Friday, 27 November 2009

Syngas in hi-tech link for Clinton project

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 26/11/2009 Page: 52

Syngas has teamed with global technology providers Rentech and General Electric to progress South Australia's $3 billion coal-biomass-to-diesel Clinton project. US fuel company Rentech came on board this week to provide preliminary engineering services at the proposed site, approximately 120km northwest of Adelaide. Rentech, which also is helping Beach Petroleum advance its unconventional gas reserves in the Cooper Basin, will provide its Fischer-Tropsch fuels production technology for the project in the first quarter of next year.

The current agreement is to review the use of Rentech's FT technology for the production of ultra-clean synthetic transportation fuels from synthesis gas derived from fossil and biomass resources. The Fischer-Tropsch process is used to produce a synthetic petroleum substitute, typically from coal, natural gas or biomass, for use as synthetic lubrication oil or as synthetic fuel. The preliminary review could lead to a licensing agreement with Rentech for its FT technology, Syngas executive director Merrill Gray said.

"This agreement with Rentech is a further step forward in terms of our strategy of securing access to proven technology providers like GE and Siemens," she said Syngas already has an exclusive arrangement with General Electric Company and General Electric International Inc for the supply of gas and steam turbines and is in talks with drying technology and gas conditioning technology providers. Siemens completed a feasibility study at the site in August. "It is a staged and measured process.

Our bankable feasibility study is underway until 2012. We have teamed with established global technology providers and are understanding the regulatory approval processes that will need to be completed," Ms Gray said. The Clinton facility is expected to produce 200 million barrels of oil oOver its 40-year life. The Perth-based company will relocate to Adelaide by next March.

Groundbreaking Norwegian Power Plant Generates Electricity From Water
November 25, 2009

New alternative energy plant in Norway is the first of its kind, but could be a common alternative energy in the future. The world's first osmotic power plant opened in Norway on Tuesday. The plant uses a combination of freshwater, seawater and a special membrane to generate emission-free electricity. The test plant, which currently only produces enough electricity to power a coffee maker, is a test run of the technology and will be used to develop larger, more efficient versions, Reuters reports.

The prototype plant, on the Oslo fjord south of Oslo, uses osmosis to draw freshwater across a membrane and toward the seawater side, creating pressure that drives a turbine and produces electricity. The plant has about 2,000 m² of membrane. "While salt might not save the world alone, we believe osmotic power will be an interesting part of the renewable energy mix of the future," said Baard Mikkelsen, chief executive of Statkraft, the federally-owned utility company that built and operates the prototype plant.

Statkraft plans to begin building commercial osmotic power plants by 2015. Osmotic power can be established anywhere clean freshwater runs into the sea. Since it is not affected by weather fluctuations like wind or solar energy, it is seen as a more reliable alternative energy source. The utility hopes to improve the efficiency of the membrane from its current 1 watt per m² now to about 5 watts, which should make osmotic power costs comparable to those from other renewable sources.

Future full-scale plants producing 25 MWs of electricity-enough to power 30,000 European households-would be the size of a football stadium with roughly five million m² of membrane, according to Statkraft. The utility estimates that osmotic power in Norway will eventually be able to generate 10% of the country's power needs. Europe's total osmotic power potential is estimated at about five% of total consumption, which could help the continent reach renewable energy goals that curb emissions of heat-trapping gases and limit global warming.

UK wave energy project moves forward
November 25, 2009

A joint venture of VolkerStevin Marine and Westminster Dredging has been named as preferred contractor for the design and construction of the Siadar Wave Energy Project on the Isle of Lewis. The Siadar Wave Energy Project will use Voith Hydro Wavegen's Oscillating Water Column technology and will produce about 8,000 MWh per year, based on an assumed capacity of 4 MW.

This is enough electricity to supply the average annual electricity needs of around 1,500 UK homes, equal to a fifth of all homes on Lewis and Harris, each year. This is based on the UK average domestic electricity consumption of about 4,700 kWh over the life of the project. This figure may change as average domestic consumption changes.

The team is currently undertaking a feasibility study looking at the construction design and viability, with the aim of fabrication works starting in 2010. The near shore structure to house the wave-powered turbines will involve the construction of a concrete breakWater structure. This will be built in sections, about 50-meter long, in a dry dock, before being floated out to the site and immersed on the prepared seabed. Siadar will be the first commercial-scale scheme in the UK generating clean electricity created through wave energy.

3S Swiss Solar Systems MegaSlate Tech Integrates Solar Thermal
24 November 2009

3S Swiss Solar Systems says its MegaSlate solar photovoltaic roofing system has been enhanced to also function as a solar hot water application. The company partnered with H&S Solar to develop the new technology. These frameless photovoltaic and heating modules enable architects and planners to design large-surface, uniform solar roofing systems, the company says. The system is well-suited for new construction and property-renovation projects, 3S adds.

The modules are certified by TÜV Rheinland and tested for resistance to wind, hail, heavy snow-loading, rain impermeability and fire safety. The company provides a performance guarantee of 90% of minimum output for 10 years and 80% of minimum output for 20 years.

SunEarth Releases SunBelt Flat-Plate Solar Thermal Collectors
24 November 2009

SunEarth, a solar water heating products manufacturer, has developed its new SunBelt series of liquid flat-plate solar thermal collectors. The collector features an anodised extrusion, a standard SunEarth all-copper absorber with water-based flat black paint, tempered glass, polyisocyanurate insulation, and standard 0.75-inch headers. The SunBelt is backed by a standard 10-year limited warranty.

The company says the collector has been designed with the demanding climatic conditions of the U.S. Southwest in mind, but notes that it can also be used successfully in other climate zones. SunEarth says the collector's benefits include lower stagnation temperatures than black-chrome or moderately selective absorber plates; reduced system overheating; prolonged propylene glycol and storage tank life expectancies; reductions in thermostat reset service calls; and low initial cost.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Costly amendments meet demands - Extra $7bn compensation for industry

Wednesday 25/11/2009 Page: 5

THE Federal Government has proposed a package of amendments to its emissions trading scheme, satisfying much of the Oppositions demands and handing out $7 billion in extra industry compensation by 2020. The amendments will largely be paid for by slashing $5.67 billion of household compensation by 2020, reflecting lower electricity price increases than first thought. The overall cost of the package to the budget bottom line is now estimated to be $769 million by 2019-20.

The big winner is the coalfired electricity generators who will get an extra $4 billion in free permits, taking their overall compensation to $7.3 billion over 10 years. The Opposition had sought $10 billion for the generators over 15 years. The Government will also establish a series of potential protection measures for coal generators - which stake up 44% of Australia's emissions - including loan guarantees.

Companies can also gain further free permits if they increase energy efficiency in their coal-fired power plants. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said yesterday she had taken into account a report by the Government commissioned by investment bank Morgan Stanley earlier this year in handing out the extra compensation to generators. Money for coal miners has also been doubled, from $750 million to $1.5 billion over five years, but the Government has resisted an Opposition amendment to exclude methane emissions from coal mines from the scheme altogether.

Assistant Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet has rejected lobbying from the coal industry to exclude coal mine emissions for most of the year and said yesterday it was a "win for the environment" that mines remained in the scheme. The Government also rejected a major Opposition amendment to ensure all heavy polluting trade exposed industries get 94.5% of their carbon permits for free. Under the Government scheme, trade exposed industry receive 94.5% and 66% free permits depending on how much they emit.

The Government's main concession to trade exposed industries is to remove a five-year deadline to reduce the rate of free permits, costing $1.3 billion over 10 years. There is also more money, to the tune of $1.1 billion over two years, for miners and the manufacturing industry - on top of free permits - to compensate for electricity price increases. The natural gas industry has also won out and receives $600 million in additional free permits - money the Opposition did not ask for in its proposed amendments.

Agriculture, as previously announced, is indefinitely excluded from the scheme but the Government will create a number of programs that mean farmers can make money by planting trees and reducing emissions from livestock and crops. In an attempt to to fend off expected criticisms by green groups, the Government has included a collection of small environmental measures to "green up" the scheme.

Those environmental programs included developing a "mechanical link" to allow efforts from households to reduce the emissions to count on top of Australia's emissions reduction targets of 5-25% on 2000 levels by 2020. Next year, an energy efficiency measure will also be developed to drive emissions reductions through lower use of electricity. The Government will also spend $40 million to better monitor and protect biodiversity and ecosystems, crucial for agriculture processes, from the effects of climate change.

What Will It Cost?
Additional compensation to industry of $7.01bn by 2020.
$769m hit to the budget bottom line by 2020.

$5.67bn less compensation to homes by 2020.
Voluntary household action to count above national emissions targets.

Coal Miners
Doubling of cash from $750m to $1.5bn over five years.

Coal-Fired Electricity Generators
$4bn more in free permits, with total package reaching $7.3bn over 10 years.
Extra free permits for energy efficiency measures.

Trade-Exposed Industries
Removal of a five year cap for extra free permits, costing $1.3bn by 2020.

Indefinitely excluded.
Farmers to get free permits for offsets and reducing emissions.

Electricity Prices
$1.1bn in compensation over two years to mining and manufacturing for increased electricity prices.

Poo Power
November 23

By next year, California utility companies must get at least one-fifth of their energy from renewable sources like solar, wind and wave power. Renewable as in the sun shines, the wind blows and the waves crash every day. Marketplace reports that energy company PG&E has thought of another source that gets renewed daily - - if you're lucky, that is.

We're talking about poop. Not yours, thankfully, but cows'. Methane gas captured from cow manure can be cleaned up and pumped through pipes to be used as power. And it's incredibly efficient. Each cow produces about 120 pounds of manure each day. It takes just two cows-worth of manure to power one home in California.

Not only does harvesting methane reduce the need for other energy sources like coal, which are limited and create greenhouse gases in the process of extraction, but using the methane for energy also takes it out of the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming, according to CNET. We'd say it sounds like a pretty sensible mooooove.

Smiling assassins: how Rudd is killing renewable energy
Monday 23/11/2009 Page: 1
Author : Mark Diesendorf

Despite strong and consistent public support, renewable energy has been held back for decades by Australian governments. They have done this with a combination of token support on the public stage and decimation behind the scenes.

The principal feature of John Howard's tokenism was the tiny mandatory renewable energy target (MRET), a certificate system the gave a subsidy to generators of renewable energy. MRET was so keenly supported by the new clean green industries, that the 2010 MRET target was essentially reached in 2006 and then Australia's nascent wind turbine manufacturing industry went from boom to bust. Factories making wind turbine components in Wynyard, Tasmania, and Portland, Victoria, were shut down. Before the 2007 federal election, Rudd Labor promised to change all that.

Its election commitments for renewable energy included an expanded Renewable Energy Target (RET), the Renewable Energy Fund (for demonstration and dissemination), the Energy Innovation Fund (for research), the $8000 rebate for residential solar electricity, and an emissions trading scheme. Voters were also led to belief that several existing schemes - - such as the Remote Renewable Power Generation Program and Citi Investment Researches for Climate Protection - - would be continued.

Eighteen months after Rudd Labor was swept into office, partly on the strength of its promises for renewable energy, every one of these promises and reasonable expectations had either been broken, or delayed in implementation, or only funded to a negligible degree. Here, I focus on RET, which was finally passed into law in August 2009, over a year after it could have been implemented. Its official aim is a worthy if modest one: to lift renewable energy's contribution to 20% of Australia's electricity by 2020. However, the scheme is designed in a way that ensures that this goal cannot be achieved in practice.

The first design flaw, pointed out before the scheme was put before parliament, is that a large proportion of the target will be taken up by solar and electric heat pump hot water. While these technologies deserve support, it should not come from inclusion in the RET. With existing subsidies, the main barrier to solar hot water is not an economic one, but rather the requirement by many local governments that solar hot water must have planning permission.

The second major design flaw of the RET is that, under the Solar Credits Scheme, each residential solar electricity system that is installed is counted as if it contributed five systems, one real and four "phantom", to the target. Although the phantom systems will be phased out by mid-2015, by then the damage will have been done. Together with solar and heat pump hot water, the phantom solar electric systems will have taken up the vast majority of the RET and the subsidies that come with the renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated by the RET.

It is difficult to believe that these fundamental design flaws were a result of incompetence alone. One result is that there will be few if any RECs available for large-scale wind energy and bioelectricity from crop residues, the two lowest cost of the new renewable electricity technologies. Another result, already causing consternation among renewable energy businesses, is that the price of RECs will fall and so the large-scale renewable energy technologies will not be able to compete with dirty coal power. Several wind farms currently under development are now facing bankruptcy.

The remaining manufacturers of wind turbine components, such as Keppel Prince, are on the point of laying off many workers. The Condong and Broadwater bioelectricity power stations, which burn sugar cane residues, are said to be making big losses. The solutions to this situation are simple. The federal government should remove solar and heat pump hot water from the RET and should immediately stop counting phantom RECs as contributing to the target.

State governments should ban local governments from requiring planning permission for the installation of solar and heat pump hot water. Thus we can have solar hot water, residential solar electricity and large-scale wind energy and bioelectricity. However, we would still need a separate scheme to build the market for large solar energy stations. Based on European experience, the best mechanism is feed-in tariffs.

Dr Mark Diesendorf is deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at UNSW and author of Climate Action: A campaign manual for greenhouse solutions.

Power generator complaining despite big wins

Wednesday 25/11/2009 Page: 5

ONE of the big winners of increased assistance under the Government's revised emissions trading scheme says generators are still being hard done by. TRUEnergy's managing director Richard Mclndoe said investment would still be threatened and generators potentially left "in a very perilous state".

"I am quite frankly disappointed with the outcome here, because we had been looking to get the level of assistance from 130 million permits to 390 million permits. This goes some way there but it will still result in some very significant impairments across the sector," he told The Age. Under the proposed changes, those covered through the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme will receive 75% more permits, from 130.7 million over five years, at a cost of $3.3 billion, to 228.7 million delivered over 10 years, at a total cost of $7.3 billion.

Mr Mclndoe said the cost to the sector over the 10 years of the scheme would be between $15 billion to $20 billion. "This does not even go halfway to addressing the issue," he said. "Over the long term, you are not going to get to see international investors come into the Australian electricity sector because they have had their fingers burnt by this and their capital will go elsewhere."

Bruce Mountain, a director of consultants Carbon Market Economics, said the emissions trading debate had been hijacked by "rent-seeking losers who the Government has accommodated in a fairly excessive manner". "These companies were never going to leave Australia - that was a beat-up," Mr Mountain said. "There is no way they were going to incur the enormous damage to their reputation, their credit risk, and the cost of borrowing by walking away from project assets and leaving them to their lenders. "They have been aided here by the Liberals - a curse on both their houses."

The Morgan Stanley report into the impacts on coal-fired generators, which the Government refuses to release, appears to have prompted three new measures; a Low Emissions Transition Incentive, an Energy Security Assurance Mechanism and deferred payment arrangements for generators.

Jennifer Westacott, KPMG's climate change partner, described the amendments as "a practical and common sense approach to a very complex issue". "The key changes align household compensation more closely to the permit prices as well as more assistance for impacted industry, particularly the coal and electricity sectors," she said. "This is the springboard to get Australian business started on the transition to ensure international competitiveness and regulatory certainty for business. After the transition process is under way, caps, compensation and other measures can be changed."

The clock is ticking as fuel reserves run out

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 24/11/2009 Page: 30

SINCE August, at least 400 barrels of oil have leaked from the Montara drilling platform and polluted the Timor Sea. This, combined with emissions trading scheme discussions and the Copenhagen climate change conference next month have heightened Australian awareness of energy and environmental issues.

Moderately priced energy underpins our high standard of living, and care of the environment is a major facet of any discussion of our future. Australia is the world's eighth largest producer of energy, of which more than three-quarters is exported. Two-thirds of this exported energy is contained in fossil fuels, mainly coal, and the rest in uranium oxide. Because energy is central to every activity, its production, export, import and use are carefully monitored by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics. This is collectively referred to as the national energy flow.

So that solid, liquid and gaseous fuels can be compared on the same basis, the energy they contain is measured in petajoules, a quantity infrequently encountered in everyday life. A petajoule is the amount of energy required to heat 2.4 million tonnes of water from OC to 100C. It is a million million times larger than the kilojoule which is used to indicate the energy in food. In the 2006-07 financial year, total Australian energy production was 17,055 petajoules which together with 1860 petajoules of imported energy made 20,775 petajoules available. Of this, 13,055 petajoules were exported, leaving 5687 petajoules for domestic use - 282 petajoules of which came from renewable energy sources and the rest from fossil fuels.

Our efficiency of energy use is poor, with only an average 33% of the energy in coal being converted into electricity in our power stations. In our cars only about 15% of the energy in petrol is converted into motion. Overall, of the energy available for domestic use, almost 60% is lost due to inefficient conversion. Australia's 95% dependence on fossil fuels for domestic energy use is high by comparison with the world average of 80%. This is largely because our fossil fuels are readily accessible and relatively cheap to produce, and we do not have access to substantial hydroelectric power because of a the lack of large steadily flowing rivers and we do not use nuclear energy.

Our 2008 emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels was 18.75 tonnes per person which, together with those of Canada and the United States, is one of the highest by far. However, due to our small population, our contribution to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global warming is only 1.4% of the total. Nevertheless, during global emission reduction negotiations this is unlikely to impress either the emerging economic giants China and India, whose carbon dioxide emissions per person are 4.57 and 1.18 tonnes respectively, or the Europeans whose per person emissions are half ours.

Because of international pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a review of our energy use is unavoidable. Our possession of 38% of the world's high-grade uranium deposits, our great wind energy potential and our abundant sunshine for solar and biofuel energy production together with improved efficiency will be major considerations. Another reason for such a review is that the known world reserves of economically accessible oil, gas and coal will be exhausted in 42 years, 60 years and 122 years respectively (and Australia's will be exhausted in 20 years, 65.6 years and 190 years or earlier) if energy use continues to grow.

Stephen Lincoln is a professor in the School of Chemistry and Physics and the author of Challenged Earth.

QUB launches World's largest wave energy device
November 24 2009

Queen's University Belfast has launched the world's largest working hydroelectric wave energy in the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Operated by private firm Aquamarine Power and known as the Oyster, it is currently the world's only hydroelectric wave energy device producing power. This will power homes in Orkney. A farm of 20 Oysters would provide enough energy to power 9,000 three bedroom family homes.

Oyster was first conceived out of work funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research grant to Queen's between 2002 and 2004, to develop surging power-wave devices. Professor Trevor Whittaker from QUB's School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering was the principal investigator and was supported by Dr Matt Folley. Aquamarine Power Ltd was formed by a Scottish entrepreneur specifically to develop the technology.

Today there is a joint agreement which results in Queen's undertaking all the hydrodynamic testing for Aquamarine. Professor Whittaker said that the concept of Oyster came about through research in the University's wave-tank facility at Queen's. "The launch of Oyster is a major landmark in terms of carbon-free sustainable energy production. "Devices such as these have the power to revolutionise the world's energy industry and help combat climate change."

Professor Whittaker added that the Oyster is the third prototype demonstration wave power project which the team at Queen's has instigated in the past 20 years. "We are continuing to work with our partners in Aquamarine Power and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to develop the next generation of Oyster, by providing testing opportunities at Queen's large wave tanks facility in Portaferry which is part-funded through the University's Institute for a Sustainable World."

Marine energy such as that produced by Oyster has the potential to meet up to 20% of the UK's energy demands, according to Professor Whittaker. Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power, said: "We have proved what we always believed – that wave energy can produce sustainable zero-emission electricity to power our homes. "The UK has one of the best wave resources in the world. Now it also has the best technology," Mr McAdam added.

Too late for safe levels of carbon emissions

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 24/11/2009 Page: 6

IF THE goal of the emissions trading legislation is to reduce the level of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere to safe levels, it is unlikely to work in its current form, climate scientists watching the debate have said. This is not necessarily due to flaws in the Government's scheme, but because the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already passed safe limits.

The most ambitious outcome now is to restrict carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to about 450 parts per million - a figure calculated to give the world an even chance of avoiding the more catastrophic climate change scenarios for the second half of this century, said Matthew England, a lead author with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If the Government ties the scheme to the tipper level of its targets for 2020 - a 25% cut in carbon emissions - and other nations make equivalent cuts, then the 450 goal endorsed by most climate scientists could be achieved under the ETS. If it ties the scheme to the lower end of its target range, a 5% reduction over the next decade, Australia will find it hard to play a part in reaching the 450 goal.

The whole world is watching what we do here and it could have real ramifications for their own efforts - this is the reason why Australia is important," Professor England said. Many environment groups are calling for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be cut and stabilised at 350 parts per million, but that goal is out of reach for the foreseeable future. The current ratio is 387 parts per million.

To stabilise emissions at 350 is a laudable goal because there is a much larger chance of averting dangerous climate change," Professor England said. But I think that, unfortunately, it's a goal which is no longer achievable - 350 is history. At this stage 450 is looking incredibly difficult. But it's not as if 450 guarantees the survival of the Greenland ice sheet." The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has supported a global target of 450 parts per million.

Algeria says to open solar panel factory
Nov 23, 2009

Oil and gas producer Algeria is to build a plant to manufacture solar panels as part of a plan to draw 5% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2015, state media reported. Most of Algeria lies in the Sahara desert, a region that has attracted interest from major European companies that want to tap into its huge solar energy potential and its proximity to energy-hungry markets in Europe.

Algeria's state-owned utility Sonelgaz will invest $100 million in the plant and will launch a bidding round for contractors by the end of this year, Algeria's official APS news agency quoted Sonelgaz CEO Noureddine Bouterfa as saying. The agency said the factory, which is scheduled to open in 2012, will each year produce photovoltaic cells with a generating capacity of 50 MWs, equivalent to about one tenth the capacity of a small nuclear energy plant.

A consortium of 12 companies including Siemens, E.ON and Deutsche Bank is planning a 400 billion euro ($597.3 billion) project, known as Desertec Foundation, to generate solar energy in North Africa and export it to Europe. Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil has expressed reservations about the project, saying earlier this year: "We don't want foreign companies exploiting solar energy from our land." Neighboring Morocco this month announced a $9 billion solar energy project of its own which is slated to produce 2,000 MWs of electricity by 2020. Officials though have released few details of how the project will be funded.

India unveils ambitious solar power mission
November 23, 2009

India's ambitious mission to ramp up its solar energy hundredfold in the next 13 years and reduce dependence on fossil fuels was unveiled in New Delhi on Monday. The mission anticipates achieving parity with cost of electricity on the grid by 2022 and parity with coal-based thermal power by 2030. The plan is to produce 20,000 MW through solar energy by 2022, up from just 200 MW now.

The mission, to be coordinated by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), will improve India's energy security by reducing dependence on imported petroleum. "Already, faced with crippling electricity shortages, price of electricity traded internally, touched Rs.7 per unit for base loads and around Rs.8.50 per unit during peak periods," says the mission document released by MNRE Minister Farooq Abdullah.

"The situation will also change as the country moves towards imported coal to meet its energy demand. The price of power will have to factor in the availability of coal in international markets and the cost of developing import infrastructure. "It is also evident that as the cost of environmental degradation is factored into the mining of coal, as it must, the price of this raw material will increase. In the situation of energy shortages, the country is increasing the use of diesel-based electricity, which is both expensive - - costs as high as Rs.15 per unit - - and polluting.

The mission, called the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mision after the nation's first prime minister, will adopt a three-phase approach, spanning the remaining period of the 11th Plan and first year of the 12th Plan (up to 2012-13) as Phase 1, the remaining four years of the 12th Plan (2013-17) as Phase 2 and the 13th Plan (2017-22) as Phase 3.

At the end of each plan, and mid-term during the 12th and 13th Plans, there will be an evaluation of progress, review of capacity and targets for subsequent phases, based on emerging cost and technology trends, both domestic and global. The aim would be to protect the government from subsidy exposure in case expected cost reduction does not materialise or is more rapid than expected.

The first phase will focus on solar thermal; on promoting off-grid systems to serve populations without access to commercial energy and modest capacity addition in grid-based systems. In the second phase, after taking into account the experience of the initial years, capacity will be aggressively ramped up to create conditions for up-scaled and competitive solar energy penetration in the country.

The key driver for promoting solar energy would be through a Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) mandated for power utilities, with a specific solar component. The obligation will be gradually increased while the tariff fixed for solar energy purchase will decline over time.

The mission in its first two phases will promote solar heating systems which are already using proven technology and are commercially viable. It will:
  • Firstly, make solar heaters mandatory, through building bylaws and incorporation in the National Building Code,
  • Secondly, ensure the introduction of effective mechanisms for certification and rating of manufacturers of solar thermal applications,
  • Thirdly, facilitate measurement and promotion of these individual devices through local agencies and power utilities, and
  • Fourthly, support the upgrading of technologies and manufacturing capacities through soft loans, to achieve higher efficiencies and further cost reduction.

The mission plans to provide solar lighting systems under the ongoing remote village electrification programme of MNRE to cover about 10,000 villages and hamlets. It will also set up standalone rural solar energy plants in Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

The mission proposes to provide a soft re-finance facility through Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) for which the government will provide budgetary support. IREDA would in turn provide refinance to NBFCs and banks with the condition that it is on-lend to the consumer at rates of interest not more than five%. A Solar Research Council will be set up to oversee the strategy, taking into account ongoing projects, availability of research capabilities and resources and possibilities of international collaboration.

NTPC subsidiary NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd. (NVVN) will be designated as nodal agency by the Ministry of Power (MoP) for entering into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with solar energy developers.

The PPAs shall be signed with the developers who will be setting up solar projects within next three years and are connected to the grid at 33 KV level and above. The PPAs will be valid for a period of 25 years. For each MW of solar energy installed capacity for which PPA is signed by NVVN, MoP shall allocate to NVVN an equivalent amount of MW capacity from the unallocated quota of NTPC stations.

One of the mission objectives is to make India a global leader in solar manufacturing and target a 4-5 GW equivalent of installed capacity by 2020, including setting up of dedicated manufacturing capacities for polysilicon material to annually make about 2 GW capacity of solar cells.

India already has PV module manufacturing capacity of about 700 MW, which is expected to increase in the next few years. The present indigenous capacity to manufacture silicon material is very low, however. It is envisaged that at the end of the mission period, the solar industry will employ at least 100,000 trained personnel. The mission will be implemented by an autonomous Solar Energy Authority and or an autonomous and enabled Solar Mission embedded within the MNRE.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Energy firms face backlash - Record numbers of complaints

Sunday Mail Adelaide
Sunday 22/11/2009 Page: 14

RECORD levels of complaints about energy retailers - including cases of incorrectly disconnecting customers' power and overcharging - have been made to the industry watchdog. The Energy Ombudsman's annual report released during the week showed a spike in complaints from 5300 to 8600 last financial year - an increase of 62%.

Complaints about disconnections soared from 297 to 464 last financial year while those involving billing errors doubled to 4141. These included one woman who had her power cut off on a 40C day because she had not paid her neighbour's bill (the wrong meter was read by the retailer).

Other cases investigated by the Ombudsman included:
  • A man who had his power disconnected despite paying his bills and not receiving a disconnection warning from his retailer.
  • A woman whose signature was forged on a contract to switch retailers by a door-to-door salesperson.
  • A woman who received a $200 bill for an unoccupied property based on an incorrect "estimated" power use by the retailer.

The industry's history-making poor performance has led to calls for retailers to be hit with hefty fines when failing to provide adequate service to the state's 778,000 electricity and 369,000 gas customers. Welfare agency Uniting Care Wesley spokesman Mark Henley said it was bad enough residents were hit with ever-increasing power prices let alone having to deal with rising levels of poor service within the industry.

"It's great people are using the Ombudsman to resolve problems but a lot of them shouldn't be occurring in the first place," Mr Henley said. "The retailers have a responsibility to make sure they don't get it wrong in the first place and maybe we need to have the state regulator look at increasing the penalties for retailers who don't provide a good service."

Ombudsman Sandro Canale said the office had been flooded with a "huge increase in workload" with expenses jumping $167,000 last financial year to $1.2 million. He said many of the matters reported to his office "should have been resolved by the provider without our intervention".

"I would urge any energy company embarking on change programs to clearly identify areas of potential impact to consumers and ensure that it is able to respond to issues in a timely fashion to minimise any inconvenience to customers," he said. According to the Ombudsman's report, Origin Energy attracted the most complaints per customer involving electricity and AGL the most per customer involving gas.

Dr Brad Page is one of 1600 people with solar panels who has had to seek the Ombudsman's help in dealing with energy retailers' billing mistakes. For Dr Page it's a problem that has left him frustrated and angry about retailers' "contempt" for their customers. First, Origin Energy wasn't crediting him for the solar energy he was feeding back to into the power network so he switched to TRUEnergy, which sent him an offer of 20c/kW for the power his panels generated, which he took up.

However, TRUEnergy then told him it had made a mistake and was only going to pay him 6c/kW. Dr Page said: "The trouble with these firms is they are massive companies dealing with so many accounts they just don't care about individuals. "If you are a day late with payment they penalise you so if they waste a customer's time, they too should be made to pay." Dr Page is trying to organise a cooperative of thousands of solar panel owners to bargain for a better deal from energy retailers for the green power they generate.

Ex-AGL chief moves to green air fund

Monday 23/11/2009 Page: 2

FORMER AGL chief Paul Anthony will head up a fund seeking to develop emissions reduction projects in developing countries while promising to triple investment over the 10-year life of the fund. The Matrix Green Air Fund plans to use the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an instrument established under the Kyoto Protocol, to provide Australians with exposure to the growing demand for carbon credits in tandem with other revenue streams. The CDM allows industrialised countries that are signatories to Kyoto to meet emissions targets by investing in projects in developing countries, usually less expensive then emission reduction projects in their own country.

Green Air aims to raise $100 million through its feeder fund, while the underlying private equity fund is targeting $US250 million ($A272 million). Green Air has six investments in the Asia Pacific, which aim to deliver a return of 4.4 tunes within three years. Mr Anthony said Green Air focused on projects with two sources of revenue, such as renewable energy plants that generate carbon credits as well funds through power generation.

"The Matrix Green Air fund.., is not a clean-tech fund, carbon specific fund, infrastructure fund or traditional highly leveraged private equity fund focused on buy-outs," he said. "By investing directly in projects which generate carbon credits and other annuity revenues, investors gain exposure to the carbon economy value chain while also mitigating any risks associated with regulatory and commercial charges in the carbon market."

Mr Anthony said the fund was not exposed to the outcome of climate change talks in Copenhagen because the carbon credit agreements were structured through the European Union carbon market, which has already committed to targets out to 2020. Nic Frances, executive chairman of Cool nrg, which has launched the first household energy efficiency project in Mexico under the CDM, said investors needed to establish a close relationship with communities in developing countries to ensure the success of projects.

"Most people aren't taking majority positions because they realise they need to involve the people who know the project," he said. "We encountered a lack of Australian funding that understood the CDM so if that is advancing that is a good thing. But if you are going to get into this space you need to know the community and bring them with you or the thing is going to fail."

Bungendore wind generator ponders adding turbines

Canberra Times
Thursday 19/11/2009 Page: 4

The owners of the $400 million Capital Wind Farm near Bungendore may add more turbines to the landscape as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared yesterday the project "an extraordinary new addition to Australia's renewable energy technology". In the midst of the emissions trading debate, Mr Rudd scored a handy photo opportunity, alongside Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, as he officially opened the windfarm. Its 67 turbines are anticipated to generate enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes, and it is claimed they-will save about 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas a year.

Mr Rudd acknowledged there would always be some concerns about projects such as wind farms, with "the need to preserve, at maximum, local environmental amenity, but at the same time we've got to rise to the challenge of, 'How do we deal with the renewable energy future?' "We've got to get the balance right, and I believe the project proponents here have got the balance right," he said.

The Capital Wind Farm is being run by Infigen Energy, which also operates wind farms in the United States, Germany and France. The Bungendore turbines started turning progressively from July, with the windfarm fully commissioned by early last month. Infigen Energy managing director Miles George said the company had received nine complaints about the noise. Mr George said eight of the residents lived more than 2km away and the ninth lived about 1.5km away.

Mr George said the company was testing the noise levels. "Certainly we have very stringent rules we have to abide by," he said. The windfarm is spread across more than 35sqkm, the company leasing local properties. Mr George said it could get bigger. "It is a possibility we could add further turbines here. We haven't sought approval for that yet, but at some stage it's certainly possible we could add to this windfarm," he said.

The NSW Government approved the Capital Wind Farm two years ago with 80 conditions of consent. NSW Premier Nathan Rees, also at yesterday's launch, declared the view of the turbines across Lake George "terrific". He said the windfarm was "one of the most significant renewable energy developments in NSW since the Snowy scheme". The Capital Wind Farm employed 120 people during construction. Ten jobs remain for continuing maintenance.

Palerang Mayor Walter Raynolds said he estimated the windfarm would generate at least $1.5 million a year for the regional economy, including the rent paid to land owners. However, the council had to carry the cost of monitoring the conditions attached to the development approval, which he believed was unreasonable. "We want the windfarm and we think it's a wonderful thing - we just feel that issue was not properly considered in the approvals process," Mr Raynolds said.

Among the properties being leased for the windfarm are three historic holdings owned by the Osborne family, including 82-year-old twins Michael and Pat and younger brother Brian, 77. "The only thing I don't like about the whole thing is that I'm so fascinated by the windmills I can't stop looking at them," Michael said.

`Zero emission' hydro plant opens

Saturday 21/11/2009 Page: 9

VICTORIA S transition to greener energy supplies has been bolstered by the opening of a "zero emission" hydro power plant in the state's north-eastern high country. The AGL station at Bogong will have 140 MWs capacity, enough to power about 120,000 hones or a city the size of Geelong. The $240 million facility, the biggest hydroelectricity project on mainland Australia in the past 25 years, will use recycled water from AGL's nearby McKay Creek power station.

The State Government regards the project as an important advance in its plans to reduce Victories greenhouse gas emissions while protecting jobs in the energy industry and maintaining a secure supply of power to households and business. While the Government believes Victoria will continue to rely on the Latrobe Valley's coalfired power stations for the bulk of its electricity for generations to come, it is pushing to gradually change the state's "energy mix" by backing a range of renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar, wind and geothermal.

Premier John Brumby, who opened the Bogong hydro plant yesterday, said it marked a new era for renewable energy in Victoria. "This is a great example of how climate change can provide a climate of opportunity, with new investment, more jobs and a cleaner environment," he said. "It is a unique project because it delivers clean energy without the need for new dams or new water by reusing water already used by the McKay Creek power station."

Era of coal power passing

Saturday 21/11/2009 Page: 9

AUSTRALIA is turning away from coal. Just one of the power stations under construction around the country is set to be fuelled by coal, with investors instead turning to gas and wind to provide the electricity of the future. A new government survey finds that while burning coal has been the main way Australia has generated electricity for a century, just 6% of new generating capacity recently completed or under construction will burn coal. The survey, by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics, finds that nine potential coal projects are on the drawing board, but they are minor compared with the total of gas and wind-powered projects in the pipeline.

In the past year, the only projects to progress from drawing board to construction have been seven wind-power stations. In Victoria, no new brown coal capacity has been added since the Kennett government privatised the state's power stations in the mid-1990s. Only one plan is even on the drawing board: a 400 MW station to test HRL's lower emission technology to dry and gasify coal before burning it. In contrast, in the past year the state has added 294 MWs of wind energy at Portland and Waubra, near Ballarat, with a further 63 MWs under construction south of the Grampians.

The Bogong hydro station, opened yesterday, adds 140 MWs, while Origin Energy is building a 1000 MW gas plant at Mortlake. Across Australia, gas is now the source of most of the capacity being added to the network. Wind and coal-seam methane supply most of the rest, with just one coal power station under construction, at Collie in Western Australia. Nationally, some 30,000 MWs of future power projects are on the drawing board. Of those, 10,000 MWs are from wind - with more than a third of the turbines expected to be built in Victoria - along with 9500 MWs from gas and 3250 MWs from coal.

Review of ETS compensation

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Friday 20/11/2009 Page: 3

The federal government has called on investment bank Morgan Stanley to review the impact the emissions trading scheme (ETS) would have on privately owned generators in the electricity industry. The review will look at minimum compensation required for various generators including TRUEnergy's Yallourn and International Power's Hazelwood in Victoria, Babcock and Brown Power's Flinders plant in South Australia and Queensland's Milleran and Callide C plants that are backed by Intergen. Liberal leader in the Senate, Nick Minchin, has reiterated his dislike of the ETS saying that to commit to the scheme prior to the Copenhagen summit would be 'idiotic.' The scheme has also attracted criticism from Peter Greenwood, a director China Light and Power, parent of TRUEnergy, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Algae power

Friday 20/11/2009 Page: 3

THREE of the dirtiest power stations in Australia's eastern states will take part in a trial to determine whether algae can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh will open today a research centre at-James Cook University, in Brisbane, and display the algal synthesiser, which captures flue emissions from coal and gas-fired power stations. When mixed with algae, the emissions form an oil-rich biomass that can be used in plastics, transport fuel and feed stock. Three coal-fired power stations, Victoria's Loy Yang A, NSW's Eraring power station and Tarong, in Queensland, will take part in the trial.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Orkney wave energy machine switched on
20 November 2009

A major wave energy device sited off Orkney has been switched on by First Minister Alex Salmond. The move saw Aquamarine Power's 'Oyster' being connected to the national grid as part of sea trials. The wave-powered generator is a hinged flap connected to the sea-bed, with each wave moving the flap to drive a hydraulic piston. Mr Salmond said: "This is a key milestone for Scotland's marine renewables sector."

More work and investment is required in the coming years to make it commercially viable. A farm of 20 Oysters could provide energy to power 9,000 three-bedroom homes. The Stromness-based European Marine Energy Centre's managing director, Neil Kermode, said: "EMEC are delighted to see Oyster installed, running and on test." Mr Salmond also announced new funding of £975,000 to help deliver 'Oyster 2'.

Things heat up for geothermal sector
November 21, 2009

Australia's fledgling geothermal energy sector received a shot in the arm when two leading players were beneficiaries of the Federal Government's first round of Renewable Energy Demonstration Program (REDP) grants this month. South Australian geothermal operators GeoDynamics and Petratherm beat a field of 61 applicants to receive $153 million of the total $235 million in REDP funding. The REDP grants are the final piece of the funding jigsaw that GeoDynamics and Petratherm required before proceeding with commercial demonstration plants which will cost at least $200 million each.

This is welcome news for an industry which has been slow to deliver on its potential as a cost-effective, reliable and environmentally friendly source of base load power. The key challenge for Australia's geothermal industry is the technical difficulty of accessing rocks at a temperature in excess of 200 degrees, and located up to 5000 metres below the earth's surface.

Electricity generation requires drilling of two wells and fracturing of the rock separating the wells. Water is then pumped through the fracture, where it is super-heated by hot rocks and pushed up through the production well. Energy in the hot water and steam is harnessed to turn a generator turbine.

Of nine listed geothermal players, only GeoDynamics has reached ''proof of concept'' for its approach to electricity generation. But in a setback that cast a shadow over the sector earlier this year, after achieving this milestone at its Cooper Basin resource, the metal casing of a GeoDynamics' well cracked due to a chemical reaction in the steel and caused hot water and steam to rise to the surface under high pressure. The use of a different grade of steel should prevent a repeat of the problem, but GeoDynamics' progress has been set back about two years.

Look beyond the technical challenges, and geothermal's key appeal is its possible contribution to the Federal Government's mandated target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020. Identifying a need for about 35,000 GW hours (GWh) of new renewable energy generation to meet the target, analysts from RBS Morgans recently concluded that ''geothermal is the most likely and logical source of energy to fill [most of] the gap that wind cannot''.

GeoDynamics and Petratherm are well placed. GeoDynamics hopes to have a 25 MWs (MW) demonstration plant operating by December 2013, with a 500MW plant in operation in 2018. The Petratherm development plan will see a 30MW plant operating no later than 2015 as a precursor to a large scale (260MW to 1000MW) plant.

Petratherm and GeoDynamics have similar medium-term aspirations, but quirks of location and approach may make Petratherm the more exciting investment story. Neither companies' tenements are located close to transmission facilities and significant investment in transmission assets will be needed to deliver electricity into the national market.

Recent analysis released by the Australian Geothermal Energy Association suggests that the cost of transmission infrastructure will be about three times higher for GeoDynamics than Petratherm, due to its more remote location. This investment will be justified when GeoDynamics constructs its 500MW plant, but in the meantime the proposed 25MW plant will be largely for demonstration purposes, with the electricity generated used to power the small township of Innamincka but otherwise wasted.

In contrast, Petratherm's 30MW plant is located close to the Beverley uranium mine, an ideal customer for the commercial demonstration plant as at present the mine relies on expensive off-grid power. With a local customer and low operating costs, the 30MW plant could deliver pre-tax operating cashflows of about $30 million a year. Petratherm will hold a 34 per cent interest in this project, alongside joint venture partners Beach Petroleum and TRUEnergy.

But before proceeding with the 30MW plant, Petratherm must first prove the viability of its approach. It is looking to maximise project economics by drilling to shallower depths than its competitors, completing the heat exchange process in sedimentary rocks that sit above the granite heat source. Any investment in geothermal operators is at present speculative, due to technology and construction risk. Nevertheless, with funding risk now largely removed for GeoDynamics and Petratherm, it is surprising their share prices have barely moved since the REDP grants were announced.

At present pricing, GeoDynamics has an enterprise value of about $85 million, while Petratherm's enterprise value of just $25 million is at odds with the company's $70 million in undrawn grant funding that will effectively provide a free-carried 34 per cent interest in the proposed 30MW plant. Both companies are trading at a fraction of their longer-term valuation potential. However, the value differential, combined with Petratherm's opportunity to earn a solid return from its demonstration plant, suggest that Petratherm offers more near-term upside and is enough to attract a speculative buy rating from Carpathia.

Catching some rays
November 17, 2009

Keith Lovegrove is a bit like Frankenstein's inventor. He's built something so powerful he's a little unsure how to deal with the strength of his creation.

Dr Lovegrove, the leader of the Australian National University's solar thermal group, and his team have recently finished the latest version of their solar thermal dish, the biggest in the world. Now they just have to test it.

But the mirror-covered dish - which gathers the sun's radiation and focuses it to a small point - is capable of creating extreme heat. At this early stage, the scientists are trying to measure its power before they get around to installing a steam-making system that would harness the heat and make electricity.

The technology has been picked up by a small Canberra company Wizard Power, which hopes to commercialise it. The dish, an improved version of the one that has been running on the ANU campus for 12 years, has been completely re-engineered for mass production. It is four times bigger than any other such dish in the world.

So just how powerful is it? "What we've found is that it actually has a considerably higher performance than we dreamt of and indeed the absolute peak optical concentration is something like 12,000 times normal sunlight," says Dr Lovegrove. "And that is enough to essentially melt any known ceramic. It actually presents quite some difficulties for us to measure the radiation, so we've been reduced to using the full moon, to determine the shape of the focal region."

In other words, this thing, which looks like a satellite dish, is too powerful right now for testing with normal sun rays. So they are using the moon as it tracks across the night sky. And when it is on during the day they must make sure that power glancing off the mirrors doesn't set nearby trees alight. "We have to be continually taking care with surrounding trees and things like that," he says. "And indeed it can be quite uncomfortable when you walk around on the surface of the mirrors, as we do in the late afternoon, you can find the radiation making your pants very warm indeed."

Dr Lovegrove's vision and research includes using the solar thermal dish to produce heat to convert algae into liquid fuel - essentially a replacement for petrol and diesel. This technique, he said, could see Australia use its massive solar resource to export clean fuel to countries such as Japan. "It's dead easy to make renewable energy for Australia," he says. "But what we need to do is shift the Australian economy so that we get an equivalent income from an export to what coal gives us at the moment."

Wizard Power and the ANU technology are one of a handful of players in Australia's embryonic solar thermal industry. As I wrote on Saturday, the industry is on the cusp of big things and there's no shortage of solar energy in Australia. Dr Lovegrove says you could power the country on solar thermal dishes on land measuring 168 kilometres long and 168 kilometres wide. Recently a huge Spanish plant overcame one of the sector's biggest stumbling blocks when it proved it could store solar energy overnight.

But even though large parts of Australia are blessed with some of the world's best resources of solar - much of the land north of Canberra, but especially inland Queensland - the industry says it will struggle for a decade to compete with existing generators, even when the emissions trading scheme brings in a price on carbon. Under the scheme's current design, they say, a high enough carbon price will not kick in quick enough. The industry, although happy with the Federal Government's $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program (some of which will fund solar panel technology) wants generous tariffs such as those found in Spain.

Dr Lovegrove said that while coal-fired electricity costs about five cents a kW hour to make, a solar thermal plant in Australia right now would spend about 20 cents making each kW hour. That price will come down to nine or 10 cents in a decade, he said, but it still makes it hard to compete now, he said.

Besides the dish type, there are several different kinds of solar thermal technology in power plants. There are parabolic troughs, essentially curved mirrors in lines. The technology used by Ausra - the company founded by Australian scientist David Mills, who is now based in California - is called Linear Fresnel, and uses flat, tilted mirrors that reflect light back to a central point. There are also solar towers, with mirrors laid out around the tower.

Ausra, which has a plant in California, has kept its technology much cheaper than the dish approach. In September, Ausra and the Queensland Government announced plans to build a 23 MW solar thermal plant at the 750 MW Kogan Creek coal-fired power station near Chinchilla. Ausra also has a three MW prototype plant next to New South Wales' Liddell coal fired power stations.

Wizard Power's Artur Zawadski says the company has a proposal for an 80 MW plant in Whyalla, South Australia. It is also looking at demonstrating different storage techniques there. solar energy, however, is very expensive. Wizard's proposed plant has a price tag of $355 million.

In Victoria, the state is blessed solar resources in the north, particularly around Mildura, which is why solar plants have always been proposed for that area. Unfortunately, the bulk of Victoria's generation capacity is in the Latrobe Valley which is not particularly sunny. Unlike in Queensland, solar thermal plants in Victoria are unlikely to be built next to coal-fired plants, said Dr Lovegrove. "They are just not in a sunny place," he said.

China's 09 solar power capacity to double-researcher
Nov 18, 2009

BEIJING, Nov 18 (Reuters) - China's installed solar energy capacity by the end of this year is expected to have more than doubled from a year earlier, a government researcher said on Wednesday, partly helped by state incentives. "New capacity may reach 150 MWs (MW) this year, more than three times the addition in 2008," Wang Sicheng, a senior researcher with Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, told a solar energy conference. China added around 40 MW of solar energy generation capacity in 2008 and total capacity reached some 140 MW by the end of last year, Wang said.

He said China's solar energy capacity expansion could even accelerate after the government sets benchmark on-grid tariffs for utility-scale solar energy plants and announces a new development target. "Eight projects with capacity of 10 MW each have started construction this year. There are still many out there waiting (for clear policies)." He said there were at least 44 solar energy projects with total capacity of nearly 13 GWs (GW) being planned and contracted by various power firms and developers. "The first phase of these projects would amount to 1.2 GW, already a formidable increase," Wang said.

The National Development and Reform Commission said in August it would set benchmark solar energy feed-in tariffs but it did not specify any timeframe for the announcement of the rates. It was also mulling to sharply raise China's 2020 solar energy capacity target, as part of a larger development plan for renewable energy expected to be unveiled before the year-end. Beijing announced unprecedented subsidy measures for building-mounted solar energy projects in March and for independent and utility-scale solar systems in July.

Last week, the Ministry of Finance announced that it identified 294 solar energy projects with total capacity of 642 MW that would enjoy subsidies of 50% to 70% of their investment cost. These projects, estimated to cost around 20 billion yuan ($2.93 billion) and to be built in two to three years, include 232 solar energy plants sponsored by major industrial and commercial firms, 27 independent solar energy plants in remote regions that have no power supply and 35 utility-scale plants.

China also identified 111 building-mounted solar energy projects with capacity of 91 MW in September that are qualified for another subsidy scheme. Under the plan, building-integrated photovoltaic projects (BIPV) will receive 20 yuan per Watt peak (Wp) of subsidy and building-attached photovoltaic projects (BAPV) get 15 yuan per Wp. ($1=6.826 Yuan)

Century to resume building at new Iceland smelter
Nov 18, 2009

Century Aluminum Co (CENX.O) plans to restart construction at its Helguvik greenfield smelter project in Iceland and to produce its first metal at the plant by early 2012, a company official said Wednesday. "We'll restart construction in earnest in spring 2010," Century Chief Financial Officer Mike Bless said at the Knight Tumazos Metals and Mining investor conference.

Bless said a project of Helguvik's scope would normally take 30 months to get up and running, once construction was underway, but, considering work already carried out on the project, the first hot metal should be produced in early 2012. Bless said the U.S, primary aluminum producer plans to bring smelting capacity online in four 90,000-tonne phases, building up to full operating capacity of 360,000 tonnes with 86 potlines.

Century halted construction on the project during fourth quarter of 2008, when demand for aluminum, and consequently aluminum prices, plummeted at the onset of global economic recession. Since then, Bless said, the company has been maintaining minimal work levels at the site so as not to lose the work already begun.

By the end of the year, he said, Century will have spent $100 million of the total project cost of $600 million. The company is currently mulling options for financing the rest of the project, including the possibility of an investor with a minority interest, the CFO said. He said, however, financing was not the biggest worry at the site. Rather, its energy supply presented a bigger potential concern.

Once the smelter comes online, production costs at the Icelandic facility should run in the lowest quartile of global smelting capacity, but, Bless said, the risk remains that the energy plant will not be built in time. Helguvik will be the world's only smelter run 100% on geothermal power, but the CFO said the power plant must also be built in stages and be coordinated with the smelter's construction.

Century already operates the Grundartangi smelter in Iceland, which Bless said was able to break even when aluminum fell to $1,275 a tonne, a 7-1/2-year low, in March because of low power costs partly using geothermal energy. He said the company's overall breakeven level, including capital expenditure and maintenance costs, runs $1,800 to $1,900 a tonne of aluminum, depending on input costs. Benchmark aluminum MAL3 prices on the London Metal Exchange ended Wednesday at $2,055 a tonne, after a recent price surge. It traded as low as $1,883 a tonne this month.

Though Bless said Century sees a pick-up in aluminum demand in the medium to longer term horizon, the near-term price risk was to the downside in light of recent supply restarts in China, Europe and elsewhere amid slow global demand. "We're not chasing the bubble, we're still managing for tough times," Bless said. Century's 170,000-tonne-per-year aluminum smelter in Ravenswood, West Virginia, has been idled since February.

Suntech, Trina Expand Output as Profits Top Estimates
November 19, 2009

SunTech Power Holdings Co, and Trina Solar Ltd, plan to increase production of solar energy modules next year after third-quarter sales and profits beat analyst estimates. The companies rose in U.S, trading.

SunTech Chief Executive Officer Zhengrong Shi intends to boost capacity 40% to 1,400 MWs by mid-2010. Trina aims to increase cell and module production to 600 MWs by the end of this year and to as much as 950 MWs next year. "The market is gaining momentum faster than anyone expected," SunTech's Shi said today in a phone interview from China. "We have to expand really fast. In the third quarter, we couldn't keep up with demand."

Manufacturers slashed prices in half over the past year to weather slumping demand and gain market share as project financing resumes. Third-quarter orders surged from Germany, the world's biggest solar market, as developers sought to finish projects before the government cut incentives.

Wuxi, China-based SunTech rose 90 cents, or 6%, to $15.99 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares are up 37% this year. Trina's ADRs, which have more than quadrupled this year, rose $2.82, or 6.6%, to $45.57.

"Solid demand growth is returning as markets pick up in the U.S, and China," said Sanjay Shrestha, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in New York who has a "buy" rating on Trina and a "hold" on SunTech. "During the downturn these guys did a really good job taking their foot off the pedal."

Raising Forecasts
China's Canadian Solar Inc, this week also raised shipment and production forecasts after reporting third-quarter profit growth, and China Sunergy Co, raised the low end of its output forecast. Shi forecasts the global market for solar energy will jump 50% next year to as much as 10,000 MWs. The U.S, and Japan may account for 10% each, and Shi expects China will install about 500 MWs.

SunTech, the world's largest maker of polysilicon solar energy modules, today reported net income fell 30% to $29.8 million, or 16 cents per American depositary receipt, as module prices dropped. That beat the 8 cent average estimate of 16 analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Shi last year halted expansion plans in response to a drop in demand for solar panels caused by the credit crunch. After the surge in orders from Germany, as well as improving markets in the U.S., France and Japan, he raised his shipments forecast this year to 640 MWs to 660 MWs from an earlier estimate of 600 MWs.

New Factory
To increase sales in the U.S., SunTech plans to open a new factory near Phoenix that will be able to assemble 30 MWs of solar modules annually when completed next year. Trina, based in Changzhou, China, today reported third-quarter profit rose 25% to $40.1 million, or $1.29 a share. The company was expected to earn 90 cents. Germany will make up one third of the company's sales this year, up from 24% in 2008.

Trina's gross margin climbed to 29% from 22% a year earlier as production costs fell to 82 cents per watt from $1.13 a year earlier. Module prices declined 50% to $2.03 per watt. Shipments of solar modules reached a record 122.6 MWs during the quarter, above the company's guidance of 90 to 110 MWs and up 85% from 66.4 MWs a year earlier as Trina expanded output.