Floating wind farms: Japan is doing it off the coast of post-nuclear Fukushima – using locally-sourced technology from Mitsubishi Heavy and Fuji Heavy; and now the UK and US have announced they will work together to boost development of floating platforms for offshore wind turbines that can be stationed in deep waters that are currently off-limits to conventional turbines. The Guardian reports that the UK government announced the planned collaboration yesterday, ahead of this week’s clean-energy meeting of ministers from 23 countries, held in London. The new technology is needed to access waters between 60 and 100 metres deep: too deep for current offshore turbine models that are fixed to the seabed. Installing floating turbines in these areas, where wind speeds are consistently higher, would mean better harnessing the UK’s huge wind resource, which reportedly accounts for about one-third of Europe’s entire offshore wind potential. The aim is also to reduce the cost of offshore wind, by cutting the expense of seabed foundations and allowing repairs to be carried out in port rather than out at sea.
“Britain has more wind turbines installed around its shores than any other country in the world, and our market is rated year after year as the most attractive market among investors,” said UK energy secretary, Ed Davey. “Offshore wind is critical for the UK’s energy future, and there is big interest around the world in what we’re doing. …The UK and US are both making funding available for this technology, and we’re determined to work together to capitalise on this shared intent.” Bloomberg reports that the pact is the first of several that the UK government plans to sign with some of the 23 nations represented at the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting. Davy and US energy secretary Steven Chu are hosting the gathering, where ministers will discuss practical steps to spread clean energy technologies. It says investors like Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp, and pension funds including PensionDanmark A/S are channeling money into EU wind projects as governments step up support for a move away from fossil fuels.
Japan renewables FiT set to be annoucned?
Japan could be about to announce preferential price rates for electricity generated from renewable energy, in a program that will start in July to encourage investment in non-fossil fuel power plants. Bloomberg reports that a five-person panel have been discussing the feed-in tariffs since early March, and are due to hold another meeting on April 25. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry hopes to receive the recommended rates by the end of this week, which will then need government approval, Keisuke Murakami, who heads clean energy programs at the ministry, said Tuesday. The feed-in tariff guarantees above-market rates for solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric power. The Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association proposed ¥42 (52 US cents) a kilowatt-hour for 20 years for solar power. For wind, the Japan Wind Power Association suggested as much as ¥25 a kilowatt- hour for the same period.
SunPower parks carport product in Italy
Silicon Valley-based solar manufacturer, SunPower, has announced it has entered into an agreement with Italy’s Giulio Barbieri, to design and manufacture its new solar carport for the Italian residential market. Under the agreement, SunPower’s Italian partners will install the company’s solar panels and inverters on carports that have been built to customer specifications by Giulio Barbieri. The SunPower Carport is can be installed to accommodate either two or three cars, and can incorporate 18, 24 or 32 of the company’s 96-cell, high-efficiency solar panels, delivering around 5.9kW to 10.5kW, depending on the system size. The system is also tilted for maximum energy output and designed to blend in with the “architectural context.” SunPower says that it is currently designing and installing commercial solar carport systems at schools and businesses across North America.
“Partnering with Giulio Barbieri will enable SunPower to offer the same high efficiency, high reliability solar panels to homeowners wanting to power their homes with solar, but have constrained rooftops,” said the company’s president (regions), Howard Wenger. “SunPower chose our structures for the elegance of design and ease of installation, as our carports have concrete bases and do not require any groundwork,” said Giulio Barbieri, president of Giulio Barbieri S.p.A. “Our solid reputation in the market for quality and reliable carport structures, coupled with SunPower’s high efficiency solar panels, provide customers an artistic and effective solution, capable of enhancing, in an attractive manner, external parking lots especially in residential complexes.”
Solar stock report
The bad news for First Solar continues this week, with shares of the former number one thin-film panel manufacturer falling to an all-time low after an analyst described its business model as unsustainable. Bloomberg reports that First Solar dropped 6.8 per cent to $19.25 at the close in New York, the lowest since its November 2006 IPO. The fall followed comments on Tuesday from Aaron Chew, an analyst with Maxim Group in New York, that the company’s pricing advantage “evaporated” as polysilicon costs fell 69 per cent in the past year. And with FirstSolar’s thin-film solar panels less efficient than competing polysilicon products, “we believe it has entirely lost its competitive edge,” Chew said. “The bull case for First Solar now rests solely on hope, not reality,” and the company “needs a wholesale change in business model and valuation,” he said.
Meanwhile, things are looking up for Q-Cells, whose shares rose the most in six weeks in Frankfurt on the back of reports that several parties had shown interest in the German solar-cell and module maker that filed for insolvency this month. Bloomberg reports that Q-Cells jumped 21 per cent to 16 euro cents at market close, after preliminary insolvency administrator Henning Schorisch said “interested parties,” including financial and strategic investors in Germany and other countries, contacted him after the insolvency filing. “Our aim is to save as much of Q-Cells as possible,” Schorisch said on Tuesday in a statement. “The next few weeks will show the extent of investors’ interest.”