Wednesday 19 December 2012

Australia takes a shine to solar energy research
13 Dec 2012

The Gillard government will step up its investment in joint solar power research with the US, using additional funds from its new $2.2 billion renewable energy agency.

Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources and Energy, will today announce more than $83 million for research as part of the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC) launched in 2010. The funding taps into money not yet spent from the $50 million Australian contribution to USASEC, managed by Newcastle-based Australian Solar Institute (ASI).

In addition, the new Australian Renewable Energy Agency will contribute about $38 million in funds to the research. The agency will absorb the ASI at the start of 2013. "These projects will leverage an investment of $140 million from industry, resulting in more than $220 million for solar research and involving over 40 organisations across Australia and the US", Mr Ferguson said in a statement. Most of the combined funding will be spent on two research endeavours.

About $33 million will go to the US-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics to develop the next generation of PV technologies and spur increases in performance and lower costs. The University of New South Wales will lead the research, supported by other universities in Australia and the US, and commercial partners including Blue-Scope Steel and Suntech Power R&D Australia.

The other major research focus, the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI), will receive $35 million aimed at making Australia a global leader in so-called Concentrating Solar Power technologies. The effort will be led by the CSIRO and mostly involve Australian and US universities, and Sandia National Laboratories Corp. An additional $15.5 million will be allocated to collaborative research projects under the Open Funding Round of the USASEC, the statement said.

Projects range from developing an Australian Solar Energy Forecasting System-a venture the CSIRO had sought funding for-that will improve the integration of solar power generation, to a solar device that simplifies incorporation of solar power into hybrid fossil fuel applications.

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New wave of wind energy
13 Dec 2012

The temporary 1:8 scale wind turbine test site was installed Nov. 29 and will be in place for up to three months. Following a successful test, UMaine's patent-pending VolturnUS test prototype will be placed off the coast of Maine in two locations in 2013.

Components of the floating turbine are being manufactured at the UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and will be shipped to Cianbro's facility in Brewer, where the unit will be assembled including hull, tower, turbine and blades, and placed in the Penobscot River in a vertical position. The floating turbine unit will be towed down the river and moored at sea for testing to evaluate the technology and environmental impacts, and to collect data to validate design tools.

Once in the Gulf of Maine, the turbine will be the first grid-connected offshore turbine in the United States, marking a critical milestone for the development of floating turbine technology. The demo project is designed to de-risk the technology and pave the way for private investment in a commercial scale-park by 2018-20, according to Habib Dagher, director of UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The technology was tested in a wave-wind basin at the 1:50 scale in 2011.

Following a successful offshore test next year, a small 12 MW demonstration project consisting of two, 6 MW turbines is proposed for construction in 2015-17. A commercial-scale park, expected to be in the 500 MW range, will have more than 80 turbines in a space of 4 miles by 8 miles, and will be positioned more than 20 miles off shore, beyond the horizon. "We're here at the beginning of an exciting era that could create a whole new industry in our state, and reduce our reliance on imported fuels", says Dagher.

UMaine President Paul Ferguson notes that the work of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center features a remarkable blend of student and faculty researchers, as well as public and private partners who characterize the University of Maine as a leading 21st-century research university. "The center is poised to lead the transformation in deepwater offshore wind research", Ferguson says.

The deepwater offshore wind research is a key transformative technology that the U.S, needs in order to compete globally, says Sen. Susan Collins, who has been instrumental in helping secure critical federal seed funding to advance the project's R&D efforts.

"Maine has been at the forefront of deepwater floating turbine technology, and I am confident Maine will be at the forefront of making deepwater offshore wind a hallmark of U.S, innovation", Collins says. "The Advanced Structures and Composites Center is developing cutting-edge research, providing an outstanding education for the next generation of engineers, and, best of all, spurring economic growth for our state and new jobs for our people".

UMaine formed the DeepCwind Consortium with more than 30 commercial partners in Maine and beyond who are collectively working on prototype floating wind turbines. The Maine Ocean Energy Task Force has set a goal of producing 5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Building this 5 gigawatt network of floating offshore farms could attract nearly $20 billion of private investment to Maine and potentially create thousands of jobs, according to Dagher.