News Digest

C60s roll again: Production of Capstone’s C60 microturbine models has resumed after a temporary interruption caused by a component issue.

CESS sales success: Orkney-based surplus power equipment supplier Combustion, Energy and Steam Specialists has notched up over 800 MW of gas/steam turbine sales since its formation in 1995, the latest being a 15 MW Siemens steam turbine on behalf of Daniisco Sugar in Sweden.

EDF and Konarka co-operate: Electricité de France, through its Silicon Valley-based Easenergy division, has entered into an agreement with photovoltaic nanotechnology company Konarka Technologies to help develop and launch Konarka’s products onto the global market.

EdP cuts jobs: State-owned Portuguese utility Electricidade de Portugal is planning to cut between 1300 and 2000 jobs out of its 9000 work force by the end of 2004. EdP is allowed to pass the cost of redundancies on to customers.

EPRIsolutions tests CTC: Composite Technology Corp. has contracted with EPRIsolutions to provide further characterization and validation of specifications of its aluminium conductor composite core, a high temperature, low sag cable which can be retrofitted to existing transmission towers.

Good vibrations: Hitachi Ltd. has developed a new technology that generates electricity using naturally occurring vibrations on the micron scale. An experimental prototype measuring 2.5 x 7.0 cm generated 0.12 microwatts from air vibration within a quiet building.

Huaneng backed: Chinese independent power developer Huaneng Power International has secured a RMB27bn ($3.26bn) credit facility from the Bank of China for its development plans.

Iberdrola corrals: Spain’s second largest electricity company, Iberdrola, is to create a new company to manage its combined cycle power plants. It plans to have seven in operation by 2005, with total capacity of 4 GW.

International Power refinances: UK power utility International Power has agreed a $450m refinancing package with its banks a year early “to provide more certainty in its medium-term capital structure.” The firm has also recommissioned its mothballed 250 MW Deeside power plant due to firmer power prices.

REpower UK formed: UK-based specialist engineering company, Peter Brotherhood and wind turbine supplier REpower Systems from Hamburg have formed a joint venture, REpower UK enabling the German company to supply, service and support its products in the UK.

Nature inspires fuel cells whilst lowering costs

UK fuel cell researcher Morgan Fuel Cells Limited (MFC) has drawn inspiration from designs found in the natural world to boost power available from fuel cells and bring down manufacturing costs.

Its Biomimetic bipolar plate technology mimics structures seen in animal lungs and plant tissues to allow gases to flow across the plate more efficiently than before. This has led to an increase in power output of 16 per cent, relative to the industry standard serpentine design of bipolar plate flow field.

MFC claims that, by using its ElectroEtch system, the Biomimetic plates can be manufactured in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional methods. MFC has focused mainly on the graphite bipolar plates featured in PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cells used typically in automotive and general power replacement applications. However, Biomimetic flow field designs are potentially applicable to ceramic and metal bipolar plates and the core design has been adapted for use in direct methanol fuel cells within solid oxide fuel cell systems.

Elsam adds North Zeeland

Denmark-based electric utility Elsam has bought a controlling stake in the North Zeeland power company Nesa. Elsam paid Dkr8.27bn ($1.3bn) for a 78.8 per cent stake but intends to acquire the remaining shares in Nesa through a public offering, at a cost of about Dkr2.2bn.

Elsam chairman, Jens Bahne Jørgensen said: “The acquisition lays the foundation for an all-Danish electricity company with the strength to compete with the big boys in the northern European electricity market”.

The additional debt burden prompted rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) to place Elsam on CreditWatch. S&P said there were strategic and business benefits of gaining access to Nesa’s downstream electricity supply and monopoly distribution operations, which would reduce Elsam’s exposure as a generation company.

Brussels backs Alstom rescue

A revised rescue package for troubled French engineering group Alstom involving the French government and 32 creditor banks has won the approval of the European Commission. Instead of taking a direct stake in Alstom, the French government will now subscribe to a 20-year loan convertible in Alstom shares only with Commission approval and to subordinated bonds.

The commission is also expected to push for Alstom to increase its assets sales in return for final authorization of the package.

Alstom has continued its disposal programme by reaching an agreement to sell its transmission & distribution activities to French state-owned Aveva Group for g950m. In April Alstom sold its industrial turbines business to Siemens for g1.1bn.

Multi-utility restructures

Harry Roels, chief executive of German muti-utility RWE, has implemented a restructuring within the group in which RWE’s multiple units will be replaced by seven divisions, one for each strand of the company’s business and all utilising the RWE brand.

RWE said the structure establishes the basis for the best possible service, reliability and efficiency. Electricity, gas and water sales will be handled from a single source by region. Efficiency will also be enhanced by pooling fuel source production and power generation.

Creditors agree British Energy rescue

British Energy has announced that the terms governing the UK government’s £5bn ($8.5bn) rescue package have been met, although the European Commission will not rule on the agreement until July 2004. Shareholders in the UK’s main nuclear power company will be left with just 2.5 per cent of the company under the deal agreed with creditors.

Under the terms of the restructuring agreement the government-backed Nuclear Liabilities Fund Ltd. will assume financial responsibility for discharging uncontracted nuclear liabilities and the cost of decommissioning British Energy’s eight nuclear power stations.

The UK government has reserved the right to put British Energy into administration should any part of the deal fall through. The cost of the rescue to the British public has been estimated at up to £200m per year for a decade and an unspecified amount after that.

Nexans tester

Nexans completed performance testing on a new design high temperature super conductor component. With a protected power of more than 130 kVA, the component has been developed for use in a superconducting fault current limiter (SCFCL) which improves power network’s resistance to short circuit currents.