Wednesday 14 December 2011

Plugging into the electric-car era
12 Dec 2011

AS ELECTRIC cars trickle on to Australian roads, companies that operate recharge facilities are gearing up for big business. Electric car infrastructure company Better Place is valued at $2.25 billion and plans to create the world's largest electric car network in Australia. ''By the end of 2013 we are looking at hundreds of battery-switch stations across Australia and tens of thousands of locations where people can recharge,'' Better Place Australia head of strategy Ben Keneally said.

The next stage is the eastern seaboard, with similar infrastructure in the pipeline for Melbourne. ''We are in discussion with many property owners about where we will place the battery-swapping stations. It will start with a few dozen in Melbourne but will expand over time. We have to have enough so that they are in the locations people want to go as the cars become more commonplace,'' Mr Keneally said. ''Range anxiety''-a fear of electric cars running out of charge on a journey, is a key barrier to mass adoption of electric cars, he said.

''For most people, plugging in at night is all you need to do; that will give you 100 to 200 km of range. For those occasions when you are driving further, you need a way of quickly recharging and continuing.'' Battery-swapping stations provide the ideal solution. Motorists swipe a membership card, pass through boom gates and park on an automatic track similar to a car wash. A metal arm reaches beneath the car, removes the 280kg battery and replaces it with a recharged one. The process takes about four minutes.

The company recently secured $200 million in funding from investors and partners including General Electric and global banking group UBS. In the next few months it will launch a commercial electric car network in Israel and Denmark. Mr Keneally said Australia was an ideal location for an electric car network because petrol was expensive.

''Petrol is the single most hated purchase in people's lives. Because we live in suburbs, are very car dependent and drive larger cars than people in Europe, our average petrol bills are quite high.'' He said access to off-street parking also made Australia suitable for an electric car network. Better Place has been in talks with local, state and federal governments about regulatory issues involved in rolling out the network. ''There are a lot of laws and regulations we never anticipated,'' Mr Keneally said. The company, which will use 100% green energy, also must negotiate with councils that own kerbsides.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

First atlantic floating offshore wind turbine deployed
7 Dec 2011

New Hampshire, USA--The offshore wind industry passed a milestone recently with the installation of the world's first floating offshore wind turbine off the coast of Agucadoura, Portugal. The WindFloat project consists of a 2 MW semi-submersible wind turbine that can be deployed without heavy machinery. Principle Power, Inc., a Seattle-based offshore wind developer, and Energias de Portugal, a Portuguese utility, worked with more than 60 other vendors in the WindPlus JV group. The turbine was assembled onshore in a controlled environment before it was transported to the sea and towed more than 217 miles to open water.

CEO of Principle Power Alla Weinstein said in a written statement, "In a way we are making a similar leap towards new energy resources as the Oil & Gas industry did in the 1970's when it began using floating structures". The structure will undergo trial operations, commissioning and startup procedures over the next few weeks. These procedures will include a full production capacity test. The WindFloat technology decreases wave and wind-induced motions, which allows a large turbine to be placed in waters with depths of more that 164 feet, where it is able to capture stronger winds. The platform allows for the use of any off-the-shelf turbine.

"The (deep) ocean is the next big energy frontier", said Antonio Vidigal, CEO of EDP Inovacao, in a press release. "Deep offshore wind technology, in particular the WindFloat, will allow us to harness stronger and more stable winds, and in the medium term deliver sustainable energy into our electrical system. Now is the time for extensive testing and validation, moving forward in the development of this promising technology. The WindFloat positions EDP on the leading edge of offshore wind exploration".

Brazil's wind power growth draws international investors
9 Dec 2011

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec. 9 (UPI)--Brazil's burgeoning wind power industry is drawing international investors to northeastern regions of the country, the hub of most tangible growth in the sector. Wind power use is taking off worldwide and a new impetus was given to this key renewable energy sector with the emergence of new do-it-yourself turbines for running household appliances. In northeastern Brazil, industry planners said they expect industry standard wind power capacity to grow eight-fold by 2014. Current wind power capacity is estimated at 1,400 MWs.

By 2025 that installed capacity will likely rise to 31.6 GWs, industry analysts said. Brazil is Latin America's largest wind power market. Lower production prices, government incentives and Brazil's soaring electricity demand have attracted a number of significant foreign players. France's Alstom opened a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Bahia, which has attracted investors because of its high wind speeds and low incidence of storms. The rise of cheaper wind power has enabled the service providers to compete successfully for a share of Brazil's national supply of electricity.

Wobben Windpower, a subsidiary of German group Enercon GmBH, set up the first wind turbine factory in Brazil in the 1990s and the company expects to install 22 wind farms with a total capacity of 554 MW by the end of 2012. Enercon GmBH, which has headquarters Aurich, Germany, is the market leader in Germany since the mid-1990s and the fourth-largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world. The lucrative wind power market has drawn other players, including Spain's Gamesa, Argentina's Impsa, Germany's Siemens and Denmark's Vestas, the world biggest wind turbine manufacturer, GE Wind from the United States and India's Suzlon Energy.

French engineering giant Alstom inaugurated a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Bahia's industrial complex of Camacari near Salvador, Bahia's state capital. Alstom said it would try to match its 40% market share in the Brazilian hydropower plant sector, Brazil's main source of electricity generation. Meanwhile, consumer interest in wind power is growing and manufacturers are responding with products that households can use. Oklahoman firm Bergey Windpower said its best-selling BWC Excel 10 wind turbine is the first to receive full certification to a new AWEA Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard.

"This new standard is the most significant milestone in the history of the small wind industry because it provides, for the first time, third-party verification of real world performance and a highly technical review of a turbine's strength and safety", said Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower and the 2011 president of the Distributed Wind Energy Association. The Bergey Excel 10 is a 23-foot diameter horizontal-axis turbine designed to provide the annual energy requirements for homes, farms and small businesses. More than 2,000 Excel turbines have been installed in 46 states and more than 50 countries. It has only three moving parts, requires no annual maintenance and was the first small wind turbine to carry a 10-year warranty. Bergey Windpower introduced a new 5- kW turbine in September and it is undergoing certification testing at the Alternative Energy Institute in Texas.

A Tougher and lighter wind turbine blade design
11 Dec 2011

A researcher from Case Western Reserve University has designed a stronger and lighter wind turbine blade design. First, a little insight into the issue of blade strength: As superior as large wind turbines are where cost and performance are concerned, the weight of their blades can cause problems. It is difficult to make such long (more than 200-feet in diameter) blades strong enough to bear their own weight, and especially at high speeds.

There is a tendency of objects in general to resist a change of speed (velocity)-called inertia. It affects everything that moves. When the wind turns a wind turbine blade, the rest of the blades are forced to move with it since they share the same hub (the rotating part at the center of the turbine). However, the weight of the blades impedes that by holding them back.

It is almost as if there is a force pulling back on the blades, and this force actually bends the blade a little, but the problem with this is the blades are not really flexible--therefore, instead of bending, they break. This force (inertia) is the same one that you have to overcome when you first start running, and when you are trying to accelerate your vehicle. This is why vehicles burn additional fuel to accelerate. Weight adds to this inertia problem, which is why heavier objects (such as vehicles) are harder to stop and harder to get moving. Typical wind turbine blades are designed to withstand the stress that normal operation would cause, so they don't break often.

This is why the same problem of inertia can be improved by making wind turbine blades both lighter, to reduce inertia itself, and stronger, to better withstand the inertia they are subjected to,.. and of course at a reasonable cost. Lighter wind turbine blades are easier to turn, and hence more efficient. So this is also important to their performance. Back to the new blade design: The researcher from Case Western Reserve University designed the 29-inch blades for a 400-watt turbine using polyurethane (a polymer) and reinforced it with carbon nanotubes.

"The idea behind all this is the need to develop stronger and lighter materials which will enable manufacturing of blades for larger rotors", Loos said. "Results of mechanical testing for the carbon nanotube reinforced polyurethane show that this material outperforms the currently used resins for wind blades applications", said Ica Manas-Zloczower, professor of macromolecular science and engineering and associate dean in the Case School of Engineering. "They will be used to emphasize the significant potential of carbon nanotube reinforced polyurethane systems for use in the next generation of wind turbine blades". Carbon nanotubes are still very expensive, but can be extremely lightweight and very strong compared to all-metal and composite materials.

Whisper on wind farm
6 Dec 2011

THE State Government is expected to announce today that work will start immediately on the long-awaited Musselroe wind farm in the state's North-East. The Mercury can also reveal that giant Danish wind generator company Vestas has won the contract to supply the turbines for the venture. Up to 200 people will be employed during the construction of the $400 million wind farm.

Musselroe will have 56 x 3 MW turbines, which will make it the biggest wind farm in Tasmania. The Musselroe wind farm has been planned for seven years but its original proponent, Hydro-owned Roaring 40s, folded in April. Hydro Tasmania chief executive Roy Adair has repeatedly said higher electricity prices caused by a carbon tax would see the Musselroe Bay wind farm developed. Last month he said the company was committed to wind farm expansion to complement its generation assets, which made it Australia's largest renewable energy generator.

The financial partner in the Musselroe project is expected to be announced soon. In the meantime, the project will be funded on Hydro Tasmania's balance sheet pending the outcome of the divestment process of Woolnorth wind farm assets, announced by Hydro Tasmania in September. The two Woolnorth wind farms are located on the far north-west tip of the state on the Woolnorth grazing property. Vestas also built the turbines on the Woolnorth farms.

Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark toured the Macarthur wind farm with Vestas CEO Ditlev Engellate last month during his official visit to Victoria with Princess Mary. Musselroe will be eclipsed in size if the $500 million, 100-turbine Cattle Hill wind farm, near Lake Echo in the state's Central Highlands, is approved. Approval for the development is yet to be granted by the Central Highlands Council and the Federal Government.

Monday 12 December 2011

Enel Initiates two new Spanish wind farms
5 Dec 2011

Enel Green Power has initiated two new plants in Spain: the 38 MW Los Llanos wind farm, located in the Castilla y Leon Region, and the 24 MW Granujales wind farm, located near Cadiz, in Andalusia. The plants, with a combined capacity of 62 MW, are expected to produce over 151 GW annually, enough to power more than 55,700 households and reducing CO₂ emissions by 112,000 tons.

The Los Llanos wind farm has 19 wind turbines of 2 MW each, while the The Granujales wind farm has 12 wind turbines of 2 MW each. Enel Green Power is also adding an additional 4 MW to the Alvaiazere wind farm in Portugal, which is already operational. The expanded wind farm will have an estimated production of 50.2 GW, enough to power 18,900 households while saving 37,100 tons of CO₂.

Enel Green Power chief executive officer, Francesco Starace, explains, "The launch of new wind capacity in the Iberian peninsula reinforces Enel Green Power's commitment to the development of the Spanish and Portuguese markets. Our aim in these countries is to start operating our pre-registered projects, in line with the established timing schedule and projected sector growth".

Enel Green Power develops and manages power generation from renewable sources at the international level, as well as a presence in Europe and the Americas. Enel Green Power's installed capacity exceeds 6,100 MW, produced by more than 620 operational plants located throughout the world, with a generation mix that includes wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass.

Wind farm firm to take permits stoush to VCAT
30 Nov 2011

The proponent of a 15-turbine wind farm in the Moyne Shire will ask the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to overturn a council decision against extending planning permits for the project. The Moyne council says NewEn Australia will have to reapply for permits for the Salt Creek wind farm, near Woorndoo, and must comply with new shire and State Government planning guidelines.

However, the company's managing director, Ernst Weyhausen, says the Government does not require projects that had already been given planning permission to comply with the new rules. "The State Government said it doesn't apply to existing permits and that existing permits can be extended through to March of next year", he said. "The council introduced its own policy back in August that also requires a two-km exclusion zone. However, that policy was never communicated to us".

Sunday 11 December 2011

Origin Energy buying electricity from Gunning Wind Farm
23 Nov 2011

Origin Energy has expanded its renewable energy portfolio, entering into a long-term power purchase agreement to buy electricity from ACCIONA Energy's Gunning Wind Farm. Under the deal, Origin Energy will initially purchase federal government issued Large-Scale Renewable Energy Certificates (LSREC) from ACCIONA Energy for a period of two years, beginning January 2012. From January 1st 2014, the agreement allows Origin Energy to buy both the LSRECs and the power generated by the wind farm for a further eight years; with an option to extend.

Origin Energy spokesman, Frank Calabria, said that with over half a million green energy customers, the deal would help ensure the company meet its commitment to Australia's Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target. "As an investor in the renewable energy industry, this agreement demonstrates Origin Energy's ongoing commitment to supporting a broad range of renewable energy sources and options to reach our renewable energy target while also helping to meet customer demand for GreenPower"."

The Gunning Wind Farm is located 70 km north-east of Canberra, close to Origin Energy's own Cullerin Range Wind Farm. The $147 million wind farm has been exporting clean energy to the national grid since April this year. Built on privately owned property that is predominantly cleared pastoral land, the facility consists of 31 ACCIONA Energy Windpower 1.5 MW wind turbines, capable of generating 140-150 GW of electricity each year-enough to power 23,250 households while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 162,750 tonnes annually.

100 manufacturing and installation jobs were created during the construction phase, with nine operations and maintenance staff overseeing the operation of the wind farm currently. With a global workforce of over 30,000 employees, ACCIONA Energy is a powerful force in the sustainable infrastructure industry and has invested over $630 million in Australian renewable energy projects since 2002. ACCIONA Energy Generation Director, Brett Wickham said this strong global position allowed the company build and operate the Gunning farm without a power purchase agreement during the global financial crisis.

Wind farms supported by Bendigo conference
22 Nov 2011

MORE voices are to join the protest against wind farm bans after a conference on community-owned energy projects voted to write to the state government over the issue. About 130 delegates from across Australia attended the two-day Community Power conference in Bendigo last week, to discuss community-run renewable energy projects.

City of Greater Bendigo councillor Keith Reynard said the participants voted unanimously to support the motion for conference conveners to write to the Victorian government over the wind farm policy Amendment VC82, which bans wind farms from being built within 5 km of regional centres and from land bounded by the McIvor Highway and the Calder Highway.

Among the community wind projects at the national Community Power conference was the successful Hepburn Wind co-operative, which chairman Simon Holmes a Court said would have difficulty being built under the present wind farm planning laws. Conference convener, Cr Reynard said the restrictive wind farm laws threatened regional development, as well as stopping individual landholders from putting turbines on their properties.

Cr Reynard said the City of Greater Bendigo could follow the lead of Mount Alexander shire council and write to Premier Ted Baillieu about the issue, with a motion seeking approval at the next council meeting. The so-called wind farm 'no go zones' directly impacted plans for one and two-turbine wind farms in Macedon and Castlemaine. The conveners of the conference will also push for funds from the federal government's Clean Energy Fund to be set aside for community-owned energy projects.