Tag: WindFeatured

Siting a Wind Farm in the Most Challenging Place in the US

According to Jack Kenworthy, CEO of Eolian Renewable Energy, a project developer based in New Hampshire, the best wind projects are those that have died two times because then you know what’s wrong with them. The project he is currently working on is known as Antrim Wind Energy (AWE), a 28.8-MW wind farm on the Tuttle Hill ridge line in Antrim, NH in the United States.

On a windy day in late February, Kenworthy, Henry Weitzner with Walden Green Energy, a subsidiary of German utility RWE, and landscape architect David Raphael with Landworks took several members of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) on a site inspection tour to show them how AWE will impact the community in which it resides.

This wasn’t the first time Kenworthy and the SEC had driven in vans around Antrim, NH and surrounding towns on a site inspection tour. Back in 2012, AWE went through the exact same process before the project was ultimately denied.

Wind Energy Setting Records, Growing Still: The Wind Energy Outlook for 2016

In 2014, annual global installed wind energy capacity reached an unprecedented 51.4 GW. Although final numbers for 2015 aren’t in yet, several sources, including Bloomberg and FTI Consulting, speculate that number could reach as high as 60 GW – an encouraging surge that gives fair indication 2016 could shape up to be another record year for wind.

60 Minutes Investigates Chinese Cyber-espionage in Wind Industry

A story that RenewableEnergyWorld.com covered in 2012 was featured in the popular news program 60 Minutes on Sunday January 17. The program covered the plight of Massachusetts-based American Superconductor (AMSC) whose Intellectual Property (IP) was stolen by Chinese company Sinovel.  Dejan Karabasevic, an employee of AMSC who was based on Austria, helped perpetrate the IP theft. Karabasevic was arrested and served time in jail in Austria for the crime. However, the Chinese government did not investigate Sinovel’s role in the theft, prompting AMSC to bring a civil lawsuit against Sinovel.

According to 60 Minutes, after the US $1.2 B lawsuit was filed in the Chinese court, Chinese cyber-espionage experts hacked into AMSC by sending a fake email purportedly from one member of the AMSC board to the other members of the board. The subject of the email was the headline from the story that RenewableEnergyWorld.com ran in 2012:  “A Harsh Winter for China’s Wind Industry and Its Leading Turbine Manufacturer: Sinovel” and the body of the email contained an attachment with malicious spyware. Once someone in the company clicked on it, the malware was unleashed, basically “opening the front door” to the spies, said experts on 60 Minutes.

Making Sense of the ITC Extension for Wind, Solar (and Bioenergy, Too)

Tuesday December 15 was a good day for U.S. renewable energy companies. In a landmark deal that could mark the first time the Senate and House democrats and republicans were able to compromise on anything at all, the two parties released an omnibus spending bill that lifts the 40-year U.S. oil export ban and gives a five-year extension of renewable energy tax credits for wind and solar.

Solar Industry Exuberant

The bill extends the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar until 2021. It was originally expected to sunset at the end of 2016, which was forcing developers to rush to finish projects. In a session last week during Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo, Julie Ungerleider of Coronal Group explained that because of the hard stop that the ITC created, solar projects that were not already “fully baked” were unlikely to be able to be built by 2016.  She said material shortages were rampant with the rush to build now.  This extension should relieve some of that pressure.

The ITC will be extended until December 31, 2019 in its current form. After that projects that start construction in 2020 and 2021 will receive 26 percent and 22 percent, respectively. All projects must be completed by 2024 to obtain these elevated ITC rates. For residential solar, a similar tax credit phase-out applies until December 31, 2021, after which the tax credit scheme ends.

Digging Deeper, Why Renewables are Beating Coal and Gas in Some Parts of the World

Earlier this month Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) announced findings that the LCOE for wind and solar is now cheaper than coal and gas in Europe. Further the organization said that it is actually the renewables that are pushing up the LCOE of gas and coal. Because the BNEF analysis is so deep and complex — it uses thousands of data points the company says — the press release that it issued was hard to understand. Here we take a deeper look at the process involved in comparing energy generation technologies to determine exactly why renewables will continue to push out fossils for the foreseeable future.

First, what is LCOE? Short for levelized cost of electricity, LCOE takes all of the factors into producing a megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity into play. This includes everything from the cost of equipment, labor, permits, etc. to build the plants; the cost of fuel to run them; the cost of operations and maintenance over the lifetime of the plant; and the cost of capital to pay for everything mentioned above. All of these costs, which BNEF derived based on actual deals and projects around the world, were tallied and then divided by the by the amount of energy the plants will produce (which depends very much on capacity factor) over their lifetime to arrive at a final cost for each and every MWh of electricity that will be produced by the power plant.

It’s a very useful metric for comparing generation technologies in an apple-to-apples format. But what will be most fascinating to energy stakeholders is that renewables are now inching out fossils in some regions of the world.

Why different regions? The cost of building, operating, maintaining and fueling a coal plant in China will not be the same as building, operating, maintaining and fueling one in, for example, Europe. Similarly, the output of an onshore wind farm in a location where the wind never stops blowing will be different that the output of a wind farm in a location where the wind picks up and then dies down frequently over the course of a year.

This is why LCOE is useful – because while in a wind farm, the fuel is free, the output is much less than a coal plant, which could theoretically run 90 percent of the time (this is called its capacity factor or utilization rate). But what happens to that coal plant’s capacity factor is greatly affected by the amount of other generation available to send power to the grid. So, as more wind energy is available because there are more wind farms built, the capacity factor of that coal plant goes down: now instead of running 90 percent of the time, it runs maybe 75 percent of the time, which then pushes up its LCOE.

While we were not able to get our hands on a publishable chart before press time, a deeper look at the BNEF analysis shows not only that the LCOE for wind and solar is beating coal and natural gas in some regions of the world, but that other renewable technologies such as geothermal, biomass incineration and small hydro also have very low LCOEs and in many regions are cost competitive or cheaper than fossil or nuclear energy.

More Numbers

To get down to the nitty-gritty, specifically, the global average LCOE for onshore wind dropped from $85 per megawatt-hour in the first half of the year, to $83 in H2, while that for crystalline silicon PV solar fell from $129 to $122.

In the same period, the LCOE for coal-fired generation increased from $66 per MWh to $75 in the Americas, from $68 to $73 in Asia-Pacific, and from $82 to $105 in Europe. The LCOE for combined-cycle gas turbine generation rose from $76 to $82 in the Americas, from $85 to $93 in Asia-Pacific and from $103 to $118 in EMEA.

Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: “Our report shows wind and solar power continuing to get cheaper in 2015, helped by cheaper technology but also by lower finance costs. Meanwhile, coal and gas have got more expensive on the back of lower utilization rates, and in Europe, higher carbon price assumptions following passage of the Market Stability Reserve reform.”

Among other low-carbon energy technologies, offshore wind reduced its global average LCOE from $176 per MWh, to $174, but still remains significantly more expensive than wind, solar PV, coal or gas, while biomass incineration saw its levelized cost stay steady at $134 per MWh. Nuclear, like coal and gas, has very different LCOE levels from one region of the world to another, but both the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region saw increases in levelized costs, to $261 and $158 per MWh respectively.

Among the country-level findings of the BNEF study are that onshore wind is now fully cost-competitive with both gas-fired and coal-fired generation, once carbon costs are taken into account, in the UK and Germany. In the UK, onshore wind comes in on average at $85 per MWh in the second half of 2015, compared to $115 for combined-cycle gas and $115 for coal-fired power; in Germany, onshore wind is at $80, compared to $118 for gas and $106 for coal.

In China, onshore wind is cheaper than gas-fired power, at $77 per MWh versus $113, but it is much more expensive still than coal-generated electricity, at $44, while solar PV power is at $109. In the US, coal and gas are still cheaper, at $65 per MWh, against onshore wind at $80 and PV at $107.

Luke Mills, analyst, energy economics at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “Generating costs continue to vary greatly from region to region, reflecting influences such as the shale gas boom in the U.S., changing utilization rates in areas of high renewables penetration, the shortage of local gas production in East Asia, carbon prices in Europe, differing regulations on nuclear power across the world, and contrasting resources for solar generation.

“But onshore wind and solar PV are both now much more competitive against the established generation technologies than would have seemed possible only five or 10 years ago.”

Lead image: The Green Evolution. Credit: Shutterstock.