Saturday 20 March 2010

Investors shun renewables

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 18/3/2010 Page: 5

UNCERTAINTY surrounding emissions trading and the drop in value of renewable energy certificates has seen investment in renewables fall more in Australasia than anywhere else in the world. PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2009 Renewable Deals review, to be published today, shows that green deals fell 59% last year-from 29 in 2008 to 12 in 2009. The value of mergers and acquisitions dropped 69% from $357 million in 2008 to $111 million last year. The impact of the financial crisis meant all regions recorded less activity. However, a few mega-hydro transactions helped the value of deals in the Asia-Pacific and South America grow.

Five of the top 10 renewables deals last year involved hydro assets - the segment increased its share of the renewables pie from 26% to 45% in terms of value. Wind power fell out of favour with investors. It accounted for 42% of renewables deals in 2008 but only 19% in 2009. Mergers and acquisitions in the renewables sector are being driven by utilities which were on the buyside of a growing share of 2009 deals, accounting for 42% and 55% of deal value last year. However, infrastructure investors, private equity groups and other players maintain their high level of interest in renewables purchases.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Andrew Petersen said he expected an increase in the number and value of renewables deals this year. Australia's growing mix of renewables would reflect the country's natural advantages. "In Australia, and for some in the investment community, it is wind, wind, and wind," he said. "Over the next five to 10 years it really has to be wind, solar and geothermal, with solar and geothermal battling it out for No. 2. We also can't rule out the opportunity biomass can play if the carbon pollution reduction scheme comes in."

Scavenging Energy Waste to Turn Water Into Hydrogen Fuel
March 15, 2010

Materials scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have designed a way to harvest small amounts of waste energy and harness them to turn water into usable hydrogen fuel. The process is simple, efficient and recycles otherwise-wasted energy into a useable form.

"This study provides a simple and cost-effective technology for direct water splitting that may generate hydrogen fuels by scavenging energy wastes such as noise or stray vibrations from the environment," the authors write in a new paper, published March 2 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. "This new discovery may have potential implications in solving the challenging energy and environmental issues that we are facing today and in the future."

The researchers, led by UW-Madison geologist and crystal specialist Huifang Xu, grew nano crystals of two common crystals, zinc oxide and barium titanate, and placed them in water. When pulsed with ultrasonic vibrations, the nanofibers flexed and catalyzed a chemical reaction to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

When the fibers bend, asymmetries in their crystal structures generate positive and negative charges and create an electrical potential. This phenomenon, called the piezoelectric effect, has been well known in certain crystals for more than a century and is the driving force behind quartz clocks and other applications.

Xu and his colleagues applied the same idea to the nanocrystal fibers. "The bulk materials are brittle, but at the nanoscale they are flexible," he says, like the difference between fiberglass and a pane of glass. Smaller fibers bend more easily than larger crystals and therefore also produce electric charges easily. So far, the researchers have achieved an impressive 18% efficiency with the nanocrystals, higher than most experimental energy sources.

In addition, Xu says, "because we can tune the fiber and plate sizes, we can use even small amounts of [mechanical] noise - like a vibration or water flowing - to bend the fibers and plates. With this kind of technology, we can scavenge energy waste and convert it into useful chemical energy." Rather than harvest this electrical energy directly, the scientists took a novel approach and used the energy to break the chemical bonds in water and produce oxygen and hydrogen gas. "This is a new phenomenon, converting mechanical energy directly to chemical energy," Xu says, calling it a piezoelectrochemical (PZEC) effect.

The chemical energy of hydrogen fuel is more stable than the electric charge, he explains. It is relatively easy to store and will not lose potency over time. With the right technology, Xu envisions this method being useful for generating small amounts of power from a multitude of small sources - for example, walking could charge a cell phone or music player and breezes could power streetlights. "We have limited areas to collect large energy differences, like a waterfall or a big dam," he says. "But we have lots of places with small energies. If we can harvest that energy, it would be tremendous."

Wind Energy Keeps Iowa Electric Power Costs Down
Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wind energy accounts for up to 20% of Iowa's total electricity production and is helping to keep the state's power costs among the lowest in the nation. That's according to a study by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group based in Iowa City. Authors of the study say it debunks arguments that alternative energy and other measures to combat climate change are too expensive. "Those people who tell us we can't do anything about global climate change because it will be too expensive are wrong, and Iowa is proving that," says David Osterberg, an Iowa Policy Project researcher and one of the authors of the study.

The study found that wind produced 3,670 MWs of electricity in the state. If that power were used solely within the state it would produce enough electricity to power 940,000 homes; roughly three-quarters of the state's homes. The study notes that MidAmerican Energy is one of the most aggressive utility companies in the nation in developing and producing electricity from wind. The firm recently secured state approval to install another 1,000 MWs of production in Iowa.

Iowa ranks second in wind power production, could produce more
Iowa continues to rank second to Texas in wind energy production in the nation. The study points to research from the National Renewable Energy Lab showing that roughly three-quarters of Iowa has enough wind at the height that the tall wind turbines stand aboveground to efficiently produce wind energy. "Thus, even as Iowa is leading the way in harnessing wind energy, there is significant room to increase our use of the wind's renewable power," says Osterberg.

"America need not fear taking strong steps to address climate change, as these new estimates of Iowa wind production and potential production show," says Teresa Galluzzo, another author of the study. Coal-fired plants produce about 75% of the state's electricity, and there is one nuclear plant in the state.

Massive expansion of wind power helps keep electricity costs down
In examining electricity costs, the study found that Iowans paid about 6 cents per kW hour in 1998. That climbed to 7 cents per kW hour by 2008. Over the same period, national average electricity costs went from 7 cents per kW hour to nearly 10 cents. "Amidst Iowa's massive expansion of wind power, our average electricity prices have remained below the national average. In fact, they've not increased as quickly as the national average price in the last four years," says Osterberg.

The study says MidAmerican is the national leader in wind generation by rate-regulated utilities, with 1,393 MWs either in operation or under construction. That's in addition to the 1,000 MWs of capacity approved by the Iowa Utilities Board this past December, which means MidAmerican will be able to add another 1,000 MWs to it's production capacity.

Wind energy production tax credit helps create clean energy
The study says Iowa is the seventh windiest state in the nation. One shortfall the study found is in determining how much of the electricity produced in the state is actually consumed within its borders. When power is shipped into the electrical grid, it is pooled together and it is difficult to determine which portion of the power comes from which source.

Upon hearing that Iowa's wind energy production now accounts for up to 20% of Iowa's electricity, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, commented that "Iowa has been a leader in producing wind energy and is poised for even greater results in the future. This renewable energy source has not only helped power Iowa, but at the same time has created green jobs for Iowans. The wind energy tax credit that I authored has been a tremendous impetus for the state to harness the power of wind for both clean energy and good paying jobs."

Grassley is the author of legislation that provides the wind energy production tax credit and has worked to see that the credit is extended.

Thursday 18 March 2010

'Milestone' for wave energy plans
16 March 2010

Ten sites on the seabed off the north coast of Scotland have been leased out to power companies in an effort to generate wave and tidal energy. In the first project of its kind in the world, areas in the Pentland Firth and around Orkney have been leased to seven companies by the Crown Estate. The companies are to push forward plans to generate enough electricity to supply 750,000 homes by 2020. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said it was a "major milestone".

He said the waters had been described as the "Saudi Arabia of marine power" due to their "rich natural resources". The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed around the UK, has awarded the leases after inviting bids from developers. The aim is to generate 1.2 GWs (GW) of electricity from the sites off Orkney and the Caithness and Sutherland coasts. Six sites have been allocated for wave energy developments potentially generating 600 MWs (MW) of power and four for tidal projects, also generating 600 MW.

Wave schemes will be developed by SSE Renewables Developments off Costa Head and also jointly with Aquamarine Power off Brough Head, both on Orkney. ScottishPower Renewables have the lease for Marwick Head, Orkney. Leases for wave projects have also been awarded to E.ON for sites designated West Orkney South and West Orkney Middle South and to Pelamis Wave Power for the Armadale site in the Pentland Firth off Sutherland.

Tidal schemes will be developed by SSE Renewables Developments off Westray South and jointly with OpenHydro Site Developments off Cantick Head, both Orkney. Marine Current Turbines have been leased the Brough Ness site on Orkney and ScottishPower Renewables will install devices in the Pentland Firth off Ness of Duncansby in Caithness. The Crown Estate has been working with the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council on the project.

The names of the successful bidders were announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh. First Minister Alex Salmond said it marked a "major milestone" in efforts to create a low carbon future. He said: "These waters have been described as the Saudi Arabia of marine power and the wave and tidal projects unveiled today - exceeding the initial 700MW target capacity - underline the rich natural resources of the waters off Scotland." Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy said it was an exciting time for the renewables industry.

He said: "Scotland is naturally placed to make the most of this green revolution and we will continue to work with others to ensure the potential of Scottish waters, alongside wind power, is fully met." Wildlife conservation organisation, WWF Scotland, said that with careful planning wave and tidal energy could be harnessed without harming the marine environment. Director Dr Richard Dixon said: "Wave and tidal power represent an energy and jobs bonanza for Scotland. "There is a massive amount of power in the seas around Scotland and we are currently the world leaders in developing the technologies to turn that potential into clean, green electricity."

Plans for $1bn solar energy plant - A Spanish company intends to build one of the largest solar thermal plants here

Tuesday 16/3/2010 Page: 25

A SPANISH energy and construction giant is seeking commonwealth support to build a $1 billion, 250MW solar power plant in Australia, one of the largest in the world. Cobra Energy, a branch of the multinational industrial conglomerate ACS, has functioning baseload solar stations in Andalucia and Extremadura in Spain and hopes to build a larger version here. Although the plant would have just a sixth of the capacity of a typical, large coal-fired power station, it would be one of the largest "solar thermal" plants in the world.

Cobra has applied for funding under the Rudd government's $1.5bn solar flagships program, which aims to foster 400MW of solar energy generation in Australia. Half is expected to be solar thermal, it which energy is used to boil water and then generate electricity, and half photovoltaic solar, where electricity is produced directly. Cobra Energy's Australian chief, Alan Atchison, said the company would team up with local constructor John Holland in its bid. He said Cobra's advantage was its proven ability to provide baseload power through using molten salts as a energy storage medium, as it does in its Spanish plants.

The Spanish plants are able to continue generating for 7.5 hours after sunset by using excess solar energy stored in the molten salts during the day. Baseload is the amount of power required to meet minimum demands. Mr Atchison said a 250MW plant would involve capital expenditure of about $1bn, of which a company of ACS/Cobra's size could easily provide its $666 million share. "You need really strong, liquid, resourceful companies for these ventures," he said.

Mr Atchison said Cobra had selected three sites for its proposed Australian plant: one near Mildura, in Victoria, and two in Queensland, one of which is near Dalby, west of Brisbane. He said the company had been speaking to the Victorian and Queensland governments and would finalise the preferred location according to its suitability, the requirements of the program and the level of assistance supplied by the relevant state government.

"None of the numbers we have proposed so far have worried the state people we have spoken to so far," Mr Atchison said. The Commonwealth wants to develop renewable energy sources to meet its target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. So far wind has been the main growth area, although it has required consumer subsidies through the sale of renewable energy certificates to make it viable and it cannot offer baseload capacity. Solar, so far, is even more costly per MWh than wind, but is viewed with great promise in Australia because of the strength of the sun.

The solar flagships program is designed to subsidise a large-scale solar plant to demonstrate the technology can work as a viable energy source. Mr Atchison said Cobra was buoyed by comments from federal Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson that the Commonwealth was placing priority on baseload capacity. "Now, wind power will grow, as will gas initially, but our real objective is to actually test the other technologies," Mr Ferguson said last week. "If we're going to have real progress in reducing emissions in Australia and.., a reliable energy system, it's based on baseload capacity.

For our solar flagships we're actually going to test whether we can prove up baseload reliable solar energy in Australia under the government program." Cobra believes other bidders for the solar flagship program are likely to include Spanish-based Abengoa Solar and Acciona Energy, as well as BrightSource Energy. The winning bidders (one solar thermal and one photovoltaic) in the first round of the solar flagships program will be announced this year.

Solar plants under construction around the world:
  • ACS-Cobra: and the Soul 1 and Andasol 1 and 2. 100 MW baseload (plans for another 200 MW). Extrasol 1, Spain, 50 MW baseload (another 100 MW under construction), and Manchasol 1 and 2, Spain, 100 MW baseload under construction.
  • Abengoa: Solucar, Spain, 100 MW capacity plus 200 MW under construction. Solana, US, 280 MW capacity.
  • NextEra Energy Resources: Solar Energy Generating Systems network, US, 354 MW.
  • Acciona Solar Power: Nevada, Solar One, US, 64 MW capacity.
  • BrightSource: Ivanpah, US, 400 MW of capacity with construction to begin this year pending approval.
  • Torresol Energy: Gemasolar and Valle 1 and 2, Spain, 117 MW of base load capacity under construction.

Heat is on right across the continent

Tuesday 16/3/2010 Page: 4

EVERY state and territory in Australia has warmed over the past 50 years, according to a new assessment of the state of the nation's temperature, rainfall, oceans and atmosphere. Based on observational data obtained by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, the State of The Climate report, released yesterday, is a snapshot of current conditions and projections. "We're putting it all together changes of temperature, rainfall, atmosphere and the oceans to give a complete picture for Australia." said CSIRO chief executive Megan Clark. She noted the report was the first to reveal that observed continent-wide warming was strongest in spring and weakest in summer.

"That's something not expected by the general public," she said, noting many people assumed global warming would affect summers more than winters. Not only has the continent warmed, on average, by about 0.7C since 1960, some areas have experienced warming of up to 0.4C per decade, resulting in total warming of 1.5C-2.OC.

Rainfall has also shown variability, decreasing across southern and eastern Australia and increasing in parts of northern and central Australia. Australia's seas have also been affected by global trends. Measurements around the Southern Ocean indicate that the waters have become more acidic, as they absorb higher levels of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The ocean's acid balance affects the ability of organisms, such as corals and crustaceans, to build shells and support structures. "This is really significant here, as oceans, globally, absorb a quarter of the CO2 emitted by humans and a significant part of that, about 40%, is absorbed by the Southern Ocean," Dr Clark said. Data collected between 1870 and 2007 indicated that global sea levels had risen by nearly 200mm.

Between 1993 and 2009, sea level rose by 1.3mm to 2mm per year in the south and east of Australia and 7mm to 10 mm annually in the north and west. Based on their peer-reviewed data, BoM and CSIRO scientists project that Australia will be hotter, in coming decades, between 0.6C and 1.5C by 2030 and 2.2C to 5.0C by 2070. "The (projection) is based on the laws of physics and chemistry and observations of changes seen in the geological record and observational data, so we have confidence in the (projection)," Dr Clark said. "The information is very robust."

Sweden Plans to Build 2,000 Wind Turbines

Next 10 years to expand its total power production by 25 terrawatt hours from alternative energy sources.

STOCKHOLM - Sweden is planning to build 2,000 new wind turbines in the next 10 years to expand its total power production by 25 terrawatt hours from alternative energy sources. The increase is equivalent to about half of the power generated by the country's nuclear reactors in 2009. Nuclear power currently accounts for about 50% of Sweden's electricity production.

The government said Tuesday it would present parliament on Thursday with its proposal for increasing wind power by 10 terrawatt hours. Sweden last year announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990 levels by making renewable energy account for about half of the nation's energy by 2020.

Cheap solar on the way

Sunday Herald Sun
Sunday 14/3/2010 Page: 13

MELBOUN scientists have achieved a world-first breakthrough in solar power technology that promises to revolutionise renewable energy and put Melbourne at the heart of the $30 billion global industry. Former RMIT Professor Ian Bates and his team have developed solar panels four times more efficient and three times cheaper than available models. The technology could also ease the rising electricity costs Victorians face. The roll-out plan involves having power companies install the panels on customers' roofs under deals which would lock in fixed power costs for 15 years.

Professor Bates and his team have created a Melbourne based company called Technique Solar to commercially produce the technology, originally developed at RMIT. The firm is fielding inquiries from the burgeoning solar markets of India and China and is negotiating a deal to manufacture prototypes in the US with car parts giant Magna Cosma International. The new panels work by using special acrylic lenses to concentrate the sun's rays on photovoltaic cells while the panel moves to track the sun's movement across the sky. "What we've got here is a device which provides both electricity and heat energy.

We've been able to cut to cut back the number of photovoltaic cells (PVs) required by about 75%," said Technique Solar director Dan Taylor. Mr Taylor said the panels could produce 1000 watts of power at "a-third-to-a-quarter" the cost of current technology. The company says the panels will deliver an energy output which has an average cost per kW hour nominally competitive with 20 cents per kW-h for energy now delivered by the Australian electricity grid and compares with the existing cost of energy from conventional panels, which is typically in the range of 70 to 100 cents per kW-h.

It enables solar energy to be provided to the consumer using modules supplying heat load (hot water) and electrical energy at one quarter of the energy costs of conventional solar energy systems. The modules can be supplied and installed at a cost which does not require Government subsidies or rebates. Technique Solar is an unlisted public company with 100 shareholders described as "mums and dads and small corporates". Mr Taylor said the company planned to make Magna Cosma, which has 250 factories in 50 countries, the global manufacturer of the panels, under licence.

Agencies unite on climate change

Canberra Times
Monday 15/3/2010 Page: 1

Australia's top science agencies warn the country is already gripped by climate change, with hotter spring temperatures, declining rainfall and sea level rises more than three times the global average in some areas. A six-page national climate snapshot published today by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology suggests Australia could warm by up to 5 degrees - well above the 2 degree danger threshold determined by the United Nations - if current global green emission levels continue unchecked.

CSIRO chief executive Megan Clark said climate records showed Australia had become hotter and drier over the past 50 years. Warming had occurred in all seasons, with the strongest warming occurring in spring (0.9 degrees) and the weakest in summer (0.4 degrees). "Climate change is real. Our records show there is no disputing that, and the next step is to meet this challenge through mitigation and adaptation," Dr Clark said.

Bureau of Meteorology director Greg Ayres said the reality of climate change was clearly evident in Australia's climate records. "Australia holds one of the best national climate records in the world. The bureau's been responsible for keeping that record for more than 100 years and it's there for anyone and everyone to see, use and analyse," Dr Ayres said.

The climate snapshot, jointly launched by the chiefs of both science agencies, comes just days after the CSIRO Staff Association accused the Federal Opposition of waging a political war against CSIRO climate scientists. It also follows Opposition attacks on Dr Clark and CSIRO during a recent Senate estimates hearing.

Liberal senator Julian McGauran described CSIRO's climate research as "utterly trivial", claiming the organisation's reputation and scientific credibility were " compromised" by its stance in supporting climate change. Dr Clark dismissed suggestions the snapshot was published to refute these recent attacks. "Our experience is that there's a hunger and a thirst for good quality climate science. People want a clearer picture of what's happening, and that's what we've produced," she said.

The snapshot combines more than 100 years of data on Australia's weather, tracking changes in temperature, rainfall, sea level, ocean acidification and atmospheric levels of CO2 and methane. It shows Australia's average temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees over the past 50 years, with inland and northern regions already experiencing warming trends of 1.5 to 2 degrees. Rainfall patterns have become highly variable since the 1960s, with substantial increases across the Top End and central Australia, and substantial decreases across the south-east of the continent.

The snapshot shows sea levels have risen by between 7mm and 10mm a year across Australia's northern coastline, well above the global average of between 1.5 to 3mm a year. Australia's sea surface temperatures have increased by about 0.4 degrees in the past 50 years, showing ocean acidification levels are increasing in the Southern Ocean. Atmospheric CO2 levels measured at CSIRO's air pollution station at Cape Grim in north-west Tasmania have risen from 330 parts per million to 380ppm over the past 35 years.

The report warns that Australia will be hotter in coming decades, but temperatures could rise by 2.2 to 5 degrees under higher emissions scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report said it was "extremely unlikely" warming was due to natural causes alone. It was "very likely" human activities were responsible with evidence of human influences detected in ocean warming, sea level rise, temperature extremes and wind patterns. "Our observation clearly demonstrate that climate change is real," the report said.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Hydrogen fuel cells power hybrid bus on Vancouver’s Island
March 13, 2010

Having grown up in Vancouver, I've already been accustomed to the majority of the city buses running on electricity. They tether themselves to the overhead lines and move the commuters around town. Over in Victoria, they're testing something so much better. They've got the "most technologically advanced bus on the planet."

Instead of relying on those overhead lines, the new hybrid-powered bus gets its juice from a fuel-cell. The hydrogen hybrid bus, decked out in an eco-friendly green and blue paint scheme, could represent the next generation of buses for BC Transit. The idea is that these buses will eventually replace the ones that are still running on fossil fuels. They're not quite ready for a provincial-wide rollout just yet, as this Victoria edition is an "alpha bus," but the working prototype is "ahead of any other buses globally."

The hybrid powertrain is a combination of batteries that need to be recharged at night and hydrogen fuel tanks which are stored in the roof of the bus. With a full 29 kilogram load of hydrogen, the bus can travel up to 480 kilometres. A slight step up in size from the hydrogen powered technology we've seen most recently.

SCE to use SunPower's solar technology
Sat, 13 Mar 2010

Southern California Edison's solar-powered vision is moving forward. San Jose-based SunPower Corp. has won a contract to provide SCE with the technology that will generate most of the power needed for the utility's massive solar rooftop network. Over the next five years, Edison plans to install, own and operate 250 MWs of solar-generating capacity, most of it on unused warehouse rooftops in the Inland Empire.

SunPower's T5 Solar Roof Tiles will generate up to 200 MWs, or 80%, of the power capacity needed. They'll also help SCE reduce installation time and costs because each unit includes its own solar panel, frame and roof-mounting system. "They are specialized and highly efficient panels," said Mark Nelson, SCE's director of generation planning and strategy. "They take up very little space and they have an integrated racking system hooked right onto the panels, so you just sort of snap them together."

The California Public Utilities has also approved SCE's plan for another 250 MWs of photovoltaic generation. The utility would gain that through purchase-power agreements with independent power producers - - bringing the project's total solar capacity to 500 MWs. "We'll have a competitive solicitation for that contract," SCE spokesman Gil Alexander said. "Then we'll sort through them and pick what's best for our customers."

Howard Wenger, president of SunPower's utilities and power plant business group, said SCE's solar program "reflects the growing value of advanced solar panel technology as a reliable, cost-effective energy resource," one that can be installed quickly, anywhere and at any scale. "SunPower applauds SCE's commitment to rooftop solar development, which is unprecedented in the utility industry," Wenger said in a statement.

In addition to generating clean power, Edison expects its solar power project will also create as many as 800 green jobs in Southern California's solar industry. Nelson said SCE is working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, one of the utility's project partners. "They know it will take a lot of workers to do this," he said. "We've been working with them to expand their current apprentice program." Nelson said the Inland Empire is a prime area for SCE's solar array because there is plenty of sun, lots of available warehouse rooftops and a growing demand for more power in that region.

On track for 2012 wind power goal: Siemens
Mar 13, 2010

Engineering group Siemens said on Friday the opening of a new Danish assembly line for a key mechanism of wind turbines was a step towards becoming one of the world's top 3 wind turbine makers by 2012. Until recently Germany-based Siemens has ranked as the world's sixth biggest manufacturer of wind turbines in terms of market share, behind Denmark's Vestas, US General Electric, Spain's Gamesa, Germany's Enercon and India's Suzlon.

But last month the head of Siemens wind power, Andreas Nauen, told Reuters in an interview that he was confident Siemens overtook Suzlon in 2009 to grab the No. 5 spot. Siemens is already the leader in offshore wind turbines. "Siemens wind power is well on the way towards the 2012 goal," Nauen said in a statement on Friday. "2010 looks promising compared to the outlook at the same time last year."

The group's Danish subsidiary Siemens A/S started up the new assembly line for nacelles - - the structures at the centre of the turbine comprising the rotor shaft, gearbox and generator - - at its Brande, Denmark, plant, the company said. "As a decisive step towards a position among the Top 3 in the global wind turbine market, Siemens wind power today inaugurates a whole new assembly line for nacelles for the 2.3 MW wind turbine," Siemens A/S said in the statement.

The new assembly line would help secure "lean and effective production of wind turbines and, not least, increased production capacity." Since the project began in 2007, it has managed to reduce the throughput time from 36 hours to 19 hours for final assembly of every nacelle produced, and the number of work stations from 18 to eight, Siemens said. "So more nacelles can be produced with the same number of employees," it said. "It is not enough to have a solid order intake, we must also produce efficiently and work in the most suitable and smartest way all over the globe," Nauen said in the statement.

Siemens is also building a nacelle plant in Kansas in the United States and will start making rotor blades and nacelles in China. It also plans to produce in India. The Global Wind Energy Council estimated that the world market for wind turbine installations was worth about 45 billion euros ($62.01 billion) in 2009. Consultancy BTM has estimated that global installed capacity will more than double to 340 GWs by 2013.

China sets to build smart grid to tap renewable energy

BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) - - Imagine the scenario: bulbs, washing machine and air-conditioner in your house could automatically switch to operate in an energy-saving manner at peak times of power use when electricity rates heighten. Actually, it may come into reality soon. China is stepping up the "smart grid" construction across the country, as Premier Wen Jiabao put it in the work report to the top legislature last week. Cai Guoxiong, deputy chief engineer of the China Electric Power Research Institute under the State Grid Corporation, said the smart grid has been piloted in big and medium cities since the State Grid kicked off the construction in May 2009.

The "smart grid" is an intelligent system capable of seamlessly integrating the alternative sources like solar and wind from power suppliers into the electricity network. Also, consumers' home appliances could be centrally controlled by power companies via the grid to have access to power generated by renewable energy at lower prices. A "unified strong and smart grid" system is to be built nationwide by 2020 to incorporate thermal power, hydroelectric power, nuclear power and other renewable ones, said Cai, also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.

Xiao Liye, a smart grid expert in the Institute of Electrical Engineering under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said larger scale smart grid construction will be included into China's new five-year development blueprint starting 2011. China put the smart grid building on a strategic agenda to facilitate the use of renewable energy and reduce the country's excessive reliance on the high-polluting coal power generation, according to Cai. Nearly two-thirds of energy supply in China has been fed by coal, making the country one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

According to a long-term outline for renewable energy development issued in 2007, China planned to increase the renewable energy proportion to 10% of the total energy use by 2010, and 15% by 2020. It has displayed the government's resolution to develop the low-carbon economy after it pledged last year to reduce its carbon intensity by 40 to 45% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, Xiao said. China is now taking the lead in solar and hydropower generation and its wind power installed capacity ranks fourth in the world.

However, wind and solar energy is usually subject to weather changes and could not produce uninterrupted supplies, and so it is hard to smoothly transmit the power via the traditional grid that carries only stable thermal power supply. Nearly one-third of the wind power generated in the country has been rendered redundant owing to the transmission bottleneck, according to experts. Li Wuwei, CPPCC National Committee vice chairman, said, "What we need is a grid network to integrate the thermal and renewable energy supplies." "A safe, stable and efficient grid that could massively transmit the renewable energy power must prove to be a giant technological revolution in energy industry," Xiao said.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, approved the amendment to Renewable Energy Law in December 2009, urging efforts to develop the advanced grid in a bid to transmit more renewable energy. "China gives top priority to the smart grid development since the renewable energy cannot be utilized in large scale without smooth grid transmission," Xiao said. Also, households could be connected to the smart grid by optical cable that combines the Internet and telephone access, Cai said. "The consumers can check their power use and electric bill online and even manage the home appliances in remote distance."

What is sadly lacking in the wind turbine debate is hard facts and figures – from both sides.

Clare Northern Argus
March 5, 2010
Opinion: David Clarke.

The opponents tell us that people can't sleep because of the noise. Can we have the names of some of these people so that this can be verified, and exactly how far are their homes from the nearest turbines? Opponents claim that land is devalued by being close to turbines; I have not been able to find any verifiable evidence for this – can they provide any?

From the other side, the wind farmers tell us that they generate lots of power, but, so far as I have been able to find out, not one is willing to regularly publish how much electricity each wind farm is generating month-by-month and year-by-year. There have been statements from opponents that a huge amount of water is used in wind farm construction; I have requested figures from two wind farm companies, but have received nothing.

I suggest that opponents drop the emotive statements (some bats are killed by wind turbines, therefore bats will become extinct and we will be inundated with mosquito-spread diseases) and put together a convincing and verifiable series of facts and figures to back their case against the wind farms; the ideal place for this would be on the Internet. And if the wind farmers want us to believe them, they should also provide us with the facts we need.

The Mount Bryan wind farm site seems particularly contentious. Perhaps a visit by all interested parties could be arranged so that everyone could see what native vegetation is going to be put at risk?

My email address is and phone number is 0400 256 125 if I can be of any assistance to either side in getting the facts known.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Energy answers are blowing in the wind

Weekend Australian
Saturday 13/3/2010 Page: 5

THE rapid expansion of wind energy around the world in the past decade is the outcome of research and development that has resulted in big improvements in turbine technology, a new federal government report says. The national energy resource assessment report, released this month by federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, was prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Geoscience Australia. Ferguson says the 385-page study shows for the first time just how extensive Australia's renewable energy prospects are.

It is more than a snapshot of energy resources, he says: "It is a national prospectus for energy investment and exports." Ferguson says he has received 52 applications for funding in the first round of the government's $1.5 billion solar flagships program, which is seeking to kick-start a total of $4.5bn worth of investment in this sector. But it is wind farming that ABARE and Geoscience Australia expect to lead the way in renewable energy generation development this decade. They foresee almost $22bn in wind investments.

The agencies say that 11,300MW of new wind development is under consideration by investors, most of it in three states: Victoria (34% ); NSW (30% ); and South Australia (19% ). Eight wind farms, with 733MW total capacity, are in advanced development at a capital cost of $1.8bn. The cost of the remainder is set at more than $19.1bn. "Australia's wind resources are among the best in the world," the report says. "They are primarily located in coastal regions but extend hundreds of kilometres inland. "These resources are being progressively utilised by an increasing number of large-scale wind farms of more than 100MW capacity using big modern turbines."

Wind generally costs less per unit of electricity generated than many other renewable technology. This cost advantage and support from the enlarged renewable target is expected to see most of the expansion in clean energy supply between now and 2020 go to wind-power investors. Policies to further reduce carbon emissions after 2020 "are likely to particularly benefit wind energy". ABARE and Geoscience Australia say that by 2030 wind generation in Australia will meet 12% of electricity demand out of a total renewables share of 19%. Today it holds 1.5% of the electricity market.

Further efficiency gains in turbine technology will enhance opportunities for wind farmers here and around the world, the agencies say. "The most significant change in the past decade has been a substantial increase in the size and height of rotors, driven by a desire to access higher wind speeds, which increase with height above ground. "The size and output of wind turbine rotors has doubled over 15 years. In 1998, Australia's first grid-connected wind farm at CrookWell in NSW had turbine rotor diameters of 44m.

"The recently commissioned Capital wind farm near Goulburn has rotor diameters of 88m." The next tranche of development will see wind farms with an average capacity of 149MW compared with 92MW for those being built today. ABARE and Geoscience Australia say efficiency gains in technology for onshore wind turbines is slowing, however, and they expect that further near term improvements in cost competitiveness will have to be driven by reduced manufacturing costs.

Renewable energy buzz - Labor pledge for green businesses

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 13/3/2010 Page: 17

THE State Government has promised $3 million for a green loan scheme to help businesses develop renewable energy ideas. Climate Change Minister Lisa Singh said the $3 million would be made available in no-interest loans for Tasmanian companies moving to commercialise new wind, wave, solar and geothermal technologies.

"Tasmania has the strongest knowledge bank in wind and water energy in Southi-East Asia and Labor will make sure that we take the greatest possible advantage of this position," Ms Singh said. 'We know that renewable energy will be one of the cornerstones of our future economy." Labor's announcement coincided with a plan launched by the Liberal Opposition to support the establishment of a biochar plant in Tasmania.

Ms Singh said the business green loan plan was part of Labor's target of generating more than 100% of Tasmania's power needs from renewable sources in the next decade. The minister said the Green Industry Development Scheme would provide an ideal opportunity to demonstrate green technologies and support their early commercialisation in Tasmania.

The loans would be available interest-free for the first three years and be targeted at applicants who could demonstrate an ability to manufacture renewable energy technology in Tasmania. The eligible businesses would need to demonstrate they had long-tern viability and could repay the loan after three years to the government fund. Ms Singh said the scheme would be managed by the Economic Development department.

Liberal environment spokeswoman Vanessa Goodwin used a climate action forum in Hobart on Thursday night to announce that a Hodgman Liberal government would partner with the private sector to build a biochar plant, if the business case "stacked up". Biochar is a method of storing carbon in the soil, and also has agricultural applications including enhancing crop yield. Making biochar produces gas which can be used for power generation.

Monday 15 March 2010

Fuel cells still a tough sell in a coal-fired economy

Saturday 13/3/2010 Page: 3

A Melbourne company is making inroads selling low-emissions technology in Europe but struggling to cut through here.

IF YOU are flicking on a light switch in Melbourne today, there is a 96% chance you are buying electricity generated more than 100 kilometres away, beneath a Latrobe Valley smokestack. It is a cheap way to set up an electricity system, but hugely inefficient. An estimated 75% of the energy generated at Hazelwood and Yallourn is lost as heat or used onsite. Another 5% is lost during transmission and distribution. It means only about 20% of the energy ends up making the distance.

The electrons firing your bulb are also environmentally unfriendly, coming from decades-old technology that burns brown coal, the most greenhouse gas intensive major power source. The replacement for this "dirty" power in coming years may not be what most expect - initially large-scale gas plants supplemented by wind farms, with solar thermal and geothermal hopefully to follow. It could also come from a box about the size of a small washing machine that sits down the side of your house. This, at least, is the line of Ceramic Fuel Cells, the company behind the solid oxide fuel-cell technology known as BlueGen.

Based in Noble Park, it is said to produce enough power in a year to run a standard home more than twice over. BlueGen creates electricity and heat by passing natural gas over ceramic fuel-cells. According to Ceramic Fuel Cells managing director Brendan Dow Chemical it is 85% efficient and cuts the average home's annual CO2 emissions by 18 tonnes. "At the moment they are about $25,000 to $30,000 installed but I predict within the next three to four years they should be $10,000," Dow Chemical says. "But this is misleading, really. They will be like a mobile phone, where you don't pay for the handset, you just pay for the contract. Here, you won't pay for the BlueGen unit, just for the gas."

It is a big call. Just 30 BlueGen units have been sold to date - and just four in Australia. The majority of sales have been in Germany, which is better prepared for decentralised electricity generation after years of the government generously promoting rooftop solar photovoltaic panels. But Ceramic Fuel Cells is now approaching an important turning point. It expects safety approval by a Netherlands rating agency in the next three weeks, making large-scale installation much easier.

It has signed deals with a handful of European companies, opened a manufacturing plant near Dusseldorf and employs 80 people in Melbourne. Premier John Brumby opened the Noble Park plant last May, and has been vocally supportive. Dow Chemical spruiks a bright future: "We will be cash-flow positive by next year. We're only planning on selling a couple of hundred this year, but the plan is to sell up to a couple of thousand next year."

The question Ceramic Fuel Cells poses for policy makers is: does an innovative low-emissions technology that emits less CO2 than brown coal deserve public help to become cost-effective? In the US, fuel-cells are the flavour of the month thanks to some heavyweight support for a silicon fuel-cell known as the "Bloom Box". Launched last month by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it boasts Google as its first customer and has been backed by eBay, Wal-Mart and Coc-Cola. The rhetoric at the US launch was expansive. Schwarzenegger said the fuel-cell technology was "shaping the future of energy".

For the moment, Bloom and BlueGen are operating on a different scale - one fridge-sized Bloom Box unit generates enough power to run a street block and costs up to $US800,000 ($A874,300). Ceramic Fuel Cells sees a bright future in Europe, but is less certain about a cautious Australian market still hooked on coal. It is lobbying hard to get the Victorian government to add it to a list of technologies that utilities are obligated to buy electricity from. "Not having that is why we've backed off in Australia," Dow Chemical says. "That's the single biggest hurdle to commercialisation in Australia."

Dow Chemical is hopeful of a decision by midyear. Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor told The Age only that the government was keen to hear new ideas and met regularly with companies developing low-emission technologies. In Canberra, Dow Chemical has been pushing for the federal government to create an extra energy target - on top of its schemes for large and small-scale renewable energy - for low-emissions generation. It won't happen. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong declined to comment; Dow Chemical says the government was "yet to see that renewables are not the only answer to a low emissions future".

The opposition has been more encouraging, flagging the prospect of supporting the technology in its recent "direct action" climate policy. But it is also blocking the introduction of a carbon price through an emissions trading scheme, which may be the best way to help BlueGen compete. Among environment and clean energy campaigners, BlueGen has measured support. Russell Marsh, policy director with the renewable-focused Clean Energy Council, says policymakers had not yet caught up with low-emissions technologies pitched at a household level.

He believes they deserve support through, at least, a carbon price. But he also offers a note of caution. "The jury is still out on exactly what fuel-cells can deliver," he says. "I think we need to be careful about how touch these things, like any new technology, are promoted as the answer."

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham is more upbeat, describing BlueGen as "a useful technology that we should be trying to get to market", particularly as an efficient way to provide hot water. Solar hot water is only in 4% of homes - there is plenty of room for both. The best way to promote the technology, he says, would be through a national energy efficiency target. "How the economics will stand up is a little uncertain," he says, "but cold climate places like Victoria and Tasmania are likely to be where they work best."

China likely to approve more nuclear power plants
13 Mar 2010

China Securities Journal reported that China National Energy Administration is carrying forward the promulgation of administration regulations for nuclear power, which indicated that China may build an increasing amount of nuclear power plants. Mr Li Min analyst with Yuanta Securities said that setting a unified threshold for market entry is a crucial problem in the bid to promote the development of nuclear energy. The regulations promulgation suggests that domestic independent power producer such as Huaneng Power International Inc and Datang International Power Generation Co may soon join the force of nuclear power producers.

A number of enterprises have so far obtained government approval to carry nuclear power programs, including China National Nuclear Corp, China Guangdog Nuclear Power Holding Co and China Power Investment Corp. Most of China's nuclear power plants were erected in coastal areas, and the construction of nuclear power plants in inland areas is lagged closely behind.

Wind power growth projected for the U.S.

The U.S. wind industry this year could match the 10,000 MWs (MW) of new capacity installed in 2009, according to Matt Garran, supply chain manager at American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). That would be enough energy to power another 2.4 million homes or generate as much electricity as three large nuclear power plants.

The wind turbine fleet entered 2010 with more than 35,000 MW of installed power, enough to handle the electrical needs of 9.7 million homes, he tells the recent Toll Processing รข€˜10 conference of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA). The AWEA's long-term goal is to support 25% of the nation's electricity with renewable energy sources as wind and solar.

"At the current rate of growth, wind is a zero-emissions energy source that can offer more and more utilities with known-pricing hedges against oil or coal-based fuel-price volatility," Garran says. Other benefits of wind, he says, include its inexhaustible supply, its use of power generation without the need for water and the fact that its use is complementary to natural gas-powered energy installations.

Garran says that estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that in a single year, the U.S. wind resource potential could produce 364.9 quadrillion Btus (British thermal units), the energy equivalent of all proven oil and natural gas reserves in the U.S. He says the potential capacity of America's onshore wind resource exceeds 10,000 GWs (GW). "The U.S, is barely tapping this vast resource," he says, noting that "current wind installed capacity is 35 GW in the U.S, and 158 GW worldwide."

Garran tells the metals-processing conferences that while the wind turbine blades are made from composite materials, the higher towers and nacelles and hubs require lots of heavy steel. "So, future growth in wind turbine installations will boost demand for steel plate, forged metal shafts, fabricated steel components and cast ductile iron parts."

Wind power installation is centered in the top 10 "windiest states" of Texas, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico-although offshore developments could boost wind power generations off such other states as Massachusetts, Oregon and California.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Energy project fights for life

Friday 12/3/2010 Page: 25

Eighty jobs are under threat as a northern NSW renewable energy project teeters on the brink of collapse after a revamp of a Rudd government scheme came too late. The NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative must decide today whether to call in a receiver to its Sunshine Energy renewable energy venture, which faces a financial crisis after a dramatic slump in the price of renewable energy certificates (RECs) that are meant to encourage green fuels.

The inclusion of solar panels in the original scheme produced a glut of RECs, forcing the price down from an expected $50 to about $30. The co-operative's chief executive, Chris Connors, said about 80 people were employed at two co-generation plants at Condong and Broadwater that use a sugar cane byproduct called bagasse to generate about 68 MWs of electricity. The plants, established in a joint venture with Delta Energy, have lost about $6 million in revenue.

Mr Connors said a further 450 jobs at the mills were also at risk. Last month, the government announced the scheme would be split into two parts next year to ensure a fixed REC price for small-scale projects. But Nationals senator Ron Boswell said the government had acted too late. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Sunshine Energy was relying on the spot market rather than long-term contracts.

Bureaucracy holding up DOE renewables cash – GAO
12 March 2010

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is encountering numerous obstacles to releasing funds for clean energy projects from last year's economic stimulus package, including federally mandated environmental reviews and monthly reporting requirements. As of 28 February, the DOE had committed $25.7 billion or 70% of the $36.7 billion provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but has only spent $2.5 billion or 7% of the funds, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). "It appears that it's bureaucratic delays that have hampered spending and to no one's surprise it appears that much of that delay could be pointed back to us and the decisions made in Congress," said Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

For example, the DOE has only committed and spent 1% of the $3.97 billion provided to its loan guarantee programme by the Recovery Act to support renewable energy and electricity transmission projects. The loan guarantee and other DOE programmes have stalled largely because they could have significant environmental impacts that trigger extensive reviews under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), according to the GAO report.

"DOE has SWAT teams on it now and they are working tirelessly to get those reviews done and they've established a pretty aggressive agenda for when they want to do that, but it is a concern moving forward," said Michele Nellenbach, director of the natural resources committee for the National Governors' Association.

Another major concern is a DOE requirement that states file monthly reports on energy and weatherisation programmes, which is problematic because they are reducing staff and hours because of budget issues, she said. But the monthly reporting helps the DOE focus on assisting potentially high-risk projects, said Matt Rogers, the DOE's senior advisor overseeing economic stimulus investments. "The challenge is without that data.., we end up having to search around and find those areas in most need," he said. "It gives us the kind of managerial data that frankly any business has."

A major obstacle has been the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which requires that workers on federally funded projects receive proper wages and benefits. Its provisions were applied by the Recovery Act for the first time to the weatherisation assistance programme, which forced many states to wait for wage determinations from the Department of Labor.

"I would encourage Congress to think about our experiences with Davis-Bacon before they apply that requirement to new programmes because it has been an impediment to getting dollars spent quickly," said Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administrator and vice-chair for the National Association of State Energy Officials.

Some Recovery Act programmes have been successful in funding clean energy projects. The DOE and Treasury Department allocated $2.3 billion in clean energy manufacturing tax credits to 183 projects, an investment that will be matched by up to $5.4 billion in private sector funding. But Rogers said he was disappointed by the agency's inability to fund all the "terrific" projects that applied. "We could have easily done double that," he said, adding that the administration is asking Congress to provide another $5 billion.

Stern backs $100bn IMF climate fund plan
12 March 2010

A climate fund proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 has won support from climate change economics guru Nicholas Stern.

Speaking in Nairobi on Sunday, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said: "Sustainable growth in developing countries will require large-scale, long-term investments for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Copenhagen Accord suggests that $100 billion a year is needed by 2020, over and above existing aid commitments. This will be difficult to do with the standard approach – a series of 'pledging conferences' for decades to come."

He said that, ultimately, financing will come from "budgetary transfers from developed countries, drawing on scaled-up carbon taxes and expanded carbon trading mechanisms". However, these revenue sources will take time to be put in place, so an IMF 'Green Fund' could "act as a bridge to large-scale carbon-based financing in the medium term". In a subsequent interview with wire service AFP, Strauss-Kahn said that the IMF is going to publish a working paper on the Green Fund in the next couple of weeks. However, in the Nairobi speech, he stressed that the IMF would not manage the fund.

Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said: "The 'Green Fund' is a creative and constructive idea which shows that the International Monetary Fund recognises clearly the very serious risks that climate change creates for future global economic growth and development."

Late last year, George Soros, the former hedge fund manager and now billionaire philanthropist, suggested that such a fund tap 'Special Drawing Rights', the international reserve assets held by the IMF to supplement its members' official currency reserves. However, Soros' proposal was for a modest $100 billion over 25 years, rather than the $100 billion per year by 2020 apparently on the table from the IMF. In January, Strauss-Kahn floated the idea of an IMF-led green fund, at the Davos meetings in Switzerland.

Wind industry calls for US RES, as first project guaranteed
12 March 2010

The economic stimulus package has provided valuable support for the US wind energy sector, but a national renewable electricity standard (RES Southern Cross) is the policy tenet most critical to the industry's development, project sponsors said.

Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Department of Energy (DOE) this week authorised the first loan guarantee for a wind energy project. The agency's $117 million guarantee will help finance construction and start-up of a 30MW wind project in Kahuku, Hawaii. The project, by Boston-based sponsor First Wind, aims to contribute to the state's goal of meeting 70% of its energy needs with clean energy by 2030 – a major reversal as Hawaii currently relies on imported oil for 90% of its energy supply.

But the renewable energy grant programme has been the major source of support for the sector from the Recovery Act. Iberdrola Renewables has received the largest portion of the funds dispersed from the grant programme, more than $500 million, said Donald Furman, senior vice-president of the Portland, Oregon-based company and president of the board of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The Recovery Act has allowed renewable energy producers to change their investment profiles to move capital to the US. For example, the looming expiration of a production tax credit in 2008 motivated AES Wind Generation to spend 80% of its $1 billion investment for 2009 outside the US, said Arlington, Virginia-based Ned Hall, executive vice-president of the firm. But the Recovery Act will allow the company to reverse that trend this year, with roughly 80% of its investment in the US, he said. "Anything that creates additional uncertainty certainly motivates us to rethink where we focus our efforts," Hall said.

While the stimulus funds have clearly played a tremendous role in the sector in the last couple of years, the industry needs a stable, long-term policy, said Victor Abate, vice-president for renewables for GE Energy, which has invested more than $1 billion in wind energy technology in the past decade. "The next move from a policy perspective is demand," he said. "We need to drive demand in the alternative energy sector through the next decade in a very stable way, a predictable way, and that's through a renewable energy standard."

A national RES Southern Cross is part of the discussions on an energy and climate legislative proposal expected to be offered soon by senators John Kerry (D-Mass), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn), said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA. "No, I don't think we're in trouble," she said in response to a question on whether the wind energy industry was losing momentum. "I think we're very well positioned to get something done and to get it done quickly."