Saturday 8 May 2010

On an e-mission with gas trucks

Daily Telegraph
Saturday 1/5/2010 Page: 38

IT COULD be a case of second time lucky for Isuzu Australia and compressed natural gas technology. The Japanese importer jumped the gun when it introduced trucks running CNG to Australia in 2004. It sold 16 before putting the pin, but Australia's best-selling truck brand is introducing four CNG trucks using multi-point injection technology. There are four CNG trucks including two N-Series models and two F-Series models that promise similar performance to diesel, dramatically reduced emissions as well as significantly reduced running costs.

The initial purchase prices of the four models will rise with a premium of around 20%. Isuzu is not yet ready to say how long it would take customers to cover the premium but said the fuel savings would be significant and would increase if the price of diesel soars. "There is a price premium associated with the purchase of the vehicle, however, the payback from reduced running costs equates to a favourable return on investment," says Isuzu Trucks Australia director, Phil Taylor.

The price of CNG varies and is often bought in bulk using yearly contracts. Some companies receive CNG for around 40-50c a cubic metre, which can be equated to a litre of diesel. Another advantage is the stability of the price, as CNG is not linked to the price of fossil fuel. There are seven public CNG vehicle refuelling outlets here and Isuzu is realistic that the widespread take up of CNG trucks is a long way away.

It is confident vehicle fleets that have a CNG filling station on site, or are prepared to install one, will be interested in its offerings. Given the limited CNG network, the trucks would be used for city and suburban transport. "Given the refuelling practicalities of CNG trucks, practicality dictates that fleets with back to base operations will be our main target," Taylor says. Some fleets have a CNG filling station on site for forklifts and the setup costs are minimal given that CNG is piped to most locations already.

The CNG models come in under the Euro 5 emission standard to be introduced next year and meet many of the ratings required for the Euro 6 standard, which doesn't have an introduction date in Australia. The CNG engines emit a fraction of the particulate matter compared to diesel as well as less NOx. ''These CNG engines provide greenhouse gas reductions in the order of 15 to 30%, and these are conservative figures," says Isuzu Australia product planning manager, Colin White.

The most prominent parts of CNG are methane (90% ) and ethane (6% ). The Isuzu engines have complex sensors that enable to air/gas mix to be varied to make up for the different blends of CNG. Two different engines are used for the four new Isuzu CNG trucks. The light duty N-Series trucks run a 4.6-litre, naturally aspirated four cylinder, while the medium duty F-Series trucks use a 7.8-litre turbo six. Both are based on diesel power plants that have been developed to run on gas. They are single fuel, not requiring any diesel to start or run, and are one generation ahead of the single mixer CNG system used on the last CNG trucks Isuzu brought here.

The 4.6-litre unit in the NLR 200 and NPR 300 produces 96kW (hp) and 353Nm available at 1400rpm. The NLR 200 is fitted with a five speed automated manual transmission, white the NPR 300 has a six-speed AMT. Both have an idle stop feature, which shuts off the engine once the gear selector is put into neutral and the park brake engaged. It fires up when drive is selected. The CNG is held in two 150 litre tanks that sit behind the front wheels at a pressure of 200 bar and allows for a range of around 300km.

The NLR 200 is rated for a 4.5 tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM) and the NPR 300 for a 7 tonne GVM. The turbocharged, intercooled 7.8 litre unit in the FSR 700 and FSR 850 generates 162kW and 735Nm at 1400rpm. The trucks use the six-speed manual with synchromesh for gears two through to six. They have a total of four tanks, three steel tanks and one carbon fibre wrapped tank, which holds 440 litres and allow for a range of around 400km.

As long as you have a supply of CNG, these Isuzu trucks are convincing. Drivers working on runs that return to base would be happy when the boss hands over the keys to one of these. There is a reduction in capacity due to the extra weight of the CNG system yet they are handy and drive well. Big Wheels drove the two light duty N-Series trucks and tagged along in the medium duty FSR 850. The performance of all three trucks is adequate and the low-down torque of the FSR made evident on a run through a hilly area was impressive. That said the trucks were hauling 780kg to 10,300kg of concrete ballast, down on the maximum loading.

The small NLR 200 is easy to drive, the most car-like in the range, and the large engine pushes it along with little fuss. Its gear-changes are not the fastest and the throttle blips on the upshifts can take a while to get used to. Its bigger brother, the NPR 300 moves along well enough. The steering is not as good, it feels light on centre, with heavy resistance when you turn the steering wheel. It requires constant input and correction.

Isuzu Australia is aware of the issue and is looking to its parent company for a fix. This was not an issue in the larger FSR, which rode particularly well and had excellent engine performance. There is no doubt the CNG Isuzu trucks are good to drive. It is the availability of CNG that will determine whether it remains a niche green solution or a mainstream one.

ETS delay hits green investment - Super fund billions will `melt away'

Saturday 1/5/2010 Page: 3

BILLIONS of dollars worth of green energy investment will melt away because of the delay in introducing emissions trading, as super fund managers put their assets elsewhere, they say. Super funds, key backers of long-term projects such as wind farms, will be more reluctant to back renewable energy projects after the announcement this week of a delay in introducing an emissions trading scheme, the Australian Council of Super Investors said.

By delaying a scheme until at least 2012, the government is hampering the business case for renewable energy projects, Michael O'Sullivan, ASCI president, said. "Super funds have been investing in renewable energy for many years," Mr O'Sullivan said. "There is a strong appetite for increased investment, particularly in Australia. "But investors are likely to consider other investment avenues unless the uncertainty around carbon prices can be resolved."

The ASCI represents not-for-profit super funds, with $250 billion in funds under management. Its claim contrasts with other industry opinion that renewable energy investment is safe because of the government's renewable energy target, which requires 20% of the country's power to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. Driven by the RET, Fitch Ratings estimates that $30 billion will be required for renewable energy generation until 2030.

But the super funds say the lack of a carbon price also removes risks from rival investments, making their look more attractive in comparison. For example, funds often weigh up investments in renewable energy against infrastructure projects such as toll roads or airports. While a carbon price might have made these infrastructure assets less attractive, the delay could work in the opposite direction.

Industry sources say banks have tightened their lending criteria for renewable energy projects because they had previously factored in the higher electricity prices expected with a carbon scheme. Executive director of the Australia Institute, Richard Denniss, said the delay might have a slight impact on renewable energy, but the RET remained a strong incentive for new investment. "To the extent that the carbon pollution reduction scheme would have slightly increased the price of electricity, then the comparative advantage of renewables is slightly diminished."

Promises but no funds for geothermal sector

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 3/5/2010 Page: 20

Under the Rudd government's $50 million geothermal drilling program, geothermal companies GeoDynamics, Greenearth Energy, Green Rock Energy, Hot Rock and Torrens Energy were promised federal funding of $7 million each in December last year. But they have been starved of the funds after the spending of cash elsewhere like home insulation and the school building program. Hot Rock executive chairman Mark Elliott said, "We were told the delay was to do with Pink Batts and the school program". The geothermal energy sector could help the nation reach renewable energy targets. A geothermal drilling rig could be moved offshore due to the shortage of work; recently, the rig finished drilling a well for Panax Geothermal in South Australia.

Energy chief to slam delays

Monday 3/5/2010 Page: 5

AGL Energy has criticised Canberra's energy policies, warning that Australia's reputation as a stable place to invest is threatened by delays to a green power scheme. Amid widespread industry complaints that companies are operating in a policy vacuum after last week's delay to emissions trading, AGL Energys chief executive, Michael Fraser, will today take aim at the renewable energy target (RET). In a speech to be delivered in Adelaide, Mr Fraser will warn of "very serious consequences" if Parliament fails to pass amendments to the RET, which requires 20% of all power to come from renewable sources by 2020. The troubled scheme was revised in March after generous subsidies for solar water heaters caused a slump in the price of renewable energy certificates, undermining investments in wind farms.

But the changes have not yet passed, leaving final investment decisions on renewable energy projects up in the air. Failure to implement them before the election would have "very serious consequences" for jobs, investment, and industry confidence. "Following the deferral of the introduction of the CPRS [carbon pollution reduction scheme], stability and certainty are not the first words that come to mind in relation to investors viewing the Australian power generation sector," Mr Fraser says. He will tell a Clean Energy Council conference today that passing the RET reforms would restore confidence. "If investment confidence is not restored this year, there is a real risk that global players may not return to Australia."

Thursday 6 May 2010

Six stars for SA's new green homes

Independent Weekly
Friday 30/4/2010 Page: 2

South Australia's homes will be more energy-efficient from the start of September but the improvement will come at a cost to housing affordability. Minister for Urban Development Paul Holloway announced last week that all homes built from September onwards would need to meet six-star energy-efficiency requirements.

The Department of Planning expects the change in rating will decrease energy use for heating and cooling by more than 20% for each house. Most of those in the construction and design industry have welcomed the change. "It's really up to the industry to embrace this because it's all about being energy-efficient and building better houses," said Master Builders Association CEO Robert Stewart.

Architect Nicholas Ingerson said achieving six-star rating was easy if good design principles were followed. "It starts right at the beginning when you think about design. "You have to consider the orientation of the house, the location of the windows, the materials, and only then can you consider using high-performance external measures for the roof and windows," he said. "The best possible performance rating would be 25 stars, so that puts what we're trying to achieve in perspective."

However, the Housing Industry Association is disappointed the Government has concentrated reforms on the new housing sector. "Whenever the Government looks at regulations, they look at new homes rather than spreading it across the housing community," said SA branch executive director Robert Harding. "The most significant impact on the environment is a result of established homes, so if we're being serious they need to be addressed, too."

Mr Harding is worried achieving six-star rating in new homes will be costly for home-builders. "We are very quickly moving to a situation where project homes won't be able to be used because every house will have different efficiency needs, depending on its location and orientation. That will put the price up," he said. The new energy-efficiency requirements come at a time when the housing industry is also dealing with new bushfire regulations and facing likely changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

"All of these add significant cost to building new houses and at the same time we have the state telling us we're not building enough affordable houses for the population," said Mr Harding. Mr Holloway said the building industry was given early warning to help it prepare for the changes, which would ultimately save money. "In the long term, these changes will translate into up to $340 a year in savings for homeowners as they reduce their heating and cooling costs through lower energy consumption," he said.

First US offshore wind farm finally gets OK

Friday 30/4/2010 Page: 9

WASHINGTON: The first US offshore wind farm project planned near the coast of Massachusetts won government approval yesterday after nearly a decade of battles involving environmentalists, Indian tribes and others. The Obama administration approved the development, delivering a major victory for the wind energy industry. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the green light for the giant Cape Wind project in the scenic channel between Cape Cod and the resort Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket off the coast of the northeast US state.

"After careful consideration of all the concerns expressed during the lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved, I find that the public benefits weigh in favour of approving the Cape Wind project at the Horseshoe Shoal location," Mr Salazar said. "With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future, ushering in America's first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region."

Mr Salazar said he would require the developer of the billion dollar wind farm to agree to measures to minimise the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the facility. Opponents including members of the Kennedy family, whose historic compound overlooks Nantucket Sound say the project will mar the sound, a popular summer playground, and interfere with fishing and recreation. First proposed in 2001, the Cape Wind project has been watched closely by other offshore developers. Offshore projects already are operating in Europe, while analysts expect the US to see some development in the coming decade, focused mostly in the northeast.

US President Barack Obama, who holidayed last northern summer on Martha's Vineyard, has not publicly taken sides in the dispute but has spoken about the need for cleaner energy. Critics have argued that the wind turbines would hurt fishing, endanger aircraft, lead to higher utility rates and have a negative impact on tourism. The Wampanoag Indians have claimed the location is a "traditional cultural property," and thus worthy of preservation, and that the 135m high towers would interfere with spiritual ceremonies.

Mr Salazar said he was "mindful of our unique relationship with the tribes and carefully considered their views and concerns" before making his decision. The project site is about 8km from the mainland shoreline, 22km from Nantucket Island and 14.5km from Martha's Vineyard. Nevertheless, the government has required the developer to reduce the number of turbines and reconfigure the array to diminish its visual effects. The developer will be required to paint the turbines off-white to reduce contrast with the sea and sky yet remain visible to birds.

Officials said no daytime aviation lighting will be on the turbines, unless the US Coast Guard requires them to ensure navigation safety. Night lighting for aviation will be reduced, lessening the potential visual impacts during the night. Cape Wind involves 130 wind turbine towers to produce as much as 468MWs enough power for 75% of energy needs of Cape Cod and the nearby Islands. A number of similar projects have been proposed for other northeast coastal states.

Energy Matters Offers SilexSolar Australian Made Solar Panels
02 MAY, 2010

National solar power solutions provider Energy Matters has announced it is now offering Australian-made SilexSolar solar panels. According to Energy Matters co-founder Max Sylvester, "Since BP solar shut down its manufacturing facilities in Australia a couple of years ago, we've been often asked about the availability of solar panels made in Australia. We've had nothing to offer. BP's closure left a gaping hole in the local home solar power market for equipment manufactured within our own shores."

Silex Solar acquired BP's old facilities at Sydney Olympic Park and recently commenced solar panel production. "The SilexSolar SLX solar panels look good, the reported specifications and efficiency match many of the well known overseas brands, the warranty is solid and the pricing is reasonable. We believe SilexSolar is on a winner - and it's a win for Australians who wish to support our local solar manufacturing industry," says Mr. Sylvester. Silex Solar expects to double its workforce to around 100 people by the end of 2010. Its Sydney Olympic Park facility is the largest photovoltaic manufacturing plant in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wind Power in Lithuania
Tue, 4 May 2010

Lithuania is on the verge of a second wind energy boom. A relative late comer to the wind power scene, the country gained its first wind farms in 2006 with 42MW installed over the course of that year. Growth then flattened out, with just a handful ofMW added each year until 2009 when a remarkable 37MW of additional wind power capacity came online.

Today, the total Lithuanian wind energy capacity stands at 91MW. "This is an impressive rate of growth," Jacopo Moccia, Regulatory Affairs Advisor at EWEA said. According to EWEA's calculations, by 2020 the country could have up to 1,100MW in place, which would mean approximately 85MW of new capacity installed each year up until then.

With a wind power boom in sight, Lithuania is well on course to meet its 2020 renewable energy target – a 23% share of renewable energy in the overall mix. Right now wind turbines accounts for just under 2%, but this should rise to 13% by 2020. A government document forecasting the increase in renewable energy said: "In Lithuania, wind turbines are one of the fastest growing renewable energy technologies".

Not only is the government's drive to boost renewable energy spurred by EU targets, but also by Lithuania's dependence on Russian gas for its electricity and heating. Up until the end of 2009, Lithuania was self-sufficient in energy with one nuclear power plant meeting about 70% of the country's electricity demand. However, the Ignalia plant was doomed since it was designed along lines very similar to those of the failed Chernobyl plant. In its 2004 European Union accession agreement, the Lithuanian government agreed to shut down the plant – and this happened at 11pm on 31 December 2009 – leaving an energy vacuum for Gazprom to fill.

Lithuania's dependence on Russia is heightened by the fact that its electricity grid has little interconnection with other countries in central or northern Europe, making it, effectively and energy island. From 2007, the government set out to incorporate renewable energies in its national energy strategy. National laws include a feed-in tariff of around €87 perMW. The country's wind farms are mostly situated near its Baltic coast, and in the southern region.

Although Lithuania's shores border one of the biggest prospective sources of energy in Europe – offshore wind power from the Baltic Sea – the country is yet to explore offshore wind. Before this can happen, new rules must be designed to support offshore wind power and new infrastructure must be built. With this untapped source of energy on its doorstep, the country's potential for wind power could rise considerably, starting from 2020 or 2030.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Scientists discover inexpensive metal catalyst for generating hydrogen from water
April 30, 2010

(Nanowerk News) Hydrogen would command a key role in future renewable energy technologies, experts agree, if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed. An important step towards this elusive goal has been taken by a team of researchers with the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. The team has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water.

"Our new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about 70 times cheaper than platinum, today's most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule," said Hemamala Karunadasa, one of the co-discoverers of this complex. "In addition, our catalyst does not require organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. These qualities make our catalyst ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry."

Karunadasa holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division and UC Berkeley's Chemistry Department. She is the lead author of a paper describing this work that appears in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature, titled "A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water." Co-authors of this paper were Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. Chang, in addition, is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Hydrogen gas, whether combusted or used in fuel-cells to generate electricity, emits only water vapour as an exhaust product, which is why this nation would already be rolling towards a hydrogen economy if only there were hydrogen wells to tap. However, hydrogen gas does not occur naturally and has to be produced. Most of the hydrogen gas in the United States today comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. While inexpensive, this technique adds huge volumes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Hydrogen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water - using electricity to split molecules of water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. This is an environmentally clean and sustainable method of production - especially if the electricity is generated via a renewable technology such as solar or wind - but requires a water-splitting catalyst.

Nature has developed extremely efficient water-splitting enzymes - called hydrogenases - for use by plants during photosynthesis, however, these enzymes are highly unstable and easily deactivated when removed from their native environment. Human activities demand a stable metal catalyst that can operate under non-biological settings. Metal catalysts are commercially available, but they are low valence precious metals whose high costs make their widespread use prohibitive. For example, platinum, the best of them, costs some $2,000 an ounce.

"The basic scientific challenge has been to create earth-abundant molecular systems that produce hydrogen from water with high catalytic activity and stability," Chang says. "We believe our discovery of a molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water without the use of additional acids or organic co-solvents establishes a new chemical paradigm for creating reduction catalysts that are highly active and robust in aqueous media." The molybdenum-oxo complex that Karunadasa, Chang and Long discovered is a high valence metal with the chemical name of (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo. In their studies, the research team found that this complex catalyses the generation of hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second.

Long says, "This metal-oxo complex represents a distinct molecular motif for reduction catalysis that has high activity and stability in water. We are now focused on modifying the PY5Me ligand portion of the complex and investigating other metal complexes based on similar ligand platforms to further facilitate electrical charge-driven as well as light-driven catalytic processes. Our particular emphasis is on chemistry relevant to sustainable energy cycles."

Billions slipping through our fingers

Business Spectator
Wednesday 28/4/2010 Page: 1
28 Apr 2010

It may take until the next election to judge if the decision to abandon attempts to forge a sensible climate policy and a carbon price for another three years is sound politics. But two things should already be abundantly clear: it's not good for the environment and it's very bad for business.

Exactly what's at stake for the business community was made clear earlier this year by US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the co-sponsor of a now stalled bipartisan attempt to forge consensus on climate policy in Congress: "Six months ago my biggest worry was that an emissions deal would make American business less competitive compared to China," he said in a now often quoted remark. "Now my concern is that every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy." There's no reason to suppose it's any different for Australian business.

A survey produced by the UN Environment Program and the think-tank AccountAbility last week estimated the low carbon economy was likely to generate revenues of several trillion dollars by 2020, and any country wanting a share of that market would need to develop the appropriate policy settings.

The survey found that nearly half of the 95 countries that make up 97% of global economic activity had actually strengthened their climate change and clean energy policies despite the failure of Copenhagen. Chief among these were China, of course, along with South Korea, Japan and a host of European nations.

But, it noted, in North America and Australia, "there is a telling mismatch between citizen concerns and price signals, and divergent views within the business community and in politics." Little wonder, then, that in compiling a list of the top ten green giants in the global economy, the US-based website Greentech Media earlier nominated the Chinese Communist Party in number one position. Positions 2 to 10 were filled with the likes of General Electric, Siemens, Nissan, Wal-Mart, Cisco, Veolia, Dow Chemical and Panasonic - all well established sprawling conglomerates.

This is the key difference between the cleantech boom and the internet boom that preceded it. As Greentech Media noted, green technology essentially involves revamping the physical infrastructure of the modern world: replacing coal-fired power plants with wind turbines, building homes from materials concocted in chemistry laboratories, and swapping out engines for electric motors. It said established companies are simply in a far better position to muster the capital, technological depth, managerial expertise and factory capacity that will all be needed to make the transition.

What they all want and demand of their governments is the policies that can facilitate that transformation. China has no such inhibitions, but other countries rely on a political accord and market-based incentives. The fact that Australian business has been so poorly served on the policy front was lamented by Origin Energy CEO Grant King earlier this month, when he correctly predicted that Australian politicians did not have the stomach for the debate and any policy initiatives would be effectively on hold for another electoral cycle.

That's bad for business because not only does it not provide any motive for transformation - an issue highlighted by the report by the Grattan Institute last week - it also means that no long term decisions on energy infrastructure can be made, and any attempts to meet Australia's renewable energy and emission reduction targets would only be achieved with quick-fix and more expensive solutions - raising costs for the public and undermining the competitiveness of Australian business.

As Business Spectator noted as far back as May last year, the Rudd government has sought to play wedge politics with its climate policy, but in the end managed to wedge itself and Australian business, who now have no tools whatsoever to drive the investment they know they need to make.

But Australian business can hardly complain. They have only been visible when industry groups and lobbyists for the heaviest emitters generated scare campaigns in their fight for increased compensation, which in itself will likely to prove futile given the likely shape of the next parliament. There has been precious little of the coordinated campaigns such as the US Climate

Action Partnership, a coalition of bodies including green groups and big business such as GE, GM, Ford, Shell and Siemens. Australia, as the world's largest emitter per capita, has the most to do and the least time to lose. But it hasn't even had the strength of purpose to deal with the easy bits yet.

Buzz on tower power - CSIRO harnesses sun and air to generate electricity

Daily Telegraph
Thursday 29/4/2010 Page: 15

IT SOUNDS like a dodgy spiel from some shonky spiv a system to generate commercial amounts of electricity from just the sun and air. But the CSIRO will build a "tower of power" in Newcastle which does just that. It will be the world's biggest solar power system using a "Brayton Cycle" turbine and is expected to be generating electricity by March. Brayton Cycle turbines do away with the traditional system of water and steam. Instead, heat from 450 mirrors superheats compressed air, which expands through the turbine in the 30m tower to generate power.

"This technology is ideally suited to many parts of Australia that only receive minimal rainfall," said the CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship director Dr Alex Wonhas. Although the tower will be used for researching solar technology, a field of mirrors the same size as the CSIRO's experiment could generate enough electricity to power nearly 100 homes. This new facility will allow us to improve our science by using a real world operating solar thermal field to test ways to make the process more efficient and reduce the cost of this clean technology," Dr Wonhas said.

Monday 3 May 2010

A big battery with big potential - Xcel Energy’s 1-megawatt storage unit
April 28, 2010

For renewable power generators, sodium-based batteries could be the answer to the cyclical nature of wind and solar energy generation. Both wind and solar have faced criticism that they are intermittent sources of power, generating renewable energy when the wind blows or the sun shines. But after General Electric unveiled its Durathon brand battery last week, it is apparent that the industrial giant plans to make waves with electric utilities and other businesses in need of substantial back-up power.

"This is big," said Jody Janson, president of Rochester, N.Y.-based financial consultancy, referring to the prospect of significant storage capacity of energy to use when it's needed. It's big because a company the size of General Electric is entering the field by spending $150 million to refurbish an existing battery manufacturing plant in Schenectady, N.Y. That plant, which is expected to employ 350, received a $25.5 million federal stimulus package tax credit in addition a $15 million-plus incentives package from the state of New York for the project, which is scheduled to be complete by mid-2011.

GE's Durathon products are designed to serve the rail, marine, mining, telecommunications and electric utility sectors with sodium-based batteries that are capable of lasting 20 years and are not sensitive to temperature extremes. In the short run, the most likely buyers of Durathon batteries are utilities interested in storing wind or solar power for times when that energy is needed. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy in 2008 installed a oneMW wind-to-battery system near Luverne as the first wind-to-battery back-up power storage system in Minnesota.

Xcel Energy partnered with the University of Minnesota, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Great Plains Institute and Minwind Energy LLC, an 11MW wind farm located adjacent to the hulking gray battery, on the wind-to-battery project. Patti Nystuen, spokeswoman for Xcel Energy, said the officials for the utility intend to issue results of the battery's performance in June. Xcel Energy it is not the first utility to test back-up storage for electricity - Ohio-based American Electric Power has been testing battery storage of power for several years.

Another Minnesota utility, Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, is continuing to seek ways to store energy generated by wind turbines but the has no plans to purchase GE's new Durathon battery at this time, said Therese LaCanne, Great River spokeswoman. Chris Banocy, a spokesman for GE Transportation, the GE business unit that oversees manufacturing of the Durathon batteries, said, "We've gotten a very strong response from the utility sector." Banocy said the Durathon brand batteries are scalable in size, and contain two-by-two-inch columns of sodium-halide material 10 inches long that are combined to make each Durathon battery.

The sodium-halide GE Durathon battery differs from the battery being tested in southwest Minnesota by Xcel Energy, which has a sodium-sulfur base. "I think we're going to be very competitive," said GE Transportation's Banocy, referring to Durathon's pricing. He declined to say how prices for Durathon batteries. "In any industry, energy back-up is key," he said, adding that it's especially crucial for intermittent power generating sources like wind farms and solar arrays. For the renewable energy industry, if battery production and usage becomes widespread, Janson said, "That is the holy grail, my friend."

First Solar Buys NextLight for $285 Million
April 29, 2010

FirstSolar, the largest solar company in the world, announced Wednesday that it will acquire its chief rival, NextLight Renewable Power, a developer of solar power projects, for about $285 million. The deal will add 1.1GWs worth of solar panel arrays to the larger company's 1.4GW pipeline, VentureBeat reported.

But for FirstSolar, the move isn't about capacity - it's about relationships. Between its Agua Caliente and AV Solar Ranch developments, NextLight has power purchase agreements for more than 520MWs with Pacific Gas and Electric, one of the largest and most strategically positioned utilities in the U.S. (Northern California has become a bit of a laboratory for progressive energy policies).

FirstSolar is hoping to become a formidable force in California, which last year mandated that a third of its power be generated from renewable sources of energy by 2020. It already has connections with Southern California Edison, but lacked a strong bond with PGE - until now. NextLight, based in San Francisco, could give the company a serious boost.

The deal also marks the continuation of FirstSolar's acquisition strategy. Not content to develop projects as fast as it can on its own, the company has been gobbling up other companies just to add MWs to its portfolio. In the last year, it absorbed both Optisolar and Edison Mission Group to do just that.

Daylesford wind farm goes ahead

Thursday 29/4/2010 Page: 4

AS big energy companies bemoan a lack of certainty to invest in new power plants, a central Victorian town last night celebrated a deal that will build Australia's first community-owned wind farm. After five years of planning, contracts were signed yesterday to build the two-turbine Hepburn Community Wind Park at Leonard's Hill, about 10 kilometres from Daylesford. According to the cooperative behind the project, it will generate 12,200MW hours a year - significantly more than is needed to power the towns 1887 homes.

Hepburn Wind chairman Simon Holmes a Court said more than 1100 members had invested $7.5 million. Together with a $975,000 state government grant and the backing of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, it was enough to sign a contract with German manufacturer REpower systems to build the $12.9 million farm. Mr Holmes a Court said the project was based on the Denmark model of small communities owning boutique wind farms. "Most Australians want to see a meaningful response to the threat of climate change, but many aren't sure what constructive role they can play," he said.

"By pooling resources, [we] have developed a model for the low-carbon future that is both low cost - at least four times cheaper than rooftop solar photovoltaics - and brings a significant new business to town." Construction is due to start in October, and the wind farm is expected to start producing power before mid-2011. A final 1.8 million share offer was announced at the Daylesford Town Hall meeting last night.

McKim hopes for wind farm

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 28/4/2010 Page: 2

NEW Alternative Energy Minister Nick McKim has denied that the $400 million Musselroe wind farm is in jeopardy following the scrapping of the Commonwealth's emissions trading scheme. The Roaring 40s investment is already on hold because of poor incentives from the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Targets scheme. Opposition alternative energy spokesman and former Roaring 40s executive Matthew Groom said the project was hanging in the balance.

"Tasmania's fragile economy cannot afford a $400 million project such as Musselroe wind farm to fall over." Mi Groom said. "I call on the minister, Nick McKim, to tell Tasmanians, particularly those unemployed Tasmanians who stand to get a job from this development, what he intends to do to save this project." Mr McKim said Mr Groom was simply trying to mask Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's climate change denial. "I will continue to support the Musselroe development and advocate for a strong price on carbon which will support all renewable energy in Tasmania." Mr McKim said.

"Rather than playing politics of fear with people's jobs. Mr Groom should spend his time trying to convince his federal leader, climate change denier Tony Abbott, to support strong action on climate change." Meanwhile, Greens senator Christine Milne urged the Federal Government to support the Greens' model of placing a levy on polluters. "The dumping of the CPRS [carbon pollution reduction scheme] is not an excuse for dumping carbon pricing altogether," the Tasmanian senator said. She said the levy proposal could gain cross-party support.

Taiwan's Solar Power Boost
April 26, 2010

Whether you consider Taiwan to be a self-governing independent state or a renegade province of Mainland China depends on your politics, but one thing is for certain: It's a key player in the manufacture of solar cells globally. It's so important, in fact, that LDK Solar Co., Ltd., China's largest maker of solar-grade crystalline silicon wafer, has standing supply contracts with several Taiwanese solar cell producers (although Taiwan's Mosel Vitelic recently severed ties with LDK following a contract dispute).

For their part, Taiwan-based solar cell makers, Motech Industries and Gintech Energy Corporation, the island's top two solar-cell makers, have seen sales soar amid rising global demand. Roughly 70 Taiwanese companies are involved in the solar industry, producing solar cells with a combined capacity of 2GWs in 2009-analysts expect more than 3GWs this year.

Taiwan is a significant exporter of crystalline silicon solar cells; China and Taiwan jointly control about 40% of the world's wafer-thin photovoltaic solar market. As Taiwan has become a manufacturing powerhouse, it continues to see harmful greenhouse gas emissions rise even as the EU's emission levels have fallen during the economic downturn. But officials in Taipei have moved to tackle the problem. Subsidies under the government's green energy plan has spawned a domestic solar push, placing Taiwan among the world's leading users of solar water heaters.

Indonesia, power plant developers reach price deal
Apr 26, 2010

JERUSALEM, April 26 (Reuters) - A consortium building a 330MW geothermal plant in Indonesia has reached a deal with the state electricity company to sell power at a higher price than first agreed, a member of the group said on Monday. State-owned PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) awarded a contract in 2006 to a consortium of Medco Energi Internasional, Ormat Technologies' unit Ormat International, Itochu Corp and Kyushu Electric Power to build the plant in Sarulla, North Sumatra. The $1 billion project has been held up in recent years after the consortium demanded a price revision.

Ormat Technologies said in a statement on Monday that the consortium had reached an agreement with PLN to change the price of the power sold to 6.79 U.S, cents per kW. The sides also agreed that the tariff would be reduced in future. They are expected to sign a financing deal within a year, after which the consortium will have 30 months to complete the first phase of the project with a capacity of 110 to 120MWs. The project's final two phases are expected to be completed within 18 months of the first phase. Ormat, which develops and operates geothermal power plants, will benefit from more than $300 million in equipment supplies for the project in which it has a 12.75 % stake.