Thursday 16 August 2012

Reaping the rewards of wind power
13 Aug 2012

ONE OF THE biggest renewable energy projects every conceived of in this country is the Spirit of Ireland. First proposed three years ago, it envisages using coastal-based pump storage facilities to turn Ireland into a net exporter of electricity. The proposal, which was first conceived by TCD Professor of Applied Physics Igor Shvets, seeks to resolve the biggest issues facing those involved in wind generated electricity, namely what to do when the wind is not blowing.

Some 50 potential sites have been located along Ireland s Atlantic coast. The Spirit of Ireland would use the excess energy generated by several large wind farms to pump seawater up to a reservoir at the top of a cliff. The water is released when the wind is slack, turning a turbine which generates huge amounts of electricity. Pump storage is a proven technology that is used in countries such as Italy and Japan to generate electricity. There is a small one at Turlough Hill in Co Wicklow. What puts the Spirit of Ireland on another level is the use of seawater for electricity generation.

The proposal is still in the planning stages, but the backers of Spirit of Ireland are hoping that it will be the largest part of a mosaic of interlocking renewable energy projects in the future. The overall cost of the project is estimated at EUR 3.6 billion. The first round of sourcing funding has been taking place over the last month and it is hoped to raise seed capital which will be used to fund environmental assessments and initial outlines of the Spirit of Ireland project with the aim to have it built within five to six years.

In the meantime, the Spirit of Ireland group has set up Irish Energy Co-operatives. The purpose behind the project is to form a network of community-based renewable energy initiatives to feed into a common grid.

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Cape Cod wind farm tiptoes ahead
10 Aug 2012

Philip Scudder said his ferry company here was once a vocal opponent of the alternative-energy proposal that blew into Cape Cod nearly a decade ago. The US's first offshore wind farm? In the middle of pristine Nantucket Sound? He wondered how his boats carrying vacationers bound for Martha's Vineyard would navigate around the turbines.

But now, Mr. Scudder, a 13th generation Cape Codder and part of the family that owns Hy-Line Cruises, supports Cape Wind, the proposal to place 130 wind turbines, with the highest blade tip reaching 440 feet above water, some five miles offshore. He says it would bring not only clean energy but economic opportunity: Hy-Line is now shopping for vessels to eventually give "eco-tours", educational boat rides out to see the turbines up close.

Mr. Scudder illustrates the conflicting views on the long-debated project in an area known as the jewel of Massachusetts and a vacation land for the affluent. After a decade, Cape Wind developer Energy Management Inc, is beginning geological survey work in the sound, a precursor to its goal of starting construction next year.

But whether the wind farm is built remains to be seen. Cape Wind has yet to receive all the approvals it needs to start construction. Opposition is firm and has included wealthy Cape Cod homeowners from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy to Republican donor and energy businessman William Koch.

The Obama administration is pushing for more renewable-energy projects, both on and offshore. This week, the Interior Department said it was assessing a proposal by the North American arm of Statoil STO +0.20% ASA, a Norwegian energy company, for a wind farm off the coast of Maine.

The Interior Department approved Cape Wind in 2010. The project calls for the off-white wind turbines in a 25 square-mile area in a shallow part of the sound, a triangular body of water surrounded by Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The closest vantage point would be nearly five miles away in Mashpee, next to Barnstable.

The turbines are "majestic and beautiful", and on a clear day would appear "like a half-inch sailing mast on the horizon", said Jim Gordon, the president of Energy Management, Cape Wind's developer.

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Wednesday 15 August 2012

U.S. Army opens bids to buy $7 billion in renewable energy
8 Aug 2012

The US Army is looking for a few good renewable energy projects. Some $7 billion worth. On Tuesday the Army began accepting bids for green energy installations that will be deployed on military bases and facilities across the US The Army will sign contracts to buy the electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal and biomass projects for up to 30 years. "It is the intent of the government only to purchase the energy that is produced and not to acquire any generation assets", the Army stated in the solicitation. "The contractor shall develop, finance, design, build, operate, own and maintain the energy plant".

In other words, instead of paying the local utility for its electricity, a base would pay a solar power company like SolarCity or Sungevity. That creates business for renewable energy companies as well as economies of scale that in the long run can lower the cost of green power. The program is part of a Department of Defense initiative to meet at least 25% of energy demand on its bases from renewable sources by 2025. The military is also aiming its bases to become "net zero" consumers of electricity-generating more power than they use by installing solar and other renewable energy systems.

The Army said projects that generate fewer than 4 MWs would be set aside for small businesses. It will also consider giving preference to small businesses for installations that generate between 4 MWs and 12 MWs of electricity but would accept unrestricted bids for projects greater than 12 MWs. Ground-mounted and rooftop solar systems have been built on a number of military bases in recent years and Silicon Valley startup SolarCity is installing photovoltaic panels on 120,000 units of privately managed military housing across the country as part of its SolarStrong initiative. The Army's move follows Monday's announcement that the Department of Defense will open 16 million acres of land in the West for renewable energy development.

Who's paying to fight AGL wind farms?
9 Aug 2012

Climate Spectator has been provided with an e-mail sent by Sarah Laurie, CEO of the anti-wind farm lobby group the Waubra Foundation, which indicates the Foundation has been using tax-deductible donations to support a court case against AGL Energy's Hallett wind farms in South Australia. According to Australian Taxation Office guidance, this appears to directly contradict the Waubra Foundation's privileged status as a charity for which donations are tax deductible.

In the interests of full disclosure, the e-mail is reprinted in full at the bottom of this article. It opens by thanking recipients for already donating money to support a court case by Bill Quinn.

Quinn is attempting to restrict the operation and development of the Hallett wind farm development for exceeding EPA noise requirements. Climate Spectator understands that Bill Quinn lives around 8 km from the nearest wind turbine.

The e-mail makes the usual claims about there being a cover-up to obscure the evidence of infrasound generated by wind turbines causing health impacts, and asks for further "tax deductible" donations to collect further noise data to aid the legal campaign.

This poses three key questions:

1. Why is the Waubra Foundation funding noise measurements and not epidemiological studies?

If the Waubra Foundation was genuinely interested in identifying whether wind turbines have impacts on health, it doesn't need to do any noise monitoring. Instead, it would be far better served funding epidemiological studies evaluating the statistical prevalence of illnesses amongst people living close to wind turbines versus similar populations that don't live near turbines.

Ideally such studies should be undertaken in regions that have had wind turbines in place for a considerable time period, such as Denmark, so that any subtle long-term effects would have had time to become evident. This was the key tool that identified an unambiguous link between tobacco smoke and lung cancer. Also such studies should be done by independent university researchers at arm's length from the Waubra Foundation, who's board and staff have clearly already made their minds up.

Yet considering the Waubra Foundation's supposed focus on health research, its website does not contain a single mention of it commissioning any kind of long-run epidemiological study by university researchers with expertise in the area. Instead the website is filled with links to press stories and two websites overseas that purport to have found a link between wind turbines and health ailments.

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U.S. military's big plan for renewable energy projects
6 Aug 2012

The US Department of Defense plans to open up 16 million acres of its land for renewable energy development, which it hopes will create a boom of solar, wind and geothermal projects and provide clean power to military bases, the department announced Monday.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on promoting renewable energy generation projects on public land that has historically been restricted for military uses. About 13 million of those 16 million acres are located in western US, where a lot of solar, wind and geothermal power development already has been taking place on private and other types of public land.

The administration has been making a strong push for renewable energy development by funding both technology research and power generation projects since the President Obama took office in 2009. The administration wants to accomplish two key goals by supporting renewable energy: creating jobs and finding alternative, cleaner and more abundant power sources domestically. Last month, Salazar unveiled a roadmap for speeding up solar power project development on 285,000 acres of public land in six western states.

The government support for renewable energy has indeed propelled the development of advanced materials and equipment and the construction of some of the largest solar power plants in the country. It also has attracted vocal critics, notably Republicans, who have used the bankruptcy of government-funded solar panel maker Solyndra last fall to accuse the administration of political favoritism and mismanaging public money.

The Monday announcement by the Defense and Interior departments involved not only land set aside for the military but also offshore locations near military installations. The goal is to promote onshore and offshore energy projects, such as erecting wind turbines in the sea. The MOU calls for the military and the the Interior's Bureau of Land Management to run a pilot project to oversee solar power plant development at military bases in Arizona and California. The military has been vocal about its support of renewable energy, from electricity to transportation fuels, that it says will help it become more self-sufficient and reduce its vulnerabilities in the battle fields.

The vast majority of the military bases rely on power from nearby utilities, and they depend on backup generators during blackouts, said Dorothy Robyn, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, during a conference call on Monday. The military is keenly interested in creating "microgrids" for its bases. A microgrid is a mostly self-sufficient base of power generation and storage, which allows for banking the electricity (using batteries or other technologies) for later use. A microgrid can still be connected to the regular electric grid, but it will take power from local utilities only when its own power plants aren't able to generate enough to meet the demand. "Renewable energy will allow a military base to maintain critical operations for weeks or months if an electric power grid goes down", she said.

The military wants to attract developers and private investments for building solar, wind and other renewable electricity power projects on its land. It plans to lease the land to developers and buy some or all of the power from each project for its own use, and any unused power will be sold local utilities, Robyn said. Each of the military services plans on getting 1 GW of renewable energy installed near its bases by 2025.

Monday 13 August 2012

German Wind Power Installation up 26%
7 Aug 2012

Germany installed 26% more new wind-power capacity in this year's first half than a year earlier, an industry group said Wednesday--the latest sign of a lasting renewable energy boom as Europe's biggest economy phases out nuclear power. More than 400 turbines with a combined capacity of some 1,000 MWs--roughly equivalent to one nuclear power plant--were installed, up from about 800MW in same period last year, according to the Wind Energy Association.

There should be an even sharper increase over the whole of 2012, taking into account manufacturers' order books and already-planned projects, the group's head Hermann Albers told reporters in Berlin. The wind turbines installed in the first six months brought the total capacity to over 30,000 MWs, producing 9.2% of the country's electricity, up from 7.7% in 2011, a utility industry group said last week. "The figures show that we are on the right track as a country regarding wind power. As the backbone of the energy switchover, it can replace nuclear power cheaply and efficiently", says Albers.

He stressed that the wind industry aims at tripling its electricity share by 2020, mostly thanks to new offshore wind farms and the replacement of older wind turbines with new and more efficient ones. Germany decided following Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster to speed up phasing out its nuclear power plants, shutting them down within a decade and betting on renewable energies instead.

Before Fukushima, nuclear power in Germany produced a little more than 20% of the country's electricity needs--about the same share it had in the U.S, and in Japan. It has since fallen well below 20%. Wind, solar and other renewable power sources--helped by subsidies and investment incentives--produced about 25% of the country's electricity in the first six months, up from 21% for all of 2011, according to figures from the BDEW utility industry group. Solar power also continues to boom as house owners are keen to install panels on their roofs, and its share rose by almost half from 3.6% to 5.3%.

Wind power hits 57% mark in Colorado
6 Aug 2012

Xcel Energy's Ponnequin Wind Farm on the Colorado-Wyoming border. The wind farm helped the utiltiy produce 57% of its power from wind one night this spring-a U.S, record.

During the early morning hours of April 15, with a steady breeze blowing down Colorado's Front Range, the state's biggest utility set a U.S, record--nearly 57% of the electricity being generated was coming from wind power.

As dawn came and the 1.4 million customers in Xcel Energy's service district began turning on the lights, toasters and other appliances, the utility's coal and natural gas-fired power plants ramped up production and brought wind's contribution back closer to its 2012 average of 17%. Utilities have long been wary of placing too much finicky renewable power on the grid.

"A lot of utilities don't want to contract large amounts of wind because it's volatile", said Amy Grace, a wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "Anything over 25%, and utilities get nervous". Colorado's overnight high-water mark demonstrated that utilities can indeed incorporate cleaner power sources into the mix. It also provides hope that, under the right conditions and policies, wind will be able to provide a significantly larger share of the nation's power than its current 3% rate.

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Harvesting green tidal energy
5 Aug 2012

Ocean power is an endless source of renewable green energy. It is clean, environmentally acceptable and economically cheap. Electricity generation from ocean energy is based on tidal power, wave energy, ocean thermal energy conversion, ocean winds and salinity gradients. Among these, three well developed technologies are tidal power, wave energy and ocean thermal energy conversion. Tidal energy is a form of hydroelectric that converts the tidal power into electricity. It requires large tidal differences.

This difference between the mean high-water volume and the mean low-water volume of an estuary is called tidal prism. The term 'tidal prism' can be defined as the total amount of water that flows into a harbor or flows out again with movement of the tide in water flow. Tidal energy has been used since the,Roman times and in the middle Ages in Europe to run early tide mills. No doubt, this energy is pollution free and environment friendly. Therefore, world must think to replace fossil fuel based energy by this green energy.

In the present time, a number of countries have already been, using tidal power to generate electricity. World's largest plant for the generation of electricity from tidal power is in La Rancee in France. A number of tidal power based power stations have been established in North America. India has planned to generate electricity from tidal power very soon. Bangladesh has to think about this to overcome its present electricity crisis and the future energy security. The position and shape of Bangladeshi coast and its Islands are favorable for the establishment of tide based power station.

Tides result from the gravitational attraction of the Earth-Moon-Sun system acting on the earth's ocean. Tides are long period waves that result in the cyclical that generate electricity from horizontally flowing tidal currents like wind turbines. Tidal energy is predictable than,wind power and solar power, but cannot be used to generate electricity at consistent level constantly. Twice in every 12.42 hours (24 hours in some locations) the tidal current speed and hence the electricity generation capacity falls to zero. If tidal power is required to produce a sustained based load for local grid, then some form of energy storage or back-up will be needed.

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Scorching summer dries up hydro power
5 Aug 2012

The hot, dry summer means there's not much hydroelectric in your hydroelectric bill this summer. In Ontario, consumers use "hydroelectric" as shorthand for electricity. But technically, hydroelectricity means power generated by water. With not much rain and lots of evaporation this summer, rivers and lakes are at low levels, so there's less water to whirl the turbines at hydroelectric generating stations.

How much less? The amount of hydroelectric power produced in Ontario dropped 20% this July compared with July a year ago, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator. In fact, Ontario got more power from natural gas-fired generators in July than it did from its hydroelectric stations. Gas-powered generation jumped 33% from a year earlier. That meant hydroelectric contributed 17% of Ontario's power supply in July, while gas-fired units churned out 20%.

also took up some of the slack as hydroelectric production dropped, increasing by 7% year over year. The total amount of power generated in the province was a fraction of a% higher this year than last. Ontario Power Generation generates most of the province's hydroelectric power. Early in the year, there was plenty of wet weather in the northwest, said OPG spokesman Ted Gruetzner, but it was a different story elsewhere.

"Through the central, northeast and eastern parts of the province, we didn't get much snow, and we haven't had much rain, so the reservoirs are down", he said in an interview. The biggest drops in production were at OPG's smaller hydroelectric stations; total production was down a more modest 10% at the big hydroelectric stations at Niagara Falls and Cornwall.

The other power source with a dramatic production drop was coal, which was down 42% from the year before. The province continues to shut down coal-fired units as it aims to cease coal generation by the end of 2014; in July, it produced 5% of the province's power, down from close to 9% a year ago. Combined output from renewable power sources such as wind, solar and biomass was little changed.

Renewables winning the energy race

Clean Energy Council
31 Jul 2012

A report released today by the Federal Government shows that clean energy such as wind, solar and landfill gas will be among the lowest-cost sources of electricity within the next 20 years under current policies. Clean Energy Council Deputy Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the report confirmed that the way Australia generated and consumed energy was changing-fast.

"While the recent public debate often oversimplifies Australia's energy choice as 'clean vs cheap', this report shows the argument is now desperately out of date. Renewables are rapidly becoming the lowest cost source of energy and, by building renewable energy now, we are able to create the diversity of sources we need to have low cost and reliable energy in the future", Mr Thornton said.

"We welcome comments from Energy Minister Martin Ferguson that a number of renewable energy technologies could have some of the lowest levelised costs of any energy source within the next two decades. "Every government in the country has underestimated the ability of renewable energy to improve in efficiency and come down in price. This report goes some way towards addressing the balance. "

Mr Thornton said the report showed the importance of the Renewable Energy Target to drive the take-up of clean energy in Australia and why policymakers needed to provide stable policy support so that this full potential could be realised. "The Renewable Energy Target is designed to deliver 20% of Australia's electricity from renewable sources such as the sun, the wind, the waves, bioenergy and others by 2020 at the lowest cost to consumers. The scheme allows technologies to effectively compete against each other to drive down the cost of renewable power for everyone", he said.

"The majority of the energy sector has called for the policy to be left alone in order to provide investment-grade policy support certainty necessary to unlock tens of billions of dollars in private investment between now and the end of the decade. "Renewable energy takes advantage of our free and abundant natural resources and can provide an insurance policy against the volatile price of fossil fuelled electricity such as gas, which has been rising in recent years. In contrast, the cost of renewable energy has been dropping rapidly. In the case of landfill gas generation, the costs are already on par".

The Australian Energy Technology Assessment, by the independent Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, looked at cost estimates for 40 electricity generation technologies under current policy settings including the carbon price and the Renewable Energy Target.