GREEN DEALS: Crest of a wave

There’s positive news for Australia’s two most talked about wave projects, Origin further distances itself from Geodynamics, Algae-Tec signs a deal with a major airline and ARENA makes its second commitment.

Ocean Power, Carnegie Wave

US-based Ocean Power Technologies has reported plenty of interest in its Australian wave power project with Lockheed Martin. The 19 MW project in Portland in Victoria’s south-west won a conditional grant of $66.5 million from the Commonwealth back in 2009 but financing plans and power purchase agreements are still to be sorted out.

Progress on the latter has been “encouraging”, Ocean Power Technologies CEO Charles Dunleavy told the AFR, while there have been “very strong indications of interest” from investors looking to offer finance.

The ASX-listed Carnegie Wave Power meanwhile, has released the design of the unit it will use at its Perth Wave Energy Project, which has an agreement to provide energy for Australia’s largest naval base.

The unit (CETO 5) has an improved rated capacity of 240 kW and ensures power is produced at high wave energy sites (like the southern coast of Australia) 97 per cent of the time, the company said.

Geodynamics, Origin Energy

Origin Energy remains a bystander in developments at geothermal hopeful Geodynamics.

After not agreeing to a forward work program in June, Origin now has told its joint venture partner that it will have to go it alone for the foreseeable future (well, at least the 2013 financial year). Origin has the right to maintain its full 30 per cent participation in the JV prior to the end of the financial year through a buy back provision or dilute its ongoing participating interest beyond FY2013.

Given Origin now doubts the potential of the project to contribute anything meaningful pre-2020 (and therefore assist it in meeting obligations associated with the RET), it appears likely that barring significant good news, the utility will dilute its interest at the end of the financial year.

The geothermal company is confident it can cover the capital work program through its own cash reserves and by drawing down funding under the $90 million Renewable Energy Demonstration Program (which will require certain milestones being achieved).

Petratherm

Geothermal hopeful Petratherm has launched a capital raising, seeking to raise almost $1.5 million at 3 cents a share. Three cents a share represents a major fall from its heights of a few years ago, when geothermal was regularly on the positive end of conditional multi-million dollar grants. The share price of the firm pushed as high as $1.25 in late-2007. Incidentally, the raising price is equivalent to its 52-week (and historical) low.

Algae.Tec

ASX-listed Algae.Tec has signed a collaboration agreement with major European airline Lufthansa for the construction of a large-scale algae-to-aviation biofuels production facility. Lufthansa will fund the project, with Algae.Tec to receive licence fees and a percentage of profits.

The Australian firm will manage the development, with Lufthansa committing to a long-term offtake agreement of at least 50 per cent of the crude oil produced at an agreed, though unspecified, price.

The deal supersedes the MOU signed between the two parties in January this year, but remains subject to board approval of both parties.

ARENA

ARENA is starting its life in a slow and steady manner ahead of its much-awaited funding plan, with another small grant offered, its second in a matter of weeks. This commitment will be the first by the $100 million Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund.

The initial $1.5 million investment within the ARENA-controlled fund has been awarded to Brisbane Materials, which is looking to commercialise “high-performance anti-reflective coatings”. The product has the potential to increase the efficiency of solar cells.

“Southern Cross Venture Partners has helped secure matched international investment in an Australian innovation that draws on world leading technology developed at the University of Queensland,” energy minister Martin Ferguson said.

“These funds will provide the Australian company with the best chance of capturing a significant share of the global market by delivering important improvements on solar technology.”

While the initial investment is $1.5 million, the total commitment is $2.5 million, to be matched dollar-for-dollar by US-based New Ventures Partners LLC.

NSW power sale

According to the AFR there is “healthy interest” in the next round of the NSW power sell-off, not least of which is for the 162 MW of Eraring Energy’s renewable portfolio. The offtake for Eraring’s two wind farms – 4.8 MW Crookwell and 9.9 MW Blayney – is already contracted to Origin, but these assets and energy from its hydroelectric plants are available to the highest bidder.

Following the first round of privatisation, which saw TRU and Origin extend their reach in the state, these two utilities are seen as the most suitable owners of many of the assets up for grabs in the second round, according to the AFR. Given Origin’s offtake deal with Eraring’s wind farms it may seem a logical buyer, but given its funding focus is heavily on the APLNG project, it may be an unlikely player.

Origin CEO Grant King said last October that “it's probably not that likely we'd participate (in the second round NSW power sell-off)," according to The Australian.

Morocco solar farm

A consortium led by Saudi International Company for Water and Power (ACWA) has won a $1 billion contract to build a 160 MW solar thermal plant in the south of Morocco. ACWA has teamed up with Spanish firms Aries IS and TSK EE for the project, one of the world’s largest.

The plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2014. It forms a part of the Moroccan government’s plan to have 2GW of solar power by 2020.

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