Shell makes renewable plans

Oil company Royal Dutch/Shell has confirmed recent media reports that it is planning to invest between $500m and $1bn on developing new energy businesses over the next five years. The company said that it would mainly focus on developing solar and wind power projects.

Shell is also evaluating opportunities in biomass, hydrogen and geothermal energy. Solar and wind power are considered to be the fastest growing areas of the renewable energy market.

The company will aim to develop wind power projects that give double digit returns on an equity basis. It is currently evaluating projects in the USA, Morocco, the Netherlands and the UK totalling 400 MW to add to its current 8 MW of capacity.

Environmentalist organizations, such as Greenpeace, have cautiously welcomed the plans. Shell says that it wants to benefit from the current enthusiasm for renewable energy around the world. Other oil companies, such as BP, have also made large investments in this sector.

Shell has already formed a solar cell joint venture with Siemens and E.ON. The venture has a 15 per cent share of the global solar market, and is aiming to grow by 25 per cent per year.

Mid-sized gas turbine joint venture formed

Pratt & Whitney and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Power Systems have announced that they are to develop a new generation of mid-sized gas turbines.

The two companies believe they are well-matched. Pratt & Whitney is involved in the development of aeroderivative gas turbines, while MHI has extensive experience with industrial gas turbine technology.

Neither company has provided further details of their plans.

“We look forward to working with MHI Power Systems, combining our industry experience and technologies to develop new reliable products that will provide increased value to our customers and alleviate power shortages throughout the world,” said Ellen Smith, president of Pratt & Whitney Power Systems.

Wind power potential

A new wind power developer – Windforce – has been launched with the aim of developing large-scale wind power projects. Windforce believes that the demand for renewable energy sources is increasing rapidly, and that wind power is becoming more commercially viable.

The new company has already secured $6m of first-round funding from Gerrard Energy Ventures to develop projects in the Baltics, the Mediterranean and Sweden.

New technology will improve economics and flexibility

US-based Thermal Energy International has filed a patent for its new air pollutant reduction technology, Optinox. The company believes that Optinox will complement its existing NOx reduction technology, Thermalonox.

Optinox will allow application to a greater variety of emission sources over a greater range of operating conditions compared to Thermalonox. A combination of the two will therefore provide more flexibility and lower costs in the control of NOx and other pollutants from power plants.

“The Optinox development is great news and demonstrates the effectiveness of our Applied Technologies and Research and Development group,” said Tom Hinke, president & CEO. “In addition, Optinox combined with Thermalonox improves our ability to leverage the company’s technology assets through licensing and new strategic alliances, which translates into further growth of our business.”

The development of this new technology is well-timed considering how the USA’s recent energy policy announcement has revived the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the USA.

Marubeni pursues distributed generation in Asia

Marubeni Corporation is to target the growing distributed generation market in Japan and other parts of Asia through a new strategic alliance with US-based FuelCell Energy. Marubeni will secure up to 45 MW of orders for fuel cells over the next two years, and will eventually start to assemble FuelCell Energy’s Direct FuelCell (DFC) modules in Asia.

Initially, Marubeni will purchase three 1 MW DFC-based power plants from FuelCell Energy and will work with the company to develop a balance of plant design for the Asian market. Marubeni will also invest $10m in FuelCell Energy, and a further $30m over the term of the agreement as it becomes increasingly involved in manufacturing the power modules.

As the volume of Marubeni’s orders grows, the company will design and supply increasing portions of the power plant modules. The two companies will then form a joint venture to move the DFC module assembly to Asia.

According to FuelCell Energy, the need for distributed generation technology is increasing in parts of Asia.

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