- World Bank Group Co-Finances Morocco’s Ouarzazate 500 MW Solar Thermal Power Project
- Solar Profit Margins Compared to Other Industries
- Air Force Puts Muscle Behind New Ultra-Efficient Lighting System
Posted: 19 Nov 2011 08:59 AM PST
The World Bank approved $297 million in loans to Morocco to support construction and operation of Morocco’s 500-megawatt (MW) Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant, one of several large scale solar power projects in various stages of planning or development across the solar energy rich Middle East-North Africa region.
Upon completion, the Ouarzazate parabolic trough CSP plant would be one of the largest CSP plants in the world. A group of seven international lenders has committed $1.435 billion dollars to build and develop the project. Ouarzazate is seen as a key milestone for Morocco’s national Solar Power Plan, which was launched in 2009 with the goal of deploying 2000 MW of solar power generation capacity by 2020.
The World Bank loans co-finance Phase 1 of the Ouarzazate CSP project as part of a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) and an unnamed private partner.
Phase 1 entails construction of the first 160 MW of CSP capacity, which will result in avoiding 240,000 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which lends directly to governments, is providing a $200 million loan, and its Clean Technology Fund is providing a $97 million loan.
“It will pave the way for the positive implementation of the regional initiatives sharing the same vision (Mediterranean Solar Plan, Desertec Industry Initiative, Medgrid, World Bank Arab World Initiative). The support of international financial institutions, like the World Bank, through development financing but also climate change dedicated financing, is essential to help bring the overall scheme to economic viability,” he added.
Joining the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Agence Française de Développement, European Union Neighborhood Investment Facility, and Germany’s Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW) are working with MASEN and a competitively selected private partner to carry out the project.
MASEN and the World Bank put out an Invitation for Prequalification and General Procurement Notice in August 2010, beginning the search for an operational partner to design, finance, construct, operate and maintain one or more of the solar thermal power plants that make up the Ouarzazate CSP Program.
Commenting on the project, World Bank Group president Robert B. Zoellick said,
Posted: 19 Nov 2011 06:47 AM PST
As many are aware, the solar industry is going through a bit of a shakeout. Extremely low polysilicon prices are stressing or killing a number of solar companies. However, overall, if you look at the average profit margin of the solar industry compared to other traditional industries, you can see that the solar industry still has a profit margin it can be happy about.
Canadian Solar, one of several large solar companies, recently announced that its profit margin is likely to shrink to 12% due to growing competition and the commodization of some solar panel components. Now, compare that to this Fortune/CNN 2009 list of industry profit margins:
Hmm, notice that the solar industry, while squeezing its margins, would still land near the top of this list?
The bottom line message: there may be a “shakeout” in the solar industry in the months and years to come, many companies may not make it, but that doesn’t mean the industry is collapsing — that is a sign that the industry is maturing. The solar industry is the fastest-growing industry in the U.S., growing approximately 10 times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole! Margins are coming down, but sales volume is going up.
“Yes, narrowing margins are making life difficult for smaller, higher cost producers,” Garvin Jabusch of Alt Energy Stocks writes. “But this is and has always been a standard part of the evolution of any industry from niche to growth to mainstream.”
Demand for solar is increasing. Costs are dropping. And competition is rising (as well as collaboration). Good luck to all those trying to make a living in this industry with what they hope will be the next best product, but, clearly, there can’t be 1000 bests.
Let me know if I’m missing something here — this is an area of the industry I don’t normally delve into.
Profit fluctuation image via shutterstock
Posted: 19 Nov 2011 06:35 AM PST
The U.S. Air Force is the force behind a new energy-efficient, high performance lighting system that also sets a high bar for its focus on lifecycle sustainability, from raw materials to recycling and disposal. If that all sounds a bit touchy-feely, consider the military logistics of supplying and disposing light bulbs over all five branches of the armed services, from fighting equipment to office lighting, and you can see the incentive for trimming things down to a more manageable – and less expensive – level.
Air Force Funding for Energy Efficient Lighting
The new research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in partnership with researchers based at the University of Illinois, which resulted in the formation of a company called Eden Park Illumination, Inc. Its signature line of research is a microplasma lighting system that is a far cry from the anything on the market today. There is nothing round, curved, or bulby-looking about it. Instead, it comes in the form of a thin, flat wafer punctuated with arrays of tiny holes.
Microplasmas and Lighting
The new system may look revolutionary but it is deeply rooted in standard fluorescent lighting technology. It is based on a plasma or ionized gas, which is a ubiquitous form of matter found in everything from neon signs to the Sun. The research team found that they could achieve unique lighting properties by depositing microscopic amounts of a plasma into tiny holes. The small dimensions of the micro-cavities enable the plasma to achieve a higher pressure without losing stability.
Building a Better Light Bulb
The team used aluminum foil to imprint the cavities. When sealed in glass sheets and further "ruggedized," the resulting wafer is only about four millimeters thick. So far, the typical microplasma wafer under development is about six inches square, weighs about 200 grams and contains about 250,000 microcavities. It is far more compact and efficient than a conventional fluorescent light bulb, and it generates far less heat than another emerging energy-efficient technology, LEDs (light emitting diodes).
Why the Air Force Cares About Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
The relatively high output, low weight, small size and stable, cool-running properties of microplasma lighting is of particular interest to the Air Force because of the potential for yielding high performance in aircraft cockpits, both for general lighting and for information displays, without adding significant bulk to the cramped space. But, that’ s just part of the picture.
The new lighting system also has several other features that dovetail with the Department of Defense's environmental policies. In addition to their inherent efficiency, microplasma arrays are fully dimmable, a feature that can save energy by enabling users to tailor the light to specific needs – or enable a "smart" system to do the tailoring automatically when people keep forgetting to use the dimmer.
Microplasma arrays also require less material by bulk to produce the same amount of light as a much larger fluorescent bulb. That offers the potential for saving additional energy in the manufacturing stage of the device's lifecycle.
Another lifecycle consideration is disposal, and the new system was engineered specifically to take advantage of three materials that can be recycled with relatively low-energy processes: plastic, glass and aluminum.
One final consideration for the military is the absence of mercury in the microplasma array. Mercury is a hazardous material used in standard fluorescent bulbs, so a mercury-free bulb helps to reduce the logistics of storage and recycling, while also eliminating the risk of exposure from broken bulbs.
U.S. Air Force and Sustainability
The Air Force’s foray into sustainable lighting is part of a broader green package that includes solar energy and electric vehicles at Air Force bases, biofuels for the Thunderbirds demonstration team, and even green roofs. It also includes a growing emphasis on winning more public support for sustainable federal energy policies as a counter-measure to Republican opposition in Congress, one example being the military’s first ever joint Army-Air Force Energy Forum this summer and a series of media roundtables this fall.
The new microplasma array lighting system is not in commercial production yet, but stay tuned.
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