Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Environment Agency calls on councils to provide green power for over 1.5 million households

Friday, June 12th, 2009

The Environment Agency and Partnerships for Renewables has urged public sector organisations in the UK to consider using their land and property to generate renewable energy, which has the potential to provide power for over 1.5 million households.

The two organisations used World Environment Day (5 June) to encourage the public sector to tackle the impending crisis of climate change and set an example to others by taking positive action.

The organisations have calculated that public sector organisations in the UK could generate up to some 3 gigawatts of power – enough to power all the households in Newcastle, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Doncaster combined and save 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – by installing renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and hydropower schemes on their land.

Public sector bodies own more than 10 per cent of the land in the UK including tens of thousands of buildings and over one million hectares of land. Despite this, only a tiny fraction of the total amount of green energy which the UK is capable of producing comes from renewable energy projects on public sector property.

Although many public sector bodies are already beginning to investigate how they can utilise their land to generate renewable energy, the Environment Agency and Partnerships for Renewables are calling for more organisations to install clean energy technologies to help reduce carbon emissions in addition to generating revenue from the sale of electricity and saving the taxpayer money.

Last year the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, and environmental groups highlighted the need for public sector bodies to take a lead role in the fight against climate change and promote green energy.

The Environment Agency is urging other public sector bodies to follow its example after its announcement in November 2008 to build up to 80 wind turbines on Environment Agency owned land across the country, developing around 200 megawatts of renewable energy capacity – enough to power 90,000 households and save around 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. In addition the turbines will generate up to £2.4 million of revenue every year – money that will be ploughed back into protecting and improving the environment, and adapting to climate change. Other organisations such as British Waterways have also announced similar plans.

The Environment Agency recently ranked as the top green UK public sector organisation in the annual Sunday Times Green List. 99 per cent of electricity used by the Environment Agency is from renewable sources and stringent targets are in place for reducing energy and water. Recycling facilities are available in the offices covering 20 different types of waste. The organisation’s green travel policies have led to a mileage reduction of some 8.9 million miles over the past two years alone and in three years, the Environment Agency has managed to reduce its overall carbon footprint by 14 per cent and water use by ten per cent.

Environment Agency Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Development Tony Grayling said: “Investment in green technology such as wind turbines not only help cut carbon emissions and secure more home grown energy – they also make financial sense to those involved and ultimately save the taxpayer money.

“The pressures businesses and the public sector are facing may tempt them to cut corners and spend less attention on environmental improvement programmes, but it is now more important than ever before that we look to alternative sources of energy to meet our demands.”

Stephen Ainger, Chief Executive of Partnerships for Renewables which was established by the Carbon Trust in 2006, said: “By embracing and fulfilling its renewable energy potential the UK’s public sector has the opportunity to not only demonstrate strong leadership domestically, in the fight against climate change, it has the opportunity to set the standard for public sector organisations to follow globally. The role of the public sector organisations leading this movement, such as the Environment Agency and British Waterways, should not be underestimated”.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “The public sector has a key role to play in cutting emissions by harnessing the UK’s vast renewable energy potential. Developing green energy could create tens of thousands of new jobs, reduce our dependency of the tyranny of fossil fuels and give this country real influence in the global battle against climate change”.

International Energy Outlook 2009 Predicts World Energy Use to Grow

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released today its reference case projection from the “International Energy Outlook 2009” (IEO2009), which projected the world marketed energy consumption to grow by 44 percent between 2006 and 2030. The projection states that the increased energy consumption will be driven by strong long-term economic growth in the developing nations of the world, despite the current global economic downturn dampening world energy demand in the near term.

According to the projection, with economic recovery anticipated to begin within the next 12 to 24 months, most nations are expected to see energy consumption growth at rates anticipated prior to the recession. Total world energy use is expected to rise from 472 quadrillion BTU in 2006 to 552 quadrillion BTU in 2015, and then to 678 quadrillion BTU in 2030.

In the industrial industry alone, energy consumption is expected to grow from 175 quadrillion BTU in 2006 to 246 quadrillion BTU in 2030, growing at an average rate of 2.1 percent per year, according to the reference case. The “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are expected to account for more than two-thirds of the developing world’s growth in industrial energy use through 2030.

Along with increased worldwide energy consumption, the projection anticipates that the world’s economies recovering will cause increased oil prices, persisting through 2030. The IEO2009 reference case shows world oil prices rising to $110 per barrel in 2015 (in real 2007 dollars) and $130 per barrel in 2030, with total liquid fuel and petroleum consumption increasing by 22 million barrels per day. Conventional oil supplies from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are expected to contribute 8.2 million barrels per day to the total increase in world liquid fuels production, with non-OPEC countries contributing another 3.4 million barrels per day.

However, unlike the reference case, the full version of the IEO2009 includes three world oil price cases to take into account the extremely volatile nature of world oil prices. The price cases range from $50 per barrel in the low-price case to $200 per barrel in the high-price case, with supply outlooks ranging from 90 million barrels per day in the high-price case to 120 million barrels per day in the low-price case (compared to 107 million barrels per day in the EIA’s reference case).

Additionally, the reference case showed that unconventional resources, such as biofuels, oil sands, extra-heavy oil, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids from both OPEC and non-OPEC sources becoming increasingly competitive: The reference case shows the world production of unconventional resources increasing to 13.4 million barrels per day in 2030, accounting for 13 percent of total world liquids supply.

The reference case also discusses renewable energy use for electricity generation, which is expected to grow by an average of 2.9 percent per year. The renewable share of world electricity generation is expected to increase to 21 percent in 2030, up from 19 percent in 2006. Additionally, the reference case projects energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to rise from 29.1 billion metric tons in 2005 to 40.4 billion metric tons in 2030, a 39-percent increase, much of which is expected to occur among developing nations, especially in Asia. The reference case does not, however, take into account specific policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

To view the EIA’s full report on IEO2009, visit

Smart Energy, Courtesy of Google

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Companies large and small are excited about smart metering, but one of the biggest companies to enter the space has been Google,, Mountain View, Calif. Earlier this year,, the search-engine giant’s philanthropic arm, announced the PowerMeter system, designed to help consumers manage their energy consumption.

This week, Google announced the first utility partnerships for the PowerMeter initiative. Eight electric utilities in the United States, Canada, and India will help roll out the technology to consumers. PowerMeter is a Google gadget that lets consumers view information about their electricity consumption over the Web on their home computers. The software requires the use of smart meters, which the eight utility partners are implementing for customers, and which provide two-way data transfer between the customer and the utility.

Google’s partners range from utilities with millions of customers to utilities with only a few thousand customers. The PowerMeter partner utilities are: San Diego Gas & Electric,, San Diego, Calif.; TXU Energy,, Dallas, Texas; JEA,, Jacksonville, Fla.; Reliance Energy,, Mumbai, India; Wisconsin Public Service Corp.,, Green Bay, Wis.; White River Valley Electric Cooperative,, Branson, Mo.; Toronto Hydro–Electric System Ltd.,, Toronto, Ont.; and Glasgow EPB,, Glasgow, Ky.

Google will also work with integration partner Itron,, Liberty Lake, Wash., for the project. Itron is a provider of intelligent metering, data collection, and utility software solutions.

In the future, Google plans to expand the number of customers and utilities using the PowerMeter system.

In the tech world, everybody used to break into hives at the slightest hint that the all-knowing, all-seeing Google was going to enter their business, providing free tools and doing everything better.
But slowly people realized that Google isn’t the best company to do everything. They don’t always win, and they may well not win here either.

First, where’s all that data going to come from? Sure, Barack Obama’s stimulus plan calls for 40 million more smart meters to be installed, but as we noted last year, the functionality of these little devices varies widely. Some track things in real-time, others don’t.

And they’re expensive. The sensors required to track all of the major appliances in your home would be hundreds of dollars and Google isn’t just going to send you a kit with all of the smart devices.

Absent the data gathering ecosystem, all Google is really offering you is a graphing utility. And we’ve already seen plenty of companies, including the guys who made Flash, offer up similar or better products.

To become the de facto window into your energy usage, Google will have to use their size and weight to bring some standardization to smart metering practices. To do that, they’ll need hardware manufacturers to come out with very cheap Google-ready devices and then they’ll have talk dozens of utilities into eschewing their own smart meter plans to follow Google’s lead.

Or they’ll have to get the government to mandate that Google’s approach is correct. This could be where Google earns its money. Some utilities aren’t really interested in helping consumers cut their usage — what they’re really after is just simply knowing how much power people are using at any given, so they know when they have to fire up their expensive, dirty peaker power plants. Smart-meter makers have responded with products that aren’t always consumer friendly or even consumer facing.

Google, on the other hand, has a vested interest in making sure that information is freely available in real-time and that it can be tied to real-time electricity pricing information. That’s a very consumer-friendly approach — and we’re glad to see someone pushing that agenda.

Electrical Grid Connected Generation & DNO’s

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Grid Connected Generation

Terminology to Start

• Developer

– You!

• Distribution Network Owner/Operator (DNO)

– Owns, maintains, develops and operates the physical network
– SP Manweb, United Utilities in the North West
– Not the slightest bit interested in selling or buying energy from you

• Electricity Supplier

– Party to contract with to buy & sell energy
– Npower, PowerGen, Scottish Power, British Gas, etc…
– Not the slightest bit interested in the physical connection

• Ofgem

– Electricity and Gas Market regulator
– Also administers the ROC process if your technology is eligible

Just Some of the Legal Issues

• If grid connected, then it is a legal requirement to have permission to connect & operate any form of generation

– Needs to have a DNO connection agreement
– Needs to have correct electrical protection
– Needs to have correct earthing
– Needs to have an export meter (if exporting)
– Needs to have a supplier contract (if exporting)

• D-code : Distribution Code for UK Distribution Networks

• G-code : Grid Code for UK Transmission Networks

• Electricity at Work Regulations

Engineering Recommendations

• Technical connection requirements are detailed in the Engineering Recommendations

– DNOs view these as “Rules” rather than just “Recommendations”

• G83: Less than 6kW (16A/phase)

– No connection agreement required but must notify DNO once on

• G59: Less than 5MW and less than 20kV connection

– Must have a connection agreement

• G75: Anything else up to 50MW or transmission connected

– Must have a connection agreement

DNO Responsibilities

• Statutory obligations under the terms of their licence

– Secure operation and development of the network
– Safe & reliable operation of the network
– Ensure fair and equal access to the network
– Least cost options for connection
– Lifetime of network not just your connection

• Must respond to a connection application within 90 days. Remember, they’re not out to get you, but they have responsibilities too!

 Electrical Connection Issues

• Technical issues to be considered during connection study/investigation

– Thermal limits
– Voltage limits & step change
– Reverse power-flows through transformers
– Short-circuit rating of switchgear
– Protection arrangements & co-ordination
– Harmonics & Power Quality
– Transient stability (usually only for larger generators)

• Energy Metering

• There will be the need to provide a reasonable level of data on the generator and the site connections

• The connection and protection will need to be witnessed and approved by the DNO in order to complete the connection process

 Network Capacity Issues

• The Distribution Network has real limits

• Due to load growth and the drive towards maximising use of existing assets, available headroom is often quite limited

– Cable ratings reached during peak load
– Voltage drop/rise reached
– Circuit breaker short-circuit limits reached

• The Capacity Race

– It is not just fiction it is unfortunately real in some locations
– First-come, first-served & Interactive Applications
– There are some solutions but most do add cost and complexity

 Rule of Thumb Connection Capacities

< 6kW 240V
< 1MW 415V (3-phase)
< 1-10MW 11kV
< 30MW 33kV
< 50MW 66kV/132kV
> 50MW 132kV upwards & National Grid interfaces…

As with any project, the bigger the project, it is important that you have the right level of advice or expertise to de-risk the project.

 So, what do I do to get connected?

• Contact your friendly neighbourhood consultant ☺

But seriously:

• Start with a rough idea of what you want to do

– Check that your site can fit it and you can afford it
– Check that all other regulatory issues are okay

• Have an informal “chat” about connection possibilities with DNO generator connections or knowledgeable person

– Check that your initial idea still sounds sensible

 When contacting the DNO

• Contact DNO – generation connections (NOT Demand)

– The connection process will be more likely to be successful with good communication between the developer and the local DNO

• Determine your connection route: G83, G59 or G75
– This may have costs associated with it

• Be prepared for a process not just rubber stamping

– Planning & Information phase
– Detailed Design phase
– Installation phase
– Testing & Commissioning phase

 Working with the DNO

• Seek an early meeting to discuss your project

– Outline the scheme
– Discuss the DNO’s process for connections
– Request an indicative connection design and budgetary cost estimate with a split between contestable & non-contestable works

• Review your project

– Submit the formal connection application
– Remember to accept the connection offer!

• Submission of data to DNO

– Make sure that this is appropriate and timely to avoid delays

• Testing and Commissioning

– Plan in advance to avoid delays as staff will usually be quite busy

 Connection Charges

• Application Fees

– These vary between DNO and size and voltage level of project
– Complex projects may involve additional fees

• Connection Assets

– Developer will be expected to pay full costs for all sole-use assets

• Generation Use of System Charges

– Site dependent & in lieu of network reinforcement costs
– Each DNO has own policy in-line with Ofgem guidance

Competition in Connections

• Developer as two options:

– Get the DNO to do all works necessary for the connection
– 3rd party to provide all contestable works which DNO then adopts

• Contestable Works

– Supply & installation of any new assets up to the point of connection to the existing network. Adoption agreement required.

• Non-Contestable Works

– Any studies, reinforcement or installation on existing network
– Design & specification of any new assets, consents & way-leaves

• Note: The DNO will not get involved in any “on-site” works

 Finally, just when you thought it was too easy

Other non-electrical issues still need to be resolved

– Planning Permission?
– EIA, Emissions?
– Health & Safety?
– Commercial?
– Installation & transport?
– CDM?

Green tariffs – An introduction

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Buying renewable electricity from an energy supplier

The average UK household now produces more than five tons of carbon dioxide a year just from gas and electricity. Since 2002 however, electricity companies have had to buy a proportion of their electricity from green power sources. As a result most now offer a green tariff, designed to provide as much electricity as possible from renewable or sustainable sources.

Such sources include Wind power and Solar power and Biomass energy, which avoid the harmful emissions associated with burning fossil fuels, or the risks associated with nuclear power. The electricity supply continues to come from the National Grid, using the same cables and meters, so changing to a green tariff is hasslefree.

There are two types of green tariff currently available:

Renewable tariffs

On these tariffs, every unit of electricity bought by the supply company on behalf of the customer is generated by a renewable energy source.

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Eco-fund tariffs

These tariffs involve the customer paying an additional premium which is invested in funds used to finance new renewable energy projects, often based in developing communities.

Offshore wind

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Wind turbines can be installed offshore, where there is often more wind resource.

The UK has now started two rounds of offshore wind development and a third is approved in principle.

Offshore wind map

Some Round 1 sites have now been completed and others are under active development.

The Phase 2 sites are now starting to receive consents and some will soon be under construction.

Both these rounds are illustrated on the map shown.

Offshore wind map - round 3

Energy and environment – Renewable energy

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Overview of renewable energy

Renewables describe energy sources that do not deplete the earth’s natural resources and do not create added waste products. They are therefore sustainable in that they can be used indefinitely without degrading the environment.

The fact that renewables are the only truly sustainable forms of energy production clearly makes them desirable. The impetus for renewable energy has grown much stronger in recent years due to two related drivers: “Energy security” and “Climate change”.

There are renewable options for all of the three major energy forms: electricity, heat and fuel. Some renewables directly use a climatic resource; others use renewable fuels as the medium for delivering energy.

Elemental renewables

The main climatic or environmental renewable energy resources are:

  • Solar radiation – Both light and heat from the sun can be harnessed for their energy, and several different conversion techniques have been developed. Solar energy can be collected directly as heat or converted to electrical power. Solar power is also the ultimate cause of winds, waves and plants, so the source of almost all the earth’s energy.
  • Water power was the first source of large scale “Hydropower”>electricity generation, but was used long before that for mechanical energy in water mills. Water can also be used as a thermal source for heat pumps.
  • Wind too has been used for centuries as a source of energy both for motive power (such as windmills and wind pumps) and more recently “Wind energy” power generation. The ambient air can also be used as a thermal source for heat pumps.
  • Wave and tidal energy are more recently exploited sources offering potential again mainly for Marine renewables electricity production.
  • Geothermal heat can also be harnessed and used directly for Geothermal heat production or through a steam turbine for Geo-energy electricity. Ground source heat pumps also use the constant temperature of the earth’s sub-soil as a source of heat.
  • There are also areas of the earth’s crust with liquid or gas reserves where the high geo-pressure can be used to drive “Geo-energy”electricity turbines.

Any of these sources, which use heat as a means of producting electricity, such as solar furnaces and geothermal generation, can also be used for Combined Heat and power.

Biological renewables

Biomass is also considered a renewable source of fuel because is absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while growing. When it is later converted to energy, the carbon dioxide released back into the atmosphere matches that originally absorbed, so the whole cycle is carbon neutral.

Of course the same can be said of fossil fuels, but there the cycle is very long (millions or years); biomass is the term applied to crops (or animal by-products) grown over no more than a few decades. The following are examples of biomass accepted as renewable fuels:

  • Energy crops – agricultural and forestry products grown specifically to be used for energy production, such as short rotation coppice and miscanthus.
  • Standard crops and their by-products. Many crops can be used for food or fuel, such as corn, oilseed rape, wheat and many others. Many food crops have by-products, such as straw, which can be used for energy production, while the main product is used for food.
  • Forestry and forestry by-products. Again timber can be used for fuel, but more commonly the non-commercial by-products, such as sawdust, small round-wood, thinnings etc. can be diverted to renewable energy production.
  • The biomass element of waste streams including ICW and MSW is another source of renewable bioenergy.
  • Similarly certain animal by-products from the food chain can be used for renewable fuel production.

These sources all provide fuels or products than can be converted to fuels, of many different types: liquids, gases, pellets, chips and other solid fuels. In this form they can be used for any form of energy production:

Biomass heat / Bioenergy electricity generation,
Combined heat and power
Transport biofuels

Who’ll solve the wind turbine supply crisis?

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Explosive growth in the demand for wind power has created a global waiting list for wind turbines. Chinese turbine companies may be part of the solution as they ramp up production and get ready to export.

The world’s wind power industry is struggling to cope with rocketing demand due to rising oil prices, tougher emission laws and fear of climate change. Average lead time for delivery of turbines has increased from six months a year ago to anywhere between 24 and 36 months.

From a meagre 2,000MW in 1990, global wind energy capacity grew to 59,000MW in 2005 and reached the 100,000MW mark this year. Despite this, the wind turbine industry – dominated by Vestas of Denmark, Suzlon of India, GE of US, Gamesa of Spain and Siemens and Enercon of Germany – has failed to sufficiently ramp up production. Siemens admits that new orders will not be delivered until 2012.

“It is difficult to predict exactly when the shortage will end – but by current indications, the new investments in the supply chain capacity, are likely to bear fruit in a couple of years,” says Vivek Kher, spokesman for Suzlon. “However, demand has been outstripping all projections and whether the enhanced capacities will actually stay in step with the demand is something time will tell.”

If the shortage continues, countries may be forced to review their renewable energy targets.

What’s driving demand?

Several specific factors have been boosting demand in the past few months.

The US saw a surge in new orders to take advantage of government tax credits for clean energy, which expire in December this year. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) provides the owner of a qualifying renewable energy facility annual tax credits, currently valued at 1.9 cents/KWh, based on the amount of energy generated in the first ten years. The facility must start operation before the credit expires.

Last year, the European Union set an ambitious target: 20% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2020.

In April this year, China set a massive target of expanding wind power capacity to 100,000MW by 2020, from the current 5,600MW. Previously, in 2006, China passed the Renewable Energy Law, which requires power grid companies to buy the entire output of registered renewable energy producers in their areas. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top industry planning body, sets the purchase price.

CLSA Research estimates that the US, Europe and China will be spending about $150 billion on wind projects in the next five years.

US dithers, China surges ahead

In the US, an unstable regulatory regime is one factor hindering turbine production.
Sporadic tax breaks for renewable energy projects, usually on a year-to-year basis, have discouraged US manufacturers from scaling up. Congress, for example, has stalled the extension of PTCs beyond the end of 2008.

In the past, when tax credits lapsed the demand for wind turbines came crashing down the following year. If the trend is repeated this time, it may actually result in overcapacity of turbine manufacturing in the US, at least for the domestic market.

Yet energy analysts say that if the US market slows down due to lack of tax breaks, China will more than compensate.

In the short term, massive demand from China may further tighten turbine supply, but expanding local production should ease the global crunch within a couple of years. Today, the Chinese market is dominated by the top three foreign manufacturers, Vestas, GE Wind and Gamesa, who enjoy a combined market share of 47%. However, this is set to change.

Zhang Guobao, vice president of China’s NDRC, says: “We are planning several measures to support the wind power industry including localisation of equipment production.” According to the Global Wind Energy Council (, China will become the top wind turbine manufacturer by 2009.

To encourage production, China increased tariffs on imported wind turbines in May, while slashing import taxes on components. The latter incentive, to help Chinese firms compete internationally for scarce parts, will put pressure on the industry in the rest of the world. But, again, this is a short-term problem. Government rules already require that turbines have at least 70% domestically produced components. As a result, leading manufacturers have been setting up factories in China.

As things presently stand, most Chinese manufacturers can produce only smaller turbines, up to 1MW. Chinese firms are trying to overcome this weakness by licensing agreements and joint ventures with western companies.

Goldwind, China’s largest wind turbine maker, raised $245 million through an Initial Public Offer (IPO) early this year to fund a huge expansion. LM Glassfiber of Denmark, which has a cooperation agreement with Goldwind, opened its second turbine blade factory in China in October last year.

Other major Chinese turbine makers – Sinovel, Windey, Dongfang, MingYang and HEC – are also expanding capacities and shopping for joint ventures and licensing agreements with global players.

China High, the country’s largest manufacturer of gearboxes – the most critical and complex part in a wind turbine – plans a four-fold increase in production in the next two years. The company is aiming to become one of the top three global manufacturers of gearboxes, with half of revenue coming from exports.

China High, which already supplies to GE, REpower, Nordex and Goldwind, raised $272 million through an IPO to fund massive expansion. The company is raising another $250 million through convertible bonds and plans to buy a special-steel plant to secure supplies and reduce costs. Special steel accounts for half the cost of gearboxes.

Among the foreign players, Germany’s Nordex – the fourth largest wind turbine maker in China – announced in November that it would quadruple production capacity to 800MW by 2011 to meet growing demand.

Currently, MingYang is China’s only turbine exporter. But in the next three to five years, the number of exporters is likely to grow as other firms aggressively expand and acquire technology. Foreign manufacturers may be scaling up their production in China, but in the longer term it is the emergence of Chinese turbine and component manufacturers that will probably change the global landscape of wind power.

Response from the big players

With over 8,000 parts required to make a wind turbine, requiring a large network of reliable suppliers, component supply is creating the most problematic bottleneck for turbine makers. In order to meet increasing demand, leading players are rushing to beef up their supplies by setting up new plants, signing long-term contracts with suppliers and even making acquisitions.

Vestas Wind Systems

World leader Vestas, which has manufacturing and assembling plants in Denmark, Germany, Australia, India, Italy, Scotland, England, Spain, Sweden and Norway, is on a spending spree. It has invested $2.25 billion in organic growth in the past three years.

As part of its strategy to establish manufacturing in the US, Vestas announced in May that it would build the world’s largest wind turbine tower factory in Colorado, at an estimated investment of $250 million. When fully operational in mid-2010, the facility will produce 900 towers a year.

In March, Vestas opened its first US blade manufacturing plant in Windsor, Colorado, which will be fully operational by mid-2009, with a capacity of about 1,800 40-meter wind turbines a year.

Another blade-making plant in Castilla La Mancha, Spain – where Vestas already has three facilities – is scheduled to start production this year.

Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Vestas, said in Beijing in April that the company plans to increase its capital and technology investment in China to meet growing competition from domestic players. The firm has a blade-manufacturing facility in Tianjin, which started production in 2006.

Vestas RRB, a wind energy company in India that has a technical collaboration with Vestas, raised $190 million in investment from Merrill Lynch in October last year to fund new blade-manufacturing facilities in Chennai and New Delhi.

GE Energy

GE has a worldwide installation of over 8,400 turbines, generating 11,300MW.

With $12 billion in orders, including recent orders from Mesa, Texas ($2 billion) and Invenergy Wind ($2 billion), GE’s current capacity is sold out until 2009.

The company, which has production facilities in Germany, Spain, Canada, China and the US, is now aggressively expanding capacities.

GE’s commercial partner Molded Fiber Glass Companies (MFG) started building a new blade plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota in November and aims to start production this year.

In November, GE signed an agreement with TPI Composites to build a new facility in Newton, Iowa, to produce blades for GE’s 1.5MW wind turbines. TPI has also signed a long-term supply contract with GE to make wind turbine blades in a new facility being set up in Taicang, China. Production is likely to begin this year.

GE is also planning a new facility in India to manufacture 1.5MW and 2.5MW turbines, though no time frame has been announced.

Prolec GE, a joint venture between GE Energy and electrical transformer supplier Xignux, is investing $50 million in its facility in Monterrey, Mexico to increase transformer production by 30%.

“We are working with suppliers to ramp up their capacity to ensure smooth supply of components,” says Magued El Daief, GE’s managing director in the UK.

Suzlon Energy

Based in India, the world’s fourth-largest wind turbine maker has orders worth $4.2 billion. It is aiming to double production capacity to 5,700MW by March next year, at an investment of $1.5 billion.

Over the last year, the company has raised $1.1 billion through an IPO and a Qualified Institutional Placement to fund expansion and pay for Hansen Transmission, a big Belgian maker of gearboxes it bought in 2006 for $680 million.

Hansen intends to increase its capacity from 3,800MW a year to 14,300MW over the next five years. In addition to expanding at its main facility in Lommel, Belgium, it will be building plants in Coimbatore, India, and in China.

Last year, Suzlon bought Germany’s wind turbine maker REpower for $1.9 billion.

The company’s plans in India include a new plant to make control systems and generators in Coimbatore, a wind turbine and rotor blade facility in Mangalore, a forging unit in Vadodara, and enhancing tower equipment manufacturing at its Kandla sites.

The firm also aims to double production capacity in China to 1,200MW in 2009-2010.

“China has a very ambitious target and we have a strong presence there,” says Tulsi Tanti, chairman of Suzlon.

Siemens Power Generation

German giant Siemens, which boasts 6,600 installations and a combined capacity of 6,080MW, recently disclosed that it had four year-backlog of orders for larger turbines.

It said that any new orders will not be delivered until 2012, causing a panic among the utilities companies, particularly in the UK where the government has ambitious targets for renewable energy.

Sources at Siemens say that the company plans to triple turbine production by 2011.
However, the supply crunch has not stopped the company from signing up new orders. So far this year, it has received $2.4 billion in orders from the US alone.

This includes an enormous order in May for 218 turbines of 2.3MW capacity each from FPL, the largest energy provider in the US. Supply will begin in 2009. To ensure delivery, the company is doubling the capacity of its US facility in Fort Madison, Iowa, at an investment of $35 million.

“The expansion will increase our ability to competitively serve the North American market,” said Randy Zwirn, head of Siemens Energy Americas.

Siemens has also bagged another big-ticket order, worth $1.2 billion, in the UK from Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds, which is building the world’s largest off-shore wind farm 25km off the coast of Suffolk. Turbines will be delivered in 2009 and 2010.

Siemens has aggressively expanded its facilities in Denmark, investing $59 million in the past two years to keep pace with the demand.

Gamesa Wind

The Spanish company has 32 production sites in Spain, Italy, North America, Germany and Norway.

Vertically integrated, Gamesa designs and makes its own blades, root joints, gearboxes, generators, converters, towers and nacelles. It assembles wind turbines and develops wind farms itself, a capability that most of its competitors do not have.

The company has orders for over 8,000MW of installations, equivalent to its production capacity for the next two years.

In the last 18 months, Gamesa has added nine plants, including four new facilities in the US, three in China and two in Spain.

The firm is investing $80 million in manufacturing facilities and developing wind farms in China, and aims to be the largest foreign turbine maker in the country, with a 30% market share by 2010. It plans to add 1,800MW to its Chinese production capacity by next year.

In April, it signed an agreement with the US-based turbine tower maker Tower Tech Systems for supplying towers for its North American projects.

Back home in Spain, it created a joint venture last year with Grupo Daniel Alonso for manufacturing towers for wind-turbine generators. The combined entity, in which Gamesa has a 32% holding, will run four facilities in Spain.

The company is also expecting to complete a prototype of its 4.5MW turbine this year. The turbine is likely to go into production in 2010.


Germany’s Enercon has a worldwide installation of 12,500 turbines generating 14,400MW, half of this in Germany. It has production facilities in Germany, Sweden, Brazil, India, and Turkey. It is scheduled to start production in Portugal this year.

This year, the company bagged two large orders for wind power projects in Quebec for 272MW installations to be operational by 2013. The company plans to open a factory for wind power components in Quebec to support the project, at an investment of $30 million.

Enercon is forcefully implementing vertical integration at its headquarters in Aurich. Here, MTA Metalltechnologie, a group company of Enercon, started making nacelle casings, cast components and steel parts at the end of 2007. The unit will add manufacturing of generator rings this year.

The company is also ramping up capacity in Portugal. At the end of last year, its rotor blade facility in Viana do Castelo started production for the Portuguese market. Two more plants are being built nearby, to be operational later this year.

Who will be top dog?

Vestas and Suzlon are the firms most aggressively expanding their capacity and can be expected to continue their global dominance.

Vestas, which has close relations with the major power utility firms, is banking on China to achieve its target of 25% share of the world market.

This year, Suzlon became only the second vertically integrated wind power manufacturer in the world, after Gamesa. This allows it to have better control over its supplies. Suzlon also has access to cheap labor in India, huge experience in the industry, a global network of suppliers and subsidiaries, and strategic acquisitions. The company looks well placed to profit from rocketing demand.

Safety concerns

As it gets bigger, the wind power industry faces a few safety issues. Several cases have been reported of turbines collapsing.

Two Vestas turbines collapsed in Hornslet, Denmark early this year, prompting an investigation by the Danish climate minister Connie Hedegaard. Another two collapsed in the UK last November and December, sparking a joint investigation by the company and the UK Health and Safety Executive. The first incident took place in Scotland; the second in Cumbria.

Siemens was fined $10,500 for safety violations in February after a six-month probe into the collapse last August of a turbine in Sherman County in Oregon, in the US. One worker was killed.

In February this year, Edison International, a wind farm operator in the US Midwest, complained that the blades of its 144-foot-long turbines, supplied by Suzlon, had started to split at three sites. Similar problems were reported at the sites of another customer, Deere & Co. Suzlon reacted by recalling 1,251 turbine blades.

As the manufacturers pursue rapid expansion and delivery, and produce larger and taller turbines, it looks like they will also need to lift their safety standards to match.

Smart meters to become mandatory in UK

Monday, May 18th, 2009

The UK government revealed plans Monday to have smart meters installed in every UK home by 2020- but at what cost?

A new £9 billion scheme was announced Monday, a full three years after the Government intended to introduce the smart meters. The electronic smart meters read a household’s electricity and gas consumption and send the accurate information to the household’s energy provider. The idea behind the smart meters is that they will eliminate the need for someone to check energy levels- thus saving the energy companies money- and also quickly and accurately inform the consumer about energy overuse, saving the consumer money on energy bills, all while reducing overall energy use.

The smart meters are about the size of a small notebook, and are reportedly to cost about £340 per household. There are several different proposals as to how the smart meters will be managed, with the government’s preferred method seeing the energy companies responsible for the installation and maintenance and a third party handling the actual energy data.

The Government believes the energy reduction would ‘conservatively’ save each household £4 a year, or about £100 million throughout the UK. The energy companies say they will be able to offer consumers cheaper energy due to the reduction of operating costs.

£10bn smart electricity meter project could change consumer behaviour

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

The government’s to replace almost 50 million gas and electricity meters over 20 years is a golden prize for information and communications services firms.

Not only will it put an “always-on” communications link into every house, flat and office, and require the collection and storage of petabytes of information, but it has the potential to allow energy suppliers to control consumers’ energy consumption.

The government hopes information from smart meters will be enough to persuade consumers to use more off-peak energy. But if they do not, smart metering opens up the possibility for suppliers to ration consumption, by allowing them to switch off networked appliances at times of peak demand.

Key to this is the communications network. The government has proposed three possible scenarios. The option preferred by the government and energy suppliers is for a purpose-built independent third-party national network operator. This would allow energy suppliers to install and maintain the meters, without taking on the risks associated with running the communications and data storage network.

All homes with a telephone line already have a nominal 56kbps link. BT, the UK’s biggest fixed wire network operator, is keen to explore how this project might integrate with its plans, including its possible obligation, to provide to British homes.
The government’s to replace almost 50 million gas and electricity meters over 20 years is a golden prize for information and communications services firms.

Not only will it put an “always-on” communications link into every house, flat and office, and require the collection and storage of petabytes of information, but it has the potential to allow energy suppliers to control consumers’ energy consumption.

The government hopes information from smart meters will be enough to persuade consumers to use more off-peak energy. But if they do not, smart metering opens up the possibility for suppliers to ration consumption, by allowing them to switch off networked appliances at times of peak demand.
Key to this is the communications network. The government has proposed three possible scenarios. The option preferred by the government and energy suppliers is for a purpose-built independent third-party national network operator. This would allow energy suppliers to install and maintain the meters, without taking on the risks associated with running the communications and data storage network.

All homes with a telephone line already have a nominal 56kbps link. BT, the UK’s biggest fixed wire network operator, is keen to explore how this project might integrate with its plans, including its possible obligation, to provide a 2mbps broadbank link to British homes.

Reliable broadband essential

But linking smart meters to the telephone system, particularly a broadband network, might not work, says Mark England, managing director of electronics design specialist. Sentec licenses its smart meter designs to manufacturers which build units for the US and Italian markets.

He says broadband may be okay for consumers because they can usually afford to wait for their information. But energy firms cannot, especially if they are trying to manage consumption on the fly. Even though data rates of 100k a day may be all they need, the connection must be up 24×7. Britain’s broadband networks are not that reliable.

The government’s department of business (BERR) said it had talked to the energy department about whether a smart meter roll-out would make a universal broadband roll-out more cost-effective.

“Currently we believe that this is unlikely because firstly, the meters do not need the bandwidth of broadband, and secondly, energy suppliers need ‘always-on’ communications that consumers cannot switch off,” says a spokesman.

Smart meters offer the potential to introduce smart grids, which interconnect machines rather than people, says England. For example, the smart meter could become the portal to other networked devices such as home surveillance equipment, refrigerators or air-conditioning units. This would allow electricity suppliers (or owners) to switch devices on and off remotely to minimise peak loads.

It would also let suppliers offer innovative service packages, England says. One might be a consumer’s commitment to keep peak consumption below say 3kW in return for a cheaper price, but to suffer a trip if consumption goes above the limit.

“This means there is a lot more information flowing up and down in real time, so network reliability and guaranteed quality of service are mandatory,” he says.

England believes different physical networks will be optimised for the terrain. He says the cellular telephony network works fine in densely populated urban areas, but GSM modems presently cost more than the meter equipment. Rural areas may need cable and/or multiplexed wireless connections.

The key to cutting the UK’s carbon emissions is to reduce peak load and raise base load.

Petter Allison, director of smart metering at British Gas, told a recent conference that a 2% reduction in consumption would pay for the cost of smart meters. US experience suggests some consumers will change their behaviour. It shows cuts of 5% to 15% in energy consumption, says England.