Monthly Archives

May 2017

Solar delivers cheapest electricity ‘ever, anywhere, by any technology’

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Chile has just contracted for the cheapest unsubsidized power plant in the world, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports.

In last week’s energy auction, Chile accepted a bid from Spanish developer Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica for 120 megawatts of solar at the stunning price of $29.10 per megawatt-hour (2.91 cents per kilowatt-hour or kwh). This beats the 2.99 cents/kwh bid Dubai received recently for 800 megawatts. For context, the average residential price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“Solar power delivers cheapest unsubsidised electricity ever, anywhere, by any technology,” BNEF Chair Michael Liebreich said on Twitter after this contract was announced.

Carlos Finat, head of the Chilean Renewable Energies Association (ACERA) told Bloomberg that the auction is “a strong warning sign that the energy business continues on the transition path to renewable power and that companies should adapt quickly to this transition process.” Indeed, in the same auction, the price of coal power was nearly twice as high!

Grid-connected solar power on Chile has quadrupled since 2013. Total installed capacity exceeded 1,000 megawatts this year — the most by far in South America. Another 2,000 megawatts is under construction, and there are over 11,000 megawatts that are “RCA Approved” (i.e. have environmental permits).

PV in Chile

Chile is aided by the fact that its Atacama desert is “the region with the highest solar radiation on the planet,” according to the Inter-American Development Bank. So much solar is being built in the high-altitude desert that Northern Chile can’t use it all, and the government is rushing to build new transmission lines.

Chile is part of a global trend where solar energy has doubled seven times since 2000. In the U.S. alone, it has grown 100-fold in the past decade thanks to a sharp drop in prices that has brought the cost of solar (with subsidies) to under four cents a kilowatt hour in many places, as I detailed last month.

The future for solar could not be sunnier.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Old Coal Mines Could Have A Future In Green Energy Storage

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Germany continues its transition from coal to renewables thanks to some clever engineering

Energiewende (energy transition). That’s the name of the German government’s ambitious goal to transform their energy landscape over the next few decades. By 2025, they want 35-40% of their electricity to come from renewable energy sources. By 2035, they’re targeting 55-60%. And by 2050, they hope to hit at least 80% renewable energy, coupled with an overall reduction in energy consumption of 25% (compared to 2008).

To get anywhere near this goal requires a huge investment in wind and solar energy generation, as well as a step up in their use of biomass and hydropower, and improving the overall efficiency of natural gas power plants. So far, signs are good, at least in terms of their energy mix. In 2015, renewable energy made up 32.5% of Germany’s total electricity demand. On one day in 2016, renewable technologies generated 55 GW of energy – that was 87% of Germany’s electricity demand on that day. As reported in Quartz at the time, there was so much electricity available, “Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.”

Alongside the environmental argument for renewables, there are also economic reasons a region might want to move away from coal and oil. A 2015 report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed that in Germany, coal and gas were more expensive than onshore wind – $106 and $118 versus $80/MWh – and the same was true in the UK. In China, coal was still cheap in 2015, coming in at just $44/MWh. But solar power there was cheaper than gas ($109 versus $113/MWh). With China now taking a leading role in the fight against climate change, the prices of renewables are likely to drop further.

The main argument laid against renewable energy generation is that it is often intermittent – the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind does occasionally die down (though, living in Wellington, I question that second one). And this doesn’t really match with what the traditional electricity grid was designed to handle. Coal-fired power plants burn coal to produce steam, which is then used to spin huge electricity generators. These steam-powered, endlessly spinning generators do more than simply spit out a stream of AC electricity, though. They actually offer a physical stability to the system. It’s a bit like a spinning top – once you get it moving, it keeps on spinning. With something the size of a national grid, you might have hundreds or thousands of spinning turbines, all connected to each other. The benefit of this is that, if one power plant goes offline, the grid doesn’t suddenly shut down. Because they have so much rotational energy, the generators keep spinning for a little while, giving the grid managers a chance to redirect power from elsewhere, and avoid plunging a city into blackout.

Though wind turbines also produce energy via spinning turbines, if it’s a calm day, they just won’t spin. And solar panels produce DC electricity, and even then, that’s only when the sun is in the sky. How do you balance supply and demand, and keep everything stable, when you add these technologies into your grid? The only real option is to store the energy when it’s produced, and then send it back to the grid when it’s needed. And it’s in energy storage that old coal mines could play a major role.

Germany started to produce coal in the mid-1700s, and continued to rely on the fuel right through to the 1960s – the output of its many mines reached a peak in 1957. But as oil-burning and nuclear-powered plants** grew in popularity between 1960s and 1980s, the demand for coal began to decline. By the turn of the millennium, just a handful of the country’s coal mines were still in operation. In 2007, the government committed to end all subsidies for coal mining by 2018 – a move seen as the final death knell for the industry. So, like a number of other sites, the Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine in North-Rhine Westphalia will cease coal production next year. But unlike other sites, Prosper-Haniel will continue to produce power – hydroelectric power, that is.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Offgrid solar power could save electricity costs for African households

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Offgrid solar power could help lower the energy costs for 138-million households in Africa that live on less than $2.50 a day and spend about $10-billion a year on energy-related products, including charcoal, candles and kerosene, South African Solar Photovoltaic Committee chairperson Jo Dean highlighted on Tuesday.

Addressing delegates at the Power & Electricity World Africa 2017 conference, taking place over two days in Johannesburg, she said a “vibrant offgrid solar industry” is poised to take off in Africa.

She pointed to data sourced from the World Bank and the International Renewable Energy Agency that there was potential to develop up to 1 100 GW of solar capacity in Africa.

Dean stated that in many African countries, there is a lack of funding, institutional will or technical skill to develop the energy sector.

She noted that South Africa was paving the way for renewables in Africa, with the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) having encouraged other African countries to also take steps in implementing utility scale photovoltaic plants.

Meanwhile, with the uncertainty over the continuum of the REIPPPP, there is potential for new markets and opportunities to be found in South Africa’s commercial and industrial sectors.

“During 2016, 100 MW of small-scale power plants were installed across South Africa, representing a 100% increase on the 2015 amount. One estimate is that as much as 15 GW of capacity could be installed through private power purchase agreements across South Africa within the next five to ten years.”

Dean noted that many large industrial-sized businesses are likely to develop their own projects while “the market for residential-scale installations could continue growing for longer.”

She noted, however, that there are some significant challenges that will have to be addressed. Although the growth rate might be considered impressive, the market remains small.

Meanwhile, Dean noted that, to meet rapidly growing energy demand on the continent, the energy mix would gradually progress towards greater use of offgrid household systems, minigrids and embedded generation.

“It will also lead to the emergence of more flexible, hybrid national energy systems that link grids to offgrid generation,” she said.

Read the original article at Engineering News.

Nedbank Smart Living Solutions

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Energy Partners Home Solutions, a division of Energy Partners, and part of the PSG group of companies, in collaboration with Nedbank, is offering an exclusive campaign aimed at Nedbank Home Loan clients.


Cala van der Westhuizen, Spokesperson for Energy Partners Home Solutions, says that the Smart Living Solutions initiative, which officially launched on the 15 May, enables qualifying Nedbank clients to invest in energy saving products for their homes. “The cost of the systems are added to clients’ existing home loans. This means homeowners can install renewable and energy saving systems without the need to first raise cash or undergo lengthy credit application procedures. In most cases, the cost saving will be more than the increase in their loan repayments.”


“Nedbank has been the most progressive bank when it comes to clean sustainable energy and we see this as another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to providing our clients with tangible solutions,” says Tim Akinnusi, Executive Head of Sales & Client management at Home Loans at Nedbank.


Akinnusi says “Nedbank Home Loans has gone beyond the sustainability agenda, to find innovative ways to help our clients save on their electricity bill in the short-term while investing in energy systems for long term value creation in their homes.”


Van der Westhuizen adds that South Africans will likely see above inflation increases in electricity prices over the next few years. “That is why we advocate installing renewable solutions as soon as it is sensible to do so.”


Energy Partners has been one of South Africa’s top energy companies and has served many households with its Home Solutions Icon system. “We are excited about this venture and look forward to bringing state-of-the-art energy saving technology into the homes of the Nedbank Home Loan clients,” van der Westhuizen concludes.

High-tech thinking

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African Decisions has published an article on how recent advances in energy-efficient technologies mean more accessible and cost-effective alternatives for consumers of power. Energy Partners Home Solutions has been mentioned as one of these high-tech solutions:

Energy Partners Home Solutions provides a range of solar and energy saving solutions for the consumer market, including its ICON system, which incorporates energy efficiency, renewable generation and backup solutions to reduce a home’s reliance on grid power by more than 50%.

‘Our solution enables home owners to take control of their energy by supplying a set of reliable products that form a fully integrated home energy solution that combines lighting, water heating and renewable energy – all effortlessly managed and monitored from a simple app on your smartphone,’ he said.

Please click here to read the full article.