Thursday 30 September 2010

NE wind farm on the horizon

Hobart Mercury
Monday 27/9/2010 Page: 10

THE $450 million Musselroe Bay wind farm project is likely to start next year, says Roaring 40s managing director Steve Symons. Mr Symons said the scheme was dependent on a substantial rise in the value of Renewable Energy Target (RET) certificates issued by the Federal Government to assist clean projects. He said certificate values were depressed but a rebound was expected from January, after energy efficiency measures such as solar hot-water heaters were transferred to a separate scheme.

Mr Symons said Musselroe would become viable if values rose, but Roaring 40s would still need to attract finance and secure longterm power supply contracts with stakeholders Hydro Tasmania and TRUEnergy. He said construction could start as soon as June but "we are not prepared to commit to a time line". "We don't want to unnecessarily get people's hopes up", he said. Liberal senator Guy Barnett said his motion calling for action on Musselroe Bay helped pressure the Federal Government to fast-track legislation in July that is intended to stabilise the RET market. Roaring 40s has spent more than $20 million on the $450 million proposal involving 56 turbines delivering up to 168MWs of power.

"This is great news and will be a major boost for the North-East and northern Tasmania in terms of jobs and energy production", Senator Barnett said. "It is expected that the project will bring 180 jobs to the North-East during the construction phase and 40 ongoing positions". Senator Barnett said the likely go ahead was a tremendous shot in the ann for the North-East which in the past decade has suffered from sawmill, vegetable factory and milk factory closures.

California approves world’s largest solar power project
September 25, 2010

The solar project will use groundwater, but its effect on the Colorado River water needs to be determined. While officials approved the 1,000-MW solar power project in California last week, its effect on the Colorado River needs to be determined before construction commences, according to the state's energy commission. Planned for a site eight miles west of the town of Blythe in the Mojave Desert, the power complex will comprise four individual 250MW units, generating electricity using parabolic mirrors. Solar Millennium, the project's owner, has signed a contract with Southern California Edison for the entire output of the complex, which will begin operating in 2013.

The Blythe facility will be the world's largest solar power operation, as well as double the installed commercial solar capacity in the United States, which was 603MW in 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has fast-tracked solar power projects as California strives to meet its goal of obtaining 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The California Energy Commission approved two solar projects earlier this summer and will rule on three more by the end of the month, according to a press release from the governor's office.

The plants in the Blythe project will be dry-cooled, a technology that uses ambient air to dissipate heat. While it will increase the cost of the plant and reduce its efficiency, dry cooling decreases water consumption by more than 90%. Solar Millennium has decided to use dry cooling in all of its plants, company representative Bill Keegan told Circle of Blue. "Obviously there's a trade off because of a loss of efficiency and power capacity, but we feel it's worth it with the water savings", Keegan said. The Blythe plants will have an auxiliary wet cooling system for the summer months to keep critical equipment functioning at its designed capacity.

The company will drill wells on-site for its water needs: 4,100 acre-feet during construction and 600 AF annually to operate the plant. The CEC's environmental review found that the extraction rate will exceed recharge, but the plant will not significantly affect the groundwater basin because of the large amount--five million AF--of water already stored.

However, the groundwater recharge is believed to be connected with surface flows from the nearby Colorado River, which cannot add new users to its appropriation. As part of its decision, the CEC is requiring Solar Millennium to study the relationship between the groundwater and the river, as well as submit a plan to offset any effects its water use would have on the river. This plan will need approval before the company withdraws any water.

The CEC's suggested options include conservation programs; funding irrigation improvements elsewhere; purchasing water rights or participating in the Bureau of Land Management's program to remove tamarisks, a water-intensive invasive plant. Keegan said Solar Millennium is still looking into how best to offset its water use. The company wants to begin construction by Dec. 31 to take advantage of federal loan guarantees for renewable energy projects that expire at the end of the year. The next step in the approval process will be in October when the BLM will decide whether to grant right-of-way and use permits for the plants and transmission lines.

Turbines turn on largest UK windfarm

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 25/9/2010 Page: 79

THE world's largest offshore wind farm has opened off the south-east coast of England, as part of the British Government's push to boost renewable energy. Swedish energy company Vattenfall, which constructed the wind farm, said the 100 turbines off the coast of Thanet could, at their peak, produce enough electricity a year to power the equivalent of more than 200,000 homes.

The huge site in the North Sea, 12km off the coast, will boost the renewable energy now generated by the onshore and offshore wind turbines around the UK. With the opening of the Thanet wind farm, Britain now has the capacity to produce 5GWs of wind-powered energy - roughly the amount of energy needed to power all the homes in Scotland, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said. Britain gets only 3% of its energy from renewable sources but is aiming for a target of 15% by 2020. The nation ranks 25th of 27 European Union countries on action on green power.

"We are an island nation, and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum", Mr Huhne said at a ceremony at sea when he officially opened the Thanet wind farm. Each Thanet turbine is up to 115m tall and the site is as large as 4000 football fields. Vattenfall said its new farm could generate 300MWs of energy at full capacity, although critics note that wind power output can be intermittent and variable. The company said the farm is expected to operate for at least 25 years. Environmental group Friends of the Earth said Britain's record on renewable energy is still dismal and urged more investment in green energy projects.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Swaying 'dominoes' have place in sun

West Australian
Wednesday 22/9/2010 Page: 30

They sit like two lines of giant dominoes. And as they gently sway and move as they track the sun, the new solar panels at Ocean Park Aquarium, near Denham, almost seem to have a life of their own. The two rows of 18 trackers stretch for about 100m on the area just inland of the aquarium's display tanks and shark pool. The whole structure represents what is believed to be one of the biggest privately owned solar-hybrid power systems in WA, with the ability to power the equivalent of about 20 average-sized homes a day.

The system is a common sense way to keep Ocean Park running. Because of its remote location on the ocean front at Shark Bay, Ocean Park is not connected to the power grid. As a result power for pumping the water in tanks around, filtration systems, refrigeration, cooking and power for the managers and staff is produced on the site. Large-capacity deep-cycle batteries store any surplus energy collected during the day so that during the night excess stored solar power can be drawn on.

There is also a back-up diesel generator but the solar panels are expected to save about 54,000 litres of diesel a year. The system cost just over $1 million, began running late in August and Ocean Park says it has created a lot of interest among locals and tourists. Co-owners Rick and Edmund Fenny said the system added an extra and eco-friendly attraction to about 200 marine species on display.

State backs Mildura solar project

Herald Sun
Wednesday 22/9/2010 Page: 23

Mildura could house the nation's biggest solar power plant after the State Government threw $100 million behind the development. Premier John Brumby said the project would create 200 new jobs during construction and there would be 20 full time jobs. But TRUEnergy's plan to develop the Mallee Solar Park, south of Mildura, is dependent on cash from the Federal Government's Solar Flagships program. The Mildura proposal is expected to face tough competition for grants. A decision isn't due until the middle of next year.

TRUEnergy managing director Richard McIndoe admitted the project was dependent on winning the battle for Commonwealth money. The eventuality of the Mallee Solar Park project is only feasible with the support of both the state and federal governments", he said. The plant would be able to generate 345GW hours of electricity each year, enough to power 60,000 homes. A similar solar plant promised in 2006 collapsed last year after not being able to attract financing. Mr Brumby is confident about the prospects of the new project. We are rising to the challenge of climate change by driving new initiatives to cut emissions and create a cleaner, greener future", he said.

In its climate change action plan published in July, the State Government has committed to having 5% of the state's energy generated by solar by 2020. And to meet this Mr Brumby hopes to develop five to 10 largescale solar plants in regional Victoria. "The TRUEnergy proposal will utilise world's best-practice to create jobs in regional Victoria, cement the northern part of our state as a key solar power region in Australia and will make a valuable and lasting contribution to our clean, green energy supply, he said. Under the TRUEnergy plan, a solar plant would be built on a 600ha site about 10km south of Mildura, with construction by Bovis Lend Lease to happen in four stages between 2012-15.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu backs a solar plant at Mildura, but he warned Victorians not to hold their breath as a solar plant was unlikely for years. We would like to see the technology developed but we have to wait and see", he said. "It all depends on federal money and there are indeed competing plants for that money".

New Zealand’s geothermal generated power hits record high
20 September 2010

New Zealand, September 20 - Geothermal generated electricity touched historic high of 1,400GWh in New Zealand in the three months ended June, according to figures from the country's economic development ministry. Electricity generated from geothermal sources rose 23% over the same period last year. The new Nga Awa Purua geothermal planted started operations in May, lifting the geothermal sector to account for 13% of the country's total electricity output of 10,831GWh.

Gerry Brownlee, New Zealand's energy minister, says geothermal generation is a significant source of electricity and with a few new geothermal projects being planned, the market would continue to grow. Electricity generated from 'dirty' coal dropped 60%, and contributed to 17% of total electricity demand, allowing greenhouse gas emissions to slip to their lowest level since the June 200 quarter, as hydro, wind and gas generation rose. Renewable energy power accounts for about 73% of New Zealand's electricity generation, with hydro accounting for 55%.

Monday 27 September 2010

Tesla Battery drives solar power storage
September 20th, 2010

An interesting pilot project focused on advanced grid-interactive distributed photovoltaic (PV) and storage is being researched by a trio of well known players in the clean economy field. Solar installer SolarCity, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors and the University of California, Berkeley are all taking part in this solar power research initiative via a $1.7 million grant from from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research Development, Deployment and Demonstration (CSI RD&D) Program.

The program, according to SolarCity, is to advance battery storage technology for the PV market, whereby this storage can manage the flow of solar electricity for use by a home or business, and extend production into the evening, even after the sun goes down. In the pilot SolarCity will make use of Tesla's vehicle battery system and its own SolarGuard dispatch and monitoring platform to "create a combined photovoltaic (PV) and stationary storage product which can be installed in homes and businesses. The battery storage will collect excess PV power production so that during peak periods, the utility can pull from battery storage rather than power plants which have greater emissions."

Nothing further was mentioned of the project as of yet, including what role UC Berkeley specifically will play. "Battery storage will be an important component in the mass adoption of PV, it will make solar electricity a more predictable energy source," said SolarCity COO Peter Rive in a statement.

‘Wind power rush’ could reverse Texan fortunes
Tue, 21 Sep 2010

The 781.5MW Roscoe wind complex boasts 627 wind turbines pumping green emissions-free electricity into the thirsty Texas grid. North American towns like Sweetwater, Texas -- originally fuelled by cheap land and wealth derived from cattle, minerals, timber, railroads and oil -- once prompted dreams of success, grandeur and independence. In the past few decades, however, many of these towns on the western side of the North American continent have been in economic decline as their boarded-up storefronts and a palpable reek of decay so sadly prove.

So it was with welcome pleasure that during a business trip through west Texas last week I was able to witness a rebirth of sorts, a renewed sense of optimism. The cause of this latest reversal of fortunes? Wind power. Indeed, in the past decade wind power has exploded here to the point that Sweetwater -- located on rolling flatlands about 300 kilometres west of Dallas -- appears to be surrounded by seemingly endless wind turbines, endlessly turning from ridge to ridge to ridge.

And just down the road, in the tiny hamlet of Roscoe, is the world's largest wind farm, literally dominating the bright blue sky horizon. Consider: The 781.5MW Roscoe wind complex boasts 627 wind turbines pumping green emissions-free electricity into the thirsty Texas grid. It seems that signs of this new so-called "wind rush" are everywhere -- from the cover of the local phone book that features a horse galloping along with a wind turbine in the background, to the local newspaper, the Sweetwater Reporter, that promotes wind turbines as part of its logo, to the town of Sweetwater's website which also includes wind turbines in its corporate identity.

And then there's John Kirgan, an antique dealer who's lived in Sweetwater all his life and has seen his beloved town stall, fade and regress until, in the past 10 years, it began to experience a new lease on life because of the growing wind power sector. "When the wind turbines came in, they generated a lot of money in town", Kirgan, 65, said in an interview with the European Wind Energy Association. "The money they made in Sweetwater has to have made a difference". Increasingly harnessed, the gentle, dependable breezes of west Texas are now helping people stay in their hometowns, get good-paying jobs, feel proud of themselves and, once again, dream of a better future.

Buyers line up for wind farm

Tuesday 21/9/2010 Page: 22

ONE of Australia's biggest wind farms, the 80-MW Emu Downs project in Western Australia, is generating strong interest from potential buyers after being put up for sale following the collapse of Ric Stowe's Griffin Group. The state-of-the-art wind farm expected to fetch more than $200 million is owned by a 50-50 joint venture between Mr Stowe's Griffin Energy and the Queensland government owned Stanwell Corporation. Sources said last night the sale had attracted interest from the "usual suspects" after first-round indicative bids closed last Friday.

The companies considered most likely to bid include AGL Energy, Origin Energy, Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund and Infigen Energy, formerly known as Babcock 8, Brown Wind Partners. The WA government-owned electricity generator Verve Energy is believed to have stayed out of the bidding process. The sale of Emu Downs is being conducted separately to the sale of Griffin's coal mining and power generation businesses in WA, believed to be saddled with about $2 billion in debt.

Up to 40 prospective buyers for those assets including from India, China and Japan will submit offers next week and administrators hope to finalise the sale by the end of the year. A creditors' meeting to be held in February next year is expected to sign off on the sale. Mr Stowe is believed to be keen to buy back his empire, which went into administration in January, but that is considered an unlikely prospect. The Emu Downs wind farm, about 200km north of Perth, produces enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes a year and the capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 280,000 tonnes annually.

The electricity produced from Emu Downs is purchased by WA government-owned retailer Synergy Energy, whose customers include the state's desalination plant. An industry source familiar with Emu Downs, which opened in 2006, said the asset was considered first class. The returns generated would be considered attractive to funds and energy companies, while the sales contract with Synergy Energy would provide comfort to a buyer. The sale is being handled by the Sydney offices of Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Canada.

Warning on carbon price lag

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 21/9/2010 Page: 41

AUSTRALIA is trailing the rest of the world on climate change policy and needs to introduce a price on carbon if it is to remain competitive, a leading climate change economist says. University of Oxford senior research fellow Dr Cameron Hepburn says the cost of renewable energy is decreasing at a rate that will make it competitive with carbon-intensive sources within 10 years. Dr Hepburn said while the UK already has the Carbon Reduction Commitment and Europe had an emissions trading scheme. G20 emerging nations were leading the way.

"There is no risk of Australia taking a leadership position, we are so far off the pace, the question is whether we are last or second last", Dr Hepburn told a mining conference in Wollongong yesterday. "There are trading schemes planned in other parts of the world, Japan and South Korea. "China has just announced it is getting on with emissions trading in eight of its provinces, and five big cities".

Dr Hepburn said the Chinese had committed to establish a scheme in the next five years and was likely to act sooner. "India has, as of July, imposed what they are calling a carbon tax on coal, domestic coal, and it also applies to imported coal", he said. "For the past few years we have seen this rhetoric from Europe and the US that if you don't sort out your emissions we are going to slap tariffs on you. Well, India has done it before anyone else".

China would spend $U5750 billion ($799.79bn) on alternative energy over the next 10 years, while India was aiming to reduce its emissions by 25% by 2020. Dr Hepburn said. "My view as an economist, and I think most economists that I talk to, is that Australia needs carbon pricing", he said. "If we don't price carbon soon, we are going to be forced to do it at some point, in a way we are not going to like very much". Dr Hepburn said the position put forward by BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers had merit. "Effectively, Kloppers' call is for 50% of Australia's emissions to be covered by trading and for the remainder to be covered by taxation. There isn't a lot to disagree with; it is economically literate and rational".

Sunday 26 September 2010

China powers booming climate change industry

Weekend Australian
Saturday 18/9/2010 Page: 25

THE global climate change industry is now worth more than SUS500 billion (S528bn), powered by China's rapid rise as one of the top 10 countries for climate revenues, as companies push ahead with plans despite political uncertainty over green policies. As the debate on setting a price on carbon in Australia continues. HSBC Global Research issued a report on climate change that showed the sector had proved resilient to the global slowdown, seeing less than a 0.9% decline in revenues in 2009.

"Despite concerns over the risks that governments may retreat from their pledges to deliver emission reductions and continuing uncertainty surrounding the withdrawal of regulatory incentives in key markets, global climate revenues have held up remarkably well and in 2009 stood at SUS530bn for listed companies", the report says. The headline figure is greater than the global wireless telecoms services sector and comparable to the GDP of Switzerland, the report says.

The research also shows that private sector climate-related investment in China, which had grown thirtyfold since 2004, coupled with focused climate stimulus spend, is set to propel China to the forefront of developments in the emerging low carbon economy. HSBC says this will ultimately feed into the future growth of China's economy. "In terms of climate stimulus spend. China leads the pack, having already disbursed over 70% of the funds it pledged two years ago", the report says.

The climate change debate in Australia was reignited this week when BHP Billiton boss Marius Kloppers called for the nation to lead the way and introduce a carbon tax before any international agreement. John Atkinson, the managing director of White Energy, which focuses on clean coal technology, said he did not believe that businesses needed certainty on carbon tax today. "Other countries would be surprised if Australia took the lead on the issue", he said. "I would've thought that the more sensible approach is for the major emitters to agree on the issue and then implement what they agree".

But Mr Atkinson said it was good to have the debate, because the industry was not deterred by the political uncertainty and initiatives were being implemented on a global basis. Just this week, White Energy announced that the US state of Kentucky had sought out the company to address an emissions problem around sulphur, offering White Energy accelerated permits and funding for low-sulphur fuel for the state's coal-fired power generating companies. "When people are faced with real problems, they look hard at trying to show they are doing something positive that can assist the situation long term", he said.

The HSBC report reveals that over the past year, despite a number of key countries wavering on their commitments to addressing the issues of climate change, the number of companies engaged in providing climate-related goods, products and services grew to 367, a 140% rise since 2004. The research also highlights that firms in key industries, which HSBC identified as being critical to the emerging low-carbon economy, continue to focus on growing climate revenues, relative to their other businesses. Vijay Sumon, an index specialist at HSBC Global Research, said in the climate change sector, energy efficiency and energy management remained key areas. "Not only has this sub-sector performed well, but we predict that it is likely to continue to do so next year, as a beneficiary of further stimulus spend", he said. "We see it as a no-regrets option, as it makes sense for businesses regardless of climate change".

BHP boss dumps on future of coal

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 16/9/2010 Page: 1

THE world's largest miner, BHP Billiton, has weighed into the climate change debate, warning that Australia should "look beyond coal" and towards other energy sources. The chief executive of BHP Billiton, Marius Kloppers, said Australia's economy will suffer if it does not significantly reduce its carbon emissions in anticipation of a global carbon price. "Failure to do so will place us at a competitive disadvantage in a future where carbon is priced globally", he said.

BHP Billiton is one of the world's largest producers of thermal coal, which made up about 8% of its revenue last year. And while BHP Billiton and the broader mining industry have acknowledged the need for action on climate change. Mr Kloppers is now calling for Australia to take a lead on the issue. The mining industry, through the Minerals Council of Australia, was one of the most fierce opponents of the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme.

The call by Mr Kloppers, made at a business lunch in Sydney, is unlikely to be given a warm political reception. Both sides of politics are too scared to canvass the end of the coal industry because of the votes they would lose. Instead, both back the development of clean coal technology, such as carbon capture and storage. Mr Kloppers stressed the need for a clear price signal on carbon emissions and recommended a combination of a carbon tax, land use actions and a limited emissions trading system, which could apply to electricity generators. He said Australia's energy production was particularly carbon intensive and the highest among OECD countries in terms of tonnes of carbon emitted per unit of energy. Coal-fired power stations account for almost half of the country's emissions.

"Australia will need to look beyond just coal towards the full spectrum of available energy solutions", he said. The new Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, who has been charged with developing a policy involving a price on carbon, avoided mentioning coal when responding to the Kloppers speech. "My three priority areas are support for renewable energy, greater energy efficiency in industry and households, and working towards the introduction of a carbon price", he said. "I will be working with other parliamentarians, the business community and the environmental movement to build consensus and to discuss the best way we can achieve a price on carbon".

On the weekend, Mr Combet assured the coal industry that it had a sound future. Mr Kloppers emphasised the need for the revenue generated by any carbon price to be returned to the economy - for example, through tax cuts - to offset the cost impact of businesses and individuals. All of us who care about this issue need to also recognise that making a difference comes at a price, and it cannot be glossed over", he said. If Australia was to take the lead by implementing a carbon price before a global agreement was struck. Mr Kloppers said, it needed to ensure investment did not go offshore to countries without a price on carbon.

The opposition later, Tony Abbott's, has so far ruled out allowing coalition MPs to sit on a cross-party committee which will be established by the end of the month to discuss potential responses to climate change. The key independent MP Tony Windsor said Mr Abbott's position was a shame and Malcolm Turnbull and the opposition climate change spokesman. Greg Hunt would have to "have a lot to add". A spokesperson for the Energy Supply Association of Australia said Mr Kloppers had given "an interesting speech, but it doesn't change the energy supply sector's view in support of an efficient and equitable emissions trading scheme that is capital forming and allows a sensible transition to a lower emissions energy sector over time".

PNG hydro power plan for Australia

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 16/9/2010 Page: 57

Origin Energy has unveiled an ambitious plan to supply Australia with electricity from a multibillion dollar hydro-power plant in Papua New Guinea. Origin Energy would partner a PNG company to use the massive Purari River, with the development having capacity to create about 1800MWs of renewable baseload electricity. Two-thirds of the power would be transmitted via an under-sea cable to northern Queensland, where it would be fed into the national power grid at Townsville.

The Purari River, in PNG's Gulf Province, was described by Origin Energy managing director Grant King as an "extraordinary resource" that ultimately would be developed. "We are very confident in the long run, once we satisfy all the important areas around social and environmental development, that this project would and should proceed", Mr King said. Including building a dam and transmission lines, he said the project would cost many billions of dollars. The Purari has flows large enough to fill an area the size of Sydney Harbour in two days and is four times larger than the Murray River system.

Investors, however, failed to be impressed by the plans, which are yet to be supported by a feasibility study. Analyst Peter Kopetz, from State One Stockbroking, described the project as "far-fetched". Shares in the energy company dropped 17c, or 1.1%, to close at $15.48, defying a broader market rise. "It reminds me of the good old days of PNG supplying gas to Queensland... which came up to nothing, and I think that is what is likely to happen to this", Mr Kopetz said. "Maybe the next thing will be getting water from PNG". The possibility of using hydro power generated at the river has been discussed since the 1970s.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told State Parliament before signing a memorandum of co-operation power from the sparsely populated PNG region could be pumping into the national grid by 2020. "To put that amount of power into context, the peak energy consumption of the entire state from all energy sources today is around 8900MWs", she said. "This would be the biggest shot in the arm for regional Australia since the Snowy River scheme". PNG Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Works and Transport, Don Pomb Polye, said the signing of the memorandum was a milestone in the project, which would provide green power to remote PNG communities.