Grid Parity is the point at which renewables become cost-competitive with traditional grid power--making it the Holy Grail for clean technology. With that in mind, the Green Chip team presents the Grid Parity blog... chronicling the technology advancements and policies that will get us there.
Global clean energy investments have dropped 14 percent in the third quarter of this year, prompting near certainty that annual investments in renewables and energy-smart technologies will fall for a second consecutive year.
Investment in the sector was $281 billion last year – 11 percent below record levels of investment in 2011.
These woes come on the heels of the financial crisis and recession, which touched the economies of the U.S., China, and most of Europe. Europe as a whole has been cutting back on government subsidies, while in the U.S., cheap shale gas has pushed natural gas investments to the forefront. And China is surprising us all as it cuts back on spending.
The $45.9 billion spent in the third quarter is 20 percent less than the same period last year, as Bloomberg reports.
The U.S., which surged in clean energy in the second quarter, dropped off significantly, falling from $9.4 billion to $5.5 billion, according to the Guardian. China fell slightly from $13.8 billion to $13 billion for the same period. India and Japan also saw declines.
While these numbers are worrisome, especially as the world is supposedly shifting toward green technologies and clean energy, the $45.9 billion is still much greater than investments in, say, 2004.
The loss of momentum that we’ve been experiencing globally is still a concern. This matter will be broached next month in Warsaw, Poland, as more than 190 nations are set to meet, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
In Europe, clean energy has been thriving due to subsidies from nations across the board. Record growth was being pushed higher and higher, but now these same countries have been cutting back on subsidies, citing high energy bills.
Only $7.1 billion was invested in European renewable projects in the third quarter, according to South China Moring Post, as subsidy cuts were made in Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
In the U.S., it’s the shale boom that has nearly chopped clean energy spending in half for the third quarter. And over in China, utilities seem to be steering away from wind power – the renewable source that was supposed to take them into the future.
The only nations that saw an increase in the third quarter were Brazil, which went from $950 million to $1.1 billion, and the U.K., which increased investments from $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion.
The U.K., for one, seems unwavering, as it is likely to set a record in 2013 for solar power installations. It also helps that solar component prices have been falling, making it easier to invest.
But at the end of the day, Brazil and the U.K. aren’t enough to be clean energy’s saving grace. The global outlook is still poor. Rising energy bills are said to be the reason so many subsidies have been cut in Europe, but renewables may not be the problem. One look at gas prices (which have risen more than 8 percent) tells you that it is gas that is pushing energy bills higher.
Clean Energy Grows
Europe may have been making heavy cuts to subsidies, but all is not lost this year in clean energy. Like I said, solar will remain strong with help from the U.K., and as costs continue to go down, investments will keep going up.
The global outlook for solar should reach roughly 36.7 gigawatts sometime this year, according to Bloomberg.
SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ: SCTY) expects installed capacity to jump nearly 90 percent next year, and others, like Sunrun Inc. and Sungevity Inc., will install rooftop projects at next to no upfront costs.
Perhaps the clearest indicator that hope is not lost is in the patents. Innovations in solar, wind, and other renewables are booming across the globe, especially in China, where they are overtaking fossil fuels. The U.S. and Japan are also filing thousands of new patents each year.
In contrast, patents for coal, oil, and gas are rising much more slowly.
The big takeaway: we seem to have lost sight of what we were after in the first place – clean and renewable energy – but things will improve eventually. It just may take a year or two.
Energy storage is big business nowadays. Companies are popping up all over the map – all you have to do is take a quick look around and see that everyone has some sort of interest in this stuff.
Defined, energy storage is the retention of energy to be used to perform a useful operation at a later time.
Easy enough, right? Sure, but it has yet to materialize in any large-scale way. But that could all change as power shifts towards wind and solar.
The global energy storage market is set to grow nine-fold by the year 2017, according to plugincars.com, to become a $10.4 billion industry.
And its ancillary services – all the required maintenance and transmission efforts needed to maintain and transmit energy – will become a $3.8 billion market by 2023.
And that’s why the market is becoming saturated with competition. Aside from renewable energy sources, the entire electrical grid is being redesigned for modern use. It’s an exciting time in energy!
Energy storage is much more than just a battery these days. Thermal management systems are used in accordance with power source controllers to use battery life. These energy storage systems are becoming increasingly popular for utility and other companies to store energy effectively and more efficiently.
Have you ever heard of Coda Energy? Maybe Coda Holdings rings a bell? The Los Angeles-based startup was originally an electric vehicle (EV) company. It raised a bunch of capital for its vehicles, manufactured in China, and then proceeded to sell less than 100 units before filing for bankruptcy in May.
It had a rash of problems: nobody liked Coda's product, for starters, management was said to be unmanageable, and overzealous investors put Coda Holdings right in the tank.
It’s kind of ironic because one of the biggest names to go bust in the auto manufacturing industry is now trying its hand at energy storage. And just like Coda Holdings, Coda Energy is trying to break into a market that has yet to show any large-scale success.
But here it is. It will be a silver-level sponsor of the Energy Storage North America Expo and Conference in California this coming September. It will be the company’s first public appearance since Coda Holdings was dissolved and its energy storage assets were purchased for $25 million by a consortium of investors.
Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG) leads that group of investors. The New York-based investment firm acquired all of Coda Holdings' core technology, engineering, and energy storage assets.
The reorganization in a “Section 363” sale was created on June 21 at the close of Coda Holdings' bankruptcy proceedings.
The newly formed Coda Energy also acquired all contracts and partnerships that were established. This gives the company a lengthy leg up on where its EV business failed.
The company’s new lithium-ion battery-based energy storage business is already being used in a San Diego apartment complex, reducing peak electricity consumption and utilizing solar power. And in San Francisco, two InterContinental hotels use the same unit, called the CODA ESS.
From the Ashes
Maybe energy storage was Coda’s true calling all along; it just had to endure the punishment and brutality of the auto industry, and maybe it will be better for it. Time will tell.
But at least Coda Energy isn’t off to the same rocky start. It's building energy storage solutions that support a smarter, cleaner, and more reliable grid system.
Ed Solar and Pete Nortman will co-manage the company and place immediate focus on current contracts and building strong relationships.
Solar is the former head of Coda Holdings’ energy storage systems division and has worked for several energy-sector companies.
Nortman led the technology engineering team at Coda Holdings. He also co-founded EnergyCS, a battery developer acquired by Coda Holdings in 2011.
There are remnants of Coda Holdings sprinkled throughout the new company. Chinese battery maker Tianjin Lishin is still one of Coda Energy’s main suppliers, but Coda is also seeking out other suppliers. The company knows that different battery cells require different applications. It knows it can’t make the same mistakes twice.
The company’s battery will be involved in grid interconnection, and it will partner with network management and electronic and technology firms to drive the battery towards integration and fulfilling storage needs for the future.
These systems will be optimized for use by utility, community, and residential applications alike, and providing those same benefits to commercial and industrial end users.
Maybe Coda can prove that its failure in the auto industry wasn’t all for naught. If it can learn from its mistakes and provide a good, solid product this time, Coda Energy could come out on top.
The grid storage industry is going to be a tough business to crack, but it looks like Coda Energy is confident this time around.
But the direct competition is fierce: BYD, Mitsubishi (NYSE: MTU), Panasonic (OTC: PCRFY), Samsung (KRX: 005930), LG Chem (KRX: 051910), Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), Saft (EPA: SAFT) and many, many more are all diligently working on energy storage in some facet.
Despite all the love for Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) lately, there are still those who want nothing more than to silence this highly-disruptive superstar. Particularly the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, which apparently hates the idea of a free market and healthy competition.
In response to Tesla having the audacity to want to sell its cars directly to the consumer, instead of going through a middle-man, Bill Wolters, the president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, told the press that this kind of thing happens all the time, stating. . .
“Someone wants an exception to the franchise laws. If we made an exception for everybody that showed up in the legislature, before long the integrity of the entire franchise system is in peril.”
Yes, because nothing says integrity like a car dealership.
Give me a break!
This is about nothing more than a prejudice towards electric cars in states where lawmakers tend to be the types of knuckle-dragging fake conservatives who think treating all that God has created as their own personal toilets is somehow a conservative value.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Look, electric cars offer an environmentally-friendlier option, and these guys can't stand it. Yet they'll still talk a good game about free markets, just so long as it doesn't interfere with their own personal agendas of complacency and ignorance.
As a libertarian and free-market advocate, I find the dealership fight against Tesla to be little more than an exercise in bureaucratic buffoonery. And to accept such ridiculous behavior is to accept the pitfalls of unnecessary regulations and an over-burdensome government.
Truth is, conservatives who embrace healthy competition should actually love Tesla, as this is a company that fully demonstrates the strength and benefits of capitalism.
The solar industry is not the impressive field it once was.
The dreaded year for solar was 2011, when prices fell 61 percent, mostly due to sub-priced Chinese panels flowing into Western markets.
But ironically enough, China is one nation where solar demand is surging – along with Japan.
China is beginning to alleviate supply gluts in its efforts to increasing domestic solar installations by a factor of five by 2015. And since Japan decommissioned most of its nuclear reactors following the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy, the government is leaning toward renewable sources like solar through incentives and utility installations.
Chinese and Japanese demand in solar is expected to reach 9 gigawatts in the second half of the year, Business Spectator reports, accounting for a 100 percent increase in demand from the previous half.
But the most activity you’ll find when it comes to the PV market will be in Japan – accounting for 150 percent growth in 2013.
As a result of the higher demand, prices are going up: polysilicon prices hit well over $17/kg, and Chinese modules hit .75/watt and .86/watt internationally.
This surging demand will come as a relief to Chinese companies that are going through a survival-of-the-fittest stage ever since the Chinese Development Bank cut off credit and loans to its solar companies.
Chinese cell producers made shipment at 116 percent in June 2013, with module companies operating at 99 percent efficiency and 84 percent for companies in Taiwan.
The U.S. is undergoing an increase in solar demand of its own, but not necessarily because of Asia.
States like California, North Carolina, Arizona, and New Jersey, which represent 70% of the domestic demand for solar PVs, will help the U.S. increase solar demand by an estimated 20% in the second half of the year, Clean Technica reports.
Large-scale commercial rooftop installations will account for 14 percent demand overall, 18 percent for PV installations for small businesses and residents, and 68 percent from ground installations.
And utility projects out in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas will make up 2.5 GW of demand for the remainder of the year.
Looking ahead, U.S. demand for solar will likely surpass the 5 GW mark by 2014, a surge of 70 percent in compound annual growth since 2009.
Other Nations Going Solar
Germany has always been a beacon of the solar industry. The government has plans for the nation to operate on 50 percent solar power by 2050.
In late 2012, Germany added 60 GW of solar power. The nation, like China, cut off subsidies to its solar companies, but government initiatives sparked a new program where residents can get a 30 percent discount on any solar storage devices and can be handsomely rewarded for any power they can contribute to the national grid.
In fact, German utility company RWE (ETR: RWE) was forced to cut back on fossil fuel capacity due to growing renewable competition.
Asia is compensating for a demand retraction in European markets, but there is still the United Kingdom, which is still the fastest growing market for solar in Europe.
The U.K. government is looking for diverse ways to bring power to the British Isles, with nuclear, shale gas, and North Sea oil revival on the agenda, but officials are also hoping to add 20 GW of solar power by 2025.
And Japan may be fastest when it comes to demand, but China will be the fastest solar market for PV installations, with rooftop installations surpassing ground-mounts in the second quarter.
If you’re interested in large-scale solar projects in the American west, check out Warren Buffett’s solar play through the MidAmerican Holdings purchase of two solar projects in Kern and Los Angeles, California, titled the Antelope Valley Solar Projects.
In the U.S., Sunpower (NASDAQ: SPWR) went up 265 percent since the start of 2013 – also reaching full capacity after years of gluts stemming from Asian demand.
Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSIQ) exceeded its 380 megawatt target, hitting 455 megawatts in the second quarter. Its shipment doubled in the first quarter as a result of stronger demand from Japan. Stock for Canadian Solar is up 267 percent this year.
And keep an eye on SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY) – a company whose chairman is Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and whose solar technology enhanced the battery life of Tesla cars.
In China, the world’s largest panel maker Yingli Energy Holding (NYSE: YGE) also exceeded panel expectations for this year.
JinkoSolar (NYSE: JKS) made its first profit since 2011, but it may not be able to meet full demand. In fact, the company is nearly sold out until October.
Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) increased its solar panel shipment forecast for 2013 to 2.4 gigawatts as opposed to a range of 2 to 2.1 gigawatts. And the company delivered 647 megawatts worth of panels in the second quarter – up 54 percent from 2012. Trina cited strong demand growth from Japan and India as reasons behind the increased production.
Imagine harnessing the energy of the sun at your fingertips, free to use it as you please. You could use it to cook, watch TV, power up your cell phone. And the great part is that the sun is tax free. No one owns it, and it is available to everyone.
Now, more utility providers are catching on to the idea that they can provide more solar energy to their customers with the right storage technology. That's why energy storage is garnering so much interest.
And solar isn't the only industry that will benefit; wind power and thermal energy are also being stored in batteries, capacitors, etc.
Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say energy storage is the field to jump into. At the moment, energy storage is still expensive without subsidies, and it remains to be seen if it has long-term viability. But things are looking promising.
Take California, for instance. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is setting up a proposal that would require investor-owned utility companies (IOUs) to provide a total of 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020. That would be enough energy for roughly one million homes. And California wants one-third of its energy generated from renewable sources by 2020.
The three major utility companies that would be affected are Pacific Gas & Electric, owned by PG&E (NYSE: PCG), San Diego Gas & Electric, owned by Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), and Southern California Edison, owned by Edison International (NYSE: EIX).
We know about the solar market's failure to draw enough investment lately, which is why California passed Assembly Bill 2514 in 2010 – an incentive that will encourage greater use of energy storage to promote renewable investment.
To further break down market barriers, the CPUC is setting up a reverse auction system, where energy storage contributors would bid on non-negotiable prices, and IOUs would select the project with the lowest bid. This would be a biannual auction, with the first being scheduled for June 2014. With each auction, these IOUs are required to produce at least 200 MW of stored energy.
Other states like New York and Texas have similar support systems for energy storage, but California will be the trend-setter.
German Energy Storage
Germany is essentially the California of Europe. The nation has long been considered a center for solar energy and renewable technology, and its storage market is expected to reach $19 billion by 2017.
Even though Germany withdrew solar subsidies and left its solar companies starved, the government has implemented a program where citizens can receive a 30 percent discount for the purchase of energy storage items.
Through feed-tariffs, German homeowners can store solar energy from their rooftop photovoltaic systems at a cheaper cost, which places less stress on the national energy grid.
Germany and California may seem like they are on the same path, but there is a stark difference. While Germany has low prices for PV systems, prices in California are still high, which could be a barrier when it comes to drawing in more residents and businesses.
On the flip side, Germany has high electricity rates. So it makes economic sense for consumers to buy PV systems to avoid high energy prices.
But Germany and California are similar in the respect that more utilities and large-scale companies are making conversions to energy storage.
Energy Storage Capital
A sub-sect of energy storage worth looking into is large-scale storage for industrial and utility companies.
Both of these titanic fields are looking for ways to save costs while being able to provide renewable energy in an instant.
In the next few years, storage will become a more prominent presence in the renewable market. And we’re already seeing a smidge of capital flowing in the storage sector. Within the last five years, capital in the amount of $2.2 billion went into storage technology.
Others may be taking the risk by pouring capital into this field, but here is why you should be interested in energy storage.
It is being looked upon as a serious method of adding more power to national grids, reducing pollution in the process. Solar has not made much money in the past few years, mostly because of sub-priced panel gluts from China, but energy storage holds the potential to reverse that.
It is the root behind renewable energy and the reason why it is marketable to consumers and power companies. It also alleviates concerns that solar power is useless when the sun is blocked.
Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has invested heavily in SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY), supplying Tesla batteries to support SolarCity panels.
Even big-name companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and General Electric (NYSE: GE) are investing in the storage field.
Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and Vinod Khosla are just a few top-name investors placing their investment capital behind smaller companies engaging in the storage technology market.
We know about utility providers that will pay consumers if they contribute extra electricity through solar and other means. But now startup companies are in a hurry to provide the best form of storage at maximum capacity.
Work at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant for Ten Bucks an Hour!
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 - By Jeff Siegel
Nuclear power plants are safe.
But people tend to be incompetent.
So is the case of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that's been leaking contaminated water into the Pacific for about two and half years now.
As it stands, TEPCO is continuing its losing battle against 300 tonnes of radioactive groundwater per day. The folks cleaning up the mess? Well they're all terrified of their jobs, and they're getting paid about ten bucks an hour.
One of the main complaints about electric cars is that it takes too long to charge them. Even quick-charging stations can take up to 20 minutes. Which of course, is much longer than a normal fill-up for a conventional internal combustion vehicle.
But in an effort to up the ante once again, Elon Musk has recently presented Tesla's latest charging option – a battery swapper – which takes about 90 seconds. Folks, this is faster than filling a tank with gasoline or diesel.
Is Poland Sitting on a Multi-Billion-Dollar Wind Resource?
Monday, June 3rd, 2013 - By Zoë Casey
Poland could be adding €17.5 billion (PLN 73.8 billion) to its economy by 2025 if it develops its offshore wind energy sector to a potential six gigawatts, a new report by Ernst & Young has revealed.
The report, “offshore wind energy – analysis of benefits for the Polish economy and development determinants”, also said that the sector could potentially create 31.8 thousand new jobs from 2012-2025, mostly in the electro-engineering sector. Moreover, sectors badly affected by the economic crisis – maritime transport, shipbuilding and port industries – could gain five thousand new jobs by 2025, said the report.
Currently the country’s offshore wind energy target is for 500 MW by 2020, but the potential is far higher, says Wojciech Cetnarski, President of the Polish Wind Energy Association (PWEA). The 500 MW target “seems underestimated”. “Last year’s amendments to the legislative framework (the Act on Maritime Areas and Maritime Administration) increased the interest of national and foreign investors,” Cetnarski added.
6 GW of offshore wind power would also avoid the emission of around 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, creating a saving of €0.4 billion (PLN 1.6 billion), the report says.
Meanwhile, an expansion of Polish offshore wind is expected to reduce electricity production costs. Based on trends forecast in the UK, the cost of production of 1 MWh in offshore wind farms commissioned in 2011 is around €170, a level set to fall by 29% if the UK reaches 18 GW of offshore wind by 2020. “In the case of Poland, the decrease may be higher for the country has better natural conditions for the construction of offshore wind farms,” the PWEA press release said.