Friday, 25 May 2012

Saudi battles excess heat, dust to build solar power
23 May 2012

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, may finally be getting serious about overcoming the technical and financial hurdles for tapping its other main resource: sunshine. Thousands of solar power panels have sprung up across Europe over the past few years, thanks to generous subsidies that make the technology an attractive alternative to conventional energy. Saudi Arabia too, wants to generate much more solar power as it lacks coal or enough natural gas output to meet rapidly rising power demand.

Doing so would allow it to slash the volume of oil it burns in power plants bankrolled by billions of dollars worth of saved oil earnings. "At world market prices, solar is competitive if you use crude oil to generate electricity", said Maher al-Odan, a senior consultant at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Research (KA-CARE) which was set up to plan Saudi Arabia's energy mix. Saudi Arabia has said it wants to become a major solar producer before, but its investments amount to much less than 50 MWs versus several countries which have added thousands of MWs a year.

This month, KA-CARE set forth a much more ambitious plan, recommending that the kingdom aim to get more than a third of its peak-load power supply, or about 41 GWs (GW), from the sun within two decades at an estimated cost well over $100 billion. Making the plan work economically rests on three assumptions: that technology improvements will cut costs, that a domestic solar industry will emerge and create jobs for a booming population, and that many billions of dollars worth of exportable oil will be saved.

An average of 700,000 barrels a day of crude were used in Saudi power stations during the peak air-conditioning demand period from May to September last year, according to official data supplied to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI). Although a rise in gas production should temper crude burning this summer, it will likely rise substantially in years ahead unless alternatives are found, and fast. "Domestic oil consumption is rising very rapidly and you get far more value for oil if it's exported than if it's consumed domestically", said Paul Gamble, chief economist at Jadwa Research in Riyadh.

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Morocco to start work on 500 MW solar plant in 2012
22 May 2012

(Reuters)-Morocco plans to speed up tender processes for the development of a 2,000 MW solar power plan, starting with the award this year of a first contract for 160 MWs to be generated using concentrated-solar technology (CSP). Mustafa Bakkoury, who chairs the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen), said a winning consortium for that first phase of a 500 MW solar power plant, in the southern region of Ouarzazate, would be announced by the start of summer.

Ouarzazate's 500 MW complex, which should be completed by 2015, is the first in the so-called Moroccan Solar Plan that aims to produce 2 GW of solar power by 2020, which corresponds to 38% of the country's current installed power generation capacity. "Works (on Ouarzazate's first 160 MW phase) will start in the third or fourth quarter of 2012 and we aim to complete the work", Bakkoury told the two-day Solar Maghreb conference in Casablanca. Masen will pick a winner for the 160 MW parabolic trough plant from the three following consortia:

Masen will then launch tenders to build a 50 MW photovoltaic module and CSP towers of at least 50 MWs, both of which in Ouarzazate, Bakkoury said. "We will be moving faster in the launch of Morocco's Solar Plan projects,.. Our initial goal to have 2,000 MWs from solar power by 2020 is still on", he said. Morocco has embarked on one of the world's biggest renewable energy development plans involving solar and wind power. The solar power plan is worth $9 billion in investment and will include five power stations, two of which are located in the disputed Western Sahara.

Facing an electricity demand that rises by an annual 7% and a gaping trade deficit from heavy reliance on fossil fuel imports, Morocco also bets renewable energies would enable it to export electricity to energy-hungry trade partner, the European Union. Coupled with a wind power development scheme, the solar development plan should reduce Morocco's annual imports of fossil fuels by 2.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent and prevent emissions of 9 million tonnes of CO₂.

Morocco aims to export surplus electricity to Europe via Spain, where it has a power market trading licence that allows it to sell electricity. "We expect energy demand to double by 2020 and then to quadruple by 2030", said Taoufik Laabi, head of planning and strategy at power utility ONE. He noted that the percentage of solar-generated electricity that will be exported would depend on "availability of surpluses".

High Costs
Pending a drop in the high production costs of solar plants, the Moroccan government will cover any gap between the cost of producing solar electricity and the price ONE pays to buy the electricity from Masen, said Masen's Bakkoury. "The costs are high but we think they will be declining going forward,.. Developing solar power is an irreversible choice for us", said Bakkoury. "I hope we will not rely on public funding for too long", he added.

Vestas to supply three wind farms in South Africa
22 May 2012

Pretoria, South Africa--Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems has been chosen as supplier for three South African wind power projects. Projects include a 107.63 MW project by France's EDF Energies Nouvelles, a 94 MW wind farm project of GDF Suez and its unit International Power as well as a 95.33 MW wind project by Cennergi Pty Ltd. All five projects were given the go-ahead in South Africa's second bidding round for green energy capacity.

The Danish company and the project developers need to reach a financial close on the projects in six months. Vestas Wind Systems must agree and conclude the contracts for the supply of the turbines, service and maintenance and construction. The two bidding rounds launched by the South African government, along with the future rounds, are in line with the country's plans to have 3,725 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2016 and to reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Australian companies get first shot at green energy cash
23 May 2012

AUSTRALIAN companies will be guaranteed the chance to pitch for business flowing from the Gillard government's $10 billion clean energy fund that Labor will announce today in an effort to sell the benefits of green jobs at home. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet will announce today that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will provide grants and government investment to green projects, will require candidates to show they are giving local firms a fair go to supply parts and services. The announcement comes as a government backbencher launched a scathing parliamentary attack on the Greens' rejection of Kevin Rudd's carbon plan, saying the delay had caused pollution equal to 1 million cars each year.

In a sign that Labor is seeking to distance itself from the Greens and reclaim the environmental badge for itself, MP Andrew Leigh told Parliament that Greens senators ''chose self-interest over the national interest'' when they blocked the original Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009. Mr Combet, meanwhile, will introduce today legislation to set up the $10 billion corporation, to be chaired by respected businesswoman Jillian Broadbent. It will require candidates for funding to have Australian Industry Participation Plans, which are a key part of the government's broader manufacturing strategy.

Under these plans, which are already used by the resources sector in return for tax breaks, projects have to demonstrate they have given Australian firms ''full, fair and reasonable opportunity''. A wind farm, for example, might have to show it has offered Australian firms the chance to supply the turbine towers. ''The CEFC will drive investment in innovative renewable energy, low pollution and energy efficiency technologies to ensure our economy continues to grow while we reduce carbon pollution,'' Mr Combet said.

Mr Leigh, an economist, told parliament the new carbon tax, which becomes a floating-price emissions trading scheme in 2015, will be similar to Mr Rudd's original CPRS, but the delay since 2009 has added $1 billion a year to the cost of slashing carbon emissions. Five million tonnes each year could have been cut from Australia's emissions-equal to 1 million extra cars staying on the roads, he said. ''For all their claims to be 'green', the Greens party has a brown tinge,'' he said.

Siemens to supply turbines for Chile’s biggest wind farm
21 May 2012

Siemens AG (SIE) won an order to supply 115 MWs of turbines for a project north of Santiago that will be Chile's largest wind farm when built. Siemens will deliver, install and commission 50 turbines at the El Arrayan park that's being developed by Pattern Energy Group LP, a San Francisco-based renewables company, and Houston-based utility AEI, according to a statement today.

The order is the first wind-power deal for Munich-based Siemens in Chile. Europe's biggest engineering company joins turbine makers such as Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co in expanding in the nation that's seeking to boost renewables to curb reliance on hydroelectric power. "It is our goal to grow our presence in this region", Felix Ferlemann, chief executive officer of Siemens Wind Power, said in the statement.

The mining unit of Antofagasta Plc, the Chilean group with three copper mines, also has a stake in the project, according to Siemens. Commissioning of the park 400 km (249 miles) north of the capital city of Santiago on the coast of the Coquimbo IV Region is planned in early 2014. The project will provide power for about 200,000 households when built, according to Siemens.

No cuts to wind farm pay
22 May 2012

ENERGY companies have denied rumours they will slash payments to south-west wind farm landholders when the carbon tax is introduced next month. Several individuals have notified The Standard of claims that farmers hosting turbines on their property would have their income halved on July 1 when Renewable Energy Certificate's become 50% less under the carbon tax. The rumours were denied in a statement from AGL Energy, which was claimed to have contacted stakeholders about the changes. "AGL Energy would like to confirm that wind farm rent on its wind farms will not be impacted after a price on carbon has been introduced", a spokeswoman said. "Any suggestion otherwise is false". A spokesman for ACCIONA Energy also said the carbon tax would make no change to agreements with landholders at the company's south Mortlake wind farm, while Origin Energy spokesman said agreements written in dollar amounts were "not market linked"

Heartland Institute facing uncertain future as staff depart and cash dries up
20 May 2012

Free-market thinktank's conference opens in Chicago with president admitting defections are hurting group's finances.

The first Heartland Institute conference on climate change in 2008 had all the trappings of a major scientific conclave-minus large numbers of real scientists. Hundreds of climate change contrarians, with a few academics among them, descended into the banquet rooms of a lavish Times Square hotel for what was purported to be a reasoned debate about climate change. But as the latest Heartland Institute climate conference opens in a Chicago hotel on Monday, the thinktank's claims to reasoned debate lie in shreds and its financial future remains uncertain.

Heartland Institute's claims to "stay above the fray" of the climate wars was exploded by a billboard campaign earlier this month comparing climate change believers to the Unabomer Ted Kaczynski, and a document sting last February that revealed a plan to spread doubt among kindergarteners on the existence of climate change. Along with the damage to its reputation, Heartland Institute's financial future is also threatened by an exodus of corporate donors as well as key members of staff. In a fiery blogpost on the Heartland Institute website, the organisation's president Joseph Bast admitted Heartland Institute's defectors were "abandoning us in this moment of need".

Over the last few weeks, Heartland Institute has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012, or more than 35% of the funds its planned to raise from corporate donors, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts, which is pushing companies to boycott the organisation. The organisation has been forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry. The main Illinois coal lobby is a last-minute sponsor of this week's conference, undermining Heartland Institute's claims to operate independently of fossil fuel interests. Its entire Washington DC office, barring one staffer, decamped, taking Heartland Institute's biggest project, involving the insurance industry, with them.

Board directors quit, conference speakers cancelled at short-notice, and associates of long standing demanded Heartland Institute remove their names from its website. The list of conference sponsors shrank by nearly half from 2010, and many of those listed sponsors are just websites operating on the rightwing fringe. "It's haemorrhaging", said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, who has spent years tracking climate contrarian outfits. "Heartland Institute's true colours finally came through, and now people are jumping ship in quick order". It does not look like Heartland Institute is about to adopt a corrective course of action. In his post, Bast defended the ads, writing: "Our billboard was factual: the Unabomber was motivated by concern over man-made global warming to do the terrible crimes he committed". He went on to describe climate scientist Michael Mann and activist Bill McKibben as "madmen".

The public unravelling of Heartland Institute began last February when the scientist Peter Gleick lied to obtain highly sensitive materials, including a list of donors. The publicity around the donors' list made it difficult for companies with public commitment to sustainability, such as the General Motors Foundation, to continue funding Heartland Institute. The GM Foundation soon announced it was ending its support of $15,000 a year. But what had been a gradual collapse gathered pace when Heartland Institute advertised its climate conference with a billboard on a Chicago expressway comparing believers in climate science to the Unabomber. The slow trickle of departing corporate donors turned into a gusher.

Even Heartland Institute insiders, such as Eli Lehrer, who headed the organisation's Washington group, found the billboard too extreme. Lehrer, who headed the biggest project within Heartland Institute, on insurance, immediately announced his departure along with six other staff. "The ad was ill advised", he said. "I'm a free-market conservative with a long rightwing resume and most, if not all, of my team fits the same description and of us found it very problematic. Staying with Heartland Institute was simply not workable in the wake of this billboard". Heartland Institute took down the billboard within 24 hours, but by then the ad had gone viral. Lehrer, who maintains the split was amicable, said the billboard had undermined Heartland Institute's claims to be a serious conservative thinktank.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

BP, Sempra to develop Hawaii wind farm
17 May 2012

(US) Sempra US Gas & Power and BP Wind Energy plan to jointly develop the Auwahi wind farm in Hawaii. This is the fifth project developed under a strategic partnership between the two companies that includes more than 1,000 MW of wind generating capacity in operation or under construction. Located in southeastern Maui, the 21 MW wind farm will use eight Siemens wind turbines to generate enough renewable power for about 10,000 average Maui homes. Initial construction activities are underway and full mobilization at the site is slated to begin by the end of the second quarter 2012.

The project will employ about 150 workers during the peak of construction and is expected to be in commercial operation by year-end 2012. The balance of plant contract has been awarded to RMT WindConnect. Sempra US Gas & Power will continue leading the development of Auwahi Wind and operate the project once construction is complete. The entire power output from the wind farm has been sold under a long-term power purchase agreement to the Maui Electric Co. This new source of locally-produced wind power helps Hawaii reach its clean energy goal to secure 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

In a first for the BP and Sempra US Gas & Power strategic partnership, the Auwahi wind farm will use a battery storage unit capable of storing in excess of 4 MWh of renewable power. This stored electricity will help to regulate the intermittent wind power, providing a valuable source of grid stability for Maui Electric Co.

VCEC solar power report risks cheating consumers
18 May 2012

The solar industry says that while a draft report from the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC) contained some important recommendations, consumers could lose out on payments for their solar electricity. Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said many of the VCEC recommendations were sensible, but there was a risk that consumers could miss out on as much as half of the money they were entitled to for their solar power. "We agree that as the cost of solar power continues to drop we should move beyond incentive based feed-in tariffs to a system where consumers are simply paid the fair value for their solar power", Mr Marsh said. "The Clean Energy Council has analysis to show that the fair and reasonable value of solar is between 12-16¢ per kilowatt-hour of electricity.

"The VCEC draft report suggests that households should get a guaranteed payment of between 6-8¢ for the energy they contribute to the grid. But they would then need to negotiate an additional payment from electricity distribution businesses in recognition of the fact that distributed energy such as solar power allows for reduced expenditure on network poles and wires. This is unrealistic. "It will be virtually impossible for consumers to actually get that additional payment, meaning they will miss out on up to half the value they are entitled to. The value of solar power to networks has been quantified successfully in Western Australia and should be the model for Victoria as well", he said.

Mr Marsh said the recommendation that a mandatory minimum value should be paid to consumers for their solar power was important, but to be fair the required payment must include the network benefits too. "More than 100,000 Victorian households from all walks of life have already recognised the value of solar power as a way of fighting rising power bills. We should ensure that people who buy solar power are guaranteed a fair return on this investment that they have made in good faith", he said. "Solar power and other types of renewable energy continue to exceed all expectations, falling rapidly in cost and becoming more efficient. Both state and federal governments have struggled to keep up with the pace of change in the clean energy industry. "More resources need to go into better recognising the growing value of these new technologies, and developing regulations to shape the growth of the industry and protect consumers".

Giant tidal turbine 'performing well' in tests off Orkney
17 May 2012

A subsea turbine which uses tidal power to generate electricity has successfully completed initial tests off Orkney. The turbine was lowered into position during winter storms and Scottish Power Renewables said it was performing well. The 100ft-high 1MW (MW) Hammerfest Strom HS1000 device is already powering homes and businesses on the island of Eday. There are plans to create a 10MW tidal power array in the Sound of Islay. Testing began in December and has been designed to finalise the timetable for the Islay project, with machines being installed "as early as feasible" between 2013 and 2015.

Keith Anderson, SPR chief executive, said: "The performance of the first HS1000 device has given us great confidence so far. Engineers were able install the device during atrocious weather conditions, and it has been operating to a very high standard ever since. "We have already greatly developed our understanding of tidal power generation, and this gives us confidence ahead of implementing larger scale projects in Islay and the Pentland Firth. "Scotland has the best tidal power resources in Europe, and that's why we are seeing world leading technologies tested here". The turbine can be monitored from the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) base in Eday, but engineers can also operate and inspect the device from Glasgow using mobile connections and an on-board camera.

Students full of renewable energy
16 May 2012

SCHOOL students are learning about renewable energy through Australia's first mini wind turbine trial at West Beach. The State Government, with the West Beach Trust, is testing four different turbines for 12 months. The power output is compared to a 6kW solar system nearby, with all the data displayed online. Yesterday the Royal Institution of Australia launched a Wind Technology Education Package, with funding from the West Beach branch of Bendigo Bank, to help students in Years 7 10 get in on the act.

The package covers practical applications, optimal locations and uses of wind turbines. Students from West Beach Primary School and Henley High School were the first to use the package, conducting hands-on activities at the site of the mini wind turbine trial. Students built and tested a model wind turbine and learned what designs worked best. RiAus program co-ordinator Dr Tania Meyer said it enabled students to explore the concepts through a "real world example". Jayden from Henley High School is studying renewable energy in his Year 11 Advanced Technologies class. "I think it's interesting making something out of nothing", he said. "We need something like wind power for when the petrol runs out".

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Freo’s wave energy project gets go ahead
16 May 2012

A Fremantle-based wave energy company has received funding to commence operations for its grid-connected CETO Wave Energy Project, marking an important step for the technology's future research and development as a viable energy alternative. Carnegie Corporation's Garden Island-based CETO project will receive $9.9 million from the Federal government's Emerging Renewables Program with an additional $5.5 million coming from the WA government's Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) Fund. Using a network of subsea pipelines the submerged CETO buoy system will pump pressurised water to an onshore power generating facility--located at the HMAS Stirling naval base--to drive hydroelectric turbines with an estimated output capacity of 2MW.

Curtin University's National Center for Marine Science and Technology Studies (CMST) Doctor Tim Gourlay says that structurally and environmentally CETO is ahead of other wave energy technology around the world. "The big advantage of the CETO system is that it is fully submerged and has very good survivability in storms, so by keeping them [buoys] beneath the surface they capture the oscillatory motion without the breaking wave impacts", he says. "It is a slow moving underwater buoy with minimal moving parts and I can't see any adverse impacts on the eco-system".

The project's viability also highlights the amount of wave energy resources Australia has available and the support gap of government-led incentives for the development of clean energy projects. Dr Gourlay says although Australia has supportive policies in place it still falls behind other developed nations. "In Europe there are a lot of government incentives for developing clean energy", he says. "Wave power companies have a lot of trouble getting funding, partly because there have not been many government incentives for this type of development".

The CMST have conducted reviews for the Australian Government on wave energy applications. They have also been involved with the Clean Energy Council of Australia (CEC) to promote the use of the technology. CEC policy officer Lucy Stevens says companies that deal in new clean energy technologies are often under-resourced. "There has traditionally been a major gap in introducing programs to support cutting edge technology moving from research and development through to full roll out and commercialisation", she says. Ms. Stevens expects the Federal Government's $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation will help to bridge that gap. A 2011 CSIRO study showed Australian wave energy resources could produce up to five times the country's electricity requirements.

Heartland Institute grows isolated as three more donors disassociate
14 May 2012

Heartland Institute was cut off by three more corporate donors on Monday, further isolating the ultra-conservative thinktank from the mainstream business world. The defections reinforce the sense of Heartland Institute's isolation, ahead of its major climate contrarian conference in Chicago next week. A number of prominent speakers also pulled out of the conference after Heartland Institute put up a billboard on a Chicago expressway suggesting believers in climate change were akin to serial killers.

In statements to advocacy groups, pharmaceutical giant Eli Llily, BB&T bank and PepsiCo confirmed they would not fund Heartland Institute in 2012 dealing a blow to the thinktank's plans of building long-term relationships with major corporations. The three were the latest in a rush of companies to distance themselves from Heartland Institute after the ad campaign featuring Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. "Lilly is not funding Heartland Institute in 2012 and has no plans to do so in the future", David Marbaugh, communications director of Corporate Responsibility for Eli Lily informed Forecast the Facts by email. "That type of ad is not consistent with how Lilly engages in public debate".

In purely monetary terms, Monday's defections will have very little effect on Heartland Institute. None of the three had contributed to Heartland Institute in 2011, according to confidential documents obtained by the water scientist Peter Gleick, and released without the thinktank's permission. PepsiCo's contributions in 2010 amounted to only $5,000. Eli Lily donated $25,000 in 2010 and BB&T $16,105. However, they make it very difficult for Heartland Institute to pursue itsexpansion plans for 2012 and disprove its efforts to project itself as a mainstream organisation seeking to act as an honest mediator in debates over climate policy.

The Heartland Institute budget and ambitious expansion plans for 2012 had been predicated on returning those donors to the fold. It had projected a $3m budget increase for 2012, based on those plans. Specifically, Heartland Institute had hoped to raise $1.5m or half of those funds from "lapsed" corporate donors like Eli Lily. But it appears that the exposure of Heartland Institute's key mission of discrediting climate change-including a project to influence kindergarteners-has turned off public corporations.

Many publicly traded companies outwardly endorse climate change and sustainability as part of their corporate brand-and that makes association with Heartland Institute politically awkward. Those contradictions intensified after the Gleick leak last February when advocacy groups began focusing more intensely on Heartland Institute's corporate donors-even those funding programmes that have nothing to do with clinate change. Pepsi made up its mind to steer clear of Heartland Institute well before the Kaczynski ad. "As previously stated, our relationship ended in 2011", Paul Boykas, vice-president of public policy and government affairs for PepsiCo told Forecast the Facts by email. The advocacy group noted the PepsiCo's website reaffirms its belief in climate change.

BB&T told Greenpeace, meanwhile, it had not received requests for 2012 funding. "We do not have any active request from or any planned contribution to Heartland Institute in 2012", Maria Lachapelle, vice-president of corporate communications for BB&T, told Greenpeace by email. In another blow to Heartland Institute, a meterologist from the National Hurricane Center on Monday publicly disassociated himself with the organisation.

Chris Landsea, the hurricane centre's science and operations officer, asked Heartland Institute to remove him from its website, the Washington Post reported on Monday. It quoted a posting from Landsea to the website BigCityLib Strikes Back saying: "The billboard campaign that you all have recently been displaying is not in good taste nor is it furthering the advancement of better undstanding of how our climate fluctates and changes. Please remove my name from your list of experts".

Power storage buffers fluctuating solar power
11 May 2012

Siemens has developed an energy-storage system that can act as a buffer in electrical power grids. The aim is to provide a buffer against short-term fluctuations in output from renewable energy sources. Such fluctuations can last for seconds or several minutes long. The modular designed Siestorage battery is based on lithium-ion rechargeable battery technology and fits into a normal shipping container. In its big layout it stores 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That's about the average daily power consumption of 50 households. The Italian power company Enel Green Power recently switched on the first Siestorage installation, which has a capacity of one MW. Enel Green Power is using the installation, which is connected to its primary distribution network, to study how voltage can be stabilized.

The electrical output of photovoltaic arrays doesn't only fluctuate with the seasons or between night and day. It's also affected by local weather. For example, power production sags for a few seconds (or even minutes) if clouds drift over the modules. Consequently, the grid experiences brief drops in voltage. Energy storage devices deal with these fluctuations within milliseconds in the power grid itself. As a result, there's no need to adjust controls at power stations-a procedure that reduces efficiency and increases costs.

During development, Siemens worked together with one of the world's largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries. Thanks to the system's modular design, its capacity can be expanded to two MWs at an output of 8 MWs. The complete solution with the inverter module and the controller that connect the system to the grid are from Siemens.

Enel Green Power will also study how well the system can handle a controlled restart of a grid after a complete blackout. To achieve this feat, the system's inverter has to regulate the right voltage and frequency so that the grid can be powered up in a controlled manner. Such a solution would be very interesting for small independent power grids on Islands or in remote areas, which would otherwise have to be connected to neighboring grids. Energy storage systems form part of Siemens solutions for tomorrow's smart grid. They are part of Siemens' environmental portfolio, with which the company generated about €30 billion in sales in 2011.

Saudi Arabia plans $109 billion boost for solar power
12 May 2012

Saudi Arabia is seeking investors for a $109 billion plan to create a solar industry that generates a third of the nation's electricity by 2032, according to officials at the agency developing the plan.

The world's largest crude oil exporter aims to have 41,000 MWs of solar capacity within two decades, said Maher al-Odan, a consultant at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. Khalid al-Suliman, vice president for the organization known as Ka-care, said on May 8 in Riyadh that nuclear, wind and geothermal would contribute 21,000 MWs.

"We are not only looking for building solar plants", al-Odan said in an interview in Riyadh yesterday. "We want to run a sustainable solar power sector that will become a driver for the domestic energy for years to come". The comments highlight the scale of Saudi Arabia's ambitions to boost renewable energy use as a way to pare back on oil consumption used for domestic desalination and power plants, potentially saving 523,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day over the next 20 years.

For the solar panel manufacturers such as FirstSolar Inc. (FSLR) and SunPower Corp. (SPWR), the Saudi Arabian market would open a huge new market as European countries reduce subsidies to keep a lid on installations. Panel sales may dip this year for the first time in more than a decade from 27,700 MWs installed last year, according to a survey of analysts by Bloomberg on March 9.

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Japan is without nuclear power, and could stay that way
10 May 2012

If there were a poll for the worst job in the world, Naomi Hirose's might win hands down. The 61 year-old executive was tapped this week to run the Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The power company's incompetence, neglect and hubris brought the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl to Japan. Its safety failures before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami are responsible for the radiation leaking into the air and water 135 miles from Tokyo. TEPCO, as it's known, has become a decidedly dirty word among Japan's 126 million people.

"I personally like TEPCO", said Hirose, currently a managing director for the company, when asked why he took the job. "It is unbearable for me to abandon the company as it is". What's more unbearable is the lack of contrition at TEPCO and its headlong support of all things nuclear. Thankfully, Japan's typically docile masses--and some marquee-caliber politicians--are fighting back and demanding a nuclear-free future. On May 5, Japan's last operating reactor shut down for scheduled maintenance, leaving the country without nuclear power for the first time in more than four decades. Restarting it, or any of Japan's other 53 reactors, could be difficult given the mounting public backlash and protests.

Japan will eventually restart some. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has been nothing if not consistent in his support for the nuclear power industry. It's long had carte blanche thanks to lavish campaign contributions, steady support for newspaper and magazine advertising and habit of giving government bureaucrats lucrative gigs when they retire.

Yet the Japanese are fast losing patience. Many seem willing to absorb higher electricity bills and live with a replay of last summer's blackouts if it leads to safer future. Japan is one of the world's most seismically active places, and the feeling is that unless it builds reactors out of rubber and elevates them on huge shock absorbers, it needs to find energy alternatives--and fast.

Local leaders, like Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, are pushing back. The Japanese have long tolerated Tokyo's sway over their lives. But its narrow-minded focus on restarting reactors has caused some Japanese to question Tokyo's authority. Is Tokyo listening? It will tune out this rising public anger at its own peril.

China to supply solar power to Japan?
9 May 2012

BEIJING, May 9 (UPI)--Now that Japan has no nuclear power for the first time in more than 40 years, Chinese solar producers are eyeing the world's third-largest economy for new business opportunities.

Even before the Tomari nuclear plant in Hokkaido went offline Sunday for mandatory routine maintenance--the last of Japan's 54 reactors--at least five Chinese solar panel manufacturers, including Hebei-based Yingli Green Energy, Jiangsu-based Hareon Solar Technology Co. Ltd, and Shanghai-based Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. Ltd, had set up offices in Japan since the beginning of this year, state-run news agency Xinhua reports.

The cutoff of all nuclear reactors in Japan "will definitely give the Chinese photovoltaic industry a new opportunity", Wang Liusheng, an analyst with China Merchants Securities, told Xinhua. While China is now the world's largest producer of solar panels, it has faced anti-subsidy and anti-dumping probes from the United States. More than 90% of solar panel products made in China are intended for export. Wang said the Japanese government is expected to adopt an electricity consumption subsidy policy this year, a step he says would make Japan "a very attractive market" for solar.

Before the disaster at the Fukushima plant in 2011, nuclear power provided one-third of Japan's electricity and the government's basic energy plan called for nuclear power to account for 53% of all electricity generated in the country by 2030. But the Fukushima disaster marked "a turning point for Japan, and a huge opportunity for it to move towards the sustainable energy future its people demand", Greenpeace said in its advanced energy revolution report.

"With an abundance of renewable energy resources and top-class technology, Japan can easily become a renewable energy leader, while simultaneously ending its reliance on risky and expensive nuclear technology". Greenpeace called for Japan's solar power and wind power generation to increase from the current level of 3,500 MWs to 47,200 MWs by 2015. Last year Japan ranked fifth in worldwide installed photovoltaic panel module capacity, accounting for about 5% of the world's 24 GW solar power installed capacity, says IMS Research.

Tetsunari Lida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Japan, says the country's ratio of renewable energies, such as solar, wind and geothermal power, should be tripled from the current level of 10% to at least 30% of total electricity supply by 2030. Lida, one of 25 members on a government panel drafting Japan's medium-to long-term energy strategy expected to be released this summer, has called for all nuclear power generation to be completely phased out by that year.