Saturday 27 July 2013

New way for farmers to make money
10 Jun 2013

There is a new way for farmers to make money these days that will actually benefit our environment.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) estimates that around 140,000kWh of solar power falls on the roof of a typical farm shed each year. Most of this simply heats up a piece of tin and adds minimal value while milking sheds and arable land operations (which use dryers and pumps) consume large amounts of costly power.

Why not capture even some of that energy for domestic use and sell it back to the grid when it is not needed? In Australia, there are over 1,000,000 grid-tied solar customers, who make electricity for their own use and sell the excess back to the grid. This clever idea is starting to catch on in New Zealand-with renewable energy generation leaders Meridian Energy providing the technology and Westpac pitching in to finance farmers putting in solar panels.

If this initiative catches on (and why wouldn't it?) the agricultural sector will save thousands of dollars from their energy bill, we will reduce our needs to generate electricity through fossil fuels and energy security will be improved.

It is great to see Meridian Energy initiating something that will improve the environmental performance of farmers, who are constantly criticised by the urban population for the cumulative effect their industry has on waterways and greenhouse emissions.

One can only hope that when farmers save money through solar generation that they might invest it into fencing and riparian planting rather than the latest model 4WD. But seriously, if you park the complicated and hotly contested environmental arguments about climate change and power generation for just one minute-free energy from the sun makes simple economic sense.

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San Onofre nuclear power plant to shut down permanently
8 Jun 2013

Southern California Edison (SCE) announced yesterday that they will be decommissioning their two unit nuclear power plant in San Onofre California. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, or SONGS for short, units 2 and 3 have been shutdown for 17 months after leaks were detected in faulty tubes in their newly replaced steam generators. Until now SCE had been working diligently to repair the two units, but the uncertainty of gaining approval from the NRC to restart the units combined with the cost of keeping the units in a state of readiness for restart has pushed SCE into permanently shutting them down.

Ron Litzinger, SCE's President had this to say, "Looking ahead we think that our decision to retire the units will eliminate uncertainty and facilitate orderly planning for California's energy future".

SONGS has been serving the region for over 40 year, employs some 1500 people, and has power capabilities able to light up roughly 1.4 million homes. With California already in a difficult state as concerns power production for its citizens, this major reduction in baseload capacity may cause difficulties in the future. SCE has already paid some $500 million dollars in buying replacement power over the 17 months the units have been offline, which is then passed on to the rate payer. It is still wholly unclear how replacement power will be provided in the long run, as California's political climate precludes investment in and construction of power sources that make reliable baseload electricity.

The future of SONGS will be decommissioning, where the reactor and auxiliary buildings are placed in a state of non-use and the nuclear material is place in a safe condition. With no national spent nuclear fuel repository and only a few lower grade nuclear waste repositories in operation in the U.VICOSC, it is highly unlikely that any of the radioactive material will ever leave the site. Given California's aforementioned political climate it is also unlikely that the SONGS site could be used as a nuclear waste storage facility for other facilities that produce radioactive waste, like hospitals and universities, in California.

The cost of decommissioning, per federal law, has been collected from the consumers of the electricity slowly over the past 40 years. However, since the lives of the plants are being cut slightly short, these funds might not be enough to fully decommission the facility if decommissioning were to start immediately. Likely SCE will hold off on the process as it waits for the interest of the money it has set aside to accrue enough to make decommissioning feasible.

New Design for solar panels that can simultaneously generate and store energy
18 Jul 2013

The potential energy available via solar power might seem limitless on a sunny summer day, but all that energy has to be stored for it to be truly useful. If you see a solar panel on a rooftop, in a large-scale array, or even on a parking meter, a bulky battery or supercapacitor is hidden just out of sight, receiving energy from the panel through power lines.

However, that's a storage method that doesn't scale well for solar-powered devices with no space for a battery pack. In a quest for a smaller, more self-sustaining solar power source, a UW-Madison electrical engineer has proposed a design for solar panels that can simultaneously generate power from sunlight and store power reserves for later, all within a single device.

Hongrui Jiang and his students developed the idea, published in the journal Advanced Materials June 6. Jiang is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison and specializes in microscale devices. He and his students developed the technology as an offshoot of a National Institutes of Health grant to design a self-focusing contact lens that adapts to the eyes of adults suffering from presbyopia, a natural aging process that stiffens the lens and reduces the eye's ability to focus, especially at short distances.

To power that contact lens, Jiang and his team have worked out a design that balances energy harvesting, storage and usage. "We needed a multi-functional and small-form-factor device in order to integrate it all into a single contact lens structure", says Jiang.

The top layer of each photovoltaic cell is a conventional photo electrode, converting sunlight into electrons. During that conversion process, the electrons split off into two directions: most electrons flow out of the device to support a power load, while some are directed to a polyvinylidene fluoride polymer (PVDF) coated on zinc oxide nanowires. The PVDF has the high dielectric constant required to serve as an energy storage solution. "When there's no sunlight, the stored power will come back through the nano wires to power the load".

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Renewable energy use hits record heights in Australia
8 Jun 2013

The latest data from Australia's peak clean energy body indicates that the country's use of renewable energy hit record heights last year. According to figures from the Clean Energy Council's 2012 Clean EnergyAustralia Report, a record-breaking 13.14% of Australia's electricity was derived from renewable energy in 2012.

Both solar power and wind power have reached major milestones since the start of 2012, Australia's 62 wind farms produced enough electricity to supply power to one million households for the first time last year, while the country installed its millionth solar power system earlier this year.

While solar power and wind power saw an increase in their share of renewable energy generated, rising to 26% and 8% respectively, hydroelectric power nonetheless remains the dominant form of clean power, accounting for 57% in 2012.

CEC chief executive David Green said the report shows that renewable energy is fast emerging as an economically viable power source, especially in light of the rising expense of its conventional, mainstream peers. "The cost of fossil fuels such as gas has been going up, while clean energy has been getting cheaper-fast", he said

Green also highlighted rapid growth in the deployment of renewable energy in Australia, and the sector's salutary contribution to the national economy. "The clean energy industry contributed $4.2 billion in investment and approximately 24,300 to the Australian economy in 2012", he said. Despite this impressive level of spending, however, the report found that Australian investment in renewables actually fell significantly last year, dropping $1.3 billion dollars from $5.5 billion in 2011.

The decline in investment has been largely attributed to the solar sector due to the scuppering of government incentives for the installation of rooftop panels and declines in systems cost. Further declines in investment are also expected this year as a result of political uncertainty in the lead up to the federal election this year, and the potential impact on the renewable energy sector of a Coalition victory.

CTRL+P: Printing Australia's largest solar cells
7 Jun 2013

Using the same technology needed to print a T shirt, scientists have produced the largest flexible, plastic solar cells in Australia-10 times the size that they were previously able to.

A team of researchers from the University of Melbourne, CSIRO and Monash University have produced the largest flexible solar cells in Australia. They are now able to print organic photovoltaic cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper thanks to a new printer installed at the CSIRO. The scientists are part of a collaboration between research and industry partners called the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC).

The new printer, worth AU$200,000, is a big step up for the VICOSC team. In just three years they have gone from making cells the size of a fingernail to cells 10 cm². Now with the new printer they have jumped to cells that are 30 centimetres wide and can roll out 10 metres of solar cells per minute.

VICOSC project co-ordinator and University of Melbourne researcher David Jones says one of the great advantages of the group's approach is that they're using existing and affordable printing techniques, making it a very accessible technology. "We're using the same techniques you would use if you were screen printing an image onto a T-Shirt", says Dr Jones, from the University's Bio21 Institute and School of Chemistry.

Using semiconducting inks, the researchers print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel. With the ability to print at speeds of up to 10 metres per minute, this means they can produce one cell every two seconds. As the researchers continue to scale up their equipment, the possibilities will become even greater.

"Eventually we see these being laminated to windows that line skyscrapers", Dr Jones says. "By printing directly to materials like steel, we'll also be able to embed cells onto roofing materials". "There are so many things we can do with cells this size", het them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the computers inside".

According to CSIRO materials scientist Scott Watkins, the organic photovoltaic cells, which produce 10 50 watts of power per m², could even be used to improve the efficiency of more traditional silicon solar panels.

"The different types of cells capture light from different parts of the solar spectrum. So rather than being competing technologies, they are actually very complementary", Dr Watkins says. The scientists predict the future energy mix for the world, including Australia, will rely on many non-traditional energy sources.

"We need to be at the forefront of developing new technologies that match our solar endowment, stimulate our science and support local, high-tech manufacturing", Dr Watkins says. "While the consortium is focused on developing applications with current industrial partners there are opportunities to work with other companies through training programs or pilot-scale production trials", he says.

The Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium is a research collaboration between CSIRO, The University of Melbourne, Monash University, Blue-Scope Steel, Robert Bosch SEA, Innovia Films and Innovia Security. It is supported by the Victorian State Government and the Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Friday 26 July 2013

New poll reveals 70 percent support for wind farms
5 Jun 2013

THE wind may be turning in the favour of building more wind farms to produce renewable energy in Australia. In an online survey conducted by Essential Research, 76% of respondents supported building wind farms in Australia to produce renewable energy. The figures indicate high support across demographic groups and voters. The research was conducted from May 30 to June 2 and is based on 1049 respondents.

Of those who supported building wind farms, 82% were Labor voters, 71% were Liberal or National Party voters, and 89% were Australian Greens voters. Victorian Wind Alliance state co-ordinator Andrew Bray welcomed the news. Mr Bray, who is part of the not-for-profit organisation supporting wind power, said the research was a reminder that the public overwhelmingly supported wind power, no matter which side of the political fence they were on.

"The research (also) shows that the public aren't swallowing the misleading claims put around by anti-wind campaigners like the Waubra Foundation. "Wind power is the most cost-effective source of large-scale renewable energy. "We should be embracing it in Victoria to deliver jobs, investment and tangible economic benefits to regional areas like Ballarat".

But Sarah Laurie, who heads the Waubra Foundation, an organisation examining the health effects of living near wind turbines, said there was a lack of research into the subject. "There has been a long history of problems at Waubra, Cape Bridgewater and Leonard's Hill", Ms Laurie said. "I believe they need to be investigated".

The data for this report was gathered from a weekly online omnibus conducted by Your Source, an Australian social and market research company specialising in recruitment, field research, data gathering and data analysis. Other questions put to the respondents concerned Australia's renewable energy target, compulsory, vaccinations, privatising the ABC, sports betting and the manufacturing industry.

Mongolia opens $122 million wind farm with aim to cut pollution
6 Jun 2013

Mongolia is scheduled to start operations at its first wind farm this month, a $122 million project that's the biggest power plant in 30 years and part of a government effort to cap pollution cloaking the capital city.

The 50 MW facility developed by Clean Energy LLC using 31 turbines from General Electric Co. (GE) is located on a wind-raked ridge about 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Ulaanbaatar. Sengee Enkh-Amgalan, the company's chief executive officer, plans to officially start the plant on June 20.

Mongolia is seeking alternatives to fossil fuels such as coal that power its industry and mines. The government has set a target to get 20% to 25% of its energy from renewables by 2020, up from less than 2% currently. Coal supplies about 80% of the nation's energy.

"In order to meet the 20% goal, the government really has to support these kinds of enterprises", said Enkh-Amgalan, adding that he expects the government will subsidize the costs of wind power in order to make it affordable.

smog from burning coal has choked the capital in recent months, causing the World Health Organisation to name Ulaanbaatar the second-worst city for air quality behind Ahvaz in western Iran. Residents use coal to heat homes when winter temperatures plunge to minus 30 Fahrenheit.

Clean Energy says the wind park will save 122,000 tons of coal, 1.6 million tons of water and will eliminate 180,000 tons of CO₂ emissions each year.

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U.K. to share more wind-power wealth with local residents
6 Jun 2013

The U.K, will give residents more say over onshore wind farms and higher payments to communities affected by them, an effort to heal a rift over the technology that's divided lawmakers and sparked local resistance.

wind farm developers must pay 5,000 pounds ($7,721) a MW each year to communities that host projects, a five-fold increase from the current rate, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said in a statement today.

Prime Minister David Cameron's administration is seeking to balance a need to boost renewable energy and meet climate goals with the wishes of voters who are concerned about noise and visibility of turbines. About 100 lawmakers in Cameron's Conservative Party last year called for subsidy cuts for the machines, saying they're a blight on the landscape.

"It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable--economically, environmentally and socially", Energy Secretary Ed Davey said. "Today's announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm".

New planning guidance will require that communities are consulted earlier on applications and that more weight is given to concerns about the impact on the landscape. For significant projects, such consultation will be compulsory before applications are lodged. Housing and Local Government Minister Mark Prisk said today in Parliament "significant" would depend on turbine height, size and density of plants and wouldn't include a small turbine in a backyard.

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Thursday 25 July 2013

Record in renewables
5 Jun 2013

Australia produced a record amount of renewable energy last year, with clean electricity sources such as hydroelectric, wind and solar generating more than 13% of the nation's power, new industry figures show. A report by the Clean Energy Council says hydroelectric electricity is still the most dominant clean-energy source, representing 58% of all renewable electricity generated in 2012.

But the council's chief executive, David Green, said other sources were growing strongly, with wind power rising to 26% of renewable generation and solar to 8%. Despite the growth, the report also finds Australian investment in renewables fell by $1.3 billion dollars last year, from $5.5 billion in 2011 to $4.2 billion.

Much of the decline in investment came in solar, as government incentives to install rooftop panels were axed and the cost of systems fell. The fall mirrors a 10% decline in renewable energy investment globally in 2012.

Mr Green said the findings showed technologies such as wind, solar and bioenergy were starting to make a major difference to the way electricity was produced and consumed. SMA inverter & 20x250 w Trina Solar Honey Quality systems made affordable.

Google buys output from Swedish wind farm for Finnish servers
4 Jun 2013

Google Inc. (GOOG), which has invested more than $1 billion in wind-and solar power projects, said it will buy the entire output of a new wind farm in Pajala, northern Sweden, to run its data center in Hamina, Finland.

The 10 year power purchase agreement has helped secure financing for building the 72 MW project for owner O2 Vind AB from Allianz SE (ALV), Europe's largest insurer. When the Maevaara wind park is fully operational in early 2015, Munich-based Allianz will assume ownership while O2 will manage the facility, Mountain View, California-based Google said in an e-mailed statement today.

The agreement benefits from the Nordic region's shared electricity market and grid system, Nord Pool, which lets Google buy the wind farm's electricity output in Sweden and consume the same amount of power at its data center in Finland, the company said.

Kanpur gets pollution free light with solar power
5 Jun 2013

KANPUR: Residents of Krishnapuram GT Road are a happy lot as their area remains illuminated even during power cuts.

People have no fear while going for a stroll in their locality or park even during late evening or night hours, courtesy, the Kanpur Nagar Nigam, which has installed solar lights on an experimental basis in the locality. In all, 25 solar lights were installed here in the year 2009, three out of which were stolen. However, remaining solar lights are in working condition and residents take care of these lights now.

According to Rajeev Sharma, deputy commissioner of Kanpur division, who was then municipal commissioner, KNN, nearly 25 solar lights were installed in the area. Five solar lights were installed in the lane just behind the Manoj Guest House while nine were installed in the locality park and remaining 11 were installed in the side lanes of the area.

The residents had asked for the installation of solar lights instead of street lights powered by electricity as area used to witness frequent power-cuts and rostering. Sharma had asked the road light department to install solar lights as an experiment and had passed an order to monitor them. Now these light are proving to be a boon for the local residents.

A K Tandon, Reserve Bank employee and a resident of the area, said, use of generator has minimised in his lane as roads remained illuminated by solar lights. Minimum use of gen-sets has led to better environment in the locality. Not only the residents of Krishnapuram GT Road but people from the nearby localities also come here for walk in evening when there is a power cut in their area.

Abha Sharma, another resident of the area, said besides solar lights, she also uses solar cooker and solar water heater and Dr Anand Nigam, her neighbour, also uses solar water heater and cooker to save fuel as well as save environment from carbon emission. They have also inspired their neighbour who are now planning to follow them.

Nagar Nigam has also installed solar lights in few other parks like Rajeev Vatika where people enjoy in late evening hours irrespective of power cuts.

DOI approves SolarReserve 100 MW concentrated solar power project
4 Jun 2013

US Secretary of the Interior (DOI) Sally Jewell announced the approval of the Quartzsite Solar Energy Project located in La Paz County, Ariz. With this authorization, SolarReserve, a U.S, developer of large-scale solar power projects, is proceeding with the development of its 100 MW project, located on Bureau of Land (BLM) managed land.

The Quartzsite Project will be using SolarReserve's concentrated solar power (CSP) technology with integrated storage that allows the facility to operate like a conventional power plant, but without the environmental damage from emissions and waste.

"These projects reflect the Obama Administration's commitment to expand responsible domestic energy production on our public lands and diversify our nation's energy portfolio", Secretary Jewell said. "Today's approvals will help bolster rural economies by generating good jobs and reliable power and advance our national energy security".

With more than $600 million of direct investment in Arizona, the Quartzsite Solar Energy Plant will generate approximately 440 jobs during peak construction and 50 full-time jobs for operations and maintenance. In addition, the project is expected to create local economic stimulus in the form of $15.7 million in sales tax during the construction period, with construction spending injecting another $46.3 million into the local and regional economy.

SolarReserve's lead CSP project, the Crescent Dunes Project, is currently in construction near Tonopah, Nev., with construction scheduled to be substantially complete by late 2013. The 110 MW project has a 25 year power purchase agreement with NV Energy to sell 100% of the electricity output of the facility.

Construction has peaked at more than 600 workers and is estimated to create more than 4,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs at companies that provide engineering, equipment supply and manufacturing, transportation and other value-added services The Quartzite Solar Energy Project has completed all major permitting necessary for advancing the project into construction and is actively engaged in power marketing efforts. The project is slated to begin construction in 2014, once a power purchase agreement has been contracted and financing for the project complete.

Industry News: Google and Warren Buffet invest billions into wind energy
3 Jun 2013

AUSTIN, TX--(Marketwired)--06/03/13 -Building Turbines, Inc., a designer and manufacturer of patented, innovative commercial rooftop wind turbine systems has received further validation of the earning potential, visibility, and ecological importance of the emerging wind power market on the heels of Google Corp.'s research division "Google X" and Warren Buffet's announcements of recent, sizable investments into the wind power companies.

Google X recently announced that they have acquired California based Makani Power for $110 Million. Makani Power produces energy through cable tethered "flying wings" and represents Google's interest in developing alternative wind power with a sizable dollar investment. Since 2010 Google's research division has made 11 renewable energy investments of comparable sizes including $200 Million into "Spinning Spur" wind farm in the Texas panhandle and investments into Atlantic Wind Connection for offshore grids designed to capitalize off wind power.

Legendary mogul Warren Buffet has recently been dubbed a leader in wind power investments after spending $1.9 Billion on wind farm projects in Iowa and has been well known for his investments into the alternative energy sector in the past two years. Additionally, his megastar energy company MidAmerican began building wind turbines in 2004 bringing his current total investments in wind power to date to $5.4 Billion.

"BLDW sees promise in market trends which lean to the most successful investors the world has ever seen taking interest in their market. With Texas being the number one state in America for wind power harvesting and production the idea of major players snooping about for companies to acquire has gone from small business dream to big market trend. Especially exciting is that our turbines are DG (distributed generation), meaning the power is produced where it is consumed, not in some field or over the ocean", according to John Graham, CEO