Los Prados solar power plant in Honduras begins operations

Norway-based solar power plant operator Scatec Solar’s Los Prados solar power plant in Honduras has commenced commercial operations and is now connected to the grid.

The 35MW solar plant has been designed to generate around 73,000kWh of electricity per annum, which will be sufficient to power more than 16,300 households in the region.

The Los Prados solar power plant is owned by Scatec Solar (70%) and KLP Norfund Invest (30%).

Scatec Solar Raymond Carlsen CEO said: “We are very pleased to have completed the Los Prados solar plant in close cooperation with our partners and the Honduran authorities.

“With this milestone our asset portfolio in Honduras reaches 95MW, confirming our track record in the Latin American solar market.”

Additionally, the solar power plant is expected to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 40,000t per annum.

The project has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with state-owned utility Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica (ENEE).

Norfund Clean Energy executive vice president Mark Davis said: “Increased access to renewable energy is crucial for economic development, poverty reduction and addressing climate change.

“Investing in clean energy is a priority for Norfund and we are pleased to expand our partnership with Scatec Solar with this second solar power plant in Honduras.”

Scatec Solar is an integrated independent solar power producer, which develops, builds, owns, operates and maintains solar power plants.

Presently, the company has 322MW of solar power plants in operation in the Czech Republic, South Africa, Rwanda, Honduras and Jordan. /


innogy inaugurates 353MW Galloper offshore wind farm in UK

German energy group innogy has officially inaugurated the 353MW Galloper offshore wind farm, which is located 27km off the UK’s Suffolk coast.

Built with an investment of £1.5bn, the wind farm is expected to generate enough green power to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 380,000 UK households.

Galloper wind farm is jointly owned by innogy (25%), Siemens Financial Services (25%), Sumitomo Corporation (12.5%), ESB (12.5%) and a consortium managed by Green Investment Group and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (25%).

innogy, which led the development and construction of the Galloper project, will operate the wind farm on behalf of its project partners.

innogy Renewables COO Hans Bünting said: “I am extremely proud to inaugurate Galloper Offshore Wind Farm, the fifth offshore wind farm that innogy has constructed in the UK.

“Offshore wind is now a key industrial sector for the UK and offers particular opportunities to key regional hubs, such as East Anglia – the home of both Galloper’s construction base and its operation and maintenance facility.”

Galloper has an expected operational lifetime of more than two decades and will significantly contribute towards the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply.

The wind farm was fully commissioned earlier this year, and is said to have created 700 employment opportunities.

Bünting added: “With all our projects, we always strive to invest in local businesses and during its operating lifetime, almost 60% of the investment in Galloper is expected to go to UK companies.

“At innogy, we look forward to continuing to play an active role in the impressive UK offshore wind story. We have recently begun construction, together with our partners, on our sixth and largest offshore wind project to date, the 860MW Triton Knoll.”

Last month, Tendring District Council and the Marine Management Organisation approved construction of the operations and maintenance base for the wind farm in Harwich International Port, Essex. /


China eases anti-smog agenda, dropping blanket output cuts

/ China has announced it will no longer be pursuing blanket cuts on heavy industry production, saying that its final anti-pollution plan will allow local authorities to set limitations according to the area’s specific emission levels.

The announcement was made by the country’s Ministry of Environment and Ecology (MEE) and comes as the government attempts to perfect its ‘war on pollution’ strategy, which thus far includes easing up on anti-smog schemes.

Prior to the amendment, the anti-pollution scheme was to see production cuts of 30%-50% on all heavy industries, such as steelmaking, cement factories, coke plants and chemical production in 28 northern cities. Individual companies in different industries could also be subject to cuts, depending on their emissions record.

In the finalised plan, MEE said: “Local authorities should carry out production cuts based on their individual situation and refrain from adopting blanket cuts.”

The ministry also said local government bodies would be able to shorten or extend production restrictions in response to areas’ monthly air quality. The regional authorities have until the end of October to submit their production restriction proposals, after which no further changes will be allowed.

Some facilities will be exempt from the restrictions, such as steelmakers that use scrap steel and other companies capable of meeting low emission standards.

The ministry is attempting to bring the average concentration of PM2.5 – tiny airborne particles that are hazardous to human health – down by around 3% from levels recorded over the same period last year – a less ambitious target than the original 5% proposed.

In addition, under the new plan, the number of days where severe air pollution should be reduced has been changed to 3%, down from the original 5% stipulated in last month’s draft.

As part of these attempts, the MEE is also planning to replace coal-fired systems with gas or electric in 3.62 million homes in the same 28 northern cities.

The MME said that last winter the northern region saw a 25% drop in PM2.5 and a 55% cut in the number of days of heavy pollution, which the ministry attributes to enforced shutdowns of steel mills, construction sites, coking plants and chemical factories.

The revised cuts ease pressure on China’s production facilities, as the country has struggled against US sanctions and slowed economic growth.

According to the South China Morning Post, Nomura International economist Lu Ting said in a research note that the anti-smog campaign would take a softer line than last year, “given the headwinds from weakening demand and more challenges from rising trade protectionism and the escalation in China-US trade tension.”

“Beijing has shifted to an outright stimulus stance in recent months, which also implies less aggressive in implementing the anti-smog campaign,” Ting added. /


Bill Gates invests in clean energy start-ups

Bill Gates’ $1bn Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) has announced it is expanding its renewable portfolio, with a series of investments into clean energy technology start-ups selected for their promise of tackling climate change.

The investment amounts have not been disclosed, though BEV’s total investment to date totals $100m.

Among the start-ups chosen is California-based Fervo Energy, which is looking to harness fracking techniques for the geothermal industry to convert the Earth’s heat into a source of clean energy. The group is planning to apply such techniques to boost electricity production in existing geothermal sites, as well as new locations.

The firm said it will use the investment money to progress in the field deployment stage of testing, working to refine its ‘enhanced geothermal systems’.

Geothermal power is an attractive low-carbon energy alternative as it is a constant source of power, unlike wind and solar, which rely on atmospheric conditions and time of day.

BEV also chose grid storage start-up Form Energy, solid-state battery firm QuantumScape, MIT’s Commonwealth Fusion Systems, biofuels firm DMC Biotechnologies, and Pivot Bio, which is looking to develop an alternative to nitrogen fertiliser.

CarbonCure, which works to store carbon dioxide in concrete, pumped hydro storage firm Quidnet, and Zero Mass Water, which created technology to extract water from the air, also received investments.

BEV receives its funds from billionaire patrons such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Virgin’s Richard Branson, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son.

BEV executive director Rodi Guidero told Quartz: “We are a unique fund with investors who are patient and flexible. Our goal is to find the companies that will have the greatest impact on accelerating the energy transition and help them in whatever way we can.”

To be selected for BEV investment, start-ups need to demonstrate their technology is scientifically sound and is a viable means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 500 million metric tonnes.

The venture, which was established in 2015, made its first two investments in June this year. These were in battery storage company Form Energy, and Quidnet Energy, the latter of which is working to develop a technology based on hydropower methods, pumping water into subsurface shale formations. /


GE Power to supply NOx boiler technology for thermal plants in India

/ India’s NTPC and Tata Chemicals have selected GE Power to upgrade two existing coal-fired boilers with its low nitrogen oxide (NOx) firing system.

The technology will help NTPC and Tata Chemicals reduce NOx emissions by nearly 40% from current levels at the two plants.

Under the contract, GE Power will install NOx technology at NTPC’s 2×490 thermal plant in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, and the 136 TPH Boiler Tata project in Mithapur, Gujarat.

GE Power India managing director Andrew DeLeone said: “This is the first order by any utility or industrial company in India for the firing system modification to reduce the NOx generation at the primary source of combustion boilers.

“The success of these projects will benchmark the technology and technical specifications for future low NOx firing system modification in India.

“For India, where coal is and will remain the energy mainstay for a long time, GE’s state-of-the-art technology can play a major role in making the thermal power plants efficient and environmentally friendly.”

India, which is the third largest electricity producer in the world, generates the majority of its power from coal.

According to GE, the implementation of low NOx boiler technology could help the country to reduce NOx emissions by nearly 50% from current levels.

GE Steam Power Clean Combustion general manager Pascal Radue said: “We have more than 20 years of expertise with this technology and it’s in use in 1,200 units around the world today, that’s the equivalent of 480GW.

“As countries have implemented stringent emission standards, we’ve been able to help our customers by delivering the right technology in a way that minimises the disruption an outage can have on their operations. We’ll use that same experience to help our customers in India.” /


Chinese researchers break record for solar cell efficiency

/ Researchers from the University of China have beaten the record for organic solar cell efficiency, reaching 17.3% compared with the previous maximum of 15%.

Results of the study were published in the Science journal last week.

While traditional commercial solar cells are made from silicon, in recent years researchers have been increasingly turning to organic solar cells – known as organic photovoltaics (OPV) – as they have fewer engineering limitations than silicon. Typically made from carbon and plastic, OPVs are also usually cheaper to produce than traditional silicon cells.

The Chinese team members used a tandem cell system in the design of their OPV, meaning two solar cell devices were constructed within the same structure, working to target two wavelengths of light and thus increasing its yield and efficacy.

Study leader Dr Yongshen Chen said: “We have two layers of active materials; each layer can absorb different wavelengths of light. That means you can use sunlight in the wider wavelengths more efficiently, and this can generate more current.”

As well as being cheaper than silicon models, OPVs are flexible and can be made with compounds that are soluble in ink, allowing engineers to build semi-transparent solar cells into windows and bend them onto the sides and roofs of buildings.

OPVs have not been used in solar panel construction to date as they have typically been unable to compete with silicon PV’s efficacy of converting 18%-22% of solar energy into electricity, with a world record of 27.3% reached in this summer in the UK. OPVs usually achieve only half of this rate.

However, the new Chinese design adds to a string of breakthroughs in OPV development. In April, a team from the University of Michigan broke OPV cell records with 15% efficacy, the first to be comparable to silicon cells.

Imperial College London professor Dr Artem Bakulin told the BBC: “The development of such new materials with previously unthinkable properties allowed them to achieve the reported record efficiency and, in general, makes OPV technology much more promising.”

Bringing OPVs into mainstream use is still hindered by the fact that silver is needed to manufacture the electrodes within them, a metal which is not abundant enough to create solar modules on a global scale. /


Egypt and Saudi Arabia postpone $2.1bn electricity interconnection project

/ Egypt and Saudi Arabia have postponed awarding the main construction contract for the planned $2.1bn electricity interconnection between the two countries.

According to a local press report, the opening of financial proposals for the interconnection project, which is planned to allow the transmission of up to 3,000MW a day, has been postponed “indefinitely”.

MEED reported in 2017 that four companies had submitted financial offers for the main line and transmission package. The bidders reportedly include Germany’s Siemens, Switzerland’s ABB and State Grid Corporation of China.

The long-standing plans for a cross-border power line between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have faced a number of delays in the design and tendering stages. The project first stalled in 2011 following the revolution in Egypt.

On 1 June 2013, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt reaffirmed their commitment to the project, signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build the interconnection. It was hoped that the signing of the MoU would give the scheme fresh impetus, but the plan to tender construction contracts in the first quarter of 2014 was delayed.

Progress was made on securing financing for the project in 2015. In March 2015, the Islamic Development Bank signed an agreement with Egypt’s International Co-operation Ministry for a $200m loan to help fund the power link. Egypt is expected to fund about 40% of the project, with Saudi Arabia scheduled to pay the remaining 60%. /


Global oil production to rise over next five years 

/ An annual report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has predicted global oil production will rise to record highs over the next five years, predominantly due to increased demand from airlines and road vehicles.

According to OPEC estimates, oil demand will hit almost 112 million barrels per day by 2040, compared with the current figure of 100 million barrels per day. Transport and petrochemicals were highlighted as main drivers of this climbing number.

The report identified the US as a major contributor to this rise due to the expansion of fracking in the country, saying: “US tight oil is projected to grow very strongly in the period 2018–20, albeit slowing a bit thereafter, and to peak…in the latter half of the 2020s.”

China and India are also forerunners in terms of oil demand.

While air travel was identified as the fastest growing sector for oil consumption, rising by an average of 2.2% per year, the largest total growth in oil consumption comes from road transport.

Such an increase will not be tempered by simultaneous adoption of low-carbon technologies such as electric vehicles (EVs).

There are 1.1 billion vehicles on the world’s roads, a number expected to jump to 2.4 billion by 2040. OPEC predicts that only 320 million of these will be electric, though the organisation has said it could be as many as 720 million if EVs were to make rapid strides in the industry. Even in this scenario, oil demand would decrease only marginally, dropping to 109 million barrels per day.

OPEC has also forecast that meeting future oil demand would require $11tn of investment through to 2040.

Coal use is predicted to remain at record highs despite widespread efforts to transition to low-carbon alternatives.

While coal use in OECD member countries will drop to a third of current figures by 2040, it will rise by 20% in developing countries, reaching five times the volume burned in the West.

The report also said renewable energy production would meet only 20% of global energy demands by 2040, despite efforts to boost its use. /