THE FRIDAY NOTE: India decries China's cheap solar equipment and the rest of the week's top picks
Aug 24, 2012 - India joins list of China's solar industry enemies, Vestas' headcount continues to melt amid falling wind turbine prices, while E.on turns wind power into gas and Lucid Energy makes power in water pipelines.
Farooq Abdullah, the Minister of New and Renewable Energy in India, urged the country's solar industry not to buy China's cheap equipment "for making a quick buck", daily The Economic Times said on Thursday. The minister's speech at a solar energy workshop shows that India is the next country to oppose China's solar industry practices. This comes quite natural as Indian solar power equipment producers, not unlike their global peers, have been hit by falling selling prices, overcapacity and severe competition for which factors many blame China's subsidised manufacturing capacity.
The US already launched anti-dumping tariffs for imports of Chinese solar cells and modules, while the European Union recently followed suit with an investigation that is likely to result in similar measures.
Clipper, Vestas slash workforce on weak demand
Declining wind equipment demand triggered by the expiry of the federal production tax credit in the US at end-2012 is already taking its toll on sector jobs. The latest victims are 174 employees of wind turbine group Clipper Windpower Plc (LON:CWP), or 32% of its US headcount, Cedar Rapids Television reported on Tuesday. The channel said that most of the lay offs were "believed to be" at a wind turbine plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
That news followed a report by daily Arkansas Democrat Gazette earlier this month that Danish wind turbine blade maker LM Wind Power would let go 234 workers, or more than half of the staff at its Little Rock plant in Arkansas.
Actually, the pressure within the wind power industry is growing globally. A pure proof is Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S' (CPH:VWS) announcement from Tuesday that it would slash another 1,400 jobs in the wake of a challenging 2013. It will cut staff in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.
Germany's E.on converts wind power into natural gas
It may sound like a joke, until the word "electrolysis" is mentioned. German utility E.on AG (ETR:EOAN) said earlier this week it had kicked off construction in Germany of a plant that would turn excess wind farm output into hydrogen through the process of electrolysis. The hydrogen produced will be fed into the natural gas grid.
As simple as that, E.on will help utilities deal with the intermittent nature of renewables, a major issue for the sector. The process will be also beneficial to wind farm operators, who at times need to shut down capacity as the grid cannot take all the output.
Lucid Energy to build power plant in water pipe
US renewable energy technology firm Lucid Energy is making progress with a quite clever technology -- its LucidPipe power system which uses a spherical, vertical axis turbine to harness the energy potential in the form of excess head pressure in gravity-fed pipelines. In other words, the facility produces power from the flow of water in big municipal water pipelines.
On Thursday the company said it had agreed with San Antonio Water System (SAWS) to install a 60-kW in-pipe hydropower system in one of the latter's steel water pipes. The technology inventor explained that its turbines did not interrupt water flow and helped cut the pressure on water infrastructure. What's more important is that the power output does not depend on weather conditions.