Thursday 16 July 2009

Wind farm powers on ahead of schedule

Canberra Times
Tuesday 14/7/2009 Page: 2

The windfarm at Bungendore has started generating electricity at least three weeks ahead of schedule. Turbines at the Capital Wind Farm began producing energy this month with 16 of the farm's 67 turbines now commissioned. Spokesman David Griffin said the windfarm was expected to be fully operational from September.

"It's going to be a relatively slow process, we hoped on average that we would commission two or three turbines a day, so we're slowly building tip," he said. "There's a fairly long commissioning process they've got to go through. Each turbine has to go through a series of individual tests to make sure it's operating correctly and the like."

The project drew objections from residents in Bungendore and the surrounding area when it was first mooted, but has support from local business and Palerang Shire mayor Ian Marjason.

The windfarm's white turbines have a blade sweep of up to 124m above the ground and can be seen from the Federal Highway across the Lake George plain. Each turbine can produce up to 2.1 MWs of electricity and the entire farm's capacity stands at 147 MWs. The $370 million windfarm will supply electricity to Sydney Water to power a desalination plant.

Mr Griffin said surplus electricity would be sold to the national energy market. He said while there were some noise complaints from neighbouring residents during early construction, there had been no complaints recently. The windfarm cannot create noise louder than 35 decibels at a neighbouring house, which Mr Griffin described as imperceptible. If background noise is higher than 35 decibels then the windfarm cannot be more than 5 decibels louder than the background.

"We are very conservative in planning the windfarm so it doesn't have a noise impact because the implications of that, if we fail to do that, it's a very difficult task to rectify that, and expensive. So we want to get it right the first tune," he said.

$100m solar hub for Canberra attracts 18 bids

Canberra Times
Tuesday 14/7/2009 Page: 2

The ACT Government has received 18 international, national and local expressions of interest for a $100 million-plus solar farm. The Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Simon Corbell, said he was delighted by the strong response which vindicated the Government's policies to establish Canberra as the solar capital of Australia.

He said his department would assess the bids and invite short-listed proponents to submit more detailed proposals from which a decision would be made in September. The solar farm could take up as much as 100ha of land and will be required to provide proven technology to deliver at least 30 MWs generating capacity, capable of powering 10,000 homes.

Proponents have nominated possible sites and the Government has consulted on two, at Kowen Forest and Ingledene, a former pine plantation south of Tharwa, while Actew Corporation has suggested land at Williamsdale, south of Canberra. The Greens business and economic development spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur said the Government had clearly learned its lesson on community consultation from the gas-fired data centre project and started early consultations.

She said a private group was applying for a change of use of land at West Macgregor for a solar farm. The Greens sought an agreement on funding and timing for the solar farm as part of its agreement to allow the ALP to retrain in office. Among proponents is ActewAGL, and while the Government is a shareholder of the utility, Mr Corbell said this would not stop it from choosing the successful bidder.

Mr Corbel] said the Government did not directly control ActewAGL and had strict probity guidelines provided by an independent adviser, the Government Solicitor. Mr Corbel] said the Government's $30 million contribution to the solar faun could be a direct financial grant, land or assistance such as commitment to purchase power.

Wind blows right way without B&B

Monday 13/7/2009 Page: 21

AFTER a hard-fought battle to sever ties with collapsed investment bank Babcock and Brown, there is more than a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for Miles George, the boss of Infigen Energy the recently renamed B&B Wind Partners. Next month the Rudd government is expected to pass new legislation on renewable energy targets that will require electricity retailers to source 20% of their power from renewable energy generators by 2022.

This could be a double benefit for Infigen Energy the biggest windfarm company in the country and sixth biggest in the US. First, the company will shoot to prominence as investors look to park their money in a significant supplier of wind energy, which, advocates claim, is the cheapest and cleanest alternative energy source. Second, Infigen Energy may become an attractive takeover target as energy players such as Origin Energy and AGL, which already own wind farms, look to expand their operations.

Mr George is confident legislation will get through the Senate, saying there is "strong bipartisan support" for greater use of renewable energy. "The fourfold increase in the use of renewable energy such as wind energy is a very attractive prospect for the company," he said. He smiled at the thought that Infigen Energy might become a takeover target. "We are not averse to being taken over by another company," he said.

An engineer by training, Mr George has been associated with renewable energy investments for a long time. He joined B&B's infrastructure and project finance division in 1997. "To give B&B credit, it invested in wind farms in 1999 when there was very little interest in the industry and made some very good acquisitions," he said.

But when the debt-ridden B&B empire started to crumble last year because of the global financial crisis, Mr George knew he had to cut the umbilical cord. Infigen Energy's two biggest London-based shareholders 15% stakeholder Child Investment Fund and 13% investor Kairos, another fund manager lobbied actively for the company to part ways with B&B. Over the past eight months Mr George has been methodically cutting all remaining ties.

Infigen Energy bought out the management rights and development pipeline from B&B. Two B&B directors, Warren Murphy and Peter Hotbauer, have resigned from Infigen Energy's board and B&B's 10% stake in the company has been sold. Three weeks ago, Infigen Energy vacated B&B's plush Chifley Towers offices to more modest premises in Sydney's Pitt Street. The past year has been a gruelling and traumatic experience for Mr George but he said it had been worth it.

Today he can focus on Infigen Energy's core business of managing the company's 39 winds farms, including five in Australia, 18 in the US, 12 in Germany and six in France. Infigen Energy plans to develop more. Before the middle of next year, he hopes to sell down Infigen Energy's European assets to concentrate on Australia and the US. Last week, Deutsche Bank resumed coverage of the company with a "buy" rating on the stock.

Analyst John Hiijee said: "We continue to favour the wind energy space (because of) an increased focus on lowcarbon electricity generation coupled with wind's current dominant position as the most economically viable renewable energy source. With a global portfolio of wind farms, Infigen Energy is well placed to leverage this theme." However, Deutsche has some reservations about the company's 75% gearing. "One of Infigen Energy's key priorities for management would be to further deleverage the balance sheet," Mr Hiijee said in a note to clients.

Mr George said the company had $300 million of uncommitted cash on its balance sheet. While it had debt of $1.6 billion, the sale of its European assets over the next 12 months would help reduce the company's gearing to about 60%. "About 80% of our revenue is contracted to a wide range of utilities companies. We have high earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) margins to sales of about 80%," Mr George said.

Our net operating cashflows are very predictable. Our banks are very comfortable with our level of gearing and we have no refinancing until 2022." Infigen Energy's shares rose 3c to close at $1.10 last Friday. Their 12-month low is 52c.

Power cuts loom as financing fails

Monday 13/7/2009 Page: 1

ELECTRICITY generators are cutting back major maintenance work, raising the risk of California-style power brownouts, because of uncertainty caused by the federal government's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

Victorian generator TRUEnergy's managing director Richard Mclndoe said yesterday that with $950 million of debt to be refinanced this year and banks wary of the impact of the CPRS on the industry, the company had decided it could not justify the cost of major maintenance.

Mr Mclndoe said the company had cancelled work at its Yallourn coal-fired power station in Victoria's Latrobe Valley this year, saving $100m, and other generators were also cutting back. "We won't be doing any major overhaul this year," he told The Australian. TRUEnergy supplies gas and electricity to 1.1 million homes in Victoria, South Australia and NSW.

Mr Mclndoe warned the cutting back of maintenance budgets meant there was an increased risk of under-investment in electricity generation, which led to the California power crisis of 2000-01. "You had unsound policy there that led to underinvestment. These are long lead-time events and the longer you continue in this situation, the higher the likelihood of serious supply interruption."

He said uncertainty over the final form of the CPRS the bill is delayed in the Senate and the start date has been postponed until 2011 was also increasing market volatility, which made it harder to sell long-term electricity supply contracts. One of the big four domestic banks was already refusing to lend to coal-fired generators, and international players looked on Australia as a sovereign risk.

Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Brad Page said there was always an increased risk of "less reliable supply" when generators cut back on routine maintenance. "It doesn't take a lot for one of these plants to have an unanticipated failure," he said. He added that because of the national electricity grid, supply interruptions in Victoria could cascade and cause outages in other states. He noted that a power failure at a NSW Hunter Valley substation last week cut power across five states.

The ESAA warns that the government is not giving the industry enough help to adapt to the CPRS and remain viable. It wants a similar deal to the 15 to 20-year commitment to support that electricity suppliers in the US and Europe have been given. The government had offered what amounted to $3.5 billion in support when the industry needed $20 billion to survive the CPRS in its current form.

The whole thing is a recipe for financial stress in the coal-fired generation sector," Mr Page said. Victoria is most affected by the CPRS because 90% of its supply is generated from highly polluting brown coal. A spokesman for the Business Council of Australia said the treatment of the coal and electricity industries under the CPRS remained one of the areas where it had outstanding issues with the government. "Getting the detail right means ensuring the scheme doesn't reduce the competitiveness of Australian industry."

The council wants the CPRS bills passed by the end of the year so businesses can begin planning for the scheme's introduction. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said yesterday the government should continue to move forward with action on reducing carbon emissions, despite Kevin Rudd's admission last Friday he held little hope that the UN's climate change conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to a global agreement on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate's right for more energy-efficient homes

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 12/7/2009 Page: 61

THERE's plenty of hot air but little action when it comes to designing energy-efficient homes. A survey by Think Brick Australia, the industry body representing clay brick and paving manufacturers, found that seven in 10 Queensland homeowners believed that energy efficiency was either not relevant or only a minor consideration when purchasing their home.

And while 83% of Queenslanders wanted to make their homes more energy efficient, the most common solutions to being too hot or too cold were to install energy-consuming airconditioners or heaters. Only a small minority of homeowners said they had adopted environmental sustainable design strategies to help keep their home cool, such as installing shading, planting trees or investing in window coverings.

To help builders, architects and homeowners create more environmentally sustainable homes, Think Brick Australia has created the Designing for Climate website at The website provides details on climate conditions around Queensland and suggestions on how house design can help reduce the need for heaters and airconditioners.

Environmental architect Tone Wheeler said homeowners needed to change their attitudes. "As Australia continues to experience more extreme weather patterns meaning longer, hotter summers, more severe storms and ongoing drought conditions it is bewildering that energy-efficient house design is not at the forefront of Australians minds," he said. "And the key to energy efficiency is designing the home to fit the climate."

Brisbane inventor powers on with wave energy machine
July 14, 2009

A 30-metre-long floating wave power generator was towed out to Moreton Bay on Monday for the start of a six-month trial. The "Nautilus" prototype, designed by Brisbane inventor Ivan Voropaev and built with Queensland Government support, was lowered into the Brisbane River during a launch event at Murarrie last month. The device uses waves to push air between chambers to drive a turbine.

The makers were hoping to tow it to a spot about five kilometres east of Nudgee Beach late last month to test the air flow in the $200,000 prototype, but they had to wait for calm conditions to take it out to sea. Advanced Wave Power director Gary Cooper said they had been on standby for the past week for still conditions.

The tests, which involve a plastic prototype capable of generating only 300 watts of power each hour, could lead to the development of bigger wave-power stations suited to small coastal and island communities in the future. Mr Voropaev said bigger wave power generators, deployed where waves were stronger, would generate much more power.

Solar power plants planned for Sahara
July 12 2009

Around a dozen companies are set to launch a renewable energy initiative on Monday that its backers claim could within a decade provide Europeans with electricity generated from the Sahara – at a cost of €400bn ($557bn).

Munich Re, the German insurer, Deutsche Bank, utilities RWE and E.ON and industrial conglomerate Siemens are among the bluechip names that will form a company to explore the technical and geopolitical challenges of peppering the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East with solar mirrors.

By joining together hundreds of solar thermal power plants and wind farms with high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission cables under the Mediterranean sea, the founders of the Desertec Foundation Industrial Initiative hope one day to supply 15 per cent of Europe's electricity needs.

Concentrating solar energy plants use the sun's heat to generate electricity. Hundreds of mirrors focus the sun's rays on to a receiver containing a heat transfer fluid, such as oil. This heat energy is used to produce steam which drives a turbine, much like in a traditional power station. Unlike photovoltaic solar cells, CSP plants are able to generate electricity at night or on cloudy days, by storing the heat they produce.

Compared by Wulf Bernotat, chief executive of E.ON, with the challenge of putting a man on the moon, the Desertec Foundation project would require the creation of a €45bn electricity super-grid covering Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

A study by the German Aerospace Centre estimated the total cost of the project at €395bn. Although feted in the German media, Desertec Foundation is not without its detractors, who see it is an expensive flight of fancy, first cooked up by ardent professors and political idealists, and now embraced by corporate spin.

However, the initiative has already won an army of powerful supporters, including Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, who laud its potential to cut greenhouse gases. Although companies joining the consortium acknowledge the project's complexity, they insist the technology is ready to implement it. Concentrating solar energy plants have been used in California since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, HVDC cables are already capable of transporting power over hundreds of kilometres without large efficiency losses. "The [Desertec Foundation] project has been on the drawing board for 30 years and now for the first time it has become technically feasible," said Wolfgang Dehen, chief executive of Siemens Energy.

Power companies are keen to be associated with the project but have also stressed the practical difficulties involved. On a recent visit to the UK to talk about E.ON's investments in low-carbon energy, which are principally in wind energy, Frank Mastiaux, chief executive of E.ON's climate and renewables division, warned that the time horizon of such projects was "very long".

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Carnegie waves at Victoria
July 13, 2009

LISTED wave energy company Carnegie Corporation says it may choose a site off the Victorian coast to build a $300 million demonstration plant. Carnegie Corporation managing director Michael Ottaviano held talks with the Victorian Government late last week in a bid to secure a seabed licence for the 50MW plant. Mr Ottaviano said his Perth-based company was evaluating five sites around southern Australia, but three which looked the most promising were near Portland, Warrnambool and Phillip Island.

Earlier this year, Carnegie Corporation signed a $250 million project financing deal with banking giant Investec. If the company wins one of the grants of up to $100 million the Federal Government is offering for renewable energy projects, then Investec will provide the remaining finance to build the plant. The wave energy technology, named CETO after a Greek sea goddess, involves anchoring to the ocean floor a 3m pipe with a floating buoy that activates a piston-like action as it moves with the waves. The process causes seawater to be pumped ashore at high pressure and into a turbine to generate electricity.

Rival designs race to harness ocean energy
10 July 2009

A bout of gawky prototypes have taken to the water for the first time in recent weeks, signalling a new assault on a decades-old problem: how to generate power from the oceans.

While most wind turbines look much the same, the contest to tap that power is more like wacky races than Formula 1. A suite of varied designs are under development in an attempt to work out the most efficient way to generate juice in the harsh chemical and physical environment of the waves and tides.

Extreme environment
Dedicated research into renewable energy at sea truly began during the oil crisis of the 1970s. But progress towards harnessing the estimated 1 million GW-hours of globally available ocean power has been slow, according to the World Energy Council.

Pelamis, the world's first commercial wave "farm" utilises three 150-metre-long jointed steel structures that flex to drive hydraulic generators and produce 750 kWs of power each. Perhaps surprisingly, this renewable-power milestone off the north coast of Portugal only began operations only last year. Now, though, a suite of rivals are hard on its tail.

Sea snake
One even looks similar. The Anaconda, designed by UK firm Checkmate Seaenergy, is a giant snake-like device made of rubber rather than steel. Waves passing over the water-filled tube squeeze it and generate a "bulge wave" inside that spins a generator as it reaches the tail. The final design is intended to be 7 metres wide and 200 metres long; trials with a 1/25th-scale recently took place. Anaconda's developers say a full-sized device could power 1000 average homes when operational. This should be around 2014, they say.

Pole dancing
Another class of wave-harvesters are based around an entirely different concept – floats. "The easiest way to get power from waves is to use a float attached to pole that drives a linear generator," says Hugh-Peter Kelly of UK-based Trident Energy, who is sceptical that Pelamis-style joints and hydraulics can last long in a corrosive ocean environment.

But even this basic idea has been developed into a surprising range of final designs. Kelly's firm uses float with a hydrofoil shape that produce lift and an extra boost of power as waves pass by. "That helps us extract 50 per cent more energy than using a similar sized traditional float," Kelly says.

The buoys each contain a linear generator that moves magnets past one another to make electricity. Each Trident Energy rig could generate up to 1 MW, says Kelly, and a test installation will begin its first sea trial off the Suffolk coast, UK, this summer.

Dive for cover
Other buoys are designed to stay underwater, where they can avoid the roughest sea conditions. A float system installed near Fremantle, in Western Australia last year, pumps seawater through pipes and to onshore hydroturbines where they are out of reach of the corrosive, damaging sea. The CETO system has performed well so far and the first commercial plant is planned for later in 2009. The company say a 5-hectare array of the buoys could generate 50 MWs of power.

Back in the northern hemisphere Archimedes Waveswing is another underwater buoy, designed by UK firm AWS Ocean Energy. Each stays at least 6 metres below the surface and has an upper section that can move up and down like a piston relative to the lower section. That compresses the gas inside the hollow buoy as a wave peak passes, releasing it when the trough arrives. The gas inside is squeezed through a generator inside each buoy, and 100 could power 55,000 typical homes, says the firm.

Go with the flow
Several new tidal power schemes have also benefited from a surge in interest to enter the water in recent months. A fixed platform mounted with two turbines was installed in the tidal power currents of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, in 2008 and is already supplying 1.2 MWs of power to local houses. The operators Marine Current Turbines plan an installation 10 times as powerful off the Welsh coast by 2011.

UK company TidalStream recently tested a 3-metre-tall scaffold bearing six turbines designed to be used in a similar way, in a tank at the Ifremer energy test centre in Brest, France. Also designed for tidal power channels, a full-sized 60-metre-tall platform is projected to generate 10 MWs of power

Beating waves
John Armstrong of TidalStream points out that the reliable ebb and flow of the tides compares favourably with the fluctuating output of wind and solar installations, which have hitherto garnered more attention, and funding. The reliability of wave power has also been under appreciated, according to a recent report by UK government agency the Carbon Trust.

That could help sustain the growth in interest in extracting energy from the sea, as the challenges of introducing fluctuating energy sources like wind into existing energy grids become apparent. Only long-term trials, though, will determine whether one of the various designs in testing today will emerge to become the industry standard.

Green energy for a remote part of Kenya
Jul 10

The pastoralist community of Dertu, set in the drought-prone Northeastern province of Kenya, is on the road to becoming fossil fuel free and developing sustainable small-businesses, thanks to a renewable energy project.

The Sh19 million project, partly funded by the French government, was initiated by The MDG Centre, East and Southern Africa, which includes in its business development agenda the provision of reliable and sustainable energies. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by both parties on Friday

'We chose to work with this project for its holistic approach and the fact that it targets a rural community. The Embassy of France in Kenya has a strong, proven commitment to such communities, especially to their environmental sustainability and to rural electrification as a cornerstone to sustained development,' said Elisabeth Barbier, the French Ambassador to Kenya. 'At a time when the worldwide economic crisis spells possible reductions in aid from donor countries, this project renews France's commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa and brings hope to a community struggling to face climate change,' she added.

Set in a difficult area that has been off the development map in Kenya, Dertu has been facing the energy challenge for years, mostly relying on costly and highly polluting generators. But at the same time, the community was sitting on a gold mine: manure from thousands of livestock.

'We believe that the development of business in the region, and more generally in Africa, is severely constrained by the lack of reliable power. With this project, Dertu will not only be able to generate power and support businesses, schools and clinics, but also to preserve the environment and achieve one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG),' said Glenn Denning, the director of The MDG Centre.

Not only will the four phase project bring power to vital institutions, like a clinic and a school, including a cybercafé open to community members, but it will also help the people of Dertu set up small businesses and diversify their income sources. The project will also provide biodigester cookstoves at household level, at a time when firewood used for cooking is becoming a scarce and valuable item. The project will have its first state-of-the-art school dining hall and kitchen, and a 12 bed in-patient clinic built with eco-friendly sustainable technologies.

The announcement of this partnership comes on the same week of the release by the United Nations of the 2009 MDG report which states that 'greater priority must be given to preserving our natural resource base, on which we all depend. We have not acted forcefully enough – or in a unified way – to combat climate change,' the report lamented, calling for the development of 'more efficient green technologies.' The project is also timely given the energy crisis in the country and news that power rationing is set to start in September.

The report also states that the MDGs implementation needs to include 'areas and population groups that have clearly been left behind – rural communities (and) the poorest household', two conditions that apply to the Dertu community. With this project, the partners once again reiterate their commitment to achieving the MDGs in line with UN recommendations.

Trash gas: green energy that lasts

Pinconning Township —In Spartan country, going green isn’t a mindset being pitched in the trash.

But perhaps it should be, since Granger Electric, of Lansing, partnering with Republic Services and Consumers Energy celebrated the grand opening of its newest landfill gas-to-energy station at the Whitefeather Landfill in Pinconning Township on Thursday. According to Joel Zylstra, chief operating officer of Granger, the station basically vacuums out methane gas that is being emitted from the landfill via compressors, burns it and converts it to electricity.

"Methane is a greenhouse gas, so rather than it being emitted into the atmosphere, it's being burned (at the station)," said Granger spokesman Marc Pauley. "We are offsetting the greenhouse gas emission equivalent to taking 25,000 cars off the road, also, the equivalent of sequestering the carbon of over 30,000 acres of forest." "Methane burns very cleanly," Zylstra added.

96th District Representative Jeff Mayes (D – Bay City), the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Technology, says the Granger facility is an integral part of the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS MetOcean), a bill he co-authored. "Under RPS MetOcean, we are saying that by 2015, we want 10-percent of our energy to come from renewable energy sources," Mayes said. "That's wind, that's solar, but it also includes waste energy. "It's an important piece of the puzzle."

One reason the speakers at the grand opening of the plant say they are fired up over landfill gas-to-energy conversion is its reliability. "Landfill gas is a safe and reliable source of energy that can be generated 24 hours a day – even on days when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow," said 31st District State Senator Jim Barcia (D – Bay City). Pauley says the station is already pumping out a credible amount of power.

"We're in the process right now of generating three MWs, or 3,000 kWs," he said. "This clean energy project is going to create enough clean energy to fuel roughly 2,000 homes," added Republic Services General Manager Tom Mahoney.

Pauley also says Granger will receive tax deductions through federal electrical production tax credit programs for renewable energy production; and kW per hour generated federal tax credits. As far as jobs go, Zylstra says there will be a few people put on payroll to man the station, but added that due to the numerous methane-vacuuming wells placed in the landfill, more employees will likely be hired at the Whitefeather landfill.

For more information on Granger Electric, visit For more information on Republic Services, visit

Australian firm needs fed permit for wave energy project off Maui
Jul 12, 2009

Question: What ever happened to plans to build three wave-energy turbines off the northern coast of Maui to supply electricity to the island?
Answer: The project remains in the works.

Oceanlinx, an Australian renewable-energy company, announced plans last year to build the turbines in waters off Pauwela Point. The company had planned to have them in place by this year, but state officials say the timeline has been pushed back. Andrea Gill, an energy specialist in the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the company is awaiting word on a permit application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Once that permit is approved, the company will begin the process of attaining the proper state and county permits, she said. Oceanlinx officials and Gov. Linda Lingle announced the project in February 2008, and the Legislature that year approved $20 million in special-purpose revenue bonds to support it. The wave turbines were said to have the capability of generate 2.7 MWs of power - - enough to power about 1,600 homes on the Valley Isle.

The wave turbine platforms - - each about the size of a three-bedroom house - - would sit above the water and capture air beneath the structure. As waves flow, air is forced back and forth through a column, powering a turbine generating electricity that can then be sold.

Ultracapacitor Maker Graphene Energy Eyes New Funding, Tech Milestone
Jul 10, 2009

Less than a year has passed since Quercus Trust and 21Ventures threw down $500,000 in seed money for a small Austin, Texas, startup, Graphene Energy, with a big idea for disrupting the energy storage market. The idea: Develop a technology using graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon, with at least twice the storage capacity of commercially available ultracapacitors — devices that have ultra-fast charge and discharge times, but lag far behind batteries in terms of the amount of energy they can store.

Fast-forward six months, and Graphene Energy has used that seed money to make big strides toward its target of achieving twice the storage capacity — at least in the lab. CEO Dileep Agnihotri told us in an interview today that the startup is on track to reach its goal by year's end. At that point, Agnihotri tells us it expects to raise a new round of investment or secure stimulus funds (the company has applied for grants under ARPA-E and smart grid programs, among others) to help it go into the next phase: taking the technology out of the lab and packaging it into ultracapacitors.

If the company reaches its goal in this time frame, it would be fast work. Back when Graphene Energy first raised funding, it had only demonstrated energy storage capacities that were about on par with commercially available options. But the team has leveraged the resources of founder Rodney Ruoff, a leading researcher in the field of novel carbon materials, and a novel plan to use graphene, which was hailed as the new silicon last year when researchers discovered that electrons could travel up to 100 times faster in graphene than silicon.

While Agnihotri acknowledged that the economic climate is "not very good" for fund-raising, he said Graphene Energy is finding no shortage of interest among venture capitalists. As Agnihotri put it, "Graphene itself is a very exciting material." It's stronger than any other material ever tested (about 200 times the strength of steel), and particularly appealing for energy storage devices — potentially an $877 million market by 2014 — because electricity can flow through sheets of graphene very quickly without scattering. Graphene Energy is eying government grants, Agnihotri said, because "like any startup, I would prefer non-dilutive funds."

This week, scientists from Arizona State University published research on what they say are some of the first direct measurements of graphene's ability to store energy, and the study confirms part of what Graphene Energy is banking on — that composites of graphene may "be capable of storing much larger amounts of renewable energy from solar, wind or wave energy than current technologies permit." For Graphene, the idea is to deliver ultracapacitors with super-fast charge times for applications in electric and hybrid vehicles, mobile devices and power grids within the next couple of years.

At this point, Agnihotri said Graphene is also experimenting with new electrolytes, a key part of each ultracapacitor cell (illustrated in a schematic from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, below) that could eventually help increase storage capacity. "Electrolytes used today operate at a certain voltage," he explained. Increase that voltage, and "you can pack more energy into the same volume."

But more than a few hurdles remain. In addition to financing and setting up manufacturing (not small feats), Graphene Energy will need a steady supply of graphene — in tons, rather than the ounces that the company is working with now in the lab. Agnihotri said the company is in talks with "a few" startups working on large-scale graphene production, as well as several big chemical companies that are trying to develop graphene production processes. While Graphene produces graphene for its R&D work, Agnihotri said that the company plans to focus on the ultracapacitors, leaving graphene production to outside suppliers.

Graphene Energy certainly wouldn't be the only customer. The material has huge potential for applications beyond energy storage, notably in solar cells and semiconductors. But those applications remain several years (in the case of solar) to possibly a decade away from commercial viability, said Agnihotri. "It's the right timing for storage technology. It's needed yesterday."

Siemens backs €400bn plan to harvest energy from Africa's deserts
9th July 2009

Global electrical engineering group Siemens would next week throw its weight behind an ambitious project to harvest solar and wind energy from the deserts of North Africa to supply the growing electricity needs of both the region and Europe, managing board member Dr Siegfried Russwurm confirmed on Thursday.

The project, dubbed 'Desertec Foundation', could emerge as the biggest development project in Africa's history and involve a total investment of €400-billion. Its proponents believe that it could supply from 15% to 20% of Europe's electricity requirements by 2050. Siemens would be one of several industrial companies to formally sign up to the initiative, as well as the so-called Desertec Foundation Industrial Initiative, when it was launched on July 13, in Munich, Germany.

Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg, Russwurm said that he was convinced that the solar-, wind- and transmission-technology elements necessary to develop the mega-renewable-energy project were available, both within Siemens and from other industrial participants.

A range of countries and organisation had already formed a consortium to back the concept, which would involve the production of electricity in solar thermal, or concentrating solar, power plants in the desert regions of North Africa, as well as at wind farms in Africa and off the coasts of Europe.

The power arising could be carried over long distances by high-voltage direct-current transmission systems to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Proponents argued that the latent solar potential in the world's desert regions would be sufficient to generate power for more than 4 800 h/y. They add that these regions receive more energy in six hours than can be consumed in one year.

However, Russwurm cautioned that it would be premature to put figures to the potential order flow hat could arise in favour of Siemens, noting that major feasibility investigations were still required. Nevertheless, he described the project as "courageous" and likened it in significance and scale to the laying of the first transcontinental telecommunications lines.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

China tests wind on clean energy and makes its move

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 11/7/2009 Page: 9

Over the past decade, whenever I went to China and engaged the Chinese on their pollution and energy problems, inevitably some young Chinese would say: "Hey, you Americans got to grow dirty for 150 years, using cheap coal and oil. Now it is our turn." It's a hard argument to refute.

Eventually, I decided that the only way to respond was with some variation of the following: "You're right. It's your turn. Grow as dirty as you want. Take your time. Because I think America just needs five years to invent all the clean power technologies you Chinese are going to need as you choke to death on pollution.

Then we're going to come over here and sell them all to you, and we are going to clean your clock [van consuming lifestyles - the demands for energy and natural resources are going to go through the roof. Therefore, ET - energy technologies that produce clean power and energy efficiency - is going to be the next great global industry, and China needs to be on board. Well, China has got on board - big time. Now I am worried that China will, dare I say, "clean our clock" in ET.

Yes, you might think that China is only interested in polluting its way to prosperity. That was once true, but it isn't any more. China is increasingly finding that it has to go green out of necessity because in too many places, its people can't breathe, fish, swim, drive or even see because of pollution and climate change. Well, there is one thing we know about necessity: it is the mother of invention.

And that is what China is doing, innovating more and more energy efficiency and clean power systems. And when China starts to do that in a big way squish you! - how do you say 'clean your clock' in Chinese? - in the next great global industry: clean power technologies. So if you all want to give us a five year lead, that would be great. I'd prefer
10. So take your time. Grow as dirty as you want."

Whenever you frame it that wav, Chinese are quizzical at first, and then they totally get it: wow, this energy thing isn't just about global warming! In a world that is adding 1 billion people every 15 years or so - more and more of whom will be able to live high-energy- - when it starts to develop solar, wind, batteries, nuclear and energy efficiency technologies on its low-cost platform - watch out. You won't just be buying your toys from China. You'll be buying your energy future from China.

"China is moving," says Hal Harvey, the chief executive of ClimateWorks, which shares clean energy ideas around the world. They want to be leaders in green technology. China has already adopted the most aggressive energy efficiency program in the world. It is committed to reducing the energy intensity of its economy - energy used per dollar of goods produced - by 20% in five years.

They are doing this by implementing fuel efficiency standards for cars that far exceed our own and by going after their top thousand industries with very aggressive efficiency targets. And they have the most aggressive renewable energy deployment in the world, for wind, solar and nuclear, and are already beating their targets."

Here's the key point on energy from the draft report of the US president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board: "If the US fails to adopt an economy-wide carbon abatement program, we will continue to cede leadership in new energy technology. The US is now home to only two of the 10 largest solar photovoltaic producers in the world, two of the top 10 wind turbine producers and one of the top 10 advanced battery manufacturers. That is, only one-sixth of the world's top renewable energy manufacturers are based in the US.

"Sustainable technologies in solar, wind, electric vehicles, nuclear and other innovations will drive the future global economy. We can either invest in policies to build US leadership in these new industries and jobs today, or we can continue with business as usual and buy windmills from Europe, batteries from Japan and solar panels from Asia." Indeed, if you look at those top 10 lists, compiled by the investment bank Lazard, Japanese companies have the most, then Europe, then China - then the US.

This is a major reason I favour the climate-energy bill passed by the US House of Representatives. If we do not impose on ourselves the necessity to drive innovation in clean technology - by imposing the right prices on carbon emissions and the right regulations to promote energy efficiency - we will be laggards in the next great global industry.

And this is why I disagree with President Barack Obama when he signals that he has to focus on extending health care and put the energy-climate bill - now in the Senate - on the backburner. Health care and the energy-climate bill go together. We need both now. Imagine how poor we would be today if US firms did not dominate the top 10 internet companies. Well, if we don't dominate the top 10 ET rankings, there is no way we are going to be able to afford decent health care for every American.

Reducing carbon could be a dirty job, but this farmer will do it

Saturday 11/7/2009 Page: 9

SINCE abandoning chemical fertiliser for a natural formula, Darryn Smith has felt his soil soften, seen worms return and watched the veterinary bill for his 180 cattle fall dramatically. In his words, the ground at his Western District farm has gone "from dead to being alive".

What lie cannot see, but knows is happening beneath his toes, is a slow rise is the amount of carbon stored in his soil. And along with a growing number of farmers, lie would like to be compensated for reducing Australia's carbon footprint. "If they are going to pay people for carbon stored in trees, why not for grass?" lie says.

Soil carbon was thrust into the public debate in January, when Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull launched a broad and as yet undeveloped "green carbon" plan that he said could cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 25%. This included not only boosting soil carbon, but investing in reforestation and biochar - effectively adding a form of charcoal to the soil.

There have been markedly different estimates about the sorts of cuts possible through these techniques. Some suggest it is equivalent to Australia's annual emissions. This is questionable. What is not disputed is that there is capacity to capture greenhouse gas by boosting photosynthesis in the 70% of viable fanning land estimated to have been degraded through clearing, burning and use of chemicals.

Among the boldest supporters of soil carbon is John White, an engineer turned co-owner of Ignite Energy Resources, which uses Gippsland brown coal in carbon enriching biological fertiliser.

He estimates that about 300 years' worth of Australia's annual emissions have been lost from the soil. "The faster we can activate all the 500 million hectares of cropping and grazing lands in Australia - and then all the areas in China and India and Africa and the Middle East - to be actually sucking the carbon dioxide down from the atmosphere, the better," he says.

Mr White, who lobbied Mr Turnbull to embrace soil carbon when he was environment minister, would like to see a radical overhaul of the Government's proposed emissions trading scheme to allow farmers to opt in and receive a fixed carbon price of $5 for every tonne stored.

The Government's position is that agriculture - responsible for about 16% of national emissions - will not be included in the scheme until 2015 at the earliest. In part, this is because it is seen as difficult to measure. Tony Lovell, co-founder of advocacy group Soil Carbon Australia, says that while more work is needed, the quality of measurement possible is better than most people realise.

"All of the emissions currently recognised under the Kyoto Protocol are traded on the basis of reasonable estimates that are supported by scientific data. This is the same," he says. "The market must be allowed to lead the science, not wait on it." The Greens say soil carbon has tremendous potential, but offer a note of caution. "Beware those who talk up soil carbon as a way of distracting attention from our coal and petrol emissions," Senator Christine Milne says. "If we are to deliver a safe climate to our children, we will need to cut pollution across the board."

Overseas, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has called for agriculture to be factored into the climate treaty due to be signed in December. The Government has been accused of not doing enough to support soil carbon, but Agriculture Minister Tony Burke says Australia's climate negotiating strategy includes a "more easily tradeable commodity".

Cheaper to go green in place of gas and coal

Courier Mail
Thursday 9/7/2009 Page: 72

BUILDING coal or gas-fired electricity capacity would be more expensive for consumers and more harmful to the planet than a combination of "green" power and a major energy efficiency drive. That is the conclusion of a study by the Institute for Sustainable Futures for the Intelligent Grid, or iGrid, program. The iGrid is a three-year national research collaboration between peak scientific body the CSIRO and five universities including the Queensland University of Technology and University of Queensland.

It is examining the potential for cutting Australia's large per-capita greenhouse gas emissions by curbing its reliance on coal and gas and instead ramping up energy efficiency and building small-scale, local and highly efficient generators, as well as wind farms and other renewable power sources. Researchers began with a pilot study of energy options for NSW and now will work on developing a model for Australia as a whole.

The NSW study found the high costs of building transmission networks for coal and gas-fired power stations were avoided if smaller, more local and highly efficient cogeneration plants were used. Small cogeneration plants powered by solar panels, biomass or other low-emission sources can supply electricity to local residential communities, industrial sites and buildings. Large-scale cogeneration plants can supply a number of nearby buildings or a large industrial complex.

The study found that the most expensive option for meeting electricity demand growth was building coal-fired power stations at a $30.7 billion cumulative cost to 2020. This also would produce the most greenhouse gas emissions. The second most expensive option was building gas-fired capacity, which would have a $29.8 billion cumulative cost.

It said a combination of energy efficiency, cogeneration plants, renewable energy, and a 1000-MW cut in coal-fired capacity by 2015 would be cheaper again, costing $29.3 billion. It would also stash greenhouse gas emissions by seven million tonnes annually compared with the gas-fired power option. The study did not include the impact of a planned emissions trading scheme.

Wind farms fan regional growth

Thursday 9/7/2009 Page: 30

MY favourites among the infrastructure developments that inspire property hotspots are windfarms. Wind farms cost hundreds of millions to create, they generate jobs as well as electricity and they're a majestic symbol of the battle against global warming.

Despite the many sleepless nights spent by members of the Howard government fretting about the fate of the Orange-Bellied Parrot (then environment minister Ian Campbell blocked a $220 million windfarm in 2006 by pretending concern about a threat to birds), I can't see anyone or anything that gets hurt from the development of windfarms.

Unlike coal-fired power stations, desalination plants, goldmines and multi-lane highways, they don't displace anyone, pollute or contaminate anything, leave great ugly scars in landscapes or pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Farmers struggling with prolonged drought have been rescued by collecting rent from the builders of windfarms. They contribute a growing share of our energy needs without damaging the planet and they provide tangible benefits to local economies.

Given the growing world focus on climate change, and the Rudd government's apparent determination to do something about it, sustainable energy creation has a big future in Australia. The advancement of big projects of this nature is starting to take on the look of a boom industry with consequences for real estate. Emerging hotspots include the southwest of Victoria, parts of rural South Australia, Kingaroy in Queensland and Broken Hill in NSW.

SA leads the Australian market, with about 1000MW of projects to be in place by the end of next year. SA is a major centre for windfarm development on a world scale. Only Denmark has a greater proportion of electricity generated by wind, according to the Essential Services Commission of SA.

AGL has created a nest of economic activity in the midnorth of SA, about 200km north of Adelaide, with benefits for towns such as Hallett and Jamestown. One windfarm is completed, another is nearing completion, a third is about to start construction and a fourth is a possibility. The combined development costs of the first three windfarms are more than $700 million and AGL expects to be operating 232 wind turbines in SA, with a combined capacity of 460MW, by 2011.

According to AGL, wind is the fastest growing global renewable energy resource, with a projected average growth rate to 2012 of 20% a year. Victoria, Tasmania and SA are also considered to have good wind resources. But AGL's plans for its largest windfarm are targeted at country near Kingaroy in Queensland.

The $1 billion Coopers Gap windfarm will create 200 turbine towers on 12,000ha of grazing land, generating enough energy to power 320,000 homes. It is expected to start construction next year for completion by 2012. Together with other economic activity, including a new coal mine, it is set to make Kingaroy a substantial regional centre for a wide agricultural area a property hotspot.

Victoria, too, is on the brink of a big expansion in windfarms. Approvals have been granted for 21 new farms, on top of 13 already in operation. Their installation will reportedly triple the amount of power generated by wind over the next two years, saving tens of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases. In coming years, windfarms will attract investment of between $3bn and $4bn in Victoria, creating new jobs and economic activity.

Also proposed is a $2bn windfarm due to start construction early next year on the Mundi Mundi Plains northwest of Broken Hill. Epuron, a subsidiary of German renewable energy group Conergy AG, is the proponent. Macquarie Bank's investment arm signed on as an equal partner in the development early in 2008. The windfarm will have 500 wind turbines spread over 450sgkm and at full capacity it will produce 100MW enough power for 400,000 homes.

Epuron says the operation and maintenance of the windfarm is expected to create between 50 and 100 direct jobs, with an injection of at least $15m a year into the local economy. Early in June the NSW government announced planning approval for the project. Lands Minister Tony Kelly says graziers who own the land where the turbines will be sited will receive upfront income and also long-term income.

Divided views over `clean coal' pilot project

Thursday 9/7/2009 Page: 5

AUSTRALIA'S most greenhouse intensive power station is denting its carbon footprint by 25 tonnes a day - just 0.05% of its total emissions - under a pilot project described as a potential future for coalfired electricity.

The $10 million "clean coal" demonstration at Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley is the biggest carbon capture plant yet installed in Australia. It is also expensive, with green groups estimating it costs at least $1100 for each tonne of carbon dioxide captured.

Backed by more than $5 million of state and federal climate change funding, the project extracts carbon dioxide and chemically converts it into calcium carbonate. Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor yesterday hailed it as "world-leading technology".

He said it was one of seven carbon-capture plants in Victoria being used to find the cheapest way of reducing emissions from coal-fired power. "It is technology such as this that will help Victoria and its coal-fired generation meet the climate change challenge," he said. But Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said taxpayer backing for a project that did little to cut emissions was perverse.

He said the quarter of Victoria's electricity generated at Hazelwood could be replaced by cleaner gas-fired power within two years. "This project probably has more to do with attempting to maintain Hazelwood's social licence to operate than reduce emissions," he said.

Mr Batchelor responded: "To say that this is money that has not been well spent is quite clearly irresponsible; it is against the environment and it is a bit silly really." carbon capture and storage - most often turning greenhouse gas into a liquid and burying it deep underground - is at least a decade away from being commercially proven.

It is opposed by some green groups but backed by industry and governments as a vital part of the solution to climate change. The Federal Government's $100 million Global carbon capture and storage Institute aims to set up 20 largescale plants by 2020.

Neither Mr Batchelor nor the management of Hazelwood's majority owner, International Power, would say yesterday what the pilot project might mean for Hazelwood's lifespan. Built in the 1960s, Hazelwood was due to be decommissioned in 2005 but controversially had its lifespan extended until 2031. It is estimated to emit 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

International Power Australia executive director Tony Concannon said early results from the project were promising. "However, it will be some time before (the company) is in a position to determine if this technology is suitable to be rolled out to other Hazelwood generating units or, indeed, other fossil fuel-fired power stations." he said.

Monday 13 July 2009

Cap and slice scheme best - Emissions trading `is propping up polluters'

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 9/7/2009 Page: 23

THE Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme is a "disgrace" that will mean anything South Australia does to tackle climate change will simply prop up polluters interstate, says a leading economist at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, which opens this evening.

Dr Richard Denniss, executive director of the Australia Institute, said premiers such as Mike Rann should be going to COAG meetings and thumping the table, saying: "Kevin, this is a disgrace. Fix your scheme, because it is fixable." Rather than a "cap-and-trade" scheme, Dr Denniss would prefer to see a "cap and slice" scheme, where the number of pollution permits are reduced each year in line with the amount of pollution saved.

"If the SA Government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on feed-in tariffs and policies to reduce emissions, all it will be doing is transferring permits to other states," he said. "Now it breaks my heart to say this but unfortunately once the CPRS (carbon pollution reduction scheme) comes in, state governments would be better off not spending their money on reducing emissions and investing that money instead on their health systems and their education systems, because at least that delivers a service. It's a scandal."

A spokesperson for federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Dr Denniss was "wrong". "Everything Australians do, whether in Adelaide, Perth or Mt Isa, will help us reach our targets for reducing carbon pollution," the spokesperson said. Dr Denniss said that rather than "placing all of our faith in markets to solve the most important problem of the century", the Government should immediately:
  • BAN the construction of new coal-fired power stations - "because you can't start going forward until you stop going backwards".
  • PUT a price on pollution. A simple tax on carbon emissions to start with and then transition to emissions trading later, "if you want, but you don't have to wait for the complex architecture to start a tax and raise revenue".
  • TAKE that revenue and invest it in renewable energy.
  • MANDATE fuel efficiency standards for cars and start investing in public transport.
"All of those things you could literally start tomorrow," Dr Denniss said. "You don't need to model them. You don't need complex legislation and anyone who is opposed to any of those things can rightly be described as a climate sceptic." Premier Mike Rann said he had consistently supported a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme.

Banks slammed for involvement in palm oil fund-raising
9 July

Three European banks have come under fire from environmentalists for their involvement in a fund-raising by palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), which NGOs claim is involved in rainforest destruction.

Singapore-listed GAR is expecting to raise at least S$311.1 million ($213 million) from a rights and warrants issue currently underway. Credit Suisse, UBS and BNP Paribas are listed as the joint lead-arrangers and underwriters for the fund raising.

But the Berne Declaration and the Bruno Manser Fund have slammed the banks for involving themselves in the deal, pointing to a Greenpeace Indonesia report which earlier this year linked the company's subsidiary Sinar Mas Group with rainforest destruction. Greenpeace Indonesia has been targeting Sinar Mas for some years, blocking shipments of palm oil from reaching port and holding protests at the company's headquarters.

A Credit Suisse spokesman said: "Following an in-depth review of the transaction by our experts, we concluded that the transaction is consistent with our global forestry policy and other relevant industry policies." BNP was unable to return requests for comment before press time and a UBS spokesman declined to comment. GAR has said the accusations are based on "false information".

Greenpeace claims that Sinar Mas plans to develop 2.8 million hectares of rainforest in Kalimantan and Papua, in Indonesia - a figure which GAR disputes. "The vast majority of future expansion is likely to involve deforestation, some on peatlands and in the habitats of the critically endangered orangutan," Greenpeace said in the report.

But GAR denies these accusations, saying it is an "active member" of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. It said in a recent statement that it avoids development on primary forest and has a zero burning policy. "GAR aims to be a leader in the oil palm industry underpinned by its high operational excellence, environmental sustainability and highest level of professionalism," it added.

It also questioned Greenpeace's information: "Most often, these organisations have limited experience and understanding of the real condition as they refrain or refuse to get into the field to verify what is actually happening."

Iceland Debates the Limits of Geothermal
July 8, 2009

The tiny nation of Iceland is often cited as a model for the world in its use of renewable energy. Virtually all of its electricity comes from dams or geothermal power plants. Drive around the countryside, as I did last month, and you will see billows of steam coming from some hillsides, a sure sign of a geothermal operation with the occasional hot springs attached.

Some Icelanders are questioning just how long the renewable power can last. At the core of the debate are the country's efforts to build up a power-intensive aluminum industry — itself an effort to diversify the economy away from fishing. Already some 80% of Iceland's electricity goes to heavy industry, mainly the country's three big aluminum plants, according to Iceland's new environment minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

Work has begun on a new aluminum plant near the airport, though it appears to be proceeding only slowly. Arni Finnsson, the head of Iceland's Nature Conservation Association, argues that the plant would be such an energy hog that it would "virtually wipe out all geothermal electricity in southwest Iceland."

Environmentalists appear to have a strong ally in the government: Ms. Svavarsdóttir said in an e-mail message that she and her party were "very skeptical about the further expansion of the aluminum industry, to say the least." She also vowed to "press for a more rational and balanced decision-making in this regard."

Why is there a limit to geothermal energy? According to Mr. Finnsson, if Iceland's resources are tapped too quickly, the underground hot water necessary to produce the power (and heat buildings in Iceland) could run out in 70 years or so. Geothermal energy, he said, is "not renewable if you use it to an extreme."

Ms. Svavarsdóttir agreed that overuse of the resource could lead to a "temporary depletion of a geothermal field," and also noted the hydrogen sulfide pollution concerns related to geothermal production. A similar debate has been ongoing in Iceland over the use of dams to power aluminum plants.

Environmental groups are worried that more dams could be built, and Mr. Finnsson also argues that hydropower, like geothermal power, is not necessarily renewable. The dams have a finite lifespan, he said, because the glacial silt that washes down the rivers gets stuck in the reservoirs, causing them to fill up over time.

Offshore energy could create massive construction jobs boost

Hundreds of thousands of construction jobs could be created if the UK changed its approach to commercialisation, the Carbon Trust has said. Having undertaken an economic analysis, the organisation concluded that wind and wave power has the potential to create as many as 250,000 jobs, while renewable energy could also generate up to £70 billion for the country's economy.

In addition, offshore wind and wave power would provide 15 per cent of the country's carbon savings targets, which are due to be met by 2050. Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay said that offshore power is "critical to the economic recovery of the UK". "To reap the significant rewards from their successful development we must prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long term carbon savings, jobs and revenue for Britain," he explained.

Mr Delay added that Britain needed to make smart investments through greater technology prioritisation and distance itself from technology neutrality. The Carbon Trust announced last month that Australia had joined the UK in using the world's first carbon label for consumer products.

Pickens says Texas Panhandle wind project still alive
July 8, 2009

Billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens said today that he is delaying, not canceling, a $10 billion wind energy project in Texas.

The so-called Pampa project will be postponed until 2013 when Texas is expected to complete a $4.9 billion transmission line, Pickens said in Washington today. Reports by the Dallas Morning News and Associated Press on Tuesday that he was ending the project were wrong, he said.

"I didn't cancel it," said Pickens, 81, the chairman of Dallas-based BP Capital LLC. "Financing is tough right now so what is going to happen is it's going to be pushed back a year or two." Pickens spoke after a press conference to promote legislation intended to encourage the development of natural gas-powered vehicles.

Pickens last year began promoting a national energy plan that relies on domestically produced natural gas to cut U.S, dependence on foreign oil. Electricity generated by gas and coal could be replaced with wind and solar energy once the grid is improved.

His Mesa Power LLP ordered 667 wind turbines from General Electric Co, last year for delivery, he said, starting in the first quarter of 2011. The turbines, which can produce up to 1,000 MWs, may be installed "in Minnesota or someplace else," he said. Or he may just "put 'em in the garage," he said.

Pickens said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday that it is necessary to build a 21st century power grid to advance wind energy, which he said could happen quickly. "I'm in the business and we are going to build the Pampa project," he said after the press conference today.

New SunCatcher Power System Unveiled At National Solar Thermal Test Facility
July 7, 2009

Albuquerque, NM — Stirling Energy Systems (SES) and Tessera Solar recently unveiled four newly designed solar energy collection dishes at Sandia National Laboratories' National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF). Called SunCatchers™, the new dishes have a refined design that will be used in commercial-scale deployments of the units beginning in 2010.

"The four new dishes are the next-generation model of the original SunCatcher system. Six first-generation SunCatchers built over the past several years at the NSTTF have been producing up to 150KW [kWs] of grid-ready electrical power during the day," says Chuck Andraka, the lead Sandia project engineer. "Every part of the new system has been upgraded to allow for a high rate of production and cost reduction." Sandia's concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) team has been working closely with SES over the past five years to improve the system design and operation.

The modular CSP SunCatcher uses precision mirrors attached to a parabolic dish to focus the sun's rays onto a receiver, which transmits the heat to a Stirling engine. The engine is a sealed system filled with hydrogen. As the gas heats and cools, its pressure rises and falls. The change in pressure drives the piston inside the engine, producing mechanical power, which in turn drives a generator and makes electricity.

The new SunCatcher is about 5,000 pounds lighter than the original, is round instead of rectangular to allow for more efficient use of steel, has improved optics, and consists of 60% fewer engine parts. The revised design also has fewer mirrors — 40 instead of 80. The reflective mirrors are formed into a parabolic shape using stamped sheet metal similar to the hood of a car. The mirrors are made by using automobile manufacturing techniques. The improvements will result in high-volume production, cost reductions, and easier maintenance.

Among Sandia's contributions to the new design was development of a tool to determine how well the mirrors work in less than 10 seconds, something that took the earlier design one hour. "The new design of the SunCatcher represents more than a decade of innovative engineering and validation testing, making it ready for commercialization," says Steve Cowman, Stirling Energy Systems CEO. "By utilizing the automotive supply chain to manufacture the SunCatcher, we're leveraging the talents of an industry that has refined high-volume production through an assembly line process. More than 90% of the SunCatcher components will be manufactured in North America."

In addition to improved manufacturability and easy maintenance, the new SunCatcher minimizes both cost and land use and has numerous environmental advantages, Andraka says. "They have the lowest water use of any thermal electric generating technology, require minimal grading and trenching, require no excavation for foundations, and will not produce greenhouse gas emissions while converting sunlight into electricity," he says.

Tessera Solar, the developer and operator of large-scale solar projects using the SunCatcher technology and sister company of SES, is building a 60-unit plant generating 1.5 MW (MWs) by the end of the year either in Arizona or California. One MW powers about 800 homes. The proprietary solar dish technology will then be deployed to develop two of the world's largest solar generating plants in Southern California with San Diego Gas & Electric in the Imperial Valley and Southern California Edison in the Mojave Desert, in addition to the recently announced project with CPS Energy in West Texas. The projects are expected to produce 1,000 MW by the end of 2012.

Last year one of the original SunCatchers set a new solar-to-grid system conversion efficiency record by achieving a 31.25% net efficiency rate, toppling the old 1984 record of 29.4.

Source: Sandia National Laboratories