Friday 29 May 2009

Geodynamics eyes data centre option
May 27, 2009

GeoDynamics is investigating the possibility of co-locating a communications and storage data centre with its proposed commercial demonstration plant in the state's far north. The geothermal explorer has engaged data centre specialist consultant Strategic Directions Group to undertake a detailed feasibility study of the concept.

In preparing the business case for investment in the CDP, GeoDynamics is looking at supplying electricity from the CDP to co-located consumers. It is one of several options the company has identified.., with communications links into the existing national networks, GeoDynamics managing director Gerry Grove-White said.

GeoDynamics investor relations and public relations manager Jane Lowe said: "A data centre was not part of the earlier plans at the site, but the concept of providing power to a local project is an option.'' "It all depends on the feasibility study, which has begun. However, there is no time-frame for when it will be completed.''

The commercial demonstration plant is the second stage of GeoDynamics three-stage business plan in the Cooper Basin region. The hot rocks explorer successfully proved its ability to extract heat from hydraulically stimulated hot fractured rock to create power last month, completing Stage 1.

It is also close to commissioning its 1MW pilot plant to supply power to Innamincka after bringing a well blowout under control earlier this month. The CDP will be ideally placed to provide long term electricity supply contracts at competitive prices to the data centre, which is considered to be an intensive consumer of electricity.

The detailed feasibility study will include identifying potential partners and selecting a preferred business model. Communications infrastructure costs (laying underground optical fibre) would be considerably lower than high voltage transmission costs.

The Queensland-based Strategic Directions Group specialises in the development of state of the art data centres, and were the design authority for the Polaris Data Centre project in Springfield, Queensland. GeoDynamics plans to build Australia's first commercial-scale geothermal power plant and have it operating by 2012.

Proceed with caution to a greener future
May 25, 2009

THERE is strong evidence today that, properly managed, dealing with climate change does not necessarily mean the one-sided loss of thousands of jobs.

A Climate Institute Australia study shows the potential for 26,000 jobs to be created in renewable energy such as wind energy, solar energy, hot-rocks, wave power and bioenergy. Interestingly, this number is similar to the potential job losses suggested by the Minerals Council of Australia, which said 24,000 mining jobs could be lost over the next 10 years. This shows that the debate can look to the future from an assertive point of view, not simply focusing at the "half empty" glass.

Green energy already makes a significant contribution to local communities in SA, including Snowtown, which hopes to enjoy a windfarm-led recovery. Across the state, alternative energy projects are proliferating, such as the 100-job windfarm project to be created near Jamestown later this year.

Green cars are another case in point, providing many opportunities for the manufacturing sector as consumers demand a product which saves them money but is also good for the environment.

This does not mean we stumble blindly into a carbon neutral future for the sake of it. The opening of the Prominent Hill mine yesterday is further evidence that South Australia's economy, in the short term at least, is reliant upon industries which are not necessarily considered friendly to the environment.

What is needed is a planned, cautious, yet optimistic approach to take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves, while accepting that some carbon polluting industries need to continue in the nation's economic interest.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has learnt this lesson, as evidenced by the Federal Government's pragmatic approach to delaying the national emissions trading scheme. The new approach is yet to pass the Parliament. But even if the Opposition and minor parties go ahead with threats to delay their position - and therefore Senate approval on the scheme - until after the global climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December, little may have been lost.

There is much to be lost by rushing into decisions which could put all our proverbial eggs into one future option.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Tidal power on the agenda
May 26 2009

FRESH research produced in Liverpool has identified the River Mersey as an ideal location to generate wave power. Engineers at the University of Liverpool and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory claim that building estuary barrages in the North West could provide more than 5% of the UK's electricity.

A regional tidal energy group involving Port of Liverpool owner Peel and the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) is already involved in studies to determine exactly what type of scheme would be most suitable. Ideas so far looked at include a barrage, giant water wheel or a fence and gate system.

The university's new study determined that four estuary barrages, across the Solway Firth, Morecambe Bay and the Mersey and Dee estuaries, could be capable of meeting approximately half of the North West region's electricity needs. Funded by the NWDA, the team investigated different types of tidal power, including barrages - which run from one bank of an estuary to another and guide water flow through sluices and turbines - using advanced two-dimensional computational modelling.

They found that the most effective mode of generating electricity was 'ebb generation', which involves collecting water as the tide comes in and releasing the water back through turbines once the tide has gone out. The barrages would provide substantial sea defence, as well as flood alleviation, by draining the estuary following heavy rainstorms. Electricity generation could also help to achieve the UK's CO2 emission reduction targets.

Professor Richard Burrows, from the Maritime Environmental and Water Systems Research Group, in the University's Department of Engineering, said: "With concerns mounting over the UK's future energy provision, it will soon become paramount that all sources of renewable energy are fully developed. "Unlike the wind, tides are absolutely predictable. The geographical location of the UK, and the seas that surround it, provide a great platform for marine renewable sources.

"The best places to harness tidal power at meaningful scales are areas with a high tidal range such as estuaries. Tidal barrages would alter the natural motion of an estuary's flow as the sea level changes, usually by holding back the water at high tide and then releasing it when the tide has subsided.

"This water level difference across the barrage is sufficient to power turbines for up to 11 hours a day, and, in terms of the four North West barrages, the energy extracted could equate to 5% of the UK's electricity generation needs." Joe Flanagan, head of energy and environmental technologies at the NWDA said: "The regional development agency is pleased to have supported this project, which has provided an important stimulus to the concept of tidal power in England's North West.

"There are a variety of groups and individuals promoting a number of schemes in the region, which have now been brought together under the Northwest Tidal Energy Group. "Building on the work of the Liverpool team, I expect that a number of more detailed feasibility studies of individual schemes will be undertaken in the near future. "Although most of the focus for tidal energy has been in the Severn estuary I would welcome the UK's first major tidal scheme here in the North West."

Monday 25 May 2009

CCX leads doubling of voluntary market volumes – report
London, 21 May

Voluntary carbon markets doubled in size and value in 2008, consistent with the trend in 2007 and in line with earlier predictions, according to a report released yesterday.

Around 123 million voluntary carbon credits - each equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide - were traded last year, valued at $708 million, says the State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2009 report from NGO Ecosystem Marketplace and analysts New Carbon Finance. This compares with 65 million tonnes (Mt) traded, worth $331 million, in 2007. The average price of credits was $7.34/t in 2008, up 20% on the previous year.

In a break from previous years, growth in volume traded on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) - a voluntary but legally binding market for greenhouse gas emission credits - overtook growth in the over-the-counter (OTC) markets. According to the report, CCX volumes tripled to 69.2 Mt, while OTC volumes rose 26% to 54 Mt.

CCX benefitted hugely from the US political situation as volumes - and prices - surged around Super Tuesday on the 5 February 2008, when it emerged that the leading presidential nominees all backed the use of cap-and-trade to control greenhouse gas emissions. Draft cap-and-trade legislation in Congress was also supportive of CCX volumes, the report says. However, since OTC credits sold for an average 66% premium over CCX credits, the value in the OTC markets was higher - $397 million compared with $307 million.

"Over the past three years, we have witnessed this market grow rapidly in volume and maturity," said Katherine Hamilton, managing director of Ecosystem Marketplace and co-author of the report. "The 2008 markets saw further establishment of offset standards and the initial integration of registries, while continuing to serve as an incubation space for project types not currently accepted in the Kyoto markets."

Just 29% of voluntary carbon transactions were tracked in a third-party registry - a small decline on the 31% tracked in 2007. The report's authors expect "registry usage to increase substantially going forward", particularly since the Voluntary Carbon Standard, which captured almost half of credits verified to a third-party standard in 2008, only launched its registry in March this year.

Energy chiefs bullish on renewable support
London, 21 May

Senior executives in the energy industry predict that subsidies for renewable energy will increase during the next year, despite economic troubles that have plagued the globe, according to a KPMG mergers and acquisitions (M&A) report. 63% of the 200 executives interviewed expected a growth in subsidies, compared to 37% in last year's survey. Andy Cox, energy partner at KPMG in London, said the increase was attributable to US support of green projects.

"US political announcements on supporting green initiatives have bolstered other international commitments, which in turn have had a profound effect on the global energy industry," Cox said. The report from consulting and accounting firm KPMG also notes that the nature of M&A activity in renewable energy has changed significantly.

"The recession has changed the deal-making landscape dramatically," Cox said, "with the key beneficiaries seemingly being larger utilities and power companies, who are well placed to take advantage of any opportunistic disposals." KPMG said that investors are switching their attention to productive operating assets, at the expense of undeveloped ones. Executives are now focusing on deals considered lower risk, and the number of direct asset acquisitions has become rare, after nearly doubling from 2007 to 2008.

Cox said that the size of deals would also likely change. "The age of the multi-billion dollar deal seems to be at an end, at least in the short term," Cox said. Of those surveyed, 49% believe that the volume of deals in excess of $1 billion will decrease, and only 24% of companies expect to invest more than $100 million in renewables M&A in the next 12 months, compared to 39% last year. 58% of respondents said that their companies would spend less than $50 million this year.

The report also shows that 42% of the executives intend to invest in the US, while 24%% were considering India, 22% China and 21% Canada. KPMG said that economic stimulus spending aimed at the renewable energy sector in the US and China was attracting attention. "The United States is starting to look more attractive to foreign investors with stable government stimulus creating the potential for a more profitable deal environment," Cox said.

In a further show of optimism, 44% of the respondents think the Copenhagen climate change talks in December will culminate with a significant breakthrough - leading to increased investment - while just 18% disagree. In all, 78% of the executives interviewed believe that renewable energy projects are still economically viable, despite collapsing fossil fuel and commodity prices and the credit crisis, Cox said.

The 200 senior executives surveyed are involved in power generating businesses, renewable energy suppliers, energy distributors, oil and gas majors, and banks from across the global energy industry. Most respondents were from Europe (32%), North America (30%) and Asia-Pacific (26%), with the remainder from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.