A new report by the UK wind industry and government claims that costs of offshore wind power generation could be brought down by one-third by the end of the decade – a price drop that, if realised, would reduce the cost of using offshore wind by more than £3 billion a year, make it commercially viable and able to generate one-fifth of the UK’s electricity, in line with government targets. BusinessGreen reports that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Wednesday unveiled a report by the industry-led Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Taskforce, which includes 29 recommendations on how to cut the cost of offshore wind energy from £140 per megawatt hour currently to £100/MWh by the end of the decade.
The Task Force action plan builds on analysis by The Crown Estate, also unveiled on Wednesday, showing the £100/MWh target as achievable provided developers work closely with suppliers and government to provide long-term certainty for offshore wind investors. Task Force chairman Andrew Jamieson said that boosting collaboration was key among the 29 recommendations put forward, and predicted that involving suppliers earlier in the project design process could help deliver significant cost savings for developers. “Alliancing has got tremendous potential to bring down costs,” Jamieson told BusinessGreen. “We have to bring in new working practices and boost collaboration, for example by stripping out costs during the design stage.”
Jamieson, who is also chairman of RenewableUK and director of renewables policy and innovation at ScottishPower, said work should also begin immediately on standardising modules as a means of driving down costs. “In [cutting costs] we will reduce risk and drive investment into the sector, we will further protect consumers from increasing energy costs, reduce the industry’s requirement for financial support and deliver jobs and energy security for decades to come,” he added. “Having considered the evidence before us, the considerable expertise of the Task Force presents some challenging recommendations to both industry and government but it is crucial that we all begin work immediately. In doing so I am confident that we can achieve our cost saving goal and create huge economic opportunities for the UK in both the domestic and international energy markets.”
PV booming in US, too
Meanwhile, in solar, PV appears to be booming in the US as well as Australia, with nation-wide solar installations jumping 85 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 on the previous year, according to an industry report that has led some to raise their capacity forecasts for the year. Reuters reports that, despite tough industry conditions and a global economic downturn – and the fact that this period is usually the weakest of the year, a total of 506MW of solar power capacity was added during the first three months of the year in the US, the second highest quarterly total to date, according to the report by GTM Research for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This really shows the beginning of what we think is going to be a breakout year for the US solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. Again, part of this growth has been attributed to a rush of development to qualify for a US grant program that expired at the end of 2011.
Saab’s electric makeover
Bankrupt Swedish manufacturer Saab Automotive is set to be reborn as a maker of electric vehicles, after being sold to a Chinese-Japanese investment group this week. The deal, made for an undisclosed sum, puts Saab in the hands of Hong Kong-based renewables company National Modern Energy Holdings, which owns 51 per cent, and Japanese investment firm Sun Investment. Bloomberg reports that the first vehicle under the plan will be based on Saab’s 9-3 car and will go on sale early in 2014, with China as the main market. said today in a joint statement.
“We’re striving to be a world-leading company for electric cars,” Mattias Bergman, a spokesman for National Electric Vehicle Sweden, said at a press conference in Trollhaettan. “It’s not only about China being a big market for electric cars, it’s also about China having the ability to make the investments required and build the needed infrastructure.” Competitors in the market will include the Chevrolet Volt, made by former Saab owner General Motors, and Fisker Automotive’s high-end Karma hybrid EV sports car – models that have both been the subject of US investigations following vehicle fires.
More wind for SA
Infigen Energy’s Woakwine Wind Farm in south east South Australia received development consent last week, following assessment by three independent panels representing Wattle Range, Robe and Kingston District councils. Infigen describes the project – which will comprise 124 wind turbines, and has involved consultation with around 45 different landowners – as an important part its development pipeline, as it continues along the same ridgeline as the company’s Lake Bonney Wind Farm. As well as providing “significant environmental benefits,” Infigen says that the project would also benefit the landowners involved, giving them a sustainable and drought-proof income.
“The new substation will increase access to more electricity from the network to farmers that currently rely on costly diesel generators. This is good news for regional wineries and dairies, who can modernise their farming equipment,” said Robin Ling, a farmer and one of the project’s host landowners. The construction of the project is also expected to create around 150 jobs and 18 ongoing jobs once it is completed. The Sydney-based, ASX-listed company says the approval of the wind farm demonstrates that South Australia is committed to playing a leading role in meeting Australia’s Renewable Energy Target of 20 percent by 2020.
Greens announce plans for Vic Renewables Fund
The Australian Greens have announced plans to establish a Community Renewables Fund, enabling local communities, organisations and apartment blocks to establish local solar farms. The concept was presented at a retrofitted Green business in Melbourne, where Greens leader Christine Milne and Deputy Leader Adam Bandt joined Greens Candidate for Melbourne Cathy Oke to announce the party’s energy and climate policy for the state by‐election. It would be funded by redirecting up to $50 million in state government funds allocated to the HRL coal power plant. “From July 1, our Federal Clean Energy Package, including a price on pollution and the $10 billion fund to support clean and renewable energy, will start to do the heavy lifting on cutting pollution, but state programs will still be crucial,” Milne said.
Oke said the party’s goal was to “re‐power Melbourne” with renewables and cut energy use. “Every home and building in Melbourne has the potential to be a powerhouse. Our Community Renewables Fund would start to make this happen,” she said. “The Community Renewables Fund would enable local community groups, groups of residents and small businesses to get together and establish PV solar farms on vacant roofs and land across the city.” Oke also said her government would scrap Premier Baillieu’s “anti‐wind farm laws” that she said were “killing wind energy in this state” – a move she predicted would treble investment in energy efficiency.