POWER Digest [May 2021]

Uzbekistan Wind Farm Project Expanding. Masdar, a global renewable energy company, has signed an agreement with Uzbekistan’s government to extend the capacity of its utility-scale wind farm project in the country up to 1.5 GW. H.E. Sardor Umurzakov, deputy prime minister and minister of Investments and Foreign Trade for Uzbekistan, said at an April ceremony marking the agreement, “Mobilization of renewable energy potential in Uzbekistan would provide a significant contribution to sustainable economic growth and fighting climate change. Along with that, the expansion of clean power generation capacities by Masdar will support our objective to double the volume of electricity generation by 2030. Masdar will become a strong bridge connecting our countries, through which new Emirati companies will also invest in Uzbekistan.” Masdar in 2020 entered into bilateral agreements with Uzbekistan officials to develop, build, and operate a 500-MW wind farm project, Masdar’s second utility-scale clean energy project in the country. The project, expected to begin commercial operation by year-end 2024, is located in the Zarafshan district of the Navoi region. An expansion to as much as 1.5 GW will support Uzbekistan’s goal of adding up to 3 GW of wind energy and meeting 25% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. Masdar signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) and investment agreement for the wind farm with the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan, and Joint Stock Co. (JSC) National Electric Grids of Uzbekistan, in June of last year.

EDF Closing UK Coal-Fired Plant. EDF in late March confirmed it will close the entire 2-GW West Burton A coal-fired power plant by September 2022, two years ahead of the UK’s national coal phase-out deadline. The plant in Nottinghamshire, England, entered commercial operation in 1966. EDF said just two of the plant’s four 500-MW units will operate over the next several months “to meet capacity market commitments.” The West Burton plant is the last coal-fired facility in France-based EDF’s portfolio. The UK government has mandated that all coal-fired power generation end in the country no later than 2024. The UK has a target of net-zero emissions from the power sector by 2050. Renewable energy resources produced more electricity in the UK than fossil fuels last year for the first time. Coal supplied just 2% of the UK’s electricity in 2020, down from 23% in 2015. The closure of West Burton A will leave just one remaining commercial coal-fired plant in the UK by year-end 2022; the distinction will belong to Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar facility, also based in Nottinghamshire.

Mongolia Building Country’s First Solar-Plus-Storage Facility. A consortium led by Japanese engineering company JGC Holdings has been awarded a government contract to build Mongolia’s first utility-scale solar-plus-storage power plant. The 5-MW facility is being developed in partnership with Mongolian engineering and construction firm MCS International LLC, and Japanese ceramics company and network attached storage (NAS) provider NGK Insulators Ltd. NGK will provide its large-scale sodium-sulfur-based battery systems for the project. “NGK believes that the order for this project was won as a result of strong evaluations of NAS batteries’ ability to offer a large capacity and long discharge time, along with NGK’s extensive delivery and long-term operational track records,” the company said in a statement. The plant, located in Uliastai in Mongolia’s Zavkhan Province, is expected to enter commercial operation in early 2022. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Joint Crediting Mechanism, which was established by the Japanese Ministry of Environment at the ADB, is financing the project, which is part of Mongolia’s Upscaling Renewable Energy Sector Project. That effort is supporting deployment of 40.5 MW of solar and wind capacity in the country’s western and Altai-Uliastai regions.

ACWA Power Building New Combined Cycle Plant. ACWA Power and Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Energy in March announced agreement on a 25-year PPA, along with an investment of $1.2 billion, to develop, build, and operate a 1.5-GW combined cycle gas-fired power plant in Shirin City, in Uzbekistan’s Syrdarya region. JSC National Electric Grids of Uzbekistan will be the sole off-taker. The groups announced that $747 million of financing will come from 18-year loan agreements with the International Development Bank and other groups, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Development Fund of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the German Investment Corp., Standard Chartered Bank, Natixis, Societe Generale, and the Bank of China. ACWA Power said it also signed an Implementation Agreement, worth as much as $1.1 billion, to build wind farms in Uzbekistan with generation capacities up to 1 GW. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) also was signed for development of a training center to support technical skills for Uzbek students and professionals. The combined cycle plant is part of Uzbekistan’s plan to attract foreign investment in key sectors of the country’s economy, and to support its energy diversification strategy. ACWA Power in a statement said it will lead construction, operation, and maintenance of the plant.

Serbia Signs Financing Deal for Renewable Energy. Serbian officials in March signed an MOU with the EBRD to provide a framework for cooperation, with a major focus on both renewable and thermal energy projects, and also to promote energy efficiency in Serbia. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlovic said Serbia wants more investments in renewable energy, with a goal of renewables providing as much as 40% of the country’s electricity by 2040. “There is a lot of room for continued successful cooperation with the EBRD, especially if we talk about the construction of medium and large hydropower plants, renewable energy sources—solar panels, biomass, wind farms,” Mihajlovic said during a visit to the Kovacica wind farm. “We believe that this goal is realistic concerning Serbia’s potential in the renewables sector, as well as legislation, the readiness of authorities to create good conditions for investments, and the interest of investors.” Mihajlovic in March said a permit has been issued to Israel’s Enlight K2-Wind for the 95.5-MW Pupin wind farm, which will be an expansion of the Kovacica facility.

Taiwan Plant Switching from HFO to Natural Gas. Wärtsilä has been contracted to carry out the conversion of a Taiwanese power plant from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to natural gas. The project is at the Ta-Yuan cogeneration plant in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. The plant in 1998 was originally equipped with three Wärtsilä 46 engines; that equipment will be changed to three Wärtsilä 50DF dual-fuel engines, providing total power output of 32 MW. The electricity from the plant will be delivered to local industrial customers and to the local grid, with the generated heat supplied to nearby businesses. Wärtsilä officials said the project will improve the plant’s efficiency and provide “the needed flexibility to allow participation in the ancillary service market, notably improve environmental sustainability by reducing emissions, and support grid balancing as energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, is added.” Taiwan has a goal of receiving 20% of the country’s electricity from renewable power by 2025. The Ta-Yuan conversion is expected to begin later this year, and be completed in early 2022.

Community Solar Farm Enters Operation in Australia. SolarShare, a community solar farm expected to produce 1.8 GWh of electricity annually, began commercial operation in March in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Money for the $2.4 million project, which includes 5,000 solar modules on unused property owned by the Mount Majura vineyard, was raised by local community members, who each invested between $500 and $100,000 each for the project. Officials said investors can expect a 5% return within 12 months, possibly by the end of the financial year. The ACT government is guaranteeing feed-in tariffs for the 1-MW facility for the next 20 years. Shane Rattenbury, the ACT minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, said it is the largest community solar project in the region. SolarShare was formed by members of SEE-Change, a grassroots sustainability organization. It was built by Epho Commercial Solar, using a loan from CWP Renewables.

Rosatom, Zimbabwe Will Team on Nuclear Power Research. The country of Zimbabwe and Russia’s Rosatom Corp. in mid-April signed an MOU to explore nuclear power generation. Zimbabwe is looking at nuclear power to reduce the African nation’s reliance on hydropower. Monica Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s information minister, in a statement said, “The anticipated cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes will provide alternative sources of energy, which Zimbabwe needs.” As it has in other countries, Rosatom has agreed to look at the feasibility of building a nuclear science and technology center in Zimbabwe as part of its cooperation agreement. Zimbabwe wants to lessen its dependence on hydropower in part due to decreasing water levels in Lake Kariba, the world’s largest manmade reservoir and the source of much of the country’s power. Zimbabwe has been entrenched in a sustained power crisis, which has worsened due to prolonged drought conditions. Frequent issues and equipment breakdowns at the country’s main coal-fired power station in Hwange over the past several months have exacerbated the problem. Russia has signed more than a dozen intergovernmental agreements in Africa in the past few years, and Rosatom officials told POWER they are cooperating with more than 20 countries on the continent.

Fourth Province Signs on to Canada SMR Agreement. Jason Kenney, premier of the province of Alberta in Canada, in mid-April became the fourth Canadian premier to sign an agreement supporting the development of small modular reactors (SMRs). Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan had earlier signed onto the deal. The provinces also released a feasibility report prepared by Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power, NB Power, and SaskPower, which provides a potential timeline for development and deployment of SMRs. The report also assesses the competitiveness of such reactors with other emissions-free power generation sources such as solar and wind. Canada is looking at SMRs not only for utility-scale generation but also to power remote mining operations, field operations of oil and gas companies—a huge industry in western Canada—and villages in remote regions without access to traditional sources of electricity. The feasibility study said Canada’s first grid-scale SMR project, expected to provide about 300 MW of power, is planned for deployment at the Darlington nuclear site in Ontario by 2028. Four more units are planned to be in service in Saskatchewan by 2032. An advanced SMR design also is being developed and expected to be deployed at the Point Lepreau nuclear site in New Brunswick by 2030. The Canadian government is developing SMRs as one of many measures to support power generation as the country moves to phase out coal-fired power by 2030.

IKEA Parent Buys Stake in Russian Solar. Ingka Group, which owns most of IKEA’s stores worldwide, in April announced it has agreed to buy a 49% stake in eight solar parks in Russia from Solar Systems LLC. The deal marks Ingka’s first investment in renewable energy in Russia. Ingka Investments, the investment division of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, in a statement said the deal is worth more than $272 million. IKEA has said it wants to be a “climate positive” company by 2030, reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases across its entire footprint by more than all its operations emit. Ingka Group has said it plans to increase its investments in renewable energy, with a particular emphasis on projects in Russia and China.

South Korean Group Will Build LNG-Fueled Plant in Vietnam. GS Energy Corp., an energy arm of South Korean conglomerate GS Group, in late March said it will build and operate a 3-GW power plant fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Vietnam. GS Energy said it estimates the plant’s cost at about $3 billion. The Korean company said it will sign a PPA with the state-run Vietnam Electricity Group to begin commercial production in 2027. GS Energy in 2019 signed an initial agreement with Vietnamese asset management firm VinaCapital Investment to build the LNG power plant, another project designed to help support growing power demand in the Southeast Asian nation. ■

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).