The German government has announced the most severe cuts in solar subsidies (20-29 per cent) since 2004. The move comes after the country witnessed a massive expansion in solar power production capacity in 2011 and the associated costs for consumers, who had to pay above-market rates for renewable energy. The government now hopes to contain new capacity to between 2.5-3.5 GW this year and next year, down from 7.5 GW in 2011. From 2014, it is targeting a yearly reduction of 400 MW and from 2017 between 900 MW and 1,900 MW. Germany is not alone in its efforts to contain costs for supporting the solar power industry: France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are also reducing their subsidies to align with falling solar panel prices and control the explosive growth. In Germany, solar prices plunged more than 45 per cent last year, largely due to rising Chinese competition.
Berlin-based Germany Trade & Invest, the economic development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, confirms Chinese companies are building factories in Germany. Citing an example, the agency mentioned that Chinese subsidiary Jade Werke will begin production of steel fundaments for offshore wind parks in Germany as early as 2013. The company is investing €50 million in a production plant in Wilhelmshaven, with construction planned to begin this summer.
According to the agency, last year, Germany installed 2,007 MW of wind energy capacity, bringing its total capacity to 29 GW. It added that the 30% growth of new installations still comes primarily from the onshore segment, but offshore wind will account for a growing share in the coming years.
This year alone, construction is expected to begin on six new offshore parks totaling 1,660 MW capacity along Germany’s North Sea and Baltic Sea coastlines. Growth rates in the onshore segment were strong last year, the policy framework has been improved, and the offshore market ready to take off, said Anne Braeutigam, wind energy expert at Berlin-based Germany Trade & Invest.
German wind turbine maker Nordex is to discontinue its efforts to develop offshore turbines. The development emerged as the group terminated plans to transfer its entire offshore activities to a joint venture. Nordex was not able to agree with the negotiating partner on a concept for the continuation of the activities in a joint venture. Nordex disclosed its intention to seek an industrial partner for this business in Summer 2011.
Going forward, the goal is to strengthen the development of onshore turbines. Nordex plans to sell the assets of the offshore business to other interested parties in the short to medium-term. The business unit “Offshore” will be discontinued. The employees of the unit will be assigned to other Nordex business units.
The concentrating solar power (CSP) market is set to rise once again in 2012 and grow further in the next five years, according to new research from SBI Energy. The global capacity of utility-scale CSP was 2 GW at the close of 2011 with approximately another 2,500 to 3,500 MW expected to become operational in 2012. SBI Energy estimates the cost of the installed base of CSP at the end of 2011 at $9.5 billion with power tower technology increasing its market share. Whereas parabolic trough currently holds 93 per cent of the installed base value, by 2015, that percentage is forecast to drop to 70 per cent as power tower, also called central receiving station technology, becomes more common. The report also states that new development and construction activities will intensify in 2012 in Australia, India, and China.
Danish energy company Dong Energy has gained full consent to test two next generation offshore wind turbines at its Gunfleet Sands site in South East England. The two Siemens 6 MW machines will be installed at Dong’s Gunfleet Sands 3 demonstration project. It is the first time that the Siemens 6 MW turbine will be tested offshore. Referring to the demonstration project, Morten Buchgreitz, deputy CEO of Dong Energy Wind Power, mentioned that the company is going to be the first company to this new Siemens machine. The Gunfleet Sands 3 demonstration project is located 8.5 km south east of Clacton on Sea. Buchgreitz also highlighted that the Round 3 projects in the UK are in deeper waters and will have a much bigger capacity than existing wind farms, requiring the technology to increase in capacity.
The new turbines will be installed by November this year with construction starting in May, and will be connected through a dedicated export cable. Dong plans to verify turbine performance, reliability and functionality. A prototype of the 6 MW turbine is also being tested at an onshore test centre at Hovsore, Denmark.
Energy generation from tidal power is poised to experience a boom that will see the marine and hydrokinetic market’s generation capacity increase from 760 MW to 5.5 GW in just five years, according to Pike Research. “Our research shows that tidal energy is shaping up to be the lower cost option as compared to wave, and therefore the closest to large-scale deployment,” said research analyst Dexter Gauntlett. The research states that by 2017 worldwide tidal capacity will reach 2.4 GW with the top-producing countries being South Korea (750 MW), the United Kingdom (529 MW) and Canada (300 MW), followed by India, China, New Zealand (200 MW each) and Australia (100 MW).