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.
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.
Driven by the wind power sector, India continues to make progress in renewable energy capacity. It has added over 2,700 MW of grid-connected renewable capacity during 2010 as compared to the 1,056 MW in 2009. This capacity includes power from wind, biomass, small hydro and solar resources. The wind power sector alone has contributed over 2,000 MW in this. The figures were revealed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy through an official statement.
The government of Peru has given the green signal for the construction of three new wind farms and four solar power plants, for a total capacity of 220 MW, Concessions had been offered in a bidding tender that was held at the beginning of the year. The plants will be put into service by 2012. The announcement was made by the director general of the Energy and Mines Ministry Ismael Aragona.
Regarding the wind power plants, with a total capacity of 140 MW, two of them shall be installed in the northern area of Talara-Guadalupe, while the third wind farm will be put up in the southern region of Marcona. The remaining 80 MW will come from four solar photovoltaic plants, all of which will be developed in the southern areas of Ilo, Arequipa e Tacna. The electricity produced by these facilities will be purchased by distributors at feed-in tariffs, with the purpose of helping develop the renewable energy market.
India and the US formally signed an agreement for cooperation on a joint Clean Energy Research Development Centre. The agreement follows from the discussions held between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama during the former’s visit to Washington in November 2009.
The areas of co-operation would include energy efficiency of buildings, smart grids, unconventional natural gas, second-generation biofuels, clean coal technologies and solar energy.
With no alternative to green energy in future, investments in renewable energy still make sense and the long-term prospects are intact for the investors, says a study by Switzerland-based private banking group Bank Sarasin & Co.
The report also says that the world economy will return to growth in 2010, expanding by over 4 per cent. As a result, global energy demand will also rise, particularly in developing countries. According to the report, the mature technologies of wind and solar energy are going through significant changes that are resulting in structural consolidation.