Thursday 11 February 2010

Nuclear giant Areva buys solar company Ausra
Feb 8, 2010

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The world's largest nuclear plant builder, Areva SA, is diversifying into solar energy with the aim of becoming an industry leader, as it acquires U.S.-based solar thermal player Ausra, the company said on Monday. "This market is set to have 20 GWs by the year 2020. Areva has an objective to be a world leader in solar energy" by 2012, said Anil Srivastava, senior executive vice president of Areva's renewable energies business group. Financial details were not disclosed in the purchase of Ausra, a Silicon Valley company which had raised $130 million in venture capital from high-profile firms including Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures.

The purchase marks Areva's first foray into solar energy. Areva chose solar thermal technology - - which uses the sun's heat to create steam to run turbines for electricity - - over other solar energy options because it is "the closest" to nuclear plants, Srivastava told Reuters in an interview. The solar energy industry has started to consolidate after struggling in 2009 with a dearth of financing for new projects and a steep fall in prices. Other solar thermal players include Spain's Abengoa SA and privately held U.S.-based BrightSource Energy Inc.

Still, companies such as U.S.-based FirstSolar Inc and China's SunTech Power this year expect a rise in demand for panels that convert sunlight to electricity. The nuclear industry is aiming for a renaissance as concerns about greenhouse gases mount. U.S. President Barack Obama proposed an extra $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear energy in the new U.S, budget. Simmons & Co analyst Burt Chao said that teaming up traditional energy and renewable firms makes sense. "As solar especially goes toward more of an energy story, it certainly makes sense for energy focused companies to start looking at solar," Chao said. "You will probably see more and more energy companies buying up or partnering with these other solar companies."

New Strategy Areva plans to run its solar business out of Ausra's headquarters in Mountain View, California, and expand its 70-strong workforce to 120 people worldwide. The group plans to build concentrated solar energy plants for utilities, independent power producers and industrial companies in the southwestern United States, Middle East, Europe, South Africa and ultimately other parts of the world. Ausra Chief Executive Robert Fishman said in an interview that costs run between $3 and $3.50 per watt to build solar projects with its technology. Fishman said the group will target two key markets: impending power plants and adding solar projects to existing coal and natural gas-fired plants. The acquisition is expected to close in the next few months, subject to regulatory approval.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Government neglect turns lights out for solar power industry
February 07, 2010

AUSTRALIA has the scorching sun, the scientific skill and private investors poised to swing behind a solar industry boom that could deliver a climate-safe power sector and billions in export earnings. But missing from that equation is the political will, industry experts say. Scientists say the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and transport virtually to zero in 40 years if it wants a decent chance of keeping damage from climate change manageable. Australia had a major solution in sight long ago. The sun. Australian researchers, including a world-leading team in Queensland, created a golden age in the '60s and '70s for Australian solar innovation.

The Australia-NZ Solar Energy Society was the oldest branch of the International Solar Energy Society. Year after year it filed its solar energy progress in Australia-NZ report. A 1974 summary of global solar research pointed to the University of Queensland's mechanical engineering department, where a large team led by Dr Norman Sheridan worked on projects including a study for large-scale solar electricity generation. Australia was on the cusp of harnessing the sun. But it stalled on take-off and huge talent was lost just as the world now reaches for zero-emissions energy.

What killed Australia's early solar promise and can the sunburnt country fulfil its potential now? Australia Solar Energy Society chairman John Grimes says government decisions to keep Australia locked into coal-fired power killed its early potential to build a leading solar industry. "Our golden opportunity was in the '70s. We led all solar fields but we squandered it. It's heartbreaking really." He says the Rudd Government's actions indicate it now aims to keep Australia locked into using coal and gas for the vast bulk of electricity and to protect its coal and gas exports at the expense of new clean energy.

Australia will remain the sleeping goliath of solar energy, he says, unless the Government wakes up. Australia may earn small income from licensing technology to offshore companies, but it won't build local solar technology companies that can rival the US, German and Chinese firms now making billion-dollar profits, much of it on the back of Australian innovation. "Since the 1970s solar in Australia has been through wave after wave of a boom and bust approach. A government would tend toward giving support, then a government would pull funding. "Other governments, such as Germany, took a strategic decision to move into solar. It created 148,000 jobs in a sector now one of the world's largest solar equipment manufacturers. It also gets 14 per cent of its electricity from solar and Germany's solar resource is a fraction of Australia's.

"Spain's Government took a decision three years ago to really back solar energy and its coherent policy approach means it now has the largest solar energy generation capacity in the world," Grimes says. Spain has in the planning pipeline 15.5 GWs of baseload power from solar thermal projects – more than enough to power NSW. There are no signs the Rudd Government will do the same. Grimes says federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson is clearly no fan of solar and is focused on supporting coal by prioritising unproven "clean coal" technology. The Government has put $1.5 billion in a Solar Flagships Program to jump-start four solar projects. It allocated several billion to clean coal projects.

The clean coal funding is in final stages of being allocated, but the Government has only started the first stage of the process for the solar program. "We're not seeing strong policy settings for solar energy here. And I'm not optimistic of getting the right policy settings even in a next term of the current Government," he says. A funding candidate is potentially Queensland's first commercial-scale solar thermal plant. Queensland state-owned utility CS Energy and US solar company Ausra six months ago applied for federal funding for a portion of a $200 million solar thermal generator as a 23mW bolt-on to the 750mW Kogan Creek coal-fired power plant near Chinchilla.

Ausra says the project is shovel-ready and could supply zero-emission solar energy within 12 months of a funding decision. Ausra is the classic example of Australian solar brain drain. Founder David Mills relocated the company to the US in order to commercialise Australian solar technology. The damage from poor policy support was clear last year when Solar Systems collapsed, taking with it plans for a $420 million solar plant in Victoria, after failing to secure funds when an investor withdrew. Clean energy proponents say until the Government adopts policies – such as a strong, national feed-in tariff for large-scale solar generators – investors are being asked to carry all the commercial risk without the commercial benefits.

Australia's renewable energy target is expected to lead to $20 billion being invested in clean energy capacity by 2020 but Grimes says the policy effectively sends that money to wind energy, to the detriment of solar, geothermal, wave and tidal power. Matthew Wright, of clean-energy lobby group Beyond Zero Emissions, says policy support from the Obama administration has led to applications in the US to build a combined 97 GWs of solar thermal projects. "Australia has one of the best solar resources in the world. We have some of the best researchers too. Yet the Rudd Government remains in thrall to the coal lobby, investing in dead-end fantasies like clean coal while other countries develop their solar thermal expertise and manufacturing.

"Spain's Government is supporting solar thermal power with a serious feed-in tariff for large-scale plants. We should do the same. "Our Solar Flagships Program is shaping up to be a failure, with guidelines skewed to favour daytime-only solar plants rather than the newer standard of (24-hour) solar plants now being built in Europe and the US," Wright said. solar energy can be up to four times as expensive as coal-fired power but some governments, such as the US, are working to slash costs. Dr Sheridan, the founding father of Queensland solar research, died in 2008. In 2003 in Toowoomba he told a conference that solar was sidelined so long as the social and environmental costs of burning coal, gas and oil were left uncosted. But awareness of these costs is now growing.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner last year launched an Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering report that estimated sun and geothermal energy costs were competitive against coal, gas and nuclear if the social and environmental costs of mining and burning fossil fuels – on human health, land and water quality and the climate – were accounted for. ATSE said such costs have been estimated at $31 per tonne of carbon emissions. Based on 2008 emissions, Australia has a carbon pollution damage bill of $17 billion a year.

Harvard researchers last year said the cost of producing power from the sun and other renewable sources would be the same as from carbon-capture coal plants. That didn't include costs from transporting and permanently storing CO2 underground. The full costs of carbon capture and storage are so far unknown, Australia's ATSE said. Dr Sheridan estimated Australia's primary energy demand could be met by an area 70km by 70km covered in solar heat collectors. He said poor attitudes toward solar were encapsulated by a retired electricity commissioner's comment that, "I wouldn't waste much energy in worrying about (solar). To get a significant contribution would cost the world." Stalling now on clean energy will indeed cost us a habitable world.

Arava Power gets deals for 15 mid-size solar fields
Feb 7, 2010

Israeli solar energy developer Arava Power said on Sunday it signed long-term contracts with 15 agricultural cooperatives to build mid-size solar fields at an investment of 2 billion shekels ($533 million). The fields will produce a total of 100 MWs of solar energy using photovoltaics, for an average of 6.5 MWs per field. Arava said it is advancing rooftop solar installations on cowsheds and factories in the signatory cooperatives. Last year German conglomerate Siemens invested $15 million in Arava Power to build 10 five-MW solar fields.

In December the Public Utilities Authority decided to allow mid-size solar fields at a nationwide capacity of 300 MWs but many in the industry believe this cap will be filled quickly. "The goal to produce 300 solar MWs is an important step toward implementing the government's decision to produce 5% of Israel's energy consumption from renewable sources by 2014, but it's not enough," Arava Power Chief Executive Jon Cohen said. "In order to achieve this goal, at least 1,000 MWs are needed, and the market indicates that.., mid-size solar fields can fill the gap faster than any other source."

Arava Power President Yosef Abramowitz said that in each of the 15 mid-size field locations the company plans to build a large-size field, adding another 500 MWs to its pipeline. "Together with our partners from Siemens, we are weighing additional proposals from investors," he said, without providing further details. Siemens also acquired Israel's Solel Solar Systems Solar Systems in October for $418 million.

Arab states may become solar energy exporters
February 07, 2010

Massive renewable energy projects undertaken by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries could turn them into solar energy exporters along with their large hydrocarbon exports, according to a veteran Arab energy analyst. "After oil, Arab countries could start exporting solar energy," said Nicolas Sarkis, Director of the Paris-based Arab Petroleum Research Centre (APRC), which acts as an adviser to the 10-nation Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. "The development of solar energy is rapidly becoming a priority of energy policies pursued by most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, whether oil and natural gas producers or not," Sarkis wrote in the APRC's monthly magazine, Arab Petroleum and Gas.

He said that in non-oil Arab countries, the growing interest being shown in solar energy and other renewable energy sources is dictated not only by the deterioration in their energy deficits and the insufficiency of their indigenous fossil fuel resources but also by environmental imperatives and the technological progress that characterises the development of renewable energies. As for the large hydrocarbon exporting countries in the Arab World, the exploitation of their huge potential in the area of solar energy reflects a dual concern to protect the environment and prepare the post-oil era, he said.

Highlighting solar projects and other renewable energy developments in the region, Sarkis said the UAE has emerged as a pioneer in this sector. "Abu Dhabi has emerged as a pioneer with its famous Masdar initiative, the largest clean energy development programme going ahead anywhere in the world, with investments of more than $22 billion (Dh80.7bn)," he said. He noted that several agreements have been concluded for the construction of Masdar City, including with BASF and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft of Germany.

Masdar, which is an offshoot of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, part of the state-owned Mubadala group, has launched numerous projects both in the UAE and at the regional and international level. Its first photovoltaic solar energy plant, which has a capacity of 10 MW and is the largest built so far in the Middle East, was connected to the UAE's national power grid last May.

Since 2008, Masdar has also concluded several agreements with international companies for the implementation of a wide range of renewable energy ventures, including one with German company Coenergy for a plant to produce solar panels as part of a $2bn programme, and an association agreement worth $1.2bn with the Spanish company Sener for the development of a photovoltaic power station, according to Sarkis.

Over the past few months, Masdar has also launched a number of other schemes. In particular, it has signed an agreement with Bahrain's National Oil and Gas Authority (Noga) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in that country, concluded an agreement worth €2.2bn (Dh11bn) with E.ON and DONG Energy for the implementation of the first phase of a windfarm in the Thames estuary east of London, in the United Kingdom, and embarked on the study of a wind energy project on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles.

Saudi Arabia
"Another very significant example is Saudi Arabia. The fact that it is the world's leading oil-exporting country has not prevented it from deciding to invest in the development of solar energy," Sarkis said.

Under the terms of an agreement signed last June, Saudi Aramco and the Japanese refining company Showa Shell are to develop a pilot solar energy plant that will have a capacity of 10 MW and is due to come on stream in 2011. Another 20 MW solar energy plant is due to be built at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, along with a center devoted to photovoltaic technology.

For its part, Algeria announced in September 2009 that it was to develop a 150 MW solar energy station at Hassi R'Mel. Other Arab states Other oil-exporting countries, such as Kuwait and Iraq, recently announced their determination to go down the same road. Egypt is also planning to develop power stations running on renewable energies that will account for 20 per cent of its total power generation capacity by 2020.

"With limited hydrocarbon resources and rapidly growing domestic energy demand, all other Middle Eastern and North African countries are turning to renewable energies, especially solar energy," Sarkis said. "The most ambitious is Morocco, which in November 2009 announced a $9bn programme for installing renewable energy power plants with a total capacity of 2 GW by 2020, representing 14 per cent of the country's total power generation capacity at that point."

Tunisia, too, has drawn up a national programme, the Tunisian Solar Plan, which encompasses some 40 projects to be implemented over the 2010-2016 period under public-private partnership arrangements. Twenty-nine of the projects are due to be carried out by private sector companies and the rest by the public sector, including five by the Société Tunisienne d'Electricité et du Gaz (Steg), which is to establish an ad hoc subsidiary called Steg Energies Renouvelables. "The Tunisian Solar Plan calls for total investments of $2bn over the 2010-2016 period and is designed to enable Tunisia to reduce its consumption of conventional energy sources by some 660,000 tonnes of oil equivalent per year, equivalent to 22 per cent of the country's total energy consumption by 2016."

In addition, the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP) launched in 2008 by the Union for the Mediterranean has given a major impetus to solar energy projects throughout the Middle East and North Africa region, according to Sarkis. "The objective of the MSP is to have a total solar energy generation capacity of 20 GW installed by 2020, with part of the electricity produced destined for domestic consumption and part for export to Europe by means of subsea cables… the total capital investment required is estimated at €38-46bn during 2009-2020."

Sarkis referred to the recent announcement by the World Bank that it would provide financial support to five Mena countries for 11 projects involving the construction of concentrating solar energy (CSP) stations, which are expected to cost some $5.5bn altogether. "Other financial institutions are expected to fund investments totalling an estimated $4.85bn in the region. The 11 projects concerned are to be undertaken in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia and will entail the installation of total generating capacity of 900 MW by 2020. More than 200 projects have been developed and submitted for approval under the MSP."

Sarkis said the APRC would organise a conference and exhibition in Paris in September 2010 to examine the progress made until date and the prospects for the MSP. SlarMed will bring together leading players from the public and private sectors involved in the implementation of the MSP. In a recent study, a veteran Arab expert urged Gulf oil producers to introduce incentives to encourage the establishment of solar and wind energy projects to ensure their power needs and save their hydrocarbon wealth. Waheeb Al Nasir, Director of the Arab Section at the Germany-based International Solar Energy Society (ISES), said he expected the amount of new solar and wind electricity in the GCC to reach 5,000 MW by 2015, including 1,000 MW in Bahrain, 3,500 MW in Qatar and 400 MW in the UAE.

But he noted such capacity remains tiny compared to what he described as the massive solar and wind potential in the six-nation GCC. Al Nasir cited figures by the World Energy Council showing the GCC nations would require around 100 GW of additional power production over the next 10 years to meet their demand at a cost of nearly $25bn, most of which is expected to be invested by the private sector.

He said solar and wind projects in the GCC, which controls more than 45 per cent of the world's extractable crude deposits and a quarter of the global gas wealth, would allow member states to save their hydrocarbon wealth, expand their petrochemical industry, produce hydrogen for export and create jobs. "Solar and wind energy will also contribute to the reduction of the high ratio of CO2 per capita in the GCC. Using renewable energy will lead to prolonging the life of oil and natural gas in these countries and use this resource for petrochemicals industry or use it to produce hydrogen for local use and export," said Al Nasir, also Economics Professor at the Bahrain University.

"Given the high cost of solar and wind energy, there should be an incentive system that provides a sufficient rate of return on such costly investment to encourage investors, ie, introducing Feed In Tariff and making the national grid capable to be integrated with solar and wind electricity."

Key solar and wind projects in GCC

  • Etisalat: In 1997, as a major project of etisalat, the UAE started the installation of passive cooled shelters and solar photovoltaic power systems for powering 33 remotely located island and desert-based GSM base stations. The project, valued at $10m, involved design, manufacturing, installation, testing, and commissioning.
  • Dubai Civil Aviation orders solar airport: Green Energy, Dubai, has received an order from Dubai Civil Aviation to supply solar energyed LED airfield lights to be installed at Dubai International Airport. The order consists of solar energyed LED model A601 red lights. After testing A601 lights, authorities concluded solar energyed LED lights were ideal.
  • Solar LED flashing beacon in The Gardens, Dubai: Green Energy LLC has been contracted by "The Gardens" a project by Nakheel, to supply solar energyed LED R247C flashing beacons for installation at their property.

Saudi Arabia
Joint programme with the US: This programme, which is called Soleras Solar Energy Research American/Saudi addressed solar energy technological and economical related issues. Soleras began in 1977 and concluded in 1987. A second programme started in 1989 with the US Department of Energy.
  • Soleras: In the Soleras programme, each country contributed $50m to the budget. This solar research funding exceeded all expenditures by Saudi Arabia on any solar research activity and the total international solar research commitment of the United States.

A systematic analysis was conducted to assess the technical benefit and economics of solar-based technologies to produce electricity, water and heating or cooling. Solar cooling was found to save up to 50 per cent of electricity compared to the conventional system and much more, if the auxiliary power is supplied from PV source. Solar PV power supply can save 100 per cent electricity for off-grid applications.

  • Bahrain World Trade Centre: The first wind mill installed in Bahrain was in the 1950s but the latest one was in 2007 and was integrated to a building, Bahrain World Trade Centre. It consists of three parallel wind turbines, each having a blade diameter of nearly 30m. The total power output of these three turbines is 0.66 MW. They cost only 3.3 per cent BD1m (Dh9.74m) of the whole construction cost.
  • Alba solar water heater: The solar water heating system at Alba Healthcare centre.

The Total Renewable Energy Installation in Oman is 235 kW. Among these projects are:
  • The Oman Solar System has designed, manufactured and installed solar lighting systems.
  • solar energy supply systems for unmanned microwave telecommunications systems to Omantel.
  • Pay phone booths.
  • TV transposer systems MOI.

Qatar had much interest in renewable energy. There were three published papers on wind and solar potential in Qatar. Also, there was a relatively large scale Solar Pond Project with, probably, not less than 10 kW power.

Monday 8 February 2010

Musselroe wind power project grinds to a halt

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 6/2/2010 Page: 17

THE $400 million Musselroe windfarm project has been placed on ice, its fate dependent on the Federal Government's renewable energy policy. Roaring 40s, a joint venture between Hydro Tasmania and China Light and Power, has so far spent $35 million on the project at Cape Portland, in the state's North-East. Energy and Resources Minister David Llewellyn said yesterday the development would be delayed.

"There will be a downturn in activity and expenditure in the short term until the investment climate improves," Mr Llewellyn said. "Roaring 40s continues to work on refining the capital costs to ensure that the project will be viable and profitable when the expected turnaround in renewable energy certificate prices occurs. "There is some minor work continuing on site as part of a considerable investment in the project over the past year."

Opposition energy spokesman Peter Gutwein said he had been told that all site work would cease next Friday. Mr Gutwein said the Rudd Government's policy on solar rebates had caused the price of renewable energy certificates to plummet to about $30. The Musselroe project is believed to need a REC price of about $50 to be viable. Government sources said a review of the REC target scheme was being conducted and the issue would be considered at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Mr Gutwein said the North-East desperately needed employment. "Jobs would be generated in the construction phase and local engineering firms were expecting to be building the major wind towers," he said. "If it doesn't go ahead jobs, investment and confidence will be affected." Mr Gutwein said the State Government was too scared to take on the Federal Government. Mr Llewellyn said there were no new wind projects anywhere in Australia.

Soil carbon: big potential, but maybe not yet?
Thursday 4/2/2010 Page: 1
Opinion: Bernard Keane

One of Australia's foremost soil carbon experts has significant concerns about the Coalition's proposed funding of soil carbon initiatives, on which the Coalition is relying for more than 60% of its emissions abatement task between now and 2020. Professor Alex McBratney, Pro-Dean of Sydney University's Faculty of Agriculture Food & Natural Resources, has told Crikey that the $8-10 cost per tonne of CO2-equivalent on which the Coalition has based its figures is probably too low given the cost associated with sequestering soil carbon. "It needs to be closer to $20-40 a tonne to be viable."

Professor McBratney's comments follow eminent scientist Peter Cosier's criticism that farmers would be receiving more under the Government's CPRS than under the Coalition's plan. However, Professor McBratney is very optimistic about the potential for sequestering soil carbon and believes the Coalition is being conservative on its long-term potential.

Soil carbon-increasing carbon levels in soil through no-till or lower-till cultivation methods, composting or adding biochar to soil - has huge potential for biosequestration of carbon, locking carbon in soil for decades and, possibly, hundreds and thousands of years. It has some heavyweight backers. James Lovelock, James Hansen, Tim Flannery and Ross Garnaut are just some of climate change icons that urged a serious effort on biosequestration. Malcolm Turnbull began promoting soil carbon and particularly biochar early last year, and proposed that farmers be permitted to obtain credits under the CPRS for it on an opt-in basis.

The Government later agreed to that and it now forms part of the revised, Turnbull-era CPRS Bill reintroduced into Parliament on Tuesday. However, soil carbon has come under attack from left-wing environmental groups, who argue that its biosequestration potential is as yet unproven and that demand for products such as biochar will see biosequestration competing with food production as biofuels have, leading to higher food prices.

Critics say there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence of the long-term stability of soil carbon, and that there is some evidence that no-till and biochar use actually reduce soil carbon levels. No-till cultivation also requires greater use of herbicides (and has been encouraged by agrimultinationals such as Monsanto for the reason), or organic farming methods, which mean significantly more expensive food.

Biochar has come under greater scrutiny. It is produced from biomass such as agricultural waste through a heating process that can also produce biofuels. Very fine black carbon is susceptible to blowing or draining away-one Canadian study showed 25% loss in the process of transporting and spreading, including photos of clouds of black carbon-a particularly intensive greenhouse contributor-blowing away during spreading. In many cases, composting the original waste material rather than turning it into biochar is more viable. It is the production of biochar that critics believe has the potential to drive up food prices.

Soil carbon credits also have no value under current international carbon trading rules, although as Tony Abbott has noted, that's a secondary issue if soil carbon delivers a genuine carbon sink-it removes CO2 from the atmosphere. But while objections to biosequestration seem mainly confined to the hairshirt elements of the environmental movement, there is broader agreement that accurate measurement of soil carbon needs to be resolved before it can be viable. The CSIRO last year started a multi-year project to address issues in soil carbon measurement and said yesterday much more research needed to be done.

Professor McBratney who has undertaken extensive work on the issue, believes these issues will take 2-3 years to resolve but says relatively accurate measurement of soil carbon levels can be obtained at reasonable cost and form the basis for paying farmers. However, he proposes some caveats-a payments system should be based on whole units-such as an entire farm-so that total net carbon loss or gain can be monitored, and it should include all carbon-he says soils also contain non-organic carbonate carbon, which can be lost through irrigation and therefore any system must be on a "net carbon" basis.

He also suggests payment systems be based on relatively conservative verification systems, and if farmers want to be paid more, they pay for more accurate testing. Soil carbon credits are available on the Chicago Climate Exchange, he says, but are worth less than $US1 due to the lack of independent verification and reliance on estimation rather than measurement. Professor McBratney also proposed farmers be paid an ongoing, rather than one-off, payment as an incentive to maintain soil carbon levels.

He would prefer to see a market-based mechanism, and believes $8-10 "won't cut it". "Increasing soil carbon levels requires greater production levels or addition of biomass. Adding a tonne of carbon to soil requires about 100 kilograms of nitrogen, and that either has to be purchased at about $1 per kilogram or produced via legumes, which need water." Professor McBratney thinks $20-40 a tonne is a more realistic but still conservative cost.

However, he says there is enormous potential for soil carbon sequestration and that Australia is probably the world leader with the most sophisticated public debate in the area. "You're not going to see anything for the next two or three years but by 2020, we should start to see a real difference. A reasonable aspiration is a 20% increase in soil carbon by 2020." That assumes our politicians managed to get the right incentives in place.

China doubles its wind power

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 5/2/2010 Page: 65

CHINA doubled the amount of energy generated from windmills last year, a report from the global wind industry said yesterday. The Global Wind Energy Council, which represents companies that make and manage wind energy stations, said the sector grew rapidly last year - with total wind capacity up 31% - despite the global economic downturn.

The market for new wind turbines was worth $63 billion in 2009, it said. China became the biggest market for new wind turbines last year, as it doubled power capacity from 12 GWs to 25 GWs. The world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is turning to renewables as well as coal as its growing economy calls for more power. China aims to increase that sixfold - to 150 GWs - by 2020. The Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association says it could hit that target far earlier.

Australia seeks investments in energy sector
Feb 06, 2010

New Delhi: Australian energy minister Martin Ferguson has sought Indian investments into the island nation's energy sector and has offered India long-term supply of energy sources and clean technologies. Australia would appoint a dedicated investment commissioner in Mumbai later this year to facilitate cross-border flow of investments. The energy minister will also showcase before Indian investors and businesses its latest blocks on offer for oil and natural gas exploration later this year, Ferguson told FE.

The minister, who is scheduled to meet Cabinet ministers and businessmen during the ongoing visit, said Australia is strategically placed to meet the growing energy needs of the Indian economy. Ferguson sees last year's Australian $25 billion deal between Australia's Exxon-Mobil Corporation's subsidiaries and Petronet LNG Limited for long-term supply of LNG as a milestone in cross-border trade in the energy sector. India is also a major buyer of Australia's coal, gold and copper ores. Australia wants to expand the association further.

"In resources and energy, we have a long-term relationship. With the growth in the Indian economy, it is going to expand dramatically over the next decade," said Ferguson. Australia is the biggest exporter of coal and the fifth largest exporter of LNG. With higher investments, the island nations hopes to be the second largest LNG exporter within five years.

Australia has also been encouraging India's huge investments in its coal industry, he said. "We have a favourable environment with respect to foreign investments. Our foreign investment policy is non-discriminatory," Ferguson said adding that the state does not interfere with market forces. The government, however, has regard for its national interest, the minister said.

Australia also offers partnerships and joint ventures with Indian firms in development of clean technology and sharing the research outcomes. The country is investing heavily in research and has committed a 20% cut in carbon emissions by the end of the next decade with a focus on solar thermal, geo-thermal and biomass sources. Ferguson said his government wants to take forward the activities of five working groups for co-operation set up last year in the areas of mining, coal, power, petroleum and natural gas and new and renewable sources of energy.

The Australian government is extremely serious about dealing with the alleged attacks against Indians. "The Australian government is taking these incidents very seriously. Our state governments are vigorously pursuing these cases and are prosecuting... We have had quite significant successful prosecutions with long-term prison outcomes. We are aware of those issues and we take crime very seriously in Australia," the minister assured.

Aquamarine Power: £5.1m for wave device Oyster 2
05 February 2010

Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power has secured £5.1 million Government funding to make its second generation wave energy device, Oyster 2. The new wave energy device will be manufactured later this year for testing at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney (EMEC) in 2011. The first generation 315 kW Oyster wave energy device was officially connected to the National Grid at EMEC in November 2009 and is currently undergoing sea trials to gather data to finalise the Oyster 2 design, which will be deployed as a 2.5 MW pod of three linked wave energy devices powering a single onshore hydro-electric generator. The Oyster 2 wave energy device features a new shape designed for increased performance and efficiency – capturing more wave energy and producing more power per tonne of steel, according to Aquamarine Power.

It has also been designed for mass manufacture and will consist of a modular construction for ease of installation and maintenance. Multiple wave energy devices will share one pipeline and one onshore generator to get efficiencies of scale. The grant came from the Marine Renewables Proving Fund (MRPF), a £22m initiative funded by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and managed by the Carbon Trust. The fund aims to accelerate the leading and most promising marine energy devices towards the point where they can qualify for the UK Government's existing Marine Renewables Deployment Fund support scheme and, ultimately, be deployed on a commercial scale.

Irish wave energy company signs US deal
5 February 2010

Irish company Ocean Energy, which designs turbines capable of converting wave power into electricity, has signed a major development deal with a US multinational. Ocean Energy's CEO John McCarthy said the agreement with Dresser-Rand would significantly develop wave energy in Ireland and should lead to the creation of thousands of jobs. Mr McCarthy said Dresser-Rand would both develop and supply turbines. Ocean Energy, like another Irish company Wavebob, has been leading the charge internationally to design turbines that can turn wave power into electricity, although a full-scale unit has yet to be tested. Dresser-Rand, which has a market capitalisation of $2.5bn, said capturing just 5% of the global wave power resource could satisfy a quarter of the world's current electricity consumption.

Offshore wind power farm to be built in Jiangsu (China)
7 February 2010

Construction of the offshore wind energy station will begin in the coastal waters of Dongtai, Jiangsu province. With a coastline of 85 kilometers, Dongtai has many mud flats. Covering an area of 150 square kilometers, the third phase of the wind energy project will be equipped with 84 3.6 MW offshore wind turbines located to the south of Dongsha Island. He Dexin, president and researcher of the Chinese Wind Energy Association, disclosed that China will be building 10 GW wind energy bases in five locations, including coastal Jiangsu, to increase its capacity for wind energy generation.

According to studies by meteorological departments, Zhejiang and Jiangsu have the greatest sea wind energy potential in the whole country, but wind energy output in Zhejiang is not stable because the province is more prone to typhoons. Jiangsu enjoys much better conditions, said He Dexin. It was precisely because of their great wind energy potential that coastal and offshore regions occupy a place in China's plan to build several 10 GW wind energy bases across the country. The "Offshore Three Gorges" in Jiangsu will be China's biggest offshore windfarm base.

According to Li Zhenchu, a member of the Nanjing Wind Power Equipment Industry Association, Nanjing as an important economic centre in the Yangtze River Delta has a fairly well-developed wind energy equipment industry chain, with 34 units engaged in the research and development of the necessary equipment. It has adopted the wind energy industry as one of its 10 major industry chains for future development. Construction on the First Phase of the Rudong project began in August 2004, with an investment of nearly 800 million RMB (US $96 million). The windfarm currently has an installed capacity of 100 MWs (MW) and is expected to start production at the end of this year, with annual electricity generation of 230 GW-hours (GWh).

The Second Phase of the project has also begun, with a similar investment and installed capacity. Developers expect the project to be completed in the first half of 2007, with an annual output of 224 GWh. Local authorities plan to invest another 500 million RMB ($60 million) and increase the capacity of this phase to 150 MW. The Third Phase of the project, with a projected installed capacity of 800 MW, is currently undergoing assessments for its viability, but is expected to see an increase in investments from 6 billion RMB to 8 billion RMB (US $1 billion). If all three phases are completed according to plan, the Rudong windfarm will be one of the world's largest wind energy project built to date, with a total capacity amounting to 1,050 MW.

Jiangsu Province, located in the Yangtze River Delta region that also harbors Zhejiang Province and the city of Shanghai, is a major industrial and commercial base and one of China's biggest power consumers and shortage sufferers. Construction of the Rudong windfarm is key to easing the region's energy tensions and powering its economic growth. The potential for wind energy development is huge, as the province is blessed with 22 GW of potentially exploitable wind resources, nearly one-tenth of China's total. Rudong County is an ideal location for harnessing wind from the sea, with its 106-kilometer shoreline and 7,941 hours a year of effective wind speed.

Obama ups renewables funding, cuts fossil subsidies
05 February 2010

Clean energy was a winner in US President Barack Obama's proposed budget, with major funding increases despite his pledge to control spending. In his fiscal year 2011 budget, Obama proposed giving the Department of Energy (DOE) lending authority to support about $40 billion in loan guarantees for innovative clean energy programmes. The president also asked for $2.4 billion for the DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy programme, a 5% increase from last year. This includes $300 million for solar energy research, development and deployment – a 22% increase over last year's investment – and $123 million for wind, a 53% increase.

To pay for the extra funding for clean energy and other initiatives, the president proposed eliminating more than $2.7 billion in tax subsidies for the fossil fuel sector. "One of the best ways to be on the forefront in energy is to incentivise clean energy and discourage the old sources or methods that aren't going to work in the future," Obama said. For the Environmental Protection Agency, the budget requests $43 million in additional funding for regulatory initiatives to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including implementation of its GHG reporting rule.

Not featured in the president's budget were the $646 billion revenues from a proposed federal cap-and-trade system included in last year's budget. Environmental groups were generally supportive of the budget. "President Obama's 2011 budget proposal is a refreshing reminder of what it means to have a president who puts the public ahead of the polluters," said Anna Aurilio, the Washington, DC office director of Environment America. But renewable energy advocates criticised Congress for failing to follow the president's lead and enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

"It's not OK when there is a game going on in the field that our team, the Congress, is in the locker room discussing how to play the game," said Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy in Washington, DC. Although 2010 should be a good year for the renewable energy sector with stimulus money flowing to projects and the financial system starting to recover, the industry needs Congress to enact a policy framework, including a strong national renewable electricity standard, Eckhart said.

"The biggest single problem in the economics of clean energy is the lack of demand, meaning until there is a government intervention of some kind there's just not enough natural demand for clean electricity in the US," said Reed Hundt, a principal at business consulting firm REH Advisors and co-chairman of the Coalition for the Green Bank. The president's budget now goes to the Senate and the House of Representatives, which will consider the requests, make changes and draft their budget resolutions over the next few months.

Wind energy sailing through European Union
Feb. 3, 2010

The European Union looked to wind energy to provide 39% of its new power capacity in 2009, trouncing natural gas and solar energy, statistics reveal. The European Wind Energy Association in statistics published Wednesday show the EU looked to wind energy in 2009 more than other sources. New wind energy in the EU made up 39% of the new energy projects in 2009, with natural gas making up 26% followed by 16% for solar energy, the EWEA said. Meanwhile, the EU decommissioned more coal and nuclear facilities than were installed in 2009, suggesting renewable energy made up 61% of the new capacity in 2009.

Christian Kjaer, the chief executive of EWEA, said the data confirms that wind and other renewable resources are taking hold in the European community, even during tough economic times. "It is a remarkable result in a difficult year," he said. European nations spent more than $18 billion on new wind farms in 2009, marking the second year in a row that renewable energy made up a significant portion of new investments. Total wind capacity for the EU sits at 74,767 MWs currently, up from 64,719 MW at the end of 2008. Germany boasts the largest wind capacity of any EU member.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Solar sector takes dim view of policy

West Australian
Wednesday 3/2/2010 Page: 6

The solar energy industry could be forced into a yearly cycle of boom and bust by Tony Abbott's proposal to offer a limited number of customer rebates for solar energy each year, Australia's largest solar energy retailer has warned. Under the Opposition's climate change policy, a maximum of 100,000 rebates would be on offer each year as part of a drive to see an extra one million Australian households invest in solar electricity or hot water by 2020.

John Broadway, WA manager of Solar Shop Australia, said an annual quota could cause demand to slump towards the end of each year as the rebates run out. "If the 100,000 systems are sold within the first six months of the year there will potentially be six months without sales," he said. Mr Broadway said while he welcomed the potential boost to solar energy, the industry would rather see a national feed-in tariff, which would pay customers for selling power back to the grid.

A feed-in tariff would allow the solar industry to invest confidently in manufacturing, without fears over fluctuating supply and demand or the "price distortions" associated with rebates, he said. Neither the Government nor the Opposition was heeding the industry's calls for the scheme, he said. Sven Stenvers, of solar firm Solar Unlimited, said the $1000 rebates would hurt the industry because they were significantly lower than payments offered previously to consumers. WA Sustainable Energy Association chief executive Ray Wills said a feed-in tariff would offer householders a better long-term incentive than rebate schemes, which are subject to change or cancellation.

Coalition making sceptics of us all

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 4/2/2010 Page: 1

IT WAS a puzzle until Barnaby Joyce solved it for us. Tony Abbott's Coalition doesn't believe that man-made climate change is real. Last year Abbott called the idea "absolute crap". So why would he bother announcing a policy to fix it? Joyce, in his first appearance at the National Press Club as the opposition finance spokesman, was asked to unravel this riddle yesterday. And he did, if you could sort through his trademark quirks along the way, like his definition of insulation - "that's the fluffy stuff that sits in the ceiling for rats and mice to urinate on".

The core of it was this: "Because we represent the alternative government in Australia, that does not mean that we are omnipotent and that our views permeate to become the views of everyone else. We have to provide an outcome that represents the aspirations of the Australian people." In other words, we're doing it because we have to pander to the electorate's views, even if we think they've been gulled by a giant fraud.

And he made plain that lie thinks this is exactly what it is. "I don't know whether Copenhagen was a roaring success," he said, speaking of the global political negotiation over a climate change treaty in the Danish capital in December. "Because every time I turned on the TV the lakes were freezing, the snow was falling and the planes were stuck on the airstrip."

So much for global warming. Apparently concurring, Abbott received the British critic of climate change science, Lord Monckton, in his office yesterday. But if the Coalition doesn't believe in its policy, we have to wonder whether Kevin Rudd believes in his policy any more. Certainly, the government is bringing its emissions trading scheme back to the Parliament once again, though there is scant chance that it will pass.

And Rudd is happy to trade blows with the opposition. He calls its policy a "climate con". Joyce, incidentally, was only too happy to hit back yesterday. If Rudd gets his ETS, every trip to the fridge will be a taxable event. "Every time the light goes on, it's a reminder that Mr Rudd is taxing you," Joyce said. But the intriguing part is that Rudd is not working to rally public opinion. He has not made one speech on climate change in the past few weeks. Instead, Rudd is trying to change the subject.

Knowing that Abbott would deliver his climate change policy on Tuesday, lie sandwiched it with government announcements. On Monday he sent Wayne Swan out to release the Intergenerational Report; yesterday Rudd made a fuss over the first anniversary of his stimulus bill. These are both transparent attempts to talk about the economy, and to edge away from climate change. Is it no longer "the great moral and economic challenge of our time", as Rudd once told us?

Sun rises on new status at Adelaide Showground

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 4/2/2010 Page: 50

Adelaide Showground's urban solar energy plant is officially a power station. The Federal Government has added Adelaide Showground Solar to the Register of Accredited Power Stations, under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000. Adelaide Showground chief executive John Rothwell said this meant the showground could earn renewable energy certificates for every MW-hour of electricity fed back into the grid from its 12,720 panels across six rooftops.

The certificates can be traded, providing an extra revenue stream. "It demonstrates that solar panels can supply electricity on a commercial basis," Mr Rothwell said. The installation has the capacity to generate more than 1400 MW hours of electricity a year, enough to power 250 South Australian homes. This would save 1400 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

Mr Rothwell said the installation would provide 40% of the showground's power needs. "This is expected to generate a substantial saving on our annual energy costs," he said. The State Government-funded $8 million 1.4MW installation was a joint effort by Built Environs and Solar Shop Australia. Solar Shop Australia managing director Adrian Ferraretto said he hoped it would the first of many.

"It was a really a big boost for the solar energy industry in Australia because up until this system was put in, we hadn't cracked the MW," he said. "We're hoping that it opens up the floodgates so we'll have many multi-MW systems being installed within Australia." Mr Ferraretto said while SA was leading the nation on solar energy, Australia was still well behind other countries. "On a global scale it's pretty modest," he said. A spokeswoman for Premier Mike Rann said the Adelaide Showground was under no obligation to repay money to the State Government.

Hole in Abbott's ozone layer plan

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 4/2/2010 Page: 1

Tony Abbott's "simple" plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions cannot achieve the cuts claimed and will instead result in an increase in national carbon dioxide emissions, new confidential modelling obtained by The Advertiser shows. The internal document's release is the latest shot in an increasingly heated row and suggests climate change has cemented itself firmly in the middle of the election-year battleground. Both parties are now desperate to portray the other's policy as unworkable.

The damning finding is contained in an official "in-confidence" briefing note dated February 3, 2010, to Climate Change Minister Penny Wong from her Climate Change Department. It comes just one day after Mr Abbott, above, released his alternative taxpayer-funded proposal for a $2.5 billion emissions fund to pay big polluters to cut emissions. This is set to cost $10 billion over the 10 years to 2020.

Mr Abbott, who derides the Government's proposed emissions trading scheme as "a giant money-go-round", and "a great big tax", has said his alternative fund and other measures in his $3.2 billion unfunded plan would reduce emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020 - the same minimum target guaranteed by the Government. But the Climate Change Department's modelling severely questions the effectiveness of the Opposition approach.

It suggests the planned $15-a-tonne payment to companies would be far too low and would more likely cost taxpayers $50 a tonne by 2020. And it says the aim of taking 140 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the system via the fund would be unachievable. "We do not believe that it is realistic to expect any more than around 40 million tonnes of abatement in 2020 using this mechanism if the scheme is capped at $1.2 billion on average," the department brief says.

"In other words, we believe that (the) proposed scheme would deliver less than a third of the required abatement for the 5% target at the proposed funding level - the result of this would be that emissions in 2020 would be 13% above 2000 levels if no other policies were put in place." Signed by the department's deputy secretary, Blair Comely, the brief states that all assumptions are conservative.

The Opposition is expected to attack the independence of the advice because the Climate Change Department is committed to the emissions trading scheme it has been instrumental in formulating. But the analysis is a blow to the Abbott plan, which is already under attack from green groups because it does not include a price on carbon and therefore no market based incentive for polluters to cut emissions. The Opposition also has been embarrassed by the patchy performance of its newly appointed finance spokesman, outspoken Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce.

In a speech at the National Press Club, the former chartered accountant repeatedly used the word "million" when he meant "billion". At one stage he effectively called for Australia to stop sending $50 million in aid money to the World Bank to help poor nations address food inflation, declaring the money would be better spent here. He also appeared to favour spending nothing on the economic stimulus even though the Opposition had previously advocated halving the Government's more than $42 billion package.

Once described by his leader as "the best retail politician in Australia", Senator Joyce's speech suggested he had some way to go to build the economic credibility needed for such a role. It also raised eyebrows on his own side with one Liberal MP saying his appointment was a risk. "We were doing well with him as a renegade National, but as an economic figure he's just as likely to blow us up as the other lot." the MP said.

Salt-based power surge

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 2/2/2010 Page: 15

SOUTH Australia could become home to a thriving solar energy industry using the state's excess of salt water to generate electricity. SA's natural conditions have made it the national leader in wind energy and geothermal technology, but start-up company Enersalt now wants to use the state's plentiful sources of salt water, such as desalination plant brine, to turn a problem into cheap power.

The company has applied for the same subsidies used to promote roof-top solar energy systems and Enersalt director Cliff Hignett says it can help the economies of some of the state's most drought-stricken regions. "If the economics of solar pond-generated electricity were aided in the same way, there is the potential for a range of small generation facilities in areas such as the Riverland, Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula and the Coorong," the 35-year CSIRO veteran said.

The system works by using sunlight to penetrate the shallow waters of a salt lake and heat hypersaline water at the bottom. The hyper-saline water, rather than rising and evaporating through convection, is trapped at the bottom because it is heavier than the fresh water. Riverland industries are already using the system to provide hot water. Although not boiling itself, this hot water can be used to evaporate refrigerant chemicals into high-pressure gases which drive turbines.

Solar pond electricity, which is used overseas, could also help solve a looming problem for the state identified by electricity regulators - that alternative electricity generators, such as wind farms and conventional solar energy, cannot provide continuous power. The barrier to electricity generation is that it is not eligible for subsidies given to roof-top photovoltaic cells. The State Government is considering a relaxation in its Economic Development Board inquiry into alternative energy.