Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nuclear Power Too Expensive, French Court Finds

The French Court of Auditors recently found that nuclear power, which France is a leader in, costs more than what electricity consumers in the country are charged.

Furthermore, the wind industry there has spoken up to point out that electricity from wind power is cheaper than from new nuclear.

Here’s more from Craig Morris of Renewables International:

The 446-page report, which is only available in French (PDF) and does not have an executive summary, was designed mainly to answer the question of whether “all costs are taken into account” in the pricing of nuclear power in France. The answer is no.

The study found that the cost of constructing a nuclear plant has risen from 1.07 million euros (adjusted for inflation as of 2010) per megawatt in 1978 at the Fessenheim plant on the border to Germany, which is the oldest nuclear reactor currently in operation in France, to 1.37 million euros per megawatt for the Civaux plant constructed in 2002, with the average cost of a megawatt of nuclear capacity for France’s current 58 reactors coming in at 1.25 million euros.

The nuclear industry must actually be looking back on 2002 nuclear costs with envy, though, as new costs due to new safety requirements enacted since the Fukushima disasters in Japan are bringing nuclear power costs to yet a higher level.

The estimated costs for the second EPR plant currently under construction in Flamanville comes in at 3.7 million euros per megawatt; construction began in 2006 and was to be finished this year, but completion has been delayed until 2016, and costs have risen by more than 50 percent.” (emphasis added)

“Overall, the Court estimates that a megawatt-hour of nuclear power made in France costs around 49.5 euros. As French daily Figaro reported, the costs entailed for additional safety requirements in reaction to the disaster in Fukushima will probably increase that price by another 10 percent to around 54 euros. The paper also points out that the estimation of 49.5 euros is more than 10 euros greater than what the Champsaur Commission estimated a year before; based on that estimate, the price of power was set at 42 euros per megawatt-hour, roughly a sixth below the apparent actual cost estimated by the Court of Auditors.”

The European Wind Energy Association’s response? Using its cost calculator online, EWEA projects that nuclear will cost 102 euros per megawatt-hour by 2020, onshore wind only 58 euros, and offshore wind 75 euros. Perhaps France will one day find itself where Japan is, shutting down its last nuclear reactors.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Social Innovation: The Power of Sewage

There are so many smart new social innovation technologies coming out to create renewable fuels and power supplies. The latest discovery is that sewage plants are being used to not only treat waste but to also generate electricity.

This knowhow is devised by Prof Bruce Logan, an environmental engineer specializing in water systems at Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. and his team of researchers.

Professor Logan believes that by switching sewage plants from users to generators of electricity would be especially useful in developing countries.

Professor Logan has a vision. He recognizes that there are two billion people in the world who need sanitation, including a billion who need access to clean water. By helping these regions and giving them a waste treatment system, we also need to realize that these places also need the power and the resources to keep it going, which can be a drain on the community. However, by providing a waste treatment facility that can also generate electricity for lighting, or charging mobile phones well that’s a social innovation game-changer!

Sewage plants are where the treatment of domestic wastewater happens, where it goes through the process of removing contaminants from the wastewater and household sewage. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants. The end result is to produce an environmentally-safe fluid waste stream and a solid waste suitable for disposal or reuse (usually as farm fertilizers). Using advanced technology, it is now possible to re-use sewage effluent for drinking water, although till now, Singapore is the only country to implement such technology on a big enough production scale.

So, this new social innovation technology by Professor Logan works through a device that combines a fuel cell with other technologies to convert waste water treatment stations into power plants and provide the power for entire water grids. By bringing the two technologies together, Professor Logan and his team produced 0.9 kilowatt-hours of electricity per kilogram of organic waste. In contrast, sewage treatment usually consumes 1.2kWh per kilogram. Professor Logan says, “We certainly could take care of the whole water system: the treating and pumping of water, which currently requires substantial amounts of power.” This device can also be used with other types of waste to generate power.

In fact, Britain’s largest water and sewerage company, Thames Water has begun producing for the first time in Britain ready-to-burn fuel from sewage sludge (the solids found in sewage) where the sludge is dried into flakes. The flakes are transported to a purpose-built machine where they are then burnt off to generate electricity. Thames Water estimates that 16% of its electricity needs will be covered by this new type of social innovation— “poo power”— which is enough to run about 40,000 average family homes.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stanford’s Solar Work with Nanoshells

A team of engineers from Stanford University in the US has successfully managed to improve the performance of solar PV materials by using a nanomaterial called nanocrystalline silicon, tiny spheres of which have been used by the scientists to improve the light absorption of solar panels.

The process works on the same basis as the acoustics in the famous ‘Whispering Gallery’ in the US Capitol building.

The process involves creating tiny balls of silica and then coating them with silicon to produce lightweight spheres of silicon. They then etch away the silicon centre using hydrochloric acid.

The outer shell prevents the light from escaping after it is absorbed allowing it to circulate freely within the sphere. The longer the sphere can keep the light trapped within it, the better the absorption rate will be.

The material is more cost-efficient than existing PV material as it reduces both the amount of material needed for light absorption and the amount of time spent in manufacturing the material. In fact it uses one-twentieth the amount of crystalline silicon as conventional PV materials.

Three layers of silicon represents an absorption rate of 75 percent while even a single layer is more efficient than existing material.

Furthermore, the silicon spheres can absorb light from different angles, allowing panels to absorb more light from a variety of angles relative to the position of the sun in the sky. This could help in situations where achieving the optimal angle of the sun is not always possible.

Shanhui Fan, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford, said “Nanocrystalline-silicon is a great photovoltaic material. It has a high electrical efficiency and is durable in the harsh sun. Both have been challenges for other types of thin solar films.”

Yan Yao, a post-doctoral researcher said that the material could also be used for other applications such as solar fuels and photo-detectors.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Top Ten Clean Tech Highlights of Applied Materials

Applied Materials is a capital equipment producer that services a number of manufacturing industries, including semiconductor, TFT LCD display, solar (thin film and crystalline), and glass. There are four primary groups of Applied Materials – Energy and Environmental Solutions, Display, Silicon Systems Group, and Service. Because of its industry, Applied Materials has been extremely involved in the clean technology sector, especially within the branches of renewable energy and energy efficient.

1 ) World’s Most Advanced Solar Research and Development Center. In 2009, Applied Materials opened the most advanced solar research and customer demonstration facility in the city of Xi’an in China. Known as the Applied Materials’ Solar Technology Center, this non-government solar energy research facility is comprised of a number of laboratories and offices over 400,000 square feet. It contains a full Applied SunFab thin film manufacturing line and a full crystalline silicon pilot process. Customers from all around the world can walk along the building with the technologists to learn all about what is available.

2 ) Applied Materials Launches New Solar Tools to Meet Increased Demand. In August of 2011, Applied Materials unveiled a brand new set of equipment to enables customers to lower their production costs and increase cell efficiency. Known as Baccini Pegaso, it covers all equipment used for screen printing metal lines that serve as the necessary highways to conduct and transport electrons out of the cells.

3 ) Applied Materials Expands their Taiwanese Solar Manufacturing Business. In March of 2010, Applied Materials opened a new Tainan Manufacturing Center in Tainan, Taiwan. This manufacturing plant will create flat panel displays as well as thin film solar photovoltaics. This is one of Applied Material’s biggest investments in the Asian continent and puts Taiwan on the map for solar equipment technology manufacturing.

4 ) Applied Materials Partners with IIT Bombay for CLEAN Lab. In April of 2011 Applied Materials partnered with IIT Bombay, a high rated university in India, to create the Chemistry Laboratory for Energy and Nanoelectronics, or CLEAN on the IIT Bombay campus. The laboratory includes the research and development of brand new materials that may be potentially used in a number of electric and renewable energy-focused applications, including next generation solar cell development. “Our goal is to serve as a catalyst for developing the critical technology needed to solve the many challenges of next-generation electronic and solar device manufacturing. Applied Materials has grown to become IIT Bombay’s most important industry collaborator in terms of the scale of research collaboration,” said IIT Bombay Professor, Devang Khakhar.

5 ) Applied Materials Demonstrates New Solar Cell Screen Printer. In September of 2011, Applied Materials released the details of a new platform for screen printing solar photovoltaic cells. “Efficiency is ultra-important. The challenge our customers have today is that we’ve reached a point where efficiency and cost reduction must happen simultaneously because the balance of system cost is becoming a larger fraction, sometimes even larger, than the cost of the modules themselves,” said Applied Material’s Dr. Mark Pinto.

6 ) Applied Materials Takes Unused Space and Turns it into a Solar Energy Solution. Applied Materials worked with SunPower to create solar power systems that offered two megawatts of energy to Applied Materials’ Sunnyvale, California corporate facilities. “This is another exciting milestone in the adoption of solar power in California,” said Mike Splinter, president and chief executive officer of Applied Materials. “More companies are realizing the wisdom of integrating solar as a non-intrusive, clean, silent form of energy generation into our businesses and communities. We’ve converted our parking lots to power plants and we encourage others to join us in making solar power a meaningful part of the energy supply.”

7 ) Applied Materials Received 2009 Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Leadership Award. In 2009, Applied Materials received the Green Power Leadership Award which is awarded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This award recognizes the leading purchasers of green power in the country for their continued contribution and commitment to assisting in the development and the advancement of the green power market. “Purchasing and generating green power are important elements of our long term commitment to business and global sustainability,” said senior director for Applied Materials’ Environmental Health and Safety and head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Bruce Klafter. “Through our solar installations we are demonstrating the ease of integrating clean energy into existing business campuses and proving that solar power is a sound business decision, in addition to being an important choice in combating climate change.”

8 ) Applied Materials Demonstrates Leadership in Clean Energy. IN 2007 Applied Materials expanded an agreement to buy 8,220,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy a year from solar and wind generation sources throughout the state of California rather than getting energy from nonrenewable sources of energy. This amount equals roughly 12 percent of all the energy consumed in the Santa Clara facilities. This consumption will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over five percent. This will make Applied Materials one of the leading purchasers of renewable energy in Silicon Valley. This purchase was done as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fortune 500 Green Power Challenge. “We are committed to demonstrating practical environmental leadership in industry and the conservation of natural resources,” said Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied Materials. “We challenge other companies to join us in purchasing renewable power as we believe heightened demand will lower cost and increase availability for both business and consumer use.”

9 ) Applied Materials Received 2007 Environmental Leadership Award for Energy Efficiency Product Design. In June of 2007, Applied Materials received the Business Environmental Award from Acterra for its demonstration of environmental leadership. The award is known as the “Susanne Wilson Award for Pollution Prevention/Resources Conservation: Special Project” and Applied Materials won it for its design program for energy efficient semiconductor equipment. The award is commonly given to companies that seek to improve production or operation processes that reduce the consumption of resources and decrease pollution generation.

10 ) Applied Materials Partners with DuPont for Solar Cell Efficiency. In 2009, Applied Materials Partnered with product manufacturing company DuPont to collaborate on the advancement of multiple printing technology that would increase the efficiency of crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar cells. This would make photovoltaic power much more cost effective when compared to other available forms of energy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Truth About Natural Gas From Shale

Natural gas from shale is a game-changer for the United States.

It offers us greater control over our energy destiny, more jobs and government revenues, energy affordability, and reduced environmental impacts.

Unfortunately, there are myths associated with this resource and its method of extraction, which is why I would like to provide a simple explanation of how the process actually works to help demystify it.

Natural gas from dense shale rock formations has become the fastest-growing source of natural gas in the United States and could become a significant new global energy source. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. has over 2500 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of recoverable natural gas resources – 33% of which is natural gas from shale.

In just one decade, natural gas from shale has grown to around 25% of U.S. gas production and it will nearly double by 2035. This is significant as it will continue to provide the United States with reliable, affordable energy and present economic benefits to regions of the country such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

Although the energy industry has long known about huge gas resources trapped in shale rock formations, it is over the past decade that energy companies have combined two established technologies—hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—to successfully unlock this resource.

Understandably, this natural gas boom has raised some questions and concerns about how this resource is developed, including questions about the process of hydraulic fracturing and the affects, if any, on the water table. While there is much debate and rhetoric surrounding this resource, often times a simple explanation of the process is left out of the discussion. In an effort to help raise awareness of how natural gas from shale is extracted, here is a brief explanation:

Once an area prospective for hydrocarbons has been determined, permission to drill is obtained from the landowner, a lease is signed, permits are secured, and environmental impact studies are conducted. Then seismic data is gathered to determine the best location to place the well in the shale that lies deep underground.

Once determined, a well site is constructed. From the well site, we are able to drill multiple wells from a single site to minimize land use. A drilling rig is then used to drill thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. In the Marcellus Basin, wells are typically around 8,000 feet deep – nearly 7,000 feet below the water table. The rig then drills horizontally, roughly 2,000 to 6,000 feet outward into the layer of shale rock. Many companies use several layers of steel casing and cement to form a continuous barrier between the well and the surrounding formations. In our Marcellus Basin wells located in Northeast United States, for example, Chevron uses up to 8 layers of steel casing and cement through the critical shallow section of the well that contains the water table to ensure the resource is extracted safely.

Because the gas is trapped in dense shale rock, we use the process of hydraulic fracturing to allow the gas to be extracted more easily. In hydraulic fracturing, a fluid comprised of more than 99 percent water and sand and less than 1 percent chemical additives is pumped down the well at a high pressure for a short period of time, usually a few hours. This creates a network of cracks in the shale rock that allows trapped natural gas to flow to the well. The sand helps keep the fractures open and gas flowing. This is not a new practice. It has been safely used since the 1940s in more than 1 million wells in the United States. After the shale rock has been fractured, some of the hydraulic fracturing fluid is returned to the surface through the well pipe, treated and either recycled or disposed of in regulator-approved underground water injection wells.

I support the disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing process. is a joint website project of the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which provides an inventory of compounds used by operators, including Chevron, in the hydraulic fracturing process in the U.S.

Once a well is completed, a pipeline is built to take the natural gas to market to be used for electricity generation, home heating and other energy needs. We then work with the landowner to remediate the drill site and restore the land with minimal impact to its original contours.

After the well site has been remediated, the remaining footprint of a producing natural gas well is typically less than one acre. It includes a well head, a gas processing unit and one or two water tanks. Natural gas wells that produce from shale rock are typically expected to have a long production life spanning many years.

As is the case in other areas of our business, our ability to operate depends on public confidence in our operations. This trust can only be earned through open, honest and timely dialogue with surrounding communities and operating at a high standard.

Natural gas from shale can provide the U.S. with reliable, affordable, cleaner and responsibly produced energy - but we must have a supportive policy framework to encourage this development. Doing so will help enhance the country’s energy security, strengthen local and state economies, and fuel job growth.

View the original article here

Monday, March 26, 2012

Turning Nuclear Power into the Hydrogen Economy

The technology for a nuclear plant to also create hydrogen fuel has been around for decades, according to IAEA member Ibrahim Khamis, Ph.D., who spoke at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Sunday, and could help us into the long-heralded “hydrogen economy”.

The term “hydrogen economy” was first coined back in 1970 by former professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University John Bockris during a talk he gave in 1970 at General Motors Technical Center. In short, it refers to an era where gasoline, diesel, and other fossil fuels are laid by the wayside and hydrogen powers our world.

Steam from Philippsburg nuclear power plant

Spin up to 2012, and according to Khamis, we have the technology to convert the steam created at nuclear power plants into hydrogen using a process termed electrolysis.

“There is rapidly growing interest around the world in hydrogen production using nuclear power plants as heat sources,” Khamis said. “Hydrogen production using nuclear energy could reduce dependence on oil for fueling motor vehicles and the use of coal for generating electricity. In doing so, hydrogen could have a beneficial impact on global warming, since burning hydrogen releases only water vapor and no carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. There is a dramatic reduction in pollution.”

Khamis said scientists and economists at IAEA and elsewhere are working intensively to determine how current nuclear power reactors — 435 are operational worldwide — and future nuclear power reactors could be enlisted in hydrogen production.

Most current production of hydrogen comes from natural gas or coal and results in the production of carbon dioxide. However there are smaller scale electrolysis projects in use, a process which sends an electric current flowing through water, splitting the H2O molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, and is more efficient if the electric current is passed through steam.

Experts believe that existing nuclear power plants can be adapted using a low-temperature electrolysis which can take advantage of low electricity prices during the plant’s off-peak hours to produce hydrogen. For plants being designed and in construction, a more efficient, high-temperature electrolysis process can be coupled with thermochemical processes, and is currently under research and development.

Nuclear hydrogen from electrolysis of water or steam is a reality now, yet the economics need to be improved,” said Khamis.

True, economically viable possibility down the road? Or pipe dream?

Monday, March 19, 2012

No Risk Alternative Energy Funds? No Way

On the surface, investing in alternative energy funds seems like a great idea, especially since it appears as though this industry will undergo record growth in the coming years. With that being said, however, investors must proceed with a great deal of caution, since there are definitely no guarantees when dealing with this industry. Government regulations can significantly influence the long term sustainability of alternative energy and even though these methods of energy production are renewable, there is no guarantee that they will be profitable enough to make a difference. Basically, while these alternative energy funds do have a great deal of potential, they are just as likely to fail long term because many of these funds are over inflated based on industry hype.

Finding some alternative energy funds to get involved with will not be difficult, as it seems as though there are countless companies who are looking for investors. While these funds might be highly sought over, since energy is the world's largest trade, they also come with a great deal of volatility. For example, the political climate in a region can greatly influence whether or not an energy source is able to be used. Since energy in most parts of North America is regionally based, finding a buyer in a different region can be difficult if a certain type of energy production is not regulated in a certain area.

Another thing to keep in mind is that energy production is high event, which means that there is always the chance of something happening. If you invest in alternative energy funds and there is an explosion at a power plant, it will cut into your profits significantly. While these power plants would probably not do as much damage as a nuclear meltdown, the fact remains that there is always this type of risk when dealing with energy of any type. The last thing an investor needs is for a power plant to sustain damage, but it is definitely something that goes with the territory.

One aspect of alternative energy funds that many investors overlook is taxation. Since energy is something that we all need, governments know that they can tax these industries heavily. Therefore, you might see heavy taxes being levied against any fund that you get involved with in the future. In order for your energy source to be sustainable, you must keep it affordable, so even if it is your customers who are heavily taxed, you must make up the difference if you wish for your energy source to be chosen. While this is not a decision that any investors will have to make, it will impact the return that investors get.

Regulatory risks also go with the territory when dealing with alternative energy funds, as there are countless codes that must be adhered to and if any of these regulations are not being followed, it will impact the bottom line of the fund significantly. This means that investors will be relying on employees to keep their investments safe, which is much different from investing in something like gold. Energy is different from many other investments because it is a commodity that must eventually be delivered to customers, which creates more risks in itself. Rather than simply having a product that holds a certain value, there is work that must be done in order to create this value in energy, which is where the market can run into problems.

Finally, there will always be a problem with supply and demand in alternative energy funds, as there is a great deal of debate on how much is actually needed. Once again, unlike gold, you cannot simply sit on this energy and sell it later, as it cannot be stored in the same manner. That is probably where most of the questions come into play, as these funds are entirely based on the demand for that particular form of energy at any given time.

In the end, there is a great deal of room for growth in this industry, but that is no guarantee that this growth will occur. That is why this industry is so volatile, as it is young enough to have this potential, but is still too young to adequately predict the future. This uncertainty is the reason why alternative energy funds will have more questions than answers in the near future.

This post was made using the Auto Blogging Software from This line will not appear when posts are made after activating the software to full version.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Keeping the Lights On: Why Concentrating Solar Power is Vital to Tomorrow’s Energy Mix

Picture a solar power station. You think of a bunch of solar panels, right? Photovoltaic (PV) solar power, which uses cells to turn the sun’s rays directly into electricity, accounts for, by far, the majority of solar power installed worldwide. FIGURE?

But it’s another kind of solar power, concentrating solar power (CSP), which might prove even more important. Look at a CSP power station and you’ll see not solar panels, but acres and acres of mirrors, all focusing the sun’s rays onto a single central tower, in which fluid is heated to very high temperatures by the focused sunlight. The super-heated fluid can then be used to generate power much like a steam engine.

CSP is a fairly recent development, but it’s growing fast. Over 7 GW of CSP are expected to be installed in the US in the next few years. But many people don’t understand the advantages CSP offers. Now, GreentechMedia has published a great new guide to why CSP has to be a vital part of our future energy supply.

Flexible beats baseload

You often hear advocates of fossil fuels talking about ‘baseload power.’ Coal and gas stations can supply a constant flow of power which, it’s argued, is needed to keep the lights on at night when PV doesn’t operate, and during times when there’s little wind so turbines don’t spin.

As a sun-powered technology, CSP can’t provide baseload power (which comes with its own problems). But it can provide something better — flexible power. Because CSP produces thermal energy (the heated fluid), its energy can be easily stored using simple thermal energy storage technology. As GreentechMedia‘s piece puts it, “PV doesn’t entirely answer the needs of the transmission system, while CSP with thermal energy storage (TES) can.”

This energy can then be converted into electricity as and when it’s required. “Dispatchable CSP can discharge from storage to serve high-price peak loads that occur outside the daylight hours, including the late afternoon and early evening,” Dr Udi Helman, a director at BrightSource Energy, told GreentechMedia.

This flexibility makes CSP every bit as useful as coal or gas power in terms of keeping the lights on and people’s kettles boiling — if not moreso.

PV cannot be dialed up or down, whereas by channeling more or less CSP output to storage, it can be ramped. Once in storage, it can also be released in varying amounts. This is the kind of flexibility conventional generators have which allows utilities, by altering the level of their output, to accommodate the forecast uncertainty and variability of non-dispatchable renewable generation. This provides grid operators with ramping reserves and regulation services.

It’s not a zero-sum game

By providing a highly flexible source of power that can make up for shortfalls in supply from other sources, CSP could actually enable the use of more PV and wind power.

CSP plants with TES have the flexibility of conventional thermal plants, according to Helman, and “offer higher ramp rates and ranges than large thermal plants.” This could not only replace some conventional generation but could “provide a more flexible generation mix” that would “result in greater use of non-dispatchable solar PV and wind.”

In short, CSP is just as important to a renewable future as PV or wind power. And it makes it possible to foresee a future energy supply which meets our needs without fossil fuels or nuclear.

Of course, in some countries, hydropower — which, like coal and gas, is relatively constant — can fill the role of providing baseload power without emissions or hazard. But in the US, CSP deserves to be a central part of the mix. And if the Desertec project gets its way, CSP installations in the Sahara will also be central to Europe’s energy supply in future.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is It a Jungle Gym or an Electric Charging Station?

Public electric vehicle charging stations are starting to pop around Houston and other cities in a noticeable fashion. According to eVgo, nine are currently operational around town (six of which are in parking lots of Walgreens stores).

Recently, while driving on Bissonnet toward Buffalo Speedway, for the first time, I saw someone actually charging their car. Most people wouldn’t have noticed the light blue Nissan Leaf pulling into the charging station at HEB, but given my interest in oil use and electric vehicles, this was exciting: I turned into the HEB parking lot and stopped to talk to the vehicle owner, who was there with his two preschool-age boys.

Suddenly, I heard a crash. The older of the two boys, who was about four, pulled the electric plug of the charging station out of its holder (the equivalent of a nozzle at a gasoline station) and fell down, taking the plug with him. The plug did not break, but it suggested to me that these stations might take more abuse than a traditional gasoline pump. Most parents would absolutely forbid their little kids from touching a gasoline nozzle considering the dangerous chemicals in gasoline. Yet the electric plug seems safer and much more attractive and inviting to play with than a gasoline nozzle.*

My other surprise came when I was back near my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland and saw an electric vehicle charging station with a large solar panel on top. This is great marketing to consumers who want to feel green, although it is extremely misleading. The solar panel cannot contribute much electricity. According to the website, the station produces an average of 7.5 kWh/day of electricity. As a comparison, the battery of a Nissan Leaf is 24 kWh, so the solar panel produces enough electricity to power one car every three days. Also, this electricity is extremely expensive, probably least three times as expensive as grid electricity and possibly more. According to, whose figures correspond with many other sites, the levelized costs of residential solar, which if anything is larger and cheaper than this panel, is 29 cents/kWh in sunny places and 63.8 cents/kWh in cloudy areas, and Maryland is not a particularly sunny state, getting something like half the annual solar radiation of Southern California or Arizona. In comparison, Maryland’s average residential price for electricity is around 13 cents/kWh. Then again, for consumers similar to those who are willing to pay about $1,800 for a Prius solar panel that powers a fan to keep the inside of a parked Prius cool, maybe that extra cost is a perfectly acceptable tradeoff.**

*At least it should be safe in California, which has the following regulations: The safety features required by the state of California for EV charging stations include a connection interlock that prevents electrocution by stopping the flow of electricity when it is not charging a vehicle. There are also ground-fault circuit interrupters to prevent against electrocution. An automatic deenergization device cuts of electricity if there is a strain on the system (such as exposed wires). Finally, there is a ventilation interlock system to prevent the buildup of harmful gases.

** On the Toyota Prius website, I was able to get some information on vehicle packages, at least for my ZIP code 77098. On the Prius III, the Navigation package is worth $1,930 vs. $3,730 for the solar package, and on the Prius IV, the Navigation package is $2,380 compared with $4,180 for the solar package. The only difference ($1,800) between the two are the solar panels.

View the original article here

Friday, March 16, 2012

Largest U.S. Solar/Wind Hybrid Project Proposed for Antelope Valley

California’s Antelope Valley is a 3,700 acre site, home to burrowing owls, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and deer. It boasts a bright and colorful poppy preserve, and the natural views help make it a popular horseback riding and hiking spot. It also sees strong winds and a lot of sun, which makes it ideal for America’s biggest wind-solar hybrid farm yet. As Element Power’s Wildflower Renewable Energy Farm Project manager Nat Parker says, “The trees grow sideways and the sun burns bright.”

The ambitious project, citing 100 megawatts of solar and 150 megawatts of wind, is slated to cover just 22% of the land on-site in two separate locations – 840 acres in total. The northern site is to hold all of the solar panels, as leveling the southern site’s topography to accommodate the arrays would be both difficult and disruptive to the local ecology. 33 3-megawatt wind turbines would join the solar panels in the north, while the southern farm would hold just 17.

Element Power’s formal proposal also includes 347 acres of conservation area, adjoining the existing protected areas, and includes football-field-wide wildlife migration corridors. A total of 1,000 acres in the southern site will be left undeveloped so as to preserve wildlife habitats.

Parker’s team studied the area closely for a year before finalizing the proposal. “We know from having been out on the site,” the former Sierra Club Regional Manager explained, “that it is good burrowing owl habitat [and] that it has elevation features that make it an avian species foraging area — and we also know that people like to ride horses into the area.” Element Power is committed to protecting that land for those uses in perpetuity. “…The southern energy farm has greater wildlife movement because it sits very close to the Portal Ridge area just south of our project,” he added, explaining why the company would not undertake the earthwork necessary to build more solar there.

Also included in the proposal was a new network of trails for both hiking and horseback riding – visitors will still have gorgeous scenic views of the valley itself and its famous poppy reserve.

The project is not without some opposition, although polls commissioned by Element Power indicated majority support in the region for development of renewable energy. While communities closer to the immediate vicinity of the project were less positive, Parker feels that “these are projects that will have huge economic and jobs benefits for the entire Antelope Valley” and points out that even in the closest small community, strong opposition was only 27%.

Element Power’s report on estimated economic benefits is currently in development and will be available in two weeks.

840 acres of Antelope Valley’s 3,700 acres requested for solar/wind farm2 sites proposed – northern and southern347 acres of conservation area included1000 acres preserved as wildlife habitat in perpetuity6.7 miles of new horseback riding/hiking trails150 megawatts of wind power (50 turbines in total)43% total opposition – but only if poppy preserve were to be affected27% strong opposition nearest to site

Any thoughts on putting solar panels in wind farms in Antelope Valley – or anywhere else? Let us know what you think, in the comments, below.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Learn to Love the Gas Tax

The North Carolina legislature just narrowly derailed a bill that would have prevented any possible increase in the state's gasoline tax. That's a good thing. By that I mean it's good that the state Senate declined to act on the bill after it passed in the House.

You see, if enacted, the state's 35 cent per gallon tax would have remained at that level through June 30, 2012 rather than being recalculated automatically twice annually (Jan. 1 and July 1) based on a formula linked to wholesale gas prices. Without that cap it is estimated that the tax could grow to as high as 38.9 cents per gallon (or 57.3 cents per gallon with federal tax added).

Why is capping the gas tax a bad idea? Well, because North Carolina -- like every other state in the country -- desperately needs every penny (and more) that can be generated by this user-based fee collected at the pump in order to pay the escalating costs for repairing, maintaining and upgrading roads, bridges, railways, public transit and every other form of transportation upon which our communities and economy depend.

That cap would have meant $95.8 million less in revenues in North Carolina.

"If we don't have these dollars to look after our highway system," said Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, "we're making a sad mistake."

Indeed, the NC Department of Transportation warned that capping the state gas tax for six months would delay 400 miles of road resurfacing and 72 bridge repairs already in progress. The cap also threatend up to 2,800 construction jobs, according to the Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association.

But the fact that such an economically calamitous measure sailed through the House with widespread Republican and Democratic support shows how politically unpopular the gas tax is -- not just in North Carolina but everywhere.

Partly that is because most Americans don't fully comprehend the transportation crisis our country currenty faces. Throughout history, America has built some of the world's best roads, bridges and railways, offering people freedom to travel, do business and enjoy a quality of life unsurpassed in most of the world. For decades, our infrastructure has worked so well that it was taken for granted. Today, however, years of neglected repairs, a harmful dependence on oil and a broken funding system have left our nation's transportation infrastructure in desperate need of an overhaul. Suffice it to say, the price tag to accomplish this herculean task is staggering.

Alas, federal elected leaders have refused to take the necessary steps to invest in infrastructure at the levels required. And even though transportation experts across the political spectrum agree that gas taxes should be raised, not lowered, to pay for necessary transportation costs, most politicians refuse to raise the federal gas tax. The last time they did so was in 1993 -- and that 18.4 cent per gallon rate has long since been dwarfed by rising inflation. Consequently, the states have been forced to step up to the plate and enacted their own gas tax increases, sales taxes on gasoline, toll fare hikes, and whatever other politically palatable stopgap measure they can use to try to keep the system running.

Clearly, when it comes to a dedicated source of revenue to fund transportation the gas tax is the most straightforward route. But anti-tax fervor is strong these days, understandably exacerbated by the current economic slump. Some see the gas tax as the most hated of all taxes. But the gas tax gets a bad rap.

CNN recently did a great service by publishing Five Myths About Your Gasoline Taxes. The story explains how cutting the gas tax exacts a steep cost on the entire economy. The gas tax, which funds a broad range of economy-bolstering transportation projects across the country, is woefully low to meet current (and future) infrastructure needs. Here's a summary of CNN's debunking of the myths surrounding the maligned gas tax.

Myth #1: Americans already pay too much in gas taxes.

Nope, not even close. America actually taxes gasoline less than most other nations. Only two countries---Kuwait and Saudi Arabia---charge lower gas taxes than the U.S. and both are net global oil suppliers, not consumers. As the world's largest oil consumer, the U.S. under-prices gasoline -- and thus under-taxes gas -- which encourages our over-dependency. Besides, the federal gas tax does not even come close to covering the wide array of external social costs of driving cars and trucks.

Myth #2: Gas taxes rise every year.

The federal gas tax has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents for a gallon of gasoline for nearly two decades. It is not indexed to the price of crude oil or inflation, so Americans pay a fixed amount whether oil prices are high or low. Taking inflation into account, the gas tax has eroded to only 11 cents today. This has seriously diminished the ability to pay for infrastructure, with a purchasing power of 45 cents in gas taxes for every dollar in national highway construction costs. This means that only one-half of the transportation investments made since 1993 could be afforded today, even though GDP has grown 55% and demands (vehicle miles traveled) have grown 29%.

Myth #3: Gas taxes are unnecessary because the transportation system is paid for in other ways.

Wrong. America's transportation fund is running on fumes. Revenue for the Highway Trust Fund is derived almost entirely from federal gas taxes and distributed to all 50 states. It covers nearly 80% of the capital costs of federally-funded transportation projects, with states carrying the remainder. From 2008 to 2010, Congress transferred $34.5 billion from general fund revenues to make up the funding shortfall. This stopgap measure was necessary to continue projects that are already in the works. Moreover, deferred maintenance -- the failure to care for existing roads and bridges -- combined with lost productivity are estimated to add more than $100 billion to the national deficit annually.

Myth #4: Transportation taxes are detrimental to American competitiveness.

In reality, the reverse is true when it comes to gas taxes. Investing in transportation facilitates reinvestment in America that is vital to economic growth. The U.S., once No. 1 in the world for its infrastructure, has fallen to 15th. China and India are cruising ahead with transportation infrastructure investments each at 9% of GDP compared to 2% in the U.S. This lackluster level of investment prevails despite well-documented needs -- aging infrastructure, growing population, and shifting demographics. An upgraded, well-maintained, operationally-efficient transportation system, on the other hand, offers a significant competitive edge. Plus, the gas tax spreads the burden over hundreds of millions of system beneficiaries.

Myth #5: Gas taxes make an already volatile gasoline market even worse.

Nope. Domestic gas prices are largely influenced by world oil markets. With transportation accounting for about 70% of U.S. oil consumption and record oil-company profits reached when world oil prices go up, it's only fair that oil companies share the cost of providing transportation infrastructure. Structuring an oil fee assessed on producers and a variable gas tax paid by consumers can further stabilize the price at the pump. When oil prices go up, the retail gas tax can be abated. The oil security fee will make up for the revenue gap. When oil prices go down, the gas tax can be slowly reinstated. There isn't much that can be done about external events that affect global oil price volatility, but gas taxes can be designed to better manage abrupt price swings domestically.

The CNN piece also makes the additional point that higher vehicle mileage standards further warrant a gas tax increase:

Beyond system efficiency gains, vehicles themselves are becoming more fuel-efficient and less wasteful. A proposal to double car- and SUV-fuel economy standards by 2025, while highly beneficial in terms of energy will translate into lower gas tax expenditures by higher-mpg cars. The rational way to deal with this is to increase gas taxes slightly over time to account for the fiscal impacts that cleaner, more efficient cars have on transportation infrastructure investments.

And the article makes a powerful closing statement:

In short, the transportation system is a critical component of America's economy. The United States cannot be a superpower if it starves public investment in infrastructure. Taxes tend to be more politically acceptable when people understand how funds provide benefits. And nobody understands better than travelers that the nation's infrastructure needs serious improvements. It's time to face the fact: The gas tax is a good way to invest in America.

As you can see, any rational assessment of the dire fiscal circumstances the country faces with our transportation system should strengthen public support for the gas tax and political resolve for it to be increased. So raise your hand if, like me, you not only oppose cuts in gas taxes but also favor raising them!

View the original article here

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Photovoltaic solar solutions

What solutions do you think that they may be possible: solar panel, wind energy, hidráulica…?

One of the aspects that global warming occurs is through the production of CO2 that is broadcast in various ways as in the conventional system of electricity production.

The best solution that we can deal with global warming is to promote the use of renewable energy sources like wind, Sun and water from each of our homes.

To start changing things there is nothing better than to bet on companies aware and with experience in the sector of renewable sources, in particular I speak of Martifer Solar.

What makes this company stand out above other is not simply that it is specialized in giving you the best photovoltaic solar solutions, if not adapted to each client offering exclusively what you need.

Through Martifer Solar solar panels not only you'll be getting electricity clean if not you'll be gaining economically in the long term and in a highly cost-effective manner, you're betting on health, with the absolute guarantee of a future better and above all, respecting nature.

It is time to start to change things, bet on the renewable and more electricity when without a doubt, is one of our biggest expenses and what it can hardly fail to resign.

The Martifer Group is an international, secure, Enterprise creditworthiness and experience.

It is time for the health of the environment, Choose renewable energy, choose Martifer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alternative energy - Pros and cons

What is alternative energy?

Alternative energy refers to energy sources from sources other than fossil fuels, viz, coal, oil and natural gas. Sometimes is also called alternative renewable energy now that almost all of them can be generated from renewable sources as opposed to non-renewable fossil fuels and not be can replenish once consumed.

Types of alternative energy and its sources

There are several types in the world. Most common and popular along with their sources are:

1 Solar energy-Sun ray;
2 Wind power - wind;
3 Wave energy - waves;
4 Bio-energy-biogas or Bio-diesel;
5. Geothermal energy underground;
6 Tidal energética-altas and low tides.

Why alternative energy?
Massive use of energy derived from fossil fuels during the entire second severely half of the 20th century has endangered the environment. Million tonnes of carbon-di-oxide-a greenhouse gas, discharged to the environment through the burning of fossil fuels are causing global warming to trap solar heat on the Earth's surface. Increase in the temperature of the Earth's surface to climate change is a matter of concern not only environmentalists but also to all the Governments of the world. Due to the increase in temperature, sea level rise and flooding a very large portion of the areas coastal causing massive devastation from coastal areas generally are highly populated. Melting the polar ice caps and glaciers due to the rise in temperature on the surface of the Earth will cause flooding of rivers and their watersheds in first instance and the drying up of rivers since then with the consequent economic disaster. Million hectares of fertile land will become a sterile. To combat this devastation resulting due to climate change world leaders are emphasizing the use of alternative energies. Use of alternative energy will reduce dependence on fossil fuels and therefore reduce the generation of di-oxide of carbon. As a result the possibility of devastation due to global warming will be reduced to a minimum.

In addition, fossil fuel non-renewable that exhausted today or tomorrow. So people are thinking about renewable energy sources to sustain the growth and development.

Benefits of alternative energy

1 Friendly environment, helps to reduce global warming.
2 It is renewable.Their sources are not exhaustible.
3 Helps reduce geopolitical tensions arising outside due to the availability of fossil fuels only in countries limited on the other hand, each country is endowed with some sort of alternative energy sources.


Despite several production still of technological progress, the cost is very high that restricts its use. To date alternative energy consumption has not reached the desired level.


Energy alternatives is the energy of the future. Scientists from around the world must increase their greatest technological breakthrough research to make it available in affordable alternative energy enough.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A sustainable world

We are used to see how the companies seek only their own benefit, which usually correspond to leave his mark on environmental protection, but when a company is working to achieve both issues not always is news, but yes for this blog.

It is the time to start telling the achievements, make mention of companies which work for sustainability. We speak of Acciona.

Acciona is a company that is committed to sustainable development and achieves it through three fundamental aspects: innovation, environment and its Master Plan.


Acciona spends increasingly more budget for innovation, but innovation that respects the environment hence its important presence in programs of innovation of the Government and at the same time, its presence in the European framework.

Its innovation projects focus on renewable energy, construction and sustainable transport, water technologies focusing on this very precious asset management.


One of the most important aspects in this undertaking is the introduction of the environmental variable in its decisions and operations.

Its programme "To act against climate change" is focused on the control and reduction of emissions, build mechanisms and markets of carbon, the search for new products and services, and in turn, promote awareness and awareness through social debate on climate change.

Master plan

Acciona as time-consuming working for sustainability because they are aware that things must be done in another way in which natural resources are respected, and the important thing is that it can be achieved.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Main benefits of alternative energy

With the continuous depletion of traditional energy resources, different forms of alternative energy sources are gaining ground. It is not surprising that solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy, hydroelectric energy, biofuels and nuclear energy are offering a solution to meet the energy needs of households and industries.

Why alternative energy sources are becoming popular - because they are mostly renewable alternative energy resources, ensure a steady supply of energy for the present and future needs of the people.? This makes these cheaper than traditional resources, coming at a steep price tag mainly because of its limited availability and the rapid depletion of the reserves.

Thus, through the use of renewable energy from the Sun, wind, tides, biomass, etc., you can reduce on their energy bills significantly. Given that they produce clean energy, no pollution, also using those resources is a great way to go green and reduce their carbon footprint.

As alternative sources of energy are environment friendly, people who use the same does not need any additional cost for compliance with environmental rules that can be implemented in the future.

Advantages of alternative energy sources - thanks to its abundant supply of massive use, these resources not exhausted like oil and fossil fuels. Unlike the fluctuating prices of oil and natural gas, it is likely that they have a constant and stable price tag, which helps consumers to use it without having to worry about the costs of the spirals. In contrast to the large amounts of municipal solid waste that currently pollute the Earth, alternative energy offers an option for clean energy and can even process municipal waste into energy by eliminating waste.

In this way, a lot of health problems, mainly those related to respiratory diseases due to air pollution can be reduced. Another advantage of these resources is the ability of local energy production. Now you can configure the system to harness the power of the Sun, wind or tides locally, there is no need to carry the high cost of energy transport occurring miles away from where you live or dependent on imported fossil fuels from other countries.

Unlike fossil fuels which generate massive greenhouse gas emissions which in turn contribute greatly to global warming, alternative energy sources promise a clean and healthy world for present and future generations. If the switch of these resources can not be soon on a large scale, rising levels of global warming does not leave a lot to hope for future generations.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that alternative energy sources hold the key to the future.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Trends in investment in alternative energy funds

With the current trend for more respectful of the environment and sustainable energy sources, about 155 million dollars was invested in alternative energy funds last year. This Fund still does not include Spa grande, showing that the cause is growing wider and wider as time goes on.

Even large companies and powerful investors to invest their money to support the cause, it has stimulated awareness of more alternative energy sources. This year, this even is expected go higher. Among alternative energy funds, $ 13.5 million were given to companies that are developing new technologies to be more sustainable energy resources. Some 117 million dollars was invested in projects focused on renewable energy such as wind power, biofuels, solar and geothermal.

This increase in funds for alternative energy is four times higher than in 2004. Even though the global economic crisis is loomed in most companies, there was still a high share of funds for alternative energy.

Different countries are showing a lot of support in this case for more sustainable energy resources, providing greater awareness and support from all over the world. Economies such as Brazil and China contributed to the five per cent increase in the total amount of funds to hedge funds.

According to an Assistant Secretary-General and the executive director of the United Nations programme environment Achim Steiner, the economic crisis has definitely affected the clean energy campaign. This is especially true in the United States, where investments declined 2 percent. However, efforts are still just so overwhelming, especially now that sustainable energy is becoming standard.

Noteworthy are the efforts of China, which is currently the second largest wind energy market. This is in terms of new capacity, as well as photovoltaics manufacturing. Geothermal energy has been receiving more and more popular, especially in countries such as Kenya, Japan and Australia.

Even countries like Chile, Brazil, Philippines and Peru have been bringing in efforts to introduce policies and laws that promote the conservation of energy and more environmentally friendly ways of life and energy production. These countries have taken note of the alternative energy funds and have been seeing mobilization even in non-governmental organizations.

Between all energy resources, the wind was able to attract the largest number of funds for alternative energy. However, solar power had increased in terms of market share, while biofuels energy fell slightly by 9 percent.

One of the responses of the countries to the economic crisis is creating stimulus packages that have specific provisions for energy efficiency, promotion of renewable energies. These new agreements can contribute significantly to the efforts of having more clean energy. These alternative energy funds would most certainly help support the clean energy market.

Due to these efforts, it is assumed that tools of green energy prices would also fall. Solar modules, for example, expected that it would soon fall by 43 per cent in terms of price. This is because supply bottleneck have been facilitating, enabling more suppliers to produce according to the requirements of the countries. Sustainable energy unit has increased also funds alternative energy even for production companies.

This shows that the private sector is to soon to the trend. Investments were also seen in bottleneck of last year, but this year, must be at the same time and still increase significantly. Investments for sustainable energy are also one of the biggest stimulus packages in Governments around the world. Efforts have been observed and reported on different occasion. In Asia, China is still that the giant even in alternative energy funds.

There is a strong message that is beyond all these funds of energies alternatives come from all over the world. The banks are encouraged to increase its lending to the energy sector, deductions or tax exemptions are asked for funds for renewable energy sources and more efforts have been in the form of obtaining alternative energy and flow of investment funds.

The plans that are supported by funds of alternative energies are dispersed between short, medium and long term goals. As the different Governments of countries of the world continue to support the cause, we soon live in a more sustainable Earth.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rosendale Dairy partners with UWO for New Biodigester Research

Who would have known an opportunity to turn cow poop into cash would be right under everyone’s noses? Or that the effort would not only reduce the odor of manure at an area mega-farm but could also result in a learning and research lab and public education center at the same time?

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells on Friday let out a robust laugh at the notion that all of those things could be accomplished with cow manure as the main component.

A proposal for the university and partners to build a large, wet anaerobic biodigester and biogas facility at Rosendale Dairy at Pickett in Fond du Lac County would turn cow manure into energy that could be sold to power companies.

If the proposal plays out, Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm — Rosendale Dairy — will be home to what UWO officials call one of the state’s most dynamic research, renewable energy production and public education facilities in an initiative involving the UWO’s College of Letters and Science and UW-Oshkosh Foundation.

Rosendale Dairy, owned by Milk Source, Inc., has 8,400 milking cows, which each year produce millions of gallons of manure. Last year the cows at the dairy produced enough manure to spread as fertilizer on 8,656 acres of farm land. The land-spreading has been an irritant to neighbors who claim the odor is so strong on some days that they can not venture out of doors.

The biodigester would address some of the odor problems that crop up now, a company spokesman said.

It would work by anaerobically decomposing the cow manure in the odor-controlled environment of a large digester. The decomposition of organic matter produces methane gas that is burned in engines to produce electricity that can be sold to local power companies, said Greg Kleinheinz, professor of microbiology and associate dean of the College of Letters and Science.

“One of the big benefits is that as the odor portion of the manure is essentially removed, it does not lose the nutritional value. It’s still a value to farmers on fields,” Kleinheinz said.

The digester would reduce the volume of the manure by about a third, Kleinheinz said. But because the manure contains more nutrients per pound once it’s been through the biodigester, farmers can apply less manure per acre. An added bonus is that in this form there is less chance of manure run-off from fields.

Kleinheinz called the project a great example of the University in a private partnership to help address a need. It converts manure to green energy and provides an opportunity for students to learn.

“It’s a great, big piece of research and teaching equipment for us,” Wells said. “Students will be doing all kinds of experiments to maximize the energy produced.”

The multifaceted energy plant and facility will significantly enhance UWO student learning and community outreach opportunities. It will house a public education center operated by university students and faculty. It will introduce K-12 to the science and engineering involved in harnessing renewable energy. It will be available as a remote classroom and lab for UWO students taking microbiology, biology, environmental studies and chemistry.

“Through this one proposed facility and partnership, there is the potential for much good for our campus, region and state,” Wells said.

The cost of building the system has not been released but it would be borne by the university and the foundation. The plan would be to finance the project over a 10-year period, but annual proceeds from selling energy are anticipated exceed the amount needed for loan repayment, even in the first year. The excess money would be used for scholarships and programs, according to Alex Hummel, associate director of news and public information, integrated marketing ad communication for UWO.

Milk Source, which operates several large dairies in the state, had been talking about digesters for years and had been in discussions with several potential providers. The company knew an outside source would provide one at some point, said Bill Harke, director of public affairs for Milk Source.

“The UWO proposal was almost too good to believe. This is a marvelous idea, the best plan we’ve heard,” Harke said.

About a week ago, the foundation board of directors unanimously endorsed the proposal that would form a partnership with Rosendale Dairy and the renewable energy companies Viessmann Group and BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison.

The proposed biodigester is not the first for UWO. Viessmann and BIOFerm collaborated with the UWO foundation and the university to build a dry fermentation anaerobic facility, dedicated in May and now in operation off Witzel Avenue. It uses grass clippings, plant refuse and campus food waste to produce electricity and garbage food particles. It supplies about 10 percent of the University’s electrical needs.

Engineering and business plans for the new biodigester will be reviewed in the coming months and construction could begin in spring, with a projected startup in 2013.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

35 Wind Towers Bound for Wales and Scotland

UK manufacturer of wind turbine towers Mabey Bridge is set to supply 35 Wind towers measuring in at between 65 and 70 metres in length to wind farms in Wales and Scotland.

Production of the turbines will begin in mid-February as part of Mabey Bridge’s new 24-hours-per-day work time at its new wind turbine tower manufacturing facility, a £38-million facility. Approximately 170 staff will be working on the project, including 45 new staff members and 50 that have been transferred in to meet demand from the company’s bridge-building operation.

Moving completed wind turbine tower section at Mabey Bridge Chepstow

Of the 35 towers, 14 will go to a Wales wind farm at the Pant-Y-Wal site near Rhondda in South Wales, marking the first time that turbine towers manufactured by a Welsh company will be installed in Wales.

“Quality and price were obviously key factors in awarding this contract to Mabey Bridge. However, also attractive was the fact that a key part of the wind turbines being installed at these sites will be manufactured in the UK,” said Bryan Grinham, managing director of Nordex UK.

“On site visits to Mabey Bridge we were not only impressed by the scale of the operation there but also the towers already manufactured, delivered and installed in the UK. We are excited about working with Mabey Bridge to deliver these towers on behalf of our clients Pennant Walters and Statkraft.”

Once installed—hopefully by June 2012—the turbines will generate up to 42 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 homes.

The remaining 21 towers are destined for installation in June of 2012 at the Baillie wind farm—owned by local windfarm developers and Statkraft—near Thurso on the north coast of Scotland. When installed, they will have a capacity of 52.5 megawatts and generate enough electricity to meet the energy needs of 35,000 homes.

“2011 was a challenging year for the wind turbine industry overall, with the latest available figures putting the number of new towers installed onshore in the UK last year at fewer than 25,” Mabey Bridge UK director Alex Smale said.

“Against this backdrop, the signing of a 35-tower deal with Nordex is a real boost for all the staff working at Mabey Bridge. We are very excited by the market currently and expect to make further announcements soon.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Harsh Winter for Sinovel and China's Wind Industry

The Year of the Dragon has gotten off to an inauspicious start for the Chinese wind industry and in particular, Sinovel Wind Group Co. (Shanghai:601558, a.k.a. Sinovel), China's leading wind turbine manufacturer.

In early February, with the official end to the “Spring Festival” only days away, Sinovel reported decidedly chilly preliminary estimates of its FY2011 performance, confirming that Sinovel and indeed the whole Chinese wind industry had, in the words of one Chinese wind industry insider “entered a winter that would be hard to endure”.

Sinovel estimated that its net income for FY2011 declined by more than 50% compared with 2010 profits of 2.856 billion Yuan (~$450 million USD). The decline in profitability of Sinovel in 2011 was attributed to several factors: intense competition in the Chinese wind turbine market, delays in the development of certain wind farm projects and a series of mishaps that adversely affected the grid, which were caused by turbine defects evident during low voltage ride through (LVRT) events.

According to an official with Longyuan Power, the detection of turbine defects, which brought about the low voltage ride through issues has resulted in new rules, which, among other things, require that all wind turbines undergoing upgrades to address this problem obtain the approval of the State Grid Electric Power Research Institute prior to being put back in service. These inspections, being time consuming, have put further pressure on turbine manufacturers. This is an issue that certainly impacts Sinovel because of its large base of installed turbines, and particularly because some of the most prominent incidents occurred at the Gansu Province, Jiuquan wind farm, where Sinovel’s turbines predominate.

In addition to the fiscal and technical challenges Sinovel faces this year, the company also is confronting legal claims of more than $1.2 billion USD and a worldwide public relations blowback as a consequence of the souring of its relationship with AMSC (AMSC), formerly American Superconductor Corporation; indeed Sinovel has become a poster child for U.S. government complaints about Chinese trade practices in discussions with Xi Jinping, China’s incoming leader, who is visiting the U.S. this week.

As previously reported, AMSC has filed for arbitration and also has filed three civil lawsuits in Chinese courts against Sinovel and companies related to Sinovel, alleging breach of contract and intellectual property theft. And while the initial impression is that the Chinese legal system has settled into its role of protecting Sinovel through delay and favoritism, the existence of the litigation has had a decidedly chilling effect on Sinovel’s ambitions to become a serious player worldwide. This was in evidence in November 2011 when Mainstream Renewable Power put on hold its deal for Sinovel to supply it with up to 1 GW of wind turbines.

Sinovel has ridden the wave of rapid wind energy development in China to become the largest producer of wind turbines in China and as a consequence of China’s rapid growth in wind power production, the world’s second largest turbine manufacturer. In 2010 4386 MW worth of Sinovel turbines were installed; in all, China installed a total of 18,928 MW in 2010, which gave Sinovel a 23% market share. The early estimates are that China’s installed wind capacity in 2011 grew by 20,666 MW, but of that total, Sinovel’s installations decreased to 3700 MW and its market share declined to 18%, leading one to speculate that 2010 may have been Sinovel’s high water mark.

(Total installations in 2009 in China were 13,750 MW and Sinovel’s share was 3510 MW or 25.5%; in 2008 wind turbine installations in China totaled 6246 MW and Sinovel’s share was 1403 MW or 22.5%. In 2011 Goldwind Science and Technology’s wind turbine installations totaled 3600MW; in third place was State Power with 3000MW of installations; and in fourth place was Guangdong Province’s Mingyang Wind Power (MY) with 1500MW in installations. The precipitous decline in installations from foreign turbine manufacturers continued in 2011 with the Vestas (VWDRY.PK) being number one among foreign manufacturers with only 660MW, followed by GE (GE) with 400MW.).

Because Sinovel’s rapid growth has been accompanied by a decline in market share amid intense competition, and shares of Sinovel now are selling for 50% of the price they fetched when the dispute with AMSC became public last year, the company enters this year under increased financial pressure; this financial pressure in turn has necessitated Sinovel to return to financial markets to, among other things, supplement its working capital, despite having gone public in a blockbuster IPO in January 2011 (raising the equivalent of nearly $1.5 billion USD on the Shanghai Stock Exchange).

So how does China’s wind industry plan to pass this harsh winter? Of course, simply suffering is a time-honored tradition. One of the most evocative phrases used by the Chinese is “Chi Ku” (to “eat bitterness”) and apparently the Chinese wind industry already is eating a large amount of bitterness.

Next there is hope that the Chinese government will step up the pace of wind turbine installations and on this point there was encouraging news this week when the Chinese government announced the start of the second Offshore Wind Power RFP process for an anticipated total of 1500-2000 MW of installed capacity. At the same time, the State Energy Administration announced its goal of supporting the development of a total of 30,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2020; to put this ambitious goal into perspective, presently China has just 1380 MW of offshore wind power installed. Some are estimating that the offshore wind market alone will be worth 100 billion Yuan (~$16 billion USD) through 2020.

Because we have seen this movie played out countless times in a wide array of Chinese industries, we know that the central issue for the Chinese wind industry is how to avoid the cutthroat price competition that juices the sector as it debilitates the industry’s players. There has been a remarkable decline in wind turbine prices over the last four to five years: in 2008 the price of a 1.5-MW wind turbine in China was ~$1.48million USD; by late 2011 the price of a 1.5-MW wind turbine had dropped almost in half to ~$762,000 USD!

The Chinese accomplished this feat of halving the price of a MW of wind power, in large part by rapidly developing an indigenous manufacturing industry that has been able to produce turbines and their components at substantially lower prices. If for nothing else, the Chinese are well known for their penchant to incessantly pressure their suppliers to sell at increasingly uneconomic prices. But here is the interesting point: one of the few categories of suppliers to the wind turbine industry that didn’t make price concessions over the past several years were foreign companies with technology that the Chinese needed but hadn’t been able to replicate indigenously. The prime example of this, of course, is the electrical components and control systems produced by AMSC. A simple “back of the envelope” calculation displays in high relief this conundrum: while the price of Chinese wind turbines and most of their components were declining steadily over the past four to five years, the cost of electrical and control systems supplied by AMSC under its 2008 contract with Sinovel remained constant, so that what accounted for (approximately) 9% of the total cost of a Sinovel wind turbine in 2008, grew to be a 12% item by late 2011!

This dynamic clearly gave Sinovel the incentive (as claimed by AMSC) to steal AMSC’s intellectual property or (as claimed by Sinovel) to develop its own indigenous capability in electrical components and control systems so that Sinovel would be able to reduce the cost of its turbines in this hyper-competitive environment in China today and hopefully halt the slide in its market share.

One somewhat perplexing aspect of this tale is that Sinovel’s relationship with its key technology supplier has become rocky just when the technological requirements that may give Sinovel a competitive edge going forward have grown. With an increasing number of 6-MW turbines, the expected rapid growth of offshore wind farms, and myriad grid connection issues, one would expect that Sinovel might be able to claw its way back up the market share ladder with a superior command of technology. And this is what makes the falling apart of the Sinovel/AMSC relationship mystifying.

Did Sinovel’s chairman, Han Junliang, just spectacularly miscalculate or did he know or believe that Sinovel could keep up with the growing technological requirements that might set Sinovel apart, with or without AMSC? In the glow of its $1.4 billion USD IPO in early 2011, did Sinovel feel at liberty to make off with AMSC’s crown jewels hoping that it could innovate beyond the AMSC technology platform or perhaps hoping that the cost benefits would be enough to keep Sinovel in the game long enough for it to figure out what to do next? Did Han Junliang underestimate how rising competition would affect Sinovel’s profits or is it precisely because he saw that those profits were rapidly shrinking that he felt compelled to lower Sinovel’s costs at the expense of AMSC?

In any event, it remains to be seen how Sinovel will weather the harsh winter that has now beset China’s wind power equipment manufacturing industry. And it will be fascinating to see whether the much anticipated innovation revolution that many insist is imminent in China will arrive in time to benefit Sinovel. In the interim, the best approach for Sinovel may be to settle with AMSC and allow the partnership to resume based on a new paradigm that fairly compensates foreign technology, which in turn allows for a gradually declining return per unit in recognition of the changing economics of the wind turbine industry. Stay tuned.

View the original article here

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pipelines and Tar Sands: Cure the Disease Not the Symptoms

Treating the Symptom Rather than the Disease

The first issue is to clarify what the pipeline argument is really about. This isn’t really about a pipeline. As one reader pointed out, this is about trying to force Canada to stop developing what is viewed by many as a dirty resource, and that we should “treat the disease.” The addiction metaphor is somewhat overused, but I believe there is a very relevant example that captures my view on the pipeline.

If a person is addicted to a drug, you can treat the addiction, or you can try to eliminate the suppliers of the drug. In the U.S., we have conducted a very long war on drugs that has made the drug trade even more lucrative. Desperate people commit crimes to buy drugs they can’t afford, and drug traffickers commit violent crimes to ensure that those profits keep flowing. And we still have a drug problem.

The point is that as we cut off one supplier, another springs up. We have not cured the disease. However, if demand for drugs fell, the suppliers would go out of business. (It occurs to me that this example will not exactly endear me to oil producers). This is analogous to our dependence on oil. I think protestors who feel that stopping this pipeline will strike a blow for our oil dependence grossly underestimate the lengths that we will go to in order to acquire oil. Thus, I don’t believe stopping the pipeline addresses the root problem, and threatens to worsen some problems that protestors have largely ignored.

Ogallala Aquifier – Red Herring

As noted in the previous essay, I always viewed the issue of the potential for the pipeline to leak and contaminate the Ogallala aquifer as a red herring. Pipelines already crisscross the Ogallala, and farmers dump thousands of tons of herbicides, pesticide, and fertilizers on top of the aquifer every year.

Carbon Bomb is in Asia Pacific

I view the climate change argument of some protestors to be largely misleading. While it is true that development of the tar sands will only further increase global carbon dioxide emissions, I think the characterization of the pipeline as the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” is wrong. It conveys a false impression that snuffing out this fuse will then snuff out that carbon bomb. In fact, as I showed in the previous essay, the real carbon bomb is in Asia Pacific. Relative to the growing coal and oil consumption in the Asia Pacific region, the oil sands development is relatively minor. Thus, my argument here isn’t “Well, since they are burning a lot, we might as well burn a little” — it is rather to correct a misconception about growing global carbon emissions.

Some have mischaracterized my argument as “Since someone is going to burn the oil from the oil sands, it might as well be the U.S.” That’s not it either. It is “As long as we continue to demand oil, we are going to source our oil from somewhere. We should make sure it is from a stable supplier.” I have been crystal clear that I think we should do everything we can to address the demand side of the equation.

Further, demand in the U.S. is declining (admittedly in part due to the economy). But only the most naive among us believes that modern society will be oil-free any time soon. We strive to use less, but if oil supplies fell off a cliff in the next few years, society would collapse. Imagine society with no oil, and you can clearly see that. Imagine society with too little oil too soon, and perhaps the potential implications aren’t fully appreciated.

My View on the Pipeline in a Nutshell

To conclude, it took me a while to even decide how I felt about the pipeline. As one poster noted following my initial essay, I am really laying out arguments against the protests rather than arguments that we need this pipeline. After thinking this over, that’s a fairly accurate assessment. My position isn’t “We really need this pipeline” but rather “What difference does it make?” Protestors thinks it makes a big difference whether it gets built, but I do not. I see a private company wanting to invest billions of dollars to build a pipeline, which will create jobs in a tough economic climate. I don’t think we will consume any more or any less oil because of the pipeline, and I think the arguments against the pipeline are exaggerated.

Cutting off a pipeline does nothing to address our demand for oil, and without addressing that we will simply source the oil from elsewhere (or it will still be transported from the oil sands in a less efficient manner). We will almost certainly source the oil from further afield (hence, more carbon emissions getting it to us) and it may come from places where oil extraction results in even greater environmental devastation, oppressed populations, and enriched dictators.

Oil from unstable regions of the world will put our economies at much greater risk than if we source from a reliable supplier. If on the other hand we address the demand side, development of the oil sands will slow, and we may have a pipeline that is never needed for anything other than an insurance policy (or to displace other unstable suppliers). However, it will have resulted in a multibillion dollar investment in the U.S. by a private company that created jobs that were sorely needed.

This is my opinion based on how I think things will actually play out if the pipeline is or isn’t built. I think the oil will get to market regardless. I could be wrong. There are people that I respect a great deal who disagree. I simply make my best estimate and render an opinion. Then we discuss and debate and perhaps opinions are modified. I would hope those who hold a different opinion will also give some consideration to the possibility that stopping the pipeline will in no way diminish our appetite for oil, and that we will simply continue to source it from unstable regions of the world. Then perhaps we can focus more efforts on the demand side of the equation.

View the original article here

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pavement Contributes To Poor Air Quality

Sprawl isn't just eating up the countryside—it's also blocking the breezes that would otherwise clear out air pollution. That's according to a new study of Houston from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Sprawl is first and foremost about pavement leading to all those subdivisions, strip malls and suburbs. That pavement soaks up heat during the day and releases it at night, warming the otherwise cooler nighttime air. It's known as the urban heat island effect.

In Houston, this causes a smaller than usual difference between the temperatures of the land and the sea at night. And that means weaker sea breezes to clear away the smog.

Houston is already fighting an uphill battle against the atmospheric residue of refineries, petrochemical facilities and mile after mile of cars stuck in traffic. What's worse, all those buildings break up whatever breezes there are, further reducing the chances of clearing the air.

The study authors write that “the very existence of the Houston area favors stagnation." Time to pound the pavement—and exchange some for more greenery.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Panasonic Will Build Solar Cell Plant in Malaysia

The Japanese technology company announced last week that it will build a $580 million solar cell plant in Malaysia, according to Reuters report. The company has been attracted overseas by a strong yen, which has made domestic production more costly.

The numbers are quite impressive: the new plant will create 1,500 new jobs and increase by 50 per cent Panasonic’s solar output (to 900 MW). Production is slated to begin in December 2012.

“With environmental awareness increasing globally and introduction of subsidy systems and feed-in tariff schemes in Japan as well as other countries, etc., the solar cell market is predicted to grow further”, the company said in a press statement.

The company said the residential sector is its main target and it expects “robust demand” from it. Competition is fierce in the Japanese solar cell manufacturing sector. Other Japanese solar panel manufacturers include Sharp and Kyocera.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

4 Reliable Suppliers Of Alternative Energy

1. Amelot Holdings is a US based company specializing in development of ethanol and biodiesel plants. It establishes relationships between the researchers and suppliers of alternative energy. The company facilitates joint ventures and mergers between the research facilities and the manufacturers of alternative energy. Thus, there is exchange of information and technology which helps to promote the growth of the alternative energy industry.

2. Environmental Power is another alternative energy supplier. It has two subsidiaries namely Microgy and Buzzard Power. Microgy undertakes research and development in the field of alternative energy. It has developed a cost-effective biogas facility by making use of agricultural and plant waste. It focuses on eco-friendly production of renewable energy like biogas to compare with the standards of natural gas. The biogas is used in combustion engines, and for heating homes and offices. Buzzard Power has an 83MW power facility to generate 'green' energy from coal waste.

Environmental Power has been in existence from the year 1982 and has a long history of development in the field of clean energy. The company has developed and operated municipal waste projects and hydroelectric plants and assisted in clean gas generation and energy recovery. It has a team of experts from the agriculture and finance sectors to manage the business and help its growth and expansion.

3. Intrepid Technology and Resources Incorporated (ITR) processes animal waste into natural gas as an alternative energy resource. America's supply of natural gas is depleting. ITR believes that the two billion ton animal waste produced every year can be used to generate natural gas to tide over the deficit. Their 'organic waste digesters' built close to the sites of the organic waste, produce clean methane gas which is a viable option to natural gas. The company is based in Idaho but plans to expand its operations to the whole country.

4. Nathaniel Energy generates energy from waste matter. The company has devised s system known as Total Value Preservation System (TVPS) which sees the potential of waste materials to generate energy. Industrial waste matter which would have otherwise been discarded or destroyed is being put to optimum use to recover the trapped energy. The production costs towards generation of alternative energy are equivalent to the costs incurred by a company to install pollution control systems and preventions. TVPS is an innovative technology which recovers valuable resources that other processes fail to do.

There are many companies such as those listed above, which use innovative technology to augment our diminishing supply of natural resources by adopting environmentally safe methods to generate alternative energy or renewable energy. There is a need to invest in research towards finding alternative sources of energy as a replacement to fossil fuels. The future of the world depends on industries which can help to achieve this goal. The governments of the various countries need to co-operate in terms of exchange of ideas and information to solve the problems of global warming and environmental pollution. Alternative energy suppliers like the above mentioned companies can play a major role in this process and the government can promote these companies by providing them subsidies.