The world of renewables this week

The Flagships project has been awarded €5 million under the Horizon program, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, to support deploying two commercially operated zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vessels in Lyon, in France and Stavanger in Norway. The Lyon deal will use to power a utility vessel on the Rhône and in Stavanger, hydrogen will power a ferry operated as part of local public transport. Both vessels will run on hydrogen produced by electrolysis from renewable energy. The consortium includes nine European partners, with two ship owners

It makes so much sense that if you have unconnected solar panels, that their energy can be used to make hydrogen fuel from water. The University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies is bringing this a step closer. Bath will use Perovskite solar cells, using the calcium titanium oxide structure, instead of expensive Iridium. However they are unstable in water and Bath says it has solved this by using a waterproof coating of graphite. The coated cells worked underwater for 30 hours ten hours longer than a previous record. Glue on the join then failed and more research is needed. The transaction also needs a catalyst, as the charge is still not enough to drive electrolysis. The research was done in collaboration with the SPECIFIC team at Swansea University and published in the journal Nature Communications.

India has added more coal plant capacity in Q1 than solar or wind energy, which suggest it is falling behind its own targets for renewables. The Central Electricity Authority of India says that around 5.7 GW of power generation was added in Q1 down around 47% compared to Q1 2018. Some 3.3 GW was based on coal, a 58% share, and 2.4 GW in renewables a fall of 50%. Solar was misreported, but it looked to us around 0.2 GW on the graphs. This was the lowest Q1 addition in wind since 2016. A year ago this was 10.1 GW, with 3.9 GW from coal, and renewables at 6.2 GW.

E.ON said its results were good everywhere but the UK, and that renewables significantly increased its earnings. It had earnings declines at its customer solutions business mostly due to the UK regulatory price cap. E.ON says its EBIT will be between €2.9 and €3.1 billion net income between €1.4 and €1.6 billion. Sales were up by €0.4 billion year on year to €9.2 billion. The Renewables segment’s adjusted EBIT rose by 23% year on year, from €171 million to €211 million, primarily from an increase in output due to the commissioning of offshore wind farms in Germany and the United Kingdom and an onshore wind farm in the United States and the planned transaction with RWE is on schedule.

Moixa a UK battery storage company has secured a new round of funding for £8.6 million from Honda, looking to get into EV charging. It will also expand its distributed energy range. It also took onboard Japanese trading house Itochu, and Contrarian Ventures and First Imagine! Ventures. Honda has a partnership with Honda where the car maker wants to establish itself as a player in the energy sector. Moixa’s GridShare technology aggregates storage of home batteries and EVs, and manages home energy systems in 7,000 homes in the UK and Japan, aggregating a combined capacity of 70MWh. “Today we are managing thousands of batteries and our goal is to manage millions,” the company said.

Onshore wind has simply collapsed in Germany in Q1 says trade body WindEurope, adding just 134 MW of onshore capacity in Q1 down 87%. It is all to do with permits. WindEurope hopes it will still reach between 1 GW and 2 GW compared with an average of 4.3 GW previously. Offshore wind can’t make up the difference either as that is scheduled to build just 730 MW per year through to 2030. Permitting has got slower, due to a lack of civil servants, doing the work. Jobs are the next worry, and then the skills needed to do large wind projects. The German government needs to do more than say it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050, it has to force through some streamlined approval process to make it happen. Only 400 MW of new wind farm permits were awarded in Q1.

According to GreenTech Media regulators have blocked a move by Indiana utility Vectren South to replace coal plants with an 850 MW gas plant, costing some $781 million. Vectren has 1.25 GW of generating capacity, most of which comes from coal sourced locally and initially wanted to use coal, then gas and is now being told to look at renewables plus battery storage. The problem was in how the RFP was written, which talked about dispatchable baseload above 600 MW, which effectively blocked renewables.

Denmark’s Vestas Wind had Q1 revenues up 2% to €1,730m and has a backlog of €13.3 billion, and service agreements with realizable revenue of €15 billion. The value of these two leading indicators has risen €6.7 billion from one year ago. However it recorded a profit of just €25 million, down 75% from €102 million a year ago, which shows the effort of keeping wind prices falling. Vestas says its 2019 guidance is unchanged at €10 to €12 billion, but who knows at what profit. CEO Anders Runevad says that there is strong global demand for wind and order intake has risen by 3 GW. He is stepping down in August, and will be replaced by Henrik Andersen, currently a member of Vestas’ Board. Great rival Siemens Gamesa reported last week, and also said it would merge with Siemens Gas and Power under an oil educated CEO – bizarre.

According to “the Intercept,” bankruptcy filings of Cloud Peak Energy, a coal mining company in Wyoming in the US, shows that it was funding multiple climate change denial groups, including the Institute of Energy Research, who described renewable energy as a “waste” of resources; The Center for Consumer Freedom, geared toward attacking green groups such as the Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch as dangerous radicals; the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group which attempts to repeal environmental regulations on coal-burning power plants; and the Montana Policy Institute – a think tank which claims that world temperatures are falling, not rising; Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers-backed group that mobilizes political opposition to Democratic politicians and climate regulations and Crossroads GPS, a “dark-money” group that funneled millions of undisclosed dollars into Senate races in support of GOP politicians during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Plus trade groups that lobby legislators on mining priorities. All the time the company said openly that it had never fought climate change, never denied it or funded anyone who does.

A consortium led by Nova Innovation has won €5 million to run a project from June for three years with money from Europe’s ELEMENT, to use AI to improve tidal turbine performance and accelerate commercialization. It will supply an AI adaptive control system to tidal turbines which aims to slash costs by some 17%. There are 11 other industrial, academic and research organizations involved in the project including IDETA, Chantier Bretagne Sud, Innosea, Wood, Nortek, The University of Strathclyde, DNV GL UK, France Energies Marines, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and ABB UK. The work will be done on a floating tidal device in the Étel estuary in Brittany and on a seabed-mounted Nova M100 turbine in the Shetland Tidal Array.

Canada’s Boralex says it is heading for 2 GW of renewable energy by 2020, with much of the growth coming from France, and expects to add 147 MW of mostly wind energy in 2019, made up of 87 MW in 5 French projects and 60 MW in Canada, in two projects. The company announced a 24% increase in revenues to C$168 million and a 17% increase of EBITDA to C$114 million. It recently signed to acquire Kallista Energy Investment and KE Production portfolio in France for €129 million (C$202 million) adding 163 MW to operating wind assets plus 10 MW under construction, and a portfolio of 158 MW of projects. It also added 34 MW of additional projects itself and already has 1,619 MW of installed capacity and 277 MW of projects set to be built, which means the Corporation is about 100 MW from 2 GW target.

US company First Solar made a Q1 loss of $67.6 million compared to a profit of $87 million last year on sales of $532 million, down $159 million (23%). It still has $2.3 billion of liquidity. The loss was due to fewer projects in the US and Japan, and rising costs. It reassured investors that its Series 6 modules are on track to change its fortunes. It is ramping up production at a second facility in Vietnam and offered guidance of $3.5 to $3.7 billion for the year, shipping up to 5.6 GW.

The Labour party this week leaked its plan to nationalize the energy UK network. It plans to organize them into a system of national, regional and municipal energy agencies to enable streets, villages and housing estates to become microgrids of their own, independent of the National Grid. A price for the nationalization would be set by government, and investors are now spooked, as is the National Grid itself saying publicly what a bad idea that is. Labour also plans to fit solar panels to 1.75 million low income homes, which it says would cut energy bills – 1 million the government would pay for and 750,000 would get interest free loans to pay for them. At present there is little likelihood of Labour gaining a majority at the next election, which could be 2 years away, despite the Conservative Prime Minister set to resign in a few weeks, as both major parties are losing support as the political situation fragments.

In Germany chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that she would draw up a roadmap to get to carbon neutral by 2050. The German far-right has decided to take a leaf out of US books, and have begun climate change denialism; while there are also calls for a CO2 tax of €35 a tonne for Germany to widen the burden-sharing for climate protection to big emitters such as transport and heat providers alongside the electricity makers. The tax would come off emitters and be paid to consumers according to Newspaper reports there.

Anbaric Development Partners says it will build a renewable energy center at Brayton Point in Somerset, Massachusetts at the site of a former coal plant, to house a 1.2 GW direct current converter and 400 MW of battery storage, spending around $650 million to land much of the region’s offshore wind.

Danish offshore wind specialist Ørsted said it has sold off its Stigsnæs Power Station and its Stigsnæs Transit Harbour near Skælskør in Denmark. Ørsted is famous for divesting itself of its old oil and gas businesses changing its name and buying up offshore wind like it is going out of fashion, and gainin assets in Taiwan and the US, and it has posted record results. The consortium which will take over the Stigsnæs assets will clean up the area, remove the power station buildings and redevelop.

SSC Wind has filed for insolvency after delays in construction at two large wind projects, partly due to Senvion’s bankruptcy which supplies the turbines. It will go into administration and is holding talks with unnamed parties to buy into the business.

Seraphim Solar System in China has introduced its own blade BiFacial solar module, using half-cell technology and bifacial PERC cells. This brings it low internal power loss, reduced hot spot potential, higher power output and improved reliability, the company claims, with outputs up between 10% to 30% and it is far lighter, using thinner glass. It has a new trial plant in north China’s Shanxi Province where it can make 1 GW of these modules a year