Thursday 23 February 2012

NSW govt criticised over wind farm audit
20 Feb 2012

The NSW government has been accused of waging a "holy war" on the renewable energy sector after ordering a noise audit of three wind farms because of complaints by residents. NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard on Monday announced the independent audit of three government-approved wind farms near Canberra, saying the Capital, Cullerin Range and Woodlawn facilities were the subject of ongoing complaints from locals. Mr Hazzard said previous investigations by his department found the farms were complying with noise limits but an independent noise consultant would determine the issue.

"The audit will also provide information on low-frequency noise from these wind farms to provide input into the finalisation of statewide wind farm guidelines", Mr Hazzard said. "wind farms will play an important part in the state's energy future. However, it is important the community has confidence these installations are operating in line with their consent conditions and they are not diminishing a local community's lifestyle". The planning department would also assess visual issues and the impact of the wind farms on flora and fauna, he said.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the government was "continuing its holy war against renewable energy". "On behalf of the loudest voices, the O'Farrell government is victimising wind farms that are a crucial component of the solution to the state's 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions", Dr Kaye said. Opposition environment spokesman Luke Foley accused the government of "pandering to flat-earthers" opposed to wind power. "All the signals the government is sending out are hostile to the development of wind power in this state", Mr Foley said.

Origin Energy, the owners of Cullerin Range, said it welcomed the audit and any objective view it would provide on noise. "We take noise conditions very seriously and are pleased that the minister has reaffirmed that the Cullerin Range Wind Farm is compliant with noise limits", an Origin Energy spokesperson said. Infigen Energy, which owns the Capital and Woodlawn farms, also supported the audit, but questioned the need for another assessment.

"Given that these wind farms have already passed the most stringent noise assessments, we can only assume that there must be some political motivation to undertake further testing", a spokesman for the company said. The audit is set to be completed by August.

UK must not lose lead in marine renewables drive
18 Feb 2012

LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters)-Britain must not lose its lead in the development of marine energy like it did with wind power, and should focus on reducing costs and setting ambitious deployment targets beyond 2020, a report by a parliamentary committee said on Sunday. Seven out of the eight large-scale prototype wave and tidal devices installed worldwide are in the UK but are not expected to make a large contribution to its energy mix before 2020.

"Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy", said Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change committee which produced the report. "In the eighties the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing. "It should be a priority for the government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip", he added.

Marine renewables are seen providing 20% of current UK electricity demand and the government is targeting 200 to 300 MWs ( MW) of marine capacity by 2020, 1-2 GWs ( GW) less than its forecasts in 2010. The government revised its figures based on what it said was realistically obtainable by industry but RenewableUK, the voice of the marine and wind industry, said 300 MW is achievable by 2017 and utility SSE alone expects to commission 200 MW of projects around 2020.

Being overly cautious could negatively impact market confidence about the long-term future of the industry in the UK and allow other countries to steal the lead, the report warned. It said the government should not rule out setting an ambitious deployment target for marine renewables beyond 2020 if cost reductions until 2020 remain on track.

Several firms are exploring marine energy's potential. Alstom and SSE Renewables formed a joint venture to develop a wave energy installation in Scotland and other demonstration projects are gaining momentum. But marine technologies are still in the early stages and are a costly way to make electricity compared to other sources. Baseline costs are likely to be 38 to 48 pence per kW ( kW) for the first wave farms and 29-33 pence/ kW for the first tidal farms, compared to 9-10.5 pence/ kW, according to the Carbon Trust. The committee said the government should adopt a formal cost of energy target of 14 pence/ kW by 2020 to give a clear signal of its expectations to industry.

In terms of finance for projects, the costs and risks to private investors of the technology are currently too big for them to shoulder alone. As project costs are set to rise to tens of millions of pounds from just millions in the next stages of development, the UK and Scottish governments' combined 38 million pound funding will not be not enough, though it may be possible to get extra cash from a reserve fund of EU carbon permits (NER300) and from the UK's Green Investment Bank, the report said.

To help bring down costs, the UK plans to raise revenue support to wave and tidal deployed before 2017 but more clarity is needed as soon as possible on support levels after 2017. "We welcome the (...) commitment to provide absolute certainty on this issue by 2013-14. We will monitor whether (the government) keeps to this timetable and urge the department to deliver its decision in 2013 rather than 2014", the report said.

As the scale of deployment increases, inadequate grid connection access, slow planning and consent processes, impacts on wildlife and public opposition all have the potential to derail marine development. UK marine technology firm Ocean Power Technologies said it welcomed the report, which makes a "timely and strong case" for further action if the UK is to get the industry to commercial scale and retain its leadership.

Siemens to buy U.K. tidal turbine maker in next few weeks
18 Feb 2012

Siemens AG (SIE), the largest engineering company in Europe, will buy the shares it doesn't already own in U.K, tidal technology developer Marine Current Turbines Ltd. Siemens has raised its stake in the Bristol-based company to more than 90% from 45% and plans to acquire the remaining shares "in the next few weeks", said Eva-Maria Baumann, a Siemens spokeswoman. The price wasn't disclosed.

"We're convinced of the technology and the market potential for tidal energy, especially in the U.K"., Baumann said today in a phone interview. "Tidal energy is a perfect match for the fluctuating wind power as you know hundreds of years in advance how the tides will be". Energy from the waves and tides has the potential to meet as much as 20% of current U.K, electricity demand, according to the government. The country is aiming for 15% of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. No commercial marine tidal project is operating now.

The turbine maker at the end of 2010 had 3.4 million pounds ($5.4 million) cash and a loss of 675,678 in the year, according to the company's most recent accounts filed on Sept. 6 on the UK's Companies House website. Siemens bought the shares from a "large majority" of shareholders, Andrew Tyler, MCT's chief executive officer, said today by e-mail.

Blow to the UK
"The takeover of MCT by Siemens will be seen in the U.K, as a blow to the country's hopes of building a domestically owned marine energy industry", said Angus McCrone, senior analyst at London-based researcher Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "MCT has been the frontrunner in the tidal stream sector worldwide in terms of having a project of more than 1- MW operating throughout the year and generating electricity". "Siemens has taken a view that MCT's technology could be one of the eventual winners, but there are still plenty of rival firms nursing the hope that their own devices will end up as the industry standard", he said.

Morgan Stanley (MS) is working with International Power Plc and tidal turbine maker Atlantis Resources Corp, to develop a 400- MW project off the coast of Scotland. Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc owns turbine maker Tidal Generation Ltd. DCNS SA, the French engineering company, owns a stake in Irish tidal energy business OpenHydro Group Ltd., and Andritz AG owns a share of Norway's Hammerfest Stroem SA. Acquisitions Ahead New Energy Finance last year predicted more technology developers will be acquired by bigger companies.

MCT's SeaGen demonstration project in Northern Ireland has fed more than 3 GW-hours of electricity into the grid since it began operating in 2008, Baumann said. Siemens plans two additional projects totaling 18 MWs in Scotland and Wales. The company said Oct. 21 it was looking for as much as 100 million pounds for these. It's now seeking capital investment from "major companies" with an interest in tidal power projects, Tyler said.

The U.K, and Scottish governments in October increased support for marine energy by proposing to raise the number of so-called Renewable Obligation Certificates to five. This is up from the previous two offered in England and three offered in Scotland and means tidal energy generators may be eligible from 2013 to receive about 229 pounds a MW-hour of electricity at current prices. MCT said in April any sale of the company was dependent on U.K, subsidies. The latest estimates from New Energy Finance show tidal stream power costs about $402 a MW-hour. In comparison, coal-fired power costs $57 a MW-hour.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Clean energy cut carbon emissions in 2011
20 Feb 2012

Renewable energy has helped Australia to cut its total carbon emissions for the second year running, according to figures published by the Federal Government. Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said analysis from the Australian National Greenhouse Accounts showed that overall greenhouse emissions had dropped about 1% in the year to September 2011, largely led by the electricity sector.

"Electricity emissions dropped 3.2% during this period. Hydroelectric power was up just over 10% due to the excellent rainfall in key hydroelectric areas, while coal and gas generation both dropped", Mr Thornton said. "Better energy efficiency and the increased use of technologies such as solar power, wind power and solar hot water were some of the factors that the government said contributed to the strong result.

"Australia's bipartisan 20% Renewable Energy Target is starting to work, even though it is still in its early stages. The industry looks forward to working with all sides of politics to accelerate the roll out of clean energy across the country", he said. The drop in emissions is a significant one, as it came at a time of economic growth as Australia emerged from the global economic crisis. Although emissions fell in the previous year as well, this was largely attributed to reduced productivity as a result of the economic downturn.

Mr Thornton said developing clean energy also made economic sense for Australia. "It has the potential to generate thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in investment, much of which will be in regional areas of the country", he said. "Renewable energy such as solar and wind power is falling rapidly in price and will help to provide an insurance policy against the rising fuel costs of coal and gas as we are increasingly exposed to international markets".

Click here to access the latest update of the Australian National Greenhouse Accounts.

German experience: clean energy requires subsidies
18 Feb 2012

AN ARCHITECT of Germany's rapid growth in clean energy-it has nearly half the world's rooftop solar power-has warned that Australia's climate policies will not alone drive a switch to greenhouse-gas-free electricity. Germany reached its 2020 target of generating a fifth of its electricity from renewable sources nine years ahead of schedule, largely through feed-in tariffs that guarantee new power forms an inflated rate for the power they use to make them competitive.

It installed 3 GWs of solar photovoltaic panels in December alone-roughly enough for 1.5 million homes. Australia has less than half this in total. Hans-Josef Fell, an author of the German Renewable Energies Act introduced in 2000 and a Greens MP, backed the Australian carbon price as a positive step that would start to factor in the cost of burning fossil fuels to the climate and people's health. But he said the experience of the European emissions trading scheme suggested Australia's laws alone would not trigger the uptake of clean energy.

Speaking in Melbourne, he said feed-in tariffs were needed to help solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power overcome barriers that made them more expensive than fossil fuel energy. He cited International Energy Agency data that found global subsidies for fossil fuel energy increased to $US409 billion in 2010 ($A380 billion), compared with $US64 billion for renewable energy.

''In the beginning, all new technologies are more expensive than existing technologies, so we must help them,'' Mr Fell said. ''We must make money available for renewables and lower the tax subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power.'' The Australian laws-dubbed the ''clean energy future package'' by the government-include a carbon price of $23 a tonne charged to about 500 big emitting companies. It starts in July and will evolve into an emissions trading scheme in 2015.

The package also includes a $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in and underwrite the development of fledgling technologies. But the government opposes feed-in tariffs and is reducing a national solar incentive scheme. State solar feed-in tariffs have been wound back. In Germany there is a debate over how quickly to reduce its solar tariff given the cost of panels is falling rapidly. It installed 7.5 GWs last year. Renewable energy increased German power prices by about 10%. Mr Fell said analyses showed the rise would have been greater without investment in clean sources.

Transforming King Island’s power station for increased renewable energy use
16 Feb 2012

Logica Australia, a leading IT and business services provider has partnered with Cisco to upgrade the communications network at Tasmania's King Island power station. The upgrade is a key component of Hydro Tasmania's $46 million King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP).

David Brown, Project Manager Hydro Tasmania, explains: "We selected Logica and Cisco because they offered a robust, state-of-the-art, reliable communications system for a very complex power station operating in harsh environmental conditions, combined with a good commercial outcome. They helped us deliver a key aspect of the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project".

The King Island project will see 65% of the island's energy needs supplied from renewable sources. It will combine wind, solar, storage technology and smart grid management systems while also trialling biodiesel. If the biodiesel trial is successful, CO₂ emissions will be reduced by up to 95%.

As part of the communications network upgrade, Logica installed thirteen Cisco 2520 Connected Grid switches and two Cisco 2010 Connected Grid routers, which are specially designed for use in transmission and distribution power substations. Electrical contractors replaced copper wire with fibre optic cabling. Network routers and switches have recently been tested and installed.

Wayne Usher, Project Manager Logica, explained: "We're helping Hydro Tasmania integrate new technologies into their network, with the intelligence needed to provide a reliable, stable and renewable electricity supply. Logica is pleased to have partnered with Cisco to deliver a highly secure network that enables two-way communication for substation automation".

Sara Adams, director of the Partner Business Group for Cisco Australia and New Zealand, said: "In partnership with Logica, Cisco is proud of the successful implementation of its Connected Grid solution at Hydro Tasmania's King Island power station. Purpose-built for utility substations to improve grid reliability and cost savings, the solution is highly secure and compliant with regulatory mandates and industry standards such as IEC 61850 and IEEE 1613".

As an accredited Cisco Gold Certified Partner, Logica has a highly specialised local team with the qualifications required to successfully implement Cisco Connected Grid technologies which offer integrated, industry leading security, extensive instrumentation and remote diagnostic capabilities.

The Cisco Connected Grid range of products is specifically designed for the energy utility industry as part of an end-to-end smart grid strategy that envisions a ubiquitous IP data network to meet the growing requirements in the energy utility sector. Logica was the first Cisco partner in Australia to achieve Cisco Substation Automation ATP specialisation.

Monday 20 February 2012

Heartland Institute strategy and funding details exposed

For those who have yet to hear the news, the Heartland Institute, an infamous US think tank (now there's an oxymoron) had their climate change denialism programme exposed recently when blogger DeSmogBlog received (from a third party) then posted documents produced by the Heartland Institute.

Among the documents were details relating to strategy and funding, including a list of donors and a breakdown of the funding of some well-known climate denialists such as Fred Singer, Robert Carter and others.

Rather than repeat all the evidence here, the full story can be found at DeSmogBlog. The Heartland Institute has threatened legal action against at least two bloggers to date.

As developments occur in coming weeks I will post updates.

Latest developments from Crikey

Weighty wind power takes off from Geelong port to Tarrone
16 Feb 2012

The power transformer was en route to Tarrone from Korea and took about eight hours to move from Geelong Port, in what was a massive task for local movers Tutt Bryant Heavy Lift and Shift. Weighing 580 tonne-about the weight of 100 elephants-and measuring the length of a footy field, the transformer will convert power generated from the wind turbines at the Macarthur wind farm.

The $1 billion renewable energy project at Macarthur was announced in 2010 by AGL Energy and Meridian Energy energy companies. It is expected to be the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere when it's completed next year. Macarthur wind farm project manager Jeff Trompf said this phase of the project was a "significant milestone". "We are still taking daily escorted deliveries of tower sections, wind turbine blades and nacelles and the project is still on schedule", Mr Trompf said. He thanked the community for its patience during the massive construction.

New Orkney wave devices set to power 1,000 homes via National Grid
14 Feb 2012

(UK) Wave energy converters which can power more than 1,000 homes have been approved in Orkney by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. Aquamarine Power's Oyster project is at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). The two new devices will be connected to the National Grid. Mr Ewing said: "I am delighted to grant consent to these devices, the first nearshore wave array in Scotland to feed in to the National Grid".

He added: "Scotland has unparalleled natural resources, with a tenth of Europe's wave energy, and these new devices will help us to fully harness the huge energy resources around our own coast and contribute to global efforts to expand clean, green electricity generation. "Scotland is in the midst of a renewables revolution, and it is innovation and creativity such as that behind the Oyster device which will help us meet our ambitious renewable electricity targets and help us reindustrialise Scotland.

Germany powers France in cold despite nuclear u-turn
14 Feb 2012

  • Renewables, idled coal plants help Germany meet demand
  • France sees price spikes as nuclear insufficient
  • French nuclear future big debate point in elections

PARIS, Feb 14 (Reuters)-Germany came to the rescue of France during last week's cold snap by massively exporting electricity to its neighbour, silencing critics who slammed Berlin last year for abruptly shutting down 8 nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster. Critics said such a decision would put Europe's electricity supply balance at risk and waved the possibility of widespread blackouts as a result.

"The cold snap was a situation most experts feared and we managed without bigger problems", said Stephan Schnorr, German power trader at utility DONG Energy. Instead, it was France which suffered from supply tightness last week, pushing prices to two-year highs and prompting the grid to issue warnings urging the public to refrain from using electrical equipment, such as washing machines or coffee makers. France, Europe's biggest electricity exporter, reverts to imports during peak demand periods.

France heavily relies on electric heating developed by successive governments to meet supplies generated by the country's 58 nuclear power reactors. Germany, however, uses a variety of heating methods including gas and fuel oil heaters. This means that during cold snaps, French electricity demand goes through the roof, forcing the country to import at full capacity from its neighbours during peak demand.

When French demand reached a new all-time high last Wednesday, the country imported from Germany at full capacity in nearly all hourly blocks, grid operator data showed. French electricity demand rises by 2,300 MW, or the equivalent of two nuclear power reactors, per one degree Celsius drop in temperatures, double the demand surge seen 20 years ago.

Price spikes in France
While France was struggling with high demand, Germany, which houses 37% of the world's solar plants, relied on its growing renewable energy output and resurrected idled coal-fired plants to cover a rise in electricity demand. A spokesman for Amprion, Germany's largest high-voltage network, said the situation on the network was very tense. "Our colleagues are intervening on the network much more than usually, but everything is under control", he said.

By contrast, France, the world's most nuclear dependent nation which faces presidential elections in April, last week experienced supply tightness which led to dreaded price spikes predicted by experts. French day-ahead power for peakload delivery, the 0800-2000 CET period when demand is highest in the day, rose as high as 628 euros per MW ( MW) on the EPEX Spot electricity exchange on Feb. 9, more than four times higher than the previous day.

France's electricity demand has been reaching new record highs nearly every winter as 30% of homes use electric heaters and as many as 65% of new homes are heated using electricity. "One million mobile electric heaters are sold in France every year, give or take, especially in large spaces", said Jean Bergougnoux, a former chief executive of French energy giant EDF Energy, "Many of them are used during cold periods, in poorly heated locations and/or poorly insulated ones", he added. The government has defended high use of power for heating by arguing its nuclear power plants provide steady supply, but record prices have put this in doubt.

Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande has vowed to cut France's dependence on nuclear power and to shut down its oldest nuclear plant on the German border if elected, making nuclear power one of the main issues of the election campaign. In contrast, President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right government is trying to convince voters that nuclear power plants should run as long as possible nearly a year after the Fukushima disaster in Japan shook the world. The government on Monday published a report saying electricity bills would rise less in the years to come if the country prolongs the lifespan of its ageing nuclear reactors.

Concerns new guidelines are forcing wind farms out of Victoria
17 Feb 2012

Six months after the Victorian Government brought in strict rules on wind farms, there are warnings the laws are forcing the industry out of the state. Since the guidelines were introduced no new wind farm energy projects have been proposed and the future of several existing projects is in doubt. There are fears Victoria will miss out on billions of dollars in investment and potentially force up the price of electricity.

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