Thursday, September 30, 2004

Alternative Energy Japan - Micro & Mini Hydroelectric

Japan's Daily Yomiuri reports that small-scale hydroelectric power generation is quietly becoming a big thing, with small output generators being established near mountain streams or on public water supplies.

On Yakushima island, a microhydroelectric power facility was installed by the Kamiyakucho municipal government at Shirotani-Unsuikyo gorge, a densely wooded mountain area.

Water flows through two 524-meter-long pipes with a diameter of 7.5 centimeters, dropping 76 meters and turning a small turbine with a diameter of 26 centimeters. The system generates 4 kilowatts of electricity, which supplies energy for a mountain office and toilets for tourists.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) defines microhydroelectric power facilities as having a maximum output of 100 kilowatts or less, while those with a maximum output of up to 1,000 kilowatts are called mini-hydroelectric power facilities.

Small-scale hydroelectric power plants have long been regarded as suitable for producing electricity in mountainous areas, but now they are increasingly used in cities as well.

In April, the Kawasaki City waterworks department and Japan Natural Energy Co. jointly installed a microhydroelectric power generator on a water pipe between a water purification plant and a distribution reservoir in the city. The site exploits a 38-meter difference in altitude between the two water facilities to distribute tap water.

A pipe between the two facilities had a bypass attached on which a power generator with an output of 170 kilowatts was installed. The electricity generated on the site is sold to Tokyo Electric Power Co. Since the system is installed on a pipe used for water for domestic use--water of fairly reliable quality--it generates electricity and is virtually maintenance free.

The company is currently building three similar facilities in Gunma and other prefectures in Japan and is hoping to construct 30 such facilities in the next three years.

Small-scale hydroelectric power generation is possible without seriously damaging the environment. For example, it can be done by using the natural features of a mountain stream or flow from an existing dam. NEDO decided to subsidize 28 small-to-medium scale hydroelectric power facilities. A Kansai region waterworks department managed to save millions of yen on its electricity bill by using hydro-power generated electricity to pump water to its customers.

The geological and geographical features of Japan mean there are countless sites where hydroelectric energy could be harnessed.

Daily Yomiuri on Japanese Small Scale Hydroelectric Power Generation

Monday, September 27, 2004

Peak Oil: Can 3D Exploration Postpone The Peak?

Vicki Sare, who leads a team of 16 geologists and engineers specializing in 3D visualization.

As crude oil hovers just below $50 a barrel Newsweek reports on 3D oil exploration technology.

In the old days looking for oil meant poring over lines drawn on two-dimensional charts that showed the rough locations of fault lines and other topographical features, providing hints about the presence of underground structures that might contain oil. Today, with a click of a mouse you can travel halfway around the world and explore massive geologic formations, grab a block of rock 20 kilometers on a side, and then zoom in to see what it holds. The journey is played out on an IMAX-like computer screen powered by a battery of high-end computers and graphics software that would make your average video gamer drool.

For the past decade, the oil industry has invested heavily in high-end, 3D computing to extend its reach and find more oil.

“One misplaced well costs us a lot of money,” as much as $40 million in some parts of the world, said Sare. “One well that we decide not to drill," she added, "saves us money that then we can put toward one that’s more economic.”

But there’s more than oil company profits at stake. With oil prices hitting new highs, proponents of the peak oil model argue that the world may be approaching the point where production can’t keep up with demand. And innovations, like 3D, are at the center of a debate over whether technology can help replace the world’s known oil supplies before they are depleted.

Some of the leading proponents of this camp, including Princeton University geology professor Kenneth Deffeyes, believe that roughly half of the world’s available supply of oil has been produced. As a result, he predicts that global production will peak sometime around Thanksgiving of next year. The resulting supply squeeze would send oil prices soaring.

“It’s like catching bass in a pond,” he said. “After you catch most of the fish, it gets harder to catch the rest.”

In the meantime, oil markets have continued to bid up prices as weekly data show available production barely keeping up with demand. And peak oil theorists say that because there are no easy solutions, this daunting energy issue is not likely to be addressed in this year's presidential campaign.

Here are some of the problems with not taking oil and gas seriously enough.

1. Oil isn't just used for gasoline. In modern agriculture 10 calories of fossil fuel are used for every calorie of food produced. Prior to the use of fossil fuel (about 200 years ago) world population was under 2 billion. In just 200 years with the use of masses of fossil fuels it's grown to over 6 billion. It's very doubtful we could continue to feed as many people without fossil fuels for fertilisers, pesticides etc.

2. Our national and global economy depends on cheap oil. Most of the things we buy are now produced on the other side of the Earth. (Artificially) high oil prices in the 1970s caused recession, imagine what a permanent lack of oil and gas would do to economies based on perpetual growth if we haven't replaced them with renewable energy first.

3. Our modern life is based on electricity. Lots of it. Currently most of it is generated using oil, coal and gas. If we were to switch to hydrogen cars we would need to generate FOUR times more electricity (assuming of course the hydrogen is made using electricity).

Draining oilfields faster?

There’s no question that technology has revolutionized the oil industry .

But is this technology helping expand the supply of oil that can ultimately be pulled out of the ground? Skeptics say no. They argue that recent advances are only helping the industry pull oil out of the ground faster, and that the overall pace of discovery hasn’t picked up. That’s one reason the debate over peak oil tends to break along generational lines, according to Matt Simmons, a Houston investment banker to the oil industry.

“The old timers basically, who are people that were schooled in the 60s and 70s,” he said, “tend to be saying that all of this new technology allows you to see a lot more, but that the basics are still the basics. The new generation guys are convinced that we’ve totally changed the game.”

Advances in drilling techniques do hold the promise of further lowering the cost of producing new oil and extending the industry’s reach. That’s especially true in deepwater offshore fields where many promising discoveries are turning up. Aside from the huge cost of conventional steel drilling platforms, operations on gigantic rigs are subject costly interruptions from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and typhoons in the Pacific rim.

“Ten years from now they’re going to become obsolete,” said Barton Smith, an economics professor at Rice University in Houston. “What they’re moving toward is robotics -- in which you literally have submarine operations. The drilling activity all occurs at the bottom of the ocean. And these robotics will have all the capabilities of being able to fix anything down there.”

Long-range communications technology is also helping to cut the cost of managing oilfields -- in some cases halfway around the world, Smith said.

“With a lot of these oilfields the trick is not just finding the oil and pulling the oil out of the ground,” he said. “But the trick is then -- through vast pipelines and so forth -- getting it to some deliverable point. And those pipelines require all sorts of types of monitoring. They’re going to monitor that from Houston.”

Technology is even expanding the definition of oil. Vast deposits of oil shale and tar sands –- formations of oil-saturated rock and sand –- have until recently been uneconomic to produce. But as recovery methods improve, and oil prices rise, production of this so-called “synthetic” oil has increased.

However currently 2 tons of sand must be mined in order to yield one barrel of oil. It takes the equivalent of 2 out of 3 barrels of oil recovered to pay for all the energy and other costs involved in getting the oil from oil sands.

For each barrel of oil recovered, 2.5 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into huge ponds. To replace the global usage of conventional crude would require over 700 plants and a pond of over 17,500 sq. km about the size of Lake Ontario.

New technologies are also being developed to extract oil from coal -– which remains plentiful in the U.S.

Still, even the most ardent proponents of technology say there’s no guarantee that advances will come fast enough and be applied quickly enough to head off the possibility of oil shortages in the future.

The world will use 82.3 million barrels a day in 2005, that's a cube of oil where each side is 2.5 football fields by 2.5 football fields every day. So to continue using oil at rate we are going to have to find oil at that rate which is just not happening.

In my opinion the solution is a combination of conservation, switching to electric cars & "strong" hybrid cars which can run primarily on electricity, and increasing electricity generation from clean renewable sources in a major way.

Newsweek article on Peak Oil & 3D Oil Exploration Technology

What is the Peak Oil and Hubbert's Peak Model?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Africa: Alternative Energy Kenya: Wind Micropower

Approtec's Xtrabike project in Kenya in Collaboration with XAccess reports that Kenyan duo Philip Osula and Mwacharo Guyo have installed wind-powered electricity generators in various homes in Nairobi, Mandera, Olengurueni and Taita in the last three years.

A beneficiary of the technology, Jeff Odera, a research scientist living in Nairobi, says he has found the technology reliable and cheaper than using a diesel generator. "It is silent, has less maintenance cost, is reliable, and no fuel is used," says Odera.

Converted to the technology two years ago, Odera says it has served his household well. "I use it for lighting and other household appliances like fridge, computer, television, and radio among others."

Using a simple dynamo-like appliance, the technicians coil a coated wire around a revolving magnet, which induces an alternating current into the wires once it starts rotating. "We make the turbines using waste material which includes wood and fibreglass, which makes them light for easy rotation by wind," explains Osula.

"To maintain continuous current flow, the cables are connected to a bank of batteries which stores any extra power in form of direct current. It is then connected to an inverter which steps it up and transforms it back to alternating current to be used in times of low or no wind, explains Osula.

"The power needed in the rural homesteads is little, thus one generator could serve 10 households according to our research," he says.

With an average annual income of under US $400 it is estimated that 75 percent of citizens of this East African nation have no access to grid electricity due to high connectivity cost, the subsequent bills and maintenance costs.

An average generator dubbed 'wind cruiser' ranges in weight from 15 to 25 kilos (around 33lbs-55lbs), is 10 inches in diameter and has a tail which gets the optimum direction of the wind. It is able to produce three kilowatts of electric energy.

All Africa article on the use of Micro Wind Power in Kenya

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Asia: Alternative Energy Singapore - Not for another 20 years?

Channel News Asia reports that Singapore is taking a number of steps to try to stay on top of the world non-renewable energy trade. Singapore is one of the world's top three oil refining centres after Houston, Texas and Rotterdam, Holland. In terms of oil trading Singapore is also number three after the oil trading exchanges in London and New York.

Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, wants the tiny island state to become a major hub for natural gas. Already 60 percent of Singapore's electricity supply is generated using gas.

The Singaporean Minister expects oil to remain the world's primary source of energy for the next 20 to 30 years. Presumably it is only after it loses this status that Singapore plans to make significant investment in alternative energy.

In my opinion this is extremely short sighted of Singapore. This city state went from being an under-developed island in the 1960s to becoming one of the "tiger" economies of Asia and the world's largest producer of hard drives. Citizens of Singapore are immensely proud of their country (at least the ones I've met) and their national airline (Singapore Airways) and airport (Changi) are considered among the top in the world.

The government and people now have an opportunity to become leaders in renewable energy technology such as photovoltaic (solar) cells. It should be noted their economy is heavily dependent on cheap oil. Tourism and Singapore's status as a regional airline hub make a significant contribution to their economy. Failure to prepare for the peak in oil production could mean they are left behind by other asian countries such as China and Japan and it could take them years to catch up.

Singapore aims to become natural gas hub by building a LNG terminal and market for gas exchange trading

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

USA: Alternative Energy New York

The New York State Public Service Commission today voted to adopt a renewable energy policy designed to increase to at least 25 percent by 2013 the proportion of electricity sold to consumers in New York State that is generated from renewable resources.

To meet the 25 percent target, it is estimated that New York State will need to add approximately 3.7 gigawatts of alternative energy resource generation capacity.

According to Commission Chairman William M. Flynn, "The policy we are adopting today balances a wide range of interests. Not only will it help us meet our growing demand for electricity, but it also will provide additional benefits by increasing fuel diversity for our state's generation portfolio, reducing our exposure to fossil fuel price spikes and supply interruptions, increasing economic development activity from a growing renewable energy industry, and improving our environment. Our decision today is based on a detailed examination of the costs, benefits, and potential impacts on system reliability of implementing an efficient and forward-thinking renewable energy policy for New York State."

Press Release on Renewable Energy Policy from State of New York Public Service Commission

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hybrid Cars: Forbes/Newsweek Discussion

Newsweek Middle East regional editor Christopher Dickey and editor Paul Maidment discuss the future of energy. Topics include energy independence and the Middle East, hydrogen fuel cell technology, and hybrid cars.

A few choice quotes and my comments:

"The United States has just about the cheapest gasoline in the industrialized world. In Japan and most Western European countries the price at the pump is three times higher or more. That's largely due to government taxes that are intended to limit consumption--and they do. Outside the USA the public has a much greater incentive to demand better gas mileage, and is more likely to buy the cars that deliver it."

"Those who emphasize hydrogen over, say, hybrids tend to be dreaming about a distant future at the expense of concrete solutions today. " -

Toyota's promotional material for the Prius assures buyers they won't have to plug in their cars. But why shouldn't we have the option to plug in our cars if we want to? Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline and if it's generated from clean renewable sources like wind power produces zero emissions. Companies like Ford who recently scrapped production of an all electric model would prefer to promote a distant hydrogen future than manufacture electric cars today.

"What is the latest on the "strong" hybrids that can be switched to run on electricity or fuel? I hear these class of hybrids would be able to run around town at speeds of say 35 to 40 mph on electricity and not go to fuel unless it had to run at higher speeds for a long distance trip." -

Imagine plugging your car in at home or work or at a free street recharging point. Sound unrealistic? Well we already have an extensive electricity infrastructure whereas no hydrogen infrastructure at all currently exists. By having "strong" hybrids we can plug into a clean renewable electricity supply helping wean ourselves off our oil addiction.

"Few politicians think far beyond their next election campaign, and, as we've seen, no major American candidate has been willing seriously to impose the taxes and regulations that could force the public to change its wasteful consumption habits. So it's politically smart to tell folks the theoretical future is bright--but sometime after the end of the second term--while doing as little as possible to rock the boat in the meantime." -

Our energy problems require long-term and global thinking.

Newsweek Forbes discussion on the future of energy

What are Plug-in Hybrids

Monday, September 20, 2004

Alternative Energy: American as Apple Pie?

There's a great quote from this article on Amendment 37 in Colorado which proposes requiring large utilities to produce 10 percent of their power from renewable energy resources by 2015.

"Renewable energy is like apple pie. Everyone is for it. Ostensibly."

However Xcel and two other utilities are arguing against Amendment 37. And, as of the latest campaign-finance reports, they have contributed nearly all of the funds that will be used to hurl a torpedo at Amendment 37.

The article concludes:

Today, we rely on largely on finite and foreign energy sources. The cost of those resources will only go up, particularly when production starts going down. When that day comes, the investments we make now in renewable power will be a blessing.

For all these reasons, the prudent vote on Amendment 37 is yes.

Daily Camera Article on Amendment 37 on renewable energy in Colorado

GreenDigit's article on Colorado's Amendment 37

Sunday, September 19, 2004

America: Spinach Solar Power Source

According to the Boston Business Journal, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has succeeded in combining tiny proteins in spinach with solid state electronics, potentially producing a solar power source that one day might power mobile devices.

From spinach choroblasts, the scientists derived a protein complex measuring 10 to 20 nanometers across, small enough to fit 100,000 on the head of a pin.

"We have crossed the first hurdle of successfully integrating a photosynthetic protein molecular complex with a solid-state electronic device," MIT researcher Marc Baldo told Tech Talk.

Scientists have attempted to harness light before by combining biological and inert substances. But biological molecules need water and salt to survive, and both substances wreak havoc on electronics.

Initial tests showed that the rudimentary device could convert 12 percent of the light it absorbed into electricity, and researchers think they can increase that output to 20 percent by thickening the amount of biological material on the substrate.

MIT combines spinach and electronics to produce solar power

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Norway: Improving Wind Power Efficiency

The EETimes reports that a gearless synchronous generator developed by Germany's Siemens and recently installed in a Norwegian wind power plant has achieved an efficiency rating of 98 percent, according to the company.

Standard generators use a gearbox between the slow rotor and the fast generator to convert wind energy to electricity. However they lose energy to friction and heat.

The Siemens gearless generator uses permanent magnets to convert wind energy from the rotor to electricity.

gearless synchronous generator for wind power plants

Friday, September 17, 2004

Alternative Energy News Blog Celebrates!

distribution of users of the Folding at Home distributed computing project

The Alternative Energy News Blog celebrates surpassing one hundred subscribers to our syndicated feed today. You can find the link to our feed on the bottom right of the homepage entitled "RSS and Atom Site Feed".

In order to celebrate we're going off topic on this post. You may or may not be aware that your computer's processor isn't being used anywhere near its full capacity most of the time. This is therefore a waste of the resources which were put into its manufacture and the electricity which powers it.

Instead of this you can install a small program which makes use of your computer's processing power when you're not using it by performing calculations for non-profit medical and scientific research for Stanford University. There are currently over one million CPUs registered. I have personally been using the program for over two years with no problems.

You can find out more and download the program here:

Stanford University's non-profit Folding at Home Project

If you do sign up I would appreciate it if you use my team number 39181 so I know you found out about the project through this blog (disclaimer: I receive no financial benefit for this).

Also if you have a blog I would ask that you encourage your readers to sign up.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Europe: Alternative Energy Iceland - Geothermal

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has won an order from Reykjavik Energy, a city-owned utility in Iceland, to build two 40 MW (megawatt) geothermal power plants at Hellisheidi, approximately 20 kilometers east of Reykjavik. The order marks the eighth geothermal power plant assigned to MHI by the utility provider.

Iceland, known as the "Land of Fire and Ice," is located where the Eurasian and North American plates meet. A country of numerous volcanoes, Iceland is well suited to use of geothermal energy. Because of abundant water supply, however, the country relies on hydroelectric generation to meet approximately 90% of its power demand, but the remainder depends chiefly on geothermal power. Very few plants use fossil fuels such as coal or oil as their energy source. In this way, Iceland obtains almost its entire power supply from clean energy resources.

Outside Japan, to date MHI has delivered geothermal power plants to 11 countries worldwide, including Iceland, the United States, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Kenya. Their combined power output exceeds 2 GigaWatts.

Mitsubishi Press Release on Geothermal Power Plant Order

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Asia: Alternative Energy China - Renewable Energy Revolution?

In a joint press release Greenpeace, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Chinese Renewable Energy Association (CREIA) have announced the formation of a partnership to promote wind power in China.

Due to rapid economic growth, China has faced power shortages and a huge increase in energy imports in recent months.

According to Greenpeace, the only long term sustainable solution to China’s energy crisis is through the massive uptake of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, micro-hydro, modern biomass and geothermal power, which not only provide clean energy but can create local industries and millions of jobs.

“Soaring oil imports, wild fluctuations in international oil prices, the mounting costs of extreme weather events and heightened concern over energy security mean that China’s commitment to renewables at this time is crucial. But this is not a problem for China alone, the whole world has a vested interest in helping China meet its development needs without further destabilising the climate”, warns Yu Jie of Greenpeace.

China is the world's fastest growing consumer of oil.

The Chinese Government has set a target to meet 12 percent of its power generation capacity from renewables by 2020. A significant share of this new capacity will come from wind. In May 2004, the three groups launched the report ‘Wind Force 12 - China’, an industry scenario which showed that by 2020 China is capable of installing 170 GW of wind power.

China’s anticipated entry into the global renewable energy market is expected to have a profound impact on the global industry,” said Li Junfeng, Secretary General of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association.

If China gets as good at producing low cost wind turbines as it is at producing a plethora of other goods expect wind power costs to fall below those of fossil fuels.

"We believe that this law can start a renewable energy revolution in China.”

Let's hope so both for the sake of China and the sake of the world.

Greenpeace Press Release on Wind Power Push for China_

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Micropower - A mini-power station for your home

a ground source heat pump which produces 3-4 units of heat for every unit of electricity it uses

The BBC have a nice article describing how micropower can help meet our future energy needs.

Jo Collins of The Green Alliance is quoted as saying, "micro-CHP boilers, mini-wind turbines and Photo Voltaic arrays should become familiar household fixtures. Micro-generation must be taken more seriously."

It quotes a report by The Green Alliance which says "bringing energy generation closer to people in this way will forge the vital link between our concern about climate change and our energy consumption in the home".

Unfortunately for most people in the developed world energy is something taken for granted and yet it is absolutely fundamental to our current quality of life. To many people the idea that we might run out of cheap energy is absurd and is something they have probably never considered. Micropower generation literally brings energy issues home.

Monday, September 13, 2004

High Oil Prices = Less Alternative Energy Investment?

This Newsweek article on alternative energy investment seems to suggest that the high oil prices which mean record profits for oil companies when combined with an uncertain regulatory environment for alternative energy may actually discourage investment in renewable energy.

There are some big multinationals like BP, Shell, Sharp, Kyocera, Sanyo
and Mitsubishi with divisions investing in alternative energy, these are companies that can afford to take risks and take a long-term view. The sums involved however are a drop in the ocean when compared to the amount of money spent on finding and extracting our declining fossil fuel reserves.

In my opinion the solar power industry in particular is attracting attention and investment from VCs as this is the area where it seems most likely at the moment that a technological breakthrough may come, which would allow low cost mass production of solar cells allowing them to become ubiquitous.

However while solar energy may hold the promise of the great technological breakthroughs and therefore the biggest profits, it seems to be grabbing most of the attention and therefore the investment away from other types of alternative energy.

Wind power is competitive now. However it requires major capital investment, has tight margins and doesn't currently hold the tantalising prospect of any technological breakthroughs.

First government has to stop subsidising fossil fuels and spend the money instead on encouraging genuinely clean and renewable energy technologies.

September 2004 Newsweek Article on Alternative Energy Investment

Australia: How Not to Subsidise Electricity

Australia's federal government has created a tax break for electricity generated using diesel lowering its cost by a third. Professor Andrew Blakers from the Australian National University believes the tax break worth over one billion dollars (U.S.) will encourage people living in rural areas to choose diesel over solar generated power.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

U.S. Oil Independence - A Pipe Dream?

There's a great quote from Herman Franssen, president of International Energy Associates in this article.

Cutting U.S independence is "like saying when you're obese that you should stop importing foreign food".

"You need to reduce your dependence on (all) oil," Franssen said.

"Not foreign oil. Oil."

An August Luntz poll of 800 potential voters showed that 50 percent of respondents want more renewable energy sources. The article also quotes Houston analyst Matthew Simmons who has questioned the veracity of the Saudi Arabia's crude oil reserve estimates and asserted that its oil production is near its peak.

It will take decades to make the switch to clean renewable energy sources. If oil production reaches the tipping point at any time before we make the switch the world maybe in serious trouble. The world needs to act now.

Reuters Article

Association for the Study of Peak Oil

Matthew Simmons

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Exxon - Meeting the World's Toughest Energy Challenges(tm) - I Think Not.

Exxon (the world's biggest energy company) at the 19th World Energy Congress in Sydney, Australia has looked in its crystal ball and predicted that for at least 20 years clean renewable energy sources will not make a significant contribution.

According to Exxon's website the world will need 40% more energy by 2020 than we are using today. This is assuming we DON'T switch to hydrogen - if we do we will need to generate FOUR TIMES more electricity than we do now.

Exxon (Esso in Europe and Imperial Oil in Canada) recently ran an ad campaign claiming that they are "Taking on the World's Toughest Energy Challenges(tm)". The ad suggests that they are providing today's energy and will supply tomorrow's energy (it uses an image of a hydrogen fuel gauge). In my opinion the message is "don't worry we've got future energy needs covered".

Their website boasts "we spend more on research and technology than any other energy company in the world". However Exxon is spending almost nothing on alternative energy research. Exxon also fails to say where all the oil they want us to use is going to come from as BASED ON CURRENT DEMAND we are only finding 1 barrel of oil for every 6 we use.

It will take more than catchy advertising slogans to solve our energy problems.

Exxon's Official Corporate Campaign

Expose Exxon Campaign

Asia: Alternative Energy Philippines - Wind Power Shows Most Promise

The Philippines' first official flag


The Manila Bulletin reports that the Philippines vowed this week to become the world’s top producer of volcanic power.

Geothermal and hydro power already account for a third of national electricity output, and the potential for more renewable energy capacity is high.

The government's energy investment wish-list launched last Thursday to lift the impoverished nation out of oil dependence carries a $25 billion price tag to set against a $61 billion national debt and last year’s $3.5 billion budget deficit.

The Philippines' Department of Energy said the country needs to install an additional 5.2 gigawatts of power generating capacity by 2014 — about a third of existing supply — to meet rising demand. To achieve this, it wants to see renewable-based generating capacity double by 2013 from the current 4.5 gigawatts. Hydro power already accounts for 19% of current capacity, and geothermal 15%.


BP Solar and the Spanish and Philippine governments have agreed to bring solar energy to 150 villages in the Philippines. The solar power project is the largest ever in the country, involving a contract worth US$48 million.

Harry Shimp, BP Solar CEO, said in the world's most isolated areas, use of solar power is often the most cost effective way of supplying basic, essential needs such as lighting, and for water pumping, irrigation and refrigeration for vaccines and medications.

BP Solar has completed a $30-million rural electrification project in the Philippines and a similar $30-million project in Indonesia.


According to Asia Pulse, the Philippines with over 7,000 islands and steady tropical winds is ideal for utilising wind power to counter the recent rise in oil prices.

The article hints at the energy problems China is currently experiencing as a result of their highly energy intensive push to increase their GDP. Let's hope other nations in Asia can learn from China's mistakes and take a more sustainable path.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Europe: Alternative Energy Denmark

Copenhagen Business School

Mogens Lykketoft, leader of Danish opposition party the Social Democrats, has proposed increasing the percentage of energy in Denmark produced from renewable energy sources.

By 2015, the Social Democrats have set a goal of doubling the amount of renewable energy used for electricity generation from 20% to 40%.

Lykketoft proposes investing approximately $820 million dollars in developing alternative energy technology including solar power and wave power. The party are also in favour of a major increase in Danish wind power production.

Copenhagen Post Article

Thursday, September 09, 2004

World's Largest Solar Energy Plant opened in Germany

The world's largest solar power station officially started production this week in eastern Germany according to an article in Expatica.

The project was hailed by Environment Minister Juergen Trittin as advancing the timetable to make the sun's power cheaper. The five-megawatt facility, located on a former lignite mine ash deposit, consists of some 33,500 solar modules. The output equates to the electricity needs of some 1,800 households while sparing the atmosphere of some 3,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, officials said.

Trittin, of Germany's environmentalist Green party is quoted as saying "in 15 years' time solar energy could become competitive with conventional sources. Over the past few years the cost of solar power had been lowered by more than 50 percent".

Expatica article

A 10megawatt solar power project was annouced in August:

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

New Zealand: a Choice between Coal and Nuclear Power?

cover image from the video game "New Zealand Story"

This article in New Zealand's Otago Daily Times suggests that nuclear power stations will be operating in New Zealand by 2015 if coal is not used as a fuel source. Currently 40 of approximately 60 power stations in New Zealand are hydroelectric.

To me this seems a false choice. New Zealand produces more of its electricity from hydro-electric power stations than any other country. There's nothing stopping New Zealand utilising wind, wave, solar & tidal power to meet its future energy needs.

(sorry no direct link - search for "nuclear power 2015")

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Alternative Energy South Africa: Time to Prepare for "Post Commodity Economy"

Mining's contribution to South Africa's GDP has shrunk from 14% in 1983 to less than 7% by the end of the 1990s. Gold reserves are only expected to last another 10 years. The number of people employed in mining had fallen from 800,000 to 400,000 contributing to rising unemployment.

This report in the South African Business Report notes that South Africa has only another 40 years of coal reserves left. This is ironic as South Africa is a leader in coal-to-liquid technology which can produce oil from coal.

SASOL is one of the leaders in this field and recently signed contracts for two plants in China costing over a billion dollars. A few days ago 6 workers were killed at one of the petrochemical group's plants in South Africa in the third blast in the last three months.

Ompi Aphane, the chief director in charge of electricity, would not be drawn on whether the government would go for nuclear power as an alternative to coal-fired power stations, saying this was a policy issue the government had to decide on. South Africa is also a leader in "pebble bed" nuclear reactors which are supposedly walk away safe.

But, he said, "clean" coal technologies were being developed and would have to be explored along with other alternative energy sources.

Details of South African use of nuclear PBMRs:

How PBMR reactors work:

The Other Side - What's Wrong with the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor:

SASOL explosion:,3523,1695143-6079-0,00.html

Monday, September 06, 2004

Think Big: Plan for Massive Off-Shore Wind Farm in Scotland

Plans for a massive offshore wind farm in the Moray Firth have gained £6m of funding from the the U.K. government. The project will see two of the largest turbines in the world installed to test the feasibility of a 200-turbine wind farm.

A spokeswoman from the Scottish Green Party is quoted in the article saying:
"The two governments can muster only £6m for offshore wind - a pitiful amount compared to the billions spent on nuclear power over the years."

If the £24m pilot proves successful, a full 200-turbine wind farm will be built 12 miles offshore and would have a one gigawatt of electricity generation capacity.

This compares to the recent announcement of Scotland's largest wind farm which recently opened which produces only 50 megawatts of electricity. This is a mere 5% of the potential capacity of the offshore project. If we are serious about replacing fossil fuels we need to think big.

One of the criticisms of renewable energy is that most sources do not produce significant amounts of electricity. If we are to replace fossil fuels that means thinking in gigawatts and not megawatts (1 gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts). As I noted in this post:

it is by combining different technologies and put them to work on a large scale that we can generate significant quantities of "green" electricity.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

India: Solar Power to Light Billboards

The Delhi government in India has decided to make use of solar power compulsory for lighting up hoardings and for street lighting.

Article in India's The Hindu Newspaper

Friday, September 03, 2004

Germany Leads the Way: Using Energy Tariffs to Increase Alternative Energy Use

This article asserts that no country has made a more profound and consistent commitment to rewewable energy as the world's third largest industrial economy - Germany.

Germany's Renewable Energy Sources Act gives generators of renewable electricity (which includes individual households) the right to sell excess energy back to the grid. It also specifies the specific rates to be paid for different alternative energy resources.

Since 1991 when their program was launched, the Germans have installed more than 14 gigawatts of wind-generating capacity, more than twice the amount constructed in all of North America. In 2003 Germany installed more than 20,000 solar-electric systems. This year they expect that number to increase by another 50 percent.

The article argues that these tariffs have made Germany into one of the world's leading manufacturers of alternative energy generating equipment creating tens of thousands of jobs.

Spain and France have also adopted the use of energy tariffs to promote renewables. Spain already produces 10% of its electricity from wind power and aims to triple this by 2010. France has 14 gigawatts of applications for permits on its books.

Currently there are eleven countries in the world using renewable energy tariffs and China is said to be actively considering them.

The article's author, Paul Gipe, calls on more countries to adopt them so they can experience the benefits of significant growth in the use of renewables.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Stardust Probe to Reveal AntiMatter Source? - 500 days to go

A mass of data collected in the course of the encounter between the Starburts probe and the comet Wild-2 on 2 January 2004 including about 70 images.

"These images are better than we had hoped for in our wildest dreams," said Ray Newburn, a co-investigator for Stardust. "They will help us better understand the mechanisms that drive conditions on comets."

"We've collected dust from a comet and we're bringing it home for analysis in laboratories all over the world."

Dust from Wild-2 was scooped up by a robotic collector filled with aerogel - a very low-density glass - and stowed inside a sample-return capsule. This will be delivered to Earth on 15 January, 2006.

If the return works, the particles would represent the second robotic retrieval of extraterrestrial material since 1976, when the unmanned Soviet Luna 24 mission brought back samples of rock and soil from the Moon. The first Nasa's Genesis spacecraft should be the first one back come September, when it returns samples of the solar wind it has collected in space.

"Comets are made of ice and are very cold and have been very cold since they were formed," said Dr Simon Green, an Open University, UK, scientist on the Stardust project.

"That protects the material of which they were made from any process of heating, so they haven't been changed since they were formed, right at the beginning of the formation of the Solar System.

"So we can have almost a little time capsule of what things were like 4.5 billion years ago."

"Another big surprise was the abundance and behavior of jets of particles shooting up from the comet's surface. We expected a couple of jets, but saw more than two dozen in the brief flyby," said Dr. Benton Clark, chief scientist of space exploration systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much stranger world than previously believed. The comet's rigid surface, dotted with towering pinnacles, plunging craters, steep cliffs, and dozens of jets spewing violently, has surprised scientists.

Some people have suggested comets may contain significant quantities of antimatter when compared to Earth.


Nasa Stardust Probe minisite:

BBC Article:

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Carbon Sink Technology Boost for Alternative Energy?

According to climate scientists at the EuroScience Open Forum 2004 governments should be exploring the potential of Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) which could actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere and stabilise atmospheric concentrations of the gas at much lower levels.

NETs offer a means of cutting emissions using biomass from planted forests to produce energy and then capturing the CO2 produced, or alternatively extracting CO2 directly from the atmosphere.

Opponents of the technologies suggest such methods would be costly and that CO2 could still leak back into the environment, with unknown consequences.

Professor Christian Azar, of Goteborg University's Department of Physical Resource Theory is quoted by the BBC as saying "Governments are not looking at NETs because part of the cost of doing so will fall on certain industry sectors and they are powerful enough to protest."

In my opinion these industries should be made to cover the cost of their emissions. By making these industries pay for the economic externalities they create this raises the cost of generation from fossil fuels leading to greater economies of scale for alternative energy thus lowering their price below that of fossil fuels. What should be avoided is making the public foot the costs of these industries by subsidising them to clear up their mess.

The image above shows algae which acts as a carbon sink. Research is underway in Australia into the use of algae which is up to 100 times more effective than trees at sucking up CO2 and its high oil content may even allow petroleum products (such as plastics) to be made.