Climate Change

06 Dec 2019

Energy Developers on the Hunt for New Fuels

06 Dec 2019  by Catherine Early   
ScottishPower branches out into solar, Orsted to dip its toes into hydrogen, Iberdrola ditches coal

Energy firm Scottish Power is to construct solar projects for the first time to maximise onshore renewable energy potential in the UK and Ireland, it announced yesterday.

The firm plans to build solar PV and battery storage at its existing wind farm sites, in a move it said would maximise the generating potential of every clean power project is develops.

The vast majority of its future projects, representing more than 1,000MW of capacity, will use more than one clean energy technology, ScottishPower said.

"Every green megawatt of electricity will be crucial if we stand any chance of hitting Net Zero in 2050, so innovation from energy companies is more important than ever," Keith Anderson, ScottishPower CEO, told COP25 in Madrid. "This means squeezing the absolute maximum potential out of every clean energy project that we consider."

ScottishPower has already submitted planning applications to add solar to existing windfarms in Cornwall, Lancashire and Cambridgeshire. Applications to install solar technology at windfarms in Scotland and Ireland, as well as further solar projects in England, are also under development.

Co-locating wind, solar and batteries on the same site has been made possible by the dramatic falls in the cost of both technologies, Anderson added. The different technologies will help to deliver consistent power output from its sites, he explained.

Hybrid plants would become the "new normal" for all renewable energy developers within 18 months, Anderson predicted.

ScottishPower is part of the Iberdrola group. The Spanish parent company this week announced that it was to phase-out coal generation completely by 2022. Financial think-tank Carbon Tracker praised the company for being the only utility within investor initiative the Climate Action 100+ to align its coal generation activities with the temperature goal in the Paris Agreement.

However, it added that Iberdrola's coal capacity was "insignificant", at two per cent of its operating capacity. Its coal-fired units had been undermined by higher carbon prices and lower cost alternatives, so it made economic sense to retire them, it said.

Separately, Danish wind farm developer Ørsted is to invest in pilot projects that will use wind power and other renewable energy sources to make hydrogen fuel.

Its chief executive Henrik Poulsen told Danish business daily Boersen that "green hydrogen", which is made from renewable resources rather than fossil fuel, could be used to store energy and create a renewable power source to transform transport and industry.

The firm is ready to invest, and is currently identifying good pilot projects, Poulsen said. "It is still a technology in its very early stage, which has considerable challenges regarding how to handle it," he said in an interview with the paper.

In August, Ørsted won funding from the UK government for a feasibility study to investigate the potential delivery of bulk, low-cost and zero-carbon hydrogen. It is working on the six-month project together with hydrogen developer ITM Power and low carbon energy consultants Element Energy.


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