Thursday, 30 October 2008

UK energy supply has entered into terminal decline

In recent years, the UK has become increasingly dependent on natural gas as its primary energy source. This strategy may soon be found to be based upon poor assumptions/perceptions regarding development of domestic and neighbouring natural gas reserves and, in general, regional and global supply capabilities.

1. UK marketable nat gas production (also gross) peaked in 2000 close to 110 Gcm/a.
2. During the last three years, UK nat gas production has declined at an annual rate of 8 - 10 %, which many energy analysts expect will continue.
3. Nat gas constituted more than 38 % of the UK primary energy consumption in 2007.
4. Several analyses expect UK to import 80 % of their nat gas consumption by 2020.
5. UK was a net exporter of nat gas for a brief period.

In 2007, more than 38 % of the UK’s primary energy consumption came from nat gas. Of the EU/OECD countries, only Italy has a higher portion of nat gas consumption. In comparison, the USA gets 25 % of its primary energy consumption from natural gas; France, 15 %; and Germany, 24 %.

In general, high nat gas usage is primarily found among countries with huge nat gas reserves like Russia, where nat gas amounted to more than 57 % of primary energy production in 2007. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of nat gas and second largest exporter of oil, so this high domestic usage frees up oil for export. Since oil generates more income than nat gas, based on units of energy exported, this approach maximizes export revenue.

The UK and Continental Europe have both benefitted from the bidirectional Interconnector that since 1998 has allowed for increased flexibility in nat gas supplies. Due to the decline in UK indigenous supplies and a tighter supply situation on Continental Europe, the importance of the Interconnector is expected to slowly diminish unless future Russian supplies are shipped through the system to UK.

Nat gas production within EU was on a plateau from 1996 to 2004 and has now entered into terminal decline. Increased nat gas production from Norway (which is not a full EU member) has slowed the decline. The balance of consumption within EU has been secured through increasing imports, primarily from Russia, North Africa and LNG. The diagram above suggests that imports into EU will need to grow quickly, from 200 Gcm/a at present to projected 400 Gcm/a by 2020, to fill the rapidly growing gap between declining supplies and projected growth in consumption.

If projected growth in EU nat gas consumption by 2020 is to be met, it will be necessary to double present imports of 200 Gcm/a from Russia, North Africa and LNG, a challenging task. With the ongoing credit crisis still unfolding, an increase in imports that allows maintenance of present EU consumption levels may turn out to be a major accomplishment.

As of 2007, 25 % of EU’s nat gas consumption was imported from Russia. Russian nat gas exports to the EU grew substantially after the completion of pipelines between Western Siberia and Europe by the mid 80’s.

There are good reasons to believe that the Russians (meaning Gazprom) planned their exports to the EU based upon available official data and forecasts from amongst others, EU members and Norway. This is of course a sensible thing to do if the goal is to maximize the profits from the Russian resource base and to optimize the allocation of investment funds. Why invest in expansions of production and infrastructure, if these investments are likely to contribute to an oversupply and a subsequent downward pressure on prices?

Perhaps what is needed is an energy czar. I think it was Matt Simmons who first used the expression “energy czar”, perhaps with a hidden meaning that Russians leaders far better understand the strategic nature of energy than their western counterparts, even though their access to data is not as good.

In 1995 - 1998, the UK exported nat gas to Ireland. In 1998, the Interconnector, the bidirectional pipeline between Bacton in UK and Zeebrugge in Belgium, started to flow. After that, the UK became a moderate exporter of nat gas to Continental Europe.

EU production of natural gas has peaked, and is expected to decline. EU exclusive of UK nat gas production peaked in 1996. Since then, natural gas production has been in a general decline and is expected to continue to decline. Recently Dutch authorities confirmed that their nat gas production is set to decline. These milestones were passed without much attention. For the next several years, projected increases in Norwegian nat gas production are expected to partly offset declines in production in the EU, but the overall production trend is expected to remain downward.

UK has for some years had an important role in securing a unique flexibility with respect to the EU nat gas supply chain. The combined effect of the declining nat gas production in UK and the rest of the EU has already tightened the supply situation for EU (ref the recent price growth within the liberalized UK market), and has the potential to develop into a severe nat gas supply crunch. Such a supply crunch could have cascading effects, and may affect other energy systems. These interrelationships seem to be poorly understood among those responsible for developing energy supply strategies.

Source - The Oil Drum

Solar panels needed to hit 2020 targets

The Government must explore increasing energy efficiency, renewable heat generation and solar panels as well large scale renewable electricity projects if the UK is to meet European renewable energy targets, an influential group of Lords has claimed.

The UK must produce 15% of its total energy demand from renewable sources by 2020 under EU wide energy targets - in 2005 it managed only 1.3%.

The House of Lords European Union Committee on Friday claimed that wholesale changes were needed in the Government’s approach to energy policy if the target was to be met.

A statement by the Committee said it was concerned that the Government has not included energy efficiency as a central part of the Renewable Energy Strategy.

It points out that witnesses speaking to the Committee estimated that around a fifth of the 15% reduction target could be achieved by ‘aggressive demand reduction policies’.

Energy efficiency measures, therefore, should form the starting point for the Government to meet its 2020 targets. The Committee calls on the Government to set a 20% energy reduction target by 2020.

The Committee’s report also points out that 41% of the UK’s energy use is for heating and cooling. The Committee stresses that renewable heat technologies and solar panels should be as important a part of meeting the UK’s renewables target as large-scale electricity generation.

It calls on the Government to increase existing solar panels grants and to introduce a system of renewable heat grants to ensure individuals have an economic incentive to explore options for micro-energy generation at home.

Source - New Civil Engineer

Monday, 27 October 2008

Solar panels have the potential to be mainstream

While a range of technologies exist that offer clean, sustainable renewable energy, one technology is largely neglected and ignored despite its strength in some markets and its considerable potential. It is high time that solar thermal emerges into the light, says Petri Konttinen.

As professionals in the renewable energy industry, we all know that renewable resources are critical to the future of our planet. With the pressure on fossil fuels, it is increasingly fashionable for the mainstream media to talk about wind power, biofuels and photovoltaic energy as solutions to the finite energy reserves and rising fuel prices.

But do the mainstream media — and, for that matter, those of us working in the industry — ever take a step back and consider those technologies that have not yet fulfilled their potential?

I strongly believe that, while photovoltaic is a wonderful technology fully deserving of the levels of investment it attracts, there is a second, equally viable solar technology — solar thermal. This is a technology which is largely neglected in articles, passed over by experts and ignored by the mainstream media — an oversight I passionately believe should be redressed.

I have a vision of a world where it would be as unthinkable to design a building that couldn’t harvest solar energy as it would be to design it without windows or doors. Solar thermal energy has the potential to be as mainstream and commonly accepted as fireplaces were a hundred years ago and radiators are today. I would love to see architects and builders select solar thermal collectors in the same way as they do every other core component of the build — it really could be that simple.

A solar partnership with great potential

Photovoltaic has traditionally been the dominant of the two solar technologies and I firmly believe in its potential — as long as it is utilized for the right purpose. This technology is on the brink of a huge leap forward in the field of renewable energy and it really proves its worth in generating electricity. However, it is not nearly as efficient to use photovoltaic systems for heating as it is to use solar thermal. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean it needs to be a case of ‘either/or’ for these two solar technologies. Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic can work in perfect synergy with each other and, together, they could almost provide a total solution for powering and heating our buildings using renewable energy.

A brief look at the latest statistics from the European Solar Thermal Technology Platform confirms this. In the EU, 20% of the energy consumed is turned into electricity and 31% is used for transport. That leaves 49% of energy being consumed in heating and cooling (mainly of buildings). Much of this could be provided by solar thermal energy.

This is a powerful and significant statistic. Solar thermal technology is currently used in only a small percentage of European buildings, mostly for heating water and mostly in private houses. But almost half our energy needs could actually be supplied by solar thermal energy. It also has many advantages over other renewable energies such as wind power, biofuels and photovoltaics.

Often when wind farms are planned ‘NIMBY-ism’ becomes an issue with local opposition groups declaring that the turbines blight the landscape. Equally, using biofuels for energy production is not without challenges. As food prices continue to rise due to global shortages of wheat, there are increasing calls to halt the devotion of land to biofuel production. Solar thermal collectors do not share these issues as they are discreet, cannot be perceived to endanger wildlife and, as they are installed on the buildings they serve, have no impact on land use.

We are all familiar with the solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs of buildings. Solar thermal collectors, however, can be a more architecturally desirable solution since they do not have the same immediate visual impact. The solar thermal collector system can be designed so that no additional roofing is needed in the panel area. Instead, the joints of the collector’s glass can blend seamlessly with a copper roof. The copper heat transfer elements of the solar collector have excellent efficiency and durability properties.

The collectors have an annual solar energy yield of around 4 MWh per 10 m² per year (depending on the building’s location and orientation), with the best results achieved on a south-east or south-west facing roof. Expressing that in more tangible terms, at a peak energy price of 18.8 pence ($0.37) per kWh from utility suppliers (source:, 2008), this equates to an energy cost of £752 ($1489) to a home owner per year.

Solar thermal systems traditionally have an efficiency rate of 30%-50%, which means that up to half the sun’s energy hitting every collector will be used to heat water for the building. This is several times more efficient than solar photovoltaic systems. With 219,000 TWh of energy available from the sun every year, the potential for solar thermal systems is immense — even allowing for the inevitable rain in Helsinki, fog in London and snow in Moscow.

Approximately 10 GWth of solar thermal capacity was in operation in Europe in 2005 and this could be set to increase to at least 200 GWth by 2030. We have the ability to harness the power of the sun and, at the moment, we are only capturing a tiny amount of what is out there. Imagine solar thermal technology providing heating and cooling to buildings all over Europe. Imagine if this were adopted globally! I can see future generations looking back on the early part of the 21st century and scratching their heads, wondering why it took us so long to break away from our dependence on fossil fuels and really start to exploit the natural resources that fall on the Earth every day.

Why is more efficient solar thermal being ignored?

So why does solar thermal not get the recognition it deserves? I believe the biggest disadvantage that solar thermal energy faces is that it is not being championed by industry or opinion-formers. As a result, it is virtually absent from public awareness. According to MEP Claude Turmes from the Green Group, over 90% of the discussion on renewable energy at the European Parliament is focused on electricity, not heating.

This was confirmed by the omission of solar thermal from the International Energy Agency (IEA) report to the G8 group of countries published in June this year. This report, which formed the basis for a high profile global discussion on climate change, detailed three scenarios for the future of renewable energy — none of which prominently featured solar thermal as a key technology.

That is not to say that I disagree with all the IEA’s recommendations. I fully support the call for drastic action to be taken to address the world’s future energy needs and I do, of course, recognize the key role that photovoltaic technologies will play in achieving this. However, I feel the report reflected a tendency — long prevalent in Europe — to focus heavily on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, with photovoltaic electricity generation as the solution to global energy problems at the expense of other viable technologies.

This is because electricity is easy for the person in the street to understand, easy to control and has the strong lobby of the electricity providers behind it. A puzzling situation when we recall that electricity accounts for only 20% of energy requirements in Europe, while heating is nearly 2.5 times this. Surely more of our attention needs to turn to solutions for heating?

Or maybe it is because we still have a child-like fascination with novelty. We will clamour to investigate the next exciting thing to come along while abandoning a tried and tested technology, like solar thermal. There are many new developments in industry all the time and the mainstream media are quick to pick up on them. After 30 years of development, solar thermal energy is already well established. Perhaps that is why it no longer gets the column inches it deserves.

As each one of us is an opinion-former of some influence (even if it is just among our peers), we have an opportunity to change public perception and communicate the facts about renewable energy sources. According to the European Solar Thermal Technology Platform: ‘Turning solar thermal energy into a major energy resource for heating and cooling in Europe by 2030 is an ambitious but realistic goal provided the right mix of research and development, industrial growth and consistent market deployment measures is applied.’ I firmly believe this, but solar thermal energy has become the poor relation in the renewable energy family. Much work still needs to be done to ensure it receives the attention it deserves.

The world is heading for a huge crisis as global consumption continues to increase at an alarming rate while finite global resources diminish and the huge potential of renewable resources is not fully realized. The only way to tackle this is globally, with far greater co-operation between governments and companies sharing information at the research and development level.

We also need significant investment in manpower, resources, research and development to make the most viable technologies become solutions for the future.

We all know that renewable energy is the future — after all, we wouldn’t be doing the jobs we are doing if we didn’t passionately believe that it would change our world forever. But we also all need to play our part in making sure the world knows this, because only then can it start to become a reality.

Source - Renewable Energy

Husqvarna Launches Solar Powered Lawnmower

Husqvarna's Automower Solar Hybrid is a fully robotic lawn mower partly powered by the sun and uses no fuel or oil. Expanding its current fully-robotic lawn mower line, Husqvarna will launch the new mower in the U.S. at Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE + EXPO) 2008.

Powered by innovative and groundbreaking technology that combines solar power with electricity, the new Automower Solar Hybrid mower is more environmentally responsible and easy to program.

The Solar Hybrid mower is designed to handle lawns of up to a half acre. Incorporating solar and battery power, it uses considerably less energy than any conventional mower with its large integrated solar panel and is emissions-free.

When there is daylight available, the solar cells enable the mower to extend its cutting periods before requiring a recharge. Lower power consumption and an extended battery life enable a faster, more environmentally responsible cut.

A small wire is staked to the ground below the grass level, or buried just beneath it, around the perimeter of the lawn to be mowed. The on-board navigation system monitors its position relative to the wire keeping it in the area to be mowed. The irregular pattern of movement, the long battery life, and its ground speed enables it to effectively mow all parts of the lawn.

Obstacles or other areas within the lawn that should not be mowed are handled in one of two ways: if the object is rigid and at least six inches tall like trees or fences, the mower gently bumps into it, reverses, and starts off in another direction; other areas, like a flowerbed, are excluded from the cutting area by using the perimeter wire.

The Automower Solar Hybrid mower is programmable to be personalized via timer, and charges itself when required by returning to its base. The 22-pound mower cuts day or night, rain or shine and has a 4-digit pin code lock feature required to operate the mower and an alarm for security.

Other safety features include lightweight and out-of-reach blades and automatic shut off when the device is lifted from the ground.

Additionally, the three razor-like blades cut the grass cleanly and more often than a traditional mower which leaves shorter clippings that decompose faster and provide a natural fertilizer for an even better-looking yard.

Source- Solardaily

Clear Skies Solar Has 30 Million Dollars Of Projects In India

Clear Skies Solar has announced an $8 million USD agreement with Prayag Green Solar Power Private Limited to develop and construct a two megawatt solar power project in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, India.

By closing this agreement, Clear Skies Solar has demonstrated the company's ability to overcome some of the challenges associated with international projects by solidifying its international financing structure. This has opened a pathway for the company to execute other contracts in the region, including a previously announced $20 million project to design and construct a multi-megawatt solar power system in Uttar Pradesh.

"To ensure our continued growth, we developed an aggressive international expansion plan earlier this year that was designed to take advantage of markets with a solid feed-in tariff structure in order to obtain support for renewable energy from governments in both Europe and Asia," said Ezra Green, Chairman and CEO of Clear Skies Solar.

"This strategy is already paying off; in addition to closing agreements for two projects in India, Clear Skies Solar has also recently announced a contract to design and construct a 150kW solar project in Greece - and this is just the first of several projects to be announced in the coming weeks."

Recognizing the role that solar power will play in the global search for cleaner and more abundant energy sources, Clear Skies Solar has built the infrastructure necessary to support this type of international expansion and to develop large-scale projects at an accelerated pace in order to support global power needs. Our world class management team has been expanded to meet the extreme growth we are experiencing.

"International projects have become increasingly important to our growth strategy at Clear Skies Solar," continued Green.

"We have structured our international business model in a manner that enables us to move quickly through the various international channels, allowing us to rapidly execute on our contracts. In fact, we expect to begin the engineering phase of this project by the end of the fourth quarter of 2008."

Clear Skies Solar will provide the technology, engineering and construction services needed to create the PV project and will also be prepared to provide the operation and maintenance services needed.

Source - Solardaily

Sunday, 26 October 2008

PV solar panels and feed-in-tariffs

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK, said yesterday in a presentation to the House of Lords that he intends to amend the current energy bill that goes before the Houses of Parliament next week. The amendment should see the inclusion of a feed-in-tariff for the micro-generation of renewable energies.

The newly-formed Department of Energy and Climate Change was created by the Prime Minister on the 3rd of October to “give an even greater focus to solving the twin challenges of climate change and energy supply.”

Ed Miliband said in his speech to Parliament, “…but having heard the debate on this issue, including from many colleagues in this House, I also believe that complementing the renewables obligation for large-scale projects, guaranteed prices for small-scale electricity generation, feed-in-tariffs, have the potential to play an important role, as they do in other countries.”

The UK has signed on to the EU directive to produce 20% of all energy through renewable sources by 2020. However, the UK government has come under much criticism over the past few years for doing little to achieve this goal. Should the current scheme of ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates) remain as it is, then the UK will only achieve 5% by 2020.

The move by the Prime Minister to create the new department has been met with wide approval from such industry associations as REA (Renewable Energy Association) and the STA (Solar Trade Association). The amendment was lobbied for by REA acting on behalf of over 35 organisations including Sharp UK, Schott UK and Solar Century.

The UK energy market was the equivalent of 232.1 million tons of oil in 2006. Currently, less than 2% of energy is produced by renewables.

There are three crystalline module manufacturers in the UK: Sharp in Wales, a company that converted their VCR factory, GB SOl and Romag. G24i is working with thin films and PV Crystalox is the only ingot manufacturer in the UK.

The UK renewable energy strategy consultation document outlines a possible feed-in tariff system.

Source - PV Tech

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

UK overtakes Denmark as world's biggest offshore wind generator

The UK now leads the world in generating electricity from offshore wind farms, the government said today as it completed the construction of a farm near the coast off Skegness, Lincolnshire.

The new farm, built by the energy company Centrica, will produce enough power for 130,000 homes, raising the total electricity generated from offshore wind in the UK to 590 megawatts (MW), enough for 300,000 UK homes.

The completion of 194MW of turbines at Lynn and Inner Dowsing means that the UK has overtaken Denmark, which has 423MW of offshore wind turbines.

"Offshore wind is hugely important to help realise the government's ambition to dramatically increase the amount of energy from renewable sources. Overtaking Denmark is just the start," said Mike O'Brien, a minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. "There are already five more offshore windfarms under construction that will add a further 938MW to our total by the end of next year."

But despite today's announcement, the UK is still near the bottom of the European league table when it comes to harnessing renewable energy, campaigners say.

Nick Rau, Friends of the Earth's renewable energy campaigner, said: "The government must stop trying to wriggle out of European green energy targets and put a massive effort into making renewable power the number one source of energy in the UK. The UK has one of the biggest renewable energy potentials in Europe - this must be harnessed to make this country a world leader in tackling climate change."

Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, was enthusiastic but also urged more government action. "We are now a global leader in a renewable energy technology for the first time ever. Now is the time to step up the effort even further and secure the huge potential for jobs, investment and export revenues that offshore wind has for Britain."

Greenpeace chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the only downside was that many of the turbines for the UK windfarms were being manufactured abroad. "We need a green new deal for renewable energy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and providing a shot in the arm to the British manufacturing sector. If the government now diverts serious financial and political capital towards this project it will put Britain in pole position to tackle the emerging challenges of the 21st century."

The UK currently gets 3GW of electricity from wind power, but 80% of that is from onshore farms. On Tuesday, the Carbon Trust detailed its plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the UK. The trust plans to work with major energy companies on a £30m initiative to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10%.

"The UK has an amazing opportunity not just to lead the world but to be the dominant global player," said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust. "Our research shows that by 2020 the UK market could represent almost half of the global market for offshore wind power. To make that happen it will be critical to improve the current economics of offshore wind power."

Source - The guardian

SEPA Issues Challenge For Massive Solar Deployment

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has issued a challenge to the U.S. electric utility and solar industries to work in collaboration to meet aggressive solar electric capacity growth forecasts despite a struggling global and domestic economy.

Prior to the recent economic downturn, analysts were predicting that the country could see an increase in solar capacity of more than thirty fold between 2009 and 2016. This is approximately three times the estimated amount of generation predicted to come on line as a result of existing renewable portfolio standards and policies in states with solar carve outs.

If realized, this level of increased solar deployment would represent more than 60 billion kilowatt-hours of solar generation, 440,000 permanent jobs, and over $230 billion in investments and associated economic development benefits. "With the United States' growing electricity consumption and the need for climate change solutions, the utility and solar industries must work together to find innovative win-win business scenarios that result in significant investments in solar power," said Julia Hamm, SEPA executive director.

"In the years to come, we need an economically-driven solar business environment in which utilities, solar companies, and electricity consumers find mutual financial benefits from the capacity, energy, and environmental solutions offered by solar electricity." Long-term U.S. market stability-provided by the eight year extension of the federal solar investment tax credit, removal of the $2,000 cap on residential systems, and new eligibility for electric utilities-sets the stage for this significant challenge to be met.

"The current suite of solar policies, including net metering, renewable portfolio standards, and piecemeal state incentives, will not be enough to achieve this goal in today's poor economy. We also need new business models, project configurations, and collaborations to emerge," added Hamm.

"The long-term value to the United States is multi-faceted. It's not just about clean energy, but also about economic development and job creation." The new solar electric capacity will come from a combination of large-scale power plants, including photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal electric, and distributed photovoltaic rooftop systems for both the residential and commercial sectors. Prior to 2008, the predominant solar market was distributed PV systems on homes and businesses. "A recent SEPA study shows that 10 utilities in the U.S. have integrated ninety seven percent of all grid connected solar capacity," said Hamm.

"There are over 3,300 electric utilities in this country, but 10 of them have dominated the solar landscape. In addition, a single utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in California, has within its service territory, more than fifty percent of all grid-connected PV systems in the country. PG&E should be commended and encouraged to continue as a solar leader, but other utilities around the country must quickly begin to close this gap." To meet the aggressive solar capacity growth forecasts, SEPA calls for:

Utility ownership of solar power projects. The utility and solar industries must collaborate to find program structures, such as utility ownership of distributed photovoltaics, that provide a winning scenario for both industries, as well as for customers at large. The solar industry can utilize this new market segment as a buffer until home and small business owners are back on more solid economic footing.

Increased utility engagement in solar markets. The utility and solar industries must work together to get more utilities engaged, starting by increasing the solar knowledge base of utility employees, from top executives down to distribution engineers. We must move beyond having ninety seven percent of all grid-connected solar installations in just 10 utilities' service territories.

Greased wheels. The utility and solar industries must work in partnership with regulators and investors to push for approval and funding of new transmission projects and the development of smart grid configurations to expedite the timeframe in which new utility-scale and distributed solar projects can come on line and provide maximum value.

Development of innovative approaches. By working in collaboration, the utility and solar industries can make great strides towards modernizing today's electricity infrastructure and offering customers affordable and clean power. But the status quo will not achieve the necessary results. We need bold new ideas developed in tandem for the mutual benefit of both industries, and society at large.

Source - Solar daily

SolarWorld Opens North America's Largest Solar Cell Manufacturing Facility

SolarWorld has opened North America's largest solar cell manufacturing facility. The new plant is located in Hillsboro, Oregon and is expected to reach a capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) by 2011.

Solar power is increasingly considered the most promising energy alternative because of advances in technology and high-volume manufacturing. Facilities like the one SolarWorld is pioneering will reduce the costs of solar power and increase the number of green jobs, accelerating commercial and residential installations of solar panels and overall economic growth.

"The need for affordable and efficient energy alternatives represents a global issue and is more critical than ever," said Frank A. Asbeck, CEO of SolarWorld.

"SolarWorld has more than 30 years invested in solar technologies and today is helping to bring real alternatives to market through a strategy focused on high-volume manufacturing. The new Hillsboro facility is our most shining example of this strategy in practice."

The solar industry is expected to grow to $74 billion in 2017 from $20 billion in 2007, according to a projection by Clean Edge Inc., a market research firm focused on clean technology.

SolarWorld's fully integrated solar silicon wafer and solar cell production facility will fuel this burgeoning market. The company expects to employ 1,000 people at the Hillsboro facility by 2011 to meet this increasing demand worldwide.

SolarWorld Hillsboro is a 480,000 square foot facility, measuring one-quarter mile end-to-end. Raw silicon is transformed through the manufacturing process into solar cells that are shipped to the SolarWorld Camarillo plant where they are processed into solar panels.

SolarWorld acquired the Hillsboro factory, which belonged to Japan's Komatsu Group, in March 2007 for $40 million and is investing more than $400 million in the new facility. The Hillsboro plant today becomes home to SolarWorld Industries America headquarters.

"SolarWorld Hillsboro illustrates how we move the needle on delivering solar energy, and on a global economy that is fueled by green jobs," said Boris Klebensberger, Chief Operations Officer.

"The Pacific Northwest possesses a hotbed of talent in both silicon manufacturing and clean-technologies. Oregon is the obvious choice for where to undertake this new level of solar cell manufacturing."

Oregon officials, including Governor Ted Kulongoski, Congressmen David Wu and Senator Ron Wyden joined SolarWorld executives and community members today for a Grand Opening Ceremony that included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour.

Headquartered in Germany and founded n 1977, SolarWorld is a veteran of the clean tech industry in a sea of startups. The company conducted its IPO in Germany in 1999 when most technology companies were emerged in dotcom. Today, SolarWorld is one of the most successful clean tech companies on the planet.

SolarWorld has production facilities in Germany and the United States, including in California, Oregon and Washington, and is establishing a joint venture for module production in South Korea. The company delivers its products to market from sales offices in Germany, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

Source - Solar daily

FedEx Express Breaks Ground Largest Solar Facility

FedEx Express has broken ground on its largest solar facility and first outside the U.S., when it began construction of its new Central and Eastern European gateway at the Cologne/Bonn, Germany, airport. The hub is slated for completion in 2010.

"Moving to Cologne enables FedEx to plan effectively for the future," said Robert W. Elliott, president, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Indian subcontinent, FedEx Express.

"With the availability of space to expand and more flexible night flight regulations, we have found innovative and practical solutions to meet the needs of our customers worldwide."

The facility will be equipped with new ramp, freight and sort facilities with a fully-automated sort system that will cover a floor space of approximately 50,000 square meters. FedEx opted to build its new hub in Cologne because of the region's excellent freight transport infrastructure and the central location of the airport within Germany and Europe.

In addition, the Cologne hub installation will be a 1.4-megawatt (MW) solar power system and will generate approximately 1.3 gigawatt hours of electricity per year-equivalent to the annual consumption of 370 households.

Solar panels, fitted to the roof of the new ramp and sort facilities, will cover a total surface area of 16,000 square meters.

"On-site renewable energy generation has been extremely efficient and successful for FedEx, and we are continuously looking for new investments," said Mitch Jackson, director of environmental affairs and sustainability. "The solar-energy installation at the Cologne hub will nearly double FedEx's use of on-site solar energy."

The Cologne hub solar installation joins a growing list of FedEx on-site renewable energy investments. In August 2005, FedEx flipped the switch on a solar-electric system at its regional hub in Oakland, then California's largest such rooftop system.

In its first three years, it has provided more than three million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean energy, avoiding the release of more than 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The system can provide approximately 20 percent of the facility's total electricity needs and can meet 80 percent of its peak load demand.

Most recently FedEx Freight completed the installation of solar-electric systems, supplied by BP Solar, at facilities in Whittier and Fontana, California. The three California systems generate 1.5 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, avoiding the release of 2.9 million pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

In Europe, FedEx's use of on-site renewable energy expands beyond solar. In Geneva, Switzerland, a FedEx station uses a system of pipes running deep into the ground to warm the building's air in winter and cool it in summer. The system reduces the facility's reliance on gas for heating or freon for cooling and therefore, requires less energy to operate.

Source - Solar daily

Welcome to the solar panels century

Often described as the sleeping giant of renewable energy, solar heating technologies have been a woefully overlooked option to massively increase the renewable contribution to energy supply. However, with superb efficiency and a wide range of applications, the technologies that make up the solar thermal sector are indeed making inroads to the market.

With a surface temperature of some 6000°C, the colossal fusion reactor that is our sun radiates truly prodigious amounts of energy. Indeed, so much power is emitted that, residing some 93 million miles away, the upper atmosphere of the Earth continuously receives an average of around 1.4 kW/m².

After passing through the atmosphere, the light reaching the surface of the Earth is mostly split between the visible and infrared spectrum, but of the energy which remains, the atmosphere, oceans and land masses absorb approximately 3850 ZJ (x1021) per annum. By way of perspective, total global energy consumption is currently estimated at around 500 EJ (x1018).

It is therefore somewhat surprising that use of direct solar radiation has not focused more closely on solar thermal technology. In terms of investment, significantly larger sums worldwide are ploughed into solar PV technology. This is partly due to the relative investment requirements necessary to initiate production. The comparatively simple technologies and materials required in solar thermal systems have allowed small and medium enterprises to dominate the sector. Conversely, the high investment costs associated with solar PV manufacturing have largely precluded smaller players from entering the market and left the field dominated by major industrial operations such as Sharp or BP.

Nonetheless, the relative levels of R&D and manufacturing investment between PV and solar thermal become even more surprising when considered in terms of their relative energy efficiencies. Experimental PV systems are currently yielding maximum efficiencies of over 30%, while the most efficient commercially available solar thermal technologies are yielding efficiencies of approximately 70% under optimum conditions for load, positioning, temperature and such like. It is no surprise that solar thermal is frequently referred to as ‘the sleeping giant of renewables’ by its proponents.

There is no dispute that solar thermal has a vast potential to improve the renewable energy contribution of many nations, but this goal remains some distance away. Part of the issue is the widespread perception that solar thermal technologies are only suitable for those regions with high-intensity insolation. This is a misconception. For instance, as Kevin Brennan, head of sustainability for Velux, says: ‘Currently only 0.004% of the UK’s housing stock has solar water heating, yet over 76% of homes in this country could successfully make use of this technology.’ Brennan continues: ‘While installing solar thermal in all homes across the UK could prove a challenging task, a commitment from housebuilders to incorporate this technology into all of their new builds could still have a significant impact on reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. Within 30 years, the new homes being built today by housebuilders will be approximately 30% of the entire housing stock, so even small gains today will be significant gains in 30 years time.’

Even so, while it may not have achieved even close to the penetration level its efficiency, simplicity and cost-effectiveness may warrant, there is cause for optimism.

A major boost for the industry is the projected development of new, cheaper, materials. While rising prices in copper have seen a number of manufacturers switching to cheaper and lighter aluminium as an absorber surface, the use of alternatives such as polymers is also attracting a great deal of interest.

Although current generation plastics tend to become brittle under high levels of sun exposure and also tend to suffer in an overheat scenario, there has been progress and such developments are expected to dramatically reduce the cost of solar thermal systems in the next few years.

In addition, a number of large buildings material and equipment companies such as Vaillant, and Buderus, part of Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd, have introduced solar thermal packages of late. There is growing interest among developers too, with a number of recent acquisitions by larger renewables players, now ready to offer a full range of technologies. For example, Renewable Energy Systems Ltd (RES) announced the acquisition of solar thermal company Future Heating Ltd this year.

Policy drivers related to climate change are also having an impact, with the forthcoming EU Renewable Energy Directive raising the profile of solar thermal among commercial, industrial and commercial operations.

Perhaps most fundamental to the growth of solar thermal installation, the issues of energy security of supply and the spiralling costs of fossil fuels are certain to improve the economics of alternatives.

However, it should also be remembered that solar heating and cooling technology is nothing new. In the 1870s, French solar pioneer Auguste Mouchout demonstrated its potential by making ice using a solar steam engine attached to a refrigeration compressor. Despite this remarkable success, his project was abandoned shortly thereafter as falling coal prices rendered it uneconomic.

Times have certainly changed, and once again it seems that the conditions are right for solar thermal to come out from the shade.

Source - Renewable energy world

UK could embrace renewables

European ministers will meet today in Brussels to discuss the renewable energy directive, a ground-breaking piece of legislation that could kick-start the energy revolution we desperately need to tackle the dual challenges of climate change and energy insecurity.

However, rather than wholeheartedly supporting this green energy plan, the UK has until now worked behind the scenes to seriously undermine the agreement - for example by omitting energy from aviation when calculating the renewable energy targets.

We hope the creation of a Department of Energy and Climate Change signals a change in direction. We call on the government to support the directive and get behind building a thriving renewable energy industry in the UK that will not only help cut climate change emissions, but also generate millions of pounds worth of investment, hundreds of thousands of jobs and a secure energy supply.

As one of the major contributors to the climate change problem, the UK should lead the way in tackling it - both for our own benefit and the benefit of the world’s poorest people who will suffer first and worst as temperatures rise.

Source - The guardian

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A very cold UK energy winter indeed

UK families will from today face paying spiralling energy costs as increases to electricity and gas bills are introduced.

Consumers will now have to pay almost 20% more for gas and 33% more for electricity.

The huge increase, announced last month, sparked concerns about the impact among the business community as well as householders who are already suffering from jumps in food and fuel prices.

From today Phoenix Gas customers face a 19.2% hike for domestic and small industrial and commercial customers.

The increase adds around £2.15 a week to the average household gas bill, resulting in an average customer paying £689 per year.

While NIE customers will be paying 33.3% more. This follows an earlier increase in gas prices of 28% four months ago.

Last month Phoenix Gas said large increases in wholesale gas costs left them with “no alternative” but to review prices.

However, when asked if they would consider introducing a cap on tarrifs, NIE Energy said it “does not currently offer fixed or capped electricity prices” like other UK energy companies.

It said it is “a regulated business operating under a price control, determined by the regulator, who acts on behalf of all consumers in the UK”.

Kerstie Forsyth from NIE Energy said: “We are concerned about the impact of this increase on our customers, particularly those on lower incomes.

“We can’t control world fuel prices, which have led to this increase, but what we can do is offer discounted electricity.”

He said: “Our customers can be assured that we are committed to delivering gas at the lowest possible price both now and into the future.

“If, as we hope, worldwide energy prices fall, Phoenix will reduce its prices accordingly.”

Michael Hughes, chief executive of the Rural Community Network, representing people in rural areas on issues relating to poverty and disadvantage, said many will struggle to pay high energy bills this winter.

“Statistically there is more unfit housing in rural areas than in urban,” he said. “Those are the houses that are harder to heat, the older house that the person has lived nearly all their lives and wouldn’t want to move.”

However he said that the current situation will prove a financially tough time for most people across the country.

“This is not the case for getting into a debate about people in urban and rural areas and who is poorer. There are disadvantaged in all areas, but this is also affecting people throughout the country who would normally be comfortably off.”

On Monday the Assembly backed plans for the Executive to spearhead an action plan to counter the effects of spiralling energy bills.

But Mr Hughes said: “The Executive needs to get working again urgently to deal with these issues and help those who have to choose between food or heat this winter.”

Source - The belfast telegraph