Thursday, 12 November 2009

Climate Bill Likely on the Shelf For Rest of the Year

WASHINGTON -- Key Senate Democrats Tuesday said it is unlikely there will be any more major committee action on climate-change legislation this year, the strongest indication yet that a comprehensive bill to cut greenhouse-gas emissions won't be voted on until at least next year.
Although the Senate Environment Committee last week approved a version of the bill, the proposal will face strong revisions from moderate Democrats, particularly from senators on the Finance and Agriculture committees.
"It's common understanding that climate-change legislation will not be brought up on the Senate floor and pass the Senate this year," Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said on the sidelines of a caucus lunch.
Mr. Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said he planned to hold a number of hearings on climate legislation and eventually mark up a bill in his panel. "But I don't know that I can get a bill put together by this year, as important as climate-change legislation is," he said.
Mr. Baucus was the lone dissenting Democratic vote on the Environment Panel last week because he wanted weaker emission-reduction targets and stronger provisions to protect energy-intensive industries and encourage clean-coal technologies.
"I wouldn't want to bet my paycheck that all the relevant committees will report out legislation by the end of this year," said Sen. Thomas Carper (D., Del.).
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), who is leading an effort by moderate, heartland Democrats to protect manufacturing and agriculture industries, said committees were no longer under any timetables to produce legislation.
Ms. Stabenow said the Agriculture Committee—which has jurisdiction over climate provisions fundamental to containing costs and cutting emissions in the farming and forestry sectors--might not even debate or vote on any provisions for the bill.
"The question is whether or not Agriculture actually marks up something or it gets done on the floor," she said.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee, is facing a tough re-election campaign next year, and handling a highly controversial climate-change bill in her panel may risk alienating voters.
In the face of the hard-fought debate on health-care legislation--not to mention appropriations bills and finance-reform proposals—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has dropped his earlier schedules for committees. A Reid aide said he hadn't drafted any new timetable for panel action on climate change.
Even Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), a climate-bill champion who last week said committees should have climate legislation processed by the end of the year, Tuesday backed off such expectations. "I don't want to create artificial deadlines which get in the way of our being methodical about this," he said.
Instead, Mr. Kerry said he is focused on getting the 60 votes necessary to pass controversial climate legislation -- a higher margin than a simple majority and no mean feat. "The main thing to do here is to build the adequate base of support and consensus," he said.
Write to Ian Talley at

Climate change is not a feminist issue

Western eco-feminism that blames men for environmental destruction and women for overpopulation is misguided

Elizabeth Kirkwood, Wednesday 11 November 2009 15.00 GMT
It's tempting to suggest that climate change, and in particular the question of population control, is a feminist issue. For starters it allows us to put a clear culprit in the dock: find the right stats and hey presto: "Men are all bastards and their irresponsible actions are destroying the planet."
Mary Fitzgerald recently argued that population control is at heart a feminist issue because, if women across the globe (and particularly those in "developing" nations) are given the right to control their bodies via universal birth control, this will halt the potentially disastrous upward curve of the birth rate. Alex Renton has also urged that "population reduction is best achieved by ensuring women's equality and improving their education, while providing cheap and effective birth control."
All this talk of "female education" in the name of feminism pinging round the blogosphere in the run-up to Copenhagen is making me twitchy. I've no qualm with the two threads of Renton's argument when contended independently, but there is an intrinsic risk in compounding them under an "eco-feminist umbrella". Why, when it comes to birth control, is the onus still exclusively placed on female education, and not male education?
One obvious danger lies in making the burden of tackling population control – and by implication climate change – the accepted and sole responsibility of the world's female population. Have all these "uneducated" women been single-handedly overpopulating the world via a process of amoeba-like fission of which I am unaware?
There is a self-defeating logic in simultaneously pointing the finger at men and yet trying to exclude them from further discussion about women's rights and birth control. Writing on the Reality Check website, Edwin Okongo rightly criticised the gender bias in aid given to "developing" nations in the name of feminism: "We can spend 10 times the billions of dollars proposed to empower all the women of the world, but those efforts will be in vain if we don't empower men."
Okongo's reasoning highlights why branding climate change an issue of feminism is at best inadequate, and at worst divisive, by pre-emptively splitting men's interests from those of women's. Furthermore, it provides male "deniers" a cushy little get-out clause to smugly wheel out at parties: "Ain't my problem anyway – it's down to you gals now." Let us not pour more fuel on that crazy fire. When it comes to climate change, men have equal responsibility – whether they live in sub-Saharan African or SW1.
Equally, to suggest, as Jess McCabe has, that women are more "likely to bear the brunt of climate change as 70% of the world's poor are women", thereby placing women "on the frontline of climate change," is slack thinking, and says as much about the skewed state of feminism in western society today as it does about the limited choices of women in non-western ones. Even if 70% of the world's poor are women, this doesn't make the threat of climate change a feminist issue - it makes it a humanitarian one. Interestingly, the Women's Manifesto on Climate Change, which supplies this stat, justifies its posture by declaring that "women are far more concerned about environmental issues than men." Little wonder, if you box it up as a women's group interest only.
And let us not forget, offering birth control doesn't automatically mean that women are treated as equal to men. The notion of "reproductive justice" is more complex, if not elusive. Women in western societies are still held primarily responsible for the provision of birth control, but was this really the zenith of feminist ideals? It may have allowed women to sleep with who they want, but it hardly encourages, how shall I say, "sustainable activity" on the part of men. Instead, it arguably perpetuates the still acceptable myth that men can sow their seed where they like and "liberated" women can pick up the pieces.
When it comes to gender equality and climate change, we are all on the "frontline", regardless of gender or geography. We don't need well-wrung stats to accuse one gender over another – hop down to Oxford Street, if you dare, and you'll encounter just as many women as men buying into mass consumerism, which contributes to environmental destruction.
Eco-feminism tends to divide rather than unite, and risks packaging environmental responsibility as "emasculating", reinforcing rigid notions of masculinity – a hazard which similarly applies to recycling, taking your own shopping bag, and not eating meat. We need to stop thinking about the environment as "mother nature" being abused by men, which in turn will be saved by women exclusively.

Are global warming and deforestation too scary for Sesame Street?

Scaring kids might not be the best approach, but we shouldn't avoid talking about 'scary' subjects with children altogether
During the four decades since its inception, Sesame Street has introduced some pretty challenging subjects to its young audience – death, AIDS, adoption. It has even recently talked about the impact of the ongoing recession on family life.
But there's one topic that will not be raised, according to Rosemarie Truglio, vice president of research and education at Sesame Workshop, the New York-based charity that produces Sesame Street – and that's global warming. It's just "too scary" for kids, apparently.
At a press conference earlier this week to announce the launch of a two-year, environmental "curriculum" on the show called My World is Green and Growing, Truglio said:
Global warming and deforestation – those are really adult concepts, and it's just too scary for children … The place we're coming from is, 'Let's love and care for the Earth, because it's so beautiful, and we appreciate its awe and wonder, and we're going to respect it … When you love something, you want to take care of it.
As I wrote earlier this year, I've long been intrigued to know what the right age is to start introducing the difficult subject of climate change to children. Sesame Street is aimed at three- to five-year-olds and, personally, I think Truglio has got it about right. With children at such a tender age, it's probably best to start off by getting them interested in the natural world around them and to elicit a basic sense of respect, rather than wade in straight away with the heavy stuff about greenhouse gases and the like.
But I also think we need to be wary about believing that some subjects are just "too scary" to tell children about. My reasoning for not introducing climate change to children is more based on the fact that it is conceptually quite a complex subject to take in – for most adults, let alone three-year-olds.
And as Frank Carson says: "It's the way you tell 'em!"
Last month, more than 200 complaints were filed with the Advertising Standards Authority after the Department of Energy and Climate Change produced an Act on C02 advert which suggested that pets might drown as a result of climate change. Scaring people might not always be the best way to convince people of your argument – as many environmentalists are belatedly now recognising – but that shouldn't mean, therefore, that we avoid talking about "scary" subjects with children altogether.

Cloud Over India's Solar Power Plans

NEW DELHI -- India is betting big on abundant sunshine to feed its growing power needs, but funding costs and feeble solar panel manufacturing capacity are clouding its ambitions to harness the non-fossil fuel.
In July 2009, India unveiled a $19 billion plan to produce 20 GW of solar power by 2020, with this increasing to 100 GW by 2030 and 200 GW by 2050.
It's a hugely ambitious project--solar now accounts for only a tiny proportion of India's energy mix. The need for more capacity is clear--apart from environmental imperatives, India's inability to meet power demand now has for long crimped its economic growth.
Rules governing the sale of solar power to India's national and state grid companies are vague, solar equipment makers don't yet produce enough to benefit from economies of scale and bring down prices, and financing costs make it difficult to expand output rapidly.
Of India's installed generating capacity of 152.36 gigawatts, there are just two megawatts of solar capacity connected to the grid. There is no data available for off-grid generation.
However, things are moving. On Saturday the government is to unveil a roadmap on how India can achieve its target, which includes provision for surplus solar power made in the domestic sector to be fed into the grid for a fee.
It will also include the role of the federal and provincial governments, funding issues and what sort of financial supports will be made available.
Grid companies aren't obliged to buy solar power but the "Solar Mission" announcement may change this.
Solar power in India costs 15 rupees ($0.32) per kilowatt hour, compared to 3.5 rupees per kilowatt hour power drawn from the national grid, government officials say.
Other parts of the roadmap may call for government buildings to be fitted with solar panels by 2012, and for the promotion of microfinancing to encourage nearly 20 million households to start using solar power by 2020.
"The solar push will not come easy. After all, we are talking about the world's second most populous nation transitioning from fossil-fuel energy, which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of our electricity generation, to solar power becoming a substantial part of the country's energy mix," Rajiv Arya, chief executive officer of Moser-Baer (India) Ltd.'s photovoltaic business.
Photovoltaic cells, are usually made of silicon, collect solar energy and convert it to electricity.
Moser-Baer will invest $5 billion over 10 years to build new photovoltaic cell manufacturing capacity, in plants in Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi, Chairman Deepak Puri said Tuesday.
Only two other local companies--Tata BP Solar and Webel-SL Energy Systems Ltd. -- make solar panels.
The government recently invited bids from companies to set up photovoltaic cell making plants, and offered a range of supports for this.
"The investment required to set up a 3000 megawatt manufacturing capacity will be around 180 billion rupees," said Rajiv Jain, associate director at India Semiconductor Association. "It is not the money but the cost of finance that will be critical." Industry players such as K. Subramanya, chief executive at Tata BP Solar, expect the targets can be met and funding won't be a hurdle.
"This is entirely possible and we have in front of us examples of telecom and internet revolutions that have happened in less than a decade," Mr. Subramanya said.
India had about 340,000 mobile phones in 1997 but today has over 500 million cellular subscribers.
Write to Sunil Raghu at

Energy entrepreneurs can plug the gap in our power supplies

If we are serious about meeting climate targets we must open the energy market to support independent project developers
Jo Butlin, Wednesday 11 November 2009 14.23 GMT

On Monday, new nuclear power stations and big energy projects were on everyone's lips. So yesterday's agreement by the European Investment Bank to provide £700m of loans to independent windfarm developers marks a refreshing alternative to Britain's utility-centric energy policy.
Our reliance on a small handful of utilities has failed to meet carbon-cutting targets, a fact backed up by recent reports from Ofgem and the Committee on Climate Change. And there is no evidence to suggest that the same handful of suppliers will do any better in the future.
If we are serious about meeting our energy and climate targets we need to make sure that the market is fully opened up to support the legions of independent project developers, or energy entrepreneurs, who can seize this opportunity and help fill the void.
The main problems with relying only on utilities to build the low-carbon solutions of the future are ones of size, speed, cost and diversity.
In the case of renewable energy such as wind, utility companies are only really interested in investing in or developing projects of a particular size to achieve an economy of scale. These are very slow to get off the ground, take a long time for any decision to be reached within the organisation, and then a long time again to get through planning, order equipment supplies and so on. Large projects also carry a significant financial risk which, especially during a recession, even the most solid of utilities are unwilling to carry.
Without a much higher price placed on carbon emissions or increased renewable subsidies, utilities argue they cannot make the investment necessary to meet renewable targets. We are already seeing large utilities deferring or even cancelling projects for this reason.
By contrast, the independent developers are mostly focused on smaller projects, with lower financial risks, which are quicker to get through planning and buy the necessary equipment for. Each project may be smaller in output, but with a far higher number of potential developers, the aggregate results can plug a vital gap in our energy supplies – and do so far quicker than any company could build a nuclear power station.
This brings us to the final point about the independent sector: diversity. Over the past year alone we have signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with developers covering wind, anaerobic digestion on agricultural sites, energy from waste, and small hydro, as well as corporate developers building on-site renewables.
Each one of these project developers acts as an entrepreneur or small business outfit, generating not just electricity, but income and jobs too. They are a multiplier in the wider economy, helping to address two of the crises of our current age: recession and climate change.
This decentralised model has the potential to grow exponentially if the UK corporate sector is given the right incentives and motivation to invest in their own generation capacity. While the government talks of providing these incentives, in reality policy and approach is still focused on the large utilities and centralised solutions, as the current push for nuclear shows.
Larger utilities have dictated and monopolised the debate over energy policy for too long. No single company, developer or sector can tackle this energy gap alone. It will take a variety of solutions, including nuclear, from a variety of outlets.
But to accelerate the decentralisation and decarbonisation of our energy supply, we will have to accelerate the decentralisation of ownership and generation first.
• Jo Butlin is vice president of SmartestEnergy, a purchaser and supplier of electricity generated from renewable sources

Electric cars 'may not cut CO2 emissions or oil dependency'

Home Staff

A switch to electric cars may not necessarily reduce CO2 emissions or dependence on oil, a report for the Environmental Transport Association claims.
It was unlikely that electric vehicles would account for more than 25 per cent of new sales by 2050, it added.
There were significant potential environmental benefits to be had from a switch to electric vehicles, but these were entirely dependent on changes in the way that electricity was generated and energy was taxed.
Under the EU emissions trading system electric cars were likely to result in higher overall CO2 emissions, the report said

Nuclear power industry may benefit from climate change levy exemption

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

The Government is considering fresh tax breaks for Britain’s nuclear power industry that could smooth the way for the construction of a new generation of UK reactors, The Times has learnt.
Whitehall insiders have told The Times that officials at the Department for Energy and Climate Change have been studying the possibility of an exemption for nuclear electricity from the climate change levy, a tax on industrial energy consumption that was created to boost energy efficiency.
The levy, which was introduced in 2001, raises an estimated £1 billion a year for the Treasury. Suppliers pay the levy on electricity provided to businesses to Customs & Excise and then pass on the costs to customers.
Other low-carbon sources of electricity, such as wind energy, are already exempt from the levy, but it draws no distinction between low nuclear and higher-emitting coal or gas generation.

Jeremy Nicholson, a spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users’ Group, an industry association that has been lobbying for the switch, estimated that an exemption for nuclear power would be worth up to £300 million a year to the industry, or £3 billion over the next decade, during which a big construction programme for new reactors is planned.
While no decisions have been made, the tax break would act as a sweetener for energy companies that are considering investing in new nuclear stations by ensuring that nuclear electricity is more competitive compared with electricity generated from gas or coal.
Matthew Farrow, head of energy at the CBI said that the employers’ organisation had been pressing hard for the levy to be dropped for nuclear power generation. He said that the CBI had held regular meetings with Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, and officials from his department to discuss the issue, as well as other forms of support for new nuclear infrastructure.
“They are clearly thinking about these issues,” Mr Farrow said. “Our view is that there should be a change to the levy. It’s common sense. Whether that would be sufficient is unclear . . . but any low-carbon electricity production ought to be exempt.”
At a cost of at least £4 billion per 1.6 gigawatt reactor, nuclear plants are far more expensive to build than conventional gas or coal stations and questions have been raised over the willingness of utilities to invest.
For example, a two-gigawatt gas plant being built by RWE, the German utility company, at Pembroke, West Wales, is expected to cost £1 billion.
Last week, EDF, the French utility group, told The Times that it was not guaranteed that the plants would be built unless the Government offered guarantees to ensure profitability.
However, a spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change insisted that the Government had “no plans” to introduce any form of additional financial support for nuclear power. “The economics of new nuclear stack up as it’s the cheapest form of low-carbon baseload in the UK. The fact that three consortia have now invested heavily in sites suitable for new build in the UK shows that’s the case.”
On Monday, Mr Miliband reiterated the Government’s position that there would be “no subsidy for new nuclear” and that he was focused on striking a strong deal at the forthcoming United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen that would bolster investment in low-carbon power by driving up carbon prices.
Such an exemption would not be classed as a formal subsidy and would not require primary legislation, Dominic Maclaine, of New Power Consulting, said. “It would make nuclear electricity cheaper compared with fossil fuels and is one possible way that they could provide a financial incentive ... It would be easy to do.”
The CBI argues that other incentives, such as a floor price on the permits that companies need to pay to emit carbon dioxide, may be preferable.
“I suspect that we will see a change in the fiscal treatment of carbon,” Ian Marchant, the chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy, said.
The Government set out plans on Monday for a big expansion of nuclear power, including the construction of ten reactors by 2025. The aim is to increase the share of power generation from nuclear electricity to 25 per cent by 2025, from 13 per cent last year.
All but one of the UK’s reactors are due to be retired from service by 2023.
The Government hopes that the new nuclear plants will help to plug a yawning supply gap that is opening up in Britain’s energy supplies by 2015 as ageing coal-fired stations are taken out of service to meet tough new European Union pollution rules.
The first new reactor is due to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset by EDF, which hopes that it will be operational by the end of 2017. EDF also hopes to build two new reactors at Sizwell in Suffolk.
Horizon Nuclear Power, which is a joint venture between E.ON, another German utility group, and RWE, is planning to build four more reactors at sites at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa, on Anglesey. Each of the new EDF plants will generate 1.6 gigawatts of electricity — enough to supply a city the size of Manchester — and are designed to last for 60 years.
MPs’ warning
MPs are likely to step up their calls for an investigation into how the “big six” energy suppliers are failing to pass on plunging wholesale gas prices to consumers (Angela Jameson writes).
More than 100 MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion calling for a Competition Commission investigation.
Greg Clark, the Shadow Energy Secretary, and Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat energy spokesman, have signed the motion, tabled by John Grogan, the Labour backbencher.
Ofgem, the industry regulator, rejected a call for a Competition Commission inquiry last month but Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, could choose to refer the energy suppliers directly to the Competition Commission.
The big six — British Gas, EDF, E.ON, ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern and npower — were cleared last year by Ofgem of collusion to fix prices, but Mr Grogan believes that the Competition Commission, which has greater investigatory powers than the regulator, could yet find evidence of collusion. He has the backing of Consumer Focus, the national consumer watchdog.
The big suppliers have cut bills by only 4 per cent this year, despite wholesale costs, which make up 60 per cent of the bill, halving in the past 12 months.
Although Ofgem had insisted that the market was working, the regulator’s own Energy Supply Probe, which published its initial report in October 2008, found that pre-payment and electricity-only customers had been overcharged by £500 million between 2006 and the end of 2008.

Beneath the waves: the future of carbon capture and storage

The need to capture and store carbon pumped out by power stations has prompted deep-sea research by US scientists
David Adam, Wednesday 11 November 2009 20.05 GMT
If you could capture the carbon that thousands of power stations would otherwise pump into the atmosphere, where would you put it?
According to the International Energy Agency, the world needs to fit 3,400 coal-fired power stations with technology to capture carbon dioxide by 2050.
So-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) is often labelled as expensive and unproven, though most of the problems are with the capture part of the process. Energy-hungry scrubbers are needed to soak the greenhouse gas from the exhaust gases, which drain the clean coal's power output and reduce its efficiency.
When it comes to storing the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that would be captured, the answer for Britain seems obvious – we can put it under the North Sea, in our emptying natural gas fields. But where do nations without access to such convenient geology turn? One option is to pipe waste gas directly into the sea. In very deep water, scientists think carbon dioxide would form a dense slush that would stay on the seabed for hundreds of years. Wally Broecker, a climate expert at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at New York's Columbia University, says 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide could be safely dumped in the deep Pacific in this way: the amount created by about 16 years of the world's current fossil fuel use.
Scientists in the US have tested this concept, and the impact it could have on deep-sea life. Experts at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute released small amounts of liquid carbon dioxide into a series of plastic cylinders on the seabed, some 3,000m down in waters off California. A few weeks later, samples of marine life were taken from inside the experiments, the surrounding sea bed and from some 100m away.
The scientists were interested in the reaction of three types of tiny sea creatures called foraminifera – single-celled organisms that make up a large part of life at the bottom of the deepest oceans and are a critical link in marine food webs.
The study found the survival of the tiny creatures depended on whether they formed shells, called tests. Those that did not make shells, or used particles they scavenged from the surrounding seabed, were not affected. Less fortunate were the foraminifera that build calcium carbonate shells: they were wiped out where they came into direct contact with the carbon dioxide. Writing in the journal Global Change Biology, the scientists say these calcareous foraminifera will face "considerable challenges" in areas where CO2 is dumped.

The quest to find alternative sources of renewable energy is taking to the skies

Mike Harvey in San Francisco

Man’s search for renewable power is about to take to the skies. Companies and inventors are casting their hopes — and millions of dollars — upwards as they seek to exploit the strong, steady winds circling the planet at higher altitudes.
High-altitude wind power — essentially putting wind turbines in the air — received a recent boost when half a dozen companies and other entrepreneurs met at a conference in northern California to discuss how to get their businesses off the ground.
Wind power is accepted as an important part of the planet’s search to replace energy from fossil fuels. Recent research into high-altitude winds has shown that jet-stream winds can be far more powerful and reliable than winds closer to Earth’s surface, providing an immense source of energy if companies can find a way to tap into it at a reasonable cost.
Analysts estimate that more than $50 million (£30 million) in investment is being put into high-altitude wind power. A host of start-ups and established companies are jostling for position, each with unique proposals for capturing the force of the wind.

One proposed generator resembles a big floating ball that rolls in the wind, tethered by an electric cable 1,000ft off the ground. Another looks like a helicopter, with four huge rotors designed to fly nearly five miles into the sky. A third proposal involves a ladder of kites driving a generator, while a fourth project, backed by Google, turns the momentum of a huge kite at altitude into power.
A recent report by Cristina Archer, Assistant Professor of Energy, Meteorology and Environmental Science at California State University, Chico, found that high-altitude winds blow at speeds of more than 300mph and are spread across the globe.
Ken Caldeira, Professor of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who co-authored the report in the journal Energies, has said that there is enough energy in the high-altitude winds to “power civilisation 100 times over”.
Sky WindPower, a start-up based in Oroville, northern California, is still at the prototype stage with its Flying Electric Generator. It has the most ambitious target of sending its helicopter-like turbines high into the atmosphere, at heights of between 6,000ft and 24,000ft. The generator has four rotors at its tips to lift the device into the air. The rotors are designed to spin in the wind once the generator has reached its desired height. Each blade could be 10.7 metres (35ft) in diameter. A tether made of aluminium cable would carry power to the ground and help to keep the device in place.
Len Shepard, the company’s chief executive, said that larger versions of the device could generate up to 20MW of power, compared with five megawatts produced by the biggest terrestrial wind turbines. A prototype with seven-metre blades was on track to be launched in 2011, he said.
Experiments so far showed that electricity could be produced, in the long term, at less cost than conventional electrical generation. “The technical challenge is keeping control of the craft at such great heights,” Mr Shepard said, adding that the tethering and turbine technology was already proven. Commercial production was five years away, he added.
The devices, which would barely be visible in the sky at such great heights, would need their own restricted airspace, but, he pointed out, airspace was already limited in some areas, mostly for military reasons. American authorities maintain a fleet of tethered balloons at 15,000ft as part of drug-traffic tracking operations along the US-Mexican border.
A company called Magenn, based in Canada and California, is likely to be the first to market in the next two years with its helium-filled balloon devices. The Magenn Air Rotor System is designed to float 1,000ft up. Blades on the surface of the blimp catch the wind, turning the device around a horizontal axis. On-board generators send electricity down the tether to a transformer and into the grid. Larger versions could generate as much as one megawatt in a steady wind — enough to power 750 homes, according to Magenn.
Makani, a Silicon Valley start-up, has attracted an estimated $15 million in funding from, the online search group’s charitable unit. The company is investigating how highaltitude kites could power generators.
High-altitude wind power groups acknowledge that they have to prove to utility suppliers that their prototypes can work. Ms Archer, who chaired the high-altitude wind power conference in Oroville, said: “A river of energy flows above us. It makes sense to tap into that free source.”

Shetland wind farm mailout banned

Watchdog rules marketing misled consumers over claims about financial and green benefits to community
Mark Sweney, Wednesday 11 November 2009 07.06 GMT

Viking energy ad: claims were ruled misleading
A marketing campaign for a wind farm project, backed by Scottish and Southern Energy, has been banned by the advertising watchdog for misleading consumers over claims about financial and green benefits to the community.
A mailout by Viking Energy promised to "harness Shetland's natural resources for a greener future".
Viking Energy made a number of claims including that 50% of the profits would stay with the Shetland community; that annually £25m to £30m would be injected into the economy; that "upwards" of £18m in profits would go to the Shetland Charitable Trust; and that a report showed that the carbon produced in construction would be "cancelled out by green power in less than three years".
The Advertising Standards Authority received five complaints about the claims challenging whether they could be substantiated and were misleading.
Viking Energy admitted that its figures of millions of pounds were not precise and that, in fact, "heavily adjusted downwards and have subsequently found to be underestimates".
The company also said that the report, published by the Scottish government in June last year, showed that the total carbon emission savings and payback time for the wind farm in question was between 1.8 and 2.6 years.
However, the ASA said that it was not true that 50% of the economic benefits would go to community projects or bodies in the Shetlands because 50% would go to Scottish and Southern Energy and 5% to four directors.
The ASA also said that the claims about financial figures were misleading because, despite Viking Energy supplying detailed calculations, it had not supplied real evidence such as contracts guaranteeing the prices of electricity the wind farm would generate.
In its ruling the ad watchdog added that in addition to the governmental report Viking Energy also had its own environmental statement estimating that carbon payback would be most likely after 3.7 years. This made the claim of "less than three years" misleading.
The ASA told Viking it could not use the claims again in its marketing material.