Weekly Investor Roundup

It was a relatively quiet news week, with no earth-shaking announcement.

The biggest item of the week was the announcement that British Airways (BAY.L) is partnering with the US company Solena
to produce sustainable jet-fuel from biomass that would otherwise go into landfills around London. Beginning in 2014 Solena will use its plasma gasification process to produce 16 million gallons of jet fuel per year for British Airways. The companies said the fuel will reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 95% compared to traditional, petroleum-based jet fuel. And the excess heat produced at the Solena plant will be used to generate up to 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity to feed into the grid.

US solar thermal company eSolar announced a partnership with Ferrostaal AG to deploy power plants in countries including Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa.
Ferrostaal is one of the world’s largest power plant developers and will lead the projects and financing efforts. Ferrostaal is already working with Solar Millennium in the US Southwest, but eSolar will expand the developer’s technology portfolio. eSolar’s modular designs use mirrors to focus the heat of the sun onto a tower, whereas Solar Millennium employs Fresnel lenses and solar troughs. Earlier this year, the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) of Abu Dhabi took over 70% of the shares of Ferrostaal AG from Germany’s MAN AG. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the announcement of a solar thermal project near Abu Dhabi in the next few months.

eSolar competitor BrightSource Energy has submitted an alternative design for its massive solar thermal power
plant, which has been at the center of controversy between clean energy
advocates and environmentalists. The Ivanpah solar thermal plant has been proposed for a section of California desert that is home to endangered desert tortoises. The land is managed by the US Bureau of Land
Management (BLM), which has set a deadline of December 31 for reviewing this and other fast-tracked renewable energy projects. BrightSource has offered to reduce the overall footprint of the power plant by 12%, which will cut the power capacity from 440 MW to 392 MW. They say that will reduce expected desert tortoise relocations by approximately 15%, but it’s not clear yet, whether environmental and conservation groups will be appeased by the alternate plan.

Across the border to the south, Spain’s OPDE Group has signed an agreement to build 45 MW of photovoltaic solar power in Mexico by 2013. The plants are to be located primarily in the northern state of Durango, where OPDE will also set up subsidiary operations. Mecasolar is a company within the group that produces solar tracking and mounting systems, and Proinso is the group’s distributor and project developer. OPDE expects to complete the first 1-MW solar farm by the end of the year.

Another Spanish company, Ingeteam, Inc., said it will invest more than EUR 10
million to establish a production center for wind and solar power
components in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new facility will have capacity to produce power generators and converters equivalent to 7,500 MW per year. The facility is scheduled to begin operations in early 2011. Ingeteam is already present in Wisconsin, where it carries out wind
turbine operation and maintenance activities. The company manages more than 2,200 MW distributed across 60 wind
farms world-wide. 

Following a major wind power-deal in Ontario earlier this month, Korean electronics conglomerate Samsung (005930.KS) is now establishing a solar presence in California. Solar Project Solutions, the company’s joint venture with ENCO Utility Service, has signed 25-year power purchase agreements with Pacific
Gas and Electric
(NYSE: PCG) for a series of mid-sized solar farms. These will consist of a 50-MW plant and three 20-MW plants in Tulare County and a fourth 20-MW plant in Kings county. Numerous photovoltaic projects of this size have been announced in recent weeks to fill near-term demand for renewable power, while larger projects slog through complex permitting processes.

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) is considering building a wind
turbine plant
in the United States, according to a Reuters report. The $100 million facility is planned for Fort Smith Arkansas, but the company is holding off on a final investment decision to see how well demand recovers in the first half of the year.  Mitsubishi Heavy is currently testing a new 2.4 MW turbine in Oregon, though the report did not say what size turbine would be produced in Arkansas.


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