Friday 20 November 2009

Mining giants must pitch in to `keep the industry viable'

Courier Mail
Thursday 19/11/2009 Page: 17

IT IS time Australia's massively wealthy mining companies started to pay their way and an emissions trading scheme is probably the best way to do it - at least that is the view of some central Queensland mine workers. Despite claims from coal companies that an emissions trading scheme would lead to widespread job losses and the closure of several Queensland mines, their workers are supportive of the scheme as a way of keeping the industry alive and viable.

Peter Freeleagus, a boilermaker at the Peak Downs mine near Moranbah, said he could not see any way that jobs would be threatened. "Maybe some of the smaller speculative mines might have trouble, but if the ETS is so evil why are so many (mine development plans) going through?" he said. "Why are there 80 ships waiting off Mackay for coal? "There's (plans for) Daunia and Caval Ridge and Isaac Plains, and then there's Galilee. I don't think coal is going to disappear."

Mr Freeleagus said he had noticed one mine after another going out for approval in recent times. "The industry is still going to grow, but just under different parameters," he said. "From the coal miner to the CEO, we have to acknowledge that we have to do our bit." His claims that the mineral and energy industry is still booming and planning greater expansion despite the ETS is backed by figures from the Federal Government's Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics.

It found that last month the industry was planning to invest a record $112.5 billion on projects, an increase of 40% since April. Queensland accounted for about $9 billion of that, with the bulk of the rest being invested in the massive Gorgon LNG project in WA. Mr Freeleagus said a lot of the confusion in the community about the ETS was caused by the fact that the industry was still booming while companies complained about the potential to shut existing mines.

Saraji mine process technician and union leader Wayne Woodhouse said the coal companies were only putting a fraction of their profits to developing clean coal. "It's a drop in the bucket for them," Mr Woodhouse said. "Some of the big companies have posted profits up to $10 billion. Obviously they are not that worried about an ETS." He said a lot of miners considered the ETS to be "just a big bucket of money that the Government can get its hands on".

The coal industry wants your cash to save them
Wednesday 18/11/2009 Page: 1
Managing editor of SourceWatch Bob Burton

A recently released report by the World Coal Institute (WCI) on how to finance the experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for power stations, reminded me of a cartoon from years ago by the Australian cartoonist, Patrick Cook. In the cartoon, a huge bloated budgie (parakeet) with the letters "BHP Billiton" emblazoned on its chest, was holding a gun to its own head while proclaiming to a cowering politician, "Hand over the loot or the budgie gets it." (At the time, BHP Billiton - - which owned iron ore mines and steel mills - - was haggling for government support for its ailing steel operations).

BHP Billiton ditched its steel interests long ago and is now one of the world's biggest miners and exporters of coal for power stations. It is also a member of the WCI. In its report, titled Securing the Future: Financing carbon capture and storage in a Post-2012 World, the WCI argue that there is an urgent need for massive funding of CCS trials by governments and with a generous slice of revenues from emissions trading schemes. Current funding, the WCI claims, is "too slow to allow necessary global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions reductions goals to be achieved." Not surprisingly, they identify that "the appetite for this will largely hinge on public acceptance."

What the coal industry realises is that without massive public funding, CCS is dead. Without CCS, the coal industry and power companies locked into coal-fired power stations will, at best, be on life support. The WCI report, just a few weeks ahead of the COP15 talks in Copenhagen, reflects the increasing desperation of a coal industry trying to get someone else to pay for the mess it has created. Everyone knows that if the global community agreed to make deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest loser will be the coal industry.

Years ago, the industry could have invested its own money in researching CCS, but didn't. Instead, from the late 1980's on, they poured money into the pockets of lobbyists and conservative think tanks wanting to derail any move aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Even today, the coal industry invests pitiful amounts of its own money in CCS research.

Instead, the budgie is back. Having largely succeeded in stalling changes which would have cut coal consumption, the coal industry now hopes that it can harness the public sense of urgency over global warming to have politicians allocate tens of billions of dollars in research funds largely for their benefit.

In its report, the WCI floated a number of ways that everyone other than themselves could be compelled to fund CCS research. Electricity consumers, they suggested, could be subject to a levy on consumption or even a%age of revenues of emissions trading schemes be earmarked. They also flagged that power generation companies could be issued free or even bonus emission allowances if they had plants with CCS technology attached, or even that a levy be imposed on coal-fired power stations that don't have CCS plants attached.

They also suggested that other direct government subsidies could be considered too, including tax credits, loan guarantees and direct payments. Perhaps most audaciously, they have suggested that perhaps CCS-fitted plants could be explicitly included in Emissions Performance Standards (such as the "Schwarzenegger clause"), which mandates carbon performance standards for sources of electricity.

At the heart of the coal industry's current panic is the recognition that few believe CCS will deliver any substantial greenhouse gas emissions anytime soon. The most optimistic think CCS may be deployed at commercial scale by 2020. Others think 2030 is perhaps more realistic. Others think that even if the technology can be made to work at commercial scale, it won't be economically competitive with other emissions-reduction strategies or technologies for a long, long time.

The pessimism about CCS is breaking out everywhere. Last June, Jim Rogers, CEO of the huge power company, Duke Energy, said that "CCS as a magical technology that solves the carbon problem for coal plants is oversold... I think there is a lot to learn, and it is going to take us a lot longer for us to figure it out than a lot of us think." Just last week, former Australian government minister Ian MacFarlane, who had until recently been an enthusiastic promoter of CCS, said that "what happened was nothing happened... The clean coal option has passed us by.

Twenty years to wait before the technology is available. Thirty years before it is commercial. We will need to move on to other options by then." (Macfarlane is now a booster for gas-fired power stations and nuclear plants.) As pessimism about CCS increases, the WCI sees public funding as crucial in creating the illusion that CCS is a viable option. In its report, the WCI argues that "an effective programme to accelerate the widespread deployment of CCS should build public confidence in and acceptance of CCS as a mitigation option." Maybe.

An alternative scenario is that once the scale of public funding becomes obvious and more than a handful of CCS projects go belly up, the public will object to throwing good money after bad. And that is what has the coal industry worried. Of immediate concern to the WCI is the prospect that the COP15 meeting won't agree to include CCS as an option in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a market-based scheme designed to allow private developers to gain credits for emission reductions from projects in developing countries.

A recently released report (large pdf) commissioned by the Global carbon capture and storage Institute, a pro-CCS agency, stated that "in the absence of a mechanism such as the CDM it seems unlikely that investment in CCS will be achieved in many developing countries within the timeframe proposed by the G8." (At its June 2008 meeting in Japan, the G8 agreed that "20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects need to be launched globally by 2010, taking into account varying national circumstances with a view to supporting technology development and cost reduction for the beginning of broad deployment of CCS by 2020.") There are numerous governments - - including the United States, Norway, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia - - enthusiastically supporting including CCS in the CDM. There are also the business lobby groups such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the carbon capture and storage Association and the International Emissions Trading Association, all cheering for the inclusion of CCS in the mechanism as well.

Other countries are less enthusiastic. Brazil and India oppose its inclusion, as do the Alliance of Small Island States. The Executive Board of the CDM was also equivocal, noting (pdf) that there are a host of complex technical, legal and economic issues that still need to be addressed.

One thing that both supporters and opponents of including CCS in the Clean Development Mechanism agree on, is that the main beneficiaries would be countries that are major producers and/or consumers of fossil fuels for power generation. That being the case, the risk is that new CCS projects approved under the Clean Development Mechanism would generate so many emission credits they could undermine the price of carbon and end up perversely deterring the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Worse still, this could undermine the prospects of increasing energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy in the very countries that are least reliant on coal power generation.

The likelihood is that COP15 will struggle to reach agreement on anything beyond a broad outline of what could be included in a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. It is also likely that the debate over whether to include CCS in the Clean Development Mechanism will not be resolved at the Copenhagen conference.

But the coal industry, like Patrick Cook's big bloated budgie, will be back demanding more public money. And the odds are that the coal-lobby funded think tanks will be conspicuously silent about the big government handouts their sponsors want for their pet CCS projects.

Turnbull's troops find their voice on emissions

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 19/11/2009 Page: 7

SUPPORTERS of the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, have broken a long public silence to begin advocating a deal with Labor on an emissions trading scheme, taking on their colleagues who have dominated the debate for months. As they did so, Liberals on both sides of the argument began speculating a deal would be reached with the Government, pushed through the party room and passed by the Senate next week. As negotiations over amendments resumed yesterday, debate began in the Senate.

Those who had kept quiet so far spoke out in what one source said was a co-ordinated tactic designed to send a message to the rebels. The Queensland Liberal senator Sue Boyce stated defiantly that she was convinced by the "overwhelming scientific evidence" underpinning climate change that "Labor's clunky scheme is better than no scheme at all". I would like to see the package of bills passed and there is no reason why they cannot be passed ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference next month if the Government accepts fair, reasonable and timely amendments," Senator Boyce said.

To suggest that there should not be an emissions trading scheme because it will increase costs, is to my mind, an immoral proposition." The South Australian senator Simon Birmingham said he would support the bill if the Government offered concessions. "I hope ultimately to be voting for action on climate change," Senator Birmingham said. He conceded the party would split on a final vote but said lie respected the right of his colleagues to cross the floor. The Tasmanian senator Guy Barnett said he also would support an amended scheme.

Before the Senate rose last night one of the chief rebels, Cory Bernardi, exposed the gulf in the Liberal Party. He said man-made climate change was nonsense and alarmism and described those who subscribed to the concept as "anthropogenic global warming rent seekers". A fellow rebel. Mitch Fifield said the impending failure at Copenhagen to bind the world to greenhouse gas reduction targets meant the argument to pass the scheme before the conference had "been shot".

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said yesterday he was confident the Government would reach agreement with the Liberals "but I am still concerned about what is actually happening in [Coalition] ranks". Senior Liberal sources said the desire by Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull to reach agreement meant it was likely a deal would be struck.

The biggest hurdle for Mr Turnbull will be to then receive party room approval of the deal. One Liberal hostile to a deal said there would be no ballot in the party room. Mr Turnbull would make a decision based on the mood and, so even was the split, he would be able to decide the party had approved.

India targets 1,000mw solar power in 2013
18 November 2009

The US and other advanced countries may be dithering in the fight against climate change but India is ready to launch its Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, with plans to generate 1,000 MW of power by 2013.

The Union Cabinet is going to consider the mission document, which requires India to generate 1,000 MW of solar energy every year by 2013. A complete package has been proposed to propel the power sector into 'solar reforms' that could lead to annual production of 20,000 MW by 2020 if phase 1 of the solar mission goes well. The country currently produces less than 5 MW every year.

In the first phase, between 2010 and 2013, the government is also proposing to generate 200 MW of off-grid solar energy and cover 7 million m² with solar collectors. The mission, if approved by the Cabinet, will entail three phases with the ambitious targets and financial mechanisms for the latter two phases being reviewed on the basis of performance in the first three-year phase. By the end of the final phase in 2022, the government hopes to produce 20,000 MW of grid-based solar energy, 2,000 MW of off-grid solar energy and cover 20 million m² with collectors.

Solar lighting systems would also be provided to 9,000 villages under existing schemes by providing soft loans which would be refinanced by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited. Instead of the large direct subsidy to solar energy producers suggested earlier, the government has decided to integrate solar energy production and sale into existing power purchase mechanisms.

NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Limited (NVVN) shall in the first phase be made the nodal agency to buy solar energy from producers at the rate recently established by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. It would then sell it to state utilities which would be credited against the compulsory renewable energy purchase targets which the respective state electricity regulatory commission sets up. Specific targets for solar energy may also be set up for the utilities to buy as part of their power portfolios.

NVVN will bundle solar energy with the unallocated central pool to sell it to state utilities. The government also plans to do away with customs and excise duty on import of capital equipment as well as ease the duty rates for raw material and inputs. Roof-top solar energy will be promoted by providing a generation based incentive for self-use as well as putting the power on to the grid.

To enhance human resources involved in the sector, it wants to train at least 1,000 engineers to specialise in the field besides providing scholarships to 100 engineers to study abroad in the first phase of the mission. IITs and other engineering institutes will be asked to set up specialised courses to meet the industry's demand.

To promote innovative uses of solar energy, a venture capital fund will be set up to promote start-ups in collaboration with institutes like IIMs. A national centre of excellence for research on solar energy is proposed as well to push research and development in the emerging field. The government has proposed a Solar Energy Authority or a Mission with an additional secretary rank official to head the executive arm.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Green Wave Energy is trying to turn wind power market on its axis
November 17, 2009

The company and investors are banking on the unconventional design of its micro turbines that can generate energy by capturing breezes from any direction. The potential for profit is blowing in the wind, and Green Wave Energy Corp, plans to catch it. Among its secret weapons: an 11-foot-tall, blazingly white, nearly indestructible prototype generator that produces as much as 11 kWs of electricity using gusts of wind.

The fiberglass contraption could make homespun, do-it-yourself wind energy a reality, Chief Executive Mark Holmes said. A model version recently stood amid yachts in a Newport Beach shipyard before being disassembled for updates, but Holmes envisions it moving soon into the backyards and rooftops of homes and businesses. "It's gee-whiz stuff," he said. "It gets really Space Age."

Green Wave Energy Corp has big dreams for its generators, known as micro turbines, and for a product that churns out energy using ocean waves. There are also ambitious plans for a park filled with larger turbines. The wind-energy industry is growing, in part with help from federal stimulus money. For the first nine months of the year, more than 5,800 MWs of wind projects were added to the nation's energy supply, up nearly 40% from the same period last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

But for fledgling energy companies such as Green Wave Energy Corp, staying aloft can be a major challenge. "It's been hard getting this off the ground," Holmes said. Unlike most windmills' propeller-shaped turbines, the Green Wave Energy Corp products operate on a vertical axis, merry-go-round style. More than 20 U.S, companies build or are developing vertical-axis turbines. Around 200 urban or rooftop units were sold in 2008, double the 2007 number.

Sales of small wind turbines soared last year to $77 million and 10,500 units capable of generating 17.3 MWs of electricity, marking a 78% increase in capacity sold from 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Holmes has invested $100,000 of his own money since Green Wave Energy Corp launched in October 2008 with a vast underestimation of the resources, time and effort needed to operate. Development costs have been about $1.7 million, about four times higher than the team had expected. The crew quickly learned the value of resourcefulness.

Friends, family and other investors, who have pitched in $110,000, have given Green Wave Energy Corp access to $1.5 million in facilities, supplies, vehicles, equipment and services, Holmes said. The company has no official employees. Instead, all partners who provide services, equipment and working space are considered shareholders and officers. Most Green Wave Energy Corp workers have day jobs, such as the man who engineers corneas for eye replacement surgeries when he isn't designing turbine parts.

Using shareholders' properties - - the shipyard, a 10-acre manufacturing facility in Perris, two others in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, and a garage in Orange - - saves thousands of dollars in rent a year. Instead of using an expensive wind tunnel to test the strength of the turbines, team members hitch a 4-foot prototype to a truck bed and go for a 55-mph spin. But even though Holmes is an ace at being thrifty, he's less adept when it comes to government regulations and holdups, he said.

Before wave-power generators can even get close to public waterways, companies must hack through a pack of regulatory agencies, including the California Coastal Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The process, Holmes said, could take as long as three years and cost thousands of dollars in legal, permitting and other fees.

Fewer than 1% of small wind turbines are built in urban settings because of poor wind quality and zoning restrictions, according to the wind energy association. Convoluted permitting practices and resistant city planning departments thwart a third of all potential installations, the group said.

"The regulatory maze is so thick and complex that I am fairly certain no one can navigate it but well-trained lawyers - - and even for them, it's rather daunting," Holmes said. The federal government and several states offer rebates and tax credits to stir investment in the wind industry. California, according to the association, boasts some of the strongest sales in the market. There's plenty of competition from a crush of other young energy companies, all angling to set themselves apart.

Buying and installing a small turbine costs an average of $3,000 to $5,000 a kW, according to the wind energy group. Recouping the investment could take six to 30 years. Green Wave Energy Corp tries to position itself first as a company with money-saving products, while touting its eco-friendly qualities. "We're here to make money," Holmes said. "We're the new guys on the block. If we didn't show up with a better mousetrap, we wouldn't have a chance."

Although he majored in chemistry in college, Holmes, 49, strayed from science for nearly two decades as he pursued a career as a maritime and corporate lawyer. In the 1990s, however, he worked on bankruptcy cases involving solar energy companies. Intrigued by alternative energy, he began combing through patents, trawling the Internet and meeting with inventors. Along the way, Holmes had to learn physics and engineering. Now he can translate "scientific gibberish" for investors.

Unlike most turbines, Green Wave Energy Corp's vertical-axis products can generate power using wind from any direction, Holmes said. The smallest operates alongside a solar generator to power batteries built into a light pole, designed to generate light from dawn until dusk for as long as 20 years in remote or harsh locations such as deserts or jungles. There's also an "urban turbine," which is smaller than many rooftop air-conditioning units.

The first prototype turbine was finished in February to the tune of $30,000, but others have been progressively cheaper to build. Eventually, Holmes hopes to manufacture turbines like "tinker-toy sets" for easy manufacturing and installing. Meanwhile, in the desert near Victorville, Green Wave Energy Corp is participating in a joint venture to construct and operate a 5-acre park filled with 70 wind turbines. The first 40-foot-tall, $350,000 colossus could be turning its 50-pound blades by February, Holmes said.

A venture capital firm has initially promised 90% of the $26.5 million to develop the park, which could be finished in two years. Green Wave Energy Corp and other partners will raise the rest. The turbines could each bring in $160,000 a year if the park works out a power-purchase deal with a California utility, Holmes estimated. "It's kind of a risky deal, but even if it works half as well as it's supposed to, it's still revolutionary," he said.

The company also is developing a 20-foot-long wave-bottom generator that produces energy using surging ocean swells. Potential locations include the fronts of bridge pilings and piers, or in the enormous waves off the South Africa coast. If they clear regulatory hurdles, six generators will be tested at a site 100 feet off a granite Santa Catalina Island cliff, where the water is so choppy that even seals and sea lions avoid it. "We don't discriminate on technologies," Holmes said. "When you get down to it, the concepts are pretty similar. We don't want to pick any winners in the alternative energy game."

State money `plan B' for power

Wednesday 18/11/2009 Page: 8

ALMOST 15 years after the Kennett government took the state government out of the electricity business, Victoria's main employer body has called for it to go back in, warning that the markets are too risk-averse to invest in the new power options the state will need.

In a report to its Victoria Summit, a Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry task force warns that Victoria will need 6000 MWs of new generating capacity by 2030 - the equivalent of six Loy Yang B power stations - or 12,000 MWs if the present coal-fired plant is shut down. The State Government has been urged to become more heavily involved in planning and financing new low-emission sources of power generation, and the new transmission lines required to make them viable.

While strongly backing research and development of carbon capture and storage to keep brown coal viable in a carbon constrained age, the report urges the state to also develop a plan B (developing renewable energy sources) and a plan B+, in which Victoria would go nuclear. "Long-term prosperity for Victoria requires a vision for a carbon-competitive future," report convener Vicki McDermid of Pitcher Partners told the summit.

Secure, low-cost electricity from brown coal had been a vital competitive advantage for Victorian business, she said, but to retain that edge would require an "energy revolution' in sources. The market could not be relied on to provide the power we need when we need it, the report said. Financial markets were risk averse when confronted by new technology, requiring some form of state involvement to get new generating sources off the ground.

This would be particularly true if nuclear energy were to become Victoria's best option, she said. In his address to the summit, Premier John Brumby called on the Rudd Government to speed up its development of renewable energy in Victoria, as the state prepares for the impending emissions trading scheme.

Mr Brumby said the Federal Government should quickly announce the allocation of $1.6 billion in its solar energy program. He also called on money collected from the carbon trading scheme to be spent on renewable energy projects. "Changes to our energy mix will not necessarily be easy," Mr Brumby said.

"But one thing is certain: a strong move towards renewable and low-emissions energy will mean more aggregate investment in the state, not less." Applications for projects under the scheme are due to open by the end of the year, with the selection of projects next year. Victoria last week received more than $66 million for a wave energy program in Portland.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Carnegie Wave Energy project in WA is on the mark
November 16, 2009

Wave Energy developer Carnegie Corporation Energy (ASX: CWE) has announced its MW Western Australian project is on track with the first commercial scale autonomous CETO unit scheduled for deployment early next year. In a statement, Carnegie Corporation said development of the small scale commercial demonstration project in the waters off Garden Island was running smoothly with the autonomous (stand-alone) unit deployment also going well. Recently, the company has carried out a detailed marine geophysical survey using a combination of seismic refraction, sidescan sonar and bathymetry systems.

The survey determined the composition and features of the seabed across the development site to support mooring design and inform environmental baseline assessments. Other activities also over the past few months include detailed SCUBA diver surveys to determine the environmental values of the development site and verify geophysical properties of the seabed, finalisation of detailed design and installation methodology of the mooring, charter of a specialist jack-up rig for installation of the mooring and a comprehensive consultation with key stakeholders.

The geophysical surveys were carried out with the use of a Defence Maritime Services vessel and in accordance with applicable environmental guidelines. The survey results verified expected seabed conditions and allowed finalisation of the detailed design and installation methodology for the mooring. The mooring design is based on a drilled and grouted pile and is currently being manufactured ahead of its deployment in the coming weeks, subject to final State Government approvals. Mooring deployment activities on site will be undertaken in accordance with the conditions of approval to install and operate the CETO unit and with regard for other marine users.

The first commercial scale, autonomous CETO unit is scheduled for deployment in early 2010. Carnegie Corporation chief executive and managing director Michael Ottaviano said the 5MW project, following successful testing of the autonomous unit, would be the first commercial scale wave energy project to operate in Australia and is supported by a $12.5 million grant from the Western Australian Government. "Successful autonomous unit testing in 2010 will be the most significant milestone achieved in the development of CETO as it will prove the technology's functional performance at full scale," Mr Ottaviano said. "Development beyond this point will then focus on refining performance, extending reliability and balance of plant improvements."

The location of the first large scale commercial project will occur at one of the CETO international sites currently being studied. "Carnegie Corporation has been investigating several locations globally where high power tariffs co-exist with excellent wave resources," Mr Ottaviano said. "Some of these sites also involve mandated Government support for renewable energy generally and wave energy specifically. "The combination of these factors will contribute to an attractive economic return for the first large scale project." A decision on the location of the first international project site is expected shortly.

Due to its exceptional wave resource and improving renewable energy policy framework, Australia remains an important focus for Carnegie Corporation. The company will continue to develop CETO projects in Australia and to continue its feasibility activities at its current pipeline of sites across Australia. The CETO system distinguishes itself from other wave energy devices by operating out of sight and being anchored to the ocean floor. An array of submerged buoys is tethered to seabed pump units. The buoys move in harmony with the motion of the passing waves, driving the pumps which in turn pressurise water that is delivered ashore via a pipeline. High-pressure water is used to drive hydroelectric turbines, generating zero-emission electricity.

Minchin has no excuse for his ignorance
Monday 16/11/2009 Page: 1
Mungo MacCallum

The most depressing statistic of modern times is the one that tells us that well over 50% of adult Americans do not believe in evolution. Or at least it was until last week, when Senator Nick Minchin, the Liberal leader in the senate, told Four Corners that a majority of his party room did not accept the reality of man-made climate change. At least the Americans - - well, some of them, anyway - - have an excuse for their ignorance and perversity. In a great many places education standards are low and the general environment is bigoted and provincial. The evolution denialists can reasonably claim that they don't know any better.

But Liberal members of the Australian federal parliament are among the most privileged groups in the world, with access to the best education money can buy. That a majority can comprehensively reject a scientific consensus that has been confirmed over more than two decades is almost beyond belief - - until you remember that these people are first and foremost politicians for whom the truth has always been an optional extra.

What concerns them is political advantage, and rightly or wrongly they perceive their current advantage lies in opposing the government's emissions trading scheme. They could, of course argue about the detail and seek to amend it, which is what the more rational members of the party are doing. But it is far easier just to reject the lot, to say it's all a left wing conspiracy and a fraud cooked up by communist greenies intent on destroying the Australian way of life.

They take their cue from the right-wing commentariat headed by Andrew Bolt, Janet Albrechtsen and Miranda Devine, none of whom is inclined to let the facts get in the way of a good diatribe. Their loathing for the left in general and the Greens in particular is so obsessive that the mere suggestion that the Greens might support a position is sufficient for them to condemn it out of hand.

So in pursuing their vendetta against the reality of man-made climate change they are prepared to give aid and comfort, and most importantly media space, to every maverick dissenter who emerges from the woodwork. This utterly unmerited exposure is calculated to make it appear that the argument is still unsettled, there is still a sizeable and respectable body of scientists who doubt the validity of the climate change thesis. There isn't: the basic fact of man-made climate change is accepted by all but the fruitloops - - and it would appear that Australians are among them.

Britain's new High Commissioner to Australia, Baroness Valerie Amos, commented rather tactlessly last week that she was surprised to find there was still debate about it in her new posting. She refrained from suggesting that she felt herself surrounded by slow learners, even primitives, but the point was clear. Throughout the civilised world, man-made climate change is a scientific fact, up there with the law of gravity. Of course there is still debate about the details, but no serious student of the literature questions the role played by carbon emissions in accelerating global warming or the catastrophic consequences which will flow from it unless action mistaken.

Those who pretend otherwise can no longer plead ignorance, so their perversity must be put down either to cynical self-interest or to sheer bloodymindedness. In the case of the recalcitrants in the Liberal Party room it is probably a combination of the two. So Kevin Rudd is perfectly entitled to excoriate them in the strongest possible terms, as he finally did in his Lowy lecture.

The pity is that he has left it so long. For most of the last two years the government has virtually ignored the debate on climate change in favour of pursuing its agenda on the Global Financial Crisis. This is understandable in the circumstances, but it has left a political vacuum to be filled by the denialists and as a result public opinion, once red hot for action on climate change, is now at best lukewarm. There is confusion over just what the government's emissions trading scheme entails and doubts over its efficacy.

Rudd is now attempting to revive the sense of urgency which prevailed at the start of his term. But it may be too little too late. As, of course, may be whatever course of action is determined at Copenhagen next month. And if Copenhagen is a flop, Minchin and his troops will undoubtedly claim the failure as a justification for their do-nothing stance, and even as some sort of political victory. Those whom the gods seek to destroy, they first make mad.

Wind of change is a capital idea

Daily Telegraph
Tuesday 17/11/2009 Page: 42

THE windfarm to power Sydney's desalination plant starts work this week and owner Infigen Energy said similar projects would drive the company's growth. The 67-turbine Capital Wind Farm, near Bungendore, east of Canberra, will be the state's largest windfarm, more than five times the size of any other, Infigen Energy said. The windfarm, opening tomorrow, can generate 140.7 MWs, enough to power 60,000 homes, although average output is expected to be slightly more than one third of full capacity.

Most of the windfarm's output will power Sydney Water's desalination plant at Kurnell, in Sydney's south, under a deal done last year. Infigen Energy managing director Miles George said the desalination plant would use 40MW of electricity when it starts this summer, and any leftover power from the farm would go into the national electricity grid. The opening marks a major milestone for Infigen Energy, formerly known as Babcock and Brown Wind Partners until a management internalisation in April this year.

With four Australian wind farms working, another being built and 12 in its project pipeline, Infigen Energy said federal government renewable energy targets will be the main driver for its future growth. Plans to sell Infigen Energy's windfarm assets in the US, Germany and France were on track.

Illawarra steelers get set to tackle renewable energy

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 17/11/2009 Page:9

THE State Government is backing a bipartisan plan by industry, unions and University of Wollongong to gear the heavy-polluting manufacturers of the Illawarra towards renewable energy. The steel plant at Port Kembla can produce metal components for wind turbines, and be partially powered on site by recycling hot gases from its blast furnaces in a cogeneration energy plant, according to recommendations put to the Government. Wollongong would become a hub of wave power, using technology inspired by the Kiama Blowhole, under the Green jobs Illawarra Action Plan, which has attracted some early funding from the Government.

The result would be a net increase in jobs, without damaging the existing steel industry, according to the plan developed by university academics, the South Coast Labor Council, the Australian Industry Group, local governments and staff from the state environment and education departments. "This strategy provides an excellent blueprint for regions that are traditionally supported by industries like coal and steel to build long-term plans for the future," the Premier, Nathan Rees, said in a statement.

The Government will also support the purchase and development of a so-called "green street" of about eight display homes near Wollongong, which will feature examples of energy saving technology. The homes will be sold after an extended public viewing period. The South Coast Labor Council, which initiated the project, said one purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate that heavy industry and the work it sustains were compatible with reducing Australia's carbon emissions. "What we've done is broken the back of the old jobs versus environment conundrum," said Arthur Rorris, the Labor Council's secretary. "If you call do that in Wollongong' with our heavy industry steel and coal jobs, then you can do that anywhere. "Our community has come to realise we will be living in a carbon-constrained world, and our industry needs will play a role in that future."

BlueScope Steel estimated that it would have to spend up to $1 billion to fully devP[op a cogeneration plant at its Port Kembla steelworks, and shelved its plans during the economic downturn. But the proposed plant would stop the release of about 1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year - a significant cut to a facility responsible for about 7% of the state's total emissions. The report called for the "facilitation of urgent discussions between the Commonwealth and NSW governments, the steel industry and regional stakeholders" to get the project back on track.

Infigen sitting pretty

Tuesday 17/11/2009 Page: 5

WIND farm operator Infigen Energy is looking for possible acquisitions among the many struggling renewable energy companies that have been hit by a plunge in the price of renewable energy credits. Infigen Energy managing director Miles George yesterday said more and more distressed companies were approaching Infigen Energy as a potential saviour. Small renewable energy developers have been hit hard by a plunge in the price of renewable energy certificates caused by the Federal Government solar rebate program flooding the market for the certificates.

Mr George said Infigen Energy, which is selling US wind farms worth about $US1.2 billion ($A1.3 billion) after debt, could be interested in opportunistic takeovers. Infigen Energy - known as Babcock and Brown Wind Partners until a name-change this year - had a cash balance of $405 million at the end of the financial year. Infigen Energy shares rose 1 to $1.42.

Turbines ready

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 17/11/2009 Page: 39

Infigen Energy's 67-turbine windfarm, east of Canberra - which will power Sydney's desalination plant - will begin operation tomorrow. At 140.7MW, it will be the largest windfarm in NSW. Infigen Energy managing director Miles George said the desalination plant would use 40MW of electricity and any excess power generated by the windfarm would go into the national electricity grid.

Geothermal reservoir in Sri Lanka
16 November 2009

The potential of buried geothermal energy in Sri Lanka and the feasibility for developing geothermal energy as a source of power generation must be given a serious thought, said Institute of Fundamental Studies Director Prof. C.B. Dissanayake. Addressing the commemorative program organised by the National Research Council (NRC) of Sri Lanka at the Hilton Hotel on November 10 to mark its ten years of service to the nation and its scientific community, he said that a potential geothermal belt running from Hambantota to north of Trincomalee is discovered and there are about ten identified thermal (hot water) springs situated along this line.

"Even though, Sri Lanka is not located in an active volcanic ground unlike the vast majority of the countries that utilise geothermal energy, there are indications that a sufficient reservoir of geothermal energy exists at low enthalpy. This belt extends for over 300km and runs through some of the most underdeveloped regions of the country, and still can be utilised for national development," he noted. He pointed out that, Sri Lanka has a major challenge ahead in its search for alternate fuels with the ever growing demand for power and energy sources, and research into other forms of energy has long been overdue. "Environmental concerns have always impeded the utilisation of many fuels, and geothermal energy has minimum negative environmental impacts," he explained. He also stressed the need to work for a geothermal resource map as a research priority and added that Sri Lanka must first find and locate its natural resources.

China Pushing Solar Like Never Before
Nov. 15, 2009

At the 2010 China Industrial Development Forum on November 7th, Chinese officials reaffirmed their commitment to alternative energy, particularly solar, according to visit note by Goldman Sachs.

Goldman: solar energy is the other rapidly developing industry in China as China now accounts for about 1/3 of solar energy production capacity globally. The speaker refuted the view that PV cell production is an energy-ineffective process as he pointed out that the energy breakeven time is about 2 years for PV cells (energy used to produce PV cells equals the energy generated by the PV cells) but the normal lifetime is around 20 years. He also believes that solar energy could become commercially viable in the foreseeable future as the energy generating cost has been reduced from Rmb4 to Rmb1.1 per kWh over the past few years and is getting close to the Rmb0.3-0.4/kWh level of coal-fire power plants.

Given the tendency for silicon-based technology to advance at a much faster rate than most other technologies (as seen with chip speeds, and now with solar's falling cost), then should current trends continue, solar could feasibly become cheaper than coal in the not too distant future. Regardless, energy policy trends seem very much in solar's favour given China's ambitious alternative energy goals, in addition to those of developed nations.

Solar panel supply glut past peak: research
Nov 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The global glut of solar panels that has overwhelmed the industry for much of 2009 is past its peak as strong demand from Germany, the world's largest solar market, eats up extra supply, according to a report issued on Friday by industry research firm iSuppli. solar panels have piled up and prices have tumbled this year since the financial crisis and pullbacks in government incentives in Spain triggered a drop in demand.

The research group previously forecast the oversupply of panels to last through 2010, but said it estimates the glut could be resolved next year. "solar panel installations in Germany began surging to record levels in July as prices for photovoltaic systems plunged," said Henning Wicht, senior director of photovoltaics research for iSuppli, in a statement. "This phenomenon has boosted the global solar panel business and mitigated the severe oversupply situation that has stung the industry throughout this year." The global supply of solar panels is expected to exceed demand by nearly 66% in 2009, down from the previous forecast in August of about 92% overage, iSuppli said.

The report echoes some positive forecasts given by solar energy companies that have reported financial results recently. Chinese solar panel maker Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd posted better-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday and said that demand in Europe is outstripping supply. European renewable energy companies - - such as Germany's Q-Cells AG, one of the world's largest solar cell makers - - sounded upbeat for 2010 as cost cuts and an expected pickup in demand helped lift profits after a difficult year.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Smart State's time to shine

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 15/11/2009 Page: 27

QUEENSLAND researchers have gained a $3.14 million grant from the US Department of Energy for their trailblazing solar energy technology. University of Queensland School of Mathematics and Physics Associate Professor Paul Meredith and his team of five have been developing new coatings to make solar panels on house roofs more efficient. "It is a coup for us to be operating in this market," he said. Prof Meredith's project, called XeroCoat, initially received funding from the State Government.

Climate Change Minister Kate Jones said the grant demonstrated Queensland's world leading role in green technology. "It shows that Queensland does not have to look overseas for technologies that address climate change," she said. "We have visionary people starting companies right here that are committed to developing innovative products that reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The US project will enhance the viability of thin film solar panels, increasing their efficiency and helping make solar energy a viable alternative to burning fossil fuels." Ms Jones said testing by XeroCoat indicated that more efficient solar panels could mean an extra hour of energy creation.

Farmers cut from carbon plan - Concession removes major sticking point

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 15/11/2009 Page: 3

THE RUDD Government has upped the pressure on the Opposition over the emissions trading scheme by agreeing to exclude agriculture from the legislation to be debated this week. As negotiations wind down to the crucial vote, the Government will try to force the hand of the Opposition by agreeing to exclude farmers, growers and land owners from its carbon pollution reduction scheme - a key sticking point thus far of the Opposition's resistance to the Bill.

Federal politicians return to the national capital tomorrow for the final sitting weeks of the year with Government determined to push through its emission trading legislation before the Copenhagen conference next month. The Government had previously said the agricultural industry would be exempt from any scheme until at least 2015 but a senior Labor source said this would be extended indefinitely.

"Over the next fortnight, the Government is determined to work with the Liberal Party to achieve a negotiated agreement to establish a carbon pollution reduction scheme," the source said. "As a sign of good faith, the Government will agree to exclude agricultural emissions from coverage under the CPRS indefinitely. In light of our decision to exclude agricultural emissions indefinitely, the Government is considering ways in which the agricultural sector can contribute to the transition to a low-pollution economy. "This will include monitoring world best practice in reducing emissions in the agricultural sector."

The Opposition has been seeking amendments to the Bill that would see the permanent exclusion of agriculture on the emissions side but its inclusion for the purpose of claiming credits for good farming practices, tree planting and other green" projects. The source said the Government was considering how best to implement the amendments. "In negotiating with the Opposition, the Government will consider a range of ways in which the sector can reduce its emissions over the medium to long term, including by being able to generate offsetting credits."

Negotiations between Climate Change Minister Penny Wong - who has made her intentions of ramming the legislation through the Senate in the next two weeks consistently clear - and Opposition climate change spokesman Ian MacFarlane have been proceeding smoothly with Mr Macfarlane indicating he would have the party room numbers for the Opposition to support the Bill. He will take his amendments to a shadow cabinet meeting on November 23, before presenting the final proposal to the joint-party room.

A number of dissenters remain in the Coalition ranks, however, with backbenchers Julian McGauran, Dennis Jensen and Wilson Tuckey, all publicly rejecting an emissions trading scheme. They are expected to cross the floor in the vote. But Mr Turnbull has said if the Government were to accept a significant package of amendments, he would recommend the party room pass the Bill.

Advertising aside, coal sector hasn't dug deep

Saturday 14/11/2009 Page: 2

Industry should invest in the future, not in gloomy ad campaigns.

THE coal lobby trots out some fair dinkum looking blokes in its TV commercials. But then, that's advertising. The Australian Coal Association, which hopes to blunt the Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme with the ad campaign, is also not being fair dinkum with the public about what the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) will do to their business, or what the industry is doing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by investing in so called clean coal technologies.

It's impossible to reconcile the ACAs doom and gloom with record planned investment in new coal mines and export infrastructure, and expectations - in ballpark terms - that exports of thermal and metallurgical coal are set to double. The ACA's claims that 9000 jobs and 16 mines will go if the CPRS gets up are contentious to say the least. Take the issue of fugitive greenhouse gas emissions from coal mines. With annual carbon dioxide emissions of 25 million tonnes from "gassy mines", and a forecast carbon price of (say) $20 a tonne, we're talking about an impost of $500 million easily covered by the assistance already being offered, of $750 million.

Turning waste coalmine methane into energy is an opportunity anyway, with companies like the unlisted methane" target="_blank">CSM Energy, which partners with AGL, specialising in just that. Citi Investment Researchgroup/Dyn/FrontPage" target="_blank">Citi Investment Researchgroup's analysts this week attacked the coal industry line. While they recognised some limited impact of the CPRS on the profitability and valuation of the coal companies, they said the scale of the debate might have superseded the scale of the evaluation impact. "We do not see CPRS as a major negative investment for the coal sector at current share prices," they said.

The ACA position on the CPRS is pure posturing, and industry executives know it even if they wont say so publicly. One industry source says Marius Kloppers, chief executive of Australia's biggest coal exporter, BHP Billiton, recently confided that he too thought the lobby group was stretching the facts. Another said simply it was pointless hoping for any endorsement for the CPRS out of the coal industry: "This is the pig shooting community we're talking about."

The real risk to the coal industry, though it may not believe it, is that the world will radically reduce coal use. Assuming some form of carbon price is brought in, shadow resources minister Ian MacFarlane told G-BIZ: "There won't be a domestic market for steaming coal in 20 years' tine." Macfarlane used to say God played a joke on Australia, putting the people on the east coast and the gas on the west coast. But with the development of Queensland's vast coal seam gas reserves, the joke is over.

Macfarlane - resources minister from 2001 to 2007 and a supporter of clean coal technology-says Australia is now "awash with gas". Coal-fired power using carbon capture and storage (CCS) will not play a significant part in Australia's future energy because, by the time it's ready, we'll have far more cost effective options. Using gas in the transition, Macfarlane thinks we'll be on to nuclear energy by then. Others think renewables could provide ample baseload power by 2030. Only the Federal Government thinks that by 2050 we'll be getting a third of our needed emissions reductions from coal-fired power with CCS. We might, if the coal industry had invested enough to make it work. But it hasn't.

Accounts filed this week showed so far, out of the ACA's so-called $1 billion Coal21 fund - the main vehicle for funding clean coal technologies - only $36.4 million has been spent since it was launched in 2006. Which is the other change Macfarlane has observed: if anything, over the past three or four years, he says CCS has "gone backWards". Queensland's Zerogen project - the biggest in Australia, with a funding commitment of up to $300 million from Coal21 (but only $6 million spent so far) - has "gone nowhere".

Oddly, Macfarlane is a supporter of the Government's $2.5 billion CCS flagships process, which hopes to part fund between two and four commercial-scale coal-fired power stations, because it will show overseas customers the technology is viable. For that reason he believes it is "very much" the role of the coalminers to invest in CCS. "[Even] $1 billion is not enough for the industry to invest, especially if the taxpayer is investing $2.5 billion," he said. The electricity sector isn't investing in CCS either.

In a sustainability briefing on Thursday, AGL conceded that just "several million dollars" had been spent on clean coal technology at its minority-owned brown-coal-fired Loy Yang power station. Fundamentally, apart from running negative advertising and lobbying campaigns, the coal industry has failed to invest in climate change abatement and is now struggling. "The industry hasn't committed enough resources at a high enough level to deal with one of the great challenges of the age," an industry source said. It's showing.

Tidal Power Milestone: A 1MW Turbine Goes Live!
November 12, 2009

Ireland's OpenHydro and Nova Scotia Power have officially launched a tidal power turbine in the Bay of Fundy in Canada capable of generating 1 MW of power. The 400-ton device is located approximately three kilometers off shore and is producing power already.

Wave and tidal power companies have for years touted ocean energy as a potential growth market, but it's been mostly characterised by missteps. Finavera Renewables dropped its experimental wave buoy into the drink off of the coast of Oregon in one experiment. Pelamis Wave Power sold 750 kWs worth of wave power equipment to a company that installed it off of the coast of Portugal. It worked for a bit, but then pulled in. It hasn't been on the seas since. Meanwhile, Pelamis Wave Power tossed its CEO overboard a few weeks ago.

Small turbines off of the coast of Manhattan from Verdant were pulled in for repairs after installation. OpenHydro's is the biggest commercial turbine, wave or tidal power, to be deployed. It's an interesting device. Instead of three rotating blades, like a wind turbine, it is more like a kitchen fan. All the extra blades and steel give it survivability.

Threat of climate change should be treated like war say engineers
13 Nov 2009

Britain must adopt a 'war time footing' to tackle catastrophic climate change, a major report has warned.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) said it would be almost impossible for the UK to meet ambitious climate change targets to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050 without drastic action. The only way to reach the target would be to "go to war" against carbon emissions, its report said. This would mean setting up a Department of Climate Security to act like the War Cabinet and co-ordinate action across every other Government department.

Unemployed people would be trained in making homes more energy efficient, factories would make solar panels and schools would encourage pupils to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Money would be pumped into wind turbines, nuclear energy stations and solar panels as a matter of urgency. Individuals would also be expected to "do their bit" by reducing the amount of energy used in the home, flying less and switching to public transport rather than driving cars, the report said. Personal carbon allowances that limit the amount of energy used on transport, heating and flying could also have to be introduced.

Even then, the report said that the UK would have to adapt to a certain amount of global warming by building flood defences, making buildings cooler and changing the way cities are designed. 'Geo-engineering', such as artificial trees, that suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, would also have to be used in order to meet targets. Tim Fox, lead author of the report, said the population must adopt a "war mentality".

"What we are illustrating is the scale of the task before us and putting that into perspective. If you were fighting a war it would certainly need a certain level of rationing beyond what we see today to enable us to deliver the [cuts in carbon] that will still be lower than those the scientists tell us to deliver."

If the UK is to meet its legal requirements to cut emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050 – even if energy demand is reduced by half – it would still need to build 16 nuclear energy stations and 27,000 wind turbines by 2030, and use biomass, solar, waste, tidal power and wave energy and smart grids. Dr Fox said it was unlikely engineers will be able to build the infrastructure needed on time. "From all the evidence to date it is clear we're losing the battle with climate change. We're facing a requirement to decarbonise the economy at an unprecedented rate, which hasn't been seen in industrialised nations before."

The best rate of cutting emissions the UK has ever achieved occurred during the "dash to gas" in the 1990s. But even if the same rate was achieved now, the UK would still be 330 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the 2050 target. Dr Fox suggested the UK make up the difference by installing around 100,000 artificial trees. "The Institution believes it's time to go to war on climate change. It's about to attack and it's time to defend ourselves and fight back," he said. Professor Kevin Anderson, director of leading climate institute the Tyndall Centre, supported the idea of a war footing to tackle climate change, including rationing.

He said people in countries like Britain may have to accept a level of "discomfort" by reducing energy and even a "loss of liberty" by travelling less but these changes in lifestyle will prevent worse suffering in the developing world due to climate change as well as the costs to our own society in the future. "Whatever the cost is of avoiding climate change – and we might think it's high – it's much lower than the costs of not avoiding dangerous climate change," he said.

$3.1m US funds for solar coat

Daily Telegraph
Monday 16/11/2009 Page: 18

AN AUSTRALIAN solar technology company has won a multi-million dollar grant from the US Government. XeroCoat, which makes an anti-reflective coating to increase the efficiency of solar panels, has been awarded a $3.1 million US Department of Energy grant. The company, started by two University of Queensland researchers, was now a world leader in its field, Queensland Environment Minister Kate Jones said. "It shows that Queensland does not have to look overseas for technologies that address climate change," she said. "We have visionary people starting companies right here that are committed to developing innovative products that reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions." The US project will focus on increasing the efficiency of thin film solar panels to give them an extra hour of energy creation, helping to make solar energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

No such thing as clean coal

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Saturday 14/11/2009 Page: 26

After years of shameless pretence from both sides of politics, opposition emissions trading spokesman Ian MacFarlane has finally ended the great bipartisan dream that Australia's largest export earner, coal, could someday be made 'clean.' Mr Macfarlane told the ABC that carbon capture storage 'will not materialise for 20 years, and probably never.' The Global Carbon Capture Storage Institute says that until the price for an emissions permit reaches $90 a tonne, it will be cheaper for a coal-fired power station to pay the penalty and keep pumping out greenhouse gases rather than capture and store them.

A $90-a-tonne permit price would make CCS far more expensive in Australia than wind, geothermal and other emerging renewable technologies. James Cameron of Climate Change Capital in London says CCS requires huge underground chambers to store CO2 and a big investment in infrastructure, including pipes to transport liquefied gas.

The Australian Coal Association now accepts the science of global warming but has rejected the proposed emissions trading scheme. A Rio Tinto/BP joint venture to store carbon off the West Australian coast has been abandoned because a suitable site could not be found, while Santos has postponed its $1 billion sequestration trial at Moomba in the Cooper Basin, citing the need for high oil prices and a significant carbon price to make the project economic. The Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, one of the leading advocates for CCS, has warned that people will 'just move on' if there is not 'significant progress within five years.'

Macfarlane and Liberal Party colleague Greg Hunt, the opposition's environment spokesman, are looking into another version of CCS. MBD Energy, which is building a $2.5 million display plant at Loy Yang power station in Victoria, is testing technology developed by James Cook University in Queensland which injects captured CO2 into waste water and transforms it into oil-laden algae which can be used to make biodiesel, plastic and jet fuel.

Spain Projects Solidify Its Top Solar-Thermal Ranking
November 13, 2009

Spain approved wind and sun-powered projects today that solidify its ranking as the world's biggest developer of solar thermal energy. The industry ministry approvals will increase the nation's renewable-energy potential by about 37% over three years, allowing builders of 6,000 MWs of wind energy and 2,440 MWs of solar thermal to receive higher prices and priority access to customers than fossil fuel plants.

The solar projects were picked from proposals with a combined potential to supply energy to 6.5 million residences. The nation, which has already attracted developments from France's Alstom SA, is home to the world's largest wind-energy investors, Iberdrola SA and Acciona SA. "This removes any uncertainty and brings regulatory stability to the industry," Jose Javier Ruiz, utilities analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said today by telephone. "By formalising these projects, the companies can now secure investment."

Spain already has the world's largest development pipeline for solar thermal, which uses the sun's rays to heat liquids to a high enough temperature to produce electricity after sunset. About 2,000 MWs of solar thermal are under construction in the world, with 89% in Spain, according to an October report by industry publication CSP Today and consultant Altran Technologies. Spain has about 23,000 MWs of renewable-energy capacity, including biomass and mini-hydroelectric plants, that produce about as much power as 20 nuclear reactors.

Iberdrola, Alstom
Both forms of clean energy receive subsidised rates paid for by consumers that have fueled development by international investors such as Siemens AG of Germany and FPL Group Inc, of the U.S. The new projects, whose names of individual developers weren't disclosed, enter the ministry's registry and will be allowed to start selling energy over the next three years with their connection to the grid set out in a staggered fashion.

The full list of approved generators will be published next week, a ministry official, who declined to be named, said today. Solar Millennium AG, based in Erlangen, Germany, announced earlier this week that its Andasol 3 and Ibersol projects in Spain were approved. A bottleneck for approvals had developed since June because the government was overwhelmed with applications for green-energy plants and wanted to slow the pace of development.

Solar power startup Ausra looks to sell itself
Nov 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures-backed solar thermal start-up Ausra Inc is in talks to sell itself with three potential buyers, two sources familiar with the company told Reuters on Friday. The buyers could take a majority stake or snag the whole company and the discussions are at a "very aggressive level", said one source familiar with the company, who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

Both sources said the interested companies were global conglomerates in the power generation business but declined to name them. The companies already have various power products, such as steam and gas turbines, and are committed to renewable energy. One interested party has engaged with Ausra previously, one source said. Ausra declined to comment.

A sale of the high profile Silicon Valley start-up that has raised $130 million in venture capital would add to a string of recent deals and growing consolidation in the solar energy industry. Chinese solar wafer manufacturer ReneSola Ltd plans to buy Dynamic Green Energy Ltd while silicon maker MEMC Electronic Materials Inc plans to acquire privately held SunEdison, which installs, maintains and finances commercial solar systems.

Privately held Ausra, which is based in Mountain View, California, launched as a solar thermal developer in 2006, when solar energy and other clean technology were luring venture capitalists. Two years ago the company landed a power purchasing agreement with California utility PG&E, a unit of PG&E Corp for a 117 MW solar thermal plant. solar thermal plants use the sun's rays to heat liquid to create steam, which drives turbines and generates electricity. Earlier this year, the company switched tracks, saying it would move away from developing projects and focus on supplying large-scale solar steam generators.

This month Ausra said that it canceled its agreement with PG&E and sold the project's land to the largest U.S. solar energy company, thin film photovoltaic FirstSolar Inc. Ausra also has deals in Jordan and Australia and other investors include Starfish Ventures and KERN Partners. One source familiar with the company said that "extensive work" has been done at various stages of completion with the interested buyers. "We're talking about meetings with dozens of people involved," said the person, who also was not authorised to speak publicly about the discussions.