Thursday 1 October 2009

Super smelter

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 30/9/2009 Page: 1

A $500 MILLION silicon smelter to make the building blocks for solar panels may be built between Wynyard and Stanley on Tasmania's North-West Coast. Tasmanian Treasurer Michael Aird and Australia's senior trade commissioner to Germany met top executives from multinational chemical giant Wacker last week in Munich to discuss the project. Under the proposal. Wacker Chemie Ag would build a silicon refinery at the Port Latta industrial site near Stanley, next to the existing Grange Resources iron magnetite pellet plant.

The plant would be the biggest silicon refinery in Australia, producing a much more sophisticated silicon metal product than the other major refinery in Western Australia. Tasmania is attractive to Wacker Chemie - one of the world's largest specialist silicon companies - because of its rich untapped reserves of high grade 99% pure silica, water for cooling, renewable energy from both wind and hydro-electric sources and natural gas to power its high-temperature furnaces.

Circular Head Council mayor Daryl Quilliam confirmed yesterday Wacker Chemie representatives had visited the region "two or three times" recently to canvass their silicon project with locals. He said council staff had met with Wacker Chemie to discuss its key needs in building a new hi-tech silicon refinery at Port Latta. "Wacker Chemie has talked with the council. Our reaction is that any development like this is very important to us and that we will do whatever we can to make sure we get this refinery project for Circular Head," Mr Quilliam said. Mr Quilliam said discussions had focused on getting the silica from the Marrawah and Arthur River area where it would be mined, to the proposed Port Latta smelter using existing road and rail options.

The proposed refinery would turn high-grade silica into pure silicon. The thin sheets of polysilicon wafers produced would be exported to be made into photovoltaic cells to supply the fast-growing demand for solar energy panels in China and Asia. Refined silicon can also be used in the liquid crystal display (LCD) screens of computers and TVs, in the manufacture of fibre-optic cables to carry high-speed broadband telecommunications and to make silicon chips that power computers.

Mr Aird, who spent $50,000 last week on a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe to talk to the Wacker Chemie board, has said the project would provide "hundreds of jobs". He refused to discuss the project yesterday, despite being asked to confirm in Parliament that his mystery "manufacturing plant" mooted for the North-West Coast was a silicon mine and refinery. He said discussions between the Government and the unnamed company were still "very sensitive", with the proponent still looking at two other locations. "There are commercial-in-confidence reasons for the company not wanting to canvass the issues at this stage," Mr Aird said.

Greens leader Nick McKim had asked Mr Aird to confirm the "open secret" that the foreign investment project was a silicon refinery. Mr McKiun demanded to know if a value adding manufacturing plant would be part of any industrial smelter. He also asked what incentives the Government was promising Wacker Chemie, if heavily discounted electricity prices were part of the package and where the timber needed in the chemical process to convert silica to silicon using charcoal was to be sourced. "This may well be a good project which Tasmanians can be proud of, but can you provide an assurance that this will not be yet another divisive proposal which will rip the Tasmanian community apart, as Gunns Limited's pulp mill has," Mr McKim asked.

Wacker Chemie wants the Tasmanian and Australia governments to provide it with incentives before it makes a final decision. Mr Aird met last week with federal Industry Minister Kim Carr in Melbourne to discuss a support package. He said federal and state assistance would focus on the provision of infrastructure such as roads, rail and port facilities, and on skills training.

Coal in the firing line on permits - Call to halve emissions allocation

Wednesday 30/9/2009 Page: 5

THE Federal Government should withhold half the permits allocated to coal-fired generators under its emissions trading scheme and link their receipt to investment in low emission generators, says a leading carbon expert.

Carbon Market Economics director Bruce Mountain makes the argument in a draft paper that he hopes to put before generators in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate change discussions in December. It explores an alternative to the allocation of $3.5 billion in compensation directed to generators under the carbon pollution reduction scheme.

The Australian Coal Association has launched a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign warning the Federal Government that its scheme could result in tens of thousands of job losses and Irvine closures across the country. Generators say they need an extra $6.5 billion in public funds to help their adjust to the CPRS. Under the Government's proposal, coal-fired generators will receive 130.7 million emissions permits at no cost, spread over the first five years of the scheme.

Mr Mountain's paper suggests the major flaw in the Government's proposal is linking compensation to a guarantee by generators that they will continue to supply the same level of power. "This reliability requirement is to provide a perverse incentive for the owners of the most inefficient greenhouse gas generation to continue to invest in that plant to ensure its availability to 2015," he said. He argues that, instead, the Government's compensation should be split into two parts.

The first would offer 65 million free permits to eligible coalfired generators to cover much of their expected losses; the second would offer the other 65 million free permits to be paid if the plant in question was replaced by a lower-emissions plant by 2015. "There is some evidence that generators are already reacting to this perverse incentive," Mr Mountain said. "Verve Energy, the electricity generator in Western Australia, has recently discussed the recommissioning of the Muja A and B coal generation units, presumably to be eligible for the significant compensation they will receive if they do this. "Muja A and B are the oldest and least-efficient coal generating units installed in Western Australia."

Under Mr Mountain's proposal, the more generators reduce the emissions intensity of the rebuilt power station, the more free permits they would receive. He says his proposal could present a compromise as the Government prepares to redraft its legislation before taking it back for a Senate vote in November. "My scheme could be perceived as being more onerous on the generators," he said. "But if the Government is minded to give them more money, then maybe they can link it to further investment in low-emissions generation."

New geothermal projects could bring 10 GW of electricity
29 September 2009

A new report by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) shows 144 new geothermal projects are under development in 14 states, which could equal a total of 10 GW of geothermal power installed by year-end. The U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Update, September 2009, states those new projects could bring up to 7,100 MW of new baseload capacity in addition to the 3,100 MW already in existence.

The report also said the number of states with geothermal projects underdeveloped increased from 12 to 14 over the past six months with the addition of two oil-fired projects in Louisiana and Mississippi. However, the number of projects under construction has declined because of the economy, according to the report. This was due to the completion of four projects but also reflects difficulty in obtaining final permits and financing.

'Kingdom perfect location for concentrated solar thermal power'
September 30th, 2009

AMMAN - With abundant sunlight and limited natural resources, the Kingdom is a perfect location for concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) technology, experts said on Monday. The technology, which has yet to be applied in Jordan, will best utilise the country's immense amount of sunlight and address the increasing electricity demand, according to participants at a seminar organised by the German-Jordanian University and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). The method uses lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam to produce up to 14.000oC of heat, creating steam to power a turbine for generating electricity.

CSP has several advantages over traditional photovoltaic (PV) units, which are often used in the Kingdom for water heaters and small-scale solar energy initiatives, according to Werner Platzet, head of the research department at ISE, one of the largest solar energy research organisations in Europe. Utilised in Europe, CSP has even greater potential in sun-rich countries having abundant direct radiation, such as the Kingdom, which is estimated at 5.5 kW hours per sqm per day. Unlike other renewable energies, CSP has the potential to store energy from 4-12 hours, with some plants able provide uninterrupted electricity for up to 24 hours a day, he added.

Engineers are also able to expand CSP plants as needed, whereas wind energy and traditional PV plants are often difficult to upgrade, according to experts. The technology, which is to be used in the planned 100MW solar energy plant in Maan, will create a new employment sector for the country, Ahmad Muhaidat, head of the GJU energy engineering department, told The Jordan Times. There is even greater potential for developing solar energy in Jordan than in Germany, whose renewable energy sector supplies a significant portion of its energy and thousands of jobs, as the Kingdom has three times as much sunlight, Platzet said. "PV has created thousands of jobs in Germany, and CSP can do the same in Jordan," he stressed.

Jordan can serve as a gateway to neighbouring countries, utilising its educated workforce in the technology's application across the region, according to Muhaidat. Further investment in Jordan and across the region is needed, however, to spur research and development to enhance the technology and lower the costs of its application. One of the obstacles to the technology's application is its initial high cost for investment. "We have the tools and the personnel to become leaders in CSP technology; all they need is education," Muhaidat added. "The initial investment is high, but it is essentially free electricity for decades," Platzet said, noting that a 100 MW (MW) CSP plant at current prices could range from JD150-JD300 million.

The plant, however, has a long life-cycle, as it is able to produce electricity for 50 years, with a service and upkeep cost of 1-2 per cent of the initial investment. "We don't know where the prices of oil will be in 25 years, but we know that the sun will always be free," he stressed. Although current existing CSP plants, such as those in Spain, rely on large amounts of water for cooling, some CSP technology can use dry cooling methods, such as wind, in water-conscious countries like Jordan.

On the first day of the seminar yesterday, ISE and GJU experts familiarised decision makers and business leaders with the technology. In the next two days, the seminar will focus on engineers and technicians, explaining the technical aspects and practical application of the technology. Under the country's national energy strategy, the Kingdom is looking to produce 600MW of wind and 300-600MW of solar energy by 2020. Jordan imports around 96 per cent of its energy costing the country some 20 per cent of its gross domestic product. However, some $1.4-2.1 billion (2007 prices) in investments is required to meet the energy strategy's goals, according to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

Solar power cloudy in Australia
Sept. 28, 2009

SYDNEY, Sept. 28 (UPI) - - Australia's solar industry is clouded in confusion, amid vague and ever-changing government policies and insufficient funds for large-scale solar projects, industry leaders say. In May, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd unveiled the $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program, for four solar thermal and solar photovoltaic installations totaling 1,000 MWs in a single location, expected to be the largest of its kind in the world. Now the industry is urging the government to rework the plan, saying that it was ill conceived, unworkable and underfunded, The Australian reports. A companion project that was to support smaller but still significant installations in the 10-80 MW range is also up in the air.

And last week attendees at a Solar Flagship conference in Brisbane were informed that the $135 million funding for the government's Renewable Energy Demo Program may no longer be available and could be absorbed into the delayed Solar Flagships program. In June the government invited the solar industry to update their applications for REDP funding, saying that approved applications would be informed in September. "It's a mess," said an unnamed solar industry source, according to The Australian. "The solar flagships is a mess, REDP is a mess. It's not very helpful for the solar industry."

John Grimes, head of the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society, said the industry is disappointed with the government's delays and lack of organization. He pointed out that new technologies developed with the help of government programs are now stalled because of funding problems. Australia has also lost out on the opportunity to be a global leader in roof-top and small-scale solar photovoltaics, Grimes said.

Although Australia has optimal climate for solar energy and is a source of leading technological developments in the industry, it employs only about 1,000 in the industry and has yet to enter the manufacturing arena of solar energy. "We are now a consumer of those products from Germany and China," Grimes said. "solar thermal is our one remaining opportunity for industry leadership. It's ours to capture or lose. Let's see if we can learn from history and do better." In a speech at the Solar Flagship conference, Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson reiterated his rejection of feed-in tariffs. He pointed to Germany's experience of spending $1 billion on feed-in tariffs for rooftop and other solar initiatives while accounting for less than 1% of the country's energy needs.

Artur Zawadski, head of business development at Wizard Solar, maintains that feed-in tariffs are necessary for Australia's large-scale solar projects, particularly because China will likely have feed-in tariffs in place before the end of this year. "If Australia does not go down a similar path, we're at risk of losing technologies overseas," Zawadski said. "If we are not strategically positioned, we will be a price-taker rather than price-maker." Australia surpasses the United States as the world's biggest per capita carbon emitter. Coal-fired power stations, known for high carbon dioxide emissions, now generate about 80% of Australia's electricity.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Four degrees of warming 'likely'
28 September 2009

In a dramatic acceleration of forecasts for global warming, UK scientists say the global average temperature could rise by 4C (7.2F) as early as 2060. The Met Office study used projections of fossil fuel use that reflect the trend seen over the last 20 years. Their computer models also factored in new findings on how carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans and forests. The finding was presented at an University of Oxford conference exploring the implications of a 4C rise. The results show a "best estimate" of 4C being reached by 2070, with a possibility that it will come as early as 2060.

Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre described himself as "shocked" that so much warming could occur within the lifetimes of people alive today. "If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut soon then we could see major climate changes within our own lifetimes," he said. "Four degrees of warming averaged over the globe translates into even greater warming in many regions, along with major changes in rainfall."

Big burn The model finds wide variations, with the Arctic possibly seeing a rise of up to 15C (27F) by the end of the century. Western and southern parts of Africa could warm by up to 10C, with other land areas seeing a rise of 7C or more. In its 2007 assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the average warming by the end of the century would probably lie between 1.8C and 4C (3.2-7.2F), though it did not rule out the possibility of larger rises.

Key to the Met Office calculations was the use of projections showing fossil fuel use continuing to increase as it has done for the last couple of decades. "Previously we haven't looked at the impact of burning fossil fuels so intensely," said Dr Betts. "But it's quite plausible we could get a rise of 4C by 2070 or even 2060." Dr Betts and his colleagues emphasise the uncertainties inherent in the modelling, particularly the role of the carbon cycle.

But he said he was confident the findings were significant and would serve as a useful guide to policymakers. The presentation at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute came as negotiators from 192 countries were gathering in Bangkok for the latest set of preparatory talks in the run-up to December's UN climate summit. Major governments of developing and industrialised nations are committed to a deal that would keep the global temperature rise to 2C, which many regard as a threshold for "dangerous" climate change.

Payment options for solar

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 29/9/2009 Page: 33

Adelaide-Based Solar Shop Australia has introduced a payment plan option to make the installation of solar energy systems more affordable for home and business owners. Solar Shop Australia yesterday launched its Sunworks finance solution which the company hopes will encourage more people to install larger solar systems, which can cost thousands of dollars. Sunworks enables people to pay a deposit then make regular repayments for their system. Solar Shop Australia chief executive Tony Thornton said Sunworks gave people the choice to own a product that would save them money over time through reduced power bills.

Nitride With Silicon: Think Solar Cells With 30% Efficiency
September 28, 2009

RoseStreet Energy Labs said it has created a prototype cell that combines gallium-nitride with silicon, a technology that it could license to silicon cell makers and produce on its own. A Phoenix company said it has created a solar cell that combines gallium-nitride with silicon, an unusual approach that achieves an efficiency of 25% to 30%.

RoseStreet Labs Energy announced the prototype cell Monday, and it expects to start commercial production in the fourth quarter of 2010, said Bob Forcier, CEO of RoseStreet. When those cells come off the first production line, they should be able to convert 25% to 30% of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity, he added. That kind of efficiency would be a lot higher than what silicon cells on the market can achieve today. Currently, the most efficient silicon cells for sale come from San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower, whose cells have 22.5% efficiency.

There are other types of cells that use alternative materials and perform much better than SunPower's, but they also are much more expensive and are developed mostly for solar panels on satellites. The majority of the solar cells on the market today are made with silicon, and their efficiencies are typically in the mid-teens.

RoseStreet is seeking a way to boost silicon cells' efficiency by adding a layer of gallium-nitride which, unlike silicon and other more common semiconductors used for solar cells today, can be tuned to make use of photons from a broader range of spectrum, Forcier said. Gallium-nitride is a common material for making light-emitting diodes (LED), so sourcing it wouldn't pose a challenge, he added. "With gallium-nitride you can tune it for whatever [par of the spectrum] you want. It's like a piano versus the ukulele – you get more notes with the piano," Forcier said.

The company's core technology came from Cornell University and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. When the company announced its licensing agreement in 2005, it said the technology could lead to solar cells with more 48% efficiency. The company is working on other products that would reach that 48-plus efficiencies, Forcier said. The technology doesn't require RoseStreet to use silicon, and the company is working on depositing gallium-nitride on other types of substrates, such as amorphous silicon or glass, Forcier said.

But there is value to use silicon other than because it's cheap and abundant. RoseStreet could license its technology to other silicon makers that seek ways to significantly boost their products' performance, Forcier said. RoseStreet does plan to make and sell solar cells, but it would outsource manufacturing, he added. This approach is common in the semiconductor industry, and it's becoming popular with solar energy companies as well (see Contract Manufacturers Expanding From PCs and Phones to Solar Panels).

Forcier declined to disclose any manufacturing costs as well as the pricing for its first commercial product. The company's plan is to reach a manufacturing cost of less than $1.50 per watt by 2014. That goal might not help the company market its solar cells at a time when conventional silicon solar cell makers are already close to reaching that production cost if they haven't already, thanks to a rapid decline of silicon prices in the past year. Customers might prefer much cheaper silicon cells over more expensive ones, even though RoseStreet's products could produce more power.

Forcier said the company would focus on markets where space for installing solar is limited and buyers are willing to pay more for high-efficiency products. He envisions seeing his company's cells in installations on top of high-rise buildings, embedded on cars' roofs or in laptop computers. The cells also could be used for concentrating solar energy systems, which use lenses to concentrate the sunlight onto cells to increase energy production. Many concentrating solar technology developers are willing to pay more for high-performing cells because they could make use of smaller cells to get the same amount of power.

The company received its initial, undisclosed funding from Japan-based Sumitomo Chemicals. RoseStreet plans to raise a Series A in the first quarter of 2010 to fund its commercial production. Forcier declined to talk about the fundraising goals.

Tilt at wind farm

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 29/9/2009 Page: 13

A Clarence City Council alderman has proposed establishing a windfarm at Droughty Point. A council meeting has supported Alderman Richard James's initiative and a report will be prepared on the feasibility of erecting wind turbines on council land in the Droughty Point area. Ald James proposed that land owned by the council off Oceana Drive at Tranmere be used but said other sites might be suitable. He has asked that the report consider planning scheme implications and whether the proposal would attract Federal Government support. "Droughty Point lends itself to a windfarm, which would not only be of benefit to Clarence but also Hobart." he said.

Origin venture energises Eden

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 29/9/2009 Page: 34

Eden Energy's plans to develop its South Australian geothermal interests have been boosted after a deal with Origin Energy. Eden Energy, which has investments in emerging alternative energy technologies, has agreed to sell Origin Energy a 70% interest in its Geothermal Licence Number 185 (GEL 185) in SA's Cooper Basin. Under the deal Origin Energy will pay Eden $1 million in cash and bear the first $500,000 of expenditure on the licence, after which each party will contribute proportionately to future costs. Shares in Eden Energy surged after the announcement, and early yesterday afternoon were trading up 2.6c at 10.5c.

GEL 185 adjoins geothermal licences owned by GeoDynamics Ltd, which in 2007 entered an agreement whereby Origin Energy would invest in a 30% interest in the licences. Eden chairman Gregory Solomon said the investment by Origin Energy offered several benefits. "Apart from providing additional working capital to Eden, the farm-in by Origin Energy provides a significant boost to Eden's plans to develop its geothermal interests by enabling Eden to progress the development with a significant joint venture partner."

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Wind Farm Sale

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 28/9/2009 Page: 49

The head of Infigen Energy says the sale of the Australian companies US windfarms could net about $A2.5 4 billion. Managing director Miles George said yesterday the company would sell its US assets because opportunities for growth were greater in Australia. Infigen Energy emerged from the collapse of Babcock and Brown wind.

Rooftop wind farm

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 27/9/2009 Page: 21

A BRITISH company has won a 500,000 euro ($A850,000) environmental prize for developing a slender residential wind turbine that lies flat at the top of slanted roofs. Power Collective representative Dean Gregory said his company would use the money from the Netherlands Green Challenge to bring the product to market. The "RidgeBlade" design harnesses wind deflected toward rooftops to generate power. Unlike existing rooftop turbines, it doesn't change a house's shape.

This debate could really go nuclear

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Saturday 26/9/2009 Page: 26

Ziggy Switkowksi, chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and former Telstra boss, says that due to there being 'no alternative to nuclear energy' it is 'inevitable.' Those who share this view include Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce and head of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes. Richard Corkish of the Centre for Renewable Energy at the University of New South Wales disagrees asking 'How can nuclear energy be the answer to our problems' in reference to the 15 years it would take to bring a nuclear energy station to life.

A similar opinion comes from the Climate Institute Australia and environment group E3G who place us in the weakest position of any developed nation to participate in a clean energy market. Further division can also be found in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's belief that the future lies in a combination of renewable and clean coal energy sources. Recently the government's stance saw a request by the owners of Australian Nuclear Energy (who include executives present and past from Fairfax Media and Normandy Poseiden Mining plus Hugh Morgan formerly of Western Mining and now of the Business Council of Australia) to deregister the company.

Trouble obtaining materials to build a nuclear plant also caused frustration with Mr Morgan commenting that 'If you want to build one of these things, it's not like going down to Wal-Mart.' Elsewhere Energy and Minerals Australia are confident of signing contracts to export uranium overseas by 2011 while Energy Resources of Australia Jabiluka mine in Kakadu National Park has been decommissioned following a dispute with the Mirrar people. Last years saw the formation of 'an Indigenous Dialogue Group' by Australian Uranium Association to find a way the two parties could work together.

$10bn payout for the worst polluters? What a waste

Saturday 26/9/2009 Page: 2

Generators have had plenty of planning time; hand-outs should stop.

COMPENSATION for what? The owners of our dirtiest coal-fired power stations have their hand out for another $6.5 billion in public funds, on top of the $3.5 billion they will get to help them adjust to the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS). They may well get it, because the Opposition has made this increased compensation a condition for any deal with the Government. But this is basically the same emissions trading scheme that has been on and off the national agenda since at least 1999, when it was proposed by an Australian Greenhouse Office experts group led by then senior Shell executive Ian Dunlop.

Australia signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. Yet, somehow, according to the generators' lobby, the introduction of a CPRS next year-accompanied by ever-so-soft emissions reductions targets and ever-so-generous compensation payments would scare off international capital. As if. Which other planet would these flighty investors go to? The Investor Group on Climate Change, representing institutions controlling more than $US13 trillion ($A15 trillion) worldwide, believes climate change risk - including a cost on carbon - should have been incorporated into investment decisions since the mid-1990s.

In a submission on the CPRS, the group's deputy chairman, senior AMP analyst Ian Woods, said: "Companies should have been doing something about climate change since the 1990s.., by compensating one group you disadvantage other groups that have taken early action." Most in need of a bigger hand-out, according to the Federal Government and its advisers, are the owners of the privatised, brown coal-fired power stations in Victoria's Latrobe Valley-like British company International Power, Chinese-backed TRUEnergy and our own AGL.

Apparently they are to be compensated for the loss in value of ageing power stations like Hazelwood-supposedly caused by the introduction of the CPRS - which may cause them to breach loan covenants or fail to refinance. Too bad. That's business. They took a commercial risk. "There's no reason to stop them going broke," says the Australia Institute's Richard Denniss. "The whole point of a market-based mechanism (like the CPRS) is to let the market set the carbon price and let the market decide which firms will prosper." With the amount of compensation being thrown at these companies, Denniss says, it would be cheaper to buy them outright, and shut them down.

"We are spending all this time faffing about trying to create the market incentives to get the investment we want," says Denniss. "Why not build the infrastructure we want, and let the market determine its value?" The Government's climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, is on the record as saying the coal-fired generators should not get a cent in compensation. He has described it as "abominable".

Every dollar given to the coal-fired generators makes it harder for cleaner energy providers - gas, nuclear or renewables-to compete. Santos public affairs executive Christian Bennett warns: "The very real risk is that additional compensation will delay the transition to much cleaner baseload power generation." Origin Energy's Grant King recently told BusinessDay: "If you go early and slow, the industry will source the capital and build the assets that need to be built."

Sovereign risk is nothing new. IGCC's submission noted that the owners of the Latrobe Valley generators were not compensated for the introduction of the national electricity market, which had a bigger impact on their business than the CPRS ever will. The IGCC recognised "there may be a limited argument for compensation for loss in asset value for long-life electricity generator assets purchased pre-1997 only, which are less than 30 years old." That's pretty strict criteria.

Brad Page, executive director of the generators' lobby group, the Energy Supply Association of Australia, is calling for the increased compensation. "If you go back to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and start working your way forward, there was growing scientific concern about climate change, but if you look at the policy response from government, it was muted." Particularly during the Howard years, says Page, there was no certainty that the government would act to introduce some form of carbon constraint. "If you have, at a federal level, a very strong Liberal leader that says 'no we won't'.., the longer it goes on and the stronger he gets, are you going to say 'well next year he will?' As Page tells it, the generators sat on their hands.

In truth, Australia's electricity sector has spent most of its time lobbying against effective action on climate change. Meanwhile, taking from a landmark US court ruling handed down this week, the coal-fired generators had "practical, feasible and economically viable options for reducing emissions without significantly increasing the cost of electricity for their customers". The ruling, in the State of Connecticut et al, v American Electric Power Company, overturned a 2005 judgment that climate change was a public policy question that could not be decided in court.

Now, the generators have a case to answer. "Global warming polluters everywhere," said ebullient plaintiff lawyer Matt Pawa, "you are on notice that you are committing a tort and we will site you." Our coal-fired power generators should be paying compensation to us.

Big step forward on climate treaty, but obstacles remain

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 25/9/2009 Page: 17

This week's summit on climate change at the United Nations in NewYork has given a strong boost to the negotiations over an important international treaty, but there remain significant obstacles that must be overcome before the crucial meeting in Copenhagen in December, China, India and Japan, along with the private sector, all made positive and significant contributions at the Summit.

The Chinese President, Hit Jintao, made specific commitments on curbing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions as China continues its extraordinary economic growth. While the president promised a reduction by a "notable margin" rather than a specific figure, there is no doubt that the cut will be significant. And the environment ministers of both China and India made important and constructive proposals for how their countries will reverse deforestation.

This was the kind of leadership that I had hoped to see at the summit organised by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General-with developing and emerging countries showing they can tackle climate change while continuing their efforts to reduce poverty. But we still have along way to go before we can be sure that a strong agreement is in place for Copenhagen.

In the next couple of years, annual emissions of greenhouse gases are likely to reach a level of 50 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. If we are to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a rise in global average temperature by more than 2 degrees, annual emissions have to be cut to no more than 20 gigatonnes by2050. That means that the 9 billion people who will be living on the planet in 2050 must be producing, on average, no more than about two tonnes of greenhouse gases per year each.

At the moment, the rich industrialised countries of the European Union average 10-12 tonnes per head of population, while the figure for the US is almost 24 tonnes. China, by contrast, emits about six tonnes per head at present. Thus rich industrialised countries in particular must substantially reduce their emissions.

The developed countries must now demonstrate they have the political will to reach a strong agreement in Copenhagen. In New York Japan's new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, outlined how his country will reduce its emissions by 25% by 2020, compared with 1990. This was a positive example that few others matched.

President Barack Obama has already committed to a cut of 80% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared with 1990. But the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives sets an interim target for2020 that is not considered ambitious enough by many other countries. And it is not clear when, or even if, the Senate will pass a comparable act to reduce emissions.

It is these interim targets that should now be addressed by all countries during the coming weeks. If we are to reach the goal of reducing emissions to 20 gigatonnes by 2050, we must be close to 35 gigatonnes by the halfway point of 2030. That means global emissions have to peak within the next five years and be steadily falling by 2020. And while the commitments by the largest emitters already on the table for 2020 offer significant cuts, they collectively fall four or five gigatonnes short of what is necessary if we are to be on a realistic trajectory to reach the 2030 and 2050 targets.

Developing countries should also sharply reduce their emissions, but they must be supported, financially and through technology sharing with the rich industrialised countries. Without commitments to Such Support, the negotiations ahead will prove very difficult. Although the political leaders must devise and implement the right policies to guide national and global emissions trajectories, the private sector will be the main engine in the transition to a low-carbon global economy.

In that respect, it was encouraging that 181 investors, collectively responsible for the management of more than $13 trillion ($14.8 trillion) in assets, launched a statement in New York last week to support a global agreement on climate change. The Leadership Forum for business leaders, which ran alongside the summit, highlighted a variety of ideas from the private sector for the low-carbon transition.

So there are some reasons to be more optimistic about the prospects for securing a strong agreement in Copenhagen. But the obstacles that remain are very big and will require an even stronger effort to overcome, starting at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and continuing during the coming round of treaty negotiations in Bangkok next week.

There must be real vision, leadership and creativity, as well as a mutual understanding of the difficulties of making and implementing domestic policies. But if we can muster the effort, we can, as a world, forge a path towards a more prosperous and sustainable future - for us, our children, and generations to follow.

Nicholas Stern is chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

This column first appeared in The Guardian.

US Geothermal Starts New Drilling at Neal Hot Springs Site
September 25, 2009

U.S. Geothermal Inc, has started development drilling at the Neal Hot Springs Geothermal Project located in eastern Oregon. Well NHS-5, the first well in this new program, is currently drilled to a depth of 300 feet. The total depth of the well is planned to be drilled to approximately 2,800 feet where it is expected to encounter a large aperture fracture containing geothermal fluid.

Up to three large diameter wells, ranging in depth from 2,300 to 3,800 feet are planned in this drilling program. Construction of the associated drill pads began during the week of August 17. One drill pad is complete and a second pad is currently under construction. Trinity Drilling has been contracted to drill the wells and initiated drilling on September 18.

Permits for four exploration wells were received from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries on September 11, 2009 allowing for expansion of the program based on results. The Bureau of Land Management has issued a Record of Decision for an Environmental Assessment which allows surface access and pad construction to a well site that is located on federal surface lands that overlay private geothermal rights.

In addition to these deep, large diameter production wells, a temperature gradient well program consisting of up to 9 small-diameter wells each approximately 500 feet in depth was initiated during the week of September 7, 2009. The temperature gradient well program will acquire field data necessary to better understand the full geothermal resource potential at Neal Hot Springs, U.S. Geothermal said.

Monday 28 September 2009

EU: energy security is in the pipeline
25 Sep 2009

On an autumn evening in 2002, a group of European executives celebrated a major energy deal by taking in a spot of Verdi at the Vienna State Opera House. At dinner afterwards, the businessmen resolved to christen the gas pipeline they had agreed to build "Nabucco", after the opera they had just seen. Having watched Nabucco save the Jews from imminent execution at the hands of an interloper, the executives – and their EU backers – may have thought the name auspicious.

As arguably the most important energy project undertaken in EU history, the Nabucco pipeline was meant to bestow similar salvation on a continent becoming dangerously dependent on Russian gas. The pipeline would wean the EU off Moscow, which already accounts for a third of its imports, both by creating a major route along which non-Russian gas could flow and, more importantly, breaking Russia's stranglehold over transit from the east.

The Kremlin, unsurprisingly, regards Nabucco as the interloper, seeing it as a threat to an even tighter Russian energy stranglehold over Europe. Russia has not been shy of using its energy might to achieve its political goals. Both Ukraine and Belarus have seen their gas supplies severed as Russia has sought to reassert its influence over what it calls its "near abroad". Some EU members, particularly those who belonged to the Warsaw Pact, fear that over-dependence on Russian energy could mean they, too, fall victim to the Kremlin's whim. For Russia though, Nabucco represents what it most fears: the EU acting in concert to defend its interests.

Some Russian politicians fret that if the EU, with its smattering of ex-Communist states resentful of Russia, does ever speak in unison, the undertone will inevitably be Russophobic. "Russia's attitude to the EU is similar to the feelings of a person whose neighbour is having a wedding," says Sergei Markov, a ruling party legislator with close ties to the Kremlin. "In principle, you are happy about it, but in reality it means having drunk people near your door, loud music till early morning and empty bottles flying through your window." Yet the evidence suggests Russia has little to fear. Playing on the EU's disparate nature, the Kremlin has been able to divide and rule with considerable success.

For much of Verdi's opera, Nabucco is struck by madness, initially believing he is God before losing his senses entirely after being struck by a thunderbolt. Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, has frequently mocked the Nabucco project for suffering similarly grandiose delusions – and not without reason. He has found it relatively easy to woo big energy companies in powerful EU countries with lucrative contracts to the detriment of both Nabucco and collective energy security.

Mr Putin has compounded this by courting powerful European politicians. Gerhard Schroder, the former German chancellor, is now in the pay of Gazprom, Russia's state gas monopoly, while Mr Putin has forged so close a bond with Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, that the two men are planning to buy an island together, sources in Moscow claim. As a result, France, Germany and Italy have, to varying degrees, adopted what pundits at EU headquarters in Brussels call a "Russia First" policy. Wary of upsetting the Kremlin on its most sensitive subjects, the three have often distanced themselves from former Soviet states seeking to draw closer to the West.

France and Germany opposed the Nato membership ambitions of Georgia and Ukraine last year, while Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, vetoed a proposal to ease EU visa restrictions on Russia's immediate neighbours. "France, Germany and even Italy have privileged trade relations with Russia, particularly in energy and they don't want to jeopardise that by creating a closer relationship with smaller, poorer states," says George Dura, a researcher at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies.

The overlap of politics and profit that drives the Russia First policy has cost Nabucco and European energy solidarity dearly. Mr Schroder is now the front man for Gazprom's rival Nord Stream project that will bring gas to Germany, and one day perhaps to Britain, through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. By skirting Ukraine, through which four-fifths of Russian gas to Europe flows, Nord Stream would enhance the energy security of western Europe. But the proposal leaves eastern EU members even more vulnerable; Russia could cut off their supplies without inconveniencing the EU's real powers. The Poles, whose relations with Russia are especially poor, are particularly bitter. Warsaw has compared Nord Stream to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Not content with Nord Stream, Russia is also pushing for a direct competitor to Nabucco, which would also run under the Black Sea, called South Stream. Both Gazprom pipelines threaten the viability of Nabucco, which, like its namesake in the opera, has often appeared to drift aimlessly, wounded by a combination of EU infighting, Turkish intransigence and a lack of political will. Nabucco's ills are symptomatic of a dangerous malaise across the EU. Unless richer members can suborn their own national interests to the greater good, the EU as a whole will suffer, observers predict.

"Russia laughs at us because we are divided," Mr Dura says. "Whether on trade, energy or in other areas, we need a united front. You can't, for instance, pretend that Nordstream is just an economic issue that doesn't affect Poland." The lack of a cohesive policy towards Russia is an argument, some say, for the Lisbon treaty which, it is hoped, will create an EU president and foreign minister who could craft a more coherent way of dealing with its nettlesome neighbour to the east.

Russia insists that the EU's fears are overblown, claiming that it can act as a reliable guarantor of Europe's energy security. All the EU has to do, says Mr Markov, the Russian legislator, is to allow Moscow an unchallenged sphere of influence in its near abroad by halting support for US-backed leaders like Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president, and Viktor Yushchenko, his Ukrainian counterpart.

"EU support created the war criminal Saakashvili in Georgia and supported the Orange Revolution that led to an artificial conflict between Ukraine and Russia," Mr Markov said. "These governments are not independent. They are puppets of the United States. "If the European Union will continue its attempts to make Russia-Ukraine relations worse, then of course the EU will have gas problems more and more and more." Yet if the rhetoric from Moscow seems little changed, positive signs are emerging for the EU. Thanks to a mixture of blunders and the effects of the financial crisis, the Kremlin has found that its energy weapon has become blunted. Energy prices are half what they were 12 months ago and projections for the amount of gas Europe will need have fallen sharply.

Moreover, in its attempt to deprive Europe of alternative supplies, Gazprom entered into an exorbitant deal to buy up all of central Asia's spare gas. Struggling to pay its bill, Gazprom was saved by a mysterious explosion in the pipeline from Turkmenistan. Suspecting foul play, the Turkmens are now offering to sell gas to Nabucco. So acute is the crisis, according to Sam Greene, the deputy director of the Moscow Carnegie Corporation Centre, Gazprom may no longer be able to afford two pipelines. "The crisis has changed the profile of Gazprom, which in the past was so rich in cash," he said. "But now with very poor cash flow and mounting debt, it will become an easier partner for Europe."

Brightening the picture further for those hoping to break the bonds with Moscow, the EU was finally spurred into action after Russia's most recent energy spat with Ukraine left millions of consumers without gas for two weeks in January. In June, Germany and the six countries through which the Nabucco pipeline will pass finally gave formal backing to the project. Meanwhile, Nabucco has hired Mr Schroder's former foreign minister Joschka Fischer as a consultant. Construction is due to begin next year, with the first gas expected to flow in 2014. Some observers hope that the finalisation of Nabucco will teach the Russians that aggression is not always the best policy.

Hungarian Geothermal Development Reaches Key Milestone -- First Well Completed
September 25, 2009

Hungary's new geothermal home heating utility reached an important milestone - drilling was completed for the first geothermal well in the town of Szentlörinc, Southwest Hungary. When completed, this project will support home heating for a total of 30 municipalities in Hungary.

Budapest, Hungary (PRWEB) September 22, 2009 - - Last week, an important milestone for Hungary's new geothermal home heating utility was reached - drilling was completed for the first geothermal well. The first well, in the town of Szentlörinc, Southwest Hungary, will be part of a series that will provide hot water and heating for the surrounding area. Additional wells will be drilled in other areas, supporting home heating for a total of 30 municipalities in Hungary.

The developer of the project is the privately owned Pannergy of Hungary, with Mannvit Engineering of Iceland supplying the engineering consulting. When complete, the project will provide heating for at least 70,000 homes and a new source of electricity - at a cost of between €350-500 million.

Initial tests and capacity measurements of the 1820 meter well at Szentlörinc are positive and indicate that the production of the well will be as planned. Without mechanical assistance, the well produces 5-10 liters/second of water in excess of 80ºC. With pumping, production increases to more than 20 liters/second. Further tests are ongoing, including laboratory testing of the mineral composition of the water, which will be used to heat homes is Szentlörinc. In total, 50 - 70 wells are planned in Hungary.

Sigurður Lárus Hólm, project manager at Mannvit kft., Mannvit's Hungarian office, said of the milestone: "This is the first time in Hungary that a well has been drilled through a sedimentary layer to a reservoir in a fault zone at a depth of almost 2 km, where the purpose is to get hot water for space heating."

The key to the selection of the well location is understanding both the results of pre-existing data from prior mining efforts in the area and Mannvit's own testing. When the combined data was interpreted, the results indicated the presence of a fault zone at the Szentlörinc location - ideal conditions for a geothermal well. Drilling into a fault zone is a technology that has been developed in Iceland for decades, this project brings the experience and technology to Hungary.

This project builds on a long tradition of geothermal heat utilisation in Hungary, particularly in connection with health spas. Hungarians have extensive experience in drilling of wells both for water and oil and gas exploration. This presents an ideal scenario for grafting Mannvit's experience in geothermal development in Iceland onto the existing knowledge of the field in Hungary so as to build up a base for the company's operations in Europe. Projects handled by Mannvit kft, are mostly connected with the harnessing of geothermal energy, but the company has also undertaken work in other technical fields.

In the beginning of the project, Mannvit completed geological and geophysical testing over all of Hungary, followed by more detailed testing at specific locations to determine actual well locations. Site-specific work included well design and drilling supervision as well as design of utility integration. The local drilling contractor is Aquaplus.

In 2008, Mannvit opened the Mannvit kft, office in Budapest and now employs eleven Hungarian engineers and specialists. In addition to handling work in Hungary, Mannvit kft, is actively working on projects in Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovia, Romania, Greece and Turkey.

Business leaders urge solar power support
September 25, 2009

The wide deployment of solar energy across the nation hinges on federal policies that mandate renewable power and government spending to promote the technology, utilities and manufacturers told Congress Thursday. "America's ability to develop thriving domestic renewable solar energy depends on this," said Stephanie Burns, the CEO of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Corning, which produces the polycrystalline silicon that is a component of solar panels.

Executives from Pacific Gas and Electric Co, and San Francisco-based NextLight Renewable Power joined Burns in urging the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to promote solar energy with federal tax incentives, spending and policy. solar energy currently makes up about 1% of the nation's electricity supplies, according to the Energy Information Administration. It has been hampered by the nation's aging electric transmission system, construction costs and, in some cases, environmental barriers to constructing solar installations.

"The clean energy revolution will not happen magically," said panel Chairman Edward Markey, D-Mass., who wants to see the nation transition from primarily fossil fuel energy to renewable power sources. "We need to put in place.., the right permanent policies on the books to ensure we complete this revolution."

The executives urged Congress to sustain a production tax credit used to finance renewable projects and continue a new federal program that gives companies direct cash grants to pay for about 30% of the qualifying cost of such projects. So far this year, the federal government has committed to doling out more than $1 billion in the renewable energy grants that were authorised by the economic stimulus package.

The business leaders also urged Congress to establish a national mandate - similar to one in more than two dozen states - that forces utilities to derive a portion of their electricity from wind, solar, hydro and other renewable sources. The House in June passed legislation requiring that renewable power make up 15% of utilities' supplies by 2020. A Senate committee approved an energy bill this year that would mandate 15% renewable power by 2021.

A "robust" nationwide renewable portfolio standard - or RPS MetOcean - would ensure there is ongoing, predictable demand for alternative energy, Burns said. At the same time, tax incentives and direct grant programs would ensure development of the wind farms and solar installations needed to supply the renewable power required under such a mandate, said Steve Kline, a vice president for PG&E.

"Given the current state of the capital markets, we'd strongly recommend further extending tax credits, grant programs and loan guarantees to help ensure we have the renewable energy resources we need to meet California's RPS MetOcean and we assume, soon, a federal RPS MetOcean obligation," Kline said.

Under California's RPS MetOcean, at least 20% of the electricity that utilities sell in 2010 must come from renewable sources. PG&E has focused on solar energy, Kline said, because in California, it is a more reliable source of electricity than intermittent wind that tends to blow at night, when lights are off, computers have been powered down and most customers are asleep. In other parts of the country, including west Texas and the Plains states, wind energy is more prevalent.

Frank De Rosa, NextLight CEO, said renewable power would be more appealing if Congress puts a price on the carbon dioxide emissions that are released when coal and other fossil fuels are burned. Right now, he said, "without carbon costs included, (utilities) see renewable generation as more expensive. If we can close that gap, utilities would gladly procure more renewable power.., and more renewable would get built."

Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid who has studied the Spanish government's investment in solar energy, urged caution. In Spain, he said, government subsidies led to unsustainable growth in the solar industry, and when the federal dollars were withdrawn, the bubble burst.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said Congress should avoid "policies that pick winners and losers based on popular sentiments." Instead, he said, the federal government should adopt "an all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes solar energy" along with nuclear and more efficiency. As Congress considers government investments in renewable power, lawmakers are also weighing an Obama administration request to slash tax incentives for the oil and gas industry.

Economy fails to derail CDP response
24 September

Dire economic conditions did not dissuade companies from voluntarily disclosing climate change risks and mitigation strategies, as a record number of top corporations replied to an annual survey conducted by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Eighty-two% of companies in the Global 500 index responded to the CDP information request, up from 77% last year, driven by a doubling of response rates in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, China and India). Sixteen out of 36 Global 500 companies located in BRIC countries responded to the CDP, including all the companies based in Brazil.

The increased response from the BRIC countries suggests that corporations in these regions "are in fact ahead of their governments on climate change policy", said Abyd Karmali, a London-based managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and president of the Carbon Markets & Investors Association.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 also generated the highest response rate ever, with 332 corporations, or 66%, responding, up from 64% last year, 56% in 2007 and 47% in 2006. The upward response trend continued despite a severe economic crisis that led to substantial changes in the composition of the S&P 500 due to acquisitions and bankruptcies, according to the report.

"Given the economic crisis in the past year, the [steadily increasing] response rate shows continued commitment by the market overall to this important issue," said Robert Moritz, New York-based chairman and senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which produced a report analysing the responses.

Of the responding companies in the S&P 500, 79% disclosed corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, up from 73% last year. The sectors with the highest disclosure levels were utilities, materials and consumer staples, which all face potential challenges if carbon regulations are implemented, according to the report.

The survey also showed a sharp spike in the number of respondents disclosing emission reduction targets, to 52% from 32% last year. But this represents only 169 of all S&P 500 companies, or 34%, Moritz noted. "There are some disconnects between action and attention, which suggests what is needed is regulatory certainty," Karmali said.

Of the Global 500 companies, 51% reported emission reduction targets, up from 41% in 2008. But only 36% of the targets extend beyond 2012 because a global agreement is needed to provide sufficient certainty for global companies to set medium and long-term reduction targets, according to respondents.

Many reporting companies emphasised the importance of creating the right regulatory framework and incentives, particularly in light of the upcoming international negotiations in Copenhagen, said James Cameron, CDP board member and London-based vice-chairman of asset manager Climate Change Capital. "We know if that's done right, regulation creates investment opportunity," he said. "We know if we act now, the costs are manageable over time."

The CDP also launched a pilot programme to establish performance scores that measure corporations' actual performance in responding to and reducing their contribution to climate change, with an eye toward formally incorporating the information into a more in-depth analysis next year. "It will help show where risks are being managed and opportunities maximised, and provide investors with insight into how well companies are preparing to compete in a low-carbon environment," said Paul Dickinson, CEO of the London-based CDP.

The scores are intended to complement the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI), which rates firms according to the level and quality of their disclosure and reporting on GHG emissions and climate change strategy data. Banking group HSBC received the top score at 92 from the Global 500, while financial services company Comerica received the highest CDLI score at 91 among the S&P 500. "The financial sector is pretty adept at identifying risks and opportunities from climate change," Karmali said.

Germany’s CDU could ditch feed-in tariffs, build new nukes
24 September

Germany's Christian Democrat parties are likely to reduce the role of renewable energy feed-in tariffs and build new nuclear capacity if they win this weekend's federal election. In the run up to the election, the centre-right CDU and its partner the CSU backed a report from the federal government's competition advisory agency the Monopolies Commission calling for carbon trading to supplant feed-in tariffs.

The Commission attributed continuing and unacceptably high energy prices in Germany to market domination by the four major utilities. As part of its recommendations to address this, the Commission proposed Germany's Renewable Energy Act 2000 (EEG) be scrapped completely, in favour of what it regards as the more efficient incentive mechanism of carbon trading.

The EEG established a feed-in tariff system, paid for by end-users, which guarantees the prices paid to renewable energy generators. The system has helped underpin dramatic growth in Germany's renewable energy capacity, and has been emulated by other countries.

CDU parliamentary chief Michael Meister MP said the report showed that "state-steered support for renewable energy" had created an "unsettling blockage in investment" in Germany, adding that coal and nuclear energy should also be part of any balanced energy mix.

With conservative support, German utilities have already embarked on building or upgrading 20-30 coal power stations, obtaining support from the Social Democratic Party – part of the current coalition government with the CDU/CSU – by coupling coal with expensive carbon sequestration technology. CDU energy spokesman Joachim Pfeiffer played down the report, saying the EEG would be complemented by a "market premium" to support bringing renewable energy onto the grid.

The German Renewable Energy Association (BEE) fears this is merely code for dumping feed-in tariffs. It argues that feed-in tariffs have increased energy market competition by creating many smaller providers who sell energy on the market. Abandoning the EEG would reverse this trend, bankrupt providers and increase market concentration, it argues. Secondly, BEE argues that, unlike the feed-in tariff system, carbon trading is a blunt instrument not tailored to specific renewable technologies.

Although the CDU has not officially changed its policy on the EEG, it does now officially support extending the 2021 date for shutting down Germany's nuclear generation fleet. If the election goes as observers predict, they will form a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who advocate building new nuclear energy stations.

In an election campaign where direct confrontation on policy has been the exception rather than the rule, another report indicates by proxy that the CDU/CSU would support the FDP on this, claimed Social Democrat environment minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is campaigning against nuclear energy and in favour of the EEG.

The report, a study completed in June but allegedly suppressed by CDU research minister Annette Schavan, proposes new nuclear capacity as the best option for climate protection and economic efficiency, based on the recommendations of about 100 German scientists. Gabriel said further evidence of the CDU/CSU's intentions were demonstrated this week when he revealed that the CDU-held economics ministry is to commence a study in October on security in high-temperature nuclear reactors, without notifying his ministry.

The German media reported that Angela Merkel will seek to present herself as a "green visionary" at this week's G20 meeting for domestic consumption purposes, but indications are that German environmental policy is now set to become rather more complex.

Solar energy to be used in vehicle charging stations
September 23, 2009

Solar energy is continuing to play a growing role when it comes to transportation issues, with one company having announced plans to use the technology for recharging electric vehicles. This week, SolarCity announced a partnership with Rabobank that is expected to result in the creation of the world's first solar energyed electric car charging corridor. The plan calls for four recharging stations to be developed between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Along with allowing electric vehicles to make the journey using 100% solar energy, the company also indicated that the charge time is expected to be the fastest now available - cutting current recharge times by about one-third. "We're combining clean, renewable solar energy with all-electric transportation, allowing drivers to travel through California with zero emissions," said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. The plan is being developed in coordination with Tesla Motors, which has gained national media attention for its electric powered vehicles. SolarCity noted in its announcement that it has already installed over 100 home charging stations for Tesla drivers that run on solar energy.

BrightSource expands Nevada solar thermal project
Sep 22, 2009

LOS ANGELES, Sept 22 (Reuters) - solar thermal power company BrightSource Energy Inc said on Tuesday that it is expanding a land deal in Nevada that could boost the project's power potential to 960 MWs. The deal with Coyote Springs Land Co expands a previous agreement that called for sites that could accommodate up to 600 MW of solar thermal power.

Privately held BrightSource Energy last week dropped plans to locate a 500-MW solar thermal project in the Mojave Desert after opposition from environmentalists and a U.S, senator who sought to preserve the surrounding area. solar thermal plants use solar heat to create steam that powers a turbine. They are typically much larger than those made up of photovoltaic solar panels, which turn sunlight directly into electricity.

BrightSource Energy, based in Oakland, California, has picked up big contracts to deliver solar thermal power to California utilities Edison International Inc (EIX.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and PG&E Corp (PCG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz). The power generated from the Coyote Springs project, which is on private property near transmission lines, could meet demand in the immediate residential and commercial development of Coyote Springs, southern Nevada and deliver power to California. BrightSource Energy is also working on a major project in Ivanpah, California, which is expected to begin construction in 2010.

Green power line to Los Angeles hits roadblock
Sep 23, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to make Los Angeles the "cleanest, greenest big city" in the United States, but a key project to bring renewable energy across the desert to the city could change under pressure from environmental groups. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the largest U.S, municipal utility with 4 million customers, wants to build an 85-mile transmission line for clean energy, called the Green Path North transmission line.

Activists have decried a proposed path that would cut through the Yucca Valley, two wildlife preserves and the San Bernardino National Forest. Building transmission lines to bring in power from solar and wind farms has raised environmental and permitting issues across the nation. "We are taking a fresh look at the whole ball game, including the Green Path North transmission line," said Deputy Mayor David Freeman, who is in charge of the mayor's environmental agenda and former head of the city's utility.

This year Villaraigosa pledged to cut the city's dependence on coal-fired power plants and to get 40% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020. That goal is even more ambitious than California's goal to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Freeman said the city is intensely reevaluating the proposed transmission line and its overall program to find the most effective and cost-efficient way of reaching its goal. The Green Path project is estimated to cost more than $500 million.

The city could turn to its existing transmission lines, such as opening up Owens Valley for solar energy projects or lines that go into Utah for geothermal power projects. Environmental groups are concerned that the Green Path Project would harm desert wilderness. "This is not environmental groups being opposed to renewable energy. This is a project that is being proposed that is not green," said April Sall, conservation director with the Wildlands Conservancy.

Sall said that as alternatives the city should look to already designated power corridors - - such as Edison International unit Southern California Edison's transmission corridor along Interstate 10 - - and consider more local generation, like solar systems on rooftops. "Destroying pristine lands is not necessary nor appropriate to reach these goals," Sall added.

Applied Materials to Support ENN's Solar PV Module Facility in China
September 22, 2009

Applied Materials Inc, has signed a five-year contract with ENN Solar Energy Co. Ltd to support ENN Solar Energy's solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing facility in Langfang, China, which features an Applied SunFab Thin Film Line. Through its highly flexible SunFab Performance Service program, Applied will provide ENN Solar Energy with continuous operating cost reductions while enabling optimal performance from the SunFab production line at a predictable cost that scales with factory loading. Applied's SunFab Performance Service program has been selected by all of Applied's customers currently producing single and tandem junction modules on SunFab lines.

"ENN Solar Energy sees joining with Applied Global Services as a powerful strategy to optimize the return on our investment in our SunFab line," said Dr. Rick Wan, General Manager of ENN Solar Energy. "This agreement will allow us to replace much of our fixed cost infrastructure with a variable alternative that can flex as the market changes. This flexibility will free us to focus on successfully delivering high-performance, low-cost modules to our customers, helping them win in the marketplace."

"We believe the combination of the revolutionary SunFab Thin Film Line and SunFab Performance Service delivers the fastest path to the lowest cost-per-watt and maximised MW output," said Charlie Pappis, Vice President and General Manager of Applied Global Services. "The fact that all of our SunFab customers producing modules have selected SunFab Performance Service for ongoing support is a strong testament to the value proposition we offer."

Under the agreement, Applied will leverage its dedicated, world-class service infrastructure to provide ENN Solar Energy's SunFab Thin Film Line with preventive and corrective maintenance, spare parts management, and analytical services. Using an unmatched range of engineering, logistics and automation software technologies, highly experienced local support experts will optimize equipment performance, maximise manufacturing output and assure consistent cell characteristics. In addition, Applied and ENN Solar Energy will work together to develop continuous improvement programs that aim to increase module efficiency and lower operating costs.