German wind power blown off course

The German government and wind energy industry representatives have been meeting recently to hammer out a way of reinvigorating the sector. But the future of this once thriving industry is blowing in the wind.

Wind turbine

Hermann Albers, the president of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), is quite conviced that the government has made a “fatal mistake” with the introduction of a minimum distance for wind turbines of 1,000 meters (1,093 yards) from residential areas. And German consultancy group Prognos believes that the German onshore wind power’s  “success story is currently in danger” amid growing pressure on the sector.

As the warning signs for the German wind power industry are flashing red, the recent meeting between industry and government officials at least created a “better understanding” of the problems BWE said, but key issues remain unresolved.

The share of renewable energy in Germany’s energy consumption reached a record of 43% in the first nine months of 2019, figures from utilities association BDEW and research foundation ZSW show.

But the headline figure conceals the fact that nationwide only 35 new windmills with a combined output of 290 megawatts (MW) were installed in the first half of 2019, down 80% from the same period of 2018 and the lowest in two decades. The last six onshore wind power auctions have also been undersubscribed. In September, bids were submitted for only 35% of the 500 megawatts (MW) on the block.

German wind power construction in the doldrums

Growth but not fast enough?

Marco Lange from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy says that the German wind energy market is “historically unique” because it is dominated by more small local project developers compared to other markets.

“With the change to the auction system many of those find it increasingly difficult to participate successfully in the market,” he told DW, which has increased the level of regulation and made permissions from authorities take too long.

“Moreover, often judicial action is taken against the permissions, for example by citizens who do not want turbines in their neighborhood or by environmental activists,” Lange says.

The German Renewables Association (BEE) estimates that an annual installation of 4.7 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind is needed to meet Germany’s wind power targets.

According to the government’s long-term plan, renewable energy will account for at least 65% of the country’s electricity needs by 2030. Wind energy has accounted for more than a quarter of electricity production so far this year and solar power just 10%. According to a recent study by the Agora Energiewende pressure group, about three-quarters of the additional capacity needed by 2030 will have to come from wind.

Infografik Windkraft Zubau 2018 weltweit EN

Job cuts

Some 27% of jobs in Germany’s wind industry could be lost by 2030 because of a stagnating expansion of onshore wind turbines, according to a study published by VDMA Power Systems. It has estimated that job losses by the end of 2019 will have jumped to 40,000. If problems with the approval of new wind plants continue, the decline in domestic business would reduce annual gross value added in Germany by €700 million ($776.4 million), VDMA says.

Half of Europe’s 300,000 wind energy jobs are in Germany. Enercon, one of the largest German manufacturers of wind turbines, recently cut 3,000 jobs, while the turbine installation slump has also hit rival manufacturers, such as Vestas and Siemens Gamesa.

Just 400 MW of new wind farm permits were awarded in the first quarter of this year, well below historical levels. There are also around 11 GW of wind farm projects stuck in the permitting process in Germany. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire installed wind capacity of Denmark and the Netherlands combined.

Andrew Canning, PR Manager at think tank Wind Europe, told DW that slow permissions “seriously undermines Germany’s ability to meet its 2030 renewables target,” with the new 1,000-meter rule raising even more problems. “Other European countries apply a 500-meter rule or even less,” he says, and adds that an opt-out clause allowing regional states and municipalities to ignore the minimum distance “complicates matters.”

The future looks bright for Germany’s biggest surface coal mine. Even as the country introduces climate protection measures and switches to renewable energy sources, its dependence on coal-fueled power plants is unabated. Continued reliance on coal means Germany is unlikely to meet its 2020 emission goals. That’s not good for the environment, but the view from the Hambach mine remains impressive.

According to Canning, the permitting process for new wind farms was the “underlying problem,” which has led to permissions that used to take just 10 months now taking over two years. “Plus there is a lack of staff to process the applications, especially at the Bundesland level,” he says.

Delays and legal disputes have increased commercial risks for the industry, as they are scaring off potential investors. This is already showing in the number of wind power projects tendered this year. Of the more than 1,350 MW offered by the government so far in 2019, only 746 MW materialized due to a lack of participation in the public auction rounds.

“Economically and technologically, this is totally misguided,” Lange says. “We see already an ongoing decline of companies being active in the wind industry. This has an effect on the value chain in the country up to reduction of local production of key components.”

Josko Radeljic, head of investor relations at the Baywa consultancy, believes that the government must act forcefully now to ensure that “public acceptance of wind power remains high in general.” Government measures to increase offshore wind energy production, and plans to improve benefit schemes for local communities from wind profits are going “in the right direction, he says, just to add: “In sum [they are] not ambitious enough to address the situation.” SOURCE

Tsilhqot’in First Nation opens B.C.’s largest solar farm

The project, which will generate enough energy to power 135 homes and $175,000 in annual revenue, is being celebrated as an important milestone in the nation’s economic independence

Chief Russell Myers Ross

There were times over the last five years, when Chief Russell Myers Ross wondered whether his dream of creating a solar farm would ever become a reality.

There were studies and more studies, funding applications, community discussions and back and forth talks with BC Hydro and the provincial government. Then there were little hitches, such as deciding on the Riverwest Sawmill site, 80-kilometres west of Williams Lake, and then discovering that one parcel was partially owned by another company.

“We had to find a way to make it 100 per cent our ownership … It took $80,000 to sort of buy them out,” Myers Ross said.

Once construction started, with apprentices from the six Tsilhqot’in communities learning the trade, the weather refused to cooperate, even though the Chilcotin is among B.C.’s top five solar hotspots. Instead of the expected sun, torrential rains brought monsoon conditions to the area in July as construction workers tried to lay cables in muddy trenches.

“You feel like it’s never going to be done,” said Myers Ross, vice-chair of Tsilhqot’in National Government and chief of Yunesit’in First Nation.

Tsilhqot’in Solar Farm

The Tsilhqot’in Solar Farm. Photo: EcoSmart

Project granted 25-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro

Last month the 3,456 panel solar farm held its grand opening and is now waiting for BC Hydro to complete the hookup so power from the sun can flow into the grid.

The Tsilhqot’in company that oversaw the project, Dandzen Development Corporation, has a 25-year electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro.

Susie Rieder, BC Hydro spokesperson said there is not yet a firm date for “completion of the interconnection process.”

The solar farm is one of five shovel-ready projects with “significant Indigenous Nations involvement” approved last year as part of a benefit agreement with BC Hydro. The program was suspended indefinitely when, following approval of the Site C dam on the Peace River, the province ordered BC Hydro to reconsider its power procurement policies.

Myers Ross is happy that the Tsilhqot’in project squeezed in under the wire and, even without the final connection and despite the construction challenges, he is breathing a sigh of relief.

“This is a really rewarding one for me personally,” he told The Narwhal.

Russell Myers Ross Tshilquot'in National Government

Chief Russell Myers Ross. Photo: Tsilhqot’in National Government / Facebook

“This is the first project to generate our own source of revenue for our Tsilhqot’in organization and the community, which is significant for our overall goal of self-sufficiency,” he said.

The solar farm, with panels lined in 216 sections on a two-hectare site, will provide 1.25 megawatts, creating 1,500 megawatt hours of power annually, which is enough to power about 135 homes.

The project is expected to generate about $175,000 a year in annual revenue.

“It’s not a big moneymaker. It is sort of modest, but it gets us on our way. It’s a big accomplishment and it is one of the first building blocks to getting revenue and being able to use the money where we want to allocate it, with no strings attached,” Myers Ross said.

Project entirely Indigenous owned and operated

The project is the largest solar farm of its kind in B.C. and the only one that is 100 per cent owned and operated by a First Nation.

The final result is “pretty impressive,” said Gabe Pukacz, a Yunesit’in councillor and construction manager for the project.

Specialists and companies familiar with solar installations, such as EcoSmart, were hired to help with technical aspects, but many of the skills were learned by the on-the-ground workers as the job progressed, Pukacz said.

“It was pretty good. The workers made life easy … All my labourers were Tsilhqot’in,” he said.

Now, everyone is waiting for the hookup. Pukacz said.

“It will be interesting to find out what the capabilities of producing power will be during the least efficient sunlight hours in November,” he said.

‘A huge economic win for our nation’

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair, hopes the solar farm inspires other Indigenous communities — in Canada and around the world — to look at clean power opportunities.

“Energy and electricity has been lacking in the territory for a long time, despite one of the longest stretches of hydro in Canada, so we welcome the opportunity for business and to improve the well-being of our people,” Alphonse said in a news release.

Chief Joseph Alphonse

Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tl’etinqox Nation stands outside the band office in Anaham, B.C. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

In B.C., Indigenous led solar projects include plans by the Upper Nicola Band for a huge solar farm on the Quilchena Reserve and the T’Souke First Nation on Vancouver Island that has been providing solar power to homes on the reserve for more than a decade.

Even with power expected to be generated by Site C, there is increasing evidence that more renewable energy sources will be needed as B.C. makes the transition to clean energy. A University of Victoria study, released this week, found that in order to electrify transportation, which produces one third of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions, the province will need to generate up to 60 per cent more electricity.

In a move in that direction, the provincial government announced this week that, as part of its CleanBC program, $16.5-million will be available to remote, diesel-dependent communities to help with capital costs of renewable electricity projects. Most of the communities eligible to apply for Renewable Energy for Remote Communities funds — which are available through Coast Funds and the Fraser Basin Council — are Indigenous and off-grid.

For the Tsilhqot’in and others living in the surrounding area, the solar farm will beef up the weak 250-kilometre power line that runs from Williams Lake to Tatla Lake, which has prevented some industries from locating to the area and has forced some businesses to partially rely on diesel generators.

Other projects may follow as the Tsilhqot’in Nation Government is currently creating a clean energy plan, looking at the territory and considering what might be available from micro-hydro, geothermal and biomass.

The push for economic independence comes in the wake of the 2014 landmark title case, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Tsilhqot’in hold Aboriginal title to about 1,750 square-kilometres of land.

Tsilhqot'in solar farm

The Tsilhqot’in solar farm on the former site of the Riverwest Sawmill, 80-kilometres west of Williams Lake. Photo: Kai Nagata

Other economic development projects under consideration include boosting tourism in Xeni Gwet’in, a mobile concrete batch plant to help with housing and infrastructure construction and a chip mill.

The need to look for new avenues of revenue that fit with Indigenous culture and traditions has been underlined by the Tsilhqot’in in light of crashing caribou populations, lack of salmon and hunting restrictions on moose following the 2017 wildfires that saw wildlife populations reduced or moving to other areas.

“The solar farm is a huge economic win for our nation,” Alphonse said. SOURCE

World’s most efficient wind power plant doubles capacity

If  Norway can develop this 400 GWh wind park in its Arctic, why can’t Canada?

The Raggovidda wind park in Berlevåg, Arctic Norway, teams up with Luxembourgian investors and boosts green generation. Some of it will be used to produce hydrogen.

The Raggovidda wind farm is located on the coast of the Barents Sea. Photo: Atle Staalesen

The 15 turbines on Mount Rákkočearru have since they were built in 2014 had an annual production of close to 200 GWh. That is almost twice as much as an average wind park.

The open landscapes of the Varanger Peninsula offer little resistance and winds blow with an average speed of 9,5 meter per second all through the year. Hardly any other wind park in the world has the efficiency of Raggovidda.

Now, a major expansion is in the air. Owner Varanger Kraft sells 49 percent of the park to Cube Infrastructure Managers, a Luxembourian investment company, and announces a doubling of capacity.

By late 2021, the wind park will increase annual generation to more than 400 GWh, the company informs.

Big potential

It is the shape of the landscapes that is the main reason for the high efficiency of the plant. There is no vegetation. And the area is covered by snow major parts of the year.

“Nowhere else, the conditions are as suitable for development of wind power as along the coast of Finnmark,” Tore Martinsen, wind power developer for Varanger Kraft, told the Barents Observer in 2018.

“We have done some informal investigations and have not been able to find a single land-based facility that produces this well,” he underlined.
The project development license obtained by Varanger Kraft in 2010 includes up to 200 MW. But the company has not been able to take advantage of more than 45 MW. The reason is the insufficiently developed transmission grid in the region.
Tore Martinsen is wind power developer for Varanger Kraft. Photo: Atle Staalesen
Hydrogen production

The expansion of the Raggovidda comes as Varanger Kraft is developing a test facility for production of hydrogen.

Down by the sea port of nearby Berlevåg, the company this year started to build a 400 square meter facility that ultimately is to produce a minimum of 120 tons of hydrogen.

It is an experimental project, and production will initially be modest on an industrial scale. But if successful, the hydrogen generation would mean that the increasingly cheap electricity from Raggovidda will not necessarily have to be transferred out of Finnmark, but instead used for alternative purposes. MORE