Friday 21 August 2009

Solar Trust offers 'turnkey' solar thermal option
August 18, 2009

Newly formed thermal solar energy company Solar Trust announced on Tuesday it acquired the rights to Solar Millennium's potentially lucrative agreement with Southern California Edison (SCE). The power purchase agreement, which was announced in June, gives Solar Trust the opportunity to build up to 726 MWs' worth of solar energy plants. If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the project would include the construction and installation of two or three 242-MW power plants that would be operational by 2013 or 2014.

Solar Trust's strategy is to offer what it calls a "turnkey solution" to thermal solar energy development. It says it will be a company that can provide not only the design, development, construction, and installation of a thermal solar plant, but also the running and management of the plant once it's functional.

But Solar Trust is actually a joint venture of two German companies making their way into the U.S, market. Solar Millennium AG is a company specializing in parabolic trough solar thermal power plants, and MAN Ferrostaal, which has an Ohio-based subsidiary, is an engineering and construction company. Once formed, Solar Trust acquired Solar Millennium, Solar Millennium AG's Berkeley, Calif.-based subsidiary that already held the agreement with SCE.

"With thousands of fully-funded and completed industrial projects in the combined portfolios of our business partners, we expect to become the industry leader in the development and construction of these solar thermal power plants in the U.S," Uwe T. Schmidt, CEO of Solar Trust of America, said in a statement.

Parabolic trough solar thermal is the next generation of solar thermal tech. Companies like Ausra, eSolar, and Solel have already been raising money or developing projects with the technology.

Instead of using solar panels to convert light into electricity, the parabolic troughs used in these thermal solar plants reflect sunlight to heat liquid that in turn makes steam to generate electricity. While known to be one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy, it's most effective in sunny, desert areas like the southwestern U.S., Spain, and Egypt.

Renewable Energy Target passage through Parliament

Clean Energy Council
20 August 2009

Statement from Matthew Warren, Chief Executive, Clean Energy Council

Today the Senate approved the Rudd Government's landmark Renewable Energy Target (RET) legislation to ensure 20% of Australia's stationary energy will come from renewable energy sources by 2020. This is to date the most significant piece of climate change legislation in Australian history. It is the result of bipartisan support within the Parliament and years of hard work by many in the emerging clean energy industry.

The RET legislation will be the foundation of clean energy policy in Australia for the next decade. But our job has only just begun. We need to raise more than AU$20 billion to finance new clean energy projects over the next decade to help create 28,000 new clean jobs.

We will continue to work with the emerging cleantech sector, government and investors to find the best ways to accelerate development of emerging technologies and drive them as quickly as possible into this growing clean energy market. We will use this next decade to make clean energy cheaper, more reliable and more accessible. Our goal is not to just meet this target by 2020, but to surpass it.

The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on honouring his election commitment and demonstrating continued leadership on climate change policy. The effectiveness of the RET legislation was ensured by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, who listened to the concerns of the clean energy industry over key aspects of the design of the proposed bill, and addressed them.

Climate change is the biggest policy challenge in modern history. The legislation to address it is generational in scale. It needs bipartisan support, as inevitably both sides of politics will be stewards of its execution and implementation. Importantly, this has been achieved today. And of course the next challenge is the successful passage of the Federal Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

We would like to recognise the support of the Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull and pay special tribute to the hard work of shadow Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt. It's important to note that Australia's first renewable energy target was established by the coalition in 2001 and we welcome their continued support.

The Clean Energy Council is made up of more than 300 clean energy companies who have been working for years to develop an effective policy platform around which Australia can develop a world class clean energy industry. That foundation has now been laid and their substantial efforts have been rewarded. Now the real work begins.

Target go-ahead raises green energy hopes

Thursday 20/8/2009 Page: 4

THOUSANDS of employees in the renewable power sector were celebrating yesterday after the Government's renewable energy target bill passed through the Senate. After recent delays over the energy target slowing the Australian market, yesterday's deal was a "great will for the renewable energy industry", said Steve Garner, general manager of Keppel Prince Engineering.

"The Clean Energy Council talks about unlocking $28 billion worth of projects and we're looking forward to hopefully getting under way to build some of those in the not-too-distant future," Mr Garner said. "We're looking at possibly increasing our workforce by somewhere between 100 and 150 people and expanding our facilities, given that the projects start to flow."

Laurie Mallia, chief executive of Modern Solar, was also relieved to have new business confidence after yesterday's decision. "If this uncertainty had gone on any longer and we had lost a bigger%age of staff, when the bill would have been eventually passed there would have had to be a retraining or re-recruitment process and so forth. This now means that we don't have to do that."

However, Mr Mallia said a lot more could be done to boost renewable energy. "We as an industry in Australia have the highest sunlight in the world, the highest radiation in the world and we should be world leaders in renewables and particularly solar energy and we're simply not. "We're thanking the Government for what they have done assisting the industry, but I think there should be a lot more done - a lot more serious initiatives put in place."

Adrian Ferraretto, managing director of Solar Shop Australia, said he was looking forward to "getting back to business", following a hard past 10 weeks after the renewable energy rebate was wound up early. "Previous to them pulling the rebate, we were filling up to 450 units a week and we're down to less than 10 a week," Mr Ferraretto said. "For all our employees, it means they can come into work tomorrow knowing that the solar panel industry has got a.., very bright future."

$6bn green energy goal

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 20/8/2009 Page: 7

Eyre Peninsula renewable energy projects will be the key to the State Government's attempt to capture an estimated $6 billion in green energy funds. A major feasibility study aimed at creating greater capacity in the state's electricity grid has been launched by the Government. That will contribute $1 million to the consortium examining the plan, which will target the Eyre Peninsula. The consortium includes Macquarie Bank, WorleyParsons and Baker and McKenzie.

Premier Mike Rann said the study would look at how and what the state needed to do to improve and significantly augment SA's capacity to transmit electricity across the power grid. "SA has now set a new target of 33% of the state's power generating coming from renewable energy by 2020," he said. "This is bold, even in international terms." Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he wants Australia to generate 20% of power from renewable resources by 2020.

Mr Rann said SA would smash that target years ahead of the deadline. He said the state needed to attract a greater investment in green power so that there could be a statewide "green grid" of renewable energy - from wind, solar, geothermal and wave - feeding into the national power grid out of SA. "We want to be a major source of green power for the eastern states so they can reach their targets," he said. "However, if we are to get serious about attracting more green energy, we are going to have to increase our transmission capacity."

Mr Rann said that by increasing the capacity of the transmission lines on the Eyre Peninsula, it had the potential to unlock $6 billion in renewable energy investment that could generate up to 5000 MWs of clean, green energy. "Last year, we commissioned the State Economic Development Board to prepare a wide-ranging economic statement," he said. "One of the board's key recommendations was to ensure we maximise and build on our state's unique natural advantages in generating wind, solar, geothermal and wave energy."

Wave farm electricity for a new generation

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 19/8/2009 Page: 31

A WAVE farm generating base-load, emission-free electricity will be operating in SA within five years, the development manager for Carnegie Corporation said yesterday. Tim Sawyer, who was in Adelaide speaking at the Future Energy Conference, said a wave farm at Port MacDonnell in the state's south-east was likely to go ahead before 2014. The seaside town near Mt Gambier has been shortlisted by the company as a preferred site for its first demonstration power plant, along with locations in WA and Victoria.

The power plant will use wave-power technology called CETO, which produces electricity from tethered submerged buoys in the ocean which pump high pressure seawater to shore. Mr Sawyer said an announcement on the location for the firm's first demonstration plant was imminent but, regardless of where the first was located, other sites would be developed. "If Port MacDonnell wasn't the first site it would be hot on the heels of the first," he said.

Mr Sawyer said the southeast site, which covered about 17,000ha of seabed near Port MacDonnell, was attractive for its strong wave resource and connection to the national electricity grid. He said the company was looking to establish a 5MW demonstration plant and a large-scale 50MW demonstration project.

$50 billion China signs our biggest trade deal

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 19/8/2009 Page: 1

AUSTRALIA has cemented its biggest trade deal - a whopping $50 billion contract to supply liquefied natural gas to China.

The gas coup confirms that Australia and China are maintaining a "business as usual" approach to economic relations - despite the diplomatic rift caused by the detention of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. The lucrative export deal, announced last night in Beijing, also will raise hopes the Australian economy is well on the road to recovery, spurred on by a wave of exports to resource-hungry Asian countries.

Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson last night hailed the trade deal, which will see resources giant Exxon-Mobil supply gas from the $50 billion Gorgon field in Western Australia. Speaking from Beijing, Mr Ferguson said the 20-year export contract was "testimony to the strength of Australia's continuing trade and investment relationship with China". "This unprecedented export deal confirms Australia's place as a global energy superpower supplying vital clean energy resources and technologies to China and our other Asia-Pacific trading partners," Mr Ferguson said.

The lucrative contract comes as the Government grapples with the fallout from the Hu arrest, and Chinese anger over Canberra's decision to allow exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer into Australia. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday admitted that China had downgraded official talks with Australia earlier this month because of his decision to grant her a visa. "China was most unhappy with her visit and as a consequence of her visit they indicated to Australia that the proposed visit.., of Vice- Minister He Yafei would not occur and that China would be represented by an ambassador," Mr Smith told Parliament.

But this diplomatic rift hasn't derailed commercial deals with China. The LNG pact comes just one week after Exxon-Mobil, which has a 25% investment in Gorgon, signed a $25 billion deal with India. Exxon-Mobil executives signed the 20-year export deal with PetroChina in Beijing last night. The heavily-guarded announcement will help ensure the viability of the $50 billion Gorgon development, whose other partners comprise Shell and Chevron. It is now destined to become Australia's most lucrative resources project, with forecast LNG export sales of $300 billion during the next 20 years.

Mr Ferguson, speaking at the signing ceremony, talked up economic and trade links with China. He said Australia had "an obligation to help China and our other neighbours in the Asia-Pacific to meet their growing energy needs in a sustainable way". The deal will help fuel hopes of a better than expected recovery from the global downturn, underpinned by a series of key resources projects. Located 130km off the West Australian coast, the Gorgon project spearheads a range of vast resources deals that are under way - or in planning - across Australia.

Just last week, the Gorgon project received final environmental clearance from the Western Australian Government. The three partners are waiting for final clearance by the Federal Government - but well placed sources say that appears a formality. The LNG project will be a boon for the domestic economy, creating up to 6000 jobs at the peak of construction. It also will generate about $40 billion in revenue for the Government.

While Exxon-Mobil was signing its lucrative deal in China, another proposed $35 billion LNG plant was being announced for Queensland yesterday. The Queensland Government and Australia Pacific LNG announced a 230ha site at Laird Point on Curtis Island, Gladstone, as the preferred site for the project. It is expected to generate up to 10,000 jobs.

AltaRock To Test Geothermal Fracturing

AltaRock Energy Inc, is one of the most promising companies involved in Enhanced Geothermal Systems. The company has secured investments from both the U.S. Department of Energy and the philantrhopic arm of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

The company is currently testing its technology about 70 miles north of San Francisco, drilling down to rocks in excess of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The company then fractures the rocks with high pressure water and begins circulating additional water through the cracks to produce steam. The steam is then used to drive electricity-producing turbines.

The technology has the potential to be used throughout the American West to generate clean power. However, local residents, who already deal with regular seismic tremors are concerned about the risks. The same geothermal technology triggered a 3.4-magnitude earthquake in Switzerland in 2006. Geologists say any tremors caused by AltaRock will be too small to notice.

Geothermal tipped to cut carbon footprint
Aug 19, 2009

The West Australian Government is looking to establish geothermal energy as a long-term, alternative source. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source that uses heat from water thousands of metres below the earth's surface. The Government has just issued the first batch of geothermal exploration permits. Geothermal Power is one of the companies to take up a government permit.

The company's chief executive, Jenny Archibald, says the use of geothermal energy will help reduce Western Australia's carbon footprint. "The most obvious benefit is that once this is set up it's providing energy on an ongoing basis, where there is no direct carbon output at all," she said. Ms Archibald says geothermal energy will increasingly be used to offset electricity use. "Overall, the carbon imprint is very, very small," he said. "It's a renewable resource because the water gets pumped back down into the system, so it's circulated and all we are really doing is extracting the heat."

Reward Aussies who generate power: MPs
August 18, 2009

The Greens and independent MP Rob Oakeshott are urging the federal government to reward ordinary Australians who generate their own electricity and more to spare. Mr Oakeshott introduced a bill in parliament on Tuesday, proposing the introduction of feed-in tariffs - payments for electricity generated from renewable sources and fed back to the main grid.

It would cover everything from a householder installing rooftop solar panels to a mid-sized developer building a solar thermal power plant. It was time ordinary Australians were directly involved in the climate change battle, rather than just politicians and business groups, Mr Oakeshott said. "Here is an opportunity to engage people in real change and a real move to a new economy," he told parliament. "People want to be engaged and now is certainly the time to do it."

Mr Oakeshott's proposal complements a similar bill being put forward to the upper house by Senator Christine Milne from the Greens, who have come together to call for a national feed-in tariffs system. Mr Oakeshott noted similar schemes overseas had boosted the use of renewable energy, most successfully in Germany, where a major boost in renewable energy was directly attributed to feed-in tariffs.

The plan would reward electricity generated from sources such as wind, solar and geo-thermal. "If people do better in their own houses, they benefit," Mr Oakeshott said of the legislation. "At the moment what we're seeing in this climate change debate is a welfare system being established for the top end of town - that frustrates people, it disengages people."

Individual states and territories have all looked at implementing feed-in tariffs, which is being looked at by the Council of Australian Governments, Mr Oakeshott said. A nationally consistent system would streamline the process. feed-in tariffs were successful in Spain and parts of North America and would undoubtedly contribute to Australia's expected renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020, Senator Milne added. She said it was time for the government to show real leadership and allow everyone an opportunity to contribute.

Indonesia Looks to Geothermal Energy to Reduce Energy Shortages
20th of August 2009

PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy has set a goal to raise $3 billion to fund a geothermal project over the next five years that would generate 1,068 MW of energy. The company is a subsidiary of Pertamina, an Indonesian state-owned oil and gas company. Pertamina currently runs and manages two other geothermal projects which generate a total of 272 MW of energy capacity. The other two geothermal facilities are located in West Java and North Sulawesi.

Chevron had previously developed a geothermal plant of 259 MW capacity as part of the Darajat project in West Java. The car company partnered with PT Darajat Geothermal Indonesia for the joint venture, and the operating contract was retained by Pertamina.

Additionally Pertamina retain the operating contract for the 340 MW geothermal plant in North Sumatra which the company signed in 2007. The plant was built by a joint venture involving three energy companies: Medco Energi Internasional, Ormat Technologies, and Itochu based out of Tokyo. The project will be completed in 2012 and is estimated to cost $800 million.

Indonesia is currently weathering severe energy shortages causing the local government to look to alternative means of supplying the country with electricity. The country currently has 25 GW of energy, but only 5% of that energy is generated by renewable resources, such as geothermal.

Geothermal energy is gaining a footing in the renewable energy sector, and Indonesia is currently fourth ranking in the world as a produce of geothermal energy, falling just behind the U.S., the Philippines, and Mexico. The government has predicted that Indonesia has a total of 21 GW in untapped geothermal resources. PT Pertamine plans to capitalise on untapped geothermal resources with an aggressive plan to drill 35 wells by the end of next year alone. The company will seek additional funding from the World Bank and other investors for their projects

Town in Maine Chooses Solar Power Over Transmission Upgrade
August 17, 2009

In October of 2008, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a petition from Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) to build a $1.4 billion transmission project in the state.

The project, which would add 245 miles of new 345-kilovolt transmission line (including a line from Orrington to Portsmouth, N.H.) and 74 miles of new 115-kilovolt transmission line, as well as rebuild 10 miles of 345-kilovolt transmission line and 155 miles of 115-kilovolt transmission line, would, according to CMP, insure electric reliability and allow for power exports to southern New England.

The project will also result in people losing their land as CMP uses eminent domain to site the new transmission. CMP will also have to remove thousands of acres of forest to site the transmission towers and lines, and – where the 345-volt lines come close to residential properties – subject homeowners and their families to electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, which are implicated in everything from cancer to depression.

The approval was contingent on non-profit Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) ISO-New England including the project in its regional system plan as a reliability transmission upgrade. FERC also granted a 1.25% return of equity, or ROE, rather than the 1.5% CMP had requested, and allowed CMP to recoup costs (for construction and abandonment of existing infrastructure as required) via a future rate filing.

CMP already had an August, 2008 rate hike of 23%, effective Sept. 1, for medium-sized business customers, and a full 32% for large business customers – a rate hike based strictly on the cost of producing electricity, not on the transmission upgrade proposals.

Residential customers didn't get a hike, but many got December, 2008 bills that were double in size from previous winters, as was the case for Deanne Lance, who saw her bill go from $85 to $168 – an increase CMP attributes to estimates performed because crews were repairing power lines downed in a severe winter storm. In fact, Maine's cost per kW hour for electricity is fourth highest in the nation, after Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In Saco, Maine, the city council has found what it feels is a simpler, and cheaper, solution. On July 20, it approved a 20-year contract with GridSolar to deploy solar panels on city-owned land, near a former landfill.

The solution allows the city to provide electric power without a transmission upgrade, the use of eminent domain, deforestation, the inherent dangers of EMFs, or the potential rate increases inherent in spending 1.5 billion dollars. It also withdraws no usable land from the public domain, since the landfill site can't be repurposed into housing, farmland or industrial space, and requires no long, complicated environmental assessments, since the land is not considered sensitive or endangered habitat.

It is the first land-lease agreement for GridSolar, which has agreed to pay $25,000 a year for the land (which is near a retired landfill), plus property taxes on all future improvements as well, in exchange for what will ultimately be 50 to 100 solar "farms", each on 25 acres, over the next five years.

For those hours/days when the sun doesn't shine, GridSolar plans to use propane/natural gas fired distributed generation and battery backup as the technology improves, and to improve demand-response issues by using interruptible loading techniques like paying customers to reduce use when demand exceeds production.

Can it work? Time will tell, but the outmoded and balky transmission system of yesterday can be "upgraded" until the cows come home without improving reliability or reducing use of fossil fuel generation, so I think it's worth a try. Apparently, the residents of Saco agree.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Blue skies thinking
Tue, 18 Aug 09

Of course climate change is a huge challenge, but it also presents an opportunity for industry to develop innovative technologies, for the job market in the sector to grow, and for Britain to become a world leader in the low-carbon economy

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge that we face. In developing the expertise to meet this challenge to reduce carbon emissions there is enormous potential for growth in jobs and industry. The move to a low-carbon economy is an opportunity for Britain to establish itself as a world leader and a hub of low-carbon innovation, and in turn reap the economic benefits. As the prime minister, Gordon Brown, says: "The rapid diffusion of low-carbon technology is vital not only to tackling climate change but to our economic recovery and future prosperity."

Garry Staunton is the technology director of the Carbon Trust, a government-backed agency that nurtures and supports the innovation of low-carbon technologies. He sees the development of a low-carbon economy as vitally important but says we will have to work hard for it: "We can't sit still and wait for change to happen."

So what does a low-carbon economy mean? The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change said that in 2050 the standard of living in a low-carbon economy would not be that different from the one that we live in now, but, as Staunton explains, "we will have reduced the impact we have on the global environment."

In terms of the average person going to work, they will still catch the bus, but the bus will be powered by a diesel engine that could be run on a hybrid, electric or biofuel basis. The office will still be lit but the building will use more of its design to reduce the need for artificial lighting. At home, the need for indoor heating will be reduced through better insulation, solar panels will be more widely used for heating water and people will make more use of the internet to work remotely. As Staunton says, "you will still be able to do want you want, but your carbon footprint will be smaller."

Above all, we still want to live in a comfortable environment; although we need to reduce carbon emissions this doesn't mean, as Staunton says, that we have to live in a hair-shirt economy, it can be a "silk-shirt economy". According to a recent government study, the low-carbon environmental goods and services sector was worth £3,046bn in 2007-8. Asia accounted for 38% of this total, Europe 27%, and the Americas 30%. In the UK, this sector was valued at £106.5bn, making it the world's sixth-largest low-carbon and environmental economy, with 3.5% of global market share.

To make the move to a low-carbon economy we need the right conditions for investment, innovation and deployment of new technologies. The Carbon Trust helps to evaluate lowcarbon technologies and provides the practical and financial support to move them over the business and regulatory hurdles. The key to success is not only the carbon saving of an invention, but whether the idea is marketable, and will make money. The Carbon Trust gives grants to help finance inventors but it also runs an "incubation" service. This helps inventors identify their strengths and weaknesses and puts together teams of people with the different skills needed to make an idea a commercial success.

To showcase practical innovation and development in the fields of low-carbon technology and energy efficiency, the Carbon Trust launched its Innovation Awards. Now in their fourth year, the awards aim to recognise key "clean-tech champions": entrepreneurs, engineers, academics, companies and other organisations that are delivering the solutions the world needs to combat climate change.

More widely, the awards aim to highlight the UK's culture of innovation and to show how the UK is leading the way in developing new low-carbon technologies and solutions. At the same time they highlight the enormous growth areas for jobs and industry in the UK. The awards provide a platform to accelerate the introduction of these technologies to the market. They offer everyone the chance to receive national acclaim for their concept or technology and help transform the way the world uses energy.

The competition is taking entries now, so if you or your organisation are trying to develop or use new technologies to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, why not think about entering? Garry Staunton sees the value of the awards in terms of how people have made real progress converting their ideas to reality: "Innovation is in itself wonderful but we now have examples of how people have gone on to develop sound businesses and exciting products as a result of winning our awards." Winners of the awards, he says, see real benefits: "People receive support and get wide recognition of their achievements."

One of these successful business examples and previous winner of the Carbon Trust Innovation Awards is Oxford Catalysts Group; their scientists invented a technology which enabled the use of waste methane. "We became aware of them," says Staunton, "when the team was working at the University of Oxford. They entered the awards and won. They gained recognition through that achievement and we went on to fund their R&D activity while watching them grow and eventually float and list on AIM. They are now doing very well indeed."

And it's not just individual companies that will benefit from the clean-tech revolution; new analysis from the Carbon Trust shows the economic benefits of investing in a range of clean technologies. By taking a bold, new approach to commercialisation, the UK could generate up to £70bn for the economy and almost 250,000 jobs in offshore wind and wave power alone. Offshore wind and wave can provide at least 15% of the total carbon savings required to meet our 2050 targets.

Analysis also shows that, with 25% of the world's wave technologies already being developed in the UK, Britain could be the "natural owner" of the global wave power market, generating revenues worth £2bn per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 direct jobs. The Carbon Trust's Innovation Awards 2009

This year the chances of winning are greater than ever as the 2009 awards will be given for innovation across six separate categories. There are four award categories for technology developers and providers, in the areas of power, buildings, transport and industry.

The judges will be looking for:
  • potential for significant and cost effective carbon dioxide emission savings over the coming years
  • evidence that your idea or technology works in a commercial application
  • demonstration of a genuine innovative element: a step-change in technology design or a novel application of an existing technology or process.
There are also two award categories for innovative users of low-carbon technologies, one for public sector and the other for private companies. Here the judges want to see:
  • early adoption of an innovative technology or combination of technologies that cut carbon emissions and go beyond conventional practice in the market
  • evidence: demonstration of having achieved significant carbon savings
  • scalability: potential for the technology to be widely used in future and deliver significant carbon savings for other organisations.
The judges will select a winner or winners in each of the six categories then choose an overall winner: the Carbon Trust Innovator of the year. It's easy to enter. Complete stage one by filling out a simple nomination form on the awards website at

A catalyst for innovation
A past winner of the Carbon Trust Innovation Awards made its innovative technology a commercial success. Will Barton is the chief operating officer for Oxford Catalysts which produces speciality catalysts for the generation of clean fuels, from both conventional fossil fuels and renewable sources, such as biomass.

The company was set up by two Oxford academics, Professor Malcolm Green and Dr Tiancun Xiao, who developed their innovative technology to produce highly productive reactor systems for clean fuels. The company floated on the Alternative Investment Market in 2006 and raised £15m to further fund the commercialisation of its technology.

Barton describes how important it was to win the Carbon Trust award. "It raised our profile publicly when we had no money to spend on publicity but the award also gave a good technical endorsement to the technology we were trying to develop. We valued this Carbon Trust endorsement in our subsequent IPO."

Barton sees the clean-tech revolution as a great opportunity for UK industry and the economy. "This is a whole new market opportunity that wasn't around 10 years ago," he says. "Climate change wasn't seen as a problem then so people weren't inventing responses. Now it's taking off and the challenge is how to capture these opportunities in the UK."

Facing layoffs, shipyard workers betting on green
17 August 2009

Proponents say the soon-to-be closed Lindø Shipyard can become a hub of green energy research Employees at the A.P. Moller-Maersk Odense Steel Shipyard may be rescued by state funding that would turn the site into a centre for green energy research and development. Lene Espersen, the business minister, proposed the idea this past weekend during a visit to the shipyard, commonly known as Lindø.

Maersk announced the shipyard's closing last week, indicating it will take place after final orders are completed in 2012. Lindø currently employs 2,500, but Espersen believes many of the jobs can be saved if the employees' skills are put toward the development and manufacturing of materials associated with renewable energy. 'We've allocated 5 billion kroner to a pool within our business package, and it would be appropriate to look at whether some of that money could go toward securing a positive future for Lindø,' Espersen said.

Wind turbine producer Skykon has already expressed interest in establishing a plant at Lindø, but it will only go forward with its plan if it receives state financial support. 'We want to be the banner-carrier for a new knowledge centre for renewable energy at Lindø,' said Jesper Øhlenschlæger, Skykon's chief executive. 'But we can't carry the whole load. We're in a recession and it's not easy to get access to that kind of capital.' But if the company could get state funding for the project, Øhlenschlæger said he believes Skykon could employ up to 350 of Lindø's present workforce within a year.

Refrigeration and heating component manufacturer Danfoss has also shown interest in moving development of its Wave Star wave energy project to Lindø if it becomes a hub for green energy research. But Lindø Chief Financial Officer Peter Jann Nielsen said even with the government's green energy centre proposal, many Lindø employees will still be without jobs after the shipyard ceases operation. 'I can't see how any project could be done fast enough to avoid creating a fairly big hole in the overall employment numbers,' he said.

Seaweed cure for coal-fired power
August 17, 2009

CALLS to provide full compensation to coal-fired energy utilities from the emissions trading scheme are probably based on the premise that there is little or nothing they can do to reduce their emissions. But that may not be the case. Private Melbourne company MBD Energy is about to introduce technology that allows algae to capture half or more of the greenhouse gases emitted by a power station, at virtually no cost to the utility. What's more, MBD Energy stands to make a small fortune from the algae by-products: fuel, plastics and meal for livestock.

Managing director Andrew Lawson says testing at James Cook University in Townsville suggests for every two tonnes of carbon captured, the MBD Energy technology can produce almost 1 tonne of algae, of which one-third can be made into oil products and two-thirds into meal. With meal sales about $400/tonne (rival soymeal product sells at about $780/tonne) and oil selling at $800/tonne, that equates to about $570 of revenue from each tonne of algae, or more than $250 for each tonne of CO2 captured.

The significance of this should not be underestimated. Instead of carbon becoming a massive liability and cost, this approach uses carbon to pay for the clean up, and in turn generates large revenue streams. The first 1ha display plant of its "fuel synthesiser" is to be installed at the Loy Yang A coal-fired power station in the next six months. If the concept is proved over six to 12 months, MBD Energy will move ahead to build a commercial pilot plant over 80ha.

That will require a $25 million investment, but Lawson estimates it will produce earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of $15 million. If that project succeeds, the facility can quickly be scaled up to a $300m demonstration facility. Australia's largest power station, NSW's Eraring Energy, and a large-scale emitter in Queensland have signed agreements with MBD Energy to instal display plants over the next 12 months.

But Lawson is frustrated that the federal government's carbon pollution reduction scheme only recognises and supports geosequestration. Why seek to bury it at massive cost and with unproven technology, he asks, when it can be recycled and used to generate a new earnings stream? To illustrate the point, he says a privately funded, $1.2 billion facility could capture half of Loy Yang's carbon emissions and generate $740m of meal income a year and $660m of oil income, as well as carbon credits of about $225m, while using just 10MW of energy. It also recycles water.

A carbon capture and storage facility is at least a decade away, would require a government investment of more than $5 billion, require 300MW of power a year and only generate income from carbon credits. The difference in value creation over 20 years is $26.8bn for the MBD technology and minus $2.6bn from CCS.

The process can possibly capture only half a utility's emissions because it relies on sunlight to cause photosynthesis, but Lawson says more can be captured if future testing with LED lighting proves successful. The $1.2bn for a massive algae farm may sound costly, but Lawson says this is likely to be funded as a separate infrastructure project, with the utilities having the option to co-invest.

Each project of that scale would create 2000 regional jobs. MBD Energy is in the process of raising about $10m from three cornerstone investors, including an international energy company and a local carbon fund.

A walk on the wild side
NEW Zealand's Aquaflow Bionomics is taking a different approach to algae fuel production, preferring to focus on "wild algae" found in municipal sewage ponds, polluted water courses and farm outflows. The company has been running a pilot facility of its algae harvester at Blenheim in New Zealand, and has embarked on a fund-raising program in Australia to raise money for the first of up to 16 pilot plants.

Aquaflow says the advantage of its approach over most other algae fuel projects is the absence of large capital costs to build special ponds and controlled environments to protect algae monocultures. Aquanomics will harvest and process whatever algae is found, and with about two-thirds of the world's water containing some form of algae, its potential resources are vast.

Its technology is a harvester that comes in a 12m container, can readily serve remote communities and is easily scalable. Director Nick Gerritsen describes it has a "plug and play" technology that simply connects to existing infrastructure. Like MBD Energy, Aquaflow also expects to make significant income from by-products, mostly through remediated water sales, although its algae has been refined into jet fuel and successfully tested.

Its investor presentation predicts revenue from the sale of its equipment and remediated water will grow from $5.3 million in 2010-11 to $94.4 million in 2014-15, with EBITDA predicted to jump from $110,000m to $33.2m. Revenue from the sale of green crude developed from the algae and the generation of carbon credits will be extra. The company is seeking to raise $2.5m in its roadshow, the last round of funding before a possible IPO in the next 12 months.

Its largest shareholder is the Singapore renewable energy investor Pure Power with 19.9 per cent. Honeywell subsidiary UOP has signed a memorandum of understanding to help market the technology and integrate it into its projects.

Granite Power rocks on
ASPIRING geothermal producer Granite Power is conducting an investor roadshow to gauge interest in a potential initial public offering that could raise about $50m before the end of December. Granite Power wants to raise the money to help fund drilling at two hot fractured rock geothermal projects, one in Gippsland in Victoria and the other near Gladstone in Queensland.

And the company has applied for a $25 million grant under the government's Renewable Energy Development Program. It hopes to be able to showcase heat exchange technology it has developed with the University of Newcastle that increases generation by about 50 per cent. Managing director Stephen de Belle, former chief executive of iron ore producer Sinosteel-Midwest, says there has been strong interest from institutions in Europe, where geothermal is well understood because of the progress of projects in Germany.

De Belle says his company favours the deeper, hotter rocks because they are more commercially attractive. Its resources have estimated temperatures of 200C and are close to the grid and large energy markets. KTM Capital is advising Granite on the potential IPO.

Nuclear fuel reprocessing: the benefits
Tue, Aug 18, 09

By Ron Thompson who has served on the engineering faculty at Louisiana Tech.
"This is like déjà vu all over again." Yogi Berra said it, and, sure enough, here we go again.
One of the advantages of being a professor emeritus is you have been around a while. I remember when we had an oil crisis and, President Carter established the goal of energy independence. Renewable energy sources were going to be developed rapidly. He even put solar cells on the White House roof.

Here we are more than 30 years and billions of dollars later, and the total amount of solar, wind and geothermal energy was 1.3% of the Primary Energy Production by Source in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar, wind and geothermal sources will not replace our dependence on foreign oil, ever.

Global energy demands are increasing exponentially. Burning more fossil fuel is not a viable solution. An inescapable fact of burning fossil fuels is that for every 12 pounds of carbon burned, 44 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced. Another inescapable fact is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing exponentially since the mid-1800s. It is possible that man's activities can change the atmospheric conditions of the entire planet.

Nuclear science is my field. As director of the Nuclear Center at Louisiana Tech University, I have had the opportunity to study the nuclear fuel cycle in depth. I have followed the flow of uranium from the largest uranium mine in the world in Namibia, through the gas centrifuges in the Netherlands, to the Waterford III nuclear energy plant in Louisiana, and finally, to the Yucca Mountain Storage Site in Nevada.

As a radiation safety officer, I examined the radiation safety procedures throughout this cycle. I can say with certainty the nuclear fuel cycle in this country has more safeguards and results in less harm to people and the environment than any other fuel we use today.

Nuclear reactors now have many successful years of operation and have a proven safety record. The challenge we face today is what to do with the used fuel after it is removed from a reactor. We have invested $6.5 billion in developing the Yucca Mountain site as a geological repository. Unfortunately, President Obama has ruled out this site primarily because of the opposition by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. As much as I disagreed with this action, it may produce the opportunity to do what I believe to be the best solution.

The best solution is to separate the fuel and waste through a reprocessing cycle. The used fuel from a reactor contains about 5% radioactive waste and 95% nuclear fuel. The most dangerous radioactive wastes with the highest specific activity are short lived and decay to stable elements. Longer lived radionuclides can be transmuted into shorter lived isotopes. Advertisement

The long-lived fuel will be separated and returned to a reactor and burned. This fuel will help meet our energy needs and reduce the billions of dollars we are sending into a very unstable Middle East for oil. Since 1983, we have been paying one-tenth of a penny per kW hour of nuclear-generated electricity to pay for the disposal of this used fuel. This disposal fund has now grown to $30 billion. We have the money, the technology and the need.

We need an informed people who can inspire the political will to get the job done. The administration and Congress must do something to eliminate our dependency of foreign oil. We can replace this foreign oil with our used nuclear fuel. It is an extremely valuable resource. It just might save the planet.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Solar rays could become clean hydrogen energy available house to house
August 14, 2009

An ocean of clean energy pours from the sky. We could forget about non-renewable climate-altering sources, like gas, oil and coal, if we could fill the tank or power our homes with a sunbeam. Current solar technologies aren't quite up to that task. Conventional solar panels are inefficient; electric batteries are expensive and can't store enough to light a city through the night. If only the sun's rays could be converted into an easily stored fuel. But how do you bottle sunshine?

The Hydrogen Club at Oregon State University is on a mission to develop new technologies to tap the sunshine. Inspired by processes that already occur in nature, they've found several surprising biological and chemical ways to make hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen is a near-perfect way to store the sun's energy. It emits only water vapor when burned and can be converted into electricity using a fuel-cell. And it's practically limitless - - an hour of sunshine has enough energy to power the planet for a year.

The need is exploding. The Department of Energy projects a 50% increase in worldwide demand by 2030. To provide that much power with conventional technology, we would need to open two new coal, gas or nuclear plants every day for the next 20 years, say Roger Ely, OSU professor and adviser to the club. "Everybody is kind of locked in that vision of the world we've experienced for the last 100-plus years," Ely says, but the club looks in a new direction.

Since the sun shines everywhere, the club wants to make hydrogen from solar energy right where it's needed. Their new technologies can be integrated directly into individual homes and neighborhoods, powering them without the distant power plant. That notion is as revolutionary as replacing large centralized mainframes with personal computers was in the early 1980s.

No silver-bullet technology makes all this possible. A place that gets year-round sunshine, like Arizona, needs different energy tools than one that's often overcast, like Oregon. The members of the Hydrogen Club are exploring three promising directions.

Nature's way
Bacteria may be an answer. They have a huge head start when it comes to capturing the sun. "Nature's been doing R&D for about 4 billion years or so," says Ely, whose group works with cyanobacteria, a microorganism that produces hydrogen as part of photosynthesis. The bacteria can do tricks that engineers struggle to reproduce. "They do particularly well under low-light conditions," says David Dickson, a graduate student in Ely's lab. "In fact, they do better when they're not receiving blasting direct sunlight."

This means bacteria-based solar panels could hang on all sides of buildings and would work even on cloudy days. In nature, though, bacteria only generate a trickle of hydrogen. But with small changes to the environment that bacteria live in, the OSU lab has attained a 600-fold increase in hydrogen production.

While they work to increase production even further, Ely and Dickson have started to look at commercial applications. Dickson is working to embed bacteria into a solid substance called sol-gel, in which the cells remain alive and active for months. They imagine large sheets of the gel could be turned into hydrogen-producing panels and supply energy for a home or office building right on site.

The chemical approach
For spots that get a lot of direct sunlight, OSU Professor Alex Yokochi and graduate student Nick AuYeung believe chemistry may be the best approach. They work on ways to convert heat into hydrogen. "The input power would be solar," Yokochi says. Banks of curved mirrors, each a few feet wide, could be installed in neighborhoods to concentrate sunlight.

Certain chemical reactions only happen when it's hot. About 1,000 degrees, a series of steps that convert water to hydrogen becomes possible. Numerous chemicals are involved, but the process forms a cycle so everything is reused - - no byproducts, no pollution. "Sort of like a black box," AuYeung says, "you put your water in and you apply some heat." The size of tractor-trailers, these boxes - - self-contained chemistry labs - - would simply provide a clean stream of hydrogen fuel.

The devil is in the details, though. The cycle, discovered 30 years ago, has never been implemented on a large scale. Some steps "suffer from problems of corrosion and inefficiencies," Yokochi says. His lab explores small, simplifying changes to make the complete cycle more efficient. The goal is a neighborhood system that would function like a generator. "Let's say you live in Eastern Oregon," Yokochi says. "You have a lot of potential solar thermal resource so you could locally produce hydrogen."

Harvesting hydrogen from wastewater
Though it's not how people usually think of it, sewage is really just an unpleasant form of solar energy. The organic molecules that make up sludge originated in plants that absorbed sunlight, if you trace their histories back far enough.

Normally it takes energy to clean up wastewater, but OSU Professor Hong Liu has a better idea. "You can not only clean the environment," she says, "you can also get energy from it." Some natural microbes can decompose organic matter into its pieces, including hydrogen. She built a "microbial fuel-cell" that takes in wastewater, uses the tiny creatures to break down the waste molecules, and sends out a stream of clean water, as well as hydrogen.

So far Liu has only built jar-size cells in her lab. The next step is to design an industrial-scale machine big enough to handle home septic tanks or city water-treatment plants. Then, they need to develop a method to capture and store the hydrogen that's produced. "That's where we're heading," says Liu, who predicts the technique will be applied within the next decade.

Many universities are working on pieces of the hydrogen puzzle. The biweekly meetings of OSU's club give members a chance to weave their individual efforts into a long-term vision. "Day in and day out, we're focused on minutiae," Dickson says, "but the club gives us an opportunity to step back."

What the club see is a world hungrier for power every day. A few decades is not much time to research new technology, find ways to integrate it into the infrastructure, and shift to a new energy source. At the federal level there's not a unified plan for hydrogen research - - or monetary commitment, according the OSU club, which gets limited funding through public and private grants. "We should do something on the scale of the Apollo project or the Manhattan project," says Ely, "because this is a national priority and we need to do something."

Delta expanding into solar power - $200m budgeted for US, EU acquisitions

Delta Electronics (Thailand) Plc has been in talks to acquire US and European solar energy equipment makers as it has earmarked $200 million to diversifying into electrical power over the next two years. "If you want to do business in the US, you have to acquire a US company. And if you need more market share in Europe, you have to do the acquisitions," Delta president Henry Shieh said yesterday.

"We are discussing with companies in the US and Europe in terms of shares and prices to make sure we do it right. About $100 million could be spent before 2012 and we have the capacity to double the amount." Those companies, according to Mr Shieh, are $500-million businesses that are now having financial problems because of lower subsidies from governments in the face of the global recession.

Delta, the largest electronics firm on the Stock Exchange of Thailand by revenue and market capitalisation, says market conditions and its financial results have become more favourable for making new investments. The market started to come back in June and July with some stocks depleting. Some urgent orders are placed this month, indicating that the demand is there, said Mr Shieh. "At least we feel more comfortable now with our performance is getting better and moving toward the right trend," he noted. "Our cash on hand of over 8 billion baht also supports our investments."

Anusorn Muttaraid, Delta's executive director, said the talks with the US company were expected to be concluded this quarter while negotiations with European parties could finish in the final quarter. "The deals are targeted to cost less than 3 billion baht. At least we will have these two deals done this year," Mr Anusorn said. "Through the acquisition, Delta would not only acquire the plants but also the market and technology from the US and Europe."

Delta yesterday reported a net profit of 301 million baht in the second quarter, down by half from 621 million in the same period of last year, as revenue fell 27% to 6 billion baht. In the first six months, earnings dropped to 812 million baht from 1.42 billion a year earlier as revenue decreased 22% to 12.42 billion baht. Mr Anusorn said the company forecast that 2009 revenue would be about $900 million, down from $1 billion made in 2008. Mr Shieh said Delta aimed to double its revenue to $2 billion in 2013.

Its plants are currently running at 65% of the maximum capacity, compared with 85% the same period of last year, he added. KGI Securities said Delta's earnings in the quarter to June were in line with the expectations, off 41% from the first quarter, while its gross margin edged down from 25.8% to 26.4%. "Despite weak earnings in the second quarter, Delta's balance sheet remains robust with a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.5 times. The company also has hefty cash on hand of 8.1 billion baht while short-term debt amounts to only 1.3 billion, without long-term debt," KGI said in a report.

Petratherm signs deal on Madrid geothermal project
13 August 2009

Adelaide-based geothermal company, Petratherm, is working with the Spanish Federal government and the Madrid Regional government to advance an 8MW Madrid Geothermal District Heating (GDH) project. According to Petratherm, the GDH project will be the first application of geothermal district heating in the region, one of 6 renewable energy projects of interest within the Madrid Regional Government's Renewable Energy Cluster Project.

Its first customers will include various departments of the Madrid Regional Government itself. As part of the deal a committee - formed from the Spanish government and Petratherm - will work on making the project viable. It will also be backed with an Euro 87,000 contribution from the Spanish Government towards a feasibility study.

The committee's immediate aims include coming to an agreement with customers for the supply of heat; assessing subsidy and financing options available from Government programs; obtaining environmental clearances in order to begin development work and establishing a competitive operations and maintenance contract.

GDH plants can provide higher efficiencies and better pollution control than localised boilers in communities, and the Madrid project in particular will provide a foundation to expand other applications across Petratherm's large tenement north of the city.

Petratherm kicks off Paralana project

Unley, South Australia: Petratherm launched on Aug. 7 its Paralana geothermal hot rocks project in South Australia. Petratherm and partners Beach Petroleum and TRUEnergy have begin drilling the Paralana-2 deep well using a AUD$40 million (US$33.7 million) custom-made contract drilling rig commissioned from Weatherford International in Dubai.

The company will use the rig to drill approximately four kilometers (2.5 miles) below the earth's surface to create a deep injection well that, in tandem with a second drilled well, will establish an underground "heat exchanger" capable of circulating super-heated water exceeding temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit.

The launch is a "major milestone for the project and keeps us on track to deliver Australia's first commercial geothermal energy supply by 2011," said Petratherm Managing Director Terry Kallis. "We believe the Paralana site, which has one of the highest recorded heat flows in Australia, has enormous potential for the future," Kallis noted.

Beach and TRUEnergy will contribute AUD$10 million and AUD$6 million (US$8.4 million and US$5.05 million), plus their equity share of project costs respectively towards drilling and stimulating the first and second deep wells and the water circulation between the two wells. "We anticipate supplying geothermal energy on a commercial basis within two years and aim to be powering businesses on a much larger scale by 2015," said Petratherm.

Monday 17 August 2009

CEC welcomes move to enable swift passage of the RET

Clean Energy Council
16 August 2009

NATIONAL: Australia's clean energy industry welcomes the Rudd Government's plan to enable the swift passage of its renewable energy targets (RET) bill.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren called on all political parties to support the proposal which effectively decouples the RET bill from the CPRS, and so allowing it to pass this week in Parliament. "We welcome this important step towards delivering the RET bill by the end of the week," Mr Warren said. "We need the RET passed in three days, not three months."

Mr Warren said an expanded renewable energy target had the overwhelming support of the Australian public, and together with energy efficiency measures, would unleash $28 billion worth of new investment and 28,000 new clean jobs over the next decade. "Today's announcement means that the RET can and should now be passed by Parliament this week. The only thing that can stand in its way is political point scoring and gamesmanship."

The CEC will continue to push for amendments to ensure the government's promised target of 45,000 GWh of clean energy by 2020 is reached, by ensuring all "phantom" renewable energy certificates created by the proposed solar credits scheme to assist household installation of PV panels, are reintroduced into the target.

U.K. pledges GBP 60 million for wave energy projects

CORNWALL, ENGLAND: A major marine infrastructure project off the coast of Cornwall could help test the efficiency of wave energy devices in the next few years. The South West Regional Development Agency (RDA) is moving ahead with plans for the Wave Hub project, 17 miles offshore England. Wave Hub is one of a number of projects and facilities that could expand Britain's exploitation of a plentiful renewable energy source.

According to the U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the British wave and tidal power market was worth around GBP 73 million (US$121 million) in 2007/2008. However, wave and tidal power are still in an early stage of development. If properly developed, wave energy could supply around 50 TWh of electricity a year to the U.K., with tidal power stream resources adding another 18 TWh per year.

Growth forecasts cited by the government indicate that the wave power sector could grow by over five% a year until 2015, when it would enter the early mass deployment phase. The cost of testing and demonstrating devices in actual marine conditions has been cited as an obstacle to the industry's development. The U.K. Government hopes to overcome this with financial support for testing and demonstration facilities.

Wave and tidal lag wind
In the U.K., wave and tidal power solutions have found governmental support, but have taken somewhat of a back seat to offshore wind energy proposals. In July, the U.K.'s DECC announced that under the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, the 2009 budget would include up to GBP 60 million (US$99.5 million) to help accelerate the development and deployment of wave and tidal power energy in the country. At the same time, the offshore wind industry in the region was promised up to GBP 120 million (US$198.9 million).

The money for wave and tidal power includes almost GBP 30 million (US$49.7 million) for investment in the Wave Hub project off Cornwall and support for testing facilities at the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth, Northumberland to provide infrastructure for testing marine drive systems and other wave energy device components. GBP 8 million (US$13.2 million) was directed to fund expansion of testing facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland, while GBP 22 million (US$36.5 million) was earmarked for a Marine Renewable Proving Fund, which would support testing and demonstration of pre-commercial renewable energy devices.

The government has promised around GBP 9.5 million (US$15.7 million) for Wave Hub, plus another GBP 10 million (US$16.6 million) out of GBP 100 million (US$165.8 million of government funding destined for the southwest of England. NaREC will get GBP 10 million (US$16.6 million) to build on and use existing infrastructure.

Another GBP 20 million (US$33.1 million) in funding for Wave Hub has been secured from the European Regional Development Fund Convergance Programme. The South West RDA is investing GBP 12.5 million (US$20.7 million) in the project. Overall, Wave Hub is valued at GBP 42 million (US$69.6 million).

Oyster and others in place for testing
Wave Hub, NaREC and EMEC are all expected to complement each other with the research and development of marine renewable technology. Testing of various wave energy devices has already taken place at NaREC and EMEC. AquaMarine Power recently completed installation of its Oyster wave energy converter device at EMEC. The 194-tonne full scale device was lowered onto its seabed subframe and bolted in place. Oyster will next be connected to subsea pipelines which will deliver high pressure fresh water to an onshore turbine ahead of grid connection and sea trials later this year.

Oyster is designed to capture the energy found in near-shore waves up to depths of 10 to 12 meters. Oyster has minimal moving parts, with all electrical components are onshore, making it able to withstand rough seas. The company expects to deliver power to the national grid by the end of 2009.

Bristol-based Tidal Generation Ltd. (TGL) and Irish company OpenHydro have installed and are testing their own tidal power devices at the site. OpenHydro is testing a six-m open center turbine that is installed on the seabed. TGL is developing the 500 kW prototype of what will eventually be a fully-submerged 1 MW turbine.

The Wave Hub socket
Wave Hub itself has been described as an "electrical socket," installed in around 50 meters (164 feet) of water, 10 nautical miles offshore, and connected to the National Grid by a subsea cable.

Groups of wave energy devices will be connected to Wave Hub, either floating on or just below the surface of the sea. Here, the devices will be tested to determine how well they work in actual maritime conditions and how much power can actually be generated, before the system is placed into full commercial operation.

Four berths will be available at Wave Hub, each covering two square kilometers. Wave Hub will have an initial maximum capacity of 20 MW, though its design allows for it to scale up to 50 MW. The project will be built in the summer of 2010 with the first wave energy devices expected to be deployed in 2011.

The project will work with up to four different technologies at any one time. A one-kilometer by two-kilometer (0.6-mile by 1.2-mile) sea area will be leased to each developer for installation from 2010 onwards. Leases will run for five years and allow each developer to generate a maximum of 4 to 5 MW of power. The Wave Hub will record the strength of the incoming waves and will enter into a power purchase agreement on behalf of all developers using the project.

The infrastructure for Wave Hub involves a substation building at the town of Hayle, Cornwall, adjacent to a connection point to the distribution network. From there, a cable will be taken through a duct beneath the sand dunes and then across the sea bed to an eight-square-kilometer (3.08-sq-mile) area in which the devices will be moored. This area will be indicated with navigational markers.

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) has become one of the first wave energy companies to commit to development at Wave Hub. OPT will build, install and operate a wave power station comprised of its patented PowerBuoy systems generating up to 5 MW of electricity. Following completion of the Wave Hub infrastructure by the South West RDA, OPT plans to deploy its systems in a phased roll-out. OPT is hoping to bring in commercial partners to invest with OPT in the project.

OPT's PowerBuoy system uses groups of buoys. The rising and falling action of the waves causes the buoys to move freely up and down. The resultant mechanical stroking is converted via a power take-off to drive an electrical generator. The generated power is transmitted ashore via an underwater power cable. OPT's latest design, the PB150 PowerBuoy, may also be deployed for testing at EMEC and as part of a wave power project offshore Reedsport, Oregon.

The Wave Hub is also inviting other wave technology developers to submit their own proposals to install wave energy technology at the site. Subsea cable provider JDR has been awarded a contract to supply subsea power cables for Wave Hub. The scope awarded to JDR includes 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) of 33-kV three-phase power cables, which will provide the link between the Wave Hub and the onshore control room. The wave energy convertors are connected back to the Wave Hub by four additional 300-meter (984-foot) three-phase power cables and dry mate connector sets. All cables include fiber optics and will be subject to rigorous integration testing.

JDR will also supply the Wave Hub assembly, consisting of subsea terminations and a complete subsea protection structure. The package of equipment will be delivered in the second quarter of 2010 from JDR's new deepwater quayside facility at Hartlepool Dock. Nick Harrington, Head of Marine Energy at the South West RDA said that recruitment for a Wave Hub general manager would soon begin. The manager would lead operations at the facility.

The South West RDA is hoping that Wave Hub will be a financial boon for the region. An independent economic impact assessment commissioned by the South West RDA calculated that the project could create 1,800 jobs and inject GBP 560 million (US$928.4 million) into the UK economy over 25 years. Almost 1,000 of these jobs and GBP 332 million (US$550.4 million) could be generated in southwest England.

Price collapse and overcapacity hit solar sector results
13 August

Falling prices and demand for solar cells and modules is causing pain for the largest companies in the solar sector, who may have to wait until 2010 to feel the benefit of renewable energy stimulus packages. Germany's Q-Cells, the world's largest crystalline silicon cell manufacturer, today announced a restructuring programme that would cut 500 of its 2,600 workforce and shut down older, high-cost production lines at its site in Thalheim, Germany.

It reported first-half sales of €366 million ($523 million), down 37% on the same period last year, and losses of €47 million – despite keeping production steady at 272MW. Citi analyst Andrew Benson said the firm's orientation towards utility-scale solar plants is a high-risk strategy, since these installations are having trouble finding financing. "The problem is that too many of its customers have relied on the growth of the ground-mounted market, which has been badly damaged by the credit crunch."

Q-Cells shares, listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, traded at €13.04 this afternoon, down 7% on the previous day's close. REC, the largest of the integrated solar firms, reported further deterioration of the market in the second quarter of 2009. It blamed the general economic downturn, reduced availability of funding for solar installations and a sharp reduction in demand from Spain, which had buoyed the market in 2008. While there were "certain signs" of improving sales volumes, REC noted "continued significant pressure on module prices due to considerable overcapacity" in its results statement on Tuesday.

The Norwegian firm had cut its wafer production capacity by 35% in the second quarter, and its cell/module capacity by 50%. For the first six months of 2009, revenue increased year-on-year by 11% to NKr4,321 million ($717 million). But it slipped to an operating loss of NKr97 million in the second quarter, compared with NKr716 million profit in the same quarter of 2008. Oslo-listed REC traded at NKr46 today, up 1.8% on Monday's close of NKr45.16.

Meanwhile, German integrated producer SolarWorld shipped 239MW of wafers and modules in the first half of 2009 – an increase of 26% on the first half of last year. It bucked the negative trend since its area of focus, European rooftop installations, was the only solar segment to grow strongly this year.

However, it also noted that installation prices had dropped by 25% compared with last year, and its first-half sales revenues dipped 6% to €402 million while its earnings margin fell to 20.7% from 25%. SolarWorld shares traded at €16.30 this afternoon, down 5% on yesterday's close. Citi's Benson said he expected government incentives and improved credit conditions "will not have much impact in the second half of 2009, but will help from 2010".

Ministers could split energy bill
August 14, 2009

RENEWABLE energy plans, including subsidies for domestic solar panels, could be in place much earlier than expected because the Rudd government is considering altering its climate change plans in the Senate. Even as the government's carbon pollution reduction scheme was blocked in the Senate yesterday by the Coalition, the Greens and independent senators, ministers were considering breaking the legislative links between the emissions scheme and the bill covering renewable energy targets.

Until now, the government has insisted that the CPRS bill and the RET bill, which is designed to set renewable energy targets for Australia's electricity generation of 20 per cent by 2020, had to be linked and to be voted for together. The Coalition, Greens and independent senators have urged the government to break the link between the bills so they could vote for the renewable energy targets, which they support. The government has been accused of delaying subsidy schemes and new energy projects for purely political gain.

The government has said the bills have to be linked because common compensation claims make them inseparable. Yesterday, however, government sources suggested the defeat of the CPRS bill meant the government could consider its strategic options of breaking the link between the bills, or decoupling them.

The proposed legislation on renewable energy has been delayed but is expected to be introduced to parliament next week. If the government agrees to decouple the energy bill from emissions trading, the bill can be debated, amended and passed this session, otherwise it will be voted down and only reintroduced with the CPRS bill in November.

A compromise on renewable energy plans would allow the government to maintain the pressure on the Coalition to support the ETS in the Senate and pass it before the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. Last night, the opposition's spokesman on climate change, Greg Hunt, told The Australian the Coalition's proposed amendments on renewable energy would be given to the government "by the close of business on Friday".

The Coalition claims it is seeking only "minor amendments" to the RET bill, involving more help for the aluminium industry, funding for the use of waste coalmine gas emissions and the "decoupling of the bills". "Jobs and investment in renewable energy will be lost unless the Prime Minister agrees to unchain the renewable energy target legislation from the government's failed ETS plan," Mr Hunt said last night.

"With the Senate rejecting Mr Rudd's flawed and unpopular ETS, it is now imperative that the Prime Minister decouples it from the renewables legislation. Unless the government releases the renewables legislation from the grip of its ETS plan, crucial investment in solar, wind, geothermal, tidal power and wave energy will stall."

If the government would not decouple the legislation, he said, "mums and dads won't be able to access a new scheme to subsidise the cost of putting solar panels on their roofs. It will mean that hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in major new renewable energy projects could stall. "The result will be jobs lost in the renewable energy industry across Australia."