Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Concentrated solar power could generate 'quarter of world's energy'

Solar power stations that concentrate sunlight could generate up to one-quarter of the world's electricity needs by 2050, according to a study by environmental and solar industry groups. The technology, best suited to the desert regions of the world, could also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and save millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) uses mirrors to focus sunlight onto water. This produces steam that can then turn turbines and generate electricity. It differs from photovoltaics, which use solar panels to turn sunlight directly into electricity and can operate even on overcast days. CSP only works in places where there are many days with clear skies and is a proven, reliable technology.

At the end of 2008 CSP capacity was around 430MW, and worldwide investment in the technology will reach

€2bn (£1.8bn) this year, according to Sven Teske of Greenpeace International and co-author of the report. He said investment could increase, under a relatively moderate scenario, to €11.1bn by 2010 and provide 7% of the world's generating capacity by 2030. By 2050 investment could reach €92.5bn, creating almost 2m jobs by 2050 and saving 2.1bn tonnes of CO2 every year.

"Due to the feed-in tariff in Spain and a few schemes in the US, this technology is actually taking off and we wanted to highlight that we have a third big technology to fight climate change — wind, photovoltaics and now CSP," said Teske.

Spain is leading the field on CSP: more than 50 solar projects in the country have been approved for construction by the government and, by 2015, it will generate more than 2GW of power from CSP, comfortably exceeding current national targets. Spanish companies are also exporting their technology around the world.

Environmentalists argue that many countries in the "sun-belt" around the equator would benefit from CSP technology — including desert regions in the southern United States, north Africa, Mexico, China and India.

The new study, carried out by Greenpeace International, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and the International Energy Agency's (IEA) SolarPACES group, looked at three scenarios of future growth in CSP. The first was business-as-usual reference scenario that assumed no increases at all in CSP; the second continued the CSP investments seen in recent years in places such as Spain and the US; while the advanced scenario was most optimistic, removing all political and investment barriers to give figures for the true potential of CSP.

Under the third, most optimistic, scenario there could be a giant surge in investments to €21bn a year by 2015 and €174bn a year by 2050, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. In this case, solar plants would have installed capacity of 1,500GW by 2050 and provide 25% of the world's electricity capacity. Even in the second scenario, which sees only modest increases, the world's combined CSP capacity could reach 830GW by 2050, representing up to 12% of the world's energy generation needs.

Teske acknowledged that these estimates were far higher than official figures from the IEA. It says that by 2050, CSP would provide only0.2% of global power generation. But Teske added that the IEA analysis does not assume any increases in production capacity in the next few decades, hence CSP forms a very small part of the overall energy mix.

The new report also said that CSP technology was improving rapidly, with many new power plants fitted with storage systems for steam so that they could continue to operate at night. In addition it said the cost of the electricity produced , currently at €0.15 to €0.23 a kilowatt, would fall to €0.10-€0.14 by 2020 if governments continued to support the technology with incentives such as feed-in tarriffs.

Source - The guardian

Professor Steven Chu: paint the world white to fight global warming

As a weapon against global warming, it sounds so simple and low-tech that it could not possibly work. But the idea of using millions of buckets of whitewash to avert climate catastrophe has won the backing of one of the world’s most influential scientists.

Steven Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed by President Obama as Energy Secretary, wants to paint the world white. A global initiative to change the colour of roofs, roads and pavements so that they reflect more sunlight and heat could play a big part in containing global warming, he said yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of the St James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium, for which The Times is media partner, Professor Chu said that this approach could have a vast impact. By lightening paved surfaces and roofs to the colour of cement, it would be possible to cut carbon emissions by as much as taking all the world’s cars off the roads for 11 years, he said.

Building regulations should insist that all flat roofs were painted white, and visible tilted roofs could be painted with “cool-coloured” paints that looked normal, but which absorbed much less heat than conventional dark surfaces. Roads could be lightened to a concrete colour so they would not dazzle drivers in bright sunlight. “I think with flat-type roofs you can’t even see, yes, I think you should regulate,” Professor Chu said.

Pale surfaces reflect up to 80 per cent of the sunlight that falls on them, compared with about 20 per cent for dark ones, which is why roofs and walls in hot countries are often whitewashed. An increase in pale surfaces would help to contain climate change both by reflecting more solar radiation into space and by reducing the amount of energy needed to keep buildings cool by air-conditioning.

Professor Chu said that his thinking had been influenced by Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission, who drove through tough new building rules in the state. Since 2005 California has required all flat roofs on commercial buildings to be white; the measure is being expanded to require cool colours on all residential and pitched roofs.

Dr Rosenfeld is also a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, of which Professor Chu was director. Last year Dr Rosenfeld and two colleagues from the laboratory, Hashem Akbari and Surabi Menon, calculated that changing surface colours in 100 of the world’s largest cities could save the equivalent of 44 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide — about as much as global carbon emissions are expected to rise by over the next decade.

Professor Chu said: “There’s a friend of mine, a colleague of mine, Art Rosenfeld, who’s pushing very hard for a geo-engineering we all believe will be completely benign, and that’s when you have a flat-top roof building, make it white.

“Now, you smile, but he’s done a calculation, and if you take all the buildings and make their roofs white and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of colour rather than a black type of colour, and you do this uniformly . . . it’s the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars on the road for 11 years.”

The US needed to increase its investment in clean energy research, he said, citing high-tech industries that spent 10 to 20 per cent of their income on research. The US was spending $1 trillion on generating electricity, but “nothing like” the $100 billion to $200 billion on research that would meet that standard, he said.

Source - The Times

Perpetual Power Installs PV System On Budweiser Facility

Perpetual Power has announced the completion of a 416kW DC solar installation on a Budweiser cold beer storage building in Contra Costa County, Calif. The Markstein Sales Company, a family owned business operating since 1919, and a distributor of Budweiser and other beverages, decided to install solar power on its facility to reduce its energy costs while contributing to the protection of the environment.

The solar system was designed and installed by San Francisco-based Perpetual Power, and is the first system to use their new proprietary "Oasis" roof mounting system.

The system was designed with minimal connections and a low weight per square foot to reduce stress on the building's rooftop. The new mounting system also passed a rigorous wind tunnel test to meet the requirements in this area and ensure stability and safety.

Paul Townsend, founder of Perpetual Power, LLC, commented on the new installation: "We continue to focus our solar installations on large commercial buildings in California, including this new building for Markstein Sales Company. We also focus on large agribusiness installations where solar power makes a real difference in lowering energy bills for these companies."

The solar installation includes 2,240 185Wp Mitsubishi Electric polycrystalline photovoltaic modules, made with 100% lead-free solder. Mitsubishi Electric modules were chosen due to their reputation for outstanding quality and high power output.

Antioch is in the eastern part of the Bay Area and typically experiences hot summer temperatures which drives up the energy requirements of a cold storage facility.

"A cold storage facility is an excellent example of a building that can gain immediate benefits from solar power," said Gina Heng, general manager of Mitsubishi Electric's photovoltaic division.

"Due to the high temperatures and amount of refrigeration required for this facility, solar panels can help the company shave off its most expensive tier it pays to the utility, resulting in immediate savings."

The system will cover approximately 60 percent of the 110k square foot building's energy needs and is estimated by to produce 600,000kWh resulting in a annual savings of approximately $100,000. Based on this estimation, the amount of carbon saved by installing the system is equivalent to driving over 22 million miles over the 25 year life of the system, or keeping 8,000 tons of CO2 from entering the environment.

Source - Solardaily

World's Largest Commercial Rooftop Solar-Powered Heating And Cooling System

ERS is currently working with Steinway and Sons to install the largest solar-sourced industrial heating/cooling system in the world at the renown piano maker's 11-acre manufacturing complex in Long Island City, NY. ERS conceived the design and approached Steinway with the project.

"ERS was instrumental in the development of this project, and they've played a key role in all phases including securing grants, conducting the technical and economic analyses, and participating in the design and implementation process. They will also conduct commissioning and analysis upon completion of the installation," said Bill Rigos, Facilities Manager at Steinway.

The system works by collecting the sun's rays with 38 rooftop solar concentrating troughs that reflect and focus the energy onto receiver tubes through which a thermal fluid circulates.

Once the liquid reaches 340 degrees Fahrenheit, the system pumps it to a high performance 100-ton double-effect absorption chiller that uses the superheated water to develop a chilled water supply through a highly specialized process.

The chilled water will be used to provide cool air and dehumidification to help maintain the consistent environment required for Steinway's piano manufacturing.

Another unique facet of this solar-powered system is that when cooling/dehumidification is not needed, the solar hot water can be converted to steam for process or space heating purposes in the factory. "You don't see many renewable projects targeted at the industrial sector," says Mark D'Antonio, Vice President of ERS.

"However this type of system makes great sense when you can utilize the solar energy year-round. Steinway has seasonal loads for both heating and cooling/dehumidification, and they always have process loads. Anytime the sun shines, they can put the energy to good use."

Since this sustainable project is being installed in New York City - not typically considered a premier solar location - innovative features have been used to optimize the system. The collectors automatically track the sun across the sky, ensuring a maximum amount of sunlight collection. And for those cloudy days when there is very little direct sunlight, the dual-fuel chiller can use natural gas power instead of solar to operate.

"Although one might not consider New York City to be the sunshine capital of the U.S.," D'Antonio says, "there are adequate solar resources for this type of system. Couple this with high regional energy costs, available funding sources, and tax benefits, and this system becomes a good business proposition."

The project is being partially funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and federal tax benefits, which, combined with Steinway's cost share, result in a simple payback of less than 5 years.

ERS and NYSERDA will study the performance of this innovative system in order to advance and promote the technology with hopes that it will be suitable for wide adoption and implementation at other commercial and industrial facilities.

Source - Solardaily

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Looming energy gap according to energy industry leaders

The UK must avoid being lured into a new dash for gas as it seeks to bridge a looming power generation gap, according to energy industry leaders.

Ministers and the industry are committed to a range of power-generation options, from nuclear and cleaner coal through gas to renewables and energy saving, but striking the right balance may not be easy. New nuclear reactors are the best part of a decade away, even on optimistic assumptions. Coal is controversial and its future looks to be closely tied to the ability to develop carbon capture and storage. In terms of generation, that leaves gas and renewables to take the strain as a raft of ageing or environmentally unacceptable generating plant is taken out of service.

David Porter, chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, argues that in the long run Britain “could be well very well provided with a diverse range of technologies for power generation”. The problem is the near term: around a third of the UK’s generating capacity may need to be replaced by 2015. Some analysts believe the crunch could come earlier.

“At the moment companies are having to go ahead with what looks to be easiest,” Porter says. “Despite supply scares and price volatility, gas-fired generation is still easier to do than most.”

Recent developments back his view. The government has just given the green light to three gas-fired power plants, including a 2 gigawatt power station in Pembrokeshire.

Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, said this month that Britain will lose 14 to 18GW of capacity by 2015. He told the Commons business and enterprise committee that some 7GW of gas generating capacity was under construction and another 6GW had been given the go-ahead. That is balanced by some 46 renewable projects, providing about 5 megawatts of power generation.

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, said last week that it was vital the UK maintained a variety of options: “Clearly gas has an important part to play, both in the near and the medium term. But we can’t become overly reliant on a single form of power generation if we’re to ensure security of supply, reduce our carbon emissions and ensure energy remains affordable for our customers.

“The only way we can do that is to, yes, build gas-fired power stations… But we also need to ramp up our renewable build, create a new generation of cleaner and, eventually, clean coal-fired power stations - and, longer term, replace the UK’s nuclear fleet. To become overly reliant on a single fuel - and one that will, in the next decade or so, become 80% imported - is simply too dangerous.”

Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw says this winter’s row between Russia and Ukraine has brought security of supply issues sharply back into focus and that the UK needs to develop diverse sources of gas as its dependence on imports increases. “Russia will play a role in the long term… but also more LNG [liquefied natural gas] coming from other sources has to be the answer so we aren’t dependent on one source. But, thinking about power generation, we can’t have another dash for gas.”

EDF has placed a multi-billion-pound bet on the development of a new generation of nuclear power in the UK through its acquisition of British Energy. Its UK subsidiary, EDF Energy, plans to build four new nuclear reactors and is aiming to have the first coming on stream at the end of 2017. In the meantime, the company is building a 1.3GW gas plant in Nottinghamshire. “Until nuclear can come on line, it is likely that much of the energy gap will be filled by new ‘combined-cycle’ gas turbines, as these are relatively cheap, quick to build and flexible, meaning they are able to respond to market prices,” the company says.

Gas and renewables, notably wind, can be complementary, rather than alternatives, with gas taking on the back-up role as more wind generation comes on stream. A key test, however, is whether companies will be able to secure returns on their investment in gas if the plant runs only to supplement wind power.

Money is an issue. Ian Parrett from energy analyst Inenco says: “Funding difficulties in the current economic climate are resulting in new generating capacity being delayed or even shelved. The UK’s lack of gas storage leaves the country running the risk of being held to ransom and forced to pay a premium for gas in a highly volatile market.”

Development Of Solar-Powered Pasteurization System In Peru

A team of students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will be spending part of the summer designing and starting to build solar-powered pasteurization systems for communities in rural Peru.

The group of engineers, led by Assistant Professor Lupita D. Montoya, was one of four student teams nationally to win a highly competitive Summer Engineering Experience in Development (SEED) grant from nonprofit volunteer organization Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW).

The project aims to help the Langui and Canas community in southern Peru by developing affordable, solar-powered pasteurization equipment.

Many families in the region have dairy cows and produce milk, yogurt, and cheeses on a small scale, but cannot obtain certification to market these products because they lack proper sanitation equipment.

The new pasteurization systems will allow these families to meet governmental regulations and begin selling their dairy products and earning additional income.

"Currently farmers make dairy products for personal consumption and trade with neighbors. During our first trip people told us that they were looking to sell products beyond their town but needed certification," said team member Tara Clancy, an environmental engineering major at Rensselaer who graduates this week.

"Obtaining certification will enable farmers to strengthen their economic independence, but they won't be able to be certified without direct access to water, energy, and sanitary facilities. That's where we can start to implement appropriate technologies."

This summer, Montoya, Rensselaer mechanical engineering doctoral student Erin Lennox, and rising junior Anna Cyganowski will volunteer their time in Langui and Lima, Peru. Along with working on the design and engineering of pasteurization devices, they will partner with students from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Perú (PUCP) to investigate the social and economic aspects of creating a dairy enterprise.

This effort will include examining how the community currently produces dairy products, looking into local manufacturing regulations, and studying the local marketplace.

The student team also plans to work with microfinance experts in Peru to make small loans to families to purchase the equipment and improve facilities. A student supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer will also join this team.

"The villagers in the region stated their interest in selling dairy products at the larger markets, but they also recognize that they lack the appropriate technologies and conditions needed to achieve certification," Lennox said. "It will be exciting and challenging for us to apply our engineering know-how to help them attain this important goal."

"It's rewarding to be involved with a real-world project and know that your hard work can have a direct positive impact on not just one person, but an entire community," Cyganowski said.

The project builds on past humanitarian engineering work by Montoya to challenge students to develop new, affordable technologies to help improve the quality of life in rural Peru.

These student innovations are currently installed or housed in the project flagship Ecological Home for the Andes, which serves as a community training site in Langui and aims to showcase the technologies for nearby communities.

The students hope to have their new pasteurization system designed, operational, and in place at the Ecological Home for the Andes in one year.

"This wonderful group of students clearly realizes their own potential," Montoya said.

"Often our students are reminded of the rich history of this institution, but these students are now making their own history, one that is more inclusive and in-tune with our present challenges. They are not just smart; they have the courage to take on big challenges and the determination to engineer solutions and implement them in ways that make a difference in the world beyond Rensselaer."

Along with Rensselaer, the other ESW SEED grant winners were Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, and Purdue University.

Founded in 2001, the ESW is "an engaged technical community with the vision of changing the world through engineering education, innovation, and practical action," and seeks to stimulate and foster an increased and more diverse community of engineers, as well as infuse sustainability into the practice and studies of every engineer.

Source - Solar daily

Taiwan's solar stadium 100% powered by the sun

Taiwan recently finished construction on a solar-powered stadium that will officially open later this year to welcome the 2009 World Games. From Inhabitat, part of the Guardian Environment Network.

Taiwan recently finished construction on an incredible solar-powered stadium that will generate 100% of its electricity from photovoltaic technology! Designed by Toyo Ito, the dragon-shaped 50,000 seat arena is clad in 8,844 solar panels that illuminate the track and field with 3,300 lux. The project will officially open later this year to welcome the 2009 World Games.

Building a new stadium is always a massive undertaking that requires millions of dollars, substantial physical labor, and a vast amount of electricity to keep it operating. Toyo Ito's design negates this energy drain with a stunning 14,155 sq meter solar roof that is able to provide enough energy to power the stadium's 3,300 lights and two jumbo vision screens. To illustrate the incredible power of this system, officials ran a test this January and found that it took just six minutes to power up the stadium's entire lighting system!

The stadium also integrates additional green features such as permeable paving and the extensive use of reusable, domestically made materials. Built upon a clear area of approximately 19 hectares, nearly 7 hectares has been reserved for the development of integrated public green spaces, bike paths, sports parks, and an ecological pond. Additionally, all of the plants occupying the area before construction were transplanted.

Non-sports fans in the community have a lot to jump up and down for as well. Not only does the solar system provide electricity during the games, but the surplus energy will also be sold during the non-game period. On days where the stadium is not being used, the Taiwanese government plans to feed the extra energy into the local grid, where it will meet almost 80% of the neighboring area's energy requirements. Overall, the stadium will generate 1.14 million KWh per year, preventing the release of 660 tons of carbon dioxide into atmosphere annually.

• This article was shared by our content partner Inhabitat, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Source - The Guardian

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Solar industry calls for “right mechanism” to grow

A leading figure in the solar industry has called for the “right support and financial” mechanism to encourage the growth of solar-powered heating systems.

Speaking at the New Energy Focus Renewable Heat conference in London on Thursday, Solar Trade Association chairman Howard Johns said that solar thermal technology was “ready to go”, but was waiting for government support.

“Solar thermal is ready to go, what we need now is the right support and financial mechanisms behind the industry to really get that out there,” he said.

Mr Johns, who is also managing director of solar installation company Southern Solar, highlighted the potential of solar thermal district heating to provide 9% of the UK’s renewable energy mix by 2020.

However, although the government is looking to provide a Renewable Heat Incentive from 2011 to subsidised the technology, the Solar Trade Association chairman said there were many uncertainties to come before such measures arrive.

He said: “This is where we could go if the heat incentive or other support mechanism comes in to place, bearing in mind there’s potentially going to be a change of government in between the feed in tariff coming in and the heat incentive coming in.”
District heating

Highlighting the possibilities of solar power, Mr Johns showed delegates a picture of a solar field, or large out-of-town array, which in Germany is being used to fuel a district heating alongside a biomass boiler.

“In Europe, they’re doing things quite differently,” he said. “You actually get more energy out of a field full of solar panels than you do from a field full of biomass. In this case they’ve got a biomass district heating system and a solar thermal district heating system all plugged in to that town. No-one’s done that in the UK yet, but hopefully if the incentives are right, they will be doing it.”

During his presentation, Mr Johns highlighted the fact that solar thermal technology was both low cost and versatile.

“Solar thermal fits on most houses and it is simple,” he said. “And it can be easily retrofitted, which is very good considering that in 2050 70% of our housing stock will have already been built.”

He also emphasised that in the UK solar thermal could provide most, if not all, of a household’s heating from April to September.

Source - New Energy Focus

Solar panels boost business goals

Tracy Hother runs Sameday, a courier service that likes to think of itself as friends with the planet. At their offices in Knutsford, Cheshire, they monitor their hot water usage, use minimal artificial lighting, do not heat spaces unnecessarily, and switch unused appliances off.

But Ms Hother is not a die hard green. She is a self proclaimed “penny pinching” manager who estimates that her frugality reduces her energy bills by 40% a year.

In these icy economic times, Tracy’s example may well be one to be followed.

The current downturn is seeing businesses, big and small, cutting costs at every possible opportunity.

Bad news for employees, perhaps. But good news for the planet.

The Federation of Small Business reports that over 99% of UK businesses employ less than 10 people. The Carbon Trust reveals small to medium businesses as generators of a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions.

Both agree that it is important for both the economy and the environment that these businesses make an effort to go green.

But for smaller businesses, reaping the rewards means first embarking on green initiatives.

And that is not always easy.

“One of the biggest barriers for small businesses is trust and belief in the methods and results,” says James Millar, environmental advisor for the Forum of Private Business.

It is hard to associate small actions, such as Tracy Hother’s, with potentially substantial rewards.

Sustainability boxes

Reducing costs was also the motivation of Premier Foods during the energy price rises of 2006.

They embarked on a two-year project that reduced the energy usage in the heating and cooling of products.

The producer of foods for well known brands such as Bachelors and Cambell was working in collaboration with a Nottingham University graduate, arranged by the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).

As energy prices fell again, other benefits of the project were revealed as Premier Foods was then, because of the project, considered to be a leader business in its field.

This resulted in increased commercial security during a time when many food manufacturing plants were facing closure.

“In order to be an exemplary business these days, you have to be able to tick the sustainability boxes,” advises Andrew Darwent, supervisor of the partnership at KTP.

Dr Debbie Buckley-Golder, KTP Programme Director, agrees.

“We are seeing an increasing number of companies turning to KTP to find innovative ways of reducing costs…. and strengthening their environmental credentials”.

Their motivation is to “not only survive the recession, but come out the other side leaner and fitter”. Another challenge comes from lack of understanding.

In uncertain times, businesses are less likely to try out new, unfamiliar ways of operating, “especially if it involves an initial cost”, and would rather stick to what they know, says Mr Millar.

Nick Tims, manager of War on Waste, recyclable waste collection service, has reverted back to the security of collecting regular waste.

“We know people will always need their normal waste collecting,” he says.

“It’s just easier than trying to expand and find more clients to stay afloat.”

Despite this, Mr Millar has observed that “the ambition of what people want to do is excellent”. This is evident in the increase in enquires received by government funded consultancies such as Envirowise, who observe that “as the threat of a recession became more likely, businesses actively looked for ways to save money”.

“This was evident in increased [Envirowise] website registrations and more demand for events”.

But the effectiveness of these services has been called into question, with the FPB claiming that such agencies are not properly equipped, and the FSB suggesting that they are built on an incorrect model.

“All too often [managers] are stopped from adopting green practices by ill thought out regulation that fails to take account of the needs and characteristics of small businesses,” Mr Millar says.

Even Sameday’s Ms Hother is finding lack of government support a barrier, with an absence of infrastructure and government provided impetus preventing her from converting her fleet to biofuel powered vehicles.

Even for those businesses that do overcome these barriers and want to actually invest in greening their operations, the financing is largely unavailable.

“As the reality of recession took hold towards the latter end of last year… Envirowise noticed a slowdown in interest in projects where longer term investment was required,” says spokesperson Charlotte Knowles.

High Street banks have been turning down loan applications as credit has dried up and directing people towards those that have been surviving the economic downturn.

Triodos Bank, whose mission is to “make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change”, is one of those.

As a result, it “has seen a marked increase in enquirers for funding and investments in the renewable sector,” says marketing manager Jane Clarke.

“All loans that we give have to go through an ‘in principle’ decision and this is based on whether we feel that the business/organisation is enhancing the world in either a social, cultural or environmental manner,” she says.

This, combined with the increasing volume of applications, means that many green projects are being put on hold or cancelled. racy Hother, FSB and other industry insiders agree that the missing link in the chain is big business.

“Big businesses could learn a lot from small businesses like us,” says Ms Hother, insisting that people such as herself cannot rely on the government.

Instead, they look to big business as they have the ability to adopt and scale up green practices already tried and tested by smaller, more agile businesses.

According to Emma Goss-Custard of environmentally friendly Honeybuns bakery, “there is a real opportunity for ‘big businesses’ [to] kick-start the industry and make it easier for small business to access more environmentally friendly products.”

As a big business representative, Susan Kendal, sustainability director at Akzo Nobel, contributes to the consensus, saying that even with “a planet that is dying around us”, government as well as big and small businesses need to realise that green projects simply “make good business sense”.

Source - BBC News

Solar Modules Installed On European Court Of Justice

Kyocera has announced that the European Court of Justice, officially known as the Court of Justice of the European Communities, has installed Kyocera solar modules on its new building.

As one of the leading manufacturers of photovoltaic systems for more than three decades, Kyocera produces its solar modules without procuring any semi-finished components in its fully integrated production process, thus ensuring quality at every stage of manufacturing.

Quality was the decisive factor in installing a photovoltaic system composed of Kyocera solar modules at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The roof of the new building will be lined with 2,262 KC175GH-2P modules with a total capacity of 400 kWp, and the system is expected to generate an estimated 360,000 kWh annually.

By using this environmentally-friendly energy source the court facilities will be contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions. The installation of the system was completed in December 2008.

"We are proud that the roof-mounted system at the European Court of Justice will be equipped with Kyocera modules," stated the President of Kyocera operations in Europe, Mitsuru Imanaka.

"The confidence shown in our products adds further impetus in our continual pursuit for superior quality. While aiming to achieve this, we are driven by our resolve to develop environmentally-friendly products and technologies that provide both environmental and economic advantages."

Kyocera is a pioneering company in the solar energy industry which first began developing solar cells in 1975. Over 30 years of experience have allowed the company to master all stages of production at the highest level - from processing raw materials, making wafers and solar cells to module installation.

The result of Kyocera's years of experience and fully integrated production process is superior quality and long product life.

Kyocera has also started construction of a new production facility for solar cells in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, which will contribute to achieving plans to increase the cell production output from the current 300 Megawatts per year to 650 Megawatts per year by 2012.

Source - Solardaily

Europe's largest onshore wind farm open and ready to expand

Europe's largest onshore wind farm, which is already powerful enough to meet Glasgow's electricity needs, is to expand by more than a third as part of a major green energy initiative by Scottish ministers.

The first minister Alex Salmond announced that the 322mw Whitelee wind farm south of Glasgow had been given permission to increase its capacity to 452mw, as he officially switched on the wind farm this morning.

The disclosure came as plans for an even larger scheme, to build a vast community-owned 150 turbine, 540mw scheme on Shetland, were lodged with the Scottish government.

Both projects would significantly boost Salmond's plans for half of all Scotland's electricity to come from green sources by 2020. The interim target – to generate 31% of electricity from renewable sources by 2011 – has already been surpassed, officials said.

Salmond said Scotland had the theoretical potential to generate 60 gigawatts of green energy, ten times the country's peak demand, because of its geographical position.

"The Scottish government is committed to taking full advantage of our 25 per cent share in Europe's wave and windpower capacity," he said.

"We are determined to get rid of harmful emissions from our environment while capitalising on the vast economic opportunities our natural advantage in renewable energy poses."

The scheme on Shetland is being submitted to ministers later today by Viking Energy, a joint venture between Scottish and Southern Energy, which owns the UK's largest hydro-electricity plants, and an offshoot of

the local council, Shetland Charitable Trust.

If it wins ministerial approval, the scheme could alone supply 20% of Scotland's electricity needs. Shetland has the highest and most consistent wind speeds in the UK, making it a prime site for green energy developers.

However, the Viking windfarm is proving highly controversial. Despite five years of planning, negotiations with residents and redrafting of the scheme, more than 2500 islanders, over 10% of the population, have signed a petition opposing the project.

Campaigners with Sustainable Shetland argue the 150-turbine scheme, which will dominate the desolate hills and moors in the centre of Shetland's mainland, would significantly damage peat bogs and destroy the area's scenic value. A group spokesman said it would effectively industrialise the semi-wilderness area.

"The concern is that the project is too large for Shetland. It is located on some of Shetland's most inaccessible hills with the deepest peat and that will have huge environmental implications," he said.

"That would include the question how the windfarm will affect tourism, how it will affect property prices and how it will change any perception of Shetland."

Shetland Charitable Trust insists the project will greatly benefit the islands' vulnerable and isolated economy, bringing in direct profits, wages and community investments of up to £37m a year.

That would outstrip the island's income from the Sullom Voe oil terminal on Shetland, which has been crucial in giving Shetlanders the best standard of living of any of Scotland's island groups. The islands' main power station is run on diesel, which has to be imported specially be tanker.

In a unique deal brokered in 1973, Shetlanders received £80m in a part-share of all oil landed at Sullom Voe until 2000. The oil fund's value has fallen to £180m in the recession, but over the last 25 years, £200m has been spent on maintaining excellent roads, and building facilities such as sports and swimming centres, and old people's homes.

The oil fund no longer receives money from Sullom Voe, and with North Sea oil running out, Shetland faces much tougher economic times, becoming more reliant on fishing, agriculture and tourism.

David Thomson, Viking Energy's project officer, said: "Shetland is a fragile economy and we have to take every opportunity we can to diversify the economy. This is one of those very rare circumstances when something we can do is both good for Shetland but also for the rest of the nation. It's a win-win scenario."

Apart from securing ministerial approval, the Viking wind farm will also need a £500m, 600mw sub-sea cable laid from Shetland to export the electricity to the UK mainland. The tendering process for that interconnector is now underway; without it, the wind farm would be pointless.

Source - The guardian

Monday, 18 May 2009

Thinktanks seek funds to back green technologies in poor countries

New financial mechanisms to ensure the transfer of low-carbon technology to emerging economies will help achieve a meaningful breakthrough at the Copenhagen climate change conference in December, according to a report by an alliance of some of the world's leading thinktanks.

The recently formed Global Climate Network, which includes the UK's Institute for Public Policy Research, the Center for American Progress led by John Podesta, head of Barack Obama's presidential transition team, and the influential Research Centre for Sustainable Development from China, is gathering in London this week to establish a policy to fund action to fight global warming using solar power, wind, carbon capture and energy efficiency.

These include harnessing the cheap borrowing facilities available in rich countries to be targeted at low-carbon energy in poorer countries. Encouraging pension funds to finance schemes and adopting proposals that would see a proportion of countries' carbon permits auctioned off with the proceeds specifically going to developing countries are other measures being considered.

The US is unlikely to fund poor countries' efforts to introduce low-carbon technologies so financial innovation will be required, argues the network.

Podesta said: "Reaching an agreement on the transfer of low-carbon technology will be critical to the success of the global climate talks in Copenhagen later this year. Developing countries are right to call for more help with it. However... the absence of strong national policy frameworks, standards and incentives is the single greatest obstacle to the creation of markets for low-carbon technologies in developing countries.

"That situation needs to be reversed for real progress to be made in reducing emissions there. In exchange, developed countries need to do far more to help developing ones, who are still struggling to lift millions out of extreme poverty, to meet the cost of low-carbon technology policies. That's the sort of deal we need to see."

Source - The guardian

US And China Threaten European Solar Supremacy

Increased competition and the global economic crisis have cast clouds upon the Western European solar energy market. Falling polysilicon and solar module prices have the potential to cement China's role as a solar manufacturing hub.

In terms of installed capacity, the United States is playing a greater role as more and more states are putting the renewable energy standards into existence.

Despite these market developments and the current economic crisis, the future of Europe's solar energy market continues to appear bright as new emerging markets within Europe may turn into strong performers.

Europe and Japan were the original trailblazers of the solar energy industry; thus they have historically held the strongest positions.

Europe, specifically Germany, has been by far the most important player and manufacturing hub in the global solar market. Its position has recently started to weaken as other countries have been gaining a stronger momentum in the solar energy business.

The European market is now facing two major competitors. The Chinese industry is forcing the rest of the world to reduce manufacturing costs as they are in a position to manufacture solar modules at the lowest cost.

The US, having adopted a pledge for energy independence, which increased political support for renewable energy, is giving a boost to its solar energy industry.

"When solar cell and module manufacturing come into play, Asian producers have been on the aggressive expansion curve eating into Japanese and European manufacturer's market shares. Low costs and increasing technological acumen will help them further expand their presence in the global solar markets," says Frost and Sullivan Green Energy Research Manager Alina Bakhareva.

"The US, having utilised only a fraction of its immense solar potential, has all ingredients to breed a strong and well-diversified solar market."

In spite of these new competitors' entrance onto the global playing field, Europe is expected to retain a strong portion of the market share. The region stands out on a global solar landscape as one of few that have been successfully developing the three major components needed to build a well-rounded domestic solar industry: research, a strong manufacturing base, and government support.

"Given the difficult macro-economic situation globally, tight credit markets, and reducing level of government support in comparison with 2008, the retail and residential solar markets may suffer the most with the demand taking a plunge on low consumer confidence and unwillingness to spend," continues Bakhareva.

"The large-scale projects with secured finances are likely to go ahead, while new ones may struggle to attract investment at a reasonable cost in the near term. In these turbulent economic times, a shakeout will make the industry stronger by leaving only players that are able to offer the best products at best prices. A harsh truth for many smaller European manufacturers is that they are likely to fall prey to the globalisation of the solar industry as companies with stronger balance sheets begin to acquire their less fortunate counterparts. Despite the big challenges ahead, the long-term sentiment towards renewable energy, and the solar industry in particular, remains optimistic."

In regard to individual markets, the German solar power industry continues to be one of the European market's strongest sectors. The retail segment is currently suffering due to lack of consumer confidence and unwillingness to spend.

Commercial scale projects, however, offer a ray of sunlight amidst the gathering clouds. Many major manufacturers have made announcements to increase capacity or build new plants, and the construction has begun for Germany's largest solar PV station with 63 MW of installed capacity.

France has been traditionally in favour of Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) technologies, an application which enjoys the highest tariff of up to euro 0.55/kWh.

"While the country has shown quite reasonable growth rates over last five years," adds Bakhareva, "the overall feeling is that solar market would have developed to a greater extent if the policy had been equal to various types of installations."

Since enacting a new feed-in tariff in spring 2007, Spain has turned into a vital source of demand for solar markets worldwide. Developers rushed to install as many systems as possible before September 2008 to take advantage of a generous feed-in tariff of euro 0.42 per kWh, which led to the government being swamped with applications, causing severe delays.

After approving 392 projects, the government capped installations and lowered tariffs. As a result, the 2009 newly installed capacity has a very slim chance of matching that of 2008.

Italy and Greece have the potential to become successful emerging markets due to attractive tariffs, but administrative barriers cause them to remain a sleeping giant.

Another emerging market, the Czech Republic, kick-started its solar power industry in 2007 by installing 4.5MM of solar power. The Czech Republic may turn into one of the strongest performers in 2009 in terms of growth rates.

Source - Solardaily

Energy Conversion Devices And Enfinity Co-Develop Solar Projects

Energy Conversion Devices and Enfinity have announced plans to co-develop a portfolio of rooftop solar installations throughout the U.S., as well as in numerous European countries, including Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic.

ECD and Enfinity have identified approximately 10 MW of projects that they will collaborate on in the short term. ECD, through its wholly owned subsidiary, United Solar Ovonic, will contribute UNI-SOLAR brand photovoltaic laminates in exchange for equity in the projects.

Enfinity will serve as project manager and lead the financing efforts for the projects. ECD and Enfinity expect to sell completed projects to third-party investors within 12 months of the start of commercial operation.

Mark Morelli, ECD's president and CEO, said, "This Framework Agreement is an example of how we are implementing our demand-creation strategy. Enfinity is an excellent partner, with significant experience in developing and installing rooftop and BIPV applications in our focused geographic markets. We are enthusiastic about the opportunities that this agreement affords us, and will be working aggressively with Enfinity to finalize the projects and begin construction."

Gino Van Neer, CEO of Enfinity stated, "We are pleased to partner with ECD and United Solar in our development efforts. Their unique photovoltaic laminates not only produce more energy per rated watt in real-world conditions, they also are the perfect solution for building-integrated systems where the integrity of the rooftop is preserved, and in many markets where the incentives are greater."

Sourece - Solardaily

BP on solar panels: the solar industry hits back

Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, had some harsh things to say about solar power at an energy conference in La Jolla, California.

While he believes that solar power could and probably will pay off one day - he is on the record arguing that the second half of the 21st century will be the “solar century” - he does not expect the present generation technology ever to be commercially viable without subsidy. To reach the solar industry’s Holy Grail of “grid parity” - competing on level terms with fossil fuel generation - it will need a fundamental technological breakthrough, he argued.

Now the solar industry is hitting back.

Coming on the day that the world’s biggest solar power deal was announced, between BrightSource, the solar company, and PG&E, the California energy supplier, his comments may have seemed badly timed. (BrightSource uses concentrating solar power, with mirrors focusing sunlight to heat water, rather than the photovoltaic cells produced by BP.)

But that announcement only really served to prove Mr Hayward’s point. Solar power in California benefits from generous state and federal tax breaks, and governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has set a target of deriving 20 per cent of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2010.

However, Jeremy Leggett, founder of the UK solar power company Solar Century, points to an industry study arguing that photovoltaic solar electricity will be as cheap as conventional electricity by 2013.

Costs per watt peak, approaching £4 per Wp [watt peak] installed now and below £2 per Wp installed by 2020, are falling rapidly today as recent constraints in the upstream PV supply chain unwind. Beyond this, PV has a long-term cost-down prognosis, driven by the nature of the manufacturing process for crystalline silicon PV and also by substitution to thin film…

Grid parity will occur in around 2013 for residential customers, and around 2018 for commercial installations, based on current projections. PV grid parity is usually assumed to happen beyond 2020 in the UK..
Generally there is a good and ever improving investment case for solar PV, particularly at the residential level; PV is an investment grade technology due to its long life, reliability and predictability, and is seen as a valuable and low risk asset class for investors of many different types.

That line about “as constraints in the upstream PV supply chain unwind” is the key one: as the industry has slowed in the downturn, over-supply has sent prices of solar cells tumbling. That is good news for generators, who are indeed seeing their economics look more favourable as their costs fall. But it is grim for manufacturers such as BP, who are seeing both the volume and value of their sales declining. You can see why Mr Hayward is not feeling very cheerful about solar right now.

Source - heatmyhome

Cost of solar panels will match fossil fuels by 2013

Solar energy will fall in price to match the cost of conventional fossil fuel electricity far sooner than previously expected, the UK’s largest solar company has claimed in a new report. Solarcentury said British homeowners will see solar achieve “grid parity” – the point where solar electricity rivals or becomes cheaper than conventional nonrenewable electricity – by 2013. Most predictions suggest that technological innovation will not bring the price down far enough until 2020 or later.

The company suggested falling production costs for solar panels and increasing conventional electricity costs have brought parity closer. Prices for solar and grid electricity in residential homes are expected to crossover at around 17p to 18p per unit of electricity (kWh) in 2013, followed by parity for commercial solar electricity in 2018.

Last December, the renewable energy analysts New Energy Finance predicted silicon costs – a key material for much solar panel technology – would fall by 31.5% in 2009 compared with 2008 levels. Energy consultants Element Energy, under commission from the government, have also forecast solar PV costs will fall by around half between now and 2020.

Derry Newman, CEO for Solarcentury, said: “When you reach grid parity, you have a watershed moment where the perceptions of investors and consumers shift. People have been programmed to believe solar is expensive and takes a hundred years to pay back, but when parity arrives people realise it takes 8-10 years to payback, and they can then be making money out of it.”

Jeremy Leggett, executive chairman of Solarcentury said, “The feed-in tariff that the government has said it will bring in from April 2010 is vital. A burst of premium-pricing for solar energy, of the kind now on offer in 18 European countries, will stimulate a very fast-growing market.”

Experts said the projections were based on significant assumptions in future energy prices, which have been extremely volatile over recent years – last year saw gas and electricity prices double, but now household bills are falling again.

Ray Noble, solar PV specialist at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “The predicted grid parity by 2013 could be possible if all of the predictions, both in terms of grid electricity prices increasing and reductions in the cost of solar PV, come through. However that’s a big if – any slight changes in the pricing can add further years to this date.” He added that the important message is that even if grid parity slipped to 2016, the moment when solar can compete on cost is not far off.

Chris Goodall, Green party parliamentary candidate and author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, warned the grid parity predictions were based on unrealistic price assumptions. “This projection of residential grid parity depends crucially on continually increasing prices of conventional electricity, but I just don’t see any evidence that residential electricity will cost 17-18p a kWh in 2013. The ‘underlying’ retail price of electricity at the moment is no more than 11p per kWh,” he said.

Newman argued that China will continue to take more fossil fuel and believes peak oil will begin to bite in 2013, which will both contribute to rising prices in fossil fuel electricity.

Source - Heatmyhome

Norwegian energy supply falls 7%

Norway, the world’s fourth biggest crude exporter and the UK’s second largest gas supplier, said Monday that its oil production fell a sizeable 7% in April to 1.99 million barrels a day last month from 2.15 million barrels a day in March.

Though preliminary, the data highlight one of the big underlying supply problems in non-OPEC states that many oil analysts believe is likely to send crude prices back over the $100 a barrel mark in coming years. Oil closed Friday at $58.63, its highest settle since mid-November. It is trading around $57.75 a barrel this morning.

The Norwegian situation is being replicated in other non-OPEC oil producers, such as Mexico and the U.K. These regions are mature and giving up less oil, meaning that keeping production flat is getting harder and harder.

If analysts are right, this underlying supply struggle will keep oil prices relatively strong in coming years. And that’s a boon for renewable energy developers. Not just are they set to receive an enormous infusion of cash, low-interest loans and other support out of capitals from Washington D.C. to Beijing, they appear set to get some tailwind from high oil prices. If the worst global recession in decades can’t derail oil prices for long, that’s a good sign that the global economy is entering a period of oil prices high enough to support ongoing investment in renewable (a.k.a. competing) energy sources.

In addition to the so-called “below ground” geological issues, non-OPEC producers, which currently meet about 60% of the world’s daily crude demand, are grappling with the global economic recession. The International Energy Agency in Paris last month cut its 2009 non-OPEC supply forecast by 320,000 barrels a day to 50.3 million barrels a day due to falling spending on drilling projects. It was the IEA’s eighth straight monthly downward revision to non-OPEC supply.

Source - Wall Street Journal

Thursday, 7 May 2009

China ready for post-Kyoto deal on climate change

China is ready to abandon its resistance to limits on its carbon emissions and wants to reach an international deal to fight global warming, the Guardian has learned.

According to Britain's climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, who met senior officials in Beijing this week, China is ready to "do business" with developed countries to reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto treaty.

Miliband said he was encouraged by the change in tone since late last year in the country that emits more greenhouse gases than any other. "I think they're up for a deal. I get the strong impression that they want an agreement," he told the Guardian.

"They see the impact of climate change on China and they know the world is moving towards a low-carbon economy and see the business opportunities that will come with that."

The shift in the Chinese position significantly improves the chances of an agreement being reached when world leaders meet in Copenhagen in December to negotiate a deal that scientists say is critical if dangerous warming is to be avoided.

While Britain and the European Union – which have a large historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions – are pushing for ambitious reduction targets at home, no global climate deal will be possible in Copenhagen without the agreement of China and the US, which together are responsible for more than 40% of the world's annual carbon emissions.

China's official negotiating position is unchanged, but the government is understood to be preparing a set of targets up to and beyond 2020 to lower the country's "carbon intensity". This translates to cutting the emissions needed to produce each unit of economic growth.

Miliband said Barack Obama's pledge to reduce US emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 has unblocked the international negotiating process.

"China used to think the developed world is not serious. That's what they were saying [at UN talks] in December," he said. "But now they know the US is on the pitch and ready to engage with them. It has made a real difference to what China is saying."

His comments echoed the message from Chinese officials. Su Wei, a senior negotiator, told the Guardian last month that the US had made a "substantive change" under the Obama administration.

"The message we have got is that the current US administration takes climate change seriously, that it recognises its historical responsibility and that it has the capacity to help developing countries address climate change," Su said.

But while the tone may have changed, there is still a long way to go before agreement can be reached on specifics.

China wants developed nations to commit to more ambitious reduction targets, to share low-carbon technology and to set up a UN fund that would buy related intellectual property rights for use across the world. Beijing's position is complicated by the fact that it already owns a large share of the patents for wind and solar energy in developed nations.

Europe and the US accept the Chinese economy should be allowed to grow further, improving the living standards of its millions of poor, before it makes overall emissions reductions. Instead, the western nations are pushing for strong measures to improve efficiency and establish caps for certain industries. One possibility being considered by Chinese officials is to set a carbon intensity goal up to 2040 that would include energy efficiency, renewable energy, transport and afforestation.

"It would be very welcome for China to set a commitment for carbon intensity," said Miliband. "It would send a signal around the world."

He was visiting Minqin county, a remote area in north-western China threatened by desertification and drought. Along with the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, the spread of deserts and the shortage of water have highlighted the destructive impact of unsustainable development and climate change.

"We're very concerned about climate change," said Xu Wenshan, the deputy mayor of Wuwei, at a welcome banquet. "Living in such an ecologically fragile area, we will feel the impact directly if there is a further rise in the temperature."

Jim Watson, of the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said it had become the mainstream view in China that global warming was caused by human activity, which was not the view five years ago.

"We see significant policy shifts and encouraging developments in technology, for example phenomenal development of wind power and plug-in cars. That could be a sign of things to come," he said. "My impression is that although the negotiators haven't moved ground officially, there are a hell of a lot of new ideas. They are very interested in low-carbon economy."

Last month, the Tyndale centre published research showing that it was possible for China to begin reducing its total emissions from 2020.

Government officials say that is unrealistic and China has so far resisted announcing a target for when emissions might peak. But the authorities tend towards the later end of the various academic forecasts of between 2020 and 2040.

Watson noted that if emissions are measured on a historical per-capita basis, China is 78th in the world rather than first.

Source - The Guardian

Barack Obama's $1.8bn vision of greener biofuel

The Obama administration took on the powerful farming interests in America's heartland today, making clear it does not see corn-based ethanol as part of the long-term solution to climate change.

The new proposals on the biofuel – in the face of intense pressure from agricultural companies and members of Congress from corn-growing states – were seen as the first test of Barack Obama's promise to put science above politics in deciding America's energy future.

Ethanol had once appeared to provide a transport fuel which did not increase carbon dioxide. But studies have suggested that the fuel needed to process the corn meant the ethanol could be more polluting than the fossil fuel it was meant to replace. Furthermore, the use of food crops for biofuel was blamed for a substantial part of the large price rises seen in 2008.

Administration officials set out a $1.8bn (£1.19bn) plan to develop a new generation of more environmentally-friendly biofuels that are not made from food crops and have a lower carbon footprint, while also providing an immediate bail-out of existing corn ethanol producers, which are suffering in the global economic crisis: falling petrol prices have undercut demand for ethanol at the pump.

Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, made clear she does not see corn-based ethanol as a permanent part of America's clean energy mix. "Corn-based ethanol is a bridge... to the next generation of fuels ," she said.

The EPA proposed a new standard for advanced biofuels, ensuring they are at least 50% cleaner than petrol. Jackson said existing bio-ethanol resulted in a 16% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The agency said it would also take into account the environmental impact of turning land over to biofuel crops, a key demand of the industry's critics.

Environmentalists saw the move as an early indication that the Obama administration would stand its ground against powerful industrial interests.

"For an administration that has already staked so much on restoring science to the process of governing, this was a really critical test," said Nathanael Greene, a renewable energy expert at the National Resources Defence Council. "This was the first big industry where we are starting to see some of the potential changes required by climate policy and the administration is ready to stick to the science and not get rolled by industry."

The country's fuel producers gave a cautious welcome to the announcement, but added that they would continue to challenge the EPA's criteria for measuring the environmental cost of fuel crops.

The impact on the ethanol industry of the agency's proposal, which now undergoes public review, was softened by Obama's decision to put the agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, who is from the corn growing state of Iowa, in charge of a new task force that will oversee biofuel development. The officials also said there would be considerable sums available to farmers to make the transition from using corn to make biofuels to using pulp and agricultural waste.

The programme envisages $1.1bn to help ethanol producers market the fuel, and to convert their processing plants from fossil fuels to renewable energy. "There is over $1.1 billion of opportunity here," Vilsack said.

Energy secretary Steven Chu said there would be an additional $786m towards the development of new biofuel refineries and the design of flex-fuel cars.

The administration's move on ethanol comes nearly two years after Congress ordered fuel refineries to increase their use of ethanol, and by 2022 to step up the share of advanced biofuels in the country's fuel mix.

The law ordered all ethanol produced after 2007 to meet a standard 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and for advanced biofuels to meet a 50% reduction target.

Existing ethanol producers will be exempt from those targets, but new plant will be required to make the grade. That represents a big challenge for the production technology.

Source - The Guardian

PSC Industries Establish Solar Business In Nigeria

PSC Industries will supply 5 turn key PV Solar module manufacturing lines, to be utilised in Nigeria. It is anticipated that PSC Industries will start producing Solar Modules in Nigeria by December 2009 or early 2010.

A total of 5 manufacturing plants of 10MWp each has been concluded upon and will all be operational by end of 2010.

Discussions are underway for additional Manufacturing Plants in Ghana and Gambia slated for 2011.

The manufactured Solar Panels will be Sold mainly for the West Africa Market.

Equipment will be delivered and installed by Rimas B.V. in the Netherlands who is active in the field of module manufacturing since 2000. The turn key solution is set up especially for this challenge and combines high quality equipment with a compact semi-automatic solution.

The initial is estimated at 12,000,000 Euros/2.8 Billion Naira and will create over 1,500 Jobs in Nigeria in 2009/2010.

Dr. Patrick Owelle, Managing Director of PSC, has been deeply committed to the idea of establishing the First Solar Manufacturing Plant idea in West Africa for more than a decade now and found the right partner in Rimas for the realization of his ideas.

Mark Verstraten, director of Rimas, believes that this opportunity is a new challenge to him and his team and will contribute strongly to his company's growth.

Source - Solardaily

Europes green energy future

It is a dazzling vision of a clean energy future. An entire continent powered by solar panels, wind and wave turbines, geothermal and hydroelectric power stations — and all stitched together by a European “supergrid” stretching from the sunbaked deserts of the south to the windswept North Sea, from the volcanoes of Iceland to the lakes of Finland.

It may sound like the stuff of science fiction but this is a vision that the European Union wants to make a reality. The concept is gaining ground among policymakers, including leaders such as President Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, who are concerned about Europe’s carbon emissions and its steadily growing dependence on Russian gas.

Adam Bruce, chairman of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), is convinced that a European supergrid that could eventually banish polluting fossil fuels altogether, is only a matter of time.

“We are only limited by our own ambition,” he says. “The capacity is there. There is the potential for wind alone to supply 50 per cent or more of our energy needs.”

Gregor Czisch, a German academic at the University of Kassel who developed the concept, claims it would cost €45 billion (£40.5 billion) to build. The numbers add up, he insists, and all of Europe’s electricity supplies could eventually be harvested from the wind, water and the sun.

Such dreams of renewable energy certainly catch the imagination but for Britain, which generates just 1 per cent of its electricity from renewables — the least in the European Union after Malta and Luxembourg — the gap between ambition and reality seems particularly stark.

The truth is that, despite the Government’s talk of a green energy revolution, Britain’s renewable energy industry is in crisis.

About 40 per cent of the UK’s power stations were built before 1975 and urgently need to be replaced. But the combined impact of the credit crunch, falling oil and coal prices and the weaker pound now threaten to hold up wind projects just as the UK has raised its commitment to green electricity.

“The economics a year ago were already tight but the cost of capital and the foreign exchange movement have made it much harder,” says Sarwjit Sambhi, director of power generation at Centrica, one of Britain’s Big Six power companies, which is trying to build a 250 megawatt (MW) wind farm off Lincolnshire, big enough to supply 170,000 homes. “We are not going to make investments below our return on capital so my goal will be to spend as little as possible until the economics improve,” he said.

In last week’s Budget, the Government announced incentives designed to bolster investment in huge offshore windfarms and ensure that Britain hits its target of raising the share of electricity produced from renewable sources to 35 to 40 per cent by 2020.

So will they work? Not according to Jim Skea, director of the UK Energy Research Centre. He has just undertaken a big research project into how the UK can slash its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. “In none of the scenarios we looked at were renewables picked up nearly fast enough to meet the 2020 targets,” said Professor Skea. “It will be a big struggle. We are not spending nearly enough.”

Wind power, easily the most economically attractive form of renewable energy in the UK, remains hugely expensive when compared with gas and coal.

A recently approved gas-fired station in Pembroke will cost £1 billion and will be the largest in the UK, producing 2,000MW. It would cost six times as much to build a windfarm of similar capacity.

While a strengthened subsidy regime and up to £4 billion of extra funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced in the Budget are welcome, Professor Skea believes that far more radical action will be required, including huge increases in research spending to accelerate the development of better technology, and a dramatic rise in the price of traded carbon emissions, up from £13 presently to £200 a tonne.

But that is not all. Sceptics scoff that wind, wave and solar power are inherently unreliable. A solution could lie in back-up gas and nuclear plants and a far smarter grid that includes technology to balance the load at moments of reduced supply.

This could range from sophisticated centralised networks right into homes, where chips embedded in non-essential appliances could force them to switch off for brief periods as and when the grid demanded it.

Such technology exists but it is a world away from today’s grid, some of which dates back to the 1930s, and it will require vast investments and sweeping regulatory change to accomplish.

Until Europe’s governments grapple with the fine detail of these issues, the Continent’s dreams of a supergrid and a future free of fossil fuels are likely to remain in the realms of science fiction.

Ultimately, according to Professor Skea, an international deal at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December will be critical to achieving the political momentum required to achieve all of this.

Nevertheless, the BWEA’s Adam Bruce remains upbeat: “It’s certainly a challenge but these problems are not insurmountable. The more renewable energy you create the less it costs. People focus on the upfront capital cost but not the longer-term benefits.”

Source - The Times