France’s Total to Convert Refinery to Biodiesel

totalFrance’s Total is converting its petroleum processor in La Mède to make biodiesel. This news release says the $216 million conversion will make the facility France’s first biorefinery and will stop refinering petroleum by the end of 2016.

“There are three possible responses to the crisis in the European refining industry. The first is to throw in the towel. The second is to do nothing and perish. The third is to innovate and adapt to meet shifting demand trends. The central focus of Total’s plan for our French refining business is to realign our operations and products to changing markets. The plan that we are presenting today offers sustainable solutions for the Donges and La Mède refineries. It gives both facilities a future and strengthens Total’s refining base in France,” commented Patrick Pouyanné, Chief Executive Officer of Total. “As was the case for the project to secure the future of the Carling plant in eastern France, the master words for the plan’s deployment are: anticipation and consensus. Total will implement this industrial transformation without layoffs or imposed geographical transfers for non-exempt employees.”

Total officials say the move is a response to industry and market trends, as European demand for petroleum products has declined 15 percent since 2008, shrinking outlets for the continent’s refining industry.

Aemetis to Sell Biodiesel to India Tourism Buses

aemetislogo1California-based Aemetis, Inc. will start selling biodiesel to travel bus operators in India’s tourism industry. This company news release says a move by India government that allows biodiesel manufacturers such as Aemetis to sell to customers directly helped make the deal possible.

According to a study carried out by Nielsen Research for the Department of Petroleum Planning and Analysis, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, buses consume about 10% of the annual diesel used. Diesel use by buses equates to 2.5 billion gallons of yearly consumption in India, of which more than 1 billion gallons is consumed in Southern and Western India providing a potential source of significant demand for the Aemetis biodiesel plant in Andhra Pradesh.

“Prime Minister Modi and the India Government are actively promoting biodiesel as an alternative to petroleum diesel to reduce more than $120 billion per year of crude oil imports,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aemetis. “The lower cost of biodiesel compared to diesel is only one of several important drivers for the growth in the biodiesel market. By using biodiesel from Aemetis, travel operators are supporting improved air quality, expanded domestic jobs and reduced operating costs.”

“We have recently begun deliveries to travel bus operators in Southern and Western India,” said Sanjeev Gupta, Managing Director of the Universal Biofuels subsidiary of Aemetis. “The travel and tourism industry contributed about 6.2% of India’s GDP in 2013 and is forecasted to rise by 7% per year through 2024. The travel and tourism industry supports about 22 million jobs and helps India generate meaningful foreign exchange reserves.”

Aemetis owns and operates a biodiesel refinery able to produce about 50 million gallons per year on the East Coast of India.

Burundi Moving Towards Solar

Burundi is moving towards solar. Via the Power Africa and Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid sub-initiative, Gigawatt Global has been awarded two grants to bring solar to the country, where only four percent of the population has access to residential power. The proposed project, a 7.5 Megawatt (MW) solar field, will increase the country’s generation capacity by 15 percent. Currently, Burundi experiences a high frequency of blackouts, with downtime in electrical access an average of two days a week. Burundi has a total of only 52 MW of installed electrical capacity, including 15.5 MW of diesel-generated power.

The effort in Burundi is being supported by two grants totaling nearly $1 million, from Power Africa via the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the GigaWatt Global Solar project in BurundiEnergy and Environment Partnership (EEP), a coalition representing the British, Finnish, and Austrian governments. Gigawatt Global plans to develop and manage a 7.5 MW solar PV field on a 15-hectare site in the Gitega region, 65 miles from the capital of Bujumbura. The facility will produce electricity needed for 60,000 households. The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $20 million.

“Our impact investment model is to strengthen developing nations, both economically and environmentally, by providing renewable energy sources where they are most needed,” said Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch developer. This announcement follows Gigawatt Global’s launch last month of East Africa’s largest utility-scale solar field, which added 6 percent to Rwanda’s electricity generation capacity and for which it was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. “We plan to build 1,000 solar megawatts in Africa by 2020, thereby providing electricity to millions of households and institutions that are currently without the most basic of human needs.”

USTDA’s grant will fund a feasibility study that will address key technical and economic aspects of the solar project, conduct environmental and social impact assessments, and provide the necessary analysis for the project to secure financing. The grant funds awarded by EEP will be used for pre-development works and legal costs.

“USTDA is pleased to provide Gigawatt Global Burundi S.A. this grant for a feasibility study, which will utilize U.S. industry expertise to advance this important project,” said USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak. “This activity supports Power Africa’s objectives of increasing access to power and promoting greater private investment in Africa’s energy sector.”

Egypt Solar Energy Market Report

The Egypt Solar Energy Association (ESEA) has a released a report detailing the growth of the Egyptian solar industry: “Egypt’s Solar Energy Market – FiT Program and Beyond 2015”. Over the past several weeks, solar has made gains with the announcement of 2.3 GW of power to be generated by photovoltaic energy within the next few years. In addition, leading international players have publicly announced new partnerships with local enterprises to bring proposed solar projects to fruition.

Egypt Solar Industry Association logoThe Egyptian government recently concluded the international Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh with hopes of attracting $60 billion dollars in foreign direct investment, including billions for renewable energy.  As a result, there has been a wave of announcements from the solar industry declaring gigawatts of development and billions of dollars in investment, not only in PV power plants, but also in manufacturing facilities, research and development and training.

Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy has already begun to establish favorable policies and a regulatory framework to help make solar energy a true alternate large-scale source of Egypt’s energy mix.

Egypt SIA’s new market report provides detailed insights on the latest solar market developments as well as in-depth perspectives from some of the key stakeholders, including regulators, laws firms, developers and EPC contractors who are active in the emerging Egyptian solar energy market. In addition, the report offers a unique outlook on solar developments beyond the feed-in-tariff scheme; tracking opportunities in various industries and governorates across Egypt.

Solar Impulse 2 Takes to the Skies

Solar Impulse 2 has set off on a 35,000-kilometer journey around the world, powered only by solar energy. Schindler, a leading global elevator and escalator provider, is one of the project’s four main partners and welcomed the aircraft as it stops over at the Mandalay International Airport in Mandalay, Myanmar.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber, with a 72 meter wingspan – larger than that of the Boeing 747 – weighting just 2,300 kg. The 17,248 solar Solar Impulse 2 eighteenth flightcells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy. During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries, weighing 633 kg, that allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.

The aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015 and will stop at 12 locations. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 will fly across the USA stopping in three locations –Phoenix, a location in the Midwest and New York City at JFK. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi. With the plane traveling at a maximum speed of 90 to 140 km/h, depending on the flying altitude, the journey will take five months to complete, including 25 days of flight time.

Schindler, which has been operating in Myanmar since 1999, is proud to participate in the project. “This is a historic moment and we are delighted to be part of a team that shares Solar Impulse takes-off from Varanasi to Mandalaythe same pioneering spirit and passion for engineering excellence, with the common objective to move people safely while using less energy,” said Jujudhan Jena, Chief Executive of Jardine Schindler Group.

Solar Impulse’s founders have welcome Schindler’s participation as an important illustration of how forward-looking companies are approaching sustainable development and seeing the industrial potential of using clean technology and renewable energy.

“Our partnership with Solar Impulse exemplifies our longstanding dedication to invest in clean technologies for sustainable mobility,” added Jena. “Just like those of the Solar Impulse team, the intensive efforts made by our R&D teams over the years have given birth to ground-breaking solutions that have redefined industry standards.”

UK Opens Its Largest Biomass Plant

RWEbiomassThe largest biomass plant in the United Kingdom has opened in Scotland and promises to help the UK meet a goal of 11 percent of non-electrical heat demand by renewable sources by 2020. This story from the BBC says the RWE Markinch Biomass plant in Glenrothes replaces the former 1950s coal and gas-fired power station on the site of Tullis Russell.

It represents a reduction in fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions by around 250,000 tonnes per annum,

The new facility is already providing all of Tullis Russell’s electricity and steam requirements, with excess electricity generation being fed into local networks.

Paul Coffey, chief operating officer at RWE Innogy, said: “RWE has taken biomass combined heat and power technology in the UK to the next level.

“The Markinch plant is providing Tullis Russell with a state-of-the art low carbon power source, and exporting enough energy into the local network to power around 45,000 homes.

“With a multi-million pound investment and over 2.6 million man hours spent constructing the plant we’re delighted it is fully operational and has surpassed efficiency targets for energy production and emissions.”

The project was started in 2009 with construction completed in 2014.

Solar Plant Opens in Northern Cape Province

Abengoa and state-owned financier, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), together with KaXu Community Trust have launched a 100 MW solar plant – KaXu Solar One – near the town of Pofadder (Northern Cape Province). The new solar facility will power 80,000 homes in South Africa. The Department of Energy of South Africa awarded Abengoa the project. The power will be sold to the utility Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Representatives of the South African government, IDC and Abengoa during the grand opening of Kaxu Solar One.

Representatives of the South African government, IDC and Abengoa during the grand opening of Kaxu Solar One.

Minister of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel, officially inaugurated the solar power plant. He was accompanied by Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr. Bulelani Magwanishe, Premier of the Northern Cape, Silvia Lucas, executives of Abengoa and IDC and representatives of the local community.

Manuel Sanchez Ortega, Vice President and CEO of Abengoa, said of the project, “We are proud of the role we are playing to help South Africa meet its ongoing energy demands. This project will leave a legacy that will benefit the community of Pofadder, Northern Cape and the entire country. This would not have been possible without the leadership of the South African Department of Energy.”

KaXu Solar One, the first Solar Thermal Electricity (STE) power plant in South Africa, incorporates a storage system that enables production of 100 MW for 2.5 hours after sunset or before dawn. The project will result in approximately USD 891 million direct and indirect investment inflows to South Africa, generate approximately USD 516 million in taxes over the next 20 years.

Fadiel Farao, the Chairperson of the KaXu Community Trust, said KaXu Solar One will be a catalyst for economic development in the Khai Ma municipality in the Northern Cape. “The project has stimulated the local economy and will go a long way toward helping to generate much-needed economic opportunities for people in this area.” KaXu Community Trust is comprised of members of the local community.

Abengoa is building in the region Khi Solar One, a 50MW solar plant using tower technology and has already started the construction of a third project, Xina Solar One, a 100 MW parabolic trough plant. Xina Solar One will shape with KaXu Solar One the largest solar platform in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rwanda’s Prez Paul Kagame Calls for Clean Energy

The 140 MW Oklaria 1 geothermal plant was recently commissioned in Naivasha, Kenya and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was on hand for the event. He is advocating for more invest14131-President-Paul-Kagamement in renewable energy as Africa struggles with lack of electricity, and said this is a must for the country, and for Africa, to see an economic transformation.

“European countries are producing more electricity than Africa… what are they doing with their electricity that we can’t do?” asked Kagame. “This project that has been opened to start producing electricity is important not only to Kenya, but to Rwanda and East Africa,” Kagame said referring to the Oklaria 1 geothermal facility.

Kagame said it’s time Africa began a debate to address energy challenges on the continent and suggested governments to engage the private sector. “The debate is about having sufficient electricity to power industry, school, homes and the whole economy as it should be… we need to have a conversation between government and business,” he said.

HE-in-alkaria-geothermal-plantHe stressed that this needs to be an open dialogue, not one entity dictating to another about what should happen.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta agrees with Kagame’s call to action on reliable electricity as a foundation for economic growth and stability. “I am proud to be associated with President Kagame and others who have demonstrated willingness to the progress of our region.”

Early this year, Rwanda signed an agreement with Kenya to import 30MW as part of adding up to 70MW to be connected to the national grid this year. Infrastructure Minister, James Musoni, said the electricity will be connected to the national grid by October 2015. Rwanda’s current power generation capacity is 160MW. The country targets to have 563MW by 2018.

KenGen Commissions Geothermal Plant in Kenya

Kenya continues to rise as one of the leading countries tapping into geothermal energy. The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has inaugurated the 140 MW Oklaria 1 power plant, the last phase of the 280 MW geothermal facility. KenGen believes the additional electricity produced will help further stabilize volatile electricity costs throughout the country.

H.E PresideKenGen logont Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda presided over the geothermal plant commissioning event accompanied by his host H.E President Kenyatta.

According to KenGen, who says the plant has been supplying power to the national grid since December 2014, the Fuel Cost Component (FCC), the single biggest item on the bills, fell to to a low of KShs/kWh 2.51 in February 2015. This represents a 65 percent drop in the FCC. As a result, it has led to a decline in the overall cost of power to consumers. The addition of geothermal power has also helped to mitigate dependence on hydro power; in recent months, Kenya has had no rainfall and as a result, there has been below average inflow of water into hydro dams.

“KenGen is proud to be on the lead in moving the country towards self sufficiency of reliable and affordable and renewable source of energy, which is also available almost 24/7,” said Managing Director and CEO Eng. Albert Mugo.

Today, KenGen is adding 1575 MW of power geothermal power to the national grid, surpassing hydro for the fourth month in a row. At U.S. 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour,  geothermal energy is among the cheapest renewable sources of electricity in the country and the world.

“The country has not experienced power rationing despite low water levels in the hydro generation dams on the Tana Cascade. “This is because the 280 MW project has helped to bridge the power deficit,” concluded Mugo.

Tanzania Action Roadmap for Energy Access

A recent two-day workshop held in Tanzania and hosted by the United Nations Foundation’s Energy Access Practitioner Network and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) gathered support of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative’s (SE4ALL) 2030 objectives delivering access to modern energy services for all. If the goal is met, it will double the rate of energy efficiency and also double the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.46.15 AMHon. George Simbachawene, Minister for Energy and Minerals, urged participants to discuss best practices and ways to meaningfully engage all stakeholders to achieve sustainable energy for all in Tanzania. “SE4ALL initiatives provide a working partnership with governments, parliamentarians, private sector companies, industries, and civil society towards a sustainable future free of poverty,” he urged.

Tanzania, one of SE4ALL’s 14 African current priority countries, is working to overcome challenges in providing access to energy for its entire population. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2014, 36 million people, some 76 percent of Tanzania’s population, do not have the benefits of electricity to power their homes, support education, deliver health care services, or drive economic development across commercial, agricultural and industrial sectors.

“The UN Sustainable Energy For All consultation provides a valuable opportunity to bring energy innovators and government to focus jointly on policy and implementation solutions to bring affordable and reliable energy services to Tanzania,” explained Richenda Van Leeuwen, executive director, Energy Access, UN Foundation. “It showcases how decentralized renewable energy solutions such as solar home systems and community micro-grids complement efforts underway on conventional grid extension.”

WWF Conservation Manager Amani Ngusaru notes that Tanzania will not achieve it vision of securing a middle income country status by 2025 and other goals unless the energy equation is solved. “Access to clean, safe and affordable sources of modern energy is critical for improving people’s livelihoods, and the Government is keen to adopt a mix of solutions to achieve Universal Access.”

Alstom to Build a Geothermal Plant in Indonesia

PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy has awarded Alstom a €61 million contract to supply and install a 30 MW geothermal plant for the Karaha Power Plant in West Java, Indonesia. Alstom will design, supply, install and commission the entire power plant expected to be complete by the end of 2016.

According to Alstom, Indonesia houses the world’s largest potential geothermal source which is estimated to be nearly 30,000 MW. However, recent figures indicated that Indonesia is not harnessing the potential of geothermal energy, with the source geothermal-plant-lahendong-indonesiacontributing only 5 percent of its estimated capacity into the power mix. The Indonesian Authority has been taking advantage of its natural assets and has committed to building several geothermal-related contracts in the past few years.

“We are delighted to play a key role in helping Indonesia achieve its energy goals,” said Steven Moss, Vice President in charge of Renewable Steam Plants at Alstom. “This installation reinforces Alstom’s continued commitment to the geothermal markets and the importance of this renewable fuel source.”

Rony Gunawan, CEO of PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy added, “The competitiveness of Alstom’s offer including quality, environment, health and safety, was key in the awarding of the contract. We are looking forward Alstom improving capability and effectiveness to manage the project.”

Global Wind Energy Installations Surpass Gas, Coal

According to new research, the European (EU) wind energy industry installed more new capacity than gas and coal combined in 2014. Across the 28 Member States, the wind industry connected a total of 11,791 MW to the grid with coal and gas adding 3,305 MW and 2,338 MW respectively. In addition, the coal and gas industries in Europe both retired more capacity than they commissioned in 2014. In comparison, wind energy capacity in Europe increased 5.3 percent year on year from 2013, with cumulative installations now standing at 128.8 GW in the EU.

Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said, “Europe is at a turning point for investment in renewables and particularly wind. Ploughing financial capital into the industries of old in Europe is beginning to look unwise. By contrast, renewables are pushing ahead and investments in wind remain attractive.”

Wind in Power - AWEAThe report found renewable power plants accounted for 79.1 percent of new installations during 2014; 21.3GW of a total 26.9GW. Today, grid-connected wind power is enough to cover 10 percent of the EU’s electricity consumption, up from 8 percent the year before. On a country-by-country breakdown, Germany and the United Kingdom accounted for 59.5 percent of total EU wind energy installations in 2014, installing 5,279MW and 1,736MW respectively.

Becker continued, “These numbers very much show Europe’s continued commitment to renewable and wind energy. But this is no time for complacency. The uncertainty over the regulatory framework for the energy sector is a threat to the continued drive toward sustainable and homegrown energy that will guarantee Europe’s energy security and competitiveness for the long-term. It’s time for Europe’s political leaders to create a truly European Energy Union and send a clear signal of their support for the shift to a secure and sustainable energy system. Political will on their part is an essential piece of the puzzle.”

Ultimately the report finds a concentration of new wind energy installations in several countries while markets in eastern and southern Europe continue to struggle and expects this trend to continue throughout 2015.

Solar Farm Commissioned In East Malaysia

One of East Malaysia’s first solar power plants has been commissioned. The 1 MW solar farm in located in the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. The project was developed by Cahaya Metro Sdn. Bhd. (Cahaya Metro), a solar energy company in East Malaysia.

Yingli Solar logo“We are pleased to have selected Yingli as our panel supplier for Sabah’s first solar power plant with interconnection facilities and license to export power and we believe that Yingli is undoubtedly our best solar panel provider,” Sean Tay, project director of Cahaya Metro. “We selected Yingli because their track record for product quality is validated by independent testing and assessments – and that gave us the strong assurance in Yingli Solar panels’ long-term reliability.”

The solar farm spans an area of approximately four acres in in Kg. Nyaris Nyaris, Bongawan, Sabah, Malaysia. It utilizes nearly 4,000 multicrystalline YGE 60 Cell Series panels that are estimated to generate approximately 1.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity per year. The opening ceremony of the project was officiated by Y.B Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Maximus Johnity Ongkili of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water of Malaysia.

Angie Koh, managing director of Yingli Singapore, added, “We are witnessing sustainable growth on the island of Borneo, particularly in Sabah where there are plans to make PV a pillar of the state’s energy mix. We anticipate continued solar power plant development across the region.”

Atlantic Biodiesel to Re-Open Ontario Plant

canadaflagA Canadian biodiesel plant has officially been taken over by a New Hampshire maker of the green fuel. This story from the Pelham News says Atlantic Biodiesel, a new subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Heridge SARL, which won Great Lakes Biodesel’s assets in a recent bankruptcy auction, has begun managerial operations of the $50-million facility.

Michael Paszti has assumed the role of chief operating officer of the subsidiary struck to operate the Welland plant.

“We are strongly committed to the facility’s success and Michael will be an integral, on-the-ground team member whose priority will be to quickly get operations up and running to full capacity,” the company said in a news release issued Wednesday.

“Welland is our home, and Atlantic Biodiesel is focused on continued engagement with local elected and community officials as we work to renew discussions with the federal government. With the support of the community and various levels of government, Atlantic Biodiesel will fulfil its goal of becoming a world-class producer of biodiesel fuel targeting the unique needs of the Canadian fuels complex, and play a critical part in provincial and federal greenhouse gas reduction efforts.”

The plant is capable of producing about 40 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Local officials plan to pressure the federal Canadian government to reinstate some funding that helps keep the refinery afloat.

GreenLight Planet Lights Up Developing World

Greenlight Planet has raised $10 million in financing with the aid of Fidelity Growth Partners India and with the money the company has been able to provide solar energy products for off-grid homes in the developing world, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa and India. The company sells rooftop solar lighting and phone charging devices. GreenLight Planet says the devices will generate 55 million kilowatt-hours of energy, offset 1.5 million tons of CO2 and save their users over $340 million in fuel costs over their lifetime.

Greenlight Planet solar product“As a result of this financing, we’re building the world’s largest rooftop solar consumer base in the developing world, and we’re investing especially to expand distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Anish Thakkar, Greenlight Planet CEO and co-founder.

According to reports published by the International Finance Coporation (IFC), over 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live off the electric grid, spending $11 billion annually on kerosene, batteries and candles for light. GreenLight Planet expects to reach 100 million off-grid households by 2020.

“We see tremendous potential to provide affordable solar energy solutions for consumers in the developing world,” explained Kabir Narang, Managing Director of Fidelity Growth Partners India. “Greenlight Planet has established itself as a product leader with a strong brand in the fast-growing off-grid energy segment. We are excited to partner with Greenlight Planet and its exceptional management team as the company embarks on its next phase of growth.”  Following the closing of the financing, Kabir Narang has joined Greenlight Planet’s Board of Directors.