October 11, 2015


Wind And Solar Energy Technologies Eat Into Fossil Fuel Power's Business Plan (Mike Scott, 10/09/15, Forbes)

Renewable energy has long been seen as the energy of tomorrow - widely praised for its low carbon qualities but seen as too expensive compared to traditional forms of energy such as coal and gas.

But new research says that the cost of generating electricity from onshore wind is cheaper today than coal and gas in some parts of the world and solar is not far off. And on top of that, renewable energy is eating fossil fuel power's business plan.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Levelised Cost of Electricity Update for the second half of 2015 shows that " the cost of wind and solar is falling worldwide, whereas gas- and coal-fired generation is heading in the other direction, " says Janis Hoberg, EU analyst at BNEF.

The study finds that onshore wind is now fully cost-competitive with both gas-fired and coal-fired generation, once carbon costs are taken into account, in the UK and Germany. In the UK, onshore wind comes in on average at $85/MWh, compared to $115/MWh for both combined-cycle gas and coal-fired power; in Germany, onshore wind is at $80/MWh, compared to $118/MWh for gas and $106/MWh for coal. "Onshore wind now appears to be cheaper than new coal and gas in the UK, as reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the UK carbon price floor has raised future price expectations and driven up costs of coal and gas power," says Seb Henbest, BNEF head of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Battery-stored electricity could reduce power use and save money, report says (Ivan Penn, 10/07/15, LA Times)

Utilities would save consumers money and help support the electric grid if the companies tapped unused power stored in existing home and business batteries, according to a report released Thursday by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The report, titled "The Economics of Battery Energy Storage," by the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in Snowmass, Colo., states that most batteries already in use serve only as backup power when other electricity isn't available.

Instead, the electricity in the batteries could help reduce congestion over power lines as utilities work to send power from various plants during high demand. The battery-stored electricity also could immediately provide support to the grid in an emergency.

And for customers, the batteries could help them better manage their electricity use and reduce their costs. 

Africa's largest windfarm set to connect remote Kenya to the grid (Murithi Mutiga in Loiyangalani and David Smith in Nairobi,  9 October 2015, The Guardian)

Further tests found that the wind - which was highly predictable and flowed in a constant direction at consistent speeds at various times of the day all year round - could potentially generate power at nearly double the level of efficiency of many windfarms in Europe, meaning it could be sold at a relatively low cost.

"Wind power varies depending on the time of day," said Mugo Kibati, chairman of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. "Your typical windfarm would have 25-35% utilisation capacity. Lake Turkana will be 62% utilisation capacity."

That helped convince the government to get on board but there was also scepticism from the local community.

"People really doubted when the initial teams came to the ground to explain what they were doing," said Stakwel Yurenimo, a community leader who was one of the first to embrace the windfarm project and served as a liaison to the project team. "Nobody would buy or understand the idea that the plan was to establish wind turbines to generate power. No one has electricity here anyway, so most people told me that this was a plan by wazungu (white people) to conduct research on the locals and then leave."

A number of lenders and equity partners, including the Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, European and German investment banks and the British Aldwych International Limited company - which already operates a 90MW diesel power plant in the Kenyan Coast - quickly came on board. Danish wind energy giant Vestas also signed on to supply the turbines. But the World Bank raised a number of concerns, including whether Kenya could absorb all the electricity from the various wind, geothermal and hydropower projects it is undertaking.

That proved to be the most serious question levelled at the viability of the project but Kenyan government officials overrode the World Bank objections, pointing out that the east African country's goals of transitioning from reliance on primary products, such as agriculture to manufacturing, would create the right level of demand.

It is a view echoed by Kibati, who previously served as head of the Vision 2030 secretariat which developed the country's medium-term development plan: "I think the economy is going to grow just as fast as the power generation capacity is going to grow. I highly doubt we're going to have excess power in the near future. In my view, growth has been constrained by lack of power. I fully expect Kenya will be growing 7-8% over the next decade."

There are still issues to be resolved. Some representatives of local communities have alleged the project violates the community land rights of the locals. Kenya's high court declined to halt the project but asked the county government, the community representatives and the project managers to reach an out of court settlement on the matter, an issue which is still pending resolution.

Today, a sprawling, mostly-flat, dun-coloured terrain of moody, stumpy thorn bushes in the Sarima village around 40km from the shores of Lake Turkana is home to the most ambitious infrastructure development project carried out in northern Kenya since independence.

Covering 40,000 acres (162km2), the project will entail the installation of 365 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850kW and is expected to be fully operational in mid 2017.

A 204km road linking the area to the nearest paved road will be built, and the Kenyan electricity transmission company, with funding by both the Kenyan government and a concessional loan from Spain, will construct a 428km transmission line to link it to the national grid.

Posted by at October 11, 2015 11:06 AM

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