Mitsubishi buys a 20 per cent stake in clean energy supplier OVO for £200 million, as global palm oil buyers install ‘Big Brother’ technology to police deforestation. Meanwhile, the world’s biggest offshore wind farm launches in the UK, a £35 million research network aims to make steel energy carbon-neutral by 2040, and Google builds a floating solar power project in Asia. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Mitsubishi to invest £200m in clean energy supplier OVO
Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation is to buy a 20 per cent stake in British clean energy supplier OVO for £200 million.
The investment gives OVO a valuation of just over £1 billion. The finance will be used to expand the business into new markets across Europe, Australia and Japan. It will also fund OVO’s Kaluza energy technology unit, which enables the integration of electric vehicles and battery storage into the electricity grid.
OVO has grown rapidly since it launched in 2009 to challenge industry giants for a share of the energy supply market. It is now the seventh largest energy supplier in the UK, with more than 1.5 million customers.
‘Big Brother’ technology to clean up palm oil’s image
Some of the biggest buyers of palm oil are testing new satellite technology to track deforestation as pressure grows on them to source the ingredient responsibly.
Global companies including Nestle, Unilever and Mondelez say the new monitoring systems allow them to target people felling trees in producing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia – where forests are shrinking – more efficiently than policing supply chains on the ground.
The increased use of satellite imagery comes as palm oil buyers rush to meet the target of zero net deforestation by 2020, set by global umbrella body the Consumer Goods Forum.
World’s biggest offshore windfarm launches in UK
An offshore windfarm off the Yorkshire coast, that will dwarf the world’s largest, is set to supply its first power to the UK’s electricity grid.
Danish developer Ørsted said the Hornsea One windfarm could fill the gap left by failed nuclear power schemes. The first stage of the 407 sq km site, which will have 174 turbines, is set to go live this week.
The size of the project takes the burgeoning offshore wind power sector to a new scale, on a par with conventional fossil fuel-fired power stations.
At five times the size of the nearby city of Hull, Hornsea One will power 1 million homes. It’s 1.2GW capacity will be twice as powerful as today’s biggest offshore windfarm off the Cumbrian coast, once it’s completed later this year.
£35 million research hub to make steel industry carbon-neutral
A new £35m research network has been tasked with making the UK’s iron and steel industry carbon-neutral by 2040.
Swansea, Sheffield and Warwick universities are to work with a network of steelmakers on the seven-year ‘Sustain’ programme.
They will look at harvesting untapped energy sources and capturing carbon emissions, as well as developing new products.
Swansea University’s steel expert Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, Sustain’s deputy director, said the project will support the industry’s vision for a “responsible, innovative and creative future.”
The steel industry is expected to play a huge part in the UK meeting its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels.
Google builds solar power project above fishing ponds in Taiwan
Google has signed its first green energy deal in Asia – to build floating solar panels above fishing ponds in Taiwan.
Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is the first non-utility company to be allowed to buy renewable energy in the country, under the 2017 Taiwan Electricity Act. The 10-megawatt solar farm in Tainan City, Taiwan, is set to be completed in 2020.
Floating solar projects are becoming increasingly common in Asia due to population density and competition for available land. Worldwide, the floating solar market could reach 400 gigawatts, according to the World Bank. A recent DOE report said 10 per cent of all energy supply in the US could come from floating solar power.