Saturday, March 31, 2012

Apple’s Biogas Fuel Cell Plant Could Go Live By June

Apple says that a biogas-powered fuel cell system that will help power its Maiden, North Carolina, data center could be up and running as early as June, much earlier than previously expected.

The company made the disclosure in a Wednesday regulatory filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

First reported by Greensboro News & Record, the filing offers a few more technical details on the 4.8 megawatt facility, which will be comprised of 24-200 kilowatt fuel cell systems that will “sit on a common concrete pad out of doors.” Each system will have six power-generating modules, Apple says.

The fuel cells take methane — in this case, produced by animal waste — and convert that to electricity. Apple’s installation will be built by California’s Bloom Energy, and it will be the largest such fuel cell installation built outside of the utility industry, the News & Record reports.

The first of Apple’s fuel cells could be online as early as June, and Apple expects to have the whole facility up and running by the end of November. Apple isn’t saying publicly what it will cost — that part was filed under seal.

Apple’s trying to turn around its reputation as a dirty energy user with the Maiden facility, which powers its iCloud. Right next to the biogas plant, Apple’s building a massive 20-megawatt solar array. More


Friday, March 30, 2012

Cayman Islands launches solar-powered electric rental cars

The Cayman Islands are taking steps to preserve their fragile island ecosystem by launching a fleet of eco-friendly, electric Wheego rental vehicles and installing solar panel charging stations for electric vehicles throughout Grand Cayman.

solar powered electric car

The new stations, produced by U-Go, generate electricity using pollution-free solar cells, reducing carbon emissions to zero. Over the next year, 12 stations will be installed throughout Grand Cayman, the first in Governor's Square. The initiative is part of a move toward nationwideGreen Globe certification, an industry certification program for sustainable tourism. Members of the Green Globe alliance are recognized for saving energy and water resources, reducing operational costs and contributing positively to their environment and communities.

"We are thrilled to be able to introduce this technology to the Cayman Islands in an effort to further preserve our treasured ecosystem," said Hon. McKeeva Bush, Premier of the Cayman Islands, in a release. "Our natural environment, including the Mastic Trail, the Blue Iguanas, and our pristine waters, is a source of national pride, which we plan to maintain for years to come. This development is crucial to our success." More

Monday, March 19, 2012

Germany's $263 Billion Renewables Shift

Not since the allies leveled Germany in World War II has Europe’s biggest economy undertaken a reconstruction of its energy market on this scale.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to build offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and erect power lines that could stretch from London to Baghdad. The program will cost 200 billion euros ($263 billion), about 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2011, according to the DIW economic institute in Berlin.

Germany aims to replace 17 nuclear reactors that supplied about a fifth of its electricity with renewables such as solar and wind. Merkel to succeed must experiment with untested systems and policies and overcome technical hurdles threatening the project, said Stephan Reimelt, chief executive officer of General Electric Co. (GE)’s energy unit in the country.

Utilities running gas-generating plants in Germany lost 10.92 euros a megawatt-hour today at 12:16 p.m. local time, based on so-called clean-spark spreads for the next month that take account of gas, power and emissions prices. That compared with a profit of 20.95 euros in October 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.K. generators earned 2.06 pounds ($3.27), down from a profit of 7.02 pounds in October.

“Germany is like a big energy laboratory,” Reimelt said in an interview. “The country has a political and societal consensus to drop nuclear power but lacks a clear technological solution.”

Already, the program is expanding markets for Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP), the world’s biggest solar panel maker, and Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS)., the largest maker of wind turbines. It’s hurting utilities from RWE AG (RWE) to EON AG (EOAN), which have stepped up cost-cutting to curb losses from closing nuclear stations early. More

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Iran Oil Bourse To Open Next Week ?

Cryptogon points to a few interesting datapoints, amongst which is a claim the fabled Iranian oil bourse finally opens next week – IRAN’S BANKS TO BE BLOCKED FROM GLOBAL BANKING SYSTEM ON SATURDAY.

Flashback to a couple of weeks ago on Cryptogon:

If SWIFT actually pulls the plug, I’d consider the fuse to be lit. Also, if SWIFT does it before 20 March, this is probably the real reason:

SWIFT is going to pull the plug on Iran on 17 March, three days before the opening of the oil bourse.

Last week, the Tehran Times noted that the Iranian oil bourse will start trading oil in currencies other than the dollar from March 20. This long-planned move is part of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vision of economic war with the west.

“The dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme is nothing more than a convenient excuse for the US to use threats to protect the ‘reserve currency’ status of the dollar,” the newspaper, which calls itself the voice of the Islamic Revolution, said.

Via: BBC:

Swift, the body that handles global banking transactions, says it will cut Iran’s banks out of the system on Saturday to enforce sanctions.

The move will isolate Iran financially by making it almost impossible for money to flow in and out of the country via official banking channels. More


A Letter to David Cameron

Dear Mr Cameron

We write because we believe you have been misled by four prominent environmentalists who contacted you recently about nuclear power. This quartet – Jonathon Porritt, Charles Secrett, Tom Burke and Tony Juniper – were all in the past directors of Friends of the Earth, an organisation which also put its official seal of approval on the letter sent by them to you on 12 March 2012.

We believe their advice to be wrong both in fact and interpretation, and feel that if you act on it without further consideration of the alternatives, you risk threatening both the energy security of the UK and our climate-change targets.

As writers and thinkers who are interested in and concerned with environmental issues, our job is to assess the technological and policy options on climate change as objectively as possible. Independently of each other, we have all reached the conclusion in recent years that the gravity of the climate crisis necessitates a re-examination of deeply-held objections still shared by many in the green movement towards nuclear power, including, until recently some of our own number. Needless to say, none of us has any financial or professional relationship with the nuclear industry whatsoever.

We find the 12 March letter objectionable on several counts. Firstly, we are disturbed by the jingoistic tone the authors adopt towards our closest neighbour and EU partner, France. The letter insinuates, and the accompanying press release states in its very first sentence, that having French companies involved in delivering a substantial portion of the UK’s energy supply is somehow a threat to our national security. We are sure you will agree that countries working together irrespective of nationalism must be the best way of tackling both climate change and energy security. More


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Richard Branson letter to David Cameron on renewable energy

Dear David Cameron,

As entrepreneurs, investors, economists, scientists, engineers, energyproviders, community builders and Members of Parliament, we are increasingly concerned about the lack of clarity around the future of government support for land based renewables, such as solar, wind and biogas.
In wind alone, the UK has more than 40% of Europe's renewable energy resources - enough to power up our economy 3 to 4 times over, generate exports, and provide the tools for communities and entrepreneurs to do their job.
Bringing energy supply and demand together, a decentralised energy market can make real efficiencies in costs associated with our antiquated infrastructure and transmission loss, deliver savings for tax payers and provide frustrated investors with new opportunities.
In the on-going review of renewable energy support, we ask that the Government recognises the importance of simple and accessible Feed-in Tariff policies, to guarantee the broadest possible ownership of the UK's next generation of energy infrastructure.
The new National Planning Policy Framework, in its current form, does not recognise the huge value of this approach that has been proven successful year-on-year by Germany, where community and large scale energy farms have delivered a 25% cost reduction, taking electricity bills down to 2008 levels.
A planning system that does recognise the value of a move to local energy is badly overdue and must be preferred to ripping up a system and leaving all sides uncertain.
We urge you to ensure that planning inspectors know that the future of the low carbon economy is at stake and our collective needs, both local and national, must be taken into account.

Yours sincerely,

Robin Smith Founder HOST Universal
House Of Sound Thinking London W1F 0LB 0044 (0)20 7849 4500
Sir Richard Branson
Dr. Michael Stein CEO, Trillion Fund Ben Goldsmith Founding Partner, WHEB Group Neil O'Doherty Owner and Implementation Specialist, Eagle Peak Simon Roberts OBE Chief Executive, Centre for Sustainable Energy James Vaccaro Director, Triodos Bank
Dale Vince OBE
Caroline Lucas, MP Founder, Ecotricity
Leader of the Green Party
Howard Johns
Alan Simpson
Chair, Solar Trade Association
Architect of the Feed In Tariff
Juliet Davenport
Alan Whitehead
Founder CEO, Good Energy
Jeremy Leggett Founder, SolarCentury
Colin Challen Former MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Adam Twine
Climate Change Group Energy Farmer, Westmill
Peter Ainsworth Chris Hopkins
Founder Member Founder, Ploughcroft
Robertsbridge Group
Mike Zeidler Association of Sustainability Practitioners Nick Pyatt Director, Flow International Tamara Giltsoff Sustainable Business Strategy, Innovation & Venturing Trillion Fund Peter Holbrook CEO, Social Enterprise UK Helen Browning OBE Chief Executive, Soil Association Joel Benjamin Occupy LSX Energy, Equity and Environment Group Bill Dunster OBE Principle, The ZEDfactory Ltd Nicko Williamson Managing Director Climate Cars Ltd Dawn Muspratt Director The Renewable Power Exchange Robin Gifford Director, IEC Connect Ltd Keith Richardson Chair Community Renewable Energy John Elkington Co-founder & Executive Chairman Volans Dr Doug Parr Chief Scientist, Greenpeace Steve Trent Executive Director Environmental Justice Foundation Barbara Hammond Chair, Low Carbon Hub Wendy Twist Director, Low Carbon Hub David Hampton The Carbon Coach Duncan Law Chair, TTB (Transition Town Brixton) Alan Bailey Hon MSc Chairman Low Carbon South West CIC Ramsay Dunning Independent Renewables & Environment Robin Smith Founder, HOST Universal
Robin Nicholson CBE Senior Partner Edward Cullinan Architects Andrew MacLellan Director, ENER-G plc Professor Piers Forster Professor of Physical Climate Change, Leeds University Adrian Smith Senior Researcher, SPRU (Science & Technology Policy Research) University of Sussex Peter Reason Professor Emeritus School of Management Bath University Dr Lucy Gilliam, BSc Phd MIBiol FRSA Environmental Consultant & New Dawn Trader Professor Gordon Walker Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University Nick Storer, FRSA Chief Executive, Envirolink Nick Reeves OBE Executive Director Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management Sunand Prasad PPRIBA Senior Partner Penoyre & Prasad LLP Philip Mossop CEO, Carbon Guerrilla Andy Middleton Director, TYF Group Mark Griffiths Partner, SecondNature Vicky Grinnell-Wright VKG Consulting Community Power David Hunter Consultant (Charity & Social Enterprise Dept) Bates Wells & Braithwaite Christine Bone International Relations Coordinator School of Management Jane M. Wernick, FREng Jane Wernick Associates Peter Martin Research Director, CarbonSense
John Malone Director, Energy4All Craig Miller Owner, Ongen Merlin Hyman Chief Executive, Regen SW Toby Darbyshire Chief Executive, Engensa Hugo Schonbeck Repowering South London Peter Edwards Director, Windelectric Professor Stephen Frankel Founder/Chairman, WREN Alban Thurston Director, Juice from Your Roof Chris Church Chairman Low Carbon Community Network Rod Wood Managing Director Community Windpower Mark Luntley Chair Westmill Windfarm Cooperative Damian Tow Brighton Energy Co-Op Mary Walsh Founder, London Community Energy Project Peter Lefort Project Officer CAG / Resource Futures Andrew Mercer CEO, 2oc Tom Black PEDAL Portobello Transition Town Claire Morris Wind Energy DTC David Edwards Head of Business Development Solarcentury Toby Ferenczi CTO, Engensa Tom Pakenham Founder, Green Tomato Cars Michael Chesshire Director, Evergreen Gas Chas Warlow MD, Ham Hydro CIC
Peter Madden Chief Executive Forum for the Future Hugh Knowles Principal Sustainability Advisor Forum for the Future Tony Juniper Sustainability & Environment Advisor Jonathon Porritt Founder/Director Forum for the Future John Sauven Executive Director, Greenpeace Lord Hunt Lab Lord Tyler Lab Lord Whitty Lab Mary Glindon, MP Lab Alex Cunningham, MP Lab Martin Horwood, MP Lib Dem Meg Hillier, MP Lab Helen Goodman, MP Lab Joan Walley, MP Lab Bill Esterson, MP Lab Mark Lazarowicz, MP Lab Kelvin Hopkins, MP Lab Martin Caton, MP Lab Mike Weir, MP SNP Chris Williamson, MP Lab Naomi Long, MP Deputy Leader, Alliance Party Dr Julian Huppert, MP Lib Dem Danny Chivers Author, No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change Rachel Johnson Editor-in-Chief, The Lady. More


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fukushima, Europe's nuclear test

Madrid, Spain - Seen from Europe, the irrationality of the political and media discourse over nuclear energy has, if anything, increased and intensified in the year since the meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Yet a dispassionate assessment of nuclear energy's place in the world remains as necessary as it is challenging.

Europeans should not pontificate on nuclear energy policy as if our opinion mattered worldwide, but we do. On the other hand, Europe does have a qualified responsibility in the area of security, where we still can promote an international regulatory and institutional framework that would discipline states and bring about greater transparency where global risks such as nuclear power are concerned.

Europe is equally responsible for advancing research on more secure technologies, particularly a fourth generation of nuclear reactor technology. We Europeans cannot afford the luxury of dismantling a high-value-added industrial sector in which we still have a real comparative advantage.

In-depth coverage one year after triple disaster

In Europe, Fukushima prompted a media blitz of gloom and doom over nuclear energy. The German magazine Der Spiegelheralded the "9/11 of the nuclear industry" and "the end of the nuclear era", while Spain's leading newspaper El Pais preached that supporting "this energy [was] irrational", and that "China has put a brake on its nuclear ambitions". But reality has proven such assessments to be both biased and hopelessly wrong.

True, a few countries - Belgium, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, with Peru the only non-European country to join the trend - formally declared their intention to phase out or avoid nuclear energy. These decisions affect a total of 26 reactors, while 61 reactors are under construction around the world, with another 156 projected and 343 under official consideration. If these plans are realised, the number of functioning reactors, currently 437, will double.

But, more interestingly, the nuclear boom is not global: Brazil is at the forefront in Latin America, while the fastest development is occurring in Asia, mostly in China and India. If we compare this geographical distribution with a global snapshot of nuclear sites prior to the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in the United States in 1979, a striking correlation emerges between countries' nuclear energy policy and their geopolitical standing and economic vigour. More

To make the transition to alternative energy and hopefully nuclear fusion, we are going to have to continue using nuclear. Having said this, I will say that we have to retrofit all the 60+ year old nuclear plants to a vastly higher safety standard. We must also start using the latest nuclear reactor technologies, the fourth generation designs like the Toshiba 4s, TerraPower’s Travelling Wave and the Hyperion design. These are all a great deal safer and proliferation proof. You may want to read Power To Save The World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens and Richard Rhodes. Editor

World Wind Power Climbs to New Record in 2011

Wind energy developers installed a record 41,000 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity in 2011, bringing the world total to 238,000 megawatts. With more than 80 countries now harnessing the wind, there is enough installed wind power capacity worldwide to meet the residential electricity needs of 380 million people at the European level of consumption.

China led all countries in annual wind power gains for the third straight year, installing a jaw-dropping 18,000 megawatts for a total wind capacity of 63,000 megawatts. This country’s rise to the top of the world rankings has been swift: after doubling its wind capacity each year from 2005 to 2009, China surpassed the United States in 2010. (See data.)


China’s ambitious Wind Base program will help ensure a widening lead for some years to come. Across the wind-rich northern provinces, wind mega-complexes of between 10,000 and 38,000 megawatts each are now under construction. By 2020, these "wind bases" will approach 140,000 megawatts of total installed capacity—more than the entire world had at the close of 2008.


As impressive as China's achievements have been thus far, such rapid growth in capacity has created significant challenges. Badly needed electric grid and transmission upgrades in remote areas lag well behind wind farm completions, meaning that many turbines stand idle. This, combined with growing concerns over the safety and performance of hastily built wind farms, has led regulators to cap the allowed new wind capacity at 15,000–20,000 megawatts per year and to make improved project quality and grid access a priority. More

Friday, March 9, 2012

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres calls for an “energy revolution”

New technologies and the involvement of the private sector are needed to tackle climate change emissions and power the world said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in a lecture today. “Don’t depend on governments,” she said, “because they can’t deliver 100%.”

“We are moving in the direction of a low carbon society – but not fast enough,” she said. The worldpassing the (US) $1 trillion mark in clean energy investments in technologies such as solar and wind power plants and bioenergy production since 2004, shows that we’re on the way, she said.

“We can all see the evidence of climate change,” Figueres said, warning that rises in greenhouse gases had the potential to undo international development gains made. Rio+20, the upcoming UN conference on Sustainable Development, will be a “very powerful force of wind in the sail” to help the economies of developing countries grow, but this growth needed to happen with a lower carbon footprint than developed countries.

In response to a question posed by Antigua’s High Commissioner on how the country could move off the “path” of fossil fuel dependence she said it could produce lots of solar and wind energy if the technologies weren’t so prohibitively expensive. Co-operation between the public and private sector to develop cheaper renewable technologies and technology transfer to southern countries are critical to making this happen, Figueres said.

Whether America led on the development of renewable energy technologies was a pressing question. Was “the US electorate …willing to let history ..progress in such as way that …China or Europe will benefit from the competitive edge [of developing renewable technologies], or would they prefer to be the leaders of technology?” Referring to the current Republican presidential primary candidates she said: “If they have anything in common it is that they say they don’t believe in climate change.” More


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oil jumps to 43 month high on Saudi blast report.

The price of crude oil has jumped to its highest level in more than three-and-a-half years after reports of a blast at a pipeline in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer.

Brent crude rose $5.74 to $128.40 per barrel in late Thursday trading in New York, the highest since July 2008.

However, prices eased a bit after Saudi officials denied the reports.

Brent was trading at $125.86 per barrel in Asian trade on Friday, with US light sweet crude at $108.92 per barrel.

The new high set on Thursday beat the level seen during the Libyan civil war last year.

Market nervousness’

Oil prices have been rising since the start of the year amid concerns about the tensions between Iran and the West over its controversial nuclear programme.

The US has imposed fresh sanctions against Tehran targeting the country’s oil exports, while the European Union has announced a ban on imports of Iranian oil.

For its part, Iran has threatened that it will close the Straits of Hormuz, a vital oil-trade route for oil from the Gulf - including Saudi oil - if the West imposes more sanctions.

Analysts said all these issues had created an uncertainty over oil supplies and the latest reports had only fanned those fears further.

“The sharp move up on the pipeline story points to the market nervousness on anything related to supply problems,” said Gene McGillan of Tradition Energy. More