COMPANIES

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French safety watchdog warns over nuclear extensions cost

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France’s nuclear safety authority has warned that extending the lifetimes of EDF’s nuclear reactors may cost the company huge amounts of money, writes the Financial Times.

According to analysts, the state-controlled utility may gain €3bn ($4.1bn) in cash flow by increasing the operating span of the plants from 40 to 60 years. EDF estimates that by investing €400m per reactor it can add value of €1.2bn because it could defer the €4bn cost of new plant and maintain the reactor’s cash flow. It would also save large amounts by avoiding decommissioning costs.

However, France’s nuclear safety authority has said that EDF has already had to put hundreds of millions of euros into replacing the steam generators in 34 of its 58 nuclear power stations.

Problems such as blocked water tubes and corrosion have caused recent unexpected shutdowns and have led EDF to promise to replace equipment in all of its 900 MW nuclear plants at a cost of tens of millions of euros.

France currently has no set term for the life of reactors, and plant life extensions are granted after inspections every ten years.

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SolarWorld enters Qatar JV to cut costs

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German solar firm SolarWorld has entered a joint venture in Qatar to reduce domestic production costs.

SolarWorld is joining Qatar Solar Technology to construct a $500m solar-grade silicon plant in Qatar.

The new plant at Ras Laffan Industrial City in the northeast of Qatar will inititally produce more than 3500 tonnes of polysilicon but could expand. Under the deal SolarWorld will own 29 per cent of the new business, Qatar Development Bank 70 per cent and Qatar Foundation 1 per cent.

SolarWorld’s new venture is an example of German solar companies trying to move production out of the country because incentives for using solar power are due to fall there.

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E.ON to sell US companies to cut debt

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Germany’s E.ON has made its US energy concerns Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities available for purchase for $6bn.

Between them the companies have about 8 GW of capacity and serve 900 000 electricity cusomers and 310 000 gas customers. The sale is part of E.ON’s attempt to cut the hole in its finances, which stood at €4.7bn ($6.4bn) at the end of June 2010.

It has already sold its German high voltage transmission network and last year sold its Thàƒ¼ga holding company.

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Siemens acquires stake in UK’s Marine Current Turbines

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Siemens has shown its faith in tidal power by taking a ten per cent stake in Marine Current Turbines of the UK.

Siemens said that experts predict double-digit growth for the ocean power market by 2020. “We’re securing access to an innovative technology in the field of renewables,” said René Umlauft, CEO of the Renewables Energy Division of Siemens Energy.

Martin Wright, the managing director of Marine Current Turbines, said the acquisition showed the strength of the commercial potential for tidal energy worldwide and that Siemens will now help his firm develop its technology and deliver tidal energy on global basis.

Marine Current Turbines has a commercial demonstrator project at Strangford Loch in Northern Ireland, where since 2008 two axial turbines of total capacity 1.2 MW have been connected to the grid and supply power to about 1500 homes.

The turbines generate electricity by operating in water flows such as tidal currents, which, unlike wind, are predictable. Twin rotors can pitch through 180à‚° to match the direction of the current and its speed.

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Siemens takes full ownership of transformers firm

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Siemens has raised its share in a Russian high voltage product maker to 100 per cent as part of plans to serve the market there for T&D equipment.

The German company had held 51 per cent of the shares in Siemens High Voltage Products but has bought the remaining 49 per cent from Electorzavod, Russia’s biggest maker of transformers.

Siemens aims to expand its ability to supply the country with circuit breakers and disconnectors for high-voltage switchgear. Siemens High Voltage Products has been manufacturing in Ufa in Bashkortostan near the Urals.

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Wärtsilä and Hitachi Zosen to develop fuel cells

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Wärtsilä and Hitachi Zosen will jointly develop and market fuel cells for combined heat and power applications in Japan.

Wärtsilä will provide the technology, Hitachi Zosen the marketing. The fuel cells will run on citigas or biogas.

The companies, which have cooperated in the sale of Wärtsilä equipment for oil and gas power plants in Japan for 20 years, said that the new joint venture is an important step towards the commercialization of CHP fuel cell technology in Japan.

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Areva grows: Areva T&D acquisition of Telemantenimiento de Alta Tension, a provider of maintenance services to industrial customers.

New Iberdrola unit: Iberdrola Renovables has set up an arm in Glasgow, UK, to develop the roughly 10 GW of offshore wind projects it has won worldwide.

E.ON sells network: TenneT Holding has acquired E.ON’s 11 000 km extra-high voltage transmission network in Germany for €885m ($1.21bn) in a deal that gives it all of the shares of E.ON subsidiary Transpower Stràƒ¶mubertragungs. The takeover is part of E.ON’s obligation to the European Commission.

Africa bound: International plant engineering group AE&E is forming a South African subsidiary. The company says it could help exploit unused energy sources there such as discard coal and furnace gas, sometimes without raising CO2 emissions.

Abu Dhabi bound: Spain’s SENER says it is the first engineering company to register a local subsidiary in sustainable development Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. The company’s aim is partly to further research and development there in the technologies of concentrated solar power and waste to energy.

Poland sale: Poland has sold 16 per cent of the state power group Enea for $383m, some eight per cent below the market price. The country will later this year sell a 51 per cent stake in the group. Its attempt to sell a majority share in Enea to Germany’s RWE failed last year.

Geothermal project: Sinclair Knight Merz will further develop Kenya’s $1.3bn geothermal project at Olkaria. The company is providing the design, project management and owner’s engineering services for four 70 MW units at the facility.

US expansion: Areva T&D has acquired engineering, procurement and construction company PSD of Canton, Ohio, USA.

SunPower acquisition: SunPower of the US has acquired European solar power plant developer SunRay Renewable Energy for $277m. With the purchase comes a pipeline of 1.2 GW of photovoltaic projects in Italy, France, Israel, Spain, the UK and Greece.

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