Thursday 25 March 2010

Solar use expanding nationwide - Switch to sunlight

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 24/3/2010 Page: 64

SOLAR energy is becoming the renewable energy of choice, with two announcements yesterday that will expand its use in Australia. In the first, CBD Energy subsidiary eco-Kinetics was named a preferred supplier to the Alice Solar City project in Northern Territory under the federal $94 million Solar Citi Investment Researches Program. eco-Kinetics expects sales of close to $3 million by the end of the year by supplying to the Alice Solar City bulk buy program, which has 400 homes registered, managing director Edwin Cywinski said.

"It was a logical place for growing use of solar power and offered potential for eco-Kinetics to gain a strong market position," he said. Seven centres have been chosen to become sustainability models for the rest of the country - Adelaide, Alice Springs, Blacktown, Central Victoria, Moreland, Perth and Townsville - integrating energy options, solar technologies, cost-effective pricing trials and education. The announcement follows a contract win for eco-Kinetics this month with Queensland electricity utility Ergon Energy for photovoltaic systems In the second announcement, Woolworths will trial solar panels at its petrol outlet at Belconnen in northern Canberra in what is claimed to be an Australian first.

The retailer expects the panels will generate about 15% (or 60 kWs) of the site's total energy needs - enough to power store and bowser lighting. If the Belconnen trial and another at Hume in the ACT are successful, solar panels will be placed at other outlets nationwide, but only where gross feed-in tariff and other incentives are offered. "At the moment costs are prohibitively high," Woolworths executive Ramnik Narsey said.

NSW set to power itself on more gas

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 24/3/2010 Page: 65

GAS will be the transitional fuel to help plug future electricity generation shortfalls and reduce carbon emissions in NSW, the State Government says. Energy Minister John Robertson has called for increased private investment in gas projects and exploration while renewable energy sources remain "unreliable". "I'm very conscious, as is the premier, that we need to do more about attracting investment in gasfired generation," he said in a speech to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia yesterday.

"Wind and solar.., are unreliable, so you need something to back up, when the wind stops blowing and the sun is not out. "Gas is the energy source. The CO2 (CO2) emissions are less than half that of coal and they don't use as much water as coal-fired power stations. "Everyone wants some certainty over the price of carbon. "Certainly where I sit, looking at gas as a transitionary fuel, we need a price on carbon to make gas competitive."

Despite talking up the merits of gas, he wouldn't say whether it or coal will fuel two new power stations, in the Hunter region and at Lithgow, west of Sydney. The Government approved concept plans for the 2000-MW power stations in early March. Climate change campaigners claim the carbon emissions from the new plants, if they're run on fossil fuels, will be akin to doubling the number of cars on NSW roads.

But Mr Robertson defended the state government's climate change credentials. "Our state plan sets an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050," he said. Mr Robertson's speech also tackled energy infrastructure spending and accusations of neglect. "Critics argue that we should have replaced some of these assets before today," he said. "But this is unnecessary given our high network reliability. Reliability is currently above 99.975%.

Nuclear reactor at Bulgaria's Kozloduy station taken offline
Mar 22 2010

One of the two 1000MW reactors at Bulgaria's sole nuclear power station at Kozloduy on the Danube River was disconnected from the power grid late on March 21, the plant said on March 22, as quoted by Dnevnik daily.

The reactor was disconnected after a short-circuit in one of the control systems for the turbogenerator, according to the power plant's statement. The incident, which happened at 11.03pm on March 21, did not cause any radioactive leaks, the statement said. The reactor, in unit six of the power plant, is expected to be reconnected to the power grid later on March 22. In the meantime, the fifth unit of the plant was operating at full capacity, the statement said.

Tougher energy code for new housing

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 23/3/2010 Page: 16

Councils must enforce tougher rules for energy efficiency in new buildings from May. The Building Ministers' Forum has approved changes to the building code to require six-star energy efficiency in new residential buildings. The housing industry says the changes will make new homes more expensive and less affordable and have "next to no effect" on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The new rules include:
  • Increased roof insulation and more stringent limits on glazed areas.
  • Restrictions on artificial lighting, including separate switching for high- and low-efficiency lamps.
  • An energy rating scheme for apartments.
  • Electric space heating is banned in most circumstances and "not favoured" for hot water systems.
  • A convection barrier in wall cavities.

"The likelihood is that an escalation in the cost of new dwellings will push prospective new home buyers back into established dwellings that are far less energy-efficient than new dwellings," the Housing Industry said.

Arrow advises shareholders to buy into takeover bid

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 23/3/2010 Page: 43

Arrow Energy Ltd is urging shareholders to accept a sweetened joint takeover bid from Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina Co Ltd, calling it the right step at the right time. "We believe in a nutshell this creates value now and value ongoing," Arrow Energy's chairman John Reynolds said yesterday. The bid includes a cash component of $4.70 per share, up from the earlier bid of $4.45, and a reworked proposal for Arrow Energy's international business.

RBS Morgans senior oil, gas and energy analyst Nik Burns says that under his valuation the new deal would be worth $5.45 per Arrow Energy share, or $3.99 billion in total. If the proposal clears shareholder and regulatory approvals, Arrow Energy's international business de-merged and listed on the Australian stock market as Dart Energy Ltd. Arrow Energy chairman John Reynolds said the offer was good for shareholders. "Arrow Energy has indeed travelled a clear and very disciplined strategic path and we see this as one more highly successful step in this exciting and ongoing journey," Mr Reynolds said.

"The board strongly believes that this proposal is the right step at the right time, and elegantly combines the present and the future in both benefits and value for our shareholders." If the deal is accepted, Dart Energy will include Arrow Energy's 90% interest in Arrow Energy International Pte Ltd, which holds assets in China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. Dart Energy will also control farm-in rights into Apollo Gas Ltd's licences in New South Wales and land a $45 million cash injection, and a $27.3 million) loan facility from Shell.

Firth power project plan still on
22 March 2010

A company leading a plan to use tidal energy to power a computer data centre in the far north of Scotland has said it remained committed to the project. Atlantis Resources Corporation did not apply for the first round of leases for renewable energy sites in the Pentland Firth that were granted last week. But chief executive Timothy Cornelius said the company proposed bidding when other locations were made available.

Two years of planning have gone into the data facility and tidal scheme. The Crown Estate leased 10 sites on the seabed around Orkney and the Pentland Firth to seven companies last week. Atlantis Resources's proposal is for a computer data centre in Caithness providing services for a number of companies and powered by tidal energy rather than depend on electricity supplied to the National Grid.

Solarfun to supply modules to Germany's EnBW
Mar 22, 2010

March 22 (Reuters) - Chinese photovoltaic (PV) cell maker Solarfun Power Holdings Co Ltd said it would supply 5.5 MWs (MW) of modules to Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany's third-largest utility. EnBW, which plans to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix to 20% by 2020, plans to build a solar park in Baden-Wuerttemberg using Solarfun Power's modules. The solar park, one of the largest in the region, is expected to be connected to the grid in June.

Germany, the world's PV leader, is expected to add more than 5,000 MW of photovoltaic capacity in 2010. About 9,000 MW were installed in the country at the end of 2009. However, Germany plans to curb support to the solar sector, which the government sees as overly subsidised. Solarfun Power shares, which have nearly doubled in the past year, closed at $6.33 Friday on Nasdaq.

Areva plans new reactors that make nuclear waste disappear
March 22, 2010

A new type of nuclear reactor that could permanently "destroy" atomic waste is being developed by French scientists, according to the chief executive of Areva, the world's largest nuclear energy company. Anne Lauvergeon told The Times that the French group was developing a technology to burn up actinides - highly radioactive uranium isotopes that are the waste products of nuclear fission inside a reactor. The technology could be critical in winning greater global public support for nuclear energy and cutting emissions of CO2.

"We have developed the highest safety level with [our existing reactors]," she said. "In terms of public acceptance, the remaining issue is the waste. In the future we will be able to destroy the actinides by making them disappear in a special reactor. We can do it already in a laboratory. With research and development, we will address this issue."

The project at Areva is similar to research being carried out at the University of Texas in Austin, where scientists have designed a system that would use fusion to eliminate virtually all the waste produced by civil nuclear reactors. Swadesh Mahajan, senior research scientist at Austin's Institute for Fusion Studies (IFS), believes that the invention could hugely reduce the need for geological repositories for waste. "We want to make nuclear energy as socially and environmentally acceptable as possible," he said. "Nuclear waste cannot be 100 per cent eliminated, but the volume, the toxicity and the biohazard could be reduced by 99 per cent."

The invention could mean, he said, that instead of the world needing to build 100 geological stores for nuclear waste, only one or two might be necessary to store decades of waste. Mike Kotschenreuther, also of the IFS, said that the technology rested on the use of a spherical hybrid fusion-fission reactor. The waste would be held in a "blanket" around the reactor core and destroyed by firing streams of neutrons at it. He acknowledged that big technical challenges remained, not least that to work effectively the reactor would have to operate continuously, creating the problem of how to extract the destroyed waste.

About 440 nuclear plants are operating in 31 countries worldwide, with a collective generating capacity of 370 GWs of electrical power, or 15 per cent of the global total. But electricity produced from nuclear fission also produces 12,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste per year, including plutonium that can be used to manufacture weapons.

Ms Lauvergeon said that the volume of high-level nuclear waste produced by all of France's 58 reactors over the past 40 years could fit in one Olympic-size swimming pool. "Of course, it would be better to have nothing, but this is fully managed and we have to view this issue in a balanced way compared to other solutions." Nuclear power produces more than 80 per cent of French electricity. Britain's high-level waste is stored in a temporary facility at the Sellafield nuclear waste plant in Cumbria. The concept of a hybrid fission-fusion reactor was first developed in the 1950s, but little research was conducted for several decades.

India to produce 35,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020
March 21, 2010

India is expected to produce 35,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020, a senior official from Atomic Energy Commission said. "The total nuclear power generation of India is expected to reach 35,000 MW by 2020," Atomic Energy Commission Chairman and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Director, S. Banerjee, told PTI on the sidelines of a function conducted by Jadavpur University Alumni Association Mumbai Branch (JUAAM), on nuclear power.

"But the nuclear power will account for less than 10 per cent of the total demand in 2020, as by that time, demand for power will have reached 35,000 MW-40,000 MW," he said. He said that India'a nuclear power generation program needs support from the private sector as well. "It's a wrong notion that only Government is doing all activities in the nuclear power program. We need the industry support also. TCS, an IT company under Tatas, are our partner for decades," Mr. Banerjee said.

He, however, said that the private players can play only a minor role in power generation. "The present Atomic Energy Act allows private parties to be only the minor stakeholders in generation of power. No private company can jump into the production which does not have the expertise. A lot of safety and security concerns are there," he said. He said now there are many joint ventures in the pipeline, including that of private-public partnership model, for nuclear power.

"NTPC has already signed an agreement with Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for nuclear power generation. There are a lot of activities going on and companies like Nalco have also come forward for production of nuclear power," he said. Recently, L&T and NPCIL together announced a joint venture for equipment manufacturing, where L&T owns the controlling stake, he added.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Egypt to host Dutch solar materials plant
Mar 20, 2010

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is to host a factory producing raw materials and gas used to generate solar energy, with $460 million of investments in total, state news agency MENA reported on Saturday. Egypt is giving priority to boosting its renewable energy output and Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieldin said he supports the project, according to MENA's article, which said the factory will be run by a Dutch company it did not name. The new plant is expected to produce annually 3,000 tonnes of polysilicon, a key material in most solar cells, and 1,500 tonnes of a gas also used in the manufacture of cells.

Officials say Egypt's combined oil and gas reserves will last the most populous Arab country roughly three decades, encouraging a shift to alternative energy sources, including wind, solar and nuclear. Solar projects in Egypt have lagged behind wind schemes, but the country's first solar power plant will start production by the end of 2010, Egypt's electricity minister said earlier this year. The new project will also include a research unit on solar energy technologies. According to MENA the plant will be built on a 200,000 m² site northwest the Suez Canal.

The country has strong solar energy potential due to low levels of rain and clouds, and year-round sun. The North African country, an oil and gas producer, has been developing wind power along its eastern Red Sea coast, where it has wind farms at Zafarana and Hurghada, and has so far installed capacity of 430 MWs of wind energy. Egypt expects to see its wind power capacity reach 7,200 MWs by 2020 and is boosting it to 550 MWs by May.

NTPC to set up 1,000 MW power plant near Khambhat
March 21, 2010

Gandhinagar: The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is mulling setting up a thermal power plant of 1000 MW capacity, likely to be located near Khambhat. Bharatsinh Solanki, Union Minister of State for Power released this information in Gandhinagar, on the occasion of signing of Memorandum of Understanding on Saturday between Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd (GPCL) and NTPC for setting up a 500 MW renewable energy-based power plant in Gujarat.

GPCL is the nodal agency of Gujarat government for power projects implementation in the state. Talking to media persons in Gandhinagar after the signing, Solanki said: "NTPC has also come up with a proposal to set up a coal-based power plant of 1,000 MW preferably near Khambhat and the state government is ready to help in its execution." As per terms and conditions of the MoU, NTPC will set up the plants while GPCL will assist in land acquisition and getting necessary approval from the government and also enter into power purchase agreement with the former.

Out of a total 500 MW, 400 MW will be generated through wind energy, while rest of the power plants will be run on solar energy. These projects will require investment of around Rs 4,000 crore and all the projects are expected to be completed in 30 months. Gujarat government has already given its approval to NTPC for setting up a 50 MW solar power plant at Morwada in Gujarat. Commenting on the MoU, Saurabh Patel said, "After announcement of the solar policy by the state government, 34 companies have shown keen interest to set up solar power plants with total capacity of 766 MW."

Mayors give thumbs up to turbine farms

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 21/3/2010 Page: 38

MAYORS from the breeziest regions of Queensland are putting out the welcome mat for wind farms.

A new wind map of the state shows most of the coastline from Fraser Island to Bowen and from Cairns to the Torres Strait is blowy enough for turbines, particularly around Cooktown and the Atherton Tableland. Even regions with lower wind speeds, such as the Darling Downs and southern Queensland are considered suitable. Queensland lags behind the rest of Australia on wind energy, with only one operating wind farm of 20 turbines at Windy Hill on the Atherton Tableland.

There is also a single turbine on North Keppel Island, off central Queensland, and two turbines on Thursday Island. By comparison South Australia has 10 wind farms, Western Australia 14, Victoria eight, Tasmania six and New South Wales seven, according to the Clean Energy Council. Despite some community opposition, the mayors of Cooktown, the Tablelands, the Western Downs and the South Burnett believe wind farms will be great for tourism and local economies.

But none of the eight wind farms at the proposal stage in Queensland have got off the ground yet. Tablelands mayor Tom Gilmore said he was "very, very supportive" of wind farms and looked forward to more. "We love them up here," Cr Gilmore said. "Because Windy Hill has been going on for years, to the greater part people accept that wind generation is an environmental plus." Cook Shire boasts the windiest coast in Queensland and is backing a proposed wind farm at Archer Point, just south of Cooktown.

Shire mayor Peter Scott said wind farms were seen as a "huge opportunity" for the community. "We would like to see it go ahead sooner rather than later. Let's get things happening," he said. South Burnett mayor David Carter and Western Downs Regional Council mayor Ray Brown both support the Coopers Gap wind farm which could be started next year midway between their regions. "We don't have very strong winds like some areas but we have more consistent winds which is great for power," Cr Carter said.

Not everyone is as positive about the benefits of wind farms. In southern states, groups have been protesting against the noise of wind farms, which they claim has made people sick. Some critics describe the massive turbines as an eyesore on the landscape, while others claim they are dangerous to birds. Mayors contacted by The Sunday Mail were adamant community opposition in Queensland was minimal, a claim disputed by former Atherton Tableland residents Dot and Jim Newman.

The Newmans know what it's like to live in the shadow of Queensland's only wind farm and they didn't like it. The couple were promised zero noise from Windy Hill but the reality, they said, was 24-hour vibrations and chopping sounds. "It wasn't like a factory, which is 8am to 5pm. This was all day and all night," Mr Newman said. Now living in Cairns, Mr Newman said he would not recommend wind farms near homes in Queensland. Wind Power Queensland managing director Lloyd Stumer said the main factor holding back investment in green energy such as wind farms was the continued availability of cheap coal.

Texan wind energy protects wildlife using radar
19 March 2010

A California-based wind energy developer has acquired a 283 MW wildlife-friendly wind farm along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas. Pattern Energy Group purchased the Gulf Wind project from Babcock and Brown. The 118 Mitsubishi wind turbines generate power for 80,000 homes, and the majority of the facility's output has been contracted to a third-party, with the price secured under a long-term power agreement.

"Gulf Wind is a premier wind energy project that implements leading scientific technology and solidifies Pattern Energy's presence in the Gulf Coast renewable energy market," explains Mike Garland of Pattern Energy. "Gulf Wind is situated in a unique coastal location where the winds blow strongest at the times of the day, as well as the seasons of the year, when electricity demand and prices are highest, translating into strong revenue and the ability to better meet demand in the markets we serve."

The wind turbines are located on the Gulf Coast in Kenedy County, Texas, where strong winds allow the project to maximise energy output during periods of peak demand and peak pricing. The project is close to transmission lines which allow efficient delivery of power to nearby markets. Radar shuts down wind turbines when birds approach "In addition to its prime location, Gulf Wind uses advanced radar technology to protect the area's migratory birds," adds Garland. "This technology is an excellent example of Pattern's commitment to be a leader in scientific innovation and a good steward of the environment."

Scientists at Pattern, while under previous employment with Babcock and Brown, led the development of Merlin Scada radar technology for real-time bird mortality risk mitigation, the first of its kind in the world. The 'early warning radar' detects approaching flocks, assesses mortality risk conditions, and automatically activates mitigation responses, including the idling of all turbines when appropriate. Gulf Wind has been operational since 2009 on part of a ranch owned by a charitable foundation. The sale requires Pattern to make quarterly royalty payments to that foundation so it can continue its work in South Texas.

Facility pays millions in taxes and conserves water
The wind farm pays US$3.5 million in local taxes and the annual output of green power offsets 518,000 tons of CO2. It also conserves 225 million gallons of water that would be consumed by traditional methods of power generation. Pattern was formed 8 months ago and now has 4 GW of renewable energy projects in operation or under construction across North America, including Gulf Wind and the 101 MW Hatchet Ridge Wind project in Northern California currently under construction.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

A Path to Cheaper Solar Energy: Big Mirrors by Alcoa
Mar 19, 2010

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about how to make a certain kind of solar energy, called solar thermal, cheaper. The big cost in solar thermal comes from the price of the mirrors used to reflect sunlight onto an enclosed liquid - often water - which boils to drive turbines. Mirrors, it turns out, only seem cheap until you need to buy a few hundred thousand of them.

A number of companies have been working to make mirrors cheaper - including some you wouldn't expect. Back in February, I wrote about Google's bid to drive down the cost of mirrors, the search company's first serious foray into materials technology. Google's motivation is its investments in two solar thermal companies, BrightSource Energy and eSolar.

Google hopes to put its cheaper mirrors on the market within a few years. But it has just had its thunder stolen by another unexpected entrant: Alcoa, one of the world's biggest aluminum makers. It turns out that a bit of spit and shoeshine can make aluminum highly reflective.

You can see Alcoa's take on a parabolic trough in the image above. The trough design is pretty typical in solar thermal; its advantage is that the curved design focuses a lot of sunlight to one point. What you can't see are the parts behind the mirror. Alcoa's money-saving idea is not only to eliminate the glass in mirrors, but also to fabricate the trough as a single piece - the support structure is built into the mirror.

Alcoa's mirror is in testing now, but the company expects the design to knock 20% off the cost of a solar thermal installation. An Alcoa exec spoke to the New York Times about the design:

"If you go out and look behind large parabolic troughs, you'll find an elaborate truss structure," said Rick Winter, a technology executive with Alcoa. "From our understanding of aerospace structures, we said if we can modify the wing box design used in aircraft and integrate a parabolic reflector, it would give us a light and stiff structure that would fundamentally affect the cost equation."

Clearly, Alcoa is no stranger to unusual fabrication techniques. Apart from working on aircraft, it also does work for the automotive, construction, defense, and oil industries, among others.

What remains to be seen is whether the products that Alcoa, Google or anyone else manufactures actually fit the needs of the solar thermal companies. But if the cost reductions are anything on the order of what's claimed, it will be great news for the solar thermal industry - so much so that cheap mirrors could potentially put solar power on an even footing with traditional sources of energy, like natural gas.

Air Liquide finishes project for Shell Hydrogen
March 21, 2010

Air Liquide said Dec. 16 that it has completed the installation of a fueling system for Shell Hydrogen in Bronx, NY, in addition to the fueling equipment, Air Liquide is also supplying the hydrogen gas and liquid nitrogen required for operations. The station will provide fueling capability in support of General Motor's Project Driveway vehicles and serve as another site in the network being developed in New York in anticipation of other auto manufacturers introducing fuel-cell vehicles to the area. Air Liquide's technology is also used at a station in Ardsley, NY Using hydrogen as energy for transportation is a promising solution for sustainable mobility. Air Liquide has also provided fueling systems in California, Delaware and many countries around the world.

The fueling systems are built in the US with proprietary engineering designs from Air Liquide Advanced Technologies US LLC, and are capable of filling a car at 700 bar pressure in less than five minutes. "Air Liquide's innovative hydrogen technologies are powering vehicles and equipment while protecting the environment. With more than 40 years experience in hydrogen and numerous related patents, Air Liquide is helping to build the hydrogen energy infrastructure, to demonstrate its benefits to society and prepare for future markets," said Michael J. Graff, a member of Air Liquide's executive committee and president and CEO of American Air Liquide Holdings Inc. For more information visit

AGL sells Surat gas pipe

Weekend Australian
Saturday 20/3/2010 Page: 27

AGL Energy has sold a gas pipeline in Queensland to APA Group for $82.6 million as it builds funds to spend on wind farm developments and power assets being privatised in NSW. The 112km, 40.5cm, Berwyndale-to-Wallumbilla pipeline was built to take gas from Surat Basin fields in the state's south, now owned by BG Group, to the Wallumbilla hub near Roma, central Queensland. AGL Energy and APA Group have also signed a 17-year agreement to use the pipeline.

Why the utilities want us to use more power

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 20/3/2010 Page: 5

Huge increases in electricity prices might be more palatable if we were getting, for our money, a cleaner and more efficient grid that helped us respond effectively to climate change. We're not. We are busily expanding a grid that entrenches electricity generation from fossil fuels and will only accelerate climate change. Over the next five years the country will spend about $47 billion - our biggest single-ticket infrastructure item, larger than the national broadband network - on electricity transmission (high-voltage power lines from power generators to retailers) and distribution (supplying power from retailers to homes and businesses).

That is forecast capital expenditure including replacing and adding to an ageing network, in the eastern states National Electricity Market Management Company and in WesternAustralia. That is before a cent is spent on new electricity generation capacity whether from renewables or fossil fuels-or on retiring our dirtiest coal-fired generators. Less than 1% of that expenditure, says Chris Dunstan of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, is on demand-side strategies - a combination of energy efficiency, peak load management and distributed power generation (produced at or near the point of use, like rooftop solar panels).

Spending on the grid, approved by the Australian Energy Regulator, is overwhelmingly focused on supply side infrastructure because it is guided by market rules, which typically link the profitability of network operators to the volume of electricity they supply. Until this nexus is broken, our utilities have a financial incentive to ensure we use more power, not less.

In NSW - which found this week it is facing its biggest-ever electricity price rise, of up to 64% over the next three years-there is an extra layer of incentive to maximise network revenues because the government hopes to maximise the sale price of EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy, as well as the power output from state-owned power stations.

Most of the approved increase in NSW-about two-thirds-is due to higher network costs. The remainder is attributed to the introduction of an emissions trading scheme with a carbon price of $10 a tonne initially, as proposed under the federal carbon pollution reduction scheme. Similarly hefty price increases are expected in other states, as the regulator warned in December.

In December Bruce Mountain, of the energy consultancy Carbon Market Economics, coauthored a Cambridge University paper comparing electricity network costs in NSW and Britain. The study found that costs and allowed revenues were higher in NSW-up to four times more per customer- and were growing much faster over tine. A comparison between NSW and the privatised electricity sector in Victoria bore out the analysis.

Australian media reports, Mountain says, either blindly attribute network cost blow-outs to climate policy or accept they are needed because of demand growth and ageing assets. "These cost blow-outs appear to be a failure of network regulation, combined with a propensity by government-owned businesses to augment the regulated asset bases, as a way to maximise the financial returns that the state derives from these businesses. This is to the considerable detriment of energy users, and the implementation of efficient distributed generation and demand-side response."

The regulator and the energy networks association hit back at the Mountain study, arguing NSW could not be compared with Britain geographically and national regulation of the electricity market had to be given time to work. It's not that our $47 billion spending on the grid is unnecessary. However, an Institute for Sustainable Futures report recommended last year that network augmentation should be the last resort - used after operators have explored all the available demand-side options. The regulator believes new network spending cannot be deferred indefinitely, and cites demand-side initiatives such as the shift to smart meters and tune-of-use tariffs - which are rolling out (with some hiccups) in Victoria.

Rather than reinforcing transmission from new and existing fossil fuel-powered generators, we need urgently to prepare the network to supply electricity from areas where renewable energy resources are greatest-likely sites for wind, solar, geothermal and wave power generation to our main cities. A good example says Mark Diesendorf, the deputy director of the University of New South Wales's Institute of Environmental Studies, would be a new major transmission line from windy Port Augusta in South Australia via Broken Hill and Dubbo to Wollar (near Mudgee) and the proposed 1000-MW Silverton wind farm near Broken Hill.

New-generation infrastructure is another story again. NSW-owned Macquarie Generation and Delta Energy are proposing to build two new coal - or gas-fired baseload power stations, at Bayswater in the Hunter Valley and Mount Piper near Lithgow, with about 4000MW of combined new capacity.

Last year, the institute modelled five energy supply scenarios for NSW to meet projected shortfalls in peak capacity to 2020. They ranged from building a new coal-fired power station or building a new gas-fired power station to three scenarios combining demand-side strategies. Scenario five, combining co-generation, energy efficiency, distributed energy and a reduction in coal-fired capacity, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million tonnes a year compared with gas, and had a cumulative cost $500 million lower than gas. Compared with the coal scenario the advantages were even greater, saving 8 million tonnes of emissions and costing $1.5 billion less.

Building new coal-fired power is risky, given uncertainty about carbon pricing, and will provoke a sharp community response. Last weekend the second annual climate action summit was held at the Australian National University, with about 300 people turning up to get a national movement going. The summit got very little attention outside Canberra but the very top priority, said one speaker, was ramping up the campaign against coal-fired power especially, a push to shut down the country's dirtiest brown coal-fired power station, Hazelwood in Victoria.

Power cost to surge in three years

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 20/3/2010 Page: 3

POWER retailers, including three state-owned companies up for sale, could pocket higher profits from the price rises handed down this week. Electricity prices will jump by up to 60% over the three years to 2012-13, costing some households up to $918 more a year, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal said on Thursday. Although most of the rise will be driven by higher network costs and a possible emissions trading scheme, the increase allows for higher retail margins among EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy.

The tribunal's ruling included a 2 to 3% increase in these retailers' margins over three years, and private sector operators AGL Energy and Origin Energy are also likely to see margins rise. AGL Energy stands to gain the most because it has 250,000 customers in NSW, compared with Origin Energy's estimated 110,000 customers. UBS analyst David Leitch estimated AGL Energy's earnings before interest, tax and depreciation could increase by $40 million over the three-year period, and upgraded AGL Energy's after-tax profit forecasts by $5 million in 2011 and $8 million in 2012.

The timing of the tribunal's increase was not lost on some observers, who said they were not surprised to see prices and margins going up before privatisation of the sector. The government last month delayed the troubled asset sale until later this year, amid criticism of the complexity of the process. Analysts said the government dominated electricity industry in NSW had kept retailing margins too low to attract the necessary investment. A utilities analyst at Macquarie, Gavin Matter, said NSW margins were disproportionately low compared with other states and needed to rise to attract new competition into the state's retail electricity market.

"Margins are creeping up to more appropriately reflect the risks that these non-government businesses are taking in an extremely volatile electricity market," he said. Mr Maher said the most important outcome from the tribunal's decision was that it allowed power retailers to pass on to consumers the extra costs from the proposed emissions trading scheme and the Renewable Energy Target. The risk with having tariffs set by the states is that sometimes you get political interference in setting an appropriate tariff level. This has in the past led to the likes of AGL Energy and Origin Energy having earnings squeezed for the sake of political point scoring. The IPART decision hopefully sets a precedent for other state regulators to follow."

Renewables investment to breach $200bn in 2010?
19 March 2010

New investment in clean energy is set to recover to at least $175 billion-200 billion this year, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). But while the analysis firm is forecasting that current policies will drive $200 billion of investments in physical clean energy generating assets by 2030 (not including initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, etc), this is far below the $500 billion/year it says will be needed by that date to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yesterday, BNEF published revised historical figures to reflect revisions to its methodology. It found that $162 billion was invested in 2009 across the financing spectrum, from corporate R&D and venture capital through to asset financing. This figure was down 6.4% from the revised 2008 figure of $173 billion. Speaking to reporters before the start of a BNEF conference in London yesterday, CEO Michael Liebreich said that investment this year "could be as high as 2008 … given that [government] stimulus money is now coming through at the project level". While he gave a range of $175 billion-200 billion, he added that "if our past record is anything to go by, I'm more likely to be surprised on the upside."

However, a long-term projection from a new economic model built by BNEF forecasts that investments in renewable energy generating assets will only reach $150 billion by 2020 and $200 billion by 2030, based on existing policies and measures, up from $90 billion in 2009. This would mean that renewables account for 22% of the world's installed power generation base by 2020, up from 13% today, and 31% by 2030.

"These figures must increase significantly in order to avert the worst effects of climate change and achieve an average of 2 t CO2 [tonnes of CO2] per head by 2050," the company says – namely to $230 billion by 2020 and $500 billion by 2030. Guy Turner, director of carbon markets at BNEF, said that a global carbon price of $65/tCO2 by 2013, rising to $100/t by 2030, would be sufficient to drive this increased level of investment. "We would get there – we've got the technology, all we need is the willpower," he said.

However, current carbon prices in Europe are at around $15/t, and the US and China – the world's two largest emitters – appear extremely reluctant to begin putting a price on carbon. Nonetheless, Turner insisted that the price on carbon is "affordable – $100/t won't destroy our way of life".

Liebreich said he was unfazed by the failure of the Copenhagen conference to make much progress on securing a post-2012 international climate change deal. "The focus on Copenhagen and Mexico [where UN climate talks will continue, in December], is a distraction, compared with what's actually happening on the ground," with national and regional legislation and policies to support low-carbon investment.

"We'll be negotiating on climate for the next 50 years," he said, noting that "whole other areas of global policy-making", around tariffs and trade, and national and international product standards, are likely to become more important in promoting low-carbon technologies and emission reductions.

Monday 22 March 2010

U.S. added 10,000 MW of wind-power capacity in 2009
Mar 18, 2010

GREENSBORO, N.C., March 18 (Reuters) - Wind-generated electricity is growing rapidly in the United States but the pace still lags far behind that in China, the organizer of an industry conference in North Carolina said. "With the right policies in place, we can see explosive growth... It's a global footrace," said Jeff Anthony, business development director of the American Wind Energy Association.

Although the United States has the largest amount of installed wind power capacity in the world, the wind power industry is "fighting to get on a level playing field" with other government-subsidized power-providers, Anthony told a conference of parts manufacturers, suppliers, wind project developers and economic development officers from around the southeastern United States. "What the wind industry looks like in the U.S, in 10 years depends a lot on what comes out of Washington... Policy does drive the industry," he told the conference in Greensboro, North Carolina.

A little more than 1.5% of power supplied in the United States is generated by wind, Anthony said. "It's an important part of how we generate electricity in the U.S, today. It's still relatively small in terms of%ages, but it's growing rapidly... Only in the last seven or eight years has the cost come down... The price of electricity from wind projects has stabilized." Last year, 10,000 MWs of wind capacity were added to the grid, bringing the country's total wind power capacity to 35,000 MWs, Anthony said. Industry growth in 2009 was 39%, he said. "China is currently growing at 100%. They are doubling the amount of wind power capacity in their country every year," Anthony said.

To reach a goal set by the U.S. Department of Energy for 20% of the nation's electricity to be generated by wind by 2030, "we will need 300,000 MWs of power generated by wind turbines," Anthony said. "So we're one-tenth of the way there." Problems include a lag in manufacturing - - almost all manufacturers of turbine parts are based outside the United States - - and transmission. "We need a green superhighway" to get power from the windiest parts of the country, in a north-south swath through the middle, to the areas where demand is highest, Anthony said. "Electricity is the only commodity you can't store," he said.

The highest demand is on the East Coast, where 28 coastal states use almost 80% of the electricity in the country, said Nick Rigas, a Clemson University wind expert who spoke at the conference. Offshore wind turbines, in use around the world for years, have yet to be built off U.S, coasts. Duke Energy's three proposed wind turbines in Pamlico Sound on the North Carolina coast will probably be the first in-water wind engines to be built in the country, Rigas said.

Rigas is senior scientist and director of Clemson University Restoration Institute's $98 million drive-train testing facility being built on the coast of South Carolina to test the next generation of global large wind turbines, 15-MW engines that can weigh up to 300 tons. The facility is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy along with public and private partners, and will allow access to all manufacturers and protect intellectual property rights, he said. New technology will change the wind power industry, Rigas said. Turbines will get quieter and lighter, and efficiencies in wind power will improve, he said. "The cost of offshore is high right now," said.

But, he said "If we do not find a way to harness a large resource sitting near a big demand - - it's Economics 101 - - I think we have some issues with ourselves," Rigas said. "It comes down to: Do we as a nation think that carbon emissions have an adverse impact on our environment and our future? The other issue with the fossil fuels is that they are a finite resource. Why are we depleting a finite resource by just burning it?" He agreed that sustainable energy policy is crucial. Energy policy "can't come and go depending on who is in office," he said. "In China, wind power is huge and still growing while we sit here and contemplate our navels," he said. "We still think we're the center of the universe and the big economic engine, but the world is changing. Are we going to change with it?"

Solar PV, Wind, and Biofuel Markets Expand 11.4% in 2009
Mar 18, 2010

A new Clean Energy Trends report said that combined global revenue for the three major clean-energy sectors – solar photovoltaics (PV), wind power, and biofuels – grew by 11.4% in 2009 compared to 2008, reaching $139.1 billion. Clean Edge's Annual Clean Energy Trends Report forecasts the three sectors to reach $325.9 billion by 2019. The report said global solar PV and wind power industries together currently account for more than 830,000 jobs worldwide, and projected the total to grow to 3.3 million jobs by 2019.

The report projects wind power (new installation capital costs) to expand from $63.5 billion in 2009 to $114.5 billion in 2019. Last year's global wind power installations reached a record 37,500 MW. China, the first-time global leader in new installations, accounted for more than a third of new installations, with 13,000 MW.

Solar PV is forecast to grow from a $30.7 billion industry in 2009 to $98.9 billion by 2019. New installations approached 6 GW worldwide in 2009, a nearly six-fold increase from five years earlier. However, rapidly declining solar PV prices caused industry revenue to fall about 20% in 2009, from $38.5 billion in 2008.

The report said the global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel reached $44.9 billion in 2009 and is projected to grow to $112.5 billion by 2019. In 2009, the biofuels market consisted of more than 23.6 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel production worldwide.

GE Sees Bright Future for Thin Film Solar Technology
March 18, 2010

With the race on in earnest to have the most efficient, low-cost solar module on the market, GE announced it is focusing its research and development efforts on thin film photovoltaic (PV) technology in conjunction with PrimeStar Solar Inc., the startup firm in which GE is a majority investor. Working closely with PrimeStar technology experts, the company is bringing to bear the full scale of its four Global Research operations to address each of the challenges required to bring a new product to market.

"After having completed an exhaustive survey of the PV landscape, we determined that thin films were the optimum path for GE," said Danielle Merfeld, GE's solar R&D leader. "Specifically, the CdTe technology from PrimeStar has great potential. Bringing together world-class materials expertise, unique materials and systems modeling and design capabilities and state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor solar testing facilities, GE researchers are innovating across our four global research centers--literally around the clock--to deliver a breakthrough product to market."

The GE/PrimeStar product is being developed at PrimeStar's headquarters in Arvada, Colo. A team of PrimeStar technologists with more than 100 years of combined thin film deposition expertise is working closely with GE researchers, who are focused on several key areas in order to achieve best-in-class technology. These include device efficiency, reliability, production and installation costs and manufacturability. Hundreds of technologists in Germany, China, India and the United States are working on GE solar technologies today--addressing these challenges in the following ways:

The team in Munich, at the heart of the global solar industry, is utilizing world-class indoor and outdoor solar system test facilities where they study finished module performance to identify and address degradation mechanisms and packaging issues. In addition to the focus on the module itself, this team also brings deep expertise at the system level. This allows them to define system-level optimized features and metrics for the module.

In China, where most of the world's CdTe raw materials are found, researchers at GE's China Technology Center in Shanghai are focused on CdTe materials and the impact they have on device performance. Improving material quality and developing advanced materials characterization techniques are key topics being addressed by the Shanghai team.

In India, GE is leveraging extensive modeling capabilities at its John F. Welch Technology Centre in Bangalore. Unlike the exclusively experimental approach favored by many in this field, GE believes that dramatic improvements in the device performance and reliability will be realized through a deeper understanding of the materials and basic physics of the device. The team in Bangalore is tasked with building comprehensive models to help guide advanced device design.

Finally, GE's research team in Niskayuna, N.Y., is working on all facets of CdTe module development, including material growth, device development and robust process development. Their technical expertise cuts across diverse fields such as surface chemistry, laser processing and plasma physics. Equally diverse is their product development experience, which they have derived from GE's other technology-focused businesses such as Healthcare, Lighting and Batteries.

GE currently provides a range of utility-scale solar solutions, including smart grid power electronics and pre-packaged systems. GE's Brilliance(TM) solar inverter offers reliable power conversion technology derived from its industry-leading 1.5 MW wind turbine.

China-based Suntech to supply PV modules for PV power station in Taiwan
18 March 2010

China-based photovoltaic (PV) module maker SunTech Power will be the single supplier of PV modules for use by Taiwan-based Fortune Electric to construct a PV power station of 4.7MWp in southern Taiwan, according to a SunTech press release. Fortune, which makes electric machinery and equipment for power generation and distribution, is building the power station for the state-run Taiwan Power Company (Taipower). It won the project through an open bid in September 2009. SunTech said it will supply a total of 16,640 advanced polycrystalline silicon PV modules, each with peak power generation of up to 280 watts, and delivery will begin in June 2010. The power station is scheduled to begin operation in early 2011, SunTech noted.

Russia eyes 1/4 of world nuclear reactor market-Putin
Mar 18, 2010

VOLGODONSK, Russia, March 18 (Reuters) - Russia will strive to control a quarter of the global nuclear power market and will boost nuclear energy use at home, starting with a $6 billion investment this year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. Putin said on Thursday Russia should use its competitive advantage to meet a renaissance in global demand for nuclear energy, which has regained popularity worldwide more than two decades after the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. "We can afford to control no less than 25% of the global market for construction and servicing nuclear plants," said Putin. He did not give a timescale for the project.

Putin was chairing a government meeting at the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant, the first such plant built in Russia since the Chernobyl disaster. "We need to strengthen our position in the global competition," he said. Russia controls about 20% of the market now. Russia is competing against multinationals from the United States and France in the nuclear sector but is eyeing an alliance with Germany's Siemens to conquer back some of its traditional markets in eastern Europe and Asia.

Putin said Russia would launch the nuclear reactor that it is building at Iran's Bushehr atomic power plant in mid-2010 and would also sign contracts to build two reactors at Tianwan nuclear power plant in China. His comments followed Russia's agreement this month with Cold War ally India to build at least 12 nuclear reactors there as Asia's third-largest economy boosts power supplies to help sustain rapid economic growth.

Domestic Reactors
Many countries are casting a fresh eye over nuclear power, which has gained in popularity worldwide as an alternative to expensive and less environmentally friendly fossil fuels.

As well as seeking to capitalise on this global trend, Putin said Russia planned to build another 26 nuclear reactors at home by 2030 in addition to the existing 31 at 10 working nuclear power plants, which have combined capacity of 23.2 GWs. He said he wanted to raise the share of nuclear energy in domestic consumption to 20% from the current 16% in the medium term and to 25-30% by 2030. Russia would invest about $6 billion in the sector in 2010, he said.

A higher share of nuclear energy would also free up natural gas, currently being burnt at conventional power plants that receive it at low prices, for export. This could potentially raise gas export monopoly Gazprom's revenues. Putin said foreign investors could take up to a 49% stake in the $6.8 billion nuclear power plant in the Kaliningrad enclave, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Italian power firm Enel has expressed interest in the project.