Thursday, 3 January 2013

Buffett utility to build world’s largest solar photovoltaic power projects

The two combined projects will form the largest permitted solar photovoltaic power development in the world. Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. agreed to spend as much as US$2.5-billion to build two solar projects in California that are set to be the world’s largest photovoltaic development. MidAmerican acquired the 579-megawatt Antelope Valley projects in Kern and Los Angeles counties from SunPower Corp., according to a statement today. MidAmerican will pay San Jose, California-based SunPower US$2-billion to US$2.5-billion for the projects and a three-year contract to build them. SunPower also will operate and maintain the projects under a multiyear agreement with MidAmerican. Buffett has been increasing investment in wind and solar farms and last year formed a MidAmerican unit to support the projects it’s acquired, including the US$2.4-billion 550-megawatt Topaz solar farm in California. Chief Financial Officer Patrick Goodman said in November the company favors bets on renewable energy amid high utility valuations. California is the biggest U.S. solar market. The sale gives panel-maker SunPower “a sizable captive demand channel for its modules which should help ensure the company maintains healthy factory utilization levels even if the oversupply conditions in the industry take longer than expected to be resolved,” Ben Kallo and Christopher M. Kovacs, analysts for Robert W. Baird & Co., said in a note Wednesday. Ingrid Ekstrom, a spokeswoman for SunPower, declined to specify how much of the total amount being spent is construction costs and how much is the purchase price. SunPower is 66% owned by France’s Total SA, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 2015 Completion Construction of the Antelope Valley project is due to begin this quarter, with completion by the end of 2015, SunPower said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Together, the two combined projects will form the largest permitted solar photovoltaic power development in the world and will create an estimated 650 jobs during construction,” according to the statement. The projects will provide energy to Edison International under two long-term power-purchase contracts. MidAmerican Renewables, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy, has more than 1,830 megawatts of assets, including wind power, geothermal, solar and hydro, according to today’s statement. MidAmerican is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. SunPower rose 6.6% to $5.99 at 12:28 p.m. in New York. Berkshire, based in Omaha, Nebraska rose 3.4% to $138,653. SOURCE - Bloomberg News

Africa's largest solar power plant to be built in Ghana

The largest solar power plant in Africa will be built in Ghana, the British company behind the plan said on Tuesday. Source of much of the world's cocoa and an increasingly significant oil producer, Ghana's new drive to exploit the sun's energy is predicted to create hundreds of jobs and increase the country's electricity capacity by 6%, as well as cutting emissions. Blue Energy, the renewable energy developer behind the $400m project, which has built a solar farm 31 times smaller outside Swindon, said the 155MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant will be fully operational by October 2015. Construction on the Nzema project is due to begin near the village of Aiwiaso in western Ghana by the end of 2013, with the installation of some 630,000 PV modules. The power plant, which at the time of planning would be the fourth biggest of its kind in the world, will be the first major scheme to claim payments from Ghana's feed-in tariff incentive scheme, created by the government in 2011. Ghana has a target of increasing renewable energy capacity from its current 1% of the country's energy mix to 10% by 2020. Chris Dean, chief executive of Blue Energy, said: "Ghana's forward-thinking strategy puts it in a strong position to lead the renewable energy revolution in sub-Saharan Africa. Nzema is a case study in how governments can unlock the huge potential for solar energy in Africa. We are delighted that it will make a strong contribution to the national economy, provide much needed generating capacity and help develop the skills of the future." Douglas Coleman, the project's director at Blue Energy, told the Guardian that the company was using solar PV instead of the distinctive 'troughs' used in concentrated solar power technology seen in north Africa and the Middle East in part because PV only requires light, not direct sunlight. The choice of PV means the farm will still generate electricity during the more than 100 cloudy days Ghana experiences each year, he said. The company said it expects to create 200 permanent jobs and 500 during the construction phase, which already has the go-ahead from planning authorities. The plan for the Ghanian plant follows recent denials of a crisis at the separate Desertec initiative – which envisions solar plants in north Africa providing green energy for Europe – following the withdrawal of Siemens and Bosch from the initiative. Ghana recorded the fastest growth in Sub-Saharan Africa last year, with GDP growing at 14.3%, driven by oil production. In March, London-based Tullow Oil said an oil field it had found off the coast in 2011 was a major find. The average carbon footprint of a Ghanian is 0.4 tonnes of CO2, compared to 8.5 tonnes of CO2 per head in the UK. Source - The Guardian

Solar-powered lamp-post provides ray of light for Mali

Momodou Keita, town chief of Sanogola, a small village 300km north of Bamako, Mali's capital, stands proudly beside the community's solar-powered lamp-post – a shiny, blue, enamel-coated construction of welded bicycle parts and water pipes. "Ten villages now want these lamps," he announces with pride from inside his traditional Malian mud-walled compound. "Now we have electricity and it helps us so much," he says. Children in the village of Sanogola, Mali, learn to read and write using the solar lamp. Photograph: Matteo Ferroni/ Solar technology is spreading throughout countries across Africa and it is getting cheaper and more efficient. The searing rays of sunlight coupled with the lack of electricity grids on the continent make this renewable form of energy a no-brainer. But what makes Foroba Yelen, or Collective Light – the name given to the lamp-posts by the women of the area – so different is that it was designed specifically for the Malian communities who would end up using it, earning funding from the University of Barcelona for winning a special mention in the City to City Barcelona FAD (El Foment de les Arts i el Disseny/Support for Art and Design) award, a competition recognising initiatives that transform communities across the world. Italian architect Matteo Ferroni spent three years studying villages in rural Mali, where close to 90% of the population have no access to electricity. He wanted to design a light that villagers could manufacture for themselves, so went on to study how welders in nearby Cinzana built donkey carts, the traditional mode of transport that is still widely used today. He used their expertise, along with parts that could be found in any small village in the country, and came up with a design that would "work for the people, not the manufacturers". "Wherever we need the lamp to be, we just move it," says Assitan Coulibaly, the town chief's wife, gesturing to her son who proceeds to rock the lamp-post gently backwards on to its built-in wheel and trundle it around the yard. "Children can do that. Elders can do that. Everyone can do that," she says with a smile. And they make money from renting the lamp-posts out to other communities too, adds Keita. "When other villages need light for any occasion they borrow it and go for the ceremony and bring it back," he says. "They have to pay to know the value of the lights." Ferroni noticed how people in rural areas did not follow western night and day sleep patterns. Instead, they wake and sleep depending on circumstances, and it was often the women who would work through the night using costly and often dangerous paraffin lanterns to finish jobs, such as grinding shea nuts, maize or millet, to sell the following day. "The light is a tool to help women who carry out most of the work in the villages," he says. "If they can do extra work at night, they can bring in more money for the family and in turn improve the education and health of their children." The lamp-posts have become much more than just a source of light for the community of Sanogola. They are enhancing their lives economically, socially and educationally, creating a space for the people of the village to use in whatever way they desire. And 62 more were delivered to communities in the surrounding areas in December. "This light is the equivalent of the shade of the tree in the daytime," says Ferroni. source - The Guardian

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013 to all my readers an fellow people

WE shall be updating the blog on a weekly bases :)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Australia turns on large-scale solar plant

Australia's biggest solar farm was officially connected this week. The 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm in Western Australia -- a joint project of First Solar, Inc., GE Energy Financial Services and Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy -- is expected to generate enough solar energy to power 3,000 homes, eliminating 20,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year. The plant, near the port town of Geraldton, consists of 150,000 of First Solar's advanced thin film PV modules solar photovoltaic panels spread over 198 acres. "The Western Australia community has developed a genuine appetite for renewable energy, and today we are 10 megawatts closer to a cleaner energy future," Western Australia's Minister of Energy Peter Collier said in a release. Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 percent of the project. The Western Australia Government provided $20 million in funding. "As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis," Verve Energy Chief Executive Officer Jason Waters said in a release. "This is a positive first step in validating the bright future that large-scale solar represents in Australia," he said. Verve Energy and GE are evaluating the possibility of a plant expansion up to 40 megawatts to satisfy growing demand for renewable energy, Waters said. Australia aims to generate at least 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The project represents GE Energy Financial Services' first renewable energy investment in Australia. GE says it's portfolio of committed renewable energy projects worldwide totals more than $8 billion. Matt O'Connor, managing director at GE Energy Financial Services said the company sees "incredible investment opportunities in Australia," and it looks forward "to applying our expertise to help the country's renewable energy market grow." Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square meter of any continent in the world, the government says. About 858,000 homes in Australia have solar PV panels, accounting for a total installed capacity of nearly 2 gigawatts, data from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator indicate. That translates into a rooftop solar installation on one out of every 10 households. Ray Wills, chief adviser to the Sustainable Energy Association, an industry lobby group, said at the current rate of installations, he expects the 1 millionth home to be achieved by the end of next June, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Germany raises electricity charge to finance renewables

Germany's electrical grid operators said Monday they were raising by nearly 50 percent the charge to consumers that finances subsidies for renewable energy as the country phases out nuclear power. Consumers will be asked to pay a charge of 0.05277 euros per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed in 2013, the firms said, compared with a 0.03592-euro surcharge this year. For an average three-person house, this 47-percent increase amounts to an additional 60 euros ($77.8) per year, taking the overall charge up to about 185 euros annually. In total, the network operators hope to collect more than 20 billion euros to subsidise renewable energies. On Thursday, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said that Germany, Europe's top economy, wanted to meet 40 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020, up from a previous target of 35 percent. By 2050, the government aims to supply four-fifths of Germany's power needs from alternative energy sources such as solar or wind energy. "It's clear that the energy switch-over that we all want and that I want to succeed, won't come free," Altmaier told Monday's edition of the mass-circulation daily Bild. Claudia Kemfert, from the DIW economic institute, warned that the poorer-off in society needed to be shielded from the hike but stressed that the renewable energy sector in Germany would continue to create jobs. "The increase in this charge is manageable for many households, but there are also very poor, low-income households which could be negatively affected by this type of price rise," Kemfert said. "We need to think about ways to help these households financially, so they can save energy and electricity," she added. Nevertheless, the renewables sector already employed 400,000 people in Germany and "this number will rise," she noted. "Therefore, this is a positive development for Germany." However, an association representing the chemical industry slammed the charge as a "bottomless pit." Firms that use a lot of electricity, such as the chemical sector, can apply for an exemption in paying the charge or benefit from a lower amount. More than 2,000 companies have applied for special treatment for next year. Karl-Ludwig Kley, head of the German chemical industry association, said: "The costs for consumers and industry of the electricity price charge for renewable energy has risen to an unbearable degree." The costs for the chemical sector would rise from 550 million euros this year to 800 million euros in 2013, Kley said. Germany decided in the immediate wake of Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster to shut down its nuclear reactors by 2022 and ramp up the use of renewable energy. Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the so-called "Energiewende", the term used to describe both the end of nuclear power and the promotion of renewable energy sources, one of her government's priorities. However, the policy has run into difficulties, notably due to technical and financing problems as well as because of local resistance to building new power lines. In February, Germany was forced to tap into its electricity reserves amid a cold snap, sparking fears that the switch out of nuclear power could result in power shortages. Germany, one of Europe's biggest countries, also faces transmission problems, with much of the production capacity offshore in the north but much of the demand hundreds of kilometres (miles) away in the south. According to the EU statistical office Eurostat, the average household electricity price is 0.253 euros per kilowatt hour, the second highest in the 27-member bloc behind Denmark. The World Wildlife Fund in Germany warned that a "hysterical debate" was now taking place. "Only one-third of electricity price rises since 2000 is due to support for renewable energy," said Regine Guenther, the group's head of climate and energy policy in Germany.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Australia's largest solar farm opens amid renewable target debate

Australia switched on its first utility-scale solar farm on Wednesday, bringing the country a step closer to achieving ambitious renewable energy targets that traditional coal and gas power producers are now fighting to soften. The Greenough River Solar project, just outside the small town of Walkaway in the state of Western Australia, is a joint-venture between Western Australian state-owned Verve Energy and US conglomerate General Electric. It is expected to have a capacity of 10 megawatts, enough to power 3,000 homes. "The Greenough River solar farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis," Jason Waters, chief executive of Verve Energy said on Wednesday. Australia has committed to getting 20% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 but big coal and gas-based utilities are arguing for those targets to be cut. The plant is General Electric's first investment in Australian renewable energy, and plans are already underway to eventually expand it to 40MW. The electricity generated by the plant will be purchased by Western Australia Water Corporation to power a nearby desalination plant. Australia is one of the world's most ideal places for solar projects. It has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world, according to government, and a population the size of New Delhi spread over an area the size of the contiguous United States. Australia currently gets about 10% of its electricity supply from renewable energy, about two-thirds of which comes from hydropower. But the plant opens as the future of renewables is clouded by a campaign by some utilities and energy companies to cut Australia's mandatory renewable energy targets. The renewable energy targets (RET) are currently undergoing a routine review by Australia's Climate Change Authority which will be wrapped up by the end of the year. Champions of renewable energy say a cut in the targets, which would require Australia to produce 41,000 gigawatt-hours of its electricity requirements by 2020, would devastate the fledgling industry. "If the RET was to be reduced or, in fact, to be removed then essentially the business case for renewable energy just would not stack up and the industry would fall off a cliff. It would stop dead in its tracks," said Kane Thornton, director of strategy, Clean Energy Council. AGL Energy, one of the few utilities that has called for the RET to remain the same, arguing the investment certainty is key for the more than the several billion dollars worth of solar and wind projects it has underway. "Amendments of the renewable energy target would certainly not be well received by investors who've got potential new projects that they'd be looking to develop," Tim Nelson, head of economics and policy for AGL in Sydney, said. But critics of the targets say that the 41,000 GWh goal by 2020 will amount to around a quarter of Australia's total electricity supply by then, due to slower than expected growth in electrify demand, more than the intended 20%. Origin Energy, Australia's largest energy retailer and an investor in renewables, said the RET target should be re-evaluated. Another leading utility, TRUenergy, which recently rebranded itself as EnergyAustralia, said adjusting the targets to take account of lower energy use projections could save AU$25bn (£16bn) or $840 for each electricity customer. The Australian Coal Association has argued that the RET should be abolished completely because it unfairly picks winners in the electricity market. Proponents of leaving the RET unchanged, however, hold that those who advocate changes in the RET, including getting rid of it, are those who stand to profit from an energy mix with fewer renewables. Source - Reuters