Thursday, July 17, 2008
Monday, July 17, 2006
Why Alternative Energy?
A poll carried carried out for the BBC World Service of nearly 20,000 people from across 19 countries found wide support for alternative energy strategies.
The poll illustrates a perceived triple threat from the way the world produces and uses energy.
Majorities across all 19 countries indicate that citizens fear:
the climate and environment are being harmed
that the global economy will be destabilised
that competition for energy will lead to greater conflict
Some eight out of 10 of those questioned were worried about the threat to the environment. In Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Italy the level of concern topped 90%.
Doug Miller, president of the poll firm GlobeScan, said: "What's fascinating is that in the midst of historically high energy prices and geopolitical tensions, the number one energy concern in every industrialised country we surveyed is the environmental and climate impacts."
Creating tax incentives to encourage the use of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power found favour with 80% of respondents.
But there was lukewarm support for more nuclear energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. On average, 49% were in favour of building more nuclear plants.
Majorities of 60% or more in 18 of the 19 countries polled said they feared energy shortages and prices would destabilise the world economy.
The least concerned was Russia, a major oil and gas producer, which benefits from higher prices.
Both US and EU leaders have warned Russia not to use energy as a tool of foreign policy. Earlier this year, the nation's monopoly, Gazprom, cut off gas supplies to Europe during a price dispute with Ukraine.
Some 73% of those questioned were worried that energy shortages would lead to greater conflict among nations.
In total, 19,579 citizens were interviewed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine and the US.
Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners.
Full Article on BBC News
$4b Investment in Wind Power by BP Alternative Energy
BP is making its first major investment in wind power with a joint venture that will lead to a major expansion of its generating capacity.
The oil company announced it had entered a five-year supply and development agreement involving five wind power projects in the US with Clipper Windpower.
The news sent Clipper shares up 80p, or 28 per cent, to 362.5p in London. The projects, with an anticipated total generating capacity of 2,015 megawatts, are situated in New York, Texas and South Dakota.
BP has also secured a mix of firm and contingent orders of up to 2,250 megawatts of additional Clipper wind turbines in its global wind energy portfolio, the companies said.
BP launched BP Alternative Energy to focus on solar, hydrogen and wind power but its wind operation has up to now been confined to two projects with a combined output of only 31 megawatts.
Steve Westwell, the chief executive of BP Alternative Energy, said: "We believe the Clipper turbine is a breakthrough in reducing the total cost of renewable energy and we are pleased to be the first large customers for this innovative technology."
This is thought to be the biggest single investment in wind power estimated at $4 billion US dollars.
The announcement, came in the same week that the British government published its energy review and a telephone poll found that 79% of respondents thought solar power and 76% wind power were the best investments in electricity generation for the UK.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Alternative Energy Inspires Young Scientists
In Indianapolis a number of the 1,500 young scientists competing in the International Science and Engineering Fair for $4 million dollars in prizes and scholarships pursued alternative energy innovations.
Seventeen year old Allison Wilson from Stuart, Iowa, won $11,000 in scholarships by making ethanol fuel from prairie grass.
Renewable energy also inspired 17 year old Brian Sutterer of Terre Haute, Indiana, who generated electricity using the difference in temperature above and below ground (geothermal energy).
2006 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Mixed Signals & Federal Funding for Alternative Energy Research
There have definitely been some mixed signals on alternative energy research recently. At the same time President Bush's State of the Union address called for a 22 percent increase in federal spending to develop alternative energies, dozens of staffers and contractors for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, were being laid off.
The disconnect was a political embarrassment for the president, so federal officials restored the laboratory's funding, rehiring the workers who had been laid off just in time for President Bush’s scheduled speech at the NREL.
In his speech the President acknowledged the confusion, “I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals when it comes to funding," President Bush said.
This comes at a time when a new national public opinion survey demonstrates overwhelming public support in the United States for government policies and investments that will support development of alternative energy sources. The survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, VA, for the Energy Future Coalition. The survey’s findings included:
According to the survery there is nearly unanimous support for a national goal of having 25% of the United States domestic energy needs met by alternative energy by the year 2025. Ninety-eight percent of voters see this goal as important for the country, and three out of four (74%) feel that it is "very important." Ninety percent of voters believe this goal is achievable.
Similar majorities support government action to encourage greater use of renewable energy. Eighty-eight percent of voters favor financial incentives, and 92% support minimum government standards for the use of renewable energy by the private sector.
Nearly all voters (98%) say the costs, such as the cost of research and development and the cost of building new renewable energy production facilities, would be worth it to get the United States to the 25% by 2025 goal.
Voters consider energy to be an important issue facing the country, rating it similarly with health care, terrorism and national security, and education, and ahead of taxes and the war in Iraq. Half (50%) of voters believe America is headed for an energy crisis in the future, and 35% believe the country already is facing a crisis.
So just how much is the United States government spending on alternative energy research? After the 22% increase the budget will stand at $771 million. This amounts to less than one percent of the $55,000 million the federal government spends annually on research, nearly half of which is devoted to healthcare.
It’s time for action.
Source for figures on federal funding for alternative energy research
President Bush's speech at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
America's Energy Future
Monday, November 28, 2005
BP to Create BP Alternative Energy Business Unit
BP has announced that it plans to double its investment in alternative and renewable energies to create a new low-carbon power business with the growth potential to deliver revenues of around $6 billion a year within the next decade. Building on the success of BP Solar business unit, which expects to hit revenues of $1 billion in 2008, BP Alternative Energy will manage an investment program in solar, wind, hydrogen and combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power generation, which could amount to $8 billion over the next ten years. Readers will note that within this $8 billion are included investments in natural gas power generation which as a fossil fuel is not in my opinion a form of alternative energy and also investment in hydrogen which is a carrier of energy rather than a source. It should also be noted that the vast majority of BP's approximately $15 billion annual investment budget will remain focussed on oil and gas projects, which currently offer much higher returns.
BP chief executive Lord Browne said "We are now at a point where we have sufficient new technologies and sound commercial opportunities within our reach to build a significant and sustainable business in alternative and renewable energy."
Browne said the first phase of investment would total some $1.8 billion over the next three years, spread in broadly equal proportions between solar, wind, hydrogen and CCGT power generation.
Investment in solar over the next three years is planned to boost BP's leading position as a leading manufacturer and supplier of photovoltaic systems. In a field where technology improvements and higher productivity are causing costs to decline, BP currently has 10 percent of the global market which is growing at 30 percent a year, faster than any other form of renewable energy.
BP currently has more than 100 megawatts of solar manufacturing capacity in the US, Spain, India and Australia, with a plan to double its capacity before the end of next year. BP recently signed a strategic joint venture to access China's expanding solar market and provide local manufacturing capacity and is exploring similar opportunities elsewhere in the region.
"As the pricing of carbon develops through trading schemes and other initiatives, the market will grow rapidly as low-emission technologies displace less clean forms of power generation."
Investment projected for wind represents a significant step up in this area of power generation for BP. The company currently runs two wind farms alongside existing oil plants in the Netherlands. It also owns industrial land in open, high-wind regions of the US, away from residential areas, providing the possibility to build the first large-scale US wind farm generating up to 200 megawatts in 2007. The company has identified enough US sites to accommodate wind turbines with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts.
Projected investment in CCGT will be spent mainly in the US where the company already has significant co-generation capacity and is currently finalizing plans for a new $400 million scheme at one of its major plants that will deliver 100 megawatts of power to the plant, and 420 megawatts to the local electricity grid.
BP's move is at odds with the views of some in the oil industry, including the world's largest private oil and gas firm, Exxon Mobil, which argues renewables are a poor use of investors' funds.
BP Alternative Energy Website
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Alternative Energy Venezuela: OPEC Oil Producer Switches to Wind Power to Increase Exports
Playa Medina, Sucre, Venezuela
Business News Americas reports that Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA aims to boost fuel oil exports by about 100,000 barrels a month through the increased use of wind for electric power generation according to Nervis Villalobos, the president of state-owned electricity firm Cadafe and deputy energy and oil minister.
PDVSA and Cadafe want to take advantage of high international oil prices and at the same time develop an environmentally friendly source of power generation, Villalobos said.
"For PDVSA and for the country, there is an enormous attraction in being able to free up these liquid fuels and export them," Villalobos said.
A barrel of fuel oil "is worth US$4 in the domestic market, while abroad it sells for US$40," Villalobos said.
PDVSA is currently involved in two projects that would use wind to generate electricity, Villalobos said.
The first project was announced by PDVSA president and energy and oil minister Rafael Ramírez in April in the wake of an electricity mishap that left PDVSA's Amuay refinery - part of the CRP refining complex - without power for several days.
This US$50mn venture at Los Taques, a wind-swept stretch of beach in Falcón state near PDVSA's CRP complex, would generate up to 100MW, including 40MW during its first stage.
PDVSA and the Spanish-Venezuelan consortium that designed the project, VER, are currently deciding on how to finance it, Villalobos said. Cadafe would buy 100% of the power generated by the plant.
The project should be up and running "by mid 2007, if it's approved this year," since construction is expected to take at least 18 months, Villalobos said.
The second wind project in the northern part of Sucre state is still in a very early stage, Villalobos said.
Villalobos reiterated Cadafe's estimate of a 9% jump in power demand for Venezuela this year, up from 7% in 2004. If these wind projects are not put in place, more fuel oil will have to be devoted to thermoelectric generation rather than exported, he said.
When major OPEC member countries which get their oil at a fraction of the cost of the rest of the world start switching to alternative energy, isn't it about time for those countries dependent on oil to do more?
Original Business News Americas Article
Thursday, June 23, 2005
World Leaders Needed: The Future of Oil and Everything Else
Today's post is inspired by an engineer, details of which I'll get to later.
Energy is the future. Our future depends on energy. Many people in the developing world spend much of their time thinking about and acquiring it. Firewood and food. Most people in the developed world spend little or no time thinking about or acquiring energy. An apparently endless supply of energy is assumed to be as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. Only a tiny proportion of us even consider this assumption, let alone question it.
And yet oil, gas and coal are finite and will run out (at least in economically significant and useful quantities). The end of cheap oil will arguably occur within a few short decades, if it is not already upon us. When I was at school I remember being told that oil would run out in a few decades. I remember feeling vaguely concerned, until it occurred to me that people much smarter than me must be working on it and would have a solution soon.
A few decades later I am wondering where these people are.
The answer of course is they live amongst us. Engineers, economists, bloggers, scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs. And yet at the moment most are not focused on solutions to our energy challenges, because many are not aware there is a problem.
Much of the mass media promotes materialism with shows such as MTV Cribs showing bigger and bigger houses with garages full of cars. Indeed here in the UK there seems to be one channel whose non-music programming is made up almost entirely of half hour shows titled "the fabulous life of" which seem dedicated to the worship of conspicuous consumption.
Most of our politicians seem dedicated to the "not in my term" mentality.
And yet despite our general lack of awareness, despite the scale of the challenges, the potential payoffs for coming up with solutions are huge.
For the companies and entrepreneurs who bring solutions to market there are bound to be significant financial rewards. Beyond this there is the prospect of a more peaceful world. I'm not proposing a utopian vision of a world where everyone lives in perfect harmony. However it is pretty easy to predict that having people compete over scarce resources is likely to result in conflict. Clean renewable energy offers the prospect of countries spending more time cooperating to harness the power of the sun, wind and ocean and less time competing over finite resources.
If the developed world stands to benefit from this, the developing world has even more to gain. Rather than experiencing the dirt and pain of industrialisation, renewable energy may allow them to leapfrog ahead.
As individuals it is time to become aware of our energy usage and its implications. Make our homes more energy efficient, switch to a renewable electricity supplier, generate some or all of our own power using means such as solar panels or mini wind turbines.
However it is not enough to act just as individuals. For humanity to move forward it is not about being more virtuous than everyone else. It is not about pointing fingers and assigning blame to drivers of certain types of car, people of a particular political affiliation or even to whole nations and continents. It is about building on what we can agree on and seeking consensus. We may not agree on the right solution but that's okay because there won't be one single solution - it will be a combination of many - it's more important to agree on a direction. A clean renewable, post fossil fuel future.
It is about informing, persuading, inspiring and influencing those around us. Our friends, neighbours, colleagues, society and the world at large.
Which brings me to the inspiration for this piece - a post by the Engineer Poet looking at the future of aviation once the cheap oil has run out and the discussion continuing in the comments section. It's just one example of people coming together to focus not on the problem, but on possible solutions.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Alternative Energy in Developing Countries: New U.N. Report
a Ghanaian woman
A United Nations environment agency survey has revealed the potential for renewable energy in some of the world's developing countries is much greater than previously thought. The UN Environment Agency (UNEP)'s four-year project to map the solar and wind resources of 13 countries has discovered thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy waiting to be unleashed in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America
"In developing countries all over the world we have removed some of the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind resource," said UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer. "SWERA (The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) is a good example of international cooperation that can produce a range of positive environmental and social outcomes. In the case of renewable energy, knowledge is literally power."
"SWERA (The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) has clearly demonstrated that the modest amounts needed to support renewable energy assessments can significantly change the way countries pursue their energy goals," said SWERA's project manager Tom Hamlin.
The countries where SWERA has carried out surveys to date are: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka.
China alone has the potential for more than 100,000 megawatts of renewable power, while Brazil also has large amounts, according to the study.
Small countries also have surprising potential. Sri Lanka has a wind power potential of 26,000 megawatts, which is 10 times the country's installed electricity capacity.
Windy Lake Nicaragua gives the small Central American country 20,000 megawatts of potential renewable power.
In Guatemala, wind estimates before SWERA were mostly unknown, but is now estimated at 7000 megawatts, based on SWERA products. The Guatemala Ministry of Energy has established, with support from SWERA, the Center for Renewable Energy and Investment within the Ministry to carry out validation studies and identify sites for wind energy development.
The benefits for each country differ. "If you look at China and Brazil they're going to be manufacturing the (renewable) plants and there are big economic benefits in that," said Hamlin. "And there are broad economic benefits for the smaller countries," he said. "Instead of always importing petroleum they would have domestic resources so they would save on the costs and risks of having petroleum prices fluctuate wildly."
In the African country of Ghana, where the SWERA study discovered more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy potential, this is "quite a significant amount" according to UNEP, as it estimates that Africa need just 40,000 megawatts of electricity to power its industrialisation.
Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment Website
Monday, April 04, 2005
Alternative Energy Technology: Toshiba Develops One Minute Rechargable Lithium-Ion Battery
Thanks to Alternative Energy Blog reader Josh who referred me to this recent press release by Toshiba who have developed a high energy density lithium-Ion battery that recharge 80% of its capacity in one minute. This is sixty times faster than typical lithium-ion batteries (which among other applications are commonly used in cellphones). As Josh (who has worked as an engineer at Ballard Fuel Cells) commented:
"Having worked extensively with fuel cells, I think this technology may dominate over everything Ballard has already developed. With high energy density, fast charging cells, there is also a clear path to fully electric vehicles with no need to change current infastructure. Vehicles could also easily be charged from home, at work, or gas stations could adapt by providing high-speed charging facilities."
According to the press release its secret is the use of "nano-particles" to "prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode".
The battery has a long life cycle, losing only 1% of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging, and can operate at very low temperatures.
Toshiba will bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006. Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors, where the slim, small-sized battery will deliver large amounts of energy while requiring only a minute to recharge.
According to the press release "the battery's advantages in size, weight and safety highly suit it for a role as an alternative power source for hybrid electric vehicles", which is exciting news for plug-in hybrid cars.
Full Toshbia Press Release including comparison charts with other types of battery technology
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Alternative Energy Hungary: River Energy
EU members must produce at least 6% of their energy via renewable energy sources by 2010, with the Union discussing the possibility of increasing this to 12% by 2020.
Currently only 3.6% of energy generated in Hungary comes via alternative energy sources (excluding nuclear), primarily from windfarms, bio-plants (wood chipping) and solar panels.
Oroszi told The Budapest Sun, "Electricity cannot be stored in bulk form and must constantly be generated."
Wind and sunshine have sporadic cycles in Hungary, and costly to run bio-plants need huge storage facilities for fuel.
"So far very few experts have even considered using Hungary's rivers to harvest much needed energy," said Oroszi, explaining that this is currently the sole source that can offer alternative energy producers "clean or green energy non-stop".
"Every second, billions of cubic meters of river water is flowing through Hungarian territory," he enthused.
Oroszi says that, based on scientific research, the Danube river (which flows a total 417km in Hungary) has a yield of 2,270 cubic meters per second, and flows at 1.18 meters per second (measured at Nagymaros), while the Tisza river (which flows 596 km in Hungary) yields about 740 cubic meters per second at a speed of 0.61 meters per second (measured at Szeged).
With the EU subsidizing green projects, Oroszi has received many inquiries concerning his patented idea for a relocatable cluster of generators producing power from flowing water, for which feasibility studies are also underway. "It would be an offense not to harvest the colossal amount of money-saving energy available in Hungarian rivers when the world is yearning for renewable energy sources.
"Even the slowest flowing, so-called 'passive rivers' can be utilized to harvest electricity, even to supply whole villages nearby," he said. Oroszi added that the system is "guaranteed to not only be profitable, but also environmental-friendly."
Friday, March 04, 2005
Alternate Energy China: Renewable Energy Law sets 10% Target
The law, which will come into force early next year, seeks to increase the usage of solar and wind power to 10% of China's total consumption by 2010. This would equate to around 60 gigawatts.
However, while the new law has been welcomed, it has been suggested that the targets are over ambitious.
Rising oil prices and concerns over environmental damage prompted the move.
At present China relies on coal for most of its power, mining 1.8bn tons in 2004.
By fixing prices for electricity from solar and wind generated power, the government hopes to create financial incentives for existing operators and attract investment to these new markets.
But while there has been rapid expansion in the sustainable energy sector, it currently provides only a fraction of China's needs.
Currently wind power in China only contributes 0.01% to the power grid. To increase that to 10% in five years is ambitious, but in my opinion it's a target well worth aiming for. If China takes the same relentless attitude to pushing down the costs of wind turbine manufacture as it does with consumer goods the benefits may be realised around the world.
Full BBC News Article
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Alternate Energy Pakistan: US $875m Windpower Project to Provide 30% of Karachi's Needs
Sixteen companies from the US, Japan and China are taking part in the project, which will be built on 19,700 acres of government-provided land.
The windpower project, expected to employ 30-40,000 locals, will have a 50MW capacity, rising to as much as 900MW by 2010, he said.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Alternative Energy China: Asia's Largest Wind Farm
A private company plans to build Asia's biggest wind farm in the sea south of Shanghai, setting up 100 turbines in shallow coastal waters, an industry group said Thursday.
The announcement of the 2 billion yuan (US$250 million) project comes as China struggles with severe electricity shortages while also trying to reduce its heavy reliance on dirty coal-fired power plants.
Zhejiang Green Power Investment Co. is to build the project along the coast of Daishan County in Zhejiang, the province south of Shanghai, the China Electricity Council said. It didn't say when construction was to begin.
The wind farm is to have a generating capacity of 200 megawatts, according to the council, the main trade group for China's power industry.At the end of 2004, China's total wind power capacity was a mere 730 megawatts.