Saturday, 14 February 2009

Is Spanish Wind Firm Full of Hot Air?

Spanish wind-power giant Iberdrola Renovables reports full-year 2008 results Friday morning, and renewable-energy investors from the U.S. to Europe and Asia will be paying attention to one of the industry's largest players.

A key conference-call question: How realistic are the company's growth expectations?
The $16 billion company ended 2008 able to generate nearly nine gigawatts of electricity from wind, enough power over a year to electrify roughly seven million U.S. homes assuming production at full capacity, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration. Renovables' aim: to nearly double capacity by 2012.
That expansion, the company estimates, could push Renovables' profit to about €1 billion from the roughly €400 million it should report for 2008. But today's recessionary environment means financing costs are rising and risk-aversion is high among investors and alternative-energy developers, says Raimundo Fernandez-Cuesta, analyst at Credit Suisse in London. Thus, expansion plans will likely be crimped.
Indeed, analysts expect the conference call will confirm new capacity of just 1.4 to 1.5 gigawatts for 2009 -- below original expectations of two gigawatts or more. Michael McNamara, a London analyst at Jefferies International, adds that "how much confidence they can have about 2010" remains an open question, too.
Mr. Fernandez-Cuesta says he's "being conservative" and expecting Renovables ultimately will add about 1.5 gigawatts a year for the next three or four years.—Jeff D. Opdyke

Power giant doubles renewable capacity

Published Date: 14 February 2009

SCOTTISHPOWER Renewables yesterday hailed a near doubling of its installed generation capacity in 2008 as its Spanish parent revealed profits have tripled.
Boosted by the part construction of the massive Whitelee windfarm near Glasgow, ScottishPower said it now has the capacity to produce 665 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources, enough to power some 370,000 homes.Whitelee is now the largest onshore windfarm in Europe, with 106 turbines, even though a further 34 turbines are still to be constructed, with more potentially added in the future.Meanwhile, Iberdrola Renovables, the world's largest wind power company, said that it made a net profit of 390 million (£349.2m) in 2008, more than three times the 2007 figure, although slightly below market forecasts. The Bilbao-based company's installed capacity more than quadrupled to 9.3 gigawatts.

'Crazy ideas ' to fight global warming revealed by scientists

Covering Greenland in blankets to stop the ice sheets melting, "tree bombs" to regenerate forests and sending a giant sunshade into space are just some of the ideas being proposed by scientists to save the planet from global warming.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 4:21PM GMT 13 Feb 2009
13 Feb 09:

As further evidence emerges of the threat of climate change, scientists around the world are developing tools to try to stop the temperatures rising.
The science known as "geo-engineering" is considered dangerous by some for interfering with the world's delicate ecosystems, however advocates claim that it could "save the world" from catastrophic global warming.
A new series on Discovery Channel from this Sunday looks at some of the methods being proposed by scientists around the world.
Iain Riddick, series producer, said the scientists may have outlandish ideas but they are all respected in their field.
"Whether you agree climate change is caused by man or not the climate is changing. The question is should we stand back and let it happen or look at possible ways to mitigate the effects through engineering?" he said.
"These are eight crazy ideas which might just save the planet."
However Robin Webster of Friends of the Earth said it was dangerous to rely on untested science.
"We cannot afford to close our eyes to new ideas but the fear is politicians see geo-engineering as the magic bullet that will get us out of trouble and take attention away from making difficult choices to cut carbon emissions now. We need to look at tried and tested technologies like renewables that work and can start reducing the threat climate change now."
Ways to save the planet:
1. Wrapping Greenland
Dr Jason Box, a glaciologist from Ohio State University, proposes wrapping Greenland in a blanket. By covering the valleys that form darker areas, therefore attracting the sun's heat, he hopes to significantly slow the melting of the glacier.
2. Hungry ocean
Dr Brian von Herzen of the The Climate Foundation and marine biologists at the University of Hawaii and Oregon State University believe that the ocean could absorb much more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by creating plankton blooms. This is done by mixing the nutrient rich water in the colder depths of the ocean with the warmer surface water by placing huge wave-powered pumps on the swells of the North Pacific.
3. Space sun shield
Professor Roger Angel, who helped create the world's largest telescope, believes the power of the sun could be reduced by placing a giant sun shield in space. The 100,000 square mile sunshade would be made up of trillions of lenses that reduce the sun's power by two per cent.
4. Raining forests
Consultant environmental engineer Mark Hodges believes forests could be generated by dropping "tree bombs" from a plane. The seedlings are dropped in a wax canister full of fertiliser that explodes when it hits the ground and grows into a tree. The method has already been used to regenerate mangrove forest in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
5. Infinite Winds
Fred Ferguson, a Canadian engineer specialising in airships, has designed a wind turbine that will use the constant winds that exist at 1,000 feet to produce renewable energy.
6. Brighter World
Stephen Salter, an Edinburgh University engineer, believes that clouds can be created to protect the world from the power of the sun. He proposes forming clouds above the ocean by sending salt into the atmosphere.
7. Orbital power plant
Former Nasa physicist John Mankins believes the world could have a never-ending source of power and reduce carbon emissions by sending thousands of satellites into space to gather the sun's power and then beam them down to earth as a microwave.
8. Fixing carbon
David Keith, 2006 Canadian Geographic Environmental Scientist of the Year, believes he can create a machine that sucks in ambient air and sprays it with sodium hydroxide and then expels it as clean air. The carbon from the air will be captured and stored underground.

Clinton tries to build China climate pact

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
The Guardian, Saturday 14 February 2009

Hillary Clinton hopes to recruit China as a partner in American efforts to reduce global warming when she embarks on her first trip as secretary of state with a seven-day tour through Asia this week.
Clinton believes that creating common ground on climate change, starting with a presidential summit later this year, will help reconfigure America's ties with China, advisers say. A partnership between the world's two biggest polluters would significantly raise the prospects of a global climate change deal at a crucial UN meeting in Copenhagen in December.
Breaking with the tradition for secretaries of state to visit Europe first, Clinton's tour, which starts tomorrow, will take her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, with China as her last stop.
Clinton set out her ideas for the climate change partnership yesterday at the Asia Society in New York. The choice of venue was telling: experts from the Asia Society and the Pew Centre for Climate Change produced a report this week setting out a roadmap for a US-Chinese partnership in tackling climate change.
Clinton was first briefed on the report several months ago and members of her team consulted the authors this week. Those involved say she sees joint action on climate change as a means to reset the relationship beyond the narrowly focused economic interests of the Bush era.
"She completely understands what is at stake here," said Orville Schell, the director of the Centre on US-China Relations, who oversaw the report.
Economics will still dominate Clinton's agenda, with talks on how China can help rescue the international financial system, as will concerns about North Korea and Iran's nuclear programmes. But in her meetings with Chinese officials, Clinton is expected to broach the idea of a presidential summit later this year between Barack Obama and Hu Jintao.
The idea was raised in the Asia Study report, which also called for US-Chinese expert groups to work on developing clean coal technology, energy efficiency, and moving towards renewable energy.
Some doubts remain on whether Clinton's visit will produce any immediate results. China is enduring its worst economic climate in more than a decade and also views global warming as an economic issue, more suited for discussion with the treasury secretary, Tim Geithner.
Nonetheless, a recasting of relations is compelling for a secretary of state eager to reclaim territory after the foreign policy crises in the Middle East and Afghanistan were hived off to envoys. "If she can grab on to the China issue and reformat it in this way, this would be an extraordinary accomplishment," said Schell.
Clinton's search for ways to deepen America's relationship with China are in synch with the Asia Society report and one from the Brookings Institution promoting a partnership on climate change.
More than 50 experts took part in the Asia Society's year-long effort. A number of those who got involved as private citizens are now members of the Obama administration. They include Steven Chu, the energy secretary; John Holdren, the White House science adviser; Todd Stern, the state department's climate envoy; and Richard Holbrooke, Clinton's longtime mentor on foreign policy and the chairman of the Asia Society.
Stern, who will accompany Clinton, said last week that it was time to open a new chapter on climate change talks. He told the New York Times: "We need to put finger-pointing aside and focus on how our two leading nations can work together productively to solve the problem."
Chinese officials have also been sending out signals of co-operation. At a Brookings Institution forum last week, Beijing's ambassador to the US, Zhou Wenzhong, said China and America, by working together, could help set the stage for progress at the climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December.
The US and China together account for more than 40% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.