Monday 23 July 2012

Korea ramping up wind power projects
13 Jul 2012

Korea is speeding up its wind power projects, aiming to complete construction of turbine test beds in the South and Yellow Seas by June 2013, as well as expanding some pre-existing offshore projects. Jae-Yong NamKung, Deputy Director of New and Renewable Energy Division, confirmed Korea's ambitions at the June 15 Global Wind Day Networking Seminar. He said a 20 MW wind power test bed in southwestern Korea would be completed a year ahead of schedule.

Wind power turbines of 5-7 MW will be tested and certified on Jeju Island as a precursor to placing them in the South and Yellow Seas. The construction and expansion of harbors is spurring the acceleration of wind turbine testing, as the new harbors will play a role in the assembly and logistics of offshore wind farm projects. The results of the tests will also be used to help the Korean government form a long-term wind power plan to be announced in early 2013.

At this time, renewable energy makes up about 2% of Korea's total energy production, but government backing of the Green Growth strategy has created a competitive business niche for wind power. By 2013, Korea would like to install about 500 turbines with 100 MW capacity off its western shores in a private-public partnership. Local governments around Korea are also pushing 5 GW wind farm projects.

Korean manufacturing titans like Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Ship Building and Marine Engineering are getting into the wind power game. The Korean Wind Energy Industry Association Chairman Dr. Rimtaig Lee said that by applying the shipbuilder's experience of natural gas and oil exploration to wind power, the engineering firms are now building five installation vessels, cumulatively.

Australian navy signs up for wave power at its main base
16 Jul 2012

(Reuters)-Australia's navy is seeking not only to rules the waves but to harness them, too, signing a power supply deal for its largest base with cutting-edge wave energy company Carnegie Corporation Wave, Carnegie Corporation said on Monday. Carnegie Corporation Wave has completed the first stage of its project based in Perth, the capital of Western Australia state, and expects to supply all the electricity generated from the project to the base, HMAS Stirling, from the end of 2013, the company said in a statement. Shares in Carnegie Corporation Wave, which also has a wave energy operation in Ireland, surged 34% to 5.1 Australian¢ on the news.

Submerged buoys use wave energy to pump pressurised water to onshore turbines, generating electricity. The company won a A$10 million ($10.2 million) grant earlier this year from Prime Minister Julia Gillard's government, which is keen to promote clean energy investment. "I am very pleased that we've been able to support the development of this world-leading technology,.. through a new relationship between Carnegie Corporation Wave and our defence force", Gillard told reporters in announcing the deal in Perth. HMAS Stirling is named for a British Royal Navy captain who established the first European settlement in Western Australia in 1829.

Wave energy project promises jobs boost
13 Jul 2012

A wave energy company hopes its 19 MW project off the coast of Portland will generate thousands of jobs. Victorian Wave Partners is joining with the US manufacturing giant Lockheed Martin to build 28 buoys that will generate power from the waves off Portland's coast. Work on the $232 million project is expected to begin next year. The company's George Taylor says local subcontractors will be used and many others will be employed.

"The number will become very significant, very quickly I believe into thousands of people", he said. "In the Warrnambool and Portland areas there are some very good fabricators and I'm sure they'll play a part". Anita Rank from the Committee for Portland says it is working to connect local businesses to the energy company. "We're keen to see local manufacturing be involved, that benefits the whole community", she said.

She says the community is enthusiastic about the project. "It's consistent with our vision of promoting the region as a renewable energy hub", she said. The Federal Government has contributed $66 million to the project, which will generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.

Report: Wind farms add billions of dollars to local economies
17 Jul 2012

Illinois' 23 largest wind farms--several of which are in Central Illinois--will add $5.8 billion to local economies over the life of the projects, according to an Illinois State University study released Tuesday.

The construction of wind farms--including Twin Groves and White Oak wind farms in McLean County, Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm in Livingston County, Pioneer Trail in Iroquois and Ford counties and Rail Splitter Wind Farm in Tazewell and Logan counties--generated 19,047 construction jobs and 814 local, long-term jobs, said David Loomis, director of ISU's Center for Renewable Energy and co-author of the study.

During the construction phase of the various wind farms, workers made more than $1.1 billion. The wind farms generate $28.5 million in annual property taxes, and landowners make about $13 million a year by allowing turbines to be placed on their properties, the study reports. "This is important to know so informed decisions can be made regarding the future of wind projects", Loomis said at a news conference during the sixth annual Advancing Wind Energy in Illinois conference at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal.

Loomis said wind farm production is at a standstill now because a production tax credit that helped offset project costs expires at the end of the year. Jack Darin, president and director of the Sierra Club's Illinois chapter, said extending that tax credit is "critical for the health of our environment". "Today's heat is the kind scientists say will be the new normal if something is not changed", Darin said, referring to current "old and dirty" practices of energy production.

Larry Flowers, deputy director of the American Wind Energy Association, said coal and gas producers receive subsidies so wind power should as well to level the playing field. Flowers said wind power projects are important for job creation in the United States. Mike Matejka, legislative affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, agreed. "Wind jobs are very, very important as we bridge the recession", Matejka said.

Wind farms and high speed rail work have been two keys to keeping people employed, he said, adding that those workers in turn are able to pay their mortgage, buy a vehicle and groceries. McLean County leads the state with wind farm projects. The planned turbines will produce enough electricity to power about 192,000 homes a year.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Wave technology to power naval base
16 Jul 2012

The Defence Department will use wave technology to power its largest naval facility, south of Perth. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is in Perth to announce the deal with Carnegie Corporation Wave Technology. Wave power will be used to power HMAS Stirling's electrical infrastructure at Garden Island. The company's chief executive, Michael Ottaviano, says power generated by waves from the ocean will be fed into the island's grid from the end of next year.

GE Builds a Better Battery
11 Jul 2012

What does it take to launch a better battery? Makers of electric vehicles, smartphones, and renewable energy gear want to know. For a 45 person internal startup at General Electric Co (GE), it took the financial backing and technical support of an AAA-rated company with more than $140 billion in annual revenue, not to mention the care and attention of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt. It also helped that the team chose a proven battery design that had been under development for 30 years before GE got involved. The result is the Durathon, a molten salt battery that went on sale in September 2011, providing backup power for cell phone towers, among other uses.

There are plenty of ideas for new batteries; the problem is commercialising them. Today's cars still rely on lead-acid batteries that date back to experiments done in 1859, while consumer electronics are powered by alkaline batteries that trace their roots to 1899. Innovators come along regularly, but in the past year a slew of battery startups have hit rough patches. Ener1, which was pledged $118 million of federal aid to develop lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, filed for bankruptcy in January. Battery maker A123 Systems (AONE) of Waltham, Mass., lost $125 million in the first quarter. At a US Department of Energy conference in February that showcased new battery concepts, Microsoft (MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates warned that "the failure rates here are going to be well over 90%".

Read More…

Italy signs renewable power decrees
7 Jul 2012

MILAN, July 6 (Reuters)-Italy signed on Friday long-awaited decrees on new support schemes for solar and other renewable energy aiming to bring incentives in line with falling costs and ease the burden on consumers who pay for incentives with their bills.

Italy's green power industry has boomed in recent years as investors from around the world ranging from banks and private equity funds to utilities poured billions of euros into the sector, lured by generous support measures. With incentives ballooning above expected limits, Rome announced a plan in April to scale back production incentives for renewable energy that have inflated consumer power bills, but it took few months to iron out details. "This (new) incentive system allows us to sustain the development of renewable energy industry", Environment Minister Corrado Clini said after signing of the decrees. "Proposals from regions and suggestions from companies have been used".

The new decrees, signed by Industry, Environment and Agriculture Ministers, set a 500 million euro ($615.35 million) annual cap on new spending for incentives, including 200 million euros for solar power generation, the industry ministry said in a statement. "It is very disappointing. We hoped to have 700 million euros for photovoltaic power and even more for other renewables", Marco Pigni, director of Italy's renewable energy association APER, told Reuters.

The ministry said the new decrees simplify a procedure of logging on to a register to get incentives-a thorny issue for the renewable industry which sees it as an additional red tape. Under the solar power decree, photovoltaic plants-which turn sunlight into power-with capacity between 12 and 20 kilowatts could be exempt from having to log on to a register if they opt for a 20% cut in incentives, the ministry said. Concentrated photovoltaic power plants, innovative plants as well as those realised by public bodies would be also exempt from having to go through a register, it said.

The new incentive scheme for photovoltaic plants will begin in 45 days after a 6 billion euro cumulative annual limit on incentives is exceeded, while other renewable energy generation will switch to new regime from January 1, 2013 with a four-month transition period, the ministry said. With generous incentives in place since 2007, Italy's solar market has become the world's second-biggest after Germany and was the fastest growing market in the world in 2011.

It has attracted major solar module makers such as Chinese group Suntech Power, Trina Solar, Yingli Green Energy Holding and U.S, firms FirstSolar and SunPower Corp. "With the new incentives, there is a risk that many jobs would be lost and capital would flee abroad", APER's Pigni said. ($1 = 0.8126 euros)

Anti-aging elixir for solar cells
3 Jul 2012

Photovoltaic modules deliver power without risks to the environment and climate. But solar power is expensive. Therefore, it is imperative that the modules last as long as possible, 25 years or more. Fraunhofer researchers in the USA are now investigating materials to protect solar cells from environmental influences to meet that goal.

Sometimes it's just a couple of¢ that decide the success or failure of a technology. As long as solar power, for instance, is still more expensive than energy extracted from fossil fuels, photovoltaics will not be competitive on the broad open market. "Power generation from solar power continues to be reliant on public subsidies-this is no different in the USA than in Germany", explains Christian Hoepfner, Scientific Director of the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems CSE in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. "If we want renewable energy to penetrate the global market over the long term, then we must ensure it gets cheaper".

There are no silver bullets to reach this target: Efficiency cannot be arbitrarily increased, and it is expensive to produce solar cells and modules. If you want to change something here, you have to solve a puzzle with many variables: Engineering teams around the world are searching for new technologies and production methods to make cells and modules cheaper, more efficient, more durable and reliable.

Read More…

U.S. takes giant leap toward wind energy
3 Jul 2012

WASHINGTON, (UPI)--The US Department of Interior said it completed environmental reviews for onshore and offshore wind power, including a 3,000 MW project. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the final environmental impact statement was released for the proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farms in Wyoming. The complex could include as many as 1,000 turbines and generate as much as 3,000 MW of power.

An assessment of wind power areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts will be used by U.S, regulators to make future lease decisions in an area encompassing roughly 165,000 acres. Salazar, in a statement, said the two projects would put the United States at the forefront of the move to advance renewable energy resources. "When it comes to wind power, we're making significant progress both onshore and offshore to diversify our nation's domestic energy portfolio and stand up a clean energy economy", he said.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, said the eastern seaboard could emerge as a pioneer for wind power, while the wind regime in Wyoming could spin the turbines that would make up one of the largest wind farms in the world. He said his Republican counterparts, however, were trying to block some of the steps needed to advance the projects. Republican leaders have pressed the White House for more oil and natural gas drilling.

Cheap wind power tested as Renova starts farms: Corporate Brazil
1 Jul 2012

Renova Energia SA (RNEW11)'s strategy to produce wind power cheaper than anywhere else in the world will be tested as it brings its first turbines online, helping to transform Brazil into the world's fourth-biggest market. Renova, which counts utility Light SA (LIGT3) as among its biggest shareholders, started operating South America's biggest wind farm cluster in northeastern Brazil last week. The company, based in Sao Paulo, plans to build at least six farms next year.

Brazil aims to more than double its capacity to generate wind power next year by harnessing the same weather system that brought Portuguese and Spanish sailors to the continent in the 1500s. Renova is betting its farms can produce energy for as little as a quarter of the price needed to make some European projects viable.

"There's uncertainty over whether these turbines will perform as expected", Unai Otazua Aranguren, director of renewable energy consultant Garrad Hassan Group Ltd.'s Brazil office, said by telephone. "The wind here behaves differently to what we have in Europe and the U.S".

Renova rose 0.3% to 31 reais in Sao Paulo trading on June 29, bringing its year-to-date gain to 16%. It has more than doubled since it first sold shares in 2010. Brazil's government is promoting wind and other renewable energy projects in a bid to diversify away from hydroelectric plants, which account for 66% of the nation's installed capacity. Wind farms can help shore up the supply of electricity in drier months when dam reservoirs diminish.

Read More…

Wasting carbon tax cash on the living dead
2 Jul 2012

Have you heard the joke about the government that set up a carbon tax to reduce emissions but then spent nearly $100 million days before the scheme started to try to stop it from reducing emissions? Yes, it really happened. In one of the greatest examples of throwing good money after bad, the federal government provided $50 million to prop-up the Energy Brix brown coal power station and briquette plant which commenced operation in 1956; and in conjunction with the Victorian government, threw $40 million at Alcoa's 1963 Point Henry Geelong aluminium smelter-all on Friday. By the way the money for Energy Brix is on top of around $100m they'll receive in cash and free permits out of the Government's Energy Security Fund. Closure of these two plants would have been one of the quickest and lowest cost forms of greenhouse gas abatement the country had at its disposal.

Alcoa's Point Henry Smelter has been living off the generosity of other Victorians for three decades now. Thanks to what one former member of the Hamer Victorian government called a "collective moment of insanity", in the early 1980s the Victorian government committed itself to an electricity supply contract that has provided Alcoa with hugely subsidised electricity. The deal was so good for Alcoa and so bad for other Victorians that current Liberal Party Federal President Alan Stockdale described it as "manifestly unjust". Energy Brix and its associated briquette factory is the oldest fossil fuel power plant operating in the country, originally commencing production in 1956. It is also the third most polluting per unit of electricity generated, being just a shade better than Hazelwood-the most carbon intensive plant in the developed world. What's worse is that it also produces brown coal briquettes which are then used to fire boilers that might have switched to less pollution intensive fuels, were briquettes unavailable. Or alternatively production locations might have shifted to areas where gas was available.

Energy Brix is well past retirement age and should have been put out to pasture years ago. For a long-time, industry participants have looked at Energy Brix and seen a creaking, sub-economic scale power station; and a briquette factory that was museum piece from the time before gas was discovered in Bass Strait. But what they could also see was an option or gambling stake on lots of free carbon permits from the government that they could cash-in, after finally putting the plant out of its misery.

As early as the 1990s it was widely expected within the power industry that government would ultimately introduce a carbon trading scheme. At the same time many hoped, and furiously lobbied for, government to allocate the carbon permits based on historical levels of pollution.

For those owners of sub-economic scale or very old coal power plants that were on the verge of closure, this created an incredibly perverse incentive. Essentially you would invest as little as possible to keep the highly polluting plant just creaking over so you could lay claim to lots of free permits under a future carbon trading scheme. Once these free permits were in the bag, you could cash-in the chips so to speak even though you had no genuine plans to keep plant running over the long-term. As an illustration, a fire went through the briquette plant in December 2003, and rather than invest to restore the plant to full operation, they instead have just continued to run the plant at a fraction of its full capacity. Of course this was after putting its hand out to the Victorian government (something HRL seem to be rather practiced in) for $5.2 million dollars, which the government rejected.

Meanwhile during the same week the Baillieu government was bailing out aluminium workers, it has informed all staff working on renewable energy within Sustainability Victoria to pack up their desks. With the renewable energy industry about to invest close to $20 billion over the next eight years, Climate Spectator has been informed by government sources that there are now just two people within the Victorian government dedicated full-time to supporting renewable energy investment.

While South Australia has captured billions in power project investments and lower electricity prices thanks to renewable energy, it appears as if the Victorian government is resolutely determined to cut its nose to spite its face. In spite of the carbon tax finally becoming a reality, it appears as if a smoke-affected, near terminal job in the hand, is worth more than two clean energy jobs in the bush.