We’re coming up on the end of January in a year that will mark some major new developments for 350PPM and its family of companies. 2015 will be a groundbreaking year for us, quite literally, as we’re poised to break ground on our first SuperSol solar park project in Chile’s Atacama Desert. As you might already know, back in 2012 Solar 350 – our renewable energy development company – received SEIS / EIS accreditation from HMRC, laying the groundwork for investors to come on board with our solar energy projects. We also secured the rights to develop 450MW of solar energy parks in Chile, with agreements to expand our energy output up to 3GW over time. It’s taken a huge amount of planning and logistical work behind the scenes since then but we’re now ready to begin.
This project marks an important new step for the 350 family. Not just in terms of the actual work, but in terms of our strategy for using renewable energy to slow down rising CO2 / CO2e emissions levels globally. We can break down our approach into three core values:
1. Use the appropriate technology for the geography: Our data analysis and determined that although we’ve seen strong growth in renewable energy generation in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s made relatively little reduction in carbon emissions. It’s a grid problem. Although renewable sources get priority dispatch (for example when the solar parks in Germany are producing peak power, they get priority over coal and gas power generation) in areas where the weather conditions make renewable energy sources variable in terms of their output, maintaining a grid base load to meet power demands necessitates the continued running of CO2 emitting power stations as a back-up. This means that in order to use renewables to reduce CO2 emissions, you need to deploy them in places where the energy source is predictable enough to meet the grid demands. In the Atacama, the sunshine is consistent enough to make solar a reliable energy source – which means we can predict consistent power supply and reduce the local reliance on coal and gas power, creating genuinely sustainable emissions reductions.
2. Build facilities on solid economic foundations: Obviously one of the main instruments for incentivising renewable energy development has been government subsidies, but are they sustainable policy instruments? Our macroeconomic research (and recent news coverage) suggest they’re not. We’ve seen politicians in the EU and the USA questioning the need for continued renewable energy subsidies and it’s likely that this type of incentive – often resulting in solar farms in cloudy places or wind farms in locations where the wind is highly unpredictable – won’t continue. We’re also seeing growing support for investing in lower emission variants of fossil fuels (e.g. Fracking for shale gas) and a strong lobby growing for more nuclear power. These indicators suggest that renewables will go through some tough times in the years ahead where subsidies are the primary economic drivers. Our view is to build renewable power facilities in places where they’ll succeed based on the local electricity price per MW and the carbon credits they accrue, regardless of subsidies and other artificial incentives. Our Chilean projects do just that.
3. Keep environmental values at the heart of your commercial plans: The final consideration is to remember that a renewable energy project, no matter how much carbon it saves, should seek to minimise its impact on the environment. That means factoring in the effect of building work on biodiversity and the local human population. Obviously, given the fact the Atacama is a high altitude desert, it’s one of those places where an array of solar panels makes the least impact on local flora and fauna, plus it’s virtually unpopulated so has little effect on the lives of local communities… because there aren’t any. Locations like that are ideal for building power facilities that do as little environmental harm as possible, which should be an important part of any project that’s trying to help preserve the environment (which is the whole point of trying to address climate change in the first place).
So as we begin 2015, it’s worth noting that this won’t just be an important year for 350PPM, it could be a critical year for the whole renewable energy industry. Policies and opinions over the future shape of renewable energy will be major issues for the industry more than ever before.
We’re also changing the way we work by inviting the crowd to become part of our new flagship Solar Energy projects, with a limited round of crowdfunding for Solar 350. You can pre-register your interest in our crowdfunding project (details to be announced shortly) on this site… and keep up to date with this and other interesting new investment / energy projects we’ll be launching later this year by signing up to our Renewable Energy and Investments newsletter. And of course, our new Renewable Money blog will be providing insights and news about our own projects and the trends in the industry, so watch this space.