Saturday 10 July 2010

Modern makeover for an ancient idea

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 6/7/2010 Page: 16

EVERY now and again in the big, unfolding saga that is climate change you find yourself heading back to the future, looking at something simple and basic that's been around forever. I had just that experience at a meeting in Hobart last week. The Tasmanian Biochar Workshop put a spotlight on charcoal, that dirty, unmanageable residue of burnt plant and animal matter, and provided its participants with ample evidence that this humble substance has big implications both for reducing atmospheric carbon and growing plants. Simply put, biochar is charcoal created by slow smouldering of organic material which, if dug into the ground, serves as a long-tern carbon store while enriching soils, boosting plant growth and improving water quality. It can hold carbon in soil for many centuries, even thousands of years.

Biochar has an ancient history. Early peoples of the Amazon basin in South America are believed to have made it by smouldering food and agricultural waste, digging it into the region's naturally infertile soil to be further broken down by native earthworms. European settlers called this wonder-soil "terra preta" (Portuguese for "black earth"). In more modern times, the charcoal burner was a familiar part of every settlement in Europe and elsewhere, including Australia, producing fuel for cooking and heating. The application of fine grained char as a soil additive is an old-new idea whose time has come around again.

But the idea of biochar has taken a while to catch on in Tasmania. In 2008 it got caught up in the debate about biomass energy from Tasmanian forestry operations, involving gathering up the woody debris left after logging and burning it in a biomass electricity generator. Some forests activists accused biochar advocates of aiding and abetting native forest clear felling by providing the logging industry with a convenient repository for its waste and a reason to extend its harvesting operations. The debate ignored the fact that the primary focus of biochar production is carbon storage and increased soil fertility. Energy generation from Pyrolysis (the process of producing biochar) and production of biofuel are additional outcomes. The process is carbon negative, which means that it takes more carbon out of the atmosphere than it releases.

The Hobart meeting was organised by international biochar consultant Attilio Pigneri, now living in Tasmania. Held under the auspices of the Australia New Zealand Biochar Researchers Network, it brought together specialists from the University of Tasmania, CSIRO, government and industry. Farmers, soil scientists and biochar business representatives mixed with interested outsiders to hear research outcomes from trials happening in Australia (including Tasmania) and New Zealand. The 60-strong audience heard that biochar production was potentially a highly valuable greenhouse mitigation and growth-enhancing tool for Tasmania whose efficacy depended on environmentally friendly biomass sourcing and production techniques and good knowledge of the best kind of biochar for particular soils.

The meeting was told that feedstock, or raw material, for biochar can come from a big range of sources, including green waste from gardens and orchards, woody weeds such as gorse or willow, food processing waste, sewage sludge and manure (including poultry litter), seaweed, crop stubble, sawdust and wood "from responsible forest management operations." Different sources produced different results, with biochar from animal waste providing better productivity for some crops and woody material benefiting others. Other variables included different soil types and climatic conditions.

The workshop examined key environmental and economic issues in use of biochar in Tasmania, questions about logistics and sustainability, synergies between environmental mitigation and regional development, commercial possibilities and the challenges of bringing biochar activities into a national carbon pricing scheme. To Pigneri, the workshop are significantly raised awareness of current biochar activities, including five University of Tasmania projects, and begun to link researchers and their work across Australia and New Zealand, while providing a base for a permanent industry Association. He and his team will use discussion outcomes from the workshop to guide future planning and inform governments about the technology's potential both in reducing atmospheric carbon and helping Tasmania improve its agricultural productivity.

My father grew up on a farm and was a lifelong vegetable gardening enthusiast, but on that score I'd have been a disappointment to him. Like so many post-war children, I turned away from my rural background towards the city life, becoming part of the "great forgetting" that serve to distance much of modern humanity from the production of food. Now, our roots are calling us back. Besides finding better ways of keeping carbon out of the atmosphere, communities everywhere need to start taking an interest in how they derive sustenance from their lands, and that means getting heads around how to manage soil to grow better plants. For me the great appeal of biochar is its basic simplicity. There's much more work to be done - years of trialling different scenarios to ensure we maximise the game from the effort - but all the signs are that public support for a biochar industry will be a splendid investment in the future.

Obama's $2b subsidy for solar energy

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 5/7/2010 Page: 8

WASHINGTON:The US government is handing out nearly $US2 billion ($2.5 billion) for new solar plants that the President, Barack Obama, says will create thousands of jobs and increase the use of renewable energy. Mr Obama said the money was part of his plan to bring new industries to the US. "We're going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America," he said.

Two companies will receive the money from the President's $US862 billion economic stimulus. They are Abengoa Solar, which will build one of the world's largest solar plants in Arizona, creating 1600 construction jobs; and Abengoa Solar Manufacturing, which is building plants in Colorado and Indiana. The Obama administration said the projects would create more than 2000 construction jobs and 1500 permanent jobs. But the truth is, steps like these won't replace all the jobs we've lost overnight," Mr Obama said in his weekly radio and online address on Saturday. "I know folks are struggling."

The President warned that it would "take months, even years, to dig our way out" of the economic recession. Mr Obama's announcement came a day after the Labour Department reported that employers slashed payrolls last month for the first time in six months, driven by the expected end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Meanwhile, private sector hiring rose by 83,000 workers. The unemployment rate dropped to 9.5%.

Mr Obama said that while it might take years to bring regain all the jobs lost during recession, the economy was improving. He placed some of the blame for the slow pace of recovery on Republicans, saying they "are playing the same old Washington games and using their power to hold this relief hostage." A Republican senator, Saxby Chambliss, said in his weekly address that the country's $US13 trillion debt was a national security issue that would leave the US vulnerable and force future generations to "pay higher taxes to foot the bill for Democrats' out-of-control spending."

Playing carbon catch-up

Business Spectator
Tuesday 6/7/2010 Page: 1
06 Jul 2010

The revolution in energy technology isn't just on its way, it's already here, and is likely to presage a fundamental shift towards low carbon technologies. At least that's the assessment of the International Energy Agency, the Parisbased intergovernmental advisory group first established in the 1970s following the oil crisis, in an effort to devise policies to deal with future emergencies. The IEA has now charged itself with the task of advising governments how to navigate through the policy challenges of responding to climate change and energy security issues, and administer a transformation to clean energy.

In its latest technology assessment report, the IEA notes that its 2008 call to action on a move to low-carbon technologies is starting to take shape. "For the first time, we see early indications that such a revolution is under way," says IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka. He cites the more than $US112 billion that was invested in wind, solar and other renewables in 2008, and which remained constant in 2009 despite the global financial crisis. In particular, he notes the rapid expansion of hybrid and electric vehicles production facilities and predicts that up to five million such vehicles could be on the road by 2020 (Chinese car manufacturers predict a far greater number).

He also notes that in OECD countries, the rate of energy efficiency improvement has increased to almost 2% per year - more than double the rate seen in the 1990s (Australian government please take note) - and funding for low-carbon energy RD&D has increased by one-third, between 2005 and 2008, and will likely double by 2015. But while all this is well and good, the IEA warns that the rate of progress remains fragile and fragmented and well below what is needed. "What we need is rapid, large-scale deployment of a portfolio of low-carbon technologies; we need a massive decarbonisation of the energy system, breaking the historical link between CO2 emissions and economic output, and leading to a new age of electrification," Tanaka says.

The sort of investment that the IEA is talking about is breathtaking. Tanaka estimates that $US46 trillion in additional investments will be needed by 2050 to fund the sort of investments needed in renewables, smart grids, next generation biofuels, nuclear and carbon capture and storage to bring carbon emissions down by 50%. It sees energy efficiency playing the most prominent role, cutting growing energy demand to 32% from 84% under the business-as-usual scenario, meaning that fuel cost savings could amount to $US112 trillion over the same period.

Subtracting these fuel savings from the additional investment costs yields net savings of $US66 trillion. Even if both the investments and fuel savings over the period to 2050 are discounted back to their present values using a 10% discount rate, the net savings amount to $US8 trillion. But to get there, it will take some aggressive public policy making. A carbon price is the first stop, to avoid locking in inefficient, carbon-intensive technologies. And this should be augmented by a suite of energy technology policies and RD&D programs far beyond what is being envisaged in Australia and many other countries.

Among the policy tools it recommends are stable, long-term incentives such as feed-in tariffs, loan guarantees and tax credits - a constant refrain of the clean technology industry in this country - along with technology-neutral market mechanisms, such as emissions trading schemes and green certificates. The report also highlights what is concentrating the minds of policy makers in the US - the rapid emergence of developing countries, particularly China, as major developers, manufacturers and exporters of clean and low-carbon technology.

Thursday 8 July 2010

High-pressure job 45m under water

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 6/7/2010 Page: 14

WORKERS on the Adelaide desalination plant's underwater tunnels face conditions comparable to those of deep-sea divers as the sophisticated project takes shape. The tunnels - which will suck sea water into the plant from Ikm out to sea and discharge brine 1.5km from shore - are well advanced as the December deadline looms to produce first water. The tunnels being built by consortium AdelaideAqua will be nearly 45m below sea level at their end points.

Because of the depth, workers engaged in the routine task of replacing the cutter heads on tunnel boring machines in each of the intake and outfall tunnels work under pressurised conditions. "This is to allow maintenance to take place without risk of the rock face collapsing," AdelaideAqua spokeswoman Bernie Auricht said. "There is no water in the tunnel but the pressure created is similar to that experienced by diving at the same depth. "And, just like diving, you must surface in stages and at a certain pace to ensure that your body releases dissolved nitrogen from the blood."

To date, the tunnels have been bored between 830m and 880m out to sea and 20m deep, mostly through sandstone but also through thick black clay. While the tunnels are being bored, work continues at a rapid pace onshore, with the major buildings completed and racks of reverse-osmosis cylinders installed. Chemical plants for dosing the water also are nearing completion. "The water's so pure you have to reintroduce minerals to it," AdelaideAqua project director Duncan Whitfield said.

Desalination is energy intensive and the plant will use 500GW hours a year when running at full capacity to produce 100 gigalitres a year of water. The Government has signed a 20-year contract with AGL Energy to provide renewable energy only to power the plant. In 2009-10, SA generated about 2500GWh of electricity from wind farms, so the desal plant would soak up one-fifth of that capacity. The plant also will add considerably to water costs. Water Minister Paul Caica said legislation was being drafted to allow prices to be set by an independent body.

Obama hands $2bn to solar energy firms
4 July 2010

President Barack Obama, under pressure to stimulate job growth, said yesterday that two solar power companies will get nearly $2bn (£1.35bn) in US loan guarantees to create as many as 5,000 green jobs. In his weekly radio and web address, Obama coupled his announcement with an acknowledgement that efforts to recover from the recession remain slow. "It's going to take months, even years, to dig our way out and it's going to require an all-hands-on-deck effort," he said. The jobs are expected to be created through $1.85bn taken from the $787bn economic stimulus that Obama pushed through the US Congress in early 2009 over the strenuous objections of Republicans.

Obama announced the energy department will award $1.45bn to Abengoa Solar to help it build Solon AGa, which will be one of the largest solar generation plants in the world, near Gila Bend, Arizona. Abengoa Solar, based in Lakewood, Colorado, is a division of the Spanish renewable energy and engineering company Abengoa. In the short term, construction will create 1,600 jobs. "After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it's good news that we've attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America," Obama said.

Obama said $400m in loan guarantees will also be awarded to Colorado-based Abound Solar Manufacturing to manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. A Colorado plant is already being built and an Indiana plant will be set up in what is now an empty Chrysler factory.

Obama has previously made it clear he wanted to create jobs related to green technologies. With Democrats anticipating losses in 2 November congressional elections because of unemployment, Obama said the steps he is taking "won't replace all the jobs we've lost overnight," adding: "I know folks are struggling." He accused Republicans of blocking a $33bn extension of unemployment benefits that failed to pass the House of Representatives last week. "At a time when millions of Americans feel a deep sense of urgency... Republican leaders in Washington just don't get it," Obama said.

But Republicans say the legislation would add to the US's debt. In a response to Obama's address, Senator Saxby Chambliss said the country's $13tn debt was "one of the most dangerous threats confronting America today," adding: "President Obama and the Democrats in Congress continue to spend money that they - we - do not have."

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Wind farm study rules out link to sickness

Canberra Times
Saturday 3/7/2010 Page: 12

There is no evidence that wind turbines can make people who live nearby sick, Australia's peak health body has concluded after a scientific review. The National Health and Medical Research Council has assessed the common complaints levelled at the wind powered energy sector, chiefly that its turbines also generate "infrasound" that can make wind farm neighbours feel ill. "While the range of effects such as annoyance, anxiety, hearing loss and interference with sleep, speech and learning have been reported... there is no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects," the council said yesterday.

The council said a recent United States study into wind turbines and infrasound - sound that was "generally inaudible to the human ear" - found no evidence it could impact on the physical health of those living nearby. This was backed by a study focused on three British wind farms, it said, while the World Health Organisation also took the view there was no evidence of a health impact. The council said there was a mental impact on those who "perceived infrasound" and this was "annoyance."

"The situation is further complicated by findings that people who benefit economically from wind turbines were less likely to report annoyance, despite exposure to similar sound levels as people who were not economically benefiting," the council said. There was a similar lack of evidence to support complaints that "electromagnetic radiation, shadow flicker and blade glint" from wind turbines could impact on health. The statement was welcomed by the peak body, Clean Energy Council. Policy director Russell Marsh said more than 100,000 wind turbines had been installed across 80 countries and yet there remained "no credible evidence that wind turbines have a direct effect on people's health."

Spain to cut subsidies to renewable energy producers
July 4, 2010

MADRID -- The government of Spain, a world leader in the renewable energy, said it has reached agreements with producers to slash subsidies for wind and solar power. The premiums for wind power will be cut by 35% from January 1, 2013, when the current scheme expires, the industry ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

Thermosolar plants will also give up an advantageous rate they receive for the first year they are in operation. The two deals also envisage a limit on the number of hours in which wind and thermosolar plants will have the right to collect rates that are above market prices. "The agreements include short-term measures that will reduce the impact on electricity prices of these technologies, as well as long-term measures that will ensure future stability for both sectors," the statement said.

It said the measures will "not compromise the profitability of existing facilities and will "benefit consumers." Spain's socialist government last month announced a freeze in electricity prices, suspending a 4.0% hike scheduled for July, in order to help households and businesses cope better with the country's economic crisis. Spain, along with Germany and Denmark, is among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union through companies such Iberdrola Renovables and Gamesa.

Researchers use super-high pressures to create super battery
July 4, 2010

The world's biggest Roman candle has got nothing on this. Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, Washington State University researchers have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy. "If you think about it, it is the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear power," says Choong-Shik Yoo, a WSU chemistry professor and lead author of results published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

The research is basic science, but Yoo says it shows it is possible to store mechanical energy into the chemical energy of a material with such strong chemical bonds. Possible future applications include creating a new class of energetic materials or fuels, an energy storage device, super-oxidizing materials for destroying chemical and biological agents, and high-temperature superconductors.

The researchers created the material on the Pullman campus in a diamond anvil cell, a small, two-inch by three-inch-diameter device capable of producing extremely high pressures in a small space. The cell contained xenon difluoride (XeF2), a white crystal used to etch silicon conductors, squeezed between two small diamond anvils.

At normal atmospheric pressure, the material's molecules stay relatively far apart from each other. But as researchers increased the pressure inside the chamber, the material became a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor. The researchers eventually increased the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth.

All this "squeezing," as Yoo calls it, forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic "network structures." In the process, the huge amount of mechanical energy of compression was stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Wind turbines get clean bill of health - again
2 July 2010

NATIONAL: An independent study released today should put to rest claims that wind farms can make people sick, according to Australia's peak clean energy body. The study, by the National Health and Medical Research Council, found no evidence that wind turbines had a direct effect on people's health. Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said that more than 100,000 turbines had been installed across the world in over three decades, delivering clean power to millions of homes in more than 80 countries. "There have been claims over the last couple of years from opponents of wind farms that noise and other factors associated with wind turbines can make people sick," Mr Marsh said.

"As this latest independent research has shown, there is no credible evidence that wind turbines have a direct effect on people's health. "The study is consistent with a statement several months ago from Victoria's Chief Medical Officer Dr John Carnie, other international studies and acoustic research which repeatedly show wind turbines do not produce enough noise to directly affect humans," he said. The NHMRC review of the scientific literature found support for the statement: 'There are no direct pathological effects from wind farms and that any potential impact on humans can be minimised by following existing planning guidelines'. Mr Marsh said the Federal Government, the Coalition and the Greens have supported a commitment to delivering 20% of our electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade.

"Wind energy will be a key part of this clean energy revolution. A recent Newspoll conducted by the Clean Energy Council found that approximately 90% of Australians want to see more renewable energy. "wind turbines are quiet and make about as much noise as a kitchen refrigerator from 500 metres away. If people find the noise is bothering them, there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the levels of sound in their homes. However, it's worth noting that Australia has some of the most stringent noise standards in the world. "We welcome more research in this area, but the current evidence reflects that wind turbines are the safest and cleanest way of generating electricity," he said.

NZ's emissions scheme angers greens, business

Canberra Times
Friday 2/7/2010 Page: 11

New Zealand launched an emissions trading scheme yesterday in a bid to curb the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change but the scheme has angered both businesses and environmentalists. Energy, transport and manufacturing industries will have to start paying for their emissions of gases such as CO2 and methane, which have risen 23% in New Zealand since 1990. Prices for fuel and electricity will rise, with the Government estimating households will pay an extra $NZ5 ($A4.15) a week, although some critics say this estimate is far too low.

Businesses say the extra costs of the scheme will hurt them, while environmentalists say those costs are too low to encourage emission cuts. But Climate Change Minister Nick Smith said the emissions trading scheme balanced the need to cut emissions without damaging the economy. "New Zealand's emissions per person are among the highest in the world and are growing at one of the fastest rates among developed countries," Dr Smith said. "The ETS is the most efficient and most cost-effective way to bring emissions under control, meet our international obligations and protect New Zealand's clean, green brand."

The scheme would drive investment in renewable energy, forestry and energy efficiency and reduce emissions, he said. Under the scheme, polluting industries will have to buy credits for their emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases, while businesses that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - mainly forest owners - will earn credits that can be sold to polluters. The scheme offers a transition period for polluting industries, with the Government offering subsidies for several years, and agriculture - responsible for nearly half of emissions - to come under the ETS in 2015.

Opposition leader Phil Goff and environmental groups including Greenpeace said the low costs to industries meant there were minimal incentives for industries to cut emissions. But exporters, represented by the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, said they would be at a disadvantage because of the ETS. Executive director David Venables said, "From today, New Zealand companies competing in overseas markets where there is no price on carbon... will be at a clear disadvantage." New Zealand is one of 29 countries - Ettropean Union nations snaking tip most of the rest - with emissions trading schemes.

2 nuclear power plants approved by Finland
July 1, 2010

The Finnish Parliament approved the construction of two nuclear power plants on Thursday, the latest victory for proponents of atomic energy in Europe. Just two weeks ago, the Swedish Parliament narrowly voted to allow the reactors at 10 nuclear power plants to be replaced when the old ones are shut down -- a reversal from a 1980 referendum that called for them to be phased out entirely. nuclear power fell out of favor in much of Europe after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

But in an era of concern about dependence on foreign supplies of fossil fuels and increases in atmospheric carbon, there is renewed interest in electricity generated by nuclear fission. "Over all, opinions are firming and more positive," Ian Hore-Lacy, a spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, said of the European mood. "People are less concerned about waste because they've seen it's not a drama, and it's been well managed."

With protesters in Helsinki gathered outside, the Finnish Parliament voted 120 to 72 to back a nuclear power plant application from a consortium called Teollisuuden Voima, and 121 to 71 to approve a new plant built by Fennovoima. The companies, which have five years to submit construction license applications, hope to begin operating the plants by 2020.

The vote will allow the Finns to build their sixth and seventh nuclear plants. The country's four existing nuclear plants provide about 28% of Finland's total electricity needs, according to the World Nuclear Association. Finland imports electricity, coal and gas from Russia for much of its remaining needs, and officials have expressed unease about dependence on a sometimes-difficult neighbour.

The two light-water reactors, which will generate a combined 3,200MWs, are estimated to cost as much as 10 billion euros ($12.5 billion). Neither group has decided on a reactor design yet. Fennovoima, a Finnish consortium in which the German utility E.ON holds a 34% stake, must first decide where to build its plant. Two possible sites, at Simo and Pyhajoki, have been identified. Teollisuuden Voima, known as TVO, is building a new-generation EPR-model plant with Areva, the French engineering company, at Olkiluoto, in the southwest.

That project is running well over budget and behind schedule. Areva said on June 23 that it would book a charge of 400 million euros in the first half of the year against cost overruns, bringing its total write-downs on the plant to 2.7 billion euros. In 2005, it estimated the cost of the job at 3 billion euros. The plant had been scheduled to go online in 2009, but officials are now aiming for a 2013 start. Construction of a similar reactor in Flamanville, France, is also experiencing delays and cost overruns, leading skeptics to question whether the industry can operate without significant government aid.

Nuclear power proponents argue that the technology is more environmentally sound than burning fossil fuels because no greenhouse gases are emitted to split atoms. Opponents cite concerns about the danger of accidents and long-term waste disposal. Tomas Kaberger, director general of the Swedish Energy Agency, said there was no certainty that any of the plants would be built, despite talk of a nuclear renaissance. "Historically, the industry has not been able to reduce costs with increased experience," Mr. Kaberger said. "New reactors have not been cheaper than previous models."

Mauri Pekkarinen, the Finnish minister of economic affairs, said he was confident the plants would be built without public financing. "The companies don't need any subsidies," he said in an interview. "The government has nothing to do with the financing." Most of the nuclear plants under construction today are in China. In Europe, France has long been the main nuclear proponent, generating most of its electricity from its fleet of nuclear plants, and championing its technology on the world stage. Britain is eager to build new nuclear capacity, but at a time of austerity budgets, the government has suggested that it might have to resort to a tax on carbon pollution to finance construction.

Monday 5 July 2010

$750,000 Grant Connects Hepburn Wind
Hepburn Wind

On 22 June, Geoff Howard MP (Ballarat East) visited Leonard's Hill to announce a $750,000 grant from the state government's Regional Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) as approved by Minister Jacinta Allan. The grant will assist with the connection of the wind farm to the electricity grid, and help us to develop a template that should reduce the connection costs for similar, future projects. More details are available on our website.

We are well on the way to building Australia's first community wind farm. Since we signed the turn-key construction contract with REpower Systems in April, we've been supporting our contractors to finalise the engineering design of the wind farm. Construction is scheduled to begin on-site in October and our two turbines are expected to be operational in the first half of 2011.

With the increased activity on our project as we finalise fund raising and move into the construction phase we are pleased to welcome two new staff members. Janet Wheatley joins us as Membership Officer and Tracy Anthony as Project Officer. Both Janet and Tracy are local to Daylesford and are passionate about community ownership of renewable energy. They join Executive Officer Jack Gilding, forming a strong local team demonstrating that renewable energy projects not only reduce our carbon footprint but also provide local employment opportunities.

Since the release of our latest Membership and Share Offer we have received over $300,000 in additional share applications. With the RIDF grant, our existing Sustainability Victoria grant, $7.8m of member funds and a $3.1m loan from the Bendigo Bank, we have now secured over 95% of the total project cost of $12.9m.

Hepburn Wind shares are available to those outside the local community in minimum parcels of just $1000. For those within our local area minimum parcels are $100.

Our share offer is expected to be fully subscribed in the near future. If you have been holding off on joining our ground-breaking project, or are a member considering purchasing additional shares, now is the time to act. At the request of potential applicants we have extended the closing date for our offer to 19 July 2010.

Morocco unveils $3.5 billion wind power scheme
Jun 28, 2010

TANGIER (Reuters) - Morocco unveiled on Monday a wind power project worth 31.5 billion dirhams, which officials said will help increase the share of the country's electricity consumption from renewable sources to 42 percent by 2020. The project will involve building five wind farms to increase the North African state's wind generation capacity to 2,000MWs in 2020 from the approximate 280MWs it currently produces from small wind farms. King Mohammed inaugurated on Monday the first wind farm in Tangier, which has a capacity of 140MWs and cost 2.75 billion dirhams. Officials said the government had selected the other sites of the wind project in Tetouan, Taza, Layoune and Boujdour.

Funding of the wind project will be from a mix of state and private capital, including from foreign investors, the officials said. Morocco is the only North African country with no oil of its own. It seeks to cut its dependency on imported oil and coal by expanding power generation capacity from renewable sources. Last year, it launched a solar power project worth $9 billion, which will account for 38 percent of the North African country's installed power generation by 2020. The solar scheme involves five solar power generation stations across Morocco and will produce 2,000MWs of electricity by 2020.

Whyalla keen on more solar opportunities
Jun 28, 2010

A Whyalla councillor says a $230 million solar thermal power plant proposed for the South Australian city could turn it into a hub for other solar technologies. Councillor Eddie Hughes says the project will bring opportunities for future investors, especially in the same industry. He says a working party has been established to deal with Wizard Power, which is using big dish technology for a trial power plant. "One of the other things that we've gently pushed at this stage is setting up Whyalla as a test bed for a range of solar technologies so that it can all be tested on the same climatic conditions," he said. "There might well be the opportunity for other industries to co-locate around a green energy source like this so that is something that is going to be seriously looked at."

Bendigo energy push
28 Jun, 2010

THE Bendigo Sustainability Group is calling on the federal government to look at a new renewable energy resource for Central Victoria that could be a first for Australia. The group sent an email to Prime Minister Julia Gillard after her appointment, calling on her to stop a deal between Trade Minister Simon Crean and the Vietnamese government for the export of Victorian brown coal. Instead, the group is proposing Bendigo become home to a solar thermal base load plant that it believes is the future of renewable energy in Australia.

Group president Karen Corr said the Vietnamese deal showed the federal government was not serious about acting on climate change. "Brown coal is a major emitter of greenhouse gas," she said. "They are looking more at making money, they're not serious.'' Ms Corr said the solar thermal base load plant was included in a report by not-for-profit climate change group Beyond Zero Emissions as a viable option.

The technology uses reflectors or mirrors to focus solar energy and generate heat which can be stored or used to generate steam which is used to turn turbines and generate electricity. "We'd love for Bendigo or Central Victoria to have the first in Victoria or Australia," she said. "Our focus is what we can do locally to reduce emissions. It's an option to transition to renewable energy."

Trade Minister Simon Crean signed off on a $100 million deal on Friday, but said it was a good news story with Australian technology being used to deliver a more environmentally sensitive energy solution to the Vietnamese people through the transformation of brown coal into black coal equivalent pellets. Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons said he was interested to hear the group's proposal. "There's no chance of stopping an arrangement that has already been put in place," he said. "Whether its idea is viable, I'm prepared to sit down and have a look at it with them," he said.