Thursday 14 October 2010

Daylesford wind farm to open

Herald Sun
Monday 11/10/2010 Page: 18

AUSTRALIA'S first community wind farm will open next year at Leonard's Hill, about 10km south of Daylesford, after five years of planning. More than 250 supporters, including state Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings, turned out to the announcement. $8.4 million of the project's funding has come from local residents buying shares in the wind park. A portion of the income made from selling the green energy will go into a community fund. Construction will begin in three weeks, with turbines expected to be erected next Easter, and clean energy to start flowing into the local grid by mid 2011.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Blowouts in solar scheme rubbished

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 8/10/2010 Page: 9

ALLEGED cost blowouts in the NSW government's solar bonus scheme are tiny and will not be noticed by households, say renewable energy experts. The solar bonus scheme was attacked yesterday by the NSW coalition climate change spokeswoman, Catherine Cusack. She said the scheme was a cost bungle by the Keneally government that would ensure a blowout in energy prices for seven years.

But the director for the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, Mark Diesendorf, said the costs of the scheme were dwarfed by the huge increase in electricity bills necessary to pay for new infrastructure. "They won't be noticed in the noise", he said. Household bills are expected to rise by $250 to $600 a year by 2013 to pay for investment in the electricity network. In comparison, the total cost per household of the solar bonus scheme was initially estimated in a report to ministers at about $7.50 per year.

The chairwoman of the Australian PV Association, Muriel Watt, said solar power offsets the demand for electricity during peak periods, which reduces the need for expensive network infrastructure. "People are getting hysterical about something that is trying to alleviate why those costs are happening in the first place", she said. Opponents of the scheme have criticised it for providing income for the rich those who can afford solar panels at the expense of those who cannot.

But Dr Watt said there was no evidence to indicate that installations are skewed towards those on higher incomes. "It's like saying those who don't have children subsidise those who do. The benefits of reducing our carbon intensity accrue to everybody", she said. By August, more than 30,000 households had signed up to the scheme, attracted by the $1500 a year that a household, with an average 1.5kW solar electricity system, can earn until the end of 2016.

Energy-efficiency weather data 30 years old

Friday 8/10/2010 Page: 1

THE weather data used by the federal government to determine how billions of dollars are spent to make buildings more energy efficient is 30 years out of date and seriously undermines policy objectives to limit climate change, experts have declared. The problems are acknowledged internally by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency but its senior officers have not released up-to-date weather data, despite repeated pleas over several years from the industry.

The failure to release updated data means that any change in climate affecting Australia's cities, towns and regions since the 1970s was not influencing the development of environmentally friendlier buildings. The weather data, a sophisticated package of climate measurements done by Australia's meteorological networks, is used to determine how buildings should be constructed to achieve optimum energy efficiency. The requirements to improve energy efficiency are widening and becoming more stringent.

One of the latest measures from the Department of Climate Change requires sellers or lessors of office space of more than 2000m² to obtain and disclose "an up-to-date energy-efficiency rating" from November 1. In order to meet the requirements, computer simulations are used to make decisions about appropriate heating, cooling and lighting systems, insulation, glazing and other elements in the building fabric. The impact of using old weather data extends to the design of solar hot water systems, rooftop solar power systems, solar powered cars and wind turbines.

Anything that needs to be engineered based on precise climate data will be potentially affected, according to experts. Murray Mason, a mechanical engineer and industry leader in building services software for calculating energy consumption, said yesterday: "It is an absurd situation.

The climate has changed, but we cannot properly address it in terms of our energy use because we do not have the accurate weather data that would depict how it has changed. The objectives are good in trying to save energy but it has become a lot of window dressing because the data is so out of date it is 30 years old. Decisions about making buildings more energy efficient and the ratings they achieve are being made on inaccurate information".

The Department of Climate Change was severely criticised by the Australian National Audit Office for a litany of breaches, poor planning, budget blow-outs, questionable environmental outcomes and poor briefings to the then minister Peter Garrett. His successor, Greg Combet, declined to address concerns about the data yesterday. Mr Combet's spokesman said: "The minister has asked the department for advice on this matter". Newer weather data has been developed since 2004 by the former Australian Greenhouse Office but this was found to be faulty in key areas during testing by the US Department of Energy. The flawed newer data is also still in use.

Associate Professor Terry Williamson, a University of Adelaide based expert in thermal performance, said it was a serious failure of policy with widespread repercussions that the climate data is not up to date. "Climate data is a fundamental building block in the evaluation of of energy efficiency, but we have a situation where we cannot rely on the data because it is irrelevant in addressing a changing climate", he said. "We have a Department of Climate Change that is ignoring any climate change that may be happening in Australia. Without up-to-date weather data, we do not know whether design and investment decisions involving billions of dollars are being made correctly".

Monday 11 October 2010

Making solar panels with wind power
October 6, 2010

The sun may be a great source of sustainable energy, but it still takes a lot of energy to actually create the solar panels in the first place. And in most cases, that energy is non-renewable. But a company in the UK is looking to change that with the world's first "green from green" solar panel production facility.

G24i will be installing a 120m tall windmill at its solar cell facility in Wales, which will "produce 5.9 million units of electricity each year for around 25 years, enough energy for the equivalent use of over 1,700 homes" and "save more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere each year". The windmill is expected to be fully operation by November.

"At G24i, our vision is to create a new type of solar technology that works in low light, indoors and where no other solar cell can effectively operate -- and to accomplish this with the smallest carbon footprint possible", G24i co-founder Robert Hertzberg said in a statement. "Installing a wind turbine on our factory site and securing power from renewable wind power is another step in our innovative approach in developing a world class "green" technology company".

Mercedes starts taking orders for California fuel-cell car
October 06. 2010

Daimler AG has begun taking orders for its new Mercedes-Benz hydrogen fuel-cell car that will be leased to customers in California as the automaker joins a wave of alternative-fuel vehicles reaching the US The monthly lease price may be $600 to $800 including fuel, Sascha Simon, director of advanced product planning for the automakers sales U.S, unit, said today in an interview. The leases are being limited to drivers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco area because of the restricted availability of hydrogen fuel.

Mercedes-Benz this week is introducing a marketing campaign that it says will better explain alternative-fuel options to consumers. The campaign will include a website that goes live Thursday and includes stories of how people use alternative-fuel vehicles. "We are in the process of reinventing the automobile", Simon said. "Customers right now still don't know exactly where this is all going. Our job will be to actually work with them and make it easy for them to understand".

Mercedes-Benz joins Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co, and others introducing alternative-fuel vehicles this year and in early 2011. President Barack Obama last year announced stricter rules for greenhouse-gas emissions and the first boost in fuel-economy standards in decades. Nissan said last month that U.S, customers had put in 20,000 reservations for the battery-powered Leaf hatchback. The company has said the Leaf will travel as far as 100 miles when its lithium-ion pack is fully charged.

GM, which is coming out with the electric-drive Chevrolet Volt in November, also is developing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The automaker in May announced a program in Hawaii with a local gas company to create hydrogen fueling stations for test vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz has said its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will have a driving range of 240 miles, and there will be six hydrogen fueling stations open to the public in the Los Angeles area this year, Simon said. That contrasts with Germany, where about 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations will be open by 2017, Simon said. Mercedes-Benz has invested about 2 billion euros ($2.79 billion) in hydrogen-electric technology in the past 15 years, he said.

Lessors will receive the vehicles beginning in mid-December, with 5 to 15 in the initial delivery and more expected next year, he said. The company has said it planned to lease 200 of the B-Class F-Cell, a four-door hatchback, in the U.S, and Europe in 2010. We have seen so far good interest -- we would like to see more interest, Simon said. He declined to say how many vehicles have been ordered since the company's website began taking reservations within the past month. "I do not believe we will have a problem finding customers", he said.

US turns to solar power, from White House down

Thursday 7/10/2010 Page: 14

THE US has opened up its vast public lands to solar power projects, as the White House agreed to set up its own solar panels in a visible show of support for alternative energy. President Barack Obama has pledged to help build a new green economy, but Congress has baulked at mandatory cuts in carbon emissions. A study this year found that China has overtaken the US in green investment.

The Interior Department, which supervises most of the US's 263 million hectares of public land, said it had approved projects in southern California's deserts by units of companies Tessera and Chevron. "Both will use innovative technologies from US-based companies and both will bring jobs and energy to our nation's economy", Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. Federal authorities had put a freeze in 2008 on solar proposals as it assessed effects on the environment, with some fearing the California projects would endanger wildlife, including sheep and rare lizards.

Mr Salazar said that the companies had agreed to programs to preserve wildlife. He said the Interior Department would soon approve additional solar projects, which until the end of the year would enjoy tax incentives. He made the announcement hours after the Obama administration said it would install two solar panels on the White House, hoping to encourage Americans in lesser known residences to consider solar power a reliable alternative. Former president Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the executive mansion in 1979, but Ronald Reagan took them down. The Obama White House last month politely rebuffed an activist who showed up with a Carter-era panel.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the new project "reflects President Obama's strong commitment to US leadership in solar power and the jobs it will create here at home". "Deploying solar power technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come", Mr Chu told a conference on greening the federal government. The Energy Department will open up competitive bidding to choose a company to install the panels, said Mr Chu, who earlier ordered temperature-cooling white paint on the roofs of his agency's buildings.

It is the latest green project for the Obama White House. First lady Michelle Obama launched a garden on the lawn in a bid to persuade Americans to eat fresher, healthier food. The Obama administration tapped into last year's stimulus package to encourage solar and other renewable energies, hoping they will spur a new green economy and reduce carbon emissions that scientists say are causing dangerous climate change.

Legislation to mandate cuts in carbon emissions has all but died in the US Senate, with critics saying the plan would be too costly at a time of a weak economy. But President Obama pledged in January that the federal government would do its share by cutting carbon emissions by 28% by 2020 compared with levels in recent years.

Bill McKibben, the founder of a climate advocacy group last month brought to the White House one of the original Carter panels now stored at Unity College in Maine but did not receive a commitment. Mr McKibben praised the Obama administration, saying it was listening to some 40,000 people who had signed a petition for the solar panels. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world", he said.