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Cheaper Solar Power Heads Mainstream

Timothy Gardner, Reuters via Common Dreams
Solar power should become a mainstream energy choice in three or four years as companies raise output of a key ingredient used in solar panels and as China emerges as a producer of them, according to a report by an environmental research group.

“We are now seeing two major trends that will accelerate the growth of photovoltaics: the development of advanced technologies, and the emergence of China as a low-cost producer,” Janet Sawin, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and an author of report, said in a statement.
(23 May 2007)

Hard wind

Stephen Moss, Guardian
The row over wind power rages more fiercely than ever. In Norfolk, the death of one would-be wind farmer is being linked to a battle over a big new development. Throughout the country, opponents complain of unbearable noise and uninhabitable houses. But are things really that bad?
Marshland St James is an isolated, functional, centre-less village, little more than a ribbon of houses along a country road surrounded by farms. In the far west of Norfolk, close to the borders with Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, it is a place that locals describe as “bandit country”. It is not a place you expect an issue of national importance to find its focus. But on Monday, just a few days before the government released its white paper on energy, a local farmer was found dead in a drainage canal close to his home. A statement from his family linked his death to a battle over wind farms that has torn the village apart.

…The bitterness and tragedy in Marshland St James are an extreme example of arguments that have been raging in other areas where wind farms have been sited or proposed.
(24 May 2007)

EU Crafting Biofuel Rules With Eye on Environment

Jeff Mason, Reuters via Planet Ark
The European Commission plans new measures to ensure increased use of biofuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions, an EU official said on Thursday.

In March, European Union leaders agreed to set a binding target for biofuels to make up at least 10 percent of petrol and diesel used by vehicles by 2020.

Paul Hodson, a Commission official involved in turning those targets into law, said the EU executive would set up a mechanism to ensure biofuels contribute to the 27-nation bloc’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We want to define a minimum sustainability standard,” he told a conference. “We want to say if you don’t meet the standards, you’re not eligible for state aid and it doesn’t count for the biofuel requirements.”

He listed three criteria that would likely be included in the legislation when determining whether biofuels were “sustainable”.

First, they must have a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings compared with fossil fuels, from production to actual use.

Second, land used to produce biofuels must not be areas such as wetlands that would have normally stored carbon in a natural way if it were not being used to grow crops. Draining a swamp, for example, to create land to grow biofuel crops would be discouraged, he said.

Third, the land used should not be home to a variety of plants or animals, what Hodson called a “high biodiversity quota”, which would be displaced or destroyed in order to make room for crop growing.
(25 May 2007)