Friday 6 November 2009

Light down a wire for solar power
4 November 2009

Solar energy could be produced cheaply in specially designed optical fibres, say researchers. The work, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, makes use of nanometre-scale wires built around optical fibres like bristles. Those wires give the light much more surface area to interact with, leading to higher overall efficiencies.

However, only the ends of the fibres must be exposed - they funnel the light elsewhere for power generation. Instead of roof-sized panels, small collectors could be used on the roof, with the real machinery of solar energy generation tucked away, for example, between a home's walls. "Using this technology, we can make photovoltaic generators that are foldable, concealed and mobile," said Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US.

Dye job
The most efficient - and the most familiar - solar cells are those based on silicon, which absorbs light, generates electrons, and shuttles them around to create a current. Recent years have seen leaps and bounds in the use of so-called Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells, in which the electrons are released from special dye molecules designed to absorb sunlight. While dye-sensitised cells are promising because they make use of cheap and robust materials, they are comparatively inefficient.

The new method starts with commercial optical fibre, like that used in telecommunications, with the outer layer stripped off. The team then creates a "forest" of zinc oxide nanowires around the fibre, and deposits the dye molecules over them. This creates a much larger effective surface area that helps to boost the cells' efficiency. What is more, the light needs enter only at the ends of the fibres, so a large-scale implementation could see just small collectors on a roof, with the bulk of the power-generating materials tucked away.

"Optical fibre could conduct sunlight into a building's walls where the nanostructures would convert it to electricity. This is truly a three-dimensional solar cell," Professor Wang said. Professor Wang said that future modifications to the surfaces of the nanowires could boost the devices' efficiency. "It's really nice, elegant work," said Saif Haque, a solar cell researcher from Imperial College London. "It's a clever way to make better use of the light."

Solar energy system in California desert uses melted salt
November 04, 2009

Rice Solar Energy, part of a spin-off from United Technologies, is planning a solar energy installation in an uninhabited part of eastern Riverside County, California. The system relies on melted salt - 4.4 million gallons' worth - in a 538-foot tower. Mirrors around the tower reflect sunlight onto it, heating the salt to such great temperatures that it retains a useful amount of heat seven hours after sundown. The technology underpinning Rice Solar Energy's project, called concentrating solar energy (CSP), involves 18,000 mirrors - called heliostats - aiming light at the tower. The salt inside looks like water when melted, says the California Energy Commission in its review of the project.

Melted salt is stored in tanks and used to heat water into steam. The steam - as in most power-generating technologies - spins a turbine that creates electricity. "Water consumption is an issue with concentrating solar energy plants," said the Department of Energy in a report to Congress, "because they are most cost-effective in locations where the sun is most intense, which in turn often corresponds to places … where there is little water." Nevertheless, the DOE adds, "[solar energy] is so widespread that CSP projects covering 1.4% of Southwestern land could potentially generate as much power as used in the entire U.S."

State's clean-coal gamble - Documents admit doubt on strategy

Wednesday 4/11/2009 Page: 1

VICTORIA will rely on fossil fuel for energy for decades, with leaked documents revealing the Brumby Government is set to take a multibillion-dollar gamble on "clean coal". A high-level leak to The Age indicates the Government will embark on an education campaign around carbon capture and storage aimed at a public that it say does "not understand the unique challenges facing the state" under emission trading. While the state will continue to depend on coal-fired power, confidential cabinet documents acknowledge the clean coal strategy may not work.

"A key question for Commonwealth and state governments is whether to consider long-term contingency options to deal with the risk that clean coal proves to be more costly and limited an option than currently believed," one document says. The documents spell out the rationale for a forthcoming "Future Energy" statement that will focus on the ramifications of the Rudd Government's proposed emissions trading scheme. brown coal-fired power, Australia's most greenhouse intensive form of energy generation, provides more than 90% of Victoria's electricity.

The documents, which provide a rare insight into Government thinking and policymaking, forecast that:
  • Renewable energy will progressively replace fossil energy, but "we will rely on renewables and fossil energy for decades".
  • The Government will not impose emissions limits on individual coal-fired plants, reasoning that this would be unnecessary under emissions trading and push electricity prices even higher.
  • carbon capture and storage will only be viable with much higher power prices - in line with a Global carbon capture and storage Institute report that last week said it would increase costs by up to 78%.
  • There will be "heightened risk" in future of blackouts due to generators failing and not being prepared. A national review of emergency powers is proposed to ensure states have the authority to intervene.
  • The Government will help establish large-scale solar energy plants and "explore the scope" for geothermal and bioenergy. The Government will seek to reduce its reliance on brown coal for local electricity over time but "vigorously pursue" its wider exploitation, including for export for use in overseas power stations.

The documents say energy supplies will become increasingly diverse and dispersed across the eastern states. While focusing on coal, they say the Government supports "rapid expansion" of wind energy due to Canberra's 20% renewable energy target - despite there being a risk of "heightened community opposition" due to local community groups banding together. No mention is made of the role of household-level attempts to cut emissions, such as with rooftop solar panels. But the documents indicate that emissions trading will trigger a boost in energy saving by households and businesses as energy prices go up.

They quote market research that found Victorians take the energy supply for granted and have a poor understanding of how it works. The need for an education campaign to explain dramatic changes coming in the electricity sector is raised. The public was found to hold the state responsible for the reliability and price of electricity but was prepared to accept moderate price rises 'once provided with information about the costs of reducing carbon pollution'.

Part of the rationale of the Future Energy statement would be to ensure clean coal technologies were accepted so they had "a social licence to operate". As revealed by The Age last month, the statement will also urge brown coal exports despite community concerns about increasing emissions in countries without greenhouse targets.

China oil firm in push for green car

Wednesday 4/11/2009 Page: 43

CHINA National Offshore Oil is considering building battery changing stations for electric vehicles, part of a broader push by the state-owned oil giant that could give a boost to alternative vehicles in China's huge market. Shan Lianwen, director of corporate strategy at China National Offshore, one of three big Chinese-government oil companies, said it was looking into the possibility of building a nationwide network of battery-changing stations, where drivers of electric vehicles could swap out an empty car battery for a full one.

China National Offshore is one of several Chinese oil companies undertaking alternative energy projects. "We can't build a car, but we can supply the energy," Mr Shan, whose company is the parent of CNOOC, which lists shares in Hong Kong and New York, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference yesterday. China National Offshore in July invested 5 billion yuan ($810 million) in Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint Stock, a Chinese company that makes lithium batteries for electric vehicles. Lishen said it would use the investment to build 20 battery assembly lines at a new facility in the port city of Tianjin.

Lishen has a joint venture with Coda Automotive, a California based company that is planning to sell an all-electric car powered by Lishen's batteries in California in late 2010. China National Offshore's foray into battery-powered car technology comes amid similar moves by big Western oil majors like Exxon-Mobil. The battery "filling stations" concept for electrified cars seems similar to the business model pursued by Better Place, a Palo Alto, California, company. Better Place is developing battery-swapping stations in Israel and Denmark, and last year announced plans for a $US1bn network of recharging stations for electric cars in the San Francisco Bay Area as part of a broad push into the US.

The closely held company, founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi in 2007, also has announced plans to expand into Australia. Chinese oil companies have undertaken a number of alternative-energy initiatives, encouraged by a government mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil. China National Offshore is also building an offshore windfarm. China National Petroleum, the country's biggest oil-and-gas producer by volume, is a partner in a fledging carbon exchange market in Tianjin.

And Sinopec Group, or China Petrochemical, the country's biggest oil refiner, is involved in making cleaner-burning petrol out of coal. Mr Shen of China National Offshore said the feasibility of developing battery-filling stations in China depended on electric vehicles getting popular enough to support the new business. He said Chinese consumers would buy electric vehicles if petrol prices stayed above eight yuan or $1.30 a litre,, about 20% higher than current levels. Another factor is the ability of manufacturers to make inexpensive and reliable batteries.

Planet granted hot-rock licences

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 4/11/2009 Page: 61

Planet Gas has been granted 14 geothermal exploration licences north of Port Augusta, as part of its new geothermal energy strategy. The company acquired unlisted Queensland-based geothermal firm Gradient Energy in September, gaining geothermal exploration rights over an area of 18,300 sq/km, spread over South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. The 14 licences granted yesterday cover 6589sq/km around the Leigh Creek coal mine.

"The project lies at the head of the national electricity market powerlines that connect the Leigh Creek to Adelaide and Port Augusta," the company said. "The proposed development route for new powerlines connecting the geothermal projects of the Cooper Basin and the Paralana area to BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam mine pass through the tenement area. "The project is located within the South Australian heat flow anomaly - a highly prospective region for geothermal resources."

Origin raises stake in Otway

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 3/11/2009 Page: 59

Origin Energy will expand its presence in the east-coast energy market by acquiring Woodside Petroleum's controlling stake in the Otway gas joint venture in Victoria for $712.5 million. Under the deal, Origin Energy will become the project operator by increasing its interest from 30.75% to 51.55%. Benaris International, which holds a 12.7% interest in the project, and CalEnergy Gas (Australia), which holds a 5% stake, could increase their holdings under a pre-emption process that is part of the joint venture deal.

The parties may elect to increase their interest in the venture on terms equivalent to those agreed in the Woodside Petroleum-Origin Energy transaction, Woodside Petroleum said. "We would wind up with 65% if they (Benaris and CalEnergy) exercise their pre-emptives," Origin Energy managing director Grant King said. The transaction includes the producing Thylacine and Geographe gas fields and adjacent exploration permits, plus associated offshore production facilities, pipelines and an onshore gas processing plant near Port Campbell in western Victoria.

Woodside Petroleum flagged in February that Otway would be sold under its program of non-core asset divestment. Mr King said the deal would provide Origin Energy with earnings from natural gas sold under existing contracts to TRUEnergy as well as from the sale of liquefied petroleum gas and condensate.

Vend farm approved, despite objections

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 3/11/2009 Page: 4

A WIND farm big enough to power 25,000 homes will be built near Glen Innes in the New England tablelands, the first of several huge renewable energy plants planned for the region. The NSW Government approved the $150 million plan, funded by Babcock and Brown Wind Power and NP Power, despite opposition from some residents living within 2 kilometres of the proposed 125-metre turbines. After concerns about the noise of whirring blades, one turbine was removed from the plan.

"I would have hoped that more than one would have been removed," said the Mayor of Glen limes Severn Council, Steve Toms. We are sympathetic to the needs of the people living next to the site. But on the other hand the council is also supportive of sustainable energy." The Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, said the company's plan had been modified because it would have been too noisy. "Having removed this turbine, the assessment found that, even with a'worst-case scenario' analysis, no residential property would be subject to unacceptable noise," she said.

The environmental assessment lodged by the developers found noise would exceed guidelines in some places. The assessment proposed some turbines could operate at a reduced capacity to reduce noise. Trees would also be planted near some homes to screen the turbines from sight. But the windfarm will still be visible, stretched along the Waterloo Ranges, from the township of Glen Innes, about 12 kilometres away.

Some residents in the Furracabad Road area near the development still feel their property values could be affected, and the issue is being considered by a NSW Legislative Council committee which will report later this year. The windfarm is the first to be approved since the Government announced measures in August to stimulate wind energy development, including a streamlined planning process and six particularly windy precincts in rural NSW where development would be encouraged.

CBD Energy banks on graphite blocks

Monday 2/11/2009 Page: 30

CBD Energy has signed a deal with a leading Chinese group, Boading Tianwei, to provide its energy storage technology to a proposed $500m,100MW solar thermal plant being built as part of an earthquake reconstruction program in Liangshan. CBD Energy's technology involves layers of graphite blocks, which have heat exchangers embedded. The modular 423kW modular system is the size of a shipping container and can be easily scaled.

Chief executive Gerry McGowan says graphite could prove to be a cost-effective storage system for renewable energy, considering the major alternative, molten salt, has experienced a threefold rise in price in the past six months. CBD Energy's technology has been developed at Silverwater in Sydney and will be tested on King Islandand next year in a joint venture with Hydro Tasmania. "We believe we will be the cheapest thermal storage on the market. No one else is using graphite," McGowan says.

He expects the technology will also be used to supply off-peak power in Europe and the US, and could be particularly effective in district heating systems and for industrial use. "We can release the energy at a predictable rate. It loses up to 3% in storage, depending on the amount of insulation, but that's not much as, typically, customers want to store energy for a 24-48 hour time frame." CBD Energy has not released details of the amount of storage required for the China project, or the financials of the agreement, which will be under negotiation this week.

Australia's efforts to create its own carbon market may be stalled by political deadlock, but Australians have been playing a prominent role in the rapidly expanding international carbon market. These include Ken Newcombe, who established the first carbon fund while at the World Bank and now runs C-Quest Capital, and James Cameron, the head of Climate Change International.

Other prominent Australian expats who attended the Carbon Markets Expo on the Gold Coast last week included Standard Bank carbon trading head Geoff Sinclair, Macquarie London carbon trading activities head John Marlow, Mina Guli executive director of project developer Peony Capital, and Bridget McIntosh the founder and head of carbon company Carbon Bridge. Guli says Australian businesses seem preoccupied with the structure of an Australian emissions trading scheme, but the real opportunities for abatement and investment are in China, which boasts rapid economic growth and a green economy that will be worth up to $1 trillion by 2013.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Sahara Sun 'to help power Europe'
2 November 2009

A sustainable energy initiative that will start with a huge solar project in the Sahara desert has been announced by a consortium of 12 European businesses. The Desertec Foundation Industrial Initiative aims to supply Europe with 15% of its energy needs by 2050. Companies who signed up to the $400bn (£240bn) venture include Deutsche Bank, Siemens and the energy provider E.ON. The consortium, which will be based in Munich, hopes to start supplying Europe with electricity by 2015.

Desertec Foundation Industrial Initiative aims to produce solar-generated electricity with a vast network of power plants and transmission grids across North Africa and the Middle East. "The time has come to turn this vision into reality," said the company's chief executive, Paul van Son. "That implies intensive co-operation with many parties and cultures, to create a sound basis for feasible investments into renewable energy technologies and interconnected grids." The first stage will be to build massive solar energy fields across North Africa's Sahara desert, utilising concentrated solar energy technology (CPS), which uses parabolic mirrors to focus the Sun's rays on containers of water.

'Pivotal initiative' The super-heated water will power steam turbines to generate electricity 24 hours a day, 52 weeks of the year. The electricity will then be transported great distances to Europe, using hi-tech cables that suffer little conductive loss of power. The move was "pivotal" in the transition of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to sustainable energy supplies, said Mr Van Son. Currently there are some small initiatives across Spain and parts of North Africa, but the scale of the Desertec Foundation initiative will surpass any other comparable projects.

Strong desire The initiative has gained the support of the German government of Angela Merkel, who has already expressed a desire to offset a dependence on Russian gas supplies. A number of North African countries have also expressed a strong desire to join the project, the company says, utilising their main sustainable natural resource - the Sun. Some of the power generated by the Sahara solar energy fields will also be used by domestic African consumers, Desertec Foundation is keen to stress. North Africa has a small population relative to the size of its desert terrain, it says.

The concept was first announced in 2007 by the Desertec Foundation, with small pilot projects based in North Africa. Prince Hassan of Jordan has previously been mentioned as a big supporter. Companies signed up to the consortium include ABB, Abengoa Solar, Cevital, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE and Schott Solar.

CSIRO bid to gag ETS policy attack

Monday 2/11/2009 Page: 3

THE nation's peak science agency has tried to gag the publication of a paper by one of its senior environmental economists attacking the Rudd government's climate change policies. The paper, by the CSIRO's Clive Spash, argues the carbon pollution reduction scheme is an ineffective way to cut emissions, and instead direct legislation or a tax on carbon is needed. The paper was accepted for publication by the journal New Political Economy after being internationally peer-reviewed. But Dr Spash told the Australia New Zealand Society for Ecological Economics conference that the CSIRO had since June tried to block its publication.

In the paper, Dr Spash argues the economic theory underpinning emissions trading schemes is "far removed" from the reality of permit markets. "While carbon trading and offset schemes seem set to spread, they so far appear ineffective in terms of actually reducing GHGs (greenhouse gases)," he says. "Despite this apparent failure, ETS remain politically popular amongst the industrialised polluters. "The public appearance is that action is being undertaken. The reality is that GHGs are increasing and society is avoiding the need for substantive proposals to address the problem of behavioural and structural change."

Dr Spash said trading schemes were ineffective because of the difficulty of measuring emissions and because placing a price on carbon affected all prices in the economy, with highly unpredictable consequences. In addition, emission cuts were not efficiently allocated because governments were manipulated by vested interests. For example, in Australia, large polluters would be compensated with free permits while smaller, more competitive firms would have to buy theirs at auction. He concludes that more direct measures, such as a carbon tax, regulations or new infrastructure would be simpler, more effective and less open to manipulation.

Dr Spash could not be contacted by The Australian. However, his presentation to the ANZSEE conference in Darwin last Wednesday stated: "The CSIRO is currently maintaining they have the right to ban the written version of this paper from publication by myself as a representative of the organisation and by myself as a private citizen." Dr Spash said CSIRO managers had written to the journal's editor demanding the paper not be published.

CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan said the publication of Dr Spash's paper was an internal matter and was being reviewed by the chief executive's office. However, he said that under the agency's charter scientists were forbidden from commenting on matters of government or opposition policy. The CSIRO charter, introduced last year, was trumpeted by Science Minister Kim Carr as a way to guarantee freedom of expression for scientists.

Senator Carr said he was seeking a briefing from the CSIRO. Opposition science spokesman Eric Abetz accused the government of empty spin. "Kim Carr whilst in opposition and then as minister said he would allow scientists to publish all their material," he said. Julian Cribb, adjunct professor of science communication at the University of Technology Sydney, said gagging scientists deprived the public of scientific knowledge they had funded. ANZSEE president Wendy Proctor said if Dr Spash's research questioned current orthodoxy, it should be made public so as to inform debate.

Farmer ploughs ahead in greenhouse gas war

Sun Herald
Sunday 1/11/2009 Page: 40

A BATTLE is raging beneath the bobbing heads of Ian Linklater's wheat crop in the red loamy soils of Gol Gol. In this break-your-heart farming land near the Murray River north of Mildura, the enemies are drought, nutrient depletion, salt and rising costs. The battle's unlikely heroes are Mr Linklater and his 400-horsepower, oxygen-sucking, diesel guzzling, carbon-spewing tractor.

International debate rages over the cost and plausibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations by pumping carbon underground. But Mr Linklater is literally ploughing ahead, injecting his tractor's fossil fuel exhaust fumes directly into the ground where they enhance the biochemical interaction between plants and soil microbes. And it seems his home-grown version of carbon sequestration - introduced in 2007 - is getting results, with this year's crop, aided by better rainfall, his best since 2001. "It might not seem that emissions from one tractor could do a lot but per hectare it emits 1100 kilos of carbon," he said.

Adapting methods developed by Canadian farmer Gary Lewis of Bio-Agtive Emissions Technology, Mr Linklater spent $20,000 customising equipment that cools the tractor's fumes to 30 degrees then expels them into soil as gas fertiliser when he sows his crop. His trials - which are being replicated in Canada, Britain and South Africa - are gaining worldwide attention and are the focus of scientific research. "When I heard about it I listened and the science of it seemed to make sense but with fertiliser costs at about $1200 to $1500 per tonne, the economics of it got me into gear," Mr Linklater said.

It would have cost him $500,000 in phosphorous and nitrogen fertilisers to prepare 3845 hectares for planting. But in the two years since he and his sons began trialling the technique, no fertiliser has been applied. The saving is enough to wipe a healthy chunk off the debt he has racked up, like many drought-stricken farmers, through years of poor rainfall and low wheat prices. Political debate continues about the inclusion of agriculture in Australia's carbon emissions trading scheme but Mr Linklater said farmers had nothing to fear from carbon pollution reduction programs.

The Federal Opposition last week proposed amendments removing agricultural methane emissions from an ETS while allowing farmers to make money through carbon credits earned by planting trees and storing more carbon in soil. The government has delayed a decision on agriculture - which accounts for 18% of the nation's greenhouse gases - until 2013

Hot savings to be had on solar heating

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 2/11/2009 Page: 58

Installing a solar water heater could cost you as little as $500 and save you hundreds of dollars a year on your water-heating costs. And with old-style electric water heaters being phased out it's a decision many people will have to make soon. The Federal Government is offering a rebate of $1600 for people switching from an electric to a solar water heater. And in South Australia, low income earners may be eligible for a rebate of up to $500 when installing a solar water heater.

Solahart national business manager Stephen Cranch says with electricity prices climbing by more than 20% in some states this year alone, solar is becoming attractive financially. "You can save between 50 and 90% on your energy used to heat your hot water going from electric to solar," he says. "That equates to potential savings of $200 to $700 a year depending on the tariff." Solar water heaters require an electric or gas boosting system for cloudy days. Consumers are also eligible for tradeable renewable energy certificates when they buy a solar water heater.

A Newspoll survey this year found that one in every two households are considering making the switch to solar. The most popular Solahart systems feature panels and a tank fitted on the roof, which ideally should be north-facing. Hills Solar uses new technology in its Esteem heaters which cost more, but could provide greater savings. Hills Solar marketing manager Dominic Beshara says the evacuated tube technology involves less heat loss. "Because of the insulating properties there's less heat loss in winter - and when do you use the most hot water?" he says. National consumer group Choice recommends buyers of solar water heaters get several quotes, with varying prices between suppliers and models.

Scientists attempt to squeeze out fuel from pond scum

Sunday Territorian
Sunday 1/11/2009 Page: 44

DRIVEN by fluctuations in oil prices, and seduced by the prospect of easing climate change, experts are ramping up efforts to squeeze fuel out of a promising new organism: pond scum. As it turns out, algae - slimy,fast-growing and full of fat - is gaining ground as a potential renewable energy source. Experts say it is intriguing for its ability to gobble up carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, while living happily in places that aren't needed for food crops.

Algae likes mosquito-infested swamps, for example, filthy pools, and even waste water. And while no one has found a way to mass produce cheap fuel from algae yet, the race is on. University labs and start-up companies are getting involved. Over the US summer, the first mega-corporation joined in, when Exxon-Mobil said it would sink $US600 million ($A650.9 million) into algae research in a partnership with a California biotechnology company.

If the research pans out, scientists say they will eventually find a cost-effective way to convert lipids from algae ponds into fuel, then pump it into cars, trucks and jets. "I think it's very realistic. I don't think it's going to take 20 years. It's going to take a few years," said chemical engineer George Philippidis, director of applied research at Florida International University in Miami. One of the factors fuelling enthusiasm is algae's big appetite for carbon dioxide - a byproduct of burning fossil fuels. "We could hookup to the exhaust of polluting industries," Philippidis said. "We could capture it and feed it to algae and prevent that CO2 from contributing to further climate change."

California company Sapphire Energy has already fuelled a cross-country road trip with algae-tinged petrol. The trip, meant to raise awareness, prompted the headline, Coast to Coast on Slime. Another California company is looking at fattening fish on algae and then processing the fish for oil. "Where algae is very nice is, it's prolific. It's everywhere.., and you don't have to do much. Mother Nature has kind of figured it out," said Roy Swiger, a molecular geneticist and director of the Florida division of the non-profit Sinosteel-Midwest Research Institute.

Singapore ups ante to secure energy stocks

Weekend Australian
Saturday 31/10/2009 Page: 6

THE dominant concern in Asia's city state, Singapore, is energy security given it has no resources of its own and imports all its fuel but its government has big ideas to take advantage of the region's global-warming concerns. With 76% of their electricity needs generated by gas-fired plants and almost all the gas coming from Malaysia and Indonesia, plus another 22% of their needs met by importing fuel oil, Singaporeans worry about reliability of power supply and fuel costs, but their government has kept an eye on opportunities for renewable energy investment.

With more than $S300 million ($238m) committed to supporting energy research and development, and half of it on solar energy development, the Singapore government aims to increase the value-added component of its energy industry from $S20 billion to $S34bn by 2015 and to triple employment in the sector to more than 15,000 people. Given its position on the equator, solar energy may seem to be a no-brainer as a home-grown energy source for Singaporeans, but the reality is different. Most of the city's five million people live in high-rise blocks, making their use of rooftop photovoltaics almost impossible, and the 10,000 businesses that consume 75% of Singapore electricity demand a non-intermittent, lower cost source of power than PVs.

Business concern about costs has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis, which has led to Singaporean exports being slashed by 28% and gross domestic product falling by 10%. This has been a big blow for a country accustomed to strong growth; its GDP improvement had averaged 5.5% a year from 2000 to last year. Nevertheless, in a state strongly focused on innovation know-how and on seeking economic and employment opportunities, the Singapore government has hit on an answer: it has attracted a $S6.3bn development by the Norwegian company Renewable Energy Corp to manufacture the wafers, cells and modules needed by the solar industry, targeting the export market in Asia.

The plant, scheduled to open next year, will produce sufficient products for 1500 MWs of solar energy capacity each year, a large introduction to the international market where total global PV output a year stands at just more than 2000MW. The development is more than twice the size of REC's existing 650MW capacity factory in Norway, the world's largest, although the company has plans to double its size. The Singapore government says the future for use of solar energy in the state will depend on when the sector can get its price for a kW hour of electricity down to the level of tariffs charged to buy it from the grid.

While the government is willing to encourage the residential take-up of PVs through a feed-in tariff equal to four times the going price for electricity, neither it nor Singaporean home owners are holding their breath waiting for a big breakthrough by solar energy. The reason can be illustrated by the latest project to provide a handful of government housing blocks with just sufficient PV panels to power lifts, lights and water pumps; the capital cost of $5600,000 is way beyond the price of grid connection, which has to take place anyway to provide reliable electricity for the residents for all their needs.

For Australia, the big energy opportunity involving Singapore may come in the form of selling the city-state liquid natural gas drawn from the conventional gas fields off Western Australia and the Northern Territory or the large coal-seam methane resources of Queensland. The Singaporean government intends to have an LNG receiving terminal built early in the next decade at a cost of $S1bn, enabling it to import up to three million tonnes of frozen gas a year. The global economic crisis undermined initial investor interest in the project, but the government has stepped in to run the development and is poised to invite tenders for construction before the end of the year.

China geothermal development close

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 31/10/2009 Page: 84

Adelaide-based energy company Petratherm says it is close to finalising an agreement to develop two geothermal projects in south-east China. A Chinese delegation visiting Adelaide yesterday met with Minister for Mineral Resources Development Paul Holloway and representatives from Primary Industry and Resources SA to discuss the projects. The delegation includes the Vice Director of the China Institute of Geo-Environment Monitoring, the Chairman of the Geothermal China Energy Society and the Director of the Fujian Southern Institute of Geothermal and Mineral Spring.

Petratherm exploration manager Peter Reid said the company had been working with several Chinese companies and the Chinese government to determine the feasibility of several Chinese projects. He said while the resource was yet to be tapped for energy production, shallow heat deposits were currently used for heating. "China is the fastest growing energy market in the world and there is a real requirement to develop new energy technologies," Mr Reid said. "China has a very large geothermal resource." The delegation's "fact-finding mission" will visit Petratherm's Paralana geothermal energy site and GeoDynamics' geothermal project in the Cooper Basin. Mr Reid said he was hopeful of securing project licences for two Chinese projects within the next six months.

Be cool, hot water industry urges

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Friday 30/10/2009 Page: 14

The solar hot water industry has said that demand for solar hot water units has slowed in recent months, with concerns that a collapse in the price of renewable energy certificates could delay investment in large-scale climate change projects like wind farms for two to three years. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong this week said the Council of Australian Governments review on the issue should be finished by December. The government cut the rebate on standard heat pumps from $1600 to $1000 last month and Rheem corporate affairs manager Gareth Jennings said the volume of RECs entering the market from hot water units was definitely slowing. AGL Energy chief executive Michael Fraser said the low carbon price meant his company would have to delay investment if it did not already hold long-term contracts to supply renewable power to desalination projects in Victoria and South Australia.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Dyesol Duo's Power Play

Friday 30/10/2009 Page: 1

The solar power innovators have customers worldwide, writes Peter Switzer

AS the federal opposition grapples with the business and cost challenges of a greener future powered by an emissions trading scheme, an Australian entrepreneurial couple is showing us the innovative potential in terms of both revenue and cost of alternative thinking. The power couple are Sylvia and Gavin Tulloch, founders of the Australian listed company Dyesol. This is a company with a genuine outside-the-square product that is attracting the attention of foreign companies looking to tap into the world's growing appetite for alternative forms of energy.

The company, with a market cap of about $100 million, has 70 staff, with 50 in Australia, 15 in Wales and others in Italy, Switzerland, Japan and the US. Not bad for an operation headquartered in Queanbeyan, in regional NSW, but which is only a stone's throw from tech-savvy Canberra. So, what exactly does this award winning business do? "The Dyesol group is the world leader in development and commercialisation of third-generation photovoltaics solar cells that mimic nature based on the principles of photosynthesis and nanotechnology," Sylvia Tulloch explains. "These third-generation devices are called dye solar cells."

Dyesol develops, manufactures and supplies a range of DSSC products, including equipment, chemicals, materials, components and related services, to DSSC researchers and manufacturers, and works with partners and customers to integrate the technology into their products. This is a seriously out-there business, in the right place at the right time, as the world turns green and alternative. This follows the price of oil hitting nearly $US150 a barrel last year and devotees of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth suspecting climate change can be put down to man's power-generating habits. And while the world is sitting up and taking notice of Dyesol, there's particularly strong support coming from the mother country.

This might sound surprising considering our recent experience with cricket against England, which reminded us of the extent to which sunlight faces a battle with clouds and rain over there. We have a subsidiary in the UK with 15 staff, most of whom work on our project with Corus, the company which used to be called British Steel," Tulloch says. "We have smaller subsidiaries in Italy, Switzerland and US." Corns is developing solar steel roofing and cladding. The pilot plant was commissioned in June and the plan, all going well, is to have a volume manufacturing plant operating in 2011. Corns manufactures 100 million sqms of steel cladding a year and intends 20 million sqms to be solar steel by 2016.

But is it a good idea to try to create energy through the interaction of the Dyesol product coated on roof cladding in a country not renowned for sunny days? "Dyesol's solar technology works well in all light conditions; it doesn't need bright sunlight," Tulloch says. "The layers of a DSSC can be deposited on a range of products, such as facade glass and steel rooting." In a nutshell, the technology mimics the photosynthesis process of trees and plants, and can be used in many applications that would be impossible for conventional photovoltaic technology, meaning the voltage is more or less independent of light levels.

The energy created can easily power a house and the surplus can be pumped into the grid. As I said, this is an out-there business. So, how did it happen? "Gavin and I are scientists whose earlier careers were in the Australian subsidiaries of multinational advanced technology businesses, and [we] decided to set up our own business around 20 years ago," Tulloch says. "In those businesses, we learned business management at a fairly sophisticated level, which we combined with our interest in innovation and commercialisation."

Finding or creating a product with potential is one thing but successfully commercialising it and launching an ASX listed company is another. "Commercialising DSSC has been a team effort," Tulloch says. "When we set up Dyesol, I was the founding managing director and developed the business strategy, and was responsible for corporate positioning, investor relationships and the Australian operations. "Gavin was responsible for developing the international business, international subsidiaries and relationships." But how does an Aussie company take up the running on such a product? As scientists, we fell in love with the technology: it is fascinating science," she points out. "Then, in 1998, we learned about global warming and decided that commercialising this technology was important to the future; where we lived really didn't play a role."

Scientists they might be and it helped them see the opportunity, but it was another quality they shared that explains why their dream has become a commercial reality. "We are both entrepreneurial and over the years we have both picked up pretty sound financial skill-sets," Tulloch says. In fact, their scientific and research background partly explains the Tullochs' success, because R&D companies need to know how to play the grants game.

"A company such as Dyesol brings both private and national benefits," Tulloch says. "To maximise the national benefits it requires public co-investment. "What we learned is that grants and subsidies tend to wax and wane, especially in Australia, so it was important for us to have a global focus, rather than be dependent on grants in Australia" Wherever grants are given, there are requirements for local content, so the decision to work in overseas subsidiaries enabled them to take advantage of grants available overseas. And the work has been nationally and internationally recognised. "Dyesol was included in the top 100 low carbon pioneers on CNBC Europe in 2008," Tulloch says. "And recently we won the ACT Chief Minister's 2009 export award for small-medium manufacturer expert."

And what about the experience taking their baby to the hard, cold world of being a public company in a global financial crisis world? We listed in Aug '05, with a share price of 20c; it's now 80c," Tulloch says proudly. "Prior to that, the DSSC project had been in a small public company called Sustainable Technologies, of which Gavin and I were also among the founders. When the board of Sustainable Technologies decided to close the project, we did an MBO [management by objectives] of the solar operations, and then operated as a private company from 2000 to 2005." On the impact of the GFC, Tulloch recounts how the share prices of all solar companies were affected. But of the 70 solar companies listed on exchanges internationally, Dyesol's market performed sixth best out of their 70 rivals.

And with the GFC fading from view, what does the future hold? "For Dyesol, the future is a rapid expansion of demand and building new relationships with large corporations who have registered interest in incorporating DSSC into their product ranges," Tulloch says. "For me, I am broadening my interest in commercialisation and am now also on the boards of EcoQuest (ECQ), a company which is developing biodegradable products, and Sensol, a private company development acoustic sensors, and am a member of the Future Manufacturing Industries Innovation Council, which advises the Australian minister for industry."

On the challenges ahead, Tulloch singles out dealing with very large corporations. "It is something like dancing with dinosaurs," she admits. On how Tulloch copes with the growth challenge and remains motivated, her answers are both typically entrepreneurial and scientific. "I'm a glass-half-full person," she points out. "I soon move past frustrations. "And I love feeling I'm making a useful contribution," she says.

Peter Switzer is a founding director of Switzer Business Coaching.

Ocean Power Technologies Completes Successful Trials of Underwater Substation Pod
Nov 2, 2009

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: OPTT and London Stock Exchange AIM: OPT) ("OPT" or the "Company") announces the successful completion of trials of its Underwater Substation Pod ("USP") product in Spain. The USP, based on the Company's proprietary design, has been developed to facilitate the collection, networking and transforming of power and data generated by up to ten of its PowerBuoys for transmission to a shore-based electricity grid by one subsea power cable. It has been built as an open platform, and can therefore provide "plug and play" connectivity for any offshore energy device linked to it.

Underwater trials of the USP included pressure testing, running electric power to and from the system, and verification of data communication capabilities. The completion of this significant milestone by OPT is part of an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract with Iberdrola Marinas de Cantabria, a special purpose company whose shareholders include:-

    • Iberdrola S.A., the major Spanish utility company;
    • Sodercan, the regional development agency for the Cantabria region of northern Spain;
    • IDAE, the energy agency of the Spanish government; and
    • Total, the oil and gas company.

    OPT believes that the USP is a unique product in the offshore market and creates a potentially new revenue stream for the Company from sales to third parties engaged in marine power development and other offshore activities. Current sources of OPT's revenues are PowerBuoys designed for utility-scale power generation projects and autonomous applications such as offshore homeland security.

    The USP was designed and developed entirely by the Company from concept to manufacture and successful underwater testing. The majority of offshore energy systems generate electricity at low voltage and need to step-up to medium or high voltage for efficient transmission to shore. Additionally, offshore power projects typically have a number of devices (wind turbines, wave energy converters, tidal power devices) that need to be networked offshore so that a single subsea cable can export the power and data to the shore. OPT has fully analysed these requirements and developed its innovative USP to meet these performance demands. In order to minimise the cost and complexity of marine operations, innovative connections and disconnections have also been designed to be undertaken at the sea surface using standard vessels.

    Stuart Bower, Engineering and Projects Director of Ocean Power Technologies Limited, who led the development team of this exciting new product, stated: "This project has been a true engineering challenge of converting an idea on a "whiteboard" into reality and demonstrates how the Company's technical base can be used to create valuable intellectual property. Comparable products used in the offshore oil and gas industry do not have the USP's advantages for higher power capacity, longer life expectancy, fewer moving parts, a passive cooling system, lower cost per MegaWatt, and the ability to accommodate many power generation devices. We are delighted at the potential value the USP can bring to wave power projects and other offshore energy markets."

    Forward-Looking Statements
    This release may contain "forward-looking statements" that are within the safe harbour provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements reflect the Company's current expectations about its future plans and performance, including statements concerning the impact of marketing strategies, new product introductions and innovation, deliveries of product, sales, earnings and margins. These forward-looking statements rely on a number of assumptions and estimates which could be inaccurate and which are subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual results could vary materially from those anticipated or expressed in any forward-looking statement made by the Company. Please refer to the Company's most recent Form 10-K for a further discussion of these risks and uncertainties. The Company disclaims any obligation or intent to update the forward-looking statements in order to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this release.

    About Ocean Power Technologies
    Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: OPTT and London Stock Exchange AIM: OPT) is a pioneer in wave-energy technology that harnesses ocean wave resources to generate reliable, clean and environmentally beneficial electricity. OPT has a strong track record in the advancement of wave energy and participates in a $150 billion annual power generation equipment market. The Company's proprietary PowerBuoy system is based on modular, ocean-going buoys that capture and convert predictable wave energy into low-cost, clean electricity. The Company is widely recognised as a leading developer of on-grid and autonomous wave-energy generation systems, benefiting from over a decade of in-ocean experience. OPT's technology and systems are insured by Lloyds Underwriters of London. OPT is headquartered in Pennington, New Jersey with offices in Warwick, UK.

    More information can be found at

    Eden plans for geothermal plant
    28 October 2009

    Plans are being drafted for a geothermal energy plant to be built at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The sustainable energy plant would provide heat and electricity for the attraction and 4,000 homes on the National Grid. Geothermal systems use the Earth's natural heat to warm water which in turn produces steam, powers turbines and generates electricity and heat. The Eden Project is hoping to submit the proposals in January.

    'Hot rocks'
    It is estimated that the plant would generate three MWs of electricity. Matt Hastings, energy manager for the Eden Project, said: "It's a challenge we have to take. We're up against the wall in terms of our renewable energy targets, and if we don't take this leap of faith then the road has a dangerous dead end." Two wells would be drilled 4,000m deep into the ground to reach the "hot rocks" which power the system.

    Mr Hastings said: "Our education mission means we have to walk the talk and practice what we preach and achieve the main aim of our energy policy which is to achieve 100% renewable energy." The Eden Project is working alongside German company Engineered Geothermal Systems who were involved in the a commercially viable Geothermal plant in Landau, Germany.

    Still living in the dark on baseload power
    October 31, 2009

    WE ARE often told we need more ''baseload'' power. But baseload power generated in a distant coalfield, delivered by a dumb grid, suits almost nobody these days, bar the incumbent operators. What's occurred in the past decade or so is a rapid growth in peak loads-especially on summer afternoons, when everyone gets home and turns on their air-conditioners, causing a huge spike in demand. Total electricity use, as against peak demand, has increased much more slowly and even fallen in some cases.

    Forget for a moment whether those air-conditioners are necessary; we don't need to build more baseload power stations just because peak loads are expanding. A presentation this month by AGL's Paul Simshauser, chairman of the Loy Yang brown coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, showed the national electricity market (NEM) had too much base and intermediate-load power (by about 4000 MWs, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes) and not enough peak-load power (we are short about 1700 MWs).

    Michael Ottaviano, chief executive of Western Australia's Carnegie Corporation Energy, took up the theme at this month's Eco Investor conference in Sydney, arguing for an expanded role for wave energy, sitting somewhere between baseload power and intermittent energy sources such as wind. ''Wave is a very consistent resource with 90 per cent-plus availability,'' he said later. ''It will vary as wave height varies. But unlike wind, which varies in minutes and is difficult to predict more than a few hours in advance, wave will vary over hours and be predictable over days.''

    A key, Ottaviano says, is a smart grid that can make use of all the available energy - renewable sources are not always conveniently located near coalfields, so we're going to need new transmission lines- and supply it where and when it is needed. (Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is on to this and on Thursday, with cabinet colleagues Martin Ferguson and Peter Garrett, invited bids to build a $100 million smart grid in Queanbeyan, near Canberra. Which is a start.)

    Distributed generation can help, too. At the same conference, Ceramic Fuel Cells managing director Brendan Dow Chemical presented slides showing about 80 per cent of the energy generated by coal-fired power stations is lost as heat (65-70 per cent wastage) or in transmission and distribution (5-8 per cent). Given coal-fired power stations account for about 35 per cent of Australia's carbon dioxide emissions, that's a lot of carbon pollution for nothing.

    Ceramic Fuel Cells makes a gas-powered fuel-cell appliance about the size of a dishwasher that can provide 17,000 kW hours of electricity a year- twice that needed to power an average home, meaning far greater energy savings than an equivalent-cost solar panel installation. The so-called BlueGen units have a world-beating 60 per cent electrical efficiency. Even without any subsidy in the form of a feed-in tariff, the BlueGen unit is a commercial proposition-as long as utilities will connect them to the grid, and take the electricity they generate, as they must do with home solar panels.

    Meanwhile, the grid continues to roll out, whether the public wants it or not. As reported earlier this month, on the NSW North Coast there is majority community opposition to a $227 million power line from Lismore to Tenterfield, according to state-owned proponent TransGrid's own consultants. The residents say they don't need the power, question the demand projections and point to cleaner alternatives such as solar, wind and the bioenergy already generated from bagasse at sugar cane mills at Condong and Broadwater.

    At the root of the problem is this: the national electricity market is run with disregard for the environmental objectives contained in the original Ministerial Council on Energy agreement that established it. A recent report for the Total Environment Centre, by energy consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates, showed the agreement aimed to ensure ''environmental impacts are effectively integrated into energy-sector decision-making'' but the institutions that run the market were not given this responsibility. In 2005, what is now called the Australian Energy Market Operator said it had ''neither the power nor the authority to make decisions based on considerations of sustainability and balance in resource management''.

    Efficient, clean-energy development was being frustrated by the current market frameworks, MMA found. TEC campaigner Jane Castle says the owners of Australia's power stations, and the network, have every incentive to build more infrastructure and none to cut electricity use. ''It's called gold-plating,'' she says. ''If the networks save energy, they lose revenue.'' Demand modelling, she says, is based on the assumption that the market will continue to be operated in the interests of energy suppliers, and not in the interests of energy consumers. ''There's an assumption that supplying more energy is the only way to go,'' says Castle. ''It serves the interests of the incumbents.We're stuck in a paradigm of generating more power as people come online.

    It's completely outdated in the era of climate change.'' The power of the generators is obvious, and extends to forcing brown-outs and blackouts. If they want to shut down a power station to send a message, they will, and worry about the fines later. Britain's International Power, owner of the Hazelwood power station, is already threatening to run down Victoria's power supply if it doesn't get enough compensation under the emissions trading scheme.

    "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," showed us how California's economy was held hostage by energy traders in the crisis of 2000-01. Now, says Castle, the US state has one of the most progressive market regimes. ''When they look at new demand they have a loading order: first, energy efficiency. Then demand management. Then renewables. Then gas,'' she says. Australia's energy problem, says Castle, is ''not a baseload problem, it's a problem of how we're meeting increasing demand''. Reducing demand does not mean going back to the Stone Age. It means making the grid work for us, not against us.

    Harnessing Irish wave power

    The Atlantic coast of Ireland has some of the highest concentrations of wave power in the world. If this power is harnessed, it can be turned into electricity. So since 2005, the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) in Cork has been working with industry (Ocean Energy Limited) to develop a prototype wave-power electric generator. The aim is to produce 500 MWs of electricity from ocean energy by 2020.

    Says Tony Lewis, the director of the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre at University College Cork (UCC) "The smallest scale that we use is this one-to-fifty scale which gives us an idea of how the concept will work, and when we get that then we scale up further to this one-to-fifteen scale model which then allows us to simulate, in a much more realistic way. The principle that it operates on is that there is a large ducting, or chamber, inside this device which is open to the sea at the rear and inside the chamber there is an air volume. That air volume is compressed by the waves and as the waves go by that compressed air is forced through the turbine which spins to generate electricity."

    After three years of experiments in the wave tank, a larger quarter-scale test device was moored one and a half miles off the coast of Galway on Ireland's west coast. For the engineers on the project, designing a platform that could survive the harsh seas of the north Atlantic was the biggest challenge.

    Says Richard Toll, research professor Economic and Social Research Institute in the Irish capital Dublin, "'The reason why wave power is so expensive is two fold – first, very few people live in the ocean, it's simply a long way away from where we need the electricity and that increases its cost and the second reason is that the environment is so hostile." But while wave power is expensive compared to other renewable such as wind, those costs should come down as the industry is scaled up. The future for wave power could still be bright.

    Glacier Wind Farm is state's biggest wind energy project
    October 28, 2009

    Last week was a week of good news for NaturEner USA, Montana Alberta Tie, Ltd., the State of Montana and Glacier and Toole Counties. Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Jose Maria Sanchez Seara, NaturEner USA's Chief Executive Officer, dedicated the second phase of the Glacier Wind Farm on Wednesday, Oct. 21. The Glacier Wind Farm, which is located in Glacier and Toole Counties, is the largest wind energy project in Montana.

    "This windfarm is one of the reasons Montana is on the map as a leader in wind energy development," said Gov. Schweitzer. "With a total of 210 MWs, this is a significant contribution of clean and green, domestic energy to our region." San Diego Gas and Electric has contracted with NaturEner to purchase some of the energy produced by the project's 140 turbines. During the dedication ceremony, Ken Young, NaturEner's Director of Asset Management, provided a brief history of the project.

    At the "land owner and local officials appreciation dinner" later that evening, Young expressed his gratitude to all those involved in the project. He said he has worked on projects in Texas and New York, but working in Montana has been an enjoyable experience. He described the area landowners as "good stewards" of the land, adding they are a "good fit" for NaturEner. Seara recalled his first trip to Montana three years ago to review the area, which now boasts 140 turbines and a $500 million investment by his company. "I know, I wrote the checks," he grinned. He, too, thanked the land owners involved in the Glacier Wind Farm project, describing them as "one of our company's most valuable assets."

    Gov. Schweitzer pointed out it won't be long until the Glacier Wind Farm will be surpassed by another NaturEner windfarm, the Rim Rock Project, which is scheduled for construction 25 miles due north of the Glacier Wind Farm. NaturEner's projected investment in the 206-turbine windfarm is $800 million. At 309 MWs, the Rim Rock Wind Farm will be one of the largest in the Northwest and will create more than 500 construction jobs.

    The Supreme Court of Canada, on Thursday, Oct. 22, dismissed the final appeal by an Alberta landowner group, which has been opposed to the construction of the $213 million Montana Albert Tie Ltd. (MATL) transmission line. With the Canadian high court's decision, all avenues for legal challenges and appeals have been exhausted and construction of the transmission line and NaturEner's Rim Rock Wind Farm can begin. "We are extremely satisfied with the decision from the Supreme Court of Canada," said Bob Williams, vice-president Regulatory, Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. "This was the last remaining road block and we plan to start construction as soon as possible."

    The power line project has undergone a complex, comprehensive and lengthy regulatory approval process taking almost four years including public hearings, environmental assessments and stakeholder engagement at multiple levels in both Canada and the United States. "We will continue to engage with all the landowners, listen to their concerns and negotiate fair compensation for the use of their land," said Williams. "We are committed to being a good neighbour."

    The 230-kilovolt line will run from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls and will be capable of moving 300 MWs of power either north to south or south to north. Construction of the line provides a more reliable supply of electricity for southern Alberta and northern Montana and accesses the power grid for almost $1 billion in renewable wind energy projects in the USA.

    In dismissing the appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court also awarded legal costs to Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., NaturEner Energy Canada Inc, and NaturEner USA, LLC.

    Tuesday 3 November 2009

    Clean coal strategy not viable for 20 years

    Thursday 29/10/2009 Page: 1

    Clean coal power stations are not viable until the carbon price reaches a minimum of $60 a tonne a level the Australian government does not anticipate until almost 2030 according to an audit by the Rudd government's own global carbon capture and storage institute. The new, $100 million-a-year institute found the business case for clean coal technology could only work if governments helped build the first commercial-size CCS power plants on a "field of dreams", or "build it and they will come", basis.

    "A viable business case for commercial-scale, integrated projects has not been established at this time for coal-fired power generation and other large CO2 emitting industries," the report states. "Without policies and legislation to assign a value to CO2... industry has limited incentive to install CCS facilities... What could make the business case work.., is the 'field of dreams' or the 'build it and they will come' option. This involves governments working in partnership with industry and the community to develop, finance and build common user transport and storage infrastructure."

    Global CCS Institute chief executive Nick Otter said government subsidised demonstration projects could bring costs of future CCS power stations down "substantially'". "The CO2, price now is not capable of taking the technology forward," Mr Otter said. "That's why you need these government incentives."

    The Rudd government has promised $2.4 billion to build CCS demonstration projects over the next nine years and, when he re-launched the global institute be side US President Barack Obama at the G8 meeting in Italy in July, Kevin Rudd said if the world was serious about climate change it had to face the "practical challenge" of what to do about coal. According to the audit only seven carbon capture and storage projects are operating around the world all on gas processing plants. Coal power plants are among the other 55 planned commercial scale projects.

    But the report finds that the cheapest CCS technology oxyfuel combustion only becomes viable at a carbon price of about $60 a tonne. Another technology, integrated gasification combined cycle, becomes viable at about $80 a tonne and a third natural gas combined cycle at about $112 a tonne. It cites international research that found the cost of plants could fall by between 10 and 18% once the first demonstration operations had been installed. It says that "arguably" the ambitious goal set by the G8 last year to have 20 large-scale demonstration plants built by next year could be met.

    But to meet the goal governments would need to provide direct funding, introduce a carbon price and take on the liability for the possibility that underground stores could leak, as the Australian government has done. Governments also need to help identify potential storage sites. Treasury modelling of the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme assumed carbon capture and storage would be deployed by 2033, at a price of $80 a tonne. The technology is central to the government's plans to meet its emission reduction targets.

    In a recent speech, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said it was "becoming increasingly clear that no serious response to climate change can ignore the need to accept fossil fuels as part of our shared future". "As the world's largest exporter of coal and a nation which derives around 80% of its electricity from coal, it is vital that we make technological progress on carbon capture and storage and soon," Mr Ferguson said.

    Envestra to pass on carbon cost

    Adelaide Advertiser
    Thursday 29/10/2009 Page: 47

    Adelaide-based gas pipeline network owner Envestra said an emissions trading scheme would cost the company $6 million a year and consumers would foot the bill, shareholders were told at the company's annual meeting in Adelaide yesterday.Managing director Ian Little said the Federal Government's proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme, which priced carbon dioxide at $10 a tonne, would "ultimately be recovered by consumers at about $6 a householder per year".

    Envestra estimated carbon dioxide leakage from its networks to be about 627,000 tonnes a year, which was "quite small" relative to emissions from coal-fired electricity generation."There is no doubt that natural gas will play a pivotal role in addressing Australia's greenhouse gas reduction target... Envestra is well placed to benefit from its position as Australia's largest distributor of this environmentally friendly fuel," Mr Little said. Shares were trading almost 2% higher yesterday, closing up lc to 54c.

    Electricity lines: Power to the people
    28 October 2009

    Electricity is invisible; unfortunately the structures that carry it across the country are not. When, in 1928, Sir Reginald Blomfield gave his architectural approval to the six-armed steel monsters that now stalk Britain, the electrification of the country was a national priority. Little thought was given to the route that power lines took, or their ability to drain wildness from the landscape. The result is that tens of thousands of pylons march in lines across the countryside, loathed, immobile and ugly. Worse, there are about to be many more.

    In Scotland, it is rumoured, approval will soon be given to the controversial upgrading of the 220km Beauly to Denny line, tangling the Highlands in high-voltage wire – 600 pylons, each up to 200ft high, running through the Cairngorms national park. Meanwhile in England, the new Infrastructure Planning Commission announced last week that two long power lines, in Somerset and Suffolk, are among its priority projects. Anyone with an ounce of affection for rural Britain, able to see it as more than an empty and exploitable space between cities, should hate the prospect of these lines going ahead. But opposition is being tempered by an even greater environmental concern: the pylons are said to be an essential part of Britain's move to low-carbon electricity generation.

    The Scottish line is being erected to link future wind and wave power stations with electricity consumers in northern England; the Suffolk and Sussex routes run to the sites of two new nuclear plants, also announced last week. This produces a dilemma: oppose the pylons, and you may play a part in accelerating climate change. That is why some environmentalists – such as the Scottish Green party – back the Beauly to Denny line as the price that has to be paid for clean power.

    They should be bolder. Some new lines will be unavoidable. But not all of them. Power companies like pylons because they are cheap, or at least cheaper than any alternative, but many cables should run underground. This is very expensive and for a time destructive – but perhaps less expensive than Britain's National Grid suggests. Here, regulations say massive 400kV cables must run in special tunnels; Denmark and Japan now bury them directly into the earth, much more cheaply. Some lines might also be run through the sea (like the interconnectors with France and Northern Ireland): the Conservatives propose a new offshore grid, although they accept that some onshore lines will be needed too. Eventually, microgeneration might reduce the need for long-distance transmission. Britain's old grid was built quickly and unthinkingly; its new one should be greener, offshore and underground.