Almost one year after an earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima and sent three out of six of its nuclear reactors into meltdown, the Japanese government has announced plans to install two Mitsubishi Heavy 7MW turbines, and a 2MW turbine made by Fuji Heavy, at a floating wind farm off the coast of the devastated prefecture. Recharge News reports that the estimated ¥12.5 billion project is part of a government plan to kick-start the country’s offshore wind sector and rejuvenate the Fukushima region. Tokyo has flagged plans to install 1GW of offshore wind power in the Fukushima region, and Japan’s Wind Power Association estimates potential for 519GW of floating offshore wind capacity in Japan. “The Tokyo area has good potential for offshore. It’s easy to get grid connections. The Fukushima nuclear power plants will never operate again so there’s a vacant grid line there,” says Yoshinori Ueda, assistant general manager at MHI.
The floating wind farm will be located between 20-40km offshore, where ocean depths range from 100-150 metres, the average wind speed is more than 7-metres per second and wave heights are 10-15 metres. It will be built by a consortium including Japanese trading house Marubeni, MHI, Mitsubishi Corp, IHI Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel, Hitachi, Furukawa Electric and Shimizu; with consultation from the University of Tokyo and Mizuho Information & Research Institute. The first phase of the project, due to be completed by March 2013, will see the installation one of Fuji Heavy’s Subaru80 2MW turbines with a four-column, semi-submarine type floater and a 66kV floating offshore substation. In the second phase, from 2013-15, Mitsubishi Heavy will install two of its new 7MW turbines, with a three-column, semi-submarine type floater.
Mitsubishi Heavy’s 7MW turbine, known as the ‘SeaAngel’ and developed with about ¥5 billion in backing from the Japanese government, uses a hydraulic transmission system to eliminate the need for a gearbox. The first prototype is set to be installed onshore in the UK next year, ahead of the Fukushima offshore project.
Q-Cells reports massive loss
German solar PV manufacturer Q-Cells says it is not expecting a return to profitability until at least 2013, after announcing a full-year net loss of €846 million ($US1.11 billion) against revenues of €1.02 billion – the worst 2011 loss reported by any major international PV group, says Recharge News. The German giant’s deficit dwarfs those predicted by competitors such as Trina ($US37.8 million), First Solar ($39.5 million), SolarWorld (€233 million), Yingli ($599.4 million) and SunPower ($603.9 million). Until recently the world’s largest maker of PV cells, Q-Cells has struggled to compete with cheaper Asian rivals in the past three years, just making it past the €1 billion sales mark on 783MW of in-house production this year.
The focus now is on restructuring its debts. In January, the Q-Cells reached an agreement “in principle” that would see its main bondholders given the option to swap their debt for 95% of the outstanding equity in the company. And in late February, it convinced its creditors to give it more time, only one day before around €200 million in outstanding bonds were set to mature. Q-Cells shares fell nearly 10 per cent to €0.26 on its preliminary 2011 figures, leaving the company – still one of the world’s largest PV manufacturers – with a market capitalisation of just €51.8 million.
Scotland aims for 100% renewable – and quite a bit cheaper – by 2020
Scotland has joined the growing number of countries predicting they can derive 100 per cent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, with a new government report predicting the UK country can do so by 2020 – a move it says would lead to significant reductions in household bills. The Scotsman reports that the government’s Electricity Generation Policy Statement has estimated that electricity bills would be almost £100 cheaper a year if the nation’s target of meeting all its energy needs from renewables in the next eight years is met. The report also said that the SNP’s flagship policy of promoting green energy would lead to a “secure source of electricity supply” that would also be more affordable. Scotland’s reliance on forms of energy such as nuclear power would make way for a “rapid expansion” of renewable electricity that would be powered by “fossil fuel thermal generation” or steam power and increased carbon capture and storage.
The government study has estimated that Scotland’s renewables capacity would go from 24 per cent in 2010 to nearly 50 per cent by 2015, before reaching 100 per cent in 2020. And it warned that “business as usual” with the country’s energy mix would lead to average annual bills of £1,379 for Scottish households, compared to £1,285 if policies for increased use of renewables were pursued. Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, said offering alternatives to existing forms of energy would “insulate consumers from future hikes in wholesale gas prices” by offering a greater choice, as well as attracting billions more in future investment and thousands more jobs. “Scotland should not lose sight of the fantastic opportunity renewable energy offers us,” Stuart said.
Rigs to riches
Geodynamics has decided to sell its principal drilling rig, known as Rig 100, for $16.8 million, as it cashes up for the resumption of its drilling program at Habanero and the planned pilot plant at Innamincka. Geodynamics will sell the rig to drilling specialists Weatherford, and will lease the rig back for the drilling at Habanero 4. It will lease this or other rigs for any future drilling campaigns. CEO Geoff Ward said the sale frees up funds to continue the appraisal and development of the Cooper Basin “deeps” hot dry rock resource.
Meanwhile, Earth Heat Resources said it has successfully raised $2.1 million through an equity issue to fund its share of development of the Copahue volcanic geothermal resource in Argentina. It is expected Copahue has the potential for an initial 30MW, with the potential to expand. Development is expected within four years and Earth Heat has the right to earn up to 87.5 per cent of the project by funding various stages of development.