Friday, 18 June 2010

Tasmania suffers power price failure

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 17/6/2010 Page: 10

After admitting that joining the national electricity market has failed to produce competitive benefits, the Tasmanian government will take control of the state's wholesale electricity prices. Premier David Bartlett said yesterday that with only two major companies in Hydro Tasmania and Aurora Energy, the local market was not working effectively so that the government needs to intervene to fine-tune the system. Electricity prices in Tasmania are growing and rises are set to go over a 5% cap, which was a key Labor promise in this year's election.

The Premier indicated that Hydro has to sell power to Aurora Energy for noncontestable customers at a fair and reasonable price to be determined by the Treasurer. Mr Bartlett was speaking before today's budget, the first since Labor formed a coalition with the Greens earlier in 2010. Treasurer Michael Aird will not reveal if his fourth budget will be in line with his 2009 forecast to take Tasmania into a surplus by 2012. Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said the proposal to take responsibilities for setting energy prices away from the economic regulator must be examined.

Solar plane set for night flight
15 June 2010

A solar-powered plane is getting ready to hit the skies once again - this time, at night. It will be the first ever manned night flight on a plane propelled exclusively by solar energy. Solar Impulse will lift off from an airfield in Switzerland, on a sunny day sometime at the end of June. It will then fly around, charging the solar cells on the plane's wings, in a bid to store enough energy for the electric motors to last until dawn.

The aim of the project's founders, Andre Borschberg and round-the-world balloonist Bertrand Piccard, is to show that a solar-powered craft is able to fly day and night - and eventually long-distance flights - without any fuel. "These night flights in an aircraft propelled uniquely by solar energy are intended to demonstrate the potential of the renewable energies and the technologies that will gradually enable us to diminish our dependence on oil," said Dr Piccard. The HB-SIA, as the plane is called, has a wingspan of 61m - comparable to a super-jumbo jet. But at just 1.5t, it is only the weight of a saloon car.

It first left the ground in December 2009 and has since performed a series of short daytime flight tests, dubbed "flea-hops", venturing no higher than 60cm (2ft) in altitude and 300m in distance. The first full day flight was completed on 7 April. Mr Borschberg will pilot the plane on its first night flight. If it proves a success, the Solar Impulse team will attempt to go even further. The ultimate aim is to push the frontier of renewable solar energy. In two years' time, the plane will set off on its first manned transatlantic solar flight, followed in 2013 by an even more daring circumnavigation of the Earth.

No auto-pilot
With just a few weeks to go before the first 24-hour journey, Mr Borschberg told BBC News he was more excited than ever. A Swiss Air Force pilot by training, he has flown many aircraft - including the Solar Impulse on a number of "flea-hops." But this time, he said, will be like nothing he has ever experienced. Staying awake should not be a problem - many of us stay awake through the night at least once in our lives, he said. "But the flight will require a lot of attention and concentration - the plane doesn't have an auto-pilot, it has to be flown for 24 hours straight."

He explained that he has been doing yoga to help stimulate the muscles and blood flow, something that will be necessary during the lengthy time in the cockpit. The pilot said that the ultra-light aircraft is extremely sensitive to its environment, especially in the case of turbulence. "But I don't think it's going to be risky because we have tested and prepared everything [thoroughly]," he added. Mr Borscherg explained that it is possible to estimate how much power the plane has left and adjust to the situation accordingly - either by stopping the flight early and heading back to base or "taking a chance until the next sunrise and hoping that the energy will return to the solar generators early enough."

'Power of a scooter'
The pilot said that for him, the most exciting part of the venture is "being on the plane during the day and seeing the amount of energy increasing instead of decreasing as on a normal aircraft. That's what you can enjoy with this solar generator." If the 24-hour flight is a success, it will be the first important step towards using renewable solar energy in a continuous manner. "It is something very new. If we can do a day-and-night cycle once, we will be able to do it again and again. The next step would be to start flying long duration flights - and the first big milestone would be to fly over the Atlantic," said Mr Borscherg.

He explained that Solar Impulse will try to follow in the footsteps of the US aviator Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 completed a solo non-stop flight from Roosevelt Field in New York's Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, in the single-seat, single-engine monoplane Spirit of St Louis. And in 2013, the solar craft will attempt an even more challenging endeavour - the first-ever manned solar-powered flight around the globe. "We'd like to demonstrate that we could really reduce our energy consumption. We're flying with the power of a scooter - and if we can do it in the air, we can certainly do it on the ground as well", said Mr Borscherg.

Chinese nuclear plant experienced a small leak last month, a stakeholder says
June 15, 2010

A fuel rod at a state-owned nuclear power plant in southeastern China last month leaked traces of radioactive iodine into the surrounding cooling fluid, but no radiation escaped the building, a Hong Kong electric utility with a 25% stake in the power plant said Tuesday. The Hong Kong electric utility, CLP Group, said in a statement that the leak was small and fell below international standards requiring reporting as a safety issue. CLP Group's disclosure on Tuesday followed a report about the leak on Radio Free Asia. Chinese state media were silent on the topic.

China plans to build three-quarters of the world's new nuclear power plants in the coming decade as part of a broad effort to diversify its sources of electricity and limit pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. China has not announced accidents in its civilian nuclear power program, and no major cases are known to have occurred. The plant, located on Daya Bay in Shenzhen, adjacent to Hong Kong, continued producing electricity without disruption, CLP Group said. The Security Bureau of the Hong Kong government said that 10 radiation sensors in Hong Kong had not detected any increases since the leak, which occurred on May 23.

The Daya Bay plant uses two loops of fluid in making power. The fluid in one heats as it circulates around the fuel rods, then transfers the heat to water in a second loop of intertwined pipes. The steam produced expands through a turbine, spinning it to generate electricity. The leak occurred when radioactive iodine escaped from at least one of the French-made fuel rods, CLP Group said, adding that an investigation was under way to identify how that happened. The radioactive iodine, a byproduct of splitting uranium atoms, leaked into the fluid surrounding the fuel rods but did not contaminate the water whose steam powers the turbine, CLP Group said.

CLP Group said that the plant -- which is 75% owned by the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, one of the country's two rival state-owned nuclear power giants -- had reported the incident to mainland Chinese regulators. But it was not serious enough to be rated on the International Atomic Energy Agency's scale for assessing the seriousness of nuclear safety incidents, the company said.

Radioactive iodine is a serious health concern because it is easily ingested by the body, particularly by children. The United States keeps large numbers of iodine tablets ready in case of a leak because people taking small, daily quantities of iodine by tablet are likely to absorb less radioactive iodine.

Fears over renewables cap on home units

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 17/6/2010 Page: 10

Rooftop solar power and hot water companies say limiting household utilities risks a 'boombust' cycle, in reference to the federal government's plans to cap the take-up of household technologies under a 20% renewable energy target (RET). Dux Hot Water general manager Les Patterson said a cap will damage the viability of the industry, and Conergy managing director Rodger Meads urged against capping the small-scale RET. Meanwhile talks between the government and opposition are being followed closely by energy companies that operate wind farms such as AGL Energy and Infigen Energy. A Senate vote will be delayed until next week as Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and opposition energy spokesman Ian MacFarlane discuss the issue.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Scientists want clear message on climate

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 15/6/2010 Page: 6

REPRESENTATIVES of scientific organisations, including the CSIRO and the Bureau Of Meteorology, will meet today to discuss better communication of the science behind man-made climate change as the political and public consensus on global warming crumbles. The conference in Sydney, organised by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, is part of a long-term effort to develop a "national communication charter" for major scientific organisations and universities to better disseminate the evidence for climate change. Australia's chief scientist, Penny Sackett, will address the conference, and those attending will include representatives of the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Academy of Science, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Public scepticism of and apathy towards climate change has risen in Australia in recent years. A Lowy Institute poll showed that the number of Australians who wanted action on climate change immediately had dropped from 68% in 2006 to 46% this year. The president of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, Cathy Foley, said that while scepticism was rising, the scientific evidence of man-made climate change had not changed and it was sad people were less trusting of scientists.

Dr Foley said a well organised and funded climate sceptics movement had increasingly captured public's attention: "We are concerned the debate around climate change has become a left-wing versus right-wing debate, or a kind of religious argument, when it should really be about the strength of the scientific evidence." Dr Foley said the conference was not about politics or "brainwashing" the public. Many scientists have expressed frustration about the shift in public mood on climate change after the failed Copenhagen climate change summit last year.

The failure came as damaging emails between scientists at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia were leaked and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted it had wrongly stated most of the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 because of global warming. In response, in March the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology published a snapshot report on climate change showing Australia had warmed significantly in the past 50 years and saying that, "Climate change is real." The government - which has postponed its emissions trading scheme until at least 2013 - committed $30 million for a "national campaign to educate the community on climate change, including on climate change science, in the budget last month.

Permit granted for 37K-acre wind farm in SD
Wed, 16 Jun 2010

A state permit was granted Tuesday for a 37,000-acre wind farm of up to 110 turbines to be built by Basin Electric Power Cooperative in southeast South Dakota. North Dakota-based Basin Electric said when completed, the PrairieWinds SD1 project would replace its PrairieWinds ND1 as the largest wind project owned and operated by an electric cooperative in the United States. Construction of the $363 million, 165MW project will begin when federal permits are obtained, Basin officials said. PrairieWinds ND1 south of Minot, N.D, has 77 turbines producing about 115MWs of electricity.

PrairieWinds SD1 is the second-largest wind farm in South Dakota that is either operating, under construction or has received a state permit, according to the South Dakota Wind Energy Association. The largest is the 300MW Buffalo Ridge project in Brookings and Deuel counties. PrairieWinds would encompass 37,000 acres in parts of Aurora Energy, Jerauld and Brule counties north of White Lake. A 13-mile transmission line would be built to feed the electricity to a Wessington Springs substation and into the electric grid operated by the Western Area Power Administration.

The three Public Utilities Commission members granted the permit and accepted a 24-page agreement between staff and Basin Electric setting out conditions for construction, operation and decommissioning. Commissioner Gary Hanson asked if the transmission line planned for the project could handle expansion. "That's a reasonable assumption, that we would be able to add additional turbines in the future", said Basin Electric's Ron Rebenitsch, the project manager. "The limitation would be where we connect into the grid. Can the grid accept more generation and deliver it perhaps as firm power at that point?"

Basin Electric said a nine-month construction timetable would require a peak of about 250 construction jobs. Ten permanent jobs paying a total of about $550,000 annually would be created once the project is operational. Commissioner Dusty Johnson said payroll and lease income is a benefit beyond providing stable, reliable electricity. "It's safe to say we're talking about several hundred thousand dollars a year in annual lease payments, which is pretty substantial," Johnson said. "I would think those would have quite a positive impact on the economy of that area."

40% power from wind by 2020, says Eirgrid
June 12, 2010

Ireland will be able to generate up to 40% of its electricity from wind power by 2020 but the system will have to be managed to ensure security of supply and reliability, according to the national grid operator. The chief executive of State agency Eirgrid, Dermot Byrne, said there had been periods where wind has provided up to 50% of the electricity on the network. Eirgrid added that the characteristics of wind power would change the dynamics of the Irish electricity system and would need to be understood and managed to ensure that the system was secure and reliable.

Vestas sees more wind power growth in Greece after legal change
June 14, 2010

(Bloomberg) -- Vestas Wind Systems A/S's unit in Greece expects growth in the Mediterranean country as the government moves to attract renewable energy projects by simplifying the investment process. "Greece has high wind resources and considerable growth opportunities", Yanos Michopoulos, vice president and general manager of Vestas Hellas Wind Technology SA, the Greek unit of the world's biggest maker of wind turbines, said in an e-mail interview on June 3. Prime Minister George Papandreou has said he wants to encourage "green growth" in Greece, focusing the nation on attracting investment to build renewable-energy projects.

The government pushed through a law aimed at reducing the approval time for renewable-energy investments to as little as eight months from three years. It also shortened the time it takes to get authorization from the Greek energy regulator to two months from as much as a year. The move was "positively received" by investors, "but time will tell" whether the changes take place in practice, Michopoulos said. Greece was third from the bottom in a European Wind Energy Association study released in April on the average amount of time it takes for approving wind-energy projects. A company has to go through more than 40 different authorities in the process, the study showed.

'Further Growth'
The company, with over 50% of the market share in Greece, has installed 600MWs and employees 130 workers, Michopoulos said. "Further growth is of course anticipated in the future", the manager said. Greece has about 1,000MWs of wind energy installations and will need to produce as much as 12,000MWs annually to meet European Union targets for energy from renewable targets for 2020, the Hellenic Wind Energy Association said in a document posted on its website.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Blowin' in the wind to save Tassie jobs

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 12/6/2010 Page: 9

THE sale of wind turbines in Tasmania is booming, leading to the possible creation of a niche industry that could save manufacturing jobs. Wind turbines will be whirring on the roof of the Marine Board building within a month. The Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal cleared the way for the project in January by rejecting the Hobart City Council's appeal against a proposal by developer Robert Rockefeller. System designer and supplier I Want Energy said the high-profile project had sparked interest for similar installations around the state.

I Want Energy corporate manager Rob Manson said there were 12 residential installations in the pipeline, along with a large-scale installation at the Lindisfarne Medical Centre and Mr Rockefeller's second project on the ANZ building in Hobart's Elizabeth St. Currently turbines are being imported from Shanghai, but Mr Manson said his company had plans to set up a local manufacturing plant within a year. "Our goal is to snake an industry out of wind power with Tasmania being a windy place," he said.

Aluminium is one of the main components in the manufacture of turbines and the company is hoping to utilise the skills of aluminium welders who are set to be laid off at Austal's Margate shipyard. Engineering director Bruce Lipscombe said work on the 48-kW Marine Board building project would begin next week and could be completed by the end of the month The four vertical turbines will supply at least 10% of the building's energy needs. "The interest in wind energy has always been there but Robert Rockefeller's project has taken it from the urban fringe to a more mainstream and industrial scale." Mr Lipscombe said. "It has gone from being associated with dreadlocks and Kombi vans to having a realistic application for business."

$19bn green cash hangs on Senate energy vote

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 12/6/2010 Page: 83

GREEN investments worth up to $19 billion will be unlocked if renewable energy legislation being introduced in the Senate next week is passed, the Federal Government said yesterday.

Speaking at the Roaring 40s wind farm, being built at Waterloo, 30km from Clare, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said hundreds of jobs hinged on the legislation, which sets a pathway to 20% of electricity being generated by renewable sources by 2020. Included in the potential projects are two new wind farms - each worth about $300 million - being planned by Roaring 40s in South Australia's Mid North. "The legislation will be the stimulus to take those forward," Roaring 40s managing director Steve Symons said.

The Waterloo wind farm is well advanced in construction and is expected to be plugged into the national electricity grid by mid-August. It is on target to be operational before the end of the year, generating up to 111MW of power, or enough to power 46,000 homes. Senator Wong said: "This is an important time for building a clean-energy future. "The next fortnight is critical because from the Government's changes to the renewable energy targets will arise $19 billion of investments. "Projects like this, that's what's up for grabs."

The reforms create separate renewable energy certificate regimes for small-scale generators, such as household solar panels, and large scale, such as wind farms. The Government, under pressure over its green credibility because of the shelving of the emissions trading scheme, will prioritise passage of the reforms. "I hope this will be different from the carbon pollution reduction scheme," Senator Wong said. If passed, the reforms will add about $64 a year to a typical household electricity bill, $3 more than under current rules.

Opposition Climate Action spokesman Greg Hunt said the Coalition had identified problems with the existing regime which had led to a flood of certificates from small-scale generators. "We look forward to constructive negotiations in the coming days," Mr Hunt said. Roaring 40s, owned by Hydro Tasmania and Hong Kong's CLP Mirvac, has already invested more than $100 million of the $300 million it will spend on Waterloo. "This project is putting money back into the pockets of South Australians, with all civil and electrical contractors sourced from SA," Mr Symons said.

For the next two farms - Stony Gap and Robertstown - landowner agreements were in place, wind monitoring was in progress and studies were being done on transmission. The Waterloo workforce peaked at about 150 but will reduce to six permanent jobs. Among them will be operations supervisor Ben McFarlane, who moved from Tasmania with wife Katrina and their son to live in Clare to oversee the plant. "I'll be here long-term," he said. The 3MW wind turbines were bought from Danish company Vestas. They will sit on top of 80m high steel towers built in Kilburn by RPG Australia.

Wind farms wait on vote

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 12/6/2010 Page: 5

ABOUT $600 million of investments in Mid North wind farms hinge on a Senate vote on renewable energy, electricity generator Roaring 40s said yesterday. The company, which is well advanced in constructing a 111MW farm 30km from Clare, has two more sites planned for investment. Keen to repair its tarnished green image, the Federal Government will introduce the legislation to the Senate next week.

Original Solar Cell Inventor Scores $1.07M Millennium Prize
June 10, 2010

Scientist and professor of photonics and interfaces at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, Michael Graetzel, won the Millennium Technology Prize of $1.07 million for his Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells, also known as "Graetzel cells." These new Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells are low in cost, and can work on a broad scale. Graetzel cells do not require a large setup to manufacture, they should be considerably less expensive than solid-state cell designs in bulk, they're mechanically robust and can be engineered into flexible sheets. They also require no protection from minor elements such as tree strikes or hail.

"The constraint of solar energy has traditionally been its price. Graetzel cells provide a more affordable way of harnessing solar energy," said Ainomaija Haarla, president of the Technology Academy of Finland. "Graetzel's innovation is likely to have an important role in low-cost, large scale solutions for renewable energy."

In addition, the Finnish academy notes that, "finding ways to replace the Earth's diminishing fossil fuel supply was one of mankind's greatest challenges," and that the sun would be "the most obvious energy source." Graetzel cells are expected to be a "significant contributor to the future energy technologies," and Finland hopes the Helisinki-based Millennium Technologies Prize will both further renewable energy research and someday become as recognised and esteemed as the Nobel Prizes awarded in Norway and Sweden.

The Millennium Technologies Prize is awarded every two years for a "specific and groundbreaking innovation that has a favourable impact on the quality of life and human wellbeing." The first winner was Tim Berners-Lee in 2004 for his invention of the World Wide Web. Graetzel is the fourth winner of the biannual prize.

Runner ups who won 150,000-euro prizes were Cambridge University Professor Richard Friend for his new organic semiconductor components, and University of Manchester Computer Engineering Professor Stephen Furber for his design of the ARM 32 bit RISC microprocessor, which is found in 98 percent of the world's mobile phones. Chairman of the academy's board Stig Gustavson said that, "all three inventions benefit mankind as broadly as possible, both today and in the future." The Millennium Technology Prize is awarded by the Technology Academy of Finland and is funded by the Finnish industry and state.

Clemson engineers to create model underground energy-storage facility
June 10, 2010

With a new twist on an old idea, two Clemson University environmental engineers are developing ways to store "waste" energy underground to cut heating and cooling costs and reduce carbon emissions. Ron Falta and Fred Molz have received a $991,000 grant from the US Department of Defense to create a Subsurface Thermal Energy Storage (STES) system that can be used as a model for energy efficiency. Five military bases are being considered for the pilot project, among them the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island and the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, as well as locations in California and Rhode Island.

"This technology has the potential to greatly reduce energy costs and greatly reduce carbon emissions," said Falta, a professor in Clemson's environmental engineering and Earth sciences department. "At the same time, it allows for the integration of renewable energy into the infrastructure of the base, and it provides a clear path for reducing base carbon emissions and carbon footprint."

Using the natural insulating properties of underground sediments to store hot and cold material is an old engineering concept. The new twist is using a conventional heat pump to move heat between buildings and the subsurface: moving heat from the ground to the building in the winter, then heat from the building to the ground in the summer.

The Subsurface Thermal Energy Storage system differs from conventional geothermal heat pump designs in that it takes advantage of waste energy - such as heat produced in power production or low-cost solar heat collectors - to create an artificially hot zone beneath the surface. It then takes advantage of natural winter chill to create an artificially cold subsurface zone. By using the hot water source in the winter and the cold water source in the summer, the geothermal heat-pump system can achieve higher heating and cooling efficiency than a conventional system.

"STES is a technology where low-cost or waste energy, heat or cold, is harvested when it is produced or when it is available, stored in the subsurface using borehole heat exchangers or water wells, and then used when the heat or cold is expensive or difficult to obtain," said Molz, an emeritus professor in the department. "This method of heating and cooling is far more efficient than conventional HVAC systems, and it could be 15 percent to 30 percent more efficient than current geothermal heat pump systems."

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Danish Island that went Carbon Negative
Fri, 11 Jun 2010

Denmark is primarily a nation of 444 Islands, 76 of them inhabited. The capital Copenhagen is located on the largest island Zealand, and the second largest island Funen is the home of Hans Christian Andersen. These days the Danish Island most in the news is Samsoe, situated between Jutland and Zealand. Twice the size of Manhattan, the island used to be known mainly for its delicious strawberries and potatoes. Today the Samsingers, as the 4,200 people on Samsoe call themselves, are the first in the industrialised world to reach a carbon negative state. They used to be totally dependent on petroleum imports and electricity from coal-fired plants on the mainland. Before 1998 each Samsinger was responsible for 11 metric tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Annually each American puts 19 metric tons into the air.

By installing wind turbines, solar panels, and burning biomass in "closed" furnaces, the Samsingers have now reduced their CO2 emissions by 140%. By 2005 they had reached 100% and had attained carbon neutrality. The additional 40% reduction means that they are now carbon negative: they are exporting more energy than they consume. In 1997 the Samsingers thought they had a good chance to win a national competition for "Renewable Energy Island." An engineer came over from the mainland and did some wind and sunshine studies, and together they sent their proposal off to Copenhagen.

They won the competition and the prize was $90 million in grants from the Danish government over ten years. The government gave the Samsingers full reign in deciding how to increase their energy efficiency. Raising 80% of their own capital, the residents installed 11 1 MW wind turbines and set up many smaller household turbines. Most of the turbines are cooperatively owned and those shareholders include 1,100 of the 50,000 tourists who visit the island during the summers. Each year the island uses 26 million kW hours, but there is 80 million kW hours left over that is sold to the national grid for $8 million a year.

To off-set the 690,000 gallons of gas and diesel still used in their cars, tractors, and ferries, the Samsingers invested in 10 sea-based 2.3MW wind turbines, which greet visitors as they arrive at the ferry terminal. The Samsingers are expanding their biogas production to include methane from pig waste, and they are also experimenting with the production of hydrogen, which can be used to run fuel-cells. A century ago Danish scientist Paul La Cour used wind mills to produce hydrogen for the lights at Askov Folk High School. Under his leadership wind power produced 3% of Denmark's electricity by 1918. Cheap oil then put an end to this early green development.

Danish scientists, working at a research center once devoted to nuclear energy, are again on the cutting edge of hydrogen production. On the Danish island of Lolland wind mills are producing 50% more power than the people consume, so the Lollanders are electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen and oxygen, which is used to speed up the treatment of the island's sewage.

Along with Israel, Denmark is starting to build charging stations for electric vehicles, so these cars will soon be on Danish highways in greater numbers than elsewhere. The Danish government is waiving the 200% excise tax on conventional vehicles to encourage Danes to switch to electric transportation. Teaming up with the American company Better Place, Danish utility DONG Energy is laying out $103 million for 500,000 charging stations and 150 battery swap depots strategically located for longer trips. One might ask why Better Place is not doing business with U.S, utilities, and the answer is that, except for negotiations with Hawaii and San Francisco, there is neither the political will nor the government support to make innovation such as this happen.

On the Danish island of Bornholm an experiment with "vehicle-to-grid" power storage is now in place for the 40,000 inhabitants. Parked vehicles will serve as storage for the excess wind power produced on the island. When the weather is calm, electricity flows back into the grid making unnecessary the reliance on coal-fired plants. Only 400,000 electric cars used in this manner would be needed to take up the slack when Denmark's 5,200 turbine rotors are not turning.

The Samsingers, the Lollanders, and Bornholmers, mostly conservative farmers, say that they are just ordinary people. Their challenge is that if they can become carbon neutral, then anyone on earth can follow their lead. With sufficient political will and cooperative effort every nation could kick its petroleum habit and planet earth could be saved from ecological disaster.

Minnesota plant will produce fertiliser from wind
June 9, 2010

Researchers in Minnesota soon will produce fertiliser from the wind. Work is beginning on a nearly $4 million project that uses wind power from a towering turbine to produce anhydrous ammonia, a common nitrogen-based fertiliser. The fertiliser produced at the test plant at the University of Minnesota in Morris will be used on the university's farm land, but supporters of the project say a system in which fertiliser is produced and sold nearby could contribute to the local economy. The system creates fertiliser by using an air separation unit to pull nitrogen from the air, while the turbine powers a machine that separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. The nitrogen and hydrogen are then synthesised into anhydrous ammonia.

Qld budget: Gov. should be hauled over the coals for corporate welfare
Wednesday 9/6/2010 Page: 1

I had a cursory glance through the Queensland and New South Wales state Budgets yesterday to see if there was anything interesting going on in terms of climate change. There wasn't.

New South Wales allocated about $21 million to leverage private sector investment for six new large-scale renewable projects--but it hardly makes up for the lack of a coherent policy to promote renewable energy. There was also a good chunk of cash that just got flushed down the toilet, with another $25 million allocated to "clean coal" in 2010-11.

Interestingly in NSW, they didn't mention anything about funding their "Climate Change Action Plan," which was supposed to be developed to replace the 2005 State Greenhouse Plan. The climate policy vacuum and looks set to continue in NSW for some time--but, to be fair, it isn't the only policy vacuum in the state. Queensland is in a similar position with a small cash splash for solar energy, which is substantially more than NSW but still lacks any mechanism that would actually drive the growth of large scale renewables.

One of the interesting things that stood out in the transport section of the Queensland Budget was $864.2 million for coal network trackWorks and new and upgraded locomotives and wagons to support coal haulage across Queensland. There is also $40.2 million to continue capacity improvements and upgrades at the RG Tanna Coal Terminal at the Port of Gladstone, at a total estimated cost of $95.3million.

Australia's vanishing carbon target

Business Spectator
Tuesday 8/6/2010 Page: 1

There's a middle-aged Irish joke about a lost tourist trying to get directions from a remote-living yokel to which the punchline is "Well, if I was you, sir, I wouldn't be starting from here." If you read the new report on Australian carbon abatement from the Climate Institute Australia and Westpac commissioned report from the American Bloomberg New Energy Finance consultancy, that crack takes on a modern, local resonance.

Bloomberg NEF point out that, as things stand policy wise, Australia is likely to miss its unilateral greenhouse gas emissions target for 2020 by around 170 million tonnes. This is a goal dreamed up by the Rudd government and subsequently embraced by the coalition - but how to get there from here is a question that voters should be posing to both sides come the federal election.

The Bloomberg NEF figuring goes like this: As of 2008 (the latest data) Australia's annual emissions under Kyoto Protocol accounting rules totalled 581 million tonnes. Plot a business-as-usual trend and the emissions total in 2020 will be around 720 million tonnes, requiring government to find 195 million tonnes of annual abatement. Factor in the renewable energy target and you can cut this by 23 million tonnes a year.

"What is evident," says Bloomberg, "is that, in the absence of real or implicit carbon pricing across the power sector, the volume of low-cost, carbon intensive coal-fired generation remains relatively constant in the mix over the decade." The report echoes a key point made by Origin Energy CEO Grant King to last month's upstream petroleum industry conference. He said that in the absence of a policy to make gas more competitive with coal, the amount of new gas plant is "likely to be moderate" and the addition of more renewables to the generation mix is likely to displace gas-based supply. The point is that the running cost of gas-fired generation is greater than that of black or brown coal generation, meaning the lower-emitting plants are the first to be pushed out of the eastern seaboard wholesale power market as renewables are added to the mix.

As Bloomberg NEF point out, the RET was intended to work in tandem with a carbon price and it is the latter that would enable new gas generation to drive the higher-emitting and most inefficient coal plant out of the market while also meeting the demand for additional baseload production. Leave aside the rather far-fetched (and cripplingly expensive) environmental movement ideas for massive investment in renewable generation. The more immediate issue is that both sides of Australian politics have taken on a commitment on the world stage for abatement by 2020 and neither has a plan B to get within coo-ee of what is promised.

What's more, the public has yet to have brought home to it that the carbon price needed to shift abatement towards this target will be well beyond the level of Treasury ETS modelling on which Rudd, Swan and Wong based their promises of household compensation - it will need to be at least 50% higher. At which point the wheels may start to fall off the energy intensive manufacturing cart with what implications for federal tax revenue? Join the dots from here to what the miners are threatening for the impact of the new rent tax and it is not a pretty picture. Toss in the economic impact, especially from mid-decade, of the ever-growing transport fuels trade deficit and it could be still worse.

For one, I don't take much comfort from Treasury's resident wombat botherer claiming in ever more overtly political statements that all will be well. Getting to our preferred destination from where we now are looks like an increasingly rocky road to this traveller.

Smart energy trial will unplug homes via web

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 8/6/2010 Page: 5

PLUG-IN points for electric cars and electricity meters enabling appliances to be turned off over the internet will be installed in central Sydney and Newcastle, after NSW won a bid for $100 million in federal government climate change funding. Under the EnergyAustralia led plan, sections of the electricity grid will be transformed to save power and measure the carbon footprints of individual households. The program will run for three years in central Sydney, the upper north shore, Newington, Newcastle and Scone.

Volunteers in these areas will have second-generation "smart meters" fitted in their homes later this year, allowing them check the energy use of appliances in real time via an EnergyAustralia website and to count their carbon footprint kilogram by kilogram. Some digital appliances will be turned on or off via the website. A small fleet of electric cars, acquired by the City of Sydney, will trial the best places to locate plug-in recharge points. It is likely that some charging stations will be on the F3 freeway between Sydney and Newcastle. The main demonstration area for smart meters will be in central Newcastle. Scone will also be a key trial area for measuring ways to tailor energy flow more closely to household demand.

It is not clear exactly how much energy the trial will save, if any, but the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said estimates showed that up to 3.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas could be cut from the nation's climate change ledger if the system was adopted around the country. Some industry estimates put the potential smart grid savings much higher. "Smart grids are critical in the fight against climate change, as they have enormous potential to improve the efficiency of our electricity sector and transform the way we use energy in our homes and businesses," said Senator Won-, announcing the bid winner yesterday.

The NSW plan, which is backed by the state government, IBM Australia, AGL Energy, GE Energy, TransGrid and Newcastle City Council, beat bids from regional NSW, Queensland and Victoria. The demonstration project will run until 2013. The managing director of EnergyAustralia, George Maltabarow, said about 400,000 basic, first-generation smart meters had been installed in NSW since 2006. They are essential if we want to de-carbonise electricity networks in Australia," he said. "Building a smart grid is the foundation for delivering energy savings in the home that is so fundamental to the carbon pollution reduction scheme."

The federal scheme, expected to be the main driver of investment in low-emissions power and energy efficiency, was shelved until at least 2013 after being blocked in the Senate. The government says it still intends to bring in its scheme because it would struggle to meet even its minimum target for greenhouse gas cuts - a net 5% cut over the next 10 years - without it. However, under last year's Copenhagen Accord, Australia committed to join international efforts to hold global temperature rise to a maximum average of 2 degrees and this would be likely to require at least a 25% cut in Australia's emissions over the next decade.