Friday, 11 June 2010

AGL set to start on wind project

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 8/6/2010 Page: 43

Electricity provider AGL Energy will begin site works for its $120 million Hallett 5 wind farm in the state's mid-north in August, the company says. AGL Energy Hydro Partnerships, a subsidiary of AGL Energy, has applied for an electricity generation licence for the Bluff wind farm, which is known as stage 5 at Hallett. The application is for 25 wind turbines on the Porcupine Range, about 10km north-east of Hallett. The wind farm, which will be the smallest of the five-stage Hallett project, will be able to generate 52MWs and will create 120 jobs for the region during the construction phase.

AGL Energy committed to the construction of Hallett 5 in February to meet its obligations under long-term contracts with the South Australian and Victorian desalination plants as well as the recently announced Melbourne Water contract. This year AGL Energy project manager Tim Knill said changes to the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target Scheme had cast doubts on the project's viability. However, the price of renewable energy certificates under the scheme is expected to rebound following the likely removal of credits generated by domestic solar hot water.

As part of the wind farm development process, AGL Energy has obtained its transmission connection agreement with Australian Energy Market Operator. "We have now applied to ESCOSA for a wind generation licence to ensure the project meets ESCOSA's technical specifications and regulations," an AGL Energy spokesman said yesterday. AGL Energy say the total capital cost of Hallett 5 is about $120 million. Completion is expected in December 2011.

Hitachi Aims to Sell More Than 38 Nuclear Plants by 2030
June 8, 2010

(Bloomberg) -- Hitachi Ltd, aims to win more than 38 nuclear power plant orders in domestic and overseas markets by 2030, it said in a statement released in Tokyo. The company targets nuclear sales of 380 billion yen ($4.2 billion) by 2020, up from 210 billion yen in 2009, it said in the statement. Hitachi estimates more than 150 new nuclear plants will be built worldwide by 2030.

Italian Solar Farm Completed with Canadian Solar Modules
June 7

Canadian Solar, one of the world's largest solar companies, today announced the completion and commissioning of a solar farm in Umbria in the Italian town of Narni. The 1MW Solarta installation consists of 4,000 high-performance Canadian Solar CS6P 230-Watt modules capable of producing clean energy with an annual output of 1.18MWh, and 16,000 tons of reduction in CO2 emissions. The installation was completed by Canadian Solar's partner GE Progetti & 3i on a two-hectare rural area without the use of reinforced cement in an effort to be environmentally friendly and to maintain the aesthetics of the landscape.

The Solarta project is hooked up to the local electrical network and all the energy produced will be delivered to the grid. This solar plant demonstrates how photovoltaic energy systems can be installed with full respects to the environment, but also as highly profitable investment in energy production. The photovoltaic panels from the Canadian company occupy 50% of the area and are arranged geometrically in multiple rows. In order to get the most out of the irradiation, the solutions adopted by Solarta are tilted at 28 degrees in order to guarantee greater exposure to direct rays of the sun.

"GE Progetti & 3i relies on Canadian Solar as a trusted partner given its high quality and high performance products, which are ideal for large installations like this one," says Leonardo Pozzoli, Commercial Director Renewable Energy Department of GE Progetti & 3i. "Moreover, Canadian Solar's strong global reputation is helpful when working with customers seeking bank support for profitable PV instalments."

"Italy remains one of the world's fastest growing, most attractive solar markets. Canadian Solar has been a leader in Italy, with this latest installation underscoring our commitment to actively participating in the further development of the solar market in Italy," says Marco Di Pietro, Country Manager with Canadian Solar for Italy. "We are proud that our high-quality and high-efficiency modules have been chosen to make Solarta a reality. We thank GE Progetti & 3i for providing the design, coordination and execution that makes Solarta PV farm a great success."

CS6P: efficiency, reliability, and safety
The CS6P from Canadian Solar are large size standard modules (H 1638 x L 982 x P 40 mm) used in systems connected to the grid, characterised by 60 solar cells capable of delivering high energy conversion capacity, even when light conditions are poor. The technologies used to design and produce these modules ensure high performance, excellent yield, and dependable durability over time. The tests and rigorous quality controls that Canadian Solar products undergo ensure the very highest qualitative standards. The module rating is guaranteed for 25 years, and the product for 6 years.

Suntech to add 1GW Shanghai capacity as demand jumps
Jun 6, 2010

SunTech Power Holdings Co Ltd, China's largest solar panel marker, plans to invest 2.68 billion yuan ($393 million) to build 1GW in additional production capacity in Shanghai over the next three years as it rushes to meet surging demand, Chairman Zhengrong Shi said.

Despite an expected cut in German solar power subsidies in July that analysts warn will dampen third-quarter demand, Shi told a briefing for reporters on Saturday that returns for power producers in that market would still be attractive, while other markets such as the United States were growing rapidly. "We're all sold out for this year. We're short of capacity and can't meet our clients' needs," he said. "We have a backlog in the second quarter. We have a backlog in the third quarter. We haven't seen any impact from the reduction in German subsidies."

He predicted that Germany, the biggest market for solar cells, would see 70 to 80% full-year growth this year, while the U.S, market would double in size in the second half of the year from the first half, reaching 1GW for the full year. The first phase of the company's new Shanghai plant, with 180MWs of production capacity, would be completed at the end of June, he said, putting it easily on course to reach its total production capacity target for this year of 1.4GW, after reaching 1.2GW at the end of the first quarter.

Shi added that expansion of thin-film manufacturing capacity in Shanghai, now at 200MWs, may be delayed due to low competitiveness of thin-film modules and a need for further research and development to boost conversion rates. He also reiterated that the fall in the euro was taking a heavy toll on the company's bottom line. SunTech announced first-quarter results on Thursday in line with Wall Street expectations, although it took a larger than expected hit from the weak euro. Europe accounted for 68% of SunTech's product sales in the first quarter, down from 74% for all of 2009.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Rapanui: Eco-Clothing Brand Unveils a World First in Fashion

An Eco-Clothing brand has made history by becoming the first clothing company in the world to establish on page traceability for all products.

An ethical clothing company which unveiled a new range of clothing which aims to mix eco-fashion with trend to inform a generation about the environment. The Isle of Wight based brand makes its clothes using wind and solar powered factories in which the whole process is audited by the Fair Wear Foundation.

The brand believes that it is not that people don't care about what they buy, it's just they don't know the facts. They aim to inform and inspire with product specific interactive maps and images where shoppers can investigate the complete product lifecycle on page. Information is packaged simply so that consumers can shop quickly with a conscience.

Rapanui, based on the Isle of Wight, was founded by brothers Rob and Martin Drake-Knight in early 2008.

They take a holistic approach to sustainability, using sustainable textiles like organic cotton, bamboo and hemp. Clothes are manufactured in a wind powered factory, where the entire process is audited by the Fair Wear Foundation. Critically though, this isn't a clothing brand ticking the green box; Rapanui believe that sustainability is not just about the design of products, technology or economics, it's about communication design and dialogue.

Sustainability Director Martin said: "If we can inform and educate people as to where clothing comes from and how it is made they can make Informed Decisions as shoppers. As a brand, if we can mix eco-fashion with trend to inspire people to think about the environment in their wider lifestyle, we will have done our job"

As well as sound ethical and environmental credentials, the fabrics used in Rapanui's collection have some impressive properties. "The great thing about using eco-fabrics is that often they are softer, more breathable, and stretchier, our bamboo tops are hypoallergenic and antibacterial too." Said Mart. "

Find out more about Rapanui's traceability at:

About Rapanui:
  • Rapanui is about making cool eco-fashion for young people; that means clothing that is eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable. They make clothing from natural organic fabrics in a Fair Wear Foundation audited, wind powered factory.
  • Rapanui was set up by brothers Mart and Rob Drake-Knight in early 2008. Through surfing they saw and experienced the changing environment and climate at their local beach and as inspired, unemployed graduates in a recession, they took a different path; if you can't find a job, make one.
  • Rapanui is an Eco-fashion brand that is about informing people where products come from and how they are made: Achieving sustainability through informed choice. The aim is to inform through the brand and mix eco with trend - if Rapanui can inspire people to go green in wider lifestyle choices, it will have succeeded.
  • Rapanui has held Seminars and Lectures at UK and EU universities and multinational companies such as Centrica PLC on Sustainable Business and sit on the Panel at Plymouth University's All our Future Conference.
  • Rapanui has made bespoke versions of its clothing for multinationals and charities like Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and The Marine Conservation Society.
Rob and Martin Drake-Knight are listed on the Future 100 List of Top young Entrepreneurs and were recently finalists in Enterprise UK's Young Brits awards. Rapanui was the youngest company to reach the finals of the Sustainable Business Awards in 2008 and has recently been nominated for ISPO Brand New Awards.

For further information please contact Joe Rolle, on 01983 873430 or email

Hawaii's weather, high gasoline costs lure electric vehicles
June 6, 2010

HONOLULU -- Hawaiians like to think of themselves as early adopters -- especially when it comes to electricity. The first car imported to Hawaii in 1899 was an electric vehicle. The royal Iolani Palace, home to the former king, lays claim to having electricity installed less than seven years after Thomas Edison invented the first practical light bulb. Now, state officials and business leaders want Hawaii to become the real-world test ground for a burgeoning electric and alternative-fuel car industry.

Hawaii's goal is to have 50,000 electric cars on the road by 2015 -- and perhaps as many as 200,000 by 2030 -- and to establish a network of electric charging stations. "It's a very exciting time for us because we know we are well-positioned to be a place where these vehicles can work because we simply don't drive that far in Hawaii," Gov. Linda Lingle said. Big goals, to say the least, given that the U.S, electric car market is still in its infancy and Hawaiians purchased only 33,600 new vehicles last year. But Hawaii has a big incentive. Because it imports virtually all its energy, Hawaii routinely has the highest gas prices in the US On Friday, a gallon of unleaded gasoline averaged $2.73. In Hawaii? $3.51.

Announcements in recent weeks give some credence to Hawaii’s ambitions:
  • Nissan named Hawaii one of the early markets for its all-electric Leaf subcompact car.
  • CT&T, a South Korean automaker, committed to building a $200-million factory to assemble small electric cars for the island.
  • And General Motors revealed a test project with Hawaii's major gas provider for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

A paradise for alternative fuel
Some of the same things that make Hawaii a wonderful vacation spot also make it an attractive destination for the global automotive industry to try out electric cars in real-world situations. The Aloha State has perfect weather with temperatures often in the 70s or 80s and short commutes -- both of which are good for electric vehicles. It also has a population that is environmentally conscious and burdened with some of the highest gasoline costs in the US

"It creates a perfect test bed," said Deborah Gordon, a Virginia-based transportation policy consultant and coauthor of "Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability." "If it succeeds in Hawaii, it's the US, so there's a success in the US," she said. "If it fails, it's really far away, so the failure is not the same as the failure in Rhode Island or Delaware." Hawaii is talking with nine car manufacturers who have expressed interest in the state over alternative-fuel vehicles, said Ted Peck, Hawaii's energy administrator.

"Hawaii's market is a fairly small market for vehicles and that's why traditionally we have been ignored," Peck said. "But if a vehicle manufacturer wants an opportunity to demonstrate that their vehicles can move in the market and that they'll be successful in the market, then it would be foolish of them to ignore Hawaii."

Encouraging investment
State leaders have spent the past couple of years working to position Hawaii as an attractive place for electric and alternatively fuelled vehicles -- passing legislation to encourage such growth. This spring, the state implemented tax rebates that give electric car buyers $4,500 in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit. The state also is working aggressively on infrastructure issues related to electric cars, including partnering with a company called Better Place to set up charging stations around the state.

The partnership, announced in 2008, aims to have 50,000 to 100,000 charging stations by 2012 -- although fewer stations might ultimately be needed. The investment by Better Place could be $150 million to $200 million. Better Place, a California-based company, is also working in Israel, Denmark and elsewhere to set up infrastructure for future electric vehicles, dealing with electric load management and charging stations, and helping drivers manage their energy needs. "Hawaii has the opportunity to act as a blueprint," said Julie Mullins, a spokeswoman for Better Place. "It's a destination. So, it's a perfect place to come in and experience."

A coup for Hawaii was Nissan's announcement in May that the state would be one of the initial markets to get its new electric car called the Leaf early next year. Stan Masamitsu, president of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association and owner of a Nissan dealership in suburban Honolulu, sees an opportunity for electric vehicles in the state, in part because of drivers' preference for smaller vehicles on the Islands and that they "may be more" environmentally conscious because of the state's "natural beauty."

"There is certainly interest," Masamitsu said. "I think Hawaii could be a good market for it." Nissan's rollout plan for the Leaf focused on markets that had four basic elements: incentives for customers to buy electric cars, an infrastructure for charging stations, an inspection process for charging stations and general awareness about electric cars. "Hawaii is in the top tier in terms of being active and proactive in terms of EV adoption," said Keiichi Kitahara, senior manager of corporate planning at Nissan.

Imported oil costly
Hawaii's motivation is simple. The state gets about 90% of its energy from imported oil. That's about 51 million barrels of oil each year, costing about $7 billion. Fluctuations in oil prices affect just about everything in the state. A delayed shipment can mean an energy shortage. "It's not just for us the price of oil, although that's an issue, but it's the security that we need," Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said. "Right now, we are sitting 2,500 miles from anywhere, if the oil can't get here, it doesn't matter how efficient the oil is."

The state, working with the US Department of Energy, has laid out an ambitious plan to get 70% of its energy needs through energy efficiency or renewable sources by 2030. That includes generating 40% of the state's energy locally and harnessing energy from solar, wind, the ocean, geothermal and biomass sources. "There's nothing better about electricity that comes from oil than gasoline that comes from oil," the governor said. She said the effort to get energy from renewable sources is happening. A major tenet of the plan includes embracing hybrid and electric vehicles.

The federal government hopes lessons learned in Hawaii can be applied elsewhere, said Ken Kelly, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's representative working with Hawaii on the project. "We're hoping to go beyond the early adopters and make penetrations into the more mass-market place," he said, "so that's part of the learning experience: 'What does it take to achieve that kind of success?'"

'Moth to the flame'
While still in the early stages, Hawaii has begun to see some early signs that its efforts are gaining ground. Nissan's announcement came about the same time that state officials were also celebrating news from a South Korean company called CT&T. The electric car company said it plans to invest $200 million into opening an assembly plant in Hawaii to build as many as 10,000 small cars for sale in the state.

"We're like the moth to the flame. We're trying to seek out areas of the country, municipalities, states, regions that are most hospitable and most enthusiastic about electric vehicles," said Curt Westlake, CT&T USA senior director of marketing. "Clearly, the state of Hawaii and its current administration are making some pretty significant commitments to zero-emissions transportation." General Motors also sees potential in Hawaii and has announced a partnership with the state's major gas supplier to test hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, although it is not an electric car project.

"Having an island state that is bounded by water is a very good solution for putting in a new hydrogen infrastructure because you don't have to worry about the vehicles driving out of the state and then being stranded without a hydrogen infrastructure in a neighboring state or country," Charles Freese, executive director of GM's global fuel-cell activities, said last month. "Hawaii is a very nice opportunity from that standpoint. A very manageable investment can put the stations and infrastructure in place to serve a fairly sizeable fleet of vehicles."

Solar power firms seek feed-in tariffs policy in UAE
June 7, 2010

Dubai: Solar power developers from Japan are keen for feed-in tariffs to be introduced in the UAE to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources and to help accelerate the move toward grid parity where solar energy may be able to cost-effectively compete with fossil fuels.

Feed-in tariffs allow companies and individual producers of energy from renewable sources the right to feed the electricity they generate into the public grid and get paid fixed rates for any kW hour (kWh) they produce, or feed into the grid. A Japanese delegation from Sanyo Electric unveiled a hybrid photovoltaic solar system on trial basis in Trakhees-Environment, Health and Safety (EHS), the regulatory arm of Trakhees -- Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), in Dubai this week.

Good power
The photovoltaic system will provide energy to light the entire reception area and power two LCD televisions at the reception, the main conference room lighting and also the LCD projector in the conference hall. Approximately 1,300 kilograms of CO2 emission will be saved annually. The system includes Sanyo Electric's HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) technology panel range combined with a high efficiency solar inverter from SMA Solar Germany and is expected to save 2,400 kW hours of energy.

Takashi Hirao, Chief Regional Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Sanyo Electric Gulf FZE, handed over the system to Trakhees-EHS. Hirao appealed to the authorities concerned to encourage green energy solutions by offering feed-in tariff programmes similar to those in Europe. So far feed-in tariff policies exist in over 60 countries including Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Singapore, South-Korea, Japan and South Africa, as well as some states in the US.

Energy policy
"This will definitely transform UAE's power generation needs from conventional based system to greener photovoltaic based energy solution to save the CO2 emissions and to positively contribute to reduce the impact of global warming," he said. In Abu Dhabi, Masdar PV, the solar photovoltaic manufacturer, is also awaiting a promised energy policy to establish subsidies for renewable power. According to media reports the company had planned to start construction on a separate panel manufacturing plant in Abu Dhabi by the end of last year but postponed it due to a lack of subsidies to support the high cost of renewable energy.

Sanyo Electric is behind the Solar Ark facility in Japan -- a symbol of the company's goal of achieving a "clean energy society." It is an ark-shaped, solar photovoltaic power generation facility that is 315 metres wide, 37 metres tall and located in Gifu Prefecture, in the geographical centre of Japan. Stationed at the centre of the Solar Ark is the Solar Lab, a museum of solar energy.

India to seek uranium import from Australia: Sushilkumar Shinde
June 6, 2010

India will try to persuade Australia to supply uranium to it during a bilateral meeting on energy here tomorrow, seeking flexibility on Canberra's longstanding position that it would not export the nuclear raw material to countries who are not signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). "There are plans to initiate some discussion for sourcing uranium from Australia. Though at present the Labour government in Perth has already made it clear that it would not supply uranium (to countries) who have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Union power minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in Perth.

Shinde is leading an Indian delegation to participate in the two-day Australia-India Energy and Minerals Forum starting tomorrow. India has set a revised target of producing 62,302MW of energy by 2011-12. At present, it produces 1.59 lakhMW of power, in which NTPC has a major share. The government of prime minister Kevin Rudd has made it clear that Australia, a major producer of uranium, will not supply the material to NPT non-signatories -- Indian being one of them.

India is working on a clean energy portfolio, in which uranium-run plants would play vital role besides mega plans to tap wind and solar energy. At present, Nuclear Power Corporation of India produces power using uranium available in the country. Besides, Shinde said he will seek Australian government's support for the acquiring of coal mines in Australia by Indian companies. Indian firms like Coal India Ltd and NTPC are scouting for opportunities for acquiring coal mines in Australia even as the government there has proposed imposing a super profit tax of 40% on mining in the country.

Indian companies in the power, steel and other industrial segment including the likes of Tata Steel, Essar Mirvac and others are already importing $6 billion worth of coal every year from Australia, which is expected to increase further. Besides coal, Shinde said he will also talk about importing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Australia. India will seek additional LNG supplies for its fuel-starved projects even though coal continues to play a major role in power generation in India.

India imported coal worth $6 billion from Australia during the last fiscal besides sourcing iron ore and gold of the same value. The domestic coal demand-supply gap is currently pegged at 80 million tonnes even as the country saw an over 7% growth in coal output at 531 million tonnes in 2009-10. Moreover, with the government mandating all power companies to import 15% of their coal requirement for a project and blending it with the domestic coal, such companies have been on the look-out for overseas fuel linkages. India imported 59 million tonnes of coal in 2009-10. The shipments are expected to touch 100 million mark in the current fiscal.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Farmers in mine fight - Call to scuttle coal plant bid

Courier Mail
Saturday 5/6/2010 Page: 46

Felton Valley residents want to block a coal mine and instead attract projects that would use the sun and wind to produce clean power. Brisbane-based miner Ambre Energy has a $3.5 billion plan for a coal mine and plant at Felton near Toowoomba so it can convert coal into petrol. But Felton's farmers, fearing damage to land and water stocks, want clean energy projects that could generate jobs and not harm agriculture.

Community group Friends of Felton commissioned an assessment of the valley's clean energy potential and it found a major solar and wind resource that could supply electricity to 160,000 southeast Queensland homes, or 320,000 with new energy efficiency measures. "Australia already is being affected by climate change and it's affecting agriculture more than other industries," Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath said. "We know were getting more frequent and severe droughts so we feel this is something we can do to fight back.

"We now know our renewable energy resource is significant. Our next step is to identify areas for solar or wind projects, then take it to companies and look at getting something built" The study found Felton's biggest potential was harnessing the sun through collector panels to drive steam turbines and electric generators.

It said Felton had a bigger solar resource than southern Spain, which is home to Europe's biggest baseload or day-and-night solar plant, called Andasol. The clean, green energy push is also growing in Australia. Last month Daylesford and Hepburn Springs in Victoria signed up to build the nation's first community-owned wind farm by early 2011 for $12.9 million.

"Most Australians want to see a meaningful response to climate change, but many aren't sure what constructive role they can play," key proponent Simon Holmes a Court said. "(Daylesford and Hepburn Springs) developed a model for the low carbon future that is both low cost - at least four times cheaper than rooftop solar panels - and brings a significant new business to town."

We'll pay for being a laggard on climate

Saturday 5/6/2010 Page: 9
Opinion: Tim Flannery

LESS than a year ago - in September 2009 - leaders at the G20 summit in Pittsburg agreed to "spare no effort" to reach an agreement to tackle climate change. Public awareness of the issue was high, as were expectations of the Copenhagen summit. So was the summit a success or a failure? I think it's too early to judge, but one thing that is clear is that some very important things have occurred as a result of it.

The most significant, by far, are the huge advances trade by China in reining in its greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Copenhagen Accord, China has committed to reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions (that is, the emissions per unit of production) by 40 to 45% by 2020.

When the Chinese leadership first mooted this possibility, the technocrats said it couldn't be done. The leaders, however, insisted, and today the vastly ambitious program is being rolled out all over China. Already the biggest developer of wind energy and the largest manufacturer of solar panels, China is set to experience a huge expansion of all forms of low-emission technologies, including nuclear. At the same tittle, it's closing down its most polluting coal-fired power plants - and is five years ahead of schedule in doing so.

If China delivers on its Copenhagen promise, it will have opened the way to stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas at below the "dangerous" threshold of 450 parts per million CO2. But to do that, the developed nations would need to realise ambitious emissions reductions as well. And that's where the trouble lies. One of the things that Copenhagen did not change is that the US, Canada and Australia remain the three standout laggards.

Until the Rudd government ditched the carbon pollution reduction scheme, it looked as if Australia might make a modest start on honouring its commitment under the Copenhagen Accord - which was to reduce its emissions by 5% by 2020. The situation in the US still hangs in the balance, with a carbon trading bill about to go before the Senate. But overall, we three wooden spooners have done nothing to improve our position on the international pollution reduction league table. One of the great advances made at Copenhagen is that developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa have become part of the solution.

Previously, they regarded climate change as a problem created by the richest countries, and they believed that nations such as the US needed to act first. With a global low-emissions economy taking shape, however, they have realised the enormous advantages that lie in getting a head start in investment and development of green technology.

Australia, meanwhile, is being held back by a sorry coalition of climate change deniers and industry lobbyists who believe that coal is the future. Not even the major buyers of Australian coal believe that. The New South Wales government's recent decision to stop a planned coal mine in the Hunter Valley - the first time it has declined such permission was a highly visible international signal of the coming volatility, as are demonstrations at coal loaders, and the enormous queues of coal ships at our loading facilities. How, they ask, can the country ever export the additional million tonnes per day they'd need by 2020 unless they switch energy sources?

Australia's progress on addressing climate change is also being held back by a lack of political leadership. Neither major party has a credible climate policy, and it is difficult to see either party developing one under their current leaders. And that will mean grave challenges to our future prosperity.

Just imagine the possible situation in 2020: most of the world will be well on the road to a low emissions economy. What will they make of Victoria, with dependency on brown coal? Who will be willing to tolerate its filthy aluminium or other industrial products in a world under severe threat from carbon pollution? Border tariffs or some other penalty will be unavoidable.

At present, all hope of avoiding such a future rests on the promise of clean coal technologies. I once had great hopes for this technology, but the view of experts in Europe I spoke with recently is very different. They said that the technology is now well understood, and that if it was going to be implemented we would already be seeing the construction of commercial-scale plants. But that's just not happening.

This period of uncertainty about carbon capture and storage will slip by in the twinkling of an eye. And then Victorians will need to ask themselves whether they're brave enough to do what is required - close down the state's coal-fired power plants, or retrofit then to carbon capture and storage.

It will be hard, yet there will be no dodging it.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Schools lose solar cash for malting too much power

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 7/6/2010 Page: 5

MORE than half of NSW public schools are being excluded from the government's solar power rebate because they generate too much renewable energy. Schools that have funded the installation of solar panels through cake stalls and community donations are, in many cases, earning about 10% what private households can earn through the scheme. Of the 262 schools that produce solar energy in the state, 165 are not eligible for the solar bonus, mostly because their systems are bigger than the 10-kW maximum size allowed under the rebate scheme.

Pittwater High School, which generates the most solar energy of any public school in the state from 22 kWs of photovoltaic panels on its roofs, said the scheme took away the incentive to keep aiming for its goal of becoming carbon neutral. "I don't know why schools should be disadvantaged for putting on as many panels as possible; they should have the same incentives as any resident," the school's solar project co-ordinator, Bill Holland, said. "It feels like we are being penalised for trying to do the right thing."

Under the scheme, which began in January and will run for seven years, the school gets just 7¢ a kW hour for electricity it feeds back into the grid. It pays more than double that for energy it takes from the grid. NSW introduced the feed-in tariff system late last year for households that generate renewable power, and the payment rate of 60¢ a kW hour of energy is among the most generous in the country. But it excludes schools such as Pittwater that have kept installing panels. The school now generates about 30% of its power from sunshine.

"Pittwater High School has made an enormous investment in its solar future, only to be punished for being too large and producing too much solar energy," said the Liberal MP for Pittwater, Rob Stokes. Industry and Investment NSW, the government agency that administers the solar bonus scheme, said it supported schools taking part if they were eligible, but the 10-kW cutoff would remain.

"In designing the scheme, careful consideration was given in balancing the cost impacts of the scheme on consumers against the objective of encouraging uptake," a spokesman for the agency said. "Hence the final scheme design focuses on small customers and having a 10-kW capacity limit for generators." The opposition is calling on the government to modify the scheme so all schools are eligible for the full rebate.

REITs rush for energy ratings

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 7/6/2010, Page: 47

The Federal Government's new building energy efficiency disclosure scheme will require an energy efficiency certificate for the sale or lease of any commercial office building of at least 2,000 m². The certificate will include a National Australian Built Environment Rating System energy efficiency rating. Citigroup analyst Elaine Prior says the Government is also promoting the rating initiative through its own role as a tenant.

Larger property trusts - such as the Commonwealth Property Office Fund; Charter Hall Office real estate investment trust; Dexus Property Group; GPT Group; Mirvac Group; and Stockland - have prepared themselves by rating most of their buildings with portfolios averaging between 3.3 and 4.4 stars. By comparison, smaller trusts - such as Abacus Property Group; Australand Property Group; Aspen Group; ING Office Fund; and Valad Property Group - have "zero or very few rated buildings," according to Ms Prior.

First Solar says can't meet demand for modules
Jun 5, 2010

GENEVA, June 5 (Reuters) - The market for solar modules, a key element in solar power systems, is so strong that industry leader FirstSolar will not be able to meet demand this year, a senior executive was quoted as saying on Saturday. Business is likely to pick up strongly in the fourth quarter after slowing in the third on planned cuts to subsidies in Germany, the world's biggest solar market, Stephan Hansen, responsible for business in Europe, the Middle East an Africa, told Swiss paper Finanz und Wirtschaft.

"In 2010 we will not be able to produce enough modules to meet demand," Hansen said in an interview with the paper. Business has been very good in the first half, with orders extremely high ahead of the German solar subsidy cuts due on July 1, he said. Germany's upper house voted on Friday against the cuts, but government sources said this was only likely to delay them, and they would be applied retroactively. Hansen noted subsidies would fall again in 2011.

He said that big Chinese producers such as SunTech, Yingli and Trina had signalled that they were also sold out. Hansen said business would certainly move to other European countries if Germany stopped subsidising farmland solar systems as it plans. The United States had enormous potential, as do the Middle East, Africa, China and India in the medium term, he said. The company, which is the world's lowest cost producer of solar modules, is having to postpone projects in the United States to meet demand in Europe, he said, predicting growing markets in Italy, France, Spain, China and Australia.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The gold rush on our rooftops

Business Spectator
Wednesday 2/6/2010 Page: 1

Last year it was solar hot water systems and heat pumps that flooded the market for renewable energy certificates; this year it is rooftop solar photovoltaic power systems. According to an analysis from broking house Wilson HTM, nearly two thirds of the 2.1 million RECs issued during May (a monthly record) came from solar PV, due mostly to the generous gross feed-in tariffs in NSW and a burst of interest from Queensland.

Indeed, from virtually nothing three years ago, when just 15MW of solar power was installed in the country, Australia now has a $1 billion a year solar PV industry that is growing at a phenomenal rate. In January, Wilson HTM analyst Jenny Cosgrove predicted some 69MW of solar energy would be installed in Australia in 2010. Last month, she lifted that prediction to 100MW and already believes that will undershoot the final tally. Other industry insiders predict it could be as high as 130-150MW.

All this is having a marked impact on the price of RECs, Australia's most significant environmental market. The flood of certificates created in May has forced the price of RECs down by nearly 20% in the past month, from around $45 to $38. "There now seems little doubt that due to solar PV, the REC market will be oversupplied in 2010, as it was in 2009," Cosgrove says.

The weakness is exacerbated by market apprehension about the passage of the revised Renewable Energy Target legislation through the Senate. That legislation is designed to separate small scale solar from large scale installations: a successful passage would offer stability to the RECS price, but failure would see RECS slump to even lower levels than the $28 plumbed last year – and would force the postponement of several billion dollars of wind farm investments.

The rush to rooftop solar is not hard to understand. In NSW, the gross feed in tariff of 66c per kW hour means that a $3000 investment into a 6kW rooftop solar package - already greatly reduced by the RECs scheme and a 40% slump in module costs in the last 18 months as the as the global industry gains economies of scale - can be repaid in little over two years.

That slump in module prices - and predictions that they could fall a similar amount over the next two years - is also making people realise that solar PV - even without tariffs - could turn out to be a useful hedge against rising energy prices. If you include up front capital costs, solar PV over its lifetime already produces energy well below peak costs now offered by some energy retailers, and solar just happens to produce most energy at the same time as peak production. A smart household would use the grid as a baseload back-up and for cheaper energy in low peak periods at night.

Solar PV is forecast to hit 'grid parity' in some European countries and US states within the next year or two. A recent report by US-based GTM Research estimates that global demand for PV will reach 11.2GW in 2010, a rise of 58% over last year. Germany will account for nearly half that, before demand falls as the rate of feed-in tariffs declines, but it is expected to remain the largest national market for another three years, by which time five countries are expected to install 1000MW per year.

A bigger question for Australia is that if effective feed-in tariff, or another broad based market mechanism, can be so successful in creating a gold rush in the small scale PV market, should similar mechanisms, possibly extending to tax incentives of loan guarantees, be deployed in areas where Australia has the opportunity to establish global leadership, such as solar thermal or geothermal, where the pace of development into new technologies is not really being accelerated by the various flagship programs and one-off grants. As for solar PV, the rush to install panels on household rooftops is not extending to the vast areas offered by business and industrial locations.

Some in the solar industry are suggesting a system of capped feed in tariffs like that proposed in India to help meet their ambitious targets of 22GW of solar power by 2022. Having a cap, it is said, encourages innovation and cost effective projects, and might avoid the boom/bust cycle that has marked the industry in other countries as feed-in tariffs are introduced and then cut according to the political cycle.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Hot-rock projects stall over rebate

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 3/6/2010 Page: 57

SOUTH AUSTRALIA's geothermal sector faces a year of stagnation as companies defer investment to benefit from an exploration rebate to be introduced next year. As much as $60 million in exploration investment could be deferred as geothermal companies wait for the more attractive investment environment. The rebate, in the Government's proposed resources super profit tax, will reimburse 30c for every dollar of exploration expenditure.

Adelaide-based hot-rock company Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis said the sector was attempting to have the rebate changed to be effective from this July 1. "The rebate puts an incentive on people deferring their investment," he said. "It potentially puts it (the geothermal industry) in a hiatus period. "There are four or five companies that could be drilling in the next year and each of those are going to be spending $15 odd million, so you are deferring potentially $50 to $60 million in expenditure."

Mr Kallis also is chairman of the Australian Geothermal Energy Association. The organisation will meet with representatives from Resources Minister Martin Ferguson's office in Canberra tomorrow. Mr Kallis was confident of having the timeline for eligible exploration adjusted, even if the rebate was not paid until next year. "I think the Government will understand that it has got two programs in place and the best way to make them work, is to make them work together," he said.

Mr Kallis told Petratherm's general meeting in Adelaide yesterday, changes to the Renewable Energy Target certificate scheme, which are likely to be passed by the Senate, will be positive for the sector.

Microbe Power: A green means to hydrogen fuel production
Wed, 2 Jun 2010

Scientists have been hard at work harnessing the power of microbes as an attractive source of clean energy. Now, Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University researcher Dr. Prathap Parameswaran and his colleagues have investigated a means for enhancing the efficiency of clean energy production by using specialized bacteria.

Microbial electrochemical cells or MXCs are able to use bacterial respiration as a means of liberating electrons, which can be used to generate current and make clean electricity. With minor reconfiguring such devices can also carry out electrolysis, providing a green path to hydrogen production, reducing reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels, now used for most hydrogen manufacture.

Dr. Prathap Parameswaran showing the electrode used in the microbial electrochemical cell (MEC).
MXCs resemble a battery, with a Mason jar-sized chamber setup for each terminal. The bacteria are grown in the "positive" chamber (called the anode). The research team, led by Bruce Rittmann, director of Biodesign's Center for Environmental Biotechnology, had previously shown that the bacteria are able to live and thrive on the anode electrode, and can use waste materials as food, (the bacteria's dietary staples include pig manure or other farm waste) to grow while transferring electrons onto the electrode to make electricity.

In a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC), like that used in the current study, the electrons produced at the anode join positively charged protons in the negative (cathode) chamber to form hydrogen gas. "The reactions that happen at the MEC anode are the same as for a microbial fuel-cell which is used to generate electricity, " Parameswaran says. "The final output is different depending on how we operate it."

When the bacteria are grown in an oxygen-free, or anaerobic environment, they attach to the MXC's anode, forming a sticky matrix of sugar and protein. In such environments, when fed with organic compounds, an efficient partnership of bacteria gets established in the biofilm anode, consisting of fermenters, hydrogen scavengers, and anode respiring bacteria (ARB). This living matrix, known as the biofilm anode, is a strong conductor, able to efficiently transfer electrons to the anode where they follow a current gradient across to the cathode side.

The present study demonstrates that the level of electron flow from the anode to the cathode can be improved by selecting for additional bacteria known as homo-acetogens, in the anode chamber. Homo-acetogens capture the electrons from hydrogen in waste material, producing acetate, which is a very favourable electron donor for the anode bacteria.

The study shows that under favourable conditions, the anode bacteria could convert hydrogen to current more efficiently after forming a mutual relationship or syntrophy with homo-acetogens. The team was also able to reduce the negative impact of other hydrogen consuming microbes, such as methane-producing methanogens, which otherwise steal some of the available electrons in the system, thereby reducing current. The selective inhibition of methanogens was accomplished by the adding a chemical called 2-bromoethane sulfonic acid to the adode's microbial stew.

The group used both chemical and genomic methods to confirm the identify of homo-acetogens. In addition to detection of acetate, formate, an intermediary product, was also discovered. With the aid of quantitative PCR analysis, the team was also able to pick up the genomic signature of acetogens in the form of FTHFS, a gene specifically associated with acetogenesis. "We were able to establish that these homo-acetogens can prevail and form relationships," Parameswaran says. Future research will explore ways to sustain syntrophic relations between homo-acetogens and anode bacteria, in the absence of the chemical inhibitors.

Further progress could pave the way for eventual large-scale commercialisation of systems to simultaneously treat wastewater and generate clean energy. "One of the biggest limitations right now is our lack of knowledge," says Cesar Torres, one of the current study's co-authors, who stresses that there remains much to understand about the interactions of bacterial communities within MXCs.

The field is still very young, Torres points out, noting that work on MXCs only began about 8 years ago. "I think over the next 5-10 years the community will bring a lot of information that will be really helpful and that will lead us to good applications." The team's results appear in the advanced online issue of the journal Bioresource Technology.

Chris Huhne warns of £4bn black hole in nuclear power budget
Wed, 2 Jun 2010

Energy secretary blames predecessors for avoiding tough decisions in 'classic example of short-termism'.

Britain is facing a £4bn black hole in unavoidable nuclear decommissioning and waste costs, Chris Huhne, the energy and climate change secretary disclosed tonight. The decommissioning costs over the next four years revealed by officials to Huhne are so serious that he has already flagged the crisis up to the cabinet.

The revelation places an unexpected burden on his department's £3bn annual budget ahead of difficult spending negotiations this summer. "As you can imagine, this is a fairly existential problem. The costs are such that my department is not so much the department of energy and climate change, as the department of nuclear legacy and bits of other things," Huhne told the Guardian.

The additional costs derive from slowly rising expenditure on nuclear decommissioning, and falling income due to the closure of ageing power plants, Huhne said. Huhne disclosed that in current financial year the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's budget is expected to be in balance.From 2011-12, the deficit suddenly rises to £850m, in 2012-13 the gap increases further to £950m and then to £1.1bn in the two subsequent years.

The black hole is equivalent to wiping out one-sixth of the overall cuts in public spending identified by the Treasury with such fanfare last week. But Huhne insisted: "I do not think it is possible for anyone responsibly to stand aside and say we are not going to deal with it. We just have to, but what we are effectively paying for here is decades of cheap nuclear electricity for which we have suddenly got a massive postdated bill." The revelation will also hand further ammunition to those who say a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain will end up being more expensive than the industry claims.

Huhne – a Liberal Democrat and nuclear sceptic – refused to make that argument directly, saying instead it just underlined the need to ensure that any new nuclear stations had watertight agreements that debar all public subsidy. In any case there are growing signs that the nuclear new-build timetable is slipping as costs rise. Huhne, already in talks with the Treasury about the black hole, said it was very hard to avoid the expenditure: "There are genuine nuclear safety issues here that means it has to be paid for."

If the Treasury refuses to shoulder the full costs, Huhne's department would inevitably have to make cuts with possible implications for energy efficiency and climate change programmes. Huhne revealed that as soon as he discovered the problem, he travelled to Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria and concluded: "There is no way of dealing with this, but by making sure this expenditure goes ahead." Since the NDA was formed in 2004, the clean-up of legacy nuclear facilities has been paid for with a mix of funds – roughly half in direct government grants and half generated commercially by the NDA – and allocated in three-year cycles.

Huhne said: "My predecessors avoided taking tough decisions when they should have done and the result is that it is much more expensive to deal with than if we had dealt with it in a timely manner back in the 70s and 80s. A lot of it is spent fuel, and was not dealt with at the time. It is a classic example of short-termism. I cannot think of a better example of a failure to take a decision in the short run costing the taxpayer a hell of a lot more in the long run."

The Liberal Democrats oppose new stations, but have said they will abstain in any key Commons votes on the issue so long as their Conservative coalition partners ensure no new station enjoys any overt or hidden public subsidy. Huhne said: "New build is clearly more efficient, there is less waste, and the decommissioning can and should be designed in, but … we need to make sure all the costs are properly dealt with."

Record for wind-generated electricity
May 31, 2010

A NEW record for the amount of electricity generated by wind turbines across the country in any one day was set on April 5th, according to figures released yesterday by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA). It said 1,120MWs of electricity was generated on that day. This would have been enough to power 672,000 homes in Ireland. This was revealed as the association announced details of open days at seven Irish wind farms from June 12th to June 19th in the run-up to Global Wind Day.

Commenting on the record output from wind turbines here, IWEA chief executive Michael Walsh said: "A lot needs to happen in any one day for that record to be broken; with wind strength essential, of course, and, as we build towards providing 40 per cent of Ireland's electricity from this source by 2020, we expect to break this record over and over again.

"We are enthused by the public support for renewable energy and the open days at wind farms around the country will provide an opportunity for the public to experience turbines up close and get to know more about the industry." Some 5,000 people attended events during Global Wind Day in 2009, and the IWEA, which has more than 500 members, said it expected bigger crowds this year. The sites that will open next month to the public are DKIT in Dundalk, Mountain Lodge, Cavan, Geevagh in Sligo, Slieve Divina in Tyrone, and the Lisheen Mines in Tipperary.