Canadian energy giant Suncor is set to greatly broaden its push into renewables, with plans for nearly 700MW of wind and solar in the works in Alberta, taking advantage of the province’s recently adopted 30% renewables target.
Suncor currently owns stakes in six Canadian wind farms totaling 287MW of capacity. But Canada’s largest oil company is advancing plans for another four wind farms totaling up to 440MW and three solar projects totaling 240MW in Alberta, according to a local press report.
Suncor is currently working through the connection process for the projects. The solar capacity, spread across three 80MW arrays, is expected to be online within two years.
Alberta has virtually no solar capacity at present.
The province – home to the bulk of Canada’s controversial oil sands industry – sent ripples across the North American renewables market with its recent embrace of a 30% renewable power target for 2030. A series of competitive tenders are set to kick off later this year.
Neighbouring Saskatchewan followed Alberta’s lead and established a 50% renewables target for 2030.
While wind is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of the western Canadian provinces’ newfound enthusiasm for renewables, large-scale solar is also likely to win a significant role.
A number of Canadian oil and fossil fuel infrastructure companies have invested in renewables over the years, including Enbridge and TransCanada. But the collapse of oil prices, paired with the new renewables targets, could see such companies – as well as new ones – revving up their investments into wind and solar.
Suncor’s expansion plans in renewables cut a sharp contrast with its broader business. Due to low oil prices, the Calgary-based company is in the process of laying off workers and deferring planned capital investments.
Batwind could feature at larger developments by Statoil
The pioneering floating wind power array being developed by Norway’s Statoil in the UK North Sea will also pilot the use of a potentially game-changing battery storage system, after a deal was signed by the offshore energy giant with the Scottish government, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and Scottish Enterprise.
"We’re keen to explore broader concepts such as energy storage to make decentralised offshore wind viable in the future – bringing the cost down and make it more competitive,” Stephen Bull, Statoil’s senior vice president for offshore wind, tellsRecharge.
“Inside the company we feel [battery storage technology] is part of a skills set we just must have. Hywind Scotland was identified as the best place to start this process. This is not a one-off. It is something to build on, to capture the knowledge for future full-scale wind farm developments.”
Bull points to the possibility of using an upscaled Batwind system, designed for installation both offshore and on, as part of the developer’s 402MW Dudgeon wind farm or 7.2GW Dogger Bank zone.
For Buchan Deep, the Li-ion technology – which won out of a range of others including compressed air storage and hydrogen cells – will be bolted on to the substation at Peterhead, to keep costs at a minimum.
“Through the Batwind concept, we can optimise the energy system from wind park to grid, applying advanced data analytics,” says Bull. “Battery storage represents a new application in our offshore wind portfolio, contributing to realising our ambition of profitable growth in this area.”
A programme is now being set-up to fund innovation in battery storage by Statoil and Scottish industry and academia, and will be managed by Catapult and Scottish Enterprise.
“We are developing a programme that will match Scottish supply chain capabilities and research excellence with the technology challenges of developing innovative battery storage solutions, ensuring Scotland and the wider UK benefits from the economic opportunities presented by this internationally important project,” says Catapult chief executive Andrew Jamieson.
Cian Conroy, Catapult’s business development director, adds: “The offshore wind industry is quite risk-averse and so demonstration projects [such as Batwind] are a key enabler – both crucial to proving the viability and advancing the technology and also pushing ahead the policy agenda that is needed to support wider-scale use of technologies that will make a measurable difference to the offshore wind’s cost of energy.”
According to Bull, the supplier of the Li-ion battery for the Buchan Deep project will be selected in “early 2018”, with the unit installed later the same year.
“This is more than just hardware we are developing [through the Batwind project],” emphasises Bull. “It is about the knowledge base – pulling together the algorithms for the array’s control system, running the numbers, doing the big data. This is where the real value in the project lies.
“It is a small project but we believe something big will come out of it.”
Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing states: “The signing of this memorandum of understanding will allow the signatories to work together in the development of the Batwind battery storage solution. This will help maximise the renewable generation of the Hywind offshore wind farm, whilst informing the case for energy storage and demonstrating the technology’s ability to support renewables in Scotland and internationally.”
The Hywind floating wind turbine concept is based on long-used offshore technology — the spar, which has enjoyed a long history in giant form as floating foundations for deepwater oil production platforms since the mid-1990s.
Hywind 1, the prototype topped out with a 2.3MW Siemens turbine, has performed superbly since switch on in 2009, weathering winds of 40 metres per second (m/s) and winter waves 15 metres high — and churning out electricty at an average capacity of over 50%.
The second-generation Hywind 2 is an evolutionary advancement of the flagship unit, most of all because the hull's length has been trimmed to a more compact, lighter, "site optimised" design that stretches 76 metres below the surface — compared to the 100-metre draft of the prototype — which should open up a wider offshore market for the deepwater concept.
In June the Scottish government released a far-reaching study on floating wind power that points to its fast approaching commercialisation. Produced by government-industry body the UK Carbon Trust, the report found that floating wind concepts have the potential to cut generated levelised cost of energy (LCoE) to below £100/MWh in utility-scale deployments, with Hywind calculated to be on track to reach an LCoE of £85-£95MWh.
Make Consulting estimates some 3.4GW of floating wind power will be switched on by 2030, led by markets in Japan and France.
See a Statoil video on the Buchan Deep project here.
A surge in renewable generation last year played a “critical role” in keeping global energy-related CO2 emissions flat for the second year in a row, according to new data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The Paris-based agency says its preliminary data for 2015 shows that global emissions of CO2 stood at 32.1bn tonnes, having remained essentially flat since 2013. Emissions stood at 32.3bn tonnes in 2014.
“The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we have now seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” says IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
“Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”
The IEA data suggests that electricity generated by renewables played a critical role in keeping emissions flat, having accounted for around 90% of all new power capacity in 2015.
Wind power alone produced more than half of all new electricity generation last year.
The agency says in parallel, the global economy continued to grow by more than 3%, offering further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening.
The world’s two largest emitters, China and the US, both recorded a decline in their energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015. China saw its emissions decline by 1.5% as its coal use fell for the second year in a row
Last year coal generated less than 70% of Chinese electricity, ten percentage points less than four years ago [in 2011]. Over the same period low-carbon energy sources jumped from 19% to 28%, with wind and hydro accounting for most of the increase.
US emissions declined by 2%, as a large switch from coal to gas use in electricity generation took place.
However, the decline observed in the two major emitters was offset by increasing emissions in most other Asian developing economies and the Middle East, and also a moderate increase in Europe.
In the more than 40 years in which the IEA has been collecting data on CO2 emissions, there have only been four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year.
Three of these periods – the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – were associated with global economic weakness. But the recent stall in emissions comes amid economic expansion. According to the International Monetary Fund global gross domestic product grew by 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015.
Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the IEA data as heading in the right direction, but said a rapid reduction in global emissions is still needed. “China’s efforts to tackle climate change and local air pollution are paying global dividends,” says Li Shuo, Greenpeace East Asia senior climate adviser.
“China’s emissions may have peaked and are now falling for the second year in a row. This puts the country on track to surpass its Paris climate commitments, which is great news.”
However, Greenpeace warns that despite the Paris agreement, climate ambitions in some countries continue to lag.
It highlights that Europe is now the only region in the world to have seen investments in renewables – particularly wind and solar – decline over the last five years.
Alberta’s government has set the wheels in motion for the Canadian province – home to the notorious oil sands – to begin procuring a new generation of large wind and solar projects through a rolling series of competitive tenders kicking off in late 2016.
Late last year Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sent ripples across the Canadian renewables industry by pledging that the carbon-heavy province would source 30% of its electricity from renewables by 2030, and phase coal-fired generation out entirely.
The pledge came after Notley and her leftist New Democratic Party ousted the fossil fuel-friendly Conservatives in a landmark provincial election earlier in 2015.
As a result, Alberta – the only merchant power market in Canada – is expected to become a significant new growth market for Canadian renewables, after languishing for years behind Ontario and Quebec.
Notley’s government this week formally tasked the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) with developing and implementing a renewables incentive programme that will foster a build-out over the next decade and a half.
While the details of the programme have not yet been worked out, the AESO says the first “competition” for new renewables projects can be expected to take place in the fourth quarter of 2016 – with the first big wind and solar projects brought online by 2019.
The AESO will submit its recommendations on the renewables programme’s design in May. Renewables investors are encouraged to weigh in on the details of how the programme should work.
Alberta is blessed with significant potential for both large-scale wind and solar, according to developers in both sectors. A number of big developers, including Samsung Renewable Energy, have already signaled their interest in building in the province.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association hailed the announcement, and said it will work with AESO to get the programme’s design right.
“The leadership shown by the Alberta government on renewable energy has attracted the attention of wind energy investors from around the world,” CanWEA said in a statement.
Alberta currently sources more than half of its power from coal. As that capacity is taken offline, Notley’s plan would see two-thirds of it being replaced by renewables.
Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) said new financing of greenfield wind farm projects will rise again this year, following an 83% increase in loan approvals in 2014
“There are many projects that have received preliminary approval and that are concluding the paperwork this year,” said Ana Raquel Paiva, manager of the alternative energy department at the bank.
Projections for an increase in financing this year are based on a backlog of projects contracted in auctions in 2013 and 2014, she said, while declining to give details.
“We can say that financing will rise, but not as much as last year.”
In December, BNDES approved R$1.7bn ($647m) in financing for 22 wind power projects with a total capacity of 590.4MW in four states. A total of 316 turbines will be installed at the wind farms, which will need to start operations by 2015.
BNDES, Brazil's main source of long-term financing for energy projects, approved a total of R$6.6bn in 2014 for wind farms with a combined installed capacity of 2.59GW.
This compares with R$3.6bn approved in 2013.
The increase in financing in 2014 came as a result of continued growth of greenfield projects contracted at auctions. In 2013, for example, Brazil contracted 4.7GW of new wind and in 2014 another 2.3GW.
Just over 15GW of wind has been contracted historically in Brazil. BNDES has financed 7.3GW since 2003, a total of R$20bn in loans.
The BNDES finances on average 60% to 65% of projects' value at below market rates, including the acquisition of turbines that meet its complex national-content requirements.
Paiva said that financing rules for projects contracted in 2013 and 2014 won't change, but that the bank still has to announce new financing rules for projects that are expected to be contracted in 2015.
Although she declined to comment, the federal government – which controls the bank – is considering changes in financing conditions such as higher interest rates.
The measures are part of fiscal control efforts to reduce the federal government's budget deficit.