Tuesday 3 July 2012

How boat engineering is keeping hydrogen power hopes buoyant

28 Jun 2012

The Ross Barlow looks like a traditional canal barge, built 100 years ago to be drawn by a horse, travelling at the same speed as modern diesel engine vessels. However the 18 metre boat is one of the most technically advanced in the world. Silent and greenhouse gas-emission free, it can cruise the canals for at least a week on a minimum of fuel. The brainchild of Prof Rex Harris of University of Birmingham's school of engineering is a hydrogen-powered craft, and this week has been one of the stars of a convention in Birmingham that is bringing together key people in the race to find low-carbon transport fuels for ships.

The hydrogen on the Ross Barlow is stored onboard in a large-scale metal hydride storage system, which can handle large amounts of hydrogen at room temperature. The hydrogen is released by decreasing the pressure to feed the barge's fuel-cell (an electric battery, in effect). According to Harris, boats are better placed than cars to run on clean hydrogen because the weight of the heavy tank that stores the fuel is immaterial and can replace ballast. "They are at the cutting edge of the hydrogen fuel revolution", he says. "It is widely recognised that the world has only a few years to meet the urgent challenges of climate change and oil depletion".

Longer terms aims of the University of Birmingham project include the development of a canal-side hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, and to generate hydrogen from renewable sources of electricity on suitable sites throughout the canal network. Elsewhere, two British ferry companies are now developing hybrid hydrogen-powered boats, for the Scottish isles and Bristol, but the biggest practical advances in the nascent technology are coming from mainland European countries. Germany and Greece both have hydrogen fuel-cell-driven submarines, Turkish students at Istanbul Technical University have built a ferry, a hydrogen-powered boat cruises the Amsterdam canals and there are advanced plans for ocean-going hydrogen container vessels.

The increasing price of diesel fuel, the need to reduce carbon emissions, and the soaring cost for railway electrification is also boosting research into a new breed of hydrogen railway trains. Coincidentally, scientists working on hydrogen trains around the world will also meet in Birmingham next week. The first hydrogen-powered locomotive was built for a mine in Canada in 2002 and in the past 10 years, fuell cell trains have been developed in Taiwan, Japan, South Africa, Spain and Denmark with more others planned for China. The state-owned Spanish railway company has demonstrated a "hydrail tram", and has announced that it will launch Europe's first hydrail train later this year.

Goldwind sells its Australian wind farm to CGN Energy

28 Jun 2012

(Reuters)-China's Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co said it has sold its 19.5 MW Mortons Lane wind farm in Australia to CGN Wind Energy Ltd, a unit of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group. Goldwind Science & Technology Co, China's second-biggest wind turbine maker, also secured a power purchase agreement and the installation of the first Goldwind Science & Technology Co turbines in Australia through the project, it said in an email to Reuters on Thursday. The Morton's Lane project, in Western Victoria, will use 13 Goldwind Science & Technology Co wind turbines, each generating 1.5 MW of electricity.

Goldwind Science & Technology Co Australia has its own project management team overseeing the construction of the Mortons Lane project. "Goldwind Science & Technology Co is very pleased that CGNWE has invested in Mortons Lane wind farm-Goldwind Science & Technology Co's first Australian project. This project has been developed due to the support of the Australian Government's renewable energy target", said Goldwind Science & Technology Co Australia Managing Director Mr. John Titchen in the statement.

Goldwind Science & Technology Co did not disclose the value of the deal. Goldwind Science & Technology Co's first-quarter net profit fell 97% due to weak wind turbine prices and increased market competition. After the deal, Mortons Lane wind farm would become CGNWE's first Australian renewable energy project.

GPA signs 25-year contract for solar farm

28 Jun 2012

The Guam Power Authority signed a 25 year contract with Quantum Guam Power for a solar farm at a signing ceremony at GPA headquarters yesterday. It is the first renewable energy contract GPA has signed. The project costs about $95 million and will be located near the Layon Landfill in Inarajan. The solar farm will harness the energy from the sun through solar photovoltaic cells. It will produce about 20 MWs a year, enough to power 1,700 homes. The 25 year contract has terms that guarantee energy production and a fixed price per contract year.

Public Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez said it was the first big step for renewable energy on Guam. "We're using an energy source that will always be here", Sanchez said. He said instead of sending money off island to fuel refineries in Singapore for oil to run GPA power plants, the money saved through the solar farm project will stay on Guam. "There's about $300 million dollars leaving Guam every year", Sanchez said of GPA's annual purchase of fossil fuel. With solar, part of that money can be going to the local economy, he added.

Consolidated Utility Services General Manager John Benavente said this could create jobs for local residents. "This is monumental since we can convert (what would otherwise be spent on oil) into jobs", Benavente said. GPA General Manager Joaquin Flores said it took more than a year to finalize the contract. "We are here today and this really will make Guam a better place", Flores said. The new solar farm would help stimulate the economy, Flores said.

Flores and Quantum Guam Power Chief Development Officer Dirk Straussfeld signed the contract, as their audience applauded. After the ceremony, Sanchez said the project wouldn't reduce the price of power right away, but in the long term, it will help keep costs down. "This is guaranteed energy at a fixed price unlike oil, which can go up at anytime", Sanchez said. There will be other solar power projects in the future and wind power projects as well, he said. The utility's goal is to have 5% of power coming from renewable energy within five years. The long-term aim is to have 20% renewable.

Public law has set goals for 8% of net sales to come from renewable energy by 2020, 10% by 2025, and 25% by 2035, Pacific Daily News files show. Flores explained that the move to renewable energy only made sense since many other utilities have other energy sources. "There were financial issues in regards to our lenders. There were concerns that we are totally reliant on fossil fuels, but now we're moving forward", Flores said.

Straussfeld said his company has much experience in renewable energy and will be a great partner with GPA. "We come with the know-how and our business is based on working with utilities providing this service", Straussfeld said. The company won the bid last May and has gone through a long process to get the 25 year contract right for both parties. "We wanted to make sure that everyone is committed", Straussfeld said.

Monday 2 July 2012

IKEA to only use renewable electricity generated by its own wind turbines in Sweden

27 Jun 2012

SWEDEN, Jun. 27 As a step towards using only energy from renewable sources in its global operations, IKEA Group is investing in a new wind farm with 30 wind turbines on Gloetesvalen, a mountain in Haerjedalen, Sweden. This is one of the largest investments to date in a wind power project in the Nordic countries and one of the largest land-based wind power project that work has started on so far in Europe during 2012.

The IKEA Group currently has around the world 96 wind turbines in operation or under construction, including nine in Sweden. This new investment will bring the total number of wind turbines owned by IKEA in Sweden to 39. The new Gloetesvalen wind farm is estimated to produce a total of 220 GWh (90MW) a year, equivalent to the annual electricity needs of approximately 48,000 homes. Construction will start this summer and the wind farm is expected to be operational by the end of 2014/beginning of 2015.

"At IKEA, we want to take a leading role in the transition to a low-carbon society by only using 100% renewable energy in our global operations. By only using wind power in Sweden, it is an exciting and important step toward reaching that goal. We will not only be self-sufficient in electricity in Sweden, generating enough to supply all IKEA buildings and operations in the country, but it will give us opportunities to supply IKEA stores in other countries with wind power", says Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group.

The IKEA Group has earmarked 590 million euros to invest in renewable energy, including this current wind power project and other investments that are planned over the next three years. An agreement has been signed with the O2 wind power company to develop, construct and manage the Gloetesvalen wind farm.

"This is the second time we have done business with IKEA in the course of the past 18 months, and it is the result of some very good and very close cooperation", says Johan Ihrfelt, O2's managing director. "Through its investment in Gloetesvalen IKEA has chosen to participate in one of the Nordic countries' most promising wind power projects in terms of the reliability of the meteorological conditions".

Gloetesvalen Wind Farm-facts & figures wind farm with 30 wind turbines situated on Gloetesvalen approx. 40 km north-west of Sveg in the south-western corner of Haerjedalen in west-central Sweden.

This is one of the best locations for wind in the whole of Sweden, with a highest point 1,010 metres above sea level. The wind has been measured here over a period of more than 10 years. The yearly mean wind speed of 8.1 metres per second is extremely good, and in the cold winter months this increases to more than 9 metres per second. Gloetesvalen has been approved in the local municipality's outline plan and selected by the Swedish Energy Agency as an area of national interest for wind farming.

It is estimated that the wind farm will reduce CO₂ emissions by up to 176,000 tonnes. (Calculated using methods advocated and approved by the Swedish Energy Agency.)

Solar production glut to persist to 2015 - study

26 Jun 2012

(Reuters)-solar panel manufacturers face three more years of tough conditions until the market shuts down excess production capacity, according to a new report issued on Tuesday by renewable power consultancy GTM Research. Production capacity for photovoltaic solar panels this year stands at 59 GWs, about double the 30 GWs expected to be sold into the global market, according to GTM analyst Shyam Mehta. About 21 GWs of the current production is expected to be retired by 2015 as panel prices continue their steep declines, GTM said.

Companies such as Suntech Power, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd and FirstSolar Inc have all expanded manufacturing in recent years to supply panels into the fast-growing market for renewable power. But with subsidies in top European markets including Germany and Italy falling under the knife, the panel makers have been forced to pull back on their expansion plans, and most are operating manufacturing lines at levels well below their capacity.

"The training wheels of subsidies are coming off, and the next few years will see the industry's first attempt to ride without support. Consequently, the next three years will be an extremely difficult period", Mehta said. The glut of supplies has already taken its toll on the industry, sending several US, European and Asian companies into bankruptcy as they failed to keep pace with a more than 50% drop in wholesale panel prices since the beginning of 2011. The drop in panel prices, which currently stand at about 70 85¢ per watt for most major manufacturers, will continue, with prices likely to reach 45¢ by 2015, GTM said.

Leading that price drop will be Chinese companies such as Trina Solar Ltd, Yingli Green Energy, Jinko Solar and Hareon Solar, according to GTM. While those price drops will make solar power more affordable, they will force many companies to alter their strategies and potentially cede the panel-making business to more efficient players, Mehta said. "Most current PV manufacturers will have to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make tough decisions about their future role in the industry", said Mehta.

Wind energy sector hits back at MP

25 Jun 2012

THE wind power sector has hit back at scathing criticism in Federal Parliament last week by an MP who described electricity generation by wind turbines as ludicrously inefficient. Sydney-based Liberal Craig Kelly claimed 3500 turbines would be needed to produce the equivalent output of one medium-sized conventional coal or gas-fired power station.

"The electricity they produce is 500% more expensive than electricity produced by coal-fired plants", he said. "Even if we built these 3500 steel windmills, we would still need a gas-fired power station as a backup, for when the wind doesn't blow, the power doesn't flow. "Overseas studies have suggested that we could actually lower our emissions of CO₂ if we did away with wind turbines altogether and just ran gas power stations inefficiently".

The Clean Energy Council later issued an invitation to Mr Kelly to tour a wind farm and learn how it drives investment in local communities. South-west Victoria is one of Australia's fastest-growing regions for wind farm investment. "The cost of wind power can be about the same as brown coal in many cases or only marginally more", the council's policy director Russell Marsh told The Standard.

"Wind power is currently the cheapest type of renewable energy that can be rolled out on a large scale and is expected to play a major role under Australia's renewable energy target of 20% by 2020". Mr Marsh said there was no evidence new power stations had to be built solely to back up wind generation. "When wind power is being fed into the system, less power is required from carbon-intensive sources to meet our energy needs".