Thursday 11 July 2013

Welcome to Victoria, no wind farms allowed
30 May 2013

Welcome to my home state of Victoria, Australia's hub of art and culture, lane-way cafes and wonderful coffee, Aussie Rules football, the miraculous Leadbeater's possum, and magnificent forests. And also, after law changes in 2011, one of the most difficult places in the world to build a wind farm.

Back in 2011, the then-premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, enacted laws that, according to The Conversation website, effectively imposes a blanket ban on wind farms in many parts of the state:

  • They effectively give the owners of any dwelling within 2km of a proposed wind farm the power to decide whether or not the development should proceed.

The laws were part of the conservative Liberal-National coalition's 2010 election platform to "restore fairness and certainty to the planning process for wind farms". The laws have definitely provided certainty.

A recent report commissioned by the opposition planning spokesperson Brian Tee, demonstrates the kind of certainty that banning wind farms can bring:

  • While the Baillieu Government's reforms were targeted at new wind farms, they have had a major impact on those who already had permission to develop wind farms, prohibiting the extension of permits and making it harder for developers to make small changes to their planning approvals to incorporate state of the art technology and improve efficiency.

If a wind farm company wants to amend their permit or get an extension, they have to apply under the new constraints. The impact of the laws has been to not only stop the development of new wind farms but to also hinder the development of farms already approved.

Andrew Bray, state coordinator of non-profit pro-wind farm community group VicWind noted that many developments that were approved under the earlier laws now would have no chance under the new regime. "Technology has moved on substantially since granting of permits 3-5 years ago", said Bray, "so developers want to alter key aspects such as number of turbines, often using higher capacity turbines to decrease the total number of turbines, turbine placement, or blade tip height to improve viability of the project".

The chilling effect of these planning laws is plain. Only one application to build a new wind farm has been made since the new laws came into effect.

Read More…

Bac Lieu wind-power project comes on line
30 May 2013

A wind-power project in the Mekong Delta city of Bac Lieu was connected to the national electricity grid yesterday. The wind-power project is the second in the country to be connected to the national grid. The first project began operating in April of last year in central Binh Thuan Province.

Work on the first phase of the Bac Lieu project, with installation of 10 turbines totalling 16MW, was completed after nearly three years of construction, according to the Bac Lieu-based Cong Ly Construction and Trading Co Ltd.

Cong Ly Co invested VND2 trillion (US$95.2 million) in the first phase of the wind-power project, which can generate 56 million kW per year. The project's 62 turbines, provided by US company General Electric Co (GE), have a capacity of 1.6 MWs each. They will help generate 320 million kW per year.

All the turbines, which have total output of 99.2 MW, will become operational in June 2014, the company said. Cong Ly Co will invest a total of VND5.2 trillion ($247.5 million) in the project, which is located on 500ha in Vinh Trach DONG Energy Commune in Bac Lieu City. Capital for the project is sourced from loans provided by the US Import and Export Bank. This is the first wind-power project in the Mekong Delta.

E.ON starts work on 288MW offshore wind farm
29 May 2013

DUSSELDORF, Germany, May 29 (UPI)--German utility company E.ON said it started laying down special containers to support foundations for a new wind farm off the northern German coast.

E.ON said it started preparation for the construction of the 288 MW Amrumbank West offshore wind farm, to be northwest of German archipelago Heligoland. E.ON said it was deploying a special type of sand bag made from geotextiles that would prevent seabed erosion from around the foundations of the turbines.

"Separating the scour protection from the installation of the foundations has significant logistical advantages and helps to further reduce the cost of offshore wind power", the company said in a statement. "E.ON's aim is to reduce the construction and operating cost of offshore wind farms by 40% by 2015".

Amrumbank West is one of three wind farms planned by E.ON for the North and Baltic seas. The company said it work to install 80 turbines at Amrumbank West this year.

Amrumbank West will have a peak capacity of 288 MW, enough to meet the yearly energy demands of 300,000 households. E.ON said the project would be finished by 2015 and reduce carbon emissions by more than 740,000 tons per year.

Organic polymers show sunny potential
29 May 2013

( new version of solar cells created by laboratories at Rice and Pennsylvania State universities could open the door to research on a new class of solar power devices.

The photovoltaic devices created in a project led by Rice chemical engineer Rafael Verduzco and Penn State chemical engineer Enrique Gomez are based on block copolymers, self-assembling organic materials that arrange themselves into distinct layers. They easily outperform other cells with polymer compounds as active elements. The discovery is detailed online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

While commercial, silicon-based solar cells turn about 20% of sunlight into electricity and experimental units top 25%, there's been an undercurrent of research into polymer-based cells that could greatly reduce the cost of solar power, Verduzco said. The Rice/Penn State cells reach about 3% efficiency, but that's surprisingly better than other labs have achieved using polymer compounds.

"You need two components in a solar cell: one to carry (negative) electrons, the other to carry positive charges", Verduzco said. The imbalance between the two prompted by the input of energy-sunlight-creates useful current.

Since the mid-1980s, researchers have experimented with stacking or mixing polymer components with limited success, Verduzco said. Later polymer/fullerene mixtures topped 10% efficiency, but the fullerenes-in this case, enhanced C-60 buckyballs-are difficult to work with, he said.

Read More…

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Wind industry angered over red tape
29 May 2013

Wind energy producers are in a twist after being forced to demonstrate they are operating within noise limits every time they seek to surrender Renewable Energy Certificates.

As of the start of June, all large-scale power stations accredited under the renewable energy target will have to submit a "standing notice" of ongoing compliance with all local, state and federal planning and approval requirements. Operators say they were only advised of the change late last week. Power stations, including hydroelectric, will continue to be required to complete an annual electricity generation return as before.

"The standing notice was introduced to enhance the integrity of the large-scale renewable energy target", a spokesperson for the Clean Energy Regulator said. "The standing notice will ensure the [regulator] is able to identify issues related to non-compliance as large-scale generation certificates are created".

The change follows debate in the Senate last November over wind farm noise, with Democratic Labor Party's John Madigan from Victoria calling for wind farm operators to provide wind and noise data to an independent authority every three months.

Senator Madigan stirred bemusement from the industry at the time with his call for the regulator to cancel a wind farm's accreditation should it operate in contravention of a law "whether written or unwritten". Even though the proposed amendments failed, the regulator opted to require compliance proof before certificate payment "to avoid a hint of a hint" that the industry was falling short, an official said.

Jonathan Upson, senior development manager of regulatory affairs with wind farm owner Infigen Energy, said while all power generators should operate according to the regulations, state governments are the responsible authorities to ensure compliance with planning decisions. This includes having acoustic experts on staff.

"The benefit of having a federal energy regulator attempt to duplicate the compliance role of state government planning departments is not clear to us", Mr Upson said. The imposition of such requirements on the renewable sector-particularly the wind industry-was also discriminatory unless similar measures are applied to other energy providers.

"The next logical step would be for the Australian Energy Regulator to require monthly declarations from gas and coal-fired power stations, and their associated coal mines, that they are compliant with all air, water and noise pollution laws and regulations", Mr Upson said.

wind farm operators are also nervously awaiting a decision from the NSW cabinet, perhaps within three weeks, on whether to adopt tough new guidelines for the industry in the state.

Cold climate wind energy showing huge potential
28 May 2013

Wind energy capacity is growing rapidly in the cold climates of the world. According to the latest forecasts, between 45 and 50 GWs of wind power will be built in cold climates by 2017, which would mean an increase of as much as 72% since the end of 2012 and investments amounting to approximately EUR 75 billion. "This is a huge opportunity", says Research Scientist Tomas Wallenius from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. "There has been a lot of talk about the potential of offshore wind power, but the market for cold climate wind power is more than ten times greater. We already have the tools to harness the potential of cold climate wind power cost-effectively, while offshore wind power is still at the research and development stage".

VTT has conducted the first ever study into the feasibility of building wind turbines across the globe in areas where cold climate and icy conditions place special demands on wind turbine technology. In addition to Scandinavia and Canada, these areas also include parts of Central Europe, the United States and China. The VTT study has been incorporated into the BTM World Market Update 2012 report (Navigant Research 2013). Cold climates represent encouraging potential for wind power companies because of their sparse population and favourable wind conditions. These areas experience higher winds in winter than in summer, and the density of cold air increases production capacity. However, turbine blades are highly susceptible to icing. Although icing causes production losses of 3 10% per year, losses can be reduced with the help of anti-icing systems.

The global financial crisis has made it more difficult to find funding for all kinds of energy investments. Nevertheless, both electricity producers and consumers are still interested in green energy. Wind energy also has the added benefit of predictability: production costs are easier to calculate in the absence of fuel price variations.

"Our research shows growing demand for anti-icing solutions, which are also developed by VTT in Finland. Another good example of a pioneer in this field is Labkotec Ltd, which is the global market leader in ice detection technology. Competition in this sector is fierce, but products and services for cold climates require specialist expertise which we in Finland have and which we can continue to develop. With good engineering, the challenges posed by cold and icy conditions can be overcome in a financially viable manner".

Dyesol exceeds PV durability test by 400 per cent
29 May 2013

Dyesol Limited has revealed that its solar-enabling technology has exceeded a key international photovoltaic industry standard test for long-term durability by 400%.

Speaking at the European Materials Research Society Conference in Strasbourg, France, Dyesol Limited Chief Scientist, Dr Hans Desilvestro, explained that the "gold-standard" of novel photovoltaic device development is certification by an international standard such as IEC 61646, where one of the harsher tests requires product stability at a constant temperature of 85°C for over 1000 hours.

Dr Desilvestro announced: "Dyesol Limited has tested its industrially scalable Dye Solar Cell (DSSC) materials and the material set maintained over 90% of initial performance after an extremely stressful test of 5000 hours at a constant temperature of 85°C".

This follows the company's recently announced breakthrough in solid state DSSC energy output efficiency performance. Dyesol Limited and its R&D collaboration partners will continue to develop liquid-based and solid-state technologies in parallel to suit applications most relevant to their specific attributes.

Dye Solar Cell technology is a third generation photovoltaic and nanotechnology which is printed onto glass, metal or plastic substrates in a series of very thin layers-many times thinner than a human hair.

The technology can be transparent or opaque, and a number of colour options are possible. On glass, Dye Solar Cell technology can appear like a modern stained glass window-the value-add being it produces clean energy right at the point of consumption. Key markets for Dye Solar Cell technology include: Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), consumer electronics, and remote sensors.

Wind power in the sights of climate change deniers the Australian Environment Foundation
28 May 2013

DUANE Gish was an American biochemist, best known for his unshakeable belief in creationism over evolution.

When debating his detractors, he would seek to overwhelm them by spewing forth a torrent of pseudo-science, half truths and utter fancy rapidly shifting over a multitude of angles, leaving his opponents little hope of refuting the barrage of BS in any reasoned or logical fashion, and certainly not within the confines of a formal debate.

The technique has come to be known as the "Gish Gallop", which Project Reason founder Sam Harris once described as "starting 10 fires in 10 minutes" and leaving your opponent no opportunity to douse every falsehood, no matter how brazen the untruth.

Another Made in America phenomenon in recent years has been astroturfing, where vested interests establish a (arm's length) movement that is ostensibly independent or grassroots yet largely serves to further their own ends. This is particularly prevalent in areas of environmental debate such as climate science, and gun law reform.

As with most things American, both practices have made their way here in recent years, with the likes of right-wing lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs being an enthusiastic adopter of the astroturf strategy. A case in point here is the Australian Environment Foundation, which was spun out of the IPA back in 2005.

The AEF (donations over $2 are tax-deductible) casts itself as being for "practical" environmentalists, while its past five press statements are headlined as follows: "Rally to support wind farm noise bill"; "Council rejects wind farm application"; "Climate Commission not fair dinkum"; "Climate Commission report relies on faulty data"; and "Carbon Tax hoax begins". Get the picture?

One of the AEF's favourite targets, aside from its love of links to sites promoting climate-change denial (such as junk science queen and conspiracy theorist Jo Nova), is wind farms-an aesthetic act of vandalism, an acoustic affront and a potentially deadly health hazard, apparently.

The AEF is not alone in its wind power crusade, with various other self-appointed Don Quixotes charging around the countryside whipping up fear and loathing. The latest is a strange mob called Stop These Things. (Which "things", one wonders?)

The anonymous urgers at Stop These Things are organising a rally at Parliament House in Canberra next month to protest the folly of renewable energy, and claim to have already enlisted the support of Liberal climate change deniers such as Alby Schultz and Craig Kelly, along with Senator John Madigan-Australia's first Democratic Labor Party senator in 40 years, and who invited climate change denial pin-up boy "Lord" Christopher Monckton to speak in his hometown of Ballarat this year.

The director of the Institute of Public Affairs' deregulation unit, Alan Moran, will also address the rally on "the failed economics of wind power". Serial ratbag, radio demagogue and leader of the rent-a-rage crowd, Alan Jones, will act as ring master at the circus.

The STT website, though, is worth spending a bit of time at, if for no other reason than to marvel at the intellectual garbage littering the pages. Take, for example, claims that "giant wind turbines are being deployed as weapons of mass destruction" by the US Defence Department. No, I'm not making this up-the whole site is a veritable swamp of such tosh.

While the identity of the things behind things that need stopping remains secret, it will be interesting to see just who else from the incestuous network of wind power opponents make it to Canberra. It might be worth a trip just to listen to the IPA's Moran, who will, according to STT, "put some knobs on common sense". Couldn't have put it better myself.

Nearly 20% of Australia’s PV home systems substandard, watchdog finds
27. MAY 2013

Up to 200,000 photovoltaic units on homes across Australia could be improperly installed and some even posing a danger, according to the country's Clean Energy Regulator. Australia's Clean Energy Regulator estimates that up to 200,000 solar panel systems on homes throughout the country may have been improperly installed. While Australia boasts more than a million homes installed with photovoltaic systems throughout the country, the federal watchdog reckons nearly 20% could be in less than acceptable condition.

The regulator conducted random checks on 7,000 photovoltaic units and determined 19% were substandard and in need of repairs and shut down 4% of the systems on the spot, saying they were found to be unsafe. Based on the review, the regulator estimates that 190,000 systems could be in poor condition and up to 40,000 units possibly posing a danger, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee on the matter, Andrew Livingston, the Clean Energy Regulator's executive general manager in charge of renewables and carbon farming, said installers had reacted quickly to requests to repair the substandard or unsafe photovoltaic units, the newspaper said. While the watchdog lacks the power to force installers to make the necessary repairs, it can fine the licensed agents who contracted installers for the jobs up to A$3,500 ($3,378, €2,610).

The regulator is currently weighing legal action against installers in five cases, Livingston added. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received 1,613 complaints about solar systems in 2012, up from 1,229 the previous year, and in addition to grievances made to state-based authorities.

Monday 8 July 2013

German ZSW produces Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, solar power storage systems with 10,000 charge cycles
25 Jun 2013

Scientists at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wuerttemberg, ZSW (Germany) have developed top-class lithium-ion batteries. In terms of the cycle stability-an important parameter for the lifetime-the high-performance cells now exceed the current international state of technology: more than 10,000 full cycles have been achieved so far, ZSW reports in a press release.

More than 85% of the initial capacity remaining after 10,000 complete charging, discharging cycles With other values, such as the power density, the batteries are equivalent to those produced by leading Asian manufacturers. The active materials for the batteries exclusively originate from German companies. ZSW has designed the cells, developed the manufacturing process and produced a small sample series in the 18650 format. The technology has created the basis for manufacturing large size pouch cells and large size prismatic cells. Lithium-ion batteries are intended for use in electric vehicles and as solar power storage systems.

"After 10,000 complete charging and discharging cycles with a complete charge and discharge cycle per hour (2 C), our lithium batteries still have more than 85% of the initial capacity", reports Dr. Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens, Head of the Accumulator Material Research Department in Ulm. "That also provides excellent prospects for a long calendar life".

A long service life, such as for electric mobility, is an essential requirement from automotive companies. Batteries with the lithium-ion technology must be able to do their work in cars for at least ten years without the battery capacity dropping to less than 80% of the rated value.

Read More…

Wind power blows into Africa
26 May 2013

CAPE TOWN, May 26 Giant turbines churning in the wind are a rare sight in Africa-but that will not be the case for long. Until now the meagre amounts of investment in African wind power have predominantly come from governments and foreign donors. But this is changing fast, say experts.

Private investors smell profit in beefing-up the continent's over-stretched power grids and swarms of new wind turbines are soon expected to emerge. If all plans on the table come to fruition, capacity will increase tenfold. "When you look at the on-going and planned projects, you see actually over 50% of the projects being sponsored by the private sector", said African Development Bank economist Emelly Mutambatsere.

Today wind makes up one% of electricity production, or just 1.1 GWs. But an additional 10.5 GWs is in the pipeline. According to an African Development Bank study of 76 wind projects, two thirds are pending. Liberalisation of electricity markets has helped prise open the sluice gates for investment. "The state still plays a big role in a lot of the countries", Mutambatsere told AFP. "But a number of countries have liberalised to some extent".

North Africa-including Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco-have led the way. But sub-Saharan Africa is catching up. This year saw the first large commercial wind farm in the region come on line, a 52 MW project in Ethiopia. Further south, the continent's heaviest carbon emitter South Africa is a striking example of the sector's growth.

The coal-rich nation-gunning for an extra 18 GWs of capacity from renewables such as wind-has opened power production projects to private bidders for the first time. The first bidding round of 28 projects drew $5 billion in investments, according to the energy ministry.

"There's a huge boom going on in South Africa in wind and renewables", said South African Wind Energy Association CEO Johan van den Berg. "South Africa previously had eight operative wind towers or turbines and there's about 250 under construction at the moment".

Last year, investment in South African renewable energy increased in excess of 20,000%, he said. Meanwhile in Kenya the $815 million, 300 MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is hoping to break ground in November. With wind flow of 11.8 metres per second the project is "a dream" according to chairman Carlo van Wageningen.

Light shines on renewable energy in the Pacific
26 May 2013

A Canterbury researcher is investigating renewable energy options for Pacific island nations in a bid to cut reliance on expensive diesel generators. Many households, businesses and schools that use the expensive generators struggle to pay their power bills, University of Canterbury Pacific Studies PhD student Emily Laing said. At the Pacific Energy Summit in March, New Zealand pledged $65 million to renewable energy projects in the South Pacific.

Ms Laing was looking at solar power projects in the region, and has already helped with the installation of panels in five high schools in Tonga. The systems were installed with a goal of reducing and, in some cases, completely eliminating power costs for the schools which previously, were struggling to keep up with their bills, she said. "With the introduction of solar power in the Pacific Islands it is important each project is well planned to ensure it's sustainable long term for the recipient country".

The introduction of solar power in the South Pacific was reasonably recent and was predominantly funded through aid organisations, she said. Many smaller Islands in the Pacific, such as Tonga, relied almost entirely on aid and had barely any business enterprise or exports, so most of the solar installations were funded by international aid agencies.

"This means the recipient country has little control over the timing, scale and scope of the projects, which can cause issues when it comes to implementing and sustaining the systems", Ms Laing said. "I want to create a project management framework specific to solar installations in the South Pacific to guide and help the management of future projects", she said.

Compressed air technology to store wind energy
24 May 2013

Renewable energy storage is one step closer becoming a reality in the Northwest. Researchers are proposing a new system that could store enough wind power to power 80,000 homes for a month. But researchers aren't proposing fields lined with batteries. They're using some of the Columbia River Basin's natural geography and compressed air.

If Northwest states are to meet renewable energy goals, they'll need to find a way to store power. Wind and solar vary with the weather. Most of the region's wind power kicks up at the same time as hydroelectric. That can produce more energy than the power grid can handle.

"Without a storage technology, that energy is going to be wasted", McGrail says. "Right now we don't have anything to do with it. We either have to shut down the wind farms or spill excess water over the dams".

Now, researchers have found a way to capture extra energy and store it until people need it. This technology would divert that wind-power to machines that compress air. Next, that compressed air would be pumped thousands of feet underground into airtight cavities in the earth's basalt subsurface.

When people needed more power in the summer or winter, a valve would release the compressed air. That would spin turbines and create energy. Steve Knudsen is with Bonneville Power Administration. He says more storage could help balance power on the grid. "You shouldn't ever have to curtail the generation out of wind plants", Knudsen says.

Alabama and Germany already use this technology. But the amount of power stored at those sites is a drop in the bucket compared to what these researchers are proposing. They say they could store enough energy to power 80,000 homes for a month.

Researchers have picked out two sites that will work well-both in Central Washington. BPA says the next step is for utilities to test the technology on a smaller scale.

OneWind Australia to invest $2bn for five wind projects totalling 1GW
24 May 2013

Wind energy company OneWind Australia is mulling an investment of $2bn to launch five wind power projects totalling 1GW in the country by 2015. The company, supported by private equity fund Denham Capital Management, stated that these projects are planned in New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

Confirming the plans, OneWind Australia managing director Michael Toke told Bloomberg that the projects are likely to cost between $1.5bn and $2bn. The wind farms would have a combined capacity of nearly 1,000MW, with the 100MW Glen Innes plant in New South Wales to be launched first, revealed Toke.

OneWind said the company planned the expansion in the wind power sector to leverage declining cost of wind power in Australia and the country's policy to obtain 20% of its power from renewable energy by 2020. "Compared with other places in the world, wind is quite competitive in this market", Toke said. "It's a combination of the competitiveness of wind and the need for new renewables here. There's an opportunity to generate good returns".

Project to increase windfarm energy yield
23 May 2013

Independent UK company, the Carbon Trust, unveiled its latest research project on Tuesday, designed to help cut the cost of offshore wind power by increasing the energy yields from Round 3 wind farms.

The new £2m wake effects measurement project will provide detailed measurement data to the wind industry to help better understand how the wind behaves in complex situations offshore. This will help the industry to improve prediction accuracy, reduce financing costs and optimise layouts at Round 3 windfarms located up to 290km from the UK coast.

The wakes effects measurement campaign project is part of the Carbon Trust's Offshore Wind Accelerator, a world leading industry collaboration with nine UK wind farm developers to identify and commercialise a series of innovations which can dramatically reduce the costs of offshore wind.

Specialist wakes monitoring equipment has been installed on the Rodsand 2 wind farm in Denmark and will measure wakes passing through the wind farm for at least six months. Data gathered from the project will help improve specialist software enabling developers to better predict how the wind will flow offshore to enable them to develop better and more efficient designs and layouts which in turn will increase the energy yields from offshore wind farms and in turn improve the economics of the offshore wind projects.

Commenting on the new research project Phil de Villiers, head of offshore wind at the Carbon Trust said: "Bringing down the cost of offshore wind is an absolute priority for the industry. We believe that industry collaboration on key innovation projects that offer scope for dramatic cost reduction is the best way to go.

"The new wakes effects measurement campaign is very exciting as it will address the shortage of data that has constrained the development of wake effects models for offshore wind. It offers potential to increase energy yields from offshore wind farms and also offer financiers greater certainty on the economics of the projects. We are confident that the data we collect will have a dramatic impact on the future of offshore wind power, for the better".

The project is also critical to help open up debt financing for the construction of Round 3 projects in the UK. At present no UK offshore wind farm has been built with debt finance, in part because of the uncertainties around predicting the energy outputs from wind farms offshore. This project has added importance, as by offering greater certainty on energy yields it will help de-risk projects as they seek debt financing. The project may also result in the layout of offshore wind farms looking very different in the future to how they look today. The project will be of particular value to the 32GW of Round 3 projects as they move into detailed planning phases.

Brian Gribben, technical manager at Frazer-Nash, which are lead technical consultants on the wake effects project said: "We are pleased to be able to apply our significant experience in aerodynamics and wind engineering to such a large scale Carbon Trust led project especially as it has the potential to significantly benefit the industry".