Denmark’s largest offshore wind farm under construction in the North Sea will be able to provide power to 425,000 households. The 406 megawatt (MW) Horns Rev 3 wind farm will consist of 49 8.3 MW turbines. The construction is taking place 34 kilometers off Denmark’s west coast and will stretch over 88 square kilometers.

The UK and China are working together to produce next generation offshore renewable technologies. Three-year-long projects will use science, technology and engineering to tackle challenges facing offshore wind, wave and tide facilities. This will include creating structures resilient to extreme events such as typhoons and earthquakes. The projects will also explore the best ways to ensure a stable electricity supply for island and coastal communities in both countries. The projects are being funded by the Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme.

The world’s first floating wind farm is now producing electricity. Located 15 miles off the coast of Scotland situated in Buchan Deep, the wind farm has 5 six megawatt turbines. A 1 MW-hour lithium battery helps smooth its potentially erratic supply of electricity to the grid. The turbine towers are 253 meters tall, with 78 meters of that submerged in the North Sea. Each tower is tethered using three cables that are anchored to the seabed. Floating wind farms far out at sea operate more efficiently than those on land or close to the coast. Recent analysis suggests three million square kilometers of floating wind turbines could supply the entire world’s current energy demand.

Floating wind farms are too expensive currently to be produced without substantial government subsidiesBloomberg reports that the Buchan Deep project off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland cost a total of $263 million to complete. It receives $185 per megawatt-hour of subsidies from the British government, on top of the $65 per megawatt-hour it earns for the wholesale price of the electricity it creates. State-owned Norwegian energy company Statoil says that it hopes floating wind farms could produce energy for between $50 and $70 per megawatt-hour by 2030.

Wind is now cheaper than coal in India. At a recent auction feed-in-tariffs fell to a new low of Rs2.64 per unit, down 24% from the previous low of Rs3.46. This price is competitive with solar tariffs and both are cheaper than coal which costs about Rs3.20 per unit. Renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India said the main reason for low renewable energy prices in India was due to the competition that auctions introduced into the feed-in-tariff system. While falling tariffs make renewable power more attractive to consumers, it creates risks for investors and lenders. In addition, energy distribution companies, which have already agreed to long-term feed-in-tariffs at higher rates, will be uncompetitive with the lower prices coming into the market and will want their prices adjusted downward. (Note: feed-in-tariffs are also called power purchase agreements or PPAs. It is the fixed price per unit the government agrees to pay a renewable energy company for delivering electricity to the grid over a fixed period of time, eg. 20 years.)

The International Energy Agency is concerned that competitive wind and solar auctions in India are producing prices so low that the projects may not be built.  The companies that aggressively bid ultra low tariffs in order to win the projects might not have the revenue streams to be able build them. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the Agency, observed that competition puts companies under pressure and only the best will survive. “This is a healthy trend, as long as projects are realised and the promised prices delivered. In order to prevent underbidding and ensure timely delivery of projects, auctions should have a penalty mechanism.” The Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency, Adnan Z Amin, added: “We need to ensure that low bids in auctions translate into effective projects coming online, generating power for consumers and profits for developers.”

Thailand is using a competitive auction to obtain energy storage for the grid. The country wants 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation capacity to encourage the use of energy storage to supplement renewable generation. The tender requires that the hybrid technology (power plus storage) provide a continuous baseline level of production during peak periods, which in Thailand is the daytime period between 9 am and 10 pm on weekdays. Projects must be between 10 and 50 MW in size and can be achieved through biomass, biogas and refuse-derived fuel, solar, wind and small hydro.

In India, state-run coal mining and power firm NLC India has auctioned a 20 megawatt solar PV project to be combined with 28 megawatt-hours of energy storage capacity in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This is the first time such an auction for utility-scale energy storage has been completed in India with bids made public.  Indian firm Mahindra Susten won the 25-year agreement by quoting a price of INR2.99 billion (US$46 million). The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are attractive for energy storage developers given their reliance on expensive diesel generation, which makes storage economically viable.

India’s Central Electricity Authority is discussing if it should introduce a mandate for all solar and wind projects above a certain MW size to be coupled with energy storage.

Volkswagen has failed in its attempt to secure long-term cobalt supplies for its electric cars. Last month VW sought to secure a $59 billion contract to supply enough cobalt for 150 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery storage by 2025, which could amount to roughly 30,000 tons of the metal a year. The German carmaker failed to find a supplier that would guarantee even five years of cobalt at a fixed price. The Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies 64% of global cobalt demand. Outside of the Congo there are small reserves in more than a dozen other countries, including China, Canada, the Russian Federation, Australia and Cuba. Mineral analyst Caspar Rawles said:

“Perhaps Volkswagen underestimated the market. The big auto manufacturers have for years been able to put quite stringent terms on the material they need for traditional vehicles. But when demand is expected to grow, producers don’t want to sign those long-term deals.”  

 

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