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.
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.
Solar industry in France continues to see a drop in the photovoltaic feed-in tariffs (FITs). The country’s regulator, CRE (Commission de Regulation de l’Energie) has announced that the tariffs for new installations connected in the first quarter 2012 will decrease by 4-10 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. The new remuneration will depend on the type of installation, up to 100 kW in size. Overall, more than ten different tariffs have been introduced. According to the industry organisation Enerplan, during 2011, the industry lost “half of the 25,000 jobs that had been created until then.”
Deserts of Southern Tunisia are preparing to witness a solar revolution as a group of renewable energy entrepreneurs, NUR Energie Ltd, and their Tunisian joint venture partner, Top Oilfield Services, get ready to develop the most ambitious solar power project in the country. After securing the endorsement of the Desertec Foundation, NUR Energie has launched the TuNur project to export up to 2,000 MW of solar energy from Tunisia to Italy via a high voltage direct current (HVDC) cable and into the Italian electricity grid. When completed, TuNur is set to be the world’s largest solar energy project. In order to not add to the desertification process, TuNur will make use of very little water and will recycle in a closed system the steam produced by the process of the array of mirrors reflecting sunlight to a tower storage unit, thereby turning the Sahara desert into a resource.
(picture from: http://www.nurenergie.com/ )
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Bank of Industry (BOI) are to invest about $4.48 million in renewable energy projects in the next three years to boost the productive capacities of micro-, small-, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria’s rural and urban areas.
Renewable energy projects involve the utilisation of wind, biomass, small hydro, and solar energy options to generate electricity. The Access to Renewable Energy (AtRE) project package unveiled in Abuja at the formal launch of the partnership, is expected to facilitate access to affordable and reliable energy supply alternatives independent of the current supply from the national grid, which has been a source of national concern in recent times.
Google Inc. and Citigroup Inc. are investing an additional $204 million to finance another phase of a California wind farm. The companies said that each will invest $102 million in Alta V, a 168-MW project. This is in addition to the combined $110 million in financing that the companies said they would put into the Alta Wind Energy Centre wind farm in California’s Tehachapi Mountains. In total, Alta will have a capacity of 1,550 MW, or enough to power 450,000 homes. This is nearly twice as much as the largest operating wind energy installation in the US.
Google has been investing hundreds of millions in wind energy as it seeks reliable new ways to power its massive data centres. The latest financing of the Alta farm brings the search engine’s total clean energy investments close to $780 million.
Google has also invested in solar energy. The company recently invested $280 million in partnership with SolarCity and has now entered the residential solar industry with its largest investment into the renewable energy industry.
The Iranian government has signed a memorandum of understanding with an unnamed Danish company to build the country’s first privately-owned wind and solar power plant. The plant will be built near Damghan, in Semnan province, to the east of Tehran, as part of a project totaling up to 1 GW to be built in ten phases of around 100 MW each.
Construction of the first phase is expected to start “in the near future” and the financing will come from a German investor. UnderIran’s Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2010-15) the country aims to add 5 GW of wind and solar capacity by 2016, with wind accounting for 90 per cent of this figure.
To date,Iran has 92 MW of installed capacity, while the potential resource could exceed 15 GW, according to the energy ministry. According to industry sources, private investors have submitted applications for wind power projects with a total capacity of 800 MW.