Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Climate Code Red


Climate Code Red was the most important single document published on climate change in 2008. Because climate change is now understood to be of humanity threatening seriousness and a crisis that needs emergency action immediately. Climate Code Red has to be considered as the most important document on any subject published this year.

But Climate Code Red received less than minimal coverage from all of the TV and newspaper conglomerates that make up the mainstream media and the vast majority of the public - except the very few who cover climate change closely - have never even heard of it.

2008 was a watershed year: the global economic meltdown and the end of the sorry Bush years with the election of the hopefully progressive Barrack Obama. But the serious and immediate danger of runaway climate change is still not appreciated, the science and policy literature and the possible planning for massive systemic reconfiguration needed to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still not even on the menu of mainstream understanding and debate.

Climate Code Red was a paper on the emerging science investigating the unprecedented and unpredicted rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap and the policy consequences necessary. It was written by Aussies David Spratt and Philip Sutton as input to Australia's Garnaut Inquiry on climate change. First put up on the net in February and now a book, it is well researched, well written, thought provoking on as important a subject as exists, and yet it was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media.

Sutton and Spratt's first chapter description of the melting Arctic emerging science - especially the work of Dr. James Hansen and his NASA team - remains the single best public presentation of this climate change tipping point danger. Their closing chapters on the need for governments everywhere to initiate emergency-legislated mobilization for immediate action to reduce emissions - because political and economic business as usual is too slow and path dependent to allow for necessary change - has been cited as Churchillian by those who recognize the sinister danger.

But the very idea of government with emergency powers leading a systemic reconfiguration of our socio-economy is heresy and that is why the mainstream media refused to even mention Climate Code Red. You will find nothing on climate change as a possible emergency requiring such action in the mainstream media. Nor will you see opinion pieces on editorial pages by climate scientists or activists even postulating this possible danger and possible mitigation strategies.

Media owners have earned their right to an editorial voice, but rights carry responsibilities and no media owner should use this voice to misinform and all are accountable to the community. To suppress or withhold knowledge about a danger to the community is wrong. To not lead in informing about the possibility that climate change is an emergency is irresponsible. To not cover at all the emerging science and policy literature trying to educate about this humanity threatening danger could be part of a crime that dwarfs the Holocaust.

2009 has to be the year we turn the corner on climate change. It must be the year where we escape business as usual and the politics of failure to initiate emergency action to not only halt the rise of GHG emissions but agree to a plan for systemic reconfiguration of our socio-economies globally in order to get to a post carbon economy quickly in order to return to below the precautionary 350 ppm ceiling before the Arctic ice cap is irretrievably gone. Relocalization instead of globalization; powering down instead of ever increasing use of energy; the end of the car-sprawl, consumer economy in favor of a way of quality, meaningful living with a future.

Climate Code Red is available in book form and as a pdf at http://www.civicus.org/new/media/climatecodered_1.pdf

Monday, December 29, 2008

United States passed Germany to become the world leader in wind generation


The national trade association of America's wind industry says in 2008 the industry had another record growth year - the third record year in a row and generated more than $18 billion in revenues.

This year, the United States passed Germany to become the world leader in wind generation, said the American Wind Energy Association in its year-end report.

AWEA says that this summer, the U.S. wind industry reached the 20,000-megawatt installed capacity milestone, doubling installed wind power generating capacity since 2006.

By the end of September, the U.S. had over 21,000 megawatts of wind capacity up and running. Germany had 22,300 megawatts, but U.S. windpower developers sprinted to the end of the year while German wind development slowed.

"With additional projects coming on line every week since, the wind industry is on its way to charting another record-shattering year of growth," AWEA said in its repAWEA calculates the 60 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generated by wind power next year will displace 91 million barrels of oil, or 560 billion cubic feet of natural gas - about nine percent of the natural gas used for electricity generation in the United States.

In October, as part of the $700 billion financial bailout law, the production and investment tax credits that benefit the wind industry and other renewable energy industries were approved by Congress and signed into law. The tax credit package will extend the renewable energy production tax credit for one year and the investment tax credit for eight years.

In May, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that wind power could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, supporting 500,000 jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 140 million vehicles off the road, and saving four trillion gallons of water.

"Wind energy installations are well ahead of the curve for contributing 20 percent of the U.S. electric power supply by 2030 as envisioned by the U.S. Department of Energy," said outgoing AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher, who has held the post for the past 19 years.

That 21,000 megawatts of capacity are expected to generate over 60 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2009, enough to serve over 5.5 million American homes.
Ref: AWEA


Monday, December 22, 2008

Asia-Pacific Green Trust launched by Conergy and GE


EPURON Pte. Ltd. Singapore, a regional subsidiary of the Conergy Group in Asia-Pacific, and GE unit GE Energy Financial Services have launched Asia-Pacific's first renewable energy private trust to spur their growth and investments in wind, solar, small hydroelectric, biogas and biomass power generation throughout the region. The Renewable Energy Trust Asia (“RETA”) is an investment vehicle focused on the US$7 billion annual renewable energy markets of India, the ASEAN countries and South Korea.

It plans to build a portfolio of some 200 megawatts through potential investments totalling US$250 million (S$380 million) within the next five years.

With an 80 percent stake, GE Energy Financial Services will serve as RETA’s anchor investor. In addition to maintaining its core expertise in greenfield development, EPURON will hold a 20 percent stake in RETA and act as its Trustee-Manager. EPURON will be responsible for sourcing third party projects as well as performing its own project development, debt financing and hardware acquisition of renewable energy projects. After projects have been completed, EPURON will manage them. RETA will acquire and operate projects from both EPURON and third parties and expects to make its first investment within a year.

Both parties will share the Trust expenses and decide on each proposed investment when presented. Financial details were not disclosed.

“This sophisticated investment vehicle offers great opportunities to develop in future even more commercial-scale renewable power projects in Asia-Pacific. These projects secure predictable cash flow and long-term capital growth and are therefore a particularly interesting asset class for investors, despite the volatile financial markets. Our close partnership with GE ensures that our project developers in Asia-Pacific know right from the start what criteria projects must meet to fit the trust. Thus we can use our resources in a much more specific and efficient way,” said Joachim Mueller, Managing Director EPURON.

Conergy CEO Dieter Ammer added: “We are building long-term relationships between highly specialised partners with a strong track record in their respective business areas. This is one of the answers to the challenges that we have to manage in times of financial turbulence. With the Renewable Energy Trust Asia, we will combine EPURON’s renewable energy project development and financial expertise with GE Energy Financial Services’ world-class origination and underwriting capabilities, as well as its access to technology.”

GE Energy Financial Services, which has already invested more than US$4 billion in renewable energy, sees the trust with EPURON as a new platform for its growth.

“This innovative trust is an efficient way for us to partner with an experienced developer and aggregate a diversified portfolio of smaller renewable energy investments in Asia,” said James Berner, the Singapore-based head of Asia at GE Energy Financial Services. “The renewable energy trust is also a way for us to contribute to GE’s ecomagination program, its initiative of helping its customers meet their environmental challenges while expanding its own portfolio of cleaner energy products.”

Once a sufficient investment volume has been achieved, RETA may be listed on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited (“SGX-ST”) stock exchange, becoming the first pure-play renewable energy business trust to be listed in Asia-Pacific.

This first “green” trust in Asia-Pacific and the collaboration with GE serve as a potential model for realising commercial-scale renewable energy projects with the Conergy Group in other regions.

(Ref: Solarbuzz.com)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Conergy to develop 2 MW Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant for Saudi Arabia


Conergy Asia-Pacific has been awarded a contract for a 2-megawatt (MW) solar power plant for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Conergy Asia-Pacific was awarded the project under a consortium agreement with Saudi-based National Solar Systems.

Under the agreement, Conergy will manage the design and components supply, while installation and operational management are implemented by National Solar Systems. The project consists of two rooftop solar plants with an output of 1 MW each, to be installed on the North and South Laboratories of the University.

The photovoltaic plant, valued at €11.3 million [US $15.33 million], is also the first large-scale solar project of its kind in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It will occupy 11,577 square meters of roof space and produce 3,332 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually.

“With its arid climate and vast desert landmass, Saudi Arabia is geographically optimal for harnessing solar power,” said Florent Abadie, director of development and technology for the Asia-Pacific region at Conergy. “We commend the Saudi authority’s remarkable support for cleantech development and inspiring commitment to renewable energy, which we are witnessing in the Kingdom’s leading policymakers and decision-makers”

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New International Standard for Energy Management


Energy and sustainability experts at the Georgia Institute of Technology have taken a leadership role in the U.S. contribution to a 36-nation effort aimed at developing an international standard that would bring consistency to energy management systems worldwide.


The effort has implications for the public and private sectors alike, providing a process for managing energy use and implementing sustainable practices that would help hold down costs and minimize environmental impacts. This first-ever international energy management system standard — to be known as ISO 50001 — would also level the playing field for companies competing in the global marketplace. It is estimated that the standard could ultimately affect as much as 60 percent of the energy used in the world.

"Effective implementation of an energy management system standard often yields resource and cost savings, as well as risk avoidance," explained Bill Meffert, manager of energy and sustainability services at Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute. "Reduction in the use of non-renewable fuels provides environmental benefits to the nation, improves security and leads to use of more sustainable sources of energy. Process and behavioral changes from targeted energy management projects frequently result in reduced raw materials usage, less waste generation and disposal and lower air emissions."

Beyond the direct benefits, adoption of ISO 50001 could also lead to long-term cultural changes that benefit organizations in other ways. "An energy management system standard establishes a culture of continual improvement to sustain the gains made, placing the organization in a position to realize even greater energy efficiencies and further savings," Meffert added.

The U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the effort through a combination of active participation in the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and through financial support for the administration of the U.S. TAG. The U.S. TAG is responsible for developing the U.S. consensus position on the proposed standard.

Rising energy prices have made managing energy a higher priority for industrial, commercial and governmental organizations worldwide. Beyond helping manage costs and controlling environmental impacts, large energy users may be driven to adopt the voluntary standards as evidence of their good corporate citizenship.

"Many countries around the world will use the standard as the basis for national programs that encourage large energy users to demonstrate their environmental stewardship," Meffert said. "It is expected that national incentives — taxes, credits and similar vehicles — will be used to promote its use and adoption."

Companies that adopt the new standard may also gain a public relations and marketing advantage.

"Companies that conform to an international energy management system standard will be publicly stating that they have adopted best practices for managing their energy supply and use, which helps make them competitive," Meffert added. "They are also showing that they are managing their natural resources wisely. Many companies will also want to ensure that their suppliers and partners are environmentally responsible.

In general, Meffert noted, standards are useful to helping organizations establish the order and consistency to manage key business components, whether they address quality, environmental protection or energy issues.

"By applying this standard, the organization uses the ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act' steps of the continual improvement framework to manage energy resources, incorporating energy management into everyday business operations and strategies," he said. "This framework encompasses both the management and the technical elements of energy management. The effective management of energy requires both to be present and integrated."

While industry has driven development of the new standard, it could be used by any energy-consuming organization. The standard will define a management system for all energy sources - including electricity, liquid and solid fuels, renewable sources, steam, compressed air and chilled water.

The new ISO 50001 is being developed through a consensus process of the International Standards Organization (ISO) that involves representatives from national standards organizations in more than 36 countries who develop proposals, discuss issues, build consensus - and adopt the final standard.

The United States and Brazil are leading the overall effort under ISO's framework. In addition to member nation representatives, two liaison members — the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the World Energy Council — are also contributing to the effort.

The ISO/PC 242 committee that was established to develop the standard held its first meeting in Washington in early September and will hold additional meetings on a regular basis. The goal is to have ISO 50001 ready for publication by the end of 2010, said Deann Desai, project manager with the Enterprise Innovation Institute who serves as secretary to the U.S. TAG.

"Excellent progress was made during the first meeting, and a working draft has already been developed," she noted. "Among the issues discussed was the need to ensure compatibility between the new ISO 50001 and existing ISO management standards."

Georgia Tech was heavily involved in developing the existing American National Standards Institute (ANSI) MSE 2000:2008 standard for energy management systems. That standard has seen limited adoption in the United States, but Meffert said globalization of commerce now requires an international standard that will be widely adopted.

"Many businesses today are multinationals that have facilities and/or trading partners overseas," he explained. "When conducting business on a multinational basis, it is important that the competitive playing field be as even as possible — which is what standardization attempts to accomplish."

Georgia Tech worked closely with the Department of Energy in activities leading up to the formal launch of the ISO 50001 development effort.Members of Georgia Tech's energy and sustainability staff helped develop a comparison document that was used to facilitate initial international meetings, and they participated with ANSI in the process of producing an application to ISO explaining the need for the new standard.

Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute is administering the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for ANSI. The group is composed of many energy management experts and helps shape the U.S. position for the international standard.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

IEA's advice to Governments to accelerate the exploitation of Renewable Energy


The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that nearly 50% of global electricity supplies will have to come from renewable energy sources if we want to halve CO2 emissions by 2050 in order to minimise significant and irreversible climate change impacts. This is a huge challenge and part of the entire energy revolution we need to achieve. Meeting these very ambitious objectives will require unprecedented political commitment and effective policy design and implementation.
“Only a limited set of countries have implemented effective support policies for renewables and there is a large potential for improvement”, said Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the IEA today in Berlin at the launch of the new study, Deploying Renewables: Principles for Effective Policies. “Several countries have made important progress in recent years in fostering renewables, with renewable energy markets expanding considerably as a result. However, much more can and should be done at the global level - in OECD member countries, large emerging economies and other countries - to address the urgent need of transforming our unsustainable energy present into a clean and secure energy future.”
In this publication, the IEA has for the first time carried out a comparative analysis of the performance of the various renewables promotion policies around the world. The study encompasses 35 countries, including - all OECD members and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and addresses the three relevant sectors electricity production, heating and transport. In 2005, these 35 countries accounted for 80% of total global commercial renewable electricity generation, 77% of commercial renewable heating/cooling (excluding the use of traditional biomass) and 98% of renewable transport fuel production.
The report shows that there are still significant barriers which hamper a swift expansion and increase the costs of accelerating renewables’ transition into the mainstream. If these were removed, it “could allow the great potential of renewables to be exploited much more rapidly and to a much larger extent”, Mr. Tanaka emphasised.
“Governments need to do more”, Mr. Tanaka continued. “Setting a carbon price is not enough. To foster a smooth and efficient transition of renewables towards mass market integration, renewable energy policies should be designed around a set of fundamental principles, inserted into predictable, transparent and stable policy frameworks and implemented in an integrated approach.”
Renewable policy design should reflect five key principles:

The removal of non-economic barriers, such as administrative hurdles, obstacles to grid access, poor electricity market design, lack of information and training, and the tackling of social acceptance issues with a view to overcome them - in order to improve market and policy functioning;

The need for a predictable and transparent support framework to attract investments;

The introduction of transitional incentives, decreasing over time, to foster and monitor technological innovation and move technologies quickly towards market competitiveness;

The development and implementation of appropriate incentives guaranteeing a specific level of support to different technologies based on their degree of technology maturity, in order to exploit the significant potential of the large basket of renewable energy technologies over time;
and

The due consideration of the impact of large-scale penetration of renewable energy technologies on the overall energy system, especially in liberalised energy markets, with regard to overall cost efficiency and system reliability.
“Governments need to take urgent action”, Mr. Tanaka concluded. “We encourage them to develop carefully designed policy frameworks, customised to support technologies at differing stages of maturity, and eventually to apply appropriate incentives such as a carbon price for more mature renewables. Moving a strong portfolio of renewable energy technologies towards full market integration is one of the main elements needed to make the energy technology revolution happen.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Invention of a High Efficient 3D Solar Cell that works for visible and UV light by a 12 year old boy from Oregon


A new invention could revolutionize solar energy – and it was made by a 12-year-old in Beaverton, Oregon, United States.

Despite his age, William Yuan has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology, and he is on his way to solving the energy crisis.

It all started with Legos - after he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off. The seventh grader then got an idea inspired by the sun. Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, the 12-year-old developed a 3D solar cell.

"Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once," William said.
And his cell can absorb both visible and UV light.

In his project, “A Highly-Efficient 3-Dimensional Nanotube Solar Cell for Visible and UVLight,” William invented a novel solar panel that enables light absorption from visible toultraviolet light. He designed carbon nanotubes to overcome the barriers of electronmovement, doubling the light-electricity conversion efficiency. William also developed amodel for solar towers and a computer program to simulate and optimize the towerparameters. His optimized design provides 500 times more light absorption thancommercially-available solar cells and nine times more than the cutting-edge, threedimensionalsolar cell.

About William

Since 2005, William has been involved in the First Lego League (FLL), which led him toresearch renewable energy and nanotechnology. During his research and communityoutreach, William realized the importance of renewable energy for future generationsand began to focus his research on solar cells. William regularly visited Portland StateUniversity (PSU) as part of this research.William graduated from Jacob Wismer Elementary School in 2007 and enrolled in Meadow Park Middle School’s Summa program. Always ranked within the top 1 percenton state standardized tests, William has taken advanced classes in mechanicalengineering, biology, computer programming and media design outside school.William has many interests and is involved in FLL, MESA (Math, Engineering, andScience Achievement), Science Bowl, Mathcounts, American MathematicsCompetitions (AMC), Chess, Signal to Noise, Geo-Bee, and the Discovery EducationYoung Scientist Challenge. William enjoys learning about science and technologybecause he believes these areas hold the keys to the future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Big Corporations becoming environment friendly


Intel Corp has long strived to reduce its carbon footprint. Now, by buying renewable energy credits -- purchases that guarantee the generation of wind, solar and geothermal electricity -- it is stepping up the pace. It's all part of corporate world's attempt to neutralize their carbon emissions.

Many companies are being proactive, reasoning that it is healthy for both the environment and business. Indeed, the pressure to address global warming has influenced the public and private sectors to come up with solutions — not just feel-good ideas but ones that cut emissions using the latest technologies and market-based strategies.

"This is one milestone in our long-term strategy to help create a business environment where renewable energy is more economically feasible and therefore, the choice alternative for individuals and businesses," says Marty Sedler, director of global utilities for Intel in Arizona. In the case of Intel, it has made the largest single voluntary purchase of renewable energy credits ever, representing 1.3 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity. This transaction is like taking 185,000 passenger vehicles per year off the road. Or, stated differently, the company has purchased enough electricity to power more than 130,000 average American homes annually, all according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A study by EcoSecurities and ClimateBiz surveyed 65 multinational corporations and found that 43 percent of them had already implemented an existing carbon management strategy, with another 34 percent of those organizations saying that they are in the process of developing one. When asked what types of carbon offsets they preferred, nearly all of them said such energy efficiency measures as insulation and changing light bulbs are the easiest to implement. They also referenced the buying of renewable energy and the capping of landfill projects.

Taking steps to become more energy efficient is one way to reduce carbon footprints. Buying carbon offsets and renewable energy credits is another. The goal is to make drastic cuts in heat-trapping emissions. Businesses could choose, for instance, to place a tent over their landfills and then funnel their methane emissions to a central outlet.

Companies such as New York-based Hess Corp. are then selling credits to those commercial and industrial companies that want to participate.

Voluntary Segment

But a challenge that Hess and others now face is verifying the authenticity of the credits that they sell. In other words, buyers must not only be able to accurately measure and value their carbon emissions but they also need to know that their credits are being dedicated solely to their operations — and not recycled back into the marketplace.

To this end, the businesses that buy and sell emissions credits can have their enterprises given the stamp of approval by outside auditors. Consider Hess, which calculates its customers' carbon emissions and then purchases the necessary offsets: Its offering has met the standards set by the Center for Resource Solution's Green-e program that vouches for the credits it offers.

According to the center, the growth in the voluntary credits market is a strong indication that electricity consumers want more of their power to be generated by renewable energy and that they are willing to pay a small premium for such guarantees. The purchase of certified credits and offsets further stimulates this market, it adds, ensuring that more green energy projects get built.

The center estimates that compliance markets account for two-thirds of the credits sold while voluntary ones make up the rest. Of that voluntary segment, it says that it validates about 60 percent of the credits sold. Altogether, it says that roughly 260,000 residential customers and 10,000 commercial customers across the United States and Canada purchased Green-e Energy Certified renewable energy.

While Intel topped the list this year, PepsiCo was the biggest patron of renewable energy certificates in 2007, the EPA says. It had a total purchase of over 1.1 million MWh, representing 100 percent of its total electricity use.

"Our mantra is transparency," says Jeff Swenerton, communications director for the Center for Resource Solutions in San Francisco. "We make sure utilities as well as carbon offset providers and the independent renewable energy credit sellers open up their books to independent auditors. We monitor the chain of custody for these offsets and certificates until they get to customers. They are then retired. Customers rely on us to ensure they are getting what they have paid for."

With pressure mounting to do something, other companies such as Cisco, DuPont, Honda, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak and Wells Fargo are keeping tabs on their emissions and are promising to make significant cuts in them. All are part of EPA's effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. To succeed, the agency says that they are using a combination of renewable energy certificates, on-site generation and utility green power products.

U.S.-based businesses are leading the charge in the effort to curb heat-trapping emissions. Through the use of offsets and credits, many of them are facilitating the use of green energy and thereby reducing the nation's carbon footprint. In the process, they are endearing themselves to the broader public and perhaps to state and federal agencies that may soon mandate cuts in greenhouse gases.
(Ref: RenewableEnergyworld.com)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Creating an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)


What has been within reach is now ready to be settled: 51 states from different continents agreed on the Statute (Treaty) of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) at the Final Preparatory Conference held on 23-24 October, 2008 in Madrid (Spain).

The final stage in the foundation process - the Founding Conference – is scheduled for 26 January 2009, in Bonn (Germany). At the Founding Conference, the Statute will be signed and IRENA will be established.

Considering the magnitude and urgency of the tasks IRENA faces, many states agreed that the Agency commences operating and establishing effective working structures right after its foundation.


Accelerating the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy’s vast potential

Renewable energy is one of the key solutions to the current challenges facing the world’s energy future. Germany has been pursuing an ambitious renewable energy policy over the last decade, successfully promoting renewable energies on the national level and within the European Union. Many states already foster the production and use of renewable energy through different approaches on a political and economic level as they recognize the urgent need to change the current energy path. The current use of renewable energy, however, is still limited in spite of its vast potential - the obstacles are manifold.

This is where IRENA - the International Renewable Energy Agency – comes in. Mandated by governments worldwide, IRENA aims at becoming the main driving force in promoting a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale.

Acting as the global voice for renewable energies, IRENA will provide practical advice and support for both industrialised and developing countries, help them improve their regulatory frameworks and build capacity. The Agency will facilitate access to all relevant information including reliable data on the potential of renewable energy, best practices, effective financial mechanisms and state-of-the-art technological expertise.

Discussions conducted with governments spanning the world’s regions have shown that numerous countries welcome the German initiative and would like to be involved in setting up the agency.

The German Parliament supports this endeavour as seen from the decision on 19 June 2008, where a large majority voted in favour of establishing IRENA.


Progress report

On 10 and 11 April, 2008, representatives of 60 countries met in Berlin at the invitation of the German Federal Government to attend the Preparatory Conference for the Foundation of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). At the Preparatory Conference, representatives expressed their overall support for the foundation of IRENA. Discussions centered on the future objectives, activities, organisational structure and financing of IRENA. In particular, participants drew attention to the importance of effective coordination with other international organisations and networks. It was agreed that IRENA should constitute an independent driving force behind renewable energy and help to create a level playing field for the development of renewable energy.

Since then, the German Federal Government has hosted two workshops dedicated to IRENA. Held in parallel on 30 June and 1 July, 2008 the workshops addressed IRENA's initial work programme as well as its statutes and finances. Together, these workshops formed another crucial step on the road towards the foundation of IRENA.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obama and Renewable Energy


More than being a reflection of any one American story, President-elect Obama represents whole-hearted transition to a new economy—one where renewable energy will drive growth. Eager industry watchers are expecting a full $150 billion in alternative energy commitments from the Obama administration. That will be spread out over the next decade, and measures to put money in the right hands are already underway as part of the transition process.

Yet for all the hope Obama's candidacy and win engendered throughout the world, there are plenty of veterans of clean energy who have gotten burned before by unfulfilled political promises.


Notice how energy funding ballooned in the Carter administration, only to deflate when Reagan pulled the solar panels off the White House and oil prices plummeted. Nothing is certain, but the next commander-in-chief seems to be off to a flying start when it comes to energy strategy.
As of November 6, Politico.com reports that Obama is considering the creation of a new Energy Security Council at the executive level.


John Podesta, Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff who now heads Obama's transition team, recently published "Green Recovery: A New Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy." Podesta heads the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, and his report may serve as a road map for Obama.

A Greener White House

The Bush administration has balked at any real progress on limiting greenhouse gas output, as fossil-fuel industries prophesied economic disaster.

Retooling coal-fired power plants and spending money on rooftop solar at big factories would cause major job losses and reduce shareholder value, they argued.

Well, look at what has happened in the past several months:
The stock market has tanked.
Unemployment is on the rise.
Technical recession is already upon US.
That's nearly all attributable to speculation in housing and deceptively clever financial innovations.

So can anyone honestly say that mitigating climate change and investing in a new economy driven by renewable energy is still the riskiest thing US can do?

There is also the competitiveness argument. In its 2007 Environmental Policy Outlook report, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, called the framing of a global climate change regime a "classic chicken-and-egg problem."

The AEI report continues to say that the U.S. "does not wish to enter into a regime of economically costly emission caps or taxes that would have the effect of driving industry and jobs to nations such as China and India that do not participate in such caps."

As a result of that mentality, inaction has been the rule in the White House, and the competitive balance now favors other countries like Germany and Denmark, where renewables have become a national priority and point of pride.

After Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed his country onto the Kyoto Protocol earlier this year, the United States is now the only industrialized country not party to the agreement.
There are exceptions in the United States, namely California, that defy federal intransigence. Under the leadership of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and one of the most progressive state governments in the country, California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
California's country-sized economy has become one of the most attractive markets for renewable energy companies from around the world, both because of that law and its abundant sunshine.

Solar energy is more cost-effective in high radiation regions like California and the Mediterranean, but geographical variation is no reason to stall national goals in the U.S. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been cast as a likely pick for John McCain's would-be cabinet, but knowing Barack Obama's penchant for surrounding himself with experienced bipartisan leaders, the Governator may just find himself in a Democratic government as Secretary of Energy.

And the Golden State's industrial gem, Silicon Valley, will probably see its own leaders rise to prominence in Washington.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Energy Issues and the US Presidential Candidates

The most important concern in the latest presidential election campaign in the U.S. is the energy policy issue. Both the Republicans and Democrats are addressing this issue and both are keen on cutting down expenditure on foreign oil and also the large scale reliance of U.S economy on the foreign oil.

You may find out what each candidate is saying by taking a look at the following. Democratic candidate Barack Obama as well as Republican candidate John McCain are paying serious attention to energy issues. Analysts have commented on their policies and it is explained for you in lucid terms below.

OFFSHORE DRILLING

Initially Obama was against lifting the congressional moratorium on drilling in federal lands off U.S. coasts. Recently however he has switched to supporting limited expanded offshore drilling as a part of broader legislation to help solve America’s energy problems.

McCain defends expanding the offshore drilling program to tap the projected 18 billion barrels of oil that is present on the outer continental shelf of U.S. He has said that this will be done without harming the environment in any way.

STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE

McCain is against opening up the reserved stock pile of oil unless he feels, what he calls, a serious shortage far outreaching the demand or disorder in the supply machinery.

Initially, Obama too opposed releasing oil from the reserve unless there was a critical disruption of supply, but he has recently changed his stance and now supports releasing 70 million barrels of light sweet crude, later to be compensated by heavier crude.

WINDFALL PROFITS TAX

Obama supports a tax cut for middle and lower middle classes. He wants to do this via a five-year windfall tax on profits of large scale oil companies. The burden of high energy prices will thus be compensated by the tax from large oil companies themselves. The middle and lower middle classes therefore can enjoy the benefits of a $1,000 tax rebate under the Obama presidency.

McCain is against burdening the oil companies with new taxes.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

Obama wants to give an impetus to alternative fuel usage by means of a $7,000 tax credit for people who buy “advanced” automobiles. He wants over a million plug-in hybrid cars on the go by 2015. Obama also wishes to raise the Renewable Fuel Standard to at least 60 billion gallons of highly developed biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030; create a proper ethanol distribution infrastructure, direct that all new vehicles be “flexfuel” by the time his first term in office ends. He wishes to ensure the production of 2 billion gallons of “cellulosic” ethanol from non-corn sources like switchgrass by 2013.

McCain however is against ethanol inducements and has said that he would abolish the import tariff on sugar cane-based ethanol. Basically, he is against subsidies and tariffs that disrupt market practices; he wants a $5,000 tax credit for buying zero carbon emission cars; He wants a tiered structure that gives highest tax credit to the least carbon emitting car. McCain too, backs the usage of “flexfuel” automobiles.

SPECULATION ON FUTURES MARKETS

Obama has advised government control on trading and regulated exchange. He wants proper information on markets especially on index funds and other similar ventures. He supports legalized sanction and directives issued to the Commodity Futures Exchange Commission to look up proposals which suggest increasing margin requirements in the market; He backs closing up the Enron Loophole.

McCain on the other hand is worried about the speculative nature of the market. He too backs closing the Enron Loophole, looking into probable market exploitation and manipulation and making new laws and regulations regularizing the oil futures market to make them more clear and successful.

NUCLEAR POWER

McCain wishes to create 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030, and finally wants 100 new nuclear plants built in U.S. He backs the storing of nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada desert.

Obama too backs the usage of nuclear power, but feels that nuclear waste disposition and proliferation is an important concern too. He is against the Yucca Mountain plan.

GASOLINE TAX HOLIDAY

McCain has given a proposal of the gasoline tax holiday. In it he would deflect funds from general government revenues compensating for transportation projects funded by the tax.
Obama is against temporarily removing the federal tax on gasoline. He thinks that temporary tax benefit is not the real answer to the problem.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Obama wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050; that is take it to the 1990 level by 2020.He wants the reduction of carbon content by 10 percent by 2020.

McCain wants a CO2reduction too, he wants to lower emissions by 30 percent by 2050.

OIL USE

McCain wants U.S to be self reliant by 2025 in its oil usage. Obama wishes to lower down oil usage by at least 35 per cent or 10 million barrels per day by 2030, to reduce the reliance on OPEC nations.

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Obama is against Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling. McCain wishes to have more offshore oil drilling, does not back ANWR drilling at the moment.

ENERGY RESEARCH

Obama wishes to spend $150 billion over 10 years on low-carbon energy sources, double R&D expenditure on biomass, solar and wind resources; speed up commercialization of plug-in hybrids, encourage low-emissions coal plants.

McCain has proposed giving $300 million to the auto company that invents a car battery that will ensure that U.S is free from oil usage. He wants to spend $2 billion every year to encourage clean coal technology.

VEHICLE FUEL ECONOMY

Obama wants to double fuel economy standards in 18 years; encourage auto makers by giving them tax incentives for making new engines and lightweight materials.

McCain does not have specific Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets. He backs increasing fines for auto companies that violate CAFE standards and wants to give tax benefits founded on carbon emissions of automobiles.

ELECTRICITY

Obama wishes to ensure that renewable energy is used by U.S utilities for at least 25 percent of their work by 2025.

McCain wants the government to ensure increased investment to improve and advance the national grid; he wishes to make sure that the grid has the capability to charge electricity run automobiles on a large scale and backs the use of SmartMeter technologies. This SmartMeter technology will ensure that consumers get an accurate estimate of their energy usage and promote cost effective usage of power.

Friday, October 31, 2008

End of Fossil Fuels by 2090


Global dependence on fossil fuels could be completely ended by 2090 provided trillions of dollars are invested on renewable energy, according to a European Renewable Energy Council report.


The study, which looks into the steps needed to shift away from energy from fossil fuels, claims a total of $14.7 trillion (£9.49 trillion) needs to be spent by 2030 to achieve the goal.According to the report, renewable energy markets had doubled between 2006 and 2007 to over $70 billion and could, by 2030, account for 30 per cent of energy supplies.


The report, which Greenpeace was also involved in, said: "Renewable energy could provide all global energy needs by 2090."According to Sven Teske, Greenpeace's leading author, the investment and transition to a fossil fuel-free economy could help counter the current financial downturn.


Last week, Deutsche Asset Management also urged governments to invest heavily in renewables.According to the institution, spending on improving nations' green infrastructure would offer a way out of recession, while meeting targets and ensuring future energy stability.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Importance of Algae as a Biofuel


Algae fix the sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and that too very fast. Scientists want to utilize this quality for alternative fuels. And when it comes to greener alternatives to fossil fuel what could be greener than pond scum? Why algae are more suitable over other bio-fuels? Algae can grow anywhere, practically anywhere. They can grow in sea-water or salty water or adulterated water or even in sewage. They can bear extreme temperature. They can grow on waste-land. Another good thing about algae is they multiply very fast. They can double their weight many times in a single day. Algae produce oil as a byproduct of photosynthesis. They can produce fifteen times more oil per acre than other plants such as corn and switchgrass.


If we want to single out the biggest two advantages of algae as bio-fuels, the first one can be these plants grow well where carbon dioxide is in excess and another is these plants can grow in sewages.

“We have to prove these two things to show that we really are getting a free lunch,” said Lisa Colosi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who is part of an interdisciplinary University of Virginia research team, recently funded by a new U.Va. Collaborative Sustainable Energy Seed Grant worth about $30,000.

If we let the algae grow naturally then the oil yield will be low, around one percent by the weight of the algae. The U.Va. team theorizes that if more carbon dioxide and organic material would be available to the algae, oil yield can be increased to as much as 40 percent by weight.

Keeping in mind the quality of algae that it grows well on industrial solids and where carbon dioxide is available in excess, it can be helpful in dealing with industrial solids. Cleaning industrial solids is very expensive otherwise. Algae can also be used to minimize the emissions of carbon dioxide of coal plants.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Highest Solar Cell Efficiency in UNSW Australia


The UNSW ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence already held the world record of 24.7 per cent for silicon solar cell efficiency. Now a revision of the international standard by which solar cells are measured, has delivered the significant 25 per cent record to the team led by Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham and widened their lead on the rest of the world.

Centre Executive Research Director, Scientia Professor Martin Green, said the new world mark in converting incident sunlight into electricity was one of six new world records claimed by UNSW for its silicon solar technologies.

Professor Green said the jump in performance leading to the milestone resulted from new knowledge about the composition of sunlight. Since the weights of the colours in sunlight change during the day, solar cells are measured under a standard colour spectrum defined under typical operational meteorological conditions
.
"Improvements in understanding atmospheric effects upon the colour content of sunlight led to a revision of the standard spectrum in April. The new spectrum has a higher energy content both down the blue end of the spectrum and at the opposite red end with, dare I say it, relatively less green."

The recalibration of the international standard, done by the International Electrochemical Commission in April, gave the biggest boost to UNSW technology while the measured efficiency of others made lesser gains. UNSW's world-leading silicon cell is now six per cent more efficient than the next-best technology, Professor Green said. The new record also inches the UNSW team closer to the 29 per cent theoretical maximum efficiency possible for first-generation silicon photovoltaic cells.

Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, who heads the Centre's high efficiency cell research effort, said the UNSW technology benefited greatly from the new spectrum "because our cells push the boundaries of response into the extremities of the spectrum".

"Blue light is absorbed strongly, very close to the cell surface where we go to great pains to make sure it is not wasted. Just the opposite, the red light is only weakly absorbed and we have to use special design features to trap it into the cell," she said.
Professor Green said: "These light-trapping features make our cells act as if they were much thicker than they are. This already has had an important spin-off in allowing us to work with CSG Solar to develop commercial 'thin-film' silicon-on-glass solar cells that are over 100 times thinner than conventional silicon cells."

ARC Centre Director, Professor Stuart Wenham said the focus of the Centre is now improving mainstream production. "Our main efforts now are focussed on getting these efficiency improvements into commercial production," he said. "Production compatible versions of our high efficiency technology are being introduced into production as we speak."

The world-record holding cell was fabricated by former Centre researchers, Dr Jianhua Zhao and Dr Aihua Wang, who have since left the Centre to establish China Sunergy, one of the world's largest photovoltaic manufacturers. "China was the largest manufacturer of solar cells internationally in 2007 with 70 per cent of the output from companies with our former UNSW students either Chief Executive Officers or Chief Technical Officers", said Professor Green

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nobody escapes a recession


The “climate change industry” refers to a relatively new batch of firms, such as CDM developers, energy efficiency equipment providers and sustainability consultants, who are providing products and services linked to climate change. Nobody escapes a recession. To make the right business decisions we need to take on board the reality of what is happening in the global economy. In 2008 and 2009 developed economies will experience flat or negative growth.


Forecasts for the UK are for a 1% fall in GDP in 2009 and a 1% increase in 2010. The crisis in the banking sector will take two years to fix as banks deleverage and rebuild capital. Investors have had their fingers charred to the bone and will dodge high-risk ventures. Corporate profitability is declining and the number of bankruptices is on the increase. The worst affected sectors are property, financial services and consumer markets.The bad news for the low-carbon sector is that nobody escapes a recession.


Negatives for the sector will be driven by: - CFOs who block discretionary spend on corporate social responsibility, the purchase of voluntary offsets for “climate neutrality” programmes and capital expenditure – for energy efficiency equipment such as new Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems.- CEOs who postpone climate-change strategy development. For many CEOs, climate change is not a short-term risk and is heavily outweighed by immediate concerns over topline growth and rolling over debt financing. Detailed climate-change strategy reviews will be postponed, according to the practice leaders of management consulting firms. - Investors who flee high-risk propositions. Fear and risk aversion will deter large investments in niche, risky markets such as Clean Development Mechanism projects.


Analysis indicates that shrinking investor appetitite will hit marginal renewable energy opportunities, such as offshore wind.- Policymakers, expected to water down legislation. Negotiations on the EU’s Climate and Energy package – which are essential for the carbon credit development sector – now take place against the backdrop of recession. Environment ministers from countries like Poland and Italy have already won concessions to reduce the costs of climate-change legislation for their industries.Slower growth for 2009.


The ripple effects from the financial crisis will hit the climate-change sector. Firms with unproven business models, slim profit margins or the need for additional equity or debt funding are likely to shut down or get acquired. Despite the turmoil, Verdantix’s analysis suggests that positive drivers for the climate change sector in 2009 include:- Support by compliance requirements. During the boom years, politicians convinced voters of the need to combat climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, California’s AB 32 legislation and Australia’s Garnaut Review proposals will drive demand for carbon credit development, consulting advice on compliance and government lobbying. - Alignment with cost-saving opportunities.


Corporate climate-change strategies dovetail with energy-efficiency programs. The majority of new ventures in carbon markets, like CDM developers and cleantech, rely on already-committed equity financing. The sector will not have the debt plug pulled on its growth. But funding will be harder to find. CDM developers may turn to local sources of finance, such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Roaring back to life in 2010Based on the most recent forecasts from government agencies, the earliest we expect GDP growth of developed economies to return to trend growth is in 2011. Verdantix analysis suggests that after slower growth in 2009, the climate-change sector will roar back to life in 2010 due to:- Reduced policy uncertainty. By mid-2010 executives and investors will have answers to today’s unresolved questions, such as: What will be the climate change policy of the new US president? When will the new US president engage in cap-and-trade legislation? What will the EU’s Climate and Energy package look like? What agreements will the UNFCCC Copenhagen negotiations in December 2009 bring?- Proven benefits of climate-change strategy.


The competition today between Siemens and GE to sell “environmental products” such as hybrid locomotives and plug-in vehicles will deliver proven benefits for smaller peers to imitate by 2010 – five years after GE started its ecomagination programme.- Financial bite from climate-change regulations. Many policies follow the example set by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme: start the regime with a low cost learning phase spanning two to three years then impose increasing costs that force organisations to begin their transition to a low-carbon model. The EU ETS is already starting to bite power generators in 2008.


With every year that goes by, the short-term financial impact of climate-change policy targets increases. This spurs spending on a wide range of climate-change products and services, from clean-tech equipment to technology services and management consulting. - Investors seeking a new investment theme. After struggling to raise new funds in 2008 and 2009, survivors in the clean-tech sector will be well positioned, with a few customers and strong financial management to seek initial public offerings, raise more equity capital or debt finance.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

U.K's Department of Energy and Climate Change


The UK government has announced the creation of a Department of Energy and Climate Change. The move, which has for the first time forged an arm of government explicitly uniting climate and energy, has been welcomed by the renewables industry and the environmental movement. The new government arm, which is to be headed by Ed Miliband, will assume responsibility for areas which had previously been covered across two departments - the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) - in a move which is hoped will provide more direction and focus to the pressing issues of both security of energy supply and climate change.


"The industry believes that forming a department which tackles climate change and energy supply at the same time, is the right way forward if the UK is to deliver on the 2020 renewable energy targets. This is an example of joined up thinking we have been calling for, which should make a difference both in terms of reducing UK’s carbon emissions, and ensuring a sustainable and affordable energy future," Adam Bruce, the British Wind Energy Association’s (BWEA) chairman said.

This sentiment was echoed by the Renewable Energy Association. Director general of the organization Philip Wolfe pointed out that the new minister "has his work cut out in setting new policies to meet the demanding targets for energy being adopted Europe-wide."

Wolfe added, "In particular we look forward to measures for renewable heat, which can be included in the renewable energy tariff being considered in the current Energy Bill. He also needs to overcome obstacles delaying renewable technologies like wind, bioenergy and marine renewables, and to adopt a more robust approach to renewable transport fuels and decentralized energy technologies like solar energy and heat pumps."

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said, "For the last ten years this government has dithered on climate change, offering us inspiring rhetoric but little in the way of real action." However he added, "Bringing energy and climate together at last reflects the urgency of the threat we face from climate change."

Anthony Hobley, head of Climate Change and Carbon Finance, at law firm Norton Rose LLP observed, "The creation of this powerful body, and the appointment of Ed Miliband to head it, signal to us that climate change, clean energy & energy security are indeed at the top of the government's political agenda. Does this augur a clearer, more unified UK strategy on the associated issues of carbon trading, biofuels, renewables and carbon capture and storage? Our clients who invest in these markets will draw solace in these credit-starved days from improved regulatory certainty"
Ref: renewableenergyworld.com


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Breakthrough in capturing Carbon Dioxide


In research conducted at the U of C, Keith and a team of researchers showed it is possible to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming – using a relatively simple machine that can capture the trace amount of CO2 present in the air at any place on the planet.

"At first thought, capturing CO2 from the air where it's at a concentration of 0.04 per cent seems absurd, when we are just starting to do cost-effective capture at power plants where CO2 produced is at a concentration of more than 10 per cent," says Keith, Canada Research Chair in Energy and Environment.

"But the thermodynamics suggests that air capture might only be a bit harder than capturing CO2 from power plants. We are trying to turn that theory into engineering reality."
The research is significant because air capture technology is the only way to capture CO2 emissions from transportation sources such as vehicles and airplanes. These so-called diffuse sources represent more than half of the greenhouse gases emitted on Earth.

"The climate problem is too big to solve easily with the tools we have," notes Keith, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy's (ISEEE) Energy and Environmental Systems Group and a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering.
"David Keith and his team have developed a number of innovative ways to achieve the efficient capture of atmospheric carbon. That is a major step in advancing air capture as a solution to a very pressing problem," Layzell says.

Air capture is different than the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology which is a key part of the Alberta and federal governments' strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CCS involves installing equipment at, for example, a coal-fired power plant to capture carbon dioxide produced during burning of the coal, and then pipelining this CO2 for permanent storage underground in a geological reservoir.

Air capture, on the other hand, uses technology that can capture – no matter where the capture system is located – the CO2 that is present in ambient air everywhere.

Nevertheless, the relatively simple, reliable and scalable technology that Keith and his team developed opens the door to building a commercial-scale plant.

Technical details of the air capture technology are available at: http://www.ucalgary.ca/~keith/AirCapture.html

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First commercial Wave Farm in Portugal


The beach at Agucadoura, just north of Porto, is where electricity from the world's first wave farm is being cabled ashore. Five kilometres out to sea a Pelamis wave machine is gently riding the Atlantic swell, generating power for the Portuguese grid.


The wave farm has just been officially launched after a frustrating delay of more than a year. "We had an issue with the underwater connections", explains engineering manager, Ross Henderson. He is sitting with me in the beachfront substation which takes in the power. "I can't believe such a small thing cost the project a whole year."


The implementation


To understand the engineering problem, you have to appreciate how the wave machines work. Pelamis is an ancient word for sea snake. And it is true that the machines look like giant metal snakes floating in the water.


Each one has four long sections with three "power modules" hinged between them. There are large hydraulic rams sticking into the modules. As the long sections twist and turn in the waves they pull the rams in and out of the modules like pistons.
The huge force of the rams is harnessed to run generators in the power modules. But tethering the snakes to the seabed is a major challenge. The system has to be able to cope with the worst sea conditions.

Pelamis Wave Power developed an underwater plug, which floats 15 to 20 metres below the surface. The snakes can be attached in one movement without any help from divers. But when the system was installed off Portugal in slightly deeper water than engineers were used to, the plug wouldn't float properly. The foam keeping it buoyant couldn't stand the extra water pressure.


"We worked it out quickly, but it took a while to fix the problem," laments Ross. "Our buoyancy foam was fine when we tried it out off Orkney but it couldn't cope in Portugal."


The Pelamis engineers designed new floats, changing the foam. Then they had to wait through a stormy winter before they could install them.

Next Programme

Two more wave machines should soon be in position, making three in all. At full production the company says they will be able to generate enough power for 1,500 homes.
And 25 more machines are on order for Portugal. It's been an expensive wait, but Ross Henderson believes the company has built up the expertise to deal with a variety of sea conditions.


"We managed to do the changeover using much smaller boats than we're used to in the North Sea, where everything is geared up for the oil industry." So installations should be cheaper in future.


Pelamis is looking at new projects in Norway, Spain, France, South African and North America. Meanwhile, four machines are being installed off Orkney next year, with seven more due to go in north of Cornwall the year after.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

International Standards for PV Power Plants and Wind Turbines


Leading European research institutes found the association DERlab to strengthen the distributed power generation.
In Kassel, Germany, eleven leading European research institutes have founded the association DERlab (which stands for European Distributed Energy Resources Laboratories) as an independent world-class laboratory for the grid-integration of distributed power generation. The association is based at the Institute for Solar Energy Supply Technology (ISET) in Kassel.


Currently distributed power generators such as solar power plants and wind turbines feed their electricity – unregulated for the most part – into the public grid at a low-voltage or medium-voltage level. Their increasing numbers create new challenges, in particular since currently there are neither harmonised standards nor harmonised interconnection requirements or test procedures for grid feed-in in Europe.


In the Network of Excellence DERlab, supported by the European Commission, the research institutes from eleven countries have been developing joint requirements and quality criteria for the interconnection and operation of distributed energy resources since the end of 2005. In addition, they prepare testing and certification methods as well as standards valid all over Europe for decentralised power generation. By founding the association, the project partners have now sealed their further co-operation after the six-year research project is completed: even after 2011 they will continue to jointly use the laboratory infrastructure and exchange research results, personnel and know how. “With our collaboration, we want to ensure the quality of decentralised power generators and co-ordinate future test procedures at an early stage”, Philipp Strauss, chairman of the board of the new association, said during the first meeting of members on the verge of the 13th Kassel Symposium Energy Systems Technology on September 17th in Kassel.

International White Book on Grid Inverters


Counted among the results of the Network of Excellence is, for example, the preparation of an international white book for research and standardisation needs of grid inverters. These devices are increasingly being used for the integration of distributed power generation and adapt the voltage and frequency of a solar power plant, for example, to grid conditions. To date, international standards do not exist in this area. This is what the DERlab researchers want to change. Their draft concept will be dis-cussed at an international level within the framework of the third DERlab inverter workshop in Nice, France on 9 December 2008.


The European Network of Excellence DERlab


The European Network of Excellence DERlab is co-ordinated by the Institute for Solar Energy Supply Technology (ISET)/Germany. In addition to ISET, the following research institutes and universities participate in DERlab: University of Manchester/UK, KEMA/The Netherlands, Fundación Labein/Spain, Risoe National Labora-tory/Denmark, arsenal research/Austria, National Technical University of Athens/Greece, CESI RICERCA SpA/Italy, Commissariat à l´Energie Atomique (the French Atomic Energy Commission)/France, Technical University of Sofia/Bulgaria, Technical University of Lodz/Poland.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Record Growth for Wind Energy in 2007


In 2007 electricity from wind reached the important milestone of generating 1% of global electricity demand. International Energy Agency (IEA) figures show global electricity generation in 2007 at 19,189 TWh, the report’s calculations show generation from wind reached 194 TWh in 2007. On the one hand, this is a very impressive achievement; back in 1997, just 10 years ago, wind energy generation was only 15 TWh, barely 0.1% of the global total of 13,949 TWh.

However, put another way, that 194 TWh of wind-generated electricity meets just 4% of the growth in electricity demand over the decade. If the world needs to aim for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, for one of the main technologies that can contribute to this achievement to have displaced only 4% of the growth in emissions over the decade just from electricity production (and none from heat or transport).


Overall installations and geographical spread


With 19,791 MW of new installations, the total installed wind capacity grew to around 94,000 MW. New installations in 2007 are up 32% on 2006 and this is a third year of rapid growth following a 42% increase in 2005 and a 20% increase in 2006. Overall capacity is up 27%, again following an increase of 24% in 2005 and 25% in 2006. GWEC estimates the economic value of the global wind market in 2007 at about US $37 billion.


Collecting data for reports such as the BTM document, and importantly verifying it, is not an exact science and the data can vary between sources. GWEC, for instance, gives a figure for new capacity in 2007 of 20,076 MW. The main differences are in the figures for Spain, where the national association AEE (Asociación Empresarial Eólica) claims that 3522 MW of capacity was installed, rather than the 3100 MW figure used by BTM. In addition, provisional figures for China and India are used by GWEC.


One key area of variation is between the cumulative totals of turbines delivered to the market by the manufacturers, and those actually known to have been installed. There are always turbines in transit, and projects under construction and not yet commissioned. Note too that while figures for new installations are generally fairly reliable, accurate information on decommissioned turbines is harder to find, so cumulative installation figures will have slightly more uncertainty about them.


Geographically, there was strong growth in the US market, where the PTC (production tax credit), a key market driver, will stay in force until the end of 2008. The US installed 5244 MW in 2007, more than double the 2006 figure and increasing total capacity by 45%. This figure is the largest ever installed in one country in one year, beating the 3200 MW installed in Germany in 2002. With plenty of additional construction under way, 2008 should also be a good year for installations.


Elsewhere in the Americas, both Brazil and Canada saw significant activity on the development front. With 161 MW installed, Brazil delivered a 70% increase in total wind capacity. Meanwhile Canada, with 386 MW installed, recorded a 26% increase in its capacity. Only 23 MW was installed in the whole of the rest of the Americas, but the region nonetheless now represents nearly 30% of the world market.


The other area of very rapid growth was China; 3287 MW of wind was installed in the country in 2007, more than doubling the total installed capacity to 5875 MW. India also installed significant new capacity – 1617 MW, a 26% increase – as did Taiwan – 106 MW, a 90% increase. However, there was no activity anywhere else in Asia, but the explosive growth in China now means that South and East Asia accounts for just over 25% of the world market.


On a regional level, Europe is still the largest market, accounting for 8285 MW of installation, nearly 42% of the global total. Germany and Spain continue to be the largest markets, accounting for over half of the capacity installed in Europe. However, there was also significant growth in France (888 MW installed in 2007), Italy (603 MW), Portugal (434 MW) and the UK (427 MW), though in the case of Portugal and the UK, this was lower than expected, and in both countries a decline on the 2006 installation figure.


Interestingly, too, some countries with relatively low installed capacity saw very high percentage increases – Turkey, for instance, nearly tripled its total installed capacity in 2007, going from 76 MW to 225 MW. The Czech Republic, with a 128% increase to 114 MW, and Poland, where capacity increased 84% to 313 MW, also saw rapid expansion. This suggests that these countries could become important players in the wind energy market in coming years. At the other end of the scale, Denmark installed only 8 MW, just 0.02% of its capacity, and Austria installed just 20 MW, a 2.1% increase.


While Europe increased its level of installations, it is nonetheless notable that the growth elsewhere in the world leaves Europe with a lower share of the global market than ever before. Overall year-on-year growth in Europe has also noticeably slowed; the 8285 MW of new capacity was only an 8% increase on the 2006 capacity.


There was some activity in Australia (176 MW installed, a 22% capacity increase), Japan (229 MW, 16%), New Zealand (151 MW, 89%), and in Egypt (80 MW, 35%), but no significant activity in any other countries or regions.


Offshore prospects


One area that has not made much progress is offshore wind development. In total, 200 MW was installed offshore in 2007, a 23% increase on capacity at the end of 2006 and bringing the total installed to 1077 MW. This was entirely made up of just two projects, the 110 MW Lillgrund in Sweden, and the 90 MW Burbo Bank in the UK. All of this installed capacity is in Europe, spread between just five countries: Denmark, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland. (BTM does not include in these figures prototype installations that largely serve an R&D purpose. There are several of these, mainly in very shallow water, or close to the coast in Germany and Denmark.)
One feature of the overall market, with a particular impact on the offshore sector, has been strong demand for wind turbines. As a result prices have increased and delivery times lengthened. Add in the extra complexity of supplying turbines for use offshore and it is easy to understand why many of the manufacturers are somewhat reluctant to tackle this area.

At the moment, only Siemens Wind – which supplied the turbines for both Lillgrund and Burbo Bank – and Vestas have significant practical experience with offshore installations. GE Wind has not done any projects since the Arklow Bank installation in Ireland in 2003. However, a number of other companies have announced plans to enter the offshore market. These include REpower, Nordex and Multibrid.


Turbine numbers and size


Keeping track of turbine numbers is problematic. Though the record of commissioned turbines is usually fairly straightforward, there is no such clear recording of decommissioned turbines. A number of projects are also being repowered, with smaller turbines being replaced by larger ones.

Not surprisingly, 2007 saw a record number of turbines installed as well as record capacity. A total of 14,595 machines brought the overall global total to 97,211. The increase in average size can be established from the figures; the overall average size for a wind turbine is now 967 kW; those going in to the ground during 2007 were closer to 1.5 MW on average.


However, while this is a larger average size than in 2006, the slightly smaller size turbines more typically used in China, usually closer to 1 MW, mean that the increase in average size was not as pronounced as in earlier years. The average size of turbines installed is significantly larger, for instance, in Germany (where there are fewer sites with good wind resources left undeveloped) and the UK (where the average is boosted by the larger, offshore wind turbines).


Overall, turbines of 1 MW and more now dominate, with their market share of 96% well up on the 87% of 2006. It is also interesting to note that as recently as 2003 they represented less than half the installed capacity. Turbines in the ‘multi-MW class’ greater than 2.5 MW are slowly increasing their market share, with 5.3% of the market by capacity in 2007, up from 4.3% in 2006 and 2.4% in 2005. There are now also three turbines at 3 MW or larger in commercial use (the Siemens 3.6 MW, the Vestas 3 MW and the WinWind 3 MW). In addition, there are several multi-MW turbines under testing as prototypes; these include the E-112 4.5 MW turbine from Enercon – which also has a 6 MW version with a 126 metre rotor diameter – and 5 MW machines from Prokon Nord (Multibrid concept), REPower’s M5 and one from Bard currently testing in Germany.


Supply side of the market


As would be expected in a maturing market, there are considerable changes in the wind energy industry, particularly when viewed over a period of several years rather than in any one year in particular. The size of wind farms continues to grow, as does the size of the wind turbines which populate them. And, while offshore installations are only a small fraction of the current total wind market – with a roughly 1% market share – this sector is likely to have more influence in the years to come.

However, the key driver in the market has been strong demand. Prices have edged up, and many manufacturers are working to capacity. According to GWEC, for example, in the USA developers report that turbines are sold out for the year. Rapidly increasing oil prices, which are often closely followed by natural gas, serve both to increase turbine manufacturers’ own costs, and to boost demand so turbine prices are likely to continue to rise for some time. Component supply has also been a key issue for manufacturers in 2007.


Once again, there has been some shuffling in the top 10 manufacturers. Noticeable in 2007 is the inclusion of two Chinese manufacturers, Goldwind and Sinovel in the top 10, and a fairly sharp decline in Vestas’ market share. The Danish company increased its output but was expanding at significantly less than the market rate and so saw its overall share slip from 28.2% to 22.8%. The major turbine manufacturers by installation from 2005–2007 are summarized in Table 1 (above).


However, Vestas is the only manufacturer with a global presence – represented in almost all of the markets with a significant size (taken as over 50 MW a year). There is still evidence of good support for locally-based companies, with GE Wind having the number one spot in its home US market, and likewise Gamesa in Spain, Suzlon in India and Goldwind in China.


Interestingly, no Chinese manufacturers are yet exporting turbines. Longer term, manufacturing capacity in China is expected to reach 10–12 GW by 2010, according to GWEC, and with forecasts for domestic installations of around 6.5–7 GW in 2010, export is likely to become quite significant. The share of the Chinese market supplied by foreign manufacturers has fallen from 79% in 2004 to 42% in 2008, with domestic suppliers now meeting 56% of the demand and the small balance being met by joint ventures.


Prospects for the wind industry


GWEC’s forecast is slightly more modest, assuming that the final installed capacity in 2012 will reach 240 GW. This represents an average growth rate for new installations of 12.4% per year, and of installed capacity of 20.6% annually. Given that the market has been increasing by an average of 24.7% a year on GWEC’s figures over the past five years, this seems somewhat pessimistic. The industry trade body expects supply chain difficulties to limit growth, particularly over the next two years, though it does forecast more rapid growth after 2010, once the supply chain has adjusted to meet demand. This is, however, an almost 10% upward adjustment of its earlier forecast made in 2006 of 221 GW. It sees stronger than expected growth in the US and China, and the increase in Chinese-manufactured wind turbines taking some of the strain out of the current supply situation.

One key factor in both of these forecasts is the growth in the US. Any forecast for the US market will depend significantly on whether the production tax credit (PTC) gets renewed. At the moment, it is due to expire at the end of 2008, and past experience shows that non-renewal can slam the brakes on wind development. There is strong political support for an extension to the PTC, and Presidential candidates from both main political parties have made strong statements in favour of more renewable energy. Both the BTM and the GWEC forecasts reflect the US industry’s own view that the current PTC is likely to be renewed, though as of June 2008 this had still not happened.


The situation in China looks rather more clear-cut. The government has set out specific targets in a ‘Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy’ in August 2007 requiring a 10% contribution to energy from renewable sources by 2010, and 15% by 2020 and combined this with a mandated market share. To meet these targets the government will invest about €200 billion, and the country will need to depend heavily on the wind industry. The BTM forecast for China is to reach 42.3 GW by 2012 which would be well ahead of the government’s own forecast. The industry already comfortably beat the government’s earlier target of 5 GW installed by 2010. However, overall demand for power in China may well exceed 1000 GW by 2020.


BTM also forecasts significant growth in Europe between 2007 and 2012, with offshore installations being a significant factor in the European market, but of limited application elsewhere. Spain and Germany will continue to be large markets (with repowering being common in Germany), though more rapid growth is expected in the UK (much of it offshore), France, Portugal and Italy. BTM expects Europe to remain the largest market, ahead of the Americas, and then Asia. GWEC, though, expects Asia to be the largest market, followed by the Americas and with Europe dropping to third.


BTM also provides a detailed assessment of the likely growth in offshore wind developments. It believes that such installations will rise from the current 1.1 GW installed to 8.1 GW by 2012. Almost all of this (7.4 GW) is likely to be in Europe, and offshore’s share of global capacity will be about 4% by 2012. Nearly half of this is likely to be in the UK. This is a slight downgrading of last year’s forecast, tempered by longer than expected permitting processes, and continuing issues getting access to suitable turbines – offshore projects often use the larger turbines, some models of which are not yet in serial production.


Looking beyond 2012 is a far more speculative business. Overall, BTM anticipates that the market demand will reach 104 GW per year by 2017. This would give an installed capacity of about 691 GW by 2017, roughly seven times the capacity in 2007. This could generate some 1573 TWh, or about 5.93% of the IEA’s estimate of 26,549 TWh of global electricity demand.


Economics


The cost of wind turbines, and the price of the electricity they generate, will of course be the key driver in the way that markets develop. This is, to quite a significant extent, dependent on the policy framework and tax and regulatory issues that governments put in place. Nonetheless, it is still the vital ingredient for achieving the project finance that will enable wind to continue its current impressive levels of growth.

Earlier forecasts had assumed a level of price reduction associated with economies of scale. However, this has not happened, and in fact further price rises are likely to be seen. First, there is something of a ‘sellers’ market’, with rapidly growing demand chasing a not quite so rapidly growing number of turbines as manufacturing capacity lags. Perhaps not surprisingly, turbine manufacturers have been able to keep prices firm to ensure that they get healthy margins from their businesses. In addition, as with other manufacturing industries, the wind industry is also facing rising costs of raw materials, transport fuels and energy.


As a result, BTM anticipates that the turnkey price for onshore wind is likely to be of the order of US$2119 per kW, and offshore at $3654 per kW. Using these figures, total sales are likely to be some $56 billion in 2008, and this is likely to rise to $111 billion by 2012. This gives an overall value to the global wind turbine market at around $300 billion over the next five years. GWEC’s more conservative figure is similar, but slightly lower at $277 billion.


It is, of course, important to remember that an average price is an artificial one – there is no such thing as an average project, and there will be very significant variations from project to project. The purpose of the average is simply to illustrate the significant economic value of the wind business as a whole.


Conclusion


Economic projections are difficult at the best of times, when economies are relatively stable and a reference ‘business as usual’ case can be used. However, there are numerous signals that the world faces very turbulent economic conditions for a while – a credit crunch may make some project finance difficult, and the shortage of raw materials could lead to supply chain difficulties.
However, the rapidly escalating price of oil is focusing a lot of attention on the price of energy, and the hedge of electricity supply without a fuel cost is likely to become increasingly attractive to many companies and utilities. At some stage, rising fuel costs could lead to demand for wind energy becoming almost infinite.

While wind energy can still seem a small industry compared with conventional power generation, the achievement of 1% of world electricity generation is potentially significant. In individual markets such as Denmark, Germany and Spain reaching 1% has been a breakthrough figure, establishing a critical mass and being followed by further rapid growth in each market.


If the same pattern is seen with world wind energy demand, and the industry continues to establish itself as a significant player in the energy sector and pushes on rapidly to 3% of world electricity demand and beyond, then the glass should be seen as half full.


Ref: International Wind Energy Agency

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