Renewable Energy News

Bifacial solar panels can increase yields

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-07-09 06:05

Most people don’t give the color of their roofs a second thought, but it could be costing their business a lot of money. 

White or light gray roofs can increase rooftop bifacial PV energy yields by up to 25 percent and increase the return on investment by up to 10 percent, according to new research by Opsun, a bifacial PV racking company.

Other companies are improving performance more directly. According to Reuters, a German company called Enerparc improved their bifacial performance by adding a field layer — they covered the ground with gravel, which reflected more light on the panels. They also found that performance changed with the season, improving during the winter when there’s presumably ice and snow on the ground. 

Elevation, racking tilt and local factors also affect bifacial PV performance, making estimating feasibility a difficult process according to an article in Solar Power World.

Bifacial PVs have solar cells on both sides and turn light into useful energy that would normally be reflected away or absorbed as heat, according to Energy Sage. They have limited residential applications because they need to be mounted at an angle to allow light to reach the reflective surface. As such rooftops and parking lots for many businesses are the ideal locations. Some mounting systems, however, can shade the panels, reducing effectiveness.

In the past, predicting power yields has also been difficult, which makes financing installations more uncertain. 

But Opsun believes they’ve changed that with their “Opsunizer” tool, which can compare bifacial and monofacial installations in the same location. According to Opsun, the tool is a very basic layout simulator that lets the user adjust the tilt and elevation from the rooftop of PV systems, as well as compare outputs and returns on investment, creating an estimate of possible gains from using a bifacial system.

Categories: Renewable Energy

ENGIE restructures with four business units and a technical service arm

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-07-09 06:03

To ensure greater simplicity in the way the multinational energy company is managed, ENGIE has rearranged its organizational structure with the establishment of four energy business units and a technical services arm.

The new organizational structure, which came into effect on 1 July 2021, will help ENGIE increase its focus on core businesses to better operational performance, a statement from the group’s COO Catherine MacGregor states.

MacGregor says the new structure will help the company better its global position in the energy transition.

The new structure comprises:

  • 4 Global Business Units: Renewables, Energy Solutions, Networks, Thermal & Supply. The units reflect the Group’s core businesses and will have accountability for their respective financial performance.
  • A geographical platform structured with regional hubs for pooling the support functions, coordinating the entities at country level, in charge of managing Group’s local stakeholders and leveraging synergies across activities.
  • Technical services arm EQUANS which operate as an autonomous entity within ENGIE, managed by its CEO Jérôme Stubler and his management team. With 74,000 employees in 17 countries and an annual revenue of over €12 billion, EQUANS will provide multi-technical services in growing markets. The arm aims to help ENGIE clients to speed up their energy, industrial and digital transformations by providing services in the Electrical, HVAC, Cooling, Mechanical, Digital & IT, Facility management sectors.

Catherine MacGregor, ENGIE CEO, said: “Today marks an important step forward in the implementation of our strategic roadmap. We are very proud to announce the creation of EQUANS, an autonomous entity within ENGIE, known in recent months under the project name “Bright”. We are on track to deliver on our simplification plan through the positioning of EQUANS as a leader in multi-technical services and reaffirmming ENGIE as a leader in the energy transition, refocused on its growth markets and with a more industrial approach.”

Jérôme Stubler, EQUANS CEO, added: “I would like to acknowledge the incredible work which has been accomplished during the last 6 months to create EQUANS.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

Does Your Solar Project Need Storage?

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-07-08 11:40

As solar power proliferates, at a certain point, it’s time to consider adding energy storage to help stabilize the grid. Take California’s duck curve problem as an example. The state has more than 31 GW of installed solar capacity and is ranked number 1 in the nation for solar according to SEIA. But all that solar means that between the hours of about 4-9 PM, as the sun is setting and folks are getting home and cranking up their appliances, the grid becomes strained. That’s why one innovative power producer in California now requires that all solar built for its customers include energy storage.

In this session, attendees will learn why this requirement was made and hear how developers are rising to the challenge.

Key Takeaways:
• The benefits that solar + storage provide to the grid
• Methods for adding energy storage to a solar project
• How to determine if you should include storage on your solar projects
• Technology considerations when thinking about solar + storage
• Costs, PPAs, deal structures

Categories: Renewable Energy

Community Solar Projects and Programs: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-07-08 11:10

Community solar programs are popping up across the U.S. Not only do they allow for the proliferation of more clean energy because new solar arrays can be constructed in just the right locations, but they also allow any utility customer to go solar by subscribing to a project and earning bill credits that lead to savings of around 10% on electric bills.

This session will bring together a project owner and a utility to discuss how community solar projects come together today and explore best practices for creating even better community solar programs in the future.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Major hydrogen initiatives underway at US Department of Energy

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-07-08 09:39
DOE announces 52M for 31 hydrogen projects; issues RFI for projects to which Avangrid responds

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $52.5 million to fund 31 projects to advance next-generation clean hydrogen technologies and support DOE’s recently announced Hydrogen Energy Earthshot initiative. The first Earthshot, Hydrogen Shot, which was launched one month ago, seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per 1 kilogram in 1 decade (1 1 1).

Hydrogen is a clean fuel that—when combined with oxygen in a fuel cell—produces electricity with water and heat as by-products. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind. These qualities make it an attractive fuel option and input for transportation, electricity generation and industrial applications, such as in trucks, buildings, and manufacturing.

The 31 projects that DOE is funding will focus on bridging technical gaps in hydrogen production, storage, distribution, and utilization technologies, including fuel cells.

The DOE funding includes $36 million from the Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and $16.5 million from the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM).

The complete list of companies selected, along with the funding amounts they received, is available here for awards from the EERE and here for awards from the FECM.

Avangrid submits several projects for consideration

In related news, Avandrid announced that it has submitted multiple responses as part of a DOE Request for Information (RFI) which was also issued last month. Submissions for the RFI were due on July 7.

The DOE RFI is intended to assist DOE’s Hydrogen Program in further defining the scope and priorities of its initiatives to accelerate the production, storage, delivery, and end use of clean, affordable hydrogen in the United States. Specifically, this RFI sought input on viable hydrogen demonstration and deployment projects. Avangrid submitted several ideas, which are outlined below.

Connecticut — Electrolyzer and Hydrogen Storage 

  • The project proposes constructing a 20-MW electrolyzer and hydrogen storage facility for its Connecticut gas and electric utilities, potentially powered by renewable energy from offshore wind and supplemented by additional solar or grid-based renewable electricity. It is estimated the project could produce roughly 2.9 million kg of hydrogen per year, yielding an annual emissions reduction of approximately 25,000 tons of CO2 and potentially creating 400 – 800 jobs in economically disadvantaged communities. 

New York – Utilizing Hydrogen for Transportation in Rochester

  • In collaboration with local area transportation authorities in Rochester, New York, Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E) is assessing opportunities to construct a multi-use hydrogen production and distribution facility, which could support a range of hydrogen uses, including transportation applications to meet zero-emissions fleet goals.

 Maine – Exploring Hydrogen for Multiple Applications 

  • In Maine, AVANGRID’s local subsidiary, Central Maine Power (CMP), has begun exploring how to collaboratively help advance green hydrogen consumption in existing manufacturing processes, for enhanced renewable natural gas production, and in transportation applications such as trucking and aviation. 

Gulf Coast – Leveraging Avangrid Renewables Wind Generation to Develop Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia

  • Representing its nationwide presence and leading renewables fleet, Avangrid Renewables has additionally identified opportunities to support green hydrogen for industrial use on the Gulf Coast and provide cleaner solutions that strengthen the U.S.’s domestic energy leadership. For instance, a large-scale electrolysis project in Corpus Christi, Texas would convert low-cost Texas wind power into green hydrogen and ultimately into green ammonia. The ambitious commercial-scale project demonstrates the scalability of the technology, its path to cost-competitiveness, and green hydrogen’s value as an important component in an economywide clean energy transition.

 Oregon – Leveraging Klamath Cogeneration Plant for Hydrogen Production

  • In Oregon, AVANGRID’s RFI response proposes the colocation of green hydrogen production at Avangrid Renewables’ Klamath Cogeneration Plant. The intent would be to make the facility a source for fuel flexibility as the combined-cycle natural gas plant balances the intermittency of the energy generated by AVANGRID’s 1,300 MW Northwest wind farm fleet. The proposed project would include a ~20 MW electrolyzer to enable a two percent blend of green hydrogen into the plant’s fuel supply. This project has the potential to generate 3,000 metric tons of green hydrogen annually.

“We believe the time for green hydrogen as a viable clean energy fuel has come,” AVANGRID CEO Dennis V. Arriola said. “Our partners at Iberdrola in Spain and at ScottishPower in the UK are already developing commercial scale green hydrogen projects.  For example, Iberdrola is building the largest plant producing green hydrogen for industrial use in Europe. AVANGRID’s access to this global expertise, combined with our U.S. based partners and supporters, provides us with a unique advantage to help accelerate the commercial production of green hydrogen in the U.S.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

Historic drought to shrink California’s hydroelectric generation by 19%

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-07-08 09:18

As a result of harsh drought conditions in California in 2021, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the state’s hydroelectric generation to be lower in 2021 than it has been in recent years.

In the first four months of 2021, hydroelectric generation in California was 37% less than in the same four months in 2020 and 71% less than during those months in 2019. According to its Short-Term Energy Outlook, hydroelectric generation in California this year will be 19% less than last year, decreasing from 16.8 million MWh in 2020 to 13.6 million MWh in 2021.

Most of the western U.S. is experiencing intense and historic drought conditions. California is one of the most severely affected states. As of June 22, 2021, 100% of the state is experiencing some degree of drought. About 33% of the state has been categorized under exceptional drought, the most intense classification. The drought conditions have affected California’s water supply levels and hydropower plants.

Drought conditions include below-normal precipitation and snowpack accumulation, very dry soil and higher-than-normal temperatures. These factors lower the water supply available in the summer months.

Mountain snowpack serves as a natural reservoir, providing water throughout the spring and summer as it melts. However, the California snowpack was well below normal this year, and most of it melted quickly because of higher spring temperatures. Measurable snow was present at only three of 131 monitoring stations on June 1.

Meltwater from the snowpack often didn’t reach reservoirs in California this year because it was absorbed by drought-parched soil and streams, leaving reservoirs at low levels. Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California, is at 48% of its average capacity. Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir in the state, is at 40% of its average capacity. Lake Oroville’s water level is expected to fall even lower, which will likely force the 645-MW Edward Hyatt Power Plant to shut down for the first time since it opened in 1967.

California’s previous drought, which lasted from 2012 to 2016, led to significant declines in hydroelectric generation and the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions in 2015.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Atmospheric scientists collaborate to improve offshore wind research through better buoys

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-07-08 07:23

A new collaborative project led by researchers at the University at Albany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) could soon offer a new approach to tap into this vast amount of renewable energy.

The project, in partnership with DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and funded through $500,000 in support from DOE, aims to design, install and deploy a buoy-based flux measurement system that will be integrated with DOE’s existing floating lidar buoys. The technology monitors air-sea interactions over open water, which provides valuable insight on offshore wind conditions and improves forecast models for decision-making.

“Buoys supporting wind energy generally do not have the ability to directly measure the turbulent exchange of energy between the atmosphere and the ocean,” said Will Shaw, who leads the Wind Energy Program at PNNL. “Yet this information is essential to improving our accuracy in modeling winds that fuel offshore wind power production.”

“We believe this novel, state-of-the-art system will facilitate broader use of buoy-based measurements, particularly with a rapidly growing U.S. offshore wind market,” said Jeff Freedman, a research associate at ASRC and project co-director.


Along with DOE, ASRC researchers are working on the project with peers from The Jefferson Project at Lake George, as well as researchers at Cornell University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. 

The device on Lake George. (photo by Patrick Dodson)

The Jefferson Project — a collaboration between IBM Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and The FUND for Lake George — uses advanced science and technology, including monitoring, modeling and experimentation, to understand the impact of human activity on freshwater. 

“The Jefferson Project team is pleased to collaborate with the ASRC researchers to facilitate their research while also obtaining key data that will improve our weather models, leading to enduring protection of freshwater lakes throughout the region,” said Jefferson Project Director Rick Relyea.

The “Flux-Lidar” Buoy

Floating lidars have grown in popularity over recent years and are now commercially available to make offshore wind measurements at heights between 50 and 300 meters. There’s also a number of published research studies on the use of eddy covariance (EC) flux measurements to monitor air-sea interactions close to the surface. But, the two have never been offered as a single package on a buoy platform. 

By combining approaches, the “flux-lidar” buoy will provide continuous data every 15 to 30 minutes on a number of atmospheric surface fluxes such as heat, momentum and moisture, while also observing wind speed and direction profiles at heights of several kilometers above sea surface. If successful, this new measurement system could be offered for research and commercial applications in a variety of marine environments.

“We’re essentially combining two different buoy-based technologies that are both somewhat developed, in turn collecting information on a series of atmospheric variables that are accessible and useful to our partners,” said Scott Miller, research associate at ASRC and project co-director. “It’s in the proof-of-concept phase right now, but if the integration works, this new measurement system will offer real value for the next generation of offshore wind turbines.” 

The first phase of field testing started in June on Lake George in Upstate New York. It is focused on the design and deployment of the EC flux measurement system along with a 3D scanning lidar. ASRC researchers are using a 24-foot pontoon boat that has been modified for flux measurements. Partner researchers from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Cornell University are also leading field tests on Oneida Lake and Seneca Lake in Central New York this summer. 

A second phase will include buoy-based coastal ocean field testing, with the eventual goal of integrating the EC flux measurement system onto DOE’s floating lidar buoys, which are managed by PNNL.

Both undergraduate and graduate student researchers are supporting the project. 

Categories: Renewable Energy

Since 2018 law, Iowa utilities are doing a lot less to help customers save energy

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-07-08 05:07

by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

Iowa’s largest utilities have dramatically scaled back efforts to help customers conserve energy since a 2018 law gutted the state’s efficiency requirements.

MidAmerican Energy reported kilowatt-hour savings for 2020 that were 64% lower than what the utility achieved the year before the law took effect. Alliant Energy’s savings were down 40% during the same period.

“That’s just staggering,” said state Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat who voted against the legislation. “At the very moment when our country needs to be increasing energy efficiency quickly, this is terrible.”

Most states require utilities to make regular investments in energy efficiency programs such as lighting and appliance rebates, which can help keep costs down for all customers by delaying the need for more expensive infrastructure upgrades.

In 2018, Iowa lawmakers passed a bill that critics at the time warned would “eviscerate” those programs in the state by capping how much utilities could spend on them, exempting several large customers from paying into the programs, and subjecting spending to a tougher cost-effectiveness test. 

SF 2311 was passed in the final days of the 2018 Iowa legislative session. All 32 Republican senators and all but five of the 59 Republican House members supported the bill over objections from Democrats and environmental advocates.

The outcome so far has fulfilled predictions made during legislative debate, said Josh Mandelbaum, a senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“We thought there was going to be a significant reduction in energy savings, and we’re seeing a significant reduction in energy savings,” Mandelbaum said.

MidAmerican did not respond to requests for comment.

Alliant spokesperson Morgan Hawk said the company has continued to meet its energy savings goals — targets that were significantly lowered in the wake of the 2018 law.

“We are proud to have achieved 94% of expected electric energy savings in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented derecho storm which caused widespread damage across our service area,” Hawk said.

Alliant and MidAmerican filed revised five-year energy efficiency plans after the law took effect. The new and diminished efficiency programs took effect on April 1, 2019.

According to an analysis by the Iowa Environmental Council, both utilities cut spending on electricity conservation programs by more than a third, and gas conservation programs by more than three-quarters.

“This means massive savings for customers left on the table and higher energy bills,” said Kerri Johannsen, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

The law also allowed utilities to eliminate free in-person energy assessments. MidAmerican now leaves its customers to make assessments on their own using an online tool the company provides.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s yearly state energy efficiency scorecard dropped Iowa a dozen places since the law’s passage, from 24th nationally in 2018 to 36th place last year, citing the impact of the 2018 law.

Sen. Hogg acknowledged that utilities faced other hurdles last year, such as the pandemic and a freak wind storm that caused widespread damage across the state. Still, he doesn’t see them as major factors for the decline in energy conservation.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the primary problem here was a change in the law,” Hogg said.

In particular, the spending caps are “the clearest rationale for why this happened,” said Nick Dreher, policy director for the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. The bill prohibited state regulators from requiring utilities to spend more than 2% of expected electric revenue or 1.5% of expected natural gas revenue on efficiency programs.

“There are measures that are more expensive to run but produce greater savings,” Dreher said. “You’re left with measures that are less expensive but don’t produce the deeper energy savings” 

Calling energy efficiency “the quickest, cheapest and cleanest way to deal with greenhouse gases,” Hogg said he believes his colleagues in the legislature need to reevaluate the changes they made in 2018.

“Either Iowa needs to fix the law and allow the Iowa Utilities Board to use more energy efficiency,” he said, “or we need national utility legislation. A national clean energy standard would override what Iowa did.”

This article first appeared on Energy News Network and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Parkwind secures funding for 257-MW Arcadis Ost 1 floating wind farm

Renewable Energy - Wed, 2021-07-07 08:58

Belgium-based Parkwind has secured funding from multiple financial institutions to implement its first renewable energy project outside the country. The company will use a €150 million (US$177.8 million) loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to construct its $675.9 million Arcadis Ost 1 wind farm.

Other financial institutions supporting the German wind farm include KBC, Belfius, Helaba, KfW, IPEX-Bank, Rabobank, Société Général, ING and EKF. EIB is providing the loan through its European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

Offshore installation work is due to begin in 2022, and the wind farm, which will generate power for the equivalent of 290,000 households, is expected to be fully operational in 2023.

New, entirely floating platforms will be used to erect the windmills in the Baltic Sea northeast of the island of Rügen. The new technology is expected to be more efficient on difficult seabeds than the jack-up vessels that have normally been used.

The project is set for rollout once Parkwind secures regulatory approval from the government of the federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in March 2021. Parkwind secured a tender to implement the project in 2018.

“Offshore wind farms are a cornerstone of the EU Green Deal to help reach the goal of a net-zero-emissions economy in Europe,” said EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle, who is responsible for the environment, climate action and the circular economy and has oversight of EIB operations in Germany.

“Being joined by such a strong group of lenders gives us further confidence in the pursuit of our mission and our ambition to grow internationally,” said Eric Antoons, co-chief executive officer of Parkwind.

Energy minister of the German federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Christian Pegel said: “Since the approval of the first offshore wind farm in the German Baltic Sea in 2011, offshore wind has not only contributed to the energy transition, but also to enormous economic development in our region. With Arcadis Ost 1, now the fourth offshore wind farm off the coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, we are continuing this success story. In the future, we want to use offshore wind to generate climate-neutral hydrogen, making our region even more attractive for new business settlements.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

Digging deeper: How US sanctions on Chinese PV may impact the market

Renewable Energy - Wed, 2021-07-07 07:52
The U.S. is taking a multifaceted approach to addressing forced labor allegations against Chinese suppliers of silicon and polysilicon. This article assess the impacts for the solar panel supply chain

On June 24, 2021, the Biden administration took several steps to respond to allegations of forced labor and human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups in China. These measures included the targeting of certain Chinese suppliers of silicon and polysilicon.

Related: US government halts certain PV panel shipments due to issues of forced labor in China

Of significance for U.S. solar projects, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) instructing ports of entry to detain shipments containing “silica-based materials” that are “derived from or produced using” product manufactured by Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd., a company located in China’s Xinjiang region, or its subsidiaries. In addition, the Commerce Department added Hoshine and four other Chinese companies to the “Entity List,” essentially a ban on exports and re-exports of US goods and technology around the world to the listed entities. On the same day, the Department of Labor issued a special update to its “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor,” to include polysilicon produced with forced labor in China.

CBP has identified just $6 million of direct imports from Hoshine (the target of the WRO) and $150 million in imports of downstream products using Hoshine materials over the last two and a half years. Comparatively, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in the first quarter of 2021 alone, the U.S. imported $2.14 billion worth of solar panels. The relatively low import activity is due in part to the fact that solar cells produced in China are already subject to hefty “Section 301” (trade remedy) tariffs and therefore Chinese-produced cells are not widely used in solar products.

Yet, almost half of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon is produced in Xinjiang. Therefore, the continued expansion of U.S. import prohibitions and other measures against Xinjiang silicon and polysilicon suppliers will have increasing impacts not only on U.S. importers of third-country manufactured solar cells and panels containing Xinjiang-origin polysilicon but also may have supply and pricing impacts in the global supply chain.

The recent actions by the Biden administration arguably call for a coordinated industry response to forced labor risks in the solar supply chain in order to forestall disruptions of supply during a critical period for the sector and for meeting global emission reduction goals in power production projects worldwide.

CBP Withhold Release Order against Hoshine Silicon

Pursuant to Section 307 of the Tariff Act, the CBP Withhold Release Order subjects to detention at U.S. ports of entry silicon-based products from Hoshine Silicon (aka Hesheng Silicon Industry (Shanshan) Co., Ltd.) or its subsidiaries. In order to release the goods from detention, the importer must either re-export them from the U.S. or provide evidence demonstrating that the goods were not manufactured with forced labor. In recent months, CBP has issued similar orders covering other products from Xinjiang, including cotton, hair products, and tomato products. In order to secure release of Xinjiang-origin cotton products, for example, CBP advises that the importer may be required to submit time cards, wage payment receipts, and daily process reports that demonstrate the employment status of the employees who harvested the cotton. 

The Biden administration probably considers the Hoshine WRO to be a calibrated action because it only targets one silicon producer. Note, however, that the action affects much more than simply direct exports from Hoshine. It broadly applies to all silica-based materials “derived from or produced using” silicon produced by Hoshine. Accordingly, CBP has confirmed that the ban applies not just to the raw material itself, but also to solar cells and panels containing silicon manufactured by Hoshine. This includes solar panels and solar modules, whether produced in China or in third countries, derived from Hoshine-supplied silicon products. 

Hoshine is one of the largest global producers of metallurgical-grade silicon, which is the raw material needed to produce solar-grade polysilicon. The pure polysilicon is then converted into ingots that are sliced into thin wafers, and those wafers are ultimately used to create solar cells. Four of the top five polysilicon manufacturers in 2020 were located in China, and Xinjiang alone accounts for between 40 and 45 percent of solar-grade polysilicon supplies worldwide. 

Four of the top five polysilicon manufacturers in 2020 were located in China, and Xinjiang alone accounts for between 40 and 45 percent of solar-grade polysilicon supplies worldwide. 

On the other hand, Chinese-manufactured solar cells and solar panels make up a relatively small percentage of U.S. imports given that these are already subject to U.S. tariffs and antidumping duties. Under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, the U.S. has imposed a tariff of 25 percent on solar panels where China is the country of origin of the panel itself or of the panel’s solar cells, and the U.S. also applies anti-dumping duties to these products, increasing the total import cost.

Read More:
US-China Solar Trade War Enters Second Round

Tariff Decision Looms Large for Sale of SolarWorld

The WRO’s most significant impact therefore is on U.S. imports of solar cells (or panels containing solar cells) that contain silicon from Hoshine but are manufactured in third countries. Two of those larger third-country manufacturers who reportedly source from Hoshine are in Germany and South Korea. The other six of the top eight polysilicon producers are in China and their products are therefore already subject to U.S. Section 301 and antidumping duties. According to a recent Sheffield Hallam University study, at least one of the top six Chinese polysilicon producers, Tongwei, does not source a large portion of its silicon from Hoshine.

Commerce Department “Entity List” Designations

On the same day as the WRO, the Biden administration placed the following five companies on the U.S. Commerce Department Entity List: Hoshine Silicon Industry (aka Xinjiang Daqo New Energy Co., Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals Co., Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology Co., and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps). Most of these companies also have a role in China’s solar-grade polysilicon supply chain. 

Xinjiang Daqo New Energy Co. manufactures monocrystalline silicon and polysilicon used in solar PV systems.

Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals Co. is a subsidiary of East Hope Group based in Shanghai with a stated plan to expand its polysilicon production capabilities.

Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology Co. is unit of GCL New Energy Holdings and a producer of polysilicon. 

Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp. (“XPCC”) is a state-owned enterprise involved in commercial operations in Xinjiang.  XPCC has also been added to the U.S. Treasury Department Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Person (“SDN” List).

As a result, the export or re-export of U.S. goods and technologies to companies or persons on the list are subject to Commerce Department license requirements. This action is, for the most part, symbolic – affecting these producers only to the extent that they are reliant on U.S.-origin goods, technologies or software in their production processes.

Policy alternatives and industry initiatives

A number of options have been explored for addressing forced labor allegations in the polysilicon supply chain, ranging from increased transparency and disclosure requirements for public companies, to expansion of WROs and up to and including the type of comprehensive sanctions – designation on a blocked persons list – applied to XPCC. Blocking sanctions such as the sanctions applied to XPCC should be considered only as a last resort as these have wide-ranging financial repercussions in supply chains outside of the U.S.  by effectively barring sanctioned persons from the global financial system.

Enhanced reporting requirements would, for example, mandate global purchasers of polysilicon to investigate their supply chain and disclose the results to investors. In other words, the U.S. could use the market and the pressure of investor groups to pressure producers to increase transparency in Xinjiang and eliminate forced labor internments. Such actions could be a prelude to forced divestment or non-investment in companies that do not provide sufficient transparency on labor issues to their publicly traded customers or as a prelude to expanded sanctions targeting these companies. 

At the same time, U.S. solar project operators are encouraged to advance their own industry initiatives to combat human rights abuses in the supply chain and transition away from problematic suppliers. There is growing consensus among importers that the solar industry must take action to move their supply chains away from manufacturers that allegedly rely on forced labor. For example, the Solar Energy Industries Association recently released a supply chain tracking tool (the Solar Supply Chain Traceability Protocol) which is a set of guidelines intended to help solar companies meet compliance obligations and “provide customers with assurances that their solar products are free of unethical labor practices.” The growing use of such industry measures reduces the need for more far-reaching governmental measures that threaten to disrupt solar supply chains at a critical time for global climate change initiatives. 

About the Authors

Ginger T. Faulk (left) is a partner at Eversheds Sutherland, a global law practice with 74 offices in 35 jurisdictions and represents multinational companies in matters involving U.S. government regulation of foreign trade and investment.

Paige Spraker contributed to this article. She is currently participating in Eversheds Sutherland’s Summer Associate Program.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Renewables a key tool in the fight against Covid19

Renewable Energy - Wed, 2021-07-07 07:09

Bloomberg reported this week that over 2.66 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines have now been administered across the globe, with the bulk of those doses received in Western nations.

Most people reading this will have lined up at their local leisure centre, school or sports club at some point over the last couple of months to get their vaccination without giving much thought to the resources needed to deliver such a large scale programme.

The process is actually incredibly energy-dependent as most vaccinations (including all of the coronavirus vaccines) are acutely temperature sensitive and require specialist refrigeration in transit and in storage.

Take the world’s most used covid vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech. The German vaccine’s maximum shelf life is six months if stored correctly between -80°C to -60°C or just a month if stored at 2-8°C. Once thawed, the vaccine cannot be re-frozen and needs to avoid room light, direct sunlight and ultraviolet light at all costs.

If these stringent conditions are not met, the vaccines are spoiled.

This sort of reactivity demands an accurate system of refrigeration all the way along the transport chain and because of this, it has become an ongoing challenge to deliver vaccines and store vaccines within developing nations.

Countries such as Niger, Congo, Mali, Yemen and Papua New Guinea for example, have all vaccinated less than 1% of their population. Poor infrastructure means that even if the vaccines were to arrive within these countries, the ability to maintain them at non-perishable levels would be almost impossible in many locations.

Unsurprisingly, the solution to this problem lies in renewable energy and some of the low-access countries are using solar powered medical refrigerators in a bid to plug the mains-grid gap.

UK-based manufacturer Dulas recently donated some of these appliances to Cameroon through its local partner, Hero Technologies, in an effort to directly address the issue.

Cameroon is listed as one of the lowest coverage countries with just 0.4% of the population vaccinated so the need to get more doses to the populace has become increasingly important.

Receiving the items on behalf of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Judith Seunge, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Health said the donation is timely and will boost immunisation in remote areas “which is one of the areas of focus for the government at this moment”.

Hero Technologies CEO, Dr Ndambi B. Ndaya said the gift “is a demonstration of how adapted our solutions can be, and we hope the beneficiaries enjoy unmatched reliability and comfort as they use them.”

The refrigerators will ensure preparedness in the fight against Covid 19 vaccination and it’s expected that they will aid in the vaccination of thousands of people.

It’s crucial that this model of addressing the infrastructure gap is replicated across the globe to protect lives on the ground and to prevent the spread of new strains of emergent coronavirus.

As things stand, between the developed nations “hoarding” vaccine stock and the developing nations unable to access or store the vials, the BMJ reports that “at least 90% of people in 67 low income countries stand little chance of getting vaccinated against covid-19.” Oxfam’s health policy manager Anna Marriott adds that “Unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for covid-19 for years to come.”

The steady filtering of such necessary technology into developing nation communities could also act as a catalyst for other renewable energy adoption.

Hero Technology’s Dr Ndambi confirmed that she would be looking into numerous energy solutions to serve the country and these initiatives could be beneficial to remote communities throughout the African nation.

The situation also serves as a case study for those of us comfortably vaccinated in Europe and America. Some still believe that solar isn’t ‘as reliable’ as grid but given the strict parameters that vaccine storage must adhere to, it’s clear that renewables are up to the task of delivering consistent and dependable power.

When we think of renewable energy, we tend to think of large scale wind or solar installations, but as we can see from what’s happening in India, Africa and the Pacific Islands, sometimes localised or appliance-based projects can have the most impact.

In the case of the solar powered medical refrigerator, this small technology is set to save nations.

Categories: Renewable Energy

SRP begins work to transition workers, economy away from coal

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-07-06 09:42

Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP) announced in January 2020 plans to close its Coronado Generating Station (CGS), a coal-fired power plant, no later than 2032 and to reduce its workforce by 40% by 2025. Last week SRP announced that it is putting together and economic transition plan to help the community make the transition.

In the announcement, SRP said it is supporting all CGS employees interested in staying with the utility and will be providing training and career exploration opportunities as well as relocation benefits. In addition, SRP said it will help the entire CGS community throughout its transition from CGS as a main economic base. To do so, SRP created the Coal Communities Transtion Team, in partnership with stakeholders at the city of St. Johns, Apache County, and all nearby impacted communities reliant on CGS.

The SRP Coal Communities Transition Team combines executives and leaders throughout various departments. The team has begun work on a community engagement plan which consists of four stages: conducting preliminary assessments of the community; developing economic and workforce plans; executing on the plans; and determining post-plant support.

One of the team’s overarching goals is to create a model that other transitioning coal communities across the state and nation can reference and build upon. The team will inform stakeholders and federal-level policymakers of the communities’ needs to ensure they have a voice and get support.

“Federal-level interest in helping communities impacted by coal-plant closures continues to grow and we believe there are many opportunities ahead,” said Kelly Barr, Chief Strategy, Corporate Services and Sustainability Executive at SRP. “We will work with our counterparts in these communities to explore what is possible as they push forward. SRP will also inform community members and all engaged stakeholders of progress being made throughout the transition plan process and secure partnerships as appropriate.”

SRP said it has supported communities through the economic impacts associated with coal-plant closures in the past, most recently with of the closure of the largest coal-fired power plant in the West, the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), near the small city of Page, Ariz. on the Navajo Reservation. The NGS community transition involved Page evolving from an energy and tourism-based economy to one that is now completely tourism-based. SRP also committed to helping all interested NGS employees transition to new positions within other SRP facilities.

“Supporting the NGS community revealed insights on how to minimize stress and disruption felt by workers, families and communities,” said Gretchen Kitchel, Executive Public Affairs Strategist at SRP. “Listening to community members and understanding the unique needs of the CGS and St. Johns community is a vital first step in developing a meaningful strategy.”

SRP will work with stakeholders at all levels to help identify the valued assets in the larger St. Johns community and define how best to uphold these mainstays while properly addressing the community’s evolving needs. In the years leading up to the full operational shutdown of CGS in 2032, as well as in the years following, SRP said it will continue engaging with St. Johns and Apache County stakeholders to help ensure the communities are leading a successful economic transition.

SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving more than 1 million customers.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Major overhaul planned for 570-MW Wivenhoe Pumped Storage in Queensland

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-07-06 09:22

Queensland’s largest hydropower station, the 570-MW Wivenhoe Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Power Station, will undergo a $14 million overhaul to ensure it continues to produce cleaner, cheaper energy for years to come.

Major maintenance works will start at the Wivenhoe station this month, creating 100 jobs under the Palaszczuk Government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan. The plant is owned by CleanCo Queensland.

Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said Wivenhoe was incredibly valuable to the reliability of Queensland’s electricity network. “All our publicly-owned energy generators have worked around the clock to respond to constraints in the network in these last few weeks,” de Brenni said. “When Callide C Power Station went offline in May, we were able to ramp Wivenhoe up to the point it was generating 530 megawatts over a four-hour period, helping to meet demand and stabilize the network. Never has it been more important to invest in fast ramping, flexible energy generation and storage solutions.”

De Brenni said the upgrades were critical for preserving the ongoing reliability of the plant. “Here in Queensland, we not only own our energy assets, but we invest in them significantly,” he said. “The Palaszczuk Government’s record energy budget includes $2.38 billion in job-creating capital upgrades and maintenance of our publicly-owned assets. This $14 million overhaul will include the repair and refurbishment of one of the 285-megawatt turbines, corrosion protection painting of machinery and pipes, and repairs to a transformer.

“Wivenhoe is the jewel in the crown of Queensland’s publicly-owned energy storage fleet and maintaining it will be critical to achieving our renewable energy target. That’s why we’ll continue to invest in Wivenhoe and progress plans for pumped hydro at Borumba Dam, with the budget providing $22 million for detailed design and cost analysis of that project.”

CleanCo Chief Executive Officer Dr Maia Schweizer said since taking ownership in 2019, CleanCo has run Wivenhoe more often as part of its portfolio of low-emissions assets.

“We must maintain our generating assets in line with this change in operations to ensure we can continue to meet our mandate to provide reliable, affordable energy for our customers and the Queensland community,” Dr Schweizer said. “The recent incident at Callide Power Station highlighted the important role fast ramping and flexible generation assets like Wivenhoe Power Station play in supplying energy reliably for Queensland. The planned overhaul will support up to 100 jobs as a diversely skilled workforce is required to undertake these works which will involve working at heights and in confined spaces.”

Maintenance works will run from mid-July until late October 2021.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Upstream oil and gas company signs PPA for 6.5-MW solar project

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-07-06 07:21

Last month Priority Power Management, LLC (Priority Power), an independent energy services provider announced that it has entered into a Solar Development Services Agreement (DSA) with FireBird Energy LLC, an upstream oil and gas company operating numerous properties in the Midland Basin in Texas.

Under the DSA, Priority Power will develop a 6.5-MW solar photovoltaic facility located on 50 acres of FireBird Energy’s land near Odessa, Texas in Ector County. FireBird Energy’s private primary distribution system will serve as the point of interconnection behind the utility meter.

Priority Power will develop, finance, engineer, construct, operate, and maintain the solar facility without upfront cost to FireBird Energy. FireBird Energy will enter into a 10-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the renewable energy produced from the solar facility. The PPA will integrate with all existing and future supply agreements managed by Priority Power.

It is estimated that the project will produce 136M kWh of clean power over the next decade for use by FireBird in its operations.

“Reducing our carbon footprint is key to our environmental stewardship and social responsibility goals,” said Travis F. Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of FireBird Energy. “This agreement illustrates both our commitment to leading the way toward improved sustainability in the upstream sector and Priority Power’s ability to work seamlessly with our team, leveraging their experience, to achieve our objectives.”

“We applaud FireBird Energy for their proactive leadership in striving to produce low-cost energy for our country while reducing their environmental footprint,” said John Bick, Chief Commercial Officer of Priority Power. “Our entire development process was tailored to FireBird’s specific needs and objectives, and will deliver operational savings while reducing their carbon footprint.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

Repowering project underway at Terra-Gen’s 60-MW Oasis Wind

Renewable Energy - Mon, 2021-07-05 01:11

Last week Mortenson said it has started work at Terra-Gen’s 60-MW Oasis Wind project located in Mojave, California. The work involves the repowering of a project first operational in 2004. Mortenson will replace sixty 1-MW turbines with seventeen state-of-the-art, 3-MW class turbines.

The repowered project will consist of six Vestas V112-3.45 MW turbines with 112-meter rotors at a 94-meter hub height, and eleven V136-3.6 MW turbines with 136-meter rotors at an 82-meter hub height. All access roads, foundations, underground collection and erection will be performed as part of Mortenson’s work scope, along with updates to the existing substation.

“For decades, areas around Mojave have been sought-after for wind projects and we are excited to add to the area’s legacy with this repowering project.” said Tim Maag, Vice President and General Manager of Mortenson’s Wind Energy team.

The project is expected to employ 100 workers at peak construction and is should be complete in September, said Mortenson.

This is Terra-Gen’s fifth repower in the state over the past year and 20th wind project in California over the last ten years.

Mortenson is also building the Edwards & Sanborn solar and energy storage project for Terra-Gen, which is located in Kern County, California, and consists of 809 megawatts of solar and 2,297 megawatt-hours of energy storage.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Solar advocacy groups unveil playbook used by pro-fossil fuel groups to stall rooftop solar

Renewable Energy - Sun, 2021-07-04 23:41

Special interest groups across the country are working to stall the growth of rooftop solar, according to a new report released last week by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. In particular, utilities are maneuvering to end or drastically alter the popular policy of “net metering,” which ensures that solar panel owners in 40 states and Washington D.C. receive fair compensation for the clean energy they supply to the electric grid, said the groups.

The report, Blocking Rooftop Solar, pulls the curtain back on the strategies that are promoted by pro-fossil fuel lobbying groups and adopted by many utilities. These groups are campaigning to stop the growth of rooftop solar in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, California, Kansas, South Carolina and at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This years-long, multi-state effort involves coordinating strategies, tactics and funding for anti-solar campaigns. Specifically, their plan includes:

  • Restrictions on or the elimination of net metering programs. 
  • New fixed charges on solar power system owners.

To win these changes, special interests create “astro-turf” front groups with neutral names like the Consumer Energy Alliance, in an attempt to influence decision makers to support anti-solar legislation or regulations.

“Rooftop solar power has changed America’s energy landscape, giving people the ability to transform their homes to be clean energy producers instead of dirty energy consumers,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Clean Energy program. “But instead of embracing this success story, utilities and other special interests are getting together to undermine rooftop solar by making it more expensive — just as it is proving its importance to America’s clean energy future.”

Utility profits come mostly from capital investments in the electric system, like new central power plants or large transmission line projects. Rooftop solar energy challenges traditional utility profit models by putting the generation of power in the hands of consumers, and by reducing the need for large, centralized grid infrastructure and fossil fuel power plants.

“Rooftop solar is cheaper, more efficient and within the reach of more American households than ever before,” said Matt Casale, Environment Campaigns director with U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “It is also key to preserving a healthy and safe future for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Americans deserve to reap the benefits of this clean renewable technology, but until we pull the curtain back on efforts to undermine it and create a clear path for its success, communities will not get what they want — and deserve.”

California’s heated battle

The battle for the future of rooftop solar is at particularly high pitch in California where utilities are using the playbook described in this report to push for drastic changes to net metering in California. Earlier this year, they moved to create the nation’s highest fixed charges for solar customers while simultaneously slashing the net metering payments that solar customers receive. 

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on the future of the state’s net metering program by the end of 2021. 

“California has set landmark goals for a clean energy future, and that future relies on rooftop solar,” said Laura Deehan, Environment California Research & Policy Center State Director. “The utility proposal to kill net metering would stunt the growth of solar in the Golden State, right when what we need most are strong policies supporting clean energy. The California Public Utilities Commission shouldn’t let them get away with it.”

Environment California Research & Policy Center is a state partner of Environment America Research & Policy Center.     

“Rooftop solar is key to our clean energy future,” said Bronte Payne, Go Solar campaign director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “We can’t let shortsightedness keep us tied to the energy sources of the past. Policymakers need to recognize and resist any attempts to undermine rooftop solar, and put in place strong policies to encourage its growth.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

SPACs offer new investment opportunities for energy industry

Renewable Energy - Sun, 2021-07-04 23:18
Much has been written and discussed in the last several months about SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies.  What is a SPAC, and what are the possible applications of this capital raising and acquisition strategy in the energy industry?  These questions, and more, answered below.

By Steve Carman

SPACs have been around for years, but gained significant traction and attention in 2020.  So much attention, in fact, new SPACs were viewed as coming to the public market at a “frenzied” pace, with more proceeds raised in SPAC IPOs from July 1, 2020 through April 1, 2021 than in the preceding 10 years. 

A SPAC is an entity without an operating business that undertakes an IPO seeking to raise funds (typically between $200 to $400 million, but sometimes higher or lower), to make acquisitions in an identified industry or utilizing a loosely identified business strategy.  Investors typically invest in the IPO based on the following:  

  • Their perception of the quality and experience of the management team in charge of identifying acquisition candidates,
  • Their expectations for, and interest in, the identified industry or with the identified strategy, and
  • Knowledge that if they do not like the acquisition candidate ultimately identified by the management team, they can vote against the proposed acquisition and potentially get their investment returned.  

After the IPO is complete, and assuming a suitable acquisition target is identified, the SPAC seeks to combine with the target in what is referred to as a “de‑SPAC” transaction.  Frequently, these combinations occur at the same time as a private investment by institutional investors in the SPAC.  These transactions come in various flavors and structures, but the end result is a public company that is believed to be appropriately funded to pursue a discrete business strategy capable of generating acceptable returns to investors and founders of the SPAC.

Energy SPACs

So what does all of that have to do with the energy industry?  First, the SPAC market is particularly well‑suited to raise cash in industries that offer the potential for significant growth and are currently of interest to investors (think a combination of technology and ESG‑friendly).  As the recent experience at ExxonMobile has shown, investors are eager to invest in, and accelerate the migration toward, energy production that does not rely on fossil fuels.  

SPACs that have invested in the electric vehicle sector are certainly an example of the concept.  And the energy industry, broadly defined, is host to a number of opportunities for the SPAC strategy.  A few examples:

  • The rapidly developing renewable natural gas market is putting in place a meaningful number of cash‑generating RNG production facilities that could be the subject of a roll‑up of sufficient size to attract the attention of a SPAC team.
  • The development and implementation of methane capture and carbon sequestration technologies meet a large, current need for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A consolidator of the best of those technologies could attract significant interest.  The energy department recently announced a new program to reduce the costs of carbon free hydrogen by 80% by the end of this decade. The program, a part of the DOE’s Energy Earth Shots initiative, is hoping to reduce the price of green hydrogen to $1 per kilogram by 2030.
  • Large scale production of green hydrogen will require large scale transportation of that hydrogen from its source of origin to its source of use. The acquisition and re‑purposing of that infrastructure will require significant capital expenditure that might lend itself to SPAC funding.

The confluence of the renewed interest in the SPAC structure, the growing commitment of investors to support green technologies, and the wide range of new technologies coming online to move the energy industry away from fossil fuels is likely to create opportunities in the near future. 

About the Author

Steve Carman is a Kansas City-based partner with the law firm Husch Blackwell LLP and leads the firm’s Energy & Natural Resources industry team.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Balancing a renewable grid: What are the options?

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-07-02 10:57

By Archie Robb

Over the past decade or so, the dominant trend has been the retirement of coal plants and the steady advance of renewable sources of generation. The next wave appears to be the phasing out as many natural gas-fired facilities as is feasible as more wind and solar resources are deployed.

But there has been an unintended consequence in this headlong rush to displace rotating generation assets – grid instability. The steam turbines and gas turbines of power coal plants, combined cycle and natural gas peaking facilities play a vital role in terms of grid inertia, stability, and the provision of reactive power in the form of VARs (Voltage Ampere Reactive).

In the UK, for example, the government has committed to phasing out all coal-fired power generation by 2025. Over the past decade, the nation has installed around 20 GW of renewable power. As a result, just over a third (37.1%) of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources with plans to install a further 40 GW of offshore wind over the next decade. As more wind and solar floods onto the grid, instability and inertia issues will increase.

“Renewable power is connected to the grid electronically rather than directly as a large centralised power station would be,” said Mark Tiernan, Head of High Voltage Substations United Kingdom at Siemens Energy. “As a result of the shift away from coal, there are fewer large spinning turbines on the grid, and this has led to a reduction in the amount of inertia in the system. The loss of synchronous gas turbine and steam turbine generators leads to system instability in the form lower system inertia.”

Electrical Gear

A variety of approaches are springing up that aim to provide such services in order to maintain and accelerate the pace of renewable adoption. Traditional electrical solutions to this problem include capacitors, static VAR compensators, and static compensators. Capacitor banks are typically installed at electrical substations. They consist of shunt capacitors. They are relatively cheap, reliable, and easy to install. But disadvantages include their large footprint, and the fact that they can only supply reactive power, they cannot absorb it. When load rapidly increases and voltage drops, the effectiveness of capacitors diminishes.

Static VAR Compensators (SVCs) are basically electrical switches. They consist of shunt capacitors and reactors and offer a greater degree of voltage control than simple capacitors. They can absorb and supply reactive power, but struggle in the face of voltage instability or collapse.

Static synchronous compensators (StatComs) make use of sophisticated power electronics rather than capacitors and reactors. They provide a much faster response time (microseconds) and take up less space. But are pricey compared to more basic equipment. Examples include American Superconductor’s Dynamic VAR (D-VAR) systems, S&C Electric Company’s Purewave DStatCom, and Siemens Energy’s SVC Plus. 

SVC Plus combines a StatCom and multilevel converter technology. The guts of the system comprise a collection of electrical components such as insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT), reactors, capacitors, and AC power transformers. It can quickly inject inductive or capacitive power to stabilize transmission systems and reduce the risk of voltage collapse and blackouts. This Siemens Energy unit is about half the size of a conventional SVC. 

German transmission system operator Amprion commissioned Siemens Energy to provide two SVC Plus systems to stabilize the German grid. The plants are for Polsum, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rheinau, Baden-Württemberg. They provide a reactive power range of +/- 600 MVAR and keep the grid voltage in a stable range. Overall, transmission operators calculate that the German grid needs up to 28 GVAR to provide enough stability and inertia.

Italy, too, is adopting this technology. Terna. S.p.A has ordered two SVC Plus systems. They will contribute to interconnections between Italy and Montenegro and mainland Italy and Sardinia. Terna has two similar systems being installed in Italy’s Marche region. They will go online gradually between late 2021 and mid-2022.

How the Siemens Energy synchronous condenser works. Synchronous Condensers  

Synchronous condensers are another way to address grid instability issues. Once again, there are a variety of systems on offer. Siemens Energy and GE offer competing electrical systems.

The Siemens Energy unit comprises a synchronous condenser to provide inertia to strengthen the grid, short circuit power for reliable operation, and reactive power for voltage control. In essence, the synchronous condenser is a large piece of spinning machinery made up of a generator and a flywheel. When connected to the grid, it provides the inertia by spinning continuously in sync with grid frequency. Thus, it contributes to the stability of the system, dampening any fluctuations in frequency, just as car shock absorbers dampen a bump in the road. The flywheel is a large wheel that adds additional mass for greater system inertia. It is effectively a means of substituting a flywheel for the rotating mass of a gas or steam turbine.

“By coupling the fly wheel to the rotating mass of the generator’s rotor, it provides the short-circuit contribution and enlarge the necessary inertia,” said Tiernan. “In this way, they will help stabilizing the networks frequency.”

The synchronous generator is connected to the high-voltage transmission network via a step-up transformer. It is started up and stopped with a frequency-controlled electric motor (pony motor) or a starting frequency converter. When the generator has reached operating synchronous speed, it is synchronized with the transmission network, and the machine is operated as a motor providing reactive and short-circuit power to the transmission network.

The UK’s National Grid Pathfinder program aims to provide plenty of short-circuit power, particularly in locations in Scotland and Wales. Siemens Energy was awarded three projects as part of this program. Work has begun at a site at Rassau, Ebbw Vale in Wales for Welsh Power. This rotating grid stabilization technology is being installed at the site to manage grid stability. It will be up and running before the end of the year.

“Within 15 minutes of an instruction, our facility can provide approximately 1% of the inertia needed to operate the grid safely with zero emissions,” said Chris Wickins, Director of Grid Services at Welsh Power.

A similar system is being supplied to the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in Ireland for the Moneypoint power station located in County Clare. ESB is turning the site into a green energy hub, where a range of renewable technologies will be deployed over the next decade.

“Due to the intermittency of wind energy in particular, grid stabilization technologies have an increasingly important role in a successful energy transition,” said Paul Smith, Head of Asset Development at ESB Generation and Trading.

GE Steam Power, meanwhile, is touting its own synchronous condensers and flywheel system. It sold two such units to Terna for the Brindisi substation in Italy. Each will supply up to +250/-125 MVAr of reactive power and 1750 MW inertia. They are being installed along the transmission system to keep the power flowing consistently. GE has an additional four 250 MVAr synchronous condenser units under execution with Terna in the Selargius and Maida plants in Sardinia and Calabria. Additionally, GE has delivered two 160 MVAr synchronous condensers for Favara and Partinico Terna Substations in Sicily that have been running since the end of 2015. That adds up to 1,820 MVAr of reactive power for Italy’s grid.

A typical synchronous condensing plant layout consists of one or two synchronous condensers units with flywheel in parallel, step-up transformers, generator circuit breakers, all the electrical and mechanical auxiliaries and balance of plant including the protection and controls systems, monitoring and diagnostic systems. Courtesy of GE.

“Units consist of either new electrical rotating equiment or existing generators reconfigured to perform as reliable grid stabilizers, that means to stabilize the voltage of the grid,” said Chris Evans, Head of Product Management, GE Steam Power. “Flywheels are an add-on feature for additional inertia that can be delivered at the time of the construction of a new plant or added later on during the life cycle of the plant, which instead serve to stabilize the frequency of the grid.

Existing Generators for Synchronous Condensing

The various systems showcased so far all do the job. But a less capital-intensive approach is available by converting old steam and gas turbines into synchronous condensers. There are many power plants in existence that have aging turbines available. Some have already been decommissioned, and many are running at much lower capacity that in previous years as renewable resources take on a bigger share of power supply. Inevitably, more and more of these units will either be decommissioned or gradually phased out.

Conversion of existing generators to provide synchronous condensing falls into two categories. One is for the machine to be used for peaking power and synchronous condensing by incorporating a synchro self-shifting (SSS) clutch into an existing turbine generator set. Alternatively, an existing turbine generator set such as decommissioned coal plant steam turbine generator can be rapidly converted to a synchronous condenser by removing the turbine and adding an acceleration drive with an SSS clutch (see lead image)

The turbine, or acceleration drive in the case of a generator-only application, brings the generator up to speed. Once the generator synchronizes with the grid, the turbine or acceleration drive disconnects from the generator and shuts down. The generator then uses grid power to keep spinning, constantly providing leading or lagging VARs as needed.

As well as steam turbines and gas turbines, such conversions can be done for reciprocating engines. The clutch acts by completely disengaging the prime mover from the generator when only reactive power is needed. When active or real power is needed, the SSS clutch automatically engages for electric power generation. This enables the unit to absorb or supply reactive power to the grid for voltage control purposes by running the generator as a synchronous motor uncoupled from the gas turbine. New gas-fired power plants being built can also be configured to operate in this way.

“There are significant savings in the fact that an existing generator is in position, connected to the transmission system, and already in working order with controls,” said Dave Haldeman, SSS Clutch. “Additionally, this approach provides the system for a backup power or peaking power, which complements the renewable power when required.”

The Commonwealth Chesapeake Power Plant in rural Virginia consists of 7 GE LM6000 gas turbines, installed about 20 years ago. They provide power sporadically, depending on the needs of the grid operator. As a result, four of them are equipped with clutches.

These generators are outfitted with clutches that can disconnect from their turbines to enable them to operate as synchronous condensers. In this case, the grid operator pays the plant to have the generator synchronized and spinning but not connected to the power turbine. That offers grid support. Once power is required, it can be on the grid within 10 minutes to respond to generation or transmission outages elsewhere in the network. Control software is used to bring the turbine rapidly up to near-synchronous speed in order to engage or disengage the turbine. When disengaged, the generator continues to spin.

Four units at this U.S. power plant were outfitted with clutches to enable GE LM6000 turbines to provide rapid standby power as well as reactive power support.

Haldeman sees a place for both purely electrical synchronous condensers, as well as those utilizing old engines and turbines. As more renewables are added, the demands for inertia and grid stability will only accelerate.

From a purely economic perspective, money can be saved by utilizing machinery that is already in place. An inexpensive retrofit can add a clutch in a couple of weeks. Transmission lines, switch gear, other electrical gear, as well as permitting are already in place. The money saved can then be used to upgrade other areas of the grid or be invested in more wind and solar projects. Further, existing generators tend to be installed near load centers. In most cases there are already in a location where they can support the need for reactive power and provide the resulting voltage support. 

As the turbine is not running in synchronous condensing mode, there is no fuel burn and therefore no emissions.  There is a general tendency to paint all sources of emissions with the same brush. But there is a big difference between an aging coal plant and a natural gas fired turbine in terms of emissions.  

“Peaking gas turbines have an important role to play in maintaining grid stability by providing inertia, and reactive power support,” said Haldeman. “These natural gas peaking units can provide critical standby power when the renewables are at reduced levels, such as a deep freeze or some other extreme weather event. Otherwise they offer synchronous condensing and voltage support which will be in high demand as a greater percentage of renewable assets come online.” 

About the Author

Archie Robb is a writer based on Southern California who covers business, energy and technology.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Nordex Group wins order to supply 70 wind turbines for farm in Brazil

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-07-02 07:23

The Nordex Group has received an order to supply 70 of its N163/5.X wind turbines for a farm in Brazil’s northeast state of Piaui. The contract also includes the service of the turbines over a period of five years.

Installation of the turbines, which will be delivered in a project-specific operating mode of 5.7 MW, is scheduled to start in early 2023. Total capacity of the unnamed farm will be 399 MW when complete. The press release did not indicate the company awarding the contract to the Nordex Group.

For this contract, the Nordex Group will manufacture the rotor blades and the 120-m-high concrete towers locally, thus securing and creating jobs in the country. Nordex Group’s customers in Brazil are able to purchase N163/5.X wind turbines using the credit line known as FINAME, as well as other similar financing lines that use the BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development) accreditation system as parameter for defining local content, according to a press release. The Nordex Group obtained this accreditation for the N163/5.X wind turbine model at the end of 2020 from the largest public development bank in Brazil.

The Nordex Group has installed more than 33 GW of wind energy capacity in over 40 markets. The company employs a workforce of about 8,500. The product portfolio is focused on onshore turbines in the 4 to 5.X MW class.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Hydro-Québec named Canada’s best corporate citizen for 2021

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-07-02 05:41

Hydro-Québec ranked first in the 2021 Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada released by Corporate Knights magazine.

This annual ranking of the organization that promotes responsible business practices is based on data in the public domain concerning the governance of companies, as well as their social and environmental performance.

According to a press release, Hydro-Québec’s ranking reflects a well-established entrepreneurial culture, which puts environmental, social and economic issues at the forefront. Over the past year, Hydro-Québec has stood out in particular in terms of water consumption, taxes paid, the diversity of the members of management and the Board of Directors, own investments as well as income.

“By the nature of our activities, we play a crucial role in promoting sustainable development and responsible business practices,” says Hydro-Québec President and Chief Executive Officer Sophie Brochu. “Obviously, we are not perfect. Much remains to be done. We are working tirelessly on it. We work closely with Indigenous communities and communities, and we constantly seek to foster diversity in our workforce. In addition, thanks to the enthusiastic participation of the people of Quebec in our Energy in Common initiative, we will be able to find and seize promising opportunities to support the energy transition. “

Hydro-Québec’s efforts in the area of social responsibility and sustainable development enabled the company to climb to the top of this year’s ranking, whereas it occupied fifth place last year. “As the world’s fourth-largest producer of hydropower, with 61 hydroelectric generating stations, Hydro-Québec enjoys a strong head start on top spot in the Best 50. But the provincially owned utility earns its No. 1 rank on merit. It established its first environmental protection committee in 1970 and now aims to be carbon-neutral by 2030. To strengthen its position in renewable energy, especially wind, solar and battery storage, Hydro-Québec last year acquired a 19.9% interest in Longueuil, Quebec–based Innergex Renewable Energy (No. 20 on this year’s Best 50). Hydro-Québec is also working with Stantec (No. 6) to measure and mitigate climate-related risks to its operations and facilities,” Corporate Knights said.

Corporate Knights first published this list in 2002. Ranking Canada’s top public companies in six categories – community, employee relations/diversity, product safety and business practices, environment, international, and corporate governance – the company recognized the 50 firms that best embodied the pro-social spirit of the new millennium.

Today, “What really matters is their work: their new sustainability initiatives, their campaigns to improve diversity and equity, their partnerships and pilot projects, their ever-higher performance targets, their breakthroughs and their well-intentioned failures. By studying the best practices of the Best 50, we believe any organization can chart a better, cleaner future,” the magazine said.

“When we compare the Best 50 against all other large Canadian companies with revenues of more than $1 billion, the Best 50 outperform on proportion of clean revenue (29.3% vs. 17.4%) and clean investments as a proportion of total investments (35% vs. 25.4%). They also pay their workers better (with a CEO-to-average-worker pay ratio of 18.47 vs. 89.59) and practise more diverse leadership (with 33.6% gender-diverse boards and 11% racially diverse boards, vs. 27% and 6.7% for run-of-the-mill big business).”

Categories: Renewable Energy


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