Thursday 14 September 2006

Something new under the sun (and it could change everything)
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Beneath the din of our latest oil panic, with otherwise sane people dooming us to the end of civilization as we know it, scientists such as B.J. Stanbery quietly carry on the work of changing the world.

In 2001, Stanbery founded a company here in Austin, HelioVolt Corp., with a commitment to revolutionizing solar energy. He has created a solar material that is exponentially more efficient and cheaper to produce than current technology. And he believes it will make us think of solar energy in an entirely new way.

Stanbery has the attention of fellow scientists, investors and a growing number of officials in the U.S. Department of Energy. This week, The Wall Street Journal presented Stanbery with one of its three top Technology Innovation Awards. More than 600 companies submitted applications. For this and several other awards HelioVolt has received in the past year, we add our congratulations.

The indefatigable Stanbery never tires of explaining his choice of calling. After getting degrees in physics and mathematics at the University of Texas and while working on a master's degree in physics at the University of Washington, Stanbery took a job with Boeing Co. developing solar technology to power satellites. "That was when I decided to devote my career to making solar power cheap and ubiquitous," he said. Stanbery has solved the "cheap" part.

Rather than silicon, which makes up most solar cells, Stanbery has been working with a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenide — CIGS for short. The compound is heated onto plates, a process Stanbery refers to as printing. The resulting plate, with two or three cents worth of the CIGS compound, would cost $1 if made with silicon and would not conduct nearly as well.

It is in the application that the discussion gets tricky. Many people worry that at the current rate of generation, solar power is too expensive, too subsidized, too unreliable and in too short a supply to ever be called on to fuel the turbines in power plants. For Austin Energy, for example, solar power contributes just 1 megawatt of electricity at four times the cost of wind power, which provides more than 210 megawatts to our power generation.

Stanbery believes our thinking needs to be reversed. Unlike oil, coal, gas and nuclear power, which demand a concentrated collection and distribution system — the power grid — the sun's energy is most efficiently collected building by building, over an area as wide as the imagination. What HelioVolt hopes to sell is a solar material that can be inexpensively integrated into almost any building materials, from roofing, to siding to windows. The greater number of HelioVolt buildings, the less stress on our traditional power generation and a reduced demand for new power plants, substations, power lines and the personnel to build, operate and service them.

Stanbery admits that some traditionalists are skeptical of his ideas, but with the outlook gloomy for oil, experts are predicting the investment in solar energy will triple to more than $12 billion nationwide by 2010. Working with $8 million in venture capital, HelioVolt expects to produce CIGS solar-powered products for testing by the end of 2007.

While Stanbery and HelioVolt do the tough work, all he is asking is for Americans to think a little differently about energy.

Thinking is certainly more productive than panicking.

China speeds up renewable energy development

BEIJING, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- China's National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) announced on June 30 a plan to raise consumer electricity rates by 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour (KWH). A tiny fraction of the additional charge, 0.1 cent per KWH, will be used to develop renewable energy (RE), a senior NDRC official told Xinhua a few weeks later.

This was unprecedented, the official said. The money would be used to cover the portion of RE development costs that are higher than the average for conventional energies. The practice complies with the principle enshrined in the Renewable Energy Law (REL) that the extra costs of renewable energies should be shared by all end users of electricity across the country.

Earlier, on April 20, at the second gathering of the State Energy Leading Group (SELG), the highest authority in China on energy issues, Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out that renewable energy was strategically important. He urged all government departments concerned to take effective measures to accelerate the development of renewable energies, so as to "lift the share of quality, clean energies in the total energy mix".

China's energy industry has made impressive progress. Statistics show the production of primary energy reached 2.06 billion tons of coal equivalent last year. The figure marked a climb of 238percent over the figures for 1978. At the end of 2005, the country's total installed power generating capacity exceeded 500 million KW.

In the past two decades, growth in production supported a 5.16 percent average annual growth in primary energy consumption. However, GDP went up even faster, at an annual average of 9.6 percent. The result was a supply shortage that short-circuited in 2004, when 24 of the 32 provincial regions suffered power cuts. Last year's coal output, a record high and double the 2000 figure, was still not enough to meet market demand. Meanwhile, China's net imports of crude oil products climbed to 143 million tons, up from76 million tons five years ago.

Domestic energy resources are limited. In per capita terms, China is relatively poor in many energy resources. Its remaining exploitable reserves of petroleum, natural gas and coal equal merely 7.7 percent, 7.1percent and 58.6 percent of the world averages. At the current speed of extraction, experts say, the resources will last just 15, 30 and 80 years, respectively. The corresponding world averages are 45, 61 and 230 years.

The situation prompted the country's economic planners to look for alternative energy sources. Renewable energies were high on the wish list. Water power has a relatively long history in China, where 40,000-plus small hydropower facilities aggregate 34 million KW in capacity, the biggest hydropower park in the world.

Given its grave energy security concerns, China is stepping up efforts to develop renewable energies. According to the NDRC-prepared RE Medium- and Long-Term Development Program, renewable energies are expected to account for 16percent of the country's total energy mix by year 2020. Hydropower capacity will reach 300 million KW, wind power 30 million KW, biomass energy 30 million KW, and solar energy 1.8 million KW.

SELG members examined the Program at the April gathering. After making some modifications, it will be submitted to the State Council for final approval, a Xinhua report said in June.

China has three existing laws pertaining to energy issues: the Electricity Law, the Energy Conservation Law, and the Renewable Energy Law. The almost unanimous endorsement of the REL by the National People's Congress, the Chinese legislature, in February 2005, ahead of schedule, caught many people by surprise. The law became effective on 1 January 2006. A dozen or so implementation methods that accompany the law were made public about a month later. Methods for managing a special state fund for renewable energies and measures for giving RE projects discount loans and preferential tax treatment are reportedly being worked out.

Ma Kai, minister in charge of the NDRC, said in July that a focal point of government work for the period 2006-2010 was to enact an Energy Law and revise the Energy Conservation Law.

Relevant government departments vowed to see through the new legislation within two years. The Energy Law will deal with basic and strategic energy development issues in China. It will rely on economic leverage to regulate the energy sector, making sure that extravagant users of energy pay a higher price, and encourage the prospecting and extraction of energy reserves and the development of renewable and new energies, said sources who were closely involved in the drafting work.

Officials in local governments are enthusiastic about promoting RE projects. Their motives vary, though, from securing a lucrative source of government tax revenues, to building up a "green government" image and gaining plaudits for their personal work performance records. So-called "Green GDP" factors now have a considerable bearing on the government assessment of an official's job performance.

Companies, state-owned or private, domestic or foreign, are also eager to embrace RE projects, for reasons similar to those mentioned above, or out of a belief that the energy sector is a gold mine -- if not "is", surely "will be". And for some companies, state-owned enterprises in particular, the government's wishes are another driver. On a number of public occasions this year, NDRC deputy minister Zhang Guobao said a certain proportion of the products of big energy developers would have to come from renewable sources.

A major barrier that has prevented renewable energies from developing faster is the weakness China has shown in independent technology development. To date, most RE equipment or components used in China for wind power, biomass or solar energy, are imported, leading to high costs.

The problem has been acknowledged. The National Medium- and Long-Term (2006-2020) Program Outline for Scientific and Technological Development, released by the government in February, designated "energy" as the No. 1 area that "needs urgent S&T support". The document mapped out a host of government-supported plans covering key fields of study, cutting-edge technologies, big special programs, as well as basic research.

The push for renewable energies is not entirely driven by energy concerns. Environment factors are also critical. China ratified the Kyoto Protocol in May 1998. Although it was not obliged by the pact to meet a specific emission reduction quota, China is making efforts to show that it is a responsible member of the big global family. International cooperation is necessary in addressing problems such as dust storms because, more often than not, the dust that sweeps through Beijing a dozen times each year comes from abroad, said an official with the Beijing Meteorological Bureau.

And China has a promise to keep with the upcoming Olympic Games. In its bid to host the event years ago, Beijing pledged to stage a Green Olympics which would be more environmentally friendly than any previous Games. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is expected to recruit a diverse selection of RE technologies. Its main venue, the Olympic Green, is to have 20percent of its power supplied by wind-sourced electricity.

According to statistics, 38 billion U.S. dollars were invested in RE development worldwide in 2005. China topped the list with a commitment of 6 billion U.S. dollars, which did not include its spending on large hydro projects.

Wind industry sniffs new direction from governments

AAP Newswire

CANBERRA, Sept 12 AAP - The Australian wind energy lobby group believes there are progressive attitudes towards the renewable energy on the Australian scene.

Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind) spokeswoman Dominique La Fontaine today welcomed encouraging signs from the federal government and the South Australian and Victorian governments on the issue.

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell yesterday promised a national code covering wind farms would be developed, following a meeting involving the federal government, the wind energy industry and community groups.

And SA Premier Mike Rann yesterday announced he would move to toughen the party's federal climate change policy at Labor's national convention next year.

SA has 51 per cent of Australia's wind power and 45 per cent of the country's grid-connected solar power.

Ms La Fontaine said the Victorian Renewable Energy Target and South Australia's commitment to renewable energy were progressive policies that would address climate change.

"The federal environment minister's expression of support for wind energy is also an important step," she said in a statement.

She said the round table meeting in Canberra centred on promoting better understanding all round. "The meeting focused on how the industry can best address concerns surrounding wind farm developments," she said.

"The meeting was not about interfering with the responsibility of state governments to adjudicate on planning issues."

Ms La Fontaine said the round table recognised that the approach the wind energy industry was already taking was the right one, and agreed that Auswind's best practice guidelines, independent accreditation scheme and its work on landscape assessment would form the basis of a national code.

"That is a big vote of approval for the industry," she said.

The meeting also gave community representatives a chance to express their view, while hearing details of the industry's continuing efforts to ensure world's best practice in landscape assessment and community consultation," she said.

Democrats: Govt must get realistic about wind farms

AAP Newswire

CANBERRA, Sept 12 AAP - The Australian Democrats have called on the federal government to get realistic about wind farm turbines and not give precedence to those who oppose them purely because they don't like the look of them.

Democrats leader Lyn Allison said she was not surprised to hear there were angry views exchanged at a meeting of wind industry stakeholders yesterday.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the meeting of governments, wind energy industry and community groups over the subject of where to erect wind turbines brought together some deeply divided camps, with some displays of anger and hostility.

The meeting was called with a view to forming a national code of practice for the industry.

"While the Democrats support some sort of wind farm code or industry best practice guidelines to address site selection, environmental issues and community concerns, we would be concerned if individuals who lobby against wind farms because they don't like the look of them are given precedence over the broader need to address climate change," Senator Allison said in a statement.

"Climate change is a serious economic, social and environmental issue for Australia and wind farms play a key role in combating climate change.

"If the government really wants to exclude wind farms from windy coastal sites then it should extend MRET and introduce an emissions trading system that would make wind energy generation viable on less windy sites."

She said it was time to be realistic about wind turbines.

"All around us there are apartment buildings, office towers, bridges, monuments, power stations, and power lines that fill our landscape. Wind farms are no different, and in many respects are less obtrusive," Senator Allison said.

"We should be educating communities of the benefits of wind farms and getting them behind renewable energy projects."

Tuesday 12 September 2006

Victoria leads the way with VRET

Media Release: Auswind,
Tuesday 12 September 2006:

The introduction of the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) legislation into State Parliament marks a red-letter day for Australian efforts to tackle climate change.

At a time when pollution reduction programmes are accelerating worldwide and Australia risks being left behind in the development of low emission and zero emission energy production, the VRET is a big step in the right direction.

Auswind's CEO, Dominique La Fontaine, said VRET would help to ensure that the wind energy industry has a future in Victoria for at least the next decade and would guarantee that Victorians can get a significant portion of the electricity they use from clean energy technologies.

“The VRET is good news for our industry and good news for Victoria, as it guarantees clean, emission-free electricity as well as all the economic benefits that wind energy brings, particularly to regional areas,” said Ms La Fontaine.

“However it is particularly disappointing to see the Victorian Opposition promising to repeal this legislation if it wins office. In the absence of any other plans to promote clean energy this would be a short-sighted and irresponsible move which ignores the contribution wind energy already makes to the state’s economy.”

Ms. La Fontaine said the Federal government had pledged to support the wind energy industry, but its Victorian counterparts have a great deal of catching up to do on that score.

All clean energy sources require investment incentives. The VRET illustrates how governments can effectively promote renewable energy without negatively impacting on the state’s economy.

“This announcement sets an example for other states and the federal government to follow,” she said.

Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world and is already worth $1.7 billion to Australia, but without incentives to invest the industry will be overtaken by the rest of the world as it moves toward a clean energy future.

Round table supports wind industry stance

Media Release: Auswind,
Tuesday 12 September 2006:

The Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind) has welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to wind energy, delivered at yesterday’s wind farm round table in Canberra.

Auswind's CEO, Dominique La Fontaine, said the Victorian Renewable Energy Target and South Australia’s commitment to renewable energy are progressive policies that will address climate change. The Federal Environment Minister’s expression of support for wind energy is also an important step.

Ms. La Fontaine said the round table centred on promoting better understanding all round, “The meeting focused on how the industry can best address concerns surrounding wind farm developments. The meeting was not about interfering with the responsibility of state governments to adjudicate on planning issues.”

“The round table recognised that the approach the wind energy industry is already taking is the right one, and agreed that
Auswind's Best Practice Guidelines, independent accreditation scheme and its work on landscape assessment would form the basis of a national code. That is a big vote of approval for the industry.”

“The meeting also gave community representatives a chance to express their view, while hearing details of the industry’s ongoing efforts to ensure world’s best practice in landscape assessment and community consultation,” she said.

“Our industry is constantly working to ensure that it responds to the community’s expectations, as global concern about climate change increases the need for emission-free electricity production.

“The international focus is now on Australia, with the Global Windpower 2006 conference to be held next week in Adelaide, bringing the biggest names here from the world’s fastest growing energy industry.”

Auswind, in partnership with the Global Wind Energy Council, is hosting this year’s premier international wind energy event, the GLOBAL WINDPOWER 2006 conference in Adelaide from September 18-21.

SA climate plan: Gore Hails Clear Vision

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 1219/2006 Page: 1

FORMER U.S. vice-president Al Gore says South Australia's focus on renewable energy has made the state a world leader in the battle against global warming.

Mr Gore, in Australia to promote An Inconvenient Truth, his controversial documentary on the world's most pressing environmental problem, yesterday praised the State Government's efforts in promoting wind and solar energy as an example the world should follow.

SA has 51 per cent of Australia's wind power and 45 per cent of the country's grid-connected solar power.

In SA, you have probably one of the best examples of any state in the entire world where you see how leadership can make a tremendous difference in promoting renewable sources of energy," he said.

"I travel all over this planet looking at this issue and you should know that SA really does stand out. "I just wish the rest of the world, including my country, was doing a lot of the things that you now have in prospect there."

Mr Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 presidential contest to George W. Bush after being Vice President to Bill Clinton from 1993, has returned to international prominence with the release of An Inconvenient Truth.

He was speaking via video link from Sydney, where the documentary's Australian premiere was held on Sunday night, and his views were revealed yesterday in The Advertiser PM Edition online newspaper, a new afternoon news email from AdelaideNow.

Premier Mike Rann, who said he was delighted with Mr Gore's praise, yesterday announced he would move at Labor's national convention next year to toughen the party's federal climate change policy.

Responding to Mr Gore's comments, Mr Rann told The Advertiser that improving the environment and responsible economic management were not "mutually exclusive". "What we're trying to demonstrate is that, in a small state like South Australia, we can be not just a national leader (in the environment) but a world leader as well," he said.

Federal Environment parliamentary secretary Greg Hunt agreed SA had "great potential in low-emissions energy", pointing to Prime Minister John Howard's announcement late last month that northern Adelaide would be the first "solar city" in a $53 million national trial.

But the Federal Government has rejected Mr Gore's urgings to ratify the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol on climate change, arguing Australia is already substantially reducing emissions without stinging its economy.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane yesterday dismissed Mr Gore's documentary as "entertainment" and said he was visiting Australia "to sell tickets to a movie".

Mr Howard yesterday told Parliament that signing up to Kyoto would be against the national interest.

"I am never going to support something that will result in Australian industry and Australian jobs being exported from Australia to countries like China and Indonesia," he said. But Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said Mr Howard was "in denial" and "pussyfooting" on the issue of climate change, when it was "no longer a matter of serious dispute that we have a problem". Mr Rann said he would urge Labor's national conference to agree to a policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 60 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050 - the same as the target in Britain, New South Wales and SA.

He also will move to double Labor's renewable energy target to 10 per cent of Australia's total electricity generation.

Later this year, Mr Rann will introduce legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050 and boost SA's renewable energy use to 20 per cent of total electricity by 2014.

How SA Is Taking The Green Lead
  • Legislation introduced in June to enforce greenhouse targets to cut emissions by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050- the first state in the nation to do so.
  • Legislation introduced in June to have 20 percent of the states electricity from renewable energy by 2014.
  • SA now has 51 per cent of the nations wind power, and more than 45 percent of the nations grid-connected solar power. M Solar panels installed on the State Governments North Tce institutions, including Parliament House, and the same on 250 schools and the airport.
  • The Million Trees Program aims to produce a series of urban forests, helping to improve the carbon-absorbing capacity of the city's green fringe.
  • New green laws came into force in July that require all new buildings and major renovations to have solar or high-efficiency gas hot water systems.
  • New rebates of up to $400 to plumb rainwater tanks into existing homes.
  • ALL new homes must have plumbed rainwater tanks.
  • In May, new rules were introduced requiring all new houses and major renovations to be five-star energy rated.
  • The Premier is Australia's only Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change.
  • In August, Mr Rann also joined NSW Premier Morris lemma and Victorian Deputy Premier John Thwaites in launching a blueprint for a proposed industry trading scheme designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions Australia-wide.

Monday 11 September 2006

Converters test the ocean's might

Weekend Australian
Saturday 9/9/2006, Page: 6

The sea has the potential to meet more than 10 per cent of the world's power needs, writes Keith Orchison

ANYONE who has been dumped while surfing knows how much energy there is in the sea, and an Australian company is among a number around the world now pursuing the use of ocean waves to generate emissions-free electricity in competition with solar, geothermal and wind resources.

Sydney-based Energetech Australia is in the forefront of international effort pursuing the deployment of a large-scale commercial wave energy converter, with its technology described by the prestigious Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in California as one of the few devices in ocean energy development that has overcome most of its technical challenges.

Tapping the thermal energy of the ocean has been a dream for researchers for more than 200 years, with the first experimental system installed in Cuba in 1930, but the concept has been continuously over-run by fossil-fuelled power for decades and more recently by the advances of wind power.

Today increasing demand for energy around the world, strong rises in fossil fuel costs and the growing urgency of the search to abate greenhouse gas emissions are driving the interest in wave and tidal power as well as other forms of renewable energy. The first wave power production was delivered to an electric grid in Scotland in 2004.

However, the technology faces the risk of cruel seas - storms have wrecked pioneering wave power plants offshore Norway and Britain and damaged another off the Azores islands.

The Energetech plant is one of a number of small-scale commercial ventures being pursued across the globe and the company has just completed its third ocean trial off 'Port Kembla harbour at Wollongong. The company is also investigating development of a $40 million plant at Portland, Victoria, which would generate enough electricity for 30,000 homes or desalinate enough water for more than 50,000 houses.

The company has attracted venture capital of more than $20 million from Australia, the US and Europe and has grant funding from the federal and Victorian governments exceeding $3.3 million.

Energetech's chief financial officer, John Bell, has told media in western Victoria that Portland would be a good site because it has one of the best "wave climates" in Australia.

He explains that the technology works best with waves of between one and three metres, which are forced into a chamber by V-shaped arms, producing a vertical movement of air to drive a turbine powering a generator. The device is suitable for deepwater coastal locations such as harbour breakwaters and rocky headlands and cliffs. It can be deployed as a single unit or strung together in a series, similar in concept to wind farms. It can also be integrated in to the structure of harbour breakwaters.

If the Portland development goes ahead, it will consist of 10 to 15 wave energy units installed one to five kilometres from the shore. Each unit is 20m in length and width.

Energetech is also pursuing potential developments in Canada, the US and Europe.

One of its main competitors in the worldwide race to establish a wave power industry is the Irish company Finavera Renewables, which has recently been awarded $A5 million by the European Commission to install a demonstration plant off the coast of Portugal as the first step in laying out a 100 megawatt system, large enough to power 60,000 houses.

EPRI's research of wave power concepts being pursued in the US and elsewhere have led it to suggest that the generation of electricity from this source "may be economically feasible in the near future". The Palo Alto research institute, which is funded by America's investor-owned utilities, says there are "compelling" reasons to pursue the technology including it being "one of the most environmentally benign ways to generate power". EPRI acids that offshore wave energy offers a way to minimise NIMBY issues that plague most energy infrastructure projects onshore, including renewable activities such as wind farming.

"Wave energy conversion devices have a very low profile and are located far enough away from shore that they generally not visible," it says. "Moreover, wave energy is more predictable than solar and wind energy and the ocean's processes that concentrate wind and solar energy into waves make it easier and cheaper to harvest (than onshore solar systems and wind farms)."

Not the least, wave power has the potential to be big business. Research has revealed that wave energy is a suitable renewable resource, apart from the Australian and western Europe coastlines, in North America, the Pacific islands, Japan, China, South America and Africa. It is estimated that about 20,000km of ocean coastline globally are suitable for harnessing wave power. The International Agency has estimated that it could supply between 10 and 50 per cent of the, world's power needs later this century.

450 years' electricity in hot rocks

Weekend Australian
Saturday 9/9/2006, Page: 2

Cooper Basin has the answer to our future needs. And the big plus: no carbon dioxide, no sulphur dioxide, no nitrous oxides and no particulates.

WHILE a political furore envelopes the possible use of nuclear power in Australia, quiet progress is being made on the "next big thing" in national power supply: mining heat from four to five kilometres below the Cooper Basin.

The biggest plus of all is that the process is emissions free. No carbon dioxide, no sulphur dioxide, no nitrous oxides and no particulates, the major emissions from fossil fuels. And, of course, no long-life nuclear waste, so no legacy to burden future generations.

The Canberra-based centre describes the scale of the hot rock resource as "huge". It estimates that the potential recoverable energy equates to Australia's current electricity consumption for 450 years.

Most immediately the first key steps in developing the country's geothermal potential are being taken by Brisbane-based Geodynamics Limited, which includes the major energy companies Origin and Woodside in its shareholders. The company's development plans in South Australia see it first building a 40 megawatt demonstration plant, then expanding it to 280 MW.

Adrian Williams, Geodynamics CEO, says there is no reason why the geothermal sector cannot be generating 10 per cent of Australia's electricity by 2030, with more than 4000 megawatts of generating capacity. He points to the involvement of 14 companies in geothermal energy exploration in Australia, with 87 exploration licences issued and more than $500 million of work commitments over the next five years.

For comparison, Australia's current largest current power station developments are the black coal-fired Bayswater/Liddell complex of Macquarie Generation in the NSW Hunter Valley, with capacity of 4640 MW and the Loy Yang brown coal-fired complex in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, with capacity of 3085 MW.

If output from the hot rock plants reaches 10 per cent of power consumption by 2030, on the basis of current economic modelling of demand it will provide more than 30,000

gigawatt hours a year by 2030- nearly three times South Australia's present production.

Delivering production at this level would require geothermal investors to outlay about $9 billion (using today's dollar values) in capital.

The centre points out that the hot rocks industry has a suite of advantages to sustain its development. Two are natural: there are massive volumes of very hot rocks that were first identified by the oil and gas industry through Cooper Basin exploration over the past 30 years - and there are large amounts of saline water deep underground to provide the medium to move the rocks' energy to the surface in a closed-loop production system.

Other advantages are technological Geodynamics is using existing oil engineering and drilling techniques, and the conversion of the hot water it will bring to the surface from 4000 to 5000 metres to electricity will rely on "of: the shelf" binary cycle power plant technology that is aircooled and to which the company has licensing rights.

In addition, CIE notes, the industry will not require a large number of people to operate the plants and, critically, because it will not need to purchase fuel, it is not sensitive to the future cost of fuels such as gas and coal.

The cost of power is a major factor in any new development. Australia benefits from some of the world's cheapest electricity because of its giant black coal and brown coal resources. wind power has only gained a foothold in the national market because the federal Government has mandated a large subsidy to be paid by customers, In this area, too, hot dry rock is projected to be competitive with new "clean" coal generation, high efficiency natural gas plants and wind.

Geodynamics points out that it is difficult to compare the cost of geothermal with conventional power because most of the costs of an HDR plant are upfront while fossil fuel or nuclear plants buy their fuel over the life of the installation. However, the company claims economic modelling indicates that a 300MW geothermal plant in the Cooper Basin could produce electricity for $40 per megawatt hour, comparable to natural gas baseload costs and substantially cheaper than other renewable energy sources.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the development lies in building high voltage transmission lines to get the power from the remote desert area to the national electricity market that serves South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland. The resource being explored lies some 500km from the nearest segments of the national power grid.

"But the scale of the resource is such that we need to think about getting the power to Adelaide. Sydney and Brisbane, or even Melbourne," says Williarris. "These, are long distances, but not by world standards. Using high voltage direct current lines, where the transmission losses are quite low, the cost of links is estimated to be about $700 million to $800 million - and the CIE estimates that the value to Australia through extra NEM competition that the lines would enable would be worth some $1.4 billion."

The national advantages in development of geothermal power do not only lie in the electricity to be sent to the key load centres of the market. The centre's study, which was financed by the South Australian Government and Geodyrtamics, points out that the Cooper Basin projects and the transmission infrastructure they will require will provide power over large parts of Australia that would otherwise not be able to access grid-connected supply. "This," the study says,"will allow development of economic activity that would otherwise not be pursued and (also) bring about earlier development of some activities."

The corridor between Moomba and Adelaide has been identified by the South Australian Government as being rich in mineral resources - but the lack of electricity infrastructure is a barrier to medium and small mining operations. Using South Australian government data, the centre estimates that the gold, copper, minerals sands, uranium and zinc operations that might use power generated by the hot dry rock developments could contribute $4.3 billion to the national economy over the next 30 years.

While the Cooper Basin hot dry rock resources will be the main focus of the establishment of the geothermal industry in Australia for years to come, the CIE also points out that there are many places across the continent with similar potential. "The implied potential energy reserves are massive," it says.

The majority of the best resources seem to be located around the border between South Australia and Queensland, but there are also indications of smaller geothermal prospects along the SA/Victoria border, on the NSW Central Coast and near Brisbane. "Exploration of these may provide resources suitable for production of smaller amounts of electricity closer to urban areas," it says.

Last but not least, the creation of a hot dry rock energy industry in Australia opens up prospects for exporting local skills arid knowledge. CIE says hot rock resources are known to exist in Europe, Estonia, India and Brazil. Potential also exists in Asia

"Australia is competing with operators in other countries to become the first to develop this new form of electricity generation. The scale and the expected commercial development of Australia's HFR electricity supply industry mean (it) is well placed to become a leader in the development of a global industry," it comments. "Australia could garner world-class technological expertise through development of the industry."

Industry taps into $12b seam

Weekend Australian
Saturday 9/9/2006, Page: 1

Australia faces a tough battle on environmental concerns over coal use and the rising price of natural gas in its efforts to achieve efficiencies in generating electricity, writes

GENERATING electricity is Australia's most capital intensive industry. Steve Boulton of Babcock and Brown Infrastructure estimates that it takes $6 in investment to generate $1 in revenues.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia - representing more than 45 electricity and downstream gas businesses, employing more than 40,000 people and contributing $12.4 billion to the nation's gross domestic product - says the industry has around $110 billion in assets and requires new investment of more than $30 billion in the next 13 years.

That is a huge challenge for Australia.

Electricity consumption has grown by around 50 per cent in the past 15 years but the level of investment has not kept up.

Until the past decade, electricity generation was generally the responsibility of state governments which had consolidated the industry within state boundaries over a period which pre-dated Federation.

But under the pressure of macro-economic reform and the stimulation of national competition policy developed by the Hawke/Keating Federal Government in the 1990s, the electricity industry has been transformed.

The latest iteration of change is occurring in Queensland where, in a remarkable change of mind, the government has decided to sell off its energy retailing operations.

Queensland already has a unique mix of public and private ownership of its generation assets, a mix that may gradually occur in NSW

and Western Australia, both of which have resisted to a greater or lesser extent fully privatising their government-owned electricity businesses.

That still means Australia has a rather unique mix of private and public ownership structures for its electricity generating sector, which leads to arguments over whether the industry has too few players to produce a truly competitive market.
The mix is continuing to be shaken, with consolidation in generation leading to fewer private sector groups such as AGL and Origin owning the energy chain - from finding the resource and exploiting it right through the value chain to selling it to customers.

That consolidation has also seen the emergence of infrastructure funds, which need to continually acquire operations so that they can service high debt levels through greater revenue from businesses that have a guaranteed income base established by regulators.

Recent enthusiasm for encouraging more gas in Australia's baseload generation and the renewed debate concerning nuclear power are manifestations of one fundamental aspect of power generation in Australia - that more than 75 per cent of the electricity we use comes from coal compared to 14 per cent from natural gas, 8 per cent from renewable sources (mainly hydroelectric, wind power and bioenergy) and I per cent from oil.

According to some calculations Australia is more heavily dependent on coal for electricity than any other developed country, except for Denmark and Greece. Worldwide, coal accounts for just 40 per cent of electricity generation. Considering Australia has some of the world's largest coal reserves, this should secure our electricity generation future for centuries to come - except for the fact that coal-fired electricity is also Australia's biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia is a small contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, but coal produces large quantities of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases.

Large base-load black coal-fired power stations are located in relatively close proximity to the extensive black coalfields in both NSW and Queensland.

brown coal-fired base-load power stations are located in Victoria's Latrobe Valley and near Collie in Western Australia's south-west, though WA has more than half its power generation system capable of using natural gas.

South Australia also relies heavily on subbituminous coal mined at Leigh Creek in the north of the state. The industry is forecast to have a strong average annualised growth rate in the next five years.

Although nuclear power provides 17 per cent of global electricity, Australia has no nuclear power stations.

According to Frank van Schagen from the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Coal in Sustainable Development, options for improved coal-fired-power, generation include coal gasification, oxygenfired combustion and post-combustion capture.

Van Schagen maintains these technologies "will provide opportunities to capture and store carbon dioxide and help reduce the greenhouse impact of coal-burning. It may also be possible for coal-fired power stations to use wind and solar power to supplement, or even replace, some of the coal they burn."

Natural gas is also a fossil fuel, but it produces much less carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than coal. Gas-fired power is easier to turn on and off than coal, making it a valuable source of additional energy during peak periods.

But worldwide, if not yet in Australia, gas has increased in price substantially in recent years. Pressure is mounting for increases in Australia as world prices increase in the wake of oil price movements. This means some in the industry question the economics of future gasfired generation.

Richard Wise, from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, predicts gas will supply 18 per cent of Australia's energy needs by 2020. The key will be to ensure maximum efficiency by using the heat generated as well as the electricity, a concept known as co-generation.

Sustainable energy options, which include some renewable technologies, are gaining strength but are still more expensive than coal and natural gas. These include wind, photovoltaic (solar), geothermal (using hot underground rocks to produce steam that can drive power station turbines) and hydroelectric. Bioenergy sources include landfill gas and bagasse (sugarcane waste) co-generation.

Wise predicts that sustainable energy options will account for one-fifth of our power generation needs by 2020. "Wind, hydroelectric, bioenergy and geothermal power are the most promising longer-term sustainable energy sources for Australia," he says.

Nuclear power has not so far been regarded as a serious option for Australia.

The world's worst nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986, was a severe setback for the image of nuclear power, but 20 years on, the threat of global warming has renewed interest in nuclear power as a proven and clean source of electricity.

Prime Minister John Howard has established a nuclear power taskforce, scheduled to report by the end of the year, to undertake an objective, scientific and comprehensive review into uranium mining, processing and the contribution of nuclear energy in Australia in the longer term. Howard said Australia's energy sector has played a key role in sustained economic growth.

"Australia's ability to reliably access competitively priced power and optimise the value of our energy resources has underpinned our economic prosperity while at the same time providing an effective response to our domestic and international environmental responsibilities," he said in June.

Howard said recent developments in global energy markets had renewed international interest in nuclear energy as a technology that can help meet growing demand for electricity without the fuel and environmental costs associated with oil and gas: "A growing number of environmentalists now recognise that nuclear energy has several other advantages over fossil fuel electricity generation, including significant lower levels of air pollution and greenhouse emissions."

"Nuclear power has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any power generation method," according to John Bartlett from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). "Its potential use should form part of a rational debate on Australia's energy options."

The main criticisms of nuclear power relate to safety concerns such as the potential for terrorist attacks and the generation of longlived radioactive wastes.

Under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the Australian Government has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012 to a level 8 per cent higher than 1990 emissions.

According to the Australian Greenhouse Office, Australia is on track to meet this target.

The CRC for Coal in Sustainable Development has estimated that if Australia were to reduce its emissions to the 1990 level by 2050, coal would account for just 64 per cent of national electricity generation, natural gas 6 per cent and hydroelectricity 4 per cent. Other renewables would need to rise to 26 per cent

The Australian Government has established a $500 million fund to support the commercial demonstration of new technologies for low carbon dioxide emissions. Every dollar must be matched by $2 from the private sector.

The holy grail is developing technology that will reduce substantially the greenhouse gas emissions from coal without dramatically increasing its cost, and thereby increasing the price of electricity to us all.

Investors cash in on energy

Sunday Telegraph
Sunday 10/9/2006, Page: 90

INCREASING demand for energy is generating more investment opportunities in both alternative and traditional energy.

Analysts say oil discoveries and viable energy alternatives potentially offer investors good returns as the world's existing sources diminish.

Oil, coal and gas prices have risen in response to increasing demand, particularly in Asia.

Demand for alterative energy, including ethanol, biodiesel and wind power, is also on the rise, prompting a flurry of investment activity.

Engineering firm MPI Group, which plans a public listing soon, announced last week it would build a new biodiesel plant at Deniliquin for Riverina Biofuels.

The 120,000-tonne capacity plant is the latest in a series of new projects, expanding Australia's annual biodiesel output to 400,000 tonnes.

Western Australia's Sterling Biofuels is also expanding, seeking to raise $35 million from a public float to fund a large biodiesel plant in Malaysia.

Sterling Biofuels group managing director C.R.S. Paragash said the company would target Europe with its product, where legislation will require 5.75 per cent of all fuels to contain biofuels by 2010.

"We believe this level of legislated demand, complemented by our existing contracts for both feedstock and output, puts the company in a very strong position to capitalise on our position in this growing industry," Mr Paragash said.

Wind-power generator Wind Hydrogen Ltd is also planning a float.

It will try to raise $5.4 million to expand its portfolio of farms.

WHL managing director Richard Pritchard said as one of the top windfarm companies around the world, WHL was well-placed to take advantage of growing demand for wind-power energy - an alternative to fossil fuels.

"WHL is well-placed to take advantage of the growing world demand for windpower energy and likely consolidation among smaller wind-farm operators," Mr Pritchard said.

The Australian-based company owns development rights for 27 wind farm projects in Britain, the US and Australia, and is in "advanced discussions" to secure the rights for another 10 projects in Britain, the US and New Zealand.

"We are looking at a number of acquisitions and joint ventures to further extend our project pipeline," Mr Pritchard said.

ABN AMRO Morgans senior analyst Roger Leaning said large traditional energy stocks, such as BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum and Santos, would benefit from continued strong demand.

But several junior explorers and producers, such as Horizon Oil and ARC Energy, also offered good prospects.

It's an inconvenient truth but Perth faces water woes

West Australian
Monday 11/9/2006, Page: 12

WA's agriculture industry could be devastated by the middle of the century and Perth's water crisis would only get worse if climate change was not tackled as a matter of urgency, former US vice-president Al Gore said yesterday.

In Australia to promote his confronting documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Mr Gore, 58, said he was well aware of new statistics showing the State's south to be drying up faster than anywhere else on Earth because of rapid climate change.

He said WA's highly productive grain belt stood to lose a third of its soil moisture within decades, similar to that predicted for the US grain areas, if people continued to pollute the planet with global warming toxins.

His remarks were in response to questions about the Australian Senate's bipartisan rural and regional affairs committee report, released last week, which contained the dismal data on WA's water shortage.

"I'm familiar with those statistics," Mr Gore said. "It's been predicted and now it's happening. "In the US, the grain areas are predicted to lose up to 30 per cent of all the soil moisture within 40 years if we continue with this global warming pollution agriculture would come to a stop.

"The consequences for Australia will be equally devastating. The evaporation of soil moisture is one of the issues that has a particularly harsh effect on Australia. It is already the driest inhabited continent.

"You have crafted this fantastic civilisation here, notwithstanding the meagre supplies of soil moisture, and you've been very ingenious in doing it.

But if we continue to turn the thermostat up on the entire world, one of the places that's affected the most is dry soils because the moisture is pulled out of them. The harsh effect on agriculture is quite severe.

"To take Perth as another example, the availability of drinking water there is getting dangerously low."

Mr Gore said Australia was more at risk than any other nation because of climate extremes already experienced. Those extremes were predicted to get worse if global warming continued unabated. But he said the climate crisis could be solved.

Describing global warming as the most serious crisis the planet had faced, he said the challenge could be met if individuals, industry and governments acknowledged the immediate threat and turned to alternative and renewable energy sources. Referring to John Howard as a friend, Mr Gore said he disagreed with the Prime Minister on the issue.

Last week, Mr Howard questioned how serious a problem climate change was while reiterating his long-held view that Australia could not risk damage to its economy by taxing the coal industry or making energy more expensive.

Mr Gore said Mr Howard should be taken to task for his position.

"If he is sceptical about the science you all should ask him why," he said. "The Australian National Academy of Science is clear on it. Don't they stand for something? Every national academy of science in the industrial world is clear on this, including China."

He also said China and India were ahead of the US and Australia in taking economic advantage of the crisis by investing in solar and wind power.

"This is madness, for us to continue putting 70 million tonnes a day of global warming pollution into the Earth's atmosphere and turning the thermostat up and up," he said.

"The truth about this is inconvenient, especially for the largest polluters the coal industry, the oil industry."

Putting the wind up the resources and energy sectors

Mining Chronicle
September, 2006, Page: 34

YOU COULD be forgiven for thinking that John Cleese has made a comeback as the Senator for Western Australia, the Honourable Ian Campbell, Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Indeed, his recent performances rival Cleese's best performance as the "Minister for Silly Walks" in the famous Monty Python television series. However, all of Senator Campbell's recent gyrations and sideways-stepping has been to no avail, but has certainly engendered great mirth from the media and the Liberal Party's political opponents. However, his antics are not funny at all and reflect an intrinsically unhealthy tendency in resource politics that has given Australia some very bad reviews in the last 10 years.

At a time when Australia desperately needs as many renewable energy developments as possible that are as environmentally friendly as possible, we see the most ridiculous performance by any political portfolio in the Cabinet. In February of this year, Senator Campbell admitted that the Government's own research clearly demonstrated that Australia' greenhouse emissions would increase by 50 per cent by the year 2050.

At that time, when talking about reducing greenhouse emissions, he said, "I think we'll play a bigger part than most countries, because we have very good policies to do that and we also have a very large energy footprint".

Then, in April 2006, Senator Campbell, fulfilling his ministerial duties, vetoed the $220 million Bald Hills wind farm development in South Gippsland, Victoria, on the basis that the windmill's turbines might kill one orange-bellied parrot per year.

This single action endangered far more than one orange-bellied parrot per year, as there were a series of wind farm projects proposed across four states and millions of dollars had already been invested by "green power" companies answering the Federal Government's call for renewable energy developments. wind power Pty Ltd had invested $1.6 million alone on the Bald Hills proposal. A strange call, but perhaps there were some serious environmental considerations here?

It did not take long to work out exactly what were the real considerations in this decision to veto the wind farm. In 2004, the electorate of McMillan, the site for the putative wind farm, was a recently won marginal Liberal seat whose voters were in a serious debate about such a project in the midst of their idyllic surroundings. The local Liberal candidate, David Broadbent, was keen to appease them by canning the wind farm proposal; a mere two days into the election campaign, Senator Campbell stated that the wind farm proposal was a problem. Three days after David Broadbent won the seat, Campbell suspended the development.

Despite the Minister's own departmental advice that this decision could endanger similar coastal developments in four states, Senator Campbell vetoed the wind farm and further exacerbated matters by commissioning ongoing studies in a wild attempt to prove his point. Finally, the Bioses Report in January 2006 seemed to comply with his prerequisites, despite stating that the impact on the parrot population would be "very small". Considered in light of another curious decision made by Senator Campbell regarding a wind farm proposal in Denmark, Western Australia which was also unpopular with local voters, this is ominous. Located in Liberal member Wilson Tuckey's electorate of O'Connor, this proposal was also vetoed by the Honourable Ian Campbell.

We can only be thankful that wind power Pty Ltd had the bottle to challenge the Minister in Federal Court, successfully arguing that nobody could have issued such a ban based on the Bioses Report. The Howard Government smelled disaster and cut a deal with wind power Pty Ltd to drop the court action in favour of a ministerial rethink. The outcome should be interesting.

But the implication that a Minister of the Federal Government would be making decisions on approvals of resource projects on the basis of getting the boys re-elected" sounds the alarm across the entire resources sector. Australian resource companies already demonstrate a strong responsibility to environmental considerations and spend big bucks on rehabilitation and ongoing environmental programs. They don't need to contend with the added burden of political "goosestepping".

On a lighter note, and to quote "Minister Cleese of the Silly Party" while reflecting on Senator Campbell's political future: "It's not pinin'! It's passed on! This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it'd be pushing up the daisies! It's metabolic processes are now history! It's off the twig! It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible! THIS IS AN EXPARROT!" Stay safe.

Turbines provide more than power

Colac Herald
08/09/2006 Page: 7

A South Australian farmer says wind turbines at Mount Gellibrand near Colac will not only provide electricity - they will help keep farm animals cool in summer.

Pat Thiele and her husband Dean have nine turbines on their land and their livestock stand in the towers' shadows to keep out of the sun. The Thieles' turbines are part of the Lake Bonney Wind Farm near Millicent in south-east South Australia.

Mrs Thiele lives one kilometre from the closest turbine and is one of about 10 landowners in stage one of the project. "We have nine turbines in four of our paddocks which go along a ridge," she said.

German energy company Proventum will begin building a $380-million wind farm at Mount Gellibrand next year, comprising 116 turbines 15 kilometres north-east of Colac.

Mrs Thiele said turbines on her land took about three months to erect. "We closed a paddock off for about three months for them to construct three turbines.

"But it didn't really affect us because if we knew they would start building in January we would graze that paddock in July and move the animals to another paddock.

"We weren't worried about it at all, we were more interested in watching it being done. "We have a photo album of the process from start to finish."

Mrs Thiele said she did not understand people's complaints about wind farms. "There were environmentalists who said the farm would be an eyesore, that the turbines would affect people's hearing and that they would kill the birds. But they don't really affect us.

"The only time we can hear them is at night when everything is turned off - but we can hear the sound of the sea more than we can hear them."

Mrs Thiele said she benefited in many ways as a landowner. "There is all the environmental stuff that goes along with it and it is obvious we get rent for their use, which never hurts anyone," she said.

"We had rocky outcrop in the ridge and developers took all the stone out when they built tracks to the mills. "Now we have nice tracks to drive on."

The Lake Bonney Wind Farm, developed by Babcock & Brown Wind Partners, will comprise 99 turbines.

Wind farm info sessions

Portland Observer
08/09/2006, Page: 7

Pacific Hydro will hold information sessions on its powerline routes and turbine locations for its Portland Wind Energy Project next week.

The sessions will be held at the Portland Surf Life Saving Club at Cape Bridgewater on Tuesday. Wednesday. and Thursday.

The sessions will all be from 3pm to 7pm. It follows concerns from Cape Bridgewater residents about powerline routes.

The company will also produce a newsletter for a letterbox drop.

WHL acquires rights for Mount Gellibrand wind farm

AAP Newswire

Wind Hydrogen has bought the rights to Australia's most powerful wind farm .. a week after announcing plans to raise new capital and float on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The renewable energy company says it's acquiring the 232-megawatt Mount Gellibrand project at Colac in Victoria.. for an undisclosed sum from German development group Pro Ventum International GmbH.

The Victorian government approved the project last month.

The Australian-based Wind Hydrogen says there'll be 116 turbines capable of generating enough power to supply 133 thousand homes.

Wind and solar: ready to meet global energy needs?

EurActiv 2000-2005
Thursday 7 September 2006

In Short:

Electricity produced from wind and solar energy could meet a substantially larger chunk of global demand by 2020-2025 if the right policies are put in place, trade associations claim.

Current forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that global energy demand will rise by more than 50% by 2030, with 60% of that increase covered by oil and gas (80% if coal is included).

Under the baseline scenario, the share of renewable energy grows from 8% in 2003 to 9% in 2030 while that of nuclear declines marginally, below renewables (EurActiv 8 Nov. 2005).

Even under its most optimistic scenario, in which energy-importing countries take strong action to cut demand and promote alternative energies, the IEA still forecasts continued heavy world reliance on oil and gas by 2030.

Under this so-called Alternative Policy Scenario, global CO2 emissions would still increase by around 30% by 2030, fuelled in large part by booming demand for oil and gas in Asia and an ever-increasing world population. Under the baseline scenario, CO2 emissions will be 52% higher in 2030 than they are today.


World energy forecasts published on 5 September by GWEC, the global wind industry trade association, predict "a serious shortfall between demand and supply could become evident soon after 2010".

The report, entitled "Plugging the Gap", says the combined oil and gas supply shortfall could reach 10% by 2020 and climb to 18% by 2030.

"Eventually, this gap will be filled by a mix of technologies ranging from renewables, coal and nuclear," says GWEC. But it believes that wind power, as a "safe, carbon-neutral, economic and indigenous energy resource, is the best choice to fill the electricity generation gap".

Whatever the energy mix countries eventually opt for - the balance between oil, gas, nuclear, coal and renewables - one thing seems to be clear: massive investments will be necessary to meet the world's booming energy demands.

In its 2005 World Energy Outlook, the IEA forecasted that $17 trillion investments in infrastructure would be necessary to meet demand by 2030. This would represent around $56 billion investment every year, assuming that fossil fuels continue to account for more than 80% of the energy mix.

But according to GWEC, the IEA's forecasts of world oil and gas reserves are wildly overestimated. "These mainstream energy-outlook studies are based on a questionably optimistic assessment by the US Geological Survey (USGS), which does not appear to align with detailed records of actual worldwide discoveries," it says.

According to GWEC, the "combined gap" in oil and gas "are likely to represent 10% of the primary energy demand in 2020 and 18% by 2030". And at current consumption rates, world coal reserves, which are currently plentiful,"will be exhausted by around the end of the 21st century".


To fill this looming energy gap, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) says wind energy is a better investment since reserves are unlimited, can be produced locally and are pollution-free. In particular, GWEC feels wind energy is particularly well suited to replace gas as a source of electricity. "Market dynamics will end up raising gas prices in a way that will make wind energy cost-competitive," the trade association predicts, because gas carries high transportation costs and, unlike oil, world markets are imperfect.

GWEC says it expects global wind generation capacity to double by 2010 (from 60 gigawatts to 135 GW). But it says the figure could be boosted to 1,000 GW in 2020. "This potential is technically realisable", says GWEC,"if significant policy changes are implemented".

In a report published on 6 September, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace say solar power is "ready to dominate the consumer energy market" and bring electricity to "more than 2 billion people" by 2025. This, Greenpeace said, would come at an annual price of €113 billion, or around twice the cost foreseen under the IEA's 2005 baseline forecast. Greenpeace and EPIA "are urging governments to secure those investments with support programmes" and renewable energy targets for 2015 and 2020.

However, some energy experts doubt whether renewable energies such as wind and solar will ever be able to fill the ever-growing demand for energy, because of a lack of credible alternatives to fossil fuels, particularly in transport.

"Far more radical policy action and technology breakthroughs would be needed to reverse these trends," said the IEA in its 2005 Energy Outlook.

"Whether these [technology breakthroughs] will come in time to avoid an energy crunch depends in part on how high a priority we give energy research and development," write Donald Kennedy and Colin Norman in Science Magazine.

Latest & next steps:
  • 22 September 2006: Commission holds a public hearing on the EU's energy mix (Strategic Energy Review).
  • 10 January 2007: Commission to present Strategic Energy Review analysing advantages and drawbacks of each source of energy, placing it in an external relations context.

Energy minister says no to nuclear power
08 September 2006

The Government today shot down an electricity company's call for New Zealand to seriously consider nuclear power. Energy Minister David Parker said the electricity it produced would be far more expensive than available alternatives.

"And quite apart from that, the Labour government is committed to a nuclear-free policy," he said.

Murray Jackson, chief executive of Genesis, told a climate change conference yesterday that if New Zealand did not "get on board" with nuclear technology, it would not be ready when fusion reactors were available.

He said nuclear power was environmentally superior and was the only new sustainable energy resource so far available. By the time a new plant would have to be built in 20 years' time, technology would have improved.

Mr Parker, who is also responsible for the Government's climate change policy, disagreed on all counts.

"The advice I have is unambiguous – nuclear energy, quite apart from its environmental problems, is far more expensive for New Zealand than our alternatives," he said. "Even if he is right, and I don't think he is, the implication of that would be a very substantial rise in electricity prices."

Mr Parker said nuclear fusion to produce energy was still a dream. "It's not there. Billions of dollars have been spent internationally on fusion research and it's still a nut that hasn't been cracked," he said. "We have lots of choices which are technically feasible and cheaper."

In fusion, atomic nuclei are fused together to release energy, as opposed to fission – the technique used in existing nuclear power plants and atomic bombs – where nuclei are split.

Mr Jackson outlined to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce forum the ways 3000MW of increased generation could be acquired over the next 20 years. His suggestions included 1000MW from a nuclear power plant.

Other options included increased output from wind turbines, hydro, geothermal generation and high-efficiency coal. Mr Jackson said solar and wind power needed high subsidies to be competitive – and the wind blew only 35 per cent of the time.

New Zealand at least needed to maintain a skill base in terms of nuclear technology. "Nearly every developed country is now doing nuclear," he said.

Caricom exploring renewable energy

Trinidad Express
Friday, September 8th 2006

FACED WITH astronomical and quickly skyrocketing energy bills, Caribbean states are exploring 26 renewable energy projects under the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme, Trinidad and Tobago Energy Minister Dr Lenny Saith said yesterday.

Speaking at the Caribbean-Central American Action Regional Trade and Investment Forum at the Hilton Trinidad in St Ann's, Saith was revelatory.

"These projects comprise nine wind energy, four solar energy, three hydro power, five geothermal energy and five solid biomass.

"Progress in these projects is however challenged by prohibitive financing costs, totaling some US$414 million.

"To this end, Caricom is currently developing a dedicated investment vehicle called the Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (CREF), which will provide equity and debt financing to eligible projects."

Chairman of Caribbean Energy Specialists, Trevor Boopsingh, noted that energy security for most of the small island importing nations often means price stability, "especially when import prices for energy are rising as fast as they have risen in the past three years".

Solar power can be pricey

Toronto Star
Sep. 7, 2006

If solar energy can run everything from parking meters to pay phones and spacecraft to car battery chargers, why can't it power your home? And while we're at it, why can't we all harness the wind as an energy source? It's free, too.

The reality is that renewable energy sources work but are among the most expensive forms of power on the market today when the cost of buying and installing the equipment is factored in.

Still, solar and wind power are being used successfully every day: The City of Toronto has hundreds of solar-powered parking meters and bus shelters that light up at night from the sun collected during the day. And the giant turbine at the Ex reminds us wind is a big part of the future.

Simply described, wind turbines gather blowing air, which pushes propeller-type blades that turn a shaft wrapped in copper wire and suspended in a magnetic field to excite electrons and thus create electricity.

While the wind is free, the necessary turbines and related accessories are far from it.
This spring Canadian Tire launched a line of wind turbines and solar panels aimed at those who don't have hydro lines. Wind turbines start at $800 for a 400-watt model and go up to $3,000 for a 950-watt version, which features a 2.2-metre propeller and must be mounted at least nine metres off the ground. The retailer also has 80- and 120-watt photovoltaic solar panels, which can be combined and mounted on roofs.

"They're intended for the off-grid user — cottages and farms," says Greg Lobb, a manager specializing in energy at Canadian Tire. For now, electricity users are scared away from new energy technologies because of the high price to buy wind turbines, solar panels and related equipment when the cost of conventional power is so comparatively low in North America. People are slow to embrace new and developing technologies, especially if they're seen as unwieldy.

The wind turbines or solar panels themselves represent only about half the initial investment if you want to make use of these alternative energy sources. You'll also need a system of batteries to store power, a converter to harness 12-volt battery power at 120 volts and, if you're on the grid, technology to know when to draw power and when to run on just the in-house generators. And to take advantage of the Ontario government's pledge to buy solar power at a whopping 42 cents a kilowatt-hour you'll need a special meter.

Such systems are aimed at those who have no other accessible power source, where it is too pricey to bring in a power line. While thermal solar using panels to heat up potable water for pools, showers or laundry is somewhat popular, photovoltaic, which converts sunlight into electricity, has not caught on in the same way, says Rob McMonagle, executive director of the Canadian Solar Industries Association. There are a number of different technologies that convert sunlight into electricity. The most common uses a silicon semi-conductor, which releases electrons when the sun strikes it.

While the sun can create up to 1,000 watts of energy per square metre, most photovoltaic cells today can convert only up to 20 per cent of it to power.

Live off the grid with wind power But 'negawatts' should be home's first priority

CanWest News Service
Thursday, September 07, 2006

CALGARY - We may call it wind power, but in truth it all comes from solar energy.

"Wind is created by the heating of the Earth in different locations and different amounts, which causes bodies of air to shift around," says Sean Whittaker, director of policy and technical issues at the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

With turbines we tap into wind's energy. "Basically, the air passes over the blades of the turbine and creates lift, [which] causes a rotation," Mr. Whittaker says. "It's that rotation that you run through a generator that creates electricity."

Turbines come in two configurations: horizontal axis, which are usually tower-mounted with the blades' axle running at right angles to the tower; and vertical axis, which resemble eggbeaters. Horizontal axis turbines dominate the market.

In Practice

First, you need average wind speeds of at least six metres per second. Then you need to get the turbine into the wind. "The higher the turbine, the higher the wind speed, with less turbulence -- so the turbines can extract more power from the wind," says David Kelly of Calgary-based Sedmek Inc., which specializes in renewable energy.

Experts recommend towers be at least 10 metres above the highest structure within 100 metres, and one to two tower-heights away from occupied structures. "Putting a wind turbine on a tower that's too short is like putting a solar panel in the shade," Mr. Whittaker says.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association has developed guidelines that will help you find a site for your wind turbine and deal with local planning regulations. And Mr. Whittaker strongly urges consulting with neighbours and local municipalities, which may, for example, have height restrictions.

Common concerns include safety, noise and esthetics. Experts say birds occasionally fly into turbines, but statistically, a house cat is more of a risk to birds than a turbine.

Most modern small wind turbines make little noise, Mr. Whittaker says, but it's an important thing to consider, along with looks. "In terms of esthetics ... beauty is in the eye of the beholder," he says. "That's really where it's important to consult with the neighbours."

When it comes to maintenance, Mr. Kelly recommends an annual checkup on items such as blades and bearings.

Pros And Cons

Mr. Whittaker lists energy independence and price stability as key advantages.

"The third pro is that there are no adverse impacts on the environment from wind generation," he says. "This is becoming an increasingly important factor for a number of Canadians."

The high capital cost works against wind turbines, as does their rarity, which can make getting advice a challenge.

Dollars And Cents

The Canadian Wind Energy Association's Web site offers a cost estimator that uses your postal code and electricity demand to calculate the ballpark cost of a wind system.

A one-kilowatt system, Mr. Whittaker says, typically costs $6,000 to $7,000. If you're in a windy location, it could provide 15% to 20% of your home's electricity needs. "The second step is to look at the location. It can't be emphasized enough that it's cheaper to save a kilowatt than to make one," Mr. Whittaker says.

Mr. Kelly agrees conservation comes first. "The cheapest watts you can produce are the 'negawatts' -- the watts you don't use," he says. It's much easier to buy an energy-efficient washing machine than it is to install a renewable energy source, Mr. Kelly says.

"Economically, if you are a substantial dollar amount away from a power line, wind power can make sense," he says. "A five-kilowatt turbine would run a typical house in reasonably windy conditions, if you were careful."

He estimates a one- to five-kW turbine costs $3,000 to $20,000, plus the tower and system equipment.

Need To Know

Just outside Calgary's city limits, Terry Willard's home is powered by a hybrid system that includes 1.4 kW of wind from two turbines and one kW of solar power. Sitting in his backyard on a breezy morning, the nearby turbine sounds like a bird's chatter.

"We haven't been on the grid since the first of March," Mr. Willard says. During the less sunny winter months, the utility grid would provide the family with backup power.

When he began switching to renewable energy in 1998, Mr. Willard's aim was to ensure against any problems arising from Y2K. But as electricity prices increased, he's seen wind power gain economic ground.

He's quick to add that his lifestyle doesn't involve going without the usual household items, and his family doesn't necessarily practice energy conservation. But the system provides enough electricity between March and November to take them off the energy grid.

"I'm not sacrificing a thing -- that's not part of my philosophy," Mr. Willard says. "The biggest thing is that you don't have to compromise if you don't want to."