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Hybrid Solar-Wind Farm Could Solve Variability Issue

When you think of hybrid, you think of cars that rely on batteries as well as gasoline, which can greatly help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now the concept has broadened to a completely clean energy to generate electricity with a combination of solar and wind energy.

The British green energy company Ecotricity said Oct. 21 that it’s preparing to build three new such parks in England, which the company believes is more efficient than relying on one or the other form of electricity generation.

“Hybrid renewable energy parks are a great idea,” said Ecotricity founder Dale Vince. “The two power sources are complementary, and what you get in combination is a more consistent energy supply. It may sound obvious, but when there’s less sun in the winter, there’s typically more wind, and vice versa in the summer months, so putting wind and sun together has a big impact.”

Related: Is Solar Without Subsidies Now Viable?

The problem, though, is Britain’s Conservative government, which recently re-emphasized its policy to reduce subsidies for clean energy initiatives. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told the party’s conference in Manchester on Oct. 5 that London explained that there is “no magic money tree” to finance them.

Vince said that tree seems to have enough money to maintain subsidies for fossil fuels, and urged the Tories to take a balanced approach to all sources of energy. “[W]e’re calling on the Conservatives to level the playing field for energy generation in Britain,” he said, “to remove the subsidies for fossil fuels just as they have done for wind and solar power.”

Related: How To Clean Up The Oceans While Making Alternative Fuels

Vince said the subsidies for fossil fuels average savings of 1,000 pounds a year (about $1,500) for each residential customer, compared with only 100 pounds a year for renewable energy, which has grown in popularity, now accounting for one-quarter of the electricity used in Britain. “[W]ith a level playing field, renewable energy would thrive,” he said.

To help finance its projects, Ecotricity has been issuing what it calls “Ecobonds.” Ecobond One, issued in 2010, and Ecobond Two, issued a year later, raised more than $30 million for a hybrid solar energy park and four wind projects.

Now Ecotricity is issuing Ecobond Three in an effort to raise more than $38 million. The bonds will offer an interest rate of 6 percent to investors who already are the company’s customers. Anyone else is free to buy the bonds until Nov. 27, but for a lower interest rate of 5.5 percent.

Related: The End Of The European Refining Boom Or Just A Pause?

Ecobonds are one form of what are known as “mini-bonds” often issued by companies to raise capital quickly. They tend to offer investors fairly generous returns. One company, Rhino, a British manufacturer of rugby equipment, raised more than $3 million by issuing bonds with 7.5 percent return.

Mini-bonds differ from ordinary “retail” bonds in that investors must hold them until they mature. Minis also aren’t publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange and are subject to less regulation than retail bonds.

They’re also riskier than retail bonds. If the issuer collapses, investors simply lose the money they spent on the bonds because they are not covered by Britain’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which insures investments of up to $130,000 for each bank in which an investor holds them.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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