Wind Turbines to See ‘Unprecedented’ Growth in Size and Capacity

Offshore turbine capacity will increase by orders of magnitude, finds a new report from MAKE Consulting.


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Onshore wind turbine size and capacity is on track to continue increasing at a steady pace, while offshore equipment will grow in leaps and jumps in the coming years, according to a recent note from MAKE Consulting on the future of wind turbine technologies.

“It’s actually a gradual shift onshore because markets are moving from 3 to 4 [megawatts],” said MAKE technology consultant and lead author Shashi Barla. “However, offshore turbine sizes are much bigger.”

Offshore, 6-megawatt turbines are now giving way to 7 megawatts. But Barla said next generation turbines will fall between 12 and 15 megawatts with rotors at 200 to 260 meters. “That’s an unprecedented size,” he said. GE has already announced its 12-megawatt Haliade-X. Top manufacturers like Siemens Gamesa and Vestas will likely follow.

At the same time, Barla said “product lifecycles are getting shorter,” with bigger machines coming into the market more quickly.

But how fast turbines grow will depend heavily on regional markets.

In the U.S. that means 2-megawatt and 3-megawatt machines will remain the norm in onshore projects up through 2020, each accounting for a quarter of new production introductions through 2022.

With the production tax credit phasedown, manufacturers will move towards 4-megawatt turbines to improve project economics.

Europe’s market already favors slightly larger turbines because of land constraints. But the region will also experience the transition towards higher-megawatt turbines as incentives end and auctions for merchant market power purchase agreements favor larger equipment with lower levelized costs of energy.

“You’re not competing with subsidies anymore,” said Barla.

Uptake of higher capacity turbines will be more delayed in countries such as China and India in the APAC market. Barla said auctions this year in China will push it towards 3-megawatt turbines with large rotors, while India will transition in the next three to four years.

The APAC market will actually be the largest in capacity, with 186.1 gigawatts. But through the end of 2023 MAKE expects 2-megawatt turbines to dominate.

Europe altogether will have the greatest reliance on large turbines with 3-megawatt and 4-megawatt models making up nearly 100 percent of the market by the end of 2023.

MAKE forecasts that the EMEARC market, which includes Europe and its advanced wind market, will be the only location where 5-megawatt turbines have a noticeable impact, accounting for 38 percent of new products through 2022.

In the offshore segment, U.S. demand is picking up, but technology innovation in Europe will drive development in that market as well as in Asia and the Pacific. Europe’s more mature market is seeing faster development of turbines that cross the 6 and 8-megawatt threshold — and even topping 10 megawatts past 2020.

“In the U.S. you can bypass this shift,” said Barla. “Whether it’s current offshore tech or future offshore tech, it’s primarily coming from the European market.”

Siemens Gamesa, Vestas, and GE will all continue to build 2-megawatt machines for use in the U.S. and India.

MAKE notes that Vestas will increase its production and expand its supply chain of 3-megawatt and 4-megawatt turbines in time with the longer PTC cycle in the U.S. and to get the edge on post-2020 growth.

In all regions, Barla said Siemens Gamesa, GE and Vestas “will be well positioned for future growth.”


Sweden To Reach Its 2030 Renewable Energy Target This Year



Stockholm — Swedish utilities and power generators have already installed so many wind turbines that the Nordic nation is on course to reach its 2030 renewable energy target late this year.

By December, Sweden will have 3,681 wind turbines installed, lobby group Swedish Wind Energy Association estimates. Together with second-half investment decisions, this will be more than enough capacity to meet a target to add 18 terawatt-hours of new, renewable energy output by the end of next decade. Some new plants will be built by Norway, with which Sweden shares a renewable certificates market.

The surge in new installations and investment decisions has become a concern for existing power producers, who rely on subsidies to make their projects financially viable. Forward prices in the renewable certificate market are 70% lower for 2021 than a year earlier because of all the new installations.

“For Sweden to remain interesting for investors ahead of markets with higher revenues but greater political risks, it is important for policy makers to show that they care about past investments,” Mattias Wondollek, a spokesman for Swedish Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “This is done best by introducing a volume-based stop rule.”

Such a rule would mean that once the 2030 target is reached, new investors would not be able to get subsidies.

Final investment decisions for as many as 840MW were taken in the second quarter, according to the lobby group estimates and a total of 7,506MW of wind capacity will be installed by December.

Most of the new capacity will be on land. A total of 2,609MW of on-shore wind capacity will be added in 2018 and 2019, according to the latest forecast from the lobby group. This compares with 970MW for the same period in the report a year earlier.


The Diesel-Addicted Mining Industry is Finally Embracing Renewable Energy

With diesel prices rising in tandem with oil prices, the quest for sustainability has pushed many companies to look closely at their energy usage

Goldcorp’s Borden gold mine is going all-electric.Handout/Goldcorp

By: Gabriel Friedman

About a 10-hour drive northwest of Toronto, in an area with no history of mining and little exploration, Goldcorp Inc. is tunneling a hole, currently at least 120 meters below the pine tree forests and lakes that dot the surface, for what it hopes will be one of its most sustainable mines yet.

Borden, as the mine is to be called when it starts producing in 2019, will be modest in size at about 250,000 ounces of gold per year under current estimates.

But Goldcorp harbours big ambitions to make it the first all-electric underground mine in Canada where everything from the trucks that haul ore, to the ventilation system that provides oxygen to its subterranean workers, run off energy taken from the electrical grid.

All mines are finite projects, making them in one sense, unsustainable. Still, in an era when countries around the world have pledged to curb carbon emissions, many mining companies are citing “sustainability” as a core value and are making strides to limit their environmental impact.

Barrick Gold, Endeavour Silver Corp. and other companies released reports in the past month that sought to measure their “sustainability” by looking at the impacts to the environmental impacts, community relations, safety records and other metrics.

With diesel prices rising in tandem with oil prices, the quest for sustainability also has pushed many companies to look closely at their energy usage.

“It’s not just necessarily because of the environment,” said Brent Bergeron, Goldcorp’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and sustainability. “There’s very interesting financial benefits we can get by actually becoming smarter about how we produce and use power generation at our sites.”

In choosing a mine to experiment with how to wean itself off diesel, the Borden project made sense, he said, because of its small size and its location in Ontario, where a cap and trade program came into effect earlier this year. The program sets a limit on a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, above which they need to purchase credits at auctions.

Although electricity is expensive in Ontario, Bergeron said there is access to renewable energy sources such as hydro which will lower the company’s carbon footprint.

Inside the mine itself, it is also using electric-powered 40-ton haul trucks, he said.

“Those trucks don’t exist yet,” Bergeron said, adding that the company urged the supplier to build them or else the company would find a different supplier that could build them. 

There are also obvious benefits to switching to the grid. By using electricity for its air ventilation system, Goldcorp stopped spewing diesel particulate into the air it must keep clean for its workers, he said.

“I think that what you’re seeing today is mining companies trying to really push the sustainability side of what we’re doing,” said Bergeron, “but also look at it from the point of view of these technologies do exist, they have been proven, so let’s try and get them into some of our projects.”

Other companies cited additional benefits of moving their mines off diesel and onto the grid completely unrelated to the environment.

Pan American Silver Corp., which recently released a report on its sustainability, built a 98-kilometre powerline to connect its open pit silver gold Dolores mine in Mexico to the national power grid.

Constructed in late 2016 at a cost of $20 million, it has resulted in savings of about $9 million per year, according to spokeswoman Siren Fisekci.

Located in an area of Mexico that has been riven by violence, possibly linked to drug cartels, last month, the mine temporarily closed after a decapitated body was found on a road near the mine.

“When we bring supplies in there, you’re looking at 120 to 140 kilometre road to bring them in there,” said Fisekci, who added that the powerline allows the mine to operate regardless of conditions on the road.

Some mining companies say energy accounts for 10 per cent of operating costs at a mine, which is inducement enough to look for savings through renewable energy or otherwise.

Meanwhile, on another continent, amidst the dusty, semi-arid landscape of northern Namibia in southern Africa, executives from Vancouver-based B2Gold Corp. stood with local dignitaries in early June to ring in the opening of a seven megawatt solar panel plant it built to help power its nearby open pit gold mine.

Built at a cost of $8.5 million, it is expected to help the company save about 13 per cent on its energy usage at the open pit per year — about $16.5 million over the next decade or so, according to the company.

Bill Lytle, senior vice president of operations for B2Gold, acknowledged that the open pit mine would “scar the earth,” but also noted that the mine had an estimated lifespan of about 10 years, depending on whether there is future exploration and other factors. Regardless, at the end of the mine life, the plan is to fill the pit with water and make it into a lake, then convert the surrounding area into a nature reserve, he said.

Meanwhile, the solar plant has a lifespan of 25 years, meaning it could outlast the mine.

“I think all mining companies will tell you to some degree they’re doing some sort of sustainability,” said Lytle. “It is a requirement to maintain your social license to operate.”


HDB Looking At Expanding Use of Floating System for Solar Panels in Open Sea

Solar panels at Punggol Edge, where the pilot for solar-ready roofs began. The Housing Board announced that it will be signing a research collaboration with a landscaping firm in the coming week for the study and development of a floating solar system for coastal marine conditions.PHOTO: HDB

By: Audrey Tan

SINGAPORE – In land-scarce Singapore, the quest to harvest more energy from the sun will soon go one step further.

The Housing Board (HDB) – one of the agencies leading the nation’s efforts to ramp up solar energy use – is setting its sights on a novel area of research: the sea.

On Sunday (July 8), HDB announced that it will be signing a research collaboration with a landscaping firm in the coming week for the study and development of a floating solar system for coastal marine conditions.

The study, said HDB, would see how its floating system can withstand harsher environmental conditions in the sea, such as stronger winds and wave action.

HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said that over the past decade, the agency has been spearheading solar initiatives and accelerating solar adoption in Singapore.

For example, solar panels have been installed or are being fitted in more than 2,400 HDB blocks across Singapore. By 2020, about 5,500 HDB blocks will be fitted with or identified for solar installation.

The energy generated by these panels usually go to common services such as lifts, water pumps and lighting for common areas.

More than 95 per cent of Singapore’s grid energy comes from the burning of natural gas.

Though natural gas is considered the cleanest form of fossil fuel, its combustion still contributes to the production of greenhouse gases.

Renewable energy from the sun, however, would reduce Singapore’s reliance on fossil fuels. Its use is also in line with the Republic’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But considering Singapore’s small land area, there is a limit to how much renewable energy from the sun can be harvested from solar panels installed on land.

“One way to further harvest Singapore’s solar energy is to look beyond the sky to the sea. This is a practical approach, considering Singapore’s land constraints,” Dr Cheong said.

HDB’s floating modular system, first tested in 2011 at a man-made waterway in Punggol to hold wetland plants, was subsequently deployed to hold solar panels at a solar panel test bed in Tengeh Reservoir in Tuas in May this year.

The latest research agreement, which HDB will sign with ISO Landscape during the World Cities Summit, a sustainability conference this week, will look at how the HDB-designed floating modular system can hold solar panels in open sea conditions.

Said Dr Cheong: “HDB will further collaborate with industry partners to explore how best we can expand the use of our system in open sea conditions for solar deployment.”

Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris), said that Singapore has, in theory, a few areas where off-shore floating solar systems would be possible.

“The locations should have the right balance between the distance from the main island, to avoid lengthy submarine cable connections, and other marine uses, such as recreational activities, protected marine life areas or shipping routes,” he told The Straits Times, although he said it was too early to point out specific locations.

He added that other than wave action, greater currents and the corrosiveness of salt water, another important factor to consider during the study would be biofouling – the growth of marine organisms such as barnacles – on floats.

“Singapore has some of the richest waters and a vibrant marine life, hence the growth of barnacles and other marine life on the floats has to be considered during design and operation. Also, soiling from birds could be an issue, which has been observed in near-coastal floating solar installations such as the Singapore test bed and systems in the United Kingdom,” said Dr Reindl.

While HDB’s announcement represented Singapore’s first official foray into testing solar panels on the sea, there are other ongoing research projects studying the use of solar panels in inland water bodies such as reservoirs.

The Tengeh Reservoir test bed, for example, is being used to study the performance and cost-effectiveness of 10 different solar photovoltaic systems, including the one using HDB’s engineering system.

Separately, national water agency PUB is also doing studies on how solar panels can be added to four reservoirs here to power its energy-intensive water treatment processes.

Said Dr Reindl: “Off-shore floating photovoltaic (solar) systems have great potential for Singapore. Theoretically, there could be solar installations deployed on nearby waters and it could help to speed up the deployment of solar PV in the city state. Singapore could set a trend in that area and become one of the largest adopters of such innovative technology worldwide.”


Bacteria-Powered Solar Cell Converts Light to Energy, Even Under Overcast Skies

Using bacteria that convert light to energy could be a step toward wider adoption of solar power in places where overcast skies are common. Credit: © FotoAndalucia / Fotolia

University of British Columbia researchers have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light to energy.

Their cell generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device, and worked as efficiently in dim light as in bright light.

This innovation could be a step toward wider adoption of solar power in places like British Columbia and parts of northern Europe where overcast skies are common. With further development, these solar cells — called “biogenic” because they are made of living organisms — could become as efficient as the synthetic cells used in conventional solar panels.

“Our solution to a uniquely B.C. problem is a significant step toward making solar energy more economical,” said Vikramaditya Yadav, a professor in UBC’s department of chemical and biological engineering who led the project.

Solar cells are the building blocks of solar panels. They do the work of converting light into electrical current. Previous efforts to build biogenic solar cells have focused on extracting the natural dye that bacteria use for photosynthesis. It’s a costly and complex process that involves toxic solvents and can cause the dye to degrade.

The UBC researchers’ solution was to leave the dye in the bacteria. They genetically engineered E. coli to produce large amounts of lycopene — a dye that gives tomatoes their red-orange colour and is particularly effective at harvesting light for conversion to energy. The researchers coated the bacteria with a mineral that could act as a semiconductor, and applied the mixture to a glass surface.

With the coated glass acting as an anode at one end of their cell, they generated a current density of 0.686 milliamps per square centimetre — an improvement on the 0.362 achieved by others in the field.

“We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell,” said Yadav. “These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.”

The cost savings are difficult to estimate, but Yadav believes the process reduces the cost of dye production to about one-tenth of what it would be otherwise. The holy grail, Yadav said, would be finding a process that doesn’t kill the bacteria, so they can produce dye indefinitely.

He added that there are other potential applications for these biogenic materials in mining, deep-sea exploration and other low-light environments.