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Sun, sewage and algae: a recipe for success?

Damian Carrington, The Guardian
There’s not much that’s more renewable than sewage. So the idea of turning human waste into algae and then into biofuel is an attractive one and is now going to be put to the test on a commercial scale in southern Spain.

The €12m project will see the sunny skies of Cadiz beaming down on open ponds in which algae suck up the nutrients from the waste water. If all goes to plan over the next five years, the plant will produce about three tonnes of algae a day from 10 hectares of ponds, enough to run about 200 vehicles.

The project is led by Aqualia, the third largest private water company in the world, with six other technology and academic partners providing expertise. The European Commission has provided €7m of the €12m funding.
(6 March 2012)

One of Largest Wind Farms Built in Ohio

Agence France-Presse, Industry Week
Energy giant Iberdrola has completed one of the world’s biggest wind farms in the US state of Ohio, which will produce more than 300 megawatts of power, it said on March 5.

Iberdrola “has completed construction of the Blue Creek wind farm in the United States, one of the largest such facilities in the world with installed capacity of 304 megawatts”, the company said…
(5 March 2012)

‘Germans Are Willing to Pay’ for Renewable Energies

Der Spiegel
In a SPIEGEL interview, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, 46, discusses the nuclear phase-out, controversial solar power subsidies and why he believes Chancellor Angela Merkel’s energy revolution — which will see the country move to clean energies — is still on track.

SPIEGEL: How great is the risk that the power will go out?

Röttgen: The recent cold temperatures have highlighted how well our energy supply works. The power supply was secure at all times. We had the lowest market electricity prices in Europe and exported massive amounts of electricity. When we did approach critical situations recently, it wasn’t the fault of renewable energy, but of electricity speculators.

SPIEGEL: The grid operators say that they now have to intervene again and again to prevent blackouts, and that this never happened in the past.

Röttgen: It’s true that expansion of the power grid is critical. We are behind in this respect, but it’s a sin of the past. For years, the major electric utilities had no real interest in investing in the grids, because grids mean competition. This is now changing, but it takes years, not months. New grids will be built bit by bit…

SPIEGEL: Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas says that Germany can only afford the nuclear phase-out because France and the Czech Republic are still producing electricity with nuclear power. Is he right?

Röttgen: No. It’s a matter of course that we buy electricity from our neighbors, just as they buy it from us. The bottom line is that last year Germany was still a net exporter of electricity and not a net importer. Besides, the Federal Network Agency determined last year that most of the additional electricity we imported was not from nuclear power plants…
(6 March 2012)

Wadebridge, the UK’s first solar-powered town – video

The Guardian
Wadebridge in Cornwall aims to become the first town in the country to run significantly on renewable energy sources. This film documents a local activist group’s efforts to convince the rest of the community that solar panels and wind turbines are the way forward

View video
(7 March 2012)

Packing some power

The Economist
SUMMER in Texas last year was the hottest on record. Demand for power spiked as air conditioners hummed across the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state grid operator, only narrowly avoided having to impose rolling blackouts. To do so, it had to buy all the electricity it could find on the spot market, in some cases paying an eye-watering 30 times the normal price.

On paper at least, ERCOT ought to have had plenty of power. In 2010 it reported 84,400 megawatts (MW) of total generation capacity, well over last summer’s peak demand of 68,294MW. In theory, this is enough to produce some 740 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year—more than double the 319 billion kWh that ERCOT’s customers actually demanded during 2010. In electricity generation, however, aggregates and averages carry little weight. One problem is that wind energy accounted for 9,500MW of ERCOT’s total capacity, and the wind does not blow all the time. It tends to be strongest at night, when demand is low. Moreover, power firms are required by regulators to maintain a safety margin over total estimated demand—of 13.75%, in ERCOT’s case—in order to ensure reliable supply.

If only it were easier for ERCOT and other utilities to store excess energy, such as that produced by wind turbines at night, for later use at peak times. Such “time shifting” would compensate for the intermittent nature of wind and solar power, making them more attractive and easier to integrate into the grid. Energy storage also allows “peak shaving”. By tapping stored energy rather than firing up standby generators, utilities can save money by avoiding expensive spot-market purchases…
(3 March 2012)

Controversial renewable energy report branded ‘shoddy nonsense’

Jessica Shankleman, Business Green
The government and renewable energy businesses have slammed the findings of a controversial report that claimed 2020 carbon reduction targets could be achieved more cost effectively by building nuclear and gas-fired power stations instead of wind farms.

The report, Powerful Targets, launched yesterday by independent consultancy AF Consult, was based on a study originally developed with consultancy KPMG last year, which formed the basis of a number of media reports attacking the cost of renewable energy.

As revealed by BusinessGreen, KPMG subsequently refused to release the full findings over concerns they were “ripe for misinterpretation”, after the methodology was attacked by green groups, including trade body RenewableUK.

The full report by AF Consult has been published independently from KPMG and contains starker findings than the initial paper.

While the preliminary report suggested that ditching plans for a massive expansion in wind power capacity in favour of nuclear and gas could save the UK £34bn, AF Consult estimates this figure at £45bn.

The report presented three scenarios with varying green policy demands. Scenario one was calculated with no policy targets and estimated the capital spend on new power generation would be £28bn by 2020…
(5 March 2012)