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The final round of projects awarded by the Department of Energy have turned South Africa into one of the most dynamic markets worldwide, and its local PV energy modules are expected to play a key role in its development. According to Enertis, an international firm specialised in providing consultancy, technical assessment and engineering services to the solar PV energy sector, the South African solar market has become a mature industry, making a robust contribution to the creation of much-needed energy capacity, local employment and a competitive renewable energy environment, thereby attracting investment from major international players.

South Africa’s DoE has recently taken steps to address the energy supply crisis in the country and has boosted the allocation of renewables projects. According to Enertis, in the specific case of solar PV energy, if the first three rounds had resulted in the allocation of 1,484 MW, only a further 813 MW have been selected for round 4. In addition, an accelerated or extraordinary round has been announced which will secure a further 1,800 MW from various technologies ahead of the anticipated round 5.

The evolution of the REIPP Programme has followed a path where projects selected have grown in size (75 MW projects are now the norm whereas almost 50% of the projects in Round 1 ranged from 5 to 20 MW). They have also become very competitive in terms of price and local content. Round 4 prices have reached some of the lowest levels hitherto seen worldwide, and local content values stand at an average of around 64%. Read more…

Article published in: FuturENERGY October 2015

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Schneider Electric and Saft win two projects from Langa Group for the installation of energy storage systems for two solar power plants in Corsica (France), awarded under the French public tender schemes – Commission de Régulation de l’Energie (CRE).

Langa’s new solar power plants will be based near Corte and Castifao, on the French island of Corsica. With a nominal solar power of 1 MWp and a storage capacity of 1 MWh, each plant will produce more than 1,300 MWh per year, in compliance with the CRE specifications.

Schneider Electric and Saft partnered to meet Langa’s requirements on those two projects. The consortium proposed a solution including the design, supply and installation of the equipment, management system, and the maintenance services.

The combination of photovoltaic power generation and a storage system optimizes the integration of variable solar energy into the island electric grid. Energy produced during day times when sun irradiance is at its best  can thus be stored in batteries, and redistributed in the evening, during peak times and after sunset. The two photovoltaic plants will generate enough energy to meet the electricity needs of more than 400 Corsican homes annually.

Leader of the consortium, Schneider Electric will implement its solutions dedicated to storage and solar energy: PVBox for solar power conversion, ESBox for battery power conversion, Energy Management System (EMS) for global equipment management and control of Saft batteries, project engineering and services to guarantee the system performance. Schneider Electric is also in charge of the interconnection between the various components of the plants, and with the electric distribution network. Schneider Electric developed and industrialized an offer for energy storage and its coupling with renewable energy production assets, and supports its customers projects with expert engineering and services teams.

For each project, Saft will deploy its energy storage solution Intensium® Max+ 20E. This integrated solution is fully developed and manufactured by Saft, and composed of a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery of around 1 MWh in a 20 foot container. The container also includes the thermal and safety management systems, as well as the operational battery management through a BMS (Battery Management System), the interface with the Schneider Electric control system. Saft supports its customers during their projects lifecycle, reaching from early optimization of storage system sizing to maintenance services once the installation is completed. The Langa project comes in a series of contracts won by Saft for Li-ion storage systems for island grids around the world.

« Energy storage systems are required for continued growth of renewable energies: they will allow to integrate energy production into the distribution grid in an optimized way. We were convinced by the solution proposed by Schneider Electric and Saft, two French leaders in their markets. Their expertise in solar energy and energy storage, their competitive offer, along with their local presence have been key in our choice » said Hervé Guérin, founder and CEO of Langa Group.

The contract was signed in June between Langa and the Schneider Electric – Saft consortium, and the two installations will be grid connected by the end of the year.

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Aalborg CSP has begun construction of the world’s first integrated energy system based on CSP to satisfy multiple energy needs of Sundrop Farms’ greenhouses in the South Australian desert, and at the lowest possible cost throughout the year. In the first phase, a 51,500 m2 solar field consisting of more than 23,000 heliostats will be installed. The integrated energy system is the first large-scale CSP-based technology in the world to provide multiple energy streams (heating, fresh water and electricity) for horticultural activities.

The groundbreaking concept to grow high-value crops using seawater and sunlight as main resources originates from Sundrop Farms, which began testing its integrated system at a small scale in 2010. The company’s positive operational experience from its pilot plant encouraged the large-scale application of the technology, expanding operations to 200,000 m2 with the aim to produce over 15,000 t of fresh vegetables annually for Australian consumers.

The state-of-the-art system is based on CSP tower technology and it will be capable of heating the greenhouse in wintertime and on cold summer nights, to provide fresh water by desalinating seawater drawn from the nearby Spencer Gulf, and to periodically run a steam turbine to produce electricity.

aalborg_csp_australia2The integrated energy system will stretch over 140,000 m2. As a first phase of the construction, Aalborg CSP, turnkey supplier of the solar plant and the power-block, has commenced installation of the solar field with the aim to set up more than 23,000 heliostats delivered by California-based company eSolar. Within a few months, the heliostats will occupy 51,500 m2 of the total area. The heliostats will collect the sun’s rays and reflect them onto the top of a 116 m high solar tower. The collected solar energy will be converted to steam which will then be used for multiple purposes, including seawater desalination, heating and electricity production.

Once commissioned in the second half of 2016, the integrated energy system will prove a new platform to address major global energy challenges. Besides offering a cost-competitive alternative to conventional energy technologies, the system will contribute to a greener future as it avoids the emission of at least 14,700 t of CO2 annually.

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Endesa has purchased 333 GWh of solar energy in the auction market for the last quarter of the year, equivalent to an installed capacity of 1,200 MW of photovoltaic energy producers. The auction, in which orders for a total of 12 participants were crossed, was held on 29 September between 11:30 am and 12:51 pm and was fully covered in the third round at a final price of 51.94 €/MWh.

In July Endesa announced that it was going to encourage quarterly auctions to be held, which have been organised and supervised by OMIP, the independent Iberian Energy Derivatives Exchange, in which Endesa would represent the sole end purchaser of the power up to a maximum of 500 GWh (depending on the solar production of each period according to the time of the year). Accordingly, forward-type financial contracts have been established based on the index published by OMIP, the SPEL Solar index, which received the approval of the Portuguese financial regulator CMVM, the Portuguese Securities Market Commission on 17 September of this year.

Javier Alonso Pérez, Head of Trading at Endesa, is of the opinion that “the success of this auction confirms the interest of solar producers in the development of financial products that are capable of reducing the volatility of their income”.

Until now, the wholesale forward market had not offered the financial risk management tools in a transparent, reliable and competitive environment, required to meet the specific profile of solar production. This is therefore the financial market’s first solar energy auction which also enables the creation of a specific index for solar products (SPEL Solar), the first in Europe which will also serve as a reference to analyse the progress and behaviour of this technology in the financial markets.

The contracts designed by OMIP and OMIClear are included in the MIBEL Derivative Market Portfolio of products, with OMIClear assuming the role of central counterparty responsible for the entire risk management and payments.

This is a new mechanism on the financial market at an international level, as it is a product designed specifically for producing renewable energies, in this case photovoltaic energy, applicable also to CSP energy.

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Last year was a breakthrough year for solar in the Middle East with over 30 solar projects awarded – a ten-fold increase on 2013, according to The Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA). MESIA also predicts that in 2015, more than 1,500 MW worth of solar projects will be tendered to meet the rising electricity demands set by the region’s population, which is estimated to continue growing by approximately 1.9 percent year-on-year. Accelerating the growth of solar is the continued development of innovative technologies and services that are further driving down the cost of solar systems, offering the rapidly growing regions of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) a valuable and economically viable energy alternative to conventional fossil fuels.

Solar gains ground

Over the last decade the MENA region has really started to harness the abundant natural energy resource which it possesses – the sun. The popularity of solar energy across MENA is largely driven from the UAE. Dubai has awarded a 200 MW Solar PV power plant, introduced solar powered ‘palm trees’ as well as the Dubai Rooftop Solar program, and has increased its target threefold, upping solar’s target contribution to the energy mix from 5 percent to 15 percent, which means it will have 3,000 MW of solar power by 2030.

Meanwhile, last year Jordan awarded 12 solar projects, the most inany country in the region in 2014. Although it traditionally relies on fossil fuel imports to meet around 95 percent of its energy demand, the recent social unrest in the region has highlighted the risks with being over-reliant on a single energy source. To address this, last year, Jordan’s energy minister announced that several renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 1,800 MW will be connected to its national power grid by the end of 2018.

Morocco has the most ambitious clean energy target in the MENA region and is on track to have 42 percent of its installed energy capacity dedicated to renewable sources by 2020. Of that, 2,000 MW will come from solar. Furthermore, the Moroccan Institute for Research on Solar Energy and New Energy (IRESEN) last year financed six R&D solar thermal and CSP projects to drive technological advancements in the country. Last but by no means least, Egypt has also set its sights on solar, with a target of 2.3 GW of solar by 2017.

The solar opportunities and challenges in MENA

This continued drive towards solar, following the reduction in the cost of solar systems, has resulted in it being competitive with the wholesale price of electricity in many regions. The Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) recently secured a 25-year electricity tariff of roughly $0.06 per kilowatt hour for a 200 MW solar PV power plant. This ground-breaking cost reduction has led solar to become one of the most competitive energy sources in the region and the IEA estimates that solar will become the cheapest form of electricity between 2025 and 2030. The implementation of solar projects throughout the region is also helping to reduce carbon emissions, which, have grown so rapidly in the last decade that the average person in MENA is set to emit more emissions than the average person globally by the end of this year.GE-Solar-Power-Growth-Infographic_FINAL_v2_2

However, there are three key challenges which further technology innovations can help overcome:

Extreme environment

Temperatures of up to 53 degrees Celsius pose a number of technical challenges for solar power which could put a cap in growth if not addressed. And, as solar farms are usually located in remote areas of desert, with no shade or protection from the sun, with high levels of heat, dust and humidity, equipment must be designed to deal with these conditions for a sustained period of time. Liquid cooling of inverters can ensure they can withstand the heat and extreme conditions necessary. Additionally, IP65 rated equipment provides a completely sealed enclosure with no additional housing and air-conditioning required. These innovations enable the equipment to last under extreme conditions and make them perfect for hot, arid desert regions enabling a stable power delivery for an optimal financial performance.

Stabilizing solar on the grid

While solar is playing an increasing role in power supply, it cannot be relied upon completely due to its intermittent nature. Energy Storage solutions are still very expensive to resolve this issue. Batteries have become the holy grail not only for the solar power industry but for many other industries as well.

Further innovations around solar including Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) for example, can play a key role alongside more traditional methods such as oil and gas, in stabilising the grid. By concentrating the heat of the sun into a far smaller focal point, such as a boiler, this heat can be stored for later. With heat building up throughout the day, this provides an ideal energy source for when the sun is no longer shining, with the boiler driving a steam turbine to produce electricity onto the grid once PV output significantly reduces. Having reliable CSP systems which can be monitored remotely, while ensuring high reliability in harsh environmental conditions, is critical to the further growth of solar and in providing greater grid stability.

Further reducing the cost of solar power in the region

Throughout much of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), electricity and water prices are highly subsidised by governments. Abu Dhabi alone spent Dh17.5 billion last year on subsidising the cost of electricity and water. In Saudi Arabia, the government is burning nearly 900,000 barrels of oil a month in the summer of 2014 to meet high demand of electricity, which is then sold at a fraction of the cost. Now that oil revenue has dropped with the fall in oil prices, these subsidies are making a dent in government budgets. Dubai was the first to adopt cost-reflective pricing policies, and others will follow. This will push up the price of electricity and make solar, which is not subsidised, more attractive.

Despite solar power becoming competitive with the wholesale price of electricity in many regions across MENA, additional cost reductions are needed to make solar electricity fully competitive against conventional power sources in the long term. The opportunity of improving PV system costs via voltage increases on the DC side has already been successfully applied worldwide with the move from 600 VDC to 1,000 VDC large scale PV systems. Today, new developments at GE has created a shift towards 1,500 VDC architecture and this is widely seen as the next natural step in the evolution of utility scale PV power plants, further tapping into the cost reduction opportunity. By increasing the voltage level, the inverter power station’s power rating increases proportionally and thus decreases system losses and balance of plant costs. In addition, GE’s LV5 inverters have the latest software controls ensuring optimized power harvesting and a smooth integration of power produced into the grid.

While many countries are recognising the economic viability of solar, resolving technological issues is key to unlocking the role of solar in the global energy mix and driving it to parity with traditional energy sources.

Inspire blog by Hani Majzoub

 

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The SolarPACES conference is the main annual event that offers an opportunity for researchers, developers, political and financial stakeholders to join and learn about current progress in R&D and market and project developments worldwide in Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). It offers therefore a unique view on the current situation and future perspectives in this area. It’s 21st edition is the first time it is held in South Africa organized by SolarPACES and supported by many local and international stakeholders in this area. SolarPACES (Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems) is an international network of countries designating their experts in Concentrating Solar Power which is managed under the umbrella of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The conference gathers typically around 700 particpants from more than 40 countries in the world, among them a high share of young and senior researchers in this field presenting their latest results, as well as representatives from the industrial sector (companies, utilities, project developers) as well as members from government agencies and ministries. They will contribute to a program of around 200 oral technical presentations, 150 posters and about 30 plenary lectures. Plese find all related information on SolarPACES2015.

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The Obama Administration is committed to addressing climate change, promoting clean energy, and creating good paying jobs. That is why the Administration is announcing a new initiative to increase access to solar energy for all Americans, in particular low- and moderate- income communities.

Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent. The executive actions and private sector commitments that we are announcing today will help continue to scale up solar for all Americans, including those who are renters, lack the startup capital to invest in solar, or do not have adequate information on how to transition to solar energy. The key components of the initiative that the Administration is announcing today are:

• Launching a National Community Solar Partnership to unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and business that are renters or do not have adequate roof space to install solar systems, including issuing a guide to Support States In Developing Community Solar Programs.
• Setting a goal to install 300 MW of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing and providing technical assistance to make it easier to install solar, including clarifying how to use Federal funding.
• Housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 20 states across the country are committing to put in place more than 260 solar energy projects, including projects to help low- and moderate- income communities save on their energy bills and further community solar.
• More than $520 million in independent commitments from philanthropic and impact investors, states, and cities to advance community solar and scale up solar and energy efficiency for low- and moderate- income households.

Dan Utech, Asesor de Obama en materia de Energía y Cambio Climático
Dan Utech , Obama´s Deputy Assistant for Energy and Climate Change

To continue enhancing employment opportunities for all Americans in the solar industry, the Administration is announcing the following executive actions and private sector commitments, including:

• AmeriCorps funding to deploy solar and create jobs in underserved communities.
• Expanding solar energy education and opportunities for job training.
• The solar industry is also setting its own, independent goal of becoming the most diverse sector of the U.S. energy industry, and a number of companies are announcing that they are taking steps to build a more inclusive solar workforce.

These new actions build on President Obama’s goal to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020 and the Solar Ready Vets program that will train transitioning military personnel for careers in the solar industry at 10 military bases.

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The Fraunhofer Chile Research Center for Solar Energy Technologies (FCR-CSET) was inaugurated this morning in the presence of the Undersecretary of Energy, Jimena Jara and the Executive Vice President of Corfo, Eduardo Bitran as well as the Executive Director of Fraunhofer Chile Research, Wolfgang Schuch, the Director of the new Center, Andreas Haeberle and the Director of Fraunhofer ISE, Prof. Eicke Weber.

The aim of this research center is to support the development of a solar industry in Chile, both in the areas of solar electricity generation, solar heat generation for use in industry and solar treatment of water.

The activities will be developed in close working relationship with the Fraunhofer Institute ISE, the main center for solar energy research in Europe. Its director, Prof. Dr. Eicke Weber said that “Chile offers ideal climatic conditions combined with a challenging environment for solar research. Our intention is to combine this potential with the know-how and network of all partners, including Fraunhofer Institutes, in order to promote photovoltaic, solar thermal and further technologies needed for the transformation of the energy system to sustainability, and to help implement those in Chile.”

“We are very happy to support the activities of CSET and we will follow with much interest their results. We hope they will contribute not only to the development of the renewable energies in Chile, but also to the emerge of an industry that can conduce our country to a solar economy”, highlighted the undersecretary of Energy, Jimena Jara.

FCR-CSET is supported by the “Attracting International Centres of Excellence in R & D” program of Corfo, which will provide US$ 12 million over eight years in support. It also has as a co-executor the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and has a MOU agreement with SERC Chile (Chilean Solar Energy Research Center).

The Director of FCR-CSET, Andreas Haeberle notes that there are currently 14 researchers in the Center who supply support to local industries. He expects this number reach 25 by the end of this year. “Among the major projects on which we are working, are the development and implementation of quality certifications for solar projects that ensure standards of projects being built in the country”

He adds that test equipment is being installed at the Plataforma Solar of Atacama Desert. “We want to develop and test technologies that suit the particular weather and high radiation conditions in northern Chile. This know-how  can be used to export expertise to other countries.”

FCR-CSET began operations in February this year and currently has six research and development contracts with industry. “The opportunity by FCR-CSET to contribute to a strategic goal in the energy sector in Chile, bring us closer to the role played by the 66 institutes that Fraunhofer Gesellschaft has in Germany which is based on its close collaboration with industry by developing new products and services”, comments the Executive Director of FCR, Wolfgang Schuch.

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The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and Japan’s Gifu University have joined forces to collaborate closely in energy research. Projects will focus on the intelligent int egration of photovoltaics into the grid, production forecasts, and green power-to-gas (P2G®) energy storage.

The idea behind this partnership in s cience is to accelerate the technology transfer in both countries, thereby helping to reshape the energy landscape after Fukushima. The new coalition is built on solid ground: Both partners conduct research in the same fields and their skill-sets are a good match. The agreement to cooperate was reached in late March during a visit in Japan.

The Gifu Prefecture on the main island of Honshu and the state of Baden-Württemberg have long nurtured their political and economic ties. This relationship is now to be carried over into energy research, where the two countries have much to learn from each other. “We are very pleased to be partnering with Gifu University’s Center for Next Generation Energy,” says Prof. Frithjof Staiß, Managing Director at ZSW. “This collaboration makes it easier to share experiences and creates better conditions for an efficient transfer of research results into the marketplace.”

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SolarCity has created a fund expected to finance $750 million in residential solar projects with an investment from Google. The new fund will cover the upfront cost of solar panel installations for thousands of homeowners in 14 states and the District of Columbia, USA, and make it possible for them to pay less for solar power than they pay for electricity generated by fossil fuels.

“We’re happy to support SolarCity’s mission to help families reduce their carbon footprint and energy costs,” said Sidd Mundra, Renewable Energy Principal at Google. “It’s good for the environment, good for families and also makes good business sense.”

Google has committed $300 million to the new fund—its largest renewable energy investment to date. The new fund is the largest of its kind ever created for residential solar power, and the second such collaboration between the two companies.

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