Friday 9 October 2009

Not so sunny as solar panel users are hit with higher power bills

Thursday 8/10/2009 Page: 3

HAVING solar panels has cost some Victorian households more on their power bills after they lost entitlements to cheaper rates because an electricity company has installed different meters without notice. Electricity distributor Jemena has been replacing existing meters with a "single-element" meter in households installing solar panels in Melbourne's south-east and the Mornington Peninsula since the start of the year. The new meter does not record the right information for households to access an overnight off-peak electricity rate for their gas hot water.

Jemena would not explain why meters that did not allow for that off-peak rate were installed, saying instead that every network is different. The new meters are installed to help households access Victoria's feed-in-tariff for household solar panels. It is believed "multi-element" meters are being installed by other electricity distributors in other parts of the state which let households access both off-peak rates and the feed-in-tariff.

The problem has been made worse because electricity retailers have refused to pass on a replacement off-peak rate that was brought in to compensate affected households - meaning households with solar panels have been locked out of electricity rates they are entitled to. This week The Age contacted a number of Mornington Peninsula residents who confirmed their off-peak rate was cancelled without warning. McCrae pensioner Graham Salter said his solar panel system had done nothing to lower his power bills and he had been stung unexpectedly with higher bills since the start of the year.

Retired businessman David Tregear said he was upset that lie had tried to do the right thing and was instead getting more expensive power bills. Pensioner Peter Strickland said he had paid thousands for his solar system thinking he was doing something to help tackle climate change. "The lesson is probably you shouldn't get between the power companies and a bucket of money," he said. Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt, whose electorate is one of the areas affected, said he did not accept claims by electricity retailers that they could not pass on the replacement off-peak rate. He said if the State Government was not prepared to take on the power companies then Canberra should get involved.

A spokesman for Jemena told The Age the company was compliant with solar legislation and had been installing meters on behalf of the owner of the southeast network United Energy Distribution. The spokesman blamed retailers for not passing on the secondary off-peak rate and said Jemena would submit a new "tinge-of-use" off-peak rate which it expects retailers will pass on to affected customers from the start of next year.

A spokesman for AGE, the primary retailer in the affected regions, said Jemena had not informed them they were installing "single- element" meters, meaning they could not warn customers they would lose their off-peak rate. Thousands of householders who applied for the Federal Government's $8000 solar rebate just before it was abruptly ended in June will find out today whether they were successful. A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett said 10% of applications failed.

ASX to list carbon friendly futures

Thursday 8/10/2009 Page: 4

THE Australian Securities Exchange plans to list new renewable energy futures and options contracts on its exchanges to support the Federal Government's renewable energy target (RET) scheme. The stock and futures exchange operator said the new contracts would support the RET scheme, designed to ensure that 20% of Australia's electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. ASX also plans to list certified emission reduction futures and options contracts in the first quarter of 2010. These securities are designed to service the requirements of prospective compliance entities in Australia and New Zealand, as well as investors and developers involved in clean development projects.

Subject to the passage of the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme legislation, ASX also intends to list futures and options on Australian emission units. The introduction of the three types of contracts will enable market participants to manage market risk and make investment decisions about climate change and related government policies, ASX said yesterday. "The listing of these products will help firms in Australia and New Zealand to facilitate carbon trading, finance and investment, as well as to provide related risk and legal advisory services," it said in a statement. There are more than 80 clean technology companies with a combined market capitalisation of more than $10.5 billion listed on ASX boards.

Florida Power & Light set to flip switch on 25MW DeSoto solar PV plant
07 October 2009

Florida Power & Light said that it will begin delivering electricity later this month from the 25MW DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia. When activated, the solar energy plant will become the largest photovoltaic installation in North America, overtaking Nevada's Nellis AFB facility. The DeSoto center, which was built in less than a year and ahead of schedule, uses more than 90,000 SunPower high-efficiency crystalline-silicon PV panels mounted on tracking systems. It will be capable of generating approximately 42,000MWhr of electricity annually.

The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center is one of three new commercial-scale solar energy plants that FPL is building in Florida. A 75MW solar thermal plant is being built in Martin County, while a 10MW PV-based facility is under construction at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The combined total of the three plants--110MW--will make Florida the second-largest solar energy-producing state in the U.S., according to the utility. Over the past year, more than 400 jobs were created during construction of the project. DeSoto county will also receive annual tax revenues that will amount to $2 million for schools and other local services by the end of next year.

WaveRoller demonstration planned for Portugal

A consortium led by Finland's AW-Energy, developer of a patented wave energy technology known as WaveRoller, will receive 3 million euros (US$4.4 million) from the European Union to demonstrate its technology of the coast of Portugal. A 300-kW WaveRoller unit will be placed off the coast near Peniche and tested for one year. The WaveRoller is an oscillating plate bolted to the sea floor. The fiberglass/steel plate moves back and forth as the waves roll in. The hydraulic pressure created by the back-and-forth motion is used to drive a turbine to generate power.

The consortium is comprised of companies from Finland, Portugal, Germany and Belgium. What's more, Bosch-Rexroth, ABB, Eneolica, and Wave Energy Center are participating in the demonstration project, AW-Energy said. "The experience of out dream team consortium is a significant asset to the project," said John Liljelund, chief executive officer of AW-Energy. " AW-Energy has been working hard the last three years with two sea-installed prototypes, tank testing and Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations. Now we have the site, grid connection permission, installation license and the technology ready for the demonstration phase."

S.Africa's Eskom eyes solar thermal, gas from coal
Oct 7, 2009

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's power utility Eskom sees solar thermal and underground coal gasification playing a significant role in its energy mix to reduce its reliance on coal and cut its carbon footprint, an official said. Steve Lennon, Eskom's Managing Director for Corporate Services, said projects would take shape next year. "You will be seeing the timing of big renewables, the timing of nuclear, you will be seeing more certainty on underground coal gasification.., first quarter next year you will see a lot of things come together," Lennon told Reuters in an interview.

He said Eskom was designing a 42 MWs pilot plant to test a technology to gasify deep coal deposits underground and feed the gas into a combined cycle gas turbine. It then plans to scale up the project to a 2,100 MW plant. "Probably by the end of 2011 that gas pilot will be up and running, which means that a full-scale plant, everything going well, could be running around 2015-16," he said.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Cut energy, bureaucrats told

Canberra Times
Wednesday 7/10/2009 Page: 9

US President Barack Obama has ordered his Government to lead by example on climate change, requiring all federal agencies to set 2020 targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions within 90 days. Mr Obama also told agencies to increase energy efficiency, cut fuel use by official vehicles, save water and reduce waste, in moves which he said would save money and help cleanse the environment. "As the largest consumer of energy in the US economy, the Federal Government can and should lead by example," he said yesterday.

The President earlier signed an executive order containing the new standards to be adopted as part of the Administration's wider attempt to build a clean energy economy. By 2020, federal departments must cut the consumption of fuel by their official fleets by 30% and show a 26% improvement in water use efficiency. By 2015, agencies must recycle 50% of waste, or divert it away from landfill projects, the order said.

US government buildings will also need to meet new emissions and sustainability standards. Mr Obama has argued that cutting greenhouse gas emissions and framing a sustainable green economy is crucial not just for protecting the planet, but also future US economic prosperity.

He has backed several pieces of legislation - including the mammoth $US787 billion ($A910 billion) stimulus plan - which provide incentives for governments and private firms to build the green economy. Mr Obama reversed previous US scepticism on climate change and has vowed to push for a global climate deal at United Nations talks in Denmark in December. But he still faces significant domestic political constraints, not least due to fears that tackling climate change will hinder economic recovery.

Energy unit slide hits solar rollout

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 7/10/2009 Page: 9

INCENTIVES for households and businesses to install solar panels have been slashed by more than a third in four months. People installing a 1.5kW solar energy system today will receive only a $4950 rebate instead of the $7750 they would have received in June. The currency used to determine the value of the rebate, renewable energy certificates (RECs), has dived to its lowest point in two years and there is no sign of a recovery. A spokeswoman for Federal Climate Change and Water Minister Penny Wong said the level of support depended on the price of RECs, "which may vary over time". solar panels and other small-scale energy systems installed on or after June 9 are entitled to extra RECs under the Solar Credit scheme.

"Through Solar Credits, households installing rooftop solar panels can receive five times as many RECs for each MW-hour of solar energy produced by their solar panels. "For example, based on a REC price of $40, a 1.5 kW solar panel system installed in Adelaide would receive $6200. Based on a REC price of $50, the same system would receive $7750." The head of environmental products at Next Generation Energy Solutions, Fernando Broder, said the REC price peaked at $50.75 in April this year and started falling in June. Yesterday the REC price was $33, "its lowest since September 2007". That equates to a discount of $4950 on a 1.5kW system installed in Adelaide.

Green Energy Trading managing director Rick Brazzale - Green Energy Trading managing director Rick Brazzale said the REC price was a function of supply and demand, with an oversupply of RECs due mainly to the popularity of solar hot water and, to some extent, solar energy. "The problem the industry and customers are facing at the moment is we have a bit of an oversupply and that's likely to persist for a couple of years," he said. "That means the price is not as attractive as it could be."

Adrian Ferraretto, from Solar Shop Australia, says solar panels are actually cheaper now than they were when the Federal Government offered a rebate. "The REC is a lower value than what the $8000 rebate was, but the price to customers pretty much remains the same, because the price of solar panels has dived, on the strength of the Aussie dollar."

Going green can put residents in black

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 7/10/2009 Page: 9

THE cost of going green at home can be enough to put off most people, but there are some incentives. renewable energy certificates provide a financial incentive that is usually cashed in as a discount on the purchase price of small scale energy systems and solar hot-water systems. The REC price fluctuates, so the Federal Government advises consumers to shop around for the best deal. Solar Shop Australia is currently offering customers a REC price of $37, which is higher than the market price.

This equates to a discount of $5550 on a 1.5kW solar system. After the panels are installed, surplus electricity fed back into the grid earns 44c/kWh under the State Government's solar feed-in scheme. Solar hot water in place of an electric hot water system is worth $1600 from the Federal Government, or $1000 for a heat pump hot-water system.

Households, including tenants and landlords, can apply for a rebate of up to $1600 for insulation. It costs about $1200 to insulate a 13square home, so the rebate could pay for the lot. Rebates of up to $500 are available under the National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative to help with the cost of installing rainwater tanks or a greywater treatment system. The State Government offers a range of rebates for water-saving devices.

Pelamis Wave Power Device Prepared for Testing

A second-generation wave-power device is ready for testing in the waters off Britain's northern islands, according to a Reuters report. German power company E.ON (EOAN.DE) ordered the device--called a sea snake--from Scotland-based Pelamis Wave Power. Marine- and hydrokinetic-generated power from the world's oceans could grow to provide 2.7 GWs (GW) of power generation capacity by 2015, according to a recent analysis by Pike Research. The World Energy Council has estimated that wave energy could provide up to 10% of global energy needs, creating about a $790 billion market. The Sea Snake represents a relatively mature technology, and the ocean power industry has been compared to the wind energy industry of about 20 years ago.

Dow Chemical introduces solar roof shingles
October 5, 2009

MIDLAND, Mich.-Dow Chemical Co, on Monday introduced a solar roof shingle designed to be woven into a roofing system that uses standard asphalt shingles. The Midland, Mich.-based chemical manufacturing giant said the shingles will be available in limited quantity by the middle of next year with plans for wider distribution in 2011. The product has the potential to generate $5 billion in revenue by 2015 and $10 billion to $11 billion by 2020, said Jane Palmieri, managing director of Dow Chemical Solar Solutions.

The shingle incorporates a low-cost, thin-film photovoltaic cell device for capturing solar energy. Roofing contractors do not need specialised skills to install the product, she said. The cost was estimated by Palmieri at $27,000 for an array of solar shingles to offset 60% of a home's power consumption. The company received $20 million in 2007 from the Energy Department to develop building solar arrays for both residential and consumer use. The shingle is the first product introduced from Dow Chemical's solar unit. Shares of Dow Chemical rose $1, or 4.2%, to $24.63 in afternoon trading.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Driving on Glass? Inventor Hopes to Lay Down Solar Roads
October 6, 2009

A truck tire supporting a 36,300-kilogram load repeatedly traverses an 18-meter stretch of road, day in and day out, rolling up 483,000 kilometers on the odometer at the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DoT) testing facility in Virginia. The goal is to thoroughly challenge any new paving techniques and see how the road surface holds up. Now imagine putting a solar panel under there.

That's exactly what Scott Brusaw of Sagle, Idaho–based Solar Roadways hopes to do next February. The electrical engineer is currently at work building a prototype of his so-called "Solar Road Panel" with the help of a $100,000 small business grant from the DoT. "We're building solar panels that you can drive on," Brusaw says. "The fact that it's generating power means it pays for itself over time, as opposed to asphalt."

There are about 260,000 kilometers of roadway in the U.S. National Highway System alone, and thousands more in state highways, suburban thoroughfares and rural roads. Could all that asphalt be replaced with a solar technology that would also double as the nation's power grid? The key to making this work will be the glass: The solar road panel prototype is 1,024 modules-each containing a solar cell, a light-emitting diode and, someday, an ultracapacitor for storage-sandwiched between a layer of some yet-to-be developed glass and a layer of conducting material. "Nobody's tried to drive on glass long-term," Brusaw says.

In addition to needing strength, this glass will be textured to allow tires to grip and water to run off. It will also be embedded with heating elements-like a car's rear windshield-to melt snow or ice. And it will need to be self-cleaning, coping with the grit and grime of an endless procession of tires as well as dust, dirt and other highway detritus. Needless to say, such glass does not exist yet but Brusaw hopes to partner with researchers at The Pennsylvania State University's Materials Research Institute to develop it.

"Glass theoretically can have a very high strength, provided there are no flaws," says materials scientist John Hellmann of Penn State, a glass expert. But "can you keep the proper optical properties to transmit light to the PV [photovoltaics, or solar cell] and still not weather or change with that traffic going over it? … We make some pretty doggone good glass for structural applications but we're not driving trucks on them."

The engineering challenges are immense, adds materials scientist Richard Brow of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, another glass expert. But glass can be strengthened by compressing its surface using special heating techniques or, at a molecular level, swapping ions in the glass itself. Such enhanced glass is 10 times stronger than the conventional variety and is used, for example, in smart phones to withstand the pressures of texting. "Can you go from a teenager's thumb to a truck? That's a pretty big leap, but 10 years ago we didn't think you could make a 15-micron piece of glass for what's relatively rough handling in a PDA," Brow says.

Glass has been used to build footbridges, such as the Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Wash. And new glass ceramic composites with increased toughness have been developed for the photovoltaics industry, Brow adds-but that might boost the price of the resulting panel.

In the meantime, Brusaw is spending $40,000 of the DoT's money to build a prototype from chemically hardened glass panels that can be purchased today. He will experiment with various types of solar cells, from thin-film to traditional monocrystalline silicon photovoltaics, and he will try to strike the right balance between transparency-so the panel works to deliver at least several thousand kW-hours of electricity each day-and road-gripping texture, which will block some of the light. "If you have perfectly clear glass, you get perfect PV efficiency. But [with] perfectly smooth glass, everybody slips off the road," he notes. "Glass manufacturers can cut grooves into the glass in a hatch-type pattern. We'll try various methods and see what holds up."

Cost will be a factor: "The cost to develop a glass that will hold up in the fast lane of a highway? Fifteen [million] to 25 million dollars over three to five years," Brusaw says. "The cost in mass production? About $1 per square foot." The goal is to produce a 12-foot by 12-foot panel for $10,000 that is capable of producing 7,600 kW-hours of electricity daily, enough per panel for more than 240 average U.S, homes, which use 936 kW-hours per month, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In addition to requiring a yet-to-be-invented form of glass, solar roadways would need some form of energy-storage capability-whether batteries or some not-yet-devised ultracapacitor. The goal is to create a cross-country highway system that can also serve as an national electricity generator and power grid. And paired with wind turbines to generate electricity at night, Brusaw estimates replacing the nation's highways with his solar roadways could eliminate the need for fossil fuel–fired power plants. "Based on my calculations, at 15% efficiency [from the photovoltaics] we produce more than three times the electricity we have ever produced," he says. Even with cars constantly casting shade over the road surface, along with other challenges, "we think we can make enough to meet the nation's energy needs," he adds.

Other companies, such as the England's Invisible Heating Systems, have developed roads that use embedded water pipes to harvest some of the sun's ample energy that also bathes U.S, roads. The solar roadway will also offer embedded LEDs to illuminate the road and display information, whether the actual traffic directions, such as lane markers, or messages such as "SLOW DOWN." And, should electric cars become popular, powered pavement could also offer recharging stations wherever such panels are installed.

The first test of Brusaw's crystalline vision will be when the prototype is delivered to the DoT on February 12, 2010. And the DoT's challenges will be followed by some durability testing by the inventor with a pickax, sledgehammer and, depending on the prototype's fortitude, guns. Then it's on to parking lots and perhaps fast food restaurants. "Parking lots are much better than going right out onto the highway," Brusaw says. "You have slow-moving, lightweight vehicles. We can learn all the lessons there before moving into the fast lane."

Mt Gambier 147 turbines planned for 2011 - $175m wind farm bid

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 6/10/2009 Page: 38

RENEWABLE energy company Acciona has lodged an application for a $175 million windfarm at Allendale East near Mt Gambier. The development application, which has been 18 months in the planning, was lodged with the District Council of Grant last Friday. It proposes a 47-turbine farm capable of producing 70.5 MWs of power, or the equivalent of powering 43,000 homes.

Spanish-owned Acciona also developed the Cathedral Rocks Windfarm near Port Lincoln with Roaring 40s, and is leading the consortium building the Port Stanvac desalination plant through its Agua division. The company's Waubra Wind Farm in western Victoria, which began operations in June, is the southern hemisphere's largest, producing more than 192 MWs of energy.

Acciona Asia Pacific managing director Brett Thomas said construction at the Allendale East site was likely to begin in 2011, employing about 50 people. "We know through other projects we have been working on that there are flow-on effects to other areas and jobs, from hire cars in Mt Gambier or accommodation or even the local pie shop doing a roaring trade," he said.

Mr Thomas said he did not anticipate any problems getting government approval, or approval from ETSA for the grid connection. "To date, the community, the council and the State Government have been very positive (and) the next critical step is working with ETSA to get their formal permission to connect to the power system," he said. "South Australia leads the way on renewable power in a number of ways.

They have got more renewable power than other states but also communities have been very strongly supportive." Mr Thomas said a summary of the development application would be mailed to all the residents in the windfarm area, with a public exhibition period set to follow.

Ceramic Fuel Cells opens Dusseldorf plant

Monday 5/10/2009 Page: 2

ASX-listed alternative energy company Ceramic Fuel Cells opened its manufacturing plant in Germany on Friday, and will begin making its Bluegen solid oxide fuel-cell units there. If it gets final safety approvals in February, the company hopes to sell the units for Australian homes from early next year. To be assembled in Melbourne, the units will cost from $8000-$10,000 each and produce up to 17,000 kW/h of electricity a year - more than twice the amount needed to power an average home. Managing director Brendan Dow said the grid-connected units, about the size of a dishwasher, generated electricity from natural gas on-site at higher efficiency and lower cost than coal-fired power.

At a domestic level, the Bluegen units will compete with domestic solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, but Mr Dow said that whereas a 2 kW solar PV system would save about three tonnes of greenhouse gas a year, a Bluegen unit would save 18 tonnes. He said the fuel-cell units operated silently, did not use hydrogen and were safe for Moines. By February he hoped they would be certified as a safe gas appliance. "It is no more hazardous than a regular water heater," he said. "A regular Rinnai continuous flow heater which has an open gas flame would be considered more dangerous than a fuel-cell system. "If there is a fire in the house, the unit would shut down. As soon as we shut the unit off, there's effectively no fuel inside the system."

Mr Dow said a key to the take-up of the units in Australia would be qualifying for renewable energy certificates (RECs), which would give utilities an incentive to install them. "It's difficult to get utilities really interested in Australia under the current climate," he said. "It's pretty frustrating." Bluegen units use a lower emissions technology than heat pumps or waste coal mine gas, both of which will qualify for RECs under the Federal Government regime. On Friday, Ceramic announced a demonstration project with an unnamed retailer, believed to be EnergyAustralia, to install a Bluegen unit in a showcase sustainability home.

Ceramic will also aim to set up a partnership with a distribution company and to make financing available to customers. "A financing package would make it much more attractive because you wont have an upfront cost," he said. Mr Dow said while lie hoped Bluegen units would be sold in Australia, Ceramic's major markets were in Europe, where electricity prices were higher and a carbon price was factored in. The new 9.5 million ($A16 million) plant, near Dusseldorf, would be able to make 10,000 fuel-cells a year. Ceramic shares fell 8% to 27.54 on Friday but have risen fivefold since March, when the company raised $20 million at 54 a share.

In marine power race, Sea Snake leads
Oct 4, 2009

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - A first attempt fell victim to the crisis: now in the docks of Scotland's ancient capital, a second-generation scarlet Sea Snake is being prepared to harness the waves of Britain's northern islands to generate electricity. Dwarfed by 180 meters of tubing, scores of engineers clamber over the device, which is designed to dip and ride the swelling sea with each move being converted into power to be channeled through subsea cables.

Due to be installed next spring at the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) in Orkney, northern Scotland, the wave power generator was ordered by German power company E.ON, reflecting serious interest in an emerging technology which is much more expensive than offshore wind. Interest from the utility companies is driven by regulatory requirements to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation, and it helps in a capital-intensive sector.

Venture capitalists interested in clean tech projects typically have shorter horizons for required returns than the 10-20 years such projects can take, so the utilities' deeper pockets and solid capital base are useful. "Our view.., is this is a 2020 market place," said Amaan Lafayette, E.ON's marine development manager. "We would like to see a small-scale plant of our own in water in 2015-2017, built on what we are doing here. It's a kind of generation we haven't done before."

The World Energy Council has estimated the market potential for wave energy at more than 2,000 terawatt hours a year - -- or about 10% of world electricity consumption - - representing capital expenditure of more than 500 billion pounds ($790 billion). Island nation Britain has a leading role in developing the technology for marine power, which government advisor the Carbon Trust says could in future account for 20% of the country's electricity.

The government is stepping up support as part of a 405 million pound investment in renewable energy to help its ambition of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels, while securing energy supply. Britain's Crown Estate, which owns the seabed within 12 nautical miles of the coast, is also holding a competition for a commercial marine energy project in Pentland Firth in northern Scotland. Besides wave power, Britain is testing systems to extract the energy from tides: private company Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) last year opened the world's first large-scale tidal power turbine SeaGen in Northern Ireland.

Developing Like Wind
"We are often compared to the wind industry 20 years ago," said Andrew Scott, project development manager at Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, which is developing the Sea Snake system, known as P2. Standing beside the train-sized serpent, Pelamis' Scott said wave power projects are taking a variety of forms, which he said was similar to the development of the wind turbine. "You had vertical axis, horizontal axis and every kind of shapes before the industry consolidated on what you know as acceptable average modern day turbines."

The Edinburgh Snake follows a pioneering commercial wave power project the company set up in Portugal last September, out of action since the collapse of Australian-based infrastructure group Babcock and Brown which held a majority share. "It's easy to develop your prototypes and models in the lab, but as soon as you put them in water, it swallows capital," said John Liljelund, CEO of Finnish wave energy firm AW-Energy, which just received $4.4 million from the European Union to develop its wave-roller concept in Portugal.

At present, industry executives say marine power costs about double that from offshore wind farms, which require investment of around 2-3 million euros per MW. solar panels cost about 3-4 million per MW, and solar thermal mirror power about 5 million.

Utility Action
Other utility companies involved in wave power trials include Spain's Iberdrola, which has a small experimental wave farm using floating buoys called "Power Take-offs" off the coast of northern Spain. It is examining sites for a subsea tidal power turbine project made by Norwegian company Hammerfest Strom. Countries developing the technology besides Britain include Portugal, Ireland, Spain, South Korea and the United States: about 100 companies are vying for a share of the market, but only a handful have tested their work in the ocean.

Privately owned Pelamis has focused on wave energy since 1998, has its own full-scale factory in Leith dock and sees more orders for the second generation in prospect. Lafayette said E.ON examined more than 100 devices since 2001 before picking Sea Snake for its first ocean project, a three-year test: "They have a demonstrable track record.., and commercial focus and business focus."

A single Sea Snake has capacity of 750 kWs: by around 2015, Pelamis hopes each unit will have capacity of 20 MWs, or enough to power about 30,000 homes. Neither Pelamis nor E.ON would elaborate on the cost of the Sea Snake, but they said the goal is to bring it down to the level of offshore wind farms. "The challenge is more about getting to a place where we are comparable with other renewable technologies... We want to get somewhere around offshore wind," said Lafayette.

Solar to join up with coal power station
October 4, 2009

A project to boost a coal-fired Queensland power station with a solar plant is further proof that renewable technology is capable of large-scale electricity generation, says Australian physicist David Mills. The Queensland government and Ausra Inc, a US-based thermal solar technology company founded by Dr Mills, have submitted a joint application to the federal government to fund a portion of the project to add a 23 MW (MW) solar plant to the existing 750 MW Kogan Creek coal power station on the Darling Downs.

"It's a means of testing and getting the technology commercial in large plants with their own turbines," Dr Mills, now Ausra's chief scientific officer, told Sky Business News on Sunday. "It is a small amount, but it's a relatively large solar array compared to what's gone on in Australia before. The utility will be able to get familiar with the basic technology applications." Dr Mills said his company aimed to eventually produce power stations 10 times larger than the one at Kogan Creek.

Ausra has developed and produced solar thermal generators with mirrors that reflect concentrated sunlight onto pipes, heating water inside to make steam for turbines to spin generators. Dr Mills said there was no guarantee at this stage that the Queensland project would proceed because he didn't know how far the application for funds had progressed.

"We really don't know what is happening to the applications," he said. "The government said it would be fast-tracked but we really haven't seen anything. "The Queensland government has signalled very, very strongly in their recent statement that they want this project to go ahead and they're willing to commit very serious funds to the utilities to make it happen."

Dr Mills developed much of Ausra's technology as an academic in Sydney, but said there was much more money available in California in 2007 to get Ausra established. "We were offered about five times the funds for an equivalent share in our company compared to what we could get from Australia and that really set us on a strong course," he said. "You need a lot of cash and you need to prove these things over months and years to get people to be happy with the risk involved."

Dr Mills believes solar energy could eventually supply base load power. Ausra is developing methods to store heat so that it can be used during the night or on cloudy days, he said. "We have the potential there for such plants to go for 24 hours," he said. "The development of storage is still young, but the first 50 MW parabolic trough plant has just gone into Spain with enough storage to run night and day."

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Wind farm sale nets $88m

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 2/10/2009 Page: 79

AGL Energy says it will receive $88 million from the sale of the Hallett 4 windfarm, north of Adelaide. AGL said yesterday it had reached a sale agreement with the Energy Infrastructure Investments consortium.

The consortium consists of Japan's Marubeni Corporation and Osaka Gas, and Australia's APA Group. The fourth stage of the Hallett Windfarm, on the Hallett Hill range 220km north of Adelaide is due for completion in May 2011.

AGL expects to realise a development fee of $88 million from the transaction, with between $50 million and $60 million anticipated to be booked in the current financial year and the rest in the following year. Under the terms of the transaction, EII will fund all remaining development and construction costs. For its part, AGL will buy the electricity and renewable energy certificates from the windfarm until 2036.

Islands in Bass Strait to go green

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 4/10/2009 Page: 8

DIESEL power on Bass Strait Islands would be replaced by renewable energy under Labor, Premier David Bartlett said yesterday. The task would be a priority of the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Industry Development Board, set up last week. The board is chaired by Peter Rae, ex-Hydro Tasmania chairman. "For Tasmania, climate change.., is an opportunity for economic growth. There are a number of exciting projects in wind, wave and tidal power." Mr Bartlett said. He said 2.56 million litres of diesel were burnt on King Islandand and 1.2 million litres on Flinders Island last financial year.

Newmont endorses ETS

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 3/10/2009 Page: 41

THE Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme has been endorsed by an unlikely ally - major mining company Newmont Mining Corporation. Newmont Mining chief executive Richard O'Brien said nations had an obligation to reduce their carbon footprint and he was so far supportive of the Government's proposal. Mr O'Brien's views on Australia's proposed laws put him at odds with the Australian Minerals Council of Australia, which views the legislation as fundamentally flawed with no material effect on the level of global greenhouse gases.

Wind farm giant lights up Texas

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 3/10/2009 Page: 83

THE world's largest windfarm officially was up and running yesterday, with all 627 towering wind turbines churning out electricity across 40,470ha of West Texas farmland. The Roscoe Wind Complex, which began construction in 2007 and sprawls across four counties near Roscoe, was generating its full capacity of 781.5 MWs, enough to power 230,000 homes, German company E.ON Climate and Renewables North America said. "This is truly a milestone for us," company chief development officer Patrick Woodson said. "In three years to be able to take this project from cotton fields to the biggest windfarm in the world is something we're very proud of."

The complex is about 350km west of Dallas and 480km south of the land where billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens had planned an even larger windfarm before he scrapped the idea in July. Texas leads the U.S, in windpower production and this windfarm tops the capacity record of 735.5 MWs set by another West Texas farm. Renewable energy makes up a small fraction of the electricity grid but the wind and solar sectors were among the fastest growing in the U.S, before the recession.

Wind power in Texas has grown again this year but has slowed from last year's rate. "We are expecting 2009 to be a somewhat smaller year overall but still a fairly solid year," Kathy Belyeu, of the American Wind Energy Association, said. At Roscoe, the turbines range from about 106m to 126m tall and generally are spaced about 274m apart.

Push for shift to natural gas

Friday 2/10/2009 Page: 3

A switch from coal to gas could cut Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, says Australia's peak gas transmission body, which has warned that governments will fall short of emission reduction targets unless the deployment of gas is accelerated. In its submission to the Victorian Government's green paper on climate change, the Australian Pipeline Industry Association (APIA) has criticised "the attention governments in all jurisdictions give to all energy sources other than gas". APIA chief executive Cheryl Cartwright said policy attention on gas usually related to the export market, such as the $43 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas project.

But, she said, only 40% of Australia's gas travelled overseas, and Victorian natural gas reserves, mainly in the Otway and Gippsland basins, could help the transition from coal-fired generation. The Australian Energy Market Operator puts Victoria's 2P reserves, those that are proved and probable, at 10,000 petajoules. "There shouldn't be the discouragement of natural gas that there is," Ms Cartwright said. "Any emissions trading system will see an increased demand for gas but all the compromises that are being introduced, like the assistance to coal, the assistance to renewable energy and the assistance for gas exports, will slow down a move to natural gas domestically."

Ms Cartwright said that delay could threaten governments' emission reduction targets. "Of course we need to move towards renewable energy but, in the short to medium term, gas is the obvious answer to deliver significant emission cuts and meet those targets." The Victorian and Federal governments have pledged to cut emissions by 60% from 2000 levels by 2050. Ms Cartwright said the Federal Government should consider introducing an incentive such as the renewable energy target for gas in an effort to bring down emissions.

Nick Otter, chief executive of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, said reaching emission reduction targets would mean not only a move towards gas but also sequestering those emissions. "If you are going to meet the carbon dioxide reduction targets, you are going to have to apply CCS to gas as well as coal," he said. "That will provide a significant step forward."

China launches 10-MW on-grid solar power project
Sep 30, 2009

BEIJING (Reuters) - China launched on Wednesday the country's biggest on-grid solar energy project with electricity capacity of 10 MWs in Shizuishan of Ningxia, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The project, run by the China Energy Conservation Investment Corp, was only the first phase of a total 50-MW project, Xinhua said. "After the completion of the first phase, construction for the second and third phases will be finished by 2011," it added. China's panel maker SunTech Power Holdings Co Ltd supplied the panels for the project and also holds a minority share of the project.

Eager to reduce its reliance on cheap but dirty coal, which provides over 70% of the country's power, China is pressing ahead to boost supplies of clean power from solar, wind, nuclear and other renewable sources by providing incentives. The Ministry of Finance said in July it would provide big subsidies for the construction of utility-scale solar energy projects after announcing subsidies for solar energy projects attached to buildings in May. China in July announced benchmark tariffs for on-grid wind energy projects. Developers previously had to compete for grid access. Shares of SunTech were up 0.8% to $15.57 in late Wednesday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Monday 5 October 2009

NSW backs new power stations

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 1/10/2009 Page: 4

THE NSW Government is pressing ahead with plans for two huge new power stations that could increase Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million tonnes a year, the equivalent of doubling the number of cars on the state's roads. Documents released by the NSW Planning Department yesterday show the Government is prepared to back the new coal or gas-fired plants at Mount Piper near Lithgow and Bayswater near Muswellbrook. Coal or gas are the only fuels available to keep pace with electricity demand, according to the environmental assessments for the power stations.

This claim is challenged by various independent reports which say Australia's future energy needs can be met by improved energy efficiency and more renewable power. If gas is chosen instead of coal, the greenhouse gas emissions would be halved, but would still raise the state's total emissions by about 6% a year over current levels. Significantly, the environmental assessments for the two power stations say "clean coal" technology will not be available to them in the foreseeable future.

Under the Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme, both plants would need to obtain carbon permits valued at more than $250 million a year, unless some permits were granted for free. The sites are expected to be sold under the the State Government's privatisation plans. The proposed Mount Piper plant, to be operated by Delta Energy, would produce 2000 MWs of electricity from either an advanced "supercritical" coal-burning process or from gas-fired turbines.

The proposed Bayswater plant, to be run by Macquarie Generation, would produce the same amount of electricity. Its environmental assessment says the choice of fuel would depend on availability at the site, but goes on to say that coal is more readily available than gas, which would require the construction of a special pipeline.

Transmission and storage key to renewable energy

Thursday 1/10/2009 Page: 2

AUSTRALIA'S renewable energy target is expected to drive $30 billion of' investment in wind, solar, geothermal and other energy sources in the next 10 years. But delivering this energy to consumers is not just a matter of building a windfarm or drilling down to source geothermal heat. It will require investment in transmission lines and, some say, a new way of thinking about how energy is transmitted across the continent.

Two key issues facing the transmission of renewabIes are the distance and variable load. Many of the best wind and geothermal resources are in remote locations, so new transmission lines need to be built. But energy sources such as wind also pose fresh challenges because they are intermittent and unpredictable. There is either no wind and no energy or strong winds that create huge loads of electricity and stress the system.

Networks built to handle a predictable energy source now need to deal with energy flows from a source that cannot be controlled. Meeting this challenge requires a greater amount of flexibility to be built into the grid as well as possible investment in new systems of energy storage and the development of smart grids. These will also help manage the two-way flow of energy that will arise from growth in home-based generation from small-scale solar, and the likely creation of an electric car network that can feed energy back into the grid at peak periods.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia estimates more than $31bn in capital expenditure on existing and new network assets will be needed in the next five years to facilitate the transition to lower emission generation and to ensure reliability of supply. In addition, there is a refinancing requirement of a further $30bn in network assets. Further detail is expected later this year when the Australian Energy Market Operator releases its national transmission statement, a study that will look at the needs of the transmission network: what needs to be upgraded and the expected demand for high voltage direct current lines.

The task facing Australia is no different from that of the rest of the world, where the move to a low carbon economy calls for fresh thinking on issues such as demand response and energy storage. One of the main challenges is the ability to cope with the expected increase in wind energy, which in Australia is predicted to account for up to 80% of the renewable energy target. Laurent Schmitt, the Paris-based vice-president for energy management at Alstom, says wind cannot be forecast more than several hours before it blows, creating a problem for dispatchers on the energy grid.

A standard grid such as Australia's would normally require 10% of its capacity to be flexible, but having a 20% RET largely satisfied by wind means that flexibility ratio would need to be increased by 20-30% of its capacity, leading to a large increase in demand for gas-tired peaking generators. And there is also the issue of the wind blowing at night, or on weekends, when the energy is barely needed. This happens now and on occasion has led to negative prices for wind retailers as they try to sell energy no one needs. Some of these issues may be solved with energy storage.

The traditional means of storage has been with hydro power, particularly in New Zealand, where excess energy is used to push water to a higher reservoir before it is released to drive turbines at a time of greater need. But Australia's capacity to expand its hydro-electric facilities is negligible. Schmitt says Alstom is conducting promising research into energy storage using compressed air. A gas-fired turbine uses excess energy to drive a compressor to pump air into a cavern, where it is stored until power demands call for it to be released and the expanded air is able to drive the turbine and generator.

Other options may include batteries that could store power at nights or weekends. Schmitt says greater flexibility may also need to be introduced into the present base-load generators. He believes Australia's coal-tired power stations can be modified to become more flexible and operate within a capacity range of 60-100%. Possibly the most important element in managing flexibility is the development of a smart grid, so that one end of the grid can communicate with the other and flows of energy can be controlled. This will be crucial in the development of the electric car network, and the expectation that large battery charging networks will be created to meet a spike in demand.

Schmitt says these battery networks could provide some of the flexibility the network will need. "We could replace peaking units if we could connect the car in a smart way. It comes back to the development of smart grids and the ability to charge and discharge when the system requires it," he says. "There will need to be a massive investment in the distribution network.., and in modernisation."

Tariff May Further Strain U.S.-China Trade
September 30, 2009

HONG KONG - Companies that import solar panels to the United States are facing up to $70 million in unexpected tariffs. The bill comes at a time when the industry is already struggling and could hurt both foreign solar panel makers and foreign and American distributors. It could also further strain trade relations between the United States and China. The issue began with a short letter to United States customs officials last December from the small American subsidiary of a Spanish energy company. The subsidiary, GES USA, wanted to know what the tariff would be to import certain solar panels from China.

On Jan. 9, the customs agency wrote back that the panels had become too sophisticated to qualify for duty-free import. Instead - because the panels contain a basic electronic device for safety and energy efficiency - they would be treated as electric generators, subject to a duty of 2.5%. Such low duties are standard on many imports, and are much less punishing than the punitive tariffs aimed at restricting the trade of a certain good, like the 35% tariff on Chinese tires announced three weeks ago.

But the duties come at a particularly difficult time for the global solar energy industry. Many panel manufacturers are losing money because of fierce competition from ever-expanding production in China and a worldwide downturn that has driven down prices. Raising prices now to cover past tariffs will be hard because the market is glutted with panels; prices have fallen a fifth since early this year. The decision is legally binding on most solar panels imported into the United States. But virtually no one in the industry became aware of it until the last few weeks, Meanwhile, unpaid duties piled up, along with penalties that are likely to double the cost.

The United States exported almost as much solar panel equipment as it imported in the first seven months of this year - $605 million in imports and $555 million in exports, according to Commerce Department data. The Solar Energy Industries Association, a coalition of domestic and foreign companies whose board chairman is an executive from SunTech, China's biggest solar panel maker, argues that American tariffs on solar panels could lead other countries to impose tariffs on American exports. The customs decision is dividing the industry between importers and companies that produce solar equipment in the United States. And with China accounting for a rising share of American imports, the tariff could become a sticking point in bilateral trade relations already troubled by the dispute over tires, autos and chicken parts.

Some Chinese solar panel manufacturers are already planning to move final assembly of solar modules to plants in the United States, a step that could allow them to avoid the duty someday, said Rhone Resch, the chief executive and president of the industry association. The duty generally applies to solar panels that provide power to a residential, commercial or industrial electrical system; small solar panels imported with built-in light bulbs are already counted as electric lights and are subject to a tariff of 3.9%. Lawyers are critical of the industry for not spotting the problem sooner. "It is somewhat unusual for an industry to take as long as eight months to become aware of a customs ruling that affects it," said Mel Schwechter, a partner at Dewey & Leboeuf in Washington and a former president of the Customs and International Trade Bar Association.

Customs decisions, even for a single importer, are made public on the agency's Web site and on commercial Web sites, said Mr. Schwechter, who is not advising any of the participants in the dispute. Mr. Resch said the growing industry lacked the resources to constantly track tax and regulatory decisions. Duties will be doubled if customs officials determine that companies have been negligent in not paying them earlier. Importers might also be liable for duties on all solar panels brought into the United States in the five years before the ruling if customs officials decide that the companies were guilty of "material misstatement or omission" for failing to notice sooner that solar panels had evolved to the point that they no longer met duty-free rules.

The association plans to challenge the classification of the panels as generators in court, Mr. Resch said. But before starting what could be lengthy litigation, the safest strategy for each importer, according to trade lawyers, is to pay immediately the duties and accrued penalties for shipments received since January, and to start paying the duty going forward. "We're taking this very seriously - it has a large financial impact in the United States and it has global ramifications," Mr. Resch said.

Top officials at Customs and Border Protection, the agency that succeeded the Customs Service, could overrule the technical specialists who determined that the sophisticated panels should be treated like electric generators. Such a move would extend duty-free treatment to the latest solar panels. But that would mainly benefit Chinese producers, whose share of the market has surged in the last two years.

It would also reduce the incentive for companies to manufacture panels in the United States - a politically touchy decision at a time when American cities have been vying for panel factories even as the industry is shifting production to China. Importers, a mixture of foreign and American manufacturers and distributors, are liable for duties and penalties, not consumers who bought imported panels in recent years. Imports account for almost half of the solar panels sold in the United States.

Customs issued its ruling on Jan. 9, less than two weeks before President Obama took office. The ruling said that a panel from Trina Solar of China was really a generator because it was equipped with a diode that allows electric current to pass around areas of the panel that are shaded. The diodes have become standard on solar panels, and are effectively required to meet American safety standards.

Javier Muniz, the chief executive of GES USA, said through a spokeswoman that GES solicited the customs opinion last winter for a project that did not end up being built. GES did not tell other companies about the ruling, he added. Even Trina Solar, the Chinese panel maker, became aware of the decision only "in recent weeks," a Trina spokesman said. Industry leaders have stayed very quiet about the customs decision in the last few weeks while holding emergency meetings to decide on a legal strategy.

Unlike many large overseas manufacturers, Trina still exports directly from China to independent distributors in the United States. Trina does not have a American subsidiary to import the panels and handle the customs paperwork. "Trina Solar is currently classified as an exporter and is not liable for the duty arising from these regulations," said Terry Wang, the company's chief financial officer. SunTech said that it was aware of the customs decision and was looking into it. Mr. Resch estimated that the duty would cost the industry $70 million this year, and there would be more tariffs in the years to come. That calculation assumes the industry will be found negligent for not paying the duty on panels imported since January and will be assessed the doubled duty. It assumes the industry will not be found liable for shipments in the preceding five years.

Ausra, Queensland Government Plan A$200 Million Solar Thermal Project

SYDNEY - (Dow Jones)- solar thermal energy company Ausra Inc, and the Queensland state government have applied to the federal government for funding to develop a proposed A$200 million upgrade to a coal-fired power station in Queensland. The project involves using Ausra's solar thermal technology to preheat the 750-MW Kogan Creek power station's feed water system, increasing its efficiency and generating over 23 MWs of extra electricity a year - enough to power about 25,000 homes.

Queensland will provide funding to the project if the federal government gets involved first, a spokesman for the state government said. "If they put some money in, we'll put some money in and investment would also be sought from private industry and investors," the spokesman said. Ausra was established in Australia but had to move its headquarters to California to attract more funding. It recently set up new offices in Australia and Macquarie Generation has applied its solar thermal technology at the Liddell coal-fired power station in New South Wales state, but on a smaller, demonstration-level scale.

A funding decision on the proposed Kogan Creek upgrade from the federal government is expected by year end, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said in a statement. With funding locked in, Ausra Chief Executive Bob Matthews said the project could be developed within a year.

NRG to build Houston solar farm
30th September 2009

New Jersey-based NRG Energy plans to develop a 10MW solar farm in Houston. The photovoltaic plant, to be located at an existing NRG Energy facility, is expected to cost USD40m and will create around 100 jobs. The development remains subject to approval by the Houston City Council. If given the go ahead, the facility is scheduled for completion in the middle of next year. NRG Energy claims the solar farm could meet 6% of Houston's electricity demand.

Earlier this year, the firm invested USD10m in eSolar. As part of the deal, NRG Energy also received development rights to three of the Californian startup's solar thermal projects, which are expected to have a combined capacity of up to 500MW. In June, NRG Energy penned a deal to supply electricity from a solar thermal plant to Pacific Gas and Electric. The plant is scheduled for completion in 2012.