Thursday 23 July 2009

Ex-Lib minister to lead carbon trust

Wednesday 22/7/2009 Page: 4

Kevin Rudd has appointed Howard government environment minister Robert Hill to head a new carbon trust, in a move that causes further discomfort for Malcolm Turnbull as he struggles with an opposition partyroom deeply divided on climate change. Appearing alongside the Prime Minister and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong at the launch of the Brisbane-based trust yesterday, Professor Hill pointed out that he had started work on a cap-and-trade emissions trading system for Australia almost a decade ago.

"The political time wasn't right then. Perhaps it's getting closer. But basically, as with most Western nations, I think a cap-and-trade (emissions trading system) is the way to go," he said. Professor Hill said the carbon trust which will administer $50 million in seed funding for business-sector energy efficiency as well as a fund to register small individual financial contributions to emission reductions was not "politically partisan".

As environment minister, Professor Hill secured a special deal for Australia under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set binding emission reduction targets for developed countries for the period up to 2012.

He won both a domestic target that allowed Australia to increase emissions compared with 1990 levels by 8%, rather than the absolute reductions imposed on most developed economies, and a special rule that allowed Australia to get a long way towards the required emission reductions because of the end of large-scale land clearing, especially in Queensland.

But the Howard government then decided not to ratify the protocol after US president George W. Bush's administration refused to do so. Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey yesterday welcomed Professor Hill's appointment, but said: "The Prime Minister shouldn't feel the need only to pay for former Liberals to give him advice; current Liberals are ready to give him advice about his current (emissions trading) scheme."

The new energy efficiency savings pledge fund allows individuals to make tax deductible donations, which will be used to buy emission permits and remove them from the market, reducing the permits available to industry. It was set up to allay concerns that individual action would not be "rewarded" in the new carbon market, but has been criticised by some as tokenistic.

Greens leader Bob Brown, who opposes the ETS on the grounds that it is too weak, said the appointment of Professor Hill had more to do with "wedging" the Coalition than helping the environment. Professor Hill told The Australian "the test of the fund will be the extent to which people use it to buy out carbon permits". The energy efficiency fund for business is modelled on the successful UK carbon trust set up in 2001, but the British have not implemented a fund for individual action.

State's high-polluting power plants seek to expand their output

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 22/7/2009 Page: 5

GREENHOUSE pollution from the state's coal-fired electricity plants increased last year, making them overall the worst in the country, figures show, but the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, is now being asked to consider expanding them. Environmental reports lodged with Ms Kenealfy show the two state-owned power generators Macquarie and Delta want to greatly expand their output and are examining the option of both coal and gas power to achieve it.

However, the latest report from the Climate Group shows that NSW already has five of the top 10 polluting electricity plants in Australia. Total greenhouse emissions from the NSW plants rose to 67.3 million tonnes, up 1%, mirroring the jump in electricity generation. The Finance Minister, Joe Tripodi, said two weeks ago that applications for the generators' expansion were being lodged with the Department of Planning, saying they would allow for the gasfired power stations on the sites of the existing coal generators.

"The Rees Government is preparing for the next generation of baseload power stations using more environmentally friendly gas-fired technology," he said. "With the prospect of carbon pollution pricing, gas will become an increasingly attractive fuel source for future base-load generators."

Privately owned coal generators in Victoria are already saving they are under serious financial pressure because of the the Federal Government's carbon emissions trading scheme that plans to put a price on greenhouse pollution. Any future private buyers of the NSW generators are expected to be cautious about investing in the big carbon emitting coal plants.

Despite that, the documents lodged by the publicly owned NSW generators reveal they are examining the option of building more coal-fired power capacity. In the US, new coal power plants are being blocked by local and state governments. Los Angeles is the latest city to announce that it will phase out coal-fired electricity by 2020. The preliminary environment assessment lodged by the state owned Macquarie Generation says proposes to expand its Bayswater-Liddell power plants in the Hunter Valley by about 40% with "either coal or gasfired generation".

Macquarie says "clean coal", known as carbon capture and storage, will not be ready in time for the expansion in 2014. As a result, it is looking at either a gasfired plant or a more efficient coal plant, called an ultra supercritical plant, even though it would use more water and still produce significant greenhouse gases. Delta Energy says it will also examine coal and gas options to expand its Mount Piper power plant near Lithgow and overhaul its ageing Munmorah plant on the Central Coast.

Call for green homes to create green jobs

Wednesday 22/7/2009 Page: 7

WELFARE and environment groups are urging the State Government to improve water and energy efficiency in a million homes as part of its delayed commitment to create "green jobs". The Government missed its deadline to release a blueprint to create jobs to help fight the twin threats of climate change and the economic meltdown by the end of June.

A report to be released today calls on the Government to start "picking winners" - selecting clean industries and technologies it thinks could succeed and backing them. The groups behind the report, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Environment Victoria, have estimated that improving efficiency in a million homes would cost $186 million a year.

They found it would create 690 jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by three million tonnes, save 10% of Melbourne's annual water use and cut utility bills for those on low incomes.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said the state lacked the overarching policy framework needed to build political support for new industries. "You don't develop industries without at some point saying this is an industry we like and we're going to back it'," he said.

Compiled by consultants the Nous Group, the report Victoria: The Green Jobs State is the result of a green jobs forum held in April. Environment Minister Gavin Jennings said the green jobs plan was "going through a digestion process". His spokesman, Lyall Johnson, said the plan would be released "before the end of the year" and would look at opportunities in energy efficiency and construction.

Solar air conditioners to chill California utility
July 21, 2009

The Los Angeles-based utility said on Tuesday that it has chosen two solar concentrators to measure how effective they are at cooling. The units will be installed on the roof of its Energy Resource Center (ERC) in Downey, Calif. Both products--one from Hawaiian start-up Sopogy and another from HelioDynamics in the U.K.--reflect and concentrate incoming sunlight onto a pipe to heat water. That heated water is used in place of gas or electricity to power an industrial absorption chiller, which creates cold air using a heat exchanger and compressor.

Using the sun for cooling has long been considered an excellent application for solar energy because the air conditioning load corresponds with daylight hours Concentrators can be more efficient and take less space than photovoltaic panels which make electricity, according to Southern California Gas. Sopogy's MicroCSP is essentially a shrunk-down version of the parabolic troughs used in giant solar energy plants. HelioDynamics' concentrators can produce both heat and electricity.

Southern California Gas chose these concentrators because they are small enough to fit on an office building roof and are modular, said Hal Synder, vice president of customer solutions. Each unit is capable of providing enough cool air for three average-size homes. Air conditioning can be half of a commercial building's electricity use. The utility plans to test these concentrators for two years and will add electricity production to the site in a year.

There are already a handful of companies developing concentrators for cooling. Chromasun, started by one of the founders of concentrating solar company Ausra, has developed a solar collector designed for commercial and industrial customers which can reduce energy bills significantly by cutting peak-time usage.

Meanwhile, there is already a solar cooler in operation. Late last year, famed piano maker Steinway & Sons installed a solar cooling system that uses reflective troughs. Like the SoCal Gas systems, the heat feeds an absorption chiller to provide cool air and dehumidify Steinway's buildings. In the winter, it provides heat.

Guardian Introduces EcoGuard Pattern Glass for Maximum Solar Energy Transmission
Jul 21st, 2009

Guardian Industries in Auburn Hills, Mich., has added to its solar glass product portfolio by introducing EcoGuard Pattern Glass, a new low-iron pattern glass designed to maximize solar energy transmission and enhance photovoltaic module performance. EcoGuard Pattern glass can be used in a variety of applications, including photovoltaic energy systems, solar thermal collectors, greenhouses and other applications requiring high solar transmission and light control.

Guardian's EcoGuard Pattern glass offers advantages in manufacturing and performance due to the product's pattern uniformity and solar transmission consistency. The glass also is IEC-validated and tested and certified by the SPF Solartec Renewableshnic Institute. The company currently is producing matte/matte and matte/prismatic pattern glasses, and is conducting research to further increase solar transmission by optimizing the textured pattern.

"EcoGuard Pattern glass reflects the latest in Guardian's solar glass technology backed by years of dedicated R&D," says Scott Thomsen, chief technical officer and vice president of Guardian's Science and Technology Center. "In addition to meeting the technical aspects of our sustainable energy initiatives, our solar products also are designed to optimize our customers' investments."

California company developing space-based solar
July 21, 2009

A California solar energy company is reportedly making progress in its effort to generate power from orbiting photovoltaic panels. A recent report by Private Equity Week focuses on Solaren, which is said to have recently raised $600,000 from investors in its space-based energy plan. The report also notes that the public was first introduced to the concept of space-based solar in a 1941 short story by Isaac Asimov.

The company made news earlier this year amid reports that Pacific Gas and Electric had agreed to buy energy generated by the new technology starting around the middle of the next decade. A Los Angeles Times report at the time noted that the plan would cost about $2 billion and could generate enough energy to power 150,000 California homes. In theory, space-based solar could generate a large amount of energy because it would have unfiltered access to the sun, although the technology required to send the energy back to earth is still largely in the development stage.

Cable firm wins £7m wave power contract

A cable firm based in East Anglia has won a £7.6m contract to help construct an electrical "socket" on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall. JDR Cable Systems, based at Littleport in Cambridgeshire, has been awarded the contract by the South West Regional Development Agency as part of a £42m project to generate electricity by wave power.

The "Wave Hub" project will see groups of wave energy devices that float on or near the surface 10 miles off the Cornish coast connect to the National Grid through an underwater "socket" and cables. JDR will supply the assembly for the socket and 16.5 miles of cables to connect it to an onshore control room. The equipment will be built at JDR's new £20m manufacturing facility in Hartlepool, which was opened earlier this month.

JDR said it expected to deliver the cables and assembly in the second quarter of 2010 before the Wave Hub goes live in 2011. Once complete, the new wave power system is expected to deliver 20 MWs of electricity - enough to power 7,000 homes - up to 50 MWs in future.

Patrick Phelan, managing director of the £45m-turnover firm, said: "The Wave Hub project draws on JDR's wealth of experience in the design and manufacture of subsea cable and umbilical systems to produce a solution that will meet the demanding requirements of this innovative application.

"Our new quayside facility at Hartlepool dock is ideally sized for the manufacture and load-out of this 1,500-tonne cable system, and we look forward to supporting the installation process with our team of qualified offshore service technicians." A cable firm based in East Anglia has won a £7.6m contract to help construct an electrical "socket" on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall.

JDR Cable Systems, based at Littleport in Cambridgeshire, has been awarded the contract by the South West Regional Development Agency as part of a £42m project to generate electricity by wave power. The "Wave Hub" project will see groups of wave energy devices that float on or near the surface 10 miles off the Cornish coast connect to the National Grid through an underwater "socket" and cables.

JDR will supply the assembly for the socket and 16.5 miles of cables to connect it to an onshore control room. The equipment will be built at JDR's new £20m manufacturing facility in Hartlepool, which was opened earlier this month. JDR said it expected to deliver the cables and assembly in the second quarter of 2010 before the Wave Hub goes live in 2011. Once complete, the new wave power system is expected to deliver 20 MWs of electricity - enough to power 7,000 homes - up to 50 MWs in future.

Patrick Phelan, managing director of the £45m-turnover firm, said: "The Wave Hub project draws on JDR's wealth of experience in the design and manufacture of subsea cable and umbilical systems to produce a solution that will meet the demanding requirements of this innovative application.

"Our new quayside facility at Hartlepool dock is ideally sized for the manufacture and load-out of this 1,500-tonne cable system, and we look forward to supporting the installation process with our team of qualified offshore service technicians."

Oyster® Wave Power Device wins Innovator of the Year 2009
Jul. 21, 2009

Aquamarine Power ("Aquamarine") has been celebrated as a leading force in the UK's renewable energy sector, winning the coveted 'Innovator Award 2009' for its market leading Oyster(R) wave energy converter at this year's British Renewable Energy Awards.

Aquamarine competed against seven other shortlisted nominees to win the award which honours outstanding excellence in innovative features of concept and design; achievement in meeting original objectives and continued proven success of the device; and the demonstration of exceptional effort of those involved in bringing Oyster(R) through development, testing and towards to commercialisation.

The REA represents the UK's renewable energy industry and promotes the use of sustainable energy in the UK. The REA's main objective is to secure the best legislative and regulatory framework for expanding renewable energy production in the UK. Undertaking policy development and providing input to government departments and regulators, the REA are a governing body in the renewable industry.

Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power commented: "We are very proud to be awarded the Innovator Award 2009 and recognised as having the UK's most pioneering new energy device by the Renewable Energy Association (REA). The REA are a leading force in this sector and to be recognised by them is a great achievement.

"Our Oyster wave energy device is at the forefront of global technical innovation and will harness the sea's powerful energy in the most efficient and effective way. The seas around our shores are our most valuable asset and future generations will depend on finding suitable alternatives to oil and gas to produce power which will ultimately run out.

"The reliability of marine energy makes it an ideal energy source. Oyster has already proven that and has successfully exported power to the national grid for the first time. "This is a great acknowledgment for all our team at Aquamarine who are ambitious, driven by success and work tirelessly to be the best in what they do. We pride ourselves on our innovative and ethical approach, and want to make Aquamarine a world leading energy producer, while saving the planet."

Oyster(R) is currently in the first stage of deployment. The installation jack-up barge 'Deep Diver' is on site at Billia Croo, Orkney, and the base of the device, known as the Pile Connector Frame (PCF), has been placed on the seabed. Drilling operations are now under way to attach the PCF to the seabed.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Toyota pushes solar power on ships, not just cars

Jul 20, 2009

If you think it's impressive that Toyota is adding solar panels to the tops of its new-generation Priuses hybrids, which are about to come to showrooms, consider what's happening at sea.

Toyota is encouraging its prime shipping line, NYK, to use more solar energy on its ships. The Auriga Leader, a 60,000-ton car carrier that went into service this year, has 328 solar panels on its rooftop deck that generate up to 40 kWs of power. You can see the panels in the picture above - - those little black rectangles. They don't generate enough to power the propellers, but it is enough to run the fans that ventilate the 12 car decks and auxiliary machinery like the ship's steering gear.

Every little bit helps, given the rotten state of the auto shipping business, as profiled in the USA TODAY todayThe ship's Romanian captain, Eugen State, says the panels are kind of a no-fuss item, requiring little upkeep by the crew. Other ships have long had solar panels, but not to the extent of the Auriga. By the way, the Prius doesn't use its solar energy to turn the wheels either. It's used to run a fan to keep the car cool while parked on hot days. Sound familiar?

Victoria proving the dirtiest state

Tuesday 21/7/2009 Page: 2

VICTORIA is the least climate friendly state - hone to three of Australia's four dirtiest power stations and none of the 12 biggest renewable energy plants. An analysis by the Climate Group, an international thinktank, found less than 2% of electricity generated in Victoria last year was from clean sources. brown coal accounted for 94% of electricity, with gas making up the other 4%.

Victoria's largest renewable energy generator was not a purpose-built power station, but the Maryvale pulp and paper mill, which produces energy on site and feeds a small amount into the grid. It was ranked the 13th biggest renewable power generator in the eastern states, generating 166,000 MW hours, or just 0.003% of the state's total electricity.

Climate Group Australia director Rupert Posner said the analysis was a wake-tip call. "What's clear is we need to rapidly scale up renewable energy," he said. "It is far too small a part of the energy mix." The analysis found Victoria lagged behind other eastern states in renewable energy generation. Clean power sources make tip 13% of the electricity mix in South Australia, 6% in NSW and 3% in Queensland. Mr Posner said there was not enough renewable energy in the country. "A large chunk of our renewable energy to date has come from large-scale hydro projects," he said.

The analysis conies as the Federal Government tries to push through the Senate its renewable energy target, requiring 20% of electricity to come from clean sources by 2020. The target is supported by the Liberal Party, but stalled after the Government made an industry compensation package contingent on its controversial emissions trading scheme also being passed.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said more renewable energy projects were being developed, but the analysis showed the state was on an unsustainable path. He said Victoria's main problem was its continued support of brown coal. Its increased use led to emissions from electricity rising 1% last year. The Loy Yang A, Hazelwood and Yallourn W power stations, all in the Latrobe Valley, were found to be among the highest emitting plants in the country.

"It's very easy in the climate change debate to point the finger at different countries around the world.., but when we've got some of the largest polluting power stations supplying the majority of our electricity, the onus is on its to take action very quickly," Mr Wakeham said.

Victoria can expect an influx of wind energy. It has just 427 MWs of wind energy, but 1558 MWs more has been approved with 2424 MWs at various stages of planning. A large solar plant near Mildura and a hydro plant at Bogong are also in development. Government spokeswoman Emma Tyner said the state renewable energy target had attracted $2 billion in investment and would create more than 2000 jobs.

Carbon Planet, m2m to create $117m firm

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 21/7/2009 Page: 30

Carbon Planet will merge with Melbourne-based telecommunications investor, m2m Corporation, in a deal expected to create a $117 million, stock market-listed carbon trading company. The SA-based carbon management services company said the deal would make it a close to 60% shareholder in technology investment company m2m Corporation, through the issue of 464 million m2m Corporation shares. The merger was expected to go through by the end of the year.

Carbon Planet chief executive Jim Johnson said yesterday the merged entity would have a market cap of $117 million, with most value attributable to Carbon Planet. "The value represents the money that Carbon Planet has received in investment funds from shareholders in the past 12-18 months," Mr Johnson said. In a complicated scrip and capital-raising deal, m2m Corporation will consolidate its shares by 20 to 1, valuing each share at 12c based on yesterday's closing price of 0.6c.

After the consolidation, m2m Corporation expects to raise $10 million from investors at 20c each - 8c more than the current consolidated trading price, m2m Corporation's market capitalisation at close of trade yesterday was $7.9 million. Carbon Planet said yesterday it expected to make a profit this financial year. Its financial statement to the end of June 2008 - submitted to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission - showed the company had incurred accumulated losses of about $6 million with current liabilities exceeding assets by $20,020.

In a presentation to m2m Corporation shareholders, Carbon Planet said it had 25 Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects in Papua New Guinea expected to generate $1 billion annually, with another eight REDD MOUs in Indonesia. "These are firm contracts on paper," Mr Johnson said. The company said it had only two projects in PNG less than a month ago, m2m Corporation, incorporating Carbon Planet, will be the first Australian-listed entity providing full services in carbon trading activities, the companies said yesterday.

ExxonMobil invests $600m into fuel-from-algae
15 July, 2009

Oil and gas giant Exxon-Mobil is to spend up to $600m over five to six years on research and development of biofuels made from algae and potentially more than $1bn over the next 10–15 years. The investment is the first major commitment to renewable fuels by Exxon-Mobil, which has angered environmental activists with its refusal until now to follow rivals Shell and BP in exploring energy from wind, solar and biofuels.

It will spend half of the initial $600m itself and the rest with the biotechnology company Synthetic Genomics Inc (SGI) "if research and development milestones are successfully met". The aim is to produce fuels, made from the oil in algae, that are compatible with today's petrol and diesel, said Exxon-Mobil.

Its move comes as the mainstream oil and gas sector has shown mixed feelings about biofuels. Valero in the US, for example, has bought biofuel production plants to meet future mandatory blending targets, while BP has pulled back from its earlier commitment to biofuels and other renewables. Exxon-Mobil's investment comes "after several years of planning and study", according to Emil Jacobs, vice-president of research and development at Exxon-Mobil Research and Engineering, which will manage the algae-to-biofuel project.

"Meeting the world's growing energy demands will require a multitude of technologies and energy sources," said Jacobs. "We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low net carbon emission transportation fuel."

In the past, Exxon-Mobil has dismissed renewables as not cost-effective and has argued that pursuing the technologies too early would erode shareholder value. Its former chief executive, Lee Raymond, was also sceptical about climate change. SGI was founded by its chief executive Craig Venter, who is most famous for decoding the human genome in the 1990s.

"The real challenge to creating a viable next generation biofuel is the ability to produce it in large volumes which will require significant advances in both science and engineering," said Venter. "The alliance between SGI and Exxon-Mobil will bring together the complementary capabilities and expertise of both companies to develop innovative solutions that could lead to the large-scale production of biofuel from algae."

The programme will include the identification or development of algal strains that can yield large volumes of oil cheaply and development of algae production systems. It will also consider how to supply large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide needed to grow algae.

UK sees five-fold growth in renewables to hit climate targets
17 July

The UK government yesterday announced plans for how the country will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 18% against 2008 levels by 2020, unveiling additional support for renewable energy generation. Power generators and heavy industry will be responsible for cutting 22% of their emissions, or 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent - around half of the total reduction needed.

Renewable energy generating capacity will need to grow five-fold by 2020, to supply 30% of the country's energy needs, according to the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan. The White Paper says the government will provide up to £120 million ($197 million) of support for offshore wind and £60 million for wave and tidal power technologies. New nuclear energy stations are also part of the plan and the UK will invest up to £15 million to establish a manufacturing research centre, though the first new stations are unlikely to be online before 2018.

Proposals for developing a smart grid will be announced later this year, but the government envisages that smart meters be installed in every home by 2020. The plan aims to cut emissions from homes by 29% and government policies will channel about £3.2 billion to help households become more energy efficient. The government put the total cost of its White Paper policies at about £25 billion-29 billion.

Neil Bentley, director of business environment at business lobby group the CBI, described the white paper as "a promising start", but said "question marks remain over the ability of these plans to attract the £150 billion of private sector investment needed to renew our energy infrastructure, improve energy security and allow us to meet climate change targets." Richard Gledhill, head of climate change and carbon markets at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: "With continuing constraints on capital markets, this [level of private investment] will be challenging in the short term.

The plan provides the UK context for private sector investment, but ultimately business needs a more robust and long-term international policy framework to support investment plans." Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: "It's great that the government is now taking steps to ramp up delivery of clean, renewable energy within the UK. This is possibly the first time a UK government has shown it is serious about this issue.

"Unfortunately, the government has failed to provide the incentives that will make investors turn away from traditional power sources like unabated coal and move towards low carbon, green energy."

India Pushes for Renewable Energy, Says No to Carbon Caps
JULY 20, 2009

The U.S, and India are a world apart in climate discussions, with India reticent to agree to carbon caps, saying it already has the lowest per-capita emissions among major nations, reports the New York Times. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's completes a three-day visit to India to discuss topics such as climate change and green technology, the two nations are finding room both to agree and disagree.

Behind China, India is viewed as a key cog in the U.S, climate agenda. Gauri Singh, joint secretary of India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said India's priority is to achieve energy security and self reliance and noted that climate change is not the main driver for renewable energy in India; it is a co-benefit, reports the Washington Post.

solar energy is not even a fraction of India's renewable energy sources, consisting primarily of wind and biomass that makes up 3% of the country's total electricity production, reports the Washington Post. But India's goal is to reach 20,000 MWs of solar electricity by 2020, as part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change that was announced in June 2008, to combat global warming, according to the newspaper.

An executive of a solar energy company, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that the solar energy industry will not take off unless the government guarantees that it will purchase solar energy at a lucrative cost with feed-in tariffs. Until policies are in place to enable solar companies to contribute to the national power grid, they have developed an off-grid rural market, selling solar home lighting systems with rooftop panels directly to villagers who don't have access to electricity, reports the Washington Post.

During Hillary Clinton's visit with India she said the two countries must expand the use of renewable energy in India, especially for rural electrification, reports Bloomberg News. Clinton also said she is confident that the U.S, and India can develop a plan that changes the way energy is produced, consumed and conserved, helping to create additional investments and jobs, according to the newspaper.

Despite Clinton's warm welcome to India, it did not win her any concessions she was looking for from New Delhi on climate change, reports ABC News. India's Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh said his country would never agree to cap its carbon emissions, arguing that it would stunt their economic growth, according to the news station. Clinton countered that a lower carbon footprint could spur economic growth, according to ABC News.

Ramesh also told Clinton that the U.S, and European countries must offer financial incentives and equitable reductions in carbon emissions to ensure any deal won't hinder growth, food security and poverty alleviation in developing nations such as India, China and Brazil, according to Bloomberg News.

In response, Clinton said she understood India's argument about the developing world's low per capita emissions but that absolute emissions from fast-growing developing economies especially China are going up dramatically, with over 80% of the growth in future emissions coming from developing countries, reported Bloomberg News.

A recent report indicates that rapid economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China means that by 2030 the annual emissions of these four countries together will exceed those of the 30 OECD countries combined.

Los Angeles and JPL to partner on water and power efficiency projects

PASADENA - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratoryoratory announced today it will partner with Los Angeles's Department of Water and Power to work on energy efficiency and water projects. The three-year agreement will focus on various projects that will utilize the lab's ability to use automatic sensors to provide information that can reduce the city's water usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

One proposed projects is to use the sensors to manage water sprinklers on the Owens Lake, an ancient dry lakebed which blows dust, affecting area residents. LADWP maintains a network of sprinklers to keep the dust under control when winds pick up. Another project will be for JPL to conduct a study of the number of rooftops in L.A, that could host a significant solar cell installation to give the utility an idea of how much solar energy it could harness from urban sources.

Wind-driven Hobart

Hobart Mercury
Monday 20/7/2009 Page: 3

IN a Tasmanian first, a bold plan to install wind turbines on top of Hobart's tallest buildings looks almost certain to get the go-ahead. The Hobart City Council is recommending that line-high turbines on top of the ANZ building, to power the inner city office block, be given the green light. A council report obtained by the Mercury shows the proposal to install the turbines on top of the Elizabeth St highrise received only four public submissions.

Three opposed the development on the basis that it would dramatically change the city's skyline and affect the views of Hobart too much. And one was in favour because of the practical example the turbines would provide in relation to sustainable technology. Despite most submissions being against the turbines, council general manager Nick Heath says in the report the proposal is recommended for approval.

The report will be considered by the city council at its next meeting. The Sullivans Cove Waterfront Authority is yet to make a decision about the installation of similar wind turbines on the roof of the Marine Board building in the historic waterfront area. Both buildings are owned by prominent Hobart developer Robert Rockefeller. Authority chief Hadley Sides said further information was being sought about the noise levels of the turbines.

However, Mr Sides said he believed it was only "minor technical data" that was needed. "But given the building's prominence on the waterfront it is important that any noise issues are investigated fully." he said. The authority's report is expected by next month. It is the first large-scale urban plan for wind turbines in the state, although several businesses in rural Tasmania use windfarm-style windmills for power generation.

Hobart City Council report author Tristan Widdowson said Mr Rockefeller had been approached regarding a possible reduction in height of the support towers. "However, it was stated that due to the adjoining buildings, a reduced height would interfere with wind flow to the turbines and would also be costly for a minimal reduction in the overall height." Mr Widdowson said.

"The wind turbines, although dominant in size, contribute little in bulk to the building due to their design and the white colouring assists in softening the impact of the structures..." The report says the likelihood of bird strike is minimal. Mr Rockefeller was unavailable for comment.

Atmosphere is electric in wait for green funds

Monday 20/7/2009 Page: 25

SOME time over the next few weeks, the federal government will announce which projects have been chosen to receive some of the $300 million set aside to bring new baseload energy technologies into commercial production. It will be a momentous decision for Australia's clean energy industry, and will more or less decide which handful of technologies get the front running to provide zero emission baseload power into the future.

The hope in the industry is that the government will find it impossible to decide among the two dozen or so geothermal, ocean energy, biomass and other candidates and decide to double, or even triple, the funding on offer. There's good reason for this. Such a gesture would provide a clear financial signal to those technologies with the potential to transform the supply of Australia's energy needs and can be given similar funding to that offered to solar ($1.4 billion) and carbon capture ($2.5bn).

And, fear not, Australia would not be acting alone. The US is spending $3bn in direct support on renewables, Britain has just unveiled its low-carbon transition plan that increases direct support for large-scale renewable projects, while significant incentives remain in many European countries.

It makes sense that Australia, with unmatched natural resources, and the technological knowhow, should want to showcase its own achievements and give equal opportunity to the various technologies within each of the broader categories. If not, the risk is that technologies such as ocean energy will simply migrate overseas, while less transportable initiatives, such as the various geothermal projects, will simply suffer more delays.

The geothermal, marine and solar energy industries are also troubled by the proposed structure of the renewable energy target (RET), and concerns that the scheme is geared too heavily to wind energy. The three industries propose to make a joint submission to the Senate inquiry suggesting several options to ensure that these three emerging technologies can access their share of credits.

Similarly, there are concerns a push by the coal industry to have waste coalmine methane included in the RET is also raising concerns. Such projects currently qualify for credits under the NSW greenhouse gas abatement scheme, but green groups contest the fact that is a renewable energy source.

They suggest that it should be included in the emissions trading scheme, or if it is to be added to the RET, then it should be part of an expanded target or hold a particular category of its own that does not result in genuine renewable industries being crowded out of the market.

Bright source for Australia

Monday 20/7/2009 Page: 25

Brightsource Energy, the Californian solar thermal group that this year landed the world's two biggest solar energy deals, says Australia could become its second biggest market. Brightsource Energy is teaming up with Macquarie Group and WorleyParsons to apply for funding under the government's $1.4bn Solar Flagships program, and is looking to build a plant of about 400MW.

We think there will be a sustainable long-term market in Australia," says Tom Doyle, executive vice-president of global development. "For us, it is the No 2 market." Brightsource Energy has signed two contracts worth 1.3 GWs each with PGE and Southern California Edison and has a pipeline of projects totalling about 4GW. Its first 400MW facility is to begin construction within the next 6-9 months and should be completed by 2011.

Its system is known as Luz power tower technology, where thousands of small mirrors or heliostats direct sunlight on to a boiler on top of a tower to produce high-temperature steam. Brightsource Energy's IP essentially revolves around the algorithms that allow the heliostats to follow the sun along the X and the Y axis and direct energy to the tower, which can then generate steam at extremely high temperatures and therefore drive a more efficient turbine.

Doyle says the company will look to add a gas generation facility to broaden the solar plant's ability to meet peak demand periods, particularly early morning and evening. His current visit to Australia includes visits to Australian gas-fired power generators.

Brightsource Energy has raised $US160m ($199m) through three rounds of funding its shareholders include Google, Chevron, BP and Statoil and it is currently looking for a further $US200m in what might be its last round before a market float. Doyle says the company is canvassing strategic and traditional investors in the Asian region, including Australia.

Tokyo pushes alternative energy for Japan

TOKYO: Government efforts to encourage the use of new energy sources, including solar and wind energy, have been gathering momentum mainly due to new incentives and subsidies. These alternative energy sources produce little carbon dioxide, while helping create new businesses at low cost and without importing natural resources.

The central government has accelerated the development of all-domestic new energy sources by introducing new goals and subsidy systems in rapid succession. The government aims to double the nation's electricity-generating capacity by 2020, using new energy sources including biomass, small-scale hydroelectric power generation and geothermal power, and to increase capacity three times or more by 2030.

The government's major focus is on solar energy. Advocating the "world's best sunlight plan," with the aim of increasing solar panel-derived electricity generation by 20 times by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, the government has introduced a variety of support measures.

About 45,000 households have applied for installation subsidies to install solar panels since the government introduced them in January. The government's installation subsidy per household ranges from 210,000 yen to 250,000 yen. Each local government also offers its own subsidies that can be used in combination with the national subsidies.

The government likely will introduce a plan to double the purchase price electric power companies must pay for surplus electricity generated by household solar panels from the present 24 yen per kW-hour to 48 yen during the first 10 years of installation. The new system will likely start this fiscal year. As solar energy generation involves a range of industries, including makers of housing, batteries and related materials, as well as small private housing contractors, these moves also are expected to be effective in stimulating the economy.

Meanwhile, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has introduced a target of tripling or quadrupling the nation's geothermal power generation capacity from the current 530,000 kWs by 2030. Geothermal power is generated by turbines using steam extracted from underground. One of its benefits is stability, as it is unaffected by weather compared with other new energy sources.

Japan is blessed with the world's third-largest geothermal resource reserves, following Indonesia and the United States. Japan's geothermal energy reserves total an estimated 200 million kWs, the equivalent of 15 to 20 large nuclear energy plants. However, no new geothermal power station has been built in the nation, largely due to high construction costs and restrictions on the selection of locations usable for such facilities.

The ministry plans to raise its subsidy rate for constructing geothermal power stations from the present 20% to 33% as early as fiscal 2010. The ministry likely will consider expanding the scope for geothermal generation under the Renewable Portfolio Standard Law,which obligates power companies to use new energy sources. However, when pumping hot water from the ground, it is necessary to prioritize environmental protection as about 80% of geothermal resources are located within national parks.

The push for alternative energy sources is not limited to the public sector. Private power and trading companies are planning to establish mega-solar energy systems. There are also moves aimed at developing "smart grid" digital technology, which is necessary for a steady supply of solar energy.

Last month, the government announced its midterm greenhouse gas emission target of reducing emissions by 15% from 2005 levels by 2020. At the Group of Eight leaders' meeting last week in L'Aquila, Italy, they agreed to long-term goals of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050, with industrialized nations cutting theirs by 80% or more. To achieve these goals, it will be necessary to expand the adoption of new energy sources and not just raise the operational rates of nuclear energy plants in the electricity-generating sector, in which greenhouse gas emissions are relatively high.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Facing climate-change annihilation, Island nation goes solar
JULY 19, 2009

A tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean - that could be wiped off the map because of global warming - is seeking to to set an example for the world by shedding its dependency on oil and becoming powered entirely by renewable energy sources.

Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation located midway between Hawaii and Australia. It is made up of four reef islands and five atolls, with the highest elevation a little over four metres above sea level. The doomed archipelago is the second lowest elevation country in the world after Maldives.

And recently, the island has become the poster child for the potentially catastrophic damage global warming could cause. In an effort to combat climate change, and with the help of industrialized nations, all nine inhabited islands by 2020 plan to be rid of generator fuel, which is currently shipped from New Zealand at a huge environmental cost.

Tuvalu has experienced major flooding of crops and roads as the tides grow higher each year. And scientists predict a large sea level rise this century of anywhere from a half a metre to two metres, says Dale Marshall of the David Suzuki Foundation. If that happens, the ocean could swallow Tuvalu within 50 years and force the evacuation of the entire population of nearly 12,000 people.

"These islands are going to be wiped out," said Marshall. "Some of these islands, the highest point is a metre." Tuvalu, he said, is hoping Australia will take residents in and allow them to remain a sovereign nation, should they have to flee their islands. "If some predictions are right and the sea rises two metres, then even a serious decrease in emissions might still wipe them out," he said. "But if the prediction is closer to under a metre and if we do have deep emission cuts then we might be able to avoid the impacts on small islands."

Tuvalu's plight has caught the attention of a non-profit consortium of electric companies from the G8 industrial nations, including two from Canada - Hydro-Quebec and Ontario Power Generation. The consortium - or e8 as it's called - began the Tuvalu initiative by donating a large-scale solar energy system 14 months ago. The solar system was installed on the roof of Tuvalu's largest football stadium and now supplies five per cent of the electricity needed by the nation's capital, Funafuti.

The operation has reduced Tuvalu's consumption of generator fuel by about 17,000 litres and reduced Tuvalu's carbon footprint by about 50 tonnes, according to the e8. The Tuvalu government intends to expand solar energy to the outer islands with help from the U.S, and Italian governments. "We look forward to the day when our nation offers an example to all - powered entirely by natural resources, such as the sun and the wind," said Kausea Natano, Tuvalu's minister for public utilities and industries, in a recent statement.

Johane Meagher, executive director of the e8 and based in Montreal, said Tuvalu's main challenge will be to find a way to have enough backup energy to use when there is no sunlight. "We're talking about a battery system," she said. "I'm sure if (Tuvalu) wants to get 100 per cent energy from renewable sources they will be able to look at various options that will evolve in the next few years."

Tuvalu officials hope the move toward sustainable power will prompt action by countries at upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen. "It is a message to the world about the urgent need to promote sustainable energy development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a massive scale," said Meagher.

Though Canada may not be in danger of being wiped out by climate change, Marshall said rising sea levels would cause serious damage to areas on the world's longest coastline, which stretches 243,000 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Far North to the Pacific. "Delta, B. C.? Not a good place to buy land, for example," he said. "There are many places - like the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence - that are already talking about the rise and losing beaches."

Scientists believe some low-lying areas of British Columbia like Delta and Richmond could be washed out by rising sea levels. However, Canada and other coastal countries that would be affected, such as the Netherlands, have the resources to manage the problem, whereas poorer nations will suffer the most, said Marshall. "It's nothing compared to Bangladesh, where a one metre rise will mean 30 million people losing their homes or in the South Pacific Islands, where we will lose entire nations."

At the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, earlier this month, members of the industrialized countries promised an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions over the next four decades. The countries acknowledged for the first time that humankind faces catastrophic consequences if average global temperatures, already 0.8 C above levels during the pre-industrial age, rise more than two degrees above levels from the pre-industrial age.

United Nations-sponsored climate talks will take place in Copenhagen in December and will focus on a post-2012 plan to deal with the global warming crisis. "There's a lot happening in world in terms of clean energy, and there is very little happening in Canada," said Marshall. "With wind energy we just got over the 1,000-MW limit last year and Germany is about the size of Ontario and it has over 20,000 MWs, which is 20 times what Canada has just because it has the right policies."

Tiny Tuvalu says all its energy renewable by 2020

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu, already under threat from rising seas caused by global warming, vowed Sunday to do its part for climate change by fueling its economy entirely from renewable sources by 2020.

The South Pacific nation of 12,000 people is part of a movement of countries and cities committed to going climate neutral. Since February 2008, 10 nations including New Zealand, Pakistan, Iceland and Costa Rica have vowed to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases as part of a goal of reaching zero emissions in the next decade.

None of these commitments alone is expected to make a significant difference in the fight to cut heat-trapping gases. But the United Nations and many environmentalists say the moves can inspire bigger emitters like the United States and China to take bolder steps to limit their carbon footprints.

"In a sense, they are paving the way for medium and larger economies which have to move if we are going combat climate change," said Nick Nuttal, spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme. It sponsors the Climate Neutral Network, a group of 100 governments, non government groups and companies looking to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. "These smaller economies are out to prove you can do it, and do it faster than some people previously thought."

Major polluters at the Group of Eight nations' summit earlier this month failed to agree on commitments to reduce carbon emissions. That indicates how difficult it will be to craft a new climate treaty later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark, one that would be a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Climate scientists have urged rich countries to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by between 25% and 40% by 2020 to avoid the worst effects of warming, which they say will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms.

For its part, Tuvalu hopes to replace the fossil fuels that it imports by ship with solar energy and wind energy, a project that it expects will cost $20 million. Tuvalu already releases almost no greenhouse gases. But because of climate change, many South Pacific islands see worsening flooding amid predictions of a large sea level rise this century.

The country is just 10 square miles (26 square kilometers) in size, with most of its land less than a yard (meter) above sea level. So far, Tuvalu has installed a 40 kW solar energy system with the help of Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co, and Tokyo Electric Power Company, both members of the e8, an international nonprofit organization of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.

"There may be other, larger solar energy installations in the world, but none could be more meaningful to customers than this one," Takao Shiraishi, general manager of the Kansai Electric Power Co., said in a statement. "The plight of Tuvalu versus the rising tide vividly represents the worst early consequence of climate change," he added. "For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the success of UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of national survival."

The Tuvalu government is working to expand the initial $410,000 project from 40 to 60 kWs, and will extend solar energy to outer islands, starting later this year with the commission of a $800,000, 46 kW solar energy system for a secondary school. The Italian government is supporting the project.

"We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen our voice in those international negotiations," Public Utilities and Industries Minister Kausea Natano said in a statement. "And we look forward to the day when our nation offers an example to all _ powered entirely by natural resources such as the sun and the wind."

Alice homes lead push in harnessing sun's power

Northern Territory News
Friday 17/7/2009 Page: 11

AUSTRALIA'S red heart is leading the push for solar energy with almost 10% of Alice Springs' homes now harnessing the power of the sun. This equates to about 1000 households with almost $2.5 million spent on solar and energy efficient measures since March last year. "This is a major milestone for our town especially considering our goal was to reach 1500 by 2013," said Sam Latz, acting general manager for the Alice Solar City project.

"We have been overwhelmed by residents' interest to implement energy-efficient activities in their homes. "(This) will put a large dent in our town's greenhouse gas emissions." Mr Latz said solar hot water systems had generated the most interest. 175 systems have been installed in the last 15 months. "58 hones now have solar photovoltaic systems on their rooftops," he said. Also popular was the credit incentive, he said. "Households get a 10 to 20% credit on their power bill if they reduce their electricity consumption by 10 to 20%," said Mr Latz.

Other popular measures include painting the roof white, installing low energy lighting, installing or upgrading insulation and servicing existing solar hot water systems. Sixty businesses from the desert town have also signed up to various measures. Alice Solar City project is part of the federal government's $94 million Solar Cities initiative to test integrated approaches to urban energy management.

Tree-planting frenzy at Origin

Friday 17/7/2009 Page: 2

A POTENTIAL $170 million deal to create a large-scale carbon forest sink in Australia's wheat belt over 15 years has been signed by Origin Energy and Carbon Conscious. Origin Energy will pay Perth-based Carbon Conscious to plant millions of native Mallee eucalypts on less viable agricultural land in return for carbon permits tradeable under the Federal Government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS).

Origin Energy will receive a permit for every tonne of carbon stored, offsetting its liabilities under the CPRS. Although the CPRS is yet to be approved by the Senate, creating some uncertainty, Carbon Conscious chief executive Peter Balsarini said he was confident about the legislation because both sides of politics supported biosequestration.

Initial plantings will take place over the next three years at a cost of $26 million, comprising upfront planting costs and ongoing licence and management fees. Origin Energy will have the option of subsequently planting more trees. If Origin Energy exercises its options in full, it is believed that the deal will be the largest forest sink program in Australia, valued at up to $169 million over 15 years.

The project will involve hundreds of farmers and thousands of hectares, initially mainly in Western Australia. Origin Energy estimates that plantings of 30 million Mallee eucalypts would sequester six million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Mr Balsarini emphasised that only less productive land would be used, about 10-20% of the property, depending on land and soil type.

"It is all about integrating the trees into the landscape and providing environmental benefits, such as preventing salinity and erosion," he said. He said the deal would be profitable at a carbon starting price of $23 a tonne. Carbon Conscious shares closed it higher at 35¢, while Origin Energy shares closed 9¢ lower at $14.39.


Highlands wind farm proposed

Hobart Mercury
Friday 17/7/2009 Page: 15

A US power company plans to build Tasmania's biggest wind farm at Lake Echo in the Central Highlands. The Central Highlands Council expects to receive N.P. Power's development application to build a 75-turbine windfarm in the next week. If approved, the proposed Cattle Hill Wind Farm would produce up to 225 MWs of electricity by 2012.

The power generated would feed into Hydro Tasmania's Waddamana substation. The Waddamana to Bridgewater transmission line is due to be upgraded in 2012 to cope with any extra load. The Woolnorth Windfarm, sited on the state's North-West tip, now generates 140MW.

Central Highlands Mayor Deirdre Flint said the council had been in discussions with the company and was now waiting to receive an official development application. "I expect that will be received by our next council meeting on July 22." Cr Flint said yesterday. The windfarm would need council, state and federal government approval. The presence of wedge-tailed and white bellied sea eagles could complicate the bureaucratic process.

The company said a survey of eagle nest sites had revealed two nests within the proposed windfarm area and others in the surrounding region. "A comprehensive management plan will be developed and proposed to mitigate any potential impacts on local eagle populations," the company's Notice of Intent said. N.P. Power said the Department of Primary Industries and Water, in conjunction with the land owners, the Downie family, had also identified a number of threatened flora species on the site.

State Reserve status will now cover the area concerned. The 3500ha site is now used mostly for grazing. "Assuming a six-month assessment period before receiving approval from state, federal and local council, site preparation for turbine delivery and transmission infrastructure could commence in the fourth quarter of 2010," the company said. Commissioning of the windfarm is pencilled in for the end of June 2012.

Origin locks in carbon credits

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 17/7/2009 Page: 80

Origin Energy has signed a deal to create what could become Australia's largest project to lock up atmospheric carbon using trees. The deal, potentially worth $169 million over 15 years, would use millions of trees in Western Australia's wheat belt. Using so-called biosequestration - storing carbon in plants and the soil to reduce the amount in the air - the plan would generate carbon credits Origin Energy could use to offset any obligations under the Federal Government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme.

With CPRS legislation yet to pass Parliament, the move is an indication Origin Energy is readying for new laws that will put a price on carbon emissions. Under the deal with WA based Carbon Conscious, mallee eucalypt seedlings would be planted across cleared lands otherwise unsuited to agriculture. Origin Energy, a large energy retailer, will pay an initial $26 million to Carbon Conscious, to establish the plantings until 2011 and organise licence and management fees.

New Geothermal Heat Extraction Process to Deliver Clean Power Generation

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), United States, have developed a new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources. Geothermal holds promise as a clean energy source as it has no greenhouse gas emissions and is a steady and dependable source of power.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has estimated that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10% of the United States' overall electrical generating capacity by 2050. PNNL's method uses a new liquid developed by PNNL, called biphasic fluid, that will rapidly expand and contract, when exposed to heat brought to the surface from water circulating in moderately hot, underground rock.

The thermal cycling of the biphasic fluid will power a turbine to generate electricity. The scientists also added nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers (MOHCs) to boost the power generation capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle. Pete McGrail, PNNL Laboratory Fellow, said "[B]y the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity. If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source." The article can be viewed online at the link below.

The original article may still be available at

Desertec: African solar power for Europe
July 17, 2009

BERLIN, July 17 (UPI) - - If it makes it beyond the drawing broad, Desertec Foundation would be the world's largest, most ambitious and expensive green energy project ever: a series of solar thermal power plants across the Sahara desert connecting Africa under the Mediterranean Sea to Europe's power grid.

Desertec Foundation - - with an estimated investment cost of some 400 billion euros, should be capable, by some estimates, of supplying up to 20% of European needs by the middle of the 21st century. While it has the backing of some of Germany's largest high-tech companies and energy utilities, some of Europe's keenest backers of green energy regard it as an ill-conceived pipe dream.

Twelve major European companies have signed a declaration of intent to form a consortium by this fall to be set up in Munich under the name Desertec Foundation Investment Initiative. Within three years the consortium hopes to draw up a project design and master plan for its realization. The companies involved are insurance giant Munchener Ruck, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, German utilities RWE and E.ON, MAN Solar Millennium, HSH Nordbank, ABB, Abengoa Solar, Algerian industrial and food group Cevital, plant construction group MW Zander and international solar specialists Schott Solar.

Siemens Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher says the project is no more far-fetched than the trans-Atlantic telegraphic cable laid by Siemens in 1876. The technology for solar thermal plants is well established, with plants already feeding power into the grid in California and in southern Spain.

Unlike solar panels, which produce a maximum heat output of 200 centigrade, a solar thermal power plant typically uses hundreds of mirrors to concentrate sunlight for boiling some type of liquid for producing steam via a heat exchanger to drive turbines that generate electricity. One big advantage, say its backers, is that solar thermal heat can be stored at night or when the sun is not shining to continue producing power 24/7.

One strong critic is Hermann Scheer, an acknowledged expert on renewable energy and a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats. With no details yet published about which countries in North Africa might be involved, Scheer describes the project as a "fata morgana" - - a desert mirage - - which is politically as well as economically untested. He believes the costs are incalculable and likely to soar ahead of any projections.

The Desertec Foundation consortium explicitly acknowledge that local communities in the countries where solar energy plants would have to be - - in either electricity or in money - - for the right of construction. Neither the German government nor the EU is willing to fund the project beyond some small amounts of seed money. Scheer points out that the desert is a harsh environment for energy plants and it is unclear where the large amounts of water needed for such plants would come from.

There are also objections that the transmission of power across long distances would lead to huge energy losses, though backers of the idea say transmission via High voltage Direct Current cables would maximize transmission efficiency.

Wave Hub greenlight in UK's first Low Carbon Economic Area
17 July 2009

The Wave Hub project in England has been approved by the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), which said the marine energy potential of the area has led to its designation as the UK's first Low Carbon Economic Area.

The UK Government is contributing £9.5M (US$15.5M) to the Wave Hub project. South West RDA is contributing £12.5M (US$20.4M) to the project and a further £20M (US$32.6M) is coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Wave Hub will have 20MW capacity and be scalable to 50MW. Ocean Power Technologies Ltd (OPT) is to take the first berth on the Hub with its PowerBuoy wave energy converter.

The hub assembly and 26.5km of cable is to be manufactured by JDR Cable Systems Ltd, of Hartlepool. The contract value is £7.6M (US$12.4M) The Government will give a further £10M (US$16.3M) to back other marine energy projects in the region. South West RDA is leading a £100M (US$163M), two-year investment programme in marine energy.

Earlier this year E.ON and partner Ocean Prospect withdrew from the Wave Hub scheme as they wanted to focus on further technological development of the Pelamis device, in Orkney.

Wind, Geothermal Are Most Efficient Renewable Energy Sources - Study

As the U.S. Congress debates an energy and climate bill, government organizations and corporations are assessing renewable energy alternatives. Which are the most efficient and improving the fastest? According to a new study from NYU's Stern school of Business, geothermal and wind energy are more efficient, and are yielding greater returns on the R&D invested in them, than most other renewable energy alternatives.

NYU Stern Professor Melissa Schilling, an expert in strategic management and technology and innovation management, finds that the cost of generating electricity with geothermal or wind energy is a fraction of the cost of solar energy. More important, the performance of both is improving much more per dollar of R&D invested in them than solar technologies. This is the first study to explore the trajectory of performance improvement of renewable energy alternatives.

Schilling examined data on government R&D investment and technological improvement and found that geothermal energy is the most efficient renewable energy alternative and is improving the fastest. Wind energy is second. In addition, fossil fuel technologies are no longer improving (in terms of efficiency) much--if at all. These technologies have likely reached their performance limits, though the government still spends far more on them.

According to stern, geothermal energy could become cheaper than fossil fuels with R&D spending of as little as $3.3 billion. Both geothermal and wind energy technologies have been underfunded by national governments relative to funding for solar technologies, and government funding of fossil fuel technologies might be excessive given their diminishing performance, the report concludes.

The full paper was recently published in Energy Policy and is available as a PDF at the link below.


Next generation of solar dishes use less steel
July 18, 2009

Sandia National Laboratories scientist Chuck Andraka is excited about what's missing from a new generation of solar dishes that will be in the field by next year. There's far less steel — about 2 tons — in the structure that supports the SunCatcher, developed for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Stirling Energy Systems, or SES. Overall, the design is 5,000 pounds lighter than its prototype. "You've got to get the cost down because there's so little margin," said Andraka, lead engineer on the project. "Small changes.., impact profitability."

Sandia morphed the SunCatcher's original rectangular design into a radial structure that looks like a 37 1/2-foot diameter satellite dish with mirrors and allows "the same structural stiffness with far less steel," he said. The lab's work on the SunCatcher was done with manufacturing in mind. "The idea wasn't to enhance performance. It was to make it more manufacturable and get the cost down," Andraka said.

And that's the point. The project is part of a larger effort to make solar energy more affordable for utilities and other potential customers. "This is an example of the momentum we're seeing in industry for incremental improvements to bring costs down across the entire supply chain," said Monique Hanis, spokeswoman for the 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based Solar Energy Industries Association.

She said the industry sees "huge opportunities on the utility-scale front" with Monday's announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that his agency will designate 670,000 acres of federal land in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah as study areas for utility-scale solar projects.

The newest SunCatcher version has fewer pieces, so there's less inventory to keep and fewer pieces to assemble. The design retains the functionality of the previous one but is far easier to repair. "Something that was taking our technicians a week to service, they should be able to service in two hours now," Andraka said. SunCatcher's developers also expect it to benefit suppliers in the hard-hit automotive industry.

"Parts of it are steel and mirrors and glass, all the things they use to make vehicles up in the Detroit area," said Janette Coates, spokeswoman for Tessera Solar, SES's Houston-based solar project development arm. The design uses radiators for cooling. It's a closed system like those on automobiles, reducing evaporation, which Andraka said provides a huge advantage in a desert environment.

Sandia began working with SES on the project in 2002, and the next year, SES brought in a dish purchased from another manufacturer. In 2005, Sandia installed an SES-built system. That prototype proved the concept works, which led to the current design. "It really was a crash course on redesign," Andraka said.

SunCatchers, each producing 25 kWs of electricity, will be placed in arrays covering many square miles to generate power for utilities. "It has a huge potential to deliver real power to our country," said Andraka, who has worked on the project for much of the decade. This is how Sandia explains the SunCatcher's workings: The modular design uses mirrors attached to a parabolic dish that focuses the sun's rays onto a receiver, which transmits heat to a Stirling engine, a sealed system filled with hydrogen.

As the gas heats and cools, its pressure rises and falls, and the change in pressure drives a piston inside the engine. That produces mechanical power, which drives a generator and makes electricity. The structure rotates to follow the sun. The solar collection dishes don't resemble the trough or solar panel arrays most people are accustomed to seeing.

"That's one of the confusions we have often. They think photovoltaic and rooftop," Andraka said. "These are not rooftop. These are utility scale, square miles (of dishes) in a location." In a particularly bright area, a utility could remove mirrors that gather sunlight; in a cloudier coastal area, it could add some, Andraka said.

Tessera Solar plans a 60-unit generation plant in Arizona or California. The plant, expected to go into operation by January, would generate 1.5 MWs. The company also plans to use the technology in two large plants to go into operation by the end of 2012 in Southern California. Together, they would generate enough electricity for nearly 1.2 million homes, Coates said.

One under development with San Diego Gas & Electric in the Imperial Valley, would generate 750 MWs. The second, east of Barstow with Southern California Edison, would generate 850 MWs. Tessera also is developing a 27-MW West Texas project with CPS Energy. That project is expected to begin operating by the end of next year.

Andraka said projects move faster in the investor-driven industry sector. "The bulk of the money is coming from investors. It's not coming from the government," he said. "That's a huge change in pace.., because investors want results and they want them now."