BNEF: Wind, Solar Competing with Fossil Fuels

According to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), this year has seen a shift in the generating cost comparison between renewable energy and fossil fuels. The report, “Levelised Cost of Electricity Update,” for the second half of 2015 based on extensive data and global projects shows that onshore wind and crystalline silicon photovoltaics – the two most widespread technologies- have both seen significantly reduced costs while costs have gone up for gas-fired and coal-fired generation.

The BNEF study shows finds that the global average levelised cost of electricity, or LCOE, for onshore wind nudged downwards from $85 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the first half of the year, to $83 in the second half of the year, while that for crystalline silicon PV solar fell from $129 to $122.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance logoIn the same period, the LCOE for coal-fired generation increased from $66 per MWh to $75 in the Americas, from $68 to $73 in Asia-Pacific, and from $82 to $105 in Europe. The LCOE for combined-cycle gas turbine generation rose from $76 to $82 in the Americas, from $85 to $93 in Asia-Pacific and from $103 to $118 in EMEA.

“Our report shows wind and solar power continuing to get cheaper in 2015, helped by cheaper technology but also by lower finance costs,” said Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Meanwhile, coal and gas have got more expensive on the back of lower utilisation rates, and in Europe, higher carbon price assumptions following passage of the Market Stability Reserve reform.”

Levelised costs take into account not just the cost of generating a marginal MWh of electricity, but also the upfront capital and development expense, the cost of equity and debt finance, and operating and maintenance fees.

Among other low-carbon energy technologies, offshore wind reduced its global average LCOE from $176 per MWh, to $174, but still remains significantly more expensive than wind, solar PV, coal or gas, while biomass incineration saw its levelised cost stay steady at $134 per MWh. Nuclear, like coal and gas, has very different LCOE levels from one region of the world to another, but both the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region saw increases in levelised costs, to $261 and $158 per MWh respectively.

BCSE Calls for Passage of Clean Energy Programs

More than 580 companies including the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) are calling for the passage of legislation that provides the extension of expired and expiring tax incentives designed to promote the growth of clean energy and clean energy technologies. The groups submitted a letter to Congress stressing to the federal lawmakers that,”Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies.”

“Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies. Allowing the lapsed clean energy tax provisions to languish undermines investor confidence and jeopardizes continued economic and environmental benefits,” said Lisa Jacobson, BCSE President.

2015FB_1According to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and BCSE, the use of lower and zero carbon energy sources has grown rapidly over the past seven years. BCSE says the clean energy tax provisions have a proven track record of helping scale up production and drive down the cost of clean energy technologies, thereby ensuring that market-ready technologies are deployed to their full potential.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) whose organization was also a signer of the letter, said of the need for these programs to have multi-year extenders, “American wind power is building momentum right now, but Congress has yet to pass these critical tax incentives, and the clock is ticking. The U.S. wind energy industry has rebounded from the loss of 23,000 jobs in 2013 due to policy uncertainty, and we can grow to support 380,000 jobs by 2030 with stable policy. That’s why we join hundreds of other voices in the business community to call on Congress to take action now.”

Kelly Speakes-Backman, Senior Vice President of Policy and Research at the Alliance to Save Energy and also a letter signer added, “Extension of the clean energy tax incentives is a bipartisan issue. This extension will bring stability to a growing private industry, while reducing pollution from the energy sector. The Alliance endorses this business-oriented approach to strengthen our economy and encourage energy efficiency and clean technology investments.”

Senvion Canada Produces Longest Turbine Blade

Senvion Canada has begun the production of the longest blade in Canada: the 55.8 metre blade that is destined for the Senvion 3.2M114 Cold Climate Version (CCV) 3 MW turbine. LM Wind Power will produce 45 sets of blades all equipped with Senvion’s anti-icing system, adapted for harsh winter climates, such as that in Quebec.

csm_2012_32M114_StMichaelisdonn_397_7a1085d078All blades will be delivered to the the Mesgi’g Ugju’s’n (MU) wind farm, a project that involves a 50-50 partnership of the three Mi’gmaq Nations of Quebec (Gesgapegiag, Gespeg et Listuguj) and developer Innergex. The project includes installation of 150 MW of the 3.2M114 type turbine with 100 metre towers. Official construction of the project has begun, and the wind farm will be operational by December 2016.

At the occasion of the inaugural ceremony, Helmut Herold, CEO of Senvion in North America said, “For me, it is always impressive to see this technology up close. The serial production of the 55.8 metre blade with the anti-icing hot air system, is of tremendous significance for the advancement of turbine technology in Quebec’s wind industry. Not only are we seeing shifts in the cost competitiveness of wind, in comparison to any new hydro installation in the province, but with such a shift comes the ability to technologically innovate,”

“Furthermore, said Herold, “blades with the anti-icing system are perfect for communities, such as the three Mi’gmaq Nations, who want to benefit from wind energy but have to work through Quebec’s cold climate. In short, what we are producing here is community friendly technology.”

Troy Jerome, the executive director of the Mi’gmawei Maiwomi Business Corporation added, “The Mesgi’g Ugju’s’n Wind Farm project is a testament of how the Mi’gmaq people and our Mi’gmaq government can contribute to the greater Quebec economy and more specifically to the economy of the Gaspésie region. Through our partnership with Innergex and Senvion, we are pleased that LM Wind Power can deliver on the latest technology required to meet the extreme weather conditions of the Gaspésie region. This project is one great historic achievement, both for being able to achieve an agreement with the Quebec government on a large energy project and also for bringing together our Nation, the people of Gaspésie, German technology and of course LM Wind Power with this huge sweeping blade which will help us create beautiful clean green energy.”

Logan’s Gap Wind Farm Up & Running

The Logan’s Gap Wind facility located in Comanche County, Texas is up and running. A majority of the power created from the 200 MW wind farm will be sold to Walmart via a long-term power purchase agreement.

Siemens SWT-2.3-108 wind turbines“Logan’s Gap Wind is our fourth operational wind power facility in Texas and we are now serving three different regions throughout the state,” noted Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy, who built the wind farm. “We continue to bring new facilities online both on time and on budget, demonstrating our ability to execute on our growth strategy. We are pleased to be working with one of the leading corporations in the world as it acquires renewable energy and lowers its carbon footprint. We are increasingly partnering with America’s leading companies as they recognize that wind power, which continues to decline in cost, is both good for the environment and good for business.”

The facility will sell 75 percent of the electricity produced to Walmart and a financial institution. Walmart has a 10-year power purchase agreement to acquire 58% of the expected output from the facility. Seventeen percent of the expected output will be sold under a 13-year fixed price agreement with a A-/Baa2-rated financial institution. The remaining 25 percent of expected output will be sold at ERCOT spot market prices.

“Walmart has a goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, and sourcing from wind energy projects — like the Logan’s Gap Wind Facility — is a core component in the mix,” added Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart. “The energy we’ll procure from this facility represents nearly one-fifth of the U.S. portion of our goal to source seven billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by 2020. That’s a significant leap forward on our renewable energy journey.”

Grid Guru Debunks Clean Power Plan Blackouts

According to a new white paper, implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) will not cause blackouts and opposers to the plan claim. Lauren Azar, former Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and senior advisor to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, conducted a detailed review of the recent history of the power industry and found that utilities will quickly adapt to changes brought about by the CPP.

The Electric Grid 2030Using recent industry trends as the foundation, the paper demonstrates how the power sector has adapted to change in the recent past. One key indicator in the final CPP is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimate that there will be a need to build at most 13.6 gigawatts (GW) of new natural gas plants in the next 10 years to meet the demand for electricity as coal plants phase out. The paper notes that, from 2000 to 2010, the country added the equivalent of 237 GW in new natural gas plants as power producers seized the opportunity to capitalize on the vast supply of cheap natural gas—showing that the natural gas industry is capable of building over 13 times the amount of power plants than the EPA estimates will be needed to maintain resource adequacy.

In a similar examination of the renewable sector, the paper finds that in 2014 alone, the country added nearly 7 GW of solar and 4.9 GW of wind electric-generation, making the EPA’s estimated target of 81 to 84 GW in those renewables by 2030 a feasible task.

Recent history serves to demonstrate how the energy industry can adapt to comply with the CPP without risking additional blackouts, but the paper also notes that, in the unlikely event of a reliability issue, the CPP has several backup plans to address any grid reliability threat.

Senate Democrats Propose New Energy Package

A group of Senate Democrats have proposed a new energy bill to promote clean energy. If passed, the legislation would end some subsidies for fossil fuels and close some oil and gas tax loopholes; incentivize clean energy such as solar and wind through grant programs and tax incentives; and encourage carbon capture and sequestration along with continued development of nuclear energy and biofuels.

AWEA logoIn response to the proposed bill, Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) commented, “We commend Senators Reid, Wyden, Schumer, and Cantwell for putting forward a policy framework to provide domestic energy producers with greater stability so businesses can invest and bring costs down even further. The tax code has a century-long history of incentivizing American-made energy, and we must continue to ensure that we have abundant, clean, and affordable energy to power our economy. Wind energy has proven that it can deliver in these areas and it must continue to be a critical part of the U.S. energy mix. We appreciate the leadership of Sens. Reid, Wyden, Schumer, and Cantwell in trying to find common ground to ensure that the U.S. is well-suited to face the energy challenges of the 21st century by promoting a diverse energy portfolio.”

According to Senate Finance Committee staff, this legislation would save Americans at least $20 billion over the next 15 years and create/support at least 3.5 million jobs.

SEIA logo“By providing long-term, steady federal tax and energy policy, this legislation provides the stability that businesses in the solar industry need to grow – adding tens of thousands of new, well-paying solar jobs across the country, which today includes more than 174,000 Americans,” said Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch. “We also applaud the inclusion of programs that remove barriers for low-income Americans, making it easier for everyone to access clean, affordable, reliable solar energy.”

If approved and signed into law, this legislation would temporarily extend the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), and then ease the transition afterward through the creation of long-term, technology-neutral clean energy tax incentives.

Resch added, “The United States deserves to be a world leader in cutting-edge technologies, and providing a long-term extension of the ITC will encourage massive investment in the U.S. solar industry. When you provide certainty to solar consumers and businesses with an energy tax code that promotes innovation and encourages the development of new and efficient technologies – America wins. We see this bill as a major step forward, and the solar industry looks forward to working with Congress so all solar technologies are included.”

ReNew Commissions Unique Wind Project in India

ReNew Power Ventures has completed installation of India’s tallest wind tower. The S97 stands at 120 m and according to company, offers a 33 percent increase in hub height when compared to the conventional tower design. In addition, ReNew said it is a revolutionary on-shore installation of lattice/tubular combination towers (hybrid towers) of 120 m height. The hybrid towers are manufactured by Suzlon and has been commercially erected, for the first time, anywhere in the world in India.  It is a part of a 100.80 MW wind farm in Rajasthan, which is being commissioned alongside the 12.6 MW currently operation.

13DhuleWindfarm in IndiaSuzlon said the S97 should have a gain in wind speed between 4-5 percent and industry research finds this should increase annual generation between 12-15 percent.

“As a leading energy company, ReNew Power is at the forefront of adopting the most innovative and technologically advanced equipment and systems available in the market today, while at the same time partnering with and encouraging OEM’s to explore new technologies and solutions,” said Sumant Sinha, Chairman and CEO, ReNew Power. “Industry estimates reveal that in India, approximately 400 million people do not have access to electricity. To meet the growing energy demands of the already highly strained energy infrastructure, the country requires a sustainable energy module. We are excited to be a first with this breakthrough installation in wind energy in the state of Rajasthan.”

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Tulsi Tanti, Chairman, Suzlon Group, added, “Suzlon’s R&D efforts are focused on developing high yield products that effectively bring down the cost of energy (COE) and improve customers return on investments. Our endeavour to provide sustainable and affordable energy solutions have resulted in the path-breaking S97-120 m (2.1MW) turbine with hybrid tower, which is designed to harness more energy from low wind sites. ReNew Power has always valued technology innovation and has been at the forefront of embracing and encouraging new technologies. We are delighted to partner with ReNew to enhance India’s clean energy output and contribute towards powering a greener tomorrow.”

This is ReNew Power’s fifth project in Rajasthan and the company already has more than 100 MW of installed and commissioned wind energy in the state.

Wind Power to Provide 1/4 Europe’s Electricity by 2030

A recent forecast from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) finds that wind power can meet a quarter of Europe’s electricity demand by 2030 if Members States deliver on energy pledges and climate goals. If these goals area achieved, wind power could serve a quarter of Europe’s electricity demand by 2030. Today, Europe’s 128.8GW can meet over 10 percent of European power consumption in a normal wind year, but over the next 15 years, EWEA expects wind power installations in Europe to reach 320GW of capacity that could serve 24.4 percent of electricity demand across the region.

Wind Energy Scenarios for 2030Kristian Ruby, Chief Policy Officer of EWEA noted, “Wind energy will be the backbone of the European power sector when we reach the end of next decade.”

With 254GW from onshore wind and 66GW coming from offshore installations, the European wind industry will provide up to 334,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030 in the most feasible scenario. However, the forecasts are contingent on a number of factors on the political and regulatory front including a clear governance structure for the EU-wide 27 percent renewables target for 2030, which was agreed last year.

EWEA is calling for clear direction from the European Commission to ensure that Member States propose robust national action plans for renewable energy and remain on track to meet the common target.

Ruby continued, “The regulatory framework is a key driver in guaranteeing investor certainty. If policy makers get it right, the wind sector could grow even more. If they don’t, we will fall short to the detriment of investments, employment and climate protection. “Three key challenges must be tackled. A renewable energy directive with a strong legal foundation for renewables in the post-2020 space; a reformed power market tailored to renewable energy integration and, finally, a revitalised Emissions Trading System that provides a clear signal to investors by putting a meaningful price on carbon pollution.”

The new scenario looks at both annual and cumulative installations (in MW) and includes a country-by-country breakdown for 2030, but not for intermediate years. The figures for EWEA’s 2030 capacity scenario were developed in cooperation with national associations across Europe and industry leaders.

Governors: Restore Wind Research Funding

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa have sent a letter on behalf of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition calling on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to reverse its decision to hamper long-term investment in research advancing American wind power.

The governors’ letter was sent to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran and Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and refers to funding in the 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill set for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget and used for research and technology innovation that has helped lower wind power’s costs by 66 percent in the last six years according to the American Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

wind turbines in Iowa

Photo credit Joanna Schroeder

“The nation’s long-term investment in research conducted by DOE’s energy programs, National Laboratories, our state universities, and private companies around the nation has helped fuel the extraordinary growth of the nation’s wind energy industry,” the letter states. “As governors, we see the benefits this innovative research has brought to our states, including energy diversification and continual wealth generation in rural America.”

AWEA states that cutting funding for wind energy research could leave untapped opportunities for new wind farm development and the economic benefits that come with it.  A move that would affect all 50 states according to the letter, especially the Southeast. Another area of concern is the bill’s elimination of funding for grid modernization restrains the U.S. from capitalizing on the full range of economic and environmental benefits gained by diversifying the U.S. electricity mix with homegrown wind energy.

“These states’ Chief Executive Officers are telling Congress that their decision to hinder wind power’s growth hurts their state economies,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “We support the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition in urging Congress to restore funding for research that has helped improve wind power’s technology and bring more of wind’s low-cost benefits to American families and businesses.”

Wind Industry Commits to Reducing Bat Fatalities

The U.S. wind energy industry has announced a commitment to reduce bat fatalities caused by wind turbines by 30 percent or more. The news came leading up to National Wildlife Day and is an agreement between the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and 17 member companies. The agreement involves wind operators’ voluntarily limiting the operations of turbines in low-wind speed conditions during the fall bat migration season when research shows bats are most at risk. The new protocols are based on over 10 years of research by the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC) and others.

dreamstime_xs_22720312“The adoption of this protocol to reduce impacts to bats is a continuation of our legacy of care for wildlife and the environment,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “American wind power is strongly committed to producing one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy, for people and wildlife. As we continue to strive to make the wind industry’s impacts as low as possible, we hope this step can serve to encourage other energy industries, and all businesses for that matter, to proactively take steps to reduce their impacts on the environment in their respective communities.”

AWEA said in a statement that despite the potential collective loss of millions of dollars in electric generation, the U.S. wind energy industry has voluntarily committed to changing how turbines are operated during the bats’ fall migration season, slowing blade rotations to fewer than 1-3 revolutions a minute, depending on blade length, thereby reducing the risk of collision. On-the-ground research over the past decade at a number of operating wind farms has shown this measures will significantly reduce the collision risk for bats in low wind speed conditions when they are most at risk. The expected reduction of overall bat impacts was calculated with data from the research by BWEC and the conservation and academic communities who worked with the industry to identify solutions.

“That this industry-wide best practice has been voluntarily adopted demonstrates how the U.S. wind energy industry holds itself to a higher standard,” said John Anderson, senior director, permitting policy and environmental affairs, for AWEA. “Our industry values all wildlife and habitat. By proactively employing this measure to reduce our already low environmental impacts further, consumers can have even more confidence in buying clean, affordable, and carbon-free wind energy.”

Representatives from the conservation community applauded the action taken by the industry. “Through common sense practices and a proactive spirit by the wind industry, it’s clear we can both move the nation toward a clean energy future, and protect wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation of the announcement.

This year, National Wildlife Day was celebrated on September 4th.