Friday 24 May 2013

Hawaiian Governor welcomes new 5 megawatt solar farm

Power Engineering Magazine

The Governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, joined representatives of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) and Hawaiian Electric Company, to dedicate the new 5 MW Kalaeloa Solar Farm in West Oahu. The ceremony which took place on March 8, 2013 was hosted by Bright Plan Energy LLC, the solar farms management company, along with SunPower Corp who designed and constructed the project. Bright Plan Energy, in partnership with an affiliate of D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, L.L.C., was responsible for the acquisition in November 2012. Governor Abercrombie applauded all of the partners involved stating that this will be the most productive Solar Farm, created to date, on the island. He based this on, not only the large renewable energy output capacity, but the abundant amount of sunshine on Oahu. "It will have significant positive impact on the states renewable energy portfolio standards goal of 40% by 2030." Abercrombie said.

SunPower installed their ultra efficient photo voltaic panels on a SunPower ® T0 Tracker system at the 36 acre site. The system positions the panels according to the location of the sun at any time of day resulting in a 25% increase of captured sunlight over typical fixed position units. This also permits less land usage per watt. According to SunPower CEO Tom Warner, the system will generate cost competitive power for at least 20 years. It is the first project of its type located on state lands.

The Kalaeloa Solar Farm is known as an on grid system which feeds the renewable energy directly into the power grid owned by Hawaiian Electric. The utility has agreed to purchase the power produced by the farm. The US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the production of solar power will reduce carbon emission by 9500 tons per year. That is the equivalent of over 400,000 barrels of oil being used over the 20 year purchase agreement period.

Hawaii was ranked third, right behind New Jersey and Arizona in solar rating per capita in January 2013. With the addition of this project Hawaii now leads the nation in per capita solar production according to Robbie Elm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president. "This and other utility-scale projects will help Hawaii maintain our solar leadership and reduce our unsustainable and expensive dependence on foreign oil." Elm said.

The unchallenged US leader in the overall number of installations is still California, where a 4.2 MW installation brought the number to over 121,000 installs. That is over 15 times greater than number two ranked New Jersey with 7700. That top spot is not likely to ever be taken due to the geographical size, available land and number of sunny days in the Golden State and a very high ecological awareness of the population. You can read more about the installation at Power Engineering Magazine.

Ballooning gas exports to leave Australian – Wind winner: Energy
10 Apr 2013

Australia's $65 billion of projects to export liquefied natural gas from the east coast are set to push up domestic prices, opening the way for record investment at home in competing energy sources to produce power.

Prices are forecast to double this decade closer to levels customers in Asia will pay for Australian LNG after companies including BG Group (BG Group/) Plc and Santos Ltd, open terminals to ship gas that could have been supplied to the local market. That will help drive the A$33 billion ($34 billion) of wind-and solar power projects developers plan to build through 2020 in Australia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"With high, LNG-driven domestic gas prices, renewable energy is the cheapest source of new electricity generation", according to Kobad Bhavnagri, a Sydney-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It is quite conceivable that we could leapfrog straight from coal to renewables to reduce emissions as carbon prices rise".

Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of as little as A$80 per MW when a price on carbon emissions is included, compared with A$143 a MW from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 a MW from a new station powered by gas, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report said in February. Solar power in Australia will be competitive with gas in 2015 or 2016, according to Bhavnagri.

Contrasting Policies
Policies embraced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard's government to sell natural gas to the priciest market and tax carbon emissions are making renewable energy more competitive with fossil fuels. New wind farms are cheaper than gas-fired plants this year for the first time, improving opportunities for turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) and wind farm operator AGL Energy Ltd. (AGK) Australia has committed to get 20% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

That contrasts with the US, where President Barack Obama approved just one gas-export terminal for destinations such as Japan and has failed to mandate a federal clean energy standard. "Australia has essentially said 'we should be subjected to global markets and let our products move to the highest value use,'' Tim Jordan, a Sydney-based analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, said by phone. ''We're getting a better return by exporting our gas rather than reserving it.''

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California wind power blows away production record
8 Apr 2013

FOLSOM, Calif.--Wind power is gaining speed. The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) reports a new record was set when turbines spinning within the ISO power grid combined to produce a new record of 4,196 MWs (MW) at 6:44 p.m, on Sunday. The ISO is the main operator for the state's high voltage network, serving about 80% of the Golden State.

On Friday, total wind levels surpassed the 4,000 MW milestone when 4,095 MW helped to power California. Previously, the all-time record peak output for wind power was 3,944 MW on March 3, 2013.

"With these impressive wind production levels, California is well positioned to meet the 33% by 2020 green power goal", said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. "Our control center operators are tracking a steady increase in renewable energy and we are leveraging the latest forecasting technology as well as complementary flexible resources to capture and optimize this carbon-free power supply".

There is a total of 5,899 MWs of wind plant capacity installed within the ISO grid. Not all of the wind power was available yesterday as a result of routine generation and transmission outages. California is now the second largest producer of wind power next to Texas. The independent system operator ERCOT, which serves about 80% of the Lone Star State, reports 10,407 MW of wind generation installed and achieved a record peak of 9,481 MW on February 9, 2013.

EON, Dong Connect World’s Largest Marine Wind Farm to U.K. Grid
8 Apr 2013

London Array, the world's largest operating wind farm at sea, set the last of its 175 turbines whirling as backers E.ON SE, DONG Energy A/S and Masdar Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co, seek to cut costs by building at scale. All of the Siemens AG (SIE) turbines are now exporting power to the U.K, grid, the companies said today in a statement. The 630 MW facility off southeast England will generate enough electricity for almost half a million homes a year.

Britain, the largest market for marine wind farms, is working to reduce the cost of the technology that's as much as double the expense of coal-fired power generation. The country has a target to get 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade, up from almost 12% now. The current cost of offshore wind is about 160 euros ($208) a MW, according to Fredericia, Denmark-based DONG Energy, which owns 50% of London Array. E.ON has 30% and Masdar 20%.

"As we now look to our pipeline of future projects, DONG Energy is determined to drive down the costs of our offshore wind farms to 100 euros per MW for projects we'll be sanctioning in 2020", Benj Sykes, country manager for DONG Energy's U.K, wind business, said today. Britain has 3,300 MWs of installed offshore wind capacity, more than the rest of the world combined. It plans to reach 18,000 MWs by the end of the decade. London Array is about 20 km (12 miles) off the coasts of Kent and Essex. The plant's owners are studying an expansion of the site to raise capacity to 870 MWs.

China boosts wind power output 41%, edges closer to 2015 target
9 Apr 2013

China, the world's biggest wind power market, posted a 41% surge in the production of electricity from wind in 2012, bringing the nation a step closer to meet its goal in three years. The country generated 100.8 billion kW-hours of wind power last year, compared with 71.5 billion kW-hours in 2011, the National Energy Administration said today in a statement on its website. Total grid-connected installed capacity increased 31% to 62.7 GWs from 47.9 GWs in 2011.

China said in August that it aims to install 100 GWs of grid-connected wind farms by 2015 and to generate 190 billion kW-hours of power. Wind energy has become the Asian nation's third-biggest energy resource, following coal and hydroelectric, and accounts for about 2% of total electricity, according to data from China's State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Award-winning research improves wind power reliability
13 Apr 2003

A Curtin University researcher who has improved the reliability of wind-generated energy entering the grid was recently awarded the prestigious John Madsen Medal by Engineers Australia.

Professor Syed Islam, Director of Curtin Centre for Smart Grid and Sustainable Power Systems co-authored the research paper with Mansour Mohseni of Power Systems Consultants, which was named best paper published in the 2011 Australian Journal of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Together they introduced a system to ensure wind power generated by turbines is contributing continuous energy to the grid, overcoming the common problem of power supply being interrupted by electrical faults.

"The Australian Grid Code states that wind turbines need to remain in an uninterrupted operation, and if electrical faults are not over-ridden within milliseconds, the power source will be disconnected from the grid", Professor Islam said. "While wind power is the most cost-effective renewable technology available, disturbances and different voltage sag and swell periods often cause the energy source to fall below the Australian Grid Code requirements, even when using the best wind power conversion system technology".

To alleviate this problem in wind power conversion system technology, the team replaced the standard current regulator which often responds sluggishly to changes in voltage, to an enhanced vector controller, proven to perform steadily in various operating conditions. "What we proposed in this research has helped wind turbine manufacturers meet the regulations and compete in the Australian energy market, keeping us on track for the government's 20% target by 2020", he said.

Professor Islam said he was very honoured and humbled to have his research efforts recognised through the John Madsen Medal, which has led to other ventures for developing wind power technology and receiving other awards including WA Power Engineer of the Year. He said more projects in the field of vector controllers are on the horizon, with one of his students looking to improve the technology further this year.

The medal honours the memory of Sir John Madsen who was Foundation Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Sydney University from 1920 to 1949. Among many other achievements, Sir John Madsen proposed the founding of a Radio Research Board and was a leader in the development of radar in Australia. The award-winning paper, Enhanced vector control of doubly-fed induction generator based wind turbines to comply with the Australian Grid Code requirements, can be downloaded from the informit website at:

Professor Syed Islam, Director of Curtin Centre for Smart Grid and Sustainable Power Systems
Tel: 08 9266 7680, Email:

Megan Meates, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241, Mobile: 0401 103 755, Email:

Coal-fired power drops despite heatwave
6 Apr 2013

The share of coal in eastern Australia's electricity generation network has continued to recede, along with carbon emissions, despite a March heatwave that lifted power demand for the first time in 16 months. The widespread and prolonged heat over the country's south-east early last month prompted the biggest peak in demand for the entire summer. It was enough to trigger a 0.01% annualised gain in electricity demand on the National Electricity Market Management Company for March, the first increase since November 2011, monthly research by consultants Pitt and Sherry shows.

Although coal-fired power plants raised output to meet the extra load on the peak day, March 12, their proportion of total generation eased another 0.2%age points to 74.6% for the month. In February, their share of the electricity market fell below 75% for the first time. Hydro, wind and solar edged higher to a record share of 12.6%, shows the Cedex report, while gas increased 0.1%age point to 12.8%. Carbon emissions intensity eased to 835kgs a MW, down from 837kgs in February. Carbon emissions for March for electricity from the NEM were down 10.1 million tonnes, at an annualised rate, since the start of the carbon tax in July.

Generator response
Hugh Saddler, principal consultant at Pitt and Sherry, said generators on the NEM-which supplies power to NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT-were able to absorb large shifts in demand on the peak day. Wind generation on March 12 varied between 3 to 5% of demand. The change, though, was "between one and two orders of magnitude" less than the shift in power demand over a similar period, Dr Saddler said. "The notion that it's very hard to deal with the intermittency of wind is just ridiculous", he said.

Some energy companies have warned that an overly rapid increase in renewable energy-particularly from wind farms-could undermine the reliability of power supplies given the variability of wind strengths.

US drop
The US is reporting a similar trend in falling emission from the energy sector-for different reasons. Energy-related CO₂ emissions in 2012 were the lowest in the United States since 1994, at 5.3 billion tonnes, the US Energy Information Administration reported on Friday. With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007. Coal is being displaced in electricity generation by less carbon-intensive natural gas in the wake of a rapid expansion of so-called unconventional gas production from shale. A mild northern winter also curbed demand for heating oil, the government said.

Transport emissions jump
While emissions from the energy sector are in retreat in Australia, the opposite is true in transport-a sector largely unaffected by the carbon tax. Transport data suggest car fuel consumption has increased by less than 1% over the six years from 2005 06 to 2011 12. Fuel consumption by light commercial vehicles, though, has risen 14% over the period.

Bulk diesel consumption has also jumped, rising 31%%, alone lifting carbon emissions by 10.1 million tonnes a year. Aviation fuel use has risen by 40%, adding an additional 5.6 million tonnes of CO₂ annually to the atmosphere, the Cedex report found. expansion of unconventional gas production. A mild winter also curbed demand for heating oil.

Renewables can provide power 24/7
5 Apr 2013

German researchers have found a way to overcome one of the problems with renewable energy-the fact that it is not always available-by linking different options in a unified system.

CRITICS OF RENEWABLES have always claimed that sun and wind are only intermittent producers of electricity and need fossil fuel plants as back-up to make them viable. But German engineers have proved this is not so. By combining the output of a number of solar, wind and biogas plants the grid can be provided with stable energy 24 hours a day without fear of blackouts, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) in Kassel.

For Germany, which has turned its back on nuclear power and is investing heavily in all forms of renewables to reduce its CO₂ emissions, this is an important breakthrough. The country has a demanding industrial sector that needs a large and stable electricity supply, and some doubted that this could be achieved in the long term without retaining nuclear or large fossil fuel plants.

Solving the problem is becoming urgent. The latest figures show that on some days of the year the electricity being generated from sun, wind, biomass, water and geothermal production already accounts for more than half of the load required in the country. The research is funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment and is aimed at showing that the entire electricity grid could be run on renewable energy.

Dr Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of IWES, said: "Each source of energy-be it wind, sun or biogas-has its strengths and weaknesses. If we manage to skillfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply for Germany". The idea is that many small power plant operators can feed their electricity into the grid but act as a single power plant using computers to control the level of power.

Sharing the load
Scientists linked together 25 plants with a nominal power output of 120 MWs. Surplus power could be used for charging electric vehicles and for pumped storage (pumping water uphill into a reservoir to produce hydroelectric later). When many small producers work together, then regional differences when the wind blows or the sun is intermittent are balanced out in the grid and can be boosted by controllable biogas facilities.

If there is too much surplus energy then the power can also be used to create and store thermal energy to be used later. Kasper Knorr, the project manager for the scheme, which is known as the Combined Power Plant2 research project, says the idea is to ensure that the consumer is supplied reliably with 230 volts at a frequency of 50 Hertz.

The current system of supplying the grid with electricity is geared to a few large producers. In the new system, with dozens of small producers, there will need to be extra facilities at intervals on the system to stabilise voltage. Part of the project is designed to find out how many of these the country will need.

BP’s renewables plaything
4 Apr 2013

Overnight, BP announced it will abandon its wind farm business in the US. The oil and gas giant, its reputation still tarnished by the Gulf oil spill of a couple of years ago, will use the sale of the division to help pay off some of its spill liabilities. In other words, it's a clean energy sell-off to pay for the sins of its dirty energy division. Oh, the irony. Reuters suggested the sale of the division could reap around $1.5 billion, while Bloomberg provided a more optimistic number of $2.2 $3.1 billion.

As the rumoured sale price suggests, BP is far from a bit player in US wind, with 16 wind farms and a generating capacity of around 2,600 MW. It took five years for the company to go from 0 turbines in the US to 1,000 (and, incidentally, probably just a couple of months to go back to 0). It marks another sign in the transformation of a business that has moved from British Petroleum (the original name) to Beyond Petroleum (a monicker it gave itself in a long running marketing campaign) to Back to Petroleum.

While the Beyond Petroleum ads suggested otherwise, BP never fully committed itself to renewables, ploughing enough money in to look like it was a progressive company while not ploughing enough in to make a real fist of it. It exited solar at the end of 2011 after being the market leader around the turn of the century. Now, with the exit from wind power (and previous move away from carbon capture and storage), BP's alternative energy division now consists of just biofuels research and ethanol refining in Brazil.

Indeed, the funds it spent marketing itself as a company looking beyond fossil fuels mightn't be that far off how much it has actually spent on wind and solar. A Reuters article from April 2010 highlights the stunning speed of the about face for the company: London-based BP is principally involved in four types of alternative technologies: wind power, solar power, carbon capture and storage and biofuels. "We're absolutely holding these as core businesses", said (BP Alternative Energy chief executive Katrina) Landis. "All four of those technology areas have the opportunity to be very sizable". BP has since chucked three of these four technologies from "core" to scrapheap in just three years.

BP's renewables departure, however, is understandable given the solar sector's troubles (supply glut) and the company's need to pay off the debts of its past (hence the wind sale). But put simply, it's easy to see why many were cynical of the Beyond Petroleum campaign-and why the question must be raised: was it the greatest greenwashing exercise of all time?

Windfarm deal done
5 Apr 2013

Wellington Council has inked a deal with Infigen Energy the developers of the proposed Bodangora wind farm which in the long-term will hand the community more than $2.1 million dollars. The establishment of a community benefit fund and an annual contribution of $25,000 for road maintenance are just two of the features of a voluntary planning agreement (VPA) signed by Wellington Council and Infigen Energy's Bodangora wind farm Pty Ltd.

The agreement relates to a project currently before the state government that may see more than 30 wind turbines constructed in the Bodangora area. Wellington mayor Rod Buhr said the VPA would see council obtain more than $2,100,000 in contributions from the project's proprietors during a 25 year period. "While council holds an unbiased view toward the project, it is imperative that council is proactive in ensuring there is a process in place which will not only provide some benefit to the community but will also off-set potential impacts of such a development", Mayor Buhr said.

The money obtained through the community benefit fund is set to be put towards helping local community groups and organisations, with council to establish a trust which would provide guidelines on how it would be distributed. Project manager for Infigen Energy Frank Boland said the council had worked collaboratively with them to get the best outcome for the project. The two main aspects to the agreement firstly is to ensure infrastructure, such as roads are up to a certain standard before construction begins, and the second relates to contributions Bodangora wind farm will provide for the expected 25 year life of the project.

"Prior to any work beginning, an independent third party will conduct a traffic study for the project and, if determined necessary, Infigen Energy will fund the upgrade of road infrastructure", Mayor Buhr said. "Once construction commences, council will receive $25,000 annually for road maintenance as well as $60,000 each year for a community benefit fund and other costs related to the project for 25 years". The money obtained through the community benefit fund is set to be put towards helping local community groups and organisations, with council to establish a trust which would provide guidelines on how it would be distributed.

"Once the trust deed is in place, a board with appropriate skills made up of a cross-section of the community will be established. "These members will then work together to ensure the money is used to provide the best possible outcomes consistent with the trust deed objectives". Mr Boland says he backs the Wellington mayor '' It is timely these agreements which will benefit both the Bodangora and greater Wellington are made before the determination of the farm to ensure the community they are a central part of this project'' he said.

Mayor Buhr said it was important to note that council had sought advice from a number of areas in establishing the VPA. "This is not something council has come up with by itself. In completing this agreement staff have liaised with the Department of Infrastructure and Planning, and other professionals who have had experience in formulating such agreements in the past", he said. "While it is important to remember the project is still before the State Government for approval, having the agreement in place is the right step to ensure the interests of residents are covered now and into the future". Mr Boland said if given the go ahead by NSW Planning the company would begin talks with off take power purchasers.

Black silicon solar cells with record 18.7% efficiency
4 Apr 2013

Scientists at Aalto University, Finland and Fraunhofer ISE, Germany report an efficiency of 18.7% for black silicon solar cells, the highest efficiency reported so far for a black silicon solar cell.

The researchers were able to apply a boron diffusion to create a pn-junction, maintaining the excellent optical properties of the black silicon structure. By applying atomic layer deposited Al2O3, an effective passivation of the nanostructured surfaces was achieved. The previous efficiency record of 18.2% was held by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) using thermal oxidation as a passivating layer.

"The quantum efficiency measurements reveal that the nanostructured front surface is of a high electrical quality comparable to a pyramidal textured surface", says Assistant Professor Hele Savin of Aalto University. Routes for improving the cell efficiency are already identified, and efficiencies clearly above 20% should be within reach.

The paper, 'Passivation of Black Silicon Boron Emitters with ALD Al2O3' by Paeivikki Repo, Ville Vaehaenissi, Guillaume von Gastrow, Jan Benick, Jonas Schoen, Bernd Steinhauser, Martin C. Schubert and Hele Savin, was presented in SiliconPV, the 3rd International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics, 25 27 March 2013 in Hamelin, Germany.