Mainstream Renewable to Build Offshore Wind Farm

The Scottish Ministers have given Mainstream Renewable Power the go ahead to build a 450 megawatt Neart na Gaoithe (“NnG”) offshore wind farm in the Outer Forth Estuary in the North Sea. This project will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the grid when complete in 2018. The wind farm will provide 3.7 percent of Scotland’s total electricity demand. The wind farm will consist of up to 75 wind turbines and will occupy an area of approximately 80 square kilometres. At its closest point to land it lies over 15 kilometres off the Fife coast in water depths of 45-55 metres.

The subsea cable transmitting the wind farm’s power will come ashore at Thorntonloch Beach in East Lothian from where its Mainstream Renewable Powerunderground cable will travel along a 12.5 kilometre route to a substation located within the Crystal Rig onshore wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills. Grid connection will occur in December 2016 and planning permission for the route of the underground cable was received from East Lothian Council in 2013.

Mainstream Renewable Power’s founder and Chief Executive, Eddie O’Connor said, “Today’s announcement is of particular importance for Scotland because it is the first time a wind farm will be built in Scottish waters with the purpose of supplying Scottish homes and businesses with renewable energy. In fact, it will generate enough green power to supply more than all the homes in Edinburgh.”

NnG represents a capital expenditure investment of around £1.5 billion and is on track to be the first offshore wind farm in the UK to attract true non-recourse project finance at the construction stage. The project has pre-qualified for the Infrastructure UK Treasury Guarantee and European Investment Bank funding.

“This is of major significance to the global offshore wind industry because it is on track to be the first time an offshore wind farm of this scale will be built using project finance alone by a private company,” said Andy Kinsella, COO for Mainstream Renewable Power. “It is testament to the world-leading expertise of Mainstream’s offshore development team who have been working on this project since the company was founded in 2008 and further underpins Mainstream’s position as the world’s leading independent offshore wind developer.”

Offshore Wind Cheaper Than Coal, Gas, Nuclear

According to an Ecofys study commissioned by the European Commission, generating electricity from onshore wind is cheaper than gas, coal and nuclear when externalities are stacked with the levelised cost of energy and subsides. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) analyzed the report data and determined that onshore wind has an approximate cost of EUR 105 per megawatt hour (MWh). This is less expensive than gas (up to EUR 164), nuclear (EUR 133) and coal (between EUR 162-233). Offshore wind comes in at EUR 186 and solar photovoltaic (PV) has a cost of around EUR 217 per MWh.

ewea-logoThe total cost of energy production, which factors in externalities such as air quality, climate change and human toxicity among others, shows that coal is more expensive than the highest retail electricity price in the EU. The report puts the figure of external costs of the EU’s energy mix in 2012 at between EUR 150 and EUR 310 billion.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said of the findings, “This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the Commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

EWEA said onshore and offshore wind technologies also have room for significant cost reduction. Coal on the other hand is a fully mature technology and is unlikely to reduce costs any further.

“We are heavily subsidising the dirtiest form of electricity generation while proponents use coal’s supposed affordability as a justification for its continued use,” added Wilkes. “The irony is that coal is the most expensive form of energy in the European Union. This report shows that we should use the 2030 climate and energy package as a foundation for increasing the use of wind energy in Europe to improve our competitiveness, security and environment.”

Argentina Biodiesel Exports on the Rise Again

argentinaflagAfter falling off the last couple of years, biodiesel exports from Argentina are on the rise again. This article from the Business Recorder credits the country’s cut in sales taxes last May that look to allow biodiesel exports to double this year compared to last.

Under pressure to jumpstart activity in the sector, the government cut biodiesel export taxes to 11 percent from 21 percent in May. Now the South American grains powerhouse is on track to double exports of the fuel this year to 1.4 million tonnes versus 700,000 tonnes in 2013, said Luis Zubizarreta, president of Carbio, the chamber of biodiesel producers and exporters.

“In the first four months of this year exports remained very low. Then the tax cut allowed us to become internationally competitive again and we’ve been able ship a good amount of our product,” Zubizarreta said in an interview earlier this week. Carbio expects Argentina to produce 2.35 million tonnes of biodiesel this year, well above the 1.8 million tonnes projected by the chamber at the start of the year. “We are still not at 100 percent capacity,” Zubizarreta said, “but the industry has started functioning well again.”

The article says the Argentine exports have been hurt by Europe’s increased tariffs on biodiesel from the South American country. Argentina used to be the world’s biggest biodiesel exporter before those tariffs stopped much of that business. Argentina is fighting the tariffs at the World Trade Organisation.

Neste Oil Moves Away from Microbes for Renewable Diesel

nesteoil_logoRenewable diesel maker Neste Oil says it will move away from turning microbes into the green fuel and concentrate on other feedstocks, such as forestry and agricultural waste. This company news release says the Finland-based Neste Oil wants to increase the number of renewable inputs used for the renewable diesel.

“Our microbial oil pilot plant at Porvoo has demonstrated that we have the technical capability for producing microbial oil,” says Neste Oil’s Senior Vice President, Technology, Lars Peter Lindfors. “Seen in terms of sustainability, using waste and sidestreams generated by agriculture and forestry as well as industry has a very important role to play in the future, and we have successfully used straw, for example, to produce microbial oil. Two years of in-depth microbial oil research at the pilot plant has generated a lot of valuable know-how and extended our patent portfolio, and we will be able to use the results of this work in other research projects.

“The time is not yet ripe for a commercial-scale microbial oil plant, however. Lignocellulose material is not a financially competitive industrial feedstock for producing renewable diesel using the microbial oil process at the moment. We will continue researching agricultural and forestry waste and residues, and believe that lignocellulose inputs will play an important role in future renewable applications,” says Lindfors.

The release does not say how this could affect a recent deal with U.S. algae producer Renewable Algae Energy (RAE) to supply algae oil as an alternative feedstock for Neste Oil’s NEXBTL renewable diesel for the future.

Biodiesel Board Calls for End of European Tariffs

nbb-logoThe National Biodiesel Board has called for the end of duties on the green fuel being sent to Europe. NBB says it’s time to let expire what the group calls unfair European Commission biodiesel tariffs in place for the past five years.

“We have presented a strong case for ending these protectionist barriers that are unfairly hurting U.S. biodiesel producers even as European producers are taking advantage of the U.S. market,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As we speak, European biodiesel producers are sending biodiesel to the U.S., with significant policy support, while at the same time the European market has been cut off from U.S. producers.”

“Eliminating these duties will level the playing field and allow U.S. producers to fairly compete in accordance with international law – just as we are allowing European producers to do in the U.S. market,” [Steckel said].

Among the points highlighted in NBB’s filing Tuesday:

– U.S. imports of biodiesel from the EU have grown in recent years while EU imports of U.S. biodiesel have been virtually eliminated.
– The U.S. biodiesel tax incentive, which was the primary basis for the EU’s initial trade duties, is currently not in effect and hasn’t been in effect for three of the past five years.
– Because it is structured as a blender’s incentive, the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive is available to European producers, when it is in effect, in the same way it is available to U.S. producers. Additionally, European imports to the U.S. can qualify for the RFS, the policy that requires specific volumes of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply.
– The U.S. biodiesel market has evolved significantly since 2009 and, with required volumes under the RFS creating a strong and growing domestic market, it is unlikely that eliminating the trade barriers would lead to a flood of U.S. biodiesel exports to Europe.

While the original biodiesel trade duties were set to expire this year, the European Commission, at the request of the European biodiesel industry, has been delaying the expiration by conducting an “expiry review” expected to last 12 to 15 months.

DNV GL Releases Offshore Wind Manifesto

DNV GL has released its finding of a report, “Offshore wind: a manifesto for cost reduction,” at WindEnergy Hamburg 2014. The offshore wind industry is looking to reduce costs to ensure growth. In response to this need, DNV GL is offering the industry its manifesto for offshore wind cost reduction identifies and quantifies cost reduction opportunities. It also set out a challenge and the company has committed to take action on the issue.

DNV GL Pledges to Help Reduce Offshore Wind Costs by 25%The cost reduction strategies outlined in the manifesto are categorized into three basic types: “Doing it right,” by mitigating risk and increasing certainty; “Doing it better,” by improving the efficiency of existing processes; and “Doing it differently,” by innovating for the future. Working with industry partners, the actions DNV GL commits to in the manifesto have the potential to achieve reductions in the cost of energy of up to 25 percent. According to DNV GL, these savings, combined with trends in other areas such as improved supply chain efficiency, has the potential of delivering a total reduction of 40 percent which is recognized by many stakeholders as the level required to secure the future of the industry.

CEO for DNV GL – Energy, David Walker, said, “This is about securing the future of offshore wind. Achieving cost reduction is about more than just new technology and innovation. It also requires us to get the basics right which means getting people together, assessing the issues in detail and defining best practice. This may be seen as incremental or even unglamorous, but it is exactly what a maturing industry looks like and it is exactly what is required to drive down costs.

“The good news is that we are seeing signs of progress, but we need to do much more as an industry,” added Walker. In this manifesto document, we in DNV GL recognise the role we can play in the cost reduction story – we are committed to helping offshore wind do it right, do it better and do it differently.”

The manifesto document contains 14 specific pledges across a wide range of topics from reducing subsea cable installation risks through to accelerating the commercialization of floating offshore wind technology:

European Refiner Eyes Biodiesel Upgrade for Facility

total_logoEurope’s largest refiner of oil is considering putting in a biodiesel operation as part of an upgrade to a refinery in France. This article from Reuters says Total could convert some of its La Mede refinery near Marseille to producing biodiesel with a decision expected in the spring of 2015.

[Total's head of refining Patrick] Pouyanne said a plan to merge the La Mede refinery near Marseille with the neighbouring Lavera plant belonging to Petrochina and Ineos had failed, two union sources said, due in part to the large investments needed to upgrade the site.

The group nonetheless announced it was working on plans to convert the site, including the construction of a biodiesel making unit and a scrubber, which filters some pollutants, to make the site compatible with environmental legislation by 2018.

“I’m ready to invest the equivalent of three years of losses to make the site sustainable,” Pouyanne told unions, according to the two separate accounts made to Reuters.

La Mede was losing about 100 million euros ($127 million) a year, which would mean upgrades of about 300 million euros, the union sources said.

According to the article, Total has seen its European refining margins drop to near four-year lows this year, losing share to more efficient Middle Eastern plants, as well as too much capacity in Europe and a drop off in gasoline and diesel consumption on the continent.

IRENA: Biomass Could be 60% of World’s Renewable Energy

irenareportBiomass could make up 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy sources – one-fifth of the globe’s total energy supply – by the year 2030. That’s according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which forecasts a major role for modern, sustainable biomass technologies in the report titled, “Global Bioenergy Supply and Demand Projections for the Year 2030.”

“Sustainable bioenergy has the potential to be a game-changer in the global energy mix,” said IRENA Director of Innovation and Technology Dolf Gielen. “Sustainably sourced biomass, such as residues, and the use of more efficient technology and processes can shift biomass energy production from traditional to modern and sustainable forms, simultaneously reducing air pollution and saving lives.”

The new IRENA report shows that approximately 40% of the total global biomass supply potential would originate from agricultural residues and waste, with another 30% originating from sustainable forestry products.

The report also points out that these biomass resources do not compete with food production requirements, such as land and water, and could make significant cuts to global greenhouse gases.

White Papers Look At Energy in Mexico

A new series of white papers look at various issues relating to energy in Mexico. Recent reform in the country has created anticipation and speculation as to how the energy market will shape up over the next few years. Peter Nance with ICF International has released three white papers to help increase understanding of the country’s emerging energy issues.

Peter Nance ICF InternationalThe first paper, “Renewable Energy and Cross-Border Prospects,” looks at current opportunities and risks in cross-border renewables trade, especially for the California market. The current power trade between the United States and Mexico is relatively small, and the renewable sector in Mexico remains underdeveloped. Yet, encouraging market dynamics gives ample reason to pay attention to this area. Key topics include: ambitious reform creates opportunities and lingering questions; state of electricity trade and renewables development; exporting opportunities for central station renewables; and risk and uncertainties.

Power Generation and Cross-Border Prospects,” is the second paper in the series and examines current opportunities and risks in cross-border power markets in the context of the Mexican regulatory reform, especially along the Arizona-Sonora and Texas-Tamaulipas/Coahulia/Chihuahua areas of the border. Key topics include: current state and near-term prospects; future opportunities; and risks and uncertainties.

The third report is, “Midstream Opportunities,” and focuses on proposed sublaws from Mexico’s energy sector. ICF International anticipates a comprehensive analysis and development of their implications for investors after a successful conclusion of current negotiations in the Mexican Congress. They are also closely tracking the emerging trends and needs in the midstream and engaging with partners in Mexico to develop a comprehensive, in-depth picture of the market and its potential opportunities and risks. Key topics include: current state and near-term prospects; recent project profiles; important players in the Mexican midstream subsector and future possibilities.

ACCIONA Windpower Installs First AW125/3000

gI_46398_Acciona_AW3000_125_1ACCIONA Windpower has completed the installation of the world’s first AW125/3000 wind turbine, which combines a 125 meter rotor with a 3 megawatt wind turbine generator. The turbine is mounted on a 120 meter concrete tower at ACCIONA’s Vedadillo Experimental Wind Farm located in the Navarra Region of Spain. The company has fulfilled orders for an additional 552 MW of AW125/3000 turbines which will be installed at wind farms around the globe in the coming months.

Launched in 2013, the AW125/3000 is an extension of ACCIONA Windpower’s AW116/3000 wind turbine. The 125 meter rotor is among the largest rotors in operation at any onshore wind farm, capturing the wind energy from an area of over 12,300 square meters to deliver maximum production at a lower cost of energy. The AW125 is suitable for a wide range of wind conditions and is certified for IEC Class IIb, IIIa, and IIIb.

“The 125 meter rotor is one of the technological advances made by ACCIONA Windpower as part of our commitment to lower the cost of energy for our customers,” said Jose Luis Blanco, CEO of ACCIONA Windpower. “Design innovation is helping ACCIONA Windpower emerge as a preferred supplier by many major customers and fueling the rapid growth in orders for the AW3000 platform.”

The AW 125/3000 turbine at the Vedadillo Wind Farm will help ACCIONA Windpower complete the requisite testing for Type Certification, which is expected to be complete by Q1 2015. The AW125 is available on 100 and 120 meter concrete towers and an 87.5 meter steel tower.

ContourGlobal Inaugurates Peru Wind Farm

The Cupisnique and Talara Wind farms located in Peru are now producing wind energy. The projects were completed by ContourGlobal, through it subsidiary Energia Eolica S.A., and with the first kilowatts produced, have become the largest wind farm owner and operator in the country.

ContourGlobal Wind Farm in PeruWith a combined investment of nearly US $250 million, the Cupisnique and the Talara Wind Farms are the first operational projects in the northern region of the country and were connected to the National Interconnected Electric System (SEIN) last month. Each of the projects has secured a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement under Peru’s Renewable Energy Resource Program.

“With the inauguration of ContourGlobal’s Peruvian wind farms, the country is taking a big step towards realizing the benefit of integrating wind power into the nation’s electricity grid. Peru is blessed with abundant wind resources, which makes wind generated electricity significantly less expensive than many of the fossil fuel power plants in the country,” said Alessandra Marinheiro, CEO of ContourGlobal Latam.

The development of the wind farms took 22 months beginning in October 2012. ContourGlobal managed the construction of the sites, featuring Vesta’s wind turbines. The 62 turbines are installed in two locations along Peru’s windy Pacific coast and are Peru’s largest wind farms as well as the largest wind farms in South America outside of Brazil.

“We would like to express our appreciation to COFIDE (Corporacion Financiera de Desarollo—Peru’s national development bank), the Government of Peru and the communities of Pacasmayo and Talara for helping us to place Peru’s largest wind complex into operation today,” added Joseph C. Brandt, president & CEO of ContourGlobal. “We have found Peru to be a very hospitable destination for new investment and look forward to growing with the country in the years to come.”

Badger State Ethanol Hosts Foreign Ag Guests

wisconsin-tourBadger State Ethanol in Monroe, Wisconsin had the honor of hosting the 2014 Foreign Agricultural Attaché Tour this week.

The group is part of the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service and is made up of 26 representatives from more than a dozen countries including Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, France, Angola, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, New Zealand, Nigeria, Ghana, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are playing host to the group for the week to educate them about the quality and diversity of Wisconsin agriculture. The group visited Badger State Ethanol on Monday to take a tour of the facility and learn about the importance of biofuels to the world economy.

Schott, Algatech Ink Research Deal for Biodiesel Feedstock

durantubes1An international glass maker and a biotechnology company specializing in algae production have signed a deal that could improve cultivation of the biodiesel feedstock algae. Schott AG and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), studied new DURAN® glass tubes that significantly improved cultivation efficiency in the yields of Algatech’s AstaPure® natural astaxanthin and plan to present their findings at the Algae Biomass Summit, at the end of this month in San Diego, Calif.

Algatech sought to optimize cultivation of AstaPure, a premium natural antioxidant known as astaxanthin, as part of its goal to double production capacity. SCHOTT partnered with Algatech in 2013 to produce 16 kilometers—nearly 10 miles—of thin-walled DURAN glass tubes for testing in Algatech’s photobioreactor (PBR) production systems at its array in Israel.

SCHOTT reduced the wall thickness of the special DURAN tubes while maintaining their strength and stability. The thinner walls facilitate higher volume and increased sun exposure of the microalgae. The use of DURAN tubes resulted in an increase in algae production efficiency and higher yields of AstaPure astaxanthin.

“From energy to medicine, cosmetics to nutraceuticals, many different industries rely on algae,” said Raz Rashelbach, R&D manager at Algatech. “The success of the thin-walled DURAN tubing has helped increase the AstaPure production efficiency on a small scale that can now be replicated on a much larger scale.”

“Further testing and development of new products in partnership with Algatech will allow us to continue finding new ways and methods to improve algae production,” added Nikolaos Katsikis, Director, Business Development at SCHOTT Tubing.

The agreement signed is expected to expand the two companies’ joint cooperation on new microalgae-based products.

IncBio to Put in Biodiesel Plant in Greece

incbiologoPortugal-based IncBio will put in an 8,000MT/year biodiesel plant in Greece. The company specializing in fully automated industrial ultrasonic biodiesel plants signed a deal with SPA Renewables S.A, a company specializing in turning waste cooking oil into biodiesel, for the refinery in Corinth, Greece.

This will be one of the most advanced and efficient transesterification plants in the world, based on IncBio’s technology parameters: small footprint, low cost and high efficiency, through the use of technology which is both innovative and widely proven in biodiesel production plants globally.

IncBio expects to complete the plant in February 2015 and looks for it to be the beginning of more projects in Greece.

West African Solar Project Gets Funding

A large photovoltaic solar farm to be located at Zagtouli on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in sub-Saharan Africa is moving ahead. The European Investment Bank has agreed to provide EUR 23 million to support the project. When completed the 30 MW solar plant is expected to act as a reference for future solar investment across the continent.

Once operational the new solar plant will significantly increase power generation in Burkina Faso, reduce dependence on energy imports from Ivory Coast and Ghana and help prevent power cuts. It is estimated that less than a quarter of the country’s inhabitants have access to electricity. In recent years power demand in the country has increased annually by 10 percent; however, power cuts and limited electricity access have seriously hindered economic growth.

Burkina Faso Flag“The European Investment Bank is a strong partner for Burkina Faso and this close cooperation over many years has enabled significant investment in new water and energy infrastructure that has created jobs across the country. The new support agreed today for investment by SONABEL in renewable energy is an importance milestone in the long-standing cooperation between Burkina Faso and Europe,” said Lucien Bembamba, Minister of Economy and Finance for the Republic of Burkina Faso.

Agreement for financing the solar project follows detailed feasibility studies to evaluate local energy needs and strengthen project implementation supported by the European Union. The European Union Delegation in Ouagadougou has supported the project since the start and worked closely with promoter SONABEL. Alongside the EIB, financing will also be provided by the French Development Agency and European Union and over a hundred jobs will be created during construction of the solar plant.

“Electricity in essential for economic activity and the European Investment Bank is committed to supporting energy investment that will improve lives across Africa,” added Pim van Ballekom, European Investment Bank vice president. “The significant support for the new solar farm builds on our strong partnership over many years with Sonabel. Burkina Faso can be proud to host the new facility that will act as a benchmark for renewable energy in West Africa.”