Wednesday 10 April 2013

Scottish wind power generation surged 19% to a record in 2012
28 Mar 2013

Wind-power generation in Scotland surged 19% to a record in 2012 as energy from clean sources contributed 39% of the region's total electricity needs. Electricity generated from renewables rose 7% from 2011 to more than 14,600 GW-hours, the Scottish government said today in an e-mailed statement. Nearly 39% of the region's total electricity needs came from renewables in 2012, enough to power every home in Scotland. Scotland wants all its electricity to come from clean sources by 2020 and it has set an interim target for half to come from renewables by 2015. It contributed about 35% of total U.K, renewable generation last year.

Scotland approves wind farm opposed by Donald Trump
26 Mar 2013

The Scottish government on Tuesday approved an offshore wind farm that has drawn the ire of American tycoon Donald Trump, who fears it will spoil the views at his luxury golf resort nearby. Trump vowed to bring a lawsuit to stop the 230 million pound ($349 million) development, which consists of 11 wind turbines planned off the coast near Aberdeen in northeastern Scotland. "We will spend whatever monies are necessary to see to it that these huge and unsightly industrial wind turbines are never constructed", the real estate mogul said in a statement.

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said the project will boost the local economy, test new technologies and be capable of providing energy to meet the electricity needs of 49,000 homes--almost half the number in Aberdeen. The wind farm, owned by Swedish power company Vattenfall and a local business consortium, still needs to obtain a marine license and approval for an onshore substation. Trump is concerned that the turbines will spoil sea views for golfers at his sprawling, 750 million pound ($1.2 billion) resort at Menie Estate, which opened last summer despite strong local opposition.

The businessman, who bought the land north of Aberdeen in 2006, was due to add a luxury hotel to the site but he has said he will not proceed with those plans until the wind farm project is rejected. Trump Organization argues that Scottish leader Alex Salmond and his predecessor gave verbal assurances that a wind farm would never be approved off the coast of the resort. The tycoon criticised Tuesday's approval as a "purely political decision" and claimed it would ruin tourism and natural beauty in Scotland. "We will put our future plans in Aberdeen on hold, as will many others, until this ridiculous proposal is defeated", he said.

Trump himself has been criticised by local residents and environmentalists, who protested that his golf resort threatened the coastal sand dunes and wildlife in the area. In total, the resort has permission to build two golf courses, a 450 room hotel and holiday homes along 3 miles of coast. Last April Trump told a Scottish parliament inquiry into renewable energy to stop the wind power efforts in the country's north.

"Scotland, if you pursue this policy of these monstrous turbines, Scotland will go broke", he said. "They are ugly, they are noisy and they are dangerous. If Scotland does this, Scotland will be in serious trouble and will lose tourism to places like Ireland, and they are laughing at us". When challenged to produce hard evidence about his claims on the negative impact of turbines, Trump said: "I am the evidence, I am a world class expert in tourism".

France publishes 1GW offshore wind tenders
March. 25, 2013

PARIS, March 25 (UPI)--France has officially moved ahead with a second round of tenders for offshore wind farms, thorough which it seeking 1 GW of new capacity. First announced in September by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and confirmed in January by French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Delphine Batho, terms of the tenders were officially published Friday by the Commission for Energy Regulation, or CRE.

The tender calls for about 200 wind turbines off the French coast for a total installed capacity 1 GW, joining a first tender released last year, which will result in the building of nearly 2 GWs of wind turbines in the Pays de Loire, Brittany, Normandy and Upper Normandy. The government asserts the tender will trigger $4.5 billion in energy company investments and provide 10,000 direct jobs.

A first round of offshore wind power tenders launched in 2011 under the former government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy resulted in 2 GWs of bids going to a consortium led by French power giant EDF Energy, wind turbine manufacturer Alstom and Denmark's DONG Energy. The new tender is split into two wind farms--one would be built off the city of Le Treport in Normandy with the other near the Islands of Noirmoutier and Ile d'Yeu Islands off the Vendee department of the Pays de Loire along France's Atlantic coast.

The area off Le Treport covers 68 miles while the Pays de la Loire site covers 50 miles, which each expected to generate 480 500 MWs of power. The Treport region also figured in the first round but was rejected because the projected price of electricity generation was considered too high. CRE documents state the winners of the new tender will be announced in January 2014 with the construction and commissioning phase of the project is scheduled for 2021 23.

The maximum price of the electricity to be generated by the by new farms was set at $260 per MW to avoid producing "sticker shock" for consumers. The CRE also chose to set aside a 2 month deadline for submissions that was in force the first time, instead giving bidders until Nov. 29 to prepare their pitches. The results of the first tender were criticized for strengthening EDF Energy's control over the market, especially after French competitor GDF Suez was shut out in four bids, the British energy analysts ICIS Heren reported.

"If EDF Energy was the best-placed candidate in terms of price, there's nothing that can be done, and, if that happens again this time, it's hard to argue with it", an unnamed utility company source told the website. Alstom Chief Executive Patrick Kron has confirmed interest in the current Treport and Noirmoutier sites along with his EDF Energy and DONG partners, the regional daily Ouest France reported.

The new wind power tender come as France is having a national debate on energy transition, under which Hollande has pledged to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear power to 50% by 2025. He has set a goal of producing 23% of the country's energy mix from renewables by 2020, including 19 GWs from onshore wind turbines and 6 GWs from offshore installations.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Personality clue to 'wind turbine syndrome'
22 Mar 2013

Public concern about new technology infrastructure like mobile phone masts has been shown to trigger reports of ill health… and recently even the new 'green' technology of wind turbines has been blamed for medically unexplained non-specific symptoms. But now, for the first time, a study by psychologists, engineers and built environment experts at The University of Nottingham, has found no link between the 'measured' level of noise from small and micro wind turbines and reports of ill health.

The research could be helpful in prompting pre-emptive action in future planning applications for small and medium sized wind turbines to help reassure those concerned about the impact of small and micro wind turbines on their wellbeing.

Midlands survey
This collaborative study involved researchers from the Faculty of Engineering as well as Social Sciences and was funded by the UK Energy Research Centre . It is the first project to examine how personality, and specifically 'negative orientated personality' (NOP), affects reported levels of non-specific symptoms like headache, sleeplessness, stomach upsets and general malaise. It was carried out as a public survey of 1270 households within 500 metres of eight 0.6kW micro-turbines and within 1 km of four 5kW wind turbines in two Midlands cities.

Dr Claire Lawrence from the University's School of Psychology said: "We measured the actual noise from the turbines and used environmental noise modelling software that helped us to predict how much sound is actually heard by those living in the vicinity. We found there was no relationship between the 'real' level of noise and reports of ill health. "

The personality traits measured from the 138 returned questionnaires were neuroticism, (propensity to be more anxious, to take longer to revert to an equilibrium), negative affectivity (the propensity to feel negative emotions), and also frustration intolerance (sensitivity towards frustrations, discomforts and annoyances).

Sounds of a turbine
The research involved extensive fieldwork to gather data to create a series of geographical sound maps using state of the art computer software. Ten sound types were selected based on previous published research into wind turbine noise. The sounds were; swooshing, screeching, whistling, humming, throbbing, thumping, scratching, high frequency, low frequency and buzzing. For each, participants were asked to rate how often they had heard each sound from the micro or small turbine near their home, and how loud each sound was to them on a scale of 0 (never noticed) to 4 (extremely loud.) A mean score was calculated for both the occurrence and loudness for each participant.

To take into account people's attitude to wind power the survey asked them about their attitude to it using a scale of 1 to 7, from very positive to very negative. The participants also reported their experience of 12 common symptoms such as headache and fatigue over the preceding six months.

No evidence of a link
The researchers concluded that the people who live near a turbine and can hear some noise, did not suffer more non-specific health symptoms than people who could not in reality hear the same sound. The study indicated that generally it is not the turbine noise per se that is causing the symptoms. Indeed, for those individuals who did not score highly on these negative orientated personality traits, reporting hearing the sound was not associated with symptoms. This association was only evident for those higher in these traits.

While there is general public support for renewable energy, and indeed the majority of respondents in the reported study were positive about wind power in general, it is acknowledged that individuals are often more negative when faced with the prospect of having wind turbines near their homes. This research is the first study ever carried out to show the relationship between personality and perception of wind turbine noise in relation to a so-called 'green technology'. The results could be significant in informing local authority decision-making on the increasing number of planning applications for wind turbines across the UK.

Triodos buys half of U.K. wind farm, seeks to boost capacity 20%
21 Mar 2013

Triodos Renewables Plc, an arm of Netherlands-based Triodos Bank NV, purchased a stake in a wind farm in southeast England and said it's seeking to increase its power generating capacity by a further 20% this year. The unit and the bank's Renewables Europe Fund bought 49.8% of the 10-MW facility in Cambridge, Zeist-based Triodos said today in an e-mailed statement. The farm produces enough electricity to supply power to about 5,720 homes. Triodos plans to raise capacity by a fifth later this year, on top of 20% growth from today's deal and commissioning of a wind farm earlier this month, according to the statement.

Materials scientists make solar energy chip 100 times more efficient
20 Mar 2013

Scientists working at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) have improved an innovative solar power device to be about 100 times more efficient than its previous design in converting the sun's light and heat into electricity. "This is a major step toward making practical devices based on our technique for harnessing both the light and heat energy provided by the sun", said Nicholas Melosh, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and a researcher with SIMES, a joint SLAC/Stanford institute.

The new device is based on the photon-enhanced thermionic emission (PETE) process first demonstrated in 2010 by a group led by Melosh and SIMES colleague Zhi-Xun Shen, who is SLAC's advisor for science and technology. In a report last week in Nature Communications, the group described how they improved the device's efficiency from a few hundredths of a percent to nearly 2%, and said they expect to achieve at least another 10 fold gain in the future.

Concentrated sunlight heats up the device's semiconductor cathode to more than 400° Centigrade. Photoexcited hot electrons (blue dots) stream out of the cathode's nanotextured underside down to the anode, where they are collected as direct electrical current. Additional solar and device heat is collected below the anode to run electricity-generating steam turbines or Stirling Engines.

Conventional photovoltaic cells use a portion of the sun's spectrum of wavelengths to generate electricity. But PETE uses a special semiconductor chip to make electricity by using the entire spectrum of sunlight, including wavelengths that generate heat. In fact, the efficiency of thermionic emission improves dramatically at high temperatures, so adding PETE to utility-scale concentrating solar power plants, such as multi-MW power tower and parabolic trough projects in California's Mojave Desert, may increase their electrical output by 50%. Those systems use mirrors to focus sunlight into superbright, blazingly hot regions that boil water into steam, which then spins an electrical generator. "When placed where the sunlight is focused, our PETE chips produce electricity directly; and the hotter it is, the more electricity it will make," Melosh said.

The heart of the improved PETE chip is a sandwich of two semiconductor layers: One is optimized to absorb sunlight and create long-lived free electrons, while the other is designed to emit those electrons from the device so they can be collected as an electrical current. A cesium oxide coating on the second layer eases the electrons' passage from the chip. Future research is aimed at making the device up to an additional 10 times more efficient by developing new coatings or surface treatments that will preserve the atomic arrangement of the second layer's outer surface at the high temperatures it will encounter in the concentrating solar power plant.

"We expect that other materials, such as those incorporating barium or strontium, will make the surface much more stable up to at least 500° Celsius", said Jared Schwede, a Stanford graduate student who performed many of the PETE experiments. An additional challenge will be to engineer the device to withstand the dramatic 500 degree daily temperature swings at solar power plants, as their systems heat up during the day and then cool down at night.

Infigen takes on Origin over wind power, consumer costs
21 Mar 2013

The renewables industry has responded angrily to Grant King's renewed attempts to dilute the renewable energy target, accusing the CEO of Origin Energy of distorting the facts, and taking actions in his own self interest that could result in higher bills for consumers. Miles George, the CEO of Infigen Energy, the largest owner of wind farms in the country and an emerging developer of solar power, said King-who has waged a campaign against the RET for the last few years-had gone "over the top" in a speech to CEDA earlier this week and made statements that were "just not true".

George's comments were made before the government on Thursday announced it would endorse the recommendation of the Climate Change Authority to retain the fixed 41,000 GW target for the RET. But given the uncertainty over the upcoming election and the position of the Coalition, and the possibility that another review could be held in 2014, the same arguments are likely to be rolled out in coming months. George's intervention highlights to what extent the renewables industry has been frustrated by the actions of the incumbent industry, but also points to a warning of the rapid changes that are being ignored by utilities-possibly at their peril.

George told an energy conference in Sydney on Wednesday that Origin Energy had invested billions in the gas export industry, and was seeking to protect that investment. "The fact is that the expected huge rise in domestic gas prices to export parity pricing over the next few years will make domestic gas fired power generation prohibitively expensive, and for that reason alone uncompetitive", George said. "Independent studies conducted by the Climate Change Authority, among others, have found that increased levels of renewable energy will in fact displace coal fired generation, after gas exporters (including Origin Energy) price themselves out of the domestic electricity generation market".

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Fewer turbines for 'gigantic' Atlantic Array wind farm
20 Mar 2013

The number of turbines planned for an offshore wind farm has been reduced from a maximum of 278 to 240, the firm behind the project has revealed. RWE npower renewables, the developers of the Atlantic Array off north Devon, has reduced its plans following a consultation and environmental study. Campaigners, Slay The Array, said it was a minor change and would make little difference. The plans are expected to be submitted in June.

'Good compromise'
A company spokesman said the changes focused on reducing the visual effects and underwater disturbance caused when constructing the farm. Alistair Gill, head of offshore wind farm development, said the project was "half the size of the original plans". The initial plan was to build a maximum of 417 turbines. Mr Gill said: "It's a tiny fraction of the size awarded by the Crown Estate for offshore development in the Bristol Channel. "I think this is a good compromise", he said.

The company added the initial size awarded by the Crown Estate was 367 m²iles (950 km²) and its revised project would be 77 m²iles (200 km²). 'Absolutely gigantic' Campaigner, Steve Crowther, said: "This is about whether it's appropriate to have a wind farm twice the size of Bristol nine miles off the coast of north Devon. "People don't seem to understand the scale of this, it's absolutely gigantic". RWE npower renewables predicts the farm would provide enough electricity to power 900,000 households.

Large UAE solar project launched
March. 18, 2013

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, March 18 (UPI)--Launching the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world in Abu Dhabi represents a milestone for Middle East energy, an executive said.

Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar led a partnership that includes French supermajor Total and Spanish energy infrastructure company Abengoa to launch the Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant. The companies said it took $600 million and three years to build a project billed as the largest of its kind in the world. Masdar Chief Executive Officer Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber said the project is a milestone that has significance beyond the United Arab Emirates.

"Just like the rest of the world, the region is faced with meeting its rising demand for energy, while also working to reduce its carbon footprint", he said in a statement. "Shams 1 is a significant milestone, as large-scale renewable energy is proving it can deliver electricity that is sustainable, affordable and secure".

Shams 1 is designed to produce 100 MW of electricity by focusing the sun's rays on oil-filled pipes for steam generation. The project employs more than 258,000 mirrors on a 1 square-mile site. It would displace about 175,000 tons of CO₂ emissions per year.