US solar in cost parity with coal and gas by 2016

US solar power producers have predicted that within eight years they will no longer need federal subsidies to help them compete in the power market, according to the industry.

By then solar power is expected to cost less than electricity generated using conventional power plants.

Solar power in the US remains reliant on state and federal subsidies to enable it to compete with coal and natural gas powered plants. However, tax breaks for wind and solar producers are due to expire in 2016.

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said: “We believe (by 2016) solar will be the lowest-cost source of retail electricity in almost all 50 states.”

Julia Hamm, executive director of the Solar Electric Power Association and chair of the recent Solar Power International conference in San Diego, agreed. She said that some exhibitors plan to be competitive by 2012 and others by 2015.

Ron Kenedi, vice president of Solar Energy Solutions Group for Sharp Corp, one of the largest makers of solar cells and rooftop panels said: “In the areas where utility retail prices are the highest, within five years you will see grid parity.”

Kenedi added that demand for coal and gas in China and India will keep fossil fuel prices high.”

Areva US nuclear project moves one step closer to construction stage

UniStar Nuclear Energy has awarded an Areva-Bechtel Power Corporation consortium a contract to complete the detailed design engineering for an Areva US Evolutionary Power Reactor (US EPR) in Maryland, US.

The design work will include full plant specifications and the design of plant facilities and buildings. It will provide UniStar with the information it needs to make important plant equipment purchase and construction site decisions.

The Areva EPR pressurized water reactor is based on safe, economical and well-proven technology.

Air permit awarded for high-efficiency, low-NOx Texas plant

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has granted Panda Energy International’s planned 1 GW combined-cycle power plant in Temple, Texas an air permit.

The highly efficient natural gas fired generating station will supply the power needs of approximately 750 000 homes.

The generating station will be one of the cleanest power plants in the US. NOx emissions at the facility will be restricted to just 2 ppm, significantly less than most existing stations.

Greenfield Energy Centre begins commercial operation

Calpine Corporation and Mitsui & Co have announced the completion of the Greenfield Energy Centre, in Ontario, Canada, and the start of commercial operations.

Calpine chief executive officer Jack Fusco, said: “We appreciate the opportunity to have worked with Mitsui and Ontario Power Authority to provide Ontario with a cost-effective, energy-efficient, reliable and low-carbon solution to the region’s growing electricity needs.”

Mitsui executive managing officer Takao Omae added: “We are delighted to contribute to meeting growing electricity demand in Ontario.”

In 2005, Greenfield was awarded a 20-year clean energy supply contract with the Ontario Power Authority to construct and operate the 1005 MW combined-cycle power plant and provide energy and capacity to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.

The plant is a combined-cycle facility fueled by natural gas and equipped with advanced air emission controls. The use of clean-burning natural gas and the plant’s high thermal efficiency make it a low-carbon electricity generating facility.

US geothermal scheme wins viability study grant

US Geothermal’s Raft River site in Idaho has been chosen by the US Department of Energy to demonstrate the viability of enhanced geothermal systems (EGSs).

The department will provide a grant of $6m to help fund the $9m project.

Daniel Kunz, president and chief executive officer said: “We believe this EGS project will have a significant impact on efforts to develop more geothermal energy from the Raft River site.

“The knowledge gained from this work at Raft River should help advance the growth and realise the potential of EGS in the US.”

Brazilian bank to finance energy transmission project

Brazil’s development bank, BNDES, has announced the approval of a $180m loan for Sao Paulo-based energy distribution company CTEEP to build a new transmission system.

CTEEP, the major energy supplier for Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most developed state, already has 18 500 km of transmission lines, which distribute 60 per cent of the energy consumed in southeastern Brazil, 30 per cent of national consumption.

The BNDES money will account for 66 per cent of the funds needed for the CTEEP plan.

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Argentina: Argentina’s Neuquén province has received five letters of interest for the construction of the 480 MW Chihuido I hydro project. The winner of the building contract will also be given a concession to operate the plant for 15-20 years. The provice will then own the plant.

Canada: Jacob Engineering Group has announced that it has received a contract from EPCOR to provide engineering services for the proposed Genesee integrated gasification combined-cycle project near Edmonton.

Canada: Areva’s transmission and distribution division has been awarded a €19m ($24m) contract by Hydro Networks to supply and install a static VAR compensator, which will be the largest in Ontario.

Chile: Construction has resumed on the Bocamina II coal burning power plant in Coronel. Coronel officials shut down construction in September on environmental grounds, but a local court has now allowed the project to proceed.

Honduras: The Honduran government and Mesoamerica Energy have signed a $260m agreement for the construction of a 100 MW wind energy farm.

Panama: Kardan is building a $150m hydroelectric plant on the Chiriqui River. Hydro Caisan has signed a ten-year power purchase agreement for the plant.

Puerto Rico: The Puerto Rican government has announced a $165m investment in 20 wind turbines. The turbines will reduce the country’s reliance on oil to produce electricity by 20 per cent by 2015.

USA: The US wind energy industry installed 1389 MW of generating capacity in the third quarter of 2008, bringing to 4204 MW the amount of new capacity added this year.

USA: Areva, the French nuclear engineering firm, and Northrop Grumman Corp will build a $360m plant to make large reactor parts in Virginia. The companies expect US nuclear power plant construction to expand significantly.

USA: Amec, the international engineering and project management company, has won a contract to provide essential emissions enhancements, including flue-gas desulphurization units, for the Chesterfield Power Station in Virginia.