Thursday 7 October 2010

Networks, not solar, driving rising electricity costs
6 October 2010

Australia's clean energy peak body says the cost of supporting residential solar power is a drop in the ocean compared to billions of dollars in network costs that are driving big increases in electricity prices in NSW. In relation to claims by electricity generators today, Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Matthew Warren said it was ridiculous to hang the rising price of electricity in NSW around the neck of the solar industry.

"The Australian Energy Regulator estimates the cost of improving the electricity network in NSW at more than $14 billion over five years. Based on the 50MW installed under the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme, the cost of solar electricity from the current scheme is less than 4% of this", Mr Warren said. "Solar power systems will help to reduce electricity costs for householders, and as the cost of this clean energy continues to fall more households will be able to immunise themselves from rising electricity prices", he said.

Mr Warren said solar power was helping to transform the way Australians think about energy. "Effectively the NSW government is building a peak load power station across the rooftops of NSW, which is co-funded by householders and the network", he said. "It's a different way of generating energy. It's what a clean energy future is going to look like. "The people of Australia want action on climate change and cheaper clean energy. Solar feed-in tariff programs are about developing the solar industry, making use of Australia's abundant sunshine".

Mr Warren said NSW required the use of solar installers accredited with the Clean Energy Council. This scheme requires the use of qualified industry professionals and licensed electricians, helping to ensure solar power systems meet Australian Standards.

Countdown to energy ratings

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 6/10/2010 Page: 6

OFFICE landlords are bracing themselves for the new disclosure requirements for up-to-date energy efficiency information on buildings. They take effect on November 1. In July the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill was passed by Parliament. It requires the disclosure of energy efficiency ratings and advisory reports at the point of sale or lease for any commercial office space with a net lettable area of 2000 m² or more.

Jonathan Kriska, a property analyst from the broker Patersons, said the federal government intended to progressively expand the scheme's coverage to include additional building types such as industrial and retail properties. Mr Kriska said the immediate effect of the scheme was unlikely to alter valuations for owners, but in the medium term he expected managers of the real estate investment trusts, which own about 80% of Sydney's city buildings, would seek to improve their portfolio energy efficiency by trading assets and improving existing assets.

Much of the central business district buildings are older B and C grade assets that will require extensive renovations to become energy efficient. Already the Commonwealth Property Office Fund said it would spend $330 million upgrading its 120 Pitt Street site. Other landlords are set to follow suit. "An estimated 23% of all carbon emissions come from buildings and their occupants, with almost 10% of national emissions from commercial office buildings", Mr Kriska said. "While the measurement of building energy efficiency is clearly in its infancy, we expect this to be a major topic for the REIT sector in coming years.

"Government tenants now require a minimum four-star National Australian Built Environment Rating System [NABERS] rating and five- star NABERS ratings are becoming more common for new leases for major corporates. "In time we expect at least a four-star rating will become the minimum requirement for leading tenants". As a reflection of the increased trading within the property sector, the analysts at J.P. Morgan have estimated there is about $12.3 billion worth of commercial assets now for sale. These include the $900 million Woolworths portfolio and the remainder of the Direct Factory Outlet stores that were not part of the sale to CFS Retail.

Green power lifts community spirits

Sunday Times
Sunday 3/10/2010 Page: 68

WA'S green energy production will receive a boost with Australia's first community wind farm expected to come on line at Mount Barker, 370km southeast of Perth, in February. It will be WA's 13th wind farm generating eco-friendly electricity. The Mount Barker Power Co will own and operate the $8.5 million wind farm, which will have three 800kW turbines 4km north of the Great Southern town. Synergy Energy will buy the 2.4MWs of energy the farm is expected to produce under a long-term agreement enough to meet the town's entire power needs. Over the 20-year life of the project, 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be offset.

Mount Barker joins 12 other wind farms in WA, including Rottnest Island, Exmouth, Denham, Albany, Hopetoun, Kalbarri, Bremer Bay, Coral Bay, Emu Downs, near Cervantes, Walkaway, near Geraldton, and two separate farms in Esperance. One of the nation's biggest farms under development, the 206-MW, 111-turbine Collgar Wind Farm in Merredin, will bring the state's total active wind farms to 14 when it comes on line in August 2011. Energy Minister Peter Collier recently announced the expansion of the Grasmere wind farm in Albany, with the addition of six turbines.

Advanced Energy Resources, which owns half the Mount Barker Power Co, helped to secure the $8 5 million investment for the project, which included a $4.2 million grant from the Commonwealth's Renewable Remote Power Generation Program. AER director Luca Castelli said the Great Southern community owned almost 70% of the project, which was backed by AER, an affiliate of the Castelli Group, and project developer SkyFarming "It's very common already in Europe to see these community-style wind farms", Mr Castelli said. "We hope to see a lot more popping up across the state and Australia".

AER business development manager and former manager for sustainable business development for Verve Energy, Adrian Chegwidden, wants the State Government to provide further commercial incentives to attract investors and develop more renewable energy projects, to meet the state's share of the national renewable energy target of 20% by 2020. "They need to step up to the plate and support projects like this and larger ones", he said. "We would like to see the Government come up with a scheme similar to the feed-in tariffs that a lot of the countries in Europe have, a guaranteed return on your investment because these projects need 20 years guaranteed to get the returns back", Mr Chegwidden said.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Rough ride for sea power

Monday 4/10/2010 Page: 4

Wave energy might go the way of Australia's solar industry, writes Mathew Murphy.

LACK of government support for the fledgling wave energy industry is forcing Australian companies to increasingly invest overseas despite having the world's best wave resource off our coastline. Several Australian wave energy proponents have started projects in such places as Hawaii, Central America and Ireland, saying Australia's risk-averse tendency is holding back investment. While none has made the tough call to relocate just yet, and all those interviewed by BusinessDay are still hopeful of commercialising their technology in Australia, positive policy settings in other corners of the world are offering these companies the best opportunity to grow their businesses.

Clean energy advocates are concerned that wave energy could experience the same sort of brain drain that has hit the Australian solar industry over the past decade. David Mills took his solar thermal company, Ausra, to the US nearly a decade ago and last year hit a financial wall because of lack of funding. University of New South Wales researcher Zhengrong Shi was forced to take his business, SunTech, to China, creating one of the world's biggest solar photovoltaic firms.

Australian-listed Dyesol, which makes photovoltaic cells, found greener pastures in Wales, successfully commercialising its power-generating steel panels, which it was unable to do in Australia. Ali Baghaei, the chief executive of Oceanlinx, said that while the federal government has been relatively supportive of more mature renewable energies such as wind power, its policy settings needed to support developing technologies in order to get the right mix of power generation.

"It is not about going cap in hand and begging for money for a lifetime", he said. "There should be an amicable way where the government can support a new renewable technology for five or 10 years and then if they do achieve their targets and deliver what they said they would then they can stand on their own feet and won't need any additional help". Oceanlinx has been testing its technology, which uses the rise of waves to drive a column of air through a turbine, at Port Kembla in NSW, but also has interests in Victoria and King Island in Tasmania.

Mr Baghaei said he was keen to develop wave energy projects in Australia. "I haven't given up all of my hopes yet of government support, either federal or state governments, but it is clearly a concern that we probably aren't getting as much support as what is available outside Australia", he said. "We are fortunate in that our technology is transferable and because of that we have subsidiaries in Hawaii and in Central America which have more advanced projects. There is no doubt we are behind countries like the US, UK and Portugal".

Mike Ottaviano, the managing director of the Australian Securities Exchange-listed Carnegie Corporation Wave Energy, is pushing ahead with plans to establish a wave energy project at Garden Island, 50 kilometres from Perth. This has been achieved without support from the federal government. Despite Energy Minister Martin Ferguson launching the government's $300 million Renewable Energy Demonstration Program at Carnegie Corporation's pilot plant in April last year, the company missed out on funding, surprising the market and sending its share price from about
25.5¢ to its current level of about 9¢.

One of the four grants was awarded to US-based Ocean Power Technologies and Leighton Holdingss, which together won $66.5 million to construct a 19-MW wave farm near Portland, Victoria. A total of $65 million from the fund was not allocated. Dr Ottaviano said a lack of strategic insight into policy settings was hurting local wave companies. "If you look at Ireland as an example, you have a dedicated wave energy grant pool. You have a dedicated wave energy tariff. Your power is guaranteed for 15 years and you have a wave energy target.

So the combination of those policies is what gives investors confidence which is lacking here", he said. "We certainly aren't saying that we are packing our bags and heading offshore, but all of our business development activities and investments are focused offshore and three of our directors are in Europe. That is no accident because the market there is about 10 years ahead of us in terms of wave energy".

Matthew Warren, the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, said it was disappointing that Carnegie Corporation, the most advanced in wave energy in Australia, had missed out on funding. "It sends the wrong message in that if you manage to make it to the last quarter, like Carnegie Corporation, don't expect to receive the right help", he said. "Our concern is that if we don't get this right then we could potentially be importing technology like Carnegie Corporation's in 10 years rather than exporting it to the rest of the world.

"The problem with allocating funding in four large cheques is that you have four winners and 38 losers. I am not critical of any of the projects that received funding but it's like betting on a roulette wheel you are more likely to get a return if you put on a number of small bets rather than a few big ones", Mr Warren said. "The Southern Ocean is the greatest single wave energy resource on Earth, and Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Chile are the only countries that can access it at scale. Out of those five, Australia is quite clearly the most advanced economically and technically and has the greatest capacity to drive that forward. Yet despite the chance to harness that more cost effectively than perhaps others do we are yet to see a concerted effort by governments to really assist that potential".

More cities turn to solar power for traffic signs
Mon, 4 Oct 2010

Growing numbers of US cities and towns are turning to solar powered road warning and school safety signs to inform the public and save money and energy. In the past year, cities including Baton Rouge, La., Branson and Kansas City, Mo., and Lyndhurst, Wayne and Ringwood, N.J., have adopted the technology, officials in those municipalities say. Rick Bergholz, owner of TAPCO, a Wisconsin-based company that manufactures and sells the environmentally friendly traffic controls, says solar powered light "sales have been exploding".

"They've been around since their inception 10 years ago, but it took years to perfect the product and to get approval", Bergholz says. TAPCO's website lists Forth Worth, Tucson and Richfield Township in Ohio among other solar signal clients. In Baton Rouge, flashing yellow lights at school zones went "green" before the start of the current school year, says Ingolf Partenheimer, the city-parish's chief traffic engineer. "We are putting out 90 of them", Partenheimer says, adding that they can talk electronically to the signals instead of having to change them manually. "If a school has early dismissal, we can change the signals school-by-school or globally".

Branson installed solar signs at a cost of about $1,000 each a few months ago at two intersections that had seen numerous accidents, says Keith Francis, the city's assistant director of public works. "We had had numerous accidents at these locations, and it was kind of a dark area and didn't have a lot of street lighting, so we decided to put these up to get people's attention", Francis says. "Flashing lights automatically get people's attention and make them slow down". "The solar portion cuts down on costs", he says. "The solar panels (batteries) will run for 11 days without being charged".

Shreveport, La, was among the early users, installing solar powered lights five years ago, city traffic engineer Michael Erlund says. "We went with solar lights because electricity costs us money constantly", Erlund says. A solar powered flashing stop sign was installed at a three-way stop in Hammond, La., in Tangipohoa Parish in early September, according to Gordon Burgess, Tangipahoa Parish president. It is one of 10 that will be installed on parish roads, he says. In deciding where to place the signs, Burgess says officials looked at several dangerous intersections. "We have a lot of intersections, some with four-way stops, so we looked at where they've had accidents, and with our volume of traffic, we more or less prioritized the ones with the high traffic count", he says.

Adobe Systems gets clean energy from gigantic “Bloom Box” fuel cells
October 3, 2010

When you think of emission-free fuel-cell technology for cars, you probably imagine a device that's about the size of a battery – or at least one that's small and light enough to fit in a car. Now imagine a gigantic fuel-cell fully the size of a standard parking space, and you've got enough clean energy for a fleet of cars, or for that matter, an entire building. That's the motivation behind Adobe Systems' new "Bloom Box" fuel-cells at its campus in San Jose, California.

Bloom Energy Fuel Cells
The new fuel-cells are manufactured by Bloom Energy (they're actually called "Bloom Energy Servers"). Instead of burning fuel to produce energy, fuel-cells produce energy through an electrochemical reaction. The Bloom Energy Server is based on solid oxide fuel-cell technology, which is relatively inexpensive compared to conventional hydrogen fuel-cells. One problem that can beset solid oxide fuel-cells is their high operating temperature, but Bloom appears to have worked out the kinks. Bloom's product is also capable of storing energy like a battery, as well as producing it.

Adobe Systems Incorporated and Fuel Cells
Adobe Systems has installed 12 Energy Servers at its West Tower on the campus, which together will generate 1.2MWs of electricity. They are big, but they are light enough to be sited on an upper floor, which frees up basement space for other purposes. As an on-site source, the Bloom Energy Servers will help insulate the campus from energy supply interruptions from the grid, in addition to helping the company to cut its carbon footprint. Adobe joins a growing movement by the computer tech industry to manage the increased energy consumption that comes along with an increasingly computer-dependent world. Other examples are Yahoo!'s new "chicken coop" energy efficient data center in New York, a new LEED-certified data center in Sacramento, and waste energy harvesting from computer servers in Helsinki.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Banks being urged to lend 'green' - Banks lend $5.5bn to coal industry

Saturday 2/10/2010 Page: 4

WESTPAC, Australia's second largest bank, has flagged its lending policies will favour energy efficiency and clean energy projects over new coal fired power stations as momentum grows to introduce a price on carbon emissions. A report to be released today by Greenpeace shows Australia's major banks provided loans worth $5.5 billion to the coal industry over the past five years, seven times more than the $784 million lent to the renewable energy sector. ANZ, recently ranked the world's most sustainable bank, was the biggest financier to Australia's coal industry, says the report by Dutch economic consultancy Profundo, providing loans of $1.7 billion.

It was followed by Commonwealth Bank ($1.6 billion), NAB and Westpac ($1 billion each), and Suncorp ($227 million). Two other institutions surveyed, Bendigo Bank and the Mecu credit union, did not lend to the coal industry. ANZ also provided more finance for coal-fired power stations than any other bank surveyed, at $650 million, compared with the Commonwealth ($546 million), Westpac ($454 million), NAB ($382 million) and  Suncorp  ($18 million). Greenpeace is calling on the major banks to rule out financing a dozen new planned coalfired power stations around the country, including HRL's controversial $550 million coal gasification plant at Morwell.

Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn said many Australians opposed construction of new coal-fired power stations. "A lot of people have just voted for action on climate change. Those people would actually be quite outraged to realise their savings in the bank are being used to make the problem worse". None of the big four banks would refuse to finance new coal-fired power stations but Westpac media manager Jane Counsel said apart from historical customers, the bank's future funding was likely to focus on energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

"Within Australia, in the short to medium term, we do not expect that new coal-fired electricity generation will be attractive from an environmental viewpoint. Therefore, the application of technological solutions to reduce emissions is critical", she said. The Commonwealth said it had no commitments to new coal-fired power stations and had the lowest debt exposure to single asset Australian coal-fired generation among the major banks.

A spokesman for ANZ, which last month topped bank sector rankings in the global Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 2010, said the bank was Australia's leading renewable energy financier and "we are starting to see a shift in our portfolio from coal to more sustainable alternatives with renewable projects". Profundo's Amsterdam-based analyst, Jan Willem van Gelder, said the world's banks were struggling to develop responsible lending policies given climate change and the need to finance a shift to sustainable energy production.

Making solar power more predictable
September 29, 2010

One thing that complicates solar power projects is the fact that the power supply is not constant: clouds can affect the output of a large-scale plant. If there were a way to predict how much they would affect the performance, then it would be easier to convince utilities to build them. To address that problem, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories decided to measure the effect. They decided on a solar photovoltaic array in Hawaii, on the island of Lana'i, which provides 1.2MWs of power, largely to a local resort and the island's 3,000 residents.

Joshua Stein, one of the lead researchers on the project, said previous studies have looked at small-scale solar panels, but none have directly measured how much power the panels produce under varying amounts of cloud cover, while showing how that changes over time. Joshua Stein, one of the lead researchers on the project, said the solar plant provides a relatively large amount of the island's power (up to 30% of peak demand) and that conventional power sources are much more expensive than on the mainland.

That makes it much more akin to the situation larger facilities in the U.S, are likely to face in the future, and it gives a better idea of what a 'real world' environment would be like if more communities in the U.S, use solar power on a large scale. "There are some concerns from utilities as to how solar facilities will interact with existing generation", Stein said.

Stein's team put sensors on the solar array that measure how much sunlight the panels get. They then measured the power output at one-second intervals. Because the array is large - several hundred square yards - the sensors could show which parts of the array were under cloud cover and which were not, as well as showing cloud direction and speed.

The data has helped answer the question of just how much effect scattered clouds -- common in Hawaii - will have on a solar power array. Stein said thus far, the effect seems to be linear. While individual power cells can lose a lot of power when they are in shadow, that gets "averaged out" over the entire array.

Stein also said that since the price of solar power decreases as you increase the size of the arrays, the power loss from scattered areas of cloud cover should create smaller fluctuations in overall output. That seems to be the case in Lana'i. "The ultimate goal is to understand irradiance patterns and how they will affect plants larger than any yet built", he said. With the new data, the team will eventually be able to build models that will help when designing larger power plants, making solar power a bit more predictable - and palatable - to investors and utilities.

Poor funding stands in firms’ way of producing cheap power
September 29 2010

Lack of financing for new technologies that are energy-efficient is hindering local industries from adopting cleaner manufacturing processes, an official has said. The Ministry of Industrialisation says that despite the world moving to environmentally friendly practices, most local companies are still stuck with machinery that use a lot of energy. They also continue to emit a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, making local products unattractive to other markets. "We are aware that considerable untapped potential exists for decreasing wasteful use of energy, which is estimated to be nearly 27%, as well as deploying more sustainable energy among our industries", said permanent secretary in the ministry, Dr Karanja Kibicho.

Kenya has the potential to tap into several forms of renewable energy sources such as solar and geothermal, but is yet to develop them, instead depending heavily on unreliable hydroelectricity. The government has, however, been working towards growing green energy sources in efforts to save production cost, preserve the environment and wean the country from hydro sources. Power producer KenGen, which has been operating two small pilot units of wind power, is now set to play a major role as the country embarks on an ambitious journey to go green.

Hallmark of winning
"As we move into the future, efficiency and effectiveness will be the hallmark of winning enterprises as these are the key drivers to competitiveness", Mr Kibicho said. He spoke yesterday during the opening of a workshop organised by the Kenya National Cleaner Production Centre to discuss resource-smart techniques. The event targeted the sugar, tea and textiles production sectors, whose many factories across the country are yet to adopt energy efficient means of production.

Monday 4 October 2010

Aussie innovation helps Ireland get even greener

Courier Mail
Thursday 30/9/2010 Page: 61

IRELAND'S economy may be in the dumps, but it hasn't upset its mission to adopt climate safe electricity sources, with an Australian wave energy developer yesterday securing a key deal. Shares in the Perth-based Carnegie Wave Energy yesterday rose 0.3¢, or 35%, to 9¢, after it signed a formal collaboration deal with Ireland's national energy authority to jointly develop wave energy projects at various locations. The three-year deal appoints Carnegie Corporation as a developer for Ireland's ocean energy program.

It is a big step towards commercial testing and roll out of Carnegie Corporation's technology which uniquely uses buoys tethered to seabed pumps to create pressure to power hydroelectric turbines onshore, creating zero emission electricity. Ireland has set a national target to produce a third of its electricity from renewable or limitless power sources such as the sun, wind and waves by 2020, much higher than Australia's 20% target. Unlike Australia's target, Ireland's renewable energy target includes a specific target for ocean energy, which will deliver 75MWs of power from the ocean to its grid by 2012 and 500MW by 2020.

Carnegie Corporation chief executive Michael Ottaviano said the Irish Government had "clearly signalled" wave energy was on its radar with grant and tariff incentives and aggressive targets. He said the Australian Government needed to decide if it wanted Australia to be a developer and supplier of emerging clean-energy technologies, and benefit economically from owning the intellectual property, or to merely buy in products from offshore. "That is the fundamental question for our government to answer, because it's not clear at the moment. Until you've answered that question, it's difficult to set the policy response", Dr Ottaviano said.

Downstream fears as China powers ahead with new dams

Canberra Times
Wednesday 29/9/2010 Page: 19

China's already the largest generator of electricity from river water trapped by giant dams, recently announced plans to nearly double its hydroelectric power capacity by 2020. This is good news for those concerned about China's impact on climate change. Coal, the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, is the main source of energy for China's turbo-charged economic growth. But South-East Asia and South Asia, which depend on the regular flow of major rivers that start in China before crossing the border into downstream states, will be watching closely where the new Chinese dams are built and how the huge amounts of water in their reservoirs is regulated.

These decisions will affect the flow of water in trans-boundary rivers that begin and run for much of their course in China, such as the Mekong, South-East Asia's longest river, and the Brahmaptttra, that winds for 1700km through the highlands of Tibet before crossing into India and Bangladesh. About 83% of China's electricity comes from burning coal. The air pollution blights Chinese cities and damages public health.

Massive amounts of CO2 released into the atmosphere from coal-burning by power stations and heavy industry have made China the leading source of this global warming gas, surpassing even the United States a few years ago. When all generating units began running last month at the Xiaowan hydroelectric-power dam on the Chinese section of the Mekong in south-western Yunnan province, China's hydroelectricity capacity became the world's largest. Xiaowan is the fourth of eight dams being built on the upper Mekong. Its completion brought China's nationwide hydroelectricity generating capacity to a little more than 200 millionkWs.

Chinese officials say that had they not tapped river water for power, thermal plants of equivalent capacity would have been built, burning 288 million tonnes of coal annually and releasing 855 million tonnes of CO2 and 5.4 million tonnes of polluting sulphur dioxide Into the atmosphere each year.

Hydroelectric power produces no toxic air pollutants or carbon emissions. China aims to generate 15% of its power from non-fossil sources by 2020, up from 7.8% now. It has also promised to cut its carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 40 to 45% by then. As the most competitive renewable energy, hydroelectricity is a key to achieving emission cuts in China, although rapid expansion of nuclear power will also help.

Director of China's National Energy Administration Zhang Guobao told the official Xinhua news agency last month that hydroelectricity projects with another 70 millionkW capacity were under construction. "If all the planned hydropower projects begin construction in the next three years, it is still possible to expand the current installed capacity to 380 millionkW by 2020", he said. "We need careful and detailed planning and imperative approval procedures". If done well, hydroelectric power can be a sustainable and nonpolluting power source that helps decrease dependence on fossil fuels and reduces the threat of global warming.

However, blocking rivers with massive dams and reservoirs can create serious social and environmental problems, including displacement of local communities, forest and wildlife habitat destruction and preventing movement of migratory fish. There is also the risk of damage or even a catastrophic breach in an earthquake. Because of such concerns, the central Government in China had put a freeze on dam building. However, in July, the Chinese Government gave the go-ahead to two hydroelectricity projects, one in Yunnan and the other in Tibet. They were the first approvals in more than two years.

Will intensified dam building result in lax regulation? Zhang said that even as China accelerated hydroelectric power development, approval procedures would be stricter and focus on issues like protection of the environment and the rights of people relocated to make way for the projects. He did not say where all the new dams would be constructed. India is concerned that China may decide to meet some of its hydroelectric power needs by building giant dams on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River, but China has denied this.

However, China now appears certain to finish its planned cascade of dams not only on the upper Mekong but also on the upper Salween River, before it flows into Burma. For downstream countries in South-East Asia Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam this raises two points of concern. The first is how much water will be impounded in Chinese reservoirs behind the dams. The second is how hydroelectric power operators, all of them state owned firms, will regulate the flow of water once the reservoirs hold enough water and the generating units are ready to run.

The four completed dams on the upper Mekong have a capacity to hold back over 18 billion cubic metres of water. This is 70% of the total storage capacity of all reservoirs on the Mekong and its tributaries. After the fifth upper Mekong dam at Nuozhadu is finished in 2014, China's share will rise to nearly 90%.

There are two basic ways of regulating the outflow of this water. One is to hold it back in the wet season to prevent flooding downstream and to release it in the dry season when it is most needed by farmers and others. The other way is to release more of the turbid water in the wet season before the sediment has a chance to settle, and store extra water in the dry season to make up for these releases. Chinese hydroelectric-power operators reportedly prefer the latter method because it evens the flow of water throughout the year and increases both the reliability and efficiency of electricity generation. However, it raises the risk of wet season flooding and dry-season water shortages for downstream states in South-East Asia.

Consumers warned to do homework - Risk in rush on solar

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 28/9/2010 Page: 33

AN "uneducated market" is being pushed towards a rushed decision on solar panel installations, with the potential risk of affecting the industry's image, an Adelaide installer says. Love Energy founder Richard Mintz said the proposed 60MW cap on solar installations, expected to be reached at the end of next year, was pushing consumers to make "quick, uninformed decisions". The state solar feed-in tariff scheme is likely to be closed to new entrants by the end of next year, if not earlier, under proposed legislation to increase the tariff to 54c and limit installed capacity. Commercial installations are also excluded from the scheme.

Setting limits on the scheme is making users rush into it without proper inquiries about the quality of systems or operator, with price being the main decision factor, Mr Mintz said. "The solar industry is embryonic. No one has yet seen the impact of dodgy installations, but some of the products out there are shocking", he said. The South Australian market is segmented into high to mid range-priced installations and cheaper, low-end solutions by some of the smaller solar installers. "We want to position ourselves as the educators of the market and we have started by partnering with world class panel suppliers, Germany's Conergy and US firm SunPower", Mr Mintz said.

The company is working towards its first major project - a $5 million 800kW multisite rooftop installation in Adelaide. "I am willing to punt my business as the educated party, but the consumer has much to lose and the faith in the industry is going to go", Mr Mintz said. Solar installers have been advertising aggressively in recent months, urging consumers to act quickly to take advantage of the tariff changes.

Overall, the national ad blitz by solar installers has caught the eye of market regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which last month forced two solar panel retailers to amend their marketing campaigns, found to be "potentially misleading and deceptive". Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said most consumers needed to do their homework and refer to the consumer guide on the council's website. "The buyers have gone past those genuinely interested in solar to those mums and dads looking to immunise themselves from electricity prices, and are driven by price", Mr Warren said. "You get what you pay for, so they should understand as much of the system and shop around".

Big cut in emissions

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 28/9/2010 Page: 33

ONE of the biggest nonresidential solar projects will be undertaken by the City of Sydney over the next five years, with solar panels installed on more than 30 council owned properties. The City of Sydney's $12 3 million project will cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 3000 tonnes a year and supply enough electricity to power the equivalent of 400 households. "The city is delivering on its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 70% and produce 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030", said Allan Jones, the council's international energy and climate change expert. The project will install 2000kWs of solar panels, dwarfing the current biggest nonresidential installation at the University of Queensland.