By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent, Financial Times UK
China has surged ahead of the US to regain its title as the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy, new figures showed on Monday.
But the amount of money put into wind farms, solar parks and other forms of green power worldwide fell 11 per cent in 2012, the biggest annual fall in at least eight years, according to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance research group.
The fall was caused by a mix of regulatory uncertainty and policy changes in big renewables markets such as the US, Spain, Italy and India, said BNEF, which has been tracking renewable energy deals since 2004.
This took global investment down to $268.7bn last year, well below a revised figure of $302.3bn for 2011 – a record year.
The fall came despite a record $67.7bn investment in China last year, up 20 per cent from 2011, mostly thanks to growth in its solar power sector.
China replaced the US as the biggest investor in so-called clean energy in 2009 but lost its lead in 2011 after the Obama administration introduced subsidies as part of its 2009 economic stimulus package.
The US is now firmly in second place. Investment in the world’s largest economy sank by almost a third to $44.2bn in 2012 amid fears that important wind power tax credits would lapse at the end of the year.
Renewable power generation technology such as wind, solar and geothermal power account for about half of all new power generation capacity added globally, the International Renewable Energy Agency says in a new report.
Sharp falls in the cost of some forms of green power equipment means renewable energy power plants are increasingly becoming the most competitive option for new grid supply and fast grid extension in many countries, the agency said.
“Renewable technologies are now the most economic solution for new capacity in an increasing number of countries and regions,” Irena said.
“Where oil-fired generation is the predominant power generation source (for example on islands and in some countries) a lower-cost renewable solution almost always exists today,” it added.
“Renewables are also increasingly the most economic solution for new grid-connected capacity where good resources are available. As the cost of renewable power drops, the scope of economically viable applications will increase even further.”
Irena’s director-general, Adnan Amin, said: “Where electricity systems are dominated by oil-fired plants, cheaper – sometimes significantly cheaper – renewable generation choices are available. For off-grid power supply, renewables are already the default economic solution.”
In the event they did not, but the uncertainty sapped investor confidence, as did the US shale gas revolution, which has helped push down gas prices and made other forms of energy generation less attractive.
Still, last year’s global $268.7bn investment figure was five times that of 2004 and the second-highest on record.
“Indeed, the most striking aspect of these figures is that the decline was not bigger, given the fierce headwinds the clean energy sector faced in 2012,” said BNEF chief executive, Michael Liebreich.
This is a reference to subsidy cuts caused by Europe’s financial woes, subsidy uncertainty in the US and another year of dramatic reductions in the prices of some renewable technology.
Solar photovoltaic modules, for example, fell 24 per cent over the course of 2012.
Mr Liebreich said: “We warned at the start of last year that investment in 2012 was likely to fall below 2011 levels, but rumours of the death of clean energy investment have been greatly exaggerated.”
He added that the figures showed how fast investment was growing in new markets including Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and other parts of Asia, as opposed to the more traditional ones, China, the US and Europe.
South Africa was one of the surprise green energy champions to emerge in 2012. Investment in the continent’s largest economy jumped from a few tens of millions in 2011 to $5.5bn last year, as significant wind and solar project financings were finalised.
Japan posted a 75 per cent rise in investment to $16.3bn, as a fresh focus on renewable energy took hold after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In contrast, green investment fell 68 per cent in Spain after the government suspended subsidies for projects that had not been approved, and 44 per cent in India after wind incentives expired and there were fewer approvals for solar projects.
Solar power continued to be the king of the renewables pile, accounting for $142bn of overall investment compared with $78.3bn for wind and $19bn for energy smart technologies such as electric vehicles.
Last month South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority released its report into the claims that wind turbines produce ‘infrasound’ that can be harmful to human health as claimed by many opponents of wind farms. As the State with the highest number of installed wind turbines, the report has been keenly awaited by the industry, and as expected it substantially disproves the claims of adverse health impacts. The report entitled “Infrasound Levels Near Wind Farms and in Pother Environments” can be downloaded here.
After exhaustive tests in both urban and rural areas, the Authority summarised its findings as follows. In urban areas it found:
In rural testing, the analysis showed:
The study concludes that “the level of infrasound at houses near the wind turbines assessed is no greater than that experienced in other urban and rural environments, and that the contribution of wind turbines to the measured infrasound levels is insignificant in comparison with the background level of infrasound in the environment”
Climate Change Authority recommends no material changes to Renewable Energy Target scheme
In accordance with legislation, the Climate Change Authority handed down its first statutory review of the Renewable Energy Target scheme in December 2012. To download as copy of a summary or the full report click here. The Federal Government will provide its response to the review later in 2013.
As widely expected, and after receiving numerous submissions representing many different community and business viewpoints. The CCA recommended that no substantive changes be made to the scheme as it is largely meeting its design and policy objectives. It further recommended that the scheme should not be reviewed again until 2016 in order to provide policy certainty for the industry and its financiers and investors.
The Hepburn Community Wind Farm received global recognition at the World Wind Energy Association’s 2012 Conference in Bonn, Germany last year with the presentation of the World Wind Energy Award 2012.
The WWEA recognised the vision and efforts of the local community that worked in the face of considerable odds to introduce the community wind farm model to Australia, making particular mention of the project’s role in initiating the community energy movement across the country.
In presenting the award, Stefan Gsänger, Secretary of the WWEA said "The WWEA Board wants to recognise the Hepburn Community Wind Farm’s contribution to the introduction of community wind power on a large scale. The award is given to the initiators of the wind farm for launching Australia's first and groundbreaking community initiative that led to a 4.1 MW community owned wind farm, an excellent answer in particular in order to increase social understanding and acceptance of wind power."
When the award was announced, Future Energy Managing Director David Shapero commented "As the initiators of Hepburn Wind, the team at Future Energy is so very proud to see this wonderful project being recognized internationally"
THERE is much stronger public support for wind farms than media coverage of the issue would suggest, because a ''vocal minority'' who oppose wind farms secure the majority of media and political attention, according to new CSIRO research.
A peer-reviewed study by Brisbane researchers investigated attitudes to nine wind farms in various stages of development in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, concluding there was a strong level of support ''from rural residents who do not seek media attention or political engagement to express their views''.
By contrast, more than half of all wind farm proposals had been opposed by members of the Landscape Guardian group, the report noted.
The CSIRO's deputy director, energy technology, Jim Smitham, one of the reviewers of the report, said it showed a disconnect between negative and conflict-oriented media coverage about wind farms and the attitude of a majority in the communities where wind farms were proposed or already operating.
''You find more media stories supporting the case against wind farms than those for it,'' he said. ''Whereas, going into the field and doing interviews at community level, they have different reasons but many of them support the wind farm; it just isn't as apparent as the people who are able to find a short sharp reason to reject it.''
Dr Smitham said wind farm developers that proactively consulted with communities and responded to their concerns had achieved far higher local acceptance of their projects.
The report, Acceptance of rural wind farms in Australia: A snapshot, by CSIRO's social research team, comes as the draft guidelines on wind farm development in this state are open for public comment.
The researchers conducted interviews with wind farm developers, councils, turbine hosts, community opponents and supporters of the projects in each of the nine locations.
Wind farm opponents cited negatives including poor consultation, visual amenity and noise, while supporters cited benefits including improved infrastructure such as roads and firebreaks, clean energy and better local job prospects, the report found.
The debate over noise and health impacts has been a key issue raised by opponents. A series of peer-reviewed studies have found no evidence that low-level sound from wind farms has made people sick, but some international studies included self-selected surveys in which people living near wind farms reported annoyance and interrupted sleep as a result of vibrations from the turbine blades.
Download the full report here
Download the summary report here
After intensive testing, the two 2MW RePower wind turbines at Leonards Hill near Daylesford began feeding their wind generated electricity in to the local grid on 22 June 2011. Full story here.
Future Energy Pty Ltd lodged a Planning Permit Application with Pyrenees Shire Council for a wind farm at Chepstowe on 4 February 2010 (Application No PA 1676/10). As a result of the time which elapsed without Council making a determination, Future Energy applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review of the application under Section 79 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
The VCAT Practice Day Hearing was scheduled to occur on 14 February 2011, however just one week before this date the project was called in by Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy. In Victoria, a ministerial call-in automatically terminates the VCAT hearing process.
Late in February, Future Energy and key objectors were asked to attend a panel hearing at the Department of Planning. The Department Officers requested input and expert witness statements from all parties in order to be able to prepare an internal report for the Minister.
On 17 May 2011, Future Energy was advised that the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister, had approved the issuing of a Planning Permit for the project. (To view the Minister’s decision media release click here)
An overview of the Chepstowe wind farm project is available at the Chepstowe Wind Farm website (www.chepstowewindfarm.com.au ) where regular updates on the progress of this project will be posted.
Future Energy submitted a planning application to the Moorabool Shire Council in January 2010 for a permit to construct a 6MW (3 turbine) wind farm at Pykes Hill near Greendale in Victoria. For more details visit www.pykeshillwindfarm.com.au) .
At its meeting in June 2010, the Council determined to refuse to grant a planning permit for the project. Future Energy remains of the view that its application meets the State’s Planning Guidelines for wind farms, and therefore referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). An initial hearing date of 16 May 2011 was allocated.
In February 2011, the Planning Minister released updated guidelines for the planning of wind farms in Victoria, and has since indicated in speeches and media releases that further changes are to be implemented later in 2011.
The possible change to guidelines may have a significant impact on this project’s ability to comply, hence Future Energy has decided to seek an adjournment of the VCAT hearing until more certainty emerges around the planning guidelines that will be enacted.
The VCAT panel agreed to an adjournment and set a hearing date for August 2011, at which time the parties to the hearing will have an opportunity to decide whether to proceed with a hearing or to seek a further adjournment.
In March 2011 the Victorian Government amended the Guidelines for the Development of Wind Energy Facilities in Victoria. The amendments made included:
More information regarding the Amendments to wind energy planning guidelines can be found on the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development Website.
Feed in Tariff legislation passed for systems up to 200kW by ACT Government
In September 2010 the ACT Government announced the creation of a tariff scheme for medium and large scale solar energy installations. The details of the scheme include:
The enabling legislation for the Micro generation and Medium generation categories was passed in February 2011. Further legislation for the Large Scale category is expected later in 2011.
Medium scale systems will enjoy a Feed in Tariff of 75% of the Micro rate, equivalent currently to 34.27c per kWh. More information regarding the ACT Feed-in Tariff Scheme can be found on the ACT Environment Dept website
VCAT review application lodged in respect of Chepstowe Wind Farm
Future Energy Pty Ltd lodged a Planning Permit Application with Pyrenees Shire Council for a wind farm at Chepstowe on 4 February 2010 (Application No PA 1676/10). As a result of the time which has elapsed without Council making a determination, Future Energy has applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review of the application under Section 79 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
Future Energy has amended the turbine locations, and an updated Planning Application incorporating amended plans has been provided to VCAT and relevant parties for this review.
A detailed description of the amended site layout is provided in the updated Planning Application (November 2010), which can be found on the Chepstowe Wind Farm website.
Leonards Hill Wind Farm Construction Begins
Hosted by the Hepburn Wind co-operative, the event to mark the start of construction took place on a suitably windy day at the Leonards Hill site before more than 120 supporters. The Victorian Minister for Environment & Climate Change, Gavin Jennings spoke passionately about the project before officially turning the first sod.
Hepburn Wind Chair Simon Holmes à Court also welcomed Catherine King, Federal Member for Ballarat, Adam Bandt, Federal Member for Melbourne, Geoff Howard, State Member for Ballarat East, and Kate Auty, Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability.
Ably hosted by local Deputy Mayor, Rod May and together with members and other leaders in the environment movement and industry, the gathering underscored the leading role Hepburn Wind is playing in the renewable energy sector.
With a line of miniature windmills leading guests to the site, Simon Holmes à Court spoke of how our project has captured not only the imagination of our local community, but also of communities around Australia.
For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Future Energy Directors Adrian Nelson and David Shapero with the company’s Expression of Interest application for an ETIS grant.
Future Energy has applied for a Victorian Government grant to build a 2MW solar power station at the Mallee Research Station at Walpeup, near Mildura. The latest-generation concentrating photovoltaic panels mounted on dual-axis tracking arrays will be used, and connected to the nearby 22kV power line. The plant will produce 4,300MWh of emission-free renewable energy annually, roughly equivalent to the domestic power needs of Ouyen, Walpeup and nearby towns.
If successful, the application for funding under the ETIS Sustainable Energy Pilot Demonstration grants program will enable the project to proceed by funding one third of the total cost of this project.
The awarding of grants is expected to occur in mid 2011 after a two stage competitive process. The power station is planned to be operational within 6 – 9 months of Future Energy securing a Government grant.
The main project outcomes will be:
“This project will de-risk processes and develop solutions for the future deployment of some 60 - 80MW of solar generation in dispersed locations around the region” said Future Energy MD David Shapero.
Leonards Hill Wind Farm Formal Transfer
After more than five years of consistent and determined effort by a large number of people, May 18 2010 saw the formal transfer of Future Energy’s Leonards Hill wind farm to its community owners the Hepburn Wind co-operative. Hepburn Wind Chairman Simon Holmes a Court and Future Energy MD David Shapero savoured the moment in Melbourne as transfer documents were signed and handed over.
Hepburn Wind has almost completed its fund raising for the project, and is now eagerly anticipating the construction of the wind farm which is due to commence later in 2010. For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Final Share Offer launched
The final tranche of 1.8 million Hepburn Wind shares at $1 each is now available to Victorians, and demand is already high. With the signing of the EPC contract for Australia’s first community owned wind farm, the Hepburn Wind co-operative is seeking to raise the final $1.8m of equity needed to complete the project. The current membership of over 1000 has already invested over $7m in the project, and Bendigo Bank has provided a loan of $3.1m.
Investors in the project will receive annual dividends from the sale of the renewable energy produced by the wind farm, and a community sustainability fund will also receive around $40,000 annually. For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Hepburn Wind signs full EPC contract with REpower Systems AG
After many weeks of detailed contractual discussions and negotiations assisted by Future Energy, the Hepburn Wind Board recently signed a full EPC contract with REpower Systems AG. The contract provides for the supply and construction of two 2MW wind turbines on the site at Leonards Hill near Daylesford.
Pictured are Hepburn Wind Chairman Simon Holmes à Court and REpower’s Danny Gallagher with the contract at Hepburn Wind’s recent Annual General Meeting. Construction on the site is expected to start later this year, and the wind farm should be fully operational by Easter 2011. For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Environment Minister visits Leonards Hill wind farm site
On Friday March 19, the Hepburn Wind Board welcomed State Environment Minister Gavin Jennings and local MP Geoff Howard to the site of Australia’s first community-owned wind farm at Leonards Hill near Daylesford.
Pictured from left are Hepburn Wind CEO Jack Gilding, current and former Board Members Mim Dineen, Koos Hulst, Per Bernard, Martin May, and Simon Holmes à Court (Chairman), Minister Gavin Jennings, local MP Geoff Howard, Board Members Scott Kinnear and Vicki Horrigan, and Sustainability Victoria Manager John Edgoose. (Photo copyright Tibor Hegedis).
Future Energy and Hepburn Wind are currently finalising detailed contracts with Repower (turbine supplier) and Powercor (local Network Service Provider). Construction of the wind farm on the site is expected to begin later in 2010. For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Chepstowe Wind Farm planning application lodged
Future Energy lodged a planning application for its Chepstowe Wind Farm with the Pyrenees Shire Council on the 4th February. The application is a proposal for three 2MW wind turbines, located approximately 30 km west of Ballarat. For more information visit the project website at www.chepstowewindfarm.com.au
Hepburn Wind places order for turbines
On 2 February 2010 Hepburn Wind, Australia's first community-owned wind farm, announced that it had placed an order for two wind turbines from REpower Systems AG, one of the world's leading wind turbine manufacturers.
Simon Holmes à Court, Chairman of Hepburn Wind said "The payment of our deposit to REpower is a major milestone for not only our project, but also for Australia. While many communities are still considering their response to climate change, the residents of Hepburn Shire can be extremely proud of the local efforts to generate clean power for Daylesford and many of the surrounding towns."
"Hepburn Wind and REpower are now working to finalise the remaining contractual details related to delivery and commissioning. We expect to announce the project construction timeline by the end of this quarter." said Simon.
By the end of 2009, the locally-controlled co-operative had secured over $11.3 million in funding. Executive Officer Jack Gilding reported that applications continue to arrive, mainly from the local region. "We now have over double the number of members we originally expected, and are very pleased to receive new applications while our offer is still open."
For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Pykes Hill Wind farm planning application lodged
Future Energy has lodged a planning application for Pykes Hill Wind Farm with the Moorabool Shire Council on the 13th January. The application is a proposal for three 2MW wind turbines, located approximately 5 km north-east of Ballan. For more information visit the Pykes Hill Wind Farm project website.
Hepburn Wind welcomes its 1000th member
Hepburn Wind continues to increase its membership base recently welcoming its 1000th member, Hana Savidge-Walker, who was presented with a commemorative Share Certificate by Geoff Howard MP and Vicki Horrigan, Director. Hepburn Wind has now raised over $7 million from member investments, and combined with a Sustainability Victoria grant and a loan facility from Bendigo Bank brings the total committed to the project to almost $11.3 million.
Negotiations and project planning for turbine supply and installation, grid connection, and sale of the power to an energy retailer are well advanced. For more information visit hepburnwind.com.au
Environment Protection and Heritage Council - releases the ‘National Wind Farm Development Guidelines – Public Consultation Draft’
Draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines have been released for public consultation
by the Environment Protection and Heritage Standing Committee (EPHSC) to provide a basis for discussion and provide communities and industry an opportunity to help shape a best practice approach to wind farm developments in Australia.
The guidelines were developed in response to the Report on Environmentally and Socially
Responsible Wind Farm Development, which identified the need for a national framework which
would provide consistency and transparency in wind farm developments and are intended to complement existing regulatory arrangements.
Comments on these guidelines can be provided from 28 October 2009 until 16 December 2009 with the final draft of the guidelines to be considered by the EPHSC in April 2010, and thereafter by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council. A copy of the guidelines can be found at www.ephc.gov.au
Solar energy facilities now a permitted use in Victoria’s Farming Zones
Recent changes have been made to the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) and planning schemes via Amendment VC60. The VPP now states that a renewable energy facility is recognised as a use under the planning scheme and as an activity that is permitted (permit required) in all appropriate zones. Appropriate zones include the Farming, Rural Conservation, Public Conservation and Resource Zones.
This amendment now includes solar energy facilities as a renewable energy facility. Solar energy facilities previously required a rezoning application to be a permitted use in Farming Zones. As a result of this amendment a solar energy facility now only needs a planning permit from Council or VCAT. For more information visit dse.vic.gov.au
VCAT Upholds Development Approval for 28MW Mt Pollock Wind Farm
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has endorsed the July 2008 decision of the Surf Coast Shire Council to allow the development of a 28MW (14 turbine) wind arm at Mt Pollock, 10km north-east of Winchelsea in Victoria. When completed the wind farm will produce around 85,000MWh of renewable energy annually, equivalent to the power needs of 16,000 average households.
The project was developed by Future Energy on behalf of International Power (Australia) Pty Ltd who are now able to proceed with the construction of the wind farm at their discretion.
The VCAT panel held hearings over several days in March 2009 at which all parties were able to present their arguments, and they also visited the proposed Mt Pollock site on two occasions. Apart from considering objections to the development from several local residents, the panel were also asked by International Power to consider amendments to several of the conditions imposed in the original permit.
After careful consideration, the panel found no reason to revoke the permit, and accepted some of the proposed amendments to the permit conditions. A new permit containing the modified conditions will be issued by the Surf Coast Shire Council in due course.
The Mt Pollock Development Approval is the second approval obtained by Future Energy to construct a wind farm in Victoria. Several other wind farm projects are in the company’s development pipeline, with two further planning applications expected to be lodged later this year.
Success In Sight for Hepburn Wind Community Wind Farm Project
Hepburn Wind – the cooperative behind Australia’s first community owned wind farm - is confident of raising a further $1 million from members over the next four weeks so that the order for two wind turbines can be placed. This may seem ambitious, but having already raised over $4 million from its 700 members during the world’s worst global economic crisis, the Board of Hepburn Wind has every reason to believe the target will be met.
Just last month the project received a significant boost when a Melbourne charitable trust agreed to invest $1.5m, and Bendigo Bank has already committed to provide debt finance to the project. Finalisation of grid connection and power purchase arrangements are well under way, and the preferred turbine supplier has promised an exceptionally quick delivery and installation schedule once the order is placed. Even the Federal Government is helping by legislating a substantially higher renewable energy target – 20% by 2020 – which will make the energy from the wind farm more valuable, while the dollar/Euro exchange rate (which affects the turbine price) has improved in recent weeks.
With all this positive momentum, Hepburn Wind has high hopes that its wind farm will begin generating over 12,000MWh annually of clean renewable energy before Easter next year. For more information visit www.hepburnwind.com.au
Federal Budget Annouces Clean Energy Initiative (CEI)
The Rudd Government will invest $1.6 billion over six years to help establish 1000MW of solar power station developments under the newly announced Solar Flagships Program.
Solenco 1 REDP application under evaluation
Solar Energy Company Pty Ltd (SEC), a subsidiary of Future Energy, lodged its application on 15 April for REDP grant funding to build Australia’s first solar thermal power station near Mildura. SEC was advised in May that its Solenco 1 application met all eligibility requirements and was about to be evaluated against the various merit criteria. Since then the Federal Government has announced that a new body, Renewables Australia, will be created which will take over the former REDP process, and a new solar power program – the Solar Flagships initiative – will be launched. SEC is currently waiting for more information on how these changes may affect its grant application. For more information visit the Solenco 1 project page.
REDP grant application for Solenco 1 lodged
Solar Energy Company Pty Ltd (SEC), a subsidiary of Future Energy, lodged its application on 15 April for REDP grant funding to build Australia’s first solar thermal power station near Mildura. The REDP scheme has been established by the Federal Government to provide grants that will assist in demonstrating the potential of new renewable energy technologies at a commercial scale. For more information visit the Solenco 1 project page.
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Article in Green Power Today
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Future Energy welcomes Irene Perkoulidis as their new Office Manager
Hepburn Wind investment tops $4 million
700 people become part of history in the making, applying for shares to a value of $4 million
Future Energy welcomes new Director and shareholder
Future Energy is proud to have Adrian Nelson join the team
Winchelsea Wind Farm Permit Issued
Article about Future Energy in The Age
Managing Director, David Shapero, has feature Profile in The Age