Saturday 24 March 2012

SA wind power nearly nine times national rate
19 Mar 2012

A report says more than one quarter of South Australia's electricity generation is now wind-powered. The EnergyQuest report says wind power generated 26% of SA electricity last year, compared with 3% nationally. EnergyQuest chief executive Graeme Bethune said SA had become one of the highest users of wind power in the world. He said more wind farms were in the planning. "There's been an extraordinary growth in wind power in South Australia over the last five years. Five years ago it was less than 1%, in 2011 it hit 26% of power generation", he said. Mr Bethune said Victoria and Tasmania had the next highest levels of wind power generation.

A silver tree for solar PV photosynthesis
17 Mar 2012

For years the energy industry was all about overpowering nature, outsmarting nature, beating nature. But the last decade or so of realizations about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions has led the energy industry right back to the laws and wisdom of nature. Now some engineers are looking at trees-which naturally absorb sunlight to create energy-for wisdom on how to build the most efficient solar panel. They are most interested in how to reduce the amount of silver in solar cells, a commodity whose price is increasingly volatile and expensive.

All silicon-based solar photovolatic (PV) panels use a silver-based paste for the panel's contact grid, using around 0.10 grams of silver for each watt of generating capacity, or about 20 grams of silver in a 200-watt panel, according to New Energy Finance. According to Bloomberg online, the solar PV industry consumes around 11% of the world's silver supply, with the cost of silver quickly rising from $20.24/ounce in 2010 to $35.30 in mid-2011.

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Fuel Cell Energy
15 Mar 2012

Hydrogen fueling stations--they're coming: Two key players in the hydrogen manufacturing arena will be working together to make hydrogen fueling stations a reality for the fuel-cell vehicles that should be coming to market in the second half of this decade.

Air Products and FuelCell Energy have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to market stationary Direct Fuel Cell (DFC) power plants. These systems, manufactured by FuelCell Energy, are designed to take natural gas or renewable biogas and produce hydrogen, electricity, and heat.

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Wednesday 21 March 2012

EON to cut costs of building offshore wind farms 40% by 2015
14 Mar 2012

E.ON AG (EOAN), Germany's biggest utility, expects to cut costs for building offshore wind farms about 40% by 2015 as it embarks on a 7 billion-euro ($9 billion) renewable energy expansion plan. E.ON, which today said that 2011 profit slumped 50% in part on the German nuclear exit and lower earnings from its power generation and wholesale gas business, will commission as much as 800 MWs of renewable capacity this year, Chief Executive Officer Johannes Teyssen said in Dusseldorf. "Renewables are a mainstay of our corporate strategy, and wind power in particular is one of our growth businesses", Teyssen said at company headquarters.

The utility plans to invest 7 billion euros to expand its clean-energy generation capacity in the next five years as German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to shut the country's nuclear power reactors by 2022 after Japan's disaster. E.ON seeks to build wind farms off the UK, Scandinavia and German coastlines, including the 1-billion euro Amrumbank West project in the North Sea that Siemens AG (SIE), Europe's largest engineering company, will supply with 80 of its wind turbines. "We intend to commission a new offshore wind farm every 18 months", Teyssen said.

E.ON at the end of last year owned about 9 GWs of renewable generation capacity, 4.8 GWs of which were hydroelectric stations. The utility's renewable energy unit saw earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rise 21% to 1.5 billion euros as more wind turbines were installed.

Finance heavyweights throw support behind Clean Energy Finance Corporation
15 Mar 2012

A Deloitte study of over 40 senior executives from Australian banks, super funds, venture capital firms and major investors has found overwhelming support for future investment through a well designed Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), according to the Clean Energy Council. The $10 billion CEFC was announced as part of the Federal Government's carbon price package in 2011 and is a way of providing funding for new clean energy technologies such as large scale solar, wave energy and geothermal energy.

Those interviewed indicated that the CEFC should ideally "act as a co-investor to help unlock capital from large institutional investors, major banks and international markets". Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the $10 billion CEFC would help to overcome the "fear of the unknown" faced by new technologies when they were seeking investors.

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Hydrogen power in real life: Clean and energy efficient

ScienceDaily (Mar. 13, 2012)--Since 2009, a hydrogen powered street cleaning vehicle has been undergoing testing on the streets of Basel. The project is intended to take hydrogen drives out of the laboratory and onto the streets in order to gain experience on using them under practical conditions. The result of the pilot trial: hydrogen as a fuel for municipal utility vehicles saves energy, is environmentally friendly and is technically feasible. In order to make it cost-effective, however, the prices of fuel-cells, pressurized storage tanks and electric drives must all drop significantly.

To develop a prototype and then test it right away under everyday conditions of use is not an easy undertaking, and setbacks are practically preprogrammed. The hydrogen powered street cleaning vehicle, which took about 18 months to develop and began trials in Basel in 2009, is no exception. "It became clear relatively quickly that the fuel-cell system, which had been developed as a one-of specially for the project, was not yet ready for use in a real-life setting", explains project leader Christian Bach, head of Empa's Internal Combustion Engines Laboratory. "On top of that, the various safety systems kept interfering with each other and bringing everything to a halt".

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Tuesday 20 March 2012

Texas sets wind power records with new grid analysis
9 Mar 2012

  • Texas leads nation in wind generating capacity
  • Wind accounted for 8.5 pct of 2011 power output
  • Coastal wind farms grow to 21 pct of total capacity

(US) HOUSTON, March 9 (Reuters)-Texas set new records for wind-power output this week using a new transmission analysis tool that allows more wind to flow on power lines from west Texas to power-consuming cities hundreds of miles away, the state grid operator said. The amount of electricity produced from wind on Wednesday evening set a record at 7,599 MWs, up 196 MW from the previous day, which eked past a 7,400- MW record set last October, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said in a statement.

On Wednesday night, electricity was being produced by more than 77% of the 9,838 MW of ERCOT's installed wind capacity, well above the average 30 to 40% of nameplate electric capacity that wind farms typically produce. "March is typically a high-wind month for ERCOT, but these new records are also due in part to a new transmission analysis tool we started using this week that allows us to move more wind power from the west zone", said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT's director of grid operations and system planning.

ERCOT began using a new tool this week to calculate day-ahead and real-time limits on power lines from west Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "The new tool runs an analysis on real-time conditions every 30 minutes so it gives us a more fine-tuned analysis", Saathoff said. With more than 9,800 MW, Texas leads the nation in carbon-free electric capacity from wind turbines. More than 7,500 MW are located in west Texas, where the wind generally blows the strongest during the evening hours and in the spring and fall months when power demand is low.

Recent wind farm additions, now totaling nearly 2,100 MW, or 21%, have been built closer to the Texas coast, south of Corpus Christi where wind patterns differ from west Texas. About 13% of the record 7,599 MW produced March 7 came from the coastal wind farms, ERCOT said. At the time of the latest record, wind generation accounted for 22% of the power demand of 34,318 MW, the grid agency said. ERCOT added 9 MW of coastal wind generation in February with the addition of the Harbor Wind facility in Nueces County.

Duke Energy's renewable unit expects to add 402 MW at its coastal wind project in Willacy County by late 2012. wind farms expanded rapidly in Texas until 2009 when production began to overwhelm the existing transmission capacity available to move the power from remote areas of west Texas to large cities-such as Dallas and San Antonio-that consume the power. Texas is building more than 2,300 miles (3,700 km) of high-voltage transmission in a $6.5 billion plan to expand the grid by late 2013 to accommodate wind farm growth of up to 18,500 MW. Current wind farm construction has slowed and a number of projects were canceled. Developers are studying the addition of 18,000 MW of wind in Texas, down from 34,000 MW of wind last fall.

Algonquin to buy Spanish co's U.S. wind farms for $888 million
9 Mar 2012

(Reuters)-Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp (AQN.TO) will buy a 480 MW portfolio of U.S, wind power projects from Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa (GAM.MC) for $888 million to gain a significant foothold in the country's wind power market. The United States, once the world's top wind power market, ceded the mantle to China in 2010 as a weak economy halted growth, but business has picked up since the middle of last year.

The global wind power capacity will more than double to 450 GWs in 2015 from 194.4 GWs at the end of 2010, according to a Global Wind Energy Council forecast. The Canadian company, which operates a portfolio of more than $1.2 billion of renewable energy assets in North America, had tripped on some of its earlier buyout attempts. It had to bow out of the deal to buy a stake in US-based wind farm operator First Wind Holdings earlier this year, while late last year Western Wind Energy (WND.V) asked shareholders to snub Algonquin's "low-ball" offer.

The company said the portfolio it was buying from Gamesa consisted of four facilities--Minonk, Senate, Pocahontas Prairie and Sandy Ridge, in the states of Illinois, Texas, Iowa and Pennsylvania, respectively. "If you look at the footprint of these generating stations, they are located sort of outside our existing footprint and so, we will get the benefit of further diversification", Chief Executive Ian Robertson said on a conference call.

The company expects the total annual production from the four facilities to be 1,644 GW-hours per year. "I think this (deal) moves them pretty far down the field in terms of expanding on power development projects", analyst Ian Tharp of CIBC World Markets told Reuters. "On the face of it, 480 MWs at $888 million comes out to $1.85 million a MW", Tharp said. "It looks quite good". The acquisition doubles Algonquin's independent power generation portfolio, the CEO said.

In a similar US-focused deal last month, independent power producer Atlantic Power Corp (ATP.TO) acquired a majority stake in Canadian Hills LLC, which owns a 300 MWs wind power project in Oklahoma.

Gamesa Contract
Algonquin said the four projects have a 20-year contract with Gamesa to provide operations, warranty and maintenance services for the wind turbines. "Only about 73% of the revenue from these projects is under long-term contract, so there is still some merchant risk--which means you are selling power in the real time or day-ahead power markets--in these contracts that Algonquin will need to manage over time", CIBC's Tharp said. The company, which last month entered into a 25-year power purchase agreement with Saskatchewan Power Corp for its upcoming 177 MW Chaplin Wind project, plans to finance its investment with about 45% debt and 55% equity.

The projects will be acquired through American Wind Portfolio Holdings LLC, a newly formed partnership in which Algonquin holds 51% interest and Gamesa 49%. Gamesa said the sale would add $35 million to earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), excluding operation and maintenance. TD Securities was adviser to Algonquin, which reported a 63% drop in fourth-quarter adjusted profit late on Thursday.

Germany researching lithium battery technology
8 Mar 2012

This month, the German Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum is launching a research project to develop an aqueous lithium battery. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be supporting the study with approximately $1.9 million in funding over a five-year period. The team's goals are to produce a lithium storage format that will deliver high-energy density at an economically viable cost, and to develop batteries suitable for electric power grid applications.

Typically, lithium batteries are based on organic solvents and are used in laptop computers and other portable devices. Overall the demand for batteries currently represents almost 30% of total global demand for lithium. Lithium has not yet been used as a storage format in power supply systems because at present lithium batteries are considered relatively expensive and potentially unsafe, with risks including short circuits due to rapid overheating.

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Something in the air: time for independent testing in coal areas
9 Mar 2012

Tens of thousands of Australians live and work close to coal-fired power plants. The cocktail of gaseous and particulate pollutants arising from coal power generation is injurious to human health. All are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the days after exposure and subsequently with the development of chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.

A recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia details the mechanisms of these health impacts, reviews their inadequate documentation in Australia and the lack of political will to address them. Here we summarise some of these findings and document inadequate action in communities from three states.

What is in the air?
We know from the Australian National Pollutant Inventory that there is considerable pollution from coal-related sources, for example in New South Wales coal mines and coal fired power stations are among the state's biggest polluters.

However, there are insufficient data from areas where people live to know the extent of the impact of this pollution on people on a daily basis. This is an obvious deficiency. In the Hunter Valley, some of the affected areas have higher rates of hospital admissions and emergency department presentations for respiratory diseases than the state average, but only for some age groups and some conditions. As noted in a report from NSW Health, just relying on hospital data is insufficient to really ascertain the health impacts of coal mining and burning in the region.

The two main gaseous pollutants of concern are sulphur and nitrogen dioxides. Most coal-fired power stations have been modified to reduce their level but some-such as Bayswater in NSW and Hazelwood in Victoria-are significant emitters of both gases. The level of sulphur dioxide (a strong respiratory irritant) in coal-fired power station emissions also depends on the amount of sulphur in the coal source, which varies considerably.

Of great concern among harmful pollutants are the particulates that are too small to see. Particles from the smoke stacks are inhaled into the lungs during breathing. The smaller the particles the deeper they penetrate. Some lodge in the lining of the lungs and cause inflammation.

The smaller particles pass through the lining to enter the blood stream and cause disease, predominantly inflammation of blood vessels leading to obstruction in other parts of the body such as, for example, the brain, causing stroke. The particles are made up of carbon and a range of toxic substances, including sulphur and nitrogen oxides. Some of these may be carcinogens.

There is no safe level for particulate pollution. The burden of disease is proportional to the level of exposure. These findings are the same in all communities throughout the world.

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