Friday 14 June 2013

Napthine urged to end wind farm inertia
1 May 2013

PREMIER Denis Napthine needs to scrap wind farm laws that are costing hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in the region, an alliance of south-west and state wind power supporters says. Alliance member and production supervisor with Portland wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince, Stuart Batten, said the wind farm laws were blocking nearly $900 million of investment and had forced his company to lay off about 55 workers.

The laws, which include a 2-km zone around wind farms where residents could veto turbines, and a number of no-go zones for wind farms throughout the state, were deterring investors from proceeding with projects already approved. "A lot of investors are not doing anything because of the uncertainty in the market", Mr Batten said. "Government policy is not clear or is too overbearing".

Angela McFeeters, from VicWind, a coalition of wind power businesses, community groups and individuals, said the construction of 1100 wind turbines in Victoria had stalled because of the market uncertainty. Leigh Ewbank, from another alliance member, Friends of the Earth's Yes 2 Renewables, said the two-km exclusion zone had given residents too much power. Mr Ewbank said if the veto zone was scrapped, people living within it would still have opportunities through general planning processes to have input about the siting of wind turbines.

"We would like the two-km veto right to be replaced by a policy that allows the setback limits to be determined on a case-by-case basis that takes into account acoustic modelling, topography and turbine types", he said. Mr Ewbank said the alliance decided to yesterday lobby Premier Napthine at his Warrnambool office because the Premier knew how wind power had benefited his electorate.

It hoped Dr Napthine's recent endorsement of the Macarthur wind farm signalled a more supportive attitude than had been demonstrated by his predecessor Ted Baillieu. A joint statement delivered by the alliance to Dr Napthine's office said two-thirds of Victoria's wind power was presently generated in his electorate.

A report by projects firm Sinclair Knight Mertz estimated the wind farm projects at Macarthur and Oaklands Hill, near Glenthompson, pumped $67 million into the south-west and created 900 construction jobs and 52 ongoing jobs, the joint statement said. Mr Ewbank said the previous Labor government had approved 2500 MWs of wind power but the Liberal/National Party government had approved only six MWs. The alliance has also called for the state government to assess wind farm applications rather than local government.

Macarthur's turbine test results
30 Apr 2013

Macarthur wind farm's operator AGL Energy says independent noise assessments prove the farm was noise compliant. AGL Energy's group general manager power development Scott Thomas said noise monitoring was carried out independently by AECOM Australia and demonstrated the wind farm was operating within the strict noise limits set in the developments planning permit.

"We appreciate some community members have been concerned about wind farm noise levels so we wanted to make sure it was operating correctly from the start and give the community a greater level of comfort", Mr Thomas said. "Over 40,000 hours of noise monitoring has been conducted at Macarthur, which is well beyond the amount of noise monitoring required in the Planning Permit. "All results received to date confirm that Macarthur wind farm remains compliant within the Government's strict noise regulations that are in line with the World Health Organisation's guidelines for noise limits".

It comes as a pro-wind farm group this morning hand delivered a statement to Premier Denis Napthine at his electorate office in Warrnambool calling for changes to wind farm laws. The statement urged the government to remove what the group described as "restrictive planning laws" that prevent turbines being built within 2km of homes without the written consent of the owner.

"Wind energy is good for jobs and good for the southwest economy", Victorian Wind Alliance state coordinator Andrew Bray said. "Two thirds of the wind turbines now operating in Victoria are located in Premier Napthine's electorate. "The Premier knows firsthand how wind power benefits the community". Dr Napthine has thrown his support behind wind farms but has publicly said the 2km planning laws will not be reversed.

South-west Victorian coalition lobby Napthine on wind power
30 Apr 2013

A coalition of interest groups from south-west Victoria, including the manufacturer Keppel Prince and labour unions, have joined with environmental groups to lobby their local member and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine to loosen restrictions on wind farm development.

They argue that these planning rules, which give households within 2km of a proposed wind turbine the right to veto the development, are costing jobs and investment. According to the coalition the government's planning guidelines are expected to cost Victoria $887 million in investment, 650 construction jobs and 54 ongoing jobs in operations and maintenance.

The group has put a personal face to these statistics by enlisting the support of 20 local welders, boiler makers, engineers and labourers employed or recently retrenched from the wind industry.

It is understood that Premier Napthine is more supportive of wind power than his predecessor Ted Baillieu, who introduced the 2km veto planning amendment. At the recent launch of a large wind farm in his electorate, Napthine stated that he felt wind farms were "absolutely fantastic". But he also added that they were not appropriate to all locations and did not intend to change current planning guidelines.

Nonetheless this more favourable attitude towards wind farms has given hope to pro-wind farm groups that there might be greater willingness to revise the restrictions introduced by Baillieu.

According to Andrew Bray, the state coordinator of the Victorian Wind Alliance and a member of the coalition, "Two thirds of the wind turbines now operating in Victoria are located in Premier Napthine's electorate. The Premier knows first-hand how wind power benefits the community".

Macarthur wind farm operating ‘well within’ noise limits
30 Apr 2013

On the same day that a powerful pro-wind alliance has petitioned Premier Denis Napthine to amend Victoria's prohibitive wind farm planning laws, the owners of the state's newest and largest wind farm have confirmed it has successfully passed strict noise compliance conditions since its opening on April 12.

AGL Energy and New Zealand's Meridian Energy announced today that the 420MW Macarthur wind farm-the largest in Australia and the southern hemisphere-was successfully operating within the noise limits set in its State Planning Permit, according to an independent assessment produced by AECOM.

The Macarthur Planning Permit, which is enforced by the Victorian government, required noise monitoring to be carried out at specified dwellings neighboring the 140 turbine wind farm. Noise loggers were installed between February and March 2013 to capture the noise data for the assessment.

AGL Energy says that the results of the independent assessment taken at 13 neighbouring dwellings shows that the newly opened wind farm is operating "well within" the acoustic requirements of the Planning Permit-that is, the wind farm noise should not exceed the background noise level before the wind farm was operating by more than 5dB(A) or a level of 40dB(A), whichever is higher.

"We appreciate some community members have been concerned about wind farm noise levels so we wanted to make sure it was operating correctly from the start and give the community a greater level of comfort", said AGL Energy's Group General Manager Power Development, Scott Thomas. "Over 40,000 hours of noise monitoring has been conducted at Macarthur, which is well beyond the amount of noise monitoring required in the Planning Permit".

The testing also monitored for special audible characteristics (clearly audible tones, impulses, or modulation of sound levels), none of which were determined to be present at any of the noise monitoring locations.

Climbing robotic wind turbine inspector
28 Apr 2013

How do you inspect the outside of a wind turbine? Either stand on the ground and use a telescope, or set up some climbing gear and scale the tower. The first solution is imprecise and the second is expensive and dangerous. Both are time-consuming. Now there's a third option: the HR-MP20 Light Weight Magnetic Climbing Robot by Helical Robotics. This remote-controlled robot can scale a turbine tower while carrying up to 9kg (20 lbs) of inspection gear such as cameras and ultrasound. It clings to the tower using five neodymium magnets, the strongest type of permanent magnet available. A technician stands on the ground with a transmitter, directing the robotic inspector to various places on the turbine. (I know-technically that makes it a radio-controlled vehicle, not a robot. The company named it, I didn't.)

The HR-MP20 features a zero turning radius and it can climb at a rate of 20 meters per minute (65 ft/min) and descend at 27 m/min (90 ft/min). It uses a 15 Ah lithium-polymer battery pack for its drive motors, a 10Ah NiMH battery pack to power its payload, and a 4.5Ah NiMH battery for its radio. The radio operates in the 2.4GHz band with a range of 762 m (2500 ft). Its size and capacity can be custom-engineered according to client needs.

Inspecting the blades of a wind turbine requires that the blades be stopped. Using the telescope method, a technician stands away from the turbine and looks at the blades through a telescope. This process can take up to four hours per turbine. Climbing a turbine requires a lot of rope, a strong technician, and a hefty insurance premium. Robotic inspection is faster, safer, less expensive, and more reliable than the telescope or climbing methods. Less down-time translates into more energy production. The HR-MP20 has been proven to work in high winds (which you're likely to find on a wind farm, right?) and bad weather, both of which will delay manual inspections. Of course, you still need a technician to climb up the inside of the tower to perform maintenance on the internal gears, generator, and other moving parts. But the towers have ladders on the inside, and wind is not a factor inside the tower.

New all-solid sulfur-based battery outperforms lithium-ion technology
5 Jun 2013

( —Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have designed and tested an all-solid lithium sulfur battery with approximately four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion technologies that power today's electronics.

The ORNL battery design, which uses abundant low-cost elemental sulfur, also addresses flammability concerns experienced by other chemistries. 

"Our approach is a complete change from the current battery concept of two electrodes joined by a liquid electrolyte, which has been used over the last 150 to 200 years," said Chengdu Liang, lead author on the ORNL study published this week in Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 

Scientists have been excited about the potential of lithium sulfur batteries for decades, but long-lasting, large-scale versions for commercial applications have proven elusive. Researchers were stuck with a catch-22 created by the battery's use of liquid electrolytes: On one hand, the liquid helped conduct ions through the battery by allowing lithium polysulfide compounds to dissolve. The downside, however, was that the same dissolution process caused the battery to prematurely break down.

The ORNL team overcame these barriers by first synthesizing a never-before-seen class of sulfur-rich materials that conduct ions as well as the lithium metal oxides conventionally used in the battery's cathode. Liang's team then combined the new sulfur-rich cathode and a lithium anode with a solid electrolyte material, also developed at ORNL, to create an energy-dense, all-solid battery. 

"This game-changing shift from liquid to solid electrolytes eliminates the problem of sulfur dissolution and enables us to deliver on the promise of lithium sulfur batteries," Liang said. "Our battery design has real potential to reduce cost, increase energy density and improve safety compared with existing lithium-ion technologies." 

The new ionically-conductive cathode enabled the ORNL battery to maintain a capacity of 1200 milliamp-hours (mAh) per gram after 300 charge-discharge cycles at 60° Celsius. For comparison, a traditional lithium-ion battery cathode has an average capacity between 140-170 mAh/g. Because lithium sulfur batteries deliver about half the voltage of lithium-ion versions, this eight-fold increase in capacity demonstrated in the ORNL battery cathode translates into four times the gravimetric energy density of lithium-ion technologies, explained Liang. 

The team's all-solid design also increases battery safety by eliminating flammable liquid electrolytes that can react with lithium metal.

Chief among the ORNL battery's other advantages is its use of elemental sulfur, a plentiful industrial byproduct of petroleum processing. 

"Sulfur is practically free," Liang said. "Not only does sulfur store much more energy than the transition metal compounds used in lithium-ion battery cathodes, but a lithium sulfur device could help recycle a waste product into a useful technology." 

Although the team's new battery is still in the demonstration stage, Liang and his colleagues hope to see their research move quickly from the laboratory into commercial applications. A patent on the team's design is pending.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Scientists to replenish lobster population with help from wind farm
27 Apr 2013

HELGOLAND, Germany, April 27 (UPI)--German scientists say they hope to replenish the lobster population off the German island of Helgoland with the help of offshore wind farms. The scientists say the farms, which have rocky foundations, make good habitats for lobsters, which are extremely aggressive toward each other, Spiegel Online reported Saturday. "They are cannibals and behave aggressively toward one another", said Heinz-Dieter Franke of the Biological Institute Helgoland.

Franke said the lobster population off the island's coast has dwindled since World War II, when Helgoland was heavily bombed and mined. "Since then, the population has remained stable but extremely low", Franke explained.

The institute has partnered with the Borkum Riffgat offshore wind farm for a three-year pilot project aimed at boosting the lobster population. About 3,000 lobsters will be released on the farm's rocky foundation this year and will be monitored by institute scientists, Spiegel Online said. Lobsters--omnivores that eat algae, mussels, snails and worms--are an important part of the North Sea's ecosystem, helping ensure other species do not overpopulate the area.

German offshore wind farm exceeds expected output
3 May 2013

Germany's first offshore wind farm generated more power than expected because of steady winds last year, operators of the Alpha Ventus park including E.ON SE said.

Alpha Ventus's 12 turbines last year fed 267.8 GW-hours of electricity into the German grid at a yield 15.3% higher than originally forecast, E.ON, Vattenfall Europe AG and EWE AG said today in an e-mailed statement.

The 5 MW machines, supplied by Areva SA and Suzlon Energy Ltd. (SUEL) unit REpower Systems SE, achieved 4,463 full load hours, matching the level in 2011, they said. The availability in 2013 of Alpha Ventus will decrease from last year's 96.5% because of maintenance work, the operators said.

IBM applies supercomputer cooling to solar collector for 80% efficiency
25 Apr 2013

Solar power may provide a clean, abundant source of energy, but we know the sun's rays are capable of much, much more. Aside from generating electricity, we've seen solar power harnessed to produce drinkable water as well, so why not combine the two processes into one system? That's what IBM and its collaborators are hoping to do with an affordable High Concentration Photovoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system that uses cooling technology from supercomputers to harvest solar power more efficiently, and produce purified water at the same time.

The current prototype consists of a large parabolic dish made up of several mirrors, connected to a sun-tracking system. The majority of the sunlight hitting the dish is reflected and focused onto hundreds of triple-junction photovoltaic chips, all fitted to microchannel-liquid cooled receivers. Individually, each chip measures just 1 cm x 1 cm and can generates an average of 200-250 watts over an eight-hour period on a sunny day, at an efficiency of about 30%.

Thus far, this roughly matches the electrical power output and basic design of other concentrated solar systems in existence, but the cooling system is what really makes the HCPVT system stand apart. IBM adapted the cooling technology it developed for supercomputers like Aquasar and SuperMUC for use with photovoltaics to create a system that continually pumps water just a few micrometers away from each chip through micro-structured layers.

IBM says this method is 10 times more effective than using air-cooling, and maintains a stable temperature over the chips to prevent them from melting. The cooling system would allow the chips to remain operational at 2,000 times the intensity of the sun's rays, but IBM claims it can still provide a safe temperature up to 5,000 times concentration.

Read More…

Honda unit to build 27 megawatt wind power station in Brazil
25 Apr 2013

A unit of Honda Motor Co. (7267) in Brazil will invest about 100 million reals ($50 million) in a wind farm. It will be built in the city of Xangri-la in Rio Grande do Sul and is expected to start running in Sept. 2014, the company said in a statement. The project by Honda Automoveis do Brasil Ltda, will have 9 turbines and a total capacity of 27 MWs, according to Tomohiro Okada, a Honda spokesman.

John Laing plans $76 million investment in wind and solar energy
25 Apr 2013

John Laing Plc, a U.K, developer of hospitals, schools and roads, estimates it will spend about 50 million pounds ($76 million) this year on onshore wind and photovoltaic power projects in Britain and Sweden.

The company plans to invest in five developments this year, using debt to fund 50% to 70% of each plant, Ross McArthur, head of renewable energy for London-based John Laing, said in an interview. It wants to invest in areas with different regulatory structures to reduce reliance on one kind, he said.

The company completed three wind and two solar deals last year. While it's currently focused on northern European markets including the UK, John Laing is able to access the Australian and North American markets through locally based teams, said Andy Harmer, head of waste and energy. This may bring opportunities over the next year to 18 months, he said.

Sweden plans to get half of its energy from clean sources by 2020, from 47% now, and the U.K, is aiming for 15%, up from about 9.4%. Both subsidize renewable energy by placing an obligation on electricity suppliers to buy a certain portion of their power from low-carbon sources.

Graph of the Day: Solar, wind to dominate new generation
24 Apr 2013

If you are looking for a growth sector in electricity generation, it is pretty clear where they are to be found-wind and solar.

Today's Graph(s) of the Day extends our coverage of Bloomberg New Energy Finance's new report on the outlook for renewable energy investment out to 2030. BNEF canvassed a range of scenarios-ranging from "traditional", to "new normal" and "barrier busting"-similar to the International Energy Agency's range of business as usual, new policies, and its 2C (meeting the science) scenario

BNEF says that in its mid-scenario (new normal), 70% of the new power generation capacity added between 2012 and 2030 will be from renewable technologies-with solar PV and wind will comprise the largest share of new power capacity added to 2030, accounting for 30% and 27% respectively.

As the cost of wind and solar falls and carbon prices and other environmental controls, increase the cost of fossil fuels in certain countries, new coal and gas capacity become less attractive, comprising only 25% of capacity additions to 2030.

Nuclear also sees something of a renaissance but this is limited to 5 6% of total new capacity added to 2030. Interestintly, BNEF sees little deployment of solar thermal, mostly because its construction out to 2020 at least will be curtailed by high costs. The industry will be keen to prove that wrong. All told, around $8.2 trillion or 73% of total asset finance to 2030 will be spent on renewable energy including large hydroelectric.

Read More…

Turbines spinning at wind farm
23 Apr 2013

THE Musselroe wind farm has been officially switched on and is now generating power for the state's electricity grid. The $395 million project consists of 56 turbines, which will be progressively turned on. It will be fully operational by July. Premier Lara Giddings said it was a "great milestone".

"This has been a huge development which has delivered jobs for Tasmanians, opportunities for local businesses and a significant boost for the North-East economy", she said. "It builds on Hydro Tasmania's partnership with leading Chinese energy company Shenhua which is securing investment and jobs in our renewable energy sector".

Ms Giddings said more than 200 people had been directly employed on the project during the peak of construction. Project director Andrew Hickman said after 10 years of talking, planning and construction it had been a momentous and satisfying occasion.

Mr Hickman said a few lucky breaks, such as a high Australian dollar and an extra good deal from European-down-turn-hit wind turbine builder Vestas Wind Systems, had helped Hydro Tasmania to get the $395 million project across the line.

The progressive commissioning of turbines and the marrying to the grid via a 48km transmission line is expected to continue until July. The farm will generate as much as 168 MWs of power, enough to supply 50,000 homes, during optimum wind conditions.

Hydro is now drawing up plans to develop wind farms across Australia as part of a $1.6 billion deal signed with Chinese energy company Shenhua Group Corporation, a subsidiary of which acquired a 75% stake in the Musselroe project in February.

EDF Energy to cut jobs to control cost of building nuclear power station
23 Apr 2013

EDF Energy energy is cutting scores of jobs to control costs at the site of its proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The company is in the middle of difficult negotiations with ministers over the level of public subsidy the new reactors will receive over the next 40 years but insisted the project is not being mothballed and that it is not "holding a gun to the government's head".

The company has already spent £800m on developing the £14bn project and lost its junior partner when Centrica pulled out in February. "As part of good project management, and to control costs, EDF Energy has taken steps to refocus its activities at its Hinkley Point C project", said a spokeswoman. "This reflects its priorities ahead of securing the financing necessary for the project".

EDF Energy refused to give the number of workers losing their jobs, citing ongoing consultations with staff and unions, but the Guardian understands it will be about 150 of the current 800 strong workforce. The company said further pre-construction planning work would continue but that preparation of the site had halted.

EDF Energy wants to build two new reactors at Hinkley. It says they would provide reliable and low-carbon electricity making up 7% of the UK's demand and provide 25,000 job opportunities during construction, with 900 long-term posts. The UK government has placed new nuclear reactors at the heart of its energy policy, to replace the ageing fleet of nuclear and coal plants which are being phased out.

But the two sides have been unable to agree on the subsidy the plant would receive, paid for by consumers through their energy bills. EDF Energy had originally said it would make its final investment decision by the end of 2012. Both sides have a great deal to lose, but as the negotiations have dragged on observers have suggested the likelihood of the government abandoning plans for a series of new nuclear plants.

"It is proving extremely difficult to get that first nuclear power plant built and there is an increasing feeling in industry that at £14bn a throw there is no chance of getting beyond one", said Lord Robin Teverson, the LibDem spokesman on energy in the House of Lords.

A spokesman for the department of energy and climate change said: "Progress is being made in our discussions with EDF Energy. Both sides have an interest in reaching a positive agreement".

EDF Energy and the government face a number of major obstacles in delivering new reactors even beyond the challenging financing. The project has yet to be approved by the European Union, which limits the state aid that can be given to industrial projects. The UK also has no site for the long term disposal of nuclear waste, after the rejection of a proposal in Cumbria by local councils. Such a facility was considered a prerequisite for the building of new reactors by David Cameron before the 2010 election.

The EDF Energy spokeswoman said: "The case for new nuclear in the UK remains as strong as ever". She said Ed Davey, the energy secretary had granted planning permission for Hinkley and that the reactor design has been approved by regulators. But a senior EDF Energy executive said recently: "We cannot afford to burn money every day, every week, every month without a clear understanding of where it's leading us".

Authorities examine complaint against anti-wind farm activist
23 Apr 2013

Prominent anti-wind farm activist Sarah Laurie is being examined by the National Health and Medical Research Council's ethics committee regarding claims she has breached ethical research codes.

Well-known anti-wind farm campaigner Sarah Laurie is being examined by the national peak body for medical research over claims she breached ethical codes of research conduct.

The National Health and Medical Research Council confirms it has received a complaint regarding the research being conducted by Laurie, the CEO of the Waubra Foundation (a small but powerful anti-wind farm activist group). A spokesperson told Crikey: "NHMRC takes all complaints received seriously and are following up on this matter".

The concerns about Laurie's research ethics are outlined in a document written by an anonymous academic and first sent to the Public Health Association Australia. The document alleges Laurie is not currently registered as a medical practitioner but has been conducting activity that meets the definition of medical research involving human subjects. On her website, Laurie uses the title of "Dr" and describes herself as a former GP.

The dossier outlines the incidents where Laurie claims to have conducted interviews with residents affected by wind turbine health issues, collected blood pressure data, given medical advice and/or clinical judgment, referred to people as "research subjects" and discussed accessing medical records and personal health journals. It also asks if Laurie's research has been reviewed by a Human Research Ethics Committee:

"The Medical Board of Australia in conjunction with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency advises that medical practitioners should be registered if they have any direct clinical contact with patients or provide treatment or opinion about individuals".

After examining the document, the CEO of the Public Health Association Australia, Michael Moore, forwarded it on to the heads of the NHMRC, the Australian Health Practioner Regulation Agency, the Health and Community Service Complaints Commissioner of South Australia and the Waubra Foundation.

"It was something which should not be ignored because I thought there were serious ethical issues which had been raised, ethical issues that would distort the debate over the appropriateness of wind farm technology", Moore told Crikey.

For years Laurie and her Waubra Foundation (named for the Waubra wind farm in Victoria) have campaigned against the use of wind farm technology, claiming wind turbines have serious health impacts--known as "wind turbine syndrome"--for local residents. As Australia's most prominent anti-wind farm campaigner, Laurie is regularly used as a media commentator about wind farm health issues; she recently appeared on ABC Radio National and 2GB.

"From our perspective, it's a matter of ensuring that policy debates take place on sound evidence and that the research is appropriately conducted", said Moore.

A new study by public health professor Simon Chapman indicates health complaints about wind turbines were rare until anti wind farm groups began a campaign against supposed medical issues in 2009. Another recent study led by University of Auckland researcher Fiona Crichton demonstrates that residents who expect health issues from wind turbine health issues are more likely to develop the symptoms.

When called to ask about the document and its claims, Laurie told Crikey it was "inappropriate for me to comment at this time".

The Health and Community Service Complaints Commissioner of SA and the Australian Health Practioner Regulation Agency told Crikey they don't comment on individual cases. An AHPRA spokesperson notes it is an offence under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to present as a registered medical practitioner if you are not, and a court may impose a maximum penalty of $30,000 for an individual "holding out".