Renewables - Aug 5
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Cellulosic Ethanol: Clutching At Straw ?
Big Gav, Peak Energy (Australia)
Round-up of articles and posts on ethanol.
(2 Aug 2006)
Abundant Power from Universal Geothermal Energy
Kevin Bullis, MIT Technology Review
An MIT chemical engineer explains why new technologies could finally make "heat mining" practical nearly anywhere on earth.
The answer to the world's energy needs may have been under our feet all this time, according to Jefferson Tester, professor of chemical engineering at the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. Tester says heat generated deep within the earth by the decay of naturally occurring isotopes has the potential to supply a tremendous amount of power -- thousands of times more than we now consume each year.
So far, we've been able to harvest only a tiny fraction of geothermal energy resources, taking advantage of places where local geology brings hot water and steam near the surface, such as in Iceland or California, where such phenomena have long been used to produce electricity. But new oil-field stimulation technology, developed for extracting oil from sources such as shale, makes it possible to harvest much more of this energy by allowing engineers to create artificial geothermal reservoirs many kilometers underground.
Tester calls it "universal geothermal" energy because the reservoirs could be located wherever they're needed, such as near power-hungry cities worldwide.
Technology Review spoke with Tester about the potential of universal geothermal energy and what it will take to make it a reality.
(1 Aug 2006)
China Makes Huge Breakthrough in Wind Power Technology
Zijun Li, World Watch Institute
Chinese developers unveiled the world’s first full-permanent magnetic levitation (Maglev) wind power generator at the Wind Power Asia Exhibition 2006 held June 28 in Beijing, according to Xinhua News. Regarded as a key breakthrough in the evolution of global wind power technology—and a notable advance in independent intellectual property rights in China—the generator was jointly developed by Guangzhou Energy Research Institute under China’s Academy of Sciences and by Guangzhou Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Science & Technology Co., Ltd.
The Maglev generator is expected to boost wind energy generating capacity by as much as 20 percent over traditional wind turbines. This would effectively cut the operational expenses of wind farms by up to half, keeping the overall cost of wind power under 0.4 yuan ($US 5 cents), according to Guokun Li, the chief scientific developer of the new technology. Further, the Maglev is able to utilize winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 meters per second (m/s), and cut-in speeds of 3 m/s, the chief of Zhongke Energy was quoted as saying at the exhibition. When compared with the operational hours of existing wind turbines, the new technology will add an additional 1,000 hours of operation annually to wind power plants in areas with an average wind speed of 3 m/s.
Xinhua News reports that more than 70 million households in China lack access to electricity, with most of them living in areas unconnected to power grids. The widely scattered nature of rural localities makes it difficult to supply grid-based power to these areas. The use of the full-permanent Maglav generator could potentially fill the power void in these locations by harnessing low-speed wind resources that were previously untappable.
(4 July 2006)
India hopes to double wind power generation by 2007
Unni Krishnan, Reuters
India hopes to almost double its wind power generation to 10,000 megawatts by the end of 2007 to meet rising energy demand and cut its reliance on dirty coal and costly oil, a minister said on Wednesday.
Capacity in the world's fourth-largest wind power generator rose by 45 percent in the year to March 2006, to 5,340 megawatts.
Big industrial units like state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and Indian Oil Corp. are now scrambling to set up wind farms, which attract hefty tax breaks.
"The trend has been set. We added nearly 2,000 MW in the previous year. I am confident by next year we will have 10,000 megawatts from wind power," Vilas Muttemwar, minister for non-conventional energy sources told Reuters in an interview.
"Lot of people are exploring and the experience so far has been good."
Electricity produced from wind is currently costlier than that from gas, thermal or hydro plants, but tax breaks, lower equipment import duties, and cheap loans keep prices competitive.
Indian allows 100 percent of investment in wind projects to be written off against tax over a period of two years.
(2 Aug 2006)