Coal Museum’s Unlikely Energy Source

Last 1994, a museum dedicated for the presentation of coal’s historical significance for Eastern Kentucky was opened at Benham Kentucky. This particular heritage center was called Kentucky Coal Mining Museum and the facility offers different key exhibits that showcase a mock mine tour in an actual underground coal mine, engineering, a miner’s home, how coal is extracted from its source and burnt to be used as electricity, mining equipments, etc…

The Kentucky Coal Museum is an establishment that represents coal’s importance in the energy industry and how it transformed through the years. Despite its rich cultural impact and historical significance, it will eventually be part of history as new, improved, and better technology comes along – such is the case of renewables for the energy segment.

It all boils down to progress. Different states in the US are already realizing that renewables (solar, wind, hydro, etc…) are becoming less expensive and better for the environment. The museum’s purpose is to honor coal’s history and what it did for the people – but to move forward, one must utilize more progressive means to source electricity.

This is the reason why Southeast Community and Technical College (the museum’s owner) preferred to choose solar panels to provide lighting for the facility. In doing so, the museum is saving money on energy costs – and at the same time, does not strip mountains and no burning are included. Basically, the move is economically sound and environmentally friendly (sunrays falling to earth is infinite and a natural thing – while coal burning clogs up the atmosphere).

As per a former state representative who sponsored the legislation that created the coal museum (Roger Noe) -- “It’s a little ironic or coincidental that you are putting solar green energy on a coal museum. Coal comes from nature, the sun rays come from nature, so it all works out to be a positive thing.”

The Mayor Wanda Humphrey also has this to add -- “The museum is in Benham, once a coal camp town whose population peaked at about 3,000. Today, it has about 500 people, and Humphrey says she is the mayor because no one else wants the job. It’s also the best place in town to get the most direct sunlight, which made it an ideal location for solar panels. ‘The people here are sort of in awe of this solar thing,’ Humphrey said.”



For 700,000 Indian Homes

Almost two years ago (in July of 2015), Japanese multinational internet and telecommunications corporation, Softbank, aggressively entered India’s solar market when it announced its $20 Billion investment to develop 20 gigawatts of solar in the country. Together with Bharti Enterprises (a conglomerate based in New Delhi) and Foxconn (a Taiwanese contract manufacturer who recently finalized a billion dollar deal to own majority of Sharp – a Japanese based PV supplier and electronics manufacturer), the three HUGE major companies formed a venture to realize Softbank’s ambitious and massive announcement. Fortunately, Softbank’s success track record with regard to developing PV projects in its home turf of Japan has extended to India as the Ghani Sakunala Solar Park has been completed successfully and is now in fully operational swing.

The project which was awarded last 2015 by NTPC (a local state utility) is actually the venture’s first commissioned project in India. The Ghani Sakunala Solar Park is also SB Energy (the venture’s name) first large scale solar array under the country’s JNNSM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission). The PV farm is located in the state of Andhra Pradesh (in the Kurnool district) has a tariff rate of $0.07 per kWh over 25 years is expected to provide enough electricity for approximately 700,000 Indian households.



A new record for the UK

Something amazingly impressive occurred in England last week – in fact, it is a new record for the country. According to UK’s primary utility company (the National Grid), solar delivered too much energy that electricity demand coming from both residential and commercial establishments was lower in the afternoon compared to night time. This is what one may call as a reduced electricity demand. This basically means that solar energy coming from distribution networks were huge enough that lesser energy was required from nuclear plant and fossil fuel sources. As per different reports, thanks to a sunny spring day, solar was able to output six times more electricity compared to fossil fuel and coal fired power plants.

National Grid’s daily operations manager (Duncan Burt) has explained -- “Demand being lower in the afternoon than overnight really is turning the hard and fast rules of the past upside down. It’s another fascinating sign of the huge changes we are seeing in Britain’s energy scene.”

Chris Goodall, an author writing about how solar power is transforming energy systems, has chimed in -- “A sunny day between the equinoxes can now produce a peak of around 9.5GW. At weekends, when demand is low, this will frequently mean solar is producing well over 25% of the UK power need. This drives coal almost completely out of the mix, as it did at the weekend, and depresses gas use,”

Lastly, a spokesman for the UK government indicated that -- “This government wants Britain to be one of the best places in the world to invest in clean, flexible energy. Solar power is a great success, with over 11 gigawatts of capacity installed in the last five years. That’s enough to power more than 2.6 million homes with clean electricity.”



One month from now in Spain

In a little more than a month, the long expected renewable energy auction with large scale capacity will be held in Spain. The country’s energy regulator Comisión Nacional de Mercados y Competencia (CNMC) has confirmed the auction’s approval and offered suggestions of a few rule changes to make the auction more competitive and transparent. Needless to say, different renewable energy technologies will compete in the tender – but solar developers will particularly be keen on this one as it is the first scheme since 2012 that supports development of large scale solar.

Anyway, aside from the May 17 auction timeline, the national government of Spain has also outlined the intended energy capacity it aims to allocate. Basically, the government plans to allot 2 GW of renewable energy capacity – but this can be possibly extended to 3 GW depending on certain conditions. The maximum value of offered percentage reduction has also been indicated – these are listed below:

  • 51.22% for solar
  • 63.43% for wind
  • 99.9% for all other forms renewable energy technology



Doubling for Nigeria

GreenWish Partners is a renewable power producer that is quite active in the energy scene of sub Saharan Africa. One can even say that the company is a solar power pioneer in the region since it is responsible (from development, financing, and even commissioning) of West Africa’s first ever solar IPP. Just recently, the company made some interesting moves in Nigeria’s solar sector.

As can be remembered, the GreenWish has an existing plan of installing 100 MW of solar capacity in Nigeria. However, after securing a long term agreement with NBET (Nigeria’s Bulk Electricity Trading company), GreenWish now aims to double their original target of 100 megawatts of solar. This means that GreenWish is now targeting installation of 200 MW of solar capacity – 50 MW in Jigawa, 50 MW in  Kaduna, and a 100 megawatt solar project in Enugu. Investment cost for all three projects is reportedly around $280 million and funded through equity (30%) and debt finance (70%). Once all three projects are fully functional by Q1 of 2018, it should deliver enough electricity for 2.5 million people and at the same time remove 1.5 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Since only half of Nigeria’s population has access to reliable electricity, the three solar projects are very much welcome by the country. Besides, GreenWish CEO (Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian) also hints that apart from providing much needed electricity to Nigerians – the solar market conditions and government support of the country makes it a great site for solar power investment.



Panama’s Largest Solar Plant – NOW Grid Connected!!!

Last 2013, the Republic of Panama has issued a law that supports solar energy through auctions and fiscal incentives. Fast forward to the present, Panama’s installed PV capacity has incredulously increased thanks to various PV plants of mostly 9 to 10 megawatts. Although, various solar plants in the country are at the mentioned range, there are some that are relatively larger – one good example is the Sol Real project which has recently went online and connected to the grid.

The Sol Real project is currently the largest solar plant in Panama (in fact, it is also the largest one in the South American region). The $55 million project has a capacity of 42 MW coming from five sub-units. Details of these five sub-units are as follows:

  • A 5 megawatt unit in Caldera Solar
  • An 8 MW unit in Sol de David units
  • Sol Real’s 11 megawatt unit
  • Milton Solar with 10 MW
  • Vista Alegre with another 8 MW unit

The first two are located in the Panama’s west coast while the last three are at the heart of the country. The Sol Real project is courtesy of Italian manufacturer and electricity distributor Enel (Ente nazionale per l'energia elettrica) and is the second large scale solar project the company has connected to the grid within Panama – the first one went live two years ago and is called as the 12 MW Fortuna PV plant located in Chiriquí. Both projects were developed by Enel’s local subsidiary, Enel Green Power Panamá, and both large scale solar plants sells its energy to the 300 MW Fortuna hydroelectric power station.

On a yearly basis, the Sol Real project is approximated to generate almost 70 million GWh of electricity.



New member for Phase 3

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is a PV plant implemented by DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) on a 77 square kilometre area in Seih Al-Dahal. The park is named after the one who announced it – the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of UAE (Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum). Given its massive size (the park is actually one of the largest renewable energy projects based on an IPP model), the project will be done in different stages. The first phase was commissioned last 2013 while the second stage is commissioned last month.

The third phase, which is installation of 800 MW in the project, is awarded to a consortium led by the Masdar Group. DEWA has floated the tender for the third phase last year. During the time the tender was floated, it set a global record for being the lowest-ever solar PV tariff. Anyway, last November 2016, both DEWA and Masdar Group signed the project’s power purchase agreement. Other members of the consortium are Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, Gransolar Group and EDF Energies Nouvelles (the last one, EDF, has only joined recently).

Phase III is scheduled to be completed by 2020 but as early as June of this year, tender for the 200 MW phase four will already be opened. Once the solar park is fully functional / operational, it should have a capacity of five gigawatts. The original target is only 1 GW, but eventually increased to 3 GW then to 5 GW.



Another Major Foreign Investor for India

India is fast becoming a solar superpower – and as such, this obviously attracts international investors and solar developers in the country. One such foreign entity planning to enter India’s solar scene is the Macquarie Group.

Macquarie Group Limited is a global diversified financial services and investment banking group. The company is headquartered in Sydney is Australia’s biggest investment bank. Reports has it that Macquarie Asia Infrastructure Fund (MAIF – an infrastructure fund of Macquarie) has decided to purchase a huge PV portfolio from Hindustan Power. For those who are not familiar with Hindustan Power, it is officially called Hindustan Power projects Pvt. Ltd and is one of the fastest growing integrated power company in the country.

Anyway, according to reports, the solar portfolio that Macquarie will acquire from Hindustan Power has a total capacity of 330 megawatts spread out in 18 special investment vehicles on different areas of Gujarat (the state often referred to as the Jewel of Western India). The Australia based investment group reportedly agreed to an amount of $600 million which covers overall stake to the solar assets. Since this is a long waited opportunity for Macquarie to enter India’s solar sector, hopefully, it would all be worth it.



New Orleans – a solar leader

When talking about top solar states in the US, one will usually pull up California, North Carolina, and Arizona. However, pretty soon, New Orleans may also pop out to the conversation. As per a recently released report entitled “Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America” – New Orleans is now fourteenth when it comes to installed solar power and 9th regarding solar power per capita. Although the report which came from Environment America Research & Policy Center clearly implied that New Orleans is an upcoming (if not yet already) solar state leader, the US Department of Energy indicated that The Big Easy (the name New Orleans is popularly called) only uses three percent of its solar potential. Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that New Orleans’ solar sector is still growing strong. In fact, the Solar Foundation claims that as of year of 2016, there was a thirty six percent increase in the state’s Metro area solar workforce compared to 2015.

Also, as stated by Logan Atkinson Burke (Executive Director of Alliance for Affordable Energy) -- New Orleans has been fortunate to have an abundance of sunshine, supportive regulators at the city council, and a strong solar industry thanks to solar incentives and solar-leasing programs, Whole neighborhoods are leading the charge through word of mouth, and are showing their support for clean energy as a way to reduce their electricity bills. This is what it looks like when the community sets an example.”

Co-author of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s report (Bret Fanshaw) also explained that -- “By using solar power in New Orleans, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Louisianians, To realize these benefits, city leaders should continue to embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the community.” In 2015, the New Orleans city council unanimously adopted a resolution stating, “…we support public policies to encourage a robust local solar industry to save our families money, provide quality employment opportunities, produce clean energy, and grow our local economy.”



Nothing but profits for Edisun

Edison is a name almost any educated person in the world is familiar to – this is simply because Thomas Edison is popularly known as the father of electricity after inventing the famous light bulb. However, within the solar energy circle, the name is also popular because global renewable energy compoany SunEdison. Unfortunately, and for those who are not aware, SunEdison is one of the biggest solar companies around that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. In this news, a variant of the name is positioned in a redeeming light as Edisun.

Edisun Power (officially known as Edisun Power Europe AG) is based in Switzerland. This particular international Swiss company boasts that it operates and finances PV plants in different areas of Europe. Research has it that after 19 years after its foundation in 1997, the company now owns 34 solar plants with a cumulative capacity of eighteen megawatts. These 34 solar plants are distributed in Switzerland, Spain, Germany, and France.

On top of this, it seems that business seems to be continuously good for Edisun. Different sources reported that Edisun Power closed 2016 with a seven percent increase in its electricity production capacity. Additionally, turnover grew on an annual basis by 8% (%8.16 million) that translated to a net profit of boost of 34%.

The Swiss solar power producer explained that the good results stemmed from its two acquisisitions – (a) the Digrun solar power plant (Mallorca, Spain); and (b) the Sainte Maxime solar facility (southern region of France). And since Edisun has recently acquired another 12 MW solar project in Spain, plus another project (Requena PV project) scheduled to go online this year, it seems that the only direction Edisun will be going is upward.



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