Friday 5 July 2013

Row rages over safety of Japanese nuclear plant
23 May 2013

Twenty-six months after the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, virtually all of Japan's nuclear reactors remain off-line.

Caused by a magnitude-9 earthquake that triggered a colossal tsunami, the crisis at Fukushima has shaken public faith in what was previously considered a safe and virtually limitless source of energy for Japan, and forced the government to reconsider the ability of other reactors to withstand another major natural disaster.

But the 48 idle reactors are not earning any money for the power companies that built them when nuclear power was seen as the remedy for a nation imported virtually all its energy. That is why the position of the Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) over the future of the Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture is so important, the environmental groups say.

Active fault identified
After an extensive study, a panel of experts appointed by the NRA has concluded that an active fault line lies immediately beneath the No. 2 reactor at Tsuruga and that it should be decommissioned at the first opportunity.

The study into the seismic resilience of the plant was only ordered by the government in the aftermath of Fukushima and the fault had not been detected before the 1,160 MW reactor went into operation in February 1987.

The No. 1 reactor at the site was the oldest commercial reactor in Japan before it was shut down for a routine safety inspection in January 2011, but has never been given the green light to restart operations after the Fukushima disaster. Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) also had plans to open two further reactors at the plant in the coming years, but both those projects are on hold.

Announcing its recommendation for the No. 1 reactor, Kunihiko Shimazaki, the NRA commissioner, told DW, "It is lucky there has been no accident at the reactor". A spokesman for the organization insisted that the NRA had followed objective and scientific rules before reaching its decision and that it would stand by its findings-but he did admit that pressure was being applied to the agency.

As soon as the NRA's decision was announced, Yasuo Hamada, the president of JAPC called a press conference in which he attacked the agency for not giving his company the chance to explain its position on the matter. Hamada also claimed that the panel's decision was not based on objective data and facts.

Read More…

Solar power brings piped water to rural Western Kenya's doorstep
23 May 2013

KAKAMEGA, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation)-Residents of some rural communities in Western Kenya can now access clean piped water at their doorsteps, thanks to solar-powered engines that pump it from borehole wells. Pamela Kuyuti reckons it has kept her family together.

"Before this tap with running water was connected to my homestead, I was actually contemplating to quit this marriage", said Kuyuti, a resident of Mukhalanya village. "I was exhausted walking hours on a daily basis to fetch water for my family and for my mother-in-law".

With support from World Vision, an international nongovernmental organisation, community-based organisations in Matete District, Kakamega County, have sunk a borehole at each of nine primary and secondary schools to serve the surrounding communities.

At Lukova primary school, the borehole is about 70 metres (230 feet) deep. An engine connected to 102 interlinked solar panels yields enough electricity to pump 16,000 litres (4,200 US gallons) of water per hour from the borehole into two 100,000 litre (2,600 gallon) pressed steel tanks.

The tanks are built on higher ground than the village's homes, allowing gravity to channel the water through pipes to seven water kiosks and 70 homesteads in a number of villages. While three of the boreholes use solar power to pump water to the villages, the wells in areas that have been reached by the government's rural electrification programme use grid electricity to power the pumps.

According to data from World Vision, approximately 6,600 people are already benefiting from the Lukova project alone, including four schools, two market centres and people in the surrounding community. The nine boreholes serve a total of 1,570 households, which in Western Kenya have an average of seven children.

The pumps are located in schools so that children are the first beneficiaries of the clean water, and because the schools are community-owned institutions in which residents have a common interest.

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Wind farm beats Kusile to grid
21 May 2013

With South Africa's electricity woes becoming more pressing, power utility Eskom has won the National Energy Regulator's (Nersa's) approval to build a R2.4 billion wind farm in the Western Cape. Construction will start later this year, with the wind farm set to deliver up to 100MW of electricity by the end of next year-beating the R170 billion Kusile power station onto the grid.

Eskom said on Monday the project, situated at Koekenaap in the Vredendal area, would enter full commercial production by the end of next year. Increasing energy supply has become critical for the power utility. It warned last month that South Africa would face tight supply during winter. The wind farm is part of the Department of Energy's drive to add 3725MW of generating capacity from renewable sources, mainly wind and solar, by 2018.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames said the cost of the project compared favourably with the R1.14/kW that the government would pay independent power producers (IPPs) for their renewable energy in the first round. The cost of power dropped to 89.7¢/kW in the second round of the IPP, for which agreements were finalised two weeks ago.

In February, Nersa granted Eskom an 8%/year tariff increase for the next five years, taking the cost of electricity to 89.13¢/kW at the end of March 2018.

"This comes below the cost of IPPs and is good news for us", Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said. The project has been funded by development finance institutions, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, Clean Technology Fund and Agence Francaise de Developpement. "That has lowered the cost of funding", Ms Joffe said.

Industrial company Siemens will build and install the wind turbine generators, and then hand them over to Eskom to run, Ms Joffe said. The first power will come onstream during the first half of next year.

That will be well ahead of the 4800MW Kusile coal-fired powered station that Eskom is building at an estimated cost of R170 billion in the Mpumalanga province. The company initially expected the station to start producing power next month, but that projection was pushed back to the end of next year.

Philippines approves 3 wind farm projects to generate 208MW of power
20 May 2013

MANILA (AFP)-The Philippines has approved three wind farm projects that will generate 208MW, enough to power more than 40,000 middle-class homes, an energy official said on Monday. The wind projects will be the first to benefit from an incentive scheme that aims to ensure half the country's energy comes from renewable sources by 2030, compared with about 39% currently, the official said.

The three projects are due to be operational by early 2015, said Mr Mario Marasigan, the energy department's renewable energy bureau chief. "We approved their declarations of commerciality. They (guaranteed) to us that they are viable under the rate of 8.53 pesos (26 Singapore¢) per kW hour", he told Agence France-Presse.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Goldman Sachs to invest $486 million in Japan renewable energy
20 May 2013

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) plans to invest as much as 50 billion yen ($487 million) in renewable energy projects in Japan in the next five years, tapping demand for electricity produced from solar and wind-power generators.

The Wall Street firm also plans to take as much as 250 billion yen of bank loans and project-financing over the same period to move ahead with projects that would cost a total of 300 billion yen, Hiroko Matsumoto, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for Goldman, said by telephone. The Nikkei newspaper reported the plan earlier today.

Japan began offering incentives in July through feed-in tariffs to encourage renewables after the Fukushima nuclear-plant crisis stemming from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Japan has been forced to slash its reliance on atomic power generation since Fukushima.

"We believe that we can leverage our global expertise in investing in renewable energy in places such as the U.S, and India, to help expand Japan's renewable power capabilities", Ankur Sahu, co-head of the merchant banking division in the Asia-Pacific, said by e-mail.

Goldman Sachs formed the Japan Renewable Energy Co, unit in August to plan, design and operate power plants run on sun, wind, fuel-cells and biomass fuels, it said on its website.

Read More…

Concerns raised about the ethics of anti-wind farm research
20 May 2013

Crikey journalist Amber Jamieson recently reported that the National Health and Medical Research Council is examining whether anti-wind farm campaigner Sarah Laurie has breached ethical codes of research conduct. The NHMRC and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency were recently sent a dossier raising questions about the work of Laurie, CEO of the Waubra Foundation (an anti-wind farm activist group).

The dossier, whose author/s are not named, was forwarded to these agencies by the Public Health Association of Australia. It documents statements by Laurie about conducting interviews and other forms of research. The Waubra Foundation has since put out a statement calling for ICAC or a Royal Commission to investigate the "anonymous and malicious" dossier.

"The Board of the Foundation considers that what has transpired, plus the contemporaneous and coordinated press campaign prominently featuring chronic critics of the Foundation's works, is properly the subject of a referral to an ICAC or a Royal Commission", the statement says. "To ignore the documented suffering of people, and openly to ridicule them, is not only unethical, it is immoral, if not criminal".

The Waubra statement does not address the concerns raised by the dossier below. I wonder how long until we hear more on these matters from the NHMRC et al...

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Windfarm helps to erase a stain from Snowtown's past
19 May 2013

ITS identity has been defined by one of the nation's worst and most high-profile mass murders, but the community of Snowtown is hoping towering turbines will bring a new future for the Mid North town.

Gusts blowing relentlessly across the rounded, largely treeless Barunga and Hummocks ranges have brought prosperity, jobs and even an image make-over in their slipstream as the town becomes the state's epicentre of wind-generated power.

Snowtown-"Gateway to the Barunga Ranges"-became a casualty of evil when eight murder victims were found stored in barrels of acid in a disused bank in May 1999. But the town has long moved on and is keen to put the blot behind it. Winds blowing cash are helping. Snowtown is earning a new title, the Wind Farm Capital of Australia, as the $700 million Snowtown wind farm proceeds at full pace.

Reliable wind and proximity to transmission lines make the site ideal, and Stage 1 opened in November 2008 with 48 turbines powered by 88m-diameter rotors mounted on 80m-tall towers. Stage 2, now being built, is due to start generation in September, as another 90 turbines are added. The full wind farm will be capable of generating almost 10% of SA's electricity, via two new substations in the area.

It will be the biggest in SA and second-biggest in Australia, again putting Snowtown on the map-but this time for the right reasons. Unlike some other areas, there has been little opposition to the development. The turbines are on non-arable land along 30km of rocky, windblown ridgelines distant from housing. Sheep can still graze on the hills, and congregate under existing towers.

Owner TrustPower says there have been no complaints about health effects but the flashing red lights on the top of the towers were turned off after some objections. More than 200 people are working on Stage 2 of the project and the completed wind farm will have 20 permanent jobs for the region.

This is now SA's "windy city". Farmers with turbines on their previously little-loved ridgelines are the most obvious winners of the wind-blown bonanza. TrustPower will pay 24 farmers a total of $2.4 million every year for the next 25 years with an option for another 25 years. It is a guaranteed income stream for farmers whose crops are beholden to the weather.

That reliance on the weather was evident when the Sunday Mail visited this week. Fourth-generation Snowtown farmer Peter Ebsury and son Jarrod could barely pause to chat about the benefits as they took advantage of the rains to spray and sow cereal crops-each has two turbines on their respective properties.

"We laugh at people who say they're ugly or make the chooks lay upside down-this has been great for us and great for the community", Peter says. "With four children and six grandchildren, I hope we're still here for generations to come-and this will help in lean years. "The community fund has benefits across the district and they have also put in all-weather roads which gave emergency access and acted as a fire break in a recent bushfire. "This area was unfairly tarred by an incident that had nothing to do with us and the wind farm has helped give us a new focus".

Neighbouring farmer Paul McCormack, also a fourth-generation Snowtown farmer with two sons on the land as well as a daughter, has one turbine now and seven coming with Stage 2. "The construction has been a bit of an inconvenience but we live just over 1km from a neighbour's turbine and have not had any problems with turbine noise", he says. "If we can't use the wind and sun in this great land there is something wrong. I come out each morning and look at my turbine and get greener with each revolution. "I see myself as a custodian of the land for future generations and would not be involved if I thought it jeopardised that".

The ripple effect does not end with farmers lucky enough to have windy ridgelines. TrustPower is putting $45,000 every year into a community fund managed by the Lions Club, spreading the benefits throughout Snowtown and nearby towns such as Bute and Brinkworth.

The Lend a Hand Foundation sees a good wind blow benefits far and wide, from a new skate park in Snowtown to underpinning Brinkworth's hall and new toys for Bute kindergarten-even to individuals with things from care alert bracelets to a hot water service. "The whole area is benefiting from us becoming the wind farm capital of SA", Lend a Hand Snowtown co-ordinator Alan Large says. "And, as well as the community fund, the extra dollars coming into town is helping with jobs and keeping young people here".

The benefits extend to local businesses and people who moved to Snowtown despite the bodies-in-the-barrels murders, who saw it as a strong, positive community. Nicole and Nigel McCauley moved from Adelaide seven years ago with daughter Mia after looking at a range of country centres to raise a family. "We felt this was the best-it has a facilities like a hospital, GP service, chemist, hairdresser, police station, kindergarten, school and has a lovely community feel", Nicole says.

The family bought the pub but later took over the IGA supermarket when second daughter Ava was born. Nicole's brother, Christopher, moved from Adelaide and works on the wind farm, while her parents also shifted to be close to family. "There has been a bit of an influx of people-a rental property that came up the other day had three families looking at it", Nicole notes in between chatting to customers.

"The contractors at the wind farm have been very supportive of the supermarket which has been wonderful. They are really nice people". Publican Phil Hyde is also enjoying increased bar and dining trade from workers on the wind farm after taking over the hotel three years ago. "The community spirit in this town is very good and it is a great place to live", he says. "You get the odd tourist asking about the bank but the town moved on from it a long time ago".

At the Snowtown Bakery and Delicaf, owner Chris Keynes is flat out when the Sunday Mail drops by at morning tea time. He took over the bakery two years ago with his son and now employs nine people, with two additional outlets at each end of the wind farm to feed hungry contractors on site.

"One of our big challenges is to find people to fill the jobs-there is employment here for people who want to have a go", he says as he prepares to take supplies to a wind farm canteen. "Snowtown became infamous through no fault of its own. Something like this which puts this great town in a positive light is certainly welcome.

"Tourists still ask about the barrels but the town moved on a long time ago. The wind farm has put a fantastic new focus on the area and I have not heard a single complaint about it. "There is even talk of making Snowtown a completely green-powered town from the wind farm-that would require new infrastructure but it would be a great symbolic point". For the optimistic people of Snowtown embracing the breeze, it appears the answer for an image make-over was blowin' in the wind.

Cherokee Nation developing largest tribal wind farm in U.S.
17 May 2013

The site of a former Indian boarding school in Kay County, Oklahoma will soon become the largest wind farm on tribal land in the United States. The Cherokee Nation has partnered with Chicago-based PNE Wind AG USA Inc, to develop a 90 turbine wind farm, which is estimated to generate $16 million over the next two decades. Development will start immediately on 6,000 acres of the former property of the Chilocco Indian School, which operated from 1884 to 1980. The 153 MW wind farm will power homes, businesses and farms of the southwest grid region.

"The Cherokee Nation has an opportunity to be a leader among Indian nations in renewable energy", said Cherokee Nation Deputy Speaker Chuck Hoskin, Jr. "The tribe will be able to utilize an underutilized resource. We talk a lot about protecting our environment and conserving our resources, so this is a prime opportunity to put words into action".

The Cherokee Nation owns half of the land on which the wind farm will sit. Chilocco was ideal because of its wind resources, and environmental studies show it will not curtail the migratory bird population. The entire Chilocco wind farm will encompass 6,000 acres total. The other 3,000 acres is owned by four other tribes, the Kaw, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee and Ponca nations. The tribal council voted 14 2 to approve the wind farm.

"The Cherokee Nation is playing a significant role in creating new green jobs and expects to play a key role in Oklahoma's emerging wind power industry", Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a press release. "The Cherokee Nation is committed to growing the Oklahoma economy, helping reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and creating sustainable jobs for our people in the renewable energy sector".

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Local firm leads energy future
17 May 2013

Geothermal energy could provide 9% of Australia's energy needs by 2035.

Milton firm GeoDynamics has used steam produced by boiling water tapped five km underground to generate electricity in an Australian first. Experts predict this geothermal energy gathered from turbines driven from the steam of boiling underground water will provide 9% of Australia's energy needs by 2035.

Queensland has already identified 11 high-priority sites-in southwest Queensland, near Surat, near Julia Creek and Cape York-from 33 potential targets. This month GeoDynamics successfully produced electricity to power its own test project in the South Australian desert at Innaminka, near Moomba. It now plans to provide electricity from its one MW pilot project to mining companies in the Cooper Basin by way of a longer-term commercial trial.

Managing director Geoff Ward said their plant was one of only three enhanced geothermal energy (EGS) plants worldwide at the trial stage and the first in Australia. ''What we are doing here is opening up the prospect of being able to use geothermal power in the long term, in the next 30, 40 years, 100 years in a whole lot of areas where you probably couldn't do so now,'' Mr Ward said.

GeoDynamics is running the successful Engineered Geothermal Systems trial from its Habanero well at Innaminka where is drawing boiling water from Innamincka granite deep underground. After 100 days of the pilot trial, it will move to a commercial trial over an extended period. ''We will take the results of the pilot plant trial and put together a 5 or 10 MW plant in a commercial project,'' he said. That will provide power to nearby mining companies.

Santos and Chevron are likely customers given their exploration of unconventional gas reserves nearby Moomba Mr Ward said. ''We are hoping to put together a scheme so that we can sell power, or direct heat to local gas producers or other industries in the Cooper Basin,'' he said. While geothermal enegy was first used in Italy in 1908 and tentatively explored around the geysers of Wyoming around World War II.

Traditional geothermal energy taps into volcanic conditions in places like California, New Zealand and Iceland and the Phillipines, where heavy rainfall run into the fault-lines and seeps underground. ''So you get a system where a lot of heat is bought to the surface and a lot of water that cuiculates quite quickly so generate the ability to generate a lot of heat,'' he said. ''That is the conventional geothermal system.''

But Australia is drier and different. That is why it encourages ''enhanced'' geothermal energy. ''What we do have is some of the world's hottest deep rocks,'' he said. GeoDynamics is exploring 1000 km² of Innaminka granite in central Australia, which is between seven and eight km thick, four km below ground. ''And extends seven to ten km, we think, below that.''

The boiling hot brine is tapped to the surface by steel-encased drill wells at temperatures of 240° celcius, tapped into turbines to produce steam which drive generators. Geoscience Australia estimates that 1% of Australia's geothermal energy shallower than five km and hotter than 150° Celsius, could supply Australia's energy requirements for 26,000 years.

Electricity produced from geothermal energy produces about one-tenth of the CO₂ per MW of electricity from brown coal, Mr Ward said. brown coal produces 1200kg of carbon per MW, gas around 600kgs per MW, while geothermal energy produces around 120kgs per MW, he said.

Coalition dances around renewables commitment – again
17 May 2013

The politics over renewable energy get bleaker by the moment. As the election date gets closer and a change of government grows more likely, the voices of the pro-coal and anti-renewable interests are becoming more strident and, it would seem, finding larger cracks in the Coalition's supposed "bipartisan" support for renewable energy.

On Thursday, Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey refused to support the ongoing funding of renewable energy developments, saying the electorate would have to "wait and see" its policies on support measures for wind and solar power.

In an interview with the anti-wind and anti-carbon tax campaigner Alan Jones, which you can listen to here, Hockey was put on the spot several times about ongoing support for renewables, but would not be drawn on the extent of that support because he had "only just seen the budget papers".

"Why are you subsidising these people", Jones asked. To which Hockey replied: "Alan, I need to consult with my colleagues about the state of the budget". Later, asked again why the government would "cover the cost" of wind and solar power, Hockey said: "Well, please wait and see on that Alan".

Hockey may simply have been ducking the question, but the exchange was symptomatic of the sort of pressure the Coalition is under-both from within its own ranks in state and federal levels, and from outside business interests-over support for renewables.

There is increasing concern in the industry that the Opposition will pave way for the Renewable Energy Target to be diluted, under pressure from state governments, utilities and generators worried about sliding profits from their coal and gas generators, and noisy anti-renewable lobbies promoted by the likes of Jones.

This was more or less confirmed by EnergyAustralia this week, which said that it would "wait and see" the result of the election and the decisions taken afterwards. Renewable energy developers says commercial financing support for large scale renewables has dried up pending the result of the election, because no new power purchase agreements are being signed.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott reaffirmed in his budget reply on Thursday night that the carbon tax will be repealed, and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp, will be dissolved. The fate of both will be decided by the make-up of the Senate. The Coalition is in favour of yet another review of the RET, and has expressed sympathy for the argument of utilities that the target should be diluted because of falling demand.

The Climate Change Authority last year rejected those arguments when it said the fixed target of 41,000GWh should be retained, adding that there was a need for investment certainty, and having more than 20% renewables was a good thing-seeing as that is where the country is inevitably headed in any case. Abbott has promised to dissolve the CCA as well.

Abbott's Coalition is littered with anti-wind members, many of whom are apparently going to speak against wind farms at a rally planned for Canberra on June 18.

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Plans revealed for £300m wind energy storage facility
16 May 2013

Plans are underway for a facility in Northern Ireland to store surplus energy from wind turbines. The project is the work of Dublin-based Gaelectric Holdings, which is seeking to form partnerships with infrastructure investors to raise £300 million ($456m). The facility is to be built near Larne, County Antrim, to service Gaelecric's recently opened wind farm in nearby Carn Hill.

The purpose of the Larne venture is to overcome the problem of intermittency, which has always imposed limitations on the output of renewable generators such as wind and solar. The technology used in the plant will utilise excess electricity from the turbines to compress air, which will be stored in salt caverns 80 m below the ground. When demand is high, the air, with a boost from natural gas, will drive a turbine to generate extra power.

Report supports windfarm noise
17 May 2013

The inaudible sound caused by windfarms is no worse than that from other rural and urban environments and does not affect human health, a review by the Victorian Department of Health has found. Some groups claim the inaudible noise from wind turbines, known as infrasound, can trigger health problems including dizziness, headaches and insomnia. Together, the syndromes are sometimes described as 'wind turbine syndrome'.

The Health Department review, released late last week, assessed the evidence and found it does not "support claims that inaudible sounds can have direct physiological effects. Physiological effects on humans have only been detected at levels that are easily audible".

The report says infrasound is generated by many sources, such as trains, breaking waves and air conditioners. The department found the evidence showed windfarms produced no more infrasound than the background level of sound in other environments.

The report went on to say "Humans have been exposed to high levels of infrasound throughout our evolution, with no apparent effects". The department found windfarms did produce audible noise through the swish of a rotating turbine blade, but the report says the typical sound pressure for most nearby residents-living up to a km from a turbine-is lower than many other everyday environmental noises.

It says audible noise, including that from windfarms, can cause annoyance resulting in prolonged stress and other health effects. The report says whether health effects are felt from low-level audible noise can depend on an individual's noise sensitivity and attitude to the source. Victoria has some of the world's toughest laws on windfarms, allowing any household to veto a new turbine within two km of their home.

Solar power program set to light up Samoa
17 May 2013

Solar power will soon be illuminating communities in Samoa, with a plan to provide solar lighting kits to Samoan families. The Apia Rotary Club, working with local NGO Women in Business Samoa and assisted by Australian Rotary Clubs, have started a project to provide low-cost solar power lights to houses in the island nation.

Apia Rotary Club Director, Robyn O'Dell, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program power prices are unaffordable for some Samoans who instead resort to using dangerous kerosene lamps or go without any light at all.

"Electricity costs here are very very expensive", she said. She says the solar lights, which cost about $US9, will improve the quality of life for families without power and reduce bills for others. At full charge, the solar lights give off somewhere between six and 12 hours of light.

Initial funding for the project was provided by Graeme Boler, a New South Wales Rotary member, and Ms O'Dell says while most families will be asked to buy the lights, representatives from Women in Business will give them to some families for free.

"They have field workers going out every day and they will be distributing these lights to the working families", Ms O'Dell said. "In that process they will identify families who are very needy, and we hope to fill that gap by providing lights for free".

Prepaid power
Ms O'Dell says many families in Samoa pay for their power with a pre-paid system, so people often end up "in the dark" when their allotted power runs out. "This [system] helps to bring down the costs of power", she said. "It also helps people with being able to read and do their homework at night".

The same lights have proven successful in a similar scheme in Papua New Guinea, and Rotary has plans to take their project to other Pacific countries. "Once we finish our roll out plan based on the way we've done it, we'll have a framework for how this can be achieved", she said. "This can be passed on to other Pacific nations".

US holds wind farm radar tests
15 May 2013

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has conducted trials on technologies designed to solve the problem of wind farms' impact on radar. The tests were organised by the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Energy, and assessed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory.

Aveillant, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin took part in the trials, which were done for both civil aviation and security purposes. Numerous test flights were conducted close to the the extensive Indian Mesa Wind Farm in Iraan, West Texas. UK firm Aveillant's radar successfully observed a wide range of flights without any degradation from the wind farm.

Gordon Oswald, chief technology officer at Aveillant, said: "We don't know exactly what was flown overhead but we're talking about the most sophisticated government in the world here, and they will be out to test us. "But we can confirm that several different types of aircraft were detected above and around the wind farm, and that our radar easily distinguished between wind farms and different types of aircraft". Aveillant is not taking part in the UK Ministry of Defence trials taking place this summer.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Funnel Wind turbine generates jaw-dropping power
15 May 2013

In order to get off oil as our main energy source, renewable energy needs to be cost-competitive with natural gas and coal. Innovations in solar and wind power are making strides toward that goal, but it will take a major paradigm shift to bring them both down in cost.

The Chaska, Minn.-based company Sheer Wind thinks it has a design that could bring the cost of wind power down to a price competitive with natural gas. Daryoush Allaei, Sheer Wind's chief technical officer, told DNews that a utility-scale system of these wind turbines--that is a 100 to 500 MW power plant--the cost could be as low as 1¢ per kW. For comparison, conventional tower and blade wind power plants cost about 45 to 80¢ per kW and natural gas plants cost about 2 to 3¢ per kW.

The company's Invelox captures wind using wide-mouthed funnels. Inside, passageways turn the wind horizontally and taper it into a narrow space, which naturally accelerates the flow. The higher speed wind is then channeled into a turbine positioned at ground level. According to the company, the system works even if wind speeds are slow at the top. For example, a wind entering at 10 mph is increased to 40 mph by the time it enters the turbine. After passing through the turbine, the wind is exhausted back into the environment at 15mph.

The unit is about 50% shorter than traditional wind towers and the turbine blades on the generator are 84% smaller--as a result, equipment and maintenance costs are lower.

Read More…

Morocco kicks off construction of 160 MW solar thermal project
15 May 2013

Morocco has officially commenced the construction of a 160 MW concentrated solar power plant near the desert city of Ouarzazate.

The 7 billion dirhams ($817.55 million) project is expected to become the world's largest solar facility of its kind when finished by 2015, surpassing the 100 MW Shams 1 solar thermal plant in the United Arab Emirates (see related story).

A consortium led by Saudi developer ACWA Power, won the contract to develop the plant last September. Construction of the project will employ around 1,000 employees while operation will generate 60 permanent jobs.

The Noor 1 C.S.P, project is part of the two-phase Noor 1 Solar Complex, due for completion by 2020. The complex is expected to cover 3,000 hectares and have an overall capacity of 500 MW-enough to provide electricity for Ouarzazate's 1.5 million people.

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy is developing the Noor 1 C.S.P, project as well as several other utility-scale solar power projects using various solar technologies at the Noor 1 Solar Complex. In addition, they have already identified five sites for solar power stations including Ouarzazate, Ain Bni Mathar, Foum Al Oued, Boujdour and Sebkhat Tah.

In its bid to ease dependence on fossil fuel imports, the Morocco is exploring the use renewable energy sources particularly solar power. It has one of the highest rates of solar insulation of any country, amounting to around 3,000 hours per year of sunshine.

In 2009, the North African nation launched what has been touted as the world's largest solar power plan costing around $9 billion. It aims to generate 2,000 MW of solar capacity by 2020 and contribute 18% to the country's annual electricity generation. Significantly, the entire solar plan will help the country save 1 million ton oil equivalent per year and prevent 3.7 emissions of CO₂ equivalent.

According to the International Energy Agency, Morocco is the "largest energy importer in North Africa with limited resources of its own". It is already spending more than $3 billion a year on fuel on electricity imports and is experiencing power demand growth of 6.5% average a year.

Wireless sensor for devices harvests solar energy
14 May 2013

Two Israel-based providers of electronics components have collaborated to provide solar power harvesting technology that can power wireless sensors so they require little or no battery power to operate.

Sol Chip and Cellergy are offering a high-performance energy harvester that combines Cellergy supercapacitors and Sol Chip's solar power harvesting technology and can be integrated into a range of devices and applications to provide power for short-range wireless communication.

The companies envision the technology being used to enable the so-called Internet of Things in which devices can identify and communicate with one another over the Internet or a network. These devices will be used in a number of industries, including agriculture, smart lighting control, smart water management, environmental monitoring, medical, security, and safety.

The Everlasting Solar Battery--Sol Chip's contribution to the collaboration--addresses the needs of remote or mobile devices that operate autonomously by prolonging battery life, reducing environmental hazard and improving battery-charging technology, Zack Sharon, Sol Chip's sales and marketing director, told Design News. "The technology harvests light energy to extend battery life or replace batteries in many applications and reduces system overall cost", he said.

The Sol Chip device is essentially a single-chip solar cell with integrated battery management and charging circuitry. The device can recharge batteries or charge super-capacitors, and has a patent-pending architecture that provides higher efficiency with an extremely lean and cost saving implementation, Sharon told us. The harvester combines the Everlasting Solar Battery with Cellergy's supercapacitor technology to store the energy, which allows for more energy storage than typical capacitors.

Energy harvesting is becoming a method of choice for low-power devices that typically run on batteries but don't need a lot of energy to power them. A number of semiconductor and electronics components companies are building ultra-low-power components or micro energy-harvesting devices that can be embedded in devices like medical sensors, smoke alarms, security systems, and other devices.

According to Sharon, the addressable market for the Sol Chip-Cellergy technology is estimated at 1 billion units in 2022, with many segments growing more than 10% per year. "Initial target segments include wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks, smart power grids, smart cities, and active RFID", he said.

Samsung receives POWERS award for development of 7 MW offshore wind turbine prototype
13 May 2013

Scottish Enterprise has awarded Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) GBP 6.04million POWERS funding to support the development of its latest 7MW offshore wind turbine prototype at Fife Energy Park.

This award will support SHI's total investment of GBP 100 million in Scotland, which will help launch a test demonstration project followed by turbine manufacturing facilities in the longer term. Subject to the conclusion of commercial negotiations, SHI will begin construction of the 7MW prototype turbine later this year. The turbine will be placed on the sea bed around 35 meters from the shore, with permission from the Crown Estate.

Turkey’s biggest wind farm starts operation
13 May 2013

The biggest wind farm in Turkey, Enerjisa Bares Wind Power Plant in Balikesir in the west of the country, has started producing electricity. The plant, built with a €135 million syndicated loan arranged by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, will increase Turkey's current wind power-generated electricity by about 8% and help the country diversify away from expensive imported fossil fuels, the London-based lender said in a statement on its website. The energy that Bares started producing Saturday can provide clean electricity to about 170,000 households in Turkey. Enerjisa Energy Company, the owner of the power plant, is a joint venture of Sabanc─▒ Holding and Germany's E.ON.

Monday 1 July 2013

Brazilian indigenous people turn to wind power as dam alternative
13 May 2013

The indigenous people of Brazil's most northerly region have been conducting a wind power trial, in a bid to convince the government that it's a realistic alternative to the country's controversial hydroelectric dams.

Roraima is both the northernmost and least populated of Brazil's states, wedged between Venezuala and Guyana. Internationally, it's most well known for Mount Roraima, a 31km2 table mountain with 400m-tall sides that inspired both Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and Pixar's Up. It's also the site of some of Brazil's highest-average wind speeds, coming down from the mountains and speeding across the grasslands and savannah in the east of the state at an average of between six and nine metres per second according to the Wind Energy Atlas of Brazil.

As reported by Climate News Network, the Makuxi people think this might give them a chance to put forward a different idea for the Brazilian government's Lights For All programme, which has been trying to bring electricity to off-the-grid households since 2003. The latest figures, from 2003 to 2011, record 14.3 million people living in 2.8 million households now enjoying the benefits of reliable grid power--so much that it's actually reversed the migration of people from rural areas to cities. Most of that grid electricity--82.7%--has come from hydroelectric dams.

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Sturgeon opens community wind farm
13 May 2013

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to open a wind farm in which residents have a cash stake. Neilston wind farm is the first joint ownership venture between a wind farm developer and a community in Scotland. Residents of the East Renfrewshire village bought a 28% share in the four-turbine, 10 MW-capacity scheme by onshore wind farm developer Carbon Free Developments.

They raised £950,000 to purchase their stake, loaned in part by the Scottish Government and other organisations including the West of Scotland Loan Fund and Social Investment Scotland. The idea is that the loans will be paid off with income raised from selling electricity to the National Grid. It is expected that money will be become available for use by the Neilston Development Trust from 2018 19 onwards.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The Neilston Community Wind Farm is a great example of community-led regeneration, which is why the Scottish Government is supporting this £15.6 million development with a £250,000 investment as a pilot for the Renewable Energy Investment Fund.

"Industry figures show that Scotland's renewable energy sector has attracted £2.8 billion of investment in Scotland since 2009. This government is focused on supporting the growth of local and community ownership of renewable energy so that communities can share the rewards of Scotland's vast natural resources".

Pauline Gallacher from the Neilston Development Trust, which purchased the stake, said: "We want to make Neilston a better, more sustainable place to live and realised that we, as a community, needed to secure income to make this happen.

"We partnered with Carbon Free Developments to build our own wind farm and now we have secured funding for 20 years that will deliver projects across the community. We didn't rely on grants to fund this-all the capital we raised was in the form of loans and will be repaid. "I think we've shown that communities in Scotland can control their own destiny by becoming involved in the development and ownership of renewables".

Island keen to embrace solar power
13 May 2013

WORLD Heritage listed Lord Howe Island is starting its transformation from a dependence on diesel generators to sustainable solar power with help from Wauchope Solar. The connections between the Hastings Valley and Lord Howe Island continue to grow. This began with direct flights and the supply ship, Island Trader, now operates between Port Macquarie and Lord Howe Island.

Port Macquarie's commercial wharf was officially opened in November 2009 and the business community of Port Macquarie has been encouraged to develop trading links with businesses on the island. Wauchope Solar has done exactly that and is now on its third trip to the island for the next round of solar power installations.

The Lord Howe Island Board has been developing a plan with the help of CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle to minimise diesel consumption helping to make Lord Howe Island a showcase in environmental sustainability.

Wauchope Solar founder Stuart Watson said he had a great affinity with Lord Howe Island and had been impressing on the locals and the Lord Howe Island Board the benefits of renewable power on the island for the past 15 years.

"Now this dream is becoming a reality as the islanders embrace the opportunity to power their homes with solar", Mr Watson said. Mr Watson hopes the Lord Howe Island example will inspire the mainland. He has been a long time supporter and proponent of the benefits of solar power and considers the future of solar generation to be huge.

Denham invests in Australian wind power
9 May 2013

US PRIVATE equity firm Denham Capital Management has strengthened its commitment to Australia's renewable sector, investing $US75 million in a portfolio of wind power projects forming the basis of new entity OneWind Australia. Denham, which has more than $US7.3 billion in assets, is joining the Australian arm of Portugal's Enersis Group, National Power and Kato Capital to create OneWind.

The new venture will develop and finance several wind farms in NSW, South Australia and Tasmania with a total capacity of one GW, The Australian Financial Review reports. The projects, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, would help meet Australia's 2020 renewable energy target, which is expected to be almost entirely filled by wind power.

The investment follows Denham's decision last year to set up a new office in Perth, where it has been scouting for opportunities in metals and mining. The firm already backs international solar power developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, which is developing solar ventures in Australia.

Denham co-founder Carl Tricoli said last November that the firm may invest up to $US600 million of its latest $US3 billion fund in Australia across its three key sectors: metals and mining, oil and gas, and power and renewables.

Scott Mackin, co-president of ­Denham and head of the firm's power and renewables team, said on Tuesday that Denham's investment would accelerate the pipeline of projects, which has been developed by the other partners.

"We believe that the combined skills, capital and projects that we collectively bring to the table create exciting opportunities for the partnership", Mr Mackin said. He said late last year that he was particularly interested in solar and wind projects that could undercut the cost of "brown" coal-fired power, including remote mining sites.

The portfolio of projects in OneWind includes the 100 MW Glen Innes wind farm in NSW, the 250 MW Lincoln Gap project in South Australia, and the 240 MW Cattle Hill venture in Tasmania.

Iowa blowing Nebraska away on wind power
11 May 2013

t's a touchy subject among Nebraskans invested in or watching the development of renewable sources of energy. Nebraska has more potential to turn wind into power, but Iowa's doing it to a vastly greater degree.

Last week, a unit of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha, said it plans to invest $1.9 billion to build wind farms in Iowa that would increase its wind generating capacity in the state by about half.

MidAmerican Energy Co., Iowa's largest utility, plans to build as much as 1,050 MWs of new wind power plants in the state, adding to about 2,285 MWs of projects that it already owns and operates. The Sierra Club has criticised Nebraska's public power industry for not getting more wind power going.

The state's public power utilities say one reason they're behind is because they're limited by federal law, which offers federal production tax credits to private companies only. So public power districts can only hope to encourage a private company to build a wind farm and then buy the power. Another reason, though, is the difference in state-level incentives.

Iowa's are all over the map and include more aggressive renewable requirements, not just incentives. Nebraska's incentives are barely there and haven't worked well, and a couple of amendments are pending in the Nebraska Legislature right now. MidAmerican, based in Des Moines, Iowa, says it is the largest U.S, owner of wind generation capacity among rate-regulated utilities.

Iowa ranks third among states with the most wind generating power, with 4,536 MWs of installed capacity, behind Texas and California, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Nebraska is halfway down the list of states with more than 400 MWs, which is expected to double over the next 18 months as $600 million in wind power investment is spent.

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Blade runners: 56-metre trucks make special deliveries to wind farms
11 May 2013

Emerging from fog amid an array of flashing lights, trucks more than 50 metres in length carry the beginnings of a new wind farm beneath the nose of the now-not-so-big Merino in Goulburn.

Under police escort they ease around and over the wide roundabout, and make their way slowly into town, with a handful of residents venturing into the cool dawn to watch them manoeuvre around modified corners on their way to the under-construction Gullen Range wind farm near Bannister.

As one project grows, 14 more proposals for wind farms in NSW can be assessed in the next months under the controversial Part 3A planning laws, which have since been phased out by the state government. Delivery of the components for the 73 turbine Gullen Range wind farm began on Monday, and will continue for 28 weeks, Goldwind Science & Technology Co Australia says.

The longest trucks trundling through Goulburn are just under 56 metres, more than double the length of an average B-double truck. They are travelling on regional roads that have been extensively upgraded by Goldwind Science & Technology Co. More than $3.3 million has gone on work on Kialla and Gurrundah roads and the widening and improving of intersections in Goulburn and Crookwell. According to the project's website, the farm is due to be connected to the grid early next year, and is expected to produce nearly 160 MW of renewable power at full capacity.

Seven more projects in the region are eligible to be assessed under the Part 3A legislation, including Yass Valley wind farm and Collector wind farm, as the NSW government phases out the law which previously granted the Planning Minister consent authority for major projects. The seven projects would house up to 650 turbines on wind farms from Collector to Boorowa to just north of Crookwell.

Under the transitional Part 3A period, applications already under way have until June 30 to lodge documents with the NSW Planning Department, which can then refer the projects on to the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). wind farm opponents Yass Landscape Guardians claimed the sped-up Part 3A process had "curtailed" community consultation by energy company Epuron over the Yass Valley Wind Farm.

Guardians chairman Mark Glover said the organisation conducted its own telephone survey of residents and landowners within eight km of the proposed Yass Valley farm. It found 70% of the 112 respondents did not support the development, and that Epuron had not contacted most of them. "The survey clearly shows that the majority do not want these turbines in the community for a variety of reasons", he said.

Epuron project manager Andrew Wilson said the company's involvement was interrupted when the project was sold to Origin Energy and then re-acquired it last year, but denied it had neglected consultation with the community. "We've got a significant consultation that's been under way", he said. "Consultation is an ongoing thing".

Mr Wilson said Epuron would not respond to the Yass Landscape Guardians' survey results as it was not an independently conducted survey. He said other surveys, by Epuron and by the NSW government, had shown broad support for wind farms in the area. "We're obviously aware of opponents, and in the last six months there have been significantly more vocal opponents to the wind farm but equally there has been strong support, and that hasn't changed in my view over the years".

Mr Wilson said the company was lodging its final planning documents, and intended to have the project continue under the Part 3A assessment process. In Collector, RATCH Australia is expecting a decision shortly on its proposed 63 turbine wind farm between the Federal and Hume highways. Opponents of the Collector wind farm used the town's Pumpkin Festival earlier this month to protest against the project.

A feature of their protest were anti-wind farm T-shirts. RATCH Australia's Anthony Yeates said the proposal had been lodged with NSW Planning under Part 3A, and the company was confident a decision would be made soon. '' We understand that our project complies with all the requirements of the draft NSW Wind Farm guidelines", he said.