Saturday, 31 January 2009

Benefits of wind energy are mapped out

Published Date: 31 January 2009
By John Ross

A GOVERNMENT study says onshore wind energy could offer great economic and community benefits for the Western Isles – less than a year after ministers rejected plans for Europe's biggest wind farm in the islands.

The report predicts that green energy projects can be key drivers for the islands' economy without harming the environment.The study was commissioned by the government after it refused consent for a 181-turbine project in Lewis last April. The results were welcomed yesterday by Western Isles Council, which has been promoting the islands as a green energy centre. It says Lewis could support bigger projects than those now planned by ministers because of its excellent natural resources.The study says the best opportunities are south and west of Stornoway, with potential for a 150 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Lewis in addition to projects already planned.Smaller, community-led wind development is more suitable in Harris, the Uists and Barra, it suggests, while there is marine potential of 105MW by 2015.Inshore wave potential is around 30MW, with tidal potential of 75MW in the Sound of Harris, and much more in the offshore wave resource.The report also suggests developing a local wind energy control centre and for developers to manufacture turbines at Arnish Point in Lewis to create jobs in the islands.Jim Mather, the enterprise minister, said: "We want all areas of Scotland to be able to fully harness our vast potential for cheap, clean and green electricity."Maximising that potential brings economic and community benefits and the people of the Western Isles are no different in wanting to use their natural resources to build a sustainable economy."Angus Campbell, the leader of Western Isles Council, said he was encouraged that the Scottish Government shared the authority's long-held view on renewable energy as an economic driver."It is good that the study is clear that 150MW of generation can happen in Lewis in harmony with environmental designations," he said. "It is disappointing, however, that the report only identifies a potential of 150MW for Lewis, particularly given the excellent wind resources of the islands. That is a wasted resource at a time of economic challenge for the islands."Mr Campbell also called for a speedy approval of a planned £120 million, 53-turbine project at Eishken in Lewis. "Any other decision would be a bitter blow," he said.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the objectors to the 181-turbine project, also welcomed the report.Stuart Housden, the society's Scotland director, said: "Individual proposals will still need to be carefully sited and designed to ensure they do not harm the environment or adversely affect European designated sites."Last week it was announced the world's largest wave farm would be built off Lewis. The £30 million, 4MW Siadar Wave Energy Project will provide enough electricity to power about 1,800 homes.

Carbon capture fine in theory but untested

Published Date: 31 January 2009

THE technology the Scottish Government is hoping will clean up fossil-fuel power stations has yet to be proven on an industrial scale.

If it works, so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) has the potential to cut 90 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power stations.This would allow power stations to be cleaned up so they could continue to be used to generate electricity, while enabling climate change targets to be met. However, there is no clear evidence that the technology will work. Although it has been used in pilot schemes, it has yet to be demonstrated on a commercial scale.Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "What any expert will say is it's technologically proven at every stage of the chain, but putting those steps together at the scale of a large power station and doing so in a commercially viable way is yet to be proven."There are promising signs from small-scale projects around the world. In east Germany, a plant a tenth of the size of a normal power station has been built using CCS. Norway's oil industry has been capturing for years and storing it under the North Sea, and projects similar to CCS are up and running in Dakota, in the United States, and Algeria. In the UK, a competition is taking place to develop a CCS demonstration project, with Westminster prepared to fund up to 100 per cent of the cost of the technology. ScottishPower has entered Longannet, one of Scotland's two coal-fired power stations, in the competition.The winner is due to be announced in the spring and the project should be operational by 2014. CCS involves taking from power stations, compressing it then transporting it along a pipeline and storing it deep underground where it cannot escape into the atmosphere. After the gas is captured, it is stored indefinitely deep under the ground, such as in the spaces within rocks. It is believed there would be suitable locations beneath the North Sea, as well as in many other parts of the world. However, there is concern that applications to build pipelines to transfer the liquid gas could meet with environmental concerns, holding up projects. The UK Committee on Climate Change has said all coal-fired power stations should be using the technology by the early 2020s, with gas-fired plants following soon after. It spelled out that without the "decarbonisation" of electricity generation, there was no possibility of achieving the government's targets of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, the report also highlighted that the unproven technology will be expensive.

Third of new homes failing to meet energy standards, warns expert

Almost a third of new homes in some areas are failing to meet the required energy saving standards, an expert has warned.

By Jon Swaine Last Updated: 7:38PM GMT 30 Jan 2009

Philip Sellwood, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said the Government's sustainable buildings code - which sets gradually tightening limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new properties - was not being adequately enforced.
He described the situation as a cause for "real concern" and said extra investment and action was needed.
Gordon Brown has said that by 2016 every new home built in Britain will be carbon neutral, through improved energy efficiency and use of renewable power.
The Government estimates that more than 20 per cent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions come from homes.
It believes reducing households' fossil fuel consumption is key to meeting a 80 per cent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, which was made legally binding in the Climate Change Act last year.
Yet Mr Sellwood said that in some areas, up to 30 per cent of new properties would fail existing regulations.
"Our building regulations in the UK are among some of the toughest in Europe, but they are extremely poorly enforced as far as energy efficiency goes," he told the BBC.
"To me, this highlights a real gap between the aspiration to do something appropriate and the actual delivery on the ground.
"It is simple things like people not fitting windows or doors correctly. Instead of getting energy efficiency, we are getting energy inefficiencies.
"When you think that we are putting a lot of reliance on meeting our CO2 reduction targets by increasing the toughness of our building regulations, this is a real concern."
Mr Sellwood said local authorities must be given more money to help residents make their homes energy efficient and to increase the number of building inspections.

Indians: Invasions of Amazon reserves continue

The Associated Press
Published: January 30, 2009

BELEM, Brazil: Amazon Indian reservations continue to be invaded by loggers, ranchers and farmers, despite a global financial crisis that has hurt the demand for their commodities, representatives from across the region said Friday.
Indians at the World Social Forum told The Associated Press that a lack of government support is undercutting the fight against illegal invasions by people seeking to clear the rain forest for profit.
"Our territory is supposedly protected, but the loggers are always coming in and taking our land," said 19-year-old Leve Srezasu, an Indian of the Guarani tribe in Brazil's Tocantins state, where there have often been violent clashes over land.
Environmentalists and the government blame most Amazon deforestation on illegal clearing for lumber, farming and grazing of livestock, much of it on ancestral lands that the Brazilian government in 1988 promised to return to its Indian tribes. While that process has yet to be completed, about 11 percent of Brazilian territory and nearly 22 percent of the Amazon is now in Indian hands.
In the last 20 years, Brazil's government has made big efforts to protect Indians and the Amazon, creating government agencies and watchdog groups to stop the damage to forests and those who live in them.

But critics say the government either lacks the money or political will to give the agencies the manpower, boats and helicopters needed to police the Amazon, a sparsely populated region the size of western Europe.
"The majority of senators are supported by big business," said indigenous rights leader Marcos Xukuru. "This has completely trapped the process of demarcating Indian reserves."
Brazil's national Indian bureau, known as Funai, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the protection of Indian reserves and illegal logging on them.
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has often bristled at criticism — especially coming from outside Brazil — on his government's handling of the Amazon.
"There are many people making guesses about the Amazon without knowing that almost 25 million people live here who want to work, who want access to material goods and who don't want the Amazon to be a sanctuary for humanity," he told reporters in Belem.
More than 20 percent of the forest has been destroyed since scientists began tracking its destruction about two decades ago.
After declining for three years, deforestation spiked early last year as rising commodity prices drove farmers, ranchers and loggers to raze even more land.
Last week, however, the environmental group Imazon, which tracks deforestation, said the rate of destruction of the forest had dropped 82 percent from August through December, when compared to the same period in 2007.
Environment Minister Carlos Minc said in December that Brazil plans to boost spending and programs to significantly slow destruction of the Amazon by 2017, when they hope deforestation will annually be half of the 4,633 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of jungle that were destroyed between August 2007 and July 2008.
But Indians said they are wary of government promises and hopes that the economic meltdown will slow deforestation.
"It hasn't stopped, regardless of this crisis," said Resivaldo Xipaia, a 33-year-old farmer from the Kupi reserve in Para state.
Associated Press writer Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil, contributed to this report