Thursday 4 February 2010

Handicapped by 19th-century technology
February 3, 2010

No wonder Australia is lagging behind Spain and China with renewable energy, writes Matthew Wright.
Renewable energy is the fastest growing power source in the world, and already generates baseload electricity on the scale of utilities. Large solar thermal plants with heat storage can dispatch power around the clock every day of the week regardless of whether the sun is shining, and make handsome profits during demand peaks.

Wind power is being installed on scales that dwarf Australian grid requirements. These and other clean energy technologies are replacing coal on modern grids. While Australia continues to throw money at 19th-century technologies, Spain, China, the US and others are charging ahead with zero-emissions power generation, and creating export markets.

Spain consumes about as much electricity as Australia, though its population is about twice as large. Like Australia, Spain is blessed with strong, consistent sunshine, and it uses this attribute to ensure energy security. Already it has built 24-hour baseload solar plants, using molten salt to store heat which is then used to create steam and turn turbines. It started with Andasol 1, a 50MW plant, and has now completed two similar projects. More than 1,800MW of projects are under construction and the government has just approved another 2,440MW for their feed-in tariff scheme for construction over the next three years.

The Gemasolar project is the shining light of the Spanish boom in baseload solar energy. This solar thermal plant has created 1500 jobs and will operate at 60 to 100 per cent of maximum turbine output for up to 90 per cent of hours each year. Very low maintenance shutdown requirements allow this efficiency, far greater than coal-fired power generators in NSW. When the turbine is idle, heat is bled off the ''cold'' 290-degree salt storage tank to keep the turbine seals warm, allowing fast starting - as seen in the best hydro and gas plants. This capacity for baseload and fast-start ''dispatchable'' power generation places the Gemasolar plant among the highest-value electricity plants, a fact not lost on investors.

This solar generation capacity is in addition to Spanish wind energy. Wind turbines supply 11 per cent of Spain's electricity demand, and this will more than double to 25 per cent by 2020. Another 6000MW of wind energy is approved for installation in the next three years. That is just shy of three plants the size of the Bayswater power station near Muswellbrook, with all the jobs but no emissions. Spain is phasing out coal and nuclear, and the companies that built the nuclear plants have re-tooled to build solar thermal plants with heat storage. These companies did not want to own the nuclear plants they built, but they have set up investment vehicles to own solar thermal plants.

Compared to the 10 years it takes to get a nuclear plant up and running, solar thermal plants with 24-hour baseload capacity have construction times as short as nine months, so such projects are not exposed to the same political, industrial and financial risks as nuclear plants. Envisaging a lucrative market for their solar infrastructure and expertise, the Spanish anticipate a healthy return on any subsidies for these technologies.

In China, solar hot water and photovoltaic (PV) panels have had huge commercial success. Maintenance-free evacuated tube solar hot water systems were developed in Australia. They are cheap - each tube wholesales for less than $5 and a system for a family costs less than $500. More than 50 million Chinese households now enjoy unlimited, free hot water from such systems. China produces solar PV panels on a huge scale, and is the leading manufacturer of this technology for domestic rooftops. This triumph also owes much to Australian innovation, and to Australian governments' failure to support the industry on home soil.

The University of New South Wales solar PV team is the world leader in its field and holds the global efficiency record for ordinary silicon cells. Much of the technology in China, particularly from the leading company, SunTech, leverages off this Australian innovation. The Chinese were also ahead of the game when the global financial crisis hit. Their government moved quickly to arrange for government buildings to purchase surplus industrial output. This meant the billions of dollars Chinese companies had invested in PV plants were not wasted when demand suddenly fell.

This is in stark contrast with the situation in Australia. Melbourne's Solar Systems has proven commercial success in displacing diesel in diesel/solar hybrid power generation for remote aboriginal communities. Solar Systems, a leader in its field, was unable to generate operational revenue and was forced into administration in August. With a bit of Chinese-style foresight, the Rudd government could have created a pipeline of projects for remote area power systems dependent on diesel. This would have been a responsible use of stimulus funds, and assured the company remained viable and ready for the boom after the global financial crisis.

Chinese wind energy blows us away, too. A total of 30,000MW of wind energy was planned to come online by 2020, but this target will be met early this year. China is now planning for 150,000MW of wind energy by 2020, and again it is likely that this will be achieved much earlier. Within the 150,000MW wind energy target is the ''Three Gorges of Wind'' project. Named after the world's biggest engineering project, the Three Gorges dam, it will produce 70,000MW at seven large sites and twice as much electricity as the Three Gorges Dam, but cost half as much. The Three Gorges of Wind will produce about the same amount of electricity as the electricity grid on Australia's eastern seaboard.

Denmark obtains 20 per cent of its electricity from wind, and this will increase to 50 per cent by 2025. Wind turbines from the 1980s will be replaced with new models that are 30 times larger and much more efficient in a wide variety of wind conditions. NSW alone is 19 times larger than Denmark. It has about the same population and experiences as much wind in any given place. Our national electricity grid extends from Tasmania and South Australia to far northern Queensland. With such a massive resource over a vast area, wind energy can make a large contribution to Australian energy security. Australia continues to rely on wasteful 19th-century technology. In periods of low demand, such as the dead of night, our antiquated coal-fired power stations throw energy away by blowing steam.

In Germany, policy decisions have boosted renewable energy sales and provided the environment for a high-tech manufacturing industry. This is despite the fact that, under often-grey northern skies, PV panels installed in Germany may produce 50 to 65 per cent less energy over their lifetime than equivalent panels in Australia. German households and businesses will add up to three GWs (GW) of photovoltaic generation by the end of this year, bringing the national total to eight GW. That is 86 per cent of the entire Hunter Valley generating capacity.

Planning authorities in the US are also swamped with plans for wind and solar thermal power. More than 97,000MW of solar thermal projects are seeking approval from the US Bureau of Land Management. In the south-west of the country, the bureau is doing a study that would speed up development of more than 100,000MW of right-of-way sites (degraded government lands) for solar thermal plants. There go another 38 Bayswater equivalents. An underdeveloped grid is the main obstacle to the expansion of wind energy in the US, but President Barack Obama has announced a huge modernisation plan.

The global financial crisis caused hold-ups with project finance, but with federal stimulus now behind many projects, thousands of MWs of solar thermal with storage will break ground this year. It includes a huge complex in Nevada by the Spanish multinational Abengoa and another in California by the Israeli constructor BrightSource Energy. These companies are now exporting their expertise, a far more valuable commodity than coal. With quick action, Australia could develop a solar thermal industry and join this lucrative market.

Those who perpetuate the myth that renewable energy cannot satisfy our electricity demand have an interest in long-established, emissions-intensive industries. These largely foreign-owned companies would prefer to see our energy keep coming from the same old dirty sources. The Rudd government seems more than happy to encourage this approach, signing up to the Coalition's version of the emissions trading scheme to offer $7 billion of compensation to coal-fired generators, while stonewalling on renewables. This strategy, like the Coalition's business-as-usual outlook, ignores the opportunities for jobs, export earnings, energy security and zero-emissions electricity on offer in the renewable sector.

With our advantages in sunshine, wind and expertise, Australia should move quickly to make up for lost time, and join the frontrunners in clean energy. Failure to act means Australians will remain stuck in the coal pit while the world prospers from a renewable energy boom.

Matthew Wright is executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions. It is developing plans that could shift Australia to zero emissions by 2020 using existing technologies.

Feed-In Tariff Unveiled In U.K.
01 February 2010

The U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) plans to roll out a feed-in tariff (FIT) for solar energy projects and other forms of renewable energy. The FIT also includes what the DECC says is the world's first incentive for renewable energy heating technologies. PV feed-in tariffs will begin April 1, and the renewable heat incentive will be implemented on April 1, 2011.

Tariff levels vary according to technology and program year. A PV retrofit project under 4 kW, for instance, will receive 41.3 pence (p)/kWh from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011. A PV system between 100 kW and 5 MW, in contrast, will receive 29.3 p/kWh during the same time period. All PV FITs carry a 25-year lifetime. The full table describing FIT levels and timetables is available here.

The FIT for solar thermal projects providing heat varies from 17 p/kWh for installations between 20 kW and 100 kW to 18 p/kWh for installations up to 20 kW - both over a 20-year lifetime. According to the DECC, a typical 2.5 kW well-sited solar PV installation could offer a homeowner a reward of up to 900 British pounds and save him or her 140 British pounds per year on his or her electricity bill.

Silicon Valley makes big push into solar and smart-grid technologies

Cleantech's vast ecosystem includes a dizzying array of emerging technologies, from green building materials to electric vehicles, lighting and wind energy. But as Silicon Valley reinvents itself as a global center of clean technology, two sectors - solar energy and "smart" upgrades to the electric grid - already are reshaping the valley and changing the way energy is produced and used.

The Bay Area is believed to have the nation's largest concentration of cleantech jobs, and much of that job growth has been in solar and smart grid, technologies that leverage the valley's formidable strengths. Next 10, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that the Bay Area now has about 7,000 jobs in renewable energy alone.

"The skills that have been put to such good use in the valley with chips - engineering the processes to be more efficient, bringing costs down - are now being applied to solar," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who wants to create 25,000 new cleantech jobs and cut the city's per capita energy use in half by 2022. "And in order to make a smart grid smart, you've got to collect an enormous amount of information and manage it and network it. It's a huge market opportunity for what companies here are already doing."

Solar technology is an extension of the semiconductor industry - a solar cell is basically a simple, large and inexpensive chip, and some manufacturing processes are similar in both industries. Smart grid, meanwhile, builds on the telecommunications and software industries to improve the electric grid by making it more reliable, secure and efficient all the way from the power plant to the home and office.

Nationwide, demand for electricity is expected to grow 30% by 2030, according to the Department of Energy, and the nation's aging grid is struggling to keep up. There's currently no way to store electricity, so utility companies often crank up capacity to meet peak demand during the evening hours, when consumers come home from work and turn on their appliances. If consumers were given incentives and the means to reduce energy use at critical times, that could offset the need to build additional power plants.

There's an environmental opportunity as well: A mere 5% improvement in the grid's efficiency would be equal to eliminating the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars, according to the Department of Energy.

Smart grid market
Morgan Stanley predicts that the smart grid market will grow from $20 billion in revenue this year to $100 billion - roughly three times Apple's current revenues - by 2030. Networking giant Cisco, which is positioning itself to be a major player, believes the communications infrastructure alone for the smart grid could be worth $20 billion a year within the next five years. A smart grid would also allow utilities to more nimbly manage renewable sources of power like wind and solar, which can be unpredictable and intermittent on cloudy days. And consumers would get real-time information about energy usage, so they could identify the electricity hogs among their appliances and adjust their behavior to reduce energy consumption and bills.

Creation of a smart grid is a top priority of the Department of Energy, which has funneled $4.5 billion in stimulus dollars to the effort, including $303 million to California utilities. Spurred on by federal dollars, utility companies across the country are rolling out smart meters to better monitor energy consumption at homes and businesses. More than 250 million of them will be installed worldwide by 2015, up from 46 million in 2008, according to Pike Research. In Northern California, PG&E is installing more than 12,000 smart meters every day toward a goal of having 10 million in place by 2012. Currently, they merely allow PG&E to collect data without meter readers but later will add useful energy-monitoring features.

The nationwide push for smart meters has been a boon to Silver Spring Networks, a Redwood City startup that makes software for several utilities, including Florida Power & Light, PG&E and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Silver Spring's software allows devices like meters, load management controllers and electric vehicle charging stations to communicate with each other and the utility. "Anything we can do to make energy usage and distribution more efficient so we don't need to build more power plants is a pretty big benefit for all of us," said Eric Dresselhuys, Silver Spring's executive vice president. "

A lot of people are talking about electric vehicles and rooftop solar. If we're going to adopt those technologies on a massive scale, we need a network in place to communicate with all of these devices." At least 40 to 50 companies in Silicon Valley, including startups and tech giants, are focused on smart grid development, said Mayor Reed. Experts in the utility industry stress this is just the beginning.

'Huge opportunity'
"There's a huge opportunity," said Don Von Dollen, director of the IntelliGrid program at EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto. "Everyone is trying to figure out how to mine the data that comes out of the smart meters and turn it into usable information that can help consumers save energy and reduce their bills. There are going to be lots of opportunities to develop apps, and that's Silicon Valley's sweet spot. Someone is going to come up with the iPod for in-home energy management."

Cisco veteran Laura Ipsen, who was chosen last fall to lead a new Smart Grid Business Unit of more than 100 people, says Cisco's utility customers were "clamoring for us to explore this area." Cisco wants to provide the communications infrastructure to connect all points on the grid, from power plants to homes, as well as tools to manage energy use. "If we can connect it," she added, "it can be more green."

Cisco has already rolled out its Building Mediator, a product that can automatically and remotely control a building's heating and air conditioning, lighting, security and other electricity use. NetApp, a maker of network storage equipment, uses Cisco's Building Mediator at its Sunnyvale headquarters and reduced energy costs for its 1.2 million square feet of office space by 25% - and $2 million - over an 18-month period. Another valley company pioneering smart grid technologies is San Mateo's eMeter, which is piloting a product to alert consumers by text message that they are about to blow their preset electricity budget unless they modify their behavior.

Redwood City startup EcoFactor, meanwhile, creates software that can continuously tweak the settings of a home thermostat - including adjusting heating or air conditioning based on variations in outside temperatures and local weather. The company, which recently announced $2.4 million in first-round financing, has a contract with the Texas utility Oncor.

Even Google has gotten into the act. The search giant has introduced PowerMeter, which allows consumers with smart meters to monitor their energy consumption from their iGoogle home page. "We can begin to see what a clean energy future will look like," President Obama said in an October speech announcing smart grid grants. "We can imagine the day when you'll be able to charge the battery on your plug-in hybrid car at night, because your smart meter reminded you that nighttime electricity is cheapest."

Many of those hybrid owners may be recharging their cars with solar energy, another cleantech sector with enormous potential and deep roots in Silicon Valley. The solar market - including modules, system components and installation - will grow from a $30 billion global industry in 2008 to $81 billion by 2018, according to Clean Edge, a cleantech research firm. Currently, the dominant solar company in Silicon Valley is San Jose-based SunPower, which assembles its panels at the historic Ford assembly plant in the East Bay city of Richmond, where tanks were built for World War II.

Powered by SunPower
Its recent projects include a solar energy system at Agilent's Santa Clara headquarters capable of generating one MW of electricity, about enough to power 750 to 1,000 homes. SunPower also completed a 1-MW system at the University of California-Merced campus expected to produce two-thirds of the campus' electricity on summer afternoons. SunPower's panels, like most others, use sunlight to excite electrons in silicon to generate electricity. But several companies have created a lot of buzz by replacing silicon with other compounds to make so-called thin-film panels to drive down costs and improve efficiency.

The industry leader in thin film is FirstSolar, an Arizona company that makes cadmium telluride solar cells and has a deal with the Chinese government to build a 2-GW solar plant in Mongolia, enough to power about 3 million Chinese households. But Silicon Valley has a cadre of thin film startups that manufacture solar panels using a compound known as CIGS - shorthand for copper indium gallium selenide- that they say will represent a great leap in solar technology.

Fremont-based Solyndra, a CIGS company founded by veterans of Applied Materials, has filed for a $300 million initial public offering. Several other local companies, including SoloPower, Nanosolar, and MiaSolé, are also racing to bring thin-film CIGS into volume production. Santa Clara-based MiaSolé got a big boost last month when it received $101.7 million in federal cleantech manufacturing tax credits. The company doubled its workforce to 300 last year and is ramping up production at its Santa Clara factory. "The first CIGS company to deliver will be an enormous hit," said Stephen O'Rourke, a solar industry analyst with Deutsche Bank. "A lot of people bought tickets, and now it's time to deliver."

Wednesday 3 February 2010

China surges past rivals and faces gripes of unfair advantages

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 1/2/2010 Page:

CHINA vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year. China has also leapfrogged the West in the past two years to emerge as the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels. It is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants. These efforts to dominate the global manufacture of renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may some day trade its dependence on oil from the Middle East for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other equipment manufactured in China.

Most of the energy equipment will carry a brass plate, 'Made in China,'" said KK Chan, the chief executive of Nature Elements Capital, a private equity fund in Beijing that focuses on renewable energy. The US President, Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech last week, sounded an alarm that the US was falling behind other countries, 1HEHSA1 BOA,, especially China, on energy. "I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders - and I know you don't either," he told Congress.

The US and other countries are offering incentives to develop their own renewable energy industries, and Mr Obama called for redoubling US efforts. Yet many Western and Chinese executives expect China to prevail in the energy technology race. Multinational corporations are responding to the rapid growth of China's market by building big, sophisticated factories in China. Vestas of Denmark has just built the world's biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex in north-eastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators. "You have to move fast with the market," said the president of Vestas China, Jens Tommerup. "Nobody has ever seen such fast development in a wind market."

Renewable energy industries in China are adding jobs rapidly, reaching 1.12 million in 2008 and climbing by 100,000 a year, according to the government-backed Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association. Yet renewable energy may be doing more for China's economy than for the environment. Total power generation in China is on track to pass the US in 2012, and most of the added capacity will still be from coal. China intends for wind, solar and biomass energy to represent 8% of its electricity generation capacity by 2020. That compares with less than 4% now in China and the US. Coal will still represent two-thirds of China's capacity in 2020, and nuclear and hydro power most of the rest.

China's leaders are intensely focused on energy policy. Last Wednesday the government announced the creation of a National Energy Commission composed of cabinet ministers as a "superministry" led by the Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao. Regulators have set mandates for power generation companies to use more renewable energy. Generous subsidies for consumers to install their own solar panels or solar water heaters have produced flurries of activity on rooftops across China. The country's biggest advantage may be domestic demand for electricity, rising 15% a year. To meet that in the coming decade, according to statistics from the International Energy Agency, China will need to add nearly nine times as much electricity generation capacity as the US.

So while Americans are used to thinking of themselves as having the world's largest market in many industries, China's market for power equipment dwarfs that of the US, even though the US market is more mature. That means Chinese producers enjoy enormous efficiencies from large-scale production. As in many other industries, China's low labour costs are an advantage in energy. Although wages have risen sharply in the last five years, Vestas still pays assembly line workers only $US4100 ($4600) a year.

China's commitment to renewable energy is expensive. Although costs are falling steeply through mass production, wind energy is still 20% to 40% more expensive than coal-fired power. solar energy is still at least twice as expensive as coal. With prices tumbling, the wind and solar industries are increasingly looking to sell equipment abroad - and facing complaints by Western companies that they have unfair advantages. The deputy managing director of China's renewable energy association, Ma Lingjuan, said: "Every country, including the United States and in Europe, wants a low cost of renewable energy. Now China has reached that level, but it gets criticised by the rest of the world."

Sweden’s Usitall brings landmark waste-to-energy project to Tulcea

Usitall, a leading Swedish waste-to-energy company, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the local authorities in Tulcea for a landmark project to build a waste incinerator which will supply heating and electricity to the town at the mouth of the Danube River Delta, and will reduce significantly the population's energy bills and the city's dependence on imported fuel. The project is the first of its kind in Romania, and it is based on the Swedish model, which burns waste to replace oil and gas for the production of thermal heating and electricity.

Usitall is based in the southwestern city of Linkoping, home to Saab, the producer of the Gripen multirole fighter of the new generation which has been offered to Romania, to replace the old MiGs 21 of the ROAF. Saab is a significant shareholder of the company, owning 30% of its shares, the rest being owned by the Linkoping municipality. For us, it is a very important step which offers a lot of opportunities, because this project makes landfills unnecessary in the future and it helps the conservation of resources by replacing fossil fuels and reducing the need for imported fuel," Usitall CEO Stellan Jacobsson said after the signing ceremony in Tulcea.

Jacobsson also said that his company is now exploring the Romanian market, in order to duplicate the project with local municipalities. "We have found that there is a growing interest for this kind of solutions," Jacobsson added, mentioning that besides energy efficiency, such technology will help Romania to align with the strict EU regulations for the disposal of landfills.

Rural Nevada Farming Town Warms to New Solar Plan
Jan 30, 2010

AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nev. (AP) - When it comes to finding a place to build a solar energy plant, a few miles can make a big difference. The latest solar plant plan for Amargosa Valley looks more popular with area residents than previous pitches, because it's farther out of town. Click here to find out more! For that same reason, it is likely to draw opposition from off-roaders and environmentalists.

Pacific Solar Investments, a Portland, Ore.-based subsidiary of the Spanish company Iberdrola Renewables, wants to build a 150-MW solar photovoltaic array on more than 1,500 acres of Bureau of Land Management land between U.S. 95 and the Big Dune recreation area on the north end of the Amargosa Valley. The company has requested a lease on more than 7,000 acres far from Amargosa's main drag, but next to an environmentally sensitive dune. The nearly 11 square miles that Pacific Solar wants to lease also overlaps a popular off-road race route.

The company says it will give back to the BLM all the land it doesn't use for its solar plant. But even so, the area could still be covered by solar panels. The Big Dune Project, as the locals call it, is one of numerous solar energy plants proposed for the valley, and some fear the plants will force off-roaders and desert creatures out of the area. Government planning maps show that tens of thousands of acres in the Amargosa Valley are sought by solar developers. If all the projects are approved and built, many rural ranches and homesteads would be surrounded by miles of mirrors and solar panels.

The landscape would be scraped clean of foliage, and desert animals would be forced to find new homes. Off-roading would be out, and a portion of the route used by the popular Best in the Desert Vegas-to-Reno race would be cut off. The contest winds through 1,000 miles of mostly open desert from Amargosa Valley to Carson City. Greg Helseth, BLM's renewable energy project manager for southern Nevada, said the agency will consider the potential cumulative effects of so many solar plants in one area.

At the BLM's first public meeting about the project, held in January at the Amargosa Valley Community Center, one thing seemed clear: Area residents are OK with solar, as long as it doesn't suck their aquifer dry, cause fleets of trucks to roll past the school and park, or create eyesores behind their back fences. About 40 residents braved a rainstorm to attend the meeting and offer their general support of the Pacific Solar plan. The company says it could provide enough clean energy to power about 30,000 southern Nevada homes, while creating hundreds of short-term construction jobs and some permanent jobs the company says it will try to award to locals.

The plant would be built in three 50-MW phases, decreasing dust problems and prolonging the jobs of construction workers. The company hopes to finish the first phase of construction in 2011 and wrap up a final phase in 2013. It also hopes to sell all the electricity to NV Energy through a long-term power purchase agreement. "We would like to create electricity in Nevada for Nevada," said Kim Fiske, Pacific Solar's international managing director.

Amargosa Valley residents at the meeting said they appreciated that the developer chose a location far from the town's main road, and its decision to develop the plant with the most water-conserving technology available. "You're welcome to my backyard," resident Gary Gulley said to polite applause. The mood was dramatically different during a meeting for a different project at the same building last August.

At that session, solar developer Solar Millennium unveiled plans for a proposed solar thermal power plant along Amargosa Farm Road. Neighbors criticized the proposed location between the school and senior center, and next to several residential properties. Some also objected to the amount of water the proposed plant's cooling system would use. The first phase of the proposed Pacific Solar array is near Big Dune, a place with unique and threatened plants and animals. The Bureau of Land Management has designated parts of the area for "critical environmental concern" protection.

Desert conservation organization Basin and Range Watch, a group with members concentrated in six western states including Nevada, is organizing opposition to the solar plant because of its potential effect on ancient creosote bushes, a rare weevil and three rare beetles, including one that lives only on Big Dune. The area is also populated by endangered desert tortoises. Officials say construction crews will have to scrape the ground clear of vegetation to create a flat, open space on which to build.

The discovery of rare flora and fauna wouldn't necessarily kill a project, but it does mean a developer would have to pay to offset the impact of its project. For example, a developer could agree not to demolish certain trees or to relocate tortoises. The BLM's Helseth said the company will have to address such issues as dust abatement, water supply and how to restore the site once the plant is decommissioned in 30 to 40 years. "We're looking at all aspects of this project," he said. "The desert takes a long time to recover, and this is a large area."

Obama Orders Government To Slash GHG Emissions 28%
January 29, 2010

President Obama has ordered the government, the largest consumer of energy in the U.S., to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 28% by 2020.

The move follows President Obama's signing of Executive Order 13514 in October, which set environmental performance goals for federal agencies. Each agency was required to submit a 2020 GHG pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010. The 28% target announced today is the aggregate of those 35 federal agency self-reported targets. By June, each federal agency must send the White House Office of Management and Budget a sustainability plan, the New York Times reports. The OMB will validate and score each agency's sustainability plan. Annual progress will be measured and reported online to the public.

The federal government, which occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services, spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. Achieving the federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020, according to the White House. To reach the goal, federal departments and agencies will measure current energy and fuel use, increase energy efficiency and shift to clean energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.

Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said that she believes most of the program is already paid for, the Times article reports. Stimulus funding has lead to an increase in government efficiency projects. Federal agencies spent more than $1.7 billion last year on energy-efficiency projects – an increase of 80% over 2008. About two-thirds of the investments were paid for with appropriated dollars, primarily from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the remainder financed by private-sector financing arrangements, such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Services Contracts (UESCs). Under these programs, contractors pay for renovations upfront and are paid back over time with cost savings that result from reduced energy consumption. But ESPCs have their drawbacks – projects funded through ESPCs cost nearly 2 1/2 times what they would cost if funded through direct appropriations.

Executive Order 13514 calls for a 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020, 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020, 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015, 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements; The order won't affect combat operations, excluding more than 60% of the DOD's greenhouse gas emissions such as jet fuel for planes and diesel for tanks, The Wall Street Journal reports, pointing out that the DOD's energy consumption represents more than three-quarters of the federal government's total energy budget.

But the DOD is making cuts in other areas. Earlier this week it was announced that the United States Air Force has entered into a partnership with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures of San Francisco to lease part of the Edwards Air Force Base for a massive solar array with an estimated production capacity of up to 500 MWs. The Army has set a goal of cutting GHG emissions 30%.

The U.S. Navy reduced its overall energy consumption level by 12% in 2008 with projects centered on wind energy generation, solar photovoltaic systems, geothermal systems and ocean thermal energy conversion at military bases primarily in California. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus recently announced five energy targets for the Navy and Marine corps, of which biofuels is a major component. In 2007, President Bush issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce their overall energy use by three% annually through 2015 and to cut water consumption two% annually over the same period. It mandates that agencies expand procurement programs focusing on environmentally friendly products, including bio-based products.

Insulation scheme rorted Owners hot under the collar

Herald Sun
Saturday 30/1/2010 Page: 27

Householders desperate to cut soaring energy bills are being fleeced by insulation cheats. Rogue companies cashing in on the Federal Government's $2.45 billion home insulation scheme are rorting the system by only partly lining ceilings. Heavy-handed installers smashing roof tiles, causing ceiling collapses or wrecking air conditioning and alarm systems have also left home owners with damage bills. Consumer Affairs Victoria has handled 115 complaints about insulation fitters since July last year.

Accused rogues have also been reported to federal authorities, who have the power to blacklist companies from the popular rebate scheme. CAV spokeswoman Heather Abbott confirmed most complaints were against businesses that had been registered to perform work. More than a million homes nationwide have received free or discounted ceiling insulation through the program. Environment Minister Peter Garrett stressed the overwhelming majority of installers were scrupulous.

However, any complaints were treated seriously. "All installers are on notice that we'll act swiftly if we find any evidence of improper or illegal activity," a spokesman said. "Action can include an immediate suspension, followed by deregistration, recovery of money and, if needed, referral to the police or other authorities for potential prosecution." Suspected frauds falsely billing for rebates of $1200 to $1600 a home are among those being investigated. The Herald Sun last month revealed concerns about 51 Victorian roof fires linked to botched jobs that fitted insulation too close to down lights.

CAV recommends consumers get at least two quotes from tradespeople, to quiz them on their safety measures, and to not sign off on a job until they are satisfied with the work. The Federal Government toughened the scheme's safety, training and registration rules late last year after a spate of fires and the deaths of three young workers from heat stress or electrocution while installing in NSW and Queensland. Consumers concerned about insulation quality should first contact the installer to rectify the issue.

For unresolved complaints, contact CAV on 1300 558 181 or the federal energy efficiency hotline on 1800 808 571. Registered tradespeople are listed on the program's website:

Green Loans scheme close to collapse

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 30/1/2010 Page: 14

ONE of the Rudd Government's key climate change initiatives is close to collapse amid claims of widespread rorting and mismanagement. Just six months after its launch, the $70 million Green Loans scheme to get Australian households to install energy efficient products will be lucky to survive past March without millions more in taxpayer funding. Similarities are already being drawn between Green Loans and the Government's bungled $3.2 billion home insulation subsidy scheme, which is the subject of a Senate inquiry into allegations of malpractice and rorting. The Green Loans program was supposed to run for three years. So far, just 1000 households have applied for subsidised loans.

Monday 1 February 2010

Australia’s first commercial scale wave energy project launched
January 29, 2010

Wave energy developer Carnegie Corporation Wave Energy has formally launched its Perth Wave Energy Project, the first commercial-scale wave energy unit to be deployed in Australia. Western Australian Minister for Energy Peter Collier attended the launch, which was held at Carnegie Corporation's Wave Energy Facility in Fremantle.

When completed, the commercial demonstration project will have a capacity of 5 MW, enough to power 3,500 homes and prevent 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Stage one of the project has already commenced, involving the installation of a single stand-alone commercial scale CETO unit and data telemetry buoy in the Sepia Depression, between Garden Island and Five Fathom Bank.

The system will remain there for twelve months, during which periodic inspections and maintenance will take place. The CETO system is unique as it operates while submerged in the water, anchored to the ocean floor. The project will use Carnegie Corporation's $12.5 million Low Emissions Energy Development grant from the Western Australian government, which was announced earlier this year. Detailed cost and design activities associated with stage two of the project will be undertaken later this year, with construction and commissioning scheduled for 2011.

Suniva and GS Battery to create solar energy storage device
January 29, 2010

While the Achilles heel of many power systems using solar energy has been their inability to retain energy without sunlight, and reliance on a backup form of energy, a new product by Suniva Inc, may help to alleviate the issue. The U.S.-based solar manufacturer announced on Thursday that it would be partnering with GS Battery, a U.S, subsidiary of the Japan-based GS Yuasa Group, to create a system that could store solar energy gathered by solar panels.

"Solar system owners that are able to store their energy output are also able to take advantage of many new economic opportunities," said Yasuyuki Nakamura, President of GS Battery. "Our state of the art approach allows customers to achieve better returns on investment with a more flexible and profitable solar energy supply." The two companies' first attempt at creating a solar energy storage device will utilize 30kW of Suniva's solar modules along with battery technology developed at the GS's headquarters in Roswell, Georgia. The project's solar array will be developed by Atlanta-based First Century Energy, making it the first power grid in the state to be connected to any type of energy-storing solar installation.

Massive tidal energy project mooted for Darwin
Jan 29, 2010

A Darwin-based company has plans for a tidal power energy project worth up to $900 million in the Clarence Strait between the Northern Territory mainland and the Tiwi Islands. Tenax Energy wants to install up to 450 turbines on the sea floor with an electricity cable running onshore to Glyde Point, to connect to the Darwin-Katherine grid. The company says there is also potential for 7,000 turbines in the Asia-Pacific region, with a possible base in Darwin. The company's director, Alan Major, says he also wants to install turbines at two other sites in Tasmania and Victoria, but the Clarence Strait has the most potential.

"We're in discussions with governments in each of the three locations," he said. "It's just that the Northern Territory is the first and foremost tidal power energy site in Australia. "It's the biggest and it's got the best commercial extraction potential and that's why we're focusing in on the Northern Territory." The company says it will start community consultation in the coming months as part of its environmental impact statement to gain Government approval.

U.S. solar startup teams up with battery maker
Jan 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES, Jan 28 (Reuters) - U.S, solar start-up Suniva Inc said on Thursday it would partner with the U.S, unit of Japanese battery company GS Yuasa Corp to develop solar energyed energy storage systems. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. Under the deal, Suniva and GS Battery Inc would build renewable energy systems integrating solar energy panels and battery storage at various sites in the United States. The move seeks to solve a challenge faced by the emerging renewable energy sector: how to store electricity generated by wind and solar so that the clean power is available and reliable when the wind is not blowing or sun is not shining.

"One thing that will make solar for many applications much more reliable and available is having that storage capacity," said Suniva's Chief Marketing Officer Bryan Ashley. Ashley added that the solar panels could prove to charge batteries faster and better than the electrical grid. Instead of the alternating current from the grid, solar panels provide a direct electrical current straight to a battery, so that there is no loss of power in the change of currents, he said.

Capacity Expansion
Norcross, Georgia-based Suniva makes high-efficiency solar cells and modules, competing with modules made by U.S.-based SunPower Corp and Japan's Sanyo Electric Co Ltd, or SunTech Power Holdings Co Ltd's high-efficiency Pluto panels. Its customers include Germany's Solon AG SE and India's Titan Energy Systems Ltd.

Last year, the company raised $75 million in a financing round led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC to expand its manufacturing capacity to 100 MWs. In the spring, the company will increase that capacity to 175 MW and it plans to open a second plant in 2011 with an annual capacity of 400 MW to 500 MW, Ashley said. For that second plant, the company expects to hire about 20 people, adding to its workforce of over 150 people; it is waiting for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to help fund the expected $250 million investment.

For the first project with GS Battery, Suniva would build a 30 kW solar array at the battery company's headquarters in Roswell, Georgia. The system would have 3,000 amp hours of storage and use nano-carbon, lead-acid batteries. The company said the projects would focus on commercial and industrial markets and potentially the residential market. The size of the projects would range from as large as 30 kWs to as small as 3 kWs.