GREEN DEALS: Milestone elation

New records have been set in Australian wind and world solar. Meanwhile, Hydro Tas looks at $1.6bn in wind farm investments, Geodynamics sees great potential in the Solomons and Red Sky Energy remains on track for a 2.5MW Dubbo solar plant.

Macarthur wind farm

Australia’s biggest wind farm is set to celebrate its official opening tomorrow (Friday). The 420 MW Macarthur wind farm, a joint venture between ASX-listed AGL Energy and NZ-based Meridian Energy, has been fully operational since the end of January.

The formal opening will be made by Victorian Premier Denis Napthine.

Macarthur trumps the previous biggest wind farm in the country by quite a margin, with Infigen’s Lake Bonney (completed in three stages) in South Australia now a distant number two at 278.5 MW.

First Solar

It’s been a big news week in solar, with speculation Warren Buffett could take over the financially troubled Suntech Power, as reported on Climate Spectator here. (It remains a rumour, but the price of Suntech shares continues to rise – it is up close to 80 per cent in just the last three trading days).

The largest US player in solar, meanwhile, was greeted with a share price spike of its own after it made three positive announcements in one fell swoop.

On Tuesday night, Australian time, First Solar’s share price lifted a staggering 45 per cent as it outlined its earnings forecasts for the next three years (which topped expectations), purchased a start-up focussed on new rooftop PV technology and outlined an efficiency world record in cadmium-telluride PV tech.

The joy of the Tuesday trading session faded a little overnight, however, with the shares giving up 8 per cent on profit taking and a few concerns from analysts that its forecasts may be too optimistic.

First to earnings, and First Solar expects net sales of $3.8 billion to $4 billion in 2013, well above average Wall Street analyst expectations of around $3.1 billion.

The company is also expecting to drastically bring down the cost per watt, helping strained margins in the wake of sharp falls in the price of solar.

First Solar forecasts a cost per watt of between 63 and 66 cents in 2013, dropping to 53 to 54 cents next year and around 40 cents by 2017.

The news gets better with its announcement of an efficiency world record in cadmium-telluride solar technology. The company said it has achieved 16.1 per cent total area module efficiency in tests confirmed by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Finally, the company confirmed the acquisition of Silicon Valley start-up Tetrasun for an undisclosed sum. It will begin commercial manufacturing of Tertasun’s high-efficiency crystalline silicon technology in the middle of next year, with the move diversifying its solar technology options. It has long been a champion of cadmium-telluride technology, while many of its main competitors have focussed on crystalline silicon.

The move will allow First Solar a greater avenue into the rooftop solar sector, which it largely avoids at the moment, instead focussing on utility-scale developments.

Red Sky Energy

Red Sky Energy is confident it can have a $4.4 million, 2.5 MW solar project in development in Dubbo by the middle of next year.

The project has development approval and the potential to be expanded to as much as 12 MW.

Upon its completion, nine months after the first module is installed in the middle of 2014, the company will look to offload 65 per cent to “individual sophisticated investors”.

The project was formerly in the hands of Soleir, which was acquired by Red Sky in November last year.

Hydro Tasmania

Hydro Tasmania and Chinese energy company Shenhua have signed a strategic cooperation agreement, which should see the further collaboration on wind farms.

The company have already teamed on two wind farms in Tasmania, Woolnorth and Musselroe.

This latest agreement could see as much as 700 MW installed by 2020, with investment of around $1.6 billion.

"If you look at Woolnorth and Musselroe, the two of those add up to 308 megawatts so we'd be looking at adding 700 to that," Hydro Tasmania chief executive, Roy Adair, told the ABC.

"We'd be looking at trebling the size of what we currently have."

Geodynamics

Geodynamics and JV partner Kentor Energy have released the inferred geothermal resource assessment for their project in the Solomon Islands, with the potential to supply the entire power requirement of the capital city of the Solomon Islands, Honiara.

The median initial inferred resource of 269PJ would be capable of supporting in excess of 30MWe of generation capacity.

“The completion of the initial resource estimate and scoping study is a key step in progressing the Savo Island Geothermal Power Project, which is aiming to replace high cost diesel generated power in Honiara and the nearby Gold Ridge Mine with cheaper and lower emitting geothermal power,” Geodynamics Managing Director, Geoff Ward, said.

“With continued success in the exploration program and the positive engagement we have received from the Solomon Islands Government, the Savo Island Project could be supplying power to Honiara within 4 – 5 years.”

The company this week also announced it had received a R&D Tax Incentive refund of $22.2 million under the federal government’s R&D Tax Incentive Scheme.

Panax Geothermal/Raya Group

Panax Geothermal is no longer, after its shareholders agreed to change the name of the company to Raya Group. The name change was brought about as the company looks to pursue non-geothermal interests and sell its Indonesian geothermal projects, for which it says it has received “informal” interest.

Given its troubled past (in terms of realising shareholder value), it’s little wonder the company sought a name change. The shares currently trade at less than a cent.

Raya is also weighing up its options for raising capital after a botched raising last month. While it looks to raise money, it has been scaling back expenses with staff cutbacks part of the moves.

“During the last four weeks, the directors have completed a detailed review of all staffing levels, contractor arrangements, exploration costs, and all general overhead, administrative and office operating costs. Significant cost reductions have been implemented in all areas of the business, which will help to reduce monthly cash burn in the coming months,” the company said in a statement.

Hot Rock Limited

ASX-listed geothermal group Hot Rock Limited has signed a project agreement with National ICT Australia (NICTA) to assess geothermal potential in the Otway Basin.

NICTA is part of a $5 million research program designed to use scientific data to assist in quantifying

the probability that geothermal reservoir targets will be found in any given area, prior to drilling. ARENA’s Emerging Renewables Program has will fund $1.9 million of the total cost of the program, due to be completed by March 2014.

HRL will supply existing geological and geophysical data plus its expertise in discovery and development of geothermal resources.

“This program is an excellent opportunity for HRL to have high quality researchers, working on state of the art computer processing of large multi-variant databases, to assist us in better defining the best targets in our Otway Basin geothermal reservoirs,” HRL Executive Chairman Dr Mark Elliott said.

“This is part of HRL’s new Otway Basin strategy of undertaking further work to reduce exploration risk, to identify the best drilling targets and to enhance the opportunity of attracting government and private funding for drilling programs to potentially lead to early discoveries.”

Detroit Electric

The fastest electric car has been produced, by a brand that died 70 years ago.

Detroit Electric, which sold cars to the likes of Thomas Edison, future First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and Clara Ford (the wife of Henry) in the early 1900s, has been reincarnated with the help of some former top execs at Lotus.

The company says its first car for sale, five years in the making, will roll off the production line around August and will be able to go from 0-100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds. It will also be able to reach a top speed of close to 250 km/h. There will be a limited release of 999 cars with Detroit Electric hoping to release two more cars toward the end of next year. Bold – and perhaps overly optimistic.

More on the development can be found here.