Friday 12 October 2012

Solahart UK clinches exclusive UK supply deal from Australian solar firm
2 Oct 2012

Yorkshire-based Solahart UK, a renewable energy company, has signed a supply deal with Australian solar firm Solahart. As part of the deal, Solahart UK has become the exclusive UK supplier of Solarhart solar thermal products made in Australia and Europe. Solahart UK, part of the Photon Utilities group, will import Solahart products and have a network of approved installers across the country to fit them.

The company believes that the deal could create local jobs and bring "a new top-quality environmental technology to the UK". Solahart UK is now seeking to recruit an initial 20 distributors and installers. Adrian Taffinder, Managing Director and CEO of Solahart UK, said: "The future's looking incredible exciting. We're increasing our team from 14 to 34, as we need sales, marketing and administrative staff, as well as warehouse staff and experienced solar engineers. "I hope this will be just the start as there is huge potential for further development".

Taffinder believes that, as the cost of traditional energy continues to rise, more businesses and householders look to cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He commented: "You don't have to live in Australia to use the sun to generate up to 70 per¢ of your hot water for free all year-round, plus qualify for further incentives under government schemes that help make being environmentally friendly really cost-effective.

"Solahart has big markets in Northern Italy and Germany. It has even been installed at the Mount Everest base camp, which only has four hours of sunlight a day, proving that it doesn't need high temperatures to do a great job". Enterprising Barnsley coach Emily Anderson, of E Anderson Consulting Ltd, helped secure the Solahart deal, as well as £50,000 in funding.

Anderson said: "Like most entrepreneurs, Adrian is a big thinker. We have come in to translate his vision into a detailed, watertight business plan and we'll also be supporting its implementation". Taffinder said: "I've always had a personal interest in renewable energy and the fact that the UK has the fastest growing market for it made the sector the natural choice for me". Solahart pioneered using the sun to heat water over 50 years ago and supplies systems to 80 countries around the world.

Nuclear reactor halts operation due to malfunction
2 Oct 2012

A nuclear reactor at South Korea's Gori Nuclear Power Plant stopped operation Tuesday due to what appeared to be a problem in the reactor's control system, plant operators said, adding there was no risk of radiation leakage. The Shingori 1 Reactor was shut down at 8:10 a.m, after a warning signal indicated a malfunction in the control rod, which is used to control the rate of fission of nuclear materials, according to the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. It is the first time that reactor, located 450 km southeast of Seoul, has been shut down due to a malfunction since it began commercial operation on Feb. 28, 2011. An investigation is currently underway to verify the exact cause of the problem, officials from the state-run operator of nuclear power plants said.

Academic talks up wind energy potential
2 Oct 2012

An academic says South Australia has the potential to almost triple the electricity produced from wind power. It generated a 26% share last financial year, 2% more than coal. Professor of Environmental Mathematics at the University of South Australia, John Boland, said projected wind farm projects would add a further 2,000 MWs to the SA power grid.

"At the moment we've got something like 1,200 MWs installed so, you know, quite a substantial amount if they go ahead", he said. Professor Boland said a balance was needed to keep communities and wind farm developers satisfied. "Sometimes people in lots of areas they sometimes feel their views, even though they're sort of taken, are totally ignored", he said. "I think it's an important issue to try and figure out how you sort of really engage with the community".

SA premier wants rates, power price cuts
2 Oct 2012

A CUT in interest rates and lower power prices in South Australia could provide a "tipping point" to revive consumer confidence and the state's economy, Premier Jay Weatherill says. The premier says it is vital all banks pass on Tuesday's cut in official interest rates and has urged electricity retailers to proceed with price cuts for some consumers which have been earmarked for 2013.

"It's something they can do; it's something they should do and it's something that I demand of them", Mr Weatherill said. "These two initiatives taken together should send a positive message to South Australian consumers who have been incredibly cautious, and rightly so, because of the very uncertain economic environment that they face. "These two initiatives will provide some relief to consumers and we hope that this will stimulate renewed confidence which will not only benefit the South Australian economy but flow through to jobs and to small businesses".

The South Australian essential services commission has recommended a $160 a-year cut for about a quarter of the state's households and businesses from January. The cut will apply to all consumers on the standing contract with retailer AGL Energy, which is regulated by the commission. It won't apply to consumers on market contracts with AGL Energy or to those signed with other retailers, unless retailers respond to the government's call. Welfare groups and the Greens have hailed the price cut, which MP Mark Parnell said was driven by the greater use of renewable energy, including wind and solar.

"Finally, sanity has prevailed", Mr Parnell said. "We have the lowest wholesale electricity prices in South Australia in eight years, yet the retail price has continued to soar". Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride said the cut in interest rates of a quarter of a percentage point had come at the ideal time. "Consumers need the confidence to get out and start spending again in the lead-up to the important Christmas trading period", Mr McBride said.

Green groups cry foul over email to generate "fake" complaints against Waterloo wind farm in South Australia
5 Oct 2012

GREEN energy groups are crying foul over an email campaign they claim is intended to generate fake complaints against the Waterloo wind farm in the state's mid-north. The Clean Energy Council said the email, sent last month by local resident Mary Morris to about 100 residents in the area, encouraged them to invent health or noise complaints against the 37 turbine wind farm, 30km south east of Clare.

"What the email shows is that anti-wind farm campaigners will use a range of tactics to pressure authorities and make it seem as though there are more of them than there really are", CEC policy director Russell Marsh said. "(However) It's important that wind farm developers consult closely with the local community around any new wind farm to ensure that any genuine concerns and issues are heard and addressed".

In the email, Ms Morris, who lives 17km from the wind farm, said Goyder Council had said it had received no written noise or health complaints regarding the Waterloo wind farm. It asked residents to send in a written complaint to both the Goyder and Clare and Gilbert Valley councils, outlining the impact of the wind farm on their health and hearing.

"All it has to be is a simple letter stating that the noise and vibration is causing a serious disturbance to sleep and rest, and/or that people are becoming sick-mention elderly and frail people AND children as well, especially if this applies to you", the email said. "If you have already sent in a letter, send again with a cover note that you wish your submission to be considered as a formal complaint about the effects of the Waterloo wind farm".

Both the Goyder and Clare and Gilbert Valley councils said they had received only a handful of letters related to the email, and they would not be taking any further action. Ms Morris denied the email was intended to "coach" residents to send fictitious complaints. She said it was instead intended to remind residents to ensure their concerns were properly taken into account.

"My intention was purely to alert people that if they thought they had communicated to the Council, this may not be the case", she said. "Phone calls and conversations with councillors at community meetings and workshops were not considered formal complaints".

Ms Morris said local community members had given up trying to communicate directly with Waterloo wind farm owner TRUEnergy, as their complaints were not taken seriously. However, TRUEnergy said it worked hard to address community concerns, and had witnessed no increase in complaints as a result of the email campaign.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

A field guide to the war on wind power
4 Oct 2012

The debate on whether wind farms are a good source of alternative energy is being fuelled by a combination of NIMBY-ism, ideology and vested interests. And the way in which it has progressed is a little disturbing.

Dr Simon Chapman, professor in public health at Sydney University, has won plaudits around the world for his leadership in the fight against the tobacco industry. Michael Wooldridge knows that, which is what makes his barb so calculatedly nasty.

"It's a great pity an eminent person like Simon Chapman is now using against others some of the tactics that were used against him by the tobacco industry", says the former Health Minister and deputy leader of the federal Liberal Party.

Chapman, Wooldridge tells The Global Mail, is "one of those renewable energy fundamentalists", who "engage in conspiracy theories and attacks on individuals".

Really? And what exactly has caused Wooldridge to direct such an outrageous spray at one of the heroes of public health? Well, Chapman has been defending established science on the subject of wind farms. He has scoffed at claims advanced by Wooldridge and other opponents of wind power that it is a significant threat to human health.

Apparently oblivious to the fact that his ad hominem attack amounts to exactly what he accuses Chapman of, Wooldridge goes on to voice his own conspiracy theory--that many of the supposedly independent experts on wind power are in fact representatives of vested interests. (Although he stops short of suggesting this of Chapman.)

Read More…

Liquid air 'offers energy storage hope'
2 Oct 2012

Turning air into liquid may offer a solution to one of the great challenges in engineering-how to store energy. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says liquid air can compete with batteries and hydrogen to store excess energy generated from renewables. IMechE says "wrong-time" electricity generated by wind farms at night can be used to chill air to a cryogenic state at a distant location. When demand increases, the air can be warmed to drive a turbine.

Engineers say the process to produce "right-time" electricity can achieve an efficiency of up to 70%. MechE is holding a conference today to discuss new ideas on how using "cryo-power" can benefit the low-carbon economy. The technology was originally developed by Peter Dearman, a garage inventor in Hertfordshire, to power vehicles. A new firm, Highview Power Storage, was created to transfer Mr Dearman's technology to a system that can store energy to be used on the power grid. The process, part-funded by the government, has now been trialled for two years at the back of a power station in Slough, Buckinghamshire.

More than hot air The results have attracted the admiration of IMechE officials. "I get half a dozen people a week trying to persuade me they have a brilliant invention", head of energy Tim Fox told BBC News. "In this case, it is a very clever application that really does look like a potential solution to a really great challenge that faces us as we increase the amount of intermittent power from renewables".

Dr Fox urged the government to provide incentives in its forthcoming electricity legislation for firms to store energy on a commercial scale with this and other technologies. IMechE says the simplicity and elegance of the Highview process is appealing, especially as it addresses not just the problem of storage but also the separate problem of waste industrial heat.

  • The process follows a number of stages:
  • "Wrong-time electricity" is used to take in air, remove the CO2 and water vapour (these would freeze otherwise)
  • the remaining air, mostly nitrogen, is chilled to -190C (-310F) and turns to liquid (changing the state of the air from gas to liquid is what stores the energy)
  • the liquid air is held in a giant vacuum flask until it is needed
  • when demand for power rises, the liquid is warmed to ambient temperature. As it vaporizes, it drives a turbine to produce electricity - no combustion is involved

IMechE says this process is only 25% efficient but it is massively improved by co-siting the cryo-generator next to an industrial plant or power station producing low-grade heat that is currently vented and being released into the atmosphere. The heat can be used to boost the thermal expansion of the liquid air. More energy is saved by taking the waste cool air when the air has finished chilling, and passing it through three tanks containing gravel. The chilled gravel stores the coolness until it is needed to restart the air-chilling process.

Delivering durability
Highview believes that, produced at scale, their kits could be up to 70% efficient, and IMechE agrees this figure is realistic. "Batteries can get 80% efficiency so this isn't as good in that respect", explains Dr Fox. "But we do not have a battery industry in the UK and we do have plenty of respected engineers to produce a technology like this. "What's more, it uses standard industrial components-which reduces commercial risk; it will last for decades and it can be fixed with a spanner".

In the future, it is expected that batteries currently used in electric cars may play a part in household energy storage. But Richard Smith, head of energy strategy for National Grid, told BBC News that other sorts of storage would be increasingly important in coming decades and should be incentivised to commercial scale by government. He said: "Storage is one of four tools we have to balance supply and demand, including thermal flexing (switching on and off gas-fired power stations); interconnections, and demand-side management. Ultimately it will be down to economics".

Mr Dearman, who also invented the MicroVent resuscitation device used in ambulances, told BBC News he was delighted at the success of his ideas. He said he believed his liquid air engine would prevail against other storage technologies because it did not rely on potentially scarce materials for batteries. "I have been working on this off and on for close on 50 years", he told BBC News.

"I started when I was a teenager because I thought there wouldn't be enough raw materials in the world for everyone to have a car. There had to be a different way. Then somehow I came up with the idea of storing energy in cold. "It's hard to put into words to see what's happening with my ideas today".

John Scott, from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), added: "At present, pumped-hydroelectric storage is the only practical bulk storage medium in the British grid. "However, locations are very restricted", he told BBC News. "In the future, if new storage technologies can be deployed at a lower cost than alternatives, it would benefit the power system". A spokesman for the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (Decc) said it would shortly launch a scheme to incentivise innovation in energy storage. Other grants are available from Ofgem.

Marine energy projects pick up momentum
1 Oct 2012

LONDON--Hopes of harnessing the churn and flow of the seas to generate power are pushing forward work in the small but growing tidal and wave energy industry. Despite a tough investment climate, proponents expect the technologies to begin contributing significant amounts of clean energy to power grids around the world within a decade. Tidal energy technology harvests power from the rise and fall of the sea caused by the gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. Wave power systems harness the energy of surface waves.

The immense force of the tides has long tantalized those hoping to harvest energy from them, but although a few small projects are operational, the technical barriers are high. Two distinct technologies exist--traditional dam-based plants and more recent "tidal stream" generators, built like underwater windmills. But tidal dams can be ecologically harmful while in places suitable for tidal stream plants, currents can sometimes be so strong that they risk destroying the generating turbines.

Capturing energy from waves may be even trickier. But proponents say that if wave projects are successful, the energy available for harvest would be even greater than with tidal stream power, which requires particular physical conditions, like a narrows where water runs quickly. While not as predictable as the tides, waves can be anticipated several days in advance as they move across the sea, and they tend to be strong in winter, when demand for electricity is high.

Most tidal stream power projects are still in the testing phase--the first to deliver energy to the U.S, grid went on line last month--and wave energy is even further behind. Costs are far higher than for more-established renewable sources like wind and solar, largely because equipment must be strong enough to withstand the force of the seas, and maintenance workers have to brave tough marine conditions. But "there is a huge prize, and therefore it is worth going for", said Tim Yeo, a Conservative lawmaker in the British Parliament who heads the Commons' Energy and Climate Change Committee.

The predictability and power of tides makes them a potentially valuable complement to the uncertainty of wind and solar generation, and the amount of energy available is enormous, said Mr. Yeo. His committee reported in February that wave and tidal power could eventually meet 20% of Britain's current electricity demand.

For the industry, the biggest obstacle is cost. Small projects already in existence are generating energy at five to six times the price of onshore wind power, and seven times the price of natural gas power plants, said Joe Salvatore, a renewable-power analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And the cost of installing devices has gone up, not down, as companies have learned from experience how tough their devices must be, he said.

"I'm optimistic in the medium term, I'm not necessarily optimistic in the short term", said Angus McCrone, chief editor at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "There will be a shakeout and there will be casualties, and because of that, there will be negative publicity before there's positive publicity".

Still, costs should come down as technologies improve and equipment is manufactured on a larger scale, he said. Some big players, particularly engineering groups, are jumping into the sector. Rolls Royce bought the British company Tidal Generation in 2009 and Siemens bought Marine Current Turbines of Britain this year. The French firm DCNS has grabbed a stake in OpenHydro of Ireland.

Read More…

Utah scientists find massive geothermal hotspot in west desert
30 Sep 2012

Scientists at the Utah Geological Survey say they have found a massive new source of potential geothermal power in Utah's west desert. It is a different type of resource, they say, much deeper than the geothermal industry now uses. But it still should be exploitable.

Over the past two years, crews drilled nine wells in Utah's Black Rock Desert basin south of Delta to test out a theory that water at high temperatures might exist deep beneath the surface that would be hot enough to be turned into steam, which could then be used to generate electricity. They hit pay dirt.

"There is definitely something there, and it is big", said Rick Allis, director of the Utah Geological Survey. The agency has identified an approximately 100 square-mile area within the Black Rock Desert basin it believes could eventually support power plants that could conservatively produce hundreds of MWs of electricity. A MW is enough energy to run the appliances in 750 homes.

Allis said the area is especially attractive for geothermal development because of the existing infrastructure. There is a large coal-fired power plant in the area, a 300 MW wind farm and a major electrical transmission line nearby that could be used to get the power to where it is needed. "Our next step is to get [the geothermal power industry] interested in moving forward to develop this resource", he said.

The Utah Geological Survey plans to tell the industry about its discovery at the annual meeting of the Geothermal Resources Council next week in Reno. Karl Gawell is president of the Geothermal Energy Association, which is part of the council. On Thursday he termed the Utah discovery "exciting" and predicted it would be generating a lot of talk and interest among companies that are developing geothermal resources. "It's exciting for Utah, too, because it could eventually generate a lot of jobs and economic growth".

Read More…

Makkah to build $640m solar energy project
30 Sep 2012

Authorities in the Saudi Arabian city of Makkah say they will build an SAR2.4bn (US$640m) solar power project capable of producing around 100MW of electricity, it was reported. According to Saudi daily Al-Eqtisadiah, the development is intended to meet growing energy requirements in the municipality and shave about SAR2.2bn off the holy city's electricity bill. "The project will be established on an area of about 2 million m². About 20 international consortiums consisting of about 100 companies will compete for the execution of the project", Osama bin Fadl Al-Bar, Mayor of Makkah, told the newspaper.

Al-Bar added that the location of the development would be chosen by the successful contractor, which would purchase the piece of land and then return it to Makkah authorities at the contract's close. Bids to build the project will open during the first week of next year, Al-Bar added. Depending on its success, he said, other municipalities in the Gulf's most populous nation could develop their own solar power strategy, which could save the kingdom up to 8m barrels of oil per day by 2030.

A report published by Citigroup last month said that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of crude oil, could become a net importer of oil by 2030 if domestic energy consumption continues to grow at its current rate. Oil demand for use in domestic electricity consumption is currently rising by about 8% annually, with around 3m barrels per day-or a quarter of total output-currently serving national energy requirements. All of Saudi Arabia's natural gas, the kingdom's other natural resource, is currently allocated for domestic consumption.