Friday 27 April 2012

Ministers planning 'hidden subsidies' for nuclear power
20 Apr 2012

Ministers are planning to subsidise nuclear power through electricity bills-despite their promises not to, a secret document seen by the Guardian reveals. The leaked document clearly lays out plans to use "contracts for difference" for nuclear power, which would allow nuclear operators to reap higher prices for their energy than fossil fuel power stations. The plans will further inflame rows over energy policy and cause a political furore for the Liberal Democrats, who fought the general election firmly opposing an expansion of nuclear power.

Fiona Hall, leader of the Lib Dem group in the European parliament with a special interest in energy, said she now had no doubt that the contract for difference was a subsidy. "Industry on all sides believe this is a subsidy". She wants the UK court of auditors as well as the European commission to give a legal ruling on the issue and believes any subsidy runs against the coalition agreement. In a blog posted on the Liberal Democrat Voice website she calls on fellow party members to "speak out" against nuclear subsidies.

The issue is a key one for many Lib Dem supporters and has acquired even greater resonance since the Fukushima disaster and the withdrawal from nuclear of countries such as Germany and Italy. Green campaigners believe the Lib Dems have been persuaded into allowing higher energy bills to flow into increased profits for nuclear companies by a sleight of hand that lets ministers disguise nuclear subsidies as support for "low-carbon power".

The Guardian has also seen a presentation made by Scottish & Southern Energy to MPs last month, saying the plans contain "hidden subsidies", will be open to challenge on legal grounds, and could "mess up" funding for renewables. Hall commented: "I have not seen the SSE presentation but even the nuclear industry accepts this is a covert subsidy".

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Hydrogenics joins Enbridge in developing utility-scale energy storage
23 Apr 2012

MISSISSAUGA, Ont.-Hydrogenics Corp. and pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. have announced a joint venture to develop utility-scale energy storage in North America. The agreement, which includes a $5 million equity investment in the hydrogen generation company by Enbridge, brings together Hydrogenics' expertise in water electrolysis with Enbridge's expertise in natural gas pipeline networks and renewable energy generation.

Under the program, hydrogen produced during periods of excess renewable generation will be injected into Enbridge's existing natural gas pipeline network, proportionally increasing the renewable energy content in natural gas pipelines for essentially the operating cost of the electrolyzer. "Small quantities of hydrogen can be manageable in existing natural gas pipeline networks", the companies said in a joint release. "With the significant scale of the natural gas pipeline network, these same quantities of hydrogen have a very meaningful impact on electricity energy storage potential".

The collaboration between Hydrogenics and Enbridge will initially focus on the deployment of utility-scale energy storage in Ontario, with the opportunity to expand into Enbridge's operations elsewhere. "This clean energy solution establishes a bridge between the electricity and natural gas networks to bring seasonal storage capabilities to electricity networks", Enbridge spokesman Chuck Szmurlo said in a release. "This is another example of how Enbridge is investing in alternative energy technologies that complement our pipeline businesses while contributing to our growth in renewable and clean energy", said Szmurlo, vice-president of alternative and emerging technology.

Hydrogenics president and CEO Daryl Wilson said the two companies look forward to advancing the commercialization of hydrogen energy storage solutions that have GW-hour potential for electricity storage. "With distinct advantages over conventional energy storage methods, the hydrogen solution provides unrivalled energy storage capacity and application flexibility to meet the growing need for energy storage by North America's electricity grid operators".

Enbridge, with some 6,900 employees, operates the world's biggest crude oil and liquids transportation system with pipelines across North America and is Canada's largest natural gas distribution company with operations in Ontario, Quebec and New York state. It also has a significant and growing involvement in natural gas gathering and midstream businesses, and an increasing involvement in power transmission and has interests in close to 1,000 MWs of renewable and alternative energy generating capacity.

Majority in UK accept wind turbines on landscape-poll
19 Apr 2012

  • Two thirds of respondents favour wind power
  • Majority says look of wind turbines acceptable
  • Vocal minority still an obstacle for expansion

(Reuters)-A majority of British people accept the look of wind turbines on the landscape and around two thirds favour wind power as an energy source, a sample of over 1,000 adults surveyed across the United Kingdom showed. Onshore wind is the least costly source of low-carbon energy, but a minority opposed to the look of turbines has slowed its development and raises costs for the UK to achieve its climate targets, a spokesman for RenewableUK said.

"Opposition to wind farms is the reserve of a relatively very small, but a very noisy and vociferous minority that is causing more difficulties at a local level", said Adam Bell of the wind and marine power lobby group, which had commissioned market research group Ipsos MORI to conduct the survey. "What this poll shows is that there is a silent majority in favour of wind power and a silent majority that (accepts) the look of wind turbines", he said, noting a number of onshore wind farm projects have been facing difficulties in getting approval.

In the online survey, respondents aged 16 64 were asked to rate the level of acceptability of the look of wind farms on the landscape on a 10 point scale ranging from completely unacceptable (1) to completely acceptable (10). Fifty-seven% of the 1,009 respondents gave a score between seven and 10, while one in six gave scores between one and four. Two in 10 were neutral, while 4% did not know. The survey results were similar to a renewable energy survey carried out late last year by online research firm YouGov, suggesting opposition to wind is often localised to particular projects and does not reflect wider public opinion.

The UK has one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world, with a 2050 goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. It has set legally binding targets for four five-year periods to 2027, known as carbon budgets. Britain also has a 2020 target to deliver 15% of the country's energy consumption from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, marine and biomass. Data from the UK's Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DECC) suggests installed onshore wind capacity could grow to 13 GWs by the end of the decade from just over 4 GW in operation today.

But the government may have to turn to other, more expensive renewable sources if the vocal minority opposed to the erection of more onshore turbines succeeds in blocking development. "The less onshore wind you deploy, the more expensive technologies you will have to deploy instead which just increases the cost of going green", Bell said. The cost of electricity generated from onshore wind ranges between ₤75-₤127 ($120 $200) per MW, according to DECC, citing 2010 data. By comparison, the cost of solar ranges between ₤202-₤380 pounds/ MW, offshore wind ₤149-₤191/ MW and dedicated biomass ₤127-₤165 pounds/ MW.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Moyne Shire 'lucky' to have boom
19 Apr 2012

The chairman of Rural Councils Victoria, Ken Gale, says the Moyne Shire, in the state's south-west, is experiencing a boom. The organisation is hosting the annual Rural Summit in Port Fairy. Councillor Gale is also a councillor on the Moyne Shire and says it has been blessed with large industrial developments while other small municipalities are struggling. He says gas and renewable energy developments are driving growth.

"We're very lucky here, we've got very low unemployment, we're in an excellent situation, we've got the wind farms, the power companies are setting up a range of projects throughout the shire", he said. "I think there's something like 17 projects on the go at the moment, so we're very lucky that we've got that to boost our economy".

He says most rural councils have a small rate base and need help. "We want them to really survive and thrive", he said. "They're doing an excellent job but they need a really big boost I believe from the Federal Government. "I don't think there's a lot of money around, state or federally, so we'll just have to wait and see but I would urge,.. mainly the Federal Government, to look at our smaller municipalities".

Vestas to install research wind turbine at Sandia facility in Texas
18 Apr 2012

The initial phase of Sandia National Laboratories' Scaled Wind Farm Technology facility (SWIFT), currently being constructed in partnership with Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, will be a little bigger than originally planned. Leading wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems will add its own 300 kW, V27 research turbine to the two Sandia National Laboratories V27 research turbines. The Labs worked with Vestas Wind Systems to develop the new three-turbine site plan, uniquely tailored to study turbine-to-turbine interactions. Sandia National Laboratories and Vestas Wind Systems will conduct collaborative research with all three turbines, although each turbine can also be used separately with minimal interaction.

"The Lubbock site benefits from high wind resource and low turbulence, which is ideal for research", said Jon White, project manager and researcher in Sandia National Laboratories's Wind Energy Technologies group. "Wind at the site comes predominately from the south, making it easy to set up the turbine array for research on turbine-to-turbine interactions". The SWIFT concept reflects a shared emphasis amongst the partners on lowering the cost of wind power by maximising the output of a wind power plant rather than a single turbine.

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CEFC review to fast-track transition to low cost clean energy
17 Apr 2012

The clean energy industry today welcomed the report on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation delivered to the Federal Government by the independent Expert Review Panel led by Reserve Bank Board Member Jillian Broadbent. Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton congratulated the panel on recognising the importance of developing our clean energy future, to insure Australia against rising energy prices in years to come.

"Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world. Taking advantage of those through the CEFC can attract a massive amount of investment into clean energy and develop a range of technologies that will enable us to deliver low cost clean energy in a carbon-constrained world", Mr Thornton said. "We are encouraged by the review's understanding of the challenges our industry must overcome to develop new clean energy technologies such as wave energy, geothermal and large scale solar power.

"The report reveals a strong understanding of the complexities involved in providing support for new technologies, while not distorting the existing markets for proven clean energy sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric. The panel's recognition of the need for the CEFC to work in tandem with the Renewable Energy Target and a carbon price reflect a mature understanding of Australia's energy landscape. "The recognition that flexibility is required in assessing funding opportunities on a case-by-case basis is particularly important, as well as the independence from government that will ensure only the best projects receive investment support.

"This includes remaining open minded about investments in transmission, energy storage and the potential to aggregate smaller-including community owned-clean energy projects", he said. Mr Thornton said there had not been any form of electricity generation technology developed in Australia without significant government support. "The current challenge of developing new forms of energy technology is not unique to the clean energy sector, and other technologies such as coal and gas generation have enjoyed decades of public support to get to where they are today", said Mr Thornton. "Some level of government support is warranted when long-term investments requiring large amounts of capital are needed to kick-start promising first-of-kind technologies.

"Investment in an institution like the CEFC is all the more worthwhile given the risk to our economy if we put all our faith in fossil fuel-based technologies whose costs are increasing. The CEFC will help rapidly bring down the costs of the next generation of clean energy technologies for all energy users". The Clean Energy Council is now calling for the Australian Parliament to legislate the CEFC as a matter of urgency to allow the industry and investors to get on with the job of transforming Australia's electricity sector.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Ex-Corangamite mayor takes on Macarthur wind farm role
18 Apr 2012

FORMER Corangamite Shire mayor Brendan Ryan has been appointed AGL Energy's Victorian wind farm operations manager to oversee operations at Macarthur and Glenthompson. Mr Ryan will be based at the Macarthur wind farm, but will also manage AGL Energy's Oaklands wind farm near Glenthompson. He said he was excited to take a lead role in a large scale development, while still working in a rural setting. Mr Ryan has worked in the wind power sector for eight years, working as a technician at the Yambuk wind farm and also working on five projects in South Australia, including AGL Energy's Hallett wind farms and the Snowtown wind farm which have combined project costs of more than $1 billion.

The former Corangamite Shire mayor and Camperdown electrician said he had witnessed the benefits the wind industry could provide regional areas. "From my experience in drought-stricken South Australia, the wind farms stimulated the community's retail income and generated employment", he said. "I know many local workers who would have been forced to leave their home district to find work elsewhere, but have instead become long-term employees in the emerging wind industry". Mr Ryan's new role will include inspecting wind turbines 90 metres above the ground, meeting with local government and community representatives and discussing permit compliance and potential community funding opportunities.

Future of Japan's nuclear energy uncertain
16 Apr 2012

TOKYO, April 16 (UPI), None of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors will be in operation as of May 6, as the country's last reactor operating is to go offline for maintenance, Japanese Trade Minister Yukio Edano said. The bulk of Japan's reactors, excluding the No. 3 Tomari reactor in Hokkaido scheduled to be shut down May 5 for maintenance, were taken offline for scheduled checkups but have stayed offline due to safety concerns sparked by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

Although the May 5 Tomari shutdown means that nuclear power in Japan "will be zero from May 6 momentarily", Edano said in a speech Sunday in Tokushima that Japan will eventually reduce its reliance on nuclear power "to zero permanently", Kyodo news reports. The Tomari shutdown will mark the first time that Japan would be without nuclear power production since 1966, when the country's first reactor began operation. Prior to the Fukushima crisis, nuclear power provided 30% of Japan's electricity.

Edano's comments came as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration has been seeking local approval to restart the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. While Edano on Sunday called for support for the reactivation of the Oi reactors to avoid power shortages in the near future, he maintained, "We will realistically and steadily reduce the number of nuclear reactors through a process that would not cause concerns or confusion in society while thoroughly examining their safety".

At a parliamentary committee meeting Friday, Edano said that even if the two Kansai reactors are restarted, the utility's service territory, including Osaka, could face electricity shortages during summer heat waves, particularly with increased air conditioner use. "I have to say we are facing the risk of a very severe electricity shortage", Edano told reporters. But the momentum to restart Japan's reactors is losing ground as time passes, particularly if Japan and its economy emerge relatively unscathed from a nuclear power-free summer.

As for the decision to restart other nuclear reactors, the government plans to make those on a case-by-case basis. "Each time, we will make a decision based on safety and necessity", Edano said at a news conference Friday, noting that restarting the Oi reactors would not automatically open the door for reactors at other plants to be restarted. Platts news service cited industry sources as saying that Japan could see restarts of several of the country's nuclear reactors this year, yet they say most of the total nuclear capacity of 48.96 GWs is expected to remain shut because of safety concerns.

WA farms for solar power
17 Apr 2012

Utilities will use renewable energy generated from a solar panel installation at Greenough River solar farm through a public and private joint venture. The Western Australian Water Corporation will purchase 100% of the sustainable energy generated by the 10 MW farm to offset the requirements of the Southern Seawater desalination Plant near Binningup. As a joint venture between Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services, the Western Australian Government has committed $20 million to the project, including $10 million from the Royalties for Regions Program and the Public Utilities Office.

According to a release from Verve Energy, the two companies each own 50% of the facility and no debt has been raised to fund the project. Installation of above ground electrical works and structural elements supporting the panels has been the focus of the construction since November 2011. Photovoltaic module (PV) manufacturer, FirstSolar will supply more than 150000 of its thin film PV modules to the facility. Additionally, FirstSolar will supply operations and maintenance support, engineering, procurement and construction services once the solar farm is operational. Minister for Energy, Peter Collier said the Greenough River solar farm will generate enough electricity for 3000 average homes while displacing 20000 tonnes of greenhouse gas each year.

"The demonstration of this proven technology in WA on a commercial scale should encourage the development of larger projects and reduce renewable energy costs in the medium to long term", Mr Collier said. FirstSolar vice president business development and sales, Jack Curtis said FirstSolar's panels will produce electricity with no water use, waste production or CO₂ emissions. According to the WA Government, the City of Geraldton will generate millions of dollars for the local economy from the employment of local contractors as well as sourcing of products. The solar farm 50 km south of Geraldton is expected to open in July/August 2012.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

EU’s ‘Recession-Busting’ wind industry set to triple in value
16 Apr 2012

The European Union's "recession-busting" wind power industry is forecast to triple in value as its labor force doubles in the 10 years through 2020, the European Wind Energy Association said.

The contribution of the wind industry to the economy of the 27 nation EU will rise to 94.5 billion euros ($123 billion) in 2020 from 32.4 billion euros in 2010, the lobby group, known as EWEA, said today in a report published in Copenhagen at the start of its annual conference. Jobs supported by the industry will jump to 520,000 from 238,154, it said. "Wind energy is a recession-busting industry", EWEA President Arthouros Zervos said in a statement. It is "providing increasing economic activity, more jobs and exports every year to an EU struggling with an economic crisis intensified by ever-increasing amounts of fuel being imported at rising costs".

The EU is chasing a target of getting 20% of all energy for power, heating and transport from renewables by 2020. The contribution of the wind industry to EU economic output increased by a third in 2010 from 2007, according to today's report. EWEA said Feb. 6 that wind power capacity expanded more than 10% last year with 21% of the bloc's new power capacity coming from wind.

Even so, the industry has struggled in recent months amid increased competition, and as European governments work to rein in budget deficits. Spain, with just under a quarter of the EU's wind farms, in January suspended subsidies to new developments. In its February report, EWEA said investment in the industry was unchanged at about 12.6 billion euros in 2011. EWEA called for "stable national renewable energy frameworks" and a joined up European power grid to spur the industry further as well as a target to cut greenhouse gases in the bloc by 30% for the 30 years through 2020, up from the current goal of a 20% reduction.

The continent's two biggest turbine makers, Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) and Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA (GAM) of Zamudio, Spain, have both shed more than 60% of their value in the past year as competition from China helped crimp margins. Navigant Consulting Inc.'s BTM Consult said March 26 that they were the biggest and fourth-largest turbine makers by market share in 2011.

The industry now contributes 0.26% of European economic output, according to today's report. By 2020, wind power will contribute 0.59% of EU economic output, rising to almost 1% a decade later, it said. Net exports for wind totalled 5.7 billion euros in 2010, and the industry saved the bloc an identical amount in fossil fuel bills, according to the report. EWEA included wind farm developers, turbine makers and component manufacturers in its study, as well as jobs and economic output relating to transportation of the turbines, and the electronics and metals used in them.

Historic solar farm transforms WA landscape
12 Apr 2012

WA's historic solar power farm will soon be glistening in the outback, with the first panel installed today. In what will be the largest solar power generator in the country, the farm will house 150,000 panels across 80 hectares, creating a remarkable sight and producing an environmental feat. The 10 MW Greenough River solar farm is being built 50 km south of Geraldton, with 100 construction jobs created.

It is expected to generate enough electricity for 3,000 average homes while displacing 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas each year-the equivalent of taking 4000 vehicles off the road. The state government has contributed $10 million to the joint venture between WA electricity generator Verve Energy and private companies FirstSolar and GE Energy Financial Services. Minister for Energy Peter Collier said the project would be a major source of renewable energy and a benchmark example of how solar power could be farmed and distributed to the wider community and industry.

"No other jurisdiction in Australia has done what we are doing here in the Mid West region of Western Australia", he said. "There is an appetite for solar power and an expectation that governments and electricity generators like Verve Energy will build solar farms and other renewable energy projects". Australian Solar Energy Society chief executive John Grimes said the farm was groundbreaking.

"[It's] a window into Australia's solar future", he said. "Big solar makes sense in the Mid West. The region's enormous appetite for energy is matched by some of the best sunshine in the world. "Solar increasingly makes economic sense in the Mid West, with a dramatic fall in the price of solar PV countering a significant rise in the cost of electricity". Mr Grimes said there was no reason why solar could not provide a significant amount of Austral's electricity needs by 2020, particularly with the introduction of the carbon tax from July 1 and the national 20% renewable energy target.

Verve sheds light on 'clean, green' solar farm
13 Apr 2012

The first of 150,000 panels needed to run Australia's largest solar farm, which will power a south-west Western Australian desalination plant, have been installed at its site in the mid-west. The Minister for Energy, Peter Collier, attended the ceremony at the $50 million Greenough River solar farm to lay down the first two panels. The project, about 50 km south-east of Geraldton, was financed by Verve Energy and GE Energy, as well as a contribution from the State Government's Royalties for Regions fund.

One-hundred% of the energy it produces will be used to power the Binningup desalination plant in Bunbury. However, Verve Energy's Tony Narvaez says local businesses and community members will benefit from the economic and environmental opportunities the project provides. "What it will provide for Geraldton is a number of jobs but more importantly a lead into new technology and building up your skill set to ensure you can work off that technology and experience for future expansions", he said.

He says although no energy will be generated for the mid-west at this stage, there is a potential for future expansion. "That will create, clearly, some jobs and other levels of expertise in moving the scale from 10 MWs to 40 MWs and that energy could go anywhere", he said. "The first 10 MWs is being contracted to the Water Corporation, the next 40 could be contracted to anyone". Mr Collier says the Greenough River solar farm is just the start of a multi-faceted approach to meeting the energy needs of the mid-west.

He says the Government will continue to invest in renewable energy projects in the region. "In terms of energy projects, the mid-west is a magnificent opportunity place", he said. "You've got an abundance of wind, you've got an abundance of sun, you've got an abundance of potential with geothermal, you have an abundance of potential with wave.

"So as far as I'm concerned and as far as the Government is concerned,.. we'll continue to invest in the mid-west region to ensure those opportunities are fulfilled. "This is just the start of much more,.. I can say the best is yet to come in terms of the energy needs of the mid-west. "It is a very symbolic gesture, it is 10 MWs of clean, green energy for the future and as I said it really is the start of a multi-faceted approach to renewable energy for the mid-west and for Western Australia as a whole".