Tag: Topnews

Competition in Booming Energy Storage Market Continues To Heat Up

Australia, the sunniest continent, is luring solar battery suppliers from Tesla Motors Inc. to LG Corp. as the global roll out of the technology for home and business power storage gathers pace.

At stake is a domestic market that could be worth A$24 billion ($18 billion), according to Morgan Stanley. Australia leads the world in putting solar panels on roofs, and by 2040, about one in two homes are forecast to rely on sun power.

Elon Musk’s Tesla plans early next year to bring its new batteries to Australia, which will join Germany as its first two markets outside the U.S. LG Chem will offer new technology to Australian homes in August, while Panasonic Corp. plans to begin selling its batteries in the country in October.

“Australia has all the criteria that you would look for — high sunshine, high energy prices and low financing costs,” Michael Parker, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong, said by phone. “It’s a good test market.”

With solar power set to draw $3.7 trillion in investment through 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, interest in power storage is surging.

LG Chem wants to capture 30 percent of the Australian market, the South Korean company said in an e-mail response to questions. The industry could could grow 15-fold in the next two years to more than 30,000 storage systems, it said.

Storage Units

Samsung SDI Co., meanwhile, is testing its storage units with Australian retailer Origin Energy Ltd., which expects to offer the products to customers later this year, and AU Optronics Corp. of Taiwan is working with AGL Energy Ltd.

Government subsidies and falling prices fueled a wave of growth in solar panel installations in Australia, and the country is set to see further expansion. About 6 million, or half of Australian homes, are forecast to have solar systems by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The ability to store the energy that’s generated by solar is a huge opportunity within this market,” Heath Walker, Tesla’s marketing manager in Melbourne, said by phone. In coming months, the company plans to unveil battery partnerships with utilities or solar developers in Australia, he said.

Battery storage does face obstacles, though, with the cost and the size of the systems needed to maintain a reliable power source deterring some consumers, the Grattan Institute found.

Falling Tariffs

“Everybody says it’s an emerging market, but I’m not sure many people have bought batteries yet,” Origin’s Managing Director Grant King said in an interview. “Will we see a wholesale migration of customers off the grid because of batteries? My answer is no.”

Declining battery costs, surging electricity prices and falling tariffs for feeding excess power to the grid could drive storage, the Australian Energy Market Operator found.

Battery storage will allow homes with solar panels to store excess electricity for later use, reducing peak power consumption and potentially energy costs, Panasonic said.

“Storage is coming,” Panasonic’s local Managing Director Paul Reid said in a June 2 interview. “There may be things that impact the speed of the roll out, but it will dramatically change the landscape of the energy sector in Australia.”

Global Geothermal Alliance Concept One Step Further

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) convened roughly 60 stakeholders in June in Nairobi to finalize the concept of the Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA) and exchange views on the best way forward. GEA’s Executive Director Karl Gawell participated as a U.S. NGO representative with support from Power Africa and the U.S. – East Africa Geothermal Partnership. “The high-level policy involvement by the leadership and participants was impressive and a measure of success for IRENA’s efforts,” noted Gawell.

Prior to the Nairobi meeting, talk of an Energy Global Geothermal Alliance took the form of an Action Statement and Action Plan at the United Nations’ September 2014 Climate Summit in New York, though that development did not have official U.S. participation. As a result of the June meeting, the Executive Directors of both GEA and the International Geothermal Association (IGA) expressed willingness and interest in supporting the effort.

The meeting was conducted by Joseph Njoroge, Principal Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Energy; Adnan Amin, Director General of IRENA and H.E. Simon D’Ujanga, Minister of Energy, Uganda. IRENA officials said, “The Alliance aims to identify and promote different models associated with geothermal development and generation to enable and encourage investments and to integrate geothermal facilities into energy markets.”

Numerous participants reviewed the status of geothermal efforts in their countries:


·      Kenya’s Geothermal Development Corporation gave an impressive presentation on their effort to prioritize geothermal development, noting Kenya is now number 8 in geothermal worldwide. But Kenya made it clear that it intends to go further, with an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000 MW.


·      Sahele Fekede of Ethiopia’s Ministry presented the numerous developments underway in his country. He noted they are working with various multi-lateral and financial entities and also discussed a new Ethiopian geothermal resource assessment that estimates 2,114 MW to 10,791 MW potential with 4,200 MW as “most likely.” He said they intend to have a new geothermal framework implemented by the end of the year.


·      Rainer Halcon of the Philippines Department of Energy noted that geothermal energy now makes up more than 10 percent of energy capacity in the Philippines and 13 percent of the power mix. He said that since passage of a new renewable energy law the interest in geothermal has resurged and also gave a new installation target of 1,180 MW by 2020.


·      Camilo Tautiva from Columbia presented a map showing ten energy projects, adding that his country is actively working on new policy and regulatory structure for geothermal.


·      Peru’s representative, Alcides Claros, presented details on 2,860 MW of potential in Peru. He said they had already granted 20 licenses for geothermal.


·      About 15 percent of Costa Rica’s energy is now geothermal. The country has a new 55-MW project under construction and 2 more scheduled to be on-line in 2021 and 2023, respectively.


·      Representatives from El Salvador said that the country is now 24 percent geothermal powered and highlighted efforts to develop a regional geothermal center.


·      The Secretariat of the Pacific Community pointed to Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji as potential geothermal strong spots.

There were afternoon presentations by GEA, IRENA, Enel Green Power, IFC, French Ministry of Ecology and the African Union. GEA’s presentation centered on geothermal risk and risk mitigation points that were previously presented in a joint GEA-U.S. Department of State workshop in 2014 and was well received. Following these presentations an open discussion sought to clarify the concept of a Global Geothermal Alliance. In general there was strong support for moving forward with the IRENA effort.

The following day the group toured the Olkaria Geothermal Site. “The geothermal work at Olkaria is impressive,” noted Gawell. “Olkaria development is something Kenyans are proud of and it should give other countries a sense of what is possible for their economy if they pursue geothermal power.”

IRENA intends to make the presentations available on its Web site in the near future.

Lead image: Olkaria Geothermal Field in Kenya, June 2015. Credit: GEA.

A delegation of geothermal stakeholders visited Kenya for the Global Geothermal Alliance meeting and toured the control room of Olkaria 4 Power Plant on June 16, 2015. Credit: GEA.

Testing Heats Up at Sandia’s Solar Tower

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are working to lower the cost of solar energy systems and improve efficiencies in a big way, thanks to a system of small particles. This month, engineers lifted Sandia’s continuously recirculating falling particle receiver to the top of the tower at theNational Solar Thermal Test Facility,marking the start of first-of-its-kind testing that will continue through 2015. The Sandia-developed falling particle receiver works by dropping sand-like ceramic particles through a beam of concentrated sunlight, capturing and storing the heated particles in an insulated tank. The technology can capture and store heat at high temperatures without breaking down, unlike conventional molten salt systems.

Testing Heats Up at Sandia’s Solar Tower

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are working to lower the cost of solar energy systems and improve efficiencies in a big way, thanks to a system of small particles. This month, engineers lifted Sandia’s continuously recirculating falling particle receiver to the top of the tower at theNational Solar Thermal Test Facility,marking the start of first-of-its-kind testing that will continue through 2015. The Sandia-developed falling particle receiver works by dropping sand-like ceramic particles through a beam of concentrated sunlight, capturing and storing the heated particles in an insulated tank. The technology can capture and store heat at high temperatures without breaking down, unlike conventional molten salt systems.

Siemens Plans To Construct a New Wind Turbine Assembly Plant in Germany

Siemens AG’s plan to build a wind turbine assembly plant in Germany means that Europe’s largest engineering company will have expanded headcount at its wind and renewables division by as much as a third since 2013.

Siemens will pick a location for the 1,000-employee factory by the end of September, spokesman Philipp Encz said by telephone. Earlier announcements of new capacity in Egypt, England and Serbia will bring the total new employees to 3,539, according to Bloomberg News calculations.

US Commercial Solar Sector Wheeling and Dealing: REC Solar Gets “Stellar” Energy Assets

Coming on the heels of yesterdays announcement that more than 60 percent of corporate investors plan to put capital into the solar industry in one way or another, an announcement today shows the increasing vibrancy of the C&I solar sector.

REC Solar announced that it acquired the assets of Stellar Energy, adding more than 60 MW from 62 solar projects installed or under construction to its customer portfolio as well as operations and maintenance contracts for an additional 28 MW of capacity. New clients joining the REC Solar portfolio include leaders in the agriculture, food & beverage, manufacturing, mining & energy and entertainment industries, as well as school districts and municipalities.

REC Solar, the majority of which was acquired by last year Duke Energy — the largest energy company in the U.S. — has installed more than 175 MW of solar capacity in more than 500 commercial systems across the country, including businesses, governments and non-profits.

 

C&I Solar Sector Could See Huge Growth in Next Few Years

Investments in commercial and industrial (C&I) solar energy projects (50kW-2MW) by U.S. corporations is poised to soar, according to a new market research report commissioned by Santa Barbara-based Wiser Capital. More than 60 percent of managers with influence over corporate investments intend to put company capital to work by investing in solar energy in the U.S., according to a survey conducted by OnePoll for Wiser Capital’s “2015 Solar Investment Index. “

 

One-third of corporate managers surveyed said their companies would make their first solar energy investments within the next year. This doesn’t appear to be a “flash in the pan” investment phenomenon either: No less than 83 percent of the 100 small to mid-size company managers surveyed said their commercial organizations will make investing in the solar energy sector a priority by 2020.

 

Aside from contributing to national and international initiatives addressing climate change and environmental resources degradation, the potential to earn comparatively high, stable and longer term returns on investment (ROI) is a primary motivating factor for U.S. corporate investors, Wiser Capital highlights in a press release.

 

“We have known the demand for mid-scale solar investment was growing in the U.S and it’s clear the boom has in fact already begun,” Wiser Capital executive director Nathan Homan stated. “We are certain that investment in solar for commercial businesses will soon be a mainstream venture because investors have new tools and resources at their disposal streamlining and clarifying the process.”

 

Commercial Solar: High Returns, High Profile Investments

 

More than 6 in 10 (63 percent) of U.S. businesses surveyed for Wiser Capital’s “2015 Solar Investment Index” expect investing in solar energy will generate high ROIs.

 

Solar energy investments by high-profile, market leaders such as Google, Apple and Tesla are creating a sense of urgency and forcing U.S. corporations to take a serious look at the solar market, Wiser Capital points out. This being the case, the prospect of solar energy investing becoming genuinely mainstream is not far off.

 

Commercial solar investments can range from investing in the shares of individual solar energy companies, exchange-traded and/or index funds and “yieldcos” (yield companies) to investing in solar energy projects directly, Wiser Capital’s directors of strategic affairs Megan Birney elaborated in an interview.

 

Overcoming Obstacles To Solar Energy Investing

 

Wiser Capital’s latest Solar Investment Index also points out perceived obstacles to investing in solar energy. Lack of standardization and unclear investment policies among corporate investors surveyed has held back nearly half (46 percent) of them from making investments.

 

An inability to accurately and comprehensively assess the various risks of making solar energy investments prevented more than 4 in 10 (43 percent) from committing capital. Nearly one-third (31 percent) held back because they found it difficult to evaluate the viability of individual investments in solar energy.

 

Wiser Capital also identified what would overcome corporate investor hesitations about the solar industry.  Seven of 10 survey participants (69 percent) said they would be more likely to invest in solar this year if there was an easier, standardized means of risk assessment. More than half (54 percent) said they would be likely to make solar investments this year if there was an easier way to find solar energy project partners.

 

For its part, Wiser Capital developed an information systems platform that automates the process of evaluating and carrying out solar energy investments. Key features of the tool include investment-grade financial modeling, a risk rating system, and a Wiser Solar Asset Rating (WSAR) Score. “We are an investment firm. Our software helps us understand the market, and it standardizes and streamlines the investment risk assessment and overall investment process,” Birney said.

 

Lead image: Soaring markets. Credit Shutterstock.

How to Win Planning Permission for Renewable Energy Projects (and Influence People)

At Tuesday afternoon’s POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe conference session in Amsterdam, Paul Davison of PR firm Proteus discussed how to best communicate with the public regarding renewable energy projects, specifically energy from waste (EfW).

“Why does the public regularly resist the development of renewable energy?” he asked, answering that most often it is because project developers have failed to effectively engage with them. While support for renewable power in Europe is overwhelming, and in his home country, the UK, 80 per cent of the public supports it, three in four planning applications fail. According to Davison, “as soon as you get specific” about the details of a project, such as where it will be located and what technology is involved, “you lose the public”.

EU Considers Extending Tariffs on Chinese Panels To Taiwan and Malaysia

The European Union threatened to extend tariffs on solar panels from China to Taiwan and Malaysia, saying Chinese exporters may be using the two countries to evade the levies.

The European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s trade authority in Brussels, opened inquiries into whether Chinese exporters of solar panels shipped them via Taiwan and Malaysia to dodge EU duties meant to counter alleged below-cost — or “dumped” — imports and subsidies.

The probes, which can last as long as nine months, stem from April 15 requests by German solar-panel maker Solarworld AG, the commission said on Friday in the Official Journal.

The requests show that “a significant change in the pattern of trade involving exports from the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia and Taiwan to the union has taken place following the imposition of the measures, without sufficient due cause or economic justification for such a change other than the imposition of the duty,” the commission said.

The investigations are the latest signs of weaknesses in an EU-China agreement in late 2013 to curb European imports of Chinese solar panels. The accord, meant to end the EU’s biggest commercial dispute of its kind, set a minimum price and a volume limit on European imports of the renewable-energy technology until the end of 2015. Chinese manufacturers that opted to take part in the pact are spared EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.

 

Tariff Exemptions

 

The commission has threatened to revoke tariff exemptions for three groups of Chinese solar-panel producers, including Canadian Solar Inc. subsidiaries, because of possible breaches of the price-floor pact. It’s also considering whether to exclude Chinese prices from a benchmark that determines adjustments to the minimum import price in Europe.

As part of the circumvention probes announced on Friday, the commission ordered EU customs officials to register imports of solar panels from Taiwan and Malaysia. That step would allow duties on shipments from Taiwan and Malaysia to be applied retroactively should the investigations determine that circumvention by Chinese exporters took place.

Hong Kong Regulator Confirms Thin-film Solar Company Hanergy Is Under Probe

Hong Kong’s markets regulator confirmed it’s investigating Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., brushing aside a denial from the chairman of the solar company that a probe was underway.

“A formal investigation into the affairs of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd. has been active and is continuing,” the Securities & Futures Commission said Thursday in a statement.

It’s rare for the SFC to discuss a probe before a formal prosecution is launched. It came hours after Li Hejun, founder and principle shareholder of Hanergy, gave an interview to the Xinhua news agency saying that he wasn’t aware of any probe into the stock and that if there was one he should know.

“It’s unusual because all SFC investigations are supposed to be confidential and everybody under investigation has a secrecy obligation,” said Eric Seto, a partner at Morley, Chow, Seto Solicitors, who works on criminal SFC prosecution cases.

Hanergy is under the spotlight after its shares crashed on May 20, tumbling almost 50 percent in about half an hour before trading was suspended. The company’s market value at one point before the plunge exceeded HK$300 billion ($39 billion) more than the value of household names such as Sony Corp. and Twitter Inc.

 

Unusual Step

 

The SFC has broken its silence on at least one other occasion, in March 2009 when it announced an ongoing investigation into the trading of HSBC Holdings PLC shares.

Li has drawn criticism for skipping Hanergy’s annual general meeting in Hong Kong on the day of the crash in favor of delivering a speech at the opening of a solar exhibition center in Beijing.

Even before Hanergy Thin Film’s shares plunged, the solar manufacturer’s business model was under scrutiny. Hanergy makes thin-film solar panels using equipment from Hanergy Thin Film. In January, the Financial Times newspaper questioned why the bulk of Hanergy Thin Film’s sales were to the Beijing-based parent, Hanergy Holding Group Ltd.

Trading patterns in Hanergy’s shares, the company’s production levels, borrowings and relationships with lenders have also been questioned.

 

Trading Suspended

 

Hanergy’s shares are currently halted in Hong Kong, and Hanergy Thin Film has yet to officially address the decline.

Even with Hanergy’s decline, the company is still valued at HK$163 billion, more than four times bigger than First Solar Inc., the biggest U.S. solar company using thin-film technology. First Solar and Japan’s Solar Frontier K.K. dominate the market for thin-film solar cells.

In an interview in March, Li called the company’s investments cautious and said the run-up in the stock was validation of the solar-maker’s focus on a new era of mobile energy.

“All of our plants, if reporters can go and see, are putting on extra shifts and are in full production,” Li said in the Xinhua interview. “We’re in big production. It’s very, very, very good. Hanergy is in its best shape since it started.”