Renewables eclipsed fossil fuels as the largest source of new power capacity added to US electrical grids in 2015, for the second year in a row. As much as 16GW of new clean energy was installed – equating to 68% of all new capacity. Wind farms took the largest chunk of the pie, with 8.5GW of new turbines installed, as developers sought to benefit from a federal tax credit set to expire at the end of 2016; subsequently extended by the US Congress for another five years last December.
In Europe, wind power leapfrogged hydropower to become the third-biggest source of electricity in the EU last year. Energy generated from wind turbines accounted for 44% of new generating capacity, compared to 21% from gas, 17.5% from coal and 15.5% from hydro. Germany installed 47% of the 12.8GW of new wind capacity, followed by Poland, France and the UK respectively, according to the European Wind Energy Association.
Europe’s offshore wind sector flourished last year, canceling out a dip in new onshore machines. In 2015, some $17bn was invested in utility-scale offshore wind projects in the region, compared to $10bn for onshore wind projects, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Making headlines last week was Dong Energy’s plan to build a 1.2GW offshore wind farm off the UK’s Yorkshire coast – expected to be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm once complete in 2020. The project cements Dong as the “world’s leading offshore wind developer”, and will have an “estimated capex of $5.7bn (EUR 5.2bn),” according to BNEF wind analysts.
In other wind-related news, Munich-based insurance company, Allianz, made its first step into tax-equity renewable energy transactions, with a tax equity investment in two EDF Renewable Energy wind farms in New Mexico, together with Bank of America. The purchase will allow the companies to apply the renewable energy credits to their own tax bills in the US.
Elsewhere, Vestas Wind Systems agreed to build the first 250-MW stage of the Quaid e Azam Wind Park in Pakistan, with a potential capacity of 1000MW. The Danish wind manufacturer will help Pakistan’s Punjab government obtain the $2.2bn needed to build four wind farms in the province. The nation currently relies heavily on hydroelectric and fossil-fuel power generation, and is looking to broaden its energy supply to help avoid energy shortages.
Across Pakistan’s border, Suzlon Energy has created 19.3m new shares to cover convertible bonds that were exchanged for equity, according to a filing on the National Stock Exchange. India’s largest wind-turbine manufacturer faced its sharpest five-day plunge in 16 months last week; Suzlon’s stock traded as low as 13.75 rupees on 3 February, falling below the threshold required to convert into equity $257m in bonds due in July 2019.
In other emerging-market news, Gunkul Engineering is the latest in a string of Thailand-based companies to expand its renewable-power generating capacity. Gunkul expects to more than triple its profit over the next three years through increasing investment in solar and wind power plants in Thailand and overseas, according to company CEO, Sopacha Dhumrongpiyawut.
Thailand’s power system will “transform dramatically over the next 25 years”, to a system dominated by zero-carbon energy sources at 55% and imported electricity, according to the BNEF Research Note: Thailand’s Power Transition. “Of the 67GW of new power capacity [in 2040], 39% will be solar PV, which will surge tenfold to 27.8GW by 2040 to account for 30% of total installed capacity,” the note says. The cost of solar PV and wind energy will become cost competitive with gas and coal generation within the next 10 to 15 years in Thailand, according to the research.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s government has approved the introduction of solar-power auctions, in an overhaul of its feed-in tariff program introduced in 2012. If approved by parliament, the revisions are expected to become effective from April 2017.
On the topic of Japanese auctions, a 500-kw solar plant in Horoshima prefecture was put up for auction on an internet site hosted by Yahoo Japan, in the first demonstration of internet auctions for solar plants in the country. West Energy Solutions, owner of the plant, and Yahoo Japan plan to hold similar auctions on a regular basis, according to a statement from West Energy.
Topping the list of “bankable” solar PV module brands were Trina Solar, Hanwha Q Cells, SunPower, First Solar and Canadian Solar, according to a global survey of non-recourse debt providers completed by BNEF, available in the Research Note: PV module bankability 2016: quality on the rise.