Renewable energy project monitor

David Hopwood

June 2011: Our new column, written by the Energy Industries Council (EIC), reports on the latest renewable energy projects and key project developments – from Brazil to Zambia.

The EIC project database, EICDataStream, tracks over 8,500 of the most significant projects across the global energy industry. It currently records a total of 862 active renewables projects and a further 870 projects proposed for future development - with a total potential investment value of just under US$2 trillion.

June 2011 saw 91 new renewable energy projects announced, the majority consisting of wind farms and hydroelectric power plants. Overall, these new projects have a total potential investment value of US$25.8 billion, with the EU representing around a quarter of this figure. Of course, there will always be a proportion of new project announcements that do not gain planning consent - and the requisite finance.

Zambia scored in June with the largest project announcement: for the construction of a US$1.5 billion hydroelectric power plant at the lower Kafue Gorge in the country's Lusaka Province. The plant will have a maximum capacity of 700MW and will be capable of supplying as much as 25% of Zambia's electricity needs. The Government of Zambia plans to attract US$500 million from private investors to develop the project, with China expected to provide a loan of US$1 billion.

The U.S. came in with the next largest project: the potential US$1.4 billion Wilson Creek onshore wind farm in southeastern Nevada. This is scheduled to be developed in three phases and will comprise around 350 wind turbines, with a total capacity of up to 990MW. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has begun the public hearing phase for its environmental impact statement on the project, and fierce opposition from local environmentalist groups is expected, due to the presence of threatened and endangered species and the impact on the area's natural beauty.

Turkey plans a significant new project in the Cetin hydropower plant on the Botan river, a tributary of the country's Tigris river. It will consist of two power plants; a 401MW plant at the toe of a 145 metre high dam, and an additional 116MW run-of-river plant situated 6kilometres downstream. Statkraft of Norway, the operator of the project, has opened a tender for the project and is understood to have received a proposal from Limak in Turkey. The project is valued at US$775 million.

Other big projects

A number of other renewables projects made significant progress in June 2011.

In the UK, one of the major wind farm proposals, Hornsea Zone (Round 3), has received consent from the Marine Management Organisation to install its first mast at the project. Geotechnical and benthic (sea bottom flora and fauna) surveys have also been given the go- ahead. The project has a potential investment value of US$21 billion, and has a proposed output of up to 4GW. The farm is located over 100 kilometres from the Yorkshire coast.

In northern Brazil, the US$15 billion Belo Monte hydro power plant on the Xingu river has, after ten years, finally been issued an installation licence by the environmental authority Ibama, with construction set to begin immediately. The project will use 18 Francis turbines and will have a 516 square kilometre reservoir, making it the third largest hydro power plant in the world with an expected power output of over 11GW.

In California, the Blythe and Ridgecrest solar thermal plants, together a US$6 billion project, have reached a significant milestone this month, with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joining local officials to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the Energy Station Blythe project. This 1GW project will create four adjacent, independent and identical solar plants of 250MW each, spanning over 7,000 acres. It is expected to take at least 6 years to complete.

In the post Fukushima world, with large doubts being raised by the general public as to the viability of a nuclear future, in conjunction with ever increasing pressure to reduce our emissions from electricity generation, it is evident that the renewables market will continue to build momentum in the marketplace. So far we are continuing to see good levels of new projects coming through.

About: Mike Major is chief executive of The EIC (Energy Industries Council).

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