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ABB provides subsea cable for the Humber Gateway offshore wind farm

ABB will supply the power export cables for the UK’s 219 MW Humber Gateway offshore windfarm under an order worth around US$15 million.

ABB will design and supply 2 x 14 km circuits of 132 kV three-core AC submarine cable, with integrated fibre optics, to connect Humber Gateway to the mainland grid. Delivery of the cable is scheduled for 2013.

When completed, in 2015, Humber Gateway offshore wind farm will consist of a 73 wind turbine array 8 km off the East Yorkshire coast, just north of the mouth of the river Humber.

“This subsea cable will provide a reliable and efficient link between offshore wind farms and the mainland grid enabling a clean energy supply,” says Martin Gross, Head of ABB’s Grid System business within the company’s Power Systems division.

“Offshore wind power, as a fast growing source of large-scale renewable energy is making an increasing contribution towards lowering the environmental impact of electricity generation.”

OriginOil supplies algae biofuel technology to France

OriginOil Inc will supply its Algae Appliance harvester to its French joint venture (JV) partner Ennesys for a test of urban algae production at the La Défense complex near Paris, France.

“This is a clear sign that algae is being seriously evaluated to help improve the eco-footprint of massive commercial developments,” says Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil’s CEO.

“This order marks another sale and revenue generation from our commercialised algae systems. And we’re delighted to have a high-profile showcase for our technologies in Europe.”

The Ennesys demonstration will test the suitability of algae production in helping large commercial buildings achieve a positive energy balance and natural water management.

Under France’s RT 2020 sustainable energy framework, all new buildings must produce more energy than they consume, and purify and recycle water naturally by 2020.

Partial funding is expected from regional government entities for the algae project.

“Our government is serious about minimising the environmental impact of the massive developments now being planned for the Paris regional area,” says Pierre Tauzinat, CEO of Ennesys.

“We intend to show that algae production can be safely and productively integrated into urban settings.”

Since May 2011, OriginOil’s joint venture partner Ennesys has been engaged by major French developers to study the integration of wastewater algae production in two large building projects in the Greater Paris region and other French cities, with a total area exceeding 35 million ft2 (1 million m2).

Utility and Renewable Energy Leaders Plan Ahead

The California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) ran the first of a series of forums to outline a viable business model for U.S. renewable electricity in the 21st century Wednesday, bringing together leaders from utility, development, regulation, and financial institutions to define an actionable strategy for U.S. renewable electricity development by 2013.

During the four panels hosted at the forum – also organised by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) – participants developed action plans to address the regulatory framework, customer relations models, emerging financing structures, and technological innovation necessary to integrate significant amounts of renewable onto the existing U.S. electricity grid.

US Power Grid

US Power Grid

“This is the first time top leaders from the utility and renewables industries have met to hammer out an executable plan to boost renewable energy integration nationwide,” said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, president of ACORE. “Everyone in the forum wants more renewables, but we may not all be aligned on how to get to that shared goal. This year’s forums aim to reach that alignment so utilities and renewable energy companies can strike forward most effectively.”

Panel participants and keynote speakers included Dan Arvizu, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Michael Howard, CEO of Electric Power Research Institute; Doyle Beneby, president and CEO of CPS Energy; Marshal Salant, head of Citigroup’s Alternative Energy Finance division; and Michael Peevey, president of California Public Utilities Commission.

“Industry collaboration and new financing mechanisms are the keys to the widespread deployment and integration of clean energy in America,” said Dan Adler, president of CalCEF and ACORE board member. “The leaders who participated in the forum spoke candidly about the issues slowing the growth of renewables, and it was heartening to see their perspectives steadily align over the course of the day. We anticipate much more of the same over the coming year’s forums.”

“America has the technology to dramatically increase the amount of renewable energy available to consumers, and system integration is a major component to meeting this challenge,” said Dan Arvizu, Director of NREL. We need the national will to make this happen.”

Japan renewable energy push clears key hurdle


Japan’s lower house of parliament passed a bill on Tuesday to promote investment in solar and other renewable energy sources as politicians took a step toward the prime minister’s goal of reducing reliance on nuclear power. Damage and the radiation leak at the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has shattered the public’s confidence in the safety of atomic power and plunged the country’s energy policy into disarray. Ahead of the disaster, Japan had planned to build enough reactors to raise nuclear power supply to meet 50 percent of demand by 2030 from 30 percent. Now, the country is debating whether it can live without nuclear power. Unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan had designated the passage of the renewables bill – a step toward a new energy policy – as a condition of his departure. The bill’s passage follows weeks of intense deliberation between ruling and opposition parties and will require utilities to buy any electricity from solar and other renewable sources. The upper house could now approve the bill by the end of the week. Related laws are due to take effect in July 2012. Japan’s recent history of short-lived governments and the implied risk of a change of policy by a future administration will be an immediate concern for investors. The bill is due for a mandatory review after Tokyo decides a new plan for it energy supply mix target in 2030, expected next year. Another mandatory review is due in three years. Kan, whose handling of the disaster has been criticized, has said Japan needs to wean itself from nuclear energy. But it is unclear if lawmakers will throw their weight behind his position as nuclear power is economical for resource-poor Japan. If the government can restore public confidence in its safety, nuclear represents a cheaper option than renewables or imports of fossil fuels for resource-poor Japan. “Prime Minister Kan has deliberately made the bill an immediate focus of debate and succeeded,” said Ryuichi Yokoyama, professor at Waseda University’s power system and environment laboratory. “A key question yet to be answered even after the passage would be if Japan will be able to get rid of nuclear as he has suggested,” Yokoyama said. The bill leaves key details unresolved that could ultimately dilute its impact on energy policy. These include the price to be paid by utilities for each type of green energy, which will be decided by a parliament-appointed panel not set to meet until next year. If the pricing is too low, investors would be reluctant to start the massive build in capacity Japan needs. A long delay in the pricing would also delay the deployment of more renewable energy plants, said Ryuichi Hokao, head of product planning at Tokio Marine Asset Management Co, which is marketing to domestic investors its first fund to build and run more than 10 large solar plants together with Mitsui & Co. “The timing is important as well as the price itself for making investment decisions.” he said. The new laws will require utilities to buy any amount of electricity generated from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small hydro power plants at preset rates for up to 20 years, and allow utilities to pass the cost to end-users. The higher the prices are set, and thus the more quickly renewable energy electricity is introduced, the greater the cost that users will have to bear. The bill includes provisions for energy-intensive industries, such as electric furnace steel makers, that will trim extra costs by at least 80 percent in a bid to cushion the impact on the world’s third-biggest economy. The pricing panel would need to find a balance between encouraging investment and limiting the pain to consumers of higher bills. “We understand renewable energy is the next candidate after natural gas to replace nuclear. But it’s an expensive option and its lack of reliability will require a lot of investment, and the new scheme requires users to share the cost,” Waseda University’s Yokoyama said. LARGE SOLAR PROJECTS: Solar is expected to be the initial growth area as it can be installed quickly. Daiwa House Industry Co, which like mobile carrier Softbank is moving into large-scale solar projects, said on Tuesday it plans to construct and operate solar plants on behalf of corporations and local governments. Trade Minister Banri Kaieda told a parliament committee on Tuesday that the bill was expected to help solar capacity expand to 100,000 megawatts (MW) by the middle of this decade, from almost 40,000 MW currently. That pace of growth would be about six times Japan’s solar panel sales in 2010, which had the generation capacity of 992 MW. Such rapid growth would raise the question of how Japan would secure such a large number of panels. One possible scenario, if domestic panel makers remain hesitant to add production lines, would see imports rise and to fill the gap, said Kazumichi Ito, general manager at Mitsubishi Research Institute’s environment and energy research division.

Combining NREL's Deposition Technique with ORNL's Textured Foil

A team of NREL scientists including Howard Branz and Chaz Teplin had developed a way to use a process called hot-wire chemical vapor deposition to thicken silicon wafers with perfect crystal coatings. Using a hot tungsten filament much like the one found in an incandescent light bulb, the silane gas molecules are broken apart and deposited onto the wafer using the chemical vapor deposition technique at about 700°C — a much lower temperature than needed to make the wafer. The hot filament decomposes the gas, allowing silicon layers to deposit directly onto the substrate.

Armed with this new technique, Branz and Teplin searched for ways to grow the silicon on cheaper materials and still use it for solar cells.

They found the ideal synergy when visiting venture capitalists from Battelle Ventures asked them whether they could do anything useful with a breakthrough at ORNL called RABiTS (rolling assisted biaxially textured substrate). It was just the opportunity the two scientists had been seeking.

If metal foil is to work as a substrate, it must be able to act as a seed crystal so the silicon can grow on it with the correct structure. The RABiTS process forms crystals in the foil that are correctly oriented to receive the silicon atoms and lock them into just the right positions.

NREL and ORNL worked to combine their technologies using a small amount of funding from Battelle Ventures. Using the right intermediate “buffer layers” to coat the foil substrates, the researchers were able to replicate the desired foil crystal structure in the silicon layer grown over metal foil (epitaxial growth).

NREL developed the technology to grow high-quality silicon

Straight from Pure Silicon to High-Quality Crystal Silicon Film

ORNL developed the metal foil that has the correct crystal structure to support that growth.

And Ampulse is installing a pilot manufacturing line in NREL’s Process Development Integration Laboratory (PDIL), where solar companies test their latest materials and processes.

With knowledge and expertise acquired from the PDIL pilot production line, Ampulse plans to design a full-scale production line to accommodate long rolls of metal foil.

The Ampulse process “goes straight from pure silicon-containing gas to high-quality crystal silicon film,” said Brent Nelson, who runs the PDIL at NREL. “The advantage is you can make the wafer just as thin as you need it — 10 microns or less.”

Most of today’s solar cells are made out of wafer crystalline silicon, though thin-film cells made of more exotic materials like gallium, arsenic, indium, arsenide, cadmium, and tellurium are making a strong push into the market.

The advantage of silicon is its abundance, as it is derived from sand. Its disadvantage is that purifying it into wafers suitable for solar cells is expensive and energy intensive.

Manufacturers add carbon and heat to sand to produce metallurgical-grade silicon, which is useful in other industries, but not yet suitable for making solar cells. This metallurgical-grade silicon is then converted to pure trichlorosilane (SiCl3) or silane (SiH4) gas.

Typically, the purified gas is converted to create a silicon feedstock at 1,000 degrees Celsius (°C). This feedstock is melted at 1,414°C and recrystallized into crystal ingots that are finally sawed into wafers. Think of it as the Rube Goldberg approach to creating a solar cell.

Instead, the Ampulse process backs up two steps. Rather than create a feedstock, it works with the silane directly and grows just the needed silicon right onto a foil substrate.

New Approach Aims to Slash Cost of Solar Cells

Solar-powered electricity prices could soon approach those of power from coal or natural gas thanks to collaborative research with solar start-up Ampulse Corporation at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Silicon wafers account for almost half the cost of today’s solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, so reducing or eliminating wafer costs is essential to bringing prices down.

Current crystalline silicon technology, while high in energy conversion efficiency, involves processes that are complex, wasteful, and energy intensive. First, half the refined silicon is lost as dust in the wafer-sawing process, driving module costs higher. A typical 2-meter boule of silicon loses as many as 6,000 potential wafers during sawing. Second, the wafers produced are much thicker than necessary. To efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, they need only one-tenth the typical thickness.

NREL, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Ampulse have teamed on an approach to eliminate this waste and dramatically lower the cost of the finished solar panels. The aim is to create a less expensive alternative to wafer-based crystalline silicon solar cells.

By using a chemical vapor deposition process to grow the silicon on inexpensive foil, Ampulse is able to make the solar cells just thick enough to convert most of the solar energy into electricity. No more sawdust — and no more wasting refined silicon materials.


11,000 protest against German solar PV cuts

Around 11,000 people gathered in Berlin on 5 March to protest against further cuts to the support for solar photovoltaics (PV) in Germany from April.

The German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar), which initiated the protest, says that if the draft legislation put forward this week in Germany is not stopped or significantly reduced, the solar industry could see a market downturn of up to 75%, causing bankruptcies and putting 100,000 jobs at risk.

According to BSW-Solar calculations, the proposed list of cuts in the sum of all its components, will amount to cuts in the support for solar power to the magnitude of – depending on segment – 30-50% by the end of the year. This could hit the industry hard as German solar PV manufacturers are already facing tough times through increased competition.

Following the amendment to the tariff in January, the support for solar PV will already fall 28% in 2012 – twice the rate of cuts seen in 2011.

The cuts seem especially difficult to swallow for the solar industry, as they would only lead to average savings of €0.30-0.60 per German household per month, BSW-Solar says.

“These savings are out of all proportion to the disastrous consequences of the excessive cuts planned: a looming wave of bankruptcies, the threat to thousands of jobs and the collapse of the energy system transformation,” Carsten König, CEO of BSW-Solar warns.

At the end of February a poll carried out by TNS Emnid for BSW-Solar showed that 69% do not think the expansion of solar is going too slowly – rather, it is the opposite: 60% think that policy makers are doing too little for the expansion of solar PV.

Furthermore, 65% think it is a mistake to cut the annual expansion of solar power generation by more than half, and 65% also do not agree with reductions in support of between 30% and 40% for power generated by solar PV.

The protest was joined by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), the Industrial Union of Steel Workers (IG Metall), the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE), and German Environmental Aid (DUH).

UK’s EMEC supports Japanese Marine Energy Centre

The UK marine and tidal energy development facility, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), will help to develop Japan’s first marine energy test centre.

EMEC and the Ocean Energy Association of Japan (OEAJ) have entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU), under which EMEC will provide advice and support on the design, set up and operation of the Japanese Marine Energy Centre (JMEC).

Richard Morris, Commercial Director at EMEC, says: “The need to address future sustainable energy generation requirements has been accelerated in Japan, for which there is wide-ranging support from within Government and across the country’s industry leaders.

“EMEC is uniquely placed in terms of providing consultancy support to countries wishing to set up marine energy test sites and this is an excellent opportunity for Scotland to assist and work alongside our colleagues in Japan, identifying synergies to boost this new and exciting industry for the benefit of the country and its economy.”

Prof. Takeshi Kinoshita, Chairman of OEAJ, adds: “OEAJ is very pleased to be working with EMEC, the world’s most experienced marine and tidal test facility, to provide advice and support on the design, set-up and operation of the Japanese Marine Energy Centre.”

Gamesa sells US$900m worth of US wind farms to Algonquin

Gamesa is selling four wind farms totalling 480 MW to Canadia Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp for approximately US$900 million.

Gamesa is installing 240 of its G9X-2.0 MW wind turbines at the: 80 MW Pocahontas Prairie wind farm in Iowa, the 50 MW Sandy Ridge in Pennsylvania, the 150 MW Senate in Texas; and the 200 MW Minonk wind farm in Illinois.

All four wind farms are being developed and constructed by Gamesa, and will be commissioned during 2012.

“This transaction combines three of Gamesa’s major goals: partnering up with new leading customers in the North American renewable energy sector; attracting investments from tier one financial institutions who value and underwrite in our technology and in the wind power market; and further achieving our economic goal of maximising the value of our wind farm portfolio, in this case in the US,” says Gamesa Chairman and CEO, Jorge Calvet.

Further co-operation agreement

Gamesa and Algonquin have also entered into a joint development agreement to pursue additional wind power development opportunities in the United States and Canada.

Algonquin will be provided visibility into Gamesa’s pipeline of 3.5 GW of near and medium term wind power development opportunities in the United States, while Gamesa will have the opportunity to work with Algonquin to advance and expand Algonquin’s 325 MW pipeline of contracted development projects.