Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Reducing Electricity Costs With Solar Panels and Wind Turbines in Scotland

Scotland's Herald reports that a quiet revolution is sweeping the country. It involves hundreds of schools, community groups and small businesses turning to wind turbines and solar panels to provide their power.

According to new figures, there has been an upsurge in small-scale renewable energy projects, with a 14-fold increase over the past five years. They are supported by the results of a new survey showing that about 70% of Scots would consider installing a renewable energy device in their home. The survey and figures were released after Friday's announcement that Windsave, the Glasgow-based firm, has signed an exclusive agreement with British Gas to install wind turbines on private and local authority-owned properties.

The company sold one of its first rooftop turbines to Brian Wilson, the former energy minister, who installed it on the roof of his home in the west end of Glasgow. Nearly 300 households have already invested in renewable technology, according to figures collated by the Scottish Renewables Forum. They show that the number of communities and businesses turning to green energy has increased from just 19 in 2000 to 273 this year. A further 83 have applied for planning permission.

Although many such projects reflect a concern for the environment, they are also an effective way of cutting fuel bills, according to Scottish Renewables. One school, St John Bosco primary in Erskine, is expecting to save about £6000 a year after installing a wind turbine at Easter.
The devices used range from wind turbines and solar panels to lesser-known technologies such as biomass heating and micro-hydropower systems.

Maf Smith, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, described the growing interest in small-scale renewables as a "quiet revolution sweeping the country".

A survey commissioned by the Scottish Renewables Forum shows it is not only community groups and small businesses that are interested in the potential of renewable energy.

Individual households are also keen, with 92% saying they thought domestic renewable devices were a good idea. It also found that a majority of Scots would consider putting in some sort of renewable device, with solar panels the most popular option. Of the 848 people interviewed by NOP World, 33% said they would consider putting up a wind turbine.

Among the various concerns that might stop householders investing in green energy, the biggest were cost, cited by 33%, and a lack of information which 20% felt was a problem.

Scottish Renewables said groups such as the Scottish Community and Householder Renewables Initiative (SCHRI) and the Energy Savings Trust could help tackle those obstacles to further growth in small-scale projects. Since it was set up in January 2003, the Scottish Executive-funded initiative has awarded about 150 grants worth £3.8m to help community projects and 390 awards, worth £678,000, to households.

The figures show that renewable devices are being installed in schools, businesses, ferry terminals and care homes across Scotland, although the majority are in the Highlands and Islands. The Highlands will have a total of 37 such projects by the end of this year, with biomass and wind the most popular sources of energy.

In Orkney, where there are 33 projects, turbines and heat pumps make up the majority of renewable devices installed, while in the Western Isles, solar panels are the most popular, making up nearly 40% of the total number installed.

"A 14-fold increase in micro-generation by Scottish communities and businesses in five years is a great achievement and it's good to know that many Scottish-designed devices are being used," according to Maf Smith.

Windsave Competitor - Stealth Gen

For U.S. readers pico wind generators "from $50"

Full Scottish Herald Article with list of rural alternative energy projects in Scotland

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wind Power USA: First Offshore Wind Farm in the United States To Be Built in Georgia?

Southern Company and the Georgia Institute of Technology announced today that they will collaborate on the Southeast's first offshore wind power project off the coast of Savannah, Georgia.

In their press release the Southern Company have stated that the goal of the project is to determine if offshore wind power is a feasible and efficient renewable energy option for power generation. The project concept is expected to include three to five wind turbines that could generate 10 megawatts of power, enough to power about 2,500 homes.

"We remain interested in finding viable renewable energy options that can play a part in meeting the growing demands of our customers," said David Ratcliffe, president, chairman and CEO of Southern Company. "Our partnership with Georgia Tech presents us a unique opportunity to assess offshore wind power as a cost-effective option for generating power in our region."

The first step of the project, a design and conceptual engineering phase, will start in July using technical expertise from both Georgia Tech and Southern Company. The first phase of the project will evaluate various technology options for wind turbines, platforms/foundations, submarine cabling and grid interconnection. Detailed analyses of a site location and environmental regulations and jurisdictions, including permitting requirements, will also be determined.

The project is a continuation of research conducted by Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Initiative, a research group devoted to testing both the scientific and economic feasibility of innovative technologies. The research was funded with a National Science Foundation grant focused on innovative energy options in the coastal Georgia region.

Though many discounted the Southeast as a possible site for offshore wind turbines, the Georgia Tech group, led by Dr. Sam Shelton, was able to prove that there may be enough wind for power generation by analyzing six years of wind data collected from Navy platforms located off the coast of Savannah. The strong westerly winds that blow along Georgia's coastal waters coupled with the technological advances seen in the last few decades make this offshore region the best site in the Southeast for an offshore wind demonstration project.

In addition to its plentiful wind, the area is also ideal for offshore wind because of its extensive area of shallow water at distances beyond the shoreline view, which could reduce building costs and avoid the challenges of building and operating wind turbines in deep-water.

The project also has the potential to be the first offshore wind project completed in the United States. There are only two other planned U.S. offshore wind projects, one near Fire Island and Long Island off the coast of New York and another between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, but both are much larger than the Southern Co./Georgia Tech project and neither has been approved.

Georgia Institute of Technology Official Website

Southern Company Official Website

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Wind Energy: Nasa Funded Study Identifies 72 Terawatts of Global Wind Power Potential

Stanford researchers have produced a new map that pinpoints where the world's winds are fast enough to produce wind power. The map may help planners place wind turbines in locations that maximize power harnessed from winds and provide widely available low-cost energy. After analyzing more than 8,000 wind-speed measurements to identify the world's wind-power potential for the first time, Cristina Archer, a former postdoctoral fellow, and Mark Z. Jacobson, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, suggest that wind captured at specific locations, if even partially harnessed, can generate more than enough power to satisfy the world's energy demands. Their report appears in the May Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

"The main implication of this study is that wind, for low-cost wind energy, is more widely available than was previously recognized," said Archer.

The researchers collected wind-speed measurements from approximately 7,500 surface stations and 500 balloon-launch stations to determine global wind speeds at 80 meters (300 feet) above the ground surface, which is the hub height of modern wind turbines. Using a new interpolation technique to estimate the wind speed at hub height, the authors reported that nearly 13 percent of the stations had average annual speeds strong enough for windpower generation.

Wind speeds of 6.9 meters per second (15 miles per hour) at hub height, referred to as wind power Class 3, were found in every region of the world. Some of the strongest winds were observed in Northern Europe, along the North Sea, while the southern tip of South America and the Australian island of Tasmania also featured sustained strong winds. North America had the greatest wind-power potential, however, with the most consistent winds found in the Great Lakes region and from ocean breezes along coasts. Overall, the researchers calculated hub-height winds traveled over the ocean at approximately 8.6 meters per second and at nearly 4.5 meters per second over land (20 and 10 miles per hour, respectively).

The authors found that the locations with sustainable Class 3 winds could produce approximately 72 terawatts, that's 72,000 Gigawatts or 72 million Megawatts. A terawatt is one trillion watts, the power generated by more than 500 nuclear reactors or thousands of coal-burning plants. Capturing even a fraction of those 72 terawatts could provide the 1.6 to 1.8 terawatts that made up the world's electricity usage in 2000. Converting as little as 20 percent of potential wind energy to electricity could satisfy the entirety of the world's energy demands.

The study, supported by NASA and Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project, may assist in locating wind farms in regions known for strong and consistent breezes. In addition, the researchers suggest that the inland locations of many existing wind farms may explain their inefficiency.

"It is our hope that this study will foster more research in areas that were not covered by our data, or economic analyses of the barriers to the implementation of a wind-based global energy scenario," Archer said.

Update: The excellent group blog WorldChanging has an image of the Global Wind Power Map

Original Article on Stanford University's Website

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Grassroots Action: Switching to Green Energy in Cornwall, England

Eden Project in Cornwall, England

A non-profit word-of-mouth campaign encouraging people to switch to Green Energy tariffs is being launched at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England on the 12th May. After covering campaign costs, ten pounds (around $20) is being donated to charity for every household which switches to a Green Energy tariff. The charities supported include the Cornwall Green Communities Fund, which will support small-scale renewable energy and energy-saving projects that benefit local communities.

Let me know in the comments if you've switched to a renewable energy tariff yet.

Cornwall Switch to Green Energy Campaign

Cornwall Geothermal

More Photos of the Eden Project by Les St Clair

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Peak Oil: Non-Geological Peak Scenario

Geoff Styles has written a post on a recent report on peak oil by Science Applications International (SAIC) which was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy. What is particularly of note in Geoff's analysis is his emphasis on non-geological factors such as "geopolitics, access, and industry investment patterns".

In what I'm going to call the Styles Scenario - oil production could reach a temporary peak based on non-geological factors which could become permanent as a result of underdevelopment of resources by OPEC.

I agree with Geoff, time is wasting. The world needs a serious discussion about where our future energy supplies are going to come from.

The Styles Scenario: Geoff Styles' full post on a possible non-geological peak in oil production