Saturday 26 March 2011

Ford sparks solar power at Michigan plant
16 March 2011

Ford, alongside DTE Energy, announced this month that a new 500 kW solar power system at its Michigan Assembly plant is now operational. It serves both as a test pilot program and also the automaker's largest solar power generating system to date. It is being used, among other things, to help power the production of small, fuel efficient cars like the new Focus Electric, which we covered earlier this year.

A smaller solar power project is expected to be installed at the Michigan Assembly plant that will power the lighting systems at the manufacturing center. The plant is also being set up with a 750 kW clean energy storage facility that can store 2 million watt hours of power using batteries, or reportedly enough energy for approximately 100 average Michigan homes for a year. And, as if this weren't enough already, a 50 kW facility to demonstrate the potential reuse of vehicle electric batteries for stationary energy storage is being mixed in as well.

In addition to solar and energy storage pilots, Ford will also create ten electric vehicle charging stations. The stations will be used by electric switcher trucks to transport parts from one building to another on the site. All of this was funded by a $3 million investment from DTE Engery's SolarCurrents program, a $2 million grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission, and around $800,000 from Ford itself.

These clean energy projects come Ford is putting more investment into green technology with vehicles like the C Max Hybrid, a new software system that seeks to improve fuel economy, and even a Revolving Energy Fund with the University of Michigan. But, only time will tell if the automaker's competing ideas, like their electric charger, will be enough to stand up against electric models like the Nissan LEAF and others.

Spain orders review of nuclear power plants
16 March 2011

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Wednesday ordered a review of his country's nuclear power plants in light of the crisis unfolding in Japan, where workers are battling to contain radioactive materials at a plant after a massive earthquake and tsunami. Spain is the latest in a number of countries around the world who are giving their nuclear programs a second look as Japan tirelessly works to avoid a nuclear disaster.

According to nation's nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear Safety Council, Spain has eight nuclear reactors in operation at six nuclear power plants. "We should do this, but there are reasons to remain calm about the safety of our nuclear plants and about the reports the Nuclear Safety Council is preparing", Zapatero told reporters of his decision for a review. He added, "What we are going to do is be even more sure and safer. And if there is a needed improvement at some nuclear plant due to a hypothetical risk, that's the work of the Nuclear Safety Council".

Separately, Zapatero said that Spain is not ordering an evacuation of its nationals in Japan because there's been no such request from the Japanese government. Instead, Spain will follow Japan's lead and will try to assist those Spaniards who wish to leave. There are no Spaniards in the affected zone near the nuclear power plant or in other high risk areas, the prime minister's office reported. There are about 1,900 Spaniards in Japan, more than half of them in the Tokyo area.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said that preliminary plans for a nuclear power plant in his country will be halted. He ordered his energy ministry to look for alternative sources of energy. Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a three month moratorium on the extension of the operation periods for German nuclear plants. That move will lead to at least one German nuclear plant shutting down very soon, Germany's environmental minister later said in a statement.

Solar power outshines nuclear power: Study
15 March 2011

A year long Queen's University study has concluded that nuclear power is simply not worth the risk when compared to solar power. "The current situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant and the anxiety of a possible meltdown are once again calling into question the use of nuclear power as a long term energy option here in Canada", Joshua Pearce, a mechanical and materials engineering professor told the Star.

The university team looked at the 100 nuclear plants in the U.S, and factored in the indirect public subsidy, which amounts to the cost of insuring a nuclear plant in the event of a catastrophic accident, and the power produced over the lifetime of a nuclear power plant. "In my mind it is basically insanity to shoulder the public with risk to get relatively small amount of electricity out of it", Pearce said.

He noted that in the U.S, there is a $10 billion cap on liability in the event of an accident, which amounts to an indirect subsidy of about $33 million per plant per year over the lifetime of a nuclear plant. The study, funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, took this indirect subsidy and transferred it in the form of a loan guarantees for solar panel manufacturing plants over 100 years.

"At the end of all of this you end up with $5.3 trillion in additional electricity (from solar). That for us was somewhat surprising that it was so high", he said. Ivana Zelenika Zovko, a master's student in environmental studies at Queen's who worked on the project, said that, all things considered, nuclear power is "just not worth the risk".

The study concluded: "In light of these results and with the recent economic challenges, climate destabilization and a new found emphasis on sustainability, U.S, energy policy needs to re evaluate its options and appropriate available funds wisely by moving away from nuclear power and diversifying their energy portfolio to maximize the renewable (not alternative) energy potential".

Auckland to trial solar power
16 March 2011

Auckland is looking to put in place the country's largest solar power incentive scheme to move the city away from dependence on the Huntly thermal power station. The Auckland Council's Environment and Sustainability Forum looks set, this week, to approve a pilot scheme which will see the installation of 250 solar hot water heating systems in homes across the city, fitted with systems which will monitor usage.

As part of the pilot, there would be review of compliance, financing and best practice of installation of solar power in the city. Any incentive scheme would be dependant on the outcome of the pilot. Mayor Len Brown requested the investigation of opportunities for solar power provision as part of his 100 projects in his first 100 days in office. The project fits in with the Economic Development Ministry's updated 2010 Energy Outlook which projects that 83% of New Zealand's electricity generation will be from renewable sources by 2030.

According to an agenda for the forum, in the past decade there have only been 275 solar hot water systems installed on average per year in Auckland less than 10% of the number of systems installed annually in New Zealand. The pilot scheme follows the success of a similar project in Nelson which saw an increased investment in solar power businesses. The Nelson scheme saw the households involved make an average saving of 75% saving on hot water bills and an average of $500 of annual electricity savings.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Hotter Solar Energy
15 March 2011

Solar thermal power plants that produce hotter steam can capture more solar power. That's why Siemens is exploring an upgrade for solar thermal technology to push its temperature limit 160 °C higher than current designs. The idea is to expand the use of molten salts, which many plants already use to store extra heat. If the idea proves viable, it will boost the plants' steam temperature up to 540 °C the maximum temperature that steam turbines can take.

Siemens's new solar thermal plant design, like all large solar thermal power plants now operating, captures solar heat via trough shaped rows of parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight on steel collector tubes. The design's Achilles' heel is the synthetic oil that flows through the tubes and conveys captured heat to the plants' centralized generators: the synthetic oil breaks down above 390 °C, capping the plants' design temperature.

Startups such as BrightSource Energy, eSolar, and SolarReserve propose to evade synthetic oil's temperature cap by building so called power tower plants, which use fields of mirrors to focus sunlight on a central tower. But Siemens hopes to upgrade the trough design, swapping in heat stable molten salt to collect heat from the troughs. The resulting design should not only be more efficient than today's existing trough based plants, but also cheaper to build. "A logical next step is to just replace the oil with salt", says Peter Muerau, Siemens's molten salt technology program manager.

The German engineering giant will actually be the second player to try to push molten salts through solar collector tubes. Last summer, the Italian utility Enel Green Power, the renewable energy arm of Europe's most indebted utility Enel Green Power began running molten salt through a field of about 30,000 m² of trough mirrors adjacent to its natural gas fired power plant near Syracuse, Sicily. The salt exits the 5.4 kilometers of collector pipe at 565 °C, boosting the power plant's output by 5%.

Enel Green Power, the renewable energy arm of Europe's most indebted utility Enel Green Power's plant uses collector tubes from Italy's Archimede Solar Energy, the only producer of collector tubes designed to handle molten salts. Their collector tubes use a heat stable metalloceramic coating to maximize heat absorption, as well as thicker titanium stabilized steel pipes to resist bending at high temperatures. Paolo Martini, Archimede's business development director, says the plant is operating well. Enel Green Power, the renewable energy arm of Europe's most indebted utility Enel Green Power plans to build a 30 MW plant in Sicily.

Since 2009, Siemens has amassed a 45% stake in Archimede, but it has opted to go back to pilot scale to optimize the molten salt concept before offering commercial scale plants to global clients. "We are convinced the technology itself will work. But a lot of work needs to be done to optimize the economics", says Muerau.

Siemens is building a molten salt pilot plant on the grounds of the University of Evora in Portugal. The plant should be operating by early next year. The plant part of a German research consortium including salt and chemicals giant K+S AG and the German Aerospace Center will be used to drive down energy losses associated with both the highest and lowest temperatures that a commercial plant will experience.

At the high end, the losses come from heat that's captured by the collector tubes and then dissipated before it can be delivered to the plant's turbines. "The heat loss is an exponential curve, and it climbs very steeply at the higher temperatures", explains Muerau. Siemens will seek to achieve the highest temperatures possible without going so high that these losses outweigh the gains from the hotter steam.

The low end challenge stems from molten salt's high freezing point. The mixture of molten potassium and sodium nitrate used in heat storage systems and in Enel Green Power, the renewable energy arm of Europe's most indebted utility Enel Green Power's demo plant freezes when it cools below 220 °C. Freezing is easy to prevent in centralized energy storage tanks, but presents a serious risk in kilometer long stretches of collector tube. To counter the freezing threat, Enel Green Power, the renewable energy arm of Europe's most indebted utility Enel Green Power's plant maintains the salt in its tubes above 290 °C, using considerable heat that could otherwise be used to generate power. Muerau says Siemens is looking for a salt formulation with a 150 °C or lower freezing point, which would mean they'd have to use much less heat to prevent the tubes from freezing.

If Siemens's efforts succeed, trough plants heating molten salt could reduce the cost of power generation by more than 10% compared to an oil plant, according to Muerau. (Estimates of current solar thermal costs vary between 13 to 20 cents per kW, which is still significantly higher than power generated by fossil fuels.) The cost reduction comes from both a several% increase in generation from turbines running on hotter steam, and a lower cost of construction.

However, some experts argue that the risk of freezing could still be a deal killer for commercializing molten salt based plants. Thomas Mancini, program manager for Sandia National Laboratories concentrating solar power program, says he remains "skeptical" of using molten salts in collector tubes given the inherent freezing threat. Mancini says that even at 100 °C (the temperature that boils water), there would be a significant risk of freezing.

But others in the industry are warming to molten salt's potential. In January, for example, Colorado based SkyFuel kicked off a $4.3 million R&D effort, supported by the US Department of Energy, to scale up its metallic film based trough mirrors for use with high temperature collector tubes.

Germany's PNE Wind teams with Vestas for offshore
Mar 15, 2011

COPENHAGEN, March 15 (Reuters) German wind park developer PNE Wind AG has agreed to cooperate exclusively with Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas (VWS.CO₂ in offshore wind farms in the North Sea, the companies said on Tuesday. Vestas will be supplier for PNE Wind AG's Gode Wind I project, requiring up to 77 turbines, and its Gode Wind III project which is still in the early planning phase but is foreseen with about 15 of Vestas's huge 6 MW turbines, they said.

A Vestas spokesman said, however, that the PNE cooperation deal does not qualify as a firm and unconditional order, which is the kind of order Vestas normally announces. The deal builds on successful cooperation in the Gode Wind II offshore wind park, which will be built in 2012 2013 with 84 Vestas V112 3.0 MW wind turbines, the companies said. "In parallel, the two other Gode Wind projects are to be developed further in such time as to allow their follow on construction", they said.

Wind sector keeps up pressure on EU over targets
15 March 2011

The president of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), Arthuros Zervos, has called for the EU to adopt a binding renewable energy target of 30% for 2030. "The wind industry expects to invest some EUR 400 billion in Europe between now and 2030", he warned. "To do so it needs stable and certain EU energy policy". According to Christian Kjaer, EWEA's CEO, the continent's wind power sector is "increasingly concerned" about the lack of planning for the post 2020 period.

"It's important that we in the power sector acknowledge that we have a policy vacuum in terms of what's going to happen on 1 January 2021", he writes in a commentary published by EurActiv today (14 March). "For infrastructure investments, that is problematic", he adds. Wind energy installations can take up to ten years to build, and investors need to be satisfied that they will be able to sell the energy that is then generated. "I think that my industry is getting increasingly concerned about installing and planning new projects the closer we get to 2020", Kjaer explains, "so we're suggesting that the [European] Commission starts looking at policies for the period after 2020 now".

By 2020, the EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%, increasing the share of renewable energies in its energy mix by 20% and upping energy efficiency by 20%, all on 1990 levels. But divisions between member states prevented the emissions reductions targets for 2030 and 2040 laid out in the 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap published last week 40% and 60% respectively from being made legally binding. While lauding the positive elements of the roadmap, Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, agreed that there was a danger of a post 2020 policy vacuum for EU investors and electricity producers alike.

"The current legislation only goes as far as 2020 and while looking 10 years into the future is better than anyone else is doing, it's still not enough", he told EurActiv. "You need to look 20, 30, 40 years ahead to put in place the policies to get us where we need to be in terms of emissions, energy security and competitiveness". The 2050 roadmap does forecast a rise in the share of low carbon technologies in the electricity mix "from around 45% today to around 60% in 2020, including through meeting the renewable energy target, to 75 to 80% in 2030, and nearly 100% in 2050".

But radical as this sounds, the goals are not obligatory and there are no specific targets for renewables. "It is clear that at the recent energy summit and in energy ministers meetings afterwards, nuclear and gas and coal were labelled as low carbon technologies", Kjaer writes. "There is a push or an intention to classify every existing power generating technology as low carbon including coal, by including CCS (carbon capture and storage)".

To counter this, he proposed a "technology neutral emissions performance standard" to start in 2015, which would be set slightly above a new gas plant at about 350 grams per kW and reduced over time. "And then let the market decide who can deliver carbon free electricity the cheapest", he said.

Northern Power Systems introduces new 2.3 MW permanent magnet direct drive wind turbine
March 14, 2011

Northern Power Systems, Inc., a next generation wind turbine manufacturer, announced today the introduction of the Northern Power 2.3 permanent magnet direct drive (PM/DD) wind turbine designed for the onshore utility wind market. This breakthrough product is being launched at the European Wind Energy Association Annual Event in Brussels, Belgium March 14 17.

Additionally, Northern Power Systems today announced that it has successfully installed and commissioned its first prototype Northern Power 2.3 wind turbine. The prototype is owned by Heritage Sustainable Energy and is installed at the Stoney Corners wind farm in McBain, Michigan, USA. This prototype turbine, shipped from the new Northern Power factory in Saginaw, Michigan, is the largest direct drive wind turbine in commercial operation in North America.

The Northern Power 2.3, with its power rating of 2.3 MW, features a superior power curve and a lower cut in speed than competing wind turbines, enabling it to capture more power over a greater range of wind speeds. Combined with its higher availability and lower maintenance costs stemming from its sophisticated technology and simple gearless design, the Northern Power 2.3 offers customers more power, more of the time for a better bottom line.

Northern Power Systems is a pioneer in PM/DD technology with a long track record of development, including its highly successful Northern Power 100 as well as comprehensive testing of a 1.5 MW PM/DD concept generator in 2005. Today's Northern Power 2.3 represents the fourth generation of the company's unrivaled PM/DD technology. Northern Power Systems, in cooperation with the US National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), successfully performed full power verification testing in 2010 of the Northern Power 2.3.

"Our dynamometer testing with the US Department of Energy's NREL facility and field results from our installed prototype turbine have consistently exceeded expectations. We are pleased to commercialize our turbine with a 2.3 MW power rating", said Troy Patton, President of Utility Wind at Northern Power Systems.

"Today marks the culmination of years of dedicated effort to bring our customers the best performing onshore utility wind turbine available in the market", added John P. Danner, Northern Power Systems President and CEO. "With a superior power curve, high availability and a modular PM/DD design, the Northern Power 2.3 will deliver higher project returns for our customers".

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Suzuki Burgman Fuel-Cell Scooter
13 March 2011

Suzuki Corporation has announced that the Burgman Fuel Cell scooter has become the world's first fuel-cell vehicle (motorcycle or other) to earn Whole Vehicle Type Approval in the European Union. The Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter debuted at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show in Oct. 2009. Since Feb. 2010, Suzuki and British company Intelligent Energy, which developed the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter's fuel-cell system, have been jointly participating in trials of the scooter on public roads under the aegis of the British government's Technology Strategy Board.

The motorcycling trials are being conducted in the area surrounding Loughborough University in central England using a single Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter unit. Multiple units are due to be added. It was initially necessary to obtain Single Vehicle Approval for each Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter unit to be used in the trials. The newly obtained Whole Vehicle Type Approval (a pan European endorsement reflecting recognition of the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter's high levels of environmental performance and safety) means that Single Vehicle Approval is no longer necessary.

The Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter is based on Suzuki's city friendly Burgman. It incorporates a light, compact, air cooled fuel-cell and a hydrogen tank that's positioned inside the frame. Electricity produced by the fuel-cell powers a motor for propulsion; the only emission is water. Suzuki is working toward commercializing the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter as a motorcycle with superior environmental performance. Suzuki aims to make eco friendly fuel-cell scooters increasingly common in Europe in line with the establishment of hydrogen filling stations and other necessary infrastructure.

Solar energy growing in India
13 March 2011

According to a latest report named as Indian Solar Energy Market Outlook 2012, the installation of solar power in India has been developing at an extraordinary speed during the last few years. The solar power has appeared as one of the very possible as well as commercially profitable sector in the entire renewable energy space. The dedication of the government for increasing the green and clean energy has supported for this high growth.

There are more capability for deploying the off-grid photovoltaic depending upon the actual requirements and benefits in the areas like urban applications, rural lighting, electrification for powering the irrigation pump sets, etc. The private sector companies have been struggling to use the huge market potentials in this sector and during the next few years, the growth opportunities are expected to attract new market companies as well as make the market more competitive.

Many states in the country have been installing photovoltaic power plants and with the realization of National Solar Mission and the annual photovoltaic installed capacity is expected to develop at CAGR of 134% in 2009-2013. As per the study, the country will very soon become fastest growing energy consumer in the world by 2009-2013 next to China and other huge emerging market economies. Apart from this as the competitiveness of industrial sector is developing, the consumption of energy in the country will increase in the next years and support in additional fuel for developing renewable energy sector in the country.

The report was created to estimate the growth possibilities of the country in solar power sector as well as other sectors. The report features the present industry trends along with recent changes in country and state level regulatory environment. This report is expected to support the investors for knowing the market dynamics and estimate the future outlook of the solar power market in the country.

Indonesia’s wind energy plans
13 March 2011

Indonesia is all set to develop wind power as the large-scale wind farm being built in Sukabumi. The large-scale wind turbines plant in the country will be exactly set up at Sukabumi in West Java end of this year featuring a capacity of about 30 MW. Muhammad Sofyan, the PLN renewable energy division head said the project has received approval from Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and Viron Energy has been expecting official permit from the ministry.

Luluk Sumiarso, the director general of ministry for the latest and renewable energy and the energy conservation said most of the foreign and local investors have been attracted to develop renewable energy in the country and he expects the construction of first large-scale wind-generated power plant in the country at Sukabumi will encourage additional investment. As per the Global Wind Energy Council, the country expects to set up 255 MW of wind turbines capacity by the year 2025.

Muhammad Sofyan said during the next month they will also make a contract with developer. Luluk Sumiarso said this year will be very important to develop renewable energy resource in Indonesia. Apart from the wind project, next month the government is expected to provide 3 letters ordering PLN for purchasing power from the geothermal producers. They are very much exited with PLN's dedication to develop the usage of other renewable energy, he added.

Indonesia is just next to China, India and US compared to the population with about 243 million people and south-east Asian tropical republic features about 17,500 islands. During 2009 CIA's World Factbook showed that Indonesia imports about 456,700 barrels of oil per day. According to a report about 65% people in Indonesia can access the electricity at present and in few places of the eastern Indonesia it is almost low to about 20%.

Thousands protest against Germany's nuclear plants
12 March 2011

Tens of thousands of people have protested in Germany against the government's plans to extend the life of its nuclear reactors. Demonstrators in Stuttgart formed a human chain reaching 45km (27 miles) for the protest, planned before the current nuclear crisis in Japan. Organisers said events in Japan had proved atomic power was an uncontrollable and risky technology. Nuclear policy is a key issue in German regional elections this year.

About 60,000 people turned out for the protest, according to organisers. Police said the number was in the tens of thousands. The demonstrators formed a human chain between Stuttgart and the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant, waving yellow flags with the slogan "nuclear power no thanks". The protest took place in the south western state of Baden Wuerttemberg where Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives may lose power in elections two weeks from now, partly because of rising support for the Greens, analysts say.

Mrs Merkel, whose government extended the lifespan of nuclear power plants last year, sought to play down safety concerns about German plants. "We know how safe our plants are and that we do not face a threat from such a serious earthquake or violent tidal wave", she told reporters. "But we will learn what we can from the events in Japan, and in the coming days and weeks will follow closely what the analysis yields".

The Japanese government has been seeking to play down fears of a meltdown at the Fukushima 1 plant, which was badly damaged in Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami. A powerful explosion hit the station on Saturday, destroying a building housing a reactor, but the authorities said the reactor itself was intact inside its steel container.

Look to the sun

Daily Telegraph
Tuesday 15/3/2011, Page: 22

While the tragedy in Japan has shocked us and our hearts go out to people of that country, you have to wonder at the ineptitude of our own leaders. Following the earthquake and tsunami Japan is now facing the terror of the meltdown of nuclear reactors. We saw what happened in Chernobyl and pray the same thing doesn't happen in Japan.

In the meantime while all this is happening around us our leaders are still saying that nuclear power is the way of the future for Australia. If they put as much of their own energy into the renewable energy debate, they would see that this country has two of the three main renewable resources in abundance: wind and sun.

Wouldn't we Australians be better off putting more money and energy into the research and development of equipment which would better utilise these infinite resources rather than continuing along the nuclear path? Australia is overdue for a tsunami or earthquake to happen and if it does, I don't want a nuclear power station anywhere on the continent.

I wonder if the politicians have ever bothered to look at a map showing our fault lines or extinct volcanoes. Try looking them up on Google, the results might surprise you. And what is the third replaceable or renewable thing that we have in abundance you ask? Politicians; they can be replaced at any time and the only thing that they contribute is more hot air.

Les Boucher Sanctuary Point