Saturday 19 December 2009

Copenhagen Chaos and Crisis

Oh no the "leaders" of all our Governments have failied to agree on long term climate change.

What we have witnessed is political jockeying, self interest and fudge. We all know something has to be done but our elected (well not all are elected) "leaders" have not provided any real solution. We are all in the 'dark'.

The reality of a global financial meltdown have scared the west into inaction - they can't afford it, financially and perhaps more telling, politically.

Tell us what you think, we are simply going to start building alternative energy solutions and make a difference, the political squad can carry on talking!

Friday 18 December 2009

Report: Carbon Capture Adds 50%+ To Power Cost ( large-scale projects and coal-fired power plants, in particular)

A new report from Pike Research of Colorado says the addition of carbon capture systems to power plants will add 50% to 70% to the cost of creating electricity for existing and future plants.

The report, titled “Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Drivers and Barriers, Technology Issues, Key Industry Players, Market Analysis and Forecasts,” adds that such increases in costs will be initially underwritten by governments but gradually passed on to ratepayers.

The report will be a wakeup call to many on the potential of such systems, which are targeted at large-scale projects and coal-fired power plants in particular, the latter accounting for half of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions.

Pike estimates that the CCS industry will grow to revenue of $221.5 billion by 2030. The margins, however, will be low, hovering “close to zero,” and “even over the longer term, the CCS industry, heavily subsidized and equally heavily regulated, will produce relatively low profits. In addition, margins will vary widely along the vertical chain of CCS, from capture to transport to geological storage.”

However, as the report notes, predicting the future profitability is guesswork, since the price of carbon emissions (i.e, the penalties for emitting too much) “will likely be set initially by government fiat and, over the longer term, market forces that are impossible to predict with confidence.”

The full report is available for purchase by contacting:

Thursday 17 December 2009

Clean Algae Biofuel Project Leads World in Productivity

Australian scientists are achieving the world's best production rates of oil from algae grown in open saline ponds, taking them a step closer to creating commercial quantities of clean biofuel for the future.

A joint $3.3 million project led by Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, and involving the University of Adelaide in South Australia, now leads world algae biofuel research after more than 12 months of consistent results at both universities.

“It was previously believed impossible to grow large quantities of algae for biofuel in open ponds consistently and without contamination, but we've proven it can be done,” says Project Leader Professor Michael Borowitzka from Murdoch University.

The project has received $1.89 million funding from the Australian Government as part of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

“This is the only biofuel project in Australia working simultaneously on all steps in the process of microalgal biofuels production, from microalgae culture, harvesting of the algae and extraction of oil suitable for biofuels production,” Professor Borowitzka says.

Professor Borowitzka says that due to the project’s success, construction of a multi-million dollar pilot plant to test the whole process on a larger scale will now begin in Karratha in the North-West in January and is expected to be operational by July.

“We have achieved production rates of 50 tonnes per hectare per year, over half of which is converted to oil. These high production rates are expected to increase at the new pilot plant due to the even better climatic conditions in Karratha.”

Professor Borowitzka says the cost of producing biofuel from algae has already dropped from $12 a kilo to below $4 in the past year, but the aim is to get it down to less than $1 a kilo.

Africa: Climate Hubs Could Drive Clean Energy Research

Copenhagen — Africa needs new sources of clean energy, including a mix of wind and solar energy technologies, and should introduce 'climate innovation centres' to speed their uptake, energy experts have said.

Oliver Knight, energy advisor at the UK Department for International Development, said that the severe water shortages predicted for Africa as a result of climate change mean that the continent cannot rely on hydropower as its only clean energy source.

"Africa needs to diversify from hydroelectric power, which becomes less reliable with less rainfall," Knight said after addressing a session on low carbon energy sources at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen (7-18 December).

Different mixes of technologies would be appropriate for different countries, he said. For example, a mix of wind, solar and geothermal energies could work in Kenya, whereas hydropower, bio-energy and geothermal would be more relevant for Rwanda, which has less wind and solar radiation.

But the continent does not need to launch a massive research and development programme in its quest for clean technologies, said Knight. Rather, it should use existing technologies and adapt them to local conditions and needs.

Friday 27 November 2009

Estuary Power: Osmosis

On Tuesday, 24 November, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway will be opening the world’s first osmotic power plant at Tofte, outside Oslo.
The prototype that will be opened at Tofte on 24 November has been in development for more than a year. The plant will have a limited production capacity and is intended primarily for testing and development purposes. The aim is to be capable of constructing a commercial osmotic power plant within a few years’ time.

“In an era of major climate change and an increasing need for clean energy, we are proud to be presenting a renewable energy source which has never been harnessed until now. We are also most grateful that the Crown Princess wishes to lend her support to this milestone in our development of osmotic power”, says Statkraft CEO, Bård Mikkelsen.
The energy is based on the natural phenomenon osmosis, defined as being the transport of water through a semi-permeable membrane. This is how plants can absorb moisture through their leaves – and retain it. When fresh water meets salt water, for instance where a river runs into the sea, enormous amounts of energy are released. This energy can be utilized for the generation of power through osmosis.
At the osmotic power plant, fresh water and salt water are guided into separate chambers, divided by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the sea water pulls the freshwater through the membrane, increasing the pressure on the sea water side. The pressure equals a 120 metre water column, or a significant waterfall, and be utilized in a power generating turbine.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Stirling Dish - Off Grid Independence

Stirling-Dish Systems are small power generation sets which generate electricity by using direct solar radiation. The capacity of a single unit is typically between 5 and 25 (50) kWel. This size and the modularity of the single units qualifies the Stirling-Dish system for very flexible applications. They are ideal for stand-alone or other decentralised applications. In clusters with a capacity of up to 10 MW, Stirling-Dish systems can even meet moderate-scale grid-connected demands.

Stirling-Dish Systems transfer concentrated solar radiation with high efficiencies [up to nearly 30%] into electrical energy. Essentially the system consists of the following components:

  • · Parabolic solar concentrator
  • · Tracking system
  • · Solar heat exchanger (Receiver)
  • · Stirling engine with generator
The parabolic concentrator reflects the incoming solar radiation onto a cavity receiver which is located at the concentrator’s focal point. The solar radiation is absorbed by the heat exchanger (receiver) and thus heats the working gas (helium or hydrogen) of the Stirling engine to temperatures of about 650oC. This heat is converted into mechanical energy by the Stirling engine. 

An electrical generator, directly connected to the crankshaft of the engine, converts the mechanical energy into electricity (AC). To constantly keep the reflected radiation at the focal point during the day, a sun-tracking system rotates the solar concentrator continuously about two axes to follow the daily path of the sun.
The electrical output of the system is proportional to the size of the reflector, its optical performance and the efficiencies of the Stirling engine and the generator.

UNDP-WHO report on energy access in developing countries

Currently, about 1.5 billion people in developing countries lack access to electricity and about 3 billion people rely on solid fuels for cooking. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without access to electricity and modern fuels is similar (respectively 560 and 625 million people). In Asian regions, while people may have access to electricity, they often lack access to modern fuels. In East Asia and Pacific, less than 200 million people lack electricity access, but almost 1.1 billion people rely on solid fuels for cooking. 

The attention of the global energy access situation report highlights that three billion people still rely on traditional biomass and coal; with a striking two million deaths per year associated with indoor burning of these solid fuels in unventilated kitchens. Almost two billion people need modern energy services by 2015 to accelerate Millennium Development Goal's achievement.

Greater broad-based efforts are needed to expand access to modern energy services to those who lack access, especially to heat for cooking and to mechanical power in rural and remote areas. Unless massive efforts are made to expand the range, quality, and quantity of energy services available to the poor, countries are unlikely to achieve their development aspirations.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Solar Power Optimizers Gaining Market Share - Renewable Energy World

Solar Power Optimizers Gaining Market Share - Renewable Energy World

A quick look at the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and micro-inverter markets.

Demand for solar energy could be down as much as 17% on the year for 2009. This is the stark reality the industry is facing as it slowly emerges from the recession that has caused demand for energy across the world to drop for the first time in a half-century. While this may put a damper on power industry growth in the short-term, long-term energy demand worldwide is expected to double by 2050 and with concerns about climate change on the rise, the prospects for the solar power industry remain bright.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Oil From Algae: CO2 Reduction Bio-Diesel Output

  • The yields of oil and fuels from algae are much higher (10-100 times) than competing energy crops
  • Algae can grow practically anywhere, thus ensuring that there is no competition with food crops.
  • Algae are excellent bioremediation agents - they have the potential to absorb massive amounts of CO2 and can play an important role in sewage and wastewater treatment.
  • Algae are the only feedstock that have the potential to completely replace world's consumption of transportation fuels.
  • Algae are already being used in a wide variety of industries and applications, and many newer applications are being discovered. Such a wide range of end-uses enable companies to produce both fuels and non-fuel products from the same algae feedstock

Wednesday 18 November 2009

European Commission Projects 80% Renewable Energy by 2050

More than 550 high-level political decision makers at EU, national and regional level, representatives of the renewable energy industry, NGOs and scientists gathered in Brussels for the 3rd European Renewable Energy Policy Conference, organized by EREC as an official event of the Swedish EU Presidency.

"Renewable energy is the competitive advantage of Europe and the key to a sustainable 21st century economy. We have to make renewable energy the mainstream source of our energy system." Prof. Arthouros Zervos, President, EREC

The conference showed a broad consensus that renewable energy will be the mainstream source of Europe's energy supply by 2050.

Solar Ponds: How do they Work

In very hot nations a solar pond is an inexpesive way to produce process heat and/or electricity:

A Solar Pond is a large shallow highly saline body of water. The salinity gradient actually traps the heat from the sun in the bottom layer. The temperature can get up to 100 C! Whilst the upper layers act as a form of insulation, this means that the heat is retained overnight.

In practice this heat can be used for a wide range of applications for a great many industries by various forms of heat exchanger systems within the bottom layer of the pond. 

Alternatively the lower layer of water can be pumped out and replaced at the top.

The generation of electrical power can be done by introducing further heat exchanges and turbines into the mix. 

As the water is not particulaly hot for electrical generation other means of improving the temperature gradient can be utilised to keep the generation fairly constant. Like any system energy in has to equal energy out. Therefore if you extract too much energy the system can collapse. However with careful monitoring this can be avoided.

Sun Earth Energy are proposing a pilot plant to initiate a larger Solar Pond developement right now. As the salt content of the water is the most crucial factor the locations are best next to the ocean, and even then 12 months of evaporation is needed to get to the required salinity content (about 500kg of salt for every square meter of surface)!

Wish us luck. The initial generation capacity will have a peak 5MW and the full cluster configuration will generate a peak 30MW. Not bad for just a boring stretch of water.

And by the way one of the principle directors of Sun Earth Energy did his PhD in 1991 on the computer modelling of solar ponds. And like all over-night success stories - there is some considerable history behind it!

Monday 26 October 2009

The True Costs of Fossil Fuels?

US energy use carries hidden costs of $120 billion

26 October 2009

The hidden health and environmental costs of energy production and consumption in the US could exceed $120 billion (£73.6 billion) per year, according to a new report from the US National Research Council (NRC). The report provides new ammunition for those arguing that green energy should be a priority.

The $120 billion estimate is for 2005 and comprises damages related to electricity generation and transportation, principally involving emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter. The bulk of the effects result from the human health impacts of air pollution, including premature death, and increased risk of respiratory conditions like chronic bronchitis or asthma.

Pollution takes its toll on human health as well as the environment
Maureen Cropper, an economist from the University of Maryland, US, who served as vice chair of the NRC committee that wrote the report, says they came out with a 'very conservative number' because climate change impacts were not factored into the cost assessment.

'Renewables and nuclear look much cleaner in contrast to fossil fuels, so this makes in comparative terms part of the argument for renewables,' Cropper says. The damage from pollutants from nuclear, wind or solar energy are almost zero, says Cropper, but the total costs of obtaining these cleaner sources of energy need to be considered and factored into the equation.

Chemistry groups echo call

The NRC finding echoes a joint policy statement released earlier this year by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, which urged policymakers to capture hidden costs of energy production.

'Knowing the true costs - both in terms of human health and global climate change - of energy production must be key considerations for policymakers as they work to develop policy solutions to address our energy and global climate change challenges,' says ACS spokesperson Glenn Ruskin. 'Without accounting for the hidden costs, policymakers may rely on flawed equations when considering the pros and cons of any proposed solution.'

The NRC panel finds that coal, which generates about half the electricity produced in the US, is the most expensive fossil fuel. The report estimates that in 2005, total external damages from burning coal in the country's 406 primary coal-fired power plants were roughly $62 billion. These damages average about 3.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of energy produced.

"Burning coal causes damages valued at about 3.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of energy produced"

The NRC panel concludes that substantially reducing non-climate and climate damages would require major technical breakthroughs, including cost-effective conversion of cellulosic biofuels, cost-effective carbon capture and storage and substantial further reductions in emissions, as well as an increase in renewable energy capacity or other forms of electricity generation with lower emissions.

Motivations questioned

Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute - a conservative think tank that gets some of its funding from companies making petrol fuelled cars - is sceptical about the report's conclusions. He emphasises that decarbonisation is a 'horrendously expensive' way to reduce air pollution, and argues that there are technologies for attacking particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide that are much cheaper than simply abandoning fossil fuels.
'Just telling people not to use the most affordable fuel is not effective,' Lewis tells Chemistry World. He says the NRC report presents a 'one-sided, misleading picture' by failing to acknowledge the positive benefits of energy production and consumption, including lives enhanced and saved by new technologies. He also questions the political motivation behind the report, which was requested by Congress in 2005. 'Why do we need all of these experts to tell us energy production causes air pollution that damages health,' he asks.
Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Europe

Sunday 25 October 2009

South Africa: Old King Coal

Article from Alternative Energy Africa: 23 Oct 2009

As Eskom continues to debate the prolonging of projects, Kusile coal-fired power station continues to be the center of attention. However, Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga insisted that Kusile would remain on schedule.

“We are saying… let’s commit ourselves to ensuring that [Kusile] doesn’t stop, and to the extent that there is a [funding] gap, let’s see how we can close it,” Maroga said. “We want to continue with the build,” he stressed, adding that Eskom was also committed to closing what would be a R30-billion funding gap should the requested increases be granted.

Yet he also admitted that the state-owned utility was continually assessing the “shifting of certain cash flows” as well as the possibility of bringing in “other parties to assist with the build.”

If the project was put on hold, Eskom would have a greater cash flow. Alternately, the state-owned utility would face the prospect of serious penalties including the increase in costs once the project was restarted. The only potential upside from the deferral of Kusile would be the impetus that it might provide to the much-frustrated independent power producer (IPP) program. Indeed, the government and Nersa would have to turn to IPPs to urgently remedy what would otherwise be a significant supply-side gap.

So, what will Eskom do? 

This photo of their Camden Coal Fired station is only 27-32% energy efficient. This means that well over 60% of the heat liberated goes up the cooling towers to warm the air. That means they burn 3-4 times more coal to generate just electricity: This is the magnitude of their waste and one-dimensional thinking.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in South Africa asked the government and state-owned utility Eskom to reconsider plans to complete the construction of the Kusile coal-fired plant which would substantially increase to country’s carbon emissions.

WWF South Africa trade and investment advisor Peet du Plooy said that the power station could add around 20 million tons a year of carbon emissions in addition to Eskom’s existing 200 million ton emissions. “Just to put that into context that is as much as the 20 least-emitting nations combined. So, we will jump another 20 nations, just by building one power station.”

The call from the WWF came shortly after Eskom indicated that it might have to defer certain projects, such as the R100-million Kusile power station, if a far higher tariff path did not emerge. The project could be delayed by between 18 and 36 months. The first unit of Kusile was currently scheduled to come online by early 2013.

“It is essential that South Africa review our energy development plans, as recognized by a range of stakeholders, including mainstream business,” WWF South Africa climate change program manager Richard Worthington concluded

Sun-Earth Energy Strategy for Africa

Sun Earth Energy is the generation arm of a group of international companies in the business, good and proper, of Alternative Energy.

We have several web sites which will be developed in the next few weeks to show our thinking and strategy. Especially for central and Southern Africa. Watersons MG Ltd is the research arm. Sun Earth Energy is the gererator, waste reduction and facilitatior of more environmentally friendly fuels for Europe and the US.

We will add articles of interest as time allows. But firstly we are worried about the actions being taken to generate electricity in Central Africa and South Africa. Too many 'heavy' industrialists are influencing policy makers to burn Coal, Gas and even to promote Nuclear. Even massive Hydro shcemes have to looked at in the context of huge environmental impacts and the displacement of large numbers of the local population.

We are not too impressed with the 'simplistic' view regarding the so called 'bio-fuels'. To displace crop growing for food to make bio-diesel and suchlike to run cars is counter-productive.

We have a simple set of strategies to bring wealth to local regions, to increase the generation of electricity, to process more drinking water and to create employment.