Saturday 7 January 2012

SA Libs move on wind farms
6 Jan 2012

The South Australian opposition has backed more wind farm development but doesn't want the turbines close to homes. Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said a future Liberal government would ban new wind turbines being located within two km of existing homes. She said her government would also protect nearby landowners from economic losses caused by restrictions on aerial spraying and crop-dusting and would help develop national guidelines on wind farm locations and noise emissions.

'The South Australian Liberals believe wind farms must not be approved on sites where they create negative economic and social effects,' Ms Redmond said. 'We will protect residents by banning new wind turbines from being built closer than two km from an existing home. 'We have more wind generation of any other state, with more than half of Australia's installed wind power in SA and it is time we started looking after the communities that live near wind farms.'

The policy puts it at odds with the state government which last year unveiled a renewable energy plan it said would unlock more investment in the sector. Under the plan, no wind turbines will be allowed within one km of any home, unless both the home owner and the developer agree to a shorter distance. Local councils will also become the key authority for assessing planning applications for new wind farms.

'These policies and the processes for implementing them will skew investment away from populated areas, while giving greater certainty and consistency to wind farm investors,' Urban Development Minister John Rau said at the time. So far about $2.8 billion has been invested in wind power in South Australia, creating more than 3000 direct and indirect jobs.

Wind power now accounts for 21% of all electricity generated across the state, compared to just one% in 2004. The government said a further $1.8 billion in wind farm investment was on hold, waiting for the release of the government's revised renewable energy guidelines. The Clean Energy Council said the government's changes would encourage a closer working relationship between the wind industry, local councils and regional communities.

Mongolia's renewables belittle world's nuclear supply
6 Jan 2012

Untapped mineral riches are fueling Mongolia's ambition to compete with Australia and Brazil in Asia. The nation's resource-based economy grew 21% last quarter alone. This largesse obscures a potential aboveground treasure also awaiting investors. The world's most sparsely populated nation has the potential to generate 2.6 million MWs of wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower, based on data collected by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Mongolian National Renewable Energy Center.

That's a fantastic figure. It's seven times the capacity of all the world's operable nuclear reactors combined, according to world nuclear association data. In contrast, Mongolia's current power capacity is less than that of one large coal plant, just 878 MWs. That's what Newcom Group's acting Chief Executive Office Byambasaikhan Bayanjargal recently told investors in Hong Kong. Of that, close to 40% of the potential is in wind, and Bayanjargal is eager to harness it. The problem in Mongolia is that with abundant coal resources, it may choose to turn to the quick and dirty solution, following in the footsteps of the U.S, and China, among others.

Newcom, a cross-industry investment group that owns part of Mongolia's biggest mobile phone network, is investing in a renewable future. The group has six wind-power plant projects that are due to bring 1,000 MWs online in the country by 2020. In the US, that would be enough to power about 800,000 homes. In Mongolia's economy, it would stretch much further.

Winds blow on average at least 25 feet a second in parts of the Gobi desert, which also ranks third globally in terms of solar generation potential. Newcom and its partners expect to commission a 50- MW wind park next year. This plant will be Mongolia's first independent power producer and the first private investment in the industry.

The project will annually save the burning of 160,500 metric tons of coal and thus 200,000 tons of CO₂ emissions, and--most importantly for a desert country--preserve about 370 million gallons of clean water. Some of those wind-blown electrons may be transmitted the same place as Mongolia's coal, iron and other minerals, south, to China. That would be one way for Mongolia to diversify its resource-based economy while retaining ties with its biggest trading partner.

Friday 6 January 2012

The self-healing zinc-air deep cycle battery
5 Jan 2012

A US company states it has developed a self-healing rechargeable zinc-air battery system capable of 10,000 cycles-a 30 year working life. With applications including utility-scale energy storage; the argument regarding wind and solar power's intermittency will continue to weaken if the technology delivers.

Created by Eos Energy Storage, the Aurora Energy zinc-air battery is based on similar chemistry used in alkaline batteries that contain zinc and manganese dioxide; but in the Aurora Energy, the manganese dioxide has been replaced with a "thin air electrode". Oxygen from ambient air is utilized as a cathode reactant the company says, saving space and cost. Eos Energy Storage states the technology and components used in the Aurora Energy are safe, stable and recyclable. Zinc is also a plentiful metal and Australia is one of the world's top zinc producers.

The concept of a zinc-air battery isn't new, they are already in use as non-rechargeable batteries for appliances such as hearing aids and watches. However, many challenges have prevented the technology from being used in deep cycle energy storage applications. One of the issues has been electrolyte drying out over time as oxygen enters the battery. Eos Energy Storage says it has developed an electrolyte management and self-filling/healing system operation to address the issue.

Testing to date by the company has seen the Aurora Energy rechargeable zinc-air battery cycled over 2,000 times with no physical degradation observed. Eos Energy Storage says it is currently scaling up prototypes of its Eos Energy Storage Aurora Energy 1000 | 6000 Battery for initial manufacturing this year and delivery of MW scale systems in 2013. The Eos Energy Storage Aurora Energy will initially cost $1000/ kW/$160/ kW. For renewable energy integration and load shifting applications, Eos Energy Storage says the levelized energy cost will be among the lowest; comparable to pumped hydropower and combined cycle gas turbines.

Eos Energy Storage is also developing developing a zinc-air flow battery for use in electric vehicles, which combined with a lead acid battery system also created by the company will extend EV range to over 500 km and can be recharged for less than 2¢ per km.

VCAT trumps Moyne windfarm rejection
5 Jan 2012

CONSTRUCTION of a wind farm at Woorndoo will begin in March despite Moyne Shire Council denying its extension application in November. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) granted NewEn Australia the extension permit at a hearing last month, after councillors told the proponent it needed to resubmit its application to meet the shire's policy for major energy projects. The Salt Creek wind farm, 25 km north of Mortlake, now has until March 15 to break soil and until 2015 to finish construction, with regular meetings taking place with the Moyne Shire.

Cr James Purcell said while VCAT had the authority to make a binding decision and validate the construction permit, the council remained the deciding authority for the project. "We have ongoing discussions with NewEn Australia in regard to such things as traffic management", Cr Purcell said. "The permit is still valid but council is the deciding authority for this because it's under 30 MWs. "If NewEn Australia can get the project under way by the end of March they have two years to complete it. "We can expect to see works on the ground by that expiry date".

Cr Purcell said the council's revised policy stated turbines were not to be located within two km of a dwelling on an adjoining landowner's land unless an agreement was made. "The size of the towers is bigger since the original application and each tower has more MWs, so to get to 29.9 MWs it could mean they'll need less turbines than they originally applied for", Cr Purcell said. "There's just one family who are quite opposed to it, but other than that there's very few houses in that area".

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said the VCAT approval was a positive step forward for the state's energy projects facing similar hold-ups. "I'm glad it's going ahead because wind farms make sense environmentally and economically", Mr Barber said. "There are at least eight other previously approved wind farms that could lose their permits if they don't get a similar extension by March under the state government's new anti-wind farm policy".

Thursday 5 January 2012

BYD, China state grid complete construction of large battery energy storage station
2 Jan 2012

China's State Grid together with BYD has completed the construction work of a battery energy storage station which may probably be the largest globally. This station is situated at Zhangbei, the project is a combination of 140 MW of both solar and wind renewable energy generation, a smart power transmission system and 36 MW of energy storage. The renewable energy sources are both wind and solar. The transmission system is a smart system. The unique distinction of this unit is the culmination of a renewable energy system and a battery storage unit.

With the completion of the system, the State Grid presents a stable solution that will enable transfer of huge amounts of renewable electricity to the grid, ensuring highest degree of safety during the energy transfer. BYD manufactures solar panels with capacity of 1 GW annually; however, in case of this storage station their role was to provide energy storage battery arrays. The iron-phosphate battery from BYD was chosen for energy storage mainly due to its long lasting service life.

Peak Shaving, a load levelling charge and discharge method from BYD was also implemented for building the system. BYD has been associated with a number of MW level cooperative projects with China's Southern Power Grid since September 30, 2011. The recently completed storage project was the largest that they have ever worked on so far with China's Southern Power Grid. The battery storage system is capable of enhancing the efficiency of renewable energy by 5 to 10%.

A small price to pay
4 Jan 2012

A RENEWABLE energy company has responded to calls from NSW Landscape Guardians president Humphrey Price Jones that electricity retailers itemise the cost of wind farms on every electricity bill. Recent data from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) puts the cost of wind farms-which make up part of the federal Large Scale Renewable Energy scheme-at around $19 per customer per year for NSW' customers, or around $1.50 per month.

"It is no coincidence that with the explosion of wind farms over the past few years, the cost of electricity has soared", Mr Price-Jones told the Post last month. "And for what benefit?,.. They will make no difference to climate change, assuming of course that there is climate change due to humans. "The only real significant contribution wind farms make is the enormous impost they have on people living nearby to them", he said.

But wind farm company Infigen Energy said the IPART data showed Mr Price Jones' claim to be "ridiculous". "IPART reports... that Mr Price-Jones' 'frightening extent to which wind farms are contributing to the exorbitant rise in power costs' is only $19/year for the average customer", Infigen Energy government affairs manager Jonathon Upson said. "That's right, according to the NSW Government regulator who sets electricity prices, the Large Scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) scheme, which funds wind farms, is costing electricity customers in NSW far less than the cost of a cup of coffee each month. "Mr Price Jones' later comment in the article, 'It is no coincidence that... the cost of electricity has soared,' is clearly ridiculous.

"The Landscape Guardians have made Mt Kosciusko out of an ant hill", Mr Upson said. IPART sets the maximum price retailers can charge households and small business for electricity and in July last year increased by 18% what retailers could charge consumers for their power use.

Approximately two thirds of the increase was due to network maintenance (wires and poles), while the other third was due to the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to ensure 20% of Australia's electricity supply will come from renewable energy sources by 2020. However, wind power currently makes up only 1.5pc of installed electricity generation capacity in NSW, with coal contributing around 65%, hydroelectricity 22%, and gas 11%.

But the federal Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics announced recently that it expected wind power to keep growing in Australia, predicting that renewables would reach up to 24% of total electricity generation by 2035. wind farms would be a major part of that figure, the Bureau said.

Germany generates 60% more solar electricity in 2011
2 Jan 2012

According to German's Solar Industry Association, the nation's solar power systems collectively generated 18 billion kW hours of clean electricity during 2011. The Association says this represented enough power to supply the electricity needs of around 5.1 million households-over half the number of households in Australia and an incredible achievement given Germany's solar resources are far less than Australia.

The major driver of the jump in solar generation was a combination of price increases for oil and gas in Germany and the sharply falling cost of solar components. The Association says the cost of a solar power system has dropped by more than half since 2007, even though solar rebates have reduced by the same amount.

Solar energy currently accounts for around three% of German electricity consumption. By 2020, its share is expected to grow to around ten%. However, the Association warns this will only occur in a politically stable environment in terms of incentives and support for the industry.

Solar's role in Germany's energy future appeared to become even more important in the middle of 2011 after the German government announced an end to nuclear power in the nation by 2022. Even so, the nation's solar manufacturing industry faces an uncertain future. While cheap solar components have benefited the end user, competition in Germany from imported solar panels and inverters has seen some of its manufacturers shutter operations and the threat of more cutbacks to incentives is having a further dampening effect.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Nuclear safety panel given donations
1 Jan 2012

Almost one-third of commissioners and examiners at Japan's nuclear safety commission received donations from the country's nuclear power industry, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Sunday. The daily said the governmental commission's neutrality could be brought into question at a time when the safety of nuclear reactors in Japan was in doubt after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster. The quake-tsunami disaster has left more than 19,000 people dead or missing and a nuclear power plant in meltdown, which has been since leaking radiation into the environment.

Two of the organisation's five permanent commissioners and 22 of its 84 outside examiners received donations from companies and industrial organisations related to nuclear power, in five years to March 2011, Asahi said. The donations totalled about Y85 million ($1.08 million), the daily said. Of them, 11 received donations from nuclear reactor manufacturers and, or, power utilities and nuclear fuel companies which are examined by the commission, Asahi said.

The commission is authorised to guide the state and power utilities from a neutral position. Haruki Madarame, chairman of the commissioners, received four million yen from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries between 2006 and 2009 when he was a professor at the University of Tokyo before assuming the commission's post last April, Asahi said. Madarame denied he had given any favours to the company at all in return for the donations.

More than half of nuclear radiation zone evacuees in Japan have yet to return home
31 Dec 2011

FUKUSHIMA, Japan 54% of evacuees from areas between 20 and 30 km (12.5 and 18.6 miles) of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Japan have yet to return home, three months after the government lifted its emergency evacuation preparation zones.

Due to slow progress in decontamination operations and a lack of job opportunities in the five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, 31,600, or 54%, out of a total 59,049 evacuees from the areas near the crippled generating plant continued to live in shelters instead of returning home as of last week.

In Minami-Soma City alone, 22,983, or about 50% of 46,744 evacuees from the city, still remain outside the city. Masahiro Igawa, 33, whose house in the city's Haramachi Ward was swept away by the March 11 tsunami that followed the major earthquake, evacuated to Fukushima City with his wife and four children. "Though decontamination operations have started, areas around schools still show high radiation levels, and hospitals have not been restored to original conditions. We can't go home even if we want to, out of consideration for our children", he said.

At Omika Primary School in Minami-Soma, 204 students had been expected to register this academic year. But most of the school's district was designated as an emergency evacuation preparation zone, which decreased the number of students to 81 as of Dec. 19. According to a survey conducted by the city's board of education at the end of November, about 40% of parents of the school's students still living outside the city said they will not return for the next academic year. About 30% said they were undecided as to whether to return.

Katsushige Hirama, the school's principal, said an unstable employment situation is one of the factors delaying people's return to the city. "In addition to the radiation fears, (children's) parents are facing employment problems", Hirama said. According to the Hello Work Soso job placement center, which serves Minami-Soma, the ratio of job seekers to jobs in October was 3,194 to 2,870. The number of people who actually obtained a job was 317. "There are many one-year contract jobs for decontamination or debris removal, but there are few long-term jobs", said Masahiro Kikuchi, a career counselor at the office.

A 37-year-old housewife who along with her family took refuge in Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto Prefecture, from the Minami-Soma's Haramachi Ward, said: "There are no jobs for us if we return home. I also have fears about radiation. Although my parents and relatives are staying in Minami-Soma, we're not going back there".

Many residents from other municipalities also have yet to return home, as decontamination operations have progressed slowly, and schools have not reopened since the disaster. In the village of Kawauchi in the prefecture, none of 2,675 evacuees have returned home. "Unless there is progress in decontamination work, there's nothing we can do", an official of the village office said.

India to build 400 megawatts of solar, two-thirds less than plan
31 Dec 2011

India will complete 400 MWs of solar power connected to the grid this fiscal year, two-thirds less than previously forecast by state and central governments. India has so far built 180 MWs during the year ending March 31, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said in an e-mailed statement today. Gujarat had planned to build more than 900 MWs during the fiscal year as part of a regional solar program, according to documents obtained from the state government. In addition, the central government's Solar Mission had a forecast of 302 MWs, according to a list of plans from the ministry. The mission involved 150 MWs of operations awarded by auction, 98 MWs of rooftop developments and 54 MWs of capacity under a program to consolidate state-level projects. India's renewable energy capacity has grown 20% in 2011 to 22,447 MWs, according to the statement. wind farms made up most of the increase, adding a total of 2,827 MWs.

Photovoltaics in Ukraine: Activ Solar commissions final phase of 100 MW Perovo Solar Power Station
29 Dec 2011

On December 28th, 2011 Activ Solar GmbH (Vienna, Austria) announced the completion and start of commissioning of the fifth and final phase of the 100 MW Perovo Solar Power Station, a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in Perovo in Ukraine's Crimea. The plant is composed of 440,000 crystalline silicon PV modules connected by 1,500 km of cable and installed over an area of 200 hectares.

"The completion of the Perovo project is a major achievement for Activ Solar as our largest to-date and is a testament to our structuring and execution capabilities in a challenging global economic environment", stated Activ Solar Founder & CEO Kaveh Ertefai. "We are proud of the quality of the work accomplished and the dedication of our team to deliver this successful outcome within a short period of time".

Perovo is Activ's second record-setting PV plant in Crimea Activ Solar estimates that the Perovo project has stimulated the local economy with the creation of over 800 "green" jobs. The company further estimates that the plant will provide enough electricity to provide for the entire peak-load requirements of Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea. In October 2011, Activ Solar commissioned the final phase of the 80 MW Ohotnikovo Solar Power Station, also in Crimea, which was the largest PV plant in Central and Eastern Europe at the time.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Gamesa to supply wind turbines for Egypt wind farms
29 Dec 2011

Spanish wind farm builder and turbine manufacturer, Gamesa, has won an international public tender to supply Egypt with 200 MW of turbines for use in wind power projects in El-Zayt, located along the environmentally sensitive Gulf of Suez. The company was awarded the contract after a lengthy Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that found the potential hazards posed by wind turbines to the large number of migratory birds flying through the wind farm site were minimal. The EIA study concluded that although collisions with turbines could occur, most migrating birds, including pelicans, storks and rare desert steppe eagles, fly above the critical low altitude point.

Gamesa will supply a total of 100 of its G80-2.0 MW turbines for the project, which the company claims are perfect for withstanding corrosive desert conditions. Each G80-2.0 turbine stands up to 100 metres tall when installed and comes equipped with rotors of up to 97m in diameter. Gamesa will also perform turbine assembly, erection and start-up services and provide operation and maintenance services for a period of five years. Manufacturing for the El Zayt farm is set to begin in 2012, with delivery scheduled over the course of 2013.

The project was facilitated by Egypt's New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA), the organisation behind the EIA and will receive funding from various European investment funds, including Germany's Development Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union via the Neighbourhood Investment Facility. According to the NREA, the El-Zayt region of the Red Sea coastline boasts wealth of wind power resources and the nation is determined to put it to use. The Gamesa wind farm, occupying an area of 10km by 3.5km, will abut two German and Japanese wind power projects. The Egyptian government has mandated a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020; 12% from wind power sources and a further eight% from solar power and hydropower energy.

Enel green power launches two wind farms in Romania
30 Dec 2011

BUCHAREST (Romania), Enel Green Power, part of Italy's Enel Green Power Group, said that earlier this month it put into operation its Corugea wind farm and the first 25 MW of its 48 MW Moldova Noua wind farm in Romania. The Corugea plant, located in southeastern Romania, consists of 35 V-90 wind turbines of 2.0 MWs ( MW) each, for a total installed capacity of 70 MW, Enel Green Power said in a statement on Thursday.

The plant is able to generate around 190 million kW hours ( kW) annually, enough to meet the energy needs of approximately 70,000 households and avoid the atmospheric emission of more than 130,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ annually. Enel Green Power has connected to the Romanian grid the Moldova Noua wind farm in the northeast. Following the completion of the plant, Enel Green Power's total installed capacity in Romania will reach 292 MW. Such capacity will be able to generate around 620 million kW each year, meeting the energy needs of approximately 230,000 households and avoiding the annual atmospheric emission of more than 430,000 tonnes of CO₂, the company said.

China 2012 rare-earth export quota unchanged as sales slump
28 Dec 2011

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- China, the biggest supplier of rare earths, will keep 2012 overseas sales quotas virtually unchanged after exporters used only half the amount allotted for this year as buyers sought to cut usage and amid complaints over restrictions from trading partners.

The full-year quota may be about 31,130 metric tons, according to Bloomberg News calculations based on first-round quota figures given by the ministry in a statement yesterday. The quota was 30,184 tons in 2011 and 30,258 tons in 2010. China supplies more than 90% of the global market.

Prices of rare earths, used in Boeing Co. helicopter blades and Toyota Motor Corp. hybrid cars, have tumbled 46% from the third quarter as makers of electric cars and wind turbines sought to reduce use of the metals and slow global economic growth sapped demand. China has curbed output and exports since 2009, when quotas were set at 50,145 tons, to conserve resources and protect the environment.

"After slashing sharply in 2010, China may not be able to cut further because of trade issues with other countries," said Kim Gyung Jung, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. "The 2012 quota will lend support for the prices of some rare earths which are heavily dependent on China's supplies." China has also set export limits on a range of mining products including silver, minor metals and coke to conserve resources and protect the environment.

‘Under Pressure'
"China is under pressure from the international community in controlling rare earth exports, and a further cut of quota could fuel more complaints," Peng Bo, an analyst at Guosen Securities Co., said by phone from Shenzhen. Still, "the government really doesn't want to export the minerals too much as Chinese development also needs it."

Complaints against China by the US, the European Union and Mexico were bolstered by a World Trade Organisation ruling, which found in July that quotas, export duties and license requirements on industrial ingredients such as coke, zinc and bauxite violate global rules. China, the world's fastest growing major economy, exported only 14,750 tons of rare earths in the first 11 months of this year, or 49% of the full-year limit, "leaving a huge amount of export quota unutilized," the ministry said.

"The quota has become pointless if export demand falls short of the limits," said Wei Chishan, a Shanghai-based analyst at SMM Information & Technology Co., a data provider. "Rare-earth users are under great pressure to pass on surging costs, while the global slowdown has slashed demand."

‘Supply Sufficient'
"It shows supply is sufficient," SMM's Wei said. Shares in Lynas Corporation., an Australian rare earths developer, dropped 3.4% to A$1.125 at 12:54 p.m. Shanghai time. The Bloomberg rare earth Mineral Resources Index dropped 54% this year, led by a 90% decline in Perth-based Navigator Resources Ltd.

The Chinese government allocated 10,546 tons of first-round export quotas to nine companies, including China Minmetals Corp. and Sinosteel Corp., that have met the government's environment protection standards, the ministry said. Another 14,358 tons may be granted to 17 other companies, including Baotou Iron & Steel Group, China's biggest producer, if they meet the standards by the end of July, the statement said. The first-round quotas will account for about 80% of the full-year volume for 2012, the ministry said.

rare earths are 17 chemically similar elements including neodymium, cerium and lanthanum. The export prices from China for eight rare earths found at the Mount Weld project in Western Australia surged to $193.21 a kilogram on average in the third quarter, compared with $31.35 in 2010, according to figures on Lynas Corporation.'s website. The price has since fallen to $103.76 a kilogram today, the company said.

Prices should stabilise next year after soaring in the first half of this year, and then collapsing, Guosen Securities' Peng said. "As economic growth slows down, the market will become more rational."

UK taxpayers face extra £250m bill for nuclear waste clean-up
25 Dec 2011

The taxpayer will have to stump up almost £250m more to bail out the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the next financial year after falling asset sales and rising expenditure cut its income by 17.5%. The shortfall is revealed in the NDA's just-published draft business plan for 2012-15, which shows the impact of being unable to offload land to the private sector for new nuclear plants and the end of the contracts to supply Japan with mixed-oxide fuel.

The setback will give more ammunition to environmentalists and other critics who argue that the wider nuclear industry is infamous for cost overruns and calls on public funds. NDA income for 2012-13 is shown dropping from £867m to £717m, while expenditure is expected to rise from £2.88bn to £2.96bn, leaving the government needing to increase its total grant to the organisation, which oversees the dismantling of the UK's atomic legacy.

A spokesman for the NDA said the figures should not surprise ministers. "We have been spelling out to government every step of the way and there is no question of any slowdown of our programme", he added. The figures for the current financial year were flattered by a £157m one-off sale of land near Wylfa, on Anglesey, but the NDA has also been affected by the Japanese decision to announce the end to its future nuclear programme following the Fukushima nuclear crisis. This in turn persuaded the NDA to shut down the Sellafield mixed-oxide reprocessing plant (SMP) in Cumbria, with the loss of contracts worth £78m a year.

The NDA declined to say how much the SMP plant had cost to run, citing commercial confidentiality, but ministers admitted its failure to work properly meant operating losses of £626m had been accumulated by 2009 and it was said to be costing £90m a year to operate. There is now talk of the plant, which cost an additional £500m to build and will cost at least £100m to dismantle, being used as a temporary store for fissile materials.

There will also be a loss of income next year from the Oldbury nuclear plant in south Gloucestershire, which is now scheduled for closure in February. Greenpeace said the latest cost overrun proved that the nuclear power industry's financial viability was fundamentally flawed. Doug Parr, chief scientific officer at Greenpeace, said: "For all the claims of the government that it will be the power giants like EDF Energy that will foot the cost of the next generation of nuclear, the reality yet again is that the hard-pressed taxpayer will end up footing the bill".

Monday 2 January 2012

China buys Tasmanian wind farm
23 Dec 2011

HOBART, Australia, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- A Chinese company has bought a majority share in a Tasmanian wind farm.

The deal, worth more than $88 million, saw Hydro Tasmania sell 75% of its stake in the Woolnorth wind farm to Chinese company Guohua Energy Investment. Six months ago the government-owned Hydro Tasmania company and China Light and Power dissolved their Roaring 40s joint venture, leaving Hydro Tasmania with full ownership of its Tasmanian wind farms. The Woolnorth wind farm sale is intended to provide capital for the $400 million Musselroe wind farm project being built in northeastern Tasmania, The Tasmanian government said in a release.

Australian Energy Minister Bryan Green said that Guohua Energy Investment as a result of the sale have a six-month exclusive option to negotiate involvement in the Musselroe wind farm's expansion as well. "The Musselroe wind farm will have greater capacity than the combined generation of the Buff Point and Studland Bay wind farms at Woolnorth". Under the terms of the agreement with Guohua Energy Investment, Hydro Tasmania will continue to manage and run Woolnorth Bluff Point's 37 wind turbines as well as Studland Bay's 27 installations.

Wodonga employs environmentalist for energy job
27 Dec 2011

BORDER environmentalist Karen Retra is now the "go-to" person for Wodonga Council's solar power scheme. She says her job is to help people understand the "gobbledygook" of solar costs and systems. "Despite the decline of tariffs, solar is still good value and only going to get better with increases in electricity charges", she said. "My job is to help people's literacy around solar panels, costs and details, so they know what they will and won't get. "It is about understanding their options".

The Solar North East Project operates across seven North East council areas and each has its own part-time ambassador to help people make the shift to solar power. Ms Retra, who studied environmental science at Charles Sturt University, said people could still sign up for the bulk-buy solar project. "It is a high-quality system that comes with the support of solar professionals and the council", she said.

"Zen Home Energy Systems was selected from 16 solar providers through a competitive tender process which looked at price, performance, quality, service, warranty and other factors. "The result is a range of solar power systems that represent great value for money for what is a long-term investment in renewable energy. "There was some confusion about what was available and whether people can still sign up to the program. "But whether you participated in the first stage of the process, submitted an expression of interest, you can still be part of the project".

Ms Retra's background includes working on the Bill Busters campaign, Cleanaway's education officer and teaching sustainability. The project will also offer tips to residents and businesses on ways to maximise the return on solar power systems and ways to save energy through case studies and other means.

For information on a low-interest loan through WAW Credit Union or to speak with Karen Retra, email or phone the council on (02) 6022 9300.

Why the EU is winning the clean energy race
24 Dec 2011

The EU signed Kyoto in 1997, and passed laws to lower emissions by 2005. Five years later it had double the wind power of the US, and ten times the solar power. I know that it has been customary to compare the metrics on renewable energy development within the US as a whole to just one nation within the European Union, but it is misleading, as a comparison of our relative progress, because the US has a bigger economy than any one EU nation such as Germany or Spain, that it is typically compared to.

So it is time for us to compare the US with the EU as a whole to get an accurate picture, because it is easier for a larger economy to beat a smaller one in anything. This applies in any metric, but especially when comparing things like numbers of wind farms or solar farms, because how many people there are in a given area, and how much electricity they need (to produce and consume what percentage of the global GDP) needs to be comparable, or the comparison is nonsensical. For a real comparison, the US with its fractious collection of very different red states and blue states held together in something of a union is much more comparable in these ways to the similarly varied states of the EU as a whole, rather than to any one of the nations within it.
A comparison of the size of the two economies, the population and geographic size suggests that we should be comparing US progress as a whole, not to a single country within the union, but to the whole European Union. Our total economies are similar in size. According to the IMF, the EU's economy is $16 trillion and the US' $14 trillion. The EU and the US combined represent about half the global economy. Each puts out between 20% and 25% of the global GDP.

Our geographic spread is similar. The European Union is about 3.8 million square miles, and the US is a similar 3.6 million square miles. And our numbers are comparable. Although the EU now includes new members Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Monaco, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland, the EU 15 (that signed Kyoto, and implemented the renewable legislation) or the core of the EU, (Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) is 384 million people, and the US population is 313 million.
These three similarities mean that comparing progress between the two unions-one of states, and one of nations-makes a lot more sense in comparing the US progress on solar, for example, than comparing it with that of one EU nation. There are only 46 million people in Spain, which has a GDP of $1 trillion, so its economy is hardly comparable with the entire $14 trillion US economy. How does US progress look when compared to the entire EU? Not good.

The EU as a whole is far further along the clean economy road than the US, since signing Kyoto in 1997, and implementing feed-in tariffs and cap-and-trade by 2005 to lower emissions. Five years later it had double the wind power of the US, and ten times the solar power. The EU has 84 GW of wind power capacity installed as of 2010, according to the AWEA. The US has about half that, at 43 GW. EU solar power capacity totalled 29 GW through 2010; ten times the cumulative grid-connected PV in the US of 3 GW as of 2010, according to a GTW report quoted by EarthTechling, or to be precise only 2.6 GW confirmed by SEIA figures-which includes all types of solar, not just PV, and counts residential, commercial, industrial and utility-scale installations.

While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made a huge investment in utility-scale solar that is now beginning to break through the lengthy review process-so that there is at least 17 GW in the pipeline now as of mid-2011-even this 'Manhattan Project' jump in the level of investment will only bring the US up to two thirds of what the EU had installed as of 2010.

This one-time heroic lift for renewables and climate action was accomplished in the rare few months of 2009 (before Kennedy died) when the US had functional Democratic majorities big enough to overcome Republican obstruction. It is sad that voters in the US are not aware that that represents what could be accomplished again, and added to, if they could get those majorities in the House and Senate once more.
But US voters are increasingly so dismayed and baffled by what the media tells them is simply "congress" that now only 48% of US voters even bother to vote, far below the rates of the 1960s and 1970s, when the US passed the Clean Air Act. By contrast, most EU countries have over 80% voting participation, and their EU-wide energy legislation is much more 99%-friendly as a result. But just how far ahead they are was a shock to me in researching this. Comparing wind and solar capacity as of the end of 2010, the EU had between twice and ten times the US amount. That is pretty sobering.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Saudis kicking off major move into solar
23 Dec 2011

Saudi Arabia will take the first step to becoming a large-scale producer of solar power next year as it uses the private sector to build a first batch of solar parks. A steep increase in demand for electricity and rapidly falling prices for photovoltaic panels have convinced decision-makers in the kingdom to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-based power generation, setting the scene for sustained investment in alternative energy. "I am utterly convinced we will see the first procurements of solar [independent power producers] in the first quarter of next year", said Paddy Padmanathan, the chief executive of Acwa Power, the largest private Saudi power provider.

King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (Kacare), the government body responsible for alternative-energy policy, is working on a renewables strategy and is expected to finalise this in next year's first quarter. Analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance believe that an initial target could be up to 5 GWs. The first tenders to the private sector will amount to about 500 MWs, with contracted capacity set to rise rapidly, said Mr Padmanathan. By 2103, Saudi commitment to solar power could reach 20 GWs, he said.

The rise of solar power will proceed in tandem with a move into nuclear power, and by 2013 the kingdom could have signed off on nuclear power projects with a generating capacity equal to its solar power capacity, Mr Padmanathan said. Whereas the government will farm out responsibility for building and maintaining solar projects to private operators as so-called independent power projects, it will initially maintain control over nuclear projects, with public-private partnerships coming in at a later stage.

"So as I look to the future in Saudi, I progressively see more and more base load being filled with nuclear and more and more peak load being filled with renewables, and the middle bit being oil and gas, and more of it being gas than oil", said Mr Padmanathan, whose company will participate in the bidding for future solar and nuclear independent power projects.

Saudi Arabia is paying a heavy price for its continued reliance on oil to generate electricity. Its power plants consume 800,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent, Ziyad Al Shiha, the executive director of Saudi Aramco Power Systems, told reporters in May. With the price of crude above US$100 a barrel on international markets, the opportunity cost is high, making investments in alternative sources of power more attractive.

In addition, the cost of solar power has come down; a supply glut arising from China's input of cheap solar power panels into the market has halved prices within a year. Saudi solar plants will be able to take advantage of the country's long hours of strong sunshine. "If you compare a medium-sized fuel oil or diesel plant, we are already practically at parity", says Jose Alberich, a partner at AT Kearney.

Saudi Arabia's need for energy diversification is born of the rising demand for electricity, as an increasingly urbanised society clamours for a higher standard of living. Kacare estimates that peak capacity needed in 2030 will amount to 120 GWs. Of this, 35 GWs will be generated by solar arrays, says the research centre. "If demand continues to grow at this pace, without changes to the generation mix, the domestic consumption of oil will be unaffordable by 2030", says Mr Alberich.

Kacare is not alone in predicting huge investment in solar power. Ali Al Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, said in June that Saudi Arabia planned to equal the energy created by its crude exports with solar power, adding that by 2020 the country would have the potential to satisfy the world's electricity needs four times over.

Tidal energy turbine set up in sea
26 Dec 2011

A 100ft underwater turbine destined to form part of a major tidal energy project has been installed in the sea around Orkney. The one MW ( MW) device, which can power the annual electricity needs of 500 homes, will now undergo a series of tests to check its performance and reliability. It will eventually be used in the world's largest tidal stream energy development, in the Sound of Islay in the west of Scotland.

Those behind the project said the installation of the device at Orkney signalled a "major step forward for the global marine renewable energy industry". The HS1000 tidal turbine has been developed by the company Hammerfest Strom and was installed at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. It will now enter a test period in preparation for larger-scale production.

It is the same machine that will be used by ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) as part of the world's first tidal turbine array in Islay. The £40 million project, aimed at harnessing the power of the sea to generate enough electricity for more than 5,000 homes, received planning consent from the Scottish Government in March.

Officials hope the Orkney tests will help them to finalise the timetable for the Islay project, with machines being installed as early as possible between 2013 and 2015. SPR chief executive Keith Anderson said: "We are delighted that the HS1000 turbine has been successfully installed in Orkney and Hammerfest engineers deserve huge credit for carrying out this difficult operation in very testing weather conditions. We look forward to monitoring its progress when fully operational next year.

"This is a major milestone in the development of tidal power technology in Scotland, and for the tidal power industry across the world. We anticipate using this turbine as part of our project in Islay, which will be the first of its kind in the world, and remains the only consented tidal array project in Scotland".

Strom Stein Atle Andersen, managing director of Hammerfest, said: "The device was installed in one of Europe's most challenging waters, during the roughest time of the year, which shows the extreme conditions the technology and the team is capable of handling".

Wind farm output exceeds expectations
21 Dec 2011

Otago's largest wind farm Mahinerangi has produced 9% more electricity than expected in its first eight months of operation, delighting its owners. Twelve turbines were commissioned in March and, to the end of November, had "exceeded all expectations" and generated 82 GW, TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said yesterday.

"We had expected to produce 103 GW per year based on our modelling, so it is staggering to have produced 82 GW in eight months. Our previous estimate was that Mahinerangi would produce enough electricity annually to power 13,000 average Dunedin homes. Based on its first eight months' performance we would have to revise that figure to 15,228".

July was the best month for electricity generation, 15 GW having been produced. Since the Danish-manufactured Vesta turbines began turning, wind speeds had been higher than expected and the turbines had been "very, very reliable", Mr Purches said. "The Vesta maintenance team at the site have done a great job of making sure the turbines are well placed to deliver when needed".

Steady winds within a good working range were required for best results from wind farms, Mr Purches said. TrustPower's research had shown the Mahinerangi site, on the northern side of Lake Mahinerangi about 50km west of Dunedin, would have steadier winds than another potential site nearby. The research had proved correct: the strongest wind gust recorded at Mahinerangi since March was "a little over 150kmh", and average wind gusts during July were 43kmh.. "This is good, because it means the site produces mostly steady winds with good oomph in them to power the turbines, without too many strong gusts... "Part of the reason for the lack of gusts is due to the gently undulating nature of the site.

This is one of the reasons we were keen on it, because rugged undulations can produce big gusts that cause machines to shut themselves down for safety reasons, or cause excessive wear and tear on the turbines", he said. The 12 turbines were constructed in seven months at cost of about $75 million and are stage 1 of the Mahinerangi wind farm. TrustPower has consent for a further 88 turbines at the site, a project which might cost $325 million. The company is also poised to begin stage 1 of the $450 million 120-turbine wind farm at Kaiwera Downs, 15km southeast of Gore.

However, Mr Purches said it was unable to proceed with either development until the question of who would pay for a planned upgrade of the HVDC electricity cable beneath Cook Strait was resolved. South Island generators carry the full operational cost of the cable because it was laid to take electricity to North Island consumers. They pay a charge per MW produced but want that changed because they say the charge makes it uneconomic for them to build hydropower-power stations or wind farms.

In a report released in June, an advisory group established by the Electricity Authority to look at the issue acknowledged changes were warranted and recommended costs be shared across all consumers in both Islands. No decision had yet been made, something Mr Purches said was "a shame". "The issue of the HVDC is still frustrating those of us who want to get on and build stuff in the South Island,.. Kaiwera in particular is currently sitting right on the cusp of being viable, with only HVDC holding it back. Until we have some certainty around these costs, the [TrustPower] board is unlikely to approve any capital expenditure on either project".

Japan says nuclear power cost may be 50% higher than estimated
19 Dec 2011

nuclear power generation in Japan is about 50% more expensive than estimated after factoring in the cost of paying for an accident like the Fukushima disaster, a government panel said. nuclear power costs at least 8.9 yen (11¢) per kW, compared with a government estimate of 5.9 yen in 2004, the panel said in a draft report today. Coal is estimated to cost 9.5 yen per kW, while liquefied natural gas and oil cost 10.7 yen and 36 yen respectively.

Japan's government is reviewing its energy policy after the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic station. The government will use the panel's findings to draw up a new energy policy that may call for reducing reliance on nuclear power. The committee estimated a catastrophe like Fukushima would cost a minimum of about 6 trillion yen ($77 billion), the report said. Each 1 trillion yen increase raises the cost of generation by 0.1 yen per kW, it said. The panel is headed by Katsuyuki Ishida, a senior vice-minister in the Cabinet Office.

By 2030, the cost of coal, LNG and oil power generation are estimated to rise to 10.3 yen, 10.9 yen and 38.9 yen per kW because of carbon emission costs and rising fuel prices, the report said. Wind power from turbines on land may fall to as low as 8.8 yen an hour by 2030 from 9.9 yen in 2010 as technological innovations make it cheaper, the panel said. Residential solar power generation is forecast to be 9.9 yen by 2030 from 33.4 yen last year.