Thursday 24 September 2009

Keen for self-sufficiency

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 20/9/2009 Page: 15

An entire municipality aims to be the first in Tasmania free of reliance on the outside world, writes Gill Vowles

THE Kentish municipality is aiming to be the first in Tasmania wholly solar energyed. And that is only the first step in an ambitious plan to achieve self-sufficiency. In February, a group of committed citizens formed KEENER - Kentish Energy Efficiency Network Embracing Renewables - with the goal of turning the municipality's three towns of Sheffield, Wilmot and Railton into Tasmania's first "transition" towns.

The Transition Movement, founded in Ireland in 2005, equips communities to face climate change and peak oil by reducing energy use and increasing self-reliance. KEENER public officer Shayn Harkness said the group decided to start with solar energy because of the Federal Government rebate. He said 200 households had signed up for a solar energy bulk buy through KEENER. "About half of them are from Kentish and the rest along the North-West Coast," he said.

Installation of the solar systems, which produce about a quarter of each household's requirements, starts this month. "With each system costing a minimum of $10,000 this first stage will be a $2 million project," he said. "That is a fantastic result but it is still our goal to have all residences, businesses and community buildings in Sheffield, Railton and Wilmot solar energyed within the next five years." KEENER was also planning to increase local food production and provide sustainable public transport and housing. "Our goal is to help our community become less dependent on outside resources," Mr Harkness said. "How much we can achieve ultimately depends on our community so our biggest challenge is getting people to realise we need to prepare for the looming fuel shortages."

A demonstration home in an eco-village being developed by KEENER's Lesley and Doug Begg will boost awareness. They plan to build 30 sustainable houses on their 3 ha property. The first house, featuring double-glazed windows, solar heated water, heat-conducted flooring and energy efficient lighting, is almost complete. Mr Harkness said the Kentish municipality was ideally suited to self-sufficiency. "Because we have such rich resources in this district, we have a better opportunity to become sustainable than high density communities," he said. "If Kentish can't do it, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the world."

Wind power leaves rivals in the shade

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 22/9/2009 Page: 6

The Federal Parliament recently passed the government's renewable energy target (RET) legislation, which promises a 'revolution' as businesses invest in wind, bioenergy, geothermal, tidal power, solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies. Pacific Hydro Chief Executive Rob Grant says the RET is only predicted to cut emissions from increased demand for electricity supply, rather than from any generation that is already in place.

Roaring 40s Managing Director Peter Berry says that debt has been a 'huge crisis' for his company, because it has limited the opportunity to finance projects; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Adviser John Wright told a senate committee last month that cutting the cost of win will involve building larger turbines; and Investec renewable energy specialist Mark Schneider says that 'wave energy' is interesting, but it may still be a development technology.

Cutting the bill is a powerful alternative

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 22/9/2009 Page: 4

More than 1000 solar panels were installed (by SunPower Corp) at the Alice Springs Crowne Plaza. Lloyd Berger, the hotel's managing director said 'the Alice Springs hotel market has been quite difficult for a number of years and we looked at it not only purely in energy savings, but also as a flag waver to show the hotel's market leading technology'.

Under a range of measures including using energy-efficient bulbs and installing temperature monitors, the hotel has managed to cut its energy bill by some 33%. In August, the Rudd administration signed an agreement to pass the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009. Minister for Climate Change and Water Penny Wong said that the Renewable Energy Target would ensure one-fifth of the country's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. Since the government's initiatives in solar energy, businesses such as Solar Shop have expanded significantly.

Coal bosses accused of toying with jobs

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 23/9/2009 Page: 8

THE mining union says the coal industry is being "blatantly dishonest" and toying with workers' jobs on the coalfields as it tries to extract more compensation under the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme. The Minerals Council of Australia yesterday demanded a huge increase in government funding to compensate it for the costs it will incur by having to account for its carbon emissions. It said draft guidelines from the European Commission showed that Australian mining companies would be at a disadvantage compared with Europe's heavy emitters, and predicted enormous job losses.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union pointed out that a series of studies commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia still showed strong industry growth and rising employment. "The blatant scare campaign they're mounting has miners sitting around the dinner table worrying if they will have a job," said the union's national president, Tony Maher. "These workers are being used as pawns in a game that is not about jobs but about trying to increase mining company profits."

Mr Maher said that, on the Mineral Council's figures, "absolutely stellar growth would simply be replaced by extremely strong growth" in the coal industry under an emissions trading scheme. No current jobs would be lost but future growth would be scaled back. The union believes the Government should subsidise only coal mines with high gas leakage. These include several mines in the Hunter and Illawarra. The council said its research was backed by federal Treasury modelling, which shows that' under one scenario "the fossil fuel mining sector declines considerably".

"It is time the CFMEU stood up for its thousands of members in the minerals sector instead of acting like a political sycophant," the council's chief executive, Mitch Hooke, said. "There is no room for politically inspired complacency about the minerals sector's prospects." The council said it supported a "well-designed" emissions trading scheme but believed the current proposal fails that test. "It will cost jobs, wages and growth, but will fail to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Hooke said. The Federal Government plans to put legislation before the Senate in November to create a scheme designed to cut greenhouse gas output by between 5 and 25% of its 2000 level over the next decade.

Don't follow the leaders

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 22/9/2009 Page: 18

OUR politicians are failing us. Our administrations are failing us. Our corporate leaders are failing us. In unison, they are marching ever deeper into a mire. They have no idea how to escape: some don't even seem to know the mire exists. Mention the danger ahead or offer possible escape routes and you are met with mindless reassurances and dead cliches. Like a slow-motion march of the lemmings, we are witnessing a failure of leadership on a massive scale. And like failed leaders down the centuries, today's leading players still seem to think we should put our trust in them, close our eyes and follow them down their path to oblivion.

With the physical reality of climate change now upon us (if only they knew it), our leaders can't see that the behaviour that served then so well in tunes past - spin, political deal-making, time honoured delaying and diversionary tactics - is a dangerous mistake. Kevin Rudd has now provided us with proof positive that when it carves to climate change, lie just doesn't get it. Last week, as our national Parliament degenerated once more into yet another playground punch-up, a departing Brendan Nelson told the clamber there was no point in Australia acting to curb its carbon emissions ahead of the "big emitters" such as China and India. After all, he declared, Australia is responsible for only 1.4% of global emissions.

With its free permits for major polluters and its sleight-of-hand, conscience-easing offsetting schemes, the Rudd Government's emissions trading legislation is far from the panacea that its proponents would have us believe. But Dr Nelson neither knows nor cares what the scheme might or might not do for Australian emissions. For him, ambitious targets are an anathema - even Australia's 5 to 10% reduction by 2050 is questionable - and emissions trading means just another tax burden.

You would think Mr Rudd would feel miffed by this attack on a key policy issue, but not a bit of it. The day after Dr Nelson's farewell, Mr Rudd proudly trotted him out as his new ambassador to the European Union. It was as if they had always been best mates. In case it has escaped the attention of Mr Rudd and Dr Nelson, Europe is the home of carbon trading and the world's most ambitious carbon-cutting targets. In December last year it implemented mandatory 2020 targets of 20% renewable energy, a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and a 20% reduction in emissions.

Our new ambassador to Europe has a lot to learn. So, it would seen, does our Prime Minister. So here's a brief primer in Australia's progress towards a clean, green future. Both men like to use national totals as the benchmark for judging who is most responsible for cutting emissions: Australia has a low national total because we have a small population. But the only meaningful way to pleasure carbon emissions is per person. On this basis, in 2006 (the most recent year for comprehensive international emissions figures), Australia ranked worst of all on the G20 list (19 nations when you take out the EU). We were only a little better when it came to reducing emissions over the 10 preceding years, at 15th out of 19.

Perhaps the most troubling statistic is contained in G20 low carbon competitiveness, a report released last week by the UK-based Vivid Economics and endorsed by the UK climate economist Sir Nicholas Stern. This report found that among G20 countries, Australia is very poorly placed (ranked 16th out of 19) to meet the currently accepted 2050 international carbon target of 450 parts per million by volume of greenhouse gases. That target is below what Australia is currently aiming for (550 parts per million), but is 100 parts per million above what science says will keep us below the danger level of 2C of warming. We have a long, long way to go.

Rays of hope on solar power

Herald Sun
Tuesday 22/9/2009 Page: 24

THE price of installing roof-top solar energy could plummet with two new developments - spray-on solar cells, and solar tiles. The spray-on cells will go on the market in the next couple of years. They are the result of a new silicon ink that absorbs and stores the sun's energy and can be spray-painted onto roofs, glass and the sides of buildings. The money-saving technology has been developed by chemical engineers at the University of Texas.

Energy agency finds slump helps carbon output to fall

Canberra Times
Tuesday 22/9/2009 Page: 9

Greenhouse gas emissions had fallen because of the global downturn, handing the world a chance to move away from high-carbon growth, a report said yesterday, citing an International Energy Agency study. The unpublished energy agency study found carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels dropped significantly this year - further than in any year in the past four decades. Falling industrial output is largely responsible for the plunge in emissions, but other factors also played a role, including shelving plans for new coal-fired power stations because of falling demand and lack of financing. International Energy Agency chief economist Faith Birol said, "We have a new situation, with the changes in energy demand and the postponement of many energy investments. "But this only has meaning if we can make use of this unique window of opportunity. That means a deal in Copenhagen."

The December meeting in Copenhagen, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, aims to set down action for tackling heat-trapping carbon emissions beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol provisions run out. Government policies to cut emissions have also had an impact on emission levels, with the energy agency estimating about a quarter of the reduction is the result of tougher regulation. The study is an excerpt from the Paris energy agency's annual World Energy Outlook, which will be published in November. The excerpt will be issued early next month ahead of the Copenhagen meeting. The report comes as world leaders converge on New York and Pittsburgh this week for pivotal talks in the effort to remake global climate rules, ahead of Copenhagen. Mr Birol said a global agreement was needed in Copenhagen to encourage companies to cut emissions.

WA gives laser aid for wind farm in Kenya

Sunday Times
Sunday 20/9/2009 Page: 36

WA has lent a $1.2 million laser wind-monitoring device to Africa to help build one of the world's biggest wind farms. The device, called a Lidar and originally bought from the US, will use light to measure wind patterns near Lake Turkana in Kenya. Engineers will use the information to build a 300MW windfarm that will hopefully supply 30% of Kenya's energy by 2012. The same technology will also be used next year in industrial areas around WA to monitor pollution and dust.

Environment Minister Donna Faragher said WA was helping develop one of the world's biggest renewable energy projects in a country that suffers from chronic power shortages. "The Lidar is being lent to Kenya because it can markedly improve the efficiency of the project by ensuring the turbines are positioned for optimal performance," Ms Faragher said. "It (the windfarm) is set to have a massive impact on the country's chronic power shortages, while also boosting jobs, infrastructure and social development."

Project developers hope to expand the farm to eventually generate a further 2700MW, making it one of the biggest wind farms in the world. The deployment in Kenya will test the operational limits of the Lidar to ensure optimum performance when it is used in WA. "The Lidar technology presents a significant leap forward in determining wind behaviour," Ms Faragher said.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

`Dirty fuels' winning the subsidy war

Sun Herald
Sunday 20/9/2009 Page: 55

FOSSIL fuels including oil, natural gas and coal received more than twice the level of subsidies renewable energy sources won from the US Government between 2002 and 2008, the Environmental Law Institute said.

The subsidies, in the form of government spending and tax breaks, amounted to $US72.5 billion ($83.6 billion) for fossil fuels and $US29 billion for renewables, the institute's report published yesterday said. "With climate change and energy legislation pending on Capitol Hill, our research suggests more attention needs to be given to the existing perverse incentives for 'dirty' fuels in the US tax code," said John Pendergrass, a lawyer for the institute.

US President Barack Obama has called for the US to reduce its oil dependence by promoting efficiency measures and investing in alternative energy supplies. The February $US787 billion stimulus package included more than $US60 billion for reducing energy use and supporting renewable programs. The US House of Representatives approved legislation in June that would cap greenhouse gas emissions and require a portion of electricity to come from renewable sources. A Senate panel has also approved a renewable power requirement but the full Senate has yet to take up the climate change or renewable energy measures.

The largest of the subsidies for fossil fuels in the report was a tax credit that oil and natural gas companies can claim for paying royalties to other governments. The institute found that credit totalled $US 15.3 billion. "The major route for providing subsidies is tax incentives, tax breaks," Mr Pendergrass said. Also included in the calculation of subsidies are the Government's strategic petroleum reserve, an emergency oil stockpile available in the event of supply disruptions, and the low-income home energy assistance program, which helps some consumers with heating and cooling costs.

About half the Government's subsidies for renewables go to corn based ethanol, the study shows. The largest of the renewable subsidies was for blending ethanol with petrol, a credit that the institute calculated at $US11.6 billion during the seven years. The institute is a non-profit research group that works to "strengthen environmental protection", its website says. Its board of directors includes representatives from Constellation Energy Group, IBM and Toyota.

Locals get a lift in PNG gas project
September 21, 2009

CANADA'S Talisman Energy has quietly been roaming the jungles of Papua New Guina assembling a package of exploration acreage to underpin its early stage planning to build what could be a third liquefied natural gas export project for PNG after Exxon-Mobil and InterOil build their nation-changing projects. Good luck to them, too. Garimpeiro's interest is in the two ASX-listed companies that have been cut in by Talisman on its LNG ambitions, New Guinea Energy and Horizon Power Oil. Both have signed big spending farm-in agreements in which the Canadians will pick up the running to find about 5 trillion cubic feet of gas in support of a potential LNG project producing 2 million to 3 million tonnes annually.

In the case of New Guinea Energy, Talisman could spend $US105 million ($121 million) to earn a 70 per cent interest in two of its prospective PNG exploration permits. For a company that closed at 23.5c a share on Friday, for a market capitalisation of $92 million, it is a nice position to be in, particularly as Talisman is known as a company that does not mess around. Same goes for Horizon Power, although its leverage to the PNG LNG upside is not as great given it is already a $350 million company thanks to its oil production interests in New Zealand. Still, its $US60 million deal with Talisman on the part sale of two of its PNG exploration licences was enough to push its shares 3c, or 10.7 per cent, higher on Friday to 31c.

Silver Secrets
Australia is the world's fifth-biggest producer of silver. But you would not know that by scanning the ASX lists to find a pure silver play. Our silver is produced as a byproduct at base metal operations such as Mount Isa, Cannington and the old Silver City itself, Broken Hill. All that has presented a bit of a marketing problem for the managing director of Cobar Consolidated Resources, Ian ''Mudguts'' Lawrence. He reckons the local market does not know how to value a silver play, prompting the metallurgist who was once general manager of operations for WMC, to spend time on a roadshow to eastern state investors outlining his thoughts on the matter.

CCU is well on its way to becoming a silver producer from its Wonawinta silver project near Cobar in central NSW, with a feasibility study into a 3.3 million ounce-a-year mine costing some $21 million under way. The initial annual output is a fraction of what comes from the mines named above, but with a market capitalisation of $16.5 million, CCU does not need the scale that the big boys like Xstrata and BHP Billiton need.

Lawrence believes the current gold/silver price ratio of 60:1 is a good starting point. Take the broadly agreed enterprise value/to resource valuation metric for gold stocks of $120 an ounce of the yellow metal, and the average enterprise value/resource valuation metric for silver stocks could then be said to be about $2 an ounce. Now comes the point. Take CCU's 44 million ounce initial silver resource base and the implied value you end up with is $88 million, or 75c a share. CCU closed on Friday at 14c.

Sandfire On Fire
We know the market is pretty keen on Sandfire Resources' Doolgunna copper/gold discovery to the north of Meekatharra in WA because the shares have raced from all of 5c back in November to $2.72 a share on Friday, a gain of 5340 per cent. But just how good it is remains open to conjecture, with more work needed to pin down just what Sandfire Resources is on to with the DeGrussa and Conductor 1 discoveries on the Doolgunna ground. Stephen Thomas, a mining analyst at Bell Potter, is one of the few to try to pin down a value for Sandfire Resources in light of the Doolgunna excitement, warning that when he does, any investment in Sandfire Resources remains speculative and is one only for investors with a ''higher tolerance for risk''.

He then goes on to value Sandfire Resources at $3.38 a share, or $5.22 a share if an upgraded copper price assumption of $US3 a pound is used. Thomas also has a stab at an initial resource estimate for DeGrussa/Conductor 1 of 6 million tonnes grading 5.1 per cent of copper and 1.6 grams of gold a tonne. ''With mineralisation still open in several directions, we expect that the size of the mineralisation is likely to grow as drilling continues,'' he said.

Downunder Power
Geothermal energy is all the go in these days of carbon awareness and global warming. Almost all of Victoria and large parts of South Australia and Queensland are covered by geothermal exploration permits. The only problem is that much of that ground is either a long way from the energy hungry metropolitan markets or the geothermal potential has to compete with the entrenched coal and gas-fired power industries. That's why New World Energy, a new and soon-to-be listed vehicle from the Ted Ellyard stable, has taken a different tack.

It has just secured geothermal exploration leases covering most of the prospective geothermal ground in the Pilbara in a coastal strip between Onslow and Carnarvon. The Pilbara is one of Australia's high-growth regions for energy consumption. The booming iron ore industry and the huge growth in gas export projects has made sure of that. You would think that with all the gas in the world in the offshore gas fields, gas-fired energy would be the answer. But those gas projects are all about capturing big bucks for exports, not supplying the low-yield domestic markets.

And besides, the ability to tap in to some geothermal power source would give all of those big power consumers in the Pilbara that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with alternative ''green'' energy sources. It's a wonder that the Pilbara entrepreneur, big-picture thinker and, Fortescue Metals chief Andrew ''Twiggy'' Forrest didn't think of it himself. Then again, he can jump on board if he so desires as, after having just raised close to $2 million in seed capital, New World Energy expects to launch an initial public offering within the next couple of months.

Huge wave machine plunges into sea

A WAVE generator, weighing 80 tonnes, has capsized into the sea off the coast of Southwold today. Yarmouth Coastguard has warned vessels in the area that the machine, which is Trident Energy's experimental wave energy rig designed to produce energy from wave power, has been grounded three miles from the harbour entrance. The coastguard received a call from one of the two tugs carrying out the tow at about 12.35pm today. Yarmouth assessed the likely drift pattern the generator might take, and asked the tugs on scene to issue a broadcast warning and informing all vessels in the Southwold area.

Mario Siano, watch manager at Yarmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, said: "We are pleased to say there were no injuries sustained to any of the crew on board. The floating generator was later connected to a tug and grounded three miles south east of Southwold harbour entrance. There were no pollutants on board." "All appropriate authorities have been informed and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's counter pollution officer is aware and is monitoring the situation."

World wakes to new dawn for solar power

Saturday 19/9/2009 Page: 2

WHEN Lindsay Tanner says greenies are "obsessed" with solar energy, he's right. And it's obvious why.

Clean coal is a myth. Nuclear has radioactive waste and security issues and (read Helen Caldicott) it's not as efficient as they say. It would also be impossible to commission a nuclear reactor in Australia within a decade - especially near anyone's backyard - and we haven't got a decade to lose.

Natural gas is a huge opportunity in the transition to renewables, offering quick emissions reductions compared with coal. Gas-fired power stations are a good companion to renewable energy supply, because they can be turned on quickly to make up any shortfall without a lengthy start-up. But gas worn t get us the emissions cuts we will need by 2050.

Wind power is intermittent and the best sites have been snaffled up. Another 7000 MWs-plus of wind generation capacity will be developed over the next decade as we strive to hit our 20% renewable energy target. That'll help. Of the other renewable energy sources, wave, tidal power and geothermal are promising but unproven in Australia. Solar technology has been around for decades, the resource is abundant and the costs are coming down.

How abundant? This month's National Geographic cover story on solar energy estimated that the amount of electricity that could be generated by solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar thermal (CSP) each year was roughly 40 times the world's present electricity use. (In round figures, 745,000 terawatt hours a year of solar energy is available, and the world generated 19,000 terawatt hours in 2006, mostly from fossil fuels).

But the promise of solar has been around so long people don't believe it any more. NG's reporter quoted from a magazine article published in America in 1953, titled Why Don't We Hare... Sun Power? That old piece included this: "Every hour the sun floods the earth with a deluge of thermal energy equal to 21 billion tons of coal."

Adelaide-based scientist Monica Oliphant is president of the International Solar Energy Society. She has been a staunch advocate for solar energy since the Arab conflict and oil shock in the early 1970s, when she heard Nobel-prize winning Australian virologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet on the radio.

"I remember the day I was in the kitchen, [he] was saying: 'If we had solar energy we wouldn't have to fight over oil.' For Oliphant, who worked for South Australian utility ETSA for 18 years, supporting solar became "a philosophical thing". "Now is different to back in the '50s. We just had so much coal, oil and gas. Solar could never compete against those because they were heavily subsidised."

But investment in renewable energy increased by 17% between 2007 and 2008 and, despite a dip earlier this year, is climbing again. As well as supporting the installation of solar photovoltaic panels, Oliphant says: "If we're going to have a low-carbon economy, we have to have large scale generators."

The best thing out of the last federal budget was the $1.6 billion "solar flagship" fund to develop two to four solar energy stations with an expected 1000 MWs of combined generation capacity. The funding is to be matched 3:1 by private and state partners.

Boston Consulting Group was commissioned to design the flagship programs tender criteria and has reported to the Government. The BCG report hasn't been released but indications are the announced funding may not be enough to start 1000 MWs worth of projects, and other submissions, including from the Victorian Government, have recommended winding back the size of the power stations to a less risky, more bankable scale.

Oliphant says the funding available under the solar flagships program "probably isn't enough". The projects will have to be staged, she believes. Over-promising creates the risk of under-delivering. "Some of the new technologies shouldn't go too fast. If they're brought on too fast, before they're proven, and then they fail, it gives solar a bad name."

Californian company eSolar, backed by a $US10 million ($A11.5 million) investment from, the charitable arm of Google, believes stations generating 1000 MWs could be built for an overall cost of $US3 billion - the kind of ballpark figure the Australian Government envisaged.

Taking a unique approach, eSolar focused on getting the costs down to allow rapid deployment at scale. Its "power tower" technology uses off-the-shelf steam turbines, located on the ground rather than up in the air, like rivals. The mirrors used are standard oblongs, flat and low to the ground to avoid wind loading. The supporting frames are cheap. The towers are based on standard towers for wind turbines. The design is modular: if you want 50 MWs you build one, and if you want 500 MWs you build 10 - side by side.

The real brilliance of eSolar is in the tracking software, which uses high-definition video cameras on each mirror to adjust orientation constantly, maximising energy pointed at the target pipes atop the tower containing water to generate steam. So far eSolar has built one five-MW power plant in the US and has signed power purchase agreements for another 429 MWs. Earlier this year it signed an agreement with Acme, an Indian developer, that will see one GW of its solar thermal developed there.

A privately held technology licensing company led by dotcom (and tech-wreck) entrepreneur Bill Gross, eSolar is talking to potential Australian partners, including utilities AGL and Origin Energy, about submitting a proposal for funding under the flagship program. Precise costings are confidential, but eSolar vice president Raed Sherif says: "In parts of the US we are now competitive with natural gas."

The relative cost of solar is tied up with government support and subsidies - on both the renewable and fossil fuels side. Sherif spoke to BusinessDay from Berlin, where the SolarPACES industry conference was held this week. He said the conference mood was "mixed" amid fears that the Spanish Government, which has fostered a boom in solar energy, would withdraw support.

"If you look at the number of installations today, CSP or PV, is a good industry to be in. But it is true that this industry is not yet at a price level where it can compete with fossil fuels. It needs government subsidies, and these are sometimes not clear, and sometimes have been interrupted over the years."

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Perth power proponent makes waves

West Australian
Friday 18/9/2009 Page: 16

A US-based renewable energy expert is bidding to construct WA's biggest wave energy power station off the coast at Yanchep. Perth native George Taylor, now chairman of a firm that builds wave energy facilities around the globe, said Perth had some of the world's best waves for generating electricity. Dr Taylor has already proposed a wave power station off Portland, Victoria, consisting of dozens of floating buoys capable of harvesting enough energy to power tens of thousands of homes.

The entire WA coast south of Port Hedland also has seas ideally suited to wave energy Dr Taylor said. His company, Ocean Power Technologies, is overseeing similar green energy projects around the world, including Hawaii, the Orkney Islands and Oregon. But ironically, his birthplace has the best waves, he said. His design features stationary vertical buoys, tethered to the sea bed, with donut-shaped floats attached to them. Wave action causes the float to move up and down on the buoy, moving a hydraulic piston inside the buoy and generating pressure that can be transformed into electrical power.

Dr Taylor said wave data suggested a facility 5km off the coast at Yanchep could generate power about 55% of the time, compared with about 35% for many other wave sites. WA Sustainable Energy Association chief Ray Wills said WA was a promising location for wave energy because the waves built up momentum across several thousand kilometres of ocean.

Carbon scheme doubts hit power stations

Friday 18/9/2009 Page: 1

VICTORIA'S power supply is being threatened by difficulties coal-fired generators are having in refinancing debt, due to uncertainty caused by the prospect of an emissions trading scheme. Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's has downgraded its outlook for LoyVic, the financing arm of Latrobe Valley power station Loy Yang B, which supplies 17% of the state's electricity. It has also downgraded IPM Australia, LoyVic's trading arm.

"The change in the outlook reflects our view of the potential adverse implications that any carbon-related costs under the Australian Government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme may have on LoyVic's credit profile from July 2011 and refinancing of LoyVic's $1.1 billion debt due in June 2012," S&P said.

Hazelwood and Loy Yang A face similar problems in refinancing debt next year. Another vote on emissions trading is due in November, with the Government needing support from other parties to get the bill through the Senate. S&P credit analyst Parvathy Iyer said she did not think the pressure on coal-fired generators would result in them falling over in the short term but that it could speed a switch to other fuel sources.

"It does question the viability of these power stations, but that doesn't mean the companies will shut down," she said. "These entities have a bucketload of debt. We don't expect those assets to be around in 20 years or 30 years. "The terms and conditions, pricing, and the term of the new debt will also have a significant bearing on LoyVic's future financial position. "Even if significant passthrough of carbon costs were achieved, the project's high leverage in our view may constrain its ability to withstand any significant increase in debt margins and/or a shorter amortisation debt profile," she said.

Solar Systems' technology sparks interest

Friday 18/9/2009 Page: 1

A PROPOSAL to build the world's biggest solar energy station in Victoria may receive a lifeline after 40 companies expressed interest in buying Solar Systems, the company that went into administration last week. Solar Systems administrator Stephen Longley, of PricewaterliouseCoopers, told Business Day that he was "reasonably optimistic" the company would be sold. There was strong interest in its solar photovoltaic technology from local and overseas companies.

A meeting of creditors in Melbourne yesterday resolved to convene again next week, when a committee will decide whether to delay further discussion until mid-December. "The idea is that we will meet again when we have something to say and hopefully announce a sale," Mr Longley said. "We don't want to waste people's time and people's money when there is very limited money to achieve this sale."

Solar Systems, which was to build a 154-MW solar farm near Mildura, went into voluntary administration last week after failing to attract another investor for the $420 million project. The company went under despite securing funding from the federal and Victorian Governments, and global energy company China Light and Power.

"The company always knew that it needed further equity put into the business," Mr Longley said. "The tolerance level of existing investors had been reached in terns of putting in any further capital. "The shrinking of the capital markets meant the timing didn't work. I am not saying they were a victim of the credit crunch, I am saying that the timing of it was unfortunate for this business because investors went for safer investments."

Mr Longley said about 40 companies with an interest in buying Solar Systems had contacted him, and he had sent flyers to more than 100 others in the renewables sector. "You name any region and we have emailed parties there," he said. "We have a company here in Solar Systems that has world-leading technology and is seen as one of the best companies for a utility-scale solar energy station - I would be surprised if we didn't have a lot of interest in it."

Mr Longley said it was too early to say whether the proposed solar energy station could be saved. "Interested parties will have to sign a confidentiality agreement before they have access to a data room, but we are looking at getting indicative offers before we have a shortlist and then final offers by October 30." he said.

Acciona Dedicates 100.5 MW EcoGrove Wind Farm
Sep 18, 2009

Acciona Energy North America is celebrating the opening of its 100.5 MW EcoGrove Wind Farm, located in Stephenson County, Illinois. EcoGrove Wind Farm represents Acciona's first renewable energy project in the state of Illinois although the company is headquartered in nearby Chicago. Well known for its "Windy City," Illinois currently ranks in the top 20 U.S, states for wind-energy potential.

Using 67 Acciona Windpower 1.5 MW wind turbines, EcoGrove Wind Farm is able to generate enough clean energy to power over 25,000 U.S, homes and offset approximately 176,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. The EcoGrove facility is spread across more than 7000 rural acres. With the exception of the small footprint made by the 67 turbines, at less than one acre each, land use is dominated by farming which coexists with the wind energy production.

Today, Acciona will hold an invitation-only dedication ceremony and luncheon at the EcoGrove Wind Farm to thank the many partners, landowners, and local community and state officials that have made this project possible. Representing the State of Illinois will be Stephen J. Konya III, Chief of Staff of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Acciona will also present superintendents from Lena-Winslow and Warren school districts each with a $5000 annual scholarship fund for deserving high school seniors planning to pursue a secondary education leading to a career contributing to sustainability.

Acciona will then host a community-wide open house on-site at EcoGrove on Saturday, September 19, to celebrate and educate the community on the renewable energy source in their backyard. Citizens can enjoy refreshments while taking bus tours of the farm and even going inside the base of a turbine. Children can participate in crafts and other educational and recreational activities to learn more about wind energy.

"EcoGrove has truly been a community effort and we are honored by how Stephenson County has rallied to support EcoGrove and Acciona," said Duprey. "Dedicating our first renewable project in Illinois, home state of our North American headquarters, is a very important step for Acciona. We are dedicated to harnessing the vast potential of renewable energy across North America and we are thrilled to have such an exemplary project here in our own backyard."

The EcoGrove project serves as an excellent example of the impact wind energy can have on the local and regional economy. The turbines used at EcoGrove come from neighbouring Iowa, manufactured in Acciona's West Branch turbine manufacturing facility. The project itself was constructed by 125 local trades people and numerous local and regional suppliers and service providers like The Morse Group based in Freeport and Boldt Construction based in Oak Brook. Nine of the 10 service technicians filling the project's newly created jobs are from the local area and include volunteer firemen, retired military personnel, welders, machinists and a race car driver.

In addition to being the source of local suppliers, construction support and skilled employees, Stephenson County made its own investment in the EcoGrove project earlier this year when 14 taxing districts unanimously approved a tax abatement for the project. This tax abatement, a sales/use tax exemption and other incentives were part of the State of Illinois Enterprise Zone Act for which the EcoGrove project met the criteria. This support is critical given the upfront investment needed for wind energy projects like this one.

"The process leading to the establishment of EcoGrove in Stephenson County was challenging yet extremely collaborative. Our shared vision included the coexistence of renewable energy technology with agricultural and rural neighbours," said John Blum, Chairman of Stephenson County's Board of Supervisors. "EcoGrove represents a significant shared investment by Acciona in conjunction with the taxpayers of Stephenson County. We anticipate a tremendous future return on this investment in the form of new jobs, new business, new educational programs, and more opportunities to further develop our renewable energy resources. We welcome Acciona not only as a partner, but as a new neighbour."

Mike Thill, landowner and host to six of EcoGrove's 67 turbines, said of his experience working with Acciona: "I think Acciona is a top notch company. They've done everything they said they would do from the beginning and all through construction, including treating my tenants very well that farm my land. Right from the very beginning, I felt this wind project was something we needed to be doing to be less reliable on foreign energy. Wind is clean, renewable and it always blows. EcoGrove will also provide tax dollars to the local economy which will be great for our community."

"The State of Illinois will have communities like this one to thank for any success it has in growing its green economy and reaching its renewable energy goals," said Duprey. "It is communities like this one that shoulder that challenge and are on the front line of the state's economic and energy transition. They deserve not only Acciona's gratitude, but also the gratitude of Illinois."

Construction of the windfarm, including turbine erection, was managed by The Morse Group. The project was acquired by Acciona from EcoEnergy LLC who continued to serve the project in a development and consultative capacity through the completion of the project. The completed EcoGrove Wind Farm will create approximately 10 new permanent local jobs. As many as 125 people were employed during the construction phase. Long-term lease agreements have been completed with 71 landowners. Additionally, the EcoGrove Wind Farm will provide increased revenues for Stephenson County through investments in local infrastructure, lease agreements with local landowners and property tax revenues from the project over its lifetime.

British researchers say wave power needs study
September 18, 2009

Electrical power from ocean waves? Hold on a bit, say scientists in Great Britain.

Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth are calling for urgent research to understand the impact of renewable energy developments on marine life. The study, now published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, highlights potential environmental benefits and threats resulting from marine renewable energy, such as off-shore wind farms and wave and tidal power energy conversion devices. The pounding waves off the Oregon coast have been considered for such development.

The research highlights the capacity for marine renewable energy devices to boost local biodiversity and benefit the wider marine environment. Man-made structures on the sea bed attract many marine organisms and sometimes become 'artificial reefs', for example, supporting a wide variety of fish. The study also points out that such devices could have negative environmental impacts, resulting from habitat loss, collision risks, noise and electromagnetic fields.

The study highlights the gaps in our understanding of the effects of marine renewable energy devices on the health of our oceans. The team calls for more research to improve our understanding of these threats and opportunities. The researchers also stress the importance of considering the impact on marine life when selecting locations for the installation of marine energy devices.

Corresponding author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said: "Marine renewable energy is hugely exciting and it is vital that we explore the potential for it to provide a clean and sustainable energy source. However, to date research into the impact of marine renewable energy on sea life has been very limited.

"Our study highlights the urgent need for more research into the impacts of marine renewable energy on marine life. This will involve biologists, engineers and policy-makers working together to ensure we really understand the risks and opportunities for marine life."

Utah geothermal plant runs into cold-water problem

Geothermal plant's cold water means it buys nearly as much power as it makes.

Raser Technologies Inc, long has boasted its new Hatch geothermal power plant near the west-central Utah city of Beaver would launch a new era of energy production - - one in which electricity would be produced from low-temperature underground water that wasn't viewed as hot enough to produce power. Yet six months after Raser flipped the switch on the plant and began generating power, the company is buying almost as much electricity to keep the place running as the plant is producing.

The problem: The plant can't operate at full capacity because its production wells are producing geothermal water that isn't hot enough, even though its temperature is higher than the 180 degrees Raser initially said it would need. "We've run into a few challenges with some of our wells, but we now are reworking them to try and optimize the heat we're getting. Also, we will soon be bringing another [geothermal] well on line," said Issa Arnita, a Raser spokesman.

He said Raser is hoping the new and reworked wells will produce water with temperatures around 280 degrees, and that everything will be completed so the plant can operate at full capacity by the end of the year. Raser's $103 million plant, which is named after U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, currently is producing and selling 5 MWs of electricity to the city of Anaheim, Calif. Raser, though, is buying just under 4 MWs from Rocky Mountain Power to run the plant.

The facility uses a new technology that has been described as similar to an air-conditioning system that runs in reverse. Hot water goes in and is used to heat a fluid that turns a turbine. Kilowatts and cooled water come out. At full capacity, Raser contends the plant will produce around 14 MWs of electricity - - 10 MWs will be sold to Anaheim, and 4 will be used to run the plant and the pumps on its geothermal wells.

In its latest quarterly report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Raser said it expects the additional construction and drilling costs will be approximately $10 million - - although the company noted it can't be certain its efforts will fix the problem. Securities analyst David Phillips, a long-time Raser skeptic and Internet blogger who operates under the "10Q Detective" moniker, said Raser so far has been a lot better at selling its stock and raising money than actually delivering MWs of electricity.

Just two months ago, Raser raised $23.8 million by selling 13% of its stock to a group of institutional investors. The company said the money will be used to help finance plans to develop future geothermal power plants. "For Raser, everything is always going to be better next quarter," Phillips said. "It is a lot like the shifting sand. They always are off pointing to the next big thing. And I'm sure they're not through raising money yet."

In its quarterly report, Raser reported that it still will need to find additional financing to pay its bills so it can continue to operate. And it noted the $23.8 million it raised was "not sufficient to satisfy a meaningful portion of our financing needs for the foreseeable future."

Earlier this month, the company disclosed the U.S. Department of Energy had denied a loan-guarantee application for the future development of a new geothermal plant roughly six miles east of its Hatch plant in Beaver County. The DOE stated that it believed the project "possesses fundamental strength but would benefit from continued development." "They [the DOE] wanted a project that was further along in its development," Arnita said. "It wasn't a comment on our technology."

Anaheim's Integrated Resource Manager Steve Sciortino said the city is eagerly waiting for Raser to provide the additional 5 MWs of power it has promised from its Utah plant. "We've been satisfied with the power they have been giving us," Sciortino said. "We understand they have run into some problems but are working to fix them." Sciortino said, though, there is nothing in the city's contract with Raser that would penalize the company if it is unable to deliver the power.

Controversial plan for solar thermal power facility in Mojave Desert dropped
September 17, 2009

BrightSource Energy Inc, today said it has scrapped a controversial plan to build a major solar thermal power facility in eastern Mojave Desert wilderness that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) wants to transform into a national monument.

The announcement ended a long-running dispute between backers of renewable energy and environmentalists strongly opposed to the idea of creating an industrial zone within 600,000 acres of former railroad lands that had been donated to the Department of Interior for conservation.

The acrimony even triggered a nasty public squabble between Robert Kennedy Jnr., a senior advisor at VantagePoint Venture Partners, which raised $160 million for BrightSource Energy, and David Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy, which raised $40 million to buy the railroad lands and protect them from development.

Of particular concern was BrightSource Energy's application to develop a solar energy plant on a portion of the donated lands known as Broadwell Dry Lake, which lies within Sleeping Beauty Valley. The scenic, near pristine region is home to bighorn mountain sheep and a variety of plants and reptiles found nowhere else.

Today, BrightSource Energy spokesman Keely Wachs said, "We have ceased all activity at the Broadwell site... We will not build inside of a national monument." "Our core mission is to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions," he added. "We share Sen. Feinstein's values on this matter."

News of the company's announcement came as a welcomed surprise to environmentalists. "BrightSource Energy should be saluted for their corporate responsibility," Myers said. "A major conflict between renewable energy and environmentalists has just evaporated."

Elden Hughes, former chairman of the Sierra Club's California-Nevada Desert Committee, called the company's announcement "fantastic news." "Broadwell is one of the most beautiful vistas in the desert," he said. "I've seen it covered with yellow flowers to the horizon in all directions."

The BrightSource Energy application was one of 19 under review by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Wachs said the company had ceased activity at the Broadwell site "a few months ago." Around the same time, the company began seeking alternative sites for that project "in and outside of the state," he said.