Friday, March 28, 2008

Meanwhile, in the US...

From this unprepossessing container,
Verdant Power is running a 6 turbine, 200 kW installation of tidal turbines in the East River of New York.

Verdant has had devices in the water since 2006, and is now on the fourth iteration of its technology.

A simple-looking self-yawing downstream three bladed turbine (see second picture)

operates in this fast flowing branch of the East River (peak stream speed up to 3.1 m/s. I'll be writing more about this interesting technology when I'm back in the office on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lunar Energy £500 million project!

Wow! Lunar Energy has announced a £500 million contract in South Korea to build a 300 turbine tidal farm.

The press release, also on Lunar's website, says that the project will involve 300 1MW turbines, implying a cost per MW of £1.67 - better than anything else we've seen by some margin!

It seems amazing that this contract has been landed without the technology being proven in the water at full scale yet, and we're also not clear how Lunar will deliver for this price. You can bet on much of the fabrication taking place in Korean shipyards, though.

I hope it all works out - it would be a fantastic boost for the tidal energy industry, but it's a long time to 2015 when the turbines are expected to be operational.

Lunar's got a fabulous visualisation here...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Relative costs of carbon abatement

Here's a thought from the skeptical environmentalist school.

If we're worried about carbon abatement (and I am), shouldn't we be looking for best value least cost solutions? If so, let's look at the relative costs of abated carbon from difference sources:

Roughly speaking, a marginal MWh of power in the UK, as provided by gas-fired CCGT, involves 0.4 tonnes of CO2. A MWh from coal is responsible for around 1 tonne of CO2, and nuclear and renewables are effectively zero carbon (not including embedded carbon in construction, decommissioning and operation). There's an interesting factsheet here...

The current carbon price in the ETS is around €22/tonne, so a permit to emit this MWh from CCGT (in principle somehow magically making it carbon neutral, or at least "allowing" it), would cost around £12/tonne or around £5/MWh. For coal, the same permit would cost c. £12/MWh.

Now, I realise that the ETS doesn't correctly internalise the carbon cost yet. Or put another way, the current ETS price isn't sufficient to make generators indifferent between renewables and fossil-fired generation.

Under the Renewables Obligation, onshore wind gets an effective subsidy of 1 ROC/MWh, and a ROC is currently worth around £50. So the additional cost of a wind-generated abated MWh is around £45 relative to gas and £38 relative to coal. Wave and tidal power will get 2 ROCs per MWh from April 2009, and offshore wind 1.5 ROCs, making these premia nearly £100/MWh. There are good strategic national reasons for encouraging these technologies, not least that as fossil prices go up, having renewables capacity offers security of energy supply and also that these businesses, specifically offshore wind, wave and tidal, could be nucleated in the UK (which has world-leading resources in these areas).

At the moment, there's a lot of heat and not much light about Carbon Capture and Storage. At the moment, CCS looks as if it will benefit from the ETS value of the the carbon not emitted - but this benefit is nothing close to the value of RO. How about including CCS in the Renewables Obligation, to help meet these targets and provide a more attractive incentive mechanism?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Progress for Renewable Energy Holdings

This, from the Renewable Energy Holdings website today...

Second CETO II Wave Energy Unit deployed & Sites under review in EDF EN collaboration

Renewable Energy Holdings plc (AIM: REH), the AIM quoted investor and operator of proven and innovative renewable energy technologies, is pleased to announce the successful deployment of the second CETO II Wave Energy prototype off the CETO test site at Fremantle in Western Australia.

In short, the CETO technology appears to use wave motion captured at tethered buoys to pump high pressure seawater which is then used to spin a turbine onshore. It's a great idea to keep the electrics out of the water, but I do wonder what kind of hydraulic losses there are. This schematic helps to describe the CETO technology.

This and the ORECon news in the same week - maybe wave's picking up steam again. Let's hope Pelamis can get deployed soon too, to really get some momentum in the sector.

In the meantime, nice one REH and CETO - we'll keep eyes open for more news.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ORECon closes $24 million fund raising

ORECon, the southwest UK-based wave energy developer which had seemed to be somewhat dormant of late has just announced a $24 million fund raising.

This is terrific news, as it means another wave energy developer now has the wherewithal to fund the building of a full scale prototype.

Turnberry conference

Just back from the Turnberry Infrastructure Journal conference. The photo was taken from my hotel room and shows the snow on Arran's Goat Fell this morning. Lovely.

Lots of interesting presentations and people to meet - developers, manufacturers, funds, but (shockingly) nobody from Government (except the European Commission).

Eddie O'Connor wasn't short of opinions, and when you've just sold a £1 billion business which you've built over seven years, you've got a right to be heard!

Lots of infrastructure funds were there, showing a real interest in renewables of all kinds, although a real warning shot to the UK industry that clarity of incentive was vital to attracting internationally mobile capital.

Lots of reminders, too, about how much additional renewables capacity is going to be required to meet the 15% of all energy from renewables targets. Roughly 40-45% of electricity from renewables would do the trick (cue Eddie on the need for an offshore SuperGrid).

One last thought: Chinese demand growth is equivalent to a new Germany in demand each year. Astonishing, but what a market opportunity.