The main emphasis for Mainstream are the three technologies; Onshore wind, Offshore wind and Solar energy. There are a range of renewable technologies available globally and more emerge regularly, each at various stages of maturity and with different economics that Mainstream are constantly reviewing.
Wind power is now a mainstream power source. Of the different renewable energy technologies, onshore wind is by far the most advanced economically and most widely used. The global wind energy industry has experienced record-breaking growth in recent years and is now a key source of energy in more than 70 countries around the world. In 2008, 27GW of new wind capacity was added globally, driven by three main regions, Europe, North America and Asia. This represents a 28% growth rate from 2007 capacity levels to reach a total 2008 capacity of nearly 121GW. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is predicting the global wind energy market will reach 332GW of capacity by 2013.
Europe leads the way in terms of both existing offshore wind development and the intended scaled of growth of this sector looking forward. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) recognises that offshore wind has the potential to play a major role in the development of renewable electricity across Europe. Indeed, Mainstream management believes that if Europe is to meet its target of 20% of energy consumption from renewable energy sources, it must look to offshore wind. Although more capital intensive than onshore wind, offshore wind offers benefits of scale, interconnection support and avoidance of onshore constraints, notably political acceptance at scale, suitable resource and available land. For investors and developers, offshore wind offers an opportunity to enter established renewable energy markets at scale over a short period of time.
During 2008, a further 357MW of offshore wind energy was installed to reach a total of 1,471MW in Europe by the end of 2010, representing nearly 2.3% of EU installed wind capacity . Many of these wind farms are located off the coast of England, Scotland and Denmark, where the first wind project was installed in 1991.
Looking out to 2030, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is forecasting total wind capacity in Europe to grow to 300GW representing 20-28% of EU electricity demand of which, 120GW (40%) is intended to come from offshore wind power. Considering the recent UK Crown Estate Round 3 bid process is covering capacity of approximately 25GW, the scale of the challenge and the opportunity is enormous.
Most recently in North America, we are starting to see the buds of an offshore industry coming along with the US recently issuing consents for the first offshore wind farm off the coast of New Jersey and we see the potential that lies on that continent.
In addition to wind technology, other renewable energy technologies such as solar are a source of electricity in many countries. The ability to produce electricity from solar radiation has been available for decades. While sunlight can be converted to electricity in a number of ways, it is dominated by technologies relying on photovoltaic (PV) modules.
PV modules produce electricity by exposing a material to sunlight. This material is most commonly silicon, however other materials are also used in e.g. thin-film technologies. Individual solar modules typically provide power in the range of 200-400W, multi-megawatt solar power plants are achieved by electrically connecting the modules together. PV modules can be fixed in position facing the sun, or designed to follow the movement of the sun during the day. As there are no, or very few moving parts, PV solar power plants typically produce very little noise and no emissions during operation.
The global installed PV capacity at the end of 2011 was 67GW, with the majority of this capacity (50GW) installed in Europe. 27GW of new PV capacity was installed in 2011 with Italy as the largest solar market adding 9GW followed by Germany (7.5GW added) and then China (2GW added). Activity is continuing to increase rapidly in solar markets internationally.