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Renewables - Dec 12

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A Young Tinkerer Builds a Windmill, Electrifying a Nation
Mr. Kamkwamba's Creation
Spurs Hope in Malawi;
Entrepreneurs Pay Heed

Sarah Childress, Wall Street Journal
MASITALA, Malawi -- On a continent woefully short of electricity, 20-year-old William Kamkwamba has a dream: to power up his country one windmill at a time.

So far, he has built three windmills in his yard here, using blue-gum trees and bicycle parts. His tallest, at 39 feet, towers over this windswept village, clattering away as it powers his family's few electrical appliances: 10 six-watt light bulbs, a TV set and a radio. The machine draws in visitors from miles around.
WSJ's Sarah Childress meets William Kamkwamba, a 20-year-old Malawian who built a makeshift windmill to power his family's home.

Self-taught, Mr. Kamkwamba took up windmill building after seeing a picture of one in an old textbook. He's currently working on a design for a windmill powerful enough to pump water from wells and provide lighting for Masitala, a cluster of buildings where about 60 families live.

Then, he wants to build more windmills for other villages across the country.
(12 December 2007)


Energy consultant points to opportunities in green efforts

Tom Fowler, Houston Chronicle
A growing acceptance of human-induced climate change and the link between energy and national security has pushed conservation into the mainstream, industry consultant Joseph Stanislaw says, giving consumers more power than ever before.

In a paper to be released during the Deloitte Oil & Gas Conference in Houston today, Stanislaw says energy consumption has become a political issue because of greater awareness of its effect "on our wallets, on foreign policy, the environment and climate change."

In turn, that is changing how governments and companies are answering the world's growing demand for energy. It's no longer a matter of just finding more supplies but also finding ways to use less.

"Conservation isn't sacrifice, it's opportunity," said Stanislaw, a well-known economist and co-founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "The amount of investment that will be made in the coming decades in these areas will be enormous."

There will still be a need for huge supplies of oil and natural gas for decades to come, he said, but the breakthrough in perception means long-term changes.
(11 December 2007)


Airborne Wind Turbines

David Gelles, New York Times
Traditional wind turbines can be unreliable sources of energy because, well, the wind blows where it will. Not the case 1,000 feet up. “At a thousand feet, there is steady wind anywhere in the world,” says Mac Brown, chief operating officer of Ottawa-based Magenn Power.

To take advantage of this constant breeze, Brown has developed a lighter-than-air wind turbine capable of powering a rural village. “Picture a spinning Goodyear blimp,” Brown says. Filled with helium, outfitted with electrical generators and tethered to the ground by a conductive copper cable, the 100-foot-wide Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS) will produce 10 kilowatts of energy anywhere on earth. As the turbine spins around a horizontal axis, the generators convert the mechanical energy of the wind into electrical energy, then send it down for immediate use or battery storage.

Planning for the MARS has been under way for a few years, but this fall Magenn got the $5 million it needed to build prototypes from a California investor.
(9 December 2007)


Big Oil lets sun set on renewables

Terry Macalister, The Guardian,
Shell, the oil company that recently trumpeted its commitment to a low carbon future by signing a pre-Bali conference communique, has quietly sold off most of its solar business.

The move, taken with rival BP's decision last week to invest in the world's dirtiest oil production in Canada's tar sands, indicates that Big Oil might be giving up its flirtation with renewables and going back to its roots.

Shell and BP are among the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, but both have been keen to paint themselves green through a series of clean fuel initiatives.

...The Anglo-Dutch oil group confirmed yesterday that it had pulled out of its rural business in India and Sri Lanka, saying it was not making enough money.

"It was not bringing in any profit for us there so we transferred it to another operator. The buyer will be able to take it to the next level," said a spokeswoman at Shell headquarters in London.

The oil group said it was continuing to move its renewables interests into a mainstream business and hoped to find one new power source that would "achieve materiality" for it. Shell continues to invest in a number of wind farm schemes, such as the London Array offshore scheme, which has government approval. Shell has also been concentrating its efforts on biofuels, but declined to say whether it had given up on solar power even though many smaller rivals continue to believe the technology has a bright future.

Environmental groups have always accused Shell of using clean energy initiatives as "greenwash" to deflect criticism from its core carbon operations, especially tar sands.
(11 December 2007)

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