Polish chemical company Sythos to develop the 300 MW BWRX-300 small modular nuclear reactor. GEH claim that the capital costs of the project will be 60% less than existing SMR designs.

MHI Vestas’ first floating wind turbine has been placed in position and is now ready for operation as a pilot. The 8.4 MW turbine for WindFloat Atlantic in Portugal is the largest and most powerful turbine to be used in a floating wind power project.

Academics from the Australian National University have estimated that national emissions will fall by 3% to 4% by 2022. Following a recent boom in renewable energy, which looks set to provide 35% of electricity within 2 years, this would end the year-on-year increases in emissions since the country’s carbon price scheme ended in 2014. Research has shown however, that further emission cuts will be required through the 2020s to meet targets set under the Paris climate agreement.

The UK Labour Party has unveiled plans for 90% of electricity to be provided by renewables and low-carbon power by 2030, in response to weaker targets set by the Conservative Party.  Unveiled on Thursday, the report most notably includes plans to increase offshore wind to an ambitious capacity of 52 GW in this timeframe.

Wooden towers have been given the go-ahead for the Fargremo project in Vastra Gotaland country, Sweden. Developer Rabbalshede Kraft has signed a letter of intent to Modvion for laminated wood to be used in locally made towers to accommodate 240-meter-high turbines. The use of wood has been selected due to its increased strength per unit mass, with Modvion aiming to reduce the carbon emissions through wind farm development.