Monday, November 30, 2009

Biofuels Not a Factor Until 2020 Says Shell



By Richard Wottrich - Blog Editor

Three factors seemingly are slowing the momentum towards alternative energy significantly impacting global energy production.

1) Peak Oil - The concept that we are near or past the peak of available oil has been discredited in many quarters as new technologies open more and more avenues to increased oil production. It is likely that oil has 50 to 100 years left before serious consequences arise via scarcity.

2) Natural Gas - New extraction technologies in the US have increased gas reserves by 40 percent or more, dropping prices to historic recent lows. New development of the Australian Gorgon fields for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has perhaps initiated for the first time a global market based on LNG shipments.

3) Advanced Biofuels - Royal Dutch Shell has said that advanced biofuels will not be in widespread use until about 2020, puncturing hopes that they could be on the verge of a commercial breakthrough. Peter Voser, who took over at the head of Shell in July, told reporters at a briefing last week that it would take “quite a number of years” before there is a commercially proven plant.

Taken together it would be wise to temper exuberance regarding the role of alternative energy around the world to a more realistic role, supplemental to the trinity of oil, coal and natural gas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Success for Large Hadron Collider as first atom smashed


Why do we care?

John March-Russell, University of Oxford

'Quite part from the commonly touted LHC predictions, some possible discoveries might even revolutionize technology. For example, our quest for a source of almost unlimited climate-friendly energy might be answered by the creation of exotic unstable, but long-lived, charged particles. Rather like enzymes catalyze chemical reactions in the body, such exotic particles can efficiently catalyze nuclear fusion, obviating the need for the absurdly high temperatures necessary in conventional plasma fusion reactors and stars. It might also turn out that the number of space and time dimensions is ambiguous, rather as a conventional hologram is simultaneously both flat (two-dimensional) and three dimensional.'

GENEVA — Two circulating beams on Monday produced the first particle collisions in the world's biggest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), three days after its restart, scientists announced.

In a statement, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said two beams circulating simultaneously led to collisions at all four detection points during the afternoon and evening.

"It?s a great achievement to have come this far in so short a time," said CERN director general Rolf Heuer. "But we need to keep a sense of perspective. There's still much to do before we can start the LHC physics programme."

CERN had declared earlier Monday the relaunch of the 3.9 billion euro (five billion dollar) collider "an enormous success," after it was out of action for 14 months due to a serious electrical fault.

Scientists are looking to the collider -- inside a 27-kilometre (16.8-mile) tunnel straddling the Franco-Swiss border -- to mimic the conditions that followed the Big Bang and help explain the origins of the universe.

"Today the LHC circulated two beams simultaneously for the first time, allowing the operators to test the synchronization of the beams and giving the experiments their first chance to look for proton-proton collisions," CERN said in its statement.

"With just one bunch of particles circulating in each direction, the beams can be made to cross in up to two places in the ring," it explained.

The first collision was picked up at 2:44 pm (1344 GMT) by the Atlas detector, beneath the Swiss town of Meyrin, one of several laid out along the route of the world's most powerful physics experiment.

Smash-ups then followed at the three other detectors, known as CMS, Alice and LHCb.

"It was standing-room-only in the Alice control room and cheers erupted with the first collisions," said Alice spokesperson Jurgen Schukraft. "This is simply tremendous."

"The tracks we're seeing are beautiful," added LHCb spokesperson Andrei Golutvin, quoted in the CERN statement. "We're all ready for serious data taking in a few days time."

Earlier in the day, scientists injected the first sub-atomic particles back into the collider, then got particle beams circulating within the accelerator.

The LHC has an operating life of up to 15 years, and the collisions that it produces should generate masses of data that could unlock mysteries about the creation of the universe and the fundamental nature of matter.

Scientists want to get the collider running at 1.2 teraelectronvolts or 1.2 trillion electronvolts by year's end -- with one teraelectronvolt equal to the energy of a flying mosquito, said a CERN spokeswoman.

That would match the maximum output of what now is the largest functioning collider in the world, at the Fermilab near Chicago in the United States.

By next year, however, the LHC should be ramped up to 3.5 teraelectronvolts, reaching "close to five" teraelectronvolts in the second half of next year. Maximum power is 7.0 teraelectronvolts.

"Already with 3.5 TeV, we can open new windows into physics. That can already happen next year," said Heuer earlier Monday, refraining however from predicting how soon fresh data could be generated.

The LHC took nearly 20 years to construct and aims to resolve physics enigmas such as an explanation for "dark matter" and "dark energy" that account for 96 percent of the cosmos and whether other dimensions exist parallel to our own.

The Holy Grail will be finding a theorised component called the Higgs Boson, which would explain how particles acquire mass. The frustratingly elusive Higgs has been dubbed the "God particle".

AFP

Note - ATLAS is a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Starting in Spring 2009, the ATLAS detector will search for new discoveries in the head-on collisions of protons of extraordinarily high energy. ATLAS will learn about the basic forces that have shaped our Universe since the beginning of time and that will determine its fate. Among the possible unknowns are the origin of mass, extra dimensions of space, microscopic black holes, and evidence for dark matter candidates in the Universe.

Osmotic Power Debuts in Norway


By KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times

The world’s first osmotic plant opened today in Tofte, Norway, harnessing the saltiness of the sea, along with freshwater, to produce electricity through a polymer membrane.

The project, run by Statkraft, a Norwegian renewable energy company, is a tiny pilot, generating up to 4 kilowatts of electricity for the grid — or roughly enough to run a coffee maker.

But while Stein Erik Skilhagan, the vice president of osmotic power at Statkraft, acknowledged that the project marked a small start, he said that he hoped to develop it quickly. The concept, according to a question-and-answer page on Statkraft’s Web site, holds the potential to provide half of Europe’s power and is a baseload resource that could run all the time.

“We really need to increase the speed to bring this technology into the market,” Mr. Skilhagen said. “We should do this much faster than we did with solar power and wind power.”

The concept of osmotic power was thought up by an American professor, Sidney Loeb, in the 1970s. Mr. Loeb passed away last year.

As explained on Statkraft’s Web site, the process works in the following way:

Freshwater and saltwater are channeled into separate chambers, separated by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the seawater draw the freshwater through the membrane, causing the pressure on the seawater side to increase. This pressure is equivalent to a water column of 120 meters or, in other words, quite a significant waterfall. This pressure can be used in a turbine to make electricity.

The concept has been little explored since the 1970s — until now. Part of the reason, in addition to a growing push for renewable energy, has to do with membrane technology, Mr. Skilhagen said.

“The first membranes were really bad and really expensive,” he said. Now, partly due to their extensive use for reverse osmosis in desalination plants, the membranes, which are made from different kinds of polymers, have improved, he said.

Mr. Skilhagen said that the plant had cost about $7millon to $8 million to build and that Statkraft has put about $20 million into research on osmotic power. The concept has also received backing from the Norwegian government and the European Council, he said.

Research into osmotic power is also happening in the United States, according to Mr. Skilhagen, including at the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech and the University of Texas.

Rick Stover, the chief technology officer of Energy Recovery, a California-based technology company that made the pressure exchangers for the Norwegian plant, said that the technology could theoretically be applied “wherever like a river comes close to the ocean.”

But it might also fit well near existing desalination plants, Mr. Stover suggested, because seawater from those plants is extremely salty, with two times the osmotic potential of regular seawater.

In addition, he said, if a wastewater treatment plant were near to the desalination site, an osmotic power plant could put a membrane between the salty seawater from the desalination plant and the treated freshwater from the wastewater plant.

That is clearly a long way off from a pilot that can power a coffee maker. Nonetheless, Mr. Stover said, “We’re really proud to be part of this ambitious pilot plant.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science


By GAUTAM NAIK, The Wall Street Journal


OAK RIDGE, Tenn. -- The Obama administration's push to solve the nation's energy problems, a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project, is spurring a once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science.

The government's multibillion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. After many years of flat budgets, these labs are ramping up to develop new electricity sources, trying to build more-efficient cars and addressing climate change.

In fiscal 2009, the Obama administration increased the funding by 18%, to $4.76 billion, to the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs and funds research at another seven. The office will receive $1.6 billion in government stimulus spending, as well, much of which it will also channel to these laboratories.

The Office of Science estimates its bigger budget allowed it to create nearly 1,400 research jobs at the 10 labs it oversees in the fiscal year ending in September, up 11% from the previous year's staffing levels. It estimates it created another 1,400 science jobs at universities. In addition, it says, funds from the Obama administration's stimulus package created hundreds more government lab jobs. As a result, the balance of U.S. science is shading a few degrees -- away from the pure research typically practiced at universities, and toward applied science.

These efforts mark a third wave of spending at national labs such as Oak Ridge, a vast complex of woods and research facilities not far from Knoxville, Tenn. Oak Ridge was one of three labs set up to help build the atomic bomb during World War II. It boomed again during America's energy-independence push in the 1970s.

Oak Ridge plans to increase its staff by 25%, or 800 positions, over the next 18 months -- even as its neighbor, the University of Tennessee, has lost state funding and pared back faculty searches.

"We have a renewed sense of mission and urgency," says Oak Ridge's director, Thom Mason.

Critics of big government say the Obama energy plan gives politicians too big a role in how the nation conducts science, just as they fret about the government's increased role in the financial sector. They also question whether the government's funding push is sustainable amid mounting budget deficits.

Others, in academics and industry, say that while government-funded research has made big gains, including advances in DNA mapping and magnetic-resonance imaging, the cost of administering such research is unnecessarily high. University-funded pure research has its own string of successes in areas from physics and chemistry to biomedicine and genetics, they say, including breakthroughs that led to the laser, pacemaker, ultrasound technology and rocket fuel.

"Most of our great breakthroughs have not been through [top-down government] funding," says Michael Witherell, a former head of the government-funded Fermilab and now vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara. balance of article

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climate change: Copenhagen in graphics

BBC





















If the changes proposed for discussion in Copenhagen are implemented immediately it is projected that global temperatures would rise by 2C rather than 3C over the next 20 years. The impact of that 1C reduction is impossible to predict. Climate alarmists state that 3C is a "tipping" point for the climate. This blogger’s prediction is that the attendees at Copenhagen will “kick the can down the road.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Will Green Energy Spending Kick-Start Job Growth?


By Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

The Midwest Alternative Energy Venture Forum Keynote Speaker last week in Chicago Matt Roger, Senior Advisor to the Secretary U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Roger had been directly responsible for the release of over $32 billion in federal stimulus money in the form of direct grants and loan guarantees since Feb. 2009 into alternative energy projects. Over 250 full time peer reviewers have been screening project selection.

This attending blogger wonders, (1) what market distortions will result from such an unprecedented influx of funding, (2) how can politics and corruption possibly be kept away from this taxpayer cash, and (3) how funding such long term projects is additive to the immediate goal of ending a severe recession.

Perhaps the larger question is, "Will Green Energy jobs kick-start job growth in this recession?" The evidence suggests not.

The Obama Administration has proffered that up to 5 million jobs would be created by spending $150 billion over the next decade on new technologies such as solar and tidal power, in addition to making existing buildings and residences more energy-efficient.

"We know the jobs of the 21st century will be created in developing alternative energy," the president said as he campaigned last year. "The question is whether these jobs will be created in America ... or overseas."

The reality speaks differently, with perhaps 100,000 jobs created thus far in Green Energy federal grant and loan guarantee projects - a cost per job initiated of over $300,000.

"This is not the spark" that will pull the economy out of recession and put it in a lasting expansion that creates millions of jobs, said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University. "This is not the solution to the current big unemployment problem."

To the contrary, many alternative energy projects in the U.S. were shut down in this recession, as they were typified by very low equity ratios. Many of these projects were based upon high oil and gas energy costs, government subsidies and cheap credit. Two of these conditions have changed dramatically.

Max Schulz, an analyst at the Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank, said "Renewables can't produce the large volumes of useful, reliable energy that our economy needs at attractive prices. Government subsidizes renewables because -- all things being equal -- the free market won't," he said. Even before the stimulus was enacted, solar and wind projects received more than 16 times the subsidies given to nuclear, coal or oil, and yet still provided only a tiny fraction of the nation's energy, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The administration has claimed that its stimulus spending has "saved" 64,000 jobs, but offered little detail in support. Even if that figure were accurate many of the jobs are in reality just extending payrolls in governmental entities, or subsidizing business plans that could not survive alone in the private market.

A study by the United Nations found that renewable energy projects such as solar are less efficient and more labor intensive than traditional energy, generating as many as nine jobs for each megawatt of electricity produced, compared with one job at existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. But the cost per job can exceed $700,000, according to a study of Spain's experiment with green jobs frequently cited by conservative groups, the Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources.

In the Great Depression the government put hundreds of thousands directly to work building projects across America in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) which gave jobs to unemployed youths and to improve the environment, and in the WPA (Works Progress Administration). Today about 3 percent of the first stimulus bill, or $27 billion, was funneled into transportation projects - not enough to prevent more than 1 million construction jobs from being eliminated in the past year.
 
The Great Depression was ended by WWII. The present recession started with America already in two wars. We will have to find other solutions.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Singapore launches pilot project for "Intelligent Energy System"


By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Energy Market Authority (EMA) is launching a pilot project aimed at helping households and businesses save more on electricity bills. The initiative comes on the back of higher consumption patterns and more diversified energy sources.

When you switch on the fan or light, chances are you won't know how much electricity you have used or how much you have spent until you get your power bill at the end of the month. That is because of the current design of Singapore's energy grid. The limitation also presents a challenge for power companies.

EMA's chief executive, Lawrence Wong, said: "Most utilities have limited visibility into what happens after electricity has been despatched and so are unable to tell if a power outage has occurred."

The growing use of renewable power like wind and solar will create complications as power source becomes intermittent and variable. To address these challenges, the EMA is rolling out its pilot "Intelligent Energy System" project aimed at developing and testing what it calls smart grid solutions.

It includes deploying "smart meters" to more homes. These are special electricity meters which provide households with real-time information on their electricity usage.

Trials in some 400 households in Marina Parade and West Coast resulted in a reduction in electricity consumption by some 2 per cent. The trials also tested differentiated electricity tariffs. As a result, households shifted about 10 per cent of their electricity load from peak periods to off-peak periods, thus enjoying savings in their electricity bill.

EMA's Mr Wong said: "These findings also have important implications at the system level. If demand can be shifted away from peak periods, power companies would not need to build extra power plants to cope with such high demand requirements. "We would also be able to reduce the spare generation capacity that power companies are required to maintain and thus bring down the overhead costs in our power system."

Having a smarter power grid will also ensure continued reliability in electricity supply, using renewable energy sources, and offer the ability to tap into electric cars as an energy storage system to feed power back to the grid during peak periods.

Mr Wong said that as technology takes off, there will be increasing demand for electricity charging by both plug-in hybrids and full-battery electric vehicles.

10 per cent of the vehicles in Singapore are electric. To power them up, an additional 1.3 terra watt hours of electricity per annum is required. That is equivalent to six times the energy needed to power up a housing estate like Ang Mo Kio.

Mr Wong said: "These vehicles will contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular cars running on fossil fuel.

"The technology for vehicle-to-grid power is still several years away, but we need to start thinking about an intelligent interface to coordinate and facilitate interactions between electric vehicles and the power grid."

The pilot project, which could take up to three years to complete, will be carried out at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and other commercial buildings in the west.

EMA will call a tender to identify and select companies interested in offering smart grid solutions to work on the project.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Infra "Red Badge of Courage"


Spray-On Solar-Power Cells Are True Breakthrough

Stefan Lovgren, for National Geographic News

Scientists have invented a plastic solar cell that can turn the sun's power into electrical energy, even on a cloudy day. The plastic material uses nanotechnology and contains the first solar cells able to harness the sun's invisible, infrared rays. The breakthrough has led theorists to predict that plastic solar cells could one day become five times more efficient than current solar cell technology.

Like paint, the composite can be sprayed onto other materials and used as portable electricity. A sweater coated in the material could power a cell phone or other wireless devices. A hydrogen-powered car painted with the film could potentially convert enough energy into electricity to continually recharge the car's battery.

The researchers envision that one day "solar farms" consisting of the plastic material could be rolled across deserts to generate enough clean energy to supply the entire planet's power needs.

Infrared Power

Plastic solar cells are not new. But existing materials are only able to harness the sun's visible light. While half of the sun's power lies in the visible spectrum, the other half lies in the infrared spectrum. The new material is the first plastic composite that is able to harness the infrared portion. The researchers combined specially designed nano particles called quantum dots with a polymer to make the plastic that can detect energy in the infrared.

With further advances, the new plastic "could allow up to 30 percent of the sun's radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to 6 percent in today's best plastic solar cells," said Peter Peumans, a Stanford University electrical engineering professor, who studied the work.

Also MSNBC article

Friday, November 20, 2009

Midwest Alternative Energy Venture Forum


MAEVF 2009 Chicago – This Blog Editor attended the third consecutive MAEVF in Chicago on November 18. The conference was sold out with nearly three hundred entrepreneurs, sponsors, hosts, speakers and attendees. MAEVF was held at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The University of Chicago leads the world with 85 Nobel Laureates alumnus, including President Obama most recently for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Keynote Speaker was Matt Roger, Senior Advisor to the Secretary U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Roger had been directly responsible for the release of over $32 billion in federal stimulus money in the form of direct grants and loan guarantees since Feb. 2009 into alternative energy projects. Over 250 full time peer reviewers have been screening project selection. This attending blogger wonders, (1) what market distortions will result from such an unprecedented influx of funding, (2) how can politics and corruption possibly be kept away from this taxpayer cash, and (3) how funding such long term projects is additive to the immediate goal of ending a severe recession.

Nine emerging technology companies presented their business plans at the MAEVR, including Air Water Treatment, Bias Power, Inc., Coskata, Inc., Digital Optics International, e-One, Intelligent Generation LLC, KGRA Energy, Paradigm Sensors, LLC and PyroPhase Inc. These presenters were highly vetted and had significant new technology applications.

Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Iceman Cometh


Ice Battery - Renewable Energy Storage

Air conditioning during the summer can be the largest single contributor to a building's energy cost. A hybrid cooling system from Calmac uses an ice bank thermal energy storage tank to make and store ice for use in air conditioning systems when the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining - such as after dark.

For buildings without on-site renewable energy power generation, the ice can be made at night during off-peak times when electricity rates are cheaper and when cleaner baseload generation is used. In this scenario, Calmac says their system can reduce cooling costs by up to 40 percent.

According to Calmac, for every kilowatt-hour of energy that is shifted from on-peak usage to off-peak, there is a reduction in the source fuel needed to generate it - between 8 and 30%.

The IceBank tanks are made of heavily insulated polyethylene and contain a spiral-wound, polyethylene-tube heat exchanger surrounded with water. The tanks are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 45 to over 500 ton-hours.

During the charging cycle, a solution containing 25 percent ethylene or propylene glycol is cooled by a chiller and then circulated through the heat exchanger inside the IceBank tank. The ethylene-based or propylene-based glycol recommended for the solution is an industrial coolant that is specially formulated for low viscosity and superior heat-transfer properties.

The ice is built uniformly throughout the tank during the charging process and a full charging cycle of an IceBank tank requires approximately 6 to 12 hours, which makes it viable to be used in conjunction with a solar panel array.

Energy Matters

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Praj was recently conferred the 'Forbes Best Under a Billion Company' in Asia


Praj Industries Ltd. (BSE:522205) - It has been 25 years of entrepreneurship for Pramod Chaudhari. A successful entrepreneur, he describes his experience as an exciting journey full of ups and downs.

After his engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Pramod Chaudhari worked for a multinational company for a few years. Later, he decided to start his own venture. Passionate about green technologies, he established Praj Industries in 1984.

It was not an easy ride. He failed many times but that did not deter him from taking new initiatives and moving ahead. His never-say-die attitude and optimism made sure he built a world-renowned company. Under his leadership, Praj focusses on offering innovative solutions to add value in bio-ethanol, bio-diesel, brewery plants and process equipment and systems for customers worldwide.

Praj has been creating innovative technology platforms to make biofuels a sustainable choice toward making a greener planet. Praj was recently conferred the 'Forbes Best Under a Billion Company' in Asia, for the second consecutive year, based on its consistent growth and profitability over three years.

Chaudhari has also contributed to the National Biofuels Policy as a member of the Committee on Development of Biofuels, Planning Commission for introduction of renewable fuels to India.

He believes that innovation and entrepreneurship must go hand in hand to build sustainable solutions. Stressing the importance of intrapreneurships, he says, young managers within a company, who have good skills and ideas must be encouraged to develop their ideas. Chaudhari shares his views on entrepreneurship and his company's initiatives to promote green technology.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Disagreement Over Goals at U.N. Meeting on Hunger


Rice Paddies in Pune, India (Photo: RLW)

The United Nations estimates that the number of people facing starvation around the world rose to more than one billion this year. This represents 15% of our world's total population. The United Nations summit meeting on combating hunger that opened in Rome on Monday made no mention of overpopulation being a proximate cause of starvation, in much the same way that gravity is the proximate cause of falling down. You would think that by now they would get it. After all, Sustainability really starts with appreciating the appropriate number of humans this earth can sustain. Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

The New York Times, By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

A United Nations summit meeting on combating hunger that opened in Rome on Monday underscored the split between rich and poor countries on the issue, with the industrialized nations balking at concrete targets.

Sixty leaders attended the meeting, but apart from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy there were no leaders from the wealthiest nations. Some of those who attended, including Pope Benedict XVI, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, lashed out at what they called unfair agricultural policies by more developed nations.

In the hard-fought negotiations over a draft declaration from the three-day talks, richer nations succeeded in removing a goal to end world hunger by 2025 and declined to commit to increasing agricultural aid to nearly 20 percent of all international development aid, where it peaked in 1980 before gradually falling.

Instead, the draft declaration restated the United Nations target of halving world hunger by 2015 and said that eradicating hunger should come “at the earliest possible date.” Diplomats from wealthier countries argued that creating a deadline for eradicating hunger was unrealistic, according to officials involved in the negotiations. The United Nations estimates that the number of people facing hunger around the world rose to more than one billion this year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations had hoped the meeting would set an agriculture aid target of $44 billion annually toward helping farmers in poorer countries. To meet demand by 2050, agriculture output needs to grow by 70 percent, the organization said.

The draft declaration instead commits to “substantially increase” agriculture aid. Leaders of industrialized nations meeting in Italy last July agreed to spend more than $22 billion on agriculture aid over the next three years, but not all of that constitutes new aid, and the nations have been slow to figure out how it might be distributed.

The Rome conference was prompted by a sharp rise in the price of basic commodities like rice and wheat that incited food riots in many countries in 2008, a crisis that Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, warned could easily be repeated.

The pope decried the “greed which causes speculation to rear its head even in the marketing of cereals, as if food were to be treated just like any other commodity.” Rising demand, weather and supply shocks, and not speculation alone, are considered to be at the root of the food crisis.

Mr. da Silva said that the developed world had to help rather than undermine the world’s poor. “They sabotage emerging agriculture in the poorer countries, wiping out their hope to create a bridge to development,” he said at the conference.

Colonel Qaddafi said that African states had to be wary of richer nations buying up vast tracts of land to ensure food security in their own countries without helping the people where the farming took place. He also called the monopolization of improved seed technology among a few companies “diabolical.”

Some leaders said they worried that the gathering would merely reiterate old promises without leading to innovative change in fighting hunger. “We end up leaving with a stomach full of promises and think we have found a solution,” Amadou Toumani Touré, Mali’s president, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. “Then, at the next conference, we start all over again.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

India to Boost Funding for Solar Power




Sinhagad near Pune, India (Photo: RLW)

India's problems with energy are self inflicted, in the sense that extreme population pressures are the root cause of nearly all its problems.  India will take over China as the world's most populous country by 2025 by some estimates.  India accounts for 50% of its electricity from coal.  Over 400,000,000 million Indians are not on the national electrical grid.  It depends on glaciers and snow packs for water for its northern multitudes and these sources are diminishing.  Water tables in some regions of India are dropping 12 feet per year.  The one variable in all this that is not addressed in a manner that produces concrete results is population control.  Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

The Wall Street Journal, By AMOL SHARMA

NEW DELHI—India plans to announce increased subsidies for solar-power generation, a senior government official said, as the country looks to scale up production of renewable energy and show it is committed to mitigating climate change.

India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is expected to release details of the latest solar-power policy in the next several weeks. In an interview, Dr. B. Bhargava, a director in the agency, said the plans will increase significantly the number of solar projects that can receive government support.

The hope, Mr. Bhargava said, is that the new policy will encourage manufacturers of solar panels such as Moser Baer India Ltd. and Tata BP Solar India Ltd. to ramp up production, thereby reducing per-unit costs and driving down the high price of solar power.

It is currently about five times more expensive to generate solar power than oil-based power. "If the costs aren't reduced, this [subsidy] policy can't be sustained on a long-term basis," Mr. Bhargava said.

India's revision of its solar policies comes ahead of a global climate-change conference at Copenhagen in December. The differences between developed and developing countries are part of the reason world leaders have lowered expectations for what's possible in Copenhagen, saying the purpose will be to set a political roadmap for further negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Developing countries such as India are under pressure to show greater commitments to controlling greenhouse-gas emissions. Climate change will be among the issues on the agenda when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the White House next week.

India currently generates a tiny fraction of its power from solar energy. Coal accounts for more than half of the country's power capacity, and wind makes the biggest contribution among renewable sources, which together provide about 7.5% of India's energy.

Solar power is promising, because sunlight is abundant everywhere, unlike wind and hydro power, which are better for only some regions. The government's new policy is aimed at increasing solar-power generation to 20,000 megawatts by 2020 from three megawatts. "The potential is infinite with solar," Mr. Bhargava said.

India's existing policy supports a modest amount of solar-power capacity—50 megawatts—with subsidies of up to 25 cents per kilowatt hour. Mr. Bhargava said that program is already "fully subscribed" and will be expanded substantially through the new policy, though he declined to offer specifics. He said the new guidelines also will streamline the process for solar-power developers to collect subsidies and payments from state utilities.

The major challenge for scaling up solar power has been providing the start-up capital to create demand. Many state electricity boards—which purchase power from generating companies and sell it to consumers—are in shaky financial positions. But Mr. Bhargava said the central government will take on most of the costs of the solar program in the early going. "Initially, we'll have no choice but to do that for a few years," he said.

Beyond expanding solar power, India has pledged in a "national action plan" on climate change to pursue a range of other measures, from increased fuel-efficiency in automobiles to more-efficient consumer appliances.

The U.S. and other developed countries have sought to persuade India to accept mandatory curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions. "Developing countries can't say 'this isn't my problem' ... because most of the increase in carbon emissions in the future will be from developing countries," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who was in India last week to meet with government officials.

But India has resisted, arguing that its per-capita emissions are still well below those of developed countries. Indian officials and corporate executives say they don't want to put the brakes on economic growth and make it harder to provide electricity to 400 millions Indians who aren't on the national grid.

Mr. Chu said India and the U.S. are exploring ways to combine efforts on basic research into new green technologies. He said India could be severely affected by receding glaciers and changing weather patterns if climate change isn't addressed urgently in coming years.

He added that India will have no choice but to look beyond coal to alternative-energy sources as its population swells. India already faces a shortfall of power—with capacity about 12% below demand during peak hours—and demand is expected to increase five-fold by 2030, according to a recent McKinsey & Co. report.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Business as Usual - NIMBY


Wind farm plan irks activists

As usual everyone wants safe, clean, alternative energy - they just don't want it in their own back yard. NIMBY is just another way to kick the can down the road. Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

A remote corner of East County is shaping up as a battleground between companies pushing wind farms as clean and cheap power generators and activists who view them as a blight on the landscape. It has put environmentalists in the position of opposing renewable energy because, they say, it's in the wrong place.

Drawing the most attention is a plan by the Spanish conglomerate Iberdrola to build about 100 skyscraper-sized towers in and near the McCain Valley, a federal conservation area abutting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The project, called Tule Wind, would produce about 200 megawatts when the wind is blowing favorably. To put that in perspective, San Diego County uses about 2,000 megawatts on a typical day and 4,500 megawatts when it gets really hot.

Tule Wind would stretch for miles from a spot about a mile north of Interstate 8, across land controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management and into the Ewiiaapaayp Indian Reservation.

Iberdrola wants to start construction late next year if it gets past the federal and state approval process. It says the project will bring clean energy to a region that needs it. Environmentalists and residents vow to vigorously fight the plan they say will forever change the area. “There is no worse place for wind development than McCain Valley,” said environmental advocate David Hogan. He and others tie the project to other planned developments nearby, including the Sunrise Powerlink.

The Campo Indian band has made a deal with San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Invenergy, a wind developer, for a 160-megawatt project to add to its 25-turbine, 50-megawatt wind farm visible from Interstate 8.

Just south of the border in Mexico, hundreds of wind turbines are being proposed by San Diego County companies looking to sell the generated power in the United States.

These wind proposals are in addition to two projects SDG&E says are needed to bring that power to market: the $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink and a $270 million substation it calls ECO for East County.

The companies are hoping to capitalize on California's requirement that utilities provide 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by next year and 33 percent by 2020. They also stand to benefit from state and federal subsidies.


SignOn, San Diego, By Onell R. Soto

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Our Ultimate Canteen - Moon Water


This artist's rendering of prospecting on the Moon for water.

Water Found on Moon, Researchers Say

There is water on the Moon, scientists stated unequivocally on Friday

“Indeed yes, we found water,” Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, said in a news conference. “And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount.”

The confirmation of scientists’ suspicions is welcome news to explorers who might set up home on the lunar surface and to scientists who hope that the water, in the form of ice accumulated over billions of years, holds a record of the solar system’s history.

The satellite, known as Lcross (pronounced L-cross), crashed into a crater near the Moon’s south pole a month ago. The 5,600-miles-per-hour impact carved out a hole 60 to 100 feet wide and kicked up at least 26 gallons of water.

We got more than just a whiff,” Peter H. Schultz, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University and a co-investigator of the mission, said in a telephone interview. “We practically tasted it with the impact.”

The New York Times, By KENNETH CHANG

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Politics of Energy #32 - Water Wars


The Mighty Brahmaputra River

China dams may hit plans in Arunachal

There is evidence that China is building a number of projects on the Brahmaputra, said a top official at the ministry of water resources who did not want to be identified

livemint.com - Utpal Bhaskar, New Delhi

There’s a new bone of contention between India and China, and it’s water. The Indian government is concerned that the hydroelectric power projects planned in Arunachal Pradesh may be affected by China’s plan to divert water from rivers that flow into the Brahmaputra river to the arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu.

India’s ministries of water resources and power have expressed their reservations over China’s ambitious $62 billion (Rs2.9 trillion) south-north water diversion scheme as Arunachal Pradesh alone, among the north-eastern states, has a potential to generate 50,328MW of hydropower—the highest in the country, according to the Central Electricity Authority, India’s apex power sector planning body.

China and India, the world’s fastest growing major economies, have been sniping at each other over border issues, including the status of Arunchal Pradesh, an Indian state that China claims. Tensions have also risen after articles in the Chinese media criticizing Indian policy regarding Arunachal Pradesh.

The firms that are developing hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh include state-run NHPC Ltd, Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-Adag)-owned Reliance Energy Ltd, Jaiprakash Associates Ltd, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and GMR Group.

“There is a concern that any construction on the Brahmaputra will affect hydropower generation in Arunachal Pradesh,” said Union power secretary H.S. Brahma. “While 60% of the water in the Brahmaputra comes from India, 40% comes from Tibet. We have to study the impact.”

There is evidence that China is building a number of projects on the Brahmaputra, said a top official at the ministry of water resources who did not want to be identified. “While we expect minimal effect on Assam, hydropower generation on upstream projects in Arunachal Pradesh will get affected,” the official added. “While the issue has been taken up with China, it says it has no (such) plans.”

India’s foreign secretary Nirupama Rao had said on 4 November that China had denied it was building a dam on the Brahmaputra. She was responding to a question on the reported construction at the Zangmu site on the Chinese side of the Brahmaputra, which was confirmed by the National Remote Sensing Agency, according to media reports. “What I want to say is that this matter has been taken up not just once, but on a number of occasions with China, and China has consistently denied that it is engaged in any such construction activity on the Brahmaputra,” Rao said.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi did not reply to email queries from Mint on the issue. Geopolitical concerns over the sharing of river water make hydropower projects a major challenge, said K. Ramanathan, distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute. “Projects in Arunachal are anyway difficult to execute. There is a veil of secrecy about the availability of water from international rivers,” he said. “With China planning to divert Brahmaputra water, there will be an impact. How much will be affected is difficult to say. The way forward will be expediting the construction of projects in the North-East over the rivers originating in China to establish prior user commitment.”

Mint had reported on 21 March that the Planning Commission had recommended the accelerated construction of hydropower projects in the North-East on rivers originating in China to establish a certain degree of prior use claim. According to international laws, having a prior use claim strengthens a country’s claim.

S.K. Garg, chairman and managing director of NHPC, said: “We will have to study the impact (of the Chinese dam). It is too early to say anything on this issue at this point of time.” NHPC plans to develop hydropower projects that will generate 6,500MW of power in the state; construction has already begun on the 2,000MW Subansiri lower project.

While spokespersons from JSPL and GMR denied that water diversion in China would affect their projects as the rivers they are to be developed do not originate there, an R-Adag spokesperson declined to comment on the issue. Questions emailed to Jaiprakash Associates on 6 November remained unanswered at the time of filing this story.

Hydropower projects are difficult to build as construction requires more specialized technology and design compared with thermal power projects. They also have to deal with delays in environmental clearances. The hydropower sector accounts for only 32,326MW of India’s 150,000MW power-generating capacity. The country plans to add another 16,501.17MW of total capacity by 2012.

utpal.b@livemint.com

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Water Shortages Will Define Economic Growth


Access to fresh water worldwide is becoming a determinate factor in economic growth; the new alpha. Roughly half of the populations in Third World countries rely on water runoffs from mountain ranges for example - a resource being severely impacted by shrinking glaciers and snow packs. And of course the main factor in all this is that ever more humans are stressing water resources. Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

Venezuelans struggling with water shortages

NPR - ‎Nov 6, 2009‎

by AP Enlarge AP A woman fills barrels with fresh water from a water distribution truck in Filas de Mariches neighborhood in Caracas, Friday, Nov.6, 2009. ...

China Says Hong Kong Drought Support Not Yet Needed

Bloomberg - Sophie Leung, Kelvin Wong - ‎Nov 11, 2009‎

Fresh water for Hong Kong was a concern during British colonial rule, which ended in 1997 with the city's return to China. Local storage was the main source ...
 
Macau's gambling industry faces nightmare of water rationing

Times Online - ‎Nov 9, 2009‎

Some forecasts suggest that Macau may have only ten days of fresh water left. Stocks of bottled water may have to be shipped in unless a deal can be struck ...
 
City may use water to lure businesses

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - John Schmid - ‎Nov 2, 2009‎

At a time when regions such as metro Atlanta and the Southwest face acute water shortages, the Milwaukee Water Works operates at only a third of its ...

Would remake California's water system

Central Valley Business Times - ‎Nov 4, 2009‎

“Severe water shortages have forced family farmers in parts of California to spend many sleepless nights, trying to figure out how to save their farms and ..

Global access to safe drinking water likely to decline next year

Water World - ‎Nov 9, 2009‎

Reduced supplies of freshwater resulting from climate change and over use are leaving more nations facing chronic water shortages. ...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Need for Smart Grids & Redundancy in Power Systems


Dam failure triggers huge blackout in Brazil

(CNN) -- An important hydroelectric dam shared by Brazil and Paraguay failed Tuesday night, pushing a large swath of central and southern Brazil into darkness, said the country's minister of mines and energy, Edison Lobao.

At about 10:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. ET), the Itaipu dam shut down completely, Lobao said in a radio interview.

Power began to slowly return Tuesday night, and authorities expected a restoration of power overnight, Lobao said.

An official at Brazil's National Electric System Operator told CNN that the incident at Itaipu caused an outage of 18,000 megawatts. The official declined to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The outage was approximately equivalent to the amount of energy needed to power the state of Sao Paulo and its 20 million residents, the official said. "Everything's fine," the official said, adding that as Itaipu rebooted, it would repower the affected regions.

Millions of people were affected by the blackout in six Brazilian states that included the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The capital, Brasilia, was unaffected, CNN en Español reported. Neighboring Paraguay and Uruguay also reported related blackouts, Lobao said.

Rio's main streets and avenues were in a total blackout. Video footage showed long lines of cars at a near standstill on the roads, and the subway system in Rio came to a stop. Itaipu provides more than 20 percent of Brazil's energy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Red Sun Rising - Solar Power in Space


Japan Moves to Built Solar Power Capabilities in Space

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) [Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF)] has announced plans to collect solar power in space.

The Space Solar Power System (SSPS), will position photovoltaic dishes several square miles across and would hover in geostationary orbit outside the Earth’s atmosphere as soon as 2030.

The Japanese government has recently chosen a consortium of companies and scientists charged with implementing this ambitious goal in as little as 20 years. The team, called the Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF), also includes Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Fujitsu and Sharp.

Tadashige Takiya, a spokesman at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), told reporters that the beams would then be collected by gigantic parabolic antennae, most likely located in restricted areas at sea or on dam reservoirs.

At this stage, the consortium are hoping to create a one gigawatt system, equivalent to a medium-sized nuclear power plant, that would produce electricity at eight yen (nine cents) per kilowatt-hour, six times cheaper than the current cost in the country.

Tatsuhito Fujita, one of the JAXA researchers heading the project said that within several years, “a satellite designed to test the transmission by microwave should be put into low orbit with a Japanese rocket.”

The next step, scheduled for around 2020, is to launch and test a large flexible photovoltaic structure with 10 megawatt power capacity, to be followed by a 250 megawatt prototype.

Richard L. Wottrich, Blog Editor

Monday, November 09, 2009

The New Energy Equation - Investment Patterns




















By Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

Cascadia Capital LLC has published an alternative energy analysis based upon a Deloitte and Cleantech Group LLC New Energy Finance Report entitled, “Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2009 Report.”

Venture capital investing in clean energy jumped 10 percent between Q209 and Q309, reaching $1.6 billion; VC investing in clean energy has risen steadily this year, albeit from lower levels.

Clean energy was the largest investment category in Q309 for venture capitalists, with a 27 percent share of investments, up from 15 percent in Q109. Increased government spending on clean energy is stimulating private investment in the sector.

The average size of clean energy deals transactions in 2009 is $52.6 million and the 2009 YTD total transaction values are $18 billion.

Cascadia Capital Newsletter

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Putting Green Technology Into Bricks


The Wall Street Journal - Start-Ups Seek to Use Recycled Materials, New Methods to Reinvent Building Materials.

By CARI TUNA

Amid buzz about algae biofuel and electric cars, some start-ups hope to use "green" technology to reinvent more mundane products like bricks and cement.

CalStar Products Inc. plans to open a factory next month to make bricks from fly ash, a byproduct of coal burning. It claims to use roughly 85% less energy than traditional clay brick manufacturing, with an equivalent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions.

The Newark, Calif., start-up is one of many companies scrambling for a slice of the "green" building market, projected to grow to between $96 billion and $140 billion by 2013 from about $45 billion last year, including materials, technology and labor, according to research firm McGraw-Hill Construction.

Currently, the start-ups face a difficult market. Construction spending has plunged, a result of falling home prices and commercial real-estate values. But "the construction that is occurring is more likely to be green," says Michele Russo, a research director at McGraw-Hill Construction.

Some investors are following the same logic. Venture capitalists invested $465 million in the U.S. green-building sector in the first nine months of 2009, compared with $284 million in the year-earlier period, says market-tracker Cleantech Group.

"While the rest of the industry has retreated...green construction has actually grown," says Paul Holland, a partner at venture firm Foundation Capital, which has invested in CalStar.

Other start-ups developing green construction materials include Calera Corp. and Integrity Block Inc., both in California, which make cement and concrete blocks, respectively. Icynene Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, uses castor oil to create a foam insulation spray that is a substitute for fiberglass insulation.
"Innovation is not necessarily discovering new things, but discovering how to use old things in a new way," says Amitabha Kumar, CalStar's director of research and development.

The process for making clay bricks—mining clay, forming it into bricks and firing in kilns using coal or natural gas—has remained largely unchanged for decades, though manufacturers have made improvements to reduce environmental impacts.

CalStar forms its bricks from fly ash—a gray, chalky byproduct of burning coal— and a proprietary stew of chemicals. During eight hours of steam baths, the calcium in the fly ash hardens, making bricks that look, feel and act like their clay counterparts, Mr. Kumar says.

CalStar says the bricks are designed to meet standards set by ASTM International, a standards-setting organization, for things like strength, durability and water absorption—and will be installed in buildings for the first time early next year. CalStar says the bricks will be priced competitively with commercial clay bricks. In Chicago, for instance, its bricks will sell for 53 cents apiece on average, compared with 55 cents on average per commercial clay brick, Calstar says.

Executives at the Brick Industry Association argue that CalStar's fly-ash products aren't bricks by definition, and question whether they'll last as long as clay bricks. "No one knows how the fly-ash unit will really perform," says Dick Jennison, the trade group's president.

Richard Klingner, a civil engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin who sits on the ASTM's panel for brick standards, says the ASTM's standards don't apply to fly-ash bricks. That doesn't mean they are unsuitable for buildings, he says, "it just means that there isn't a standard for them yet."

The Environmental Protection Agency says fly ash is not hazardous and has advocated its reuse in building materials, though an EPA spokeswoman says the agency is reconsidering the classification this year. Most fly ash is mixed into concrete or disposed of in landfills.

CalStar's Caledonia, Wis., factory will recycle fly ash from a neighboring Wisconsin Energy Corp. coal plant, making 40 million bricks annually and shipping only to nearby cities, to minimize carbon-dioxide emissions.

Cement maker Calera aims to capture carbon-dioxide emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. The start-up, is backed by nearly $50 million from Khosla Ventures.

In Moss Landing, Calif., Calera will pipe exhaust fumes from Dynegy Inc.'s natural-gas-burning power plant to its pilot facility, set to open this year, where it will flush the gas through seawater or brackish water. That will produce chalky substances it can use to make cement.

Producing one ton of traditional cement releases roughly one ton of carbon dioxide, says Calera founder Brent Constantz. But making one ton of Calera cement captures half a ton of the greenhouse gas. And like CalStar's bricks, Calera's cement is less expensive to produce than traditional cement, he says.

Write to Cari Tuna at cari.tuna@wsj.com

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Politics of Energy #31 - Red States vs. Blue States vs. China?

Obama Takes Another Hit From Support Group

Editor's Note: As this blogger has often pointed out, the manufacturing advantages of Emerging Economies such as China do not magically stop when "Green" energy projects are planned and built. Amercians have to decide whether or not they want clean alternative energy choices, or tiangular wars among the politcal parties and Emerging Economy manufacturers.  Richard Wottrich)

New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer (Blue) is asking the Obama administration to block millions of dollars in stimulus aid from going to a clean energy wind farm in Texas (Red), because all of the turbines would be made overseas.

Schumer sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu calling the plan "quite troubling": "The purpose of the Recovery Act was to jump start the economy to create and save jobs — American jobs. Yet the Texas wind farm project would create an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs in China."

The New York Times reports only about 30 permanent positions would be created in Texas along with 300 temporary jobs; a fact that the liberal Daily Kos Web site is not pleased about: "This is a problem... if we're watching our tax dollars go to finance companies that set up jobs for people overseas I guarantee — guarantee — we're going to see any current support for alternative energy dry up fast."

Wind Power in Texas
The State of Texas currently produces more wind power than any other state according to the American Wind Energy Association. As a potential provider of wind power energy Texas is ranked second overall. Current production statewide is 4356 + MW with projects now under construction expected to increase that by 25%.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Personalized solar units could power homes and cars, M.I.T's Nocera says


By Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian

Ready to jump off the grid? Researchers believe the day is coming when the electricity you use will be your own. Instead of relying on large central generating stations -- hydroelectric dams, coal plants and the like -- scientists say we're moving toward an era of "personalized solar energy."

A recent issue of the American Chemical Society's journal, Inorganic Chemistry, describes an inexpensive method of solar energy storage that could provide power for homes and plug-in cars.

Solar researcher Daniel Nocera of Massachusetts Institute of Technology explains that the global energy demand will double by mid-century and triple by 2100 as the world population continues to increase and living standards rise. Capturing and storing solar energy could meet the demand, especially in poorer, emerging regions, according to Nocera.

He describes a home solar system with an innovative catalyst that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen that become fuel for producing electricity in a fuel cell.

The oxygen-evolving catalyst works like photosynthesis, the method plants use to make energy, producing clean energy from sunlight and water. "Because energy use scales with wealth, point-of-use solar energy will put individuals, in the smallest village in the nonlegacy world and in the largest city of the legacy world, on a more level playing field," the report says.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dye-Sensitive Solar Cells (DSSC)


Chinese National Institutes Sign Collaboration Agreement with G24i to Drive Industrial Development of Dye-Sensitive Solar Cells

Reuters - CAMPBELL, Calif -- Just three weeks after G24 Innovations (G24i) successfully launched the world`s first commercial application of Dye-Sensitive Solar Cells (DSSC), the global pioneer of DSSC announced that it has signed a formal agreement with three of China`s most prestigious institutes to accelerate industrial development of the technology. Continuing its expansion, G24i has signed an agreement with the China National Academy of Nanotechnology & Engineering (CNANE) in Tianjin, together with the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (CIAC), which is part of the China Academy of Sciences, and the Nanotechnology Industrialization Base of China (NIBC).

Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells are unique in that they are extremely robust, lightweight and durable, and produce electricity in low-light conditions indoors as well as outside. G24i`s DSSC modules are so versatile that they can be used in industries as diverse as personal electronics, building and construction, and military and defense where rugged conditions and wide variations in lighting can apply.

The contract signals the intent of the parties to establish an accelerated growth platform for the industrialization of G24i`s technology. The three national Chinese institutes have agreed to commit their resources to industrializing DSSC with the objective of making significant advances in materials, manufacturing and scientific aspects of G24i`s thin-film solar technology. The agreement comes on the heels of G24i`s debut at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair where the announcement of G24i`s new solar products received widespread attention from industry and top tier media in the region.

Commenting on the signing of the agreement, chief executive officer of G24i, John Hartnett, explained: "This agreement represents a very significant opportunity for G24i to tackle some developmental challenges. With the help of these major Chinese Institutes, we are confident that we can achieve significant cost reductions in the near term and drive commercialization at an even more accelerated pace."

Inventor of the DSSC `Graetzel Cell` and professor at the Swiss institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Dr. Michael Graetzel, lauded the signing of the MOU: "This agreement with G24i is a major step toward inexpensive and large scale commercialization of dye sensitized solar cells."

The commitment to developing DSSC technology runs deep with Professor Peng Wang, the principal investigator of DSSC at CIAC and CNANE. Professor Wang was one of the principal contributors in the development of DSSC during his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Graetzel`s group at EPFL in Switzerland, and is now China`s leading scientist for high-performance DSSC. He commented, "I am so excited and proud to be bringing Dr. Graetzel`s technology to China in a meaningful way. I am deeply impressed by the advancements G24i has made in being the first to have the capability to mass-produce flexible dye-sensitized solar cells."

China has adopted what is effectively a hybrid model for driving economic development by blending government and market forces with scientific and professional disciplines. Professor Xu Jianzhong is president of CNANE and NIBC, located at China`s Binhai Economic Development Area in Tianjin, and is responsible for seeing that work at CNANE supports the high tech sector in which NIBC must attract industry for job creation. "I want to see manufacturing with technology invented here," emphasizes Xu. "Peng is doing great work here as he builds up his nanotechnology team. However, the research team doesn`t focus on manufacturing and that`s why we want to work together with G24i."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

U.S. advanced biofuel sector finds lenders wary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lenders are leery of putting money into cellulosic ethanol and other new-generation biofuels due to the recession and an industry shakeout, Agriculture Department and biofuel leaders said on Thursday.

That is one reason near-term production of advanced biofuels is unlikely to meet targets set by a 2007 energy law, said William Roe of Coskata Inc, which has a demonstration-size biomass plant in Pennsylvania.

Several witnesses at a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the future of new-generation biofuels pointed to difficulties in securing credit.

"Given the current recession and the banking sector's financial difficulties, lending has become scarce in the biofuels space," said Susan Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America.

Agriculture Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager said lenders also were discouraged by an industry shake-out last year that included the bankruptcy of the largest producer due to rising grain costs and a drop in petroleum prices.

Plants with roughly 12 billion gallons of annual capacity are in operation now while 1.2 billion gallons in capacity is idle.

USDA has awarded two loan guarantees totaling $105 million for advanced biofuels projects. Two applications remain under consideration.

Some applicants were rejected because they did not have a lender behind the project, Tonsager said.

New-generation projects often have costs that equal $10 a gallon or more for small-scale plants, well above corn-based ethanol and petroleum. Proponents say costs will drop rapidly for a commercial-size plant and as technology is refined.

Rajiv Shah, Agriculture undersecretary for research, said he was optimistic of a significant improvement over the next five to seven years in the economics of new-generation biofuels. Feedstocks account for one-half to two-thirds of the cost of biofuels, he said, so it is important to develop biomass crops and improvements in converting crops into fuels.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Politics of Energy #30 - Embarassment of Riches


It has been a national joke really. For years the wealthy denizens of Nantucket, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have fought the building of a wind farm off their coasts because it would “spoil their view.” The Nantucket Sound project, Cape Wind, has survived eight years of tortuous federal and state environmental reviews to prove what Europe has know for decades – wind farms produce safe and clean energy. All the studies were but surrogates for the rich who want nothing to do with clean energy if it impacts their beautiful ocean view homes because, well, that’s just the way they roll.

The only “green” around the region has been ordinary folks green with envy; they call a $100 bill a Nantucket single.

Now after all options had been exhausted, Cape Wind was slated to begin construction of 130 440-foot wind towers when out of the blue the local Wampanoag Native American tribe has asked the Interior Department to declare Nantucket Bay a “traditional cultural property.”

The tribe claims that their culture requires them to meet the sunrise each day with an “unobstructed view.” You can’t make this stuff up!

Years ago the wealthy could pay poor folks to go fight in their place in the Civil War. Centuries ago the wealthy in Europe paid the poor to make the Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage - Way of St James - on their behalf to find salvation. Today the wealthy of Nantucket, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard (Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound) pay Native American tribes to claim their cultural heritage is at risk so the rich can save the view from their ocean homes.

As Marie Antoinette was inaccurately aledged to have said long ago, "Let then eat cake." (Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. J’achetai de la brioche.)

Richard L. Wottrich, Blog Editor

The Politics of Sustainability #4 - "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster."



(Photo: RLW)

POINT REYS STATION, Calif. - What is sustainability? Is it the perfect balance between humans and their work in harmony with nature? Or is it the preservation of “nature” thrown back to a time before humans arrived?

Point Reyes is a spot of beauty seemingly in perfect harmony between man and nature. Kevin Lunny is the owner of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a 70-year-old company that predates the park it is in, Point Reyes National Seashore. The company works under a special permit, similar to that utilized by hundreds of such businesses that happened to be within the boundaries of our national parks when created.

The National Park District has said it will not renew Mr. Lunny’s permit when it expires in 2012. Federal law requires them to return the park to an “area of wilderness” by eliminating commercial activity. Does that mean “pre-Native Americans” I wonder.

Environmentalist groups and the federal government are against Mr. Lunny and his oyster farm. Politicians like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) and local business groups are for the farm. It is an argument born of our marvelous heritage – the national park system. But it is a harbinger of the ultimate question for us here on earth, “How shall humans reach a sustainable balance on earth?”

Drakes Bay Oyster Company produces about 40% of the oysters grown in California. If the company is banned from the park those oysters will likely come from overseas, where sustainability is perhaps not as pressing an issue. When a developed country imports products from Third World countries to avoid despoiling their own shores, how does that help sustainability?

That is the rub really. Where do humans fit in the classic purist vision of pristine wildernesses? There are two billion humans on earth who have nothing – little food – no clean water – no land ownership. What of sustainability for them?

Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Politics of Sustainability #3 - Yemen's Water Crisis A Mideast Warning


SANA'A, YEMEN - Sanaa may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water. If that happens, it will be a signpost to the conflicts over shrinking resources that scientists and sociologists see coming in the decades ahead.

The ancient city, which dates back to the Sabean dynasty of the 6th century B.C., is expected to run out of drinking water as early as 2025 at current consumption levels, according to the Sanaa Water Basin Management Project funded by the World Bank.

The people of Yemen, which lies on the southwestern tip of the Arabian peninsula, have lived on scarce water resources for centuries. But the current water crisis has been heightened by a rapidly expanding population, accelerating urbanization and the ravages of climate change.

Sanaa's population, currently pegged at 2 million, had quadrupled since the 1980s and is growing by about 8 percent a year, overwhelming the available water supply. The national growth rate last year was 3.46 percent, one of the highest in the world. A decade ago Sanaa got water from 180 wells. These days that's down to 80 as the aquifers dry up.

In 2008 a World Bank report found that groundwater levels across Yemen were dropping by 20-65 feet a year. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that 19 of Yemen's 21 main aquifers were not being replenished because of lower rainfall.

Many of the people moving into Sanaa are the first wave of what are becoming known as "climate refugees." These are expected to number in the millions in the next few decades as global warming melts polar icecaps, floods coastal regions, accelerates the spread of deserts and destroys farmland.

Much of Yemen's water problem is self-inflicted. An estimated 40 percent of available water is consumed by the cultivation of qat (khat), a leafy stimulant that is chewed by 70 percent of Yemeni males daily. Farmers prefer to grow it for the high profit involved in the narcotics trade.

The government in Sanaa has been unable to do much to ameliorate the crisis. Its authority does not run much beyond Yemen and other major urban centers, and its oil reserves, never particularly big, are running out like the water resources.

It is also grappling with a tribal insurgency in the lawless north, an increasingly volatile secessionist movement in the south and the resurgence of al-Qaida forces in the east.The water shortage is starting to cause civil unrest. Water available across the country, much of it rocky highlands, amounts to 100-200 cubic meters per person per year, well below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters.

"We have a water shortage that reflects itself in fighting between the people," says Deputy Planning Minister Hisham Sharaf. "If we continue spending this much water on qat, Sanaa has 10 to 15 years."Yemen's problems are probably more acute than those of other regional states, but not by much, and the danger lies in the seeds of conflict that it contains.

Conditions have been exacerbated by a four-year drought that has affected all of the Middle East, from Iran to Morocco. The urban population drift this has caused is dramatically changing the demographics of the region and putting greater strain on water resources. The subsequent poverty and social discontent this engenders increases the risk of destabilization and armed conflict within and between states. "Water is definitely a security problem in the region," according to Samir Taqi, director of the Orient Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Damascus, capital of Syria.

"It's always been this way in the region, but now what's making it of much greater amplitude is that from one side the drought is much heavier, and second, the region itself is much more vulnerable geopolitically speaking."

Editor's Note: China is in Yemen and recently extended $300 million in development loands to Sana'a.)

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