Thursday 13 September 2012

New hydrogen filling stations in Europe and Japan
7 Sep 2012

The automotive industry has announced that vehicles powered by fuel-cell technology will be on the market by 2015. Air Liquide is preparing for the emergence of hydrogen in transport by supporting the rollout of the necessary filling station infrastructure globally. These developments have recently received strong government backing in Europe and Asia.

Today, Air Liquide officially opened its first public hydrogen filling station for passenger cars in Germany, in the city of Duesseldorf. This state of the art station will be followed by 10 new hydrogen filling stations that will be designed, built and rolled out in the next three years under the auspices of the German government's major demonstration project. By 2015 Germany will have a supply network of at least 50 public filling stations.

Those new steps are in line with the Group's announcement in October 2011 that it would invest in 20 new stations in Europe. Driven by the same dynamic, two other stations have been installed recently by Air Liquide in Oslo, Norway, and in the Swiss city of Brugg.

In Japan, the government sees hydrogen as a promising major energy source for cars and expects to install about 100 hydrogen distribution stations for fuel-cell vehicles by 2015. Air Liquide Japan intends to build a significant number of them and, in support of this goal, has recently set up a specialized team focused on the hydrogen business. The Group is already very active in Japan in this field, having so far installed 3 hydrogen energy stations (in Tokyo, Kawasaki, and Saga). One of these stations demonstrated the feasibility of a complete "Blue Hydrogen" chain, from wood chips to clean mobility.

Read More…

Gales send turbines into overdrive
7 Sep 2012

While gale-force winds kept emergency services busy across South Australia this week, they also fired up turbines on the state's wind farms. Figures from the Australian Energy Market Operator show while the winds were howling, more than half the state's power came from wind farms. Roughly a quarter of South Australia's power came from wind farms last year.

But the Clean Energy Council's policy director, Russell Marsh, says when winds topped 90 km per hour earlier this week, that figure was much higher. "What we've seen is over the last couple of days the amount of energy generated from wind power in South Australia has gone through between 55 and 85% since Monday as a result of the very strong winds we're having at the moment", he said.

And for a few brief moments in the early hours of Wednesday morning, wind was generating so much power some of it was being exported to Victoria. Mr Marsh says emissions from South Australia's power sector have fallen every year since 2005, and have dropped 27% over the past five years. He says there is no reason other states could not emulate the success.

"South Australia has a great, great wind resource, it's probably one of the best places in Australia to build wind", he said. "And we expect to see,.. many more wind farms built, not just in South Australia but in other states along the south-east coast of Australia". But he says the figures do not suggest coal-fired power generation's days are numbered.

"We're really only starting down the path of developing both wind power specifically and renewable energy generally in Australia", Mr Marsh said. "I think we're going to see coal and other fossil fuel generation around for a number of years to come. But, certainly we reckon that wind and other renewables can certainly play their part in generating more energy in the future".

One of the criticisms of wind power has long been that times of light wind conditions result in a reduction in the amount of energy generated. But Mr Marsh denies this week's event reinforces that argument. "No it doesn't, because what the market operator's also showing is that across the year, about 25% of the state's power comes from wind", he said.

"And that has resulted in two things in South Australia. Firstly, you're seeing less generation from coal and gas as a result of the amount of wind. And also you're seeing greenhouse gas emissions in South Australia dropping. "So... what we're seeing in South Australia is evidence that deploying wind, in this case wind, in Australia actually does lead to using less fossil fuels and reduces emission".

South Australia blown away by wind power this week

Clean Energy Council
6 Sep 2012

South Australia's blustery conditions this week had one positive: wind power provided more than half of the state's power on Wednesday, according to the Clean Energy Council. Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) showed that 55% of all the electricity used by South Australians yesterday was generated by the state's wind farms, which were spinning flat out all day long.

"In the early hours of Wednesday morning, there was a peak where 80% of the state's power came from the wind and South Australia exported some of its energy to Victoria. Then early on Monday morning a record was broken when just over 85% of power came from the wind.

"According to AEMO, in the 2011 12 financial year almost a quarter of the state's electricity was generated by wind farms. This has led to a corresponding drop in generation from coal and gas plants, with wind generating more energy than coal for the first time. "South Australia has proven once again that wind power can generate real power-and lots of it", he said.

Mr Marsh said the data showed that emissions from South Australia's power sector had fallen every year since 2005 06 and had reduced by more than 27% over the last five years. "All this wind is putting South Australia well ahead of the curve on Australia's 20% Renewable Energy Target, and helping to provide farmers and local businesses in regional areas with extra income. "It also means the state's residents collectively have a lower carbon price bill, while getting fully compensated by the Federal Government under the scheme".

Fast facts:

  • On Wednesday 5 September, 55% of SA's power came from wind farms
  • A record 85.5% of power came from the wind early on Monday 3 September
  • 24.2% of the state's power came from the wind in the 2011-12 financial year. Coal use dropped by 9% over the same period
  • Emissions in South Australia have dropped by 27.4% over the last five years.

Queensland misses the target on energy prices

Clean Energy Council
5 Sep 2012

The Clean Energy Council has called for more collaboration to reduce electricity prices and less finger-pointing, following Energy Minister Mark McArdle's attack on Australia's 20% Renewable Energy Target this morning. Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said everyone was concerned about rising power bills, but ditching the Renewable Energy Target would be like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

"The Renewable Energy Target is a low-cost policy that stands to unlock more than $20 billion in investment and tens of thousands of jobs, much of which will flow to regional and rural areas. In recognition of this, the policy has the support of all political parties across Australia.

"In Queensland the Renewable Energy Target provides important support, particularly for the state's sugar mills, which use cane waste to produce renewable energy and generate an extra source of revenue. "Queensland is also leading the country in solar power, and all that new clean energy is helping to push back major investment in big power stations and save everyone money".

Mr Marsh said analysis by ROAM Consulting showed the Renewable Energy Target currently made up about 6% of power bills, a very small amount compared to the spiralling costs of poles and wires.

"Due to the winding back of support for renewable energy at both federal and state level and the declining cost of the technology, the cost of the Renewable Energy Target has peaked and will decline towards the end of the decade. We will be able to deliver more for less under this policy as the decade unfolds.

"In terms of an average annual household power bill, the Renewable Energy Target contributes about $100 per year today, but this is expected to fall to just under $60 in 2020. In contrast, the price of fossil fuels such as gas has risen sharply over the last couple of years, with further increases projected.

"The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics this year estimated that renewable energy sources such as solar and wind would be among our cheapest types of power within 10 to 20 years. In the case of some types of bioenergy such as landfill gas, we are already there. Solar power fell in price by 45% last year alone", he said. "So, contrary to some recent commentary, investing in renewable energy will be key to protecting consumers against power price increases in the future".

Mr Marsh said the Energy Minister appeared to have been wrongly advised on some of the costs and projected impacts of the Renewable Energy Target. "Renewable energy across the country currently produces around 10% of our electricity. This will rise to around 20% by the end of the decade, driven by the lowest cost forms of generation available under the target", he said.

"We welcome the Queensland Competition Authority looking at the full costs and benefits of the Renewable Energy Target. The Productivity Commission has also recently looked at this policy as part of its work on the carbon price. "There are steps we can take to reduce power prices, but we need to work together rather than looking in the wrong place for scapegoats", he said.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Kiwi wave energy device gets US trial
3 Sep 2012

A kiwi-designed device which generates electricity by ocean wave energy is one step closer to breaking into the massive US energy market. The Wave Energy Technology-NZ (Wet-NZ) converter will be tested off the Oregon coast over the next two months. It is a major milestone for the eight-year project, which was a collaboration between Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), a Crown Research Institute, and private Wellington company Power Projects Ltd.

Success with the trial meant the possibility of full-scale commercialisation in the US, said Gavin Mitchell, IRL general manager of industry engagement. "This US deployment is a great opportunity to promote New Zealand technology in one of the world's most important energy markets". The device was designed to extract as much energy as possible from three different types of wave motion.

A half-scale, 18.4 metre long version would be moored to the sea floor off Oregon in an upright position, with wave movement converted into energy by a system of on-board hydraulics. Mitchell said the next step after this test would be to get further funding from the US government to develop and trial a full-scale version of the device. That would need to be tested in bigger, more powerful waves in another part of the country, he said.

The designers had also applied to the US navy to be considered for a 12 month test in Hawaii. "That's to allow the navy to evaluate energy devices to look at rolling it out at their bases worldwide". Wave-energy technology was still in its early stages both in New Zealand and internationally, Mitchell said. "Imagine where wind turbines were 15 years ago-there were early trials and then suddenly there was a mass adoption. "At the moment, there are only one or two devices as advanced as ours".

Wet-NZ technology used wave energy rather than tidal power, he said. Getting the project to this testing point was possible due to a US$2 million grant from the US Department of Energy and a partnership with US company Northwest Energy Innovations. The New Zealand Government had also provided funding to get the project scaled up from proof-of-concept to prototype. Wet-NZ had been refined based on the results of deployments at various sites around New Zealand, as well as extensive wave tank modelling. IRL is a Crown Research Institute with the task of supporting New Zealand industry.

World's biggest offshore windfarm planned off Scottish coast
31 Aug 2012

Scheme with enough capacity to power 40% of Scottish households has been submitted for planning permission The world's biggest offshore wind farm could be built off the northern Scottish coast, after a scheme with enough capacity to power 40% of Scottish households was submitted for planning permission.

The £4.5bn complex would have 339 turbines covering 300 km² off Caithness, making it 50% bigger than the giant London Array scheme off Kent. It is expected to be the first in a series of deep water schemes under "Round 3" licensing. The renewable industry has hailed it as a watershed moment but warned these new deep water farms might only be fully realised if the government provides policy stability by pushing through its proposed Energy Bill.

The 1.5 GW farm is being developed by Moray Offshore Renewables, a joint venture between Spanish oil company Repsol, and an arm of Portuguese power group EDP, which has recently become partly owned by China's state-owned Three Gorges Corporation. It has already attracted controversy because it is opposed by American billionaire Donald Trump, who says the 200 metre-high turbines will spoil the view from his planned new golf course.

Dan Finch, project director for the scheme due to come on stream in 2018, said working more than 12 miles from shore allowed it to take advantage of the excellent wind resource in the outer Moray Firth.

"We estimate that the project will be capable of supplying the electricity needs of 800,000 to 1m households,.. Each year this development could save between 3.5m and 4.5m tonnes of CO₂ compared with coal fired generation, and between 1.5m and 2m tonnes of CO₂ compared with gas fired generation", he said.

The industry body, RenewableUK, said a further 4.5 GWs of offshore wind schemes should follow into the planning process this year with a total of 18 GWs expected to become operational over the next eight years. But Maria McCaffery, RenewableUK's chief executive, emphasised that this progress could only be achieved if the policy certainty laid out in the upcoming Energy Bill was achieved.

"We're marking a watershed moment as Round Three starts to become a reality with this planning application. It's the first of many coming forward. As well as delivering secure supplies of low carbon electricity to British homes and businesses, our global leadership role in offshore wind can provide tens of thousands of jobs across the country, building and maintaining these turbines".

The Moray Firth wind farm, which will be given significant subsidies, compares with the 1 GW at the London Array, which is currently in the construction phase, and compares with the largest British coal-fired plant, Drax in northern Yorkshire of 4 GWs, and the planned new EDF Energy nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset with a combined output of 3.2 GWs and a bill of at least £10bn.

China Three Gorges Corporation acquired a 21% holding from the cash-strapped Portuguese government in Energias de Portugal, EDP, for €2.69bn (£2.13bn). The Beijing-based energy company was responsible for construction of the also controversial Three Gorges Dam-project, the world largest hydroelectric power plant, that went into operation in 2008.

German shipyards see future in wind power
30 Aug 2012

After years of decline, Germany's shipyards are now pinning their hopes on offshore wind farms, a key component of the country's energy revolution. Some have converted entirely to building equipment for wind farms. But the initial euphoria has worn off as the true challenges of the transition become clear.

Two years ago, Tomas Marutz became the head of the Nordseewerke in Emden, Germany. The shipyard is one of the biggest and oldest in the country. But Marutz's most important task now is, he says, "to get shipbuilding out of people's heads".

That's no easy task for a man who speaks about ships like a father talking about his children. He is fascinating by the process of shipbuilding, from the lucky penny that is tossed under the first sheet of steel used in construction to the moment when a finished ship is launched from the docks. Building ships isn't just a question of "welding individual pieces together", he says. "It is a holistic creation".

But these days, Marutz doesn't have the chance to enjoy such moments. Submarines and container ships are no longer being built at the shipyard, which once belonged to German steel and shipbuilding giant Thyssen. Nowadays, the company is building towers and steel bases for wind turbines used in offshore wind farms off the German coast.

Read More…

Maryland switches on 16 MW grid connected solar system
29 Aug 2012

Baltimore, Constellation announced the completion of a 16.1 MW grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) solar installation in Emmitsburg, Maryland., as part of the state of Maryland's Generating Clean Horizons initiative.

Constellation financed, owns and operates the about $50 million solar facility on behalf of its customer, the state of Maryland. Electricity generated by the system is purchased by the state's Department of General Services and the University System of Maryland under 20 year solar power purchase agreements with Constellation.

The grid-connected system is expected to produce more than 20 million kW of emissions-free electricity per year. Generating the same amount of electricity using nonrenewable sources would result in the release of 17,981 metric tons of CO₂ annually, according to US EPA data.

The ground-mounted solar power plant was constructed by FirstSolar, using about 220,000 of its advanced thin film PV panels situated on 100 acres of land leased by Constellation from Mount St. Mary's University. In addition to the 16.1 MW system, Constellation developed a 1.6 MW solar power system on the site that will supply power directly to the university.

In February 2009, the Maryland Energy Administration, in partnership with the University System of Maryland and the Department of General Services, approved the award of four renewable energy projects under the Generating Clean Horizons program. The initiative was intended to spur the development of large-scale, commercial renewable energy projects, and the state issued requests for proposals for long-term power purchase agreements from renewable sources delivering clean power to the grid by 2014.

Constellation currently owns and operates more than 112 MW of solar installations that have been completed or are under construction for commercial and government customers throughout the US In Maryland, Constellation has developed nearly 25 MW of solar projects for customers, including Anne Arundel County, Coppin State University, General Motors, Maryland Science Center and McCormick & Co.

By structuring its solar projects as power purchase agreements or solar services agreements, Constellation offers solar installations that may require no upfront capital from customers and may provide fixed power costs that are less than projected market rates.

Industry to ride "solar-coaster" as Victorian Government cuts support

Clean Energy Council
3 Sep 2012

The solar industry is bracing itself for yet another boom-bust cycle following today's decision by the Baillieu Government to slash the incentive for Victorians to purchase solar power systems, according to the Clean Energy Council.

Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said the national solar industry had seen so many ups and downs due to government policy changes that it had coined its own phrase – the "solar-coaster". "We're obviously disappointed at this decision to reduce support for solar power, which will make it harder for everyday Victorians to reduce their power bills and put industry jobs under pressure," Mr Marsh said.

"It is appropriate that the Victorian government reduces the level of its support scheme, given the recent reduction in the cost of solar power systems. However, the proposed feed-in tariff of 8¢ per kilowatt-hour is too low and does not reflect the fair and reasonable value of the electricity and other benefits that solar power systems provide to our energy system."

Mr Marsh said the Victorian solar policies to date had been very successful. "The solar industry now employs approximately 4800 Victorians and has stimulated $1.34 billion of private investment in Victoria. This change could have a serious negative impact on an industry that has been delivering major economic benefits to the state," he said.

Energy Minister Michael O'Brien announced today that the Victorian Government would reduce the level of support to householders under the Victorian feed-in tariff scheme from 25¢ per kilowatt-hour down to 8c at the beginning of next year.

Mr Marsh said recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirmed that Victorians from all walks of life were installing solar power systems to save on their electricity bills. "If you've thinking about installing solar power, it's definitely the time to do it – but you also need to make sure you do your research.

Download the Clean Energy Council’s consumer guide from,” he said.

German offshore wind sector needs more than just new law: executives
28 Aug 2012

(Reuters)-Changing regulations will not be enough to make Germany's planned offshore wind expansion work, executives and industry experts say, arguing the industry needs to find other ways to support one of the main pillars of the country's energy shift.

Germany's cabinet will discuss on Wednesday a draft law on expanding the use of offshore wind parks, a reaction to the slow expansion that network operators said was caused by insufficient regulation. "Certainly, the new law is a step in the right direction", Mike Winkel, head of renewable energy at E.ON, Germany's largest utility, told the annual Handelsblatt conference on renewable energy. "But the main goal has to be to get the grid connections done in time. Greater certainty for investors can only support this", he added.

He pointed to lengthy procedures to approve and connect offshore projects that were slowing down the offshore expansion. Grid operators are reluctant to build power lines at sea because they have to pay compensation should they break down. So many wind farms could lack the means to transfer the power they are generating back to the mainland.

The government is trying to address this bottleneck by passing on those costs to power consumers to reduce the risk for investors who have been very hesitant to invest in the offshore sector so far. That way, the government wants to make sure it can meet its goal of installing more than 10,000 MWs of offshore capacity by 2020, and 25,000 MW by 2030, to replace 20,500 MW in nuclear capacity gone by the end of 2022.

Read More…