Thursday 1 March 2012

Plans advance to boost interstate power links
24 Feb 2012

Plans are advancing by ElectraNet to boost the capacity for electricity flows between South Australia and Victoria. The company has sought public feedback on options including an upgrade to the Heywood substation in Victoria and sites in south-east South Australia, which would increase capacity by 40%.

Rainer Korte from ElectraNet says an upgrade of the system could boost power supplies from Victoria to South Australia when demand is high, and into Victoria when too much wind power is produced for SA demand. "Those inter-regional links or interstate links impact on the operation of the market and the power system with the whole state impacted", he said. "People in the south-east should benefit, so should everyone else".

U.S. grid energy-storage market strong and poised for exponential growth
22 Feb 2012

A vigorous U.S, energy storage market offers good potential for growth over the next five years, according to a study sponsored by the Copper Development Association (CDA) and conducted by KEMA, Inc. The study, Market Evaluation for Energy Storage in the United States, determines the current market for grid energy storage in the U.S, and the associated copper demand in storage applications over the next five years. thermal energy storage, pumped-hydroelectric power, compressed-air-energy storage (CAES), and distributed applications constitute most of the energy-storage market. These can support the integration of renewables, such as wind and solar power.

Read more…

Siemens blindsided by China wind boom plans ‘massive’ investment
23 Feb 2012

Siemens AG (SIE), the world's largest maker of offshore wind turbines, said it underestimated the pace of growth in the Chinese wind market and will ramp up spending to catch up as local competitors increase their lead.

"We're investing massively in research and development and to make use of economies of scale in production", Felix Ferlemann, head of Siemens's wind-power business, said in response to e-mailed questions. "We were somewhat taken by surprise by the strong growth of the Chinese market".

China led the world in installing wind-power capacity last year. Munich-based Siemens is working to keep pace in the country, where it's lagging behind suppliers such as Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), while competition puts pressure on prices. Profitability at Siemens's renewable-energy unit was wiped out last year, calling into question Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher's strategy of focusing more on green technologies.

Siemens maintains its goal of becoming "a leading company in wind power", while it's not important if this takes two years or five, Ferlemann said. The company set a goal in 2009 to rank this year among the world's top three wind-power companies by installed generating capacity.

Turnover at the Top The target was issued by Andreas Nauen, who ran the wind-power operation until he left in March 2010 to become CEO at a German unit of Indian wind turbine maker Suzlon Energy Ltd. (SUEL) Nauen was succeeded by Jens-Peter Saul, who led the business for less than 19 months before Ferlemann took over.

Siemens ranked ninth in 2010 among wind turbine makers by annual installed capacity, according to estimates by Eduardo Tabbush, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who said the German company may climb to fifth place by 2015. Vestas and Chinese producers Sinovel Wind Group Co. (601558) and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. (002202) will remain the top three manufacturers for the near future, in terms of MWs sold, he said.

The renewable-energy division, previously among Siemens's best performers, had an operating loss of 2 million euros ($2.65 million) for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 on excess capacity in countries including the US, and price pressure in China. The company does not break out profit for the wind unit.

Earnings Decline Vestas, based in Aarhus, Denmark, posted an annual loss for the first time in six years in 2011. Sinovel forecast on Jan. 30 that its 2011 earnings probably fell by more than 50% because of lower prices. The 10 orders that Siemens won worldwide in 2011 for wind farm equipment included one from China, according to data collected by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That compares with at least seven contracts from China that Vestas (VWS) announced.

The German company aims for its wind-power operations to return to a profit margin of at least 10% of revenue by cutting costs and streamlining operations, Michael Suess, the head of Siemens's energy businesses, said in September. Profitability will drop to about 6.5% of sales this year from 8.5% in 2011, according to estimates by Michael Busse, an analyst at Silvia Quandt Research in Frankfurt.

Siemens is sitting on a record backlog of almost 12 billion euros worth of wind-power orders, including its first from China for offshore equipment. The company said in December it will expand wind turbine manufacturing, sales and service units in China through two ventures with Shanghai Electric Group Co. (601727) "With our planned joint ventures in China, we'll soon also have a good position there and benefit from growth in the world's largest wind market", Ferlemann said.

Monday 27 February 2012

Vic wind farm scramble
22 Feb 2012

WIND farm companies are scrambling for finance and to begin work on proposed projects before a Victorian planning deadline. Sources have told weeklytimesnow the number of projects "in the gun" range from 10 to 20 proposals across the state due to the Victorian Government's changed planning policy. The Baillieu Government last year declared no-go zones, including Macedon, 5km buffer zones around regional towns like Mildura and Shepparton and gave power to residents to veto projects that had homes within 2km of turbines.

Under the changes companies with permits due to expire could apply for an extension on the condition they start work by March 15. A Clean Energy Council spokesman said the council would be contacting members in the next few days to gauge the situation. Friends of the Earth national campaign co-ordinator Cam Walker said the government "killed off" projects last year worth about $500m and the March deadline was the "second round".

"People don't want to lose their projects", he said. He predicted about 20 projects were dependent on meeting construction requirements before the deadline but said he'd be surprised if half got off the ground. "Companies are in a mad rush to get finance,,, there's a number of smaller operators,,, that are on the hunt for money", Mr Walker said.

He called for the government to re-consider the policy because it was driving an entire sector out of the state. "It was a policy they formed while in Opposition and it was not very well thought out. It's pushing an industry and jobs out of the state". He said the no-go zones and 5km buffers from regional centres were the biggest problems which were killing off community wind projects like the now defunct Castlemaine proposal.

Greens MP Greg Barber said companies were working to a tight deadline after the government's changes. He said he had a list of nine projects, several in south-west Victoria, which would be racing to meet the deadline. "Even if the nine wind farms come under the wire a third of all remaining permits will expire by 2013 and that's about 11,000 turbines. All other turbine permits will expire in 2014 and probably will never get permits back under the new rules", Mr Barber said.

More on the Heartland Institute revelations…

Confessions of a climate gate-opener
22 Feb 2012

(UK) I don't normally do requests, as they say-but I've a lot of messages via emails, blog comments and Twitter asking for a follow-up post on the Heartland Institute, and am happy to oblige. Many thanks for all your messages-nice to know one's thoughts are in such demand!

So what's happened since last week's post, flagging up and analysing the contents of documents obtained through subterfuge from the leading US climate sceptic lobby group? First, we saw a request from the institute that all media organisations who'd covered the story should take their articles down and issue retractions, with a vague threat of legal action.

As far as I can see, few complied-and why would they?

Read more…

Behind the controversy, an effort to rewrite curriculum on climate change
23 Feb 2012

Focus on the contents of the internal documents leaked last week from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit known for attacking climate science, has been largely lost in the wake of the revelation of the leaker's identity: Peter Gleick, a scientist. But beyond the controversy and the confession is the fact that Heartland does not deny what the two authentic documents obtained by Dr. Gleick reveal: that the institute is working to influence climate education in the schools.

In its 2012 fund-raising plan, Heartland said that an "anonymous donor" had pledged the first $100,000 toward this end and that it hoped to use that gift to develop matching funds. Heartland is soliciting contributors for a "global warming curriculum" developed by a part-time Department of Energy consultant, David Wojick, which in Heartland's estimation "appears to have great potential for success."

Read more…

John Moore: A peek into the climate denier industry
23 Feb 2012

The curtain has been drawn back on the professional denier industry, and its media enablers are frantically crying "there is nothing to see here". Leaked documents from the Chicago-based Heartland Institute expose the efforts of the conservative "research organization" to sow doubt about climate change. The documents also reveal information about donors--including a mysterious unnamed individual who provided more than $14-million dollars to Heartland. The information was obtained by an environmentalist posing as someone else online, which has prompted laughable squawks about ethics from the very denier crowd that fed like zombies on the hacked "Climategate" emails of 2009.

Read more…

And closer to home,

The shadowy world of IPA finances
24 Feb 2012

Last week's revelations about the Heartland Institute, probably the most important climate science denying organisation in the United States, raise some questions about the murky influence of think tanks on the climate debate in this country. Confidential documents from the Heartland Institute reveal how wealthy individuals have actively promoted the campaign to attack the credibility of the world's top climate scientists and create the impression that there is a controversy about the main propositions of global warming science. In fact the bulk of Heartland's climate science denial campaign-which includes plans to promote anti-science in schools-has been funded by one donor, whose name did not appear in the purloined documents.

There is a direct Australian link in the Heartland Institute files. Bob Carter, an adjunct research professor at James Cook University, has a long-standing record of denying climate science. Now it is revealed that he is on the payroll of the Heartland Institute, to the tune of $1,667 per month for unspecified work. On his personal webpage, Carter declares that "he receives no research funding from special interest organisations such as environmental groups, energy companies or government departments", a claim that on the scale of truth matches his reporting of climate science.

Read more…

Hepburn Wind to feature on stamps
22 Feb 2012

Hepburn Wind has put its stamp on 2012. The community-owned wind farm was one of nine Australian cooperatives selected to be on Australia Post stamps commemorating the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives. President of the International Cooperative Alliance, Dame Pauline Green, visited Australia this week and said co-operatives were generating profits for members and creating jobs in just about every sector of the economy.

"In the wake of the GFC, the world is looking for alternative business models to strengthen economies, generate jobs and support communities and the cooperative model is that alternative. It's viable, strong and growing," Dame Pauline said. "Running a profitable business and caring for people does not need to be a trade off, in co-operative businesses they sit comfortably side by side. "They have come through the GFC stronger than ever and, internationally, the top 300 cooperatives are worth more than US$1.6 trillion. These are serious businesses with scale.

"In Australia the economy is not just run by big corporations and big not-for-profits there is a dynamic and successful third force that could be making an even bigger contribution to the complex and pressing economic issues of our time. "Indeed cooperative businesses in Australia have more than 7.5 million customer owners and generate more than $15 billion in annual turnover. "Governments across the world need to be looking at how they can reduce red tape and ensure that taxation and accounting regimes allow shared equity to be better managed.

"For example, in Australia, the regulation of cooperatives is state-based, creating duplications and unnecessary regulatory burdens for your large national cooperative businesses," Dame Pauline said. As part of her visit, Dame Pauline launched a set of commemorative stamps in Melbourne last week, which feature nine Australian cooperative businesses. She also met with business leaders.

Cooperatives featured on Australia Post's stamps included:

  • CBH Group a farmed owned co-operative in Western Australia with a turnover of $1.3 billion in 2011.
  • Capricorn Society a family of 14,500 small business automotive repair shops in Western Australia with turnover of nearly $1 billion in 2011.
  • Norco Cooperative a large dairy business providing products to thousands of Australian families, with a turnover of over $350 million in 2011.
  • The Community Mutual Group a financial services provider to 70,000 member/owners in regional NSW.
  • West Belconnen Health Co-op Australian's newest co-operative GP and health practice with 2150 local family owners providing health care to 10,500 people.
  • Hepburn Wind Park Cooperative Australia's first community-owned wind farm that is expected to produce enough electricity to power 2300 local homes.
  • Common Equity Housing Ltd which provides affordable housing to 5000 low income Victorians.
  • Fitzroy & Carlton Community Credit Co-op which has a long history of providing local residents with banking services and help with budgeting and financial planning.
  • Barossa Community Store owners of the retail precinct in Barossa providing the local community with a supermarket, hardware, department store, toys and electrical goods.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Ramsay’s wind farm demands fail, but he still faces questions
22 Feb 2012

A PROMINENT state Liberal MP is facing a parliamentary grilling after he threatened to lobby against a wind farm project unless the energy company bought his family's south-west farm. Upper House member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay made the demands in an October letter to wind power company ACCIONA Energy over the company's plan to erect 116 turbines at Birregurra near Colac as part of its Mount Gellibrand wind project.

Mr Ramsay confirmed that he spoke to planning minister Matthew Guy about the Mt Gellibrand project. He also admitted lobbying the department of planning for changes, including the re-siting of turbines away from his property. Mr Ramsay's campaign appears to have fallen on deaf ears with both ACCIONA Energy and the government.

ACCIONA Energy resisted the demands and Mr Guy and his department last month signed off on the detailed plan for the company's turbines. Work is set to commence soon. Yesterday Mr Ramsay said that if anything, his position as a Coalition MP had worked against him. "I can assure you I got no more favourable treatment than anyone else; I haven't won any concessions", he said. However, his lobbying has triggered allegations that he sought to use his political access for personal gain and failed to adequately notify Parliament of his interest during key debates on new wind farm rules last year.

"The opposition will leave no stone unturned to get a full public investigation by referring Mr Ramsay to the privileges committee, moving to set up a parliamentary committee or referring his behaviour to any other body that may have jurisdiction", opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said yesterday. Mr Ramsay's letter, obtained by The Age from a government source, followed months of negotiations involving Mr Ramsay and the Spanish-based ACCIONA Energy.

The discussions occurred over a period when State Parliament was dealing with the Coalition's plan to ban wind farms in some areas and to give individual residents veto over turbines within two km of any dwelling in the state. In the letter, the MP insists the wind turbines would damage amenity at his family farm and interrupt his "iconic views" to the Otway Ranges. The letter demands a string of concessions including that the company pay him $66,000 to grow trees as a noise and visual screen, scrap all turbines within two km of his home, and pay for works including the sealing of the local gravel road.

Writing on a personal letterhead, Mr Ramsay also requests that the company "enter into bona fide discussions to purchase my property at current market value" by December 31. He then notes that he intends to "make representations" to the department of planning to press for changes to the final detailed plans for the wind farm, including scaling back the number or turbines and their re-siting.

Yesterday, Mr Ramsay's confirmed he did in fact lobby an officer of the planning department seeking changes to the Mt Gellibrand wind farm plan. He also confirmed that he had spoken in general terms to Planning Minister Matthew Guy about Mt Gellibrand but denied he had asked the minister to intervene on his behalf. Mr Ramsay insisted he had made the necessary declarations to Parliament acknowledging his interest in being a neighbour to a wind farm.

But Greens wind spokesman Greg Barber said revelation of Mr Ramsay's lobbying throughout last year, including the letter to ACCIONA Energy, raised serious questions about whether he had adequately declared his interest ahead of voting on the Coalition's new rules. "He never disclosed to the Parliament that he was in negotiations with the wind farm developer over money or to buy his property. If he had, I would have moved that he was ineligible to vote under the Parliament's rules". Nor has Mr Ramsay's handling of the Mount Gellibrand matter been well received by all his neighbours.

In the mid-2000s, then farmer Ramsay was a champion of wind farms. At the time his property had been earmarked for about eight turbines under the same planning permit he is now campaigning against. The change of heart coincided with him selling the parcel of land--with the turbine permits--to a neighbour, making him a neighbour to a wind farm rather than a wind farmer. Since his early enthusiasm for wind farms he sold a parcel of land to neighbouring property owner Duncan Barber. Now he is seeking to have the same turbines moved.

Yesterday, Mr Barber (no relation to the Greens MP) said he paid a premium for the property because of the turbines for which he will be paid about $7000 each a year. "At the beginning he (Ramsay) was very pro the wind farm", Mr Barber said. "He was going to do everything in his power to get the government behind it; to support it". Mr Ramsay defended his change of attitude to the Mount Gellibrand wind farm as a result of increased knowledge about the health and visual impacts of wind farms. "We didn't know a lot about wind farming eight years ago", Mr Ramsay said. "We were all pretty raw about it. It was all pretty new".

Yet another example of Liberal Party ideology and selfishness trumping reason, honesty, openness and a cleaner future. - Blair

Mainstream, Goldwind to build 70 MW Chile wind farm
20 Feb 2012

Feb 20 (Reuters)-Ireland's Mainstream Renewable Power and Chinese wind turbine maker Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co, have formed a 50-50 joint venture to build a 70 MW wind farm in Chile, the firms said on Monday. Construction of the first 70 MW phase of the Ckani wind farm in northern Chile should start by the end of this year, and it has the potential to have a capacity of 240 MW capacity on stream by 2015, the companies said in a statement. The value of the whole project is $480 million, while the first phase is worth $140 million.

Under the terms of the deal, Goldwind's Chicago-based subsidiary will supply 47 1.5 MW wind turbines. Goldwind is China's second-largest maker of wind power equipment, and the deal is its second with Mainstream in Chile. Goldwind also secured a deal to supply turbines to a 16.5 MW wind project in Ecuador in late 2011. China's top wind turbine makers are increasingly looking to export their equipment overseas to boost sales amid sliding turbine prices and challenging market conditions at home.

"Strategic collaboration with China is core to Mainstream's global strategy", said Mainstream Chief Executive Eddie O'Connor. "Mainstream has over 15,000 MW of wind and solar projects globally, and our Chinese partners have the world-leading technology, which is ready to deploy cost-effectively and at scale".

German offshore wind-energy delays threaten energy overhaul
21 Feb 2012

Germany's offshore wind parks, being built to replace most of the nuclear reactors closing in the next decade, are headed to miss construction targets because of delays in connecting turbines to the power grid. E.ON AG (EOAN) and RWE AG (RWE), the country's biggest utilities, have threatened to halt investment in wind projects unless obstacles are removed, which RWE blames mainly on slow permitting and problems with acquiring cables and transformer stations.

The difficulties undermine the government's aim to have 10 GWs of sea-based turbines, or the equivalent of about nine atomic plants, installed by the end of this decade, according to the wind industry's main lobby group. About 0.2 GWs were in place at the end of last year. "We won't reach 10 GWs by 2020, and everyone in the industry knows that", Hermann Albers, the head of the BWE wind-energy lobby, said in an interview in Berlin. Grid operators, which are responsible for the connections, and their suppliers have underestimated the challenges of connecting projects that can cost upward of 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), he said.

The sluggish start to Germany's offshore wind expansion is a setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel's plan to transition to a nuclear-free energy mix based on 80% renewable sources by 2050. It signals greater reliance on other energy sources and delays for wind-project suppliers including Siemens AG (SIE), Europe's biggest engineering company, and ABB Ltd. (ABBN) of Switzerland, the largest maker of power-distribution equipment.

'Not in Danger' 
The German government says the delays won't affect its goal of shutting all nuclear reactors by 2022 and raise the share of renewables to 35% of the total installed capacity from about 20% last year. "The energy overhaul is not in danger", as installations of land-based turbines and solar panels exceed expectations and "overcompensate" for the offshore wind delays, Juergen Maass, a spokesman for the German Environment Ministry, said by phone.

The government's longer-term target of 25 GWs of offshore wind generators by 2030 "will be met, just the curve to get there may look different", he said. The utilities say the delays may affect longer-term commitments. Fritz Vahrenholt, chief executive officer of RWE's Innogy unit for renewable energy, predicted a possible "collapse in investment activities" in German offshore wind farms unless the issues are resolved. Grid Delays Grid operator TenneT TSO GmbH told RWE that hooking the utility's 1 billion-euro Nordsee Ost wind farm up to the grid will take 12 months longer than expected, Vahrenholt said last month in Essen, Germany, where RWE has its headquarters.

E.ON's Amrumbank West project in the North Sea will be delayed by about 15 months, said Carsten Thomsen-Bendixen, an E.ON spokesman. The Dusseldorf-based utility said it can't make an investment decision on two other projects in planning in Germany because of the problems. The utilities are concerned about who will compensate them for the delays, which in the case of RWE's Nordsee Ost farm may cause damages in the "three-digit million-euro range", Vahrenholt said. They also want to cut red tape in permitting wind farms.

German Developer Windreich AG rejected the utilities' warnings as "doom-mongering". TenneT will connect "nearly on time" Windreich's Global Tech I, MEG 1 and Deutsche Bucht projects with a combined capacity of about 1 GW, Chief Executive Officer Willi Balz said in a statement late yesterday.

'Exceeding Projections' 
Germany's environment and economy ministries last month set up a group that will also include grid operators, regulators and industry officials to discuss issues including permitting and liability to speed up grid connection. The group will make recommendations to Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen at the end of next month, said Thorsten Falk of the Offshore Stiftung, a group that promotes offshore wind power.

"The 10 GWs can be reached in principle if a broad solution for the grid connection issue can be brought on its way quickly", Falk said in e-mailed remarks. "Whether this will be a precision landing or delayed by two years doesn't matter for the overhaul of the electricity supply. The actual power output is what matters, not the MW figures. Initial experience shows that those are exceeding projections".

TenneT has earmarked 5.5 billion euros for nine grid connection projects, Ulrike Hoerchens, a spokeswoman, said by phone. Two projects, HelWin 1 and BorWin 2, which are each able to connect several wind farms, are delayed by eight months and three months, respectively, she said. As much as 55 additional wind farms may ask for approval in TenneT's grid in the coming months, Hoerchens said. "That shows the kind of challenges we as a grid operator are facing", she said.

Siemens Setback 
The start of construction of the HelWin 1 converter platform will be delayed by about a year to May 2013 as the licensing and permitting process "turned out to be more complex than planned", Torsten Wolf, a spokesman for Siemens, the main contractor for both projects, said by phone. Siemens, which booked 203 million euros in charges in the first quarter on the delays, is "pulling out all the stops" to start construction for BorWin 2 in September, about three months later than planned, he said.

German authorities should draft a long-term offshore grid development plan and clarify who's legally responsible to compensate for grid connection delays, TenneT said in a statement posted on its website yesterday. It suggested forming a "German direct-current network operator" that would plan, finance, build and run power lines to connect the wind farms and bring their output south, where companies including Daimler AG and BASF AG run factories. "The current structure is not suitable to accomplish the ambitions of the energy transition", it said.

Labor pulls plug on energy role
21 Feb 2012

THE State Government has ended Renewable Energy Commissioner Tim O'Loughlin's position more than a year before his contract was due to expire. Mr O'Loughlin was appointed in mid-2009 with some fanfare by then Premier Mike Rann. His contract was meant to run until 2013. A spokesman for Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said he would not be replaced.

Yesterday's Budget and Finance select committee heard Mr O'Loughlin's job ends about 18 months short of his contract by "mutual agreement", and that there had been a payout. Opposition sustainability and climate-change spokesman Steven Marshall branded the decision a waste of taxpayer money. "This shows a Premier who doesn't have the same focus on renewables as the former premier and a department that is in complete disarray, that is paying out contracts that are not completed", Mr Marshall said.

Questions about the payout amount were taken on notice by Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy Department chief executive Geoff Knight; the "functions" of RenewablesSA have been moved to the department. Mr Koutsantonis's spokesman has confirmed that Mr O'Loughlin "has left to pursue other interests". "I'm unable at this time to provide you with details of the terms of his termination package", he said. The move follows a budget decision late last year to scrap the $11.7 million remaining in the $20 million Renewable Energy Fund.

This fund was overseen by RenewablesSA, and industry said there were now no state funding support avenues available for renewable energy. The South Australian branch of the Australian Solar Energy Society and the Australian Geothermal Energy Association have raised concerns that the State Government had lost interest in renewable energy. "It makes a complete mockery of the fact that in the last week of Rann being premier, he released a new renewable statement for South Australia", said Mr Marshall. "It's clear the new Premier has no interest in this sector whatsoever".