Saturday 6 May 2006

UK to get EU's largest wind farm

From New Scientist Print Edition.
03 May 2006

Shaking off its image as one of Europe's laggards on renewable energy, the UK last month gave the go-ahead for the EU's largest onshore wind farm.

The electricity company Scottish Power won permission on 27 April to erect 140 wind turbines on 55 square kilometres of moorland and forest south of Glasgow. When completed in 2009, the £300 million Whitelee wind farm will generate a peak of 322 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to the average power demand of 200,000 homes.

Whitelee is expected to supply 5 per cent of the capacity required to meet Scotland's target of generating 40 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. It was heralded by Scottish ministers as "a significant milestone towards achieving our renewable energy and climate change targets". The UK-wide target is to generate 10 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2010, and Whitelee should provide 2.4 per cent of the capacity needed to achieve this. It will prevent the emission of 650,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, ministers say.

Officials at Glasgow Airport initially opposed the project because of concerns that the spinning rotors might confuse the airport's radar. To overcome the problem, Scottish Power has agreed to build a £5 million radar installation 50 kilometres away in Kincardine, on the site of a former power station.

Friday 5 May 2006

Climate change causes backflips

The Australian, Page: 16
Friday, 5 May 2006

CLIMATE change is doing strange things to the weather, but it's beginning to do even stranger things to the worlds of environmentalism, politics and business. I suspect the process has just begun and we had all better hold on for what will be a very interesting and surprising ride. WWF's Greg Bourne has acknowledged uranium mining and nuclear power will inevitably play a role in the future global energy mix. Although this is merely stating the obvious, his statement will create division and debate in the environmental community.

This is because no environmentalist is supposed to take anything other than the ''no, none, never'' position on nuclear power. It's pretty much an article of faith. But the strangeness and the division are not restricted to the environmentalist movement. A few weeks ago, some of Australia's largest companies, including Westpac, IAG, Visy, BP and Origin, called on government to impose a price on carbon: yes, that's right, business, powerful business, arguing for increased costs.

In doing so they brought to the fore what is known to be a deep split on climate change in the Australian big business community. And there are strange happenings in Canberra as well. The federal Government recently took a strong anti-development turn when it stopped a $200 million wind farm because of the alleged risk to the orange-bellied parrot. Normally probusiness conservatives don't pay much attention to the risk of killing a single endangered parrot every thousand years (the risk this project posed).

I suspect in this case the opportunity to take revenge on environmentalists by stopping a green development over a green issue proved too tempting to resist. Last year, John Howard largely acknowledged the scientific consensus on climate change for the first time. About the same time, no doubt coincidentally, he started his push to promote uranium exports on the grounds of addressing climate change. Self-interest is a wonderful thing.

So what is going on? Conservatives worrying about climate change and endangered parrots? Business arguing for increased costs? Environmentalists accepting nuclear power?Is nothing sacred?What's going on is simple. It's called climate change, and it changes a lot more than the weather. It's time we all woke up and reconsidered many of our old assumptions and heartfelt beliefs, because the change has just begun. The biggest global threat to biodiversity, for example, is climate change.

On our present emissions path, we face the risk of wiping out up to half of the species on the planet, including all coral reefs and the Amazon rainforest. That's a lot of parrots. In the context of the threat posed by climate change and the speed with which we need to respond, nuclear power will simply not help very much. It is a marginal issue, a small part of the mix.

As is well argued by many environmentalists and energy experts, nuclear power stations are incapable of having a substantial effect on rising emissions because they are too expensive, too slow to build and they account for too many greenhouse emissions during construction. Then add the inherent security threat posed by the technology, as we see with Iran and North Korea. But as Bourne says, nuclear power is already part of the mix, with hundreds of stations in place, and it's not going to go away any time soon. So how we handle nuclear technology in the meantime is a very important question and one we need to discuss logically rather than religiously, but with effort commensurate to the threat it poses, weighing that against the huge threat posed by climate change.

For the record, as an environmentalist, I think nuclear power is solidly illogical energy strategy and clearly unsustainable. It's expensive and it's inherently risky, creating dangerous waste and potent security challenges. For these reasons I'm happy to have the technology fight it out in the marketplace and in the court of public opinion along with other choices, including renewable wind and solar energy, so-called ''clean coal technologies'', gas and other emerging alternatives. Nuclear will lose in a fair fight, so I reject the use of moral and emotional arguments in opposing it.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Oh, and I can't wait to see how much attention is paid to parrot safety if anyone ever does try to build a nuclear plant in Australia. Paul Gilding, a former executive director of Greenpeace International, is a founding partner of Ecos Corporation.

Thursday 4 May 2006

Portugal Makes Waves in Alternative Energy

MAY 3, 2006 Europe By Carol Matlack

Portugal Makes Waves in Alternative Energy The coastal country is fast becoming an enthusiastic leader in drawing power from the sea, the wind, and the sun

Portugal's sunny climate and picturesque coastline have long been a magnet for tourists. But now, those natural attractions are drawing a different kind of attention. From solar photovoltaics to electricity generation from wind and ocean waves, some of the world's most ambitious and innovative renewable-energy projects are taking shape in this historically poor country of 10.5 million on Europe's western rim.

In a farming region 125 miles southeast of Lisbon, General Electric's (GE) GE Energy Financial Services unit is teaming up with PowerLight, a Berkeley (Calif.)-based solar-electric equipment maker, to build the world's largest photovoltaic-generation project. The $75 million project, announced on Apr. 27, calls for construction of an 11-megawatt powerplant that will start operating next January, producing enough energy to light and heat 8,000 homes.

The Portuguese government is expected to award a contract this summer for the construction of more than $1.3 billion worth of wind turbines around the country, enough to provide power for 750,000 homes. And the world's first commercial "wave farm," which will generate electricity from ocean waves, is expected to start operation later this year off Portugal's northern coast.

Malaysia: wind power can be harnessed for aquaculture

03 May, 2006

AQUACULTURE ventures should look into other energy sources like the wind as the rising fuel prices pose serious challenge for the industry's outlook, the Malaysian news site reported.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah's (UMS) Vice-Chancellor Prof. Datuk Dr Mohd Noh Dalimin reportedly said in his keynote address at the International Conference on Coastal Oceanography and Sustainable Marine Aquaculture - Confluence and Synergy that the time has come to opt for multidisciplinary and high-tech industrial aquaculture by harnessing energy from the wind. The industry should also be managed with a high degree of automation and robots that are robust enough for a high risk operations in open sea, he said.

Besides of using wind energy to run aquaculture project, he was reported to have said that scientists should also think how to make use solar radiations in generating power for aquaculture operations like hatcheries and grow-out systems. The three-day conference is jointly organised by UMS, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Inter-Islamic Network of Oceanography.

Green Light for Renewable Energy from Darling Wind Farm

The City of Cape Town's Mayoral Commitee, at the meeting held on 26 April 2006, gave a thumbs up to the proposed Darling Wind Farm by recommending to Council that the City enter into a Power Purchase Agreement with Darling Wind Farm (Pty) Ltd .
The Darling Wind Farm is a R70m national pilot project funded jointly by the Danish Development Aid (Danida), the Department of Minerals and Energy and the Darling Independent Power Producing Co.

The project will open up opportunities for further wind energy projects and other "green energy projects" both in the Western Cape and further afield. It will also be an important step in assisting the City to reach its target of sourcing 10% of its overall energy requirements from sustainable sources by 2020.

Once Council has considered Mayco's recommendation, the way will be open for City customers to purchase green energy. This will be marketed to "willing buyers" at an initial premium of 25c per kWh. It is expected that the demand for green energy will outstrip the 13 200 Gigawatt hours of energy that can be supplied annually by the farm (1 Gigawatt hour = 1 million kilowatt hours).

Darling Wind Farm is expected to commence generation in 2007 and the energy will be sold through RED1, the City's electricity service provider.

Need to start alternative energy project stressed

Wednesday May 03, 2006 (1229 PST)

KARACHI : The Adviser to Chief Minister on Environment, Alternative Energy and Information Technology, Mohammad Noman Saigol, on Tuesday stressed the need for using alternate means of energy, specifically wind energy. He emphasized physically starting the windmill project after resolving concerned issues with immediate effect. This, he said, would resolve the electricity needs in the country and Sindh.

Cities like Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur were major sufferers in Sindh due to shortfall in electric supply, which had affected industrial units at large, he added.

He also stressed using alternate means of energy to enhance industrial growth in Pakistan. Insisting on the PPA, he requested the authorities to do it on war footings to enable investors to stay back, “otherwise we dread they might pull out because of further delay”.

He feared that if the wind energy project was ruined, other relevant means of alternative energy would also suffer by going through the same experiences. He said the Sindh government was also working on solar energy, high tide, and biogas projects, besides suggesting that ethanol could also become a source of alternative energy and be used in vehicles.

Meanwhile, he also appreciated the support given by the Sindh Governor to expedite the IT project, specifically e-Policing.

Wednesday 3 May 2006

Breakthrough in power connection

Tuesday, 2 May 2006. 07:23 (AEST)

In-principle agreement has been reached to connect wind farms to the electricity grid via the Portland smelter. Pacific Hydro's plans for its Portland wind project, include wind farms at Yambuk and Cape's Bridgewater, Grant and Nelson.

The $280 million project stalled, with the company unable to reach agreement with the Portland aluminium smelter. But after months of negotiations, Pacific Hydro says contracts will be signed to allow electricity produced by the wind farms to be channelled through Alcoa's electricity substation.

Facts & Figures

The burning of 1Mt (Mt = a million tonnes) of coal produces approx 2.6Mt of CO2

NSW transport emissions in 2002 were 22.6Mt of CO2.

Going green saves more than money

Penrith Press, Page: 16
Tuesday, 2 May 2006

BLUE Mountains Council has saved about $15,000 a year in energy consumption and maintenance costs simply by going green. Green energy is generated from the sun, wind, water or biomass rather than from burning coal which releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Mayor Jim Angel said the council had significantly cut down energy use in council buildings over the past few years by adopting new practices. "In the first year of our Energy Performance Contract project we achieved an annual 40 per cent energy saving in lighting," he said.

"Since then we have reduced 136 tonnes of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions each year - the equivalent of removing 30 cars from the road." Cr Angel said the council had installed solar panels at Katoomba and Glenbrook pools and switched to T5 street lights which was similar to an 80 watt globe but used only one-third of the power. "For every 100 streetlights we change over, we stop around 14 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere," he said. The council's car fleet will also get an overhaul, changing from six to four cylinders, and the council is looking at ways to get more people to use public and alternate transport.

A Green Power information campaign was recently launched in council libraries and sports centres. Blue Mountains State LaborMP and Environment Minister Bob Debus said the average Australian household emitted more than eight tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. "By switching even a fraction of your energy needs green, you can help reduce greenhouse gases," he said. "The Green Power tick of approval means that the energy you are buying from your supplier must come from renewable and environmentally friendly power sources."

For more information on Green Power, go on-line at

Monday 1 May 2006

Proponent hits back

Albany & Great Southern Weekender, Page: 5
Thursday, 27 April 2006

DENMARK Community Windfarm chairman Craig Chappelle has hit back at continuing criticism of his group's proposal for Ocean Beach. He was joined by the industry's peak body, the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind), which called on Federal Environment Minister lan Campbell to take positive steps to help overcome his concerns. The Minister has vetoed one windfarm proposal and threatened to withdraw federal funding from the Denmark project. Mr Campbell said Australia needed a national windfarm code.

Mr Chappelle was especially critical of Stirling MLA Terry Redman who called on the State Government to drop support for the proposed windfarm. He said Mr Redman was reminded in State Parliament five months ago that a conservative government approved the Albany windfarm "against community wishes". "That proposal produced four times as many detractors as supporters, yet has become a much loved feature of the district," he said. "It occupies a site not unlike that proposed in Denmark, but is 10 times bigger and more visible."

Mr Chappelle said the umpire was the State Planning Minister. "Alannah MacTiernan approved the Denmark proposal because it meets the State's sustainability criteria," he said. "The operative word here is 'merit' -the Minister considered the quality of the arguments, not the quantity." He said many submissions opposing Denmark's windfarm were almost identical.

"More than 30 contained the same simple factual error - a sure sign that they were written to a faulty prescription," he said.

Is it all over for nuclear power?

New Scientist, Page: 33
Saturday, 22 April 2006

Governments are keen and the nuclear industry is on a 30-year high. But they've missed the crucial point, argues Michael Brooks

ADAM TWINE doesn't look like the kind of person the nuclear industry should be scared of. An organic farmer, Twine is skinny, with big round glasses and unruly hair that makes his head look like it's fraying at the edges. How could he possibly be a threat to a multibillion-dollar industry? Maybe he wouldn't be if he were operating alone, but Twine is far from alone and has serious money behind him.

He has just managed to persuade 2127 people to send him a total of more than £4 million that he will use to set up a co-operative wind farm on land he owns in the south of England. In fact, the idea of owning a share in the Westmill wind farm in Oxfordshire has proved so popular that the project is having to return some of the cash: it only needed £3.7 million. The plan now is to give priority in ownership to people living within 80 kilometres of the site, and asking others to accept a smaller stake in the co-op.

Though the wind farm is small - five turbines in a vast, bleak field, amounting to 6.5 megawatts of electricity - it represents another nail in the coffin of nuclear power, one of many being hammered in all over the world. If the nuclear industry wanted to convince governments to start building another generation of nuclear reactors as soon as possible, it needed to bury the likes of Twine before their schemes took off. Now it may be too late.

According to projections by the International Energy Agency and a handful of energy industry experts, 2005 was the first year nuclear power's electricity output dropped behind that of small-scale plants producing low or no carbon dioxide emissions - and that's not counting large hydroelectric projects on the low-carbon side of the balance sheet. Though small, such projects are already flourishing. Much of the world's small-scale generation involves combined heat and power "co-generation" projects, whose carbon dioxide emissions are 30 to 80 per cent less than that of large-scale gas-fired plants. On average they are at least 50 per cent less.

The worldwide uptake of this technology is being accompanied by fast growth in the use of renewables such as solar and wind. The Danish company Bonus, from which the Westmill co-operative wants to buy its wind turbines, now has a backlog of orders from wind farms in Texas, Florida, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Greece. In 2005 the company, bought by Siemens, almost doubled its wind turbine sales, and its fabrication capacity for 2006 is fully booked.

This burgeoning "micropower" movement is a significant step towards reducing carbon emissions (New Scientist, 21 January, p 36). It is also a knock for a nuclear industry that has been struggling to get back on its feet in the western world. Until last year, near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases were nuclear power's trump card, its big advantage over other sources of electricity and the one thing that might make western governments invest in a nuclear renaissance: nuclear is clean and produces a lot of power, so we need it. That argument now has a hole punched through it, and it boils down to economics.

Until recently, it seemed the wide-scale construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants was inevitable. China is investing in nuclear, after all, as are Japan, Russia and India, so why not the west? Though Germany, Sweden, Spain and Switzerland have forsworn investment in new nuclear plants, other western nations, notably the UK, France and the US, are taking the idea seriously. In August 2005, the US government handed out a range of nuclear subsidies and incentives worth nearly $20 billion. In the UK, Prime Minister Tony Blair has commissioned an energy review with what is widely believed to have a pro-nuclear agenda, marking a move away from the position three years ago when his government said there was no case for nuclear new build.

France, which already gets 78 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, has its eye on starting construction of at least one more plant within the next decade. In the UK and the US, the case for a nuclear renaissance is on the table mainly because the reactors now generating electricity are coming to the end of their lives. The cry is going up that this will lead to an energy gap: in a few years there won't be enough electricity to go round, and the lights will go out. That's a simplistic analysis, of course.

"The idea of a 'gap' is artificial and fails to acknowledge the dynamics of the market system," says Jim Watson, an energy analyst in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, UK. The energy markets in these countries will tend to ensure that there will always be electricity to buy and sell, Watson points out. The cost may go up and the sources may change, but the market will quickly adjust by using more electricity derived from coal and gas, for instance. Without nuclear, though, won't we be producing ever more carbon emissions? Not necessarily.

Nuclear never was part of the short-term solution to climate change, and the rapid growth in small-scale energy production means nuclear may not be needed as part of the long-term solution either. Of the electricity added to the worldwide supply in 2004, micropower technologies generated almost three times as much as nuclear. Spain and Germany's ventures into wind power alone added as much power capacity in 2004 as the world's nuclear industry will add from 2000 to 2010. Industry projections indicate that by 2010, renewable and low-carbon sources will offer 177 times as much added capacity as nuclear, This is not going to be enough to power the 1 world; large-scale fossil-fuel generators will I still be needed in this timescale.

But the overarching global trend is clear. Few new nuclear stations will be operating before 2020, and by the time these plants are even half-built, there will be enough low or nocarbon electricity available from non-nuclear sources to give investors in nuclear plants second thoughts. The 'negawatt' effect, if they ever invest at all, that is. In January, the financial analyst Standard & Poors issued a report saying that even the new incentives for the US nuclear industry will not be enough to persuade investors to climb aboard; from a business perspective, nuclear remains the highest-risk form of power generation.

That's because the subsidies don't deal with the capital, operating and decommissioning risks that most concern the capital markets, says Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based energy analysis firm."The effect of even such huge subsidies will be the same as defibrillating a corpse," he says."It will jump, but it will not revive."What's more, a report issued in February by the California-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), whose members include private and public organisations concerned with power generation and distribution, says that implementing energy efficiency measures together with technologies that can respond to changes in demand offers a costeffective alternative to adding new generating capacity.

Contrary to what is often said, we are getting better at controlling our hunger for electricity. If you want proof, just ask the US firms who built gas-fuelled power plants capable of generating 200 gigawatts of electricity, and then found that the anticipated demand they were catering for never materialised. The investors lost $100 billion. According to Lovins, worldwide electrical savings, or"negawatts", now match or exceed global additions of low or no-carbon micropower.

So far, the EPRI says, we have only scratched the surface of possible efficiency increases; it is estimated that the US could save three-quarters of the electricity it now uses. Some states are making progress towards this goal. In California, energy use per capita has been flat for 30 years, and the state has issued plans to halve its rate of growth of electricity consumption by 2013.Vermont has done even better, with efficiency measures that have already cut per capita energy use.

It is economics that is driving these changes. Producing and delivering electricity costs money, so not wasting it makes good sense. Businesses, of course, respond well to market forces and are implementing changes well ahead of domestic users.

DuPont's 6oo-hectare Chambers Works in New Jersey has reduced by one-third its energy use per kilogram of chemical produced. Western Digital's disc drive factory in Malaysia cut energy use by 44 per cent and recouped the cost of implementing the efficiency measures in just one year. By last year, Toyota US had reduced its energy consumption per unit of production by 15 per cent from 2000 levels. All these measures add up to less need for new electricity generating plants.

Nuclear power is also being squeezed on the cost of the electricity it produces. According to a report last year by the New Economics Foundation, a London-based think tank, a kilowatt-hour of electricity from a nuclear generator will cost as much as 8.3 pence once realistic construction and running costs are factored in, compared with about 3 pence claimed by the nuclear industry - and that's without including the cost of managing pollution, insuring the power stations or protecting them from terrorists. This compares with about 3.4 pence for gas, 5 pence for coal and up to 7.2 pence for wind power, according to a report in 2004 by the UK's Royal Academy of Engineering.

The same report told the government that it has to ensure the"long-term stability of electricity prices" if it wants people to invest in nuclear power. Around the same time, Oxera, a firm of energy consultants based in Oxford, UK, reported that a new-build nuclear programme in the UK would require an injection of £1.6 billion in government grants to make the idea appeal to private investors. The action needed to meet either of these requirements is unlikely to be allowed within the European Union.

Andris Piebalgs, the EU's commissioner for energy, wants different forms of energy production to compete with each other on a level playing field, and has declared that state funds must not be used to subsidise the building of new nuclear plants. British Nuclear Fuels and the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have already been subject to an 18-month inquiry over potential infractions of fair competition -though even Gordon MacKerron, head of the UK's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and no fan of the nuclear lobby, has called the alleged infractions"marginal".

More serious are allegations against the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Olkiluoto, Finland, the only nuclear power station presently under construction in Europe. A relatively new design of pressurised water reactor, the EPR is being built jointly by the French nuclear company Areva and the German company Siemens, and is being financed at extremely low rates of interest by French and German state-owned organisations.

The scheme is being investigated by the European Commission, following a complaint by the European Renewable Energies Federation that the financing breaches the commission's rules. If the complaint is upheld, it will be a serious blow to the nuclear industry, which likes to point to Olkiluoto as evidence of the viability of new nuclear stations. That argument, however, is questionable whatever the outcome of the complaint. The company the plant is being built for, called TVO, is not a conventional electricity utility, but a company owned by large Finnish industrial concerns that supplies electricity to its owners on a not-for-profit basis.

"The plant will have a guaranteed market and will not therefore have to compete in the Nordic electricity market," says Steve Thomas, an expert in nuclear economics at the University of Greenwich in London. What's more, he says, suspicions have been raised that the Areva-Siemens consortium is so anxious to showcase its technology that it has "offered a price that might not be sustainable" just to get the plant built.