NewEnergyNews More: August 2009

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  • Monday, August 31, 2009


    Wind Farms Set Wall Street Aflutter
    Russell Gold, August 31, 2009 (Wall Street Journal)

    "After nearly a six-month lull, Wall Street is getting back into the business of financing new wind farms.

    "Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. have invested $100 million each…taking advantage of a brand-new federal program that is paying substantial cash grants…Bankers say this is the beginning of an active pipeline of new wind-farm financing, as well as investment in large solar installations and geothermal facilities. Project developers and Wall Street appear to be viewing the federal cash grant program as such a good deal, industry experts say, it may grow much larger than its Washington creators expected…"

    3Q 2009 results should be coming soon. More growth is expected. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T]he government will give a cash rebate for 30% of the cost…awarded 60 days after an application is approved…[as well as] valuable accelerated depreciation deductions, which help offset taxes…The Energy and Treasury departments…expect to spend $3 billion…through the end of 2010…[as] part of the stimulus bill…[But] requests for $800 million in grants were submitted during the first four weeks…Wall Street bankers say they expect applications to grow to $10 billion…[echoing] the $3 billion cash-for-clunkers program…

    "But unlike the popular cash-for-clunkers programs, there is no spending cap on the renewable energy grants, and the government has committed to spending as much as is needed to keep renewable-energy investments flowing...[This is a sharp change from New Energy incentives before this year which] gave companies tax credits over 10 years…attractive as long as financial firms believed they would be generating taxable profits…When Wall Street imploded last year, profits turned to losses…Some of the companies most active in these deals -- including Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and American International Group Inc. -- were hobbled or destroyed…[T]he new cash grants...[are expected] to provide an annual return of anywhere from 9% to 15%."

    New manufacturing facilities mean new production capacity looking for the financing that is becoming available which means further growth is likely. (click to enlarge)

    "Most of the investments are expected to go to wind projects, because the industry is more mature and in a better position to capture limited funds…Even capital-constrained financial giant Citigroup has been drawn to wind power. In August, it made a $120 million investment in [the AES Corp. 105-megawatt, 67-turbine Armenia Mountain] wind farm…

    "It's not just Wall Street banks that are attracted. Iberdrola SA, a Spanish [New Energy developer]…expects to tap $500 million in cash grants for U.S. wind projects…Additional financing from the grants would potentially benefit major wind-farm developers such as Florida utility FPL Group Inc. and large-scale solar developer Edison International [and] give a boost to [turbine and solar panel] manufacturers…Morgan Stanley recently made a $120 million investment in a Montana-based wind farm developed by Grupo Naturener SA…"


    World Solar Industry Appears Headed for a Shakeout
    Nathanial Gronewald, August 12, 2009 (NY Times)

    "Despite a well-publicized oversupply of products and excess manufacturing capacity for solar photovoltaic equipment and components, some solar power industry watchers are still predicting further robust growth in production capacity. But financial analysts fear numerous makers may fail over the next few years.

    "Record demand for solar equipment and a shortage of polysilicon, the key ingredient for PV panels, led companies worldwide to rapidly expand their facilities just before the global financial crisis…[Demand and] prices for polysilicon, PV and thin-film solar panels have plummeted…as weaker firms close or sell off major chunks of their operations to stay alive…[But despite] a glut of manufacturing capacity and unsold equipment, at least one research firm still sees capacity growing strongly and not slowing down or shrinking…[because of] government stimulus programs, the push for action on climate change and a bounce in demand responding to fallen prices."

    click to enlarge

    "…DisplaySearch, a division of the global market research firm NPD Group, predict[s] the worldwide manufacturing capacity for solar cells will expand by 56 percent this year over 2008 levels. 2009 is seen as one of the weakest market years this decade…[with] DisplaySearch admitting that demand is down by some 17 percent…[O]thers see a decline of up to 30 percent…[Because of the 2008 buildup of cell manufacturing capacity, DisplaySearch sees supply growing 56 percent this year, leading to] capacity expanding at a compound annual growth rate of about 49 percent a year up to 2013…

    "[Navigant Consulting doubts capacity has expanded as much as company announcements suggest]…But all agree that the rapidly descending prices, fueled further by aggressive cost cutting by some of the industry's leading players, are causing a bit of upheaval in the solar technology field…Advent Solar, DayStar Technologies and Blue Square Energy as among the [U.S.] solar companies…[that] could be shaky…[S]tronger solar manufacturers are viewed as unlikely to acquire weaker rivals…[T]hat would only add to their own inventory problems…[L]arge technology companies not traditionally involved in solar power seem to be moving in…[A] major German auto parts builder recently swallowed up…Aleo Solar and ErSol Solar Energy."

    click to enlarge

    "First Solar Inc. has been given the title of largest cell manufacturer in the world…[with an estimated 1 gigawatt] production capacity…[and a $180 million Q2 2009 profit]…But Navigant's data show that last year, Q-Cells was the largest maker in terms of sales. That company is now hurting…[because of the global economic downturn and] the exit of Spain as a major destination for sales…And though Japan has long been the leading home of solar manufacturing capacity, China…[two years became] the world leader in solar production capabilities, although Japanese makers still have plans to rapidly grow output…Suntech is poised to emerge as the global leader…

    "Thin-film solar technologies are also expected to expand [Suntech’s] market share…[T]hin film's share of the overall solar power industry [may] grow to 30 percent of cell capacity by 2013. Some experts predict that 2013 will see an explosion of solar power installations worldwide, while some see a strong rebound coming even sooner, even as early as 2010…But given the solar industry's relative youth and its history of wild up-and-down swings and adjustments, Navigant…warns against following too closely predictions on the future size and shape of the solar industry in the years to come. The feared "shakeout" in the industry could simply be a temporary return to less certain times…"


    The Importance of Geothermal Power
    John Malone, August 27, 2009 (The Moderate Voice)

    "…Geothermal power just hasn’t gotten the same respect [as wind and solar energies]. That could be changing, as both the Obama Administration and Silicon Valley are considering the heat under the ground as a potentially huge source of clean, domestic U.S. energy, but recent setbacks are calling into question how much geothermal can contribute. Given the potential benefits, we should be doubling our efforts…

    "Some background: All thermal power plants use the same basic process. A heat source (burning coal or gas, uranium, concentrated solar energy)…[turns] water into steam, and the energy released turns a turbine that produces electricity…[But] geothermal steam comes directly from the ground. Water percolates down through cracks in the ground and is heated to the boiling point by hot rocks underground…[sometimes] as a geyser…and the resulting steam is drawn up via a well to a turbine."

    click thru for complete info

    "This makes for, in principle, the ideal alternative energy source. Geothermal power releases virtually no CO2 or pollutants. Crucially, geothermal provides baseload power — wind and solar power are better suited as peaking technologies, as they are dependent on energy sources that wax and wane…Geothermal power is on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…[and] can have utilization rates up to 98%…[In national security terms]…[t]here is no more domestic source of energy than the actual ground underneath us.

    "…There are only a few places in the U.S. where you can find shallow groundwater hot enough to get steam directly from the ground…[but] Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) make use of the fact that, if you drill deep enough, any bedrock in the world gets hot enough to boil water. Basically, EGS involves drilling a well into deep, hot, dry rock; drilling a second well nearby to the same depth; fracturing the rock between those two wells enough to allow water to pass between them; and then pumping water down the first well and allowing it to percolate through the hot fractured area to the second well, where it will come back to the surface as superheated steam. The potential for EGS in the U.S. is enormous. A 2006 MIT report concluded it could provide 100,000 MW of power by 2050."

    click thru for complete info

    "…Cost is the main [EGS] hurdle. Oil and gas companies now measure well depths in miles, but these are wells drilled through relatively soft rock, not the hard granites that are best suited for EGS. If not managed properly, rocks could lose their heat — eventually, pumping water through a hot rock system could bring the heat gradient down to the point that new wells need to be drilled. There has also been some concern about earthquakes. In 2006, an EGS pilot project in Switzerland set off a 3.4 magnitude quake.

    "…[T]hese hurdles are all surmountable, and given the huge benefits it could bring, there is already a surge in investment — both public and private…Google laid down an $11 million investment for early-stage research…[Thanks to Nobel Laureate Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu…Obama’s stimulus plan set aside $400 million for pure geothermal R&D. And…[a] recent NYU study found that as little as $3 billion in R&D development could make EGS cost-competitive with fossil fuel plants…[W]idespread application… is still a ways off. But…traditional [and] EGS…[can] be used alongside…wind and solar to diversify…There is no silver bullet…It’s better to think in terms of silver buckshot…[One solution is] right under our feet."


    Who's the Greenest Generation? New Study Finds Out Who Isn't…
    Matthew Wheeland, August 28, 2009 (GreenBiz via Reuters)

    "…There is plenty of promising news [of a sustainable business future] coming out of universities, as we found at the beginning of this year with our [GreenBiz] State of Green Business report. But a recent survey of young adults in Britain gives us pause.

    "The study, commissioned by IBM, found that young adults in Generation Y -- the folks currently aged 18-24 -- had both the highest levels of awareness of environmental issues, and were the biggest wasters of energy and water in the country…"

    click to enlarge

    "Among the findings: 72 percent of Gen-Y members…[say] they wasted water on a regular basis. Fifty-six percent said they leave the tap water running while brushing their teeth, and 40 percent allow the shower to run for "a few minutes" before getting in…IBM estimates that leaving water running for two minutes during toothbrushing alone wastes about 12 liters of water, which the company extrapolates to equal over 236 million liters (more than 62 million gallons) wasted per week.

    "In terms of awareness of energy use, 55 percent of young adults couldn't correctly guess whether a clothes dryer or an incandescent lightbulb used more energy…[T]his lack of awareness isn't limited just to young people; sure, 55 percent couldn't tell you which of four appliances used the most electricity, but of the whole population surveyed, 43 percent couldn't answer the same question, and 25 percent overall said an electric kettle used more water than a clothes dryer."

    click to enlarge

    "These survey results aren't -- or shouldn't be -- surprising…[T]here are many dozens of highly innovative green businesses that are far out in front in terms of addressing environmental impacts. That is also true for individuals -- the "no impact" men and women of the world…[But] those businesses (and those individuals) are in the tiniest sliver of the minority…

    "…I oscillate between optimism and despair about this lack of action on the part of the most mainstream of businesses and individuals…[W]hen I feel optimistic, I like to believe that the profound upswing in green business practices, in green energy, in green behaviors…is going to snowball, picking up enough pace to help us avoid the worst effects of climate change…[GreenBiz] would like to know [readers’] thoughts…"

    Friday, August 28, 2009


    Poll: Energy Policy has Support But Jobs and Cost are Crucial; ABC News-Washington Post Poll: 57 Percent Support Energy Reform
    Peyton M. Craighill and Gary Langer, August 28, 2009 (ABC News)

    "Support for fossil fuel plants is down, support for nuclear power is up (though with a strong not-in-my-back-yard component) and hopes are reasonably high that a new U.S. energy policy will create jobs and help address global warming - albeit at some cost.

    "A substantial 41 percent of Americans in
    this ABC News/Washington Post poll think proposed changes being developed by Congress and the Obama administration will raise their energy costs. Yet enough of them back those changes nonetheless to give the effort 57 percent support among all Americans - well higher than support for health care reform, 45 percent…President Obama, likewise, has a 55 percent approval for handling energy policy, compared with his 46 percent approval rating on health care."

    click to enlarge

    "This may be, in part, because energy policy hasn't (yet) withstood the withering debate that's raked health care reform. But there are other reasons: Fifty-two percent of Americans think it'll help address global warming. And by 36 percent to 15 percent they're more apt to think it'll create rather than take away jobs in their state…A cap-and-trade system to control emissions gets a somewhat tepid 52 percent support. That rises to 58 percent if it works, and costs households $10 a month - but falls to 39 percent support, a new low in ABC/Post polling in the past year, at $25 a month.

    "Price sensitivity is important, and therefore likely to be central to the debate. Among Americans who think an energy policy overhaul will raise their energy costs, 54 percent oppose it - although a perhaps surprising 36 percent are in favor nonetheless. Support rises to 74 percent among those who think it won't impact costs and 88 percent of those who think it'll reduce them."

    click to enlarge

    "Support also is far lower among those who see energy reform as costing jobs, and higher among those who think it'll create them; and higher among those who think it'll help address global warming…[A]lternative energy and conservation continue to be particularly popular, while building power plants and increasing the use of coal are far less so [among both Democrats and Republicans]…[From 2001, there was] an 11-point drop in support for building more fossil-fuel plants…and a smaller 6-point rise in support for more nuclear plants…[and] support for nuclear power drops [among Democrats and Republicans] to 35 percent if the plant would be closer than 50 miles away.

    "…[S]upport [is overwhelming] for developing more solar and wind power (91 percent) and fuel-efficiency standards (85 percent); for electric car technology (82 percent support); and for requiring more energy conservation [far moreso among Democrats] in the commercial sector (78 percent) and by consumers (73 percent)… A vast 79 percent strongly favor solar and wind power, compared with 48 percent for oil and gas drilling, 36 percent for nuclear plants and 33 percent for building more fossil-fuel power stations…"


    PG&E to build plant to store wind energy
    Tracy Seipel, August 27, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)

    "Already an aggressive investor in renewable energy projects such as solar power, PG&E…is seeking to build its first-ever facility that would pump compressed air into an underground cavern, using mainly wind energy produced during nonpeak hours, and release it to generate electricity during periods of peak demand.

    "The 300-megawatt facility, to be built in Kern County, is projected to cost $356 million and take five years to design and build…[PG&E has] filed for $25 million in federal funding to be used for initial analysis and design costs…"

    Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) has been long contemplated and pilot projects have been tried but it has never been economically accomplished. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T]he facility would use mainly off-peak wind energy to power an air compressor and inject compressed air into the ground, then release it to generate electricity during periods of peak demand…Not everyone is convinced it's the optimum investment.

    "The American Wind Energy Association recently released a report on wind power and energy storage that concluded the U.S. was able to add more than 8,500 megawatts of wind power to the grid in 2008 without adding any commercial-scale energy storage…A smart investment for power companies, [the report’s author] said, would be to build more transmission lines and to change the way the power system operates across the U.S. to enable power to flow more easily from region to region…"

    Wind professionals say linking wind installations eliminates the need for storage but advocates say CAES has benefits. (click to enlarge)

    "…PG&E disagrees…because the utility doesn't believe that so much energy transmission can be built quickly…[T]he state's Independent System Operator, which manages the state's energy grid, supports the Kern County project to help California's grid.

    "California requires the state's investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010. PG&E said it currently has renewable energy contracts that represent more than 20 percent of their customers' future needs."


    CSP and photovoltaic solar power
    Tom Pfeiffer and Sara Ledwith, August 23, 2009 (Reuters)

    "Desertec, a 400 billion euro plan to [build solar power plants in North Africa and a trans-Mediterranean transmission system to] power Europe with sunlight from the Sahara, is the world's most ambitious solar power project and would be a major example of concentrated solar power (CSP) technology.

    "CSP, which uses mirrors rather than solar cells to generate electricity, has been used in California since the 1980s. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which have been developed particularly in Germany, are more established and faster growing…Grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) is the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 70 percent increase in existing capacity in 2008…At end-2008 there was 13 GW of generating capacity in PV systems connected to grids, compared with just 0.5 GW for CSP overall worldwide."

    click to enlarge

    "…Efficiency gains and improving technology have encouraged companies such as Spain's Abengoa Solar to push CSP as a credible rival to solar PV…According to the German Aerospace Center, CSP is likely to become competitive with world market prices of most fossil fuels by 2015. Until then, utilities are likely to need feed-in tariffs offering them a guaranteed price above market rates.

    "…New CSP projects are under contract in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico in the United States and under development in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. A growing number of these future CSP plants will include thermal storage to allow operation into the evening hours."

    Types of CSP plants. (click to enlarge)

    "…The cost of CSP-generated electricity at 12 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour will halve by 2015 to a level similar to gas and coal power today, excluding carbon penalties on those hydrocarbon fuels, according to…Desertec-Australia…CSP's backers predict it will become the cheapest power source for energy-hungry desalination plants that remove the salt from sea water for drinking and growing crops…

    "…The Desertec Industrial Initiative [includes]…Swiss engineering group ABB, a specialist in high-voltage, direct-current transmission grids…German engineering conglomerate Siemens…Spanish engineering firm Abengoa, whose solar power arm is building CSP installations in Spain, Morocco and Algeria…Algerian food group Cevital…Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank…German [utilities] E.ON…[and] RWE…German state-owned bank HSH Nordbank…[Germany’s] MAN Solar Millenniun, a joint [engineering and CSP] venture…German reinsurance company Munich Re…[Germany’s] M&W Zander…German solar panel maker Schott Solar..."


    Climate change campaign creates carbon crimes; Fraudulent Permit Trading Surfaces In Europe
    Arthur Max, August 23, 2009 (AP via San Diego North County Times)

    (For Part 1, see yesterday’s SUNDAY WORLD)
    "Customs agents…arrested nine people in the London area suspected of a multimillion dollar fraud in trading carbon permits, bringing attention to a rich new field for crime sprung from the fight against climate change…[and confirming] fears among law enforcement officers that swindlers ---- operating from the trading floors of Europe to the tropical forests of the Pacific ---- are being attracted to a market that has grown to more than $100 billion.

    "…[Familiar scams are being used in the emissions permit trade]…A different set of problems threaten the trade in credits derived from halting deforestation…Forests store vast amounts of carbon, and release it when trees are cut or burned. Scientists say deforestation contributes about 20 percent of all the carbon leeching into the atmosphere."

    click to enlarge

    "By measuring the amount of carbon held in a forested area, a value can be placed on that carbon and owners can be compensated for preserving them. Carbon offsets, purchased by airline passengers or concert-goers who voluntarily want to cut their carbon footprint or big corporations that need to meet emissions targets, buy the credits from the forest owner…But shady brokers…persuade landowners, especially forest dwellers with little understanding of modern commerce, to sell a share of the rights to the carbon stored in their trees, counting on a hefty profits later…

    "In July, the head of Papua New Guinea's Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability, Theo Yasause, was suspended pending an investigation for allegedly issuing some 40 tons of carbon credits for preventing deforestation. Such credits do not yet exist for governments to sell since there is no mechanism in place to measure and verify that forests are being preserved."

    click to enlarge

    "U.N. talks aimed at a new global warming agreement in Copenhagen are seeking ways to scale up efforts to avoid deforestation to make it worthwhile for governments like Brazil or Papua New Guinea to save their rapidly depleting rain forests…Negotiators are working on ways to verify that logging trends have been reversed, largely through satellite imagery, and on raising billions of dollars to compensate rain forest countries -- with the carbon market as one possibility…[C]limate negotiators are trying to build safeguards into the Copenhagen climate agreement to limit the opportunity for criminals. Chief among them is postponing any payment for avoiding deforestation until inspectors verify that tree-cutting trends had been reversed.

    "Peter Younger, the Interpol officer who deals with environmental crime and wildlife smuggling, says illegal logging and tax fraud is bound to grow as the market expands…"

    Thursday, August 27, 2009


    China Racing Ahead of U.S. in the Drive to Go Solar
    Keith Bradsher, August 24, 2009 (NY Times)

    "…China that has stepped on the gas in an effort to become the dominant player in green energy — especially in solar power…Chinese companies have already played a leading role in pushing down the price of solar panels by almost half over the last year. Shi Zhengrong, the chief executive and founder of China’s biggest solar panel manufacturer, Suntech Power Holdings, said…[his company] is selling solar panels on the American market for less than the cost of the materials, assembly and shipping [to build market share].

    "Backed by lavish government support, the Chinese are preparing to build plants to assemble their products in the United States to bypass protectionist legislation…[and working] to tamp down anti-Chinese sentiment before it takes root."

    click to enlarge

    "The Obama administration is determined to help the American industry…[most recently with] $2.3 billion in tax credits to clean energy equipment manufacturers. But…Western companies may have fragile prospects when competing with Chinese companies that have cheap loans, electricity and labor, paying recent college graduates in engineering $7,000 a year…[and] governments at the national, provincial and even local level…[that] offer solar companies ever more generous subsidies, including free land, and cash for research and development. State-owned banks are flooding the industry with loans at considerably lower interest rates than available in Europe or the United States.

    "…[Suntech] is on track this year to pass Q-Cells of Germany, to become the world’s second-largest supplier of photovoltaic cells… behind only First Solar in Tempe, Ariz…[A] growing list of Chinese corporations backed by entrepreneurs, local governments and even the Chinese military [is] seeking to capitalize on an industry deemed crucial by China’s top leadership…"

    click to enlarge

    "China’s commitment to solar energy is unlikely to make a difference soon to global warming. China’s energy consumption is growing faster than any other country’s, though the United States consumes more today. Beijing’s aim is to generate 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020 — or less than half the capacity of coal-fired power plants that are built in China each year…Solar energy remains far more expensive…than energy from coal, oil, natural gas or even wind. But in addition to heavy Chinese investment and low Chinese costs, the global economic downturn and a decline in European subsidies to buy panels have lowered prices.

    "…[Suntech] will build a solar panel assembly plant in the United States…Yingli Solar, another large Chinese manufacturer…[also plans] to assemble panels in the United States…Western rivals (Germany’s Q-Cells, Conergy and SolarWorld), meanwhile, are struggling… because of declining sales…[But resistance] to Chinese exports could be difficult, particularly as [1] Chinese discounting makes green energy more affordable…[2] First Solar…the solar leader… using a different technology…is actually profitable…[3] [Suntech] executives at its United States operations…[hold] the top posts at the two main American industry groups…[and, 4] almost 98 percent of Suntech’s production goes overseas."


    Climate change campaign creates carbon crimes; Fraudulent Permit Trading Surfaces In Europe
    Arthur Max, August 23, 2009 (AP via San Diego North County Times)

    "Customs agents…arrested nine people in the London area suspected of a multimillion dollar fraud in trading carbon permits, bringing attention to a rich new field for crime sprung from the fight against climate change…[and confirming] fears among law enforcement officers that swindlers ---- operating from the trading floors of Europe to the tropical forests of the Pacific ---- are being attracted to a market that has grown to more than $100 billion.

    "…[Carbon dioxide (CO2) is]… a pollutant derived from fossil fuels…[is regulated by] making permission to produce it a commodity that can be traded like gold, oil or hog futures…Trade in CO2 permits has expanded exponentially since the European Union required thousands of industries to limit carbon emissions to specified targets. Industries exceeding their ceiling can buy credits from companies that have held their emissions below target, acting through commodities exchanges. The average price this year for a ton of carbon is about $15…"

    The carousel fraud diagrammed. (click to enlarge)

    "That carbon market will get a lot bigger if the U.S. Congress passes its own cap-and-trade bill…And it will grow bigger still if a new international climate change agreement will include financial incentives for countries to protect their forests. Negotiators from 192 countries hope to conclude a global warming accord at a major U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December.

    "…130 British customs agents raided 27 properties in and around London for evidence of a "carousel fraud" believed to have robbed the treasury of 38 million pounds ($63 million) in unpaid value-added tax. Seven men and two women were arrested and released on bail…[I]t was the first time the scam has been uncovered in the carbon market, expanding from the more established trade in mobile phones and computer chips…The carousel fraud, also known as a missing trader scheme, exploits VAT-free commerce between countries. Conspirators import goods free of tax, sell it domestically with VAT to another company, which exports the products to third country. Rather than pay the VAT owed to the government, the merchants pocket the tax and disappear."

    The carousel fraud explained. (click to enlarge)

    "In July, France, the Netherlands and Britain initiated action to pre-empt the swindlers. France and Britain set a zero VAT rate for carbon trading, while Holland transferred the obligation to pay VAT from the seller to the buyer…The British Treasury also warned last month that Britain would become a major target of tax theft in carbon emissions permits in the next few months…[S]uspicions of VAT fraud surfaced last May when the volume of carbon trade rose on the Paris BlueNext exchange from 27.2 million tons in October, spiking six months later at 186 million tons…[BlueNext] said the risk of fraud can be high in any new commodities market, and CO2 is no different in the need for high regulatory standards.

    "When the carbon market was getting started, big companies were involved and the traders knew each other.. But it has grown so fast that small unknown operators are now doing big business, making self-policing more difficult…"
    (Part 2 will be in MORE NEWS on Monday)


    Europe's Saharan power plan: miracle or mirage?
    Tom Pfeiffer (w/Erik Kirschbaum, Christoph Steitz, Jonathan Gould, Hamid Ould Ahmed, Gerard Wynn and Sara Ledwith), August 23, 2009 (Reuters)

    "Desertec…[a 400 billion euro ($774 billion) plan to power Europe with Sahara sunlight and] the world's most ambitious solar power project [is gaining momentum, even as critics see high risks in a large corporate project using young technology in north African countries with weak rule of law]. Fields of mirrors in the desert would gather solar rays to boil water, turning turbines to electrify a new carbon-free network linking Europe, the Middle East and North Africa…[A] dozen [mostly German] finance and industrial firms…say it will keep Europe at the forefront of the fight against climate change and help North African and European economies to grow…

    "Others warn of numerous pitfalls, including Maghreb politics, Saharan sandstorms and the risk to desert populations if their water is diverted to clean dust off solar mirrors…[and] say the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology behind Desertec involves greater costs and risks than the fast-growing patchwork of smaller-scale photovoltaic [PV] cell installations that generate most of Europe's solar energy today."

    click to enlarge

    "Desertec's founders are lured by the fact that more energy falls on the world's deserts in six hours than the world consumes in a year…Proposed by the Club of Rome, an international group of experts that suggests solutions to global problems, Desertec became an industrial project last month when reinsurer Munich Re hosted its launch…They have yet to draw up a business plan or specify how it will be funded but hope to recruit shareholders and partner companies from a variety of countries.

    "Desertec officials say the Sahara could one day deliver 15 percent of Europe's electricity…[It will] advance in small stages with completion not before 2050…[but will be a positive gesture from the developed world to countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which stand to suffer most from the more frequent droughts and desertification blamed on global warming]…"

    click to enlarge

    "Supporters of…[PV solar] argue decentralized generation will prove more popular as falling prices make the heavy infrastructure needed for CSP unviable…[and say] producing renewable energy within their own borders [is a better choice. German solar energy visionary Hermann] Scheer said the costs of Desertec were being downplayed artificially and its technical capabilities over-estimated…Desertec would need 20 or more efficient, direct-current cables each costing up to $1 billion to transmit electricity north beneath the Mediterranean…

    "Southern countries that import most of their energy like Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan would also benefit from Desertec…Morocco buys in 96 percent of its energy…a massive drain on state resources…The Moroccan government says Desertec could solve Morocco's energy dependency…Among hazards facing the scheme are the fact that Desertec would need tight coordination between governments to succeed, yet Maghreb states have tried and failed for two decades to integrate their economies and deepen political ties…Analysts play down the risk to Desertec's infrastructure posed by Al Qaeda-aligned rebels…[and agree] security risks can be managed, but the project could become entangled in broader talks between the EU and north Africa on energy, investment and trade."


    Despite Defeat, Australian Government Vows to Move Ahead With Emissions Legislation
    Phil Mercer, 20 August 2009 (Voice of America)

    "Australia's government promises to push through a sweeping carbon emissions trading system despite a parliamentary defeat. The plan would require the country's biggest polluters to buy permits for emitting carbon dioxide. Government ministers want the legislation to be passed before United Nations climate change talks in December.

    "The Australian government has proposed what some say is the world's most ambitious carbon trading program. It would force the country's 1,000 worst polluters to buy carbon dioxide permits and would cover about 75 percent of emissions. The aim is to curb greenhouse gas pollution by between five and 25 percent by 2020."

    Austraia's initial targets are low but grow to world class levels over time. (click to enlarge)

    "The plan needs the approval of Australia's upper house of parliament, the Senate. A recent vote, however, saw the plan defeated by an unusual alliance of Greens, who think the program does not go far enough to protect the environment, and conservative lawmakers, who say it will damage industry and cost jobs…Undeterred, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the government will try again [before December]…

    "Conservative [Senate] politicians think that Australian businesses, especially the dominant resources sector, will lose their competitive edge under the government's carbon trading program…[The government rejected their proposal but there] is hope that a compromise can be reached…[They] have struck a deal to approve the part of the climate legislation that sets renewable energy targets…[requiring] 20 percent of Australia's power supply [to] come from renewable sources by 2020. But…[the] contentious legislation covering carbon trading… still divides Australia…[and] could trigger an early election."

    Australia is serious about New Energy. (click to enlarge)

    "…[Australia] relies heavily on coal to generate electricity…The mining industry is spending vast amounts to find ways to produce coal that burns more cleanly…[Some scientists say] storing carbon emissions deep underground is one way forward…Australia, one of the world's worst per capita emitters of greenhouse gases [and highly vulnerable to climate change], also is pursuing a renewable energy options, including wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power…

    "…[C]limate change skeptics say that warming temperatures are part of a natural cycle and are not influenced by man's use of fossils fuels. The majority of Australians disagree and want their political leaders to take a decisive stand against global warming that many believe has the potential to inflict more severe damage."

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009


    Everday Solar
    Rhone Resch, August 24, 2009 (SF Examiner)

    "Everyday, I like to check to see…if my electric meter is running backwards…[because] I have a solar energy system on my roof...[T]housands of Americans across the country that are doing the same…Incentives and grants from federal, state, and local governments mean there has never been a better time to go solar. The most effective incentive yet, the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) creates a 30 percent credit for families and businesses buying solar energy systems, eliminates outdated prohibitions on utilities using the credit and authorizes millions in clean energy bonds to drive down costs and spur greater use of solar.

    "The ITC puts a 'sale' sign on solar energy systems of up to 30 percent off…[It] directly pours millions of investment dollars into the industry, driving down material costs and making solar products more affordable. This growth in solar installations is also creating jobs and spurring economic growth in all 50 states…In July, the Treasury Department announced $3 billion to be invested in renewable energy projects outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This will lead to [more growth]…"

    This was before the new ITC put the "sale" sign up on solar. (click to enlarge)

    "The climate change bill making its way through Congress would establish for the first time a national renewable portfolio standard, create new opportunities to get solar energy to markets, protect the air we breathe, and finally allow the federal government to enter into 20-year contracts for clean, reliable solar energy. These are the right policies to create a stable investment climate for the solar industry, just as the government has done for every other energy source, including coal, oil, and nuclear. The House has passed its bill and we are currently working with the U.S. Senate…

    "Solar is ready now to meet America’s growing energy needs…[Besides] rooftop [photovoltaic solar (PV)] panels like the ones on my house…there are numerous other types of solar…Concentrated solar power, for example, uses huge fields of mirrors that "concentrate" the sun’s heat to warm a liquid that generates steam to drive a turbine to produce electricity. The intensity of the sun in places like the American Southwest is so strong that these states can start exporting power instead of jobs…Plants like these are in the construction pipeline…Solar water heating…on top of your roof can heat water for a whole day’s needs, saving thousands on your energy bills…94 percent of Americans support the use and development of solar technology…"

    Number 3 with a bullet. (click to enlarge)

    "…[S]olar is one of America’s few industry bright spots…[In 2008, installed solar] grew by 16 percent…[and] there are 6,000 megawatts of concentrated solar power plants in the development pipeline…U.S. solar manufacturing capacity increased by 65 percent in 2008, reporting an industry total job increase of 71 percent…[P]hotovoltaic solar clocked a growth rate of 81 percent…Solar water heating installations grew by 50 percent…[T]he United States…[moved] to third in the world after Spain and Germany for the total amount of new solar capacity. With the right policies out of Washington, it won’t be long before we surpass Spain and Germany as well.

    "…[I]n 2016, the solar industry expects to support 440,000 American jobs. The 2009 stimulus bill alone will create 60,000 additional jobs in the solar industry this year and a total of 110,000 jobs by the end of 2010. As the solar industry continues to grow, so will American prosperity and sustainability…You can do your part too. Contact your local solar installer…Contact your legislators…[Y]ou can use solar everyday to make a difference."


    NREL gets super-sized turbine at wind center
    August 24, 2009 (Daily Camera via Energy Current)

    "The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has added the first of two super-sized wind turbines to its [12+ turbine] research center in southern Boulder County…[where] graceful lattice-mounted units with 2-kilowatt capacities [and] hulking white turbines from the mid-1980s that can crank out 600 kilowatts…[stand in] the wind gusting off the foothills at the National Wind Technology Center.

    "…[C]onstruction workers used two cranes to lift 220 tons of [one new turbine’s] parts into place. The rotors for the new machine stretch nearly 253 feet in diameter, and when turning, those blades will be able to generate 1.5 megawatts of power…"

    This used to be a windmill...(click to enlarge)

    "Thousands of similar turbines are already being used at wind farms across the country, but the blades on those machines need to keep spinning, generating as much electricity as possible and working to recoup investments in the farm…[A]t the wind center, researchers will be able to tweak the turbine to get the most energy possible from the available wind in an effort to close the already-shrinking gap between the cost of wind energy and the cost of electricity from fossil fuels…"

    ...Now this is. (click to enlarge)

    "A second turbine, with even bigger blades -- a 331-foot rotor diameter -- will be installed at the [National Wind Technology Center ] wind center later this year… The wind, when it comes, can be brutal, gusting in wild, turbulent bursts [sometimes of more than 100 mph] -- the kind of conditions that are rough on a turbine, flexing the blades and straining the generator. But that's perfect for the wind center. Researchers there are studying how to more accurately and quickly turn turbines into the wind and adjust the pitch of the blades to keep the generator running smoothly.

    "The location also helps scientists learn how turbines hold up to ice, lightning strikes, temperature variations and violent storms…"


    'Green goo' biofuel gets a boost
    Steve Mollman, August 24, 2009 (CNN)

    "Three years ago many would have dismissed the notion that a significant supply of the world's automotive fuel could come from algae… Now there are well over 50 [companies seriously focused on producing algae fuel]…The number should double within the next year or two…

    "…ExxonMobil… publicly skeptical of other biofuels…invested up to $600 million into a collaborative R&D program with Synthetic Genomics, a startup founded by J. Craig Venter…a key player in sequencing the human genome. Synthetic Genomics is looking at…[ways] to boost the plant's oil production. The startup received an earlier investment from BP a few years ago, but this one by ExxonMobil has raised eyebrows…[A]fter years of careful research ExxonMobil concluded that algae, among all the alternatives, has the most potential…"

    The eater of our enemy is our friend. (click to enlarge)

    "The airline industry, plagued by high jet-fuel prices, is also investing and testing, with players including Boeing, GE Aviation, Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines and Continental Airlines…Algae fuel has already helped power planes, cars, and other vehicles in various tests and demonstrations…

    "…[T]he U.S. Department of Energy's [1978-1996] Aquatic Species Program focused on it before closing down…[due to] low petroleum prices and the relatively high cost of making algae fuel…Economic competitiveness remains the key challenge, and the hunt is on to find the best strains of algae…But it…will now get the kind of funding and attention…needed to turn it into a competitive industry…[Many] approaches are being tried…Solazyme (whose investors include Chevron) is growing algae in big dark tanks and feeding them sugar…Seambiotic is growing marine microalgae using…[coal-plant] carbon dioxide, which algae feed on…NASA and Google [are]…using semi-permeable membrane enclosures of sewage floating in the ocean. Only clean water leaks out, and the algae feed on [nutrients in the sewage]. Other methods...[range from] bioreactors to open ponds."

    The numbers are impressive. (click to enlarge)

    "…[Unlike biofuel sources] like palm…sugar cane or corn…[algae] doesn't have to be grown in places that…serve for food production or endangered species habitat…Algae can be fed sewage and carbon dioxide and grown in… deserts, ponds, and oceans…[And it] fits relatively easily into the vast infrastructure of refineries and [fossil fuel] distribution channels…But [it] is not environmentally perfect. It still creates pollution when burned…[E]nvironmentalists…prefer… cleaner options like solar and wind. Algae fuel..[is too much like] Big Oil…[However, it] does burn cleaner than fossil fuel…SunEco [algal fuel showed] an 82 percent reduction in particulate emissions with no loss of power [in trucks]…

    "Huge sales…ExxonMobil says…[are] five or ten years away…[M]any ventures…will surely not survive…GreenFuel Technologies…went out of business this spring…co-products [may buoy some]…Seambiotic make food additives…Solazyme has made nutraceuticals, additives and soaps using algae…[T]he ethanol industry doesn't have a similarly wide range of fall-back alternatives…[But] ExxonMobil seems prepared to spend substantially…The initial $600 million…[plus billions for commercialization]…That's small change for the likes of ExxonMobil, but it represents a big change for the status of algae fuel."


    Nevada Geothermal in startup mode for 49.5 MW Blue Mountain plant; Vancouver-based developer plans to commission the geothermal power plant in September, eyeing expansion on the 17-square-mile Nevada site starting in 2010.
    August 24, 2009 (Cleantech Group)

    "…Nevada Geothermal Power [NGP] said revenue is within reach now that it has begun the commissioning of a 49.5-megawatt geothermal power plant in Humboldt County, Northern Nevada.

    "NGP plans to complete the startup phase by the end of September, with 28 to 30 MW of output capacity fed to the grid starting in October…[P]roject developer Ormat Technologies is three months ahead of schedule on the first phase of Blue Mountain Faulkner 1."

    Big doings at Blue Mountain. (click to enlarge)

    "NGP then plans to replace two shallow injectors with two widely spaced make-up wells, increasing output to 40 MW…In 2010, the company plans to further investigate the nearly 11,000-acre site to expand the project to 49.5 MW…Wilson Utility [will] build a 21-mile, 120-kilovolt transmission line to connect the project with the grid of utility NV Energy, which has already completed the switchyard station north of Mill City, Nev."

    Nevada is the most geothermal-rich state in the nation. (click to enlarge)

    "In 2007, NGP signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with NV Energy, formerly known as Nevada Power Company, for up to 49.5 MW of electrical power…Nevada's Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for 20 percent of renewable energy to supply their customers by 2015…[Also in 2007,] NGP secured $100 million in financing from Morgan Stanley and $20 million in bridge financing with Glitnir Bank…

    "NGP says it has the potential to generate more than 200 MW of power from the four geothermal sites for which it holds exclusive development rights. In addition to the Blue Mountain Faulkner 1 project, NGP plans to develop the 20-to-30 MW Pumpernickel and 37-MW Black Warrior projects in Nevada, and the 40-to-60 MW Crump Geyser project in Oregon."

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009


    Study: Energy efficiency could boost South
    Greg Blustein, August 24, 2009 (AP via Houston Chronicle)

    "An aggressive strategy to replace aging equipment with more energy efficient products throughout the South would reduce the need to build more coal-fired power plants in the region through 2020, according to a Georgia Tech study…

    "Advocates are taking
    [Meta-Review of Efficiency Potential Studies and Their Implications for the South], funded by the Energy Foundation and the Turner Foundation, to state legislators and regulatory agencies hoping it will bolster their calls for more incentives for energy efficient products as an alternative to new power plants…"

    click to enlarge

    "The study distilled 19 separate reports published across the region over the past 12 years. It found that better use of energy-efficient products could bring consumption 9 percent below the levels now projected for 2020…It found that the South has been one of the last regions in the country to embrace energy efficiency programs and to foster a culture where consumers value energy efficiency…[and that] the South — which it defines as a 16-state area that extends from Texas to Maryland — accounts for 44 percent of the nation's total energy consumption…[while] the region's population share…[is] around 37 percent.

    "The brunt of the energy efficiency upgrades would take place in the private sector. It advocates homeowners and contractors to install heat pumps along with efficient window treatments and insulation… the commercial sector to embrace new lighting standards and more efficient cooling systems…[and industry to replace] aging boilers and burners…[with] newer and more efficient versions."

    click to enlarge

    "The technology to make the changes already exists…[but will require] a host of more aggressive incentives to prod residents and business owners into action…[Southern] leaders have not yet show the "visionary investment" such as tax breaks and subsidies that other parts of the country have enjoyed.

    "Environmental advocates are already using the report's findings to push for those changes. A group met with utility executives a few weeks ago…[and are meeting] with lawmakers and regulatory agencies…The challenge, though, will be proving that policy encouraging more efficiency can pay economic dividends…"


    Powerful Ideas: Wind Turbine Blades Change Shape; A wind turbine that adapts to windy conditions may harness more energy.
    Charles Q. Choi, August 24, 2009 (LiveScience via U.S. News & World Report)

    "Morphing blades made of advanced composite materials that can rapidly change their shape depending on the wind could help lead to advanced wind turbines that perform better and last longer.

    "Wind energy is growing more and more popular worldwide. The United States is currently the world's largest generator of wind energy by total megawatts, and by 2030, the Department of Energy predicts that as much as one-fifth of the nation's power might come from wind. On a per capita basis, other nations are even further ahead…Denmark, for instance, already gets one-fifth of its power from the wind."

    click thru for detailed research info.

    "…[M]orphing blades…rapidly change their aerodynamic profile to best suit the prevailing wind conditions…[Flying and swimming animals are more efficient because they have geometric adaptability to varying flow conditions]…[Teams at San Diego State University and the University of Bristol in England are working on morphing blades that use the wind to their advantage rather than fighting it, increasing their efficiency and durability]…

    "Modern wind turbine blades are typically made from a combination of glass and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics. During manufacture, the plastic resin is heated and cooled in a controlled manner so that it bonds with the fibers and sets to form a rigid structure."

    click thru for detailed research info.

    "By carefully controlling the direction and tension of the fibers, the researchers at the University of Bristol note it is also possible to create a composite that can snap between two distinct rigid shapes. For instance, when given an electric signal, the blade might flex one way instead of another, showing more or less of its surface to the wind…[They made] a working demonstration of a morphing helicopter rotor blade...[and] entered into an agreement with Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems to develop composite materials for future products.

    "…[The San Diego State team leader] envisions morphing wind turbine blades made out of plastic materials similar to urethane rubber that flexibly bend and twist shape to reach the optimal angles that get as much energy from the wind as possible, depending on the wind's strength…[T]hey have completed [promising] lab tests with a number of roughly 3-foot-wide (meter-wide) rotors made from a number of different materials…"


    Report: Honda to sell electric cars in US
    Tomoko A. Hosaka, August 22, 2009 (AP)

    "Honda Motor Co. plans to introduce electric vehicles in the U.S. early next decade, joining a growing number of automakers vying for the lead in clean technology development…

    "Japan's second-biggest car maker, which has focused on gas-electric hybrids so far, is building an all-electric prototype to be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in October…[and will] begin sales of electric vehicles in the United States in the first half of the decade…"

    Add Honda to the list. (click to enlarge)

    "Honda released its new Insight earlier this year, billing it as the cheapest gas-electric hybrid on the market, to compete with Toyota Motor Corp.'s top-selling Prius…But with U.S. environmental regulations expected to toughen, automakers are stepping up efforts to release zero-emission cars.

    "Honda has leased a small number of its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to customers in Southern California since last year. Their high development cost, however, prompted Honda to consider adding electric cars to its lineup…"

    (From an American Solar Energy Society report on climate change - click to enlarge)

    "…Nissan Motor Co. is set to begin selling its Leaf electric hatchback in the U.S., Europe and Japan next year. Toyota Motor Corp. has said it plans to launch electric models by 2012…In June, Mitsubishi Motors Corp., launched its own electric vehicle, the 4.59 million yen ($48,300) i-MiEV. Ford's first battery electric vehicle, the Transit Connect commercial van, is to be available next year… General Motors Corp. is set to release its Chevrolet Volt next year, a rechargeable electric car with a small internal combustion engine that the company says will get up to 230 miles per gallon…

    "The Obama administration in June said Ford, Nissan and Tesla Motors Inc. would be the first three beneficiaries of a $25 billion fund to develop fuel-efficient vehicles."


    Powerful Ideas: Spray-On Solar Cells
    Jeanna Bryner, 24 August 2009 (LiveScience)

    "Solar cells soon could be painted onto the sides of buildings or rooftops with nanoparticle inks…The new nano-ink process could replace the standard method of manufacturing solar cells, which requires high temperatures and is relatively expensive…

    "…[Photovoltaic solar cells] convert sunlight directly into electricity and are typically made from silicon, although other materials that are flexible are gaining steam. Solar panels used to power homes and businesses each consist of 40 or so of these cells…Rather than silicon, the inks developed by Korgel's team are made up of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) — sunlight-absorbing nanoparticles that are 10,000 times thinner than a strand of hair…"

    The ultimate dream of solar researchers is nearer reality. (click to enlarge)

    "…[A University of Texas at Austin research] team envisions printing such inks in a newspaper-like process…So far, they have developed solar-cell prototypes that can convert 1 percent of the sunlight that hits the cell into electricity…[and belive the concept will be commercial if they get to 10 percent, something they see as possible within 3-to-5 years]…"

    How much is a bottle of sun? (click to enlarge)

    "The prospect of painting these inks onto a rooftop or building is not far-fetched…In addition, the inks are semi-transparent, and so could some day be used to develop windows that double as solar cells…

    "The research, which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Welch Foundation and the Air Force Research Laboratory."

    Monday, August 24, 2009


    Green energy hit by 'faceless Nimbys'
    20 August 2009 (BBC News)

    "Last month, the [UK] government announced plans to boost the green energy sector, yet within weeks Vestas UK, the UK's only manufacturer of wind turbine blades, closed its plant on the Isle of Wight…Some [Vestas] workers said the government should have rescued the plant like it saved failing banks.

    "But Vestas' vice president Peter Kruse [blamed UK citizens who block wind developments with environmental and aesthetic concerns]…The Vestas decision created a dilemma for people on the Isle of Wight as there were those who opposed the siting of wind turbines on the island - projects which might have saved the jobs of the Vestas' workers."

    click to enlarge

    "The local council refused to give planning permission for a wind farm; and John Gallimore, chair of local campaign group Thwart, believed that there were other environmental arguments which deserved an airing…

    "Richard Mardon, managing director of Your Energy, one of the UK's largest independent wind farm developers, believes local protest groups around the country are hampering the development of wind power…[and blamed] the English planning system, where the success rate for getting wind turbine applications approved by English councils was 20 to 50%… Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, said he was confident that "Nimbyism" could be overcome…"

    The British public at large favors wind. Some simply object to having it where they can see it. It's a universal dilemma: The world's environment versus the local environment. (click to enlarge)

    "Other countries in the EU have softened the impact on local communities with cash incentives…In Portugal, where 15% of power is produced by renewable energy (and they are on target for more than 30% by 2020), local municipal authorities were given a 15% stake in wind power companies and some had sold these shares at large profits, benefiting their communities.

    "It is this kind of "bribe" that the UK needs to use, according to Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies To Save The Planet…But according to Mr Goodall there is another factor that is restraining the UK…[It does not] think big enough…[T]he UK could build 5,000 wind turbines in the next year which would have a significant effect on its energy supply but the political will [is] lacking…Mr Goodall said the country had lost the vision of the kind of grand engineering projects the Victorians managed…"


    A Rare Peek at Green Energy Economics
    Todd Woody, August 24, 2009 (NY Times)

    "California regulators have approved contracts for more than 8,600 megawatts of renewable energy, to be generated mostly by big solar power plants for the state’s largest utilities. But the details of those deals and the emerging economics of green energy often remain shrouded in secrecy, subject to confidentiality agreements.

    "…[But] when the California Public Utilities Commission gave the green light to two 25-year power purchase agreements [for 1,310 megawatts of solar electricity] between Pacific Gas & Electric and BrightSource Energy …the utilities commission also signed off on an apparently first-of-its-kind technology royalty agreement between BrightSource and PG&E."

    Schematic of the Brightsource technology. (click to enlarge)

    "…BrightSource will generate electricity from two of seven solar thermal power plants the company is building in the Mojave Desert, to supply PG&E with a total of 1,310 megawatts. In an unusual twist, the utility has agreed to pay BrightSource a higher electricity rate if the start-up fails to secure a Department of Energy loan guarantee to help finance the construction of the two power plants.

    "The loan guarantee program is designed to promote development of renewable energy by allowing companies like BrightSource to obtain lower-cost financing for the billions of dollars needed to build large-scale solar farms…"

    The Brightsource technology. (click to enlarge)

    "The deal prompted an unsuccessful protest from the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, a state agency that promotes utility customers’ interests. The ratepayer advocate argued that BrightSource did not receive such favorable terms when it agreed to provide 1,300 megawatts of electricity to Southern California Edison, another state utility, using the same technology…Utility commissioners also approved an agreement between BrightSource and PG&E that calls for the start-up to pay the utility royalties based on the worldwide sales and licensing of BrightSource’s solar “power tower” technology.

    "…Keely Wachs, [of BrightSource], said he could not provide any details of the royalty agreement or why it was struck due to confidentiality provisions of the deal…This is the first royalty agreement PG&E has made in connection with a power purchase agreement, according to Jennifer Zerwer, a spokeswoman for the utility. She said the utility could not disclose whether the royalty contract was tied to the electricity rates PG&E will pay BrightSource…"


    US considers funding Pakistan energy projects
    Adam Entous (w/Sugita Katyal and Alex Richardson), August 17, 2009 (Reuters via Forbes)

    "President Barack Obama's special envoy said…the United States was considering funding projects to upgrade Pakistan's antiquated power sector, but played down the speed at which assistance would materialise and crippling electricity shortages would end.

    "Pakistan's finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, said the government would rent electricity-generating plants over the next three to five years to fill the gap until large-scale energy projects come online…[and] said Washington could help by providing financial guarantees to encourage private investment…Obama's envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, offered few details about the kinds of projects Washington would sponsor…"

    Pakistan has pockets of great wind. (click to enlarge)

    "Power shortages have [been worsening for 25 years and have] devastated the country's economy and undercut support for its government, a critical ally in Washington's war against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan…U.S. trade promotion agencies such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank could provide financial backing for some of the long-term projects, but doing so would require U.S. congressional authorisation.

    "Holbrooke has said that recent gains by the Pakistani army against militants gave Washington "breathing room" to focus more attention on Pakistan's economic woes, chief among them the shortage of electricity…After meeting Pakistan's foreign minister… Holbrooke declared the energy sector, rather than security, his "primary focus"…The public shift in emphasis appeared aimed at boosting the standing of both Pakistan's elected leaders and the United States in a country deeply sceptical of their growing military alliance against militants…"

    Pakistan has lots of sun. (click to enlarge)

    "Mary Beth Goodman, Holbrooke's economic adviser, said the energy shortfalls were not only affecting the border areas but the entire country…Pakistani cities sometimes suffer outages of up to 20 hours a day. Key industries have been shuttered, sending unemployment soaring…[As a temporary quick fix] rental power plants would be used to generate up to 3,500 megawatts of electricity… Pakistan [will] not need U.S. cash assistance to run the temporary plants…

    "…[The longer term goal is] to replace the rentals after three to five years with permanent, long-term hydro-electric, coal, wind and solar plants…Pakistan's current reliance on costly gas-fired plants [was described by one government official as] "totally screwed up" and financially unsustainable…"


    The Other Climate Changers: Why Black Carbon and Ozone Also Matter
    Alex Viets, August 20, 2009 (Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development)

    "According to an essay published in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs, reducing emissions of black carbon soot and ground-level ozone would quickly make a considerable dent in the climate change problem and would also contribute to public health and protect crop yields. The Other Climate Changers: Why Black Carbon and Ozone Also Matter, is authored by Jessica Seddon Wallack, Director of the Center for Development Finance at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, in Chennai, India and Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a scientist and Distinguished Professor of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego…"

    (From the Biochar International Initiative - click to enlarge)

    "Black carbon and ground level ozone are ideal pollutants to target to avoid passing climate tipping points: they are short-lived in the atmosphere (weeks to a few months), meaning that the benefits of reducing them could be felt almost immediately… Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a black carbon bill earlier this year, as did Congressmen Jay Inslee (D-WA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Mike Honda (D-CA). A provision on black carbon is also included in the Waxman-Markey climate bill.

    "Black carbon is produced largely by diesel vehicles and the burning of biomass, including in cookstoves in developing countries like China and India. It contributes to 7 percent of child deaths worldwide that result from fatal respiratory infections. Black carbon is also responsible for almost 50 percent of warming in the Arctic as well as extensive snow and ice melt in the Himalayas. Available technology such as diesel particulate filters for vehicles and cleaner-burning biomass and solar cookstoves can significantly reduce black carbon emissions."

    (From the Biochar International Initiative - click to enlarge)

    "Ground level or tropospheric ozone (different than the stratospheric ozone that blocks the sun’s UV rays) is formed by “ozone precursor” gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, methane, and other hydrocarbons. Improving the efficiency of industrial combustion processes can reduce these gases. Besides a danger to breathe, ozone lowers crop yields. A recent study reported that ozone’s damage to crop yields in 2000 resulted in an economic loss of $14-26 billion annually…

    "Addressing the many dispersed sources of black carbon and ozone precursors will be an implementation challenge, but the fact that there are many co-benefits of taking action may mean addressing these substances is more politically feasible than tackling other emissions…"

    Friday, August 21, 2009


    China climate change report sets out options
    Chris Buckley (w/Ken Wills and Dean Yates), August 17, 2009 (Reuters)

    "…[2050 China Energy and C02 Emissions Report] by some of China's top climate change policy advisers has urged the government to set firm targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions so they peak around 2030…Following are some of the key proposals…

    "…[The study examines proposals to deepen market reforms of the energy sector, encourages more investment and private capital in clean energy and] proposes setting relative and then absolute targets for limiting China's emissions of the greenhouse gases from human activities…The "relative" targets could involve carbon intensity goals, curbing the amount of emissions needed to create each unit of economic worth."

    click to enlarge

    "Later, it says, the government could apply absolute caps on emissions, also allowing for the emergence of a "cap-and-trade" market so companies could buy and sell emissions rights, domestically and internationally…Movement to such a carbon-trading market should be cautious, the study says…[because the effective allocation of emissions allowainces could have unintended economic consequences]…"

    click to enlarge

    "The report devotes a chapter to the potential benefits and costs of a carbon tax…[on] fossil fuels…[to curtail emissions]…A tax of 100 yuan ($14.6) on every metric ton of carbon from 2010, which would rise to 200 yuan on every metric ton in 2030, could by 2030 reduce emissions by up 24 percent less than they would have been under a "business as usual" scenario…"

    click to enlarge

    "Jiang Kejun of the Energy Research Institute says that if China continues a "business as usual" approach focused on economic growth and does little to curb emissions, its carbon dioxide output from fossil fuel alone could peak at the equivalent of 3.5 billion metric tons of pure carbon a year by 2040. That does not include greenhouse gas emissions from other sources, such as livestock and land-use changes…[P]olicies to promote "low-carbon development," …[could hold emissions to] 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon a year by 2050…[A]n "enhanced low carbon scenario" of even more stringent steps, they could… [hold emissions to] 2.2 billion metric tons a year in 2030 and…1.4 billion metric tons in 2050…

    "The U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has estimated China emitted 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon from burning fossil fuels in 2007, compared with 1.6 billion metric tons from the United States. (Emissions are also measured in CO2, with each metric ton of carbon equal to 3.67 metric tons of CO2)…"