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‘Wave snakes’ switch on to harness ocean’s power

Alok Jha, The Guardian
From a distance, they look like nothing more than thin red lines on the horizon, easily lost amid the tumbling blue of the Atlantic Ocean. But get closer and the significance of the 140m-long tubes, 10 years in the making by a British company and now floating in the sea off the coast of Portugal, becomes apparent: they are the beginning of an entirely new industry in the hunt for clean power.

Yesterday, the red snake-like devices were inaugurated as part of the world’s first commercial-scale wave-power station, three miles from the coast of the northern Portuguese town of Aguçadoura. The project, which will generate clean electricity for more than 1,000 family homes in its first phase, marks the latest step in Portugal’s moves to become a leader in developing renewable energy sources.

At the heart of the Aguçadoura power station are three cylindrical wave energy converters, designed and built by the Edinburgh-based company Pelamis Wave Power. Moving up and down on the endless supply of waves in the open sea, they convert the motion into electricity, without emitting any of the carbon dioxide responsible for warming the planet…

…At peak output, the Pelamis wave machines near Aguçadoura will generate 2.25MW, enough for the annual needs of about 1,500 family homes. Eventually, the station will be expanded with a further 25 Pelamis machines so that it can generate up to 21MW of power. That will save 60,000 tonnes of CO2 per year compared with a conventional fossil fuel plant…

…Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the UK government’s energy secretary, John Hutton, should take urgent note of the developments in Portugal. “Wave technology invented in Scotland is powering Portuguese homes and making money for Portuguese suppliers, because our government has consistently neglected the renewables industry here in the UK.”…

(24 September 2008)

Electricity From What Cows Leave Behind

Katie Zezima, New York Times
FOR years, the cows at Green Mountain Dairy here produced only milk and manure. But recently they have generated something else: electricity.

The farm is part of a growing alternative energy program that converts the methane gas from cow manure into electricity that is sold to the power utility’s grid.

Central Vermont Public Service, which supplies electricity to 158,000 customers around the state, was among the first utilities in the country to draw electricity from cow manure on dairy farms. About 4,000 utility customers participate by agreeing to pay a premium for the electricity.

“We realized we could help meet a customer demand for renewables, help solve a manure management problem and make these farmers more financially secure,” said Steve Costello, a spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service.

Four Vermont dairy farms are producing electricity for the utility, and two more are expected to be online by year’s end, Mr. Costello said. The utility hopes to add six more farms by 2010…
(23 September 2008)

UK’s renewable energy efforts ‘ineffective’

Terry Macalister, The Guardian
The government’s renewable power strategy is “ineffective and very expensive”, according to a damning review by the International Energy Agency.

A study of 35 countries, including all the major industrial nations such as the US, Germany and China, puts the UK near the bottom of the class on green energy.

While ministers like to boast that the Britain leads the field, Paolo Frankl, author of the IEA report and head of renewables, believes its overall record is poor.

“We estimate that, in 2005 terms, it [British green power] costs around 13.5 US cents per kilowatt hour over 20 years and registers 3% on our effectiveness indicator. This compares with costs below 10 cents and effectiveness of almost 12% in Germany,” said Frankl, author of Deploying Renewables: Principles for Effective Policies.

Frankl said the UK had not improved in relative terms since then. “Things may have changed but I would not say drastically, especially compared with countries which have changed and become very efficient such as Spain and Portugal.”…
(30 September 2008)