First Step for City’s Clean Future
A lot of people may not know this, but last year, Albuquerque’s city council passed a resolution requiring that twenty five percent of the city’s energy usage must be sourced from solar come 2025. Since Albuquerque is New Mexico’s most populous city, energy needs of the city is relatively high.
As per Sanders Moore (director of advocacy group Environment New Mexico), solar only plays a 3% role in Albuquerque’s energy mix. However, even with only three percent, the city is in the top ten US cities with overall generated solar power. Additionally, the Shining Cities 2017 report ranks the city as fourth with regard to solar power per capita. With these figures, just imagine what the city can do by 2025 – when it plans to get 25% of its energy needs from solar.
Anyway, it seems that the first step of the 25% by 2025 target seems to have started as announced by Senator Martin Heinrich, together with councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton. Basically, the first stages include solar panel installation on various buildings of the city. Of course, a move such as this would take a large upfront – which appears to have been taken care of Senator Heinrich. Reports has it that through the efforts of the senator, Albuquerque is found to be eligible for up to $25 million in federally backed bonds. The bond will apparently be used to purchase the solar panels. Target operational date is two years (or less) after installation.
Aside from its clean and green benefits, the move is also expected to reduce electricity bills and improve employment as local workers will be trained and hired to install the panels. It’s about time that New Mexico make an aggressive solar move as it is the sunniest state in the US but only ranks thirteenth in terms of the percentage of solar power generated.
Another one bites the dust
Founded in 2007, Suniva is a US based solar modules and high-efficiency PV solar cells producer. The company’s products are sold globally and through the years, the company seems to have been growing strong. Sadly, Suniva joined the Chapter 11 bankruptcy group just recently.
It is actually quite hard to believe that one of the largest manufacturers in the US will file for bankruptcy. However, after what happened to SunEdison (and to other big name solar cell producers), this seems to be an inescapable trend for western manufacturers due to a global glut of supply combined with unsustainable low prices.
There are also different signs leading to the company’s financial doom – a few weeks back, the company laid off over one hundred personnel without notice; Suniva’s 200 megawatt plant in Michigan has closed down; huge margin between assets and liabilities; rumours circulating for the last months that the company is not paying its vendors; etc…
Besides Suniva, Chinese clean and green company Shunfeng is also apparently greatly affected as it owns a 63% share of Suniva’s stock. In fact, because of its Suniva investment (a) Shunfeng have reported a $38 million impairment loss; (b) For potential financial liabilities, have set aside $33 million; and (c) shared in Suniva’s $12 million loss.
Fears of Stranded Assets
Stranded assets are generally defined as those that have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluations, or conversion to liabilities. There are different reasons for this, and one such factor is innovation and transformation. Since many nations are planning to phase out fossil fuel, industries with heavy dependency on coal have the potential to be stranded assets.
Because of this unwanted possibility, many investors / entities are unloading or distancing themselves from oil and coal related industries. For instance, reports has it that PKA Ltd (Pensionskassernes Administration A/S – one of the largest pension service providers for labour market pension funds in Denmark) has divested its investments from five Canadian oil producers and is also apparently in the process of assessing another 44 oil and gas companies.
According to Pelle Pedersen (head of responsible investment at PKA) -- “We have decided to divest from certain companies involved in energy and carbon-intensive extraction methods, which we do not believe fit in a low-carbon economy, This is not to say the oil and gas sector will be disrupted tomorrow, but we have to accept what is happening right in front of our eyes. The energy sector is changing [at a very high] speed.”
Of course, PKA’s move is quite understandable since a bad choice does not sit well its more than 270,000 members. Additionally, PKA is not alone – many other large investors and pension funds are making similar move as the low-carbon future appears to be inevitable. As they say, it is just good business sense or a smart investment move.
Argentina seeks Chinese for assistance
In august of last year, the government of Argentina launched the so-called RenovAR program – the country’s first ever renewable energy tender. The original plan is to allocate 600 MW for wind energy, solar will be allotted 300 MW, biomass with 65 MW, 20 MW for hydro, and 15 MW for biogas. However, the program proved to be an overwhelming success that 58 solar projects with a total capacity of 2.8 gigawatts are entered to RenovAR.
Anyway, Argentina’s northwest province of Jujuy has won 300 MW of solar projects with installation price of $60/MWh. Basically, the 300 MW project consists of the three Cauchari solar projects – each having 100 megawatts. Development will be done by JEMSE SE (Jujuy Energy and Mining State Society) – a local government-run company.
Since JEMSE has invited corporate links Power China, Shanghai Electric, and Talesun (all obviously chinese companies), Argentina’s Ministry of Finance has sent a delegation to china to discuss, among other things, financing of the 300 megawatt solar project in the Jujuy province. It has also been reported that representatives of Export-Import Bank of China (a Chinese state-owned bank) are present as the bank is expected to provide $400 million in funds.
Saudi Arabia Pushes Green Goals
Most of the world knows that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the world’s largest oil producer and exporter – and as such has became extremely rich because of its fossil fuel resources. In fact, KSA is the only Arab country that is part of the G-20 major economies and categorized by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Interestingly, the Kingdom’s energy minister recently announced that the country plans to source ten percent of its overall energy from renewables by 2023. With this announcement, one may ask, why would the world renowned largest oil producer (and exporter) would do such a move? Logically speaking, the answer is apparently quite simple – fossil fuel resources is not infinite and at the same time harmful for the environment.
As announced in Riyadh, Khalid al-Falih (KSA’s Energy Minister) disclosed the Saudi Arabia’s bold intention of completing 30 wind and solar energy projects plus incorporating 10% of renewables to the country’s energy mix. The 30 wind and solar projects is reported to have a combined capacity of 9.5 gigawatts. Needless to say, an ambitious plan such as this would require a massive investment in the tune of anywhere between $30 to $50 billion (well, given Saudi Arabia’s equally immense fortune, the country will have seemingly no problem generating that funds).
Although exact completion date was not divulged, it was hinted that the 30 renewable projects are aimed to be finished within the next decade. As explained by the energy minister -- “The energy mix to produce electricity will change, today the kingdom uses large quantities of oil liquids, including crude, fuel oil and diesel, So the percentage of renewable energy by 2023 (will be) 10 percent of total installed capacity in the kingdom. We are seeking for the kingdom, in the medium term, to become a nation that develops, manufactures and exports the advanced technologies of renewable energy production,”
Anyway, Saudi Arabia is not the only oil exporting country that has began divesting from their fossil fuel resources. KSA knows that if they want to survive the probable energy crisis future (where fossil fuel resources will be depleted), it would be wise to reduce their oil dependency and be prepared if the unwanted scenario happens.
ABB provides for Turkey’s largest PV plant
The ABB Group is widely considered as one of the world’s largest engineering companies as well as one of the biggest conglomerates globally. This Swedish-Swiss multinational corporation has its HQ in Zürich, Switzerland but has operations in over 100 countries and employs more than 100,000 employees. With such an impressive track record, it is no wonder that it is chosen to supply its products to be used in Turkey’s largest solar power plant.
Dubbed as the Kayseri OSB project, this 51 megawatt PV plant situated in Central Turkey will use forty six of ABB’s 1,000kW central inverters. ABB boasts that said central inverters are capable of redundancy in operation and smooth output voltage because of its LFL filter sections in tandem with three power modules. The inverters’ specs already conforms with Turkey’s national grid standards, and to ensure that the components will survive harsh outside conditions as well as meet local requirements, all 46 inverters will be placed inside concrete cabins.
Product Marketing Manager for ABB Turkey (Haluk Özgun) has this to say – “We have been the primary choice of many PV investors with our solar inverters and package solutions, and have already delivered over 1000 MW of ABB solar inverters to PV projects in Turkey, Kayseri OSB is a leading Turkish organization, which believes in solar technology and has completed investments in this field.”
The Kayseri OSB solar plant started in 2014 with an original target of 6 megawatt deployment. It has since expanded to 51 MW as it delivers power to the industrial park of the same name.
LiDAR for Autonomous Vehicles
A lot of people may not know this, but there is a surveying method that can measure the distance to a target by illuminating that target with a pulsed laser light, after which, the reflected pulses will be measured by a sensor. This surveying method is called LiDAR and it actually has a wide variety of applications. For instance, LiDAR can be used to create high-resolution maps, for geodesy and geomatics purposed, and for control or navigation of compatible autonomous vehicles. Since self driving vehicles is quickly gaining traction and popularity, many startups are popping up utilizing LiDAR technology.
Luminar is one such company – and just recently, the company’s CEO made an interesting announcement by saying that it will soon supply LiDAR systems to four of its partners in the autonomous vehicle sector. Although the four companies has not been named by Austin Russel (Luminar’s CEO), he did state that the company will provide its new high resolution LiDAR system to 100 self-driving units. Basically, this is somewhat of a beta testing for Luminar’s system as the units will provide back feedback and data. Russel also added that by the end of the year, Luminar would have shipped 10,000 units from its Orlando facility. Price tag is also not disclosed – but in the CEO’s own words -- “we tried to be able to make this affordable long term for all types of cars, from the Honda Fit all the way up to the Bentley.”
Multilingual technology blog, Engadget, provides more -- San Francisco’s Pier 35 usually hosts cruise ship guests boarding and unboarding their giant floating hotels. It’s a cavernous building hundreds of meters long which actually makes it the perfect indoor facility for demoing what 22 year-old Luminar CEO Austin Russell hopes is the future of LiDAR. … Russell says his LiDAR has 50 times greater resolution and 10 times longer range than legacy systems and in the process he noted Luminar had to find ‘2,000 ways not to make this LiDAR.’ After a closed demo in the giant building, Luminar drove me down San Francisco’s Embarcadero. The parade of cars, bikes and pedestrians were not just visible, but the detail of those people and machines was higher than I’ve seen on competing systems. It was a rainbow colored world of lines and shadows that when translated by a computer is the difference between an autonomous vehicle seeing a box and recognizing that mass of pixels in the distance as a small dog.”
Solar Powers Power-to-Gas – wait, WHAT?!
Gasunie (officially called N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie) is a gas transportation and infrastructure company based in the Netherlands but also has major operations in Germany. Recently, this Dutch gas provider is building a first in the Netherlands – the country’s first ever megawatt-sized P2G plant. In the energy industry, P2G stands for Power to Gas. Basically, Power to Gas is a technology that allows the conversion of electrical power to gas fuel by using electricity to split water into hydrogen and by using electrolysis for oxygen.
Anyway, through Gasunie’s two local subsidiaries (Gasunie New Energy and Gasunie EnergyStock), a 1 MW P2G installation will be developed in the company’s Zuidwending underground gas storage facility. Zuidwending is located in the north eastern portion of Netherlands – in the province of Groningen. The company claims that the this particular facility was chosen because of its potential to future large-scale storage of hydrogen in salt caverns made especially for gas storage.
The project will be known as the HyStock installation and will be powered by 5,000 solar modules that will be placed on rooftop of parking areas as well as earth levees that surrounds the facility. Basically, any power generated by the solar array will be transformed into hydrogen – a wise move especially if there are temporary excess of wind and solar power.
If the technology flies, the two subsidiaries will likely be involved in further development as Gasunie sees P2G as a promising technology that includes gas infrastructure.
Brazilian Operation Expansion of BYD
Looks like Chinese rechargeable battery and vehicle manufacturer BYD is on a hot cleantech roll. After being reported to launching a full blown factory in Hungary and a new electric bus factory in France – BYD has recently announced that it will further expand its operations in Brazil by installing a PV factory and an electric bus chassis assembly factory.
Reports has it that the introduction of an electric bus chassis assembly factory will boost the company’s electric bus chassis production to 720 annually in the country. Additionally, the solar module factory (which has a whopping initial investment of $48 million) will be employing double glass technology. This type of technology uses double-glass solar PV panels that sandwiches solar cells between two panes of glass. This technology apparently increases energy production by seven percent compared to traditional panels. On top of this, life expectancy of panels is also increased by an additional 20 years to existing industry standards of 30. Lastly, the new PV factory is reportedly to churn out panels at a yearly rate of 200 megawatts.
BYD’s Local Development Manager (Marco Caderllini) has stated -- “the proportion of local technology used in the production will gradually increase over the years. We aim to broaden this proportion from 20 to 70 percent by 2022.”
Who’s buying First Solar’s assets in India
IDFC Ltd (Infrastructure Development Finance Company) is a finance company in India. Part of the company’s business is providing advisory and finance services for investment banking, asset management, and infrastructure projects. Recently, one of the company’s sub unit (IDFC Alternatives) has been preparing to allocate as much as $200 million to purchase First Solar’s 200 megawatt assets in the country.
As can be remembered, First Solar (a US based PV manufacturer) has been mulling if it would sell 200 MW of its Indian assets (majority of which are in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) which is apparently due to the stiff competitiveness of the industry in the country. For those who are not aware, First Solar is one of the early foreign companies that have took interest in India’s solar market. In fact, the company considers India as its second largest market since it has delivered more than 1 GW of solar panels. However, the industry has significantly changed to the point that current price floor of the 250 MW NTPC-tendered auction is at $0.0494/kWh.
There has also been no signs of stopping but is expected to grow further since India is pegged to be a hive solar activity in the years to come. Some even predicts that India may overtake Japan as the world’s third largest solar market. Much is yet to be seen – but for the meantime, it has been reported that representatives of IDFC Alternatives is already in talks with people from First Solar to buy the company’s 200 MW renewable power assets in the country.