Friday, December 24, 2010

From Copenhagen to Cancun

The December 11 closure of the 16th Conference of the Parties--the COP16 global climate summit--in Cancun in Mexico was portrayed by most participants and mainstream journalists as a victory, a "step forward." U.S. State Department lead negotiator Todd Stern expressed his opinion; "Ideas that were first of all skeletal last year, and not approved, are now approved and elaborated."

Yes.....the Cancun agreements were 'approved' to great celebration from the international community.

The positive reaction is based on reaching an international consensus (though Bolivia dissented) and establishing instruments to manage the climate crisis. Cancun’s defenders argue that the last-hours agreements include acknowledgements that emissions cuts must keep world temperature increases below 2°C, with consideration to be given to lowering the target to 1.5°C.

Negotiators also endorsed greater transparency about emissions, a Green Climate Fund led by the World Bank, introduction of forest-related investments, transfers of technology for renewable energy, capacity building and a strategy for reaching legally binding protocols in future. According to UN climate official Christiana Figueres, formerly a leading carbon trader, "Cancun has done its job. Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause."

Bolivian opposition

Bolivia's President Evo Morales complained, "It's easy for people in an air-conditioned room to continue with the policies of destruction of Mother Earth. We need instead to put ourselves in the shoes of families in Bolivia and worldwide who lack water and food, and suffer misery and hunger. People here in Cancún have no idea what it is like to be a victim of climate change."
For Bolivia's UN ambassador Pablo Solon, Cancun "does not represent a step forward, it is a step backwards," because the nonbinding commitments made to reduce emissions by around 15 percent by 2020 simply cannot stabilize temperature at the "level which is sustainable for human life and the life of the planet."

Even greater anger was expressed by civil society activists, including by Meena Raman of the Malaysia-based Third World Network: "The mitigation paradigm has changed from one which is legally binding--the Kyoto Protocol, with an aggregate target which is system-based, science-based--to one which is voluntary, a pledge-and-review system."

But look soberly at what was needed to reverse current warming and what was actually delivered. Negotiators in Cancun’s luxury Moon Palace hotel complex failed by any reasonable measure.

More protests

As El Salvadoran Friends of the Earth leader Ricardo Navarro lamented, "What is being discussed at the Moon does not reflect what happens on Earth”

Most specialists agree that even if the un-ambitious Copenhagen and Cancun promises are kept, the result will be a cataclysmic 4-5°C rise in world temperature over this century, and if they are not, 7°C is likely. Even with a rise of 2°C, scientists generally agree that small islands will sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas--such as much of Bangladesh and many port cities--will drown, and Africa will dry out, or in some places flood, so much that nine of 10 peasants will not survive.

The politicians and officials have been warned of this often enough by climate scientists, but are beholden to powerful business interests that have lined up to either promote climate denialism, or to generate national-versus-national negotiating blocs destined to fail in their race to gain most emission rights. As a result, in spite of a band-aid set of agreements, the distance between negotiators and the masses of people and the planet grew larger, not smaller, over the last two weeks.

An illusory deal

A report by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, in December 2010 noted that already 350,000 people die from natural disasters related to climate change and that this figure is likely to rise to one million people every year if we don't radically change course. Bolivia was not an obstacle to progress, it was rather the only nation daring enough to tell the truth. Rather than less Bolivias, we need more willing to stand up and say that the agreement was 'naked' and unacceptable. Perhaps if more nations – especially major emerging economies like India and Brazil - had said they would not accept an illusory deal, it could have shocked the world into moving beyond cautious approaches and acting radically for humanity and the planet.

By contrast, the Cancun agreement effectively kills off the Kyoto Protocol and replaces it with a pledge system of voluntary commitments. Not only does this lead to countries only offering what they plan to do anyway, ignoring what science demands; there is absolutely no possibility of legal penalties if a country fails to fulfil its commitments. It is an ineffective and highly dangerous way of tackling one of the biggest crises humanity has faced.

..And finally what Cancun text says

Document effectively kills of the only binding agreement, Kyoto Protocol, in favour of a completely inadequate bottom-up voluntary approach.

Increases loopholes and flexibilities that allow developed countries to avoid action, via an expansion of offsets and continued existence of ‘surplus allowances’ of carbon after 2012 by countries like Ukraine and Russia which effectively cancel out any other reductions.

Finance Commitments weakened: commitment to “provide new and additional financial resources” to developing countries have been diluted to talking more vaguely about “mobilising [resources] jointly”, with expectation that this will mainly be provided by carbon markets.

No discussion of Intellectual Property rights, repeatedly raised by many countries, as current rules obstruct transfer of key climate-related technologies to developing countries.

Constant assumption in favour of market mechanisms to resolve climate change even though this perspective is not shared by a number of countries, particularly in Latin America.
Green light given for the controversial REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme which often ends up perversely rewarding those responsible for deforestation, while dispossessing indigenous and forest dwellers of their land.

Systematic exclusion of proposals that came from the historic World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change including proposals for a Climate Justice Tribunal, full recognition of indigenous rights, and rights for nature.

Bolivia's indefatigable negotiator, Pablo Solon, put it most cogently in the concluding plenary, when he said that the only way to assess whether the agreement had any 'clothes' was to see if it included firm commitments to reduce emissions and whether it was enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Power Generating Mushrooms of South India

“It is just like a plantation of mushrooms generating energy everywhere!! Amazing to see the ability of local entrepreneurs to repair and maintain the wind turbines of different capacities in Tamilnadu State of India”

Those were the words from Mr. Matthew Matimbwi, the Renewable Energy Engineer from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was making his programme evaluation remarks during our third phase of the International Training on Wind Power Development and Use in India conducted by the LIFE Academy, Sweden. Earlier we were brought to the Muppandal Wind Farm site in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu State for study visits; thanks to Bo Gillgren and Tommy Mansson from LIFE Academy for giving us the opportunity to explore as a team of professionals from different parts of the world.

Mathew’s view was very much right; It is just like a huge plantation of Wind Turbine Mushrooms generating tremendous amount of energy. “Muppandal Wind Farm” in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu is the largest Wind Farms in Asia. According to Dr. Joshua Earnest, the installation of Muppandal is next only to the cluster of Wind Turbines installed at the Altamont pass in California. Dr. Joshua, who was our chief faculty during the training, is currently the Professor & Head of the Department of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training and Research, Bhopal, India.

Muppandal Wind Country

The book titled “Wind Power Plants and Project Development”, jointly authored by Dr. Joshua Earnest and Tore Wizelinius, describes Muppandal Wind Farm as the “Muppandal Wind Country”. Excerpts from the book:

“Muppandal is the key places which go down into the annals of wind power history not only India, but also the world. This is one of the windiest parts of India. The steady flow of wind to these Wind Power Plants is made possible because the Muppandal Wind Farm is situated on a mountain pass in Western Ghats, through which wind is canalised throughout the year. The average wind velocity in this area is about 12 m/s, which is extremely good for wind power generation. The first Wind Farm with 10 Wind Turbine of 55 kW each was installed at Mullakkadu in 1986 and the first private sector Wind Farm was set up in 1990 with two wind turbines of 250 kW each at Muppandal. And more and more wind power have been installed during the years. This is next only to the cluster of Wind Power Plants installed at California in the U.S.A. Today Muppandal is a permanent large exhibition ground spanning several square kilometres, attracting not only the wind farm developers, but also tourists, researchers and everyone interested in seeing different types of wind turbines at a single location"
Present status of Wind Generation in Tamilnadu
According to the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA), the nodal agency for the promoting renewable energy sector, the State has 5,055 MW of wind generation capacity now with private investors accounting for about 5,038 MW. About 17 MW is with the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board and TEDA.

During the current year, Government estimates indicate that over 645 MW of wind turbines will be added.

In addition, the State is a hub of wind turbine manufacturers with most of the leading global players setting up manufacturing facilities.

They are Suzlon, Vestas, Gamesa, Enercon, RRB Energy, Shriram Leitner, Regen Power … and a bunch of local players many of them based in the engineering hub of Coimbatore which churn out small aero generators of kilowatt capacity.

Together there is a wind turbine manufacturing capability covering a range from 25 KW to 2 MW, say the officials. At current levels of capacity, the industry has actually fully exploited the levels of wind power capacity that had been initially estimated. The potential assessed was then 5,374 MW, they say. But over the years developments in technology, larger size and more efficient turbines have contributed to increasing the potential in this sector which is now grown multi-fold.

Apart from the Government support through the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the supportive approach of the State Government and the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board in offering an attractive tariff of Rs 3.39 a unit, and facilities for banking and wheeling and scaling up evacuation infrastructure have helped catalyse investments in this sector. The TNEB is in the process of setting up five 400 kv substations and three 230 KV substations that would address the bottlenecks in evacuation of wind power, says officials.

Background of the Wind Power Development in Tamilnadu

Wind has considerable potential as a global clean energy source being both widely available, though diffuse, and producing no pollution during power generation, Tamil Nadu is endowed with three lengthy mountain ranges on the Western side with potential of 1650 MW in palghat pass in Coimbatore District, 1300 MW in Shengottai pass in Tirunelveli District and 2100 MW in Arelvaymozhi pass in Kanniyakumari District and 450 MW in other areas totalling 5500 MW. We must see that the total achievement in India is 12009 MW.

There are 41 Wind potential sites in 8 Districts in the State, declared by MNRE, as suitable for Wind Power projects based on the Wind assessment studies carried out by TEDA with the funding assistance of MNRE and the State Government. Wind farms have so far been set up in 26 sites of the above, almost entirely by the private sector, except for 19 MW of Demonstration Wind farms in 8 locations set up during 1986 to 1993, jointly by TEDA and TNEB, but now run and maintained by TNEB.

A package of incentives which includes fiscal concessions, custom duty, excise duty exemption and 10 year tax holiday are available for Wind Power projects from Govt. of India. Intra State open access regulations have been notified and preferential tariff orders issued for Wind Power Projects in Tamil Nadu by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC). As per the revised tariff orders issued in May 2006, the rate is Rs.2.75 per unit for the projects for which agreements had already been signed and Rs.2.90 per unit where the agreements are to be signed. The wheeling and banking charges remain unchanged at 5% each.
This amazing success story is a very good case study for all entreprenuers in the world who would like to invest in wind power. It is the result of the hard work of thousand of engineers, technicians, policy makers, project managers and above all the political will of the Government and its people.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The legacy of Herman Scheer

The words of Mahatma Gandhi - "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win"- are a fitting introduction to Herman Scheer's latest book named "Der Energethische Imperativ" (subtitled 100% Now: How the Complete Switch to Renewable Energies Can Be Realised) It sums up his passionate conviction that it was technically and economically feasible for renewable energy to fully replace fossil and nuclear energy within just a few years, if the political will existed. He saw political intransigence as the biggest barrier to achieving this.

Herman Scheer was a true architect of the renewable-energy age, he lived as he preached, powering his home with a windmill.
The sad demise of Herman Scheer last week is a great loss to the people who are passionate about renewable and solar energy.

He never withered under the criticism that his ideas were utopian, and for the past decade was able to enjoy the fact that his views were being taken seriously. Nicknamed the "solar king", the "sun god" and the "solar pope", or - for those who were not complimentary about his environmental goals - the "Stalin of renewables", in 2000 Scheer succeeded in introducing the feed-in tariff, otherwise known as Scheer's law, by which individuals and businesses that generate power through renewable energies are able to sell it back to the grid at above-market prices, thus encouraging the spread of wind, solar and hydro power. The system has been adopted around the world and has contributed to the respect now given to renewable energy, not least because it has encouraged individual participation. A man of considerable energy himself, and also of great impatience, Scheer founded the International Renewable Energy Agency and was president of Eurosolar, the European Association for Renewable Energy.Scheer was never afraid of voicing his views. He often clashed with fellow party members, particularly the erstwhile SPD party leader and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder, over his decision in the late 90s to back Nato's intervention in Kosovo, which he called a "war crime", to which Schroder responded that he no longer belonged in his party. But his position in the Baden-Wurttemberg SPD was so solid that his future there was never called into question.

Scheer was known internationally for his pro-environmental politics. He was a supporter of renewable energy and wrote many books and articles outlying his ideas. Two in particular, "A Solar Manifesto" and "Solar Economy," are considered leading publications on renewable energy.

Supporting renewable energy earned Scheer many international awards over the years, including the alternative Nobel prize, the Right Livelihood Award, in 1999. Herman Scheer will be remembered for ever due to his contributions to the renewable energy world.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Renewables delivering 18% of the Global Electricity Supply in 2009; according to Renewables 2010 Global Status Report

By 2010, renewable energy had reached a clear tipping point in the context of global energy supply, concludes the 'Renewables 2010 Global Status Report'. With renewables comprising fully one quarter of global power capacity from all sources and delivering 18% of global electricity supply in 2009, the latest release of the definitive assessment of the state of the global renewable energy industry from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) details the current status and key trends of global markets, investment, industry and policies related to renewable energy.

Investment in new renewable power capacity continued to increase during 2009, despite challenges posed by the global financial crisis, lower oil prices, and slow progress with climate change policy. For the second year in a row, more money was invested in new renewable power capacity than in new fossil fuel capacity. The renewable generating capacity installed over the past two years accounts for nearly 50% of total generating capacity added to the world's grids over this period.

Furthermore, the rapid adoption beyond the industrialised world means that today more than half of the existing renewable power capacity is in developing countries.

These trends reflect strong growth and investment across all market sectors including power generation, heating and cooling, and transport fuels. Grid-connected solar PV has grown by an average of 60% every year for the past decade, increasing 100-fold since 2000. During the period from year-end 2004 through 2009, consistently high growth year-after-year marked virtually every other renewable technology as well. During those five years, annual growth rates averaged 27% for wind power capacity, 19% for solar water heating, and 20% for ethanol production. Indeed, as other economic sectors declined around the world, existing renewable capacity continued to grow during 2009 at rates close to, or exceeding, those in previous years. Market growth for some technologies - including wind and concentrating solar power, and solar water heating - exceeded their five-year averages in 2009. Annual production of ethanol and biodiesel increased 10% and 9%, respectively, despite layoffs and ethanol plant closures in the United States and Brazil. Biomass and geothermal for power and heat also grew strongly last year.

Much more active policy development during the past several years culminated in a significant policy milestone in early 2010 with more than 100 countries having some type of policy target and/or promotion policy related to renewable energy in place. Most countries have adopted more than one policy and there is a significant diversity of policy mechanisms in use at national, state/provincial and local levels to advance renewable energy. In addition, many of the new targets enacted in the past three years call for shares of energy or electricity from renewables in the 15%-25% range by 2020.

Renewable Energy Extends Its Reach

Recent trends also reflect the increasing significance of developing countries in advancing renewable energy. Collectively, developing countries now account for almost half of the countries with some sort of policy to promote renewable power generation, and they have more than half of global renewable power capacity. Today China leads the world in several indicators of market growth. India ranks fifth worldwide in total existing wind power capacity and is rapidly expanding many forms of rural renewables such as biogas and solar PV, while Brazil produces virtually all of the world's sugar-derived ethanol and has been adding new biomass and wind power plants. Renewables markets are growing at rapid rates in several other developing countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay, to name a few.

The geography of renewable energy is changing in ways that suggest a new era of geographic diversity. For example, wind power existed in just a handful of countries in the 1990s but now operates in over 82 countries. Outside of Europe and the US, other developed countries like Australia, Canada and Japan are seeing recent gains and broader technology diversification. The developing world is experiencing a similar trend and, for example, today at least 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa have active renewable energy markets. This geographic diversity is boosting confidence that renewables are less vulnerable to market dislocations in any specific country.

Meanwhile, leadership in manufacturing is shifting from Europe to Asia as countries like China, India and South Korea continue to increase their commitments to renewable energy. In 2009, firms in China produced 40% of the world's solar PV cell supply, 30% of the world's wind turbines (up from 10% in 2007), and 77% of the world's solar hot water collectors.

Renewables Investment Remains Robust

Greatly increased investment from both public-sector and development banks is also driving renewables development. Excluding large hydro, total investment in renewable energy capacity was about US$150 billion in 2009, up from the revised $130 billion recorded in 2008. Investment in new renewable power capacity in both 2008 and 2009 represented over half of total global investment in new power generation. However, investment in utility-scale renewable energy additions dropped 6% in 2009 from the 2008 level, despite 'green stimulus' efforts by many of the world's major economies and increased investments from development banks in Europe, Asia and South America.

All told, again excluding large hydro, the world invested $101 billion in new utility-scale renewable energy development in 2009, compared with $108 billion in 2008. In 2009 there was also investment of some $50 billion worldwide in small-scale projects such as rooftop solar PV and solar hot water. An additional $40-$45 billion was invested in large hydropower.

Renewable energy companies invested billions of dollars in plant and equipment to manufacture solar modules, wind turbines and other generating devices during 2009. Venture capital and private equity investment in clean energy companies totalled $4.5 billion, down from $9.5 billion in 2008, while public market investment in quoted clean energy firms reached $12.8 billion, up from $11.8 billion. Government and corporate research, development, and deployment spending on clean energy technology in 2009 is estimated at $24.6 billion, up around 2% from 2008, the bulk (68%) of which went to energy-efficiency technologies.

Germany and China were the investment leaders in 2009, each spending roughly $25-$30 billion on new renewables capacity, including small hydro. They were followed by the US, investing over $15 billion, and Italy and Spain with about $4-$5 billion each.

The wind energy sector continued to be the hands-down leader, receiving 62% of the global total invested - $62.7 billion in 2009, up from $55.5 billion the year before. Most of the growth was due to China's rapid capacity expansion, increased investment activity in the wind sector in Latin America, and a handful of large utility-backed offshore wind deals in the UK.

These gains were offset by a $5.6 billion drop in solar power asset investment, to $17.1 billion in 2009, and a plunge in biofuels spending, down to $5.6 billion from $15.4 billion in 2008. Lower investment in PV in 2009 was due to several factors. One was the behaviour of prices along the value chain, with PV module prices falling by some 50% over the year, bringing the dollar value of financial investment down with them. Other factors included the Spanish government's cap on PV project development at the end of the boom associated with the pre-September 2008 tariff, and the shortage of debt finance for utility-scale projects in Europe and the US, which also affected wind farms. Concerns about scheduled reductions in feed-in tariff support for PV in some countries actually spurred on developers rather than holding them back. Indeed, Germany witnessed a spectacular end-of-2009 spurt in small-scale PV project construction.

In 2007, biofuels commanded 22% of global asset finance, with investment totalling $19.6 billion. However, the sector slipped to $15.4 billion in spending in 2008 and just $5.6 billion in 2009, representing only 5% of global project investment. An oversupply in US ethanol continued to smother investment in the biofuels sector in 2009. Things may soon turn around as both Brazil and the United States continue to follow ambitious biofuels targets. Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras has moved into the ethanol sector, and US plants bought under bankruptcy auctions in 2008 and 2009 have begun slowly to resume operation.

The decline in asset investment in biofuels relegated the sector to fourth place among the renewable energy sectors in 2009. Stepping up to third place, after wind and solar, was biomass (including waste-to-energy), with a rise in investment to $10.4 billion, from $9 billion in 2008.

In Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, the brightest feature for project investors during 2009 was the expanded role of public sector banks. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Germany's KfW Banking Group, in particular, significantly raised their lending to renewable energy. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) played an active role in project finance, albeit not on the scale of the EIB and KfW, as did the Brazilian National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) for Brazilian projects (though its lending declined relative to 2008 levels).

This strong contribution by the public sector was all the more needed, because many commercial banks - from Europe to the United States and elsewhere - found it impossible to sustain the 2008 level of lending to renewable energy projects. Overall, development assistance for renewables in developing countries surged in 2009, up to $5 billion from $2 billion in 2008. For example, the World Bank Group, including the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), saw the largest increase to date in finance from previous years. Finance rose fivefold in 2009 as $1.38 billion were committed to new renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydro below 10 MW) and another $177 million to large hydropower.

Expanding the Reach of Policies and Targets

Growth in renewables is inevitably supported through government policy. Renewable energy policies existed in a few countries in the 1980s and early 1990s, but policy support began to emerge in many more countries, states, provinces, and cities during the period 1998-2005, and even more so during 2005-2010.

Many countries have adopted national targets for shares of electricity production. Targets are typically for 5%-30% of electricity from renewable sources, but they range from 2%-90%. Many historical targets have aimed for the 2010-2012 timeframe, but targets aiming for 2020 and beyond have multiplied in recent years.

Developing nations now make up more than half of the countries worldwide with renewable energy targets. The 'Renewables 2007 Global Status Report' counted 22 developing countries with targets, a figure that had expanded to 45 by early 2010. Developing countries' targets are also becoming increasingly ambitious. For example, China aims for 15% of final energy consumption from renewables by 2020, even as total energy demand continues to grow at nearly double-digit annual rates.

Several countries have adopted targets at state/provincial and regional levels - and at other levels as well - with many mandated through renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and other policies.

In 2008, all 27 EU countries confirmed national targets for 2020, following a 2007 EU-wide target of 20% of final energy by 2020. It appears that many countries won't meet their 2010 targets by the end of the year, although this won't be known immediately due to data lags. Nonetheless, some EU countries were close to or had already achieved various types of national 2010 targets early in the year, including France, Germany, Latvia, Spain and Sweden.

City and local governments around the world are also enacting renewable energy promotion policies. Hundreds of cities and local governments have established future targets for renewables; urban planning that incorporates renewables into city development; building codes that mandate or promote renewables; tax credits and exemptions; purchases of renewable power or fuels for public buildings and transit; innovative electric utility policies; subsidies, grants, or loans; and many information and promotion activities.

Supporting Renewable Electricity Generation

At least 83 countries - 41 developed/transition countries and 42 developing countries - have some type of policy to promote renewable power generation. The 10 most common policy types are feed-in tariffs (FiTs), renewable portfolio standards, capital subsidies or grants, investment tax credits, sales tax or VAT exemptions, green certificate trading, direct energy production payments or tax credits, net metering, direct public investment or financing, and public competitive bidding.

The most common policy currently in use is the feed-in tariff, which has been enacted in many new countries and regions in recent years. By early 2010, at least 50 countries and 25 states/provinces had adopted FiTs over the years, more than half of which have been enacted since 2005.

Strong momentum for feed-in tariffs (FiTs) continues around the world as countries enact new policies or revise existing ones. For example, France adopted a tariff for building-integrated PV that was among the highest in the world (€0.42-€0.58/kWh). Other countries that adopted or updated FiTs included the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Slovenia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine and the UK. In some countries, tariffs were reduced in response to technology cost reductions, market slowdowns and concerns about foreign manufacturer market share; indeed, reductions were more prevalent in 2009 and early 2010 than in previous years.

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) - also called renewable obligations or quota policies - exist at the state/province level in the US, Canada and India, and at the national level in 10 countries: Australia, Chile, China, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK. Globally, 56 states provinces, or countries had RPS policies in place by early 2010. Most RPS policies require renewable power shares in the range of 5%-20%, typically by 2010 or 2012, although more recent policies are extending targets to 2015, 2020 and 2025. Most RPS targets translate into large expected future investments in renewable generation, although the specific means (and effectiveness) of achieving quotas can vary greatly across countries or states.

Investment tax credits, import duty reductions and/or other tax incentives are also common means for providing financial support at the national level in many countries, and at the state level in the United States, Canada and Australia. Many tax credits apply to a broad range of renewable energy technologies, such as Indonesia's new 5% tax credit adopted in early 2010, and a new 2009 policy in the Philippines for seven-year income tax exemptions and zero-VAT rates for renewable energy projects.

Energy production payments or credits, sometimes called 'premiums', also exist in a handful of countries while capital subsidies and tax credits have been particularly instrumental in supporting solar PV markets. Net metering (also called net billing) is an important policy for rooftop solar PV and laws now exist in at least 10 countries - including a growing number of developing countries. A few jurisdictions are also begining to mandate solar PV in selected types of new construction through building codes.

Basis for Optimism

Almost all renewable energy industries experienced manufacturing growth in 2009. It must be conceded, however, that many capital expansion plans were scaled back or postponed.

The REN21 Renewables 2010 Global Status Report reveals that for the second year in a row, in both the United States and Europe, more renewable power capacity was added than conventional power capacity from fossil fuels or nuclear. China added a staggering 37 GW of renewable power generation capacity in 2009, more than any other country in the world, to reach 226 GW installed. Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable power capacity was added, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity.

Indeed, wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW - China was the top market, with 13.8 GW added. Solar PV additions reached a record high of 7 GW - Germany was the top market, with 3.8 GW added. And many countries saw record biomass use - notable was Sweden, where biomass accounted for a larger share of energy supply than oil for the first time. And biofuels production contributed the energy equivalent of 5% of world gasoline in 2009.

Even the most cynical observer must acknowledge this is a success story by any means, let alone under the current economic climate. Renewable energy is now breaking into the mainstream of energy markets thanks to hundreds of new government policies, accelerating private and public investment, and numerous technology advances achieved since the first Renewables Global Status report was released in 2005.

Despite the continuing advances highlighted in this year's report, the world has tapped only a fraction of the vast renewable energy resources available to us. Further strengthening of policy support can help drive the massive scale up in renewables needed for the sector to play a major role in building a stable, secure and enduring low-carbon global economy.
Ref: REN Renewables 2010 Global Status Report

Saturday, September 25, 2010

PV Manufacturers globally produced an impressive 51% increase in 2009 from the year before.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturers produced a record 10,700 megawatts of PV cells globally in 2009—an impressive 51-percent increase from the year before. While growth in 2009 slowed from the remarkable 89-percent expansion in 2008, it continued the rapid rise of an industry that first reached 1,000 megawatts of production in 2004. By the end of 2009, nearly 23,000 megawatts of PV had been installed worldwide, enough to power 4.6 million U.S. homes. Solar PV, the world’s fastest-growing power technology, now generates electricity in more than 100 countries.
Made of semiconductor materials, PV cells convert solar radiation directly into electricity. Rectangular panels consisting of numerous PV cells can be linked into arrays of various sizes and power output capabilities—from rooftop systems of one to several kilowatts to ground-mounted arrays of hundreds or even thousands of megawatts. (One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.)

There are two broad categories of PV: crystalline silicon and thin-film. Crystalline silicon cells account for more than 80 percent of the annual PV market. But thin-film PV, a relatively new technology that is less efficient but also less expensive to make and potentially adaptable to more applications, is gaining ground. In fact, First Solar, a thin-film company headquartered in Arizona but with most of its production capacity in Malaysia, was the top PV manufacturing firm in 2009, contributing roughly 10 percent of world PV production.

China produced 3,800 megawatts of PV in 2009, leading all countries for the second straight year. Together China and third place Taiwan accounted for 49 percent of all PV manufacturing, a share that should keep climbing as companies there grow larger and more quickly than competitors based in countries where operating costs are higher. Rounding out the top five producers in 2009 were Japan in second place, Germany in fourth, and the United States in fifth.These traditional industry leaders have lost significant market share with the recent ascent of China and Taiwan. Indeed, Japan, which dominated the global market in 2004, controls just 14 percent today.

While China now manufactures more than a third of the world’s PV cells, most Chinese consumers cannot yet afford the technology. Ninety-five percent of its production is exported, much of it bound for Germany, the world leader in using PV. Germany installed a record 3,800 megawatts of PV in 2009, more than half the 7,200 megawatts added worldwide. This brought Germany’s overall PV generating capacity to 9,800 megawatts, nearly three times as much as the next closest country, Spain. Already in the first half of 2010, Germany added another 3,800 megawatts.

Italy was first runner-up in newly installed PV in 2009 with 730 megawatts, more than doubling its total installed capacity. Japan and the United States, third and fourth in both new and overall PV generating capacity, each installed close to 500 megawatts in 2009.

World installed PV capacity has grown 16-fold over the past decade in large part due to government incentives encouraging the use of solar power. Although PV production and installation costs have fallen substantially over time, government support will be necessary until solar reaches grid parity (price competitiveness) with heavily subsidized fossil fuels. Incorporating fossil fuels’ largely externalized costs, such as climate change and pollution-related illnesses, into the price of fossil-generated electricity would further accelerate PV’s march to grid parity.

The most important solar incentive to date is the feed-in tariff, which guarantees generators of renewable electricity—including homeowners, private firms, and utilities—a long-term purchase price for each kilowatt-hour they produce. This powerful incentive to invest in renewables has now been adopted by some 50 countries, including Ecuador, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, and most of the European Union. Deutsche Bank estimates that feed-in tariffs had driven 75 percent of world PV installations as of 2008.

Nowhere has the feed-in tariff been more effective than in Germany. In a country that on average receives about as much sunlight as cloudy Seattle, this premium payment for solar electricity has not only spurred Germany to preeminence in installed PV capacity, it has also helped grow a domestic solar industry with more than 10 billion euros ($13 billion) in annual sales.

With PV system prices plummeting, including a 30-percent drop in 2009 alone, the German government announced in mid-2010 that in order to control costs and bring support levels in line with market conditions, it would reduce tariff rates further than the annual cuts originally stipulated by law. While industry stakeholders warn of job losses and reduced demand, the government believes that other changes, including allowing larger systems to qualify for the premium, will ensure further growth. Electricity from PV could reach grid parity in Germany by 2013.

The United States, where total PV connected to the grid is doubling every two years, has no national feed-in policy. Instead, federal tax credits along with various state and local programs, including renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that require utilities to get a certain percentage of the electricity they sell from renewables, have been the main drivers of U.S. PV growth. With an RPS mandating 33-percent renewable electricity by 2020, California has 60 percent of the total 1,260 megawatts of grid-tied PV in the United States. Although this state still leads by a wide margin, others are growing more rapidly. Five states doubled their installed PV in 2009, including Florida, home of the new 25-megawatt DeSoto plant, currently the country’s largest PV park.

While interest in small-scale installations keeps growing in industrial and developing countries, the PV landscape is evolving to include utility-scale, multiple-megawatt solar parks of the DeSoto variety. In September 2010, a newly-expanded 80-megawatt park in Ontario, Canada, overtook a plant in central Spain to become the largest operational PV power plant in the world. Spain and Germany currently account for 8 of the top 10 plants, but that list could soon change dramatically as ambitious projects in other countries come online. China, with scarcely 300 megawatts of installed PV at the end of 2009, has a pipeline of large projects worth a total of 12,000 megawatts. The United States has 23 projects ranging from 100 to 5,000 megawatts under development in the arid Southwest. But these simply scratch the surface of that region's potential: harnessing a mere 2.5 percent of the annual solar radiation striking the Southwestern land suitable for solar power plants could produce as much energy as the country currently uses.

India also is bidding to become a major player in the solar market, having announced its Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in November 2009. Named for India’s first prime minister, the Mission envisions 20,000 megawatts of grid-connected solar power and 2,000 megawatts of distributed, off-grid solar installations by 2022. The planned capacity build-out will be roughly half PV and half concentrating solar thermal power, another budding solar technology. If India meets its target, it would be a tremendous boost for a country with vast solar resources but an estimated 400 million people who lack electricity.

Even with the lingering effects of the global recession, more than 16,000 megawatts of PV are slated to be installed in 2010. Germany will likely again account for half of the newly added capacity, as developers rush to finish projects before cuts in the feed-in tariff fully take hold. Beyond 2010, analysts expect annual PV installations to be more evenly distributed among an expanding roster of countries. With costs dropping, economies of scale growing, and governments realizing the benefits of this limitless, climate-friendly resource, the future for solar power looks bright.

Ref: Earth Poilcy Institute

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Antenna made of Carbon Nanotubes could make Photovoltaic Cells more Efficient, according to MIT Researchers.

Using carbon nanotubes (hollow tubes of carbon atoms), MIT chemical engineers have found a way to concentrate solar energy 100 times more than a regular photovoltaic cell. Such nanotubes could form antennas that capture and focus light energy, potentially allowing much smaller and more powerful solar arrays.

"Instead of having your whole roof be a photovoltaic cell, you could have little spots that were tiny photovoltaic cells, with antennas that would drive photons into them," says Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and leader of the research team.

Strano and his students describe their new carbon nanotube antenna, or "solar funnel," in the Sept. 12 online edition of the journal Nature Materials. Lead authors of the paper are postdoctoral associate Jae-Hee Han and graduate student Geraldine Paulus (pictured above).

Their new antennas might also be useful for any other application that requires light to be concentrated, such as night-vision goggles or telescopes.

Solar panels generate electricity by converting photons (packets of light energy) into an electric current. Strano's nanotube antenna boosts the number of photons that can be captured and transforms the light into energy that can be funneled into a solar cell.

The antenna consists of a fibrous rope about 10 micrometers (millionths of a meter) long and four micrometers thick, containing about 30 million carbon nanotubes. Strano's team built, for the first time, a fiber made of two layers of nanotubes with different electrical properties — specifically, different bandgaps.

In any material, electrons can exist at different energy levels. When a photon strikes the surface, it excites an electron to a higher energy level, which is specific to the material. The interaction between the energized electron and the hole it leaves behind is called an exciton, and the difference in energy levels between the hole and the electron is known as the bandgap.

The inner layer of the antenna contains nanotubes with a small bandgap, and nanotubes in the outer layer have a higher bandgap. That's important because excitons like to flow from high to low energy. In this case, that means the excitons in the outer layer flow to the inner layer, where they can exist in a lower (but still excited) energy state.

Therefore, when light energy strikes the material, all of the excitons flow to the center of the fiber, where they are concentrated. Strano and his team have not yet built a photovoltaic device using the antenna, but they plan to. In such a device, the antenna would concentrate photons before the photovoltaic cell converts them to an electrical current. This could be done by constructing the antenna around a core of semiconducting material.

The interface between the semiconductor and the nanotubes would separate the electron from the hole, with electrons being collected at one electrode touching the inner semiconductor, and holes collected at an electrode touching the nanotubes. This system would then generate electric current. The efficiency of such a solar cell would depend on the materials used for the electrode, according to the researchers.

Strano's team is the first to construct nanotube fibers in which they can control the properties of different layers, an achievement made possible by recent advances in separating nanotubes with different properties.

While the cost of carbon nanotubes was once prohibitive, it has been coming down in recent years as chemical companies build up their manufacturing capacity. "At some point in the near future, carbon nanotubes will likely be sold for pennies per pound, as polymers are sold," says Strano. "With this cost, the addition to a solar cell might be negligible compared to the fabrication and raw material cost of the cell itself, just as coatings and polymer components are small parts of the cost of a photovoltaic cell."

Strano's team is now working on ways to minimize the energy lost as excitons flow through the fiber, and on ways to generate more than one exciton per photon. The nanotube bundles described in the Nature Materials paper lose about 13 percent of the energy they absorb, but the team is working on new antennas that would lose only 1 percent.

REf: MIT News Office

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Sweden is a world leader in the field of Bio Energy

As part of the International Training Programme on "Wind Energy Development and Use" conducted by LIFE Academy and sponsored by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Sweden, I had a chance to visit the local Bio Gas Plant at Halland region in Sweden. The Biogas Plant has a 300 cumic meter digester for anaerobic digestion. A mixture of cow dung and vegetable wastes are the main waste feeds in the Plant. The main feature of the Biogas Plant is a Biogas upgrading unit which is used to upgrade a 58% Methane Biogas to a 96% Methane Biogas. After the upgradation the carbon dioxide content in the Biogas is reduced from 37% to 4% and other unwanted gases are initially 5% and later reduced to 0%. This upgraded Biogas is used as the fuel for vehicles in Sweden. I could see a lot of buses and cars running in Sweden utilising Biogas as fuel. In the southern Swedish city of Malmo almost all the buses are powered with Biogas. The whole unit has got a cute Sterling Engine for electricity generation as well.

Newly published energy statistics for 2009 show that bioenergy today makes up a larger share of Sweden’s energy use than oil: 31.7 percent bioenergy compared to 30.8 oil.

The numbers are based on preliminary statistics from the Swedish Energy Agency and were presented by Svebio – the Swedish Bioenergy Association. The final energy use includes all sectors of the Swedish society: industry, transport, residential, services, etc.

Svebios analyses also shows that the total share of renewable energy, using the definition in EU:s renewable energy directive (RED), was 46.3 percent in 2009. This is well ahead of the EU target trajectory, and only 3.7 percent short of the EU target for Sweden of 49 percent in 2020. The major renewable energy source beside bioenergy is hydropower. Wind power is still a relatively small contributor to the energy supply.

The main reason for the fast increase of renewable energy in recent years is the steady growth of bioenergy use. Biomass is the primary energy source in the district heating sector, which supplies more than half of the total heat demand in the residential sector. The use of by-products and residues in the forest industry is another major component. Bioelectricity has expanded both with combined heat and power plants in district heating and in the forest industry. Pellets and fuelwood play a major role in heating of single homes. Finally, more than 5 percent of transport fuels are biofuels – ethanol, biodiesel and biogas. In all, the Swedish bioenergy business sector is in a phase of strong expansion, which is confirmed by the statistics.

This was very interesting to me because of the potential of biogas plants in India. In India we have got 42.6 lakhs Family Type Biogas Plants (up to 30th June 2010, according the Minstry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) Website, Govt. of India). However the total capacity or the other statistics of Community based biogas plants is unknown. In India , most of the Biogas Plants are producing Raw Biogas which is generally used for cooking purposes. In some cases electricity is generated for lighting purposes without proper upgradation. The Biogas upgradation technology and the potential of upgradation is very important if we are using biogas as a fuel for transportation. This is has to be brought to the attention of researchers, investers and project developers who want to invest in India in the Biogas sector.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Americans Using Less Energy and More Renewables

The United States has significantly reduced their energy consumption and making use of more renewable energy sources.

The United States used significantly less coal and petroleum in 2009 than in 2008, and significantly more wind power. There also was a decline in natural gas use and increases in solar, hydro and geothermal power according to the most recent energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"Energy use tends to follow the level of economic activity, and that level declined last year. At the same time, higher efficiency appliances and vehicles reduced energy use even further," said A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the energy flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

"As a result, people and businesses are using less energy in general."

The estimated U.S. energy use in 2009 equaled 94.6 quadrillion BTUs ("quads"), down from 99.2 quadrillion BTUs in 2008. (A BTU or British Thermal Unit is a unit of measurement for energy, and is equivalent to about 1.055 kilojoules).

Energy use in the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation arenas all declined by .22, .09, 2.16 and .88 quads, respectively.

Wind power increased dramatically in 2009 to.70 quads of primary energy compared to .51 in 2008. Most of that energy is tied directly to electricity generation and thus helps decrease the use of coal for electricity production.

"The increase in renewables is a really good story, especially in the wind arena," Simon said. "It's a result of very good incentives and technological advancements. In 2009, the technology got better and the incentives remained relatively stable. The investments put in place for wind in previous years came online in 2009. Even better, there are more projects in the pipeline for 2010 and beyond."

The significant decrease in coal used to produce electricity can be attributed to three factors: overall lower electricity demand, a fuel shift to natural gas, and an offset created by more wind power production, according to Simon.

Nuclear energy use remained relatively flat in 2009. No new plants were added or taken offline in this interval, and the existing fleet operated slightly less than in 2008.

Of the 94.6 quads consumed, only 39.97 ended up as energy services. Energy services, such as lighting and machinery output, are harder to estimate than fuel consumption, Simon said.

"The reduction in the use of natural gas, coal and petroleum is commensurate with a reduction in carbon emissions," he said. "Simply said, people are doing less stuff. Therefore, they're burning less fuel."

Ref: DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Photovoltaic Test Center opens in India

As India’s National Solar Mission starts to take effect, with solar capacity increasing rapidly across the country, TUV Rheinland has opened its seventh laboratory worldwide for testing solar modules and systems. The test facility is located in Electronics City in Bangalore.

The world leader in independent safety and quality testing for solar modules has invested €2 million in the new solar test centre, which in particular will offer services to India's growing solar industry.

In this way, TUV Rheinland is filling a significant gap for Indian industry, which previously did not have access to large test facilities on such a scale. The test centre has 2,000 square metres of space, including an outside test field of 500 square metres, with equipment such as five climate chambers and two sun simulators. This makes it one of the most up to date PV testing laboratories in the entire South Asian economic area.

"Our investment programme for the solar industry aims to place our services within easy reach of companies in and for all booming markets and to offer them large test capacities. India cannot be neglected here. In addition, all our customers can call upon the decades of expertise gained by our now 180 experts around the world to test and certify systems, modules and components", declared Friedrich Hecker, CEO of TUV Rheinland AG. This is made possible by the extremely close interlinking of all seven of TUV Rheinland's test laboratories. This goes for both photovoltaics and solar thermal technology.

Quality and safety testing

The new test centre located in Electronics City strengthens TUV Rheinland's service offering in India for solar power stations, encompassing planning, consulting, operation and maintenance. In addition, services will be provided for ensuring the quality and safety of modules and components, as well as monitoring production quality. When testing and certifying according to IEC and other international standards, the experts in the laboratory can make use of the latest test facilities.

Around 80% of all solar module manufacturers have their products tested at TUV Rheinland in order to obtain national and international certification. TUV Rheinland operates test laboratories for solar modules worldwide and aside from Bangalore, has test centres in Germany (Cologne), Shanghai, the Taiwanese city of Taichun, in Tempe, Arizona and two facilities in Yokohama (GTAC and SEAC) which recently expanded their accreditations and now include ANSI/UL 1703. All laboratories comply with the latest technical standards, as they have been launched or modernised in the last 24 months.

"All our laboratories are working closely together and contribute to our global PV business. We are delighted about the opening of the new Indian facility which will enable us to cover the expanding demand and expected growth in the Asian region and continue to offer tailor made solutions that suit the needs of our customers", says Mr. Stefan Kiehn, Head of the PV testing facilities at TUV Rheinland Japan.

TUV Rheinland is a leading group for the provision of technical services worldwide. It has over 490 locations in 61 countries on all five continents. Its workforce of 13,850is dedicated to the sustainable development of safety and quality standards. The motivating factor for TUV Rheinland employees is the conviction that without technical progress, society and industry cannot grow. For this very reason, using technical innovations, products and equipment in a safe, responsible manner is of decisive importance.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Breakthrough in Thin-Film Solar Cells

Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Mainz have made a major breakthrough in their search for more efficient thin-film solar cells. Computer simulations designed to investigate the so-called indium/gallium puzzle have highlighted a new way of increasing the efficiency of CIGS thin-film solar cells. Researchers to date have achieved only about 20% efficiency with CIGS cells although efficiency levels of 30% are theoretically possible.

Thin-film solar cells are gaining an ever increasing proportion of the solar cell market. As they are only a few micrometers thick, they offer savings on material and manufacturing costs. Currently, the highest level of efficiency of about 20% is achieved by CIGS thin-film solar cells, which absorb the sunlight through a thin layer made of copper, indium, gallium, selenium, and sulphur. However, the levels of efficiency achieved to date are nowhere near the levels theoretically possible.

The research team at Mainz University headed by Professor Dr Claudia Felser is using computer simulations to investigate the characteristics of CIGS, whose chemical formula is Cu(In,Ga)(Se,S)2. This research forms part of the comCIGS project funded by the Federal German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU). IBM Mainz and Schott AG are collaborating with the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Helmholtz Center Berlin for Materials and Energy and Jena University in the project that is targeted at finding ways of optimizing CIGS solar cells. The researchers focused in particular on the indium/gallium puzzle that has been baffling scientists for years: Although it has been postulated on the basis of calculations that the optimal indium:gallium ratio should be 30:70, in practice, the maximum efficiency level has been achieved with the exactly inverse ratio of 70:30.

With the support of IBM Mainz, Christian Ludwig of Professor Felser's team undertook new calculations with the help of a hybrid method in which he used a combination of density functional calculations and Monte Carlo simulations. "Density functional calculations make it possible to assess the energies of local structures from the quantum mechanical point of view. The results can be used to determine temperature effects over wide length scale ranges with the help of Monte-Carlo simulations," Dr Thomas Gruhn, head of the theory group in Professor Felser's team, explains the methods used. Christian Ludwig is able to use a mainframe for his investigations that was recently donated to Mainz University by IBM as part of a Shared University Research (SUR) science award.

Production at high temperatures promotes homogeneity of the material

With the aid of the simulations, it was discovered that the indium and gallium atoms are not distributed evenly in the CIGS material. There is a phase that occurs at just below normal room temperature in which the indium and gallium are completely separate. If the material is heated to above this demixing temperature, differently sized clusters of indium and gallium atoms do form. The higher the temperature, the more homogeneous the material becomes. It has now become apparent that gallium-rich CIGS is always less homogeneous than indium-rich CIGS. Because of this lack of homogeneity, the optoelectronic properties of the gallium-rich material are poorer, resulting in the low efficiency levels of gallium-rich CIGS cells -- an effect that has now been explained for the first time. The calculations also provide a concrete indication of the best way to manufacture CIGS solar cells. If it is produced at higher temperatures, the material is significantly more homogeneous. To retain the desired homogeneity, the material then needs to be cooled down sufficiently rapidly.

In practice, it was the limited heat resistance of the glass used as a substrate for solar cells that has always restricted process temperatures, but a significant breakthrough has also recently been made here. Schott AG has developed a special glass with which the process temperature can be increased to well above 600°C. The cells that result from this process are considerably more homogeneous, meaning that the production of cells with a much greater efficiency level has become possible. But the comCIGS project researchers are already thinking ahead of this. "We are currently working on large-format solar cells which should outperform conventional cells in terms of efficiency," states Gruhn. "The prospects look promising."

The work of the scientists in Mainz, conducted as part of the federal government-funded comCIGS project, has been published in the latest edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Journal Reference:

1.Christian Ludwig, Thomas Gruhn, Claudia Felser, Tanja Schilling, Johannes Windeln, Peter Kratzer. Indium-Gallium Segregation in CuIn_{x}Ga_{1-x}Se_{2}: An Ab Initio%u2013Based Monte Carlo Study

Thursday, July 08, 2010

IRENA becomes a fully fledged International Organisation

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) becomes a fully fledged International Organization. Created in January 2009 with 75 Member States, IRENA has grown in just over a year to become one of the largest international organizations. 147 countries and the European Union already signed its statute.

The 25th instrument of ratification was deposited in Berlin on June 8th and according to Article XIX, the treaty enters into force 30 days after. 29 Member States have now ratified the Treaty.

In June 2009, Abu Dhabi was elected as IRENA’s Headquarters. The first international organization of the 21st century is also the first to be headquartered in the Gulf Region. Hélène Pelosse, Interim Director-General comments, “With 98 billion barrels, Abu Dhabi is the 7th proven oil reserve in the world. Nevertheless Abu Dhabi is committed to achieve 7% renewable energy in 2020 and to invest 10% of its GDP in Masdar, a zero carbon city. The United Arab Emirates are IRENA’s home and this far sighted country has continuously proved a very strong support for the Agency”.

Hélène Pelosse was elected as Interim Director-General one year ago at the age of 39. Mother of three, she states, “We cannot rely on energy of the past to power our future. Now renewables account for 18% of world electricity production but potential scenarios show it can reach 50% or even higher. It is the only energy source which can serve the needs of the predicted nine billion earth population in 2050”.

Improving the renewable energy share in the energy mix is a direct way of tackling climate change and GHG emission reduction. Whilst also encouraging energy security and independence. Furthermore, it also offers strong support for both economic and social growth.

The International Renewable Energy Agency is aiming to become the global voice for renewable energy. The Agency’s mandate is to assist its Member States define their strategy across the fields of all renewable energies: bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Switching off your lights has a bigger impact, according to a new study

We supported the Earth Hour 2010 by switching off our lights on March 27. During the hour people across the world turned off their lights and joined a common movement to protect our climate and combat global warming.

Earth Hour was organized by WWF, one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations on a mission to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

Switching off lights, turning the television off at the mains and using cooler washing cycles could have a much bigger impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations than previously thought, according to a new study published this month in the journal Energy Policy. The study shows that the figure used by government advisors to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide saved by reducing people's electricity consumption is up to 60 percent too low.

The power stations that supply electricity vary in their carbon dioxide emission rates, depending on the fuel they use: those that burn fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) have higher emissions than those driven by nuclear power and wind. In general only the fossil fuel power stations are able to respond instantly to changes in electricity demand.

Dr Adam Hawkes, the author of the new study from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, says the government should keep track of changing carbon emission rates from power stations to ensure that policy decisions for reducing emissions are based on robust scientific evidence. The new study suggests that excluding power stations with low carbon emission rates, such as wind and nuclear power stations, and focussing on those that deal with fluctuating demand would give a more accurate emission figure.

Scientists advising government on for the best ways to reduce electricity demand currently use an estimated figure for emission rates. The new study shows that, at 0.43 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed, this figure is 60 percent lower than the actual rates observed between 2002 and 2009 (0.69 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour), meaning that policy studies are underestimating the impact of people reducing their electricity use.

Dr Adam Hawkes, author of the paper, and a Visiting Fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, said: "One way governments are trying to mitigate the effects of climate change is to encourage people to reduce their energy consumption and change the types of technologies they use in their homes. However, the UK government currently informs its policy decisions based on an estimate that, according to my research, is lower than it should be.

"This means any reduction we make in our electricity use -- for example, if everyone switched off lights that they weren't using, or turned off electric heating earlier in the year -- could have a bigger impact on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by power stations than previously thought. However, this also acts in reverse: a small increase in the amount of electricity we use could mean a larger increase in emissions than we previously thought, so we need to make sure we do everything we can to reduce our electricity use," added Dr Hawkes.

Dr Hawkes drew upon 60 million data points showing the amount of electricity produced in each half-hour period by each power station in Great Britain from the start of 2002 to the end of 2009. He also calculated the emissions of each different type of generator by examining government data showing their average annual fuel use. Finally, he took these two sets of data to calculate the emissions rate that should be attributed to a small change in electricity demand.

The results show that, for 2002-09, the carbon dioxide emission rate for estimating the effect of a small change in electricity demand is 0.69 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed. This is 30 percent higher than the average emissions rate across all power stations, which is 0.51 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, and 60 percent higher than the figure currently used by government advisors, which is 0.43 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour.

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of Imperial's Grantham Institute for Climate Change, said: "This is a very important study that could help policy makers make more informed decisions to reduce our carbon emissions. The government needs a good understanding of the figures it uses to support policy analysis, because this has a big impact on which technologies we employ to reduce our energy use. With a more accurate picture of what is going on, we will be much better equipped to tackle our carbon dioxide emissions."
A.D. Hawkes: Estimating marginal CO2 emission rates for national electricity systems (Energy Policy 2020)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Astonfield Renewable Resources and Belectric are to build a 5MW solar power plant in Osiyan in the Indian State of Rajasthan

The Osiyan project is one of several Astonfield plants expected to be approved under the Migration Phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and will be Astonfield’s first solar power plant to be commissioned and come online in the 2010-2011 financial year.

Belectric has already completed site designs and engineering on the plant. The construction will begin immediately following Migration approval.

Belectric is one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) system integrators in the world, with over 75 commissioned power plants in Europe to date. In addition to plant design, construction and commissioning, Belectric will also provide operations and maintenance (O&M) services for the plant. The Osiyan power plant will be the first utility-scale solar power plant commissioned by Belectric under India’s National Solar Mission.

The 5MW solar power plant located in the Jodhpur District of Rajasthan will sit on 30 acres of land. A total of 185 acres has been secured under a long term lease to allow for an additional 20MW build out in the future. The Osiyan plant is expected to bring over a hundred jobs to the local community and has the capacity to power approximately 13,000 homes.

“Consistent with our strategy to partner with global technology leaders, Astonfield has formalized a tie-up with Belectric to build one of the first utility-scale projects under India’s National Solar Mission. We look forward to working with Belectric in commissioning this first 5MW PV plant in Rajasthan, which will serve as a foundational project in our partnership and in the build out of India’s solar industry,” said Ameet Shah, Co-Chairman of Astonfield.

“India has become one of the most promising solar markets in the world today, and Astonfield has been a catalyst in the market’s development. The partnership between Belectric and Astonfield will play a key role in the fulfillment of India’s solar potential under the National Solar Mission,” added Bernhard Beck, CEO of Belectric.

ic is one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) system integrators in the world, with over 75 commissioned power plants in Europe to date. In addition to plant design, construction and commissioning, Belectric will also provide operations and maintenance (O&M) services for the plant. The Osiyan power plant will be the first utility-scale solar power plant commissioned by Belectric under India’s National Solar Mission.

The 5MW solar power plant located in the Jodhpur District of Rajasthan will sit on 30 acres of land. A total of 185 acres has been secured under a long term lease to allow for an additional 20MW build out in the future. The Osiyan plant is expected to bring over a hundred jobs to the local community and has the capacity to power approximately 13,000 homes.

“Consistent with our strategy to partner with global technology leaders, Astonfield has formalized a tie-up with Belectric to build one of the first utility-scale projects under India’s National Solar Mission. We look forward to working with Belectric in commissioning this first 5MW PV plant in Rajasthan, which will serve as a foundational project in our partnership and in the build out of India’s solar industry,” stated Ameet Shah, Co-Chairman of Astonfield.

“India has become one of the most promising solar markets in the world today, and Astonfield has been a catalyst in the market’s development. The partnership between Belectric and Astonfield will play a key role in the fulfillment of India’s solar potential under the National Solar Mission,” commented Bernhard Beck, CEO of Belectric.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Indian Solar PV Module Capacity to touch 1250 MW

A recent report by India Semiconductor Association (ISA) has said that photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules capacity in the country is expected to touch 750MW and 1250MW by the end of 2010.

The report titled ‘Solar PV Industry 2010: Contemporary Scenario and Emerging Trends’ was released by the principal scientific adviser, government of India Mr. R Chidambaram along with professor Juzer Vasi, IIT Bombay and head core committee and BV Naidu, advisor, ISA.

The repot aims to be useful to various stakeholders in the solar PV industry in India. The technology provides an alternative power source to the fossils and is expected to be big in the future. It is an important technology in the context of the climate change.

The industry receives help from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) which is an important component in the National Action Plan on Climate Change.

The current capacity in India is at 400MW for cells and about 1,000 MW for modules. The manufacturing facilities in the industry in India mainly comprises of cell and module with most of the Value addition happening abroad.

The report provides an overview of the global trends in PV industry, position of Indian solar PV industry the Indian government initiatives aimed at this industry. The report outlines some strengths and challenges of the industry in India.

The main strength of the industry is that the production is very cost effective despite the fact that the industry is small. This makes the components produces here preferable by clients in countries like Germany and Spain where the costs are very high.

The government initiatives including those under the JNNSM are fostering growth in the industry. The country however lacks the local producers of basic raw material that is silicon wafers hence making firms reply on foreign made silicon wafers. The fluctuations and availability of the raw material is also a challenge for the industry in India.

The major challenge before the solar energy components worldwide is its costs and the reductions will help it greatly in the future.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Larger integration of Wind and Solar Power into the Grid is possible according to NREL study

I was fortunate to attend a recent International workshop on "Smart Grid and Renewables", organised by the Power & Energy Society of the IEEE, Bangalore Chapter, held at the beautiful Infosys Campus. There were lot of questions and discussions about the impact of pumping more Renewable Energy into the existing Grid. It was a tough time for the Smart Grid Experts from the U.S to answer the questions raised by the Engineers from the Indian utility companies. Engineers from the Indian Utility companies were sceptical about the consequences of mixing more RE power into the Indian Grid because of their experience in Tamilnadu (A southern Indian State where the Wind Generation is substantial) I hope that this study by the National Renewable Energy Labarotary (NREL) will be beneficial for the Smart Grid Researchers and technologists who wants to inject more Renewable Power into the Grid. N.R.E.L recently released an intial study assessing the operational impacts and economics of increased contributions from wind and solar energy producers on the power grid. The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study examines the benefits and challenges of integrating enough wind and solar energy capacity into the grid to produce 35 percent of its electricity by 2017. The study finds that this target is technically feasible and does not necessitate extensive additional infrastructure, but does require key changes to current operational practice. The results offer a first look at the issue of adding significant amount of variable renewable energy into the grid and will help utilities across the region plan how to ramp up their production of renewable energy as they incorporate more wind and solar energy plants into the power grid.

“If key changes can be made to standard operating procedures, our research shows that large amounts of wind and solar can be incorporated onto the grid without a lot of backup generation,” said Dr. Debra Lew, NREL project manager for the study. “When you coordinate the operations between utilities across a large geographic area, you decrease the effect of the variability of wind and solar energy sources, mitigating the unpredictability of Mother Nature.”

The study focuses on the operational impacts of wind, photovoltaics, and concentrating solar power on the power system operated by the WestConnect group of utilities in the mountain and southwest states of the United States of America. Though wind and solar output vary over time, the technical analysis performed in this study shows that it is operationally possible to accommodate 30 percent wind and 5 percent solar energy penetration. To accomplish such an increase, utilities will have to substantially increase their coordination of operations over wider geographic areas and schedule their generation deliveries, or sales, on a more frequent basis. Currently generators provide a schedule for a specific amount of power they will provide in the next hour. More frequent scheduling would allow generators to adjust that amount of power based on changes in system conditions such as increases or decreases in wind or solar generation.

The study also finds that if utilities generate 27 percent of their electricity from wind and solar energy across the Western Interconnection grid, it would lower carbon emissions by 25 to 45 percent, depending on the future price of natural gas. It would also decrease fuel and emissions costs by 40 percent.

Other key findings from the study include:

•Existing transmission capacity can be more fully utilized to reduce the amount of new transmission that needs to be built.

•To facilitate the integration of wind and solar energy, coordinating the operations of utilities can provide substantial savings by reducing the need for additional back-up generation, such as natural gas-burning plants.

•Use of wind and solar forecasts in utility operations to predict when and where it will be windy and sunny is essential for cost-effectively integrating these renewable energy sources.

The study was undertaken by a team of wind, solar and power systems experts across both the private and public sectors. The study complements the recently released Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study, which examines the feasibility of integrating up to 30 percent wind in the eastern states.

The report released today is an important first step in assessing the impact of solar and wind energy on the electrical grid. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Department of Energy is investing more than $26 million to further study the Western transmission interconnection, which will help states, utilities, and grid operators prepare for future growth in energy demand, renewable energy resources, and Smart Grid technologies.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Global Wind power boom continues despite economic woes in 2009

The expectations for 2009 were dire for all industry sectors, and wind power was no exception. Both the economic and even more so the financial crisis hit the sector hard, and even GWEC’s forecast of a 12.5% annual market growth seemed overly optimistic to many in March 2009.

In fact, the annual market grew a staggering 41.5% compared to 2008. More than 38 GW of new wind power capacity was installed around the world in 2009, bringing the total installed capacity up to 158.5 GW. This represents a year-on-year growth of 31.7%. A third of these additions were made in China, which doubled its installed capacity yet again.

Wind energy is now an important player in the world’s energy markets. The 2009 market for turbine installations was worth about 45 bn € or 63 bn US$ and GWEC estimates that about half a million people are now employed by the wind industry around the world.

The main markets driving this growth continue to be Asia, North America and Europe, each of which installed more than 10 GW of new capacity in 2009. Asia’s development driven by booming Chinese marketFor the first time, Asia was the world’s largest regional market for wind energy, with capacity additions amounting to 15.4 GW.

China was the world’s largest market in 2009, more than doubling its capacity from 12.1 GW in 2008 to 25.8 GW, adding a staggering 13.8 GW of capacity, and slipped past Germany to become the world’s second largest wind power market by a very narrow margin.

The growing wind power market in China has encouraged domestic production of wind turbines and components, and the Chinese manufacturing industry is becoming increasingly mature, stretching over the whole supply chain. According to the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA), the supply is starting to not only satisfy domestic demand, but also meet international needs, especially for components. Two Chinese companies, Sinovel and Goldwind, are now among the world’s top five turbine manufacturers, and there are first moves by Chinese manufacturers to enter the international markets.The planning and development for the ‘Wind Base’ programme, which aims to build 127.5 GW of wind capacity in six Chinese provinces, is well underway, and construction has started on some projects. Given the current size of the market, it is expected that the even the unofficial target of 150 GW will be met well ahead of 2020.

India also continued growing its wind market with 1.3 GW of new installed capacity, bringing its total up to 10.9 GW. The leading wind power state remains Tamil Nadu with 4.3 GW installed, followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka. With the introduction of a national Generation Based Incentive at the end of 2009, and a real push by the government to support renewable energy development, substantial growth is expected in the near future, and the industry forecasts additions of at least 2.2 GW for 2010.Other Asian countries with new capacity additions in 2009 include Japan (178 MW, taking the total to 2.1 GW), South Korea (112 MW for a total of 348 MW) and Taiwan (78 MW for a total of 436 MW).
Ref: Global Wind Energy Council

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wind Turbines are able to "see" the wind with the innovation from the Riso National Laboratory

Risø DTU has recently completed the world's first successful test on a wind turbine with a laser-based anemometer built into the spinner in order to increase electricity generation."The results show that this system can predict wind direction, gusts of wind and turbulence. So we estimate that future wind turbines can increase energy production while reducing extreme loads by using this laser system, which we call wind LIDAR," says Torben Mikkelsen, Professor at Risø DTU.

This new Danish laser technology means that wind turbines are able to "see" the wind, before it hits the blades. By 'predicting' the wind, the wind turbine can optimize its position and adjust the blades so that the wind is used more efficiently, and the wind turbine lives longer.

The wind turbine industry is going to grow tremendously in the next years due to a global focus on renewable energy and climate change. New high-tech research will integrate "laser providence" and "smart blades" into the turbines, allowing them to operate better and last longer, thereby maintaining the competitiveness of the Danish wind power industry.

Increased electricity production from wind turbines:

It is expected that the technology can increase energy production by up to 5%, primarily because it is possible to use longer blades. For a 4 MW wind turbine, this means a financial gain of 200,000 Danish kroner a year. Compared to the Danish Energy Agency's predictions, this technology could cut CO2 emissions by 25,000 tons by 2025, if every 10th turbine is equipped with a wind LIDAR. At the same time, the technology can be combined with "smart blades" and thereby increase longevity.

"The LIDAR system can be used to increase blade reliability by making the blades cope better with the irregularities of the wind. Subsequently it is possible to produce larger blades. This increases energy production, and power from wind energy becomes more competitive, says Lars Fuglsang, Global Research Director of LM Glasfiber;

"The LIDAR systems allows a paradigm shift in the way of controlling wind turbines," says Jakob Dahlgren Skov, CEO of NKT Photonics A/S.

Ref: The Science Daily Magazine

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sun Edison to build Europe's biggest Solar PV Power Plant

SunEdison is a division of MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. They have bagged a project to develop and construct a photovoltaic solar power plant in Northeastern Italy, near the town of Rovigo. This solar power plant will have a capacity of 72 Megawatt (MW). This will be the largest solar power plant in Europe. SunEdison is a North American company. It finances, installs and operates distributed power plants using photovoltaic technologies. In 2009, SunEdison delivered more kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy than any other solar services provider in U.S.A.

The stats say that solar power plant would provide power to 17,150 homes and it would result in reducing 41,000 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. This amount will be akin to taking off 8,000 cars from the road. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

Carlos Domenech is the President of SunEdison. He is speaking about his solar projects, “SunEdison is focused on enabling the growth of global solar markets through strong capabilities in project finance, engineering, low-cost procurement and operations and maintenance services.”

SunEdison’s solar power plant would cover an area of as large as 120 soccer fields. Once completed, the plant will be spread over 9.15 million square feet of area.

Renzo Marangon is the government official of the Veneto region. He expresses his views about solar project, “Veneto is taking decisive action to advance the use of clean, renewable energy sources. At the same time, this project is expected to create over 350 local construction jobs and build expertise in advanced energy technologies. We expect Rovigo to serve as a European model for large-scale, alternative-energy projects.”

This solar-power plant will enjoy the distinction of being the largest in Europe. Presently, the largest solar power plant exists in Olmedilla, Spain. Its capacity is is a 60MW. Another solar power plant is in Strasskirchen, Germany. It has the capacity of 50 MW.

Monday, March 22, 2010

World Solar Market grew to 6.43 GW in 2009, according to Solarbuzz

World solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations reached a record high of 6.43 gigawatt (GW) in 2009, representing growth of 6% over the previous year.

The PV industry generated $38 billion in global revenues in 2009, while successfully raising over $13.5 billion in equity and debt, up 8% on the prior year.

European countries accounted for 4.75 GW, or 74% of world demand in 2009. The top three countries in Europe were Germany, Italy and Czech Republic, which collectively accounted for 4.07 GW. All three countries experienced soaring demand, with Italy becoming the second largest market in the world.

In contrast, Spanish demand in 2009 collapsed to just 4% of its prior year level.

Of total European demand, net solar cell imports accounted for 74% of the total.

The third largest market in the world was the United States, which grew 36% to 485 MW. Following closely behind was a rejuvenated Japan, which took fourth spot, growing 109%.

The analysis in the new Marketbuzz 2010 report references 112 countries across the world in 2009.

World solar cell production reached a consolidated figure of 9.34 GW in 2009, up from 6.85 GW a year earlier, with thin film production accounting for 18% of that total. China and Taiwanese production continued to build share and now account for 49% of global cell production.

The Top 7 polysilicon manufacturers had 114,500 tonnes per annum of capacity in 2009, up 92% on their 2008 level, while the Top 8 wafer manufacturers accounted for 32.9% of global wafer capacity in 2009.

The excess of solar cell production over market demand caused weighted crystalline silicon module price average for 2009 to crash 38% over the prior year level. This reduction in crystalline silicon prices also had the effect of eroding their percentage premium to thin film factory gate pricing.

Looking forward, the industry will return to high growth in 2010 and also over the next 5 years. Even in the slowest growth scenario, the global market will be 2.5 times its current size by 2014. Under the Production Led scenario, the fastest growing forecast, annual industry revenues approach $100 billion by 2014.

After providing a comprehensive look back at 2009 industry results, the new Marketbuzz™ 2010 report devotes one third of its content to 2010 - 2014 forecast outcomes, including a thorough preview of market developments, policies, prices and production requirements, which will be essential to help shape corporate strategies over this period. Manufacturing costs, gross margins and capital expenditure profiles are also addressed.

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