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Climate change experts ‘lose faith’ in renewable technology

David Adam, Guardian
Specialists less optimistic that wind, solar and hydro power have ‘high potential’ to solve climate crisis, survey shows

Support for renewable energy technology to fight global warming is weakening in the face of worldwide economic problems and the true scale of the carbon reductions required, a survey published today has suggested.

Figures presented at the UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland, show that climate experts have less faith in alternative energy than they did 12 months ago.

The survey shows less support for wind energy, solar power, biofuels, biomass and hydrogen energy as technologies with “high potential” to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere over the next 25 years.

There was also less support for carbon capture and storage, new nuclear build, small-scale hydropower and natural gas stations as viable ways to hit targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
(9 December 2008)

Solar’s future doesn’t look quite so sunny

Bob Keefe, Cox News Service
The solar industry, whose future seemed so bright just a few months ago, suddenly looks as if it’s headed for a shakeout.

Falling oil prices, supply issues and the evaporation of financing for solar projects have moved in like clouds over the industry, just as it was poised for unprecedented growth.

Even as new solar factories opened recently in Austin, Texas, and greater Atlanta, several big solar companies in China and Canada warned that they’ll pull back on expansion plans and preserve cash after customers canceled projects and credit markets dried up. Shares of many publicly held solar companies have fared even worse than the overall stock market.
(7 December 2008

Floating Offshore Wind Power

Big Gav, Our Clean Energy Future
Matthew Simmons has received quite a bit of press in the past week, after his Ocean Energy Institute floated a proposal to build a $25 billion, 5 GW wind farm in the Gulf of Maine.

Offshore wind farms have a number of advantages over their land based equivalents – they are less hazardous to wildlife, have fewer objections raised on NIMBY concerns and winds are generally stronger over the oceans than they are over land.

Ideally, offshore wind farms will be far enough away from land to avoid being seen from the shoreline, eliminating any residual objections from local residents. Current offshore projects tend to site turbines in waters less than 20 metres deep – going further offshore would mean locating them at depths of 50 meters or more, which is too deep to build supporting towers or trusses down to the sea floor at an affordable cost.

A solution to this problem is floating platforms – one of the key elements of the Ocean Energy Institute proposal. In this post I’ll look at some of the work being done to develop floating offshore wind power platforms in order to enable these sorts of schemes to become a reality.
(8 December 2008)

Indonesia: New energy scheme not a load of bull

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Jakarta Post
A farmer from Pasuruan has discovered a way to generate electricity by converting methane gas from cow manure into energy, inspiring social workers to explore this technology as a possible way to combat the power crisis in remote regions of the province.

Hadi Susilo, a resident from the Purwosari district and graduate from the USAID Environmental Service Program, used his modified generator to power a fan, a television set, rice cooker, VCD player and energy saving lights for one and half hours.

The Ma’arif Aliyah (senior high school) Islamic school graduate coined the design after noticing the abundance of cow manure in his village, most of which was used for compost.

Initially Hadi required one cubic meter of gas comprising of 80 percent methane, 20 percent carbon and less than 1 percent water for his process.

“Now I can produce 3 cubic meters of methane each day, and soon the gas will be able to produce even greater amounts of energy,” he told The Jakarta Post recently.

Hadi admitted he had little training in physics, chemistry and technology design when he first developed the technology in 1977 but said he did receive help from alumni at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). These alumni were working under the Institute for Development and Studies on Energy Saving (LPPBE) at the time.

“Hadi is an innovator and source of motivation for other farmers. Through him, hopefully other farmers will recycle their cow-manure for more practical and valuable purposes,” said Bintoro W. Prabowo, ESP USAID’s public outreach and communications specialist.Puguh Iryantoro, LPPBE, said his team wanted to employ Hadi to educate other farmers about the technology and assist in reducing their reliance on the state-owned electricity company PT PLN.
(10 December 2008)

Sweet Answer to a Fuel Problem

Michael Pollitt, The Guardian

Did you know that petrol and diesel now contain a minimum of 2.5% biofuels? Thanks to the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, this requirement will rise to 5% by 2010.

While motorists won’t notice any difference when filling up, this important change is expected to prevent the emission of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next few years. But might biofuels be helping to solve one major environmental issue simply to create another? For Valerie Dupont, of Leeds University, the increasing use of biofuels means a sticky problem. For every tonne of biodiesel made from vegetable oil, 100 kilograms of thick, viscous glycerol is produced as a byproduct.

The annual 6.8bn litres biodiesel production in the European Union yields around 0.68m tonnes of crude glycerol. Although some of the sweet-tasting liquid can be purified for pharmaceutical or food applications, the rest ends up as waste…
(4 December 2008)