Monthly Archives: January 2013

Greentech News for the week ending 27 Jan 2013

A round-up of greentech news from around the globe

UK scientists announced plans to mimic photosynthesis as a way to make more efficient biofuel.

Sweedish furniture retailer Ikea announced plans to invest $4bn in renewable energy as a way of keeping costs down.

German car manufacturer VW turned on a 9.5MW solar power plant at it’s Tennessee manufacturing plant.

The UK and Ireland signed an agreement for Irish windfarms to support power directly to Britain’s national grid.

Construction started at the world’s largest windfarm at Dogger Bank off the British coast.

And finally a UK supermarket has announced that frozen burgers withdrawn from sale after they were found to contain horse meat will be sent to anaerobic digestion plants to be converted into fuel.

The 5 largest UK wind farms

The UK is the largest producer of offshore wind power. The Greater Gabbard wind farm off the Suffolk coast is the world’s largest offshore wind farm

The 5 largest operational wind farms in the UK are:

Name Onshore/Offshore Power (MW) Number of Turbines Owner(s)
Greater Gabbard Offshore 504 140 Scottish and Southern,
RWE Npower Renewables
Walney Offshore 367 102 Scottish and Southern
Clyde Onshore 350 152 Scottish and Southern
Whitelee  Onshore 322 140 ScottishPower Renewables
Sheringham Shoal Offshore 317 88 Statoil and Statkraft

A number of much larger wind farms are currently under construction including the 1GW London Array and the 576MW Gwynt y Môr. By 2020 the UK is forecast to have in excess of 28GW of wind power capacity.

Innovative developments in wind power

Wind power as a source of electricity generation suffers from being a very volatile means of production. When a strong wind is blowing too much electricity is produced. When no wind blows no electricity is produced. This makes it very difficult for utility providers to build their electricity supply networks around wind.

Recently two solutions have been proposed to smooth the supply of electricity. Both proposals work by storing the excess energy and releasing it when required.

Apple have filed a patent for a wind turbine that uses mechanical power to produce heat rather than electricity. Heat energy is easier to store for long periods than electrical energy. The heat is then used to generate steam and turn turbines to produce electricity.

The Belgium government have announced doughnut shaped island with a reservoir in the middle to store wind power. Excess energy would be used to pump the water out of the reservoir. When additional electricity was required the water would be allowed to flow back into the reservoir through turbines.

Both of these solutions could potentially be used to store energy from solar power plants which also suffer from volatile supply patterns. The idea of pumping water as a store of excess energy could be exploited in many similar ways. Pumping water uphill to a reservoir maybe more easily achieved than the doughnut shaped island.

Big names investing in greentech

We are not even at the end of January and already 2013 has seen some big names investing in the greentech sector. They don’t come much bigger than Google who have invested $200m in an American windfarm.

Not to be out done by their corporate rival Apple have reportedly filed a patent for a wind turbine that generates electricity from stored heat. Converting wind energy into heat and then producing electricity over a period of time overcomes the problem of not having any electricity when the wind isn’t blowing.

These investments follow closely on from the purchase of two solar power plants for up to $2.5 bn by Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy and the Saudi government’s announcement of $100 bn of solar investments over the next ten years.


Saudi Arabia invests in solar power

Saudi Arabia is well known for it’s enormous oil reserves and the wealth that they have brought the country. However the kingdom has recently announced a $100bn investment in solar power plants to be built over the next 20 years.

The first of these projects is due to start feed electricity into the national grid by 2015 and by 2020 the Saudi’s expect to be producing over 30% of their energy needs from solar power. A combination of Solar PV plants and solar thermal plants will be used to produce the required 41,000 MW of electricity.

2013 looking positive for Greentech industry

2013 is shaping up to be a tipping point for Greentech investments.

We previously predicted that the second half of 2013 would see a rush of Greentech IPOs come to market. Buoyed by an improving world economy and positive sentiment around the Greentech sector in particular. We have not seen anything in the first week of the year to make us doubt this prediction. The only factor that may require revision is the timing. Going by the current positive sentiment in the market it is possible that there may be some significant IPO activity around the middle of the year.

The extension of the wind energy tax credits as part of the fiscal cliff deal last week ensured that construction of wind plants across the US can continue. The American Wind Energy Association claims that move will save 37,000 jobs.

MidAmerican Energy is expected to make further additions to it’s renewable energy portfolio in 2013. The Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary has already acquired the 579 MW SunPower Corp for $2.0m – $2.5m and we expect further acquisitions during the year.

MidAmerican buys solar plants

Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy has announced that it will buying two Californian solar power plants for between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.

The projects are currently still under construction and are due to be completed in 2015. When complete they will generate 579 MW of electricity.

MidAmerican launched its renewable power subsidiary last year. Since then it has acquired a substantial portfolio of wind, geothermal, solar and hydro power production.

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Avis Budget agree to buy Zipcar

American car rental giants Avis Budget have agreed to buy the car sharing network Zipcar for US $500m.

Zipcar the world’s largest car sharing network has over 750,000 members in the USA, Canada, the UK, Spain and Austria. Members are able to reserve cars up to a year in advance. Access to the car is automated using an access card or smarthone app.

In 2007 Zipcar merged with Flexcar in the US. Further expansion followed in 2010 when Zipcar aquired UK basd Streetcar. In 2012 Zipcar completed the integration of Avancar the largest car sharing network in Spain.

Our top 5 predictions for the Greentech sector in 2013

1)      An improving global economic climate in 2013 will see a rush of Greentech IPOs in the second half of the year.

2)      New entrants to the market and a return of the WTI crude oil price to over $100 a barrel will see increased interest in hybrid cars.

3)      Further technological developments in photovoltaic cells will see the cost of electricity from solar continue to fall. However parity with electricity from fossil fuels will not be achieved in 2013.

4)      Governments seeking to boost economic productivity will approve additional large scale wind farms as part of their strategy for meeting global carbon emissions targets.

5)      International airlines will continue to develop aviation bio fuels for commercial use. By the end of the year some airlines will be using a mixture of biofuel and traditional in scheduled flights.