The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

USA nuclear power companies feeling the financial pain- future very dubious

financial-disaster-1Nuclear Power Firms Feel Squeeze Cost overruns, delays plague current projects, clouding development of future reactors WSJ, By  REBECCA SMITH
March 5, 2015 

Future nuclear power plant development in the U.S. looks dismal as cost overruns and multiyear delays plague four new reactors under construction in Georgia and South Carolina.

Southern Co. , the Atlanta-based power utility that dominates much of the Southeastern U.S., recently told Georgia regulators that costs have ballooned by $1.4 billion for its minority stake in the Vogtle nuclear power plant expansion in Waynesboro, Ga. The company’s Georgia Power utility is now on the hook to spend $7.5 billion for its 46% share, while municipal utilities own the rest.

Southern is trying to recoup some of the cost from its vendors, but the company recently notified the state utility commission that it may try to pass on much of the expense to customers, protecting its shareholders from the hit.

The company’s disclosure shines a light on a persistent industry problem. What was once seen as a major strength of new nuclear reactor designs—a streamlined construction method —is now proving to be an Achilles’ heel……

March 6, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

South Korea marketing nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia

Buy-S-Korea-nukesSaudi Arabia, South Korea sign MOU on nuclear power Wed Mar 4, 2015 Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and South Korea have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on the development of nuclear energy, Saudi state news agency SPA said, building on a deal signed in 2011.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday in Riyadh during an official visit, SPA said.

The MOU calls for South Korean firms to help build at least two small-to-medium sized nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, the South Korean presidential office said in a statement.

“If the two units go ahead, the cost of the contract will be (near) $2 billion,” the statement said……

March 6, 2015 Posted by | marketing, Saudi Arabia, South Korea | Leave a comment

Trouble in nuclear France: AREVA and EDF in financial distress

plants-downFrance Warns of Nuclear Industry Shake-Up After Areva Loss NYT, By  and STANLEY REEDFEB. 23, 2015 PARIS — France’s energy minister said on Monday that an overhaul of the country’s state-controlled nuclear energy industry was imminent, after one of the country’s main builders of nuclear power plants warned of a loss that could hamper its ability to continue operating independently……

Ms. Royal spoke after Areva, one of the world’s leading nuclear technology companies, said in apreliminary statement that it expected a 2014 net loss of about 4.9 billion euros, or $5.6 billion, compared with a loss of €500 million a year earlier.
 The French government — which has continued to be a proponent of nuclear power when many other big industrial nations have been more equivocal or have come to oppose it outright — owns 87 percent of Areva, and nearly 85 percent of the other big French nuclear power company, EDF, once known as Électricité de France.

EDF has been facing its own problems, including lengthy delays and steep cost overruns on a flagship plant that it is building at Flamanville, in the northwest of the country. There are also uncertainties about whether a showcase project in Britain will proceed — one in which both EDF and Areva would participate.

The French nuclear industry’s travails underline the gloomy state of the nuclear industry since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. Moreover, the French industry, though long a world leader, has in recent years been threatened by its own mistakes……..

The loss that Areva warned of on Monday would be substantially larger than its stock-market value of about €3.7 billion, suggesting that the troubled company, plagued by cost overruns and write-downs, may need new funds to continue operating. Areva’s capabilities are vital to France’s ambitions to remain a world provider of nuclear plants and services like supplying fuel.

With few new nuclear plants being planned to replace the older ones that are being phased out in the West, “Europe will see a gradual decline in nuclear’s share of electricity supply,” said Antony Froggatt, an analyst at Chatham House, a London-based research organization…….

Areva shares closed down 2.1 percent in Paris trading on Monday.

The company, which is based in Paris, had previously warned that it was facing trouble; it said in November that it was suspending its financial guidance for 2015 and 2016. Standard & Poor’s cut the company’s debt rating to junk soon after that, citing the company’s “limited headroom.”

February 25, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear energy business dying a slow death?

terminal-nuclear-industryIs There Any Hope Left For Nuclear Energy? By Nick Cunningham, Oil , 19 February 2015 “…… the IEA notes that the nuclear industry is going to need to demonstrate that it can build new power plants on time and within budget. On this objective, the industry is failing miserably. Nuclear power plants have often suffered from cost overruns and delays, one factor (among many) that put the industry into a decades-long lull beginning in the early 1980’s. The so-called “nuclear renaissance” was thought to put an end to these problems with a new generation of designs and modular construction. So far, it hasn’t played out that way.

One of the showcases of the nuclear renaissance was a reactor to be built by Areva in Finland. Using a new generation technology, the reactor would boast enhanced safety systems and demonstrate lower cost and more timely construction. However, after starting construction in 2005 and slated to be completed in 2009, several delays have pushed off its completion and dramatically inflated costs. Areva now hopes to complete the project by late 2018, more than a decade behind schedule and perhaps at double its initial estimated cost.

In the United States, President Barack Obama has placed a lot of faith in the nuclear renaissance, granting loan guarantees to two new nuclear reactors now under construction in Georgia. he reactors will use the Westinghouse AP1000, a new design that promises simplification and safety that will cut down on construction times…..

Unfortunately, in January 2015 Southern Company, the owner of the Georgia reactors, announced that their completion would be delayed by 18 months and cost an additional $720 million. The reactors could end up being completed of three years behind the initial schedule. As the first newly licensed nuclear reactors in three decades, the inability to complete the project on time could put a chill on the already moribund construction queue. Even Southern Company’s CEO, who has been a big proponent of nuclear power, downplayed the possibility his company would expand beyond Vogtle. …..

even in China reactors are being delayed. China’s most advanced reactor project announced its second delay in January. The project, using similar designs to the AP1000, may not be completed until 2016, three years behind schedule.

Meanwhile, a tidal wave of nuclear reactors will close down over the next 20 years as their operating licenses expire. There are 98 GW of nuclear capacity operatingin the U.S., many of which will see their lives end by the 2030s. And there are only about 5 GW under construction at this stage. In that context, there are huge question marks about the long-term viability for nuclear power in the United States…….it is unclear if even China can make up for the shrinking industry presence in the West, let alone meet the IEA’s ambitious scenario for 2050.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

South Africa – Russia nuclear agreement is by no means a done deal

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.Africaflag_RussiaSA’s nuclear deal with Russia is far from done, Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015  LISA STEYN Money is the big problem with the initial agreement Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed last year, given the financial positions of both countries.   Russia has emerged as an apparent frontrunner to participate in South Africa’s nuclear build, but selecting the technology is just the first of many challenges that could see a nuclear deal such as this come a cropper.

With the Russian economy in turmoil and the subsequent high cost of borrowing, its ability to raise the funding for its nuclear ambitions in many countries is being called into question – as is its ability to deliver on time.

For South Africa, it is even more of a mystery how the government will provide the loan guarantees that would be required, given that so many have been extended to ailing parastatals such as Eskom and SAA. The state may have hit its limit.

Regardless of which vendor is chosen, the guarantees and the government’s 50% localisation target for the project appear to be insurmountable obstacles, particularly given the challenges faced by the domestic construction industry.

The memorandum of understanding signed between Russia and South Africa last year is far more than a generic agreement, as the government had claimed it is. Rather, it lays the groundwork for government-to-government contracting, in terms that heavily favour Russia, the Mail & Guardian reported last week.

Not only will the agreement be binding for 20 years once in force, but the Russians will also be indemnified from any liability arising from nuclear accidents during the reactors’ life. Russia is also granted a host of regulatory concessions and favourable tax and other financial treatment. The designated competent authorities are South Africa’s department of energy and Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation.

But unresolved issues could make the deal unworkable. An industry expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “My own view is I don’t think the guys driving it from the South African side have joined the dots. I don’t have huge confidence in the people running it and that they understand the issues.”

Despite the apparent commitment to forge ahead with Russian technology, the agreement defers a decision about funding.

The Russians are known to have offered South Africa a “build, own, operate” construction deal, according to which Russia would build and run the nuclear station, and sell the power to South Africa at an agreed price. This kind of vendor-assisted financing may be the only way South Africa could afford to go nuclear. But the bigger question now is: Can Russia?

First, sanctions have been imposed on Russia for its military intervention in the Ukraine. Then the oil price tumbled, severely hitting government revenues, which are heavily reliant on oil and gas taxes. Subsequently, the rouble has lost almost 50% of its value since the start of 2014, inflation has soared to 15%, and its sovereign credit rating was cut to sub-investment grade by one agency in January. And, in 2014 alone, $151-billion was taken out of the country.

Some nuclear economists and industry insiders believe this dire state of affairs could affect Russia’s nuclear ambitions, as new builds involve high upfront costs and are extremely sensitive to the cost of financing, which is mainly the interest rates at which the funding is secured…….

The unnamed industry expert, however, expressed concern that Russia might commit itself to a further agreement but not honour it. He said other nations that had signed nuclear deals with Russia, such as Vietnam, India and Turkey, had all experienced delays…………..

February 21, 2015 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Russia, South Africa | Leave a comment

Frenzy to export nuclear technology – Russia and China winning?

Russia and China outgun the West in civil nuclear exports 20 Feb 15 By Matthew Cottee, International Institute for Strategic Studies


East–West nuclear rivalry is back. The Ukraine crisis threatens the emergence of a new Cold War, and with it the return to a standoff between nuclear-armed opponents. Meanwhile, nuclear rivalry is shaping up in another arena: exports of civil nuclear technology represent a new battleground in which Russia – and increasingly China – are significantly outgunning the West, with troubling implications for global nuclear governance……..

untested Chinese technology is being installed at a facility in Pakistan, although progress on construction was recently halted by courts in Karachi citing environmental concerns. Despite this setback, Beijing has ambitions to export nuclear technology on a large scale. The February merger of China Power Investment Corporation and State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation—designed to consolidate expertise in international technology transfer and nuclear power production—suggests that Beijing is positioning itself to increase international supply of its own nuclear technology in the future.

An assessment of the dynamics of nuclear supply already provides difficult reading for Western suppliers such as Areva or Westinghouse, who are simply unable to compete with Chinese and Russian financing. According to data from the World Nuclear Association, Russia is currently building 37 per cent of the civil nuclear facilities under construction globally, followed by China with 28 per cent. Rosatom, the Russian nuclear corporation, has orders on its books worth US$100bn.

Both Russia and China are offering prospective buyers, predominantly in emerging economies, generous financial support to gain access to a range of markets. Moscow has already transferred technology to Hungary, Turkey and Venezuela, and in November 2014 announced that it would build up to eight new nuclear reactors in Iran, despite continuing concerns about Tehran’s nuclear intentions. A preliminary agreement signed last week between Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi suggests this trend shows no signs of abating.

In addition to the on-going relationship with Pakistan, China has also signed bilateral deals to provide new nuclear reactors to Argentina and is expected to be closely involved in the new nuclear build at Hinkley Point in the UK. While the Chinese contribution to the British facility will be financial, this is a likely precursor to an operational role at future UK nuclear sites, with the possibility of indigenously designed Chinese technology being installed on Britain’s east coast………


February 21, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, marketing | Leave a comment

Worker deaths at Fukushima nuclear plant

Professor: Fukushima workers told us about “all of the deaths” happening at nuclear plant — We stayed at their dormitory and “learned a lot about what’s going on there, it really is not pretty” — Instructor who was with him on trip weeps while topic is discussed (VIDEO)

Wesleyan University, Feb. 3, 2015 (at 12:45 in):

  • William Johnston, Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University, Feb 3, 2015: [Eiko Otake, Visiting Artist at Wesleyan’s College of East Asian Studies, and I] hopped on the train in Tokyo… then rented a car… and we went to the town of Hirono, which is fairly close to the Daiichi reactors… Eiko found a place for us to stay there which was basically a dormitory for these workers. That opened up a whole other world to us. We sat down and had dinner, and we talked…. It was fascinating… we learned a heck of a lot about what was going on there.
  • Eiko Otake: (sobbing) Oh God…
  • Johnston: It really is not pretty. All of the deaths which have happened with subcontractors, which allows Tepco — which basically owns the place, manages it, but they work through subcontractors – and then when somebody dies, Tepco can say, “None of our men have died, of course not.”… In summer time we also learned of other things that were going on, but we couldn’t get the same lodging.

Asahi Shimbun, Feb 17, 2015: [TEPCO] submitted its plan to provide wide-ranging training programs for workers [after] a string of accidents, some of them fatal… Nine serious accidents occurred between March 2014 and January 2015, resulting in two deaths and eight serious injuries. The labor ministry ordered TEPCO to develop measures to prevent similar incidents following the death of a 55-year-old worker in January… [TEPCO] submitted the plans on Feb. 16 to the labor ministry… outlining countermeasures against occupational injuries and deaths. The report attributed the accidents to tight schedules and a lack of experience… a TEPCO official vowed that the utility would proceed with decommissioning the reactors with the highest priority on safety, saying, “We will ascertain (the pressure on the workers imposed by tight deadlines) by enhancing communication.”… “We have to prevent a situation in which workers feel it is no longer safe to work at the Fukushima plant,” a TEPCO official said. The plant operator also intends to accelerate decommissioning and improve efficiency… so employees will be able to work longer at the plant site before reaching the annual radiation exposure limit of 50 millisieverts.

AFP, Feb 17. 2015: In its preliminary report issued yesterday the IAEA also said it “strongly encourages Tepco… to reinforce safety leadership and safety culture” at the plant, where some 7,000 workers are engaged. One man died there in January after falling into a water tank. “There is still some room to enhance this interaction between radiation safety and labour safety through more integrated plans,” [an IAEA official] said.

Watch the discussion with Prof. Johnston and Eiko Otake here

February 20, 2015 Posted by | employment, Fukushima 2015, Japan | Leave a comment

California’s solar industry boosting jobs

Report: California adds nearly 7,500 solar jobs to its nation-leading total BY MARK GLOVER MGLOVER@SACBEE.COM 02/16/2015

California’s solar industry added nearly 7,500 jobs in 2014, boosting its nation-leading total to 54,690, according to a new report by the Washington, D.C.-based Solar Foundation.

That represented a 15.8 percent gain over 47,223 reported in 2013. Nearly 60 percent of the current jobs are in the solar installation sector, according to the report.

Massachusetts was a distant second in the 2014 job rankings, with 9,400 solar industry jobs.

“California’s solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” Andrea Luecke, foundation president and executive director, said in a statement accompanying the figures.

The report also noted that California is projected to add nearly 10,000 more solar industry jobs in 2015.

The foundation said there were 2,094 solar companies in California as of November 2014, also No. 1 nationally. The Golden State also topped the nation in the number homes powered by solar energy, at more than 2.38 million.

Nationally, the foundation said 173,807 held jobs in the solar industry near the end of 2014, up 21.8 percent from the previous year.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | employment, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

How the nuclear lobby changes its sales pitch over the years

nuclear-marketing-crapThe sixty-year pitch.From a dancing housewife to Homer Simpson and beyond, here are some memorable moments in the long grind to sell nuclear power to a wary public. Environmental Health News Third of three parts. Part 1: Last Tango for nuclear?; Part 2: Atomic Balm. February 13, 2015 By Peter Dykstra    The nuclear power industry has often been its own worst enemy through its marketing.

At the height of the Cold War in 1953, President Eisenhower rolled out the “Atoms for Peace” campaign, envisioning everything from electrical generation to harnessing atomic bombs to dredging harbors and damming rivers. The following year, Atomic Energy Commission Chair Lewis Strauss upped the ante, envisioning a day when “our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.”

The Atom and Eve

Strauss was placing his bets on nuclear fusion, which, sixty years later, is still on the drawing board. And the meters are still ticking away.

Eager to invest in nukes, utilities took their cue from the AEC Chairman. The Atomic Industrial Forum, the first nuclear power trade association, led the way in messages equating nuclear power with easy living and patriotism. Utilities ran ad campaigns that promised cheap nuclear energy.

From hot times to deep freeze

Nuclear power plant construction hit its Golden Era in the 1960’s. A late Sixties video touting proposed New England nukes, “The Atom and Eve,” is a memorable example from the era: Eve is a dancing housewife, reveling in the virtues of an all-electric kitchen powered by clean, safe nuclear energy. The video’s cigarette-smoking safety engineer looks like he was plucked out of the fission edition of Mad Men, but it’s Eve’s show. She pirouettes around household appliances, caressing the refrigerator, fondling an electric range, and (viewer advisory!) at about the 8:45 mark, she pretty much makes it to third base with an electric washer-dryer combo.

By the end of the decade, rising protests at nuclear plant construction sites and the near-calamity of Three Mile Island changed the game. Public mistrust grew, particularly after Nuclear Regulatory Commission staffers accused Pennsylvania officials and Three Mile Island’s operators of downplaying risks……

Nervous Nineties and beyond
In 1998, industry advertising was whacked by the Better Business Bureau, which ruled in favor of environmental groups and a windmill power producer that nuclear ads could not boast of producing “environmentally clean” power. When those claims continued, the groups won a similar ruling from the Federal Trade Commission a year later.

As the 21st Century rolled in, the industry increasingly marketed itself as a remedy to climate change concerns, with a parade of prominent citizens, some of them paid spokespeople, plugging nuclear.

Then, in 2011, came Fukushima, and the industry’s umpteenth redemption pitch was in doubt. And Japan, by reputation one of the best-prepared and most safety-conscious nation on Earth, went into damage control mode, including at least one world-class PR overreach: Tokyo Electric Power’s legal team argued in court that radiation released by the Fukushima meltdowns was no longer the company’s responsibility.

It was now “owned” by the people it fell on.

The court was not amused.

Today, the domestic nuclear industry is relying heavily on selling nuke plants as a climate change solution. ……

February 18, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, marketing | Leave a comment

Another $8 billion added to the $14 billion cost of Nuclear Plant Vogtle

nukes-hungryFlag-USAMonitors: Southern Co. might spend $8B on nuclear plant February 16, 2015 By Ray Henry, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Southern Co. might spend more than $8 billion to finish building a nuclear power plant in Georgia, or roughly 30 percent more than it originally budgeted, according to a recent analysis prepared for state utility regulators.

Power company officials disclosed in January that builders expect it will take three years longer than first expected to construct two new reactors at Plant Vogtle. Construction delays can significantly run up the cost of building and financing a nuclear plant.

Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power would spend about $8 billion if construction is delayed just short of three years, according to an analysis that the head of the Public Service Commission’s utilities division sent Jan. 8 to an elected regulator. That estimate is consistent with the potential delays Southern Co. and other Vogtle owners announced later in January, after the analysis was written.

Ongoing lawsuits could raise costs. Georgia Power’s cost would rise to $8.3 billion if the power company paid half the money the plant’s designer, Westinghouse Electric Co., and builder, Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., are seeking in a lawsuit.

Georgia Power spokesman Brian Green said the company could not immediately comment on the state agency’s analysis. Utility officials last projected Georgia Power would spend $6.7 billion on its share of the plant. Company officials will file an updated budget Feb. 27 that is expected to show roughly $720 million in additional charges due to delays.

A project using the same plant design in South Carolina previously announced similar delays priced at more than $1 billion.

Overall we continue to maintain that building these units correctly, and safely, is more important than building them quickly,” Green said.

Georgia Power’s customers will pay for the cost of the new plant unless state regulators intervene. The documents show staffers at the Public Service Commission are compiling a record of testimony showing how Southern Co. executives promised the plant’s original cost estimate was reasonable and rejected suggestions they budget more for the possibility of delays or other difficulties.

Georgia Power owns a 46 percent stake in the new reactors at Plant Vogtle. The other owners include Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton.

The owners estimated the plant would cost a total of $14 billion. Estimating the precise cost now is difficult because each utility faces different borrowing costs and other charges. If the other companies faced costs similar to Georgia Power, the plant’s total price tag would stand at more than $17 billion.

February 18, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Now India too wants to sell nuclear reactors overseas!

Modi-Buy-NukesIndia to supply nuclear reactors to Sri Lanka By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau | 17 Feb, 2015 NEW DELHI: With an eye on checking China’s growing ambitions in South Asia, India has signed a landmark civil nuclear pact with Sri Lanka – the first such agreement to supply nuclear power reactors to a foreign nation – and decided to expand defence and security cooperation to address Colombo’s requirements.

This is the first civil nuclear pact that Sri Lanka has signed with any country. The agreement signed after Modi-Sirisena talks would help bilateral cooperation in the transfer and exchange of knowledge and expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and training of personnel in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including use of radioisotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety and nuclear security, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. India also plans to supply indigenously made light small-scale nuclear reactors to Lanka which wants to establish 600 MW of nuclear capacity by 2030, government officials said. Delhi has been contemplating to export smaller sized nuclear reactors to friendly countries for few years now.


February 18, 2015 Posted by | India, marketing | Leave a comment

China’s delay in building reactors is watched in concern by US nuclear industry

nukes-hungryflag-ChinaPower plant projects closely watched International Falls Journal, ATLANTA (AP) 17 Feb 15, — U.S. power companies struggling with the escalating costs of building nuclear plants are closely watching similar efforts in China, where officials are expecting delays.

Two plants under construction in Sanmen and Haiyang, China, are the first-ever built using Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000 reactor design. Utility companies in Georgia and South Carolina are building two similar plants in the United States using a very similar design. Since the project in China is further along, U.S. executives and safety regulators watch it closely…….

Meeting deadlines is critical for projects in both countries. When nuclear plant construction slows down, building and financing costs can soar. That problem hobbled the nuclear industry during earlier rounds of building. Proponents had hoped the new projects in China and the United States would demonstrate nuclear plants can be constructed without blowing budgets.

If nuclear plants go massively over budget, the nuclear industry will find it nearly impossible in the short run to compete against much-cheaper gas-fired plants…….

The projects in the United States are already under cost pressure. Westinghouse Electric Co. and Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. expect construction of two new AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia will go three years beyond the approved schedule, according to financial filings……..

Regulators in Georgia estimate the latest delays could push Southern Co.’s share of spending on the plant from $6.1 billion to more than $8 billion.

A sister plant owned by SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper in South Carolina has run into similar delays and cost overruns.

February 18, 2015 Posted by | business and costs | Leave a comment

Russia promoting its nuclear technology to Egypt

Russian-BearRussia to help Egypt build ‘a whole new nuclear power industry’ – Putin,  February 10, 2015 Russia will contribute to building “a whole new nuclear power industry” in Egypt, President Vladimir Putin has announced as the two countries have signed a number of agreements after a meeting in Cairo.

The leaders of Russia and Egypt have signed “a memorandum of understanding to build the first nuclear plant in [the northern city of] El-Dabaa,” Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi has told reporters at anews conference at Cairo’s Al Qubba presidential palace.Russia would contribute not only to the construction of a nuclear power plant, but also staff and scientific research, President Putin said……..

February 14, 2015 Posted by | Egypt, marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

Google’s big investment in renewable energy, $US1.5 billion and more

piggy-ban-renewablesGoogle joins Apple in turning to renewable energy, SMH  February 12, 2015 Matt O’Brien Google has spent $US1.5 billion ($1.95 billion) around the world on clean energy projects cutting the pollution from millions of users clicking on search links, watching YouTube videos and sending emails, but now it’s found a powerful electricity source close to home. The company will announce Wednesday that it is buying power from the Altamont Pass, one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most iconic wind farms that is about to get a Google-funded makeover.

The tech giant has no plans to brand the blades with its multicolored logo, but its 20-year power purchase agreement with Florida-based NextEra Energy will dramatically transform the rolling, treeless landscape that connects the Bay Area with the Central Valley here. About 770 old turbines from the 1980s will be replaced this year by 48 new machines producing twice as much energy, enough to power Google’s corporate campus in Mountain View with 100 percent renewable power.

It’ll be majestic,” said Sam Arons, an energy strategist at Google. “Today there are many small turbines of all different sizes, all different vintages. It’s kind of a hodgepodge out there. Once this project is done, you’ll see a lot of tall, sleek, majestic turbines that will really de-clutter the landscape.”

Google’s involvement is the latest green power play from a company that has spent a decade dropping money on wind, solar and geothermal projects from West Texas to South Africa and the Netherlands, and is an investor in Ivanpah, the massive solar thermal power plant built by BrightSource Energy in the Mojave Desert. Google says it operates with 35 percent renewable power worldwide.

Last year, it spent $US3.2 billion to acquire Nest Labs, maker of the slick “learning thermostat.” It also quietly named John Woolard, the former CEO of Brightsource, as a vice president for energy. It has several previous deals with NextEra – for wind farms in Iowa, North Dakota and Oklahoma – and recently invested in Utah’s largest solar plant.

But unlike most of those projects, Google’s Altamont venture is more than a capital investment. Just 50 miles from Mountain View, it will do more to reduce the Googleplex’s carbon footprint than any of the quirky projects on the corporate campus, from the 1.9-megawatt solar array to the plant fueled by landfill gas.

Google is the second Silicon Valley tech giant this week to announce a major local green energy project. On Tuesday, Apple announced an $US850 million agreement to buy power and help build a 280-megawatt solar farm in Monterey County……..

The price of wind has declined very, very substantially over the past couple of years and the technology has improved,” said Ryan Wiser, a staff scientist who studies electricity markets at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “The cost of wind energy is so low that it’s not as if these companies are taking an enormous financial risk in locking into these agreements. The price is stable.”

February 14, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

EDF’s financial problems delay decision on proposed new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point

Hinkley-nuclear-power-plantEDF Energy delays Hinkley Point nuclear decision French power firm’s plans to build first British atomic reactors in almost 30 years suffers further setback Guardian, , 13 feb 15 The timetable surrounding the construction of Britain’s first new atomic reactors in almost 30 years has once again been blown off course, its developer, EDF Energy, has admitted. The setback came as the French-owned generator and supply company reported a 25% slump in operating profits for 2014 to £863m, which it blamed on challenging market conditions.

EDF had originally promised to tie up a new deal with financial backers and then take a final investment decision on the proposed new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset by the middle of last year. This date was later revised to March 2015.

But in a new statement, the largely state-owned energy group said a final investment decision might only be possible in a matter of months, and it had still not finalised talks with Chinese financial backers……….

Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that Chinese investors are hardening the terms under which they would be willing to help underwrite some of the cost of the new plant. China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Corporation are expected to be minority shareholders in the project, but are also pushing for commitments to build and operate their own plant at Bradwell in Essex.

EDF has declined to confirm that it too is trying to limit the financial damage through compensation from the UK government should there be a successful legal challenge in the European courts by Austria to the UK subsidy arrangement.

Critics of the £24.5bn nuclear programme in Somerset have highlighted the industry’s poor track record for constructing facilities on time and on budget. They have questioned whether Hinkley Point C reactors would able to meet their timetable of opening for operations in 2023.

EDF has already run into problems with a new project at Flamanville in Normandy, while another project in Finland, the European pressurised reactor, which uses the same design as Hinkley, is also massively behind its original timetable.

Financial problems at its French design partner, Areva, have not helped the sense of uncertainty surrounding EDF’s nuclear ambitions,……

February 13, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, UK | 1 Comment


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