Saturday 30 January 2010

German company to set up 50 MW solar energy project
Wednesday, 27 Jan, 2010

ISLAMABAD: AZUR Energy Group of Germany will set up a 50 MW Solar project in Pakistan and a feasibility report in this regard has already been formulated. This was told by a German Energy Group delegation during a visit by the Board of Investment (BOI) on Wednesday. The delegation also called on Minister of State and Chairman BOI Saleem H. Mandviwala and discussed investment opportunities in various sectors of the economy including the energy sector in Pakistan.

The chairman of AZUR Energy Group of Germany said that his company has already prepared a feasibility report and a ground survey is being conducted at Multan and Bahawalpur areas and negotiations for the acquiring of land for the project is also in progress. He said that in the next step the AZUR Energy Group of Germany will bring solar energy technology in Pakistan. Speaking on the occasion, Saleem H Mandviwala said that Pakistan is an ideal location for investment in various sectors including the energy sector.

He said that Pakistan has adopted a liberal investor friendly policy, broad features of which include, proactive facilitation and guarantees of equal treatment of both local and foreign investors, easy tariff structures and a liberal regime on repatriation of profits. The minister also welcomed the German delegation and appreciated them for their interest in investing in Pakistan. He highlighted the policy parameters of investment in Pakistan. While stressing so he underlined the policy which allows 100 per cent foreign equity in the major sectors and full repatriation of profits and dividends in all the sectors.

It was further explained that the average rate of return is almost 30 per cent and in some cases up to 50 per cent. A detail presentation on investment opportunities available in Pakistan was also made. Saleem H Mandviwala also informed the delegation that currently Pakistan is facing power and energy shortage. This area provides a prime opportunity for German investors to look into. - APP

Japan to cut emissions

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 29/1/2010 Page: 34

TOKYO: Japan has decided to participate in the Copenhagen climate agreement and pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including cutting carbon dioxide, by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020. The Government added a condition that major countries participate with aggressive reduction targets. Japan plans to submit a Bill on basic measures to fight global warming.

US adds record-breaking wind capacity in 2009
29 January 2010

Almost 10GW of wind energy capacity was added last year in the US, according to figures from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), breaking all records – and despite the global economic strife in 2009. "The US wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon and protecting consumers," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. "From our perspective, it's the biggest year in terms of additional capacity ever," Tim Stephure, Massachusetts-based wind energy analyst at Emerging Energy Research (EER), told Environmental Finance. "It was impressive … especially in the face of recession and one of the worst economic crises of our time."

However, he warned that similar growth may be difficult this year, with power demand still lower than before the onset of recession, making it harder for wind energy generators to secure long-term power purchase agreements with utilities. "Any federal clarity in regard to policy with renewables would help," Stephure said, such as a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard that would oblige utilities to source a certain proportion of renewable energy.

In total, 9,922MW of capacity was built, upping the country's installed capacity by 39% to just over 35,000MW, said Washington, DC-based AWEA. Texas led the way, with an additional 2,292MW installed, more than double the 905MW installed in Indiana, the second-most last year. Texas also has the most total wind energy capacity of any other state, at 9,410MW. But Stephure at the EER warned not to take the figures at face value as the collapse of the financial system in 2008 forced around 4GW-worth of projects to delay construction until last year. "That said, it was still a strong year in 2009, driven especially by policy initiatives," he said.

He noted that wind energy projects were awarded an estimated $1.89 billion of the $2.1 billion of grants given by the US Treasury last year as investment tax credits instead of production tax credits, as a way of keeping the sector afloat by providing finance up-front. Wind manufacturers have also benefited seperately from grants of $350 million, Stephure added. However, the AWEA said that investment in US wind manufacturing dropped in 2009 compared with 2008. Bode called for "long-term policy certainty and market pull" to allow that segment to grow. "The wind energy sector is seen in many jurisdictions … as a way to revive the economy," commented Stephure.

Ice Energy rolling out utility-scale project
January 27, 2010

WINDSOR - Ice Energy's energy storage technology will be rolled out in Southern California in what the partners are calling the first cost-effective, utility-scale distributed energy project in the nation. The Southern California Public Power Authority entered into an agreement with Windsor-based Ice Energy on the 53-MW project. Ice Energy's Ice Bear energy storage system shifts demand on the electrical grid from air conditioning units from peak to off-peak hours. In simple terms, energy generation during off-peak, evening hours is more efficient due to lower temperatures and reduced transmission line-stress.

SCPPA is a joint powers authority consisting of 11 municipal utilities with about 2 million customers in an area of 7,000 square miles. Citi Investment Researches covered under the authority include Anaheim, Burbank, Los Angeles and Pasadena. The installation will start in the first half of the year and take about two years to complete. It will include more than 5,000 Ice Bear units deployed on about 1,500 commercial and public buildings.

"Ice Energy's solution is a convenient and cost-effective solution for managing peak demand and aligns perfectly with our Smart Grid initiatives, enabling our member utilities to deliver reliable, competitively priced electric service to their customers in a sustainable, environmentally-sensitive manner," said Bill Carnahan, executive director of SCPPA, in a prepared statement. "By using storage to change how and more importantly when energy is consumed by air conditioning, we can offset enough peak demand in the region to serve the equivalent of 10,000 homes."

The units will be manufactured at the Windsor facility and also at another domestic site that has yet to be disclosed. The company most recently reported 55 employees. The impact of the California deployment on that number is a "moving target," according to a company spokesman. A fact sheet about the project states that about 300 new jobs will be created by the project. Ice Energy is in discussions with other utilities and is participating in testing programs.

Bid to win $100m in green power funding
January 28, 2010

A Queensland consortium has been launched to bid for $100 million in federal funding for solar energy pilot projects. The consortium includes the Queensland government, energy companies Ergon Energy and Energex, the CSIRO, universities and Korean government-owned electricity giant KEPCO. Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said two key parts of the bid include a solar thermal storage technology pilot project, which captures heat from the sun and stores it for future electricity generation, and a trial of fitting solar photovoltaics to the power grid.

The Queensland Smart Communities bid proposes to build a large scale demonstration Smart Grid-Smart City project in Townsville, with several standalone projects at Zillmere in Brisbane's north and Toowoomba. Mr Robertson said KEPCO's involvement could create green business opportunities in Asia. The federal government will announce the winning bid of its National Energy Efficiency Initiative in April, with funds to be released in July 2010.

Spanish company plans New Mexico solar plant
January 27, 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. -- A Spanish company plans to invest $1 billion to build a large solar energy production plant in New Mexico. Gov. Bill Richardson joined Wednesday with executives of GA-Solar and its parent company, Gestamp Corp., to announce the photovoltaic solar plant. It will cover 2,500 acres near Santa Rosa in eastern New Mexico. The plant will take four years to complete and will produce 300 MWs of electricity, enough to supply power to 50,000 households a year. The project will employ 300 construction workers and provide 75 permanent jobs. Power produced by the plant will qualify for state tax breaks for renewable energy. Madrid-based Gestamp Corp is a multinational company producing automotive and steel components and has renewable energy projects.

Friday 29 January 2010

Archimede starts work on solar receiver plant
January 26 2010

Archimede Solar Energy has started construction of its new solar receiver manufacturing plant in the Italian town of Massa Martana in Umbria. Archimede is a joint venture between Angelantoni Industrie Spa and Siemens Energy, in which Siemens holds 28%. The plant will have a production capacity of around 75,000 solar receivers from 2011, which will later be increased to 140,000 tubes per year. The solar recievers will use molten salt as heat transfer medium instead of thermo oil. Siemens believes that the technology will allow a significant improvement in the efficiency of solar thermal plants using parabolic trough technology.

"Siemens has the broadest portfolio in the promising concentrated solar energy business," says René Umlauft, CEO of the Siemens´ Renewable Energy Division. "We can offer about 70% of the components of a solar thermal power plant as well as EPC solutions. In the future Siemens can offer two receiver technologies using either thermo oil or molten salt depending on customer requirements." "The new plant," said Federica Angelantoni, CEO of Archimede Solar Energy, "gives us the opportunity to supply large volumes of high temperature receivers for the use of molten salt. These tubes can reach a temperature of up to 550° Celsius."

The first commercial plant using the technology is under construction in Sicily, and is expected to be operation in the early summer of 2010. Siemens predicts that the market for solar thermal power plants will show annual double-digit growth rates and reach a value of over €20 billion by 2020, with the U.S., South Africa, Australia, Spain, Israel, India, North Africa and the Middle East constituting the primary growth regions.

$300 cost for meter to measure solar feed

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 28/1/2010 Page: 3

THOUSANDS of people with solar panels will have to pay an extra $300 to get a new meter installed in their home to access the state's new solar feed-in tariff, eating up most of their annual return. But meters capable of measuring how much power a household feeds back into the electricity grid will not be available until next month, EnergyAustralia said, despite the scheme starting on January 1. From July, power companies must pay people the full rate of 60 cents per kW hour to comply with the solar tariff legislation, the Government said.

EnergyAustralia, the largest distributor in NSW, said it would provide the new meters free but people would not start receiving their solar tariff money until they are installed at the customer's expense. You need the gross meter to be paid under the gross system," a spokesman, Anthony O'Brien, said. "However, we don't anticipate that anyone will be in that scenario as long as they take the right steps to talk to a licensed electrician and have the meter installed."

The new metering equipment had to be imported, leading to the delay. "We will have meters that have been configured for the gross payment in stock from mid-to late February," Mr O'Brien said. "As soon as customers have those meters installed we will be able to pay them 60 cents gross from that date. We've been working hard to whittle the transitional time down to enable the customer to get the maximum benefit."

Many solar panel customers have contacted the Herald saying that the delay in switching to the gross tariff is costing them money. "I tried in December to get a meter so I could start measuring it, but the people in the industry knew nothing about it," said Michael Mobbs, who has a six kW solar panel system fitted on his Chippendale home. "I've been to a couple of energy providers and nobody can get any meters - apparently they're expected some time before June."

Mr Mobbs has a two-way meter, allowing him to take advantage of the transitional net tariff, but has calculated - based on his power consumption - that he will lose $385 in the transitional period before July, not including the cost of getting the meter installed to measure the gross tariff. solar panel installation companies the Herald spoke to said people were holding off from investing in rooftop panels until after July. The NSW Greens said the scheme should have featured gross tariff payments from the January 1 start date. The Greens MP, John Kaye, said the first six months of the NSW Government's Solar Bonus Scheme will mean solar households will be stuck on a far lower paying tariff plan.

The NSW Government's incompetence will cost the renewable energy sector as households delay taking up the scheme until the full gross tariff starts in July." The Government introduced the gross feed-in tariff scheme in November, saying it could mean households earn up to $500 a year from the renewable power they generate. The NSW Government said this month that it would move to close a loophole by which electricity utilities could keep crediting customers' bills, until they changed energy providers, instead of paying there in cash.

Meridian wind farm in Waiouru gets green light
January 27, 2010

A controversial windfarm project in the central North Island has been given the go ahead by the Environment Court. The Meridian Energy project will see 52 wind turbines erected between Waiouru and Taihape across five privately owned rural properties. Many local residents and tourist operators opposed the project, saying it is on the edge of a national park and would ruin the wilderness experience.

But the Environment Court ruled that the windfarm would not have significant adverse effects on outstanding and significant landscapes, and that it was unlikely to diminish tourism or recreational opportunities in the area. Meridian Energy CEO Tim Lusk welcomed the decision saying the windfarm - which will generate enough energy to power up to 50,000 households - would contribute to the security of electricity supply in the North Island in a clean and renewable way. The Environment Court decision can be appealed in the High Court on points of law.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Power from down under
January 26, 2010

Grants recently awarded to MIT researchers by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) could help to pave the way for a method of generating electricity that produces no greenhouse gas emissions, and that could become a major contributor to meeting the world's energy needs.

Most energy analysts agree that geothermal energy - tapping the heat of bedrock deep underground to generate electricity - has enormous potential because it is available all the time, almost anywhere on Earth, and there is enough of it available, in theory, to supply all of the world's energy needs for many centuries. But there are still some unanswered questions about it that require further research. DoE last year awarded $336 million in grants to help resolve the remaining uncertainties, and three of those grants, totaling more than $2 million, went to MIT researchers.

Everywhere on Earth, a few miles below the surface, the bedrock is hot, and the deeper you go the hotter it gets. In some places, water heated by this hot rock comes naturally to the surface or close to it, where it can be easily tapped to drive a turbine and generate electricity.

But where naturally heated water is not available at or near the surface, this process can be recreated by drilling one very deep well to inject water into the ground, and another well nearby to pump that water back to the surface after it has been heated by passing through cracks in the hot rock. Such systems are known as Engineered Geothermal Systems, or EGS.

A 2006 report by an 18-member team led by MIT Professor Jefferson Tester (now emeritus, and working at Cornell University) found that more than 2,000 times the total annual energy use of the United States could be supplied, using existing technology, from EGS systems, and perhaps 10 times as much with improved technology.

Tracking cracks
Herbert Einstein, professor of civil and environmental engineering, was the recipient of one of the new DoE grants. Einstein studies fracturing in rocks, which is crucial in creating a new EGS site: After drilling the necessary wells, water must be pumped into one of them under very high pressure to create a network of fractures in the deep rock to allow the water to move from the injection well to the extraction well. But exactly how that process works at different depths and in different types of rock is not yet well understood.

Einstein is developing computer programs that can aid in the evaluation of geothermal sites, assessing both the potential power output and any potential risks, such as the triggering of seismic activity. Such triggering has already resulted in the premature closing two years ago of one test installation, in Basel, Switzerland, after some minor earthquakes (the largest being magnitude 3.4) were felt in the area. The planned software is based on programs Einstein has developed to assess proposed tunnel sites and landslide risks. "What these decision tools do is allow you to consider the uncertainties, of which there are a lot," he says.

As is the case with tunnel construction, a great deal of the uncertainty with EGS has to do with the kind of rock encountered in the drilling and how that rock will fracture under pressure. Einstein's software will be adapted to address the higher pressures encountered in the very deep boreholes needed for geothermal fields. Einstein suggests that the risks from seismic triggering are largely sociological, because the events seen so far, at least, are too small to produce any real damage.

"I think that's a red herring," agrees Professor of Geophysics M. Nafi Toksoz, another DoE geothermal grant recipient, referring to the issue of induced earthquakes. "We know that every time we drill into the Earth, we alter the state of the stress in the rock." As a result, small earthquakes do occur regularly near oil and gas wells, deep mine shafts for coal or minerals, and even from the pressure of water when a reservoir fills up behind a new dam. "Wherever there are existing faults, they will induce mostly minor quakes."

Toksoz's grant (with research scientists Michael Fehler and Haijian Zhang of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences as collaborators) will fund research at a test EGS installations in Utah, Nevada and California to develop ways of detecting and analyzing the fractures that form in the deep rock and how water actually flows through them.

"Enhanced or Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) can be a enormous contributor to the world's renewable energy portfolio," says Curt Robinson, executive director of the Geothermal Resources Council in Davis, Calif., a nonprofit educational group. He says EGS could play a significant role in meeting energy needs if there are better ways of analyzing potential sites to improve the odds of success; government policies to create a favorable business climate for investors; and better technologies for identifying good sites and for lower-cost drilling under high-temperature conditions.

Einstein says geothermal electricity has the potential to take the place of essentially all stationary (that is, not transportation-related) power sources. "Basically, you could replace everything that's around," including the "baseload" power plants that can operate at any time, unlike sources such as solar or wind energy. "So that's certainly very promising," he says. "It's not completely infinite, but for all practical purposes it is."

Probing underground
One of the remaining questions in practice is whether an EGS plant will lose efficiency over time, as minerals carried by the water begin to clog up the cracks in the deep rock. While test plants have been operated in the United States and elsewhere for limited amounts of time, there has not yet been such a plant that has operated over a span of years, so "we don't know how long these things will work at their maximum output," Einstein says, and if their performance begins to drop, "can you restimulate the well?" to get it back to original levels. These questions require further research.

Seismologist Fehler, recipient of another of the DoE grants, uses small earthquakes as a tool: Like ultrasound used to get images inside the body, the natural vibrations from small earthquakes can be used as a way to probe the subsurface to understand how water is moving deep below the ground. "It's a remote-sensing tool," he says.

This is similar to a method used in oil exploration, where the subsurface is analyzed by measuring the way vibrations from explosions or surface "thumpers" are distributed through the soil and rock below. An array of microphones or micro-seismometers picks up the vibrations at various points, and computers then reconstruct an image of the subsurface from the relative timing of the vibrations from the source to the receiver.

At most geothermal installations built so far, Fehler says, earthquakes have been so small that "you can record them, but you don't feel anything at the surface." But seismic triggering is an issue because it has affected companies' ability to continue operations because of social, economic and political factors, he says. "We have to figure out how to try to control it," he says, mostly by choosing sites carefully, away from population centers. The U.S. Department of Energy is holding a workshop on that question in February.

The basic principles have been demonstrated. "We know it can be done," Toksoz says. "But quite a lot of technology still needs to be proven in terms of commercial feasibility." The remaining questions are essentially economic and engineering ones related to the costs and difficulties of deep drilling, not basic technology, he says.

Coalition, Greens talk alternative power

Wednesday 27/1/2010 Page: 5

Kevin Rudd could be forced to redraft renewable energy targets, because the Australian Greens and the Coalition are considering joining forces to boost incentives for commercial development of alternative power sources. The Greens climate change spokeswoman, Christine Milne, will announce today plans for a private member's bill to prevent the government from counting solar hot water systems and solar cells on roofs in accounting for its target of 20% renewable energy use by 2020.

Senator Milne will argue that the accounting system has stymied the development of commercial-scale renewable energy projects, leading to a collapse in the price of renewable energy certificates and undermining potential for development of large-scale commercial alternative energy projects. Coalition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt backed the move, saying he was prepared to talk with the Greens because the development of alternative energy sources was crucial to addressing climate change.

The comments came as Tony Abbott began finalising his plan to reduce emissions using practical measures rather than a market based scheme such as Labor's proposed emissions trading scheme. They followed former government adviser Ross Garnaut who said the government must press on with a market based scheme. Late last year, the country's biggest renewable energy company, AGL Energy, said it would not invest in alternative energy forms until the government addressed a 50% collapse in the price of certificates issued to companies and households that produced renewable energy.

The Greens hope talks with the Coalition will find common ground. Senator Milne said under her bill, hot-water systems and solar cells would attract renewable energy certificates but would not count towards the 20% renewable energy target. "This would ensure that the technologies are supported, but do not crowd out large-scale renewable energy," she said. "This is not the perfect policy, but it is an achievable way to fix this problem quickly."

Mr Hunt said the Coalition was keen to talk to the Greens but it could not make firm commitments. "We moved an amendment to ensure there was space for the solar, geothermal and tidal power projects within this target," he said. "Alternative energy industries are being stymied by pigheadedness." Professor Garnaut said yesterday he still favoured an ETS with a fixed price.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Solar-driven Stirling engines get to work
January 22, 2010

Business and government officials on Friday cut the ribbon on a solar array in Arizona that uses giant parabolic dishes to generate electricity from the sun. Solar plant developer Tessera Solar installed 60 solar collectors, called the SunCatcher from Stirling Energy Systems, in Peoria, Ariz. Each dish is rated at 25 kWs and the entire facility will have a capacity of 1.5-MWs of generation.

Utilities installing large-scale solar energy generation are typically using arrays of flat photovoltaic panels or concentrating solar energy systems, where mirrors or reflective troughs create heat to make electricity. The Stirling Energy Systems technology also captures heat by using a mirrored parabolic dish that moves to track the sun. But instead of heating a liquid to make steam for a turbine, the heat is directed at a hydrogen gas-filled piston, which drives a Stirling engine to make electricity.

The company claims its technology delivers electricity more efficiently and uses less water than other technologies. Inifinia is another company that has built a solar energyed Stirling engine using a parabolic dish, although it is smaller. Tessera Solar said that it has contracts to install as much as 1,600 MWs' worth of capacity in California and Texas.

NY air base to get solar energy farm
January 25, 2010

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (AP) - Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) says a new solar energy farm at Stewart Air National Guard Base will serve as a model for other military installations and demonstrate that solar panels are a cost-effective energy source. The project, to be built this year, is funded by a $4 million federal investment under the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill.

Congress and the Pentagon have set new requirements that each branch of the military must purchase or generate at least 25% of the energy they consume from renewable sources by 2025. The Stewart Air National Guard base solar farm will be constructed by The Solar Energy Consortium using Applied Materials thin-film solar photovoltaics technology. It's expected to generate the amount of electricity used by 100 homes.

Premier re-emphasises King Island commitment

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 24/1/2010 Page: 4

PREMIER David Bartlett has continued his love affair with King Island, flying in, media in tow, for his third visit to the Bass Strait Island in 10 months. Declaring it "was good to be back", the campaigning Premier opened his bag of goodies. He re-announced $800,000 for the island's school, promised to rebuild the senior citizens club that was damaged by fire last year and reopened the Naracoopa Jetty, made safe by a $700,000 upgrade funded by the State Government. "This Labor Government is a government that generally cares about all areas of Tasmania, whether they be the Bass Strait Islands or regional areas of our community." Mr Bartlett said.

He used the trip to tell voters the Government's renewable energy board had recommended the Government commit $21 million to boost green energy on the Bass Strait Islands. The plan would involve Hydro building new solar, wind and biodiesel energy-generation facilities on the Islands to enhance their clean green images. Mr Bartlett said the Government would "consider" funding the plan in the coming weeks. "Tasmania has the strongest knowledge in wind and water energy anywhere in South-East Asia," he said. "Under this proposal, Tasmania will become a global leader, with the Bass Strait Islands the focal point." Mr Bartlett's past two trips to the North-West Island of 1600 people have involved the abattoir, which has stayed open because of a $12 million government loan to the operator, the world's biggest meat company, JBS Swift.

Green rise in power, fuel costs

Herald Sun
Friday 22/1/2010 Page: 26

VICTORIANS could face higher electricity and petrol prices from July 1 if the Rudd Government adopts a carbon tax proposal by the Greens to break the climate change policy deadlock. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he would examine the idea and was open to discussions with all parties. The Greens called for a $23-a-tonne carbon tax to be introduced for two years. The temporary tax would raise $10 billion a year, of which $5 billion would be paid as compensation to low and middle-income households to shelter them from higher electricity and energy prices.

Industry and small business would get about $2 billion in assistance with $1.2 billion given to help poor countries deal with climate change. Unlike the Government's plan, petrol would be hit by the tax and it could add about 5c a litre at the pump. Electricity generators would also miss out on compensation, but farming will be excluded. The plan aims to put the Greens back into the national debate about climate change, after they were effectively sidelined by the Rudd Government last year as it sought to strike a deal with the Coalition's former leader Malcolm Turnbull.

Greens leader Bob Brown said it was urgent and essential that a deal be struck in the short term, to begin the quest to reduce climate change, while a proper plan was worked out for the longer term. "Our job is to help get the climate change bus going again," Senator Brown said. Mr Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme was blocked by the Senate last year. It faces defeat again when Parliament resumes.

Libs go cold on solar plan - Feed-in tariff scheme `inefficient'

Canberra Times
Friday 22/1/2010 Page: 6

The ACT Opposition has withdrawn support for the ACT Government's solar feed-in tariff scheme, criticising its efficiency after calculating it cost about $500 for every tonne of emissions it saved. But the ACT Government and the Greens have rejected the Liberals' comments, arguing the scheme was never pitched as a low-cost abatement solution. Rather, it was aimed at encouraging the uptake of solar energy as part of a bigger strategy for reducing emissions. The scheme pays households about 50c per kW/hour of energy their solar panels generate, almost four times the standard rate, and the additional cost to electricity retailers is then passed on to non-participating customers, costing them about $27 extra a year, according to ActewAGL estimates.

Based on figures from the ACT Government on the scheme's operation since it started on March 1, 2009, to September 30, which showed $251,000 had been paid to solar generating households to save 556 tonnes of emissions, this worked out to about $500 a tonne. Liberals leader Zed Seselja previously supported the scheme, telling the Legislative Assembly in July, "[The feed-in tariff] seeks to encourage Canberra families to utilise this technology by installing renewable energy generators in their homes by offering a premium rate for any electricity they feed into the grid. Initiatives that encourage families to be more environmentally aware should be applauded."

But yesterday, Mr Seselja distanced Himself from his party's endorsement of the scheme, even though his party had estimated in 2008 the cost per tonne would be about $500. "What we are saying is that it's an inefficient scheme," Mr Seselja said yesterday. "We said there's some merit in solar; we're pro-solar. What we raised concerns about was efficiency and we raised those concerns right up front. What we're now getting is hard figures about what the benefit is and how mach it costs."

Acting ACT Environment Minister Joy Burch said the scheme was a success, with 905 households participating, and that the September figures Mr Seselja quoted were outdated. "The Liberals don't seem to be able to offer up a clear alternative policy to encourage solar use on a small or a large scale," Ms Burch said. "Over five years we expect there will be a reduction of 107,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases, and that's like taking 5000 cars off our roads. That's something we should be supporting."

Greens environment spokesman Shane Rattenbury also criticised Mr Seselja's position. "Zed is missing the point around the purpose of a feed-in tariff because it's not designed to be the lowest-cost abatement," Mr Rattenbury said. "It's an industry development policy - growth jobs among small business. I think those small business communities would be very concerned to hear that the Canberra Liberals are taking the position that they're taking." Mr Rattenbury did agree with Mr Seselja on one thing: the Government needed to hurry up with the implementation of stage two of the scheme, extending it to larger generators, which at the moment is the subject of a discussion paper. "I have some sympathy for the argument Zed's making. The feed-in tariff we have at the moment is a half-baked scheme."

Make most of our natural assets in producing power Go geothermal

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 22/1/2010 Page: 20

I SUPPORT David Noonan, of the Australian Conservation Foundation, (The Advertiser, 20/1/10) with regard to power sources for the proposed Roxby Downs mine. If the expansion goes ahead, why not kick-start South Australia's fledgling geothermal power industry by building a transmission line from a geothermal power station to Roxby Downs? Is BHP Billiton afraid that if we develop geothermal resources, using the heat from natural radioactive decay of rocks in situ, Australia will not need power from induced nuclear fission, that is, nuclear energy stations using uranium? Why not build the desalination plant on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula, where there is access to deep ocean water, which can disperse salt, and plenty of wind to generate power, and with a possibility of using wave or tidal power?

Margaret Dingle. Norwood.

Time to take steps in the right direction

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 19/1/2010 Page: 18
Opinion: Peter Boyer

CHANGE is in the air. Big issues are swirling around us calling for big decisions. Within two months Tasmanians will choose the people who will govern them until 2014. Could this turn out to be one of those rare events in Tasmanian politics, an election worth remembering? We will almost certainly get plenty of campaign trivia, lost tempers and smeared reputations, and maybe a tight finish and frantic post-poll manoeuvring. But a better measure of success would be whether the election deals with the big issues and produces a capable, talented government.

Our chances don't look good. The small size of Tasmania's Lower House allows parties to win only a dozen or so seats. Many of these will inevitably fall to party stalwarts rewarded for loyal service, leaving little room for fresh, independent thinkers tackling big ideas. This is shaping as a humdrum election producing a humdrum parliament.

The biggest of the big issues, everywhere, is man-made climate change. We might have seen this as a double failure of the Copenhagen meeting and Australia's emissions trading legislation put new emphasis on what needs to be done at a subnational level, like here in Tasmania. Yet climate is not considered a significant Tasmanian campaign issue, rating far behind education, health, roads and pretty well anything else. It seems that the major parties believe climate action to be a matter for others, higher up the chain. But isn't that where we've just failed? What is it about climate and politicians?

Do they find it too soft and blurry an issue to sell to the electors, unlike like a new road? Can't they find the time, or sit still long enough, to get their heads around the science? Or do they not even bother to start, seeing it as some green conspiracy to deprive them of their hard-earned lifestyles? Scientists have produced ample evidence of a crisis, including accelerating ice-melting at both poles and an alarming carbon emissions trend. The political response is to postpone international action, quibble over national action (the Federal Opposition remains without a climate policy) and generally try to have the subject buried and forgotten.

In this age of the spectator we like to watch others stuff up while things collapse in a heap, but democracy doesn't let us off that easily. We choose who governs us, so we are partly culpable. Making our democracy work effectively means more than sitting back and watching. Last week, a group called Climate Action Hobart launched a set of strategies intended to start parties and candidates thinking about where Tasmania should position itself on climate change, and then committing to a focused, sustained program of action. The strategies, formulated with expert advice and fleshed out at a community forum late last year call for action in 10 key areas aimed at taking advantage of Tasmania's resources, including renewable hydro power, to make the state a leader in tackling climate change.

Now endorsed by local climate groups around the state. "10 steps to a safer climate" seeks the active engagement of political, community and business interests to contribute effectively to a safe climate while inspiring effective action elsewhere in the world. The ambitious agenda aims to set Tasmania, without delay, on a path to zero carbon emissions by 2050 with a 2020 target for all-renewable energy, and a 20% reduction in overall energy use. It advocates reformed planning laws for sustainable communities, support for public and low-carbon transport, support for local food and sustainable consumption, protection of old forests and rigorous carbon accounting, and the elimination of waste through a 100% recycling program.

The plan asserts that most of the actions needed, while not cost-free, will bring great benefits, including more liveable, resilient communities with better housing, less pollution and less road congestion, more secure jobs, less vulnerability to global economic shocks, and an increasingly valuable reputation as a haven for green tourism and sustainable development. The program will be a demanding one. As the plan points out: "No one can predict where the potholes will lie on the road ahead. We hope and expect this community plan to evolve and expand over time. Yet a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Over the next two months climate groups across the state will join in publicity campaigns, candidate surveys and lobbying to impress upon political aspirants the over-riding importance of climate policy and the real, measurable value to Tasmania of taking world-leading initiatives. Entering this election campaign, we can choose to put our trust in shaky initiatives elsewhere, higher up, over which we have no real authority. Or we can decide that climate is a significant public issue for Tasmania, then stand up and work to make this place an example for others.

10 steps to a safer climate:
"TEN steps" is an outline of what Tasmania can contribute to preventing dangerous climate change.
Details of the strategies can be found online at or ten-strategies.
  1. Make Tasmania carbonneutral by 2050 with a year-by-year roadmap.
  2. Fully assess and protect the immense carbon stores in Tasmania's old forests.
  3. Reduce energy use by 20% by 2020.
  4. Derive all of Tasmania's energy from renewable sources by the year 2020.
  5. Radically overhaul planning laws to ensure sustainable cities and regions.
  6. Significantly increase investment in public and low carbon transport.
  7. Help communities and businesses make a full transition to a low-carbon future.
  8. Support local and sustainable production and consumption, with a focus on food.
  9. Close resource loops and eliminate waste.
  10. Work actively to achieve climate justice for all and to educate Tasmanians about climate change.

Calls to lighten power cost load

Canberra Times
Tuesday 19/1/2010 Page: 4

The ACT Government is coming under increasing pressure to exempt low-income earners from the additional electricity costs stemming from the ACT Government's solar feed-in tariff scheme, introduced almost a year ago. The scheme requires electricity retailers such as ActewAGL to pay households with solar panels a premium rate for the electricity they generate, resulting in higher electricity costs for all other households so retailers recoup that money.

The premium payments - made at a rate of 50.05c per kW-hour the panels generate - are an incentive to increase the uptake of solar panels and for households to recoup the high costs of purchasing them, and result in other households paying an average of an additional $27 a year for electricity. Although ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell has previously said the Government would adjust the energy concession available to low income earners to negate the increase, more than six months after electricity prices went up there is still no sign of a reprieve.

ACT Council of Social Service director Roslyn Dundas said the energy concession had barely increased in years - from $189 in 2004-05 to $195 in 2008-09, while the average electricity bill had increased by about $350 in the same period - and the additional costs associated with the feed-in tariff were putting even more financial pressure on low income earners. About 22,000 Canberra households claim all or part of this rebate yearly. "It's putting an extensive burden on households to stay warm and cool," she said.

In its submission to an ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission issues paper on the scheme, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal also questioned the fairness of the scheme and existing concessions, saying, "The feed-in tariff, in the form adopted by the ACT, is highly inequitable.., the scheme design provides significant financial benefits to the wealthy investors in FIT capacity and passes the cost equally to all consumers, including low-income earners who have no financial capacity to make such an investment."

ACT Opposition leader Zed Seselja and Greens environment spokesman Shane Rattenbury also called on Mr Corbell to urgently increase the concession. Mr Corbell was unavailable for comment yesterday but a spokesman said the concession was being reviewed by the ACT Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water and the Department of Housing and Community Services as part of the feed-in tariff Stage Two discussion paper released last month, which relates to expanding the scheme to large solar generators. A decision on the rebate would be announced "later this year".

Mr Corbell has also been criticised for telling the commission that it should not take into consideration "advancing welfare or social considerations" which the commissioner Paul Baxter flagged he would raise in a submission to Mr Corbell on what the new premium price should be. After receiving the submission Mr Corbell will set the premium price to be paid to occupiers of households participating in the feed-in tariff scheme for 2010-11.

"If this Premium Price, fairly set upon economic grounds, impacts upon the financial situation of low income or disadvantaged households this is a separate issue which the Government has other avenues for addressing. The Premium Price is not a suitable vehicle for advancing welfare or other social considerations," Mr Corbell wrote to Mr Baxter last week. As it was Mr Corbell who determined the terms of reference for the commission's submission, Mr Baxter said he would no longer include social equity in his submission.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Firm unveils wave energy project

West Australian
Monday 18/1/2010 Page: 4

Australia's first facility to generate power from wave energy is being built off Garden Island, south of Perth. Fremantle company Carnegie Corporation Wave Energy yesterday unveiled a $12.5 million project that will create enough electricity to power 3500 homes. The five MW facility, scheduled for completion next year, employs a world-first design that uses the bobbing movement of submerged buoys to drive pistons on the seabed. In turn, the pistons drive pressurised water to an onshore turbine, which generates electricity that is fed into the main grid.

Work has begun off Garden Island's west coast for a prototype unit, which will be tested this year. The full-scale facility, measuring about 200m by 200m, will then be constructed off the island next year. "It's a relatively small footprint because wave energy is a very concentrated form of energy," Carnegie Corporation's chief operating officer Greg Allen said. The units will be fixed to the seabed at a depth of 24m, with a network of 30 buoys floating in the water column, below the surface. Mr Allen said the technology could be deployed on any southwest-facing coast, and that he envisioned a string of bigger facilities near populated areas throughout southern Australia.

The fact that most population centres are near the coast makes wave energy attractive, he said. The system could also potentially be used to supply power to coastal water desalination plants. Energy Minister Peter Collier said technologies such as wave energy would be essential to meet the national target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. Other technologies, such as geothermal energy, are still some years away from commercial viability, he said. WA gets about 5% of its power from renewable sources, predominantly wind energy. Mr Collier said the 2020 target was "a challenging and difficult prospect", and that WA needs to "hit the ground running" by funding technologies that can be rapidly commercialised.

United energy plan call

Monday 18/1/2010 Page: 2

SOME of Australia's big green energy players have called on the Federal Government to remove solar hot water heaters from a scheme that entices investment in renewable power. After last months failure at Copenhagen to secure a binding global accord on cutting carbon, the companies have taken aim at Australia's renewable energy target (RET). The target requires 20% of Australia's power to be renewable by 2020. But the scheme came under fire after a $1600 solar hot water subsidy flooded the market with renewable energy certificates from domestic water heaters, causing the certificates' value almost to halve.

In a submission to a Council of Australian Governments inquiry, companies including AGL Energy, Pacific Hydro and wind turbine makers Vestas and Suzlon call for hot water heaters to be removed from the scheme. Industry estimates put the total value of RET driven investment at up to $30 billion. The group called for state-based energy efficiency schemes to be joined in a single national scheme.

German ministers reach consensus on solar tariff cuts
22 January 2010

Key German government ministers have agreed to make double digit cuts to solar feed-in tariffs (FITs), to the dismay of the German solar industry. The country's FIT encourages the construction of solar energy plants by setting a price for the electricity they produce at above usual market rates, for up to 20 years. This means that developers can raise finance against a guaranteed revenue stream and enables higher-cost renewables to compete with traditional fossil fuelled plants.

Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (Christian Democratic Union) and the Minister for the Economy Rainer Brüderle (Federal Democratic Party) this week both backed a 15-17% reduction, for cabinet consideration in February. The cut would come on top of already agreed a 9% reduction in the FIT for 2010 and a further 9% in 2011, slashing a total of 35% from the tarriff within two years. The reductions are likely to come into force in April. Ground-mounted installations would be hit with an additional 10% cut and very large solar PV plants would also be subject to slightly higher reductions.

The government said the current 9% FIT decline was insufficient in view of 30% drop in roof-top photovoltaic (PV) prices over the last year, and developers are seeing record returns arising from the solar FIT. Excessive subsidies were also dragging on cell efficiency improvements, it argued. The government said it needed to "take the weight off the consumer", who ultimately pay for FITs, for a technology which provides less than 1% of the national grid capacity.

The conservative Bavarian government also announced this week that it would cease approving permits for ground-mounted PV installations on farm land. But since Bavarian planning laws already heavily restrict such installations, the announcement is more likely intended to politically coincide with the federal government's FIT plans.

Some firms have themselves called for deeper FIT cuts, but German solar trade body BSW-Solar attacked the proposed changes, saying they would send many German producers to the wall. Returns on investment would fall to the critical 6%-7% mark, the minimum that German PV developers would consider, BSW-Solar said. The association was deeply concerned that the government intended to make a further 15% cut to FIT at the end of 2010. However, the industry also revised the date it predicts solar electricity prices will reach parity with conventional electricity from the middle of the decade to 2013.

Clean-tech equity analyst Michael McNamara at Jefferies International said he remained bearish on the solar sector despite viewing the FIT changes as partially positive. "It is too early to make any changes to our models, but the impact of this cut would be positive although relatively limited. We believe that the German market will remain very strong if FIT cuts are 15-17% as IRRs [internal rates of return] will still be very attractive. For example, the unlevered IRR of a rooftop installation in Bavaria could easily achieve 7.2% with an installed cost of €3.3/Watt peak (module cost of €1.8/Wp) which is a pretty conservative installed cost estimate."

BSW-Solar believes the double-figure cuts would mean the end of solar cell production in Europe, to the advantage of competitors in China, citing a report by the Baden-Württemberg State Bank (LBBW) published this month. Chinese suppliers have been the main beneficiaries of a boom in roof-top PV installations in Germany over the last two years although German cell producers still rely on the domestic market for up to around half of their turnover, LBBW said. Rooftop PV prices have fallen 30% over the last 12 months, largely due to cheaper silicon prices.

FIT cuts in Spain in the midst of the recession had already sent a shock wave through the German solar cell industry, which is putting its hopes on increasing demand this year from the US. But the equity markets have remained cautious, not least because of apprehensions about FITs. DZ Bank, for example, downgraded bellwether solar stocks Q-Cells and SolarWorld to "sell" in October on this basis. SolarWorld shares were trading at €13.99 ($19.72) today, down 11% on last Thursday's close. Q-Cells' share was similarly down 15% to €10.56 today.

Marine Life Flourishing Beneath Off-Shore Wind Turbines
January 19th, 2010

Not only do off-shore wind turbines not harm marine life, but they actively encourage more of it, a very encouraging study has just concluded, after closely following the effects of the off-shore wind farms being built off the European coast. A Swedish Scientist at the Stockholm University's Zoology Department studying the effects of off-shore wind turbines discovered that marine life has become more abundant and diverse near the foundations. Dan Wilhelmsson found that offshore wind turbines constitute habitats for fish, crabs, mussels, lobsters and plants.

The seabed in the vicinity of the wind turbines had higher densities of fish compared to further away from the turbines and in control areas. This was despite that the natural bottoms were rich in boulders and algae. Blue mussels dominated on the wind turbines that appeared to offer good growth conditions. "Hard surfaces are often hard currency in the ocean, and these foundations can function as artificial reefs. Rock boulders are often placed around the structures to prevent erosion (scouring) around these, and this strengthens the reef function," says Dan Wilhelmsson.

Not only were the foundations giving a boost to marine life, but interestingly, we might be able to build-in features to them in such a way as to enhance conditions to favor those species that need more protection. "With wind and wave energy farms, it should be possible to create large areas with biologically productive reef structures, which would moreover be protected from bottom trawling. By carefully designing the foundations it would be possible to favor and protect important species, or, conversely, to reduce the reef effects in order minimize the impact on an area," says Dan Wilhelmsson.

Come to think of it, this shouldn't come as such a surprise. There are many instances of sunken boats, planes and other metal and concrete objects having been thoroughly repurposed by the creatures of the deep for their own needs. We already use artificial reefs to rebuild populations of marine life.

Offshore Wind Power and Wave Energy Devices Create Artificial Reefs
Jan. 19, 2010

Offshore wind energy and wave energy foundations can increase local abundances of fish and crabs. The reef-like constructions also favour for example blue mussels and barnacles. What's more, it is possible to increase or decrease the abundance of various species by altering the structural design of foundation. This was shown by Dan Wilhelmsson of the Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, in a recently published dissertation.

"Hard surfaces are often hard currency in the ocean, and these foundations can function as artificial reefs. Rock boulders are often placed around the structures to prevent erosion (scouring) around these, and this strengthens the reef function," says Dan Wilhelmsson.

A major expansion of offshore wind energy is underway along European coasts, and the interest is growing in countries such as the US, China, Japan, and India. Moreover, wave power technologies are being developed very rapidly. Many thousand wind and wave power plants grouped in large arrays that each cover several square kilometers can be expected. How marine life will react to this is not clear, but several research projects investigating the impacts of noise, shadows, electromagnetic fields, and changes in hydrology etc, are underway.

Dan Wilhelmsson studied how offshore wind turbines constitute habitats for fish, crabs, lobsters, fouling animals, and plants. He shows that wind turbines, even without scour protection, function as artificial reefs for bottom dwelling fish. The seabed in the vicinity of wind turbines had higher densities of fish compared to further away from the turbines and in reference areas. This was despite that the natural bottoms were rich in boulders and algae. Blue mussels dominated on the wind turbines that appeared to offer good growth conditions.

Wave power foundations, too, constituting massive concrete blocks, proved to attract fish and large crabs. Blue mussels fall down from the surface buoys and become food for animals on the foundations and on the adjacent seabed. Lobsters also settle under the foundations. In a large-scale experiment, holes were drilled in the foundations, and this dramatically increased numbers of crabs. The position of the holes also proved to be of importance for the crabs.

However, aggregations of certain species may have a negative impact on other species. The number of predatory animals on artificial reefs can sometimes become so large that the organisms they prey on, such as sea-pens, starfish, and crustaceans, are decimated in the surroundings, and certain species can disappear entirely.

"With wind and wave energy farms, it should be possible to create large areas with biologically productive reef structures, which would moreover be protected from bottom trawling. By carefully designing the foundations it would be possible to favour and protect important species or, conversely, to reduce the reef effects in order minimize the impact on an area," says Dan Wilhelmsson.