In a surprising move, Austin Energy has closed its negotiations with SunEdison and signed a power purchase agreement for 150 megawatts with Recurrent Energy instead. The new PPA, signed last week, has a term of twenty years, compared to the 25-year term proposed by SunEdison. Recurrent has confirmed that it was “awarded a 150-megawatt contract by Austin Energy” for the largest single solar power plant in Texas, due to be completed in 2016. “The Texas market represents one of the most exciting opportunities for the solar industry,” said Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, in a release. “The industry’s growing scale and decreasing costs are enabling us to successfully compete against conventional energy in deregulated markets like ERCOT.” Recurrent now has a contracted portfolio of more than 1 gigawatt, according to the firm, with more than 2 gigawatts of solar projects in development in North America. The 5-cent price falls below Austin Energy’s estimates for natural gas at 7 cents, coal at 10 cents and nuclear at 13 cents. It has also been suggested that a developer could overbuild the solar project beyond the contracted capacity and sell into the spot market if the developer gained approval from ERCOT.”
If a hydrocarbon hot bed like Texas is installing solar at 5cents/kWh what is going to happen next?
2. Coal Mining Giant Rio Tinto to Install 6.7 mW solar plus storage at Weipa
A ground-breaking, $23.4 million project to cut out daytime diesel consumption at Rio Tinto bauxite mine at Weipa could unlock billions of dollars of similar investments in the mining industry – which is weighed down by soaring energy costs. There are lots of isolated mines that depend on expensive diesel generators for their power
Rio Tinto Alcan – with the help of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – is to install a 1.7MW solar PV array at its Weipa bauxite mine later this year, and then add a further 5 MW of solar PV and battery storage.
If PV plus storage makes sense for Rio it will make sense in a lot communities and farms powered by diesel generation.
Keep in mind here that “cheapest” is not the same as “most competitive”. It all depends on what the renewable energy is replacing. The last time I looked solar was replacing more expensive forms of electricity compared with wind. In the case of wind, some of the power is replacing low cost base power at night while solar is replacing higher cost daytime power.
The falling cost of renewables is not news to those who have paid attention to analysis from green-focused think tanks, or groups like Bloomberg New Energy Finance. But it is when a major European utility, with equal exposure to fossil fuels, wind, and hydro, says that onshore wind is the cheapest of any new utility scale technology.
That is the assessment of Portugal’s EDP, which has around 24GW of generation, of which around 8.7GW is in onshore wind.
In a recent presentation to analysts, EDP’s head of renewables Joao Manso Neto presented this slide below, which shows that the levellised cost of electricity of onshore win in Europe is 20 per cent cheaper than gas and one third cheaper than coal. (The figure assumes 25 per cent wind capacity factor).
In Australia, and other similar countries, incumbent generators and those that seek to protect them, are simply trying to stop the introduction of new generation – be it green or brown or black – because it will make older and less efficient coal and gas generator uneconomic. The Minerals Council of Australia makes this clear in its submission to have the renewable energy target dumped.
“Wind is not only competitive, it is prepared to compete,” Neto says. But to do that, it would need an equal playing field, such as the removal of the fossil fuel subsidies that add to half a trillion dollars worldwide. If the world is to decarbonise, and accelerate the withdrawal of polluting power stations, then wind will clearly be a winner.
4. Electric bike show report
World wide e bike sales were estimated to be 24 million in 2010 with most of these sales occurring in China. So they are not just something that appeals to technical eccentrics They have a number of important advantages over the conventional bike, particularly for commuting:
- They allow the not so fit to ride up hills comfortably or take longer trips.
- Savings in time taken to get up hills will reduce commute time.
- They allow riders to cool down before they reach the end of their trip and to have more control over the effort taken, (Important for commutes, particularly where showering at the end of the trip is impractical.)
- They allow rain gear to be worn in Brisbane without turning into a sweaty wreck.
- They can allow people with differing fitness levels to go for a bike ride together with everyone being able to get the exercise they desire.
Nope. I have never ridden one. I am still fit enough to ride 50 km on a conventional bike without too much trouble. However, if I was still a commuter, using an electric bike at least one day a week would be a practical option for either linking to high frequency public transport or going the whole way to the CBD without having to take a shower on arrival.