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Renewable energy project monitor

Ian Stokes

July/August 2012: Our regular column, written by the Energy Industries Council, reports on project development in the renewable energy marketplace.

This article excerpt is taken from the September/October issue of Renewable Energy Focus magazine (July/August issue). To register to receive a digital copy click here.

The global renewable energy sector continues to show steady activity with 106 projects added to EICDataStream in July and August this year. In fact, July and August have seen a significant surge in potential investment values of global renewable energy projects, with investment levels rising to US$62.1bn for the two months, up from $22.4bn for the May-June period (see Renewable Energy Focus, page 14–15, July/August 2012). Meantime, wind energy remains the most significant sector of the renewable market and shows consistent popularity around the globe.

There are currently 1091 renewables projects being developed and a further 1149 projects proposed for future development, according to the EICDataStream (which tracks over 9600 of the most significant projects across the global energy industry). It should be noted that there will always be a proportion of proposed projects that do not gain planning consent and the requisite finance.

In July, 45 renewable energy projects, representing a total potential investment value of US$30.8bn, were announced. Wind power projects account for 64% of this value, with 19 such projects added to the database. Hydroelectric projects accounted for 23% of the investment value.

Ireland steals the show

The key hotspots of activity for July can be found in Ireland, Argentina and China. Together these contribute over half of the total potential investment value of new project developments for the month.

The largest project announcement for the entire July-August period is a US$10.3bn 5GW wind farm proposed for the rural Irish midlands. Mainstream Renewable Power is planning to build an onshore wind complex, which it has dubbed Energy Bridge, that will be solely dedicated to exporting electricity to the UK.

The company hopes to have the necessary planning permissions in place by 2015, with the first power exports slated to start by 2017, when it expects to have 1.2GW in place. The project's wind farms and cables will be completely separate to Ireland's existing electricity system and not be paid for by the Irish consumer, the company stresses.

In Argentina, Generadora Eólica Argentina del Sur (GEASSA) is understood to have received backing from the China Development Bank for construction of the US$3.5bn 1.35GW Gastre wind power complex in the Chubut Province of southern Argentina. Under the plan, the project will be developed in a 45,000ha area and includes the construction of two substations (132kV and 500kV) and a 295km transmission line to be operational in 2017.

The largest hydropower project announced is the Fengning pumped storage power station in Hebei Province, China. This US$2.7bn 3.6GW project will be developed over seven years in two phases – the first phase will see three 600MW generating units installed. The facility will also able to store energy derived from renewable sources including wind. Construction is expected to begin in the last quarter of 2012.

Elsewhere, THV Mermaid – a joint venture comprising GDF Suez and the Otary consortium – has been awarded development rights for the final offshore wind zone in Belgium. The US$2.3bn Mermaid offshore wind farm project is proposed to cover 28 square kilometres, approximately 50km off the Belgian coast.

It will have a total installed capacity of up to 450MW, and includes plans for 20MW of wave energy plant. The project is scheduled to begin delivering power in 2016, with full capacity reached in 2017.

August announcements

August also saw plenty of activity, with 61 renewable energy projects worth a combined US$31.3bn added to EICDataStream. This month, wind continued to lead the way in terms of value, accounting for 71% of the total potential investment value of projects. Key hotspots of activity were the US and UK, together accounting for 76% of the total potential investment value.

The largest project announcement this month was the US$6bn Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. Under the proposal, this project will be located on 2000 acres south of Rawlins in Carbon County, Wyoming, and could reach 3GW. It would be the largest proposed wind farm in North America with 1000 turbines (675 on Chokecherry, 325 on Sierra Madre).

Additional infrastructure such as underground electric gathering lines, an overhead transmission line and substations would also be required. With the Obama administration fast-tracking the project, a Bureau of Land Management approval is expected by October 2014, following on from a land-use plan decision anticipated in October 2012 and a series of right-of-way applications. The project is expected to become fully operational in 2018.

Tidal powers up

In UK offshore waters, the Islay tidal energy project is expected to enter the planning phase with an application to Marine Scotland being filed by the end of 2012. This US$3.2bn 400MW project will be located in water depths of 35–50m, off the coast of the island of Islay, Argyll and Bute.

To be constructed in several phases, Phase 1 will comprise of a 5MW demonstrator project in 2015. Phase 2 will increase the capacity to 30MW in 2016/17. The project will feature 1MW Tidal Generation Limited (TGL) turbines. Further development phases are expected to raise the capacity of the project to 400MW by 2019.

The turbine design proposed is based on the Siemens MCT configuration similar to that used in Strangford Lough, with two 1MW turbines mounted on each foundation. However, other alternative designs are also under consideration, including the Rolls Royce TGL device (also 1MW).

Because of the absence of sufficient capacity on Islay itself the electrical output of the tidal farm will be exported via a subsea cable running from the tidal site to Kintra on Islay, and then overground to a location near Port Ellen. Although the power cannot be utilised on Islay itself, one of the options being considered is a further link into the existing 33kV network to strengthen the grid on Islay.

Staying in Scotland, Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd has filed applications with Marine Scotland to split the Moray Firth Round 3 Offshore Wind Farm into three equal sized projects – named Robert Stevenson, Edward MacColl and Thomas Telford. These US$2.5bn 500MW projects will be located in the eastern part of the zone on the smith Bank in waters 30–60m deep.

Each project will feature up to 139 turbines with 204m tips. Five grid connection offers are in hand for the projects, starting in late 2016 and running through 2020. Onshore works will be determined under a separate process by Aberdeenshire Council. Construction at Thomas Telford is scheduled to start in 2016. The first project could be operational by Q4 2017. Marine Scotland is expected to take nine months to review the applications before making a recommendation to ministers, who will then determine consent under Section 36 rules.

However the developer, Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd, is unlikely to install a met mast in 2012 as originally planned. Work was due to start in summer 2012 but it has been reported that a disagreement between the development partners and Goah Energy is causing delays.

The dispute is said to involve a number of issues and resolution is understood to be some way off. MPI Adventure has been contracted as Goah's installation vessel and jack-up will be available later in 2012 following its current commitment at the London Array project. Job-specific outfitting is required to install the met mast in around 30m of water and the jack-up also requires a hammer which, it is understood, has yet to be secured by Moray Offshore. Work on the water is expected to last no more than two weeks depending on the weather.

Lastly, in Quetta in south-western Balochistan, Pakistan, CX Solar is poised to sign a memorandum of understanding with the provincial government for the development of the US$1.3bn Quetta solar power project, a 300MW installation that will use a combination of crystalline silicon and thin-film panels. This project will be built in six phases, coming fully online in 2014.

About: Ian Stokes is chief executive of the EIC (Energy Industries Council).

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