The world of renewables this week

We know Germany is having a crisis in onshore wind relating to permitting which has in turn undermined wind auctions and there is now a 10 GW permitting backlog. The average time to get a wind farm permit has roughly doubled, and is now to up to 300 days, according to the German wind energy association Bundesverband WindEnergie and many projects face lawsuits by environmental groups and local citizen movements. Creating more auctions is not the answer, and most observers expect law changes to the permit process.

Portugal’s government plans another solar auction planned for January despite obvious difficulties with its last auction. This one will be 700 MW, despite next month’s auction being scaled back from 1.75 GW to 1.35 GW. The Portuguese government has approved a €535 million plan to make its grid strong enough to absorb more intermittent renewable energy up to 2027 and

Portugal has a pipeline of around 1.2 GW of approved projects

Norway’s Scatec Solar has signed a collaboration agreement with local business MT Energy, which will finance, build and operate 3 large-scale solar projects with a total capacity of 485 MW in Binh Phuoc, Quang Tri, and Nghe An provinces. These will use the new FiT arrangement which is coming in after June.

Protesters disrupted BP’s AGM, a day after Greenpeace protesters blockaded the entrance to BP’s London headquarters, demanding it end all new oil and gas exploration. While BP resisted going as far as rival Shell, it had already agreed in February to increase transparency around carbon emissions, set targets to reduce emissions from its operations and link them to executive pay. That was voted in by a shareholder resolution. However BP’s carbon emissions went up in 2018 and some want BP to impose stricter emissions limits.

Echoenergia of Brazil energy has ordered wind turbines  which will generate 97 MW from Denmark’s Vestas to go into the Serra do Mel wind park, located in the State of Rio Grande do Norte. This is an extension to the 101 MW Serra do Mel project, which was Vestas’ first V150-4.2 MW turbine order in Brazil.

The order means that Vestas has had 1063 MW of orders in the 7 months since October 2018. The nacelles will be manufactured at the Vestas’ factory in Ceará, while blades and towers will also be made locally and the turbine is scheduled for commissioning in June 2020.

India has cut its solar power addition target due to difficulties in land acquisition, tax uncertainty and overall issues around economic growth. The aim was to add 8.5 GW in the year from April 2019, some 23% lower than for its previous financial year when it was 11 GW. This is because only 6.5 GW of last year’s ever got installed. Since the election of Modi once again, this will potentially ease, with more government tenders and by pushing state governments to hasten process of land acquisition, setting up the following two years to make up the shortfall on its previous promises.

The European elections saw a huge surge in Green parties all the way across Europe, finishing second in both Germany and Finland, third in France and fourth in the UK. All Green leaders echoed the sentiment that they will use their newfound leverage to push for urgent climate action. As they work collectively across the EU landscape they will are promising to tie up with other Green parties and demand climate policy concessions in return every time they back another party. Expect strengthened EU climate goals for 2030 and 2050 and more pressure on any EU players who are not currently in line, such as Poland.

FAKT and E.ON are planning a European ecological, agricultural and economic center in Hungary for the cost of €1 billion. FAKT will combine agriculture, logistics and housing on an area of land equal in size to almost 500 football pitches. E.ON will develop, implement and operate the sustainable energy infrastructure for electricity, heating and cooling for this major project in the tri-border region between Hungary, Austria and Slovakia. E.ON is currently determining the overall energy requirements and will supply the city of the future with CO2-neutral renewable energy and intelligent energy networks to run it.

The US Department of Energy’s American-made solar prize is a $3 million competition aimed at revitalizing US solar manufacturing, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Two ex-officials of Ostro Energy will float an as yet unnamed renewable energy venture in India. Ostro was acquired by one of India’s leading renewable energy generation companies ReNew Power last year. Investors are understood to include Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings and Sweden’s  private-equity firm EQT Partners.

IHS Markit says that the US in 2019 will be the largest market for grid-connected energy storage expected to deploy 712 MW this year up from 376 MW in 2018 overtaking South Korea, which will drop below 600 MW. The reasons are Federal policy, solar and battery tax credits and state-level kickstart incentives for batteries, while Utilities are ramping up procurements of both behind-the-meter and front-of-the-meter energy storage resources to provide additional grid services such as demand response. IHS says that 2 GW of storage will be installed each year to 2023 in the US.

Norwegian energy research firm Rystad Energy says that only one in ten US shale oil companies a cash positive, the rest are burning cash. Rystad studied 40 dedicated US shale oil companies, focusing on cash flow from operating activities and only four reported a positive cash flow balance in Q1 2019.

It says that traditionally they would go to the debt markets for cash, but given uncertainty around shale oil, Rystad thinks that now they will just have to cut capex.

China’s Trina Solar said it has set a new world record of 24.58% for a high-efficiency n-type mono-crystalline silicon (c-Si) i-TOPCon solar cell. The record-breaking bifacial solar cell was fabricated on a large-sized 244.62 cm2 wafer with a low-cost industrial process of advanced i-TOPCon (Industrial Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact) technologies, having a front boron emitter and a rear full-area passivating contact. The bifacial solar cell reached a total-area front side efficiency of 24.58%, without using any dedicated aperture during the illumination. This result has been independently confirmed by the ISFH CalTeC in Germany.

Schneider Electric has invested in a Silicon Valley startup called AutoGrid which it already partners with in the market, and plans to put its data analytics and machine learning to use in managing distributed energy resources and microgrids for industrial and commercial customers. Schneider has been working with AutoGrid since a 2013 partnership on smart thermostats and home energy management.

US firm First Solar said its Cove Mountain 2 solar power plant will support Facebook’s Eagle Mountain Data Center in Utah, through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, part of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. The 122 MW facility will be built near the town of Enterprise in Iron County, Utah, and is scheduled to begin operations in 2020.

Duke Energy says it plans to decommission its previously retired Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Florida by 2027, a full 50 years ahead of schedule. This will lead to more rapid redevelopment in the future, presumably not as a nuclear plant.

Residential solar installations in the UK have slid to just 3.6 MW in April, the first month following the closure of the UK feed-in tariff. In comparison, over 40 MW was installed in March as homeowners and installers rushed to qualify for the last throes of the feed-in tariff.