Thursday 28 February 2013

Siemens supplies 80 wind turbines, wind power service in North Sea
8 Feb 2013

Siemens won an order by wpd Group, Germany, to supply and install 80 wind turbines for the Butendiek offshore wind power plant off Germany's North Sea coast. When it comes online in 2015, the wind power plant's total generating capacity of 288 MW will be sufficient to supply some 370,000 households with ecofriendly electricity.

The agreement also covers a long-term maintenance contract for a period of ten years, the first of its kind for an offshore wind project. Siemens is to provide a new logistics concept that includes a service operation vessel specially developed for deployments to offshore wind facilities. The order volume including service is more than $938 million.

This project company is made up of five investors: Siemens Financial Services, Marguerite Fund, Industriens Pension, PKA A/S (each 22.5%) and wpd AG (10%). Butendiek is the eighth offshore wind power plant order that Siemens has won in German waters and the second in Europe with an equity stake from Siemens Financial Services.

Butendiek, to be erected about 20 miles west of the island of Sylt near the German-Danish border, is the second project-financed offshore wind power plant in Germany for which Siemens is supplying wind turbines and services. The wind turbines, each with a capacity of 3.6 MW and a rotor diameter of 120 meters, are to be erected across a surface area of 26 square miles in waters measuring about 65 feet deep.

Siemens is also bringing a comprehensive service package to the Butendiek offshore project, tailored to ensure maximum long-term exploitation of the wind farm's power potential. These efforts include remote monitoring and diagnostics solutions implemented in conjunction with weather forecasting techniques. Siemens has also developed a new, customized logistics concept for Butendiek: Siemens' service technicians will live and work on board a specially designed ship, the Service Operation Vessel.

Siemens Financial Services, Marguerite Fund, Industriens Pension, and PKA A/S (each indirectly holding 22.5%) provide, as financial investors, a substantial portion of the required equity and have secured the financing of the project with a total project volume of $1.75 billion.

Wpd group will as well contribute to the equity and in addition focuses mainly on project development as well as the project management. All partners have aligned their resources in order to secure a project finance structure on a 67% senior debt and 33% equity basis with a consortium of up to 9 banks, involving multilateral institution like European Investment Bank, KfW and EKF supporting the project with funding.

Wind turbine maker Vestas posts higher sales
6 Feb 2013

A Vestas Wind Systems turbine near Baekmarksbro in Denmark's Jutland region. Vestas Wind Systems, the world's top wind turbine maker, said Wednesday it was seeing the fruits of an extensive restructuring programme as it announced an annual loss but said quarterly sales were higher. The Danish company's net loss widened to 963 million euros ($1.3 billion) in 2012 from 166 million euros in the previous year as investments in green energy continued to suffer from economic uncertainty and government austerity drives.

"Based on Vestas Wind Systems' declining earnings and a more conservative view of the future world market for wind turbines, we have recognised writedowns of more than 500 million euros", chairman Bert Nordberg said in a statement. At the end of 2011, Vestas Wind Systems said it would improve profitability by reducing costs, cutting investments and by using its production capacity more effectively.

On Wednesday it said those measures were beginning to pay off, attributing a 23% revenue rise in the fourth quarter to its new business model, which it said would also prepare it for an even more challenging 2013. "The fourth quarter of 2012 is important because that was when the initiatives we implemented started to materialise", chief executive Ditlev Engel said. Shares in the company were up 5.48% on the Copenhagen bourse, which at around 1100 GMT was 0.74% higher.

Australian wind energy now cheaper than coal, gas, BNEF says
7 Feb 2013

Wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels in producing electricity in Australia, the world's biggest coal exporter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of A$80 ($84) per MW, compared with A$143 a MW from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 from a new station powered by natural gas when the cost of carbon emissions is included, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Coal-fired power stations built in the 1970s and 1980s can still produce power at a lower cost than that of wind, the research shows.

Relying on fossil fuels to produce electricity is getting more expensive because of the government's price on carbon emissions imposed last year, higher financing costs and rising natural gas prices, BNEF said. The cost of wind generation has fallen by 10% since 2011 on lower equipment expenses, while the cost of solar power has dropped by 29%.

"The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world's best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head", Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement today.

Renewables Target
While wind power has become more competitive, Australia's plan to get at least 20% of its power from renewables by the end of the decade is still required to drive investment because of weak energy demand, the report said. Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., China's largest wind-turbine maker, said in December that it's studying new projects in Australia, while Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world's biggest turbine maker, said in November it expects to keep more than 50% of the Australian market.

Australia last year started charging its biggest polluters a price of A$23 a metric ton for their carbon emissions to discourage the use of fossil fuels and fight climate change. natural gas prices in Australia may triple by 2030, BNEF said. "The low and falling costs of renewable energy and high and rising costs of coal-and gas-fired plants suggest that much of Australia's new generating capacity is likely to be renewable", Sydney-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Kobad Bhavnagri wrote in the report.

AGL Energy Ltd., Australia's largest developer of renewable energy projects, said in November that it expected the A$1 billion ($1.03 billion) Macarthur wind farm in Victoria state to begin operating fully this month. AGL Energy in October suspended the development of the first stage of its 1,000 MW Dalton gas-fired power station in New South Wales after reviewing the economic viability for several months.

Driven by hydroelectric-and wind-power projects, renewable energy contributed 9.6% of Australia's electricity production in 2011, up from 8.7% the prior year, according to the Clean Energy Council, an industry group.

Solar cells get silver lining
7 Feb 2013

Light-trapping, silver nano-antennas could dramatically improve the performance of solar panels by catching more light, according to a new study.

A team of physicists, including Professor Constantin Simovski from Finland's Aalto University, has developed theoretical designs that could increase photovoltaic cell efficiency in a commercially viable way. It proposes incorporating chessboard-patterned arrays of tiny silver nano-antennas into solar panels. This would trap more incoming light, allowing it to be preferentially re-radiated through the photovoltaic slab, improving efficiency.

New fabrication techniques for printing a nano-antenna array on thin film means it could be done at low cost. "Pieces of the film with printed nano-antenna arrays can be prepared separately from solar cells so that the price of every piece will be small", report the researchers on the pre-press website "We have demonstrated our nano-antenna arrays operate significantly better than the structures based on anti-reflecting coatings".

Existing technology uses coatings to reduce the amount of light reflected off the solar cell, but this fails to prevent up to half of the light passing through the back of the solar cell's thin film and being lost. The best currently available commercial photovoltaic cells convert just 22% of the light they receive into electricity, according to the researchers, who also say that this level can be improved with existing technology, but the cost is prohibitive.

Like minds
Dr Richard Corkish, Head, School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales, says Australian research is following a similar approach. "Our work together with researchers at the Australian National University and Swinburne University, use self-aligning, nano-scale, metal-silver particles that act like nano-antennas redirecting the light", says Corkish. "The difference is our research uses randomly shaped and positioned particles, while this paper discusses very precisely formed and aligned antennas".

While this precise alignment will be more efficient, Corkish thinks it will also be far more expensive. "They're looking for a low-cost approach, while our approach is even more low cost because of the more random nature of the antenna positioning and shapes".

Corkish says his team has managed to get its solar cells performing at 25% efficiency in the lab, however the cost of producing such cells is still prohibitive for industry. "The trick is to get something really cheaply that works and can cover big areas", says Corkish. "They talk about printing big sheets of this material at very low cost and if they can do that, it would be very interesting".

Siemens unveils new 4 MW offshore wind turbine
5 Feb 2013

Siemens Energy has launched a new offshore wind turbine, which features a generating capacity of 4 MW and a rotor diameter of 130 meters.

The new SWT 4.0 130 wind turbine joins Siemens' 3.6 MW turbines as part of the company's G4 geared-drive platform series. The nacelle and tower of the SWT 4.0 130 are variants of those used in the 3.6 MW wind turbine design, Siemens says. The rotor blades are manufactured using the company's IntegralBlade process, in which they are cast in a single piece without the use of adhesive bonding.

The new B63 rotor blade, which measures 63 meters in length, sweeps an area equivalent almost to the size of two football fields, according to Siemens. Thanks to optimized coupling of blade bending and twisting, these aeroelastic blades react more flexibly to high wind loads, the company adds.

In December 2012, a SWT 4.0 130 prototype was installed and commissioned at the Osterild Test Center in Denmark. Serial production of the turbine is expected to commence in 2015.

Siemens also announced that in the future, each of its wind turbines will belong to one of the following platforms: Siemens G2, Siemens G4, Siemens D3 or Siemens D6. Platforms based on geared technology are denoted by the letter "G" (for "geared drive"), while product platforms featuring gearless technology are identified by the prefix "D" (for "direct drive").

Novel designs are taking wind power to the next level
6 Feb 2013

Superficially, wind turbines haven't changed much for decades. But they've gotten much smarter, and considerably bigger, and that's helped increase the amount of electricity they can generate and lower the cost of wind power.

GE's new 2.5 120 wind turbine, announced last week, is a case in point. Its maximum power output, 2.5 MWs, is lower than that of the 2.85 MW turbine it's superseding. But over the course of a year it can generate 15% more kW hours. Arrays of sensors paired with better algorithms for operating and monitoring the turbine let it keep spinning when earlier generations of wind turbines would have had to shut down.

The technology is part of a trend that's made wind power almost as cheap as fossil fuels. In 1991, wind power cost 15 ¢ per kW hour. The cost has now dropped to 6.5 ¢ per kW hour, says Ryan Wiser, deputy group leader for Electricity Markets and Policy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, California. New natural gas power plants are expected to generate electricity at about 6.5 ¢ per kW hour.

A new generation of more productive wind turbines that's coming on line this year could be what it takes to make wind widely competitive with fossil fuels.

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Japan to build power grids to triple wind power capacity - report
4 Feb 2013

Japan's government will develop power transmission grids on Hokkaido island and the Tohoku region aiming to boost the country's installed wind power capacity by three times to 7.5 GW, Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported today.

The project will be launched in April and will involve some JPY 310 billion (USD 3.3bn/EUR 2.5bn) in public and private spending. Power firms and wind power generating companies in each area will form special purpose vehicles for building transmission grids. Subsidies from the central government will cover half the costs. The government will use the fees collected from wind power producers for using the networks to cover the costs, according to the daily.

Wind power output in Japan stood at 179.63 million kW in the fiscal 2010/2011 through March, below 0.1% of the country's total power output. If the power grids building project is launched in areas such as the Hokuriku and Sanin regions and Kyushu island, the country's installed wind power capacity could surge sixfold to 14.7 GW, the government estimates.

In a recent report Frost & Sullivan projects the Japanese wind power sector to regain momentum in the current year with the expected start of offshore wind farms construction. Japan supports investment in offshore wind, despite the high infrastructure costs and grid connection problems, to offset the shutdown of nuclear reactors. Meanwhile, investment in onshore wind farms in Japan has been declining since 2008 due to the adoption of complicated construction requirements and grid connection obstacles, Frost & Sullivan's Suchitra Sriram said in the report.

Hydro sells wind farm stake
5 Feb 2013

CHINESE renewable energy business Shenhua Clean Energy has continued its links with Tasmania by formalising its partnership in the Musselroe wind farm. Shenhua Clean Energy has paid $89 million for a 75% stake in the North East project, which includes the transfer of $270 million in debt from Hydro Tasmania. The signed agreement follows current joint ownership agreements between the Chinese company and Hydro Tasmania for the Woolnorth wind farms in the state's north-west.

Hydro Tasmania chairman David Crean said Shenhua Clean Energy had become a first class strategic partner for Hydro Tasmania and the state. "Guohua, the main SCE parent company, is one of the world's largest wind [farm] developers and brings a wealth of expertise in the renewable energy sector", Dr Crean said. "Guohua has more than 4200MW of wind power capability operating in China". Dr Crean said the $394 million 160 MW Musselroe wind farm is on track for completion by June 30.

Climate Spectator: Busting the infrasound barrier
4 Feb 2013

The South Australian Environment Protection Authority has just released a report finding that infrasound-very low frequency sound (between 1-20 hertz) is not noticeably greater in households nearby to wind farms than other locations.

It is claimed by some groups and individuals opposed to wind farms, such as the Waubra Foundation, that wind turbines cause a wide array of illnesses to people in nearby residences due to the infrasound they apparently emit.

The report by Resonate Acoustics took measurements of infrasound (dB G) over a period of approximately one week at seven locations in urban areas and four locations in rural areas including two residences approximately 1.5km away from the wind turbines.

As the report explains, infrasound is not a unique phenomenon associated with wind turbines. Noise generated by people and associated activities within an office space was one of the most significant contributors to measured infrasound levels, with measured infrasound levels typically 10 to 15dB(G) higher when a space was occupied.

Car traffic may also influence the infrasound level in an urban environment, with measured levels during the daytime periods typically 10dB(G) higher than between midnight and 6am, when traffic would be expected to be at its lowest.

China's wind energy industry spirals higher
4 Feb 2013

China installed more than a third of the world's new wind turbines in 2012 and is on course to beat the government's 2015 target of 100 GWs of generation capacity by more than a year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) data.

Wind energy in China now accounts for 5.3% of the country's generating capacity and supplies about 2% of its electricity, placing it behind only coal and hydroelectric power. While new installations slowed from 2011's record levels, China's 15.9GW of new wind capacity exceeded the 15.5GW of new hydroelectric power and dwarfed the 1.2GW of solar and 700 MWs of nuclear capacity added last year.

"This year however, project approvals have sped up and we forecast a modest recovery in both financing activity and construction in 2013", Demi Zhu, China wind analyst at BNEF, said. "The fact that China wind overtook nuclear as a generation source even in its most challenging year of recent times is a testament to the massive scale and momentum of the industry in this country".

China's adoption of renewable energy has surprised many, with some Australian commentators projecting wind and solar to contribute only 0.3% of China's electricity supply by 2020. According to preliminary BNEF research, some 11% of total electricity generation by 2020 will come from non-hydroelectric renewable sources, said Jun Ying, head of China research.

At about 2% of current electricity supply, though, wind power is "far from being sufficient to ease China's current severe air pollution issue in any noticeable way", Mr Ying said. Last year, the country added 80GW of capacity-larger than Australia's total-with coal-fired places accounting for about 60% of that increase, BNEF said.

New investment in wind was worth $US27.2 billion ($26.1 billion) in 2012, down 12%. Turbine costs, though, fell 10% as suppliers, mostly home-grown, cut prices.

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