Friday, 15 December 2006

Danish Vestas searching for more clients in Turkey

Turkish Daily News
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Denmark-based Vestas, the world's largest producer of wind turbines, already has two ongoing projects in Turkey and is aiming to find more.

The Turkish AKSA Group, a leading manufacturer of gas and diesel electric generators, has commissioned two wind power plants, in Sabenova and Karakurt, from Vestas. According to Vestas President Ebbe Funk the combined effect of the projects will save the environment from 83,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

The Turkish Daily News caught up with the leading personalities of Vestas this week at the Polat Renaissance Hotel in Istanbul. Could the combined effect of all renewables be a viable substitute for nuclear energy in Turkey? Should the government abandon plans to construct nuclear power stations it announced in July?

Director General of Vestas Italia Rainer Karan stressed that wind could not replace all other forms of power generation but could prove extremely profitable in combination with other electricity sources.

Turkey is very dependant on natural gas imports, although it does generate some power via geothermal plants, a renewable energy source. In order to meet its growing energy demand, Turkey is looking to diversify its energy portfolio.

Wind energy's advantages:

Key Accounts Manager Eric Sejersen said, “Wind is a truly domestic resource that can substitute for much of imported energy.”

Sales and Marketing Director for Italy and the Middle East Francesco Paolo Liuzzi explained that, environmental issues aside, wind energy's advantage lies in the immediacy of the results. “If you start investing now, you can get it very soon, while starting with nuclear now means reaping the benefits in 15 to 20 years' time,” he said.

“Wind is cheaper than petrol in terms of social costs such as health and safety and polluting,” he said, adding: “Technological innovation has made it roughly at the same level of gas and nuclear. Thanks to research wind is a predictable: Anemometers can plot the ‘wave' of the wind over time with a great degree of accuracy these days.”

He pointed out that institutional subsidies still existed now that wind energy was in a mature phase in the market. These benefit both the clients and, in the long run, the hosting governments, because the Kyoto protocol entails fines for excessive CO2 levels. Turkey did not sign Kyoto, but ecological factors may become crucial as Turkey's integration talks with the EU develop, said Liuzzi.

Project and QSE Manager Fabrizio Sardella said that wind energy is the only renewable, other than hydroelectric power, that can compete with more traditional methods in term of production and actually reduce CO2 emissions. Solar power does not produce enough power, he noted

The Renewable Energy Law adopted by Turkey in May 2005 introduced a feed-in tariff for renewable-generated energy equal to the average wholesale price of the previous year for the next seven years. According to Aksa Group President A. Metin Kazanc─▒ this is an indication of an increased focus on wind energy in this developing market. “The Turkish government is aiming at diversifying its power production, and wind development will contribute to this in the coming years. The liberalization process has opened a large space for private wind energy developers,” he said.

Vestas' core business comprises the development, manufacture, sale, marketing and maintenance of wind power systems. It already has two ongoing projects in Turkey and is eager to extend its client base. Vestas even provides a “sales support tool” that facilitates financing for the client and a pre and post-installation service, though Sejersen emphasised that they didn't have a financial group of their own.

Conditions in Turkey:

According to European Commission study Wind Force 2005, Turkey has an 88,000 megawatt potential, a wind area in Europe second only to the United Kingdom. Sixty-three megawatts of wind energy harvesting capacity has already been installed. Sardella said that General Electric and Energon were also vying for the untapped remainder.

Liuzzi said that, insofar as Turkey is a developed market in all sectors with a good electrical infrastructure, installation and maintenance are pretty much the only costs.

The government, however, could do more to offer incentives clients to take up wind energy in terms of tariffs and producer-friendly electricity pricing. Sardella explained that with electricity prices as they stand, profit margins do not encourage smaller clients. “For small clients to be able to cover their costs, the government would have to mark up the price per kilowatt-hour,” he said.

Ultimately, Vestas aims to help Turkey maximise its renewables potential with regard to wind energy. Vestas' home, Denmark, generates around 20 percent of its energy from wind. The firm has also had great success in Spain, Germany and parts of the United States.

“We aim to make wind energy equal with other resources. We do not make miracles. Let's just say the first step has been taken” said Director-General Karan.

Beijing to shake up its energy infrastructure

People's Daily Online
December 12, 2006

Beijing is going to boost its power-generating capacity and do more to promote conservation, according to an official plan released yesterday. The plan's goal is to diversify and secure a stable energy supply for the capital city.

"We aim to establish a secure energy-supply system to guarantee a successful Olympic Games and to meet the increasing demand of the city's social and economic growth," said Liu Yinchun, an official with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, at a press meeting yesterday.

According to the Plan for Energy Development and Saving (2006-10), the construction of energy infrastructure will be the municipal government's top priority in the coming years.

To strengthen the city's ring power grid, six more 500-kilovolt transformer substations will be built in the suburbs. The city will also build four more thermal power plants, adding 1.5 million kilowatts of power a year and central heating to cover 25 million square metres of space. A new 90-kilometre thermal power pipe will be built in central Beijing, improving the city's heating system.

Several major projects involving liquid natural gas and underground gas and oil deposits will also be completed by 2010. In addition to capacity building, the plan calls for Beijing to become a model of energy-conservation for the whole country by 2010.

Beijing became China's second most energy-consuming city last year after Shanghai, requiring energy equivalent to 55.22 million tons of standard coal. The city's per-capita energy consumption reached 3.6 tons of standard coal during the period, 2.1 times of national average.
The plan seeks to limit the city's energy consumption to 65 million tons of standard coal by 2010.

The plan also calls on the city to reform its energy structure by increasing the share of high-quality energy sources like electricity, natural gas and renewable energy in the city's overall energy supply.

The plan says 70 per cent of the total energy consumed will come from high-quality sources, compared with the current 57 per cent. The plan also places a greater emphasis on renewable energy sources, like geothermal, solar, biomass and wind energy.

By 2010, renewable energy is expected to account for 4 per cent of all the energy consumed in Beijing, compared with the present 1 per cent. Heat from renewable sources will cover 40 million square metres, 6 per cent of the city's total heating area.

Liu said Beijing was dedicated to reducing energy consumption and had shown progress in doing so in recent years. Beijing consumed 0.8 tons of standard coal per 10,000 yuan (US$1,250) of GDP last year, representing a drop of 39 per cent from 2000. The new plan calls for this number to drop by 20 per cent from the 2005 figure by 2010.

"We will gradually transform energy-consuming enterprises and eventually eliminate the development of major energy-consuming industries and products," Liu said.

Solar energy for students

Donnybrook Bridgetown Mail
Tuesday 12/12/2006 Page: 10

FOUR South West schools will now get up to two per cent of their power needs from solar energy.

Solar panels have been installed at the Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School and the Dalyellup, Bunbury and Amaroo primary schools. The installation is the first stage of a plan to source more energy from renewable energy sources. The four schools are all participating in the Worsley Energy Challenge which aims to have each school reduce their reliance of fossil fuels by 20 per cent over the next five years.

Worsley Alumina has provided sponsorship to purchase and install the solar panels. Students will be able to monitor the level of impact the panels have on each school's energy use.

Wind turbines will be installed at three of the schools early in the New Year in the next stage of the project. A biodiesel generator will also be installed at the Grammar School.

The schools will aim to achieve their 20 per cent energy reduction target through a combination of renewable energy technology as well as focusing on more efficient energy use habits. Each school is also pursuing other environment-friendly initiatives like recycling and composting.

Worsley Alumina's Health, Safety and Environment Manager Gerry Rayner said the initiative for the Worsley Energy Challenge came from the South West branch of the Australian Association for Environmental Education and has been supported by the four schools, and Edith Cowan and Curtin universities.

"By promoting this throughout local schools we also hope that students will carry the energy efficiency message home to their families and to the general community," Mr Rayner said.

He said Worsley is a member of Greenhouse Plus - a national program that challenges industry to progressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It is proposed that Edith Cowan University will undertake research about the technological, educational and social aspects of the energy challenge, with the aim of encouraging the program to expand to other schools and organisations.

Project boost

City Chronicle
Tuesday 12/12/2006 Page: 4

A CANBERRA-based project to develop a computer model which predicts turbulence on wind energy sites, enabling turbines to be put in areas which generate the most power, has been awarded a $380,000 Federal Government grant. The project, by Windlab Projects Pty Ltd, was one of eight projects nationally to receive funding last week worth $13.8 million under the governments Renewable Energy Development Initiative.

Wind power and the community

Narooma News
Wednesday 13/12/2006 Page: 15

SOME people believe that windfarms are beautiful and majestic, and represent a clean form of energy production - others believe they are a blight on the landscape. Either way, there's no doubt that appropriately sited wind farms can have benefits to a community at a local,
regional and state level. Just 15 wind turbines (a medium sized wind farm) can reduce the emission of 1,000 kilograms of greenhouse gases for each Megawatt-hour of electricity generated and substantially increase the amount of renewable electricity used locally.

However community division and disruption have accompanied recent proposals in NSW various Australian and international surveys on the public support for wind farms reveal that, while large majorities are strongly in favour of wind energy in Europe and Australia, it is critically important to address the social side of wind farms before they go ahead.

An Australian phone survey of 1027 people in August 2003 found strong support for renewable energy and wind farms; 95 per cent of respondents support or strongly support building wind farms to meet Australia's increasing demand for electricity.

Respondents from rural areas were as likely to support building wind farms as those residing in metropolitan areas. Visual impact and land value impact are generally the greatest concerns. The greatest opposition to a windfarm usually occurs from property owners that border a proposed wind farm site.

Community views in Scotland and Ireland (Warren et al. 2005) were studied before and after development of wind farms. Personal taste or aesthetics are the strongest single influence on attitudes. People with anti-wind farm views perceived turbines as more intrusive than those in favour of wind turbines, regardless of actual impacts such as recorded noise levels. The planning and development stage also critically influenced community attitudes - with more open and participatory processes winning far greater public support.

The study observed that exaggerated perceptions of negative impacts are often dispelled by the actual personal experience of living near a wind farm once developed. However, this should not discount real community concerns that can include impacts on `unspoilt' landscapes (including potential noise) and the potential speed, scale and uncoordinated nature of wind farm developments.

A windfarm development can provide significant economic benefit locally by involving local contractors, local services, lease agreements with involved land owners and potentially by upgrading community services. Ararat Shire's windfarm of 35 turbines in Victoria generates $50,000 per year (over the projected 25 year lifespan of the project) that is distributed across community organisations and projects.

A community-owned wind farm in the Daylesford area also offers a collective model for sharing the benefits that is worth investigating further. In the Bega Valley, a cooperative economic model that would benefit people who might live close to a windfarm would be worth exploring. Sharing in the investment costs would result in a greater share of the benefits to the local area.

Article prepared by Brooke Marshall, Philippa Rowland (Agricultural Scientist from Guerrilla Bay and CEFE member) and Nick Graham- Higgs. Both Brooke and Nick have completed the environmental assessment for a number of windfarm proposals in Southern NSW.

References - ARC (2003) The Australian Research Group Ply Ltd on behalf of the Australian Wind Energy Association.

Warren, C.R., Lumsden, C., O'Dowd, S.and Birnie, R. V. 2005, `Green on Green: Public Perceptions of Wind Power in Scotland and Ireland, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Vol 48, No. 6.873-875.

Sun, wind the new powerhouses

The Land
Thursday 14/12/2006 Page: 33
By Alan Dick

FOR anybody building or renovating a home in a remote area, solar, wind or even water power could be options for supplying electricity. Apart from being environmentally friendly, they can also be cost effective, given It can cost a small fortune to connect to a power grid, if available.

According to specialists in the field, solar (photo-voltaic cells) and wind are increasingly being used in combination in remote areas.

A combined solar and wind system would include a bank of batteries, a regulator to smooth out the flow of power from the highly fluctuating sources and' perhaps an inverter to convert the current from DC to AC to suit household appliances.

But generally, a back-up power source, such as a diesel generator, will also be required to cover periods when wind or sunlight are low or if the farmer is using power tools or other devices that are heavy electricity users.

Anybody building a new dwelling also has the option of designing their house for energy efficiency to reduce the need for heating and air-conditioning, and tips on this and renewable power sources generally can be found on the website of the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO), www.greenhouse.gov.au.

According to the AGO, a remote area power system for an energy efficient house can cost anything from $15,000 to $50,000 but it points out connecting to the grid may cost $10,000 per kilometre of power lines.

However, photo-voltaic cells can attract a rebate of up to $4000 for a residential system. The rebate scheme runs to June 2007 and will be reviewed in the Federal Government's 2007-08 budget.

According to James Walker, technical head of Victorian-based renewable power supplier, Energy Matters Australia, the average household uses about 12 kilowatts of power a day.

"But people in remote areas are a bit more energy conscious so they probably use about five kilowatts," Mr Walker said.

He said there had been no significant changes in solar panels for several years, although newer wind turbine designs were quieter than early models. Mr Walker said wind turbines performed best away from turbulence and a household size unit would probably need a tower about 18 metres tall and to be sited so the blades were above the tallest nearby trees.

He said commercially available solar panels were about 13 to 14 per cent efficient in converting sunlight to electricity. "The ones used on space stations are about 30pc efficient, but their cost is prohibitive," he said.

Director of the University of NSW's Photo-Voltaic Centre of Excellence, Professor Stuart Wenham, said a big breakthrough in solar panel efficiency was at least 10 to 20 years away.

But the good news for people who might baulk at the potential cost of a solar-wind combination was Professor Wenham's tip that the cost of panels would decline at the rate of 10 to 20pc a year as manufacturers use cheaper forms of silicon and introduce other technical improvements.

Associate Professor David Wood of Newcastle University's Wind Energy Group said his group was one of only a small number of outfits researching wind turbines in Australia. Their work was aimed mainly at blade design to reduce noise and ensure they started rotating quickly when the wind blew.

Research was also being done on controllers to ensure generators produced the optimum power from the prevailing wind speed and to slow blades down when the wind reached 35 to 40km/hour, he said.

A micro hydro system is the third option but its use is mainly limited to a relatively small area where a constantly flowing stream is available, although there are designs for both fast and slow moving streams.

In some situations, the AGO warns, it may be illegal to interfere with a water course without prior approval and stipulates the environment should not be damaged during installation.

Court gives wind farm green light

Toowoomba Chronicle
Thursday 14/12/2006 Page: 4

Crows Nest Shire Mayor Geoff Patch says a $270 million wind farm approved by the Planning and Environment Court this week would bring major environmental, employment and economic benefits to the region.

But spokesman for a group opposing the wind farm, Jim Harper, has vowed to fight on against the project.

The court this week gave a consent order to the project after more than two years of legal action and community in-fighting.

"Not only will it save many millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases in the life of the project, but also save twice the water usage of our whole shire each year of operation compared with coal-produced power," Cr Patch said. "Over $100 million will be spent in the region during construction and a significant number of local jobs will be created.

"The project will also considerably enhance the tourism potential of our shire." The head of Allco Wind Energy, the company behind the project, Steen Stavnsbo, said, when built, the farm would generate 124 megawatts of power, enough electricity for more than 47,000 homes.

Mr Stavnsbo said it was expected the wind farm at Upper Pinelands would create 460 manufacturing and construction jobs and a further 15 full-time maintenance jobs in Crows Nest.

Allco would now seek a power purchase agreement from the State Government and it was hoped the project would be operating within 18 months of obtaining that agreement. The project, which had caused division within the area, will use 75 turbines, 30-storeys high.

The No Wind Farm group objected on grounds which included turbine blades would cause light flicker as they passed the sun, turbines would cause noise, devalue land, be a detriment to fauna and visual appeal of the area and were contrary to the council's town plan.

Objectors also argued the green credentials of wind farms were a myth because large amounts of coal-fired energy was needed to power up generators to full capacity after a drop in wind speed.

After drawn-out legal proceedings and mediation between the parties, the objections were progressively dropped. This week, Judge Wilson granted the consent order subject to minor conditions. But yesterday, Mr Harper said opposition to the farm would not go away.

"Wrongs are wrongs and rights are rights," Mr Harper said. "We have been subject to a lot of unethical dealing and that goes across the board as far as the council and developers are concerned." Mr Harper declined to flag the group's future strategy. "This time of the year things go to sleep, so it will be next year that we will be pursuing a fair result," he said.

What It Means:
  • The wind farm at Upper Pinelands will use 75 wind turbines, 30-storeys high.
  • The project is expected to be completed within 18 months of it being granted a power purchase agreement.
  • Estimated cost is $100 million.
  • The developer says 460 manufacturing and construction jobs will be created in the construction phase with 15 full-time ongoing maintenance jobs.
  • Crows Nest Shire Council predicts the project will also attract tourists.
  • Council says the wind farm will save water.

Fueling Our Cars, and a Growing Debate

Washington Post
Sunday, December 10, 2006; Page D01
By Staff Writer Linton Weeks

Lester K. Brown, who has written or co-written 50 books, has raised concerns over the use of corn as a source of ethanol. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)The simple ear of corn: a pleasing yellow, delicious with salt and melted butter. Also fine in corn bread, cornflakes and grits. But corn is also a prime source for ethanol, one of the most viable substitutes for gasoline.

That alternative -- human sustenance vs. sport-ute -- is prompting a most unusual debate among environmentalists. Is it better to use corn to make fritters or fuel?

The man who's most worried about the competition for corn is Lester R. Brown, a MacArthur "genius grant" winner with impeccable environmental credentials.

"The grain required to fill an SUV tank," he says, "could feed one person for one year."

Earth's farmers do not harvest enough corn and grain to feed everyone as it is, he says. In six of the past seven years, world grain production has fallen short of consumption, drawing world grain stocks down to the lowest level in 34 years. As oil prices rise, so does the desire for crop-based fuels such as ethanol. Today the United States uses about 7 percent of the world corn harvest for ethanol, Brown says, "but within the next two years that quantity could double."

When Brown laments, people listen.

A former farmer, he founded Worldwatch Institute in 1974 and the Earth Policy Institute in 2001. In addition to the MacArthur grant, he has received the U.N. Environment Prize and a recycling binful of honorary degrees. He has just revised the wonkishly titled "Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilisation in Trouble," one of the 50 books he has written or co-written.

"By the end of 2007," he writes in one of his newsletter updates, "the emerging competition between the 800 million automobile owners who want to maintain their mobility and the world's 2 billion poorest people who want simply to survive will be on center stage."

On a lovely late fall morning, Brown, 72, is drawing alarming word-pictures for about 700 people in a ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. This is a gathering of the Department of Defense folks responsible for reducing the impact of military bases on nature.

One answer to the world's energy lust, Brown says, is wind power. He envisions fields of windmills -- in gusty states such as North Dakota, Kansas and Texas. He sings the glories of bicycling and recycling, of geothermal heating and solar rooftops. And he bad-mouths ethanol.

Sounding like a dramatic reading of an Al Gore movie script, Brown enumerates the threats: Global warming. Shrinking forests. Expanding deserts. Falling water tables. "There is a long list of things that suggest we are in trouble," he says.

It's so quiet in the room you can hear ice melt.

For a tomato farmer, Les Brown has come a far piece. His father was a sharecropper who scraped together enough money to buy a 40-acre farm in southern New Jersey. Brown was the first person in his family to graduate from elementary school. While in high school he and his younger brother bought a tractor for $200 and launched a successful tomato-growing venture. Eventually the company was sending out 1.5 million pounds of tomatoes a year.

In 1955 he graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in agricultural science. He planned to return to the tomato business, but a six-month exchange program in India changed his life. In 1959 he moved to Washington and became an international analyst for the Department of Agriculture. He got advanced degrees from the University of Maryland and Harvard University.

After nearly a half-century of urban living, there are almost no traces of the farmer left in Brown. By all appearances, he is a Washington creature through and through -- a professorially dressed enviro-philosopher, a self-propelled machine that runs on oxygen, ideas and recognition.

Among environmentalists, Brown's fears over man-vs.-machine competition for corn make him something of an iconoclast. There are those who believe that his zeal is causing a far more serious problem.

"He's painting such a bleak picture of the future of biofuels based on an extrapolation from corn," says Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, "that it could damage the development of biofuels as alternatives to gasoline in general." The coalition is seeking change in the country's energy policy to address oil dependence and climate change.

"The production of food has never been a limiting factor in world hunger," Detchon says. The problem has always been surpluses and distribution.

Brown's fallacy, Detchon says, is fixating on corn. The future of organic fuels is not in the growing of crops such as corn that feed people or animals, but of weeds and switch grasses that are inedible -- and still make perfectly good fuel for machines.

"The energy market is so vast, it's not practical to expect that agriculture is going to supply all of the world's petroleum needs," Detchon says. "Wind is one possible solution. We need all kinds of renewable energy alternatives."

Brown says switch grass is nice. But he fears that by the time the research is done to bring such fuel to market, it will be too late.

The Worldwatch Institute, which Brown left in 2001, has become a champion of biofuels. The institute's president, Christopher Flavin, says his group has studied a variety of alternative energy possibilities and believes that rapidly developing technologies, new crops and innovative production methods will make organic fuel more appealing. "The biofuels industry," he says, "is moving away from corn."

Brown "has been a prolific and insightful observer of environmental stresses and a leader in the global environmental movement," Detchon says, "but I put him in the Malthusian camp . . . predicting that human demands will overwhelm the capacity of the Earth to supply them."

Says Detchon: "Lester has underestimated human ingenuity."

To Brown, there is not enough time to experiment with organic fuels. Because of national security concerns and potential profits, he says, grain-based ethanol production "is now driven largely by market forces." He says that large-scale commercialisation of organic fuels is at least five years in the future.

He is certain he knows what changes need to be made.

"It's not that I'm right all the time, but I'm right most of the time," Brown says. "I wouldn't get the recognition I get if I wasn't right much of the time."

PM's way on climate allows profit from pollution

The Age
December 14, 2006
By Kenneth Davidson

Climate change is heating up as a political issue in Australia. Prime Minister John Howard has appointed a taskforce of climate sceptics and major polluters "to advise on the nature and design of a workable global emissions trading system in which Australia would be able to participate".

Really? Howzat for writing the policy into the reference? The Government is looking for a method of creating legal rights for industry to profit from pollution. Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has appointed Peter Garrett as Labor's spokesman on the environment. Garrett has made it clear that he will not support Rudd's decision to give the green light to removing restrictions on uranium exports until the ALP federal conference in April gives Rudd's decision the green light. Labor is also in favour of increasing Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets to encourage the expansion of electricity generation from renewables. Good stuff.

Both major parties are playing politics. They are extremely reluctant to come to grips with the central issue - whether to use carbon taxes or some form of "cap and trade" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions soon enough to prevent a climate-induced catastrophe. Surely somebody in the major parties can join the dots. Australia is suffering a 10-year drought and, although summer has barely started, experiencing the worst bushfire threats since 1939. Are they waiting for something to come up to save the "lucky country" before the bushfire season reaches its peak in February? Globally, recent reports show that carbon emissions are rising at an increasing rate despite all the talk.

British Chancellor George Brown's decision to ignore in his budget this week Sir Nicholas Stern's recommendations of the urgent need for strong actions on global warming sparked Stern's resignation from the Treasury and howls of protest from both sides of British politics. But all is not lost in Britain. Up-and-coming Environment Minister David Milliband is pushing ahead with a radical proposal, which, if adopted, will ensure that emissions are cut year by year towards a sustainable level. Even more importantly, the Conservative Party supports the plan because it has been widely debated, leading to a discussion paper prepared by the Centre for Sustainable Energy for the Department of the Environment published last week.

The system involves individual carbon rationing in much the same way as food and petrol rationing applied during WWII. According to the report, the issue of individual energy quotas for greenhouse gas emissions "has the potential to constrain in an economically efficient, fiscally progressive and morally egalitarian manner the 40 to 50 per cent of UK carbon dioxide emissions caused directly by individuals".

According to David Fleming, who devised the tradeable energy quotas (TEQs), they are an electronic system for rationing energy in which every adult is given an equal number of units and industry and governments bid for the units at a weekly tender. The units can be traded. The national quota is set by an independent body, which produces a budget, fixed over five years and projected for a further 20 within global sustainability parameters.

According to Fleming, TEQs are better than carbon taxes because the carbon budget is a guarantee that the reduction will be achieved. If taxation were high enough to influence the behaviour of the rich, it would price the poor out of the market, taking money from people at the time they need it to make energy-reducing investments.

And the conflict with the economy? The CSE report quotes Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who said "the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment". The CSE said "the potential costs of climate change are so high as to be unquantifiable in anything other than economically theoretical terms, and much of the damage from climate change will be irreversible. This means a premium should be placed on the certainty with which policy instruments can deliver greenhouse gas emissions reductions, leading to the conclusion that permits are more appropriate instruments than taxes for delivering climate policy objectives."

According to the experts, another five years of "business as usual" and emissions will take atmospheric carbon to a level likely to produce a final temperature increase by two degrees. The scientific view is that this is the point at which positive feedback mechanisms will start to trigger runaway climatic change.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Winds of change sweeping the Downs

Courier Mail
Wednesday 13/12/2006 Page: 14

ONE of Australia's biggest wind farms looks set to be built on the Darling Downs after a bitter year-long battle for planning approval ended yesterday. The $270 million project will see 75 wind turbines, each reaching as high as a 30-storey building, built along a ridge through the Crows Nest and Rosalie Shires.

The developer, Allco Wind Energy, yesterday won conditional approval for the wind farm through a consent order from the Planning and Environment Court.

But local objectors, from the No Wind Farm group, vowed to pursue other avenues to stop the project. Spokesman Jim Harper said residents feared the wind turbines would be a visual blight on the area. He said that was already having an impact on property values. "This wind farm will be the most visible thing in the shire," Mr Harper said.

"The whole thing has got everybody fully disillusioned and pretty angry. It's a hurtful thing and this fight is absolutely not over." But Crows Nest Shire Mayor Geoff Patch said he believed most residents supported the project, although he acknowledged it had caused divisions in the local community.

The council's chief executive, David McEvoy, said the wind farm would deliver many benefits to the community, with $100 million to be spent locally, 460 jobs created during the construction phase and 15 ongoing highly skilled positions will give a significant boost to our local economy and the environment," he said.

Mr McEvoy also disputed claims from the No Wind Farm group that the turbines - with rotors reaching up to 99m high - would be ugly. Instead, he predicted they would be a tourist attraction.

"I think the wind turbines will be quite awe-inspiring, really majestic," Mr McEvoy said.

Allco estimates the wind farm will generate power to supply 47.000 homes or all of the Darling Downs, including Toowoomba.

Fuel for the future

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 9/12/2006 Page: 1

Honda is planning a hydrogen-powered fleet within two years.
PAUL GOVER was in the U.S. to drive one of the new-age cars

FIVE words tell you everything about the Honda FXC Concept.

"This is not a fairytale," the car's creator, Yozo Kami, says. It looked like a dream machine when it was rolled into the spotlights at last year's Tokyo Motor Show but since then Honda has been flat-out on transforming that dream into a reality.

It is now planning to have a fleet of FCX Concept cars on the road in the U.S. and Japan in 2008.

Honda and rival car makers, including General Motors, Toyota, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and others, have a powerful incentive, as the state of California is planning tough laws to combat greenhouse gases.

But they are also showing signs of sighting the time beyond petrol power. They can see that using hydrogen as a fuel, and building cars which generate their own power to run electric motors, is emerging as the best long-term solution.

There is still no hydrogen supply network and generating the gas is costly, but Honda is working on systems which use solar power or tap into a household gas connection for refuelling.

Honda will build and lease a fleet of 100 cars from 2008. No one is talking about the cost or terms of the lease, but Honda will copy GM's work with its EV-1 electric car and eventually plans to dissect or crash all the cars at the end of the real-world trial. Honda has plenty of experience with electric and fuel-cell cars, after starting work in the 1980s, but the FCX Concept is a big leap forward.

It is similar in size to Accord Euro and is a four-passenger sedan with a top speed of 160km/h and a range of 330km. It has hydrogen fuel tanks in the tail, the car's fuel-cell "stack", which generates power when it combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air. There is a single-speed gearbox and cooling system in the nose. It all looks very normal, but also quite futuristic, with a giant windscreen over a short nose.

Honda had a pair of FCX Concept cars in California and both had leather trim, aircon, a sound system and anti-skid brakes. The production cars will grow airbags and more, and Honda says they will pass all current and future certification trials, including crash tests.

It is a big project for Honda, as Mr Kami says. "This fuel-cell technology has a very high potential to become the alternative technology to replace the traditional piston engine," he says. "And, if that's the case, working on the fuel-cell technology would be critical, very important for Honda." Mr Kami's team has developed a car which is very similar to today's family sedan, apart from a single speed front-wheel-drive transmission.

Only one gear is needed because an electric motor has massive torque and spins to 12,000rpm. A dial in the dash shows speed, hydrogen use and range.

There are still plenty of problems to overcome, from hydrogen supplies to the cost of the exotic materials used in the fuel-cell stack.

Mr Kami is not forecasting a wholesale switch to fuel-cells, but believes it will run in parallel with plug-in electric cars for cities, and petrol-powered machines for long distance and performance driving.

He admits that full-scale production of fuel-cell cars is some way in the future, but he is prepared to put a marker on the calendar.

"By 2020, I assume the fuel-cell price will be around the same price as the Honda Legend," Mr Kami says. "So around 2020, I expect the general public to walk in and purchase the car." Honda provided a pair of FCX Concepts for a test drive at the Laguna Seca track in northern California. I have driven a number of concept cars and most drive like mobile science experiments.

Some are so fragile that they are limited to just 40km/h, but Honda was keen to seen the FCX Concepts running at 140km/h and more over a short test track.

The cars looked real, felt real and drove surprisingly like regular production cars. The FCX Concept has space for four adults and lashings of leather trim. The boot is small, but that is down to the hydrogen fuel tanks, which also limit rear vision. The view over the short nose is very 21st century and the dash is also futuristic, with the big central dial and a single lever to choose between park, forward and reverse.

When you hit the start button, there is some whirring and gurgling as the fuel-cell goes to work, but otherwise the car is silent. Move away and there is only a distant hiss from the tyres.

It is much more reminiscent of a jet aircraft than a car, right down to the smooth and seamless surge of power. But floor the accelerator and the FCX sounds like a hyper Hoover. It whines and screams as it pushes towards its limit.

Honda does not give a zero-to-100km/h sprint time but it should be near 10 seconds and the top speed claim of 160km/h is realistic. Even better, the FCX Concept rides and handles like a real car. It is even capable of squealing the tyres in a tight turn.

As the sun set over Laguna Seca, I could see the dawn of a new day. The fuel-cell car is coming and the future is looking surprisingly bright. The FCX Concept is a car I would be happy to drive today. And Honda promises it will be even better in 2008 and beyond.

Technology that drives Honda
A fuel-cell is a type of on-board energy pack that was originally developed during the space race. In a car, it produces electricity to power an electric motor which turns the wheels.

"A fuel-cell car is an electric vehicle. The electricity is produced by a fuel-cell stack," the head of Honda's U.S. fuel-cell program, Steve Ellis, says.

"A fuel-cell stack makes that electricity by combining hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air, with the only emission being water." The fuel-cell stack can be easily packaged in a number of areas inside a vehicle, although there are still large hydrogen tanks which Honda is working to shrink.

Mr Ellis says hydrogen is ideal for a fuel-cell because it is so abundant and relatively easy to produce.

"The beauty of hydrogen is that it can be produced from a very diverse set of feed stocks," Mr Ellis says.

"When the energy to extract it is zero carbon-based, such as wind power or solar or hydro-electric, the result is a zero carbon emission fuel and a zero carbon emission vehicle."