Solar nanotech partnership

Spanish renewable energy company Acciona Energia has established a joint venture with MT Technologies, a nanotechnology company operating in the field of photovoltaics. The intention of the partnership is to develop bioactive electricity generation systems using a technology that involves sunlight-capturing units designed in the laboratory through the reordering of molecular structures.

Acciona Energia is investing €4m ($4.86m) in the 50-50 joint venture, while MT Technologies will provide the know-how for the process. The partnership aims to develop the laboratory prototype technology to achieve higher performance with a view to implementing field trials and establishing a manufacturing facility.

Growth in solar energy has been constrained by energy performance levels and the high costs of silicon.

Alstom succeeds with carbon capture pilot

Alstom is developing a conceptual design for an 80 MW air-fired circulating fluidized bed boiler with oxyfuel firing following the successful tests on the technology at its laboratories in Windsor, CT, USA.

In June 2005 Alstom completed the third of three tests on a 3 MW pilot CFB using Eastern Bituminous coal and petroleum coke for nearly 300 hours. The design is geared towards the first commercial demonstration plant in North America.

The technology, utilizing Alstom’s pulverized coal and circulating fluidized bed boilers enables the capture of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels through the burning of fuels in oxygen. The flue gas produced is concentrated carbon dioxide, which can be stored or used commercially.

Drax rejects advances

Shareholders of Drax Group, owners of Europe’s largest coal fired power station have rejected a third takeover approach, this time from a consortium comprising International Power and Mitsui & Co. The offer put an indicative value of à‚£2bn ($3.57bn) on the company and would have allowed current shareholders to retain a 20 per cent stake. Drax has asked interested parties to submit indicative bids by early November.

In September Drax announced it had rejected a preliminary offer from US groups Constellation Energy and Perry Capital for the 4000 MW power station, saying it undervalued the group. Drax also rebuffed a second takeover approach from Apollo Management, Texas Pacific Group and TowerBrook Capital Partners, which valued Drax at à‚£2.075bn, and called for an auction of the company.

Drax is estimated to have a further 25-year lifespan.

Austrians win Alstom division

Austrian Energy & Environment (AE&E), a subsidiary of Vienna-base A-TEC Industries AG, has signed an agreement to acquire significant parts of the Industrial Boiler and Plants division of Alstom. The division reported turnover of €400m ($486m) for 2004 and was put on the market at the behest of European competition authorities as a condition for a restructuring package. No details of the purchase price have been disclosed.

AE&E is an established player in the fields of waste incineration and industrial boilers. The acquisition will see it positioned as the number three manufacturer in Europe in the energy and environment sector.

EDF sale proceeds

Shares equal to 15 per cent of EDF are to go on sale to investors for €29.50 to €34.10 ($35.80 to $41.40) valuing the company at up to €63bn in the face of protests from employees, trade unions and the general public. The estimated €9bn proceeds are to be reinvested in EDF, which has committed itself to remaining a public service indefinitely. Some 15 per cent of the shares available are to be reserved for EDF employees.

As part of the planned IPO the government has obtained a commitment from EDF to invest €30bn in 2006-2008, up from the planned €26bn.

If public opinion succeeded in scuppering the planned sale, analysts say EDF would face a large hole in its balance sheet and as a consequence would have to consider divesting some of its worldwide assets.

European Court to rule on Gas Natural bid jurisdiction

The European Commission (EC) is to refer Gas Natural’s takeover bid for Endesa to the European Court to decide if Brussels or Madrid should rule on competition issues. Both Italy and Portugal have asked the EC to investigate the bid with Centrica also calling for the EC to have jurisdiction.

La Caixa, Spain’s largest savings bank and controlling shareholder in Gas Natural, is exploring options for turning the €22.5bn ($27.3bn) hostile bid into a friendly deal amid increasing scrutiny of the extent to which the bank controls large sections of the Spanish economy. Endesa is offering shareholders a €1-a-share dividend before the year end and an annual organic growth rate of 12 per cent.

News digest

B&V adds consultants: Black & Veatch has bought the business and technology consulting services firm of Fortegra, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, which specializes in the energy and utilities industries.

Babcock & Wilcox reorganizes: As part of its process towards exiting bankruptcy the Babcock & Wilcox company, certain subsidiaries and representatives of asbestos claimants have filed a joint plan of reorganization with courts.

Cable connection: General Cable Corporation has reached an agreement to acquire the wire and cable manufacturing business of Safran for €75m ($90.7m). The businesses acquired have traded under the names Silec and Sagem.

Capstone milestone: Microturbine manufacturer Capstone Turbine Corporation has announced that its installed fleet of microturbine energy systems has surpassed the 10 million hour mark in routine operation, equivalent to more than 1000 years’ worth of continuous operation.

EnerSys gets GAZ: US industrial battery manufacturer EnerSys has completed the acquisition of Gerate und Akkumulatorwek Zwickau (GAZ), a German nickel-based battery business, for approximately €8m ($9.7m).

Iberdrola wind addition: Iberdrola has acquired the Polish wind energy company MVV Eternegy Ploska from its German owner. Currently operating 161 MW of capacity, the unit will now be called Iberdrola Energia Odnawialna SPZOO.

Plug tests GenSys: Plug Power has announced the commissioning and testing at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, of ten next-generation GenSys fuel cell systems designed for remote prime power applications.

Portable Atlas: Sweden’s Atlas Copco has sold its stationary generator business Masons Power Generation to the Italian company Pramac Lifter and plans to focus on its portable generator and compressor businesses.

SmartSynch funding: SmartSynch, a smart metering technology company serving US utilities, has secured an additional $12m in venture capital funding and announced that investment firm Battelle Ventures has joined the list of corporate investors.

TdE bids for Edison: Two months after receiving European Commission approval, Trasalpina di Energia (TdE), jointly owned by EDF and Delmi (AEM), has launched a €3.2bn ($3.86bn) bid for the minority shares of Italy’s Edison. It already holds 63.3 per cent of Edison.

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