Information coming out of China about its renewable energy plans, and prospects for both domestic and international suppliers hoping to continue riding one of the world’s most optimistic growth markets, have commanded headlines in the early weeks of 2013.
China plans to add 49 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity in 2013: 21 GW of hydropower, 18 GW of wind, and 10 GW of solar, according to its National Energy Administration.
Chinese solar panel makers are optimistic. Trina Solar recently said shipments will surge 30 percent in 2013, and Jinko Solar expects a 20-30 percent jump in shipments, on hopes that global demand is rising — gains in Asia (most notably domestically in China), plus regions including the U.S. and Asia, should offset declines in Europe — and price decreases could slow or cease later this year. Yingli Green Energy, which topped a record 2.2 GW in shipments in 2012, enters 2013 with expectations of downstream expansion.
Investors quickly responded with renewed interest in the battered sector; Suntech and LDK saw an upswell of investor support. Underlying concerns remain, though, about the financial viability of domestic solar manufacturers in a severely and government-fed market.
IN THE NEWS
Solar Frontier, DBJ Seek Utility-Scale Solar Investments: Solar Frontier and the Development Bank of Japan have agreed to establish a joint investment company to develop power plants for utilities as an independent power producer (IPP). The firm has a goal of developing 100 megawatts (MW) per year. Solar Frontier will have a 60 percent stake in the new firm, which will also look at other potential projects that haven’t established partnerships for power production or financing, including those under 2 MW in size for which funding can be harder to come by.
In related news, Solar Frontier and the DBJ are partnering with Cosmo Oil to establish a 26-MW solar plant, tentatively named “CSD Solar,” at the former Ohgishima Oil Terminal site in Yokohama, Kanagawa (which was itself a partnership with another Showa Shell subsidiary, Toa Oil) and seven other sites formerly used as oil depots across Ibaraki, Oita, Tokushima, Fukui, and Kagoshima. Construction is slated to begin this spring, with some sites expected to be ready later in the year.
Tata Solar Shifting Focus to EPC: Another casualty of competition from Chinese solar manufacturers, Tata Power’s solar subsidiary Tata Solar reportedly is shifting to offering domestic engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services, and away from exporting solar cells and modules which currently accounts for 80 percent of its sales. “With the country emerging as a major solar market, and Chinese players dominating the modules market, we have decided to shift focus to a projects and solutions,” CEO Ajay Goel told the Press Times of India. Tata Solar has about 84 MW of capacity for solar cells and 125-MW of capacity for solar modules, but Goel acknowledged most of that is underutilized; he expects the company’s projects and solutions business will become “a major contributor in the coming years” once domestic policies are clarified, from phase II of the National Solar Mission to state-level policies.
Japan megasolar power plant donating profits: Ryukoku University, Kyocera Solar Corp., Plus Social Co. Ltd., and the Trans Value Trust Co. Ltd. say they will build a 1.85-MW solar installation, and donate the profits to local communities in what they bill as the “first-ever ‘social contribution mega-solar power plant.’” Plus Social and Trans Value will operate the project (using Kyocera modules) at the Ryukoku University’s Fukakusa Campus (Kyoto City) and on land owned by the municipality in Inami Town, with the power generated to be sold to the regional utility company under the terms of the FIT program. Revenue from the sale of the power generated (minus operating expenses) will be support social contribution and citizen’s activities in the Wakayama Prefecture and Kyoto areas where the solar power plants are to be installed.
India’s Gujarat Promotes CSP’s Advantage: India’s state of Gujarat has a lot of land with high irradiation as well as water and a good infrastructure, according to Ketan Shukla, Secretary at the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) and is eyeing CSP development. A policy initiated in 2009 offers a tariff of Rs. 11.55/kWh for solar thermal.
Biomass Rising in Japan: JFE Engineering, a Japanese builder of biomass plants, expects 20 billion yen (USD $226 million) of orders for its boilers in the current fiscal year ending March 31, more than twice as much as it forecast last June. “We’ve got so many inquiries that well surpassed our production capacity,” according to managing director Masumi Sekiguchi, that the company is “unable to respond to all of them.” Japan is expected to add about 2.19 GW of biomass capacity in fiscal 2012, or 4.3 percent more than the previous year.
Sri Lanka Receives ADB Loan For Small Hydropower Rehabs: Sri Lanka’s National Development Bank (NDB) will use a US $1.29 million credit line from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to rehabilitate and repair 19 micro hydro projects. The 19 mini hydropower projects, located on private tea and rubber estates in Sri Lanka’s Badulla, Kandy, Kegalle, Matale, Nuwara, Eliya and Ratnapura districts, will add an estimated 1.3 MW of combined capacity.
Will Japan Embrace Geothermal Power to Move Away from Nuclear?: Speaking at the United Nations University (UNU) Headquarters in Tokyo, Icelandic ambassador to Japan Stefan Larus Stefansson gave an upbeat assessment of Japan’s enormous untapped geothermal energy potential. Japan is the world’s largest manufacturers of geothermal turbines, building the equipment that Iceland uses in its geothermal plants which provide 66 percent of Iceland’s primary energy and are the “backbone of the Icelandic economy,” he told the audience. Japan has the world’s third-largest potential for geothermal energy and if it really wants to fully realize its geothermal potential, Stefansson noted, the nation could replace the electrical output of 25 nuclear reactors with geothermal energy.
China Working to Cut Idled Wind Farm Capacity: China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, is making progress in connecting idled wind farms to the electricity grid. The rate of wind capacity sitting idle could fall to as low as 10 percent this year, compared with 25 percent at the end of 2011, according to Jun Ying, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) head of research in China. China probably added 16.4 gigawatts of wind power last year, 20 percent less than the previous year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which forecasts wind installations may grow by 16.3 gigawatts this year.
by Lauralouise Duffy