Renewable energy project monitor

Ian Stokes

November/December 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 January/February issue of Renewable Energy Focus magazine. To register to receive a digital copy click here.

In November and December 2012, 84 projects were added to the EICDataStream across the global renewable energy sector, a small decline in project numbers in comparison to September and October. Despite this, the total potential investment value has risen steeply to US$68.2bn, an 89% increase on the previous two months. Overall, the figures indicate a healthy level of activity across most renewable sectors leading into the New Year.

EICDataStream tracks over 9877 major future and active projects across the global energy industry. There are currently 1170 active renewables projects and a further 1183 projects proposed for future development in the database. 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 November, 51 renewable energy projects with a total potential investment value of US$52.7bn were announced. Wind projects dominate the scene this month, accounting for 70% of the total potential investment value of new projects; offshore wind represented 67% while onshore wind accounted for the other 3%. As per the trend of the previous two months, solar projects follow next accounting for 2.5% of the total investment value of new renewable projects.

UK offshore driver

A portion of the higher investment level can be accredited to proposals for offshore wind farms in The Crown Estate's Round 3 zones. The zones were awarded early in 2010, but the projects are now beginning to take shape with development consortia putting forward plans for individual wind farms within the zones. In November seven offshore wind projects in the UK were added to the database, all to be sited within Round 3 zones: three within the Zone 5 (East Anglia), four within Zone 3 (Dogger Bank).

East Anglia Offshore Wind (EAOW), a joint venture company between ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall, is developing the three planned projects in the East Anglia zone. The proposed US$6.1bn East Anglia ONE project is the most advanced of the three, with a full planning application submitted to the UK's Planning Inspectorate in November. Applications for the other two projects are expected to be submitted this summer.

The East Anglia ONE wind farm is located south of the zone over an area of 300 sq km off the coast of Suffolk in the East of England. EAOW plans to install up to 325 turbines here, generating up to 1.2GW, along with offshore export cables to the landfall site at Bawdsey, additional cable ducts at landfall for the connection of the future planned projects, and onshore export cables to transmit power to a new onshore converter substation at Bramford.

The Dogger Bank zone, between 125km and 290km off the east coast of Yorkshire, is being developed by Forewind, a joint venture company between SSE, RWE npower, Statoil and Statkraft. Forewind's four wind farm projects added to the database in November are the first in a much broader scale of development, with the developer stating that the zone could eventually deliver up to 9GW power.

Dogger Bank Creyke Beck, south of the zone, will be the first area to be developed and planning applications are expected to be submitted in the first quarter of 2013. Two projects have been proposed here – Creyke Beck A and B – which will deliver up to 1.2GW each. They will both connect to the Creyke Beck substation near Cottingham in East Yorkshire.

A further two 1.2GW projects, Dogger Bank Teesside A and B, have been proposed for the eastern part of the zone. Planning applications for these are not scheduled for submission until Q1?2014.

Solar dominates UK onshore; wind hot in Mexico

The highest volume of onshore projects in November was in England, where 13 projects were added with a total potential investment value of US$243mn. All but one of these are solar projects, located largely across counties in southern England. The largest is the proposed 7.3MW Chalcroft Solar Power Project in West End, Hampshire, where plans have been put forward by Solarcentury to install 25,632 solar PV panels across nearly 200,000 sq m land.

Another hotspot of activity this month has been Mexico where three renewable projects were added to the database, with a total potential investment value of US$655mn. The largest of these is the Sureste I onshore wind farm on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Phase I is set to deliver up to 202MW capacity, with a second phase planned that will add another 101MW. Impulsora Nacional de Electricidad, a subsidiary of Italy's Enel Green Power, has won the contract to build, own and operate the second phase of the wind farm.

December announcements

In December, 33 renewable energy projects were added to EICDataStream with a total potential investment value of US$15.5bn. Unusually, the potential value of onshore wind farm projects this month far outstrip that of offshore wind projects: onshore wind accounts for nearly 43% of the total potential investment value, while offshore wind projects account for just over 1%.

Meantime, activity in the hydroelectric sector was particularly buoyant this month, with 36% of the total investment value of new projects coming from this sector.

The hotspots of activity this month were the US where four projects (1.8GW) were added totalling US$2.3bn; Uruguay with three projects (192MW) totalling US$520mn; and Scotland with seven projects (194MW) announced, totalling US$393mn.

New technology deployment

All four of the US projects are wind-related. Two are onshore projects and two are smaller offshore demonstration facilities. The largest US project is the proposed San Luis Wind Towers facility to be developed by Clean Wind Energy (CWE). Authorities in Arizona have approved plans for construction of two 3000ft-high Downdraft Towers, each designed to generate up to 850MW.

This new and emerging technology features a hollow cylindrical tower with a pump system that sprays a fine water mist across the top of the tower. As the water evaporates and cools the air at the top of the tower, the air drops through the cylinder at speeds of up to 50mph, driving turbines at the base of the structure.

The deployment of another emerging renewable technology has also been proposed this month in south Wales. The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon aims to harness the strong tidal currents in the Severn Estuary, which has the second highest tidal range in the world. Around 9.4sq km of intertidal sea area within Swansea Bay will be enclosed by a 9.5km breakwater wall in which hydro turbines will be mounted within caissons. Developers plan to install 250MW capacity, with power generated as the tide flows in and out of the breakwater wall. The Environmental Impact Assessment for the project is currently underway, with the planning application expected in the autumn.

The UK tidal industry can also look forward to further support with research and development thanks to a planned project to construct a managed test facility for tidal energy turbines off the coast of St. Catherine's, Isle of Wight. The Solent Ocean Energy Centre will facilitate testing of prototype and pre-commercial tidal energy devices with a capacity of up to 20MW. The Isle of Wight Council is inviting tenders for the project, which include the contract for the grid connection study.

Uruguay wind

In Uruguay, the Government continues to power ahead with its goal to increase renewable power generation capacity in the country. A contract for a 100MW wind farm was awarded to developer Aguas Leguas – owned by the German eab New Energy Group – in a tender in 2011.

Aguas Leguas now plans to build the US$300mn Peralta Wind Farm in the Tacuarembó Department and, at present, it is expected to become Uruguay's largest wind farm facility. The turbine contract has been awarded to Wobben Windpower, the Latin-American affiliate of German turbine manufacturer Enercon, which will supply 50 Wobben 2MW turbines.

The other two proposed renewable energy projects in Uruguay this month are the US$120mn Fingano Wind Farm (50MW) and the US$100mn Vengano Wind Farm (42MW), both located in the Maldonado Department. The two wind farms are being developed by a consortium of Grupo Sanjose, Corporación Americas and Contreras Hermanos, which is looking to the European Investment Bank to secure financing for the projects.

US$3bn Zambezia River plan

The largest single project this month in terms of investment is the long awaited Batoka Hydroelectric Power Plant in Zimbabwe, which has a total potential investment value of US$3bn. The Zambezi River Authority plans to build a 1.6GW hydropower plant at the Batoka Gorge, 54km downstream of the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. Located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the power output will be shared between the two countries.

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

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