Friday, December 23, 2011

What were the 10 most interesting renewable energy projects in 2011?

1. City of Saskatoon utility-scale wind turbine to be built at the landfill - only the third such project in the world to be built on top of municipal solid waste;

2. Deep Earth Energy Corp's 5 MW geothermal project in Southern Saskatchewan - geothermal is so underrated - it's economical, totally clean and provides base-load generation ad infinitum - with only about 9 500 MW of global geothermal generation, this 5 MW project in Saskatchewan is a big one;

3. Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project in Southern Saskatchewan - among the first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage facilities in the world;

4. Ridgeline Energy Services greenfill soil remediation project in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan - the facility treats soils impacted by oil and gas development for reuse;

5. Proposed Posio wind farm in Northern Finland - good to see the Finns warming up to the idea of wind energy;

6. 500 MW solar PV project in Namibia - great that Southern Africa is capitalizing on their vast solar PV potential. I've spent time in Namibia and it's a small but progressive, well-managed and beautiful country;

7. Any wind project in China - the Chinese typically do not rely on expertise from outside China and they have built and commissioned an absolutely astounding 41 800 MW of wind. To put this into perspective, the jurisdiction of Saskatchewan generates a total of about 2 600 MW from all sources (mostly coal and gas);

8. Goteborg Energi and GE 4 MW offshore wind turbine in Gothenburg harbour in Sweden - this will make a fabulous city, even better;

9. Stadtwerke München's projects aimed at generating 100% of all energy from their own renewable generation facilities sufficient to power the entire city of Munich;

10. Finavera's wind projects in the Peace River region of British Columbia - kudos to Finavera for bringing First Nations into their wind projects as real partners.

Happy holidays and all the best for 2012 - it is sure to be another big year for renewable energy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How much money was invested in renewable energy globally in 2010?

Global investment in renewable energy was $195 billion USD ($195,000,000,000.00) in 2010 and is expected to more than double to $395 billion USD ($395,000,000,000.00) in 2020. With numbers like that is seems increasing difficult to classify renewable energy as "alternative". There was not a Birkenstock in site at the last industry conference I attended...

Source of figures: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Massive growth in solar PV projected for India

Falling prices of solar PV panels, the growing costs of grid power, increasing government support, ample solar resources, and — most importantly — tremendous demand coming from a surging middle class are creating a “perfect storm” of conditions that are leading to massive growth in India’s solar power market, according to a recent report by GTM Research and Bridge to India. About six times as much capacity as the nation had at the end of 2010 — 54 MW — is expected to be installed in the nation in 2011, and another 1600 MW of capacity with signed power purchase agreements is in the pipeline, the report said. By 2016, India could be installing more than 3000 MW annually in solar PV projects. According to the report, in December, a National Solar Mission auction awarded 27 solar PV projects totalling 350 MW to large and small developers. Bids came in as low as $0.18 USD per kWh, and the average price awarded was $0.21/kWh USD, down 9 cents from a similar auction 13 months ago.

Source: Climate Change Business Journal

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TransCanada buys nine Ontario solar PV projects with combined capacity of 86 MW from Canadian Solar Inc. for $470 million CAD

Calgary, Alberta based TransCanada Corp., a major petroleum pipeline operator and power producer, has expanded its renewable energy business with a deal to buy nine solar PV projects in Ontario for $470 million CAD, the Canadian Press reported early this morning. All nine projects have 20 year power purchase agreements with the Ontario Power Authority.

“The addition of these solar projects allows us to expand and add to our diverse power generating portfolio where a third of the power we own, or have interests in, comes from alternative or renewable energy sources,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said before stock markets opened Tuesday. “Upon close of this acquisition, this low-risk investment is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings and cash flow.”

Under the agreement, each of the nine solar PV projects will be developed and built by Canadian Solar Inc. using their photovoltaic panels. Canadian Solar Inc. is one of the world’s largest solar PV module producers. TransCanada will purchase each project after it begins commercial operation and subject to certain milestones being met.

TransCanada expects the projects will come into service between late 2012 and mid-2013. TransCanada is now the largest independent power producer in Ontario.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) included in United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

One of the items negotiated on the final day of the recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Durban was the inclusion of carbon capture and storage as an authorized method for offsetting carbon emissions under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism. The decision is considered as a potential door-opener for developing nations to gain access to financing for CCS projects, according to CCS experts. “The inclusion of CCS in the CDM is a milestone step in recognizing the critical role that CCS can play in reducing emissions and achieving climate change targets,” said Global CCS Institute CEO Brad Page. “It sets an important precedent for the inclusion of CCS into other financing and technology support mechanisms and establishes a benchmark for managing CCS projects in developing countries.” Page added, “this is a critical development, given that many CCS projects in coming decades will have to be in developing countries if we are to meet climate targets, yet until now there had been no ready access to capital for the development of such projects.”

Source: (in part) Climate Change Business Journal

Friday, December 16, 2011

What is the “useful life” of a wind turbine?

A critical part of any wind energy project is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is a contract between a developer and a utility for the purchase and sale of the electricity generated by a wind turbine. The PPA generally has a term between 20 and 30 years. A PPA from an established utility is generally considered “bankable” meaning that professional advisors such as bankers, accountants and lawyers have analysed the risk and agreed to provide or structure financing for the wind project based on a “useful life” of 20 to 30 years. Lease agreements with landowners may have provisions providing for a lease of 20 to 30 years with additional 5 year options to renew. Some developers take the view that the “useful life” of a wind turbine may be indefinite if properly operated, maintained and refurbished. When drafting contracts and agreements given that most PPAs are for 25 years I use this as a guideline for the “useful life” of a wind turbine.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Land acquired for utility-scale wind farm in Northern Finland

The Finnish daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat reported last week that the Finnish municipality of Posio signed a lease agreement for a large wind farm project in Northern Finland.

Details are scant at the moment but it seems that the proposed wind farm will be located 35 kilometres from the city of Rovaniemi. According to the municipality of Posio they have acquired enough land to construct 30 to 40 utility-scale wind turbines. The total investment required is between 140 - 180 million EUR.

The municipality intends to start pre-feasibility assessments in the near future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SaskPower budgets $5 billion CAD in Power Purchase Agreements in the next 10 years to meet demand in Saskatchewan

"SaskPower, over the next 10 years, has huge growth that is required to keep up with the economy," SaskPower CEO Robert Watson told an audience at a luncheon put on by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

Mr. Watson said the province needs to add one third to one half more power production in the next 10 years. To do that, SaskPower plans to spend $10 billion dollars on their own generation plus another $5 billion in power purchase agreements.

"We don't plan on growing this business with more employees at SaskPower," he said. "We plan on using partners."

Mr. Watson cited agreements such as a recent deal with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council to buy power from their biomass facility as a prime example of what can be done in the future.

"SaskPower cannot be the way we were in the past," Mr. Watson said, adding they are in the process of building a comprehensive aboriginal plan.

"It is a direct focus of my office to have a better relationship with the aboriginal communities in this province. We want to work with (First Nations) closer," Mr. Watson said, "particularly, projects in their territories or traditional lands."

Mr. Watson said SaskPower is looking to take a balanced approach in generating power through a number of means - coal, hydro, natural gas, wind, solar, cogeneration, biomass and possibly even nuclear.

"We are looking at the possibility of nuclear, but we are just now opening the file on that," Watson said. "It will take us three to five years to even come forward with a recommendation."

Source: (in part) The StarPhoneix, November 30, 2011 edition

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finnish energy company, Fortum entering solar PV market

The Finnish daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat reported this week that Finnish energy giant, Fortum has announced plans to enter the solar PV market.

"Solar energy technologies are evolving rapidly, and the use of solar energy in sunny countries is already cost-effective for small-scale solutions," says the company's community relations and sustainable development director Anne Brunila.

It is expected additional details will be forthcoming from Fortum in the future. Fortum may enter the manufacturing space or as a project developer. It is more likely that Fortum will enter the manufacturing space as Fortum is currently in a partnership with the Tampere University of Technology in Finland, developing high-efficiency solar cells that can achieve an efficiency of more than 40% by concentrating sunlight. In conjunction with Aalto University in Finland, Fortum is also developing new kinds of roof materials for solar thermal collectors and solar electricity panels.

Fortum's operations focus on the Nordic countries, Russia, Poland and Baltic
Rim area. In 2010, Fortum’s sales totalled EUR 6.3 billion and comparable operating profit was EUR 1.8 billion. Fortum employs approximately 10 500 people and their shares are quoted on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki.

Fortum has currently a few land-based wind power projects in the planning stage in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, there are six projects: Bergö (15 MW), Kuolavaara-Keulak-kopää (54 MW), Kalajoki (60 MW), Joukhaisselkä (60 MW), Ii (24 MW) and Loviisa (approximately 10 MW). In Sweden, Fortum is participating in two wind power projects: Blaiken and Orsa. The 250 MW Blaiken project, being planned together with the Swedish Skellefteå Kraft, is becoming one of the largest land-based wind farms in Europe. Fortum’s current wind power capacity of approximately 3 MW originates from associated companies in Finland, mainly from Tunturituuli Oy (55%). Fortum also owns a quarter of the one megawatt wind power station in Olkiluoto and 16% of Ab Öskata Vind Närpes - Öskatan Tuuli Närpiö Oy.

Fortum also owns significant hydro and nuclear assets.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

South Africa approves 28 bidders for 1416 MW renewable energy tender – 3725 MW/$12 billion USD procurement process on track

South Africa approved 28 bidders for a renewable energy tender with projects totaling 1416 megawatts. The approved bidders have until the end of June, 2012 to confirm financing, with construction to begin shortly thereafter, the Energy Department of South Africa stated.

Of the projects selected, 632 MW were for solar photovoltaic projects; 150 MW, for concentrated solar power; and 634 MW, for wind developments.

The department is holding five tenders to allocate 3725 megawatts valued around $12 billion USD over the next two years. In the first round of bidding, the department received 53 bids for a total of 2128 megawatts in projects. It selected 28 out of the 53. It now has 2209 megawatts that companies can bid for in the remaining tenders.

Vestas is involved in two of the bidding groups selected, representing 138 megawatts, as is South African solar company Momentous Energy, which will obtain some of the products from Chinese companies.

One of China's top wind turbine producers, Sinovel Wind Co., also was selected, with one of the larger bids, a person close to the matter said.

About 90% of South Africa's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants. By 2030, the country aims to lift renewable sources to 8% of the energy mix, up from less than 1% now.

In addition to development in the private sector, state-owned power company Eskom Holdings Ltd. is also raising money to develop its own wind and solar projects. Eskom last month signed a $250 million USD loan agreement with the World Bank to build 200 megawatts of their own solar and wind projects. The company also is in talks with the European Investment Bank to obtain €50 million, or about $70 million, for building solar PV projects.

The South African government on Wednesday also said it will create the South African Renewable Initiative. Working with the European Investment Bank, the government plans to raise financing internationally to be used on renewable energy projects. Germany said it intends to support the fund.

Source: (in part) Wall Street Journal – December 7, 2011 edition

Ridgeline Energy Services commissions first approved greenfill soil remediation facility in Saskatchewan

Ridgeline Energy Services Inc. announced in a company Press Release that they have commissioned a new greenfill treatment facility in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Canada. There are many such sites in the Canadian province of Alberta but the new facility in Lloydminster is the first such facility approved by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment for the management, treatment and reuse of oilfield waste. The new facility will be used to categorize, treat and reuse impacted soils for landfill cover and other uses. Ridgeline's proprietary technology utilizes biological, mechanical and chemical means to safely break down hydrocarbons into CO2 and water, enabling once contaminated soil to be reused in landfill operations or other applications.

Tony Ker, CEO of Ridgeline Energy Services, commented, "Ridgeline Greenfill Inc. was profitable in our fiscal 2011 year, its first year of commercial operation. We expect these sites will provide a consistent and growing source of revenue as further sites are constructed. Each facility will be capable of generating up to $1,200,000 [CAD] in revenue per year. "

Who says being environmentally friendly can’t be profitable?

It is expected Ridgeline and others will be constructing similar facilities in South East Saskatchewan in the Bakken in the near future.

Source: (in part) Ridgeline Energy Services Inc. Press Release

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Facts" about wind energy

I just wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the “facts” presented by the Saskatoon Wind Turbine Association in regard to the proposed wind turbine at the landfill. Many of these "facts" are common misconceptions.

$5 million of your tax dollars (local, provincial, federal) are being spent on the Saskatoon Wind Turbine.

If we look at this from the point of view of environmental remediation this is a good deal for taxpayers. The turbine is being placed on a 35 meter high pile of garbage generated from residents of the City of Saskatoon which cannot be used for much other than as a source of garbage to be blown into Montgomery. I would estimate that the costs to remediate this land for something other than a renewable energy project would be 4 or 5 times the costs of the turbine. The US agrees – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have jointly announced plans to evaluate the feasibility of siting solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal facilities on 26 Superfund sites and former landfill and mining sites citing one of the reasons being that it is much cheaper to build renewable energy projects on environmentally compromised land than remediate the land for other industrial, commercial or residential use.

Saskatchewan Resource Council classified the Saskatoon Tall Wind Turbine project as “marginal”.

I have never heard of the “Saskatchewan Resource Council” but the Saskatchewan Research Council classified the wind resource, not the project, as marginal.

The landfill location is rated as a 2 (second worst rating on a scale of 1 to 7).

The report noted that the power density at 50 meters is 202 W/m2 which puts the site in a wind power class of 2 (marginal). “Marginal” in this case means that development of a utility-scale is possible and in fact thousands of megawatts of wind energy have been built in class 2 wind resource areas. The report goes on to state that turbine output projections indicate that net capacity factors of 25% to 30%, or more, could be expected with the selection of the right turbine. Typical net capacity factors for existing wind farms range from 20% to 40%.

Saskatoon Light and Power has promised that this project will pay for itself in five years. Other installations across the world have demonstrated that this is only possible by raising your rates of electricity.

Rates for electricity are going up in any case largely based on increasing demand, aging infrastructure and climate change regulation not on expenses from investments in renewable energy generation.

The proposed wind turbine is only 780m from citizens while in Victoria, Australia wind turbines cannot be built within 5KM of a municipality. Why are they doing that and we are not?

As of August 2011 the Victorian Government was planning on putting rules in place enforcing a minimum 2 km distance between large utility-scale wind turbines and residences. This may or may not be legislated in Victoria.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Renewable energy subsidy increase can support an additional 70 000 MW of wind in China

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced this week that the Chinese government would increase the surcharge on power sales from December 1, 2011 to 0.008 yuan per kilowatt hour from 0.004 yuan per kwh.

"A doubling of the renewable energy surcharge should benefit mostly wind," said Yuanta Securities renewable energy analyst Min Li. "Assuming half of the funding is used, we estimate the doubled surcharge can support at least 70 gigawatts of wind power capacity in the near term."

The markets reacted favourably to the announcement as China's top wind turbine maker Sinovel Wind Group Co Ltd was up nearly 5% by midday trading on Thursday, while Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co Ltd and Xiangtan Electric Manufacturing Co Ltd each gained more than 3%. Chinese solar companies listed in Hong Kong and New York also gained ground. Wafer and polysilicon maker GCL Poly Energy Holdings Ltd gained 8% in Hong Kong, while Solargiga Energy Holdings Ltd was up 6% and Comtec Solar Systems Group Ltd was up 6.7% against a 5.85% surge in the Hang Seng Index. U.S.-listed Chinese solar panel makers Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd, Trina Solar Ltd and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd soared more than 10% on Wednesday.

Grid feed-in tariffs for renewable energy sources including solar and wind power are higher than rates for coal-fired power, China's main electricity source. Wind power is the more established source of clean energy in China, next to hydro. With China aiming to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels to 15% of the total energy mix by 2020, the subsidy consumers paid in their electricity bills was expected to rise, analysts said. China passed a renewable energy law in 2006, similar to a European-style FIT, requiring utilities to buy all the power generated by renewable energy projects. The regulations also allow the utility to collect additional fees when they sell the power.

The move to raise the charges had increased the certainty that development of renewable energy projects would continue in the medium term, said CIMB Research analyst Keith Li.

"This is not going to increase the premium paid to renewable energy projects, although it will double the pool of money used to support clean energy," he said.

The NDRC said revenue from the existing surcharge was not enough to cover the premium power grid operators pay for electricity bought from renewable power developers.

Source: (in part) Reuters

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Goteborg Energi and GE start construction of 4 MW offshore wind turbine in Gothenburg harbour in Sweden

Goteborg Energi and GE have started construction on the first GE 4.1-113 offshore turbine in the Gothenburg, Sweden harbour, the two companies announced at the European Wind Energy Association's (EWEA) Offshore 2011 conference in Amsterdam.

"We are delighted that after two years of planning and coordinating, everything is coming together. The wind turbine could not be placed any better: while it is located onshore, which makes it easily accessible, it is right at the water front and exposed to offshore weather conditions. For the people of Gothenburg, this project is a milestone in achieving our goal to produce more green energy for the city and the country," said Jonas Cognell, director of Renewable Electricity at Goteborg Energi.

The turbine is located in Risholmsvagen, an area located at the harbour entrance and the door to Sweden, well-situated from a logistical point of view. The nacelle, tower and blades will arrive by boat. The installation is planned to be finished by mid-December. The foundation, with a 21 meter diameter, is pile-driven into the rock. Completion of the installation and connection to the grid is planned for the end of this year.

"We are very proud to help Sweden in promoting green energy with the installation of our first 4.1-113 wind turbine in the harbour of Gothenburg," said Vincent Schellings, Offshore Product Leader for GE Energy. "The successful project is due to great teamwork with Goteborg Energi and Chalmers University as key partner. The 4.1-113 offshore turbine features one of the industry's most mature offshore direct-drive designs, and builds on our onshore experience with over 17,000 units operating globally."

Source: Business Wire Press Release dated November 30, 2011