Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wave and tidal energy deals announced

Up to 750,000 homes could be powered by the projects based in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters.
16 March 2010 11:17 GMT
Up to 750,000 homes in Scotland could be powered by 10 major marine renewable energy projects announced on Tuesday.
The wave and tidal developments planned for the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters have the potential to generate 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of energy. Scotland’s peak electricity demand is 6GW.
Several power firms have signed agreements for lease with the Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed up to 12 nautical miles out, to take forward the developments.
Six sites have been allocated for wave energy developments potentially generating 600 megawatts (MW) of power and four sites for tidal projects, also generating 600 MW.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Today marks a major milestone in the global journey towards a low carbon future, with the commercial-scale deployment of marine renewables set to power our economies and help safeguard the planet for generations to come.
"These waters have been described as the Saudi Arabia of marine power and the wave and tidal projects unveiled today - exceeding the initial 700MW target capacity - underline the rich natural resources of the waters off Scotland."
The full 1.2GW of capacity is expected to be installed by 2020, with the projects attracting between £3billion and £4billion of capital investment.
Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy said: "Scotland is naturally placed to make the most of this green revolution and we will continue to work with others to ensure the potential of Scottish waters, alongside wind power, is fully met.
"It is encouraging to see the number of successful bidders for the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters. There is no doubt we are set to see a significant expansion in the commercial development of wave and tidal energy in the near future."
Marine Energy Deals: The Winners
It follows on from two offshore wind leasing rounds in Scottish waters, announced over the past 13 months, with a combined target capacity of 11.2 GW.
Tuesday’s deals are the world’s first commercial wave and tidal power leasing deals.
There are currently about 7GW of renewable capacity installed, under construction or consented around Scotland, according to the Government.
Roger Bright, chief executive of the Crown Estate, said the developments demonstrate the UK's position as the leader in wave and tidal technologies.
He said: "This emerging industry has a bright and promising future, with vast amounts of untapped energy in the seas all around us, and the Crown Estate looks forward to working with partners in Wick and Kirkwall to realise the area's marine energy potential."
The developers today who have signed deals for wave energy projects are SSE Renewables Developments Ltd, for 200MW at the Costa Head site, and Aquamarine Power Ltd and SSE Renewables Developments Ltd for 200MW for the Brough Head site.
Smaller deals have done by E.ON - 50MW for both the West Orkney South site and Orkney Middle South site, as well as Scottish Power Renewables UK Ltd - 50MW for the Marwick Head site, and Pelamis Wave Power Ltd - 50MW for the Armadale site.
The tidal energy agreements are with SSE Renewables Developments (UK) Ltd - 200MW for the Westray South site, as well as SSE Renewables Holdings (UK) Ltd and OpenHydro Site Development Ltd - 200MW for the Cantick Head site.
Marine Current Turbines Ltd have signed a 100MW tidal project for the Brough Ness site and Scottish Power Renewables UK Ltd will develop a 100MW project at the Ness of Duncansby site.

Last updated: 16 March 2010, 18:57 GMT

Ten sites named in £4bn UK marine energy project

Crown estate and Scottish government name 10 wave and tide power installations around Orkney islands and Pentland FirthInteractive: Wave and tidal technologies

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, Tuesday 16 March 2010 18.06 GMT
The heavy Atlantic swell and some of the world's strongest tides are to be harnessed by a breakthrough scheme to generate clean marine energy off northern Scotland, with predictions it will rival the output of a nuclear power station.
The crown estate and Scottish government today unveiled a £4bn project to build 10 wave and tidal power sites around the Orkney islands and the Pentland Firth, with the potential to power up to 750,000 homes.
The devices deployed will include the Pelamis "sea snake", which uses the undulations of the sea surface to generate power, and the SeaGen tidal machine, which looks like an underwater wind turbine. In total, the machines will be able to produce up to 1.2GW of "green" energy, more than Dungeness B nuclear station in Kent.
The crown estate, which owns all the UK's seabed out to 12 nautical miles, said these projects were the world's first commercial wave and tidal power schemes. It is expected to announce new marine power sites in other parts of the UK later this year.
Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, said the announcement confirmed his prediction that the Pentland Firth region – where the north-east Atlantic meets the North Sea – would become the "Saudi Arabia" of marine energy.
The narrow sea channel has some of the most powerful currents and tidal surges in the world, with speeds up to 16 knots or 19mph recorded. The area also experiences some of the biggest waves in the UK.
Crown estate officials and the developers accepted these often dangerous waters posed significant engineering and safety challenges for the firms involved.
Salmond said some estimates suggested the waters could release up to 60GW of power – 10 times Scotland's annual electricity usage. Other studies suggest one-third of the UK's total electricity needs could be met by tidal power alone.
"This is a huge milestone on the way to making that dream a reality," Salmond said. "Today marks a major milestone in the global journey towards a low carbon future, with the commercial-scale deployment of marine renewables set to power our economies and help safeguard the planet for generations to come."
The schemes are expected to cost £4bn to install, and will require up to £1bn of extra investment – from public sources – to build new national grid connections, harbours and other infrastructure in Orkney and Caithness.
The 10 projects, several of which have already had investment from a £22m UK government marine energy fund, are evenly divided between wave and tidal power stations, with each type generating up to 600MW. The projects are being shared by three of the UK's largest power firms, E.ON, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which already operates the UK's largest hydro schemes, and Scottish Power Renewables, a heavy investor in windfarms.
In most cases, the utility companies have formed joint ventures with four of the UK's leading marine energy firms, covering small areas of sea with up to 200 machines. They use a variety of techniques to capture the energy of the ocean.
Edinburgh-based company Pelamis Wave Power, whose sea-snake device is now being tested off the coast of Portugal, will have its own 50MW site in the Pentland Firth and share three other sites with SSE and Scottish Power on the west coast of Orkney's main island. Its new devices will each be 180 metres long and generate 750kW of electricity.
Also to use wave power is a more powerful version of Aquamarine's existing Oyster machine, in which a lever hinged at the ocean floor is pushed back and forth. It will be used for a 200MW station with SSE Renewables, and its 200 new 1MW machines are expected to start producing power by 2015.
OpenHydro, a large underwater turbine resembling a jet engine and bolted to the sea floor, is built by Cantick Head Tidal and will harness the firth's fierce tides at a 200MW site south of Orkney.
Another tidal machine, SeaGen, features two underwater propellers attached to a tall column anchored to the seabed. It will be installed by Marine Current Turbines off Orkney and at a 100MW site north-west of John O'Groats. SeaGen is currently on test at the "narrows" leading into Strangford Lough from the Irish Sea.
The marine announcement follows last month's confirmation that £75bn will be spent developing a much larger amount of offshore wind power – at least 25GW – at nine sites around the British Isles, including two off Scotland.
The several government projects are intended to increase the UK's renewable energy output, in a bid to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power stations and to increase the country's energy security, as North Sea oil and gas declines.
Orkney islands' council is now planning to invest more than £20m to upgrade its harbours and port facilities to cope with the huge influx in industrial equipment, ships and workers involved in these projects, which will industrialise large areas of the coastline.
The islands are widely admired for their tranquillity and scenery but Stephen Hagan, the council's leader, said he believed most residents were keen to see the investment.
With other island councils in Scotland facing huge local unrest over plans for major onshore windfarms, he does not expect significant opposition on environmental grounds.
"I do genuinely think that people in Orkney feel that we have to get the balance right between the long term sustainability of the place and the environment. I think they see the development of marine renewables as a much better option than onshore wind," he said.

Recycling still the most effective waste disposal method, report finds

Report for UK government refutes persistent claims that recycling is a waste of time, calls for better facilities and an increase in incineration
Juliette Jowit, Tuesday 16 March 2010 06.00 GMT
Recycling is almost always the best way to get rid of waste, even when it is exported abroad, according to the biggest ever report on the industry for the UK government.
The report, which addresses persistent claims that householders are often wasting their time recycling, calls for better recycling facilities but also an increase in incineration of waste, an option that is opposed by many environment groups.
It also backed up last week's controversial report published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs warning that biopolymer plastics made from crops should be recycled rather than put into compost, despite being widely marketed as "biodegradable".
Wrap, the government's waste and packaging agency, said it had analysed 200 reports covering seven different materials: paper and cardboard, plastics, biopolymers, food, garden cuttings, wood and textiles. The experts then looked at the evidence for seven methods of disposal, including recycling, composting, incineration and landfill, measured by four different criteria: energy use, water use, other resource use, and greenhouse gas emissions.
In more than four out of five cases, recycling was the clear winner, said Keith James, Wrap's environmental policy manager.
But there were "different messages" for different materials, said James.
"For biopolymers, I think the preferable option is recycling, which isn't what people have commonly thought," he said.
"For textiles, there's not very many statistics, but what there is shows reuse is clearly optimal, followed by recycling and then energy recovery [incineration].
"For food and garden waste, anaerobic digestion looks preferable; then composting and incineration with energy recovery come out very similar.
"For plastics, we have got strong evidence this time that recycling is the better option, because recycling has improved.
"For wood, recycling looks preferable.
"For paper and cardboard, what the statistics throw out is the importance of quality: the higher the quality [paper and cardboard], the better it is to recycle, but as you go down to the lower end, energy recovery [incineration] may be preferable."
The good showing for incineration – preferred for a small number of items and often the next best option after recycling – will be controversial with some environmental campaigners who worry about the pollution from recycling plants, and that incineration becomes an easy option that deters investment in proper recycling.
However, the option of incineration was only preferred when it was using the best technology and generating energy, preferably energy that was directly replacing fossil fuel use, which is blamed for the greenhouse gas emissions that help cause global warming, said James.
"Energy recovery has a role to play, and if we're trying to divert more waste from landfill, we need to increase recycling and increase some energy recovery. But we need to make sure we get the right technologies," he said.
As well as analysing recycling in the UK, the study also considered the impact of transporting waste to other countries – often China – for recycling. It found that overseas transport was still better than sending it to landfill.
"The important thing is, because we're in an international economy ... [that if] we're sending metal back to China for recycling, it's coming back around the circle again," said James.
According to Defra, in 2008-9 the total waste collected from the UK's 25m households dropped slightly to 24.3m tonnes, or 473kg per person. Of this, 9.1m tonnes – 178kg per person – was recycled, a bit more than a third. Almost all of the remainder went to landfill.
Defra has a policy of encouraging more incineration, but no formal targets, said a spokesman.
"We can't keep on sending waste to landfill," said the spokesman. "People are already reducing the amount of waste they produce, and are reusing and recycling more, and we are working hard to increase this. Some waste will always be produced, but it can be valuable in generating renewable energy through anaerobic digestion or incineration."
In 2006, Wrap published a preliminary analysis of a different set of materials. But it used a much smaller collection of evidence. And it did not examine the newer energy-from-waste options of gasification and pyrolysis, both of which involve not burning but heating materials until a chemical reaction changes them into gases and residue.

From urban queen to eco warrior

It was hardly the change Rebecca Frayn expected in her middle age
Rebecca Frayn
To find myself becoming a suburban Swampy in my middle age is not something I would have predicted in a million years.
I mean, I do wear sandals, but they are usually from Prada, and, if I am serving lentils, I favour a particularly delicious recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook. Three children and a full-time career as a film-maker and novelist have always been more than enough to contend with. I can say with complete certainty that spending hours outside the House of Commons in the pouring rain, holding a placard in one hand, was never part of my life plan.
My epiphany came when I made a short film for a producer friend, Christina Robert, about the effects on the planet of flying. While researching the film, I came to understand how terrifyingly precarious the state of our ecosystem has become. It was then that it dawned on me how absurd it was to be obsessing about my children’s calcium intake when their very future appears to be on the line. And, as every mother knows, there is nothing like feeling your children are in jeopardy to rouse the sleeping tigress within.
This new environmental awareness could well have ended there if, at my next book club, the film hadn’t triggered such a candid conversation among my friends about climate change and the potential impact on our children’s generation. Rather to my alarm, these gentle, softly spoken women all seemed adamant that we had to do something. What an earth could we do, I protested. Well, we could lobby the government, someone said. Urge them — in the two-year run-up to Copenhagen — to take action. So, hesitantly, uncertainly, we formed a group, got ourselves a name, We Can, and a website, and began to try to work out how we might actually set about achieving this goal.
Undeterred by our total lack of experience, We Can soon took on a momentum of its own. Our first event was a vigil for mothers and children. On the day, we all wore T-shirts that would spell the message “Climate — Action — Now” when three of us stood side by side. Only on the Tube on the way to Westminster did it occur to me that, as a lone woman with “Action” inscribed across my bosom, I was probably sending out a rather different message to the one I had intended.
The crowd at this first event outside the House of Commons was only about 100-strong, but there we finally were, all wearing faintly astonished expressions and holding aloft our placards. (The puzzling number of paparazzi in attendance was explained when it transpired that a rumour had gone round Victoria Beckham was promoting a new underwear line and might be putting in an appearance.) Not long after that, feeling more astonished still, we joined forces with other, more radical environmental groups to storm the main gates of the House of Commons, before hurrying home to put our children to bed.
One morning, as dawn broke over the suburbs, I found myself on my way to a protest having to write a letter to my husband titled “What to do in the event of my arrest”, with lists of homework and piano lessons that he must oversee if I didn’t come home. It was only as Copenhagen grew near that we began to hit our stride. By the time we took scores of children into the House of Commons dressed as endangered animals, and watched the lobby fill with small polar bears and bumblebees, we were feeling like old pros.
Along the way, I have had to take a cool, hard look at my lifestyle. One of the first things I did in my new eco-warrior role was to offer my house as a base for the direct-action group Plane Stupid to make banners for a protest it was holding at Heathrow. On the appointed day, what seemed like a vast horde of young people began to flood through the door of my well-appointed home, some bearing Sanskrit tattoos or wearing garments apparently selected at random from a fancy-dress box. In the end, there were 40, or maybe even 50, activists all ready to begin cutting and pasting. Somehow, I found myself driving an elfin woman, who said she lived at the top of a tree, to buy material for the banners in my husband’s diesel-munching Mercedes, leaving the warriors to roam unattended about the house.
As I waited for the tree elf in my shameful car, I couldn’t help but reflect on what, in their high-principled way, they might be making of my home: that cowhide rug in the hall, all those electronic goods my children kept leaving on standby, the environmentally unfriendly expanse of glass in the kitchen and, most gratuitous of all, the giant Christmas tree in the sitting room, cut down in its prime simply to satiate my wanton materialistic gluttony. I felt rather like someone who has inexplicably taken a wrong turning somewhere, or, worse, like Margot from The Good Life. In the event, they were far too polite to mention the tree. But I had glimpsed my life through their eyes — and I didn’t much care for what I saw.
Shortly afterwards, I went to the Greenpeace HQ with one of my group to meet their senior climate adviser, only for the slow and shameful realisation to steal upon me, as we sat among the environmentally right-on posters in reception, that I was wearing not just leather shoes, but worse, far worse, leather boots. Suddenly, everything about me seemed swathed in consumer thoughtlessness. What was that ponyskin bag doing there, swinging so jauntily from my arm? And what had I been thinking when I decided to bring the giant bottle of Evian — too big to be pushed out of sight, and virtually shouting out loud that it had been unnecessarily air-freighted from France in its non-biodegradable plastic packaging? I sat through the meeting with my head bowed. Here I was, masquerading as someone with a conscience, when in fact I was the living embodiment of why we were all going to hell in a handcart.
The whole experience has been like tugging a stray strand of wool and finding the entire jumper unravelling in your hands. On an individual level, it is difficult to find an aspect of my life that isn’t in some way implicated. I began to walk the house obsessively switching off lights. The car, which my husband refuses to be parted from, had to be avoided. And the innocent mangetout on my plate no longer appeared innocent at all — as its purchaser, I was complicit in the air miles it had racked up on its epic journey across the world. I was to be found in the supermarket, surveying the rows of vegetables and fruit flown in from Kenya, Argentina and the Cayman Islands with quiet despair. Ironically, when I bumped into other mothers from my daughter’s school there, they would sometimes begin to stammer nervous explanations for why some of the purchases in their basket might not meet my lofty standards — quite oblivious to the fact that, despite all my campaigning, I was as conflicted about doing the right thing as they were.
After the most recent controversy over “Climategate”, public confusion on the issue is only growing. Yet plain common sense should tell us that, with fish stocks drying up and rainforests disappearing at an alarming rate, we need to embrace more sustainable ways of living as a matter of the utmost urgency — climate-change sceptics are merely quibbling while Rome burns. So, what next? Well, post-Copenhagen, we’re taking a mangetout-free break to figure that out.
Rebecca Frayn’s new novel, Deceptions (Simon & Schuster £12.99), is out on May 27

Stigson warns mistrust between business and government is hampering low carbon economy

Head of World Business Council for Sustainable Development warns poor communication between politicians and private sector is blocking the development of effective green policies
Cath Everett, BusinessGreen, 16 Mar 2010

A lack of trust between business and government is blocking the development of effective solutions for tackling climate change, according to the head of a leading sustainability body.
Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said in his opening keynote at the Base conference in London earlier today that mutual mistrust was hampering the development of a low carbon economy.
"Most resources and management skills are in business, but business can't deploy them fast enough unless the right government organisations and frameworks are in place," he said. "We have to take action together."
Stigson said that already low levels of co-operation between the political and business spheres had worsened in recent years as large multinational companies "scaled back" lobbying activities as result of the recession. He observed that as a result there was now a "capacity problem" within many businesses that no longer employed personnel who were able to act as " translators" between the two worlds.
He also accused businesses of failing to create a coherent vision of what they wanted to see from environmental and climate change policies. "If you want to influence this as businesses, you have to be clearer about what you can contribute and what you need," he said. "The message now is very incoherent and there's a free range to interpretation."
Governments are taking a similarly incoherent approach, according to Stigson, who said that despite the emergence of new green legislation and taxes in different countries there was still no "shared vision" on how to enhance improve an economy's sustainability.
However, he argued there was evidence that a "green race" was underway as different countries look to transform their economies.
He noted that while Japan is the current leader in energy efficient solutions as a result of action taken after the oil shocks of the 1970s, the European Union now has a 40 per cent share of the clean tech market. It also committed to increase research and development funding in the area by 300 per cent last October in order to try and boost its share of the sector still further. Similarly, the US has pumped billions of dollars into clean tech industries through its economic stimulus package.
But Stigson predicted that it is ultimately likely to be China that will win the race, with India taking the runners-up position. He said that China has made it clear that it wants to be a leading exporter of green technology and made clean tech a key component of its five-year economic growth plan as a result, while India continues to boast the huge work force and low cost base that will help it dominate any labour intensive clean tech sectors.

A Tale of Two Countries: Japan, China, and the Low-Carbon Economy

By Joel Makower
Published March 15, 2010

I've had the good fortune to view the world through a Japanese lens over the past 10 days -- specifically, the worlds of green business and clean technology, about which I've come to Japan to speak.
My host is the U.S. State Department, whose Office of International Information Programs invites a range of speakers to various foreign outposts at the host countries' request. (I did a similar speaking tour in Europe last fall, and another, in India, in 2000.) This latest trip took me to four cities -- Tokyo, Fukuoka, Nagoya, and Osaka -- to give presentations and to participate in two international symposia. My overall focus was on green innovation in the U.S. toward the goal of a "low-carbon economy."
That's a term that seems to be gaining currency in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere, though it isn't uttered often in the U.S., where, at best, adherents of green business, renewable energy, and sustainable commerce typically refer to the more generic "green economy." "Low carbon" demonstrates the growing focus on climate change among business and governmental leaders in Japan and elsewhere.
It was an interesting time to be here. On Friday, Japan's Cabinet approved a major piece of climate legislation -- Japan's first. And while it represents a major hurdle, it is less than it's cracked up to be. As the English-language Daily Yomiuri reported this past weekend:
"The bill incorporates bold reductions first touted by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama when he addressed the United Nations in September, saying Japan would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020."The bill also includes policies that were rejected by past Liberal Democratic Party-led governments due to concerns by business circles. If the bill becomes law, it will mark a major turning point in the country's global warming policy.However, details of the policies incorporated in the bill are still to be discussed, and there are differing opinions within the government. The government will be required to tackle a mountain of problems in the days ahead to resolve these issues."
Among those issues is that the 25 percent reduction goal has the precondition "that all major greenhouse gas-emitting nations will agree on a fair and effective international framework and ambitious goals," the paper reports. Suffice to say, that precondition doesn't seem forthcoming any time soon.
Nonetheless, Japan's enlightened business leaders are focused on how to move forward on a low-carbon economy, though my conclusion is that they don't have much more of a plan to get there than do the Americans. At the events I attended, there was much discussion about how to achieve the green vision of Hatoyama, the first prime minister who seems to "get it," when it comes to the economic potential of cleantech and a green economy, but whose vision is thwarted by the legislature. That was one recurring theme. Another was commiserating over how to motivate employees to engage in green practices. They expressed frustration in Japanese consumers' willingness to buy green products. They wondered how stable oil prices will affect progress, not to mention the impacts of the global economic recession. They asked repeatedly about President Obama's "New Green Deal," a remnant of the 2008 campaign that, far as I can tell, has disappeared into the ether.

For an American visitor, it seemed, much as I wrote during my visit here in 2007, that "I was six thousand miles from home, but I could have been anywhere in the U.S., given the stories I was hearing."
But far more than I expected, the conversation that took place seemed less about Japan than about China. Japan's neighbor to the southwest seems to be causing a mild case of dyspepsia in the Land of the Rising Sun. Though the events I attended featured only one Chinese speaker, there was much conversation, and more than a little handwringing, about the role China will play in the low-carbon economy.
The conversation about China has taken a dramatic turn over the past year or so. In the past, it had more to do with "What happens when 1.3 billion Chinese want to achieve the same standard of living as their Western (and Japanese) counterparts?" That's still a concern, of course. But the conversations I've been hearing lately, in both the U.S. and Japan, have more to do with "What happens when China produces the clean technologies we'll all be needing?"
That's Japan's concern. Indeed, it seems a cruel turn of fate from just a quarter-century ago, when American leaders were asking the same question about Japan. At the time, that country seemed to be eating our proverbial lunch, outperforming us in producing a wide range of goods that had been invented in America, from solar panels to televisions.
Japan now worries that China will be a similar threat, with its weak intellectual property laws, which mean that it can easily "own" the technological secrets of things invented elsewhere, made cheaply due to its low-cost labor and manufacturing prowess. Already, for example, Japan has dropped from the number-one producer of solar panels to the number-three producer, behind China and Germany, according to the Earth Policy Institute. (The U.S. is fifth, just after Taiwan and ahead of India.) As the Institute reported last week, "Chinese annual production skyrocketed from 40 megawatts in 2004 to 1,848 megawatts in 2008, nearly five times the output of the United States."
It's that state of affairs that has Japan -- and the U.S. -- fretting. Not just about climate change but also about the economic climate that may see their global competitiveness fall further and further behind.

£2 million Cumbrian study to reduce river pollution

By Victoria Brenan
Last updated at 14:01, Tuesday, 16 March 2010
A £2 million environmental study is to be carried out in Cumbria in a bid to reduce agricultural river pollution.
A team from Newcastle University wants to find ways to prevent farm waste affecting water quality, while sustaining food production levels.
The four-year project on the River Eden is being funded by Defra and the Environment Agency.
The researchers, led by Dr Paul Quinn, say they aim to transform modern agricultural practices.
Dr Quinn said: “Waste and run-off from farms is a serious threat to our rivers.” He added: “But if we are to tackle the problem we need to find cost-effective, sustainable mitigation measures that can be incorporated into normal farming practice.
“Wetlands, ponds and sediment traps are just some of the schemes that Newcastle academics are testing on working farms to remove the waste before it reaches the river.”
The university team will work with farmers and regulators to establish ‘mutually beneficial’ systems, he added.
First published at 11:28, Tuesday, 16 March 2010Published by

ABB brings energy efficiency to luxury living

ABB's i-bus KNX building automation solution is reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions by as much as 35% in a luxury apartment tower Le Rêve in Dubai. The building is one of the most exclusive addresses in Dubai, UAE and the first smart home built in the Middle East.
According to Institute for Energy Research, building technology is the largest consumer of energy after the areas of transport and power generation. Heating, cooling and lighting in residential and office buildings make up approximately 40% of the energy consumed in a building - a share that leaves a lot of scope for efficient optimization.On the Middle East front, the home automation level in building installations has reached a very high standard in the past few years. This is in part due to the green building initiatives rolled out by a number of governments over the years. Green buildings have become a major focus in the UAE. In Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has made green building a top priority and launched a number of green building projects in the country. Supporting this initiative is ABB's smart home automation system, which has taken luxury living to new heights in the 52-story Le Rêve (a.k.a 'The Dream') Tower, which is home to a number of high-profile residents from across the globe. In control of comfortABB i-bus KNX is the intelligent installation system that meets the highest requirements for applications in modern home and building control.The system uses sleek, wireless touch screens to enable Le Rêve residents to control all the functions of their homes, including lighting, air conditioning, heating and curtains in any room, and from any room. It relies on sensors and motion detectors to determine when and how much light and heat are needed in each room. Specifically, a presence detector used for control of the room lighting can simultaneously switch the room thermostat to absent mode as soon as the room is unoccupied for an extended period. Heating or cooling energy can be conserved and energy saved up to 35%. The solution is based on the simple, yet proven KNX technology which is now accepted as the world's first open Standard for the control of all types of intelligent buildings - industrial, commercial or residential. Energy efficiency and climate control in home automation"The ability to control energy-intensive functions, such as air conditioning and lighting in each room, is reducing power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by close to 35% in the tower. This makes the ABB system one of the most energy-efficient building automation systems on the market," says Tarek Zakaria, Head of ABB's i-bus KNX intelligent building automation systems in the Gulf region. "ABB's i-bus KNX system is one of the most widely used intelligent installation systems in the world, and the leading smart building system in the Middle East and Africa."Curtain (or blind control) plays an important role in climate control for the Le Rêve Tower. Closing the curtains on the facades of the tower on which the sun is shining in summer, can prevent the rooms from heating up - saving energy that would be needed to cool the working areas. In winter the opposite is true. Here it is useful to capture as much solar heat as possible in the rooms - this saves energy when heating rooms.In addition to Dubai's Le Rêve tower, the technology is currently increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy bills in top hotels across the Middle East, including the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, La Cigale Hotel in Doha, and the Four Seasons Hotel in Alexandria.ABB is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 117,000 people

U.S. groups want to expand climate bill forestry aid

Richard Cowan
Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:46am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. environmental groups are trying to expand a climate change bill being written in the Senate to help foreign countries pay for enforcing laws they already have in place for protecting forests as one way of reducing carbon pollution.
Global warming legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year would set up financial incentives encouraging new steps in the United States and abroad for reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
But there are doubts it would let those financial incentives flow to foreign countries, such as Brazil and Indonesia, with forest protection laws on the books but few resources to enforce them.
"We have been talking to a lot of people about this issue," said Sarene Marshall, deputy director of the Nature Conservancy's climate change program.
She added that the "vast majority of deforestation in the Amazon is technically illegal because Brazil has one of most far-reaching protection laws on the books. We're talking about programs that actually help move landowners into compliance."
The clearing of large swaths of forests for farming, ranching, and other uses is estimated to contribute 20 percent of world greenhouse gas output. Trees soak up carbon dioxide when growing and release it when they rot or are burned.
But for some countries that already have forest-protection plans in place it is the enforcement of domestic laws, including on the local level, that will make the difference in pollution reduction efforts.
Democratic Senator John Kerry is leading the fight in the Senate for a compromise climate change bill that could be voted on this year. But talks have been difficult and so far there have been no guarantees of a bill being enacted soon.
Environmentalists are hoping Kerry includes in any compromise an expanded credit provision, in the form of "offsets," that companies are allowed to undertake in their overall carbon-reduction efforts.
For example, a U.S. company could meet some of its federally mandated carbon emissions goals by helping protect forests and other environmentally sensitive lands abroad from being developed.
Indonesian forestry officials were in Washington last week trying to enhance cooperative efforts between the two countries. Indonesia is the world's third largest carbon polluter when taking into account deforestation and land use and not just smokestack pollution.
Wandojo Siswanto, chairman of Indonesia's Forestry Ministry, told Reuters that he hoped President Barack Obama's visit to his country next week might result in a bilateral agreement to enhance U.S.-Indonesian forest management collaboration.
Wandojo and Basah Hernowo, Indonesia's director for forestry and water resources conservation, also said that a quick injection of international aid funds, separate from the "offsets," were needed to help developing countries like Indonesia tackle global warming.
But they did not detail how much money was being sought or what it would be used for if granted.
In December, a United Nations-sponsored conference meeting in Copenhagen called on rich countries to create a $30 billion fund over three years to help poorer countries combat climate change. That "fast-start" fund would grow to $100 billion a year by 2020.
The next annual U.N. climate meeting -- beginning in November in Mexico -- may not be able to conclude with a binding, international deal on how to battle global warming after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. But there are hopes that a worldwide accord on managing forests at least can be struck there.
"We need international support" with forest protection, Wandojo said, adding, "We believe that the (U.N.-led) negotiations couldn't be moving forward without the leadership of the U.S."
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Mormon church partners with local agencies on biofuel project

By Lois M. Collins
Deseret News
Published: Monday, March 15, 2010 2:05 p.m. MDT
SALT LAKE CITY — The 200-acre chunk of land southwest of the airport is barren save for wisps of grass and dried-out thistle. And due to recent snow, it's boggy, too.
But give it some attention, and around July it will burst with bright oranges, yellows and reds as soon-to-be-planted safflower blooms. Soon after, the plants' seeds will become fuel to power local government fleets hungry for homegrown biodiesel.
Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City Public Utilities, the South Davis Sewer District, Utah State University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all are lending a hand for a pilot project to showcase the use of this publicly owned land to grow the feedstock for biodiesel fuel.
And it's a recycling project, as well. Biosolids generated by the wastewater treatment process will be spread over the land to fertilize the drought-tolerant safflower.
On this dry farm, future fuels start with seeds and biosolids, followed by benign neglect until the safflower has grown, said Dallas Hanks, USU researcher and director of the FreeWays to Fuel National Alliance, during a news conference Monday to introduce the project.

The plan is to start small, on just 20 of the 200 acres, and with success, expand. Each acre is expected to yield about 50 gallons of biodiesel. Poured in the city's and county's vehicles, it should reduce how much is spent on imported diesel fuel and improve the sustainability and carbon footprint of the area, the officials said. And all that biosolid waste won't end up in landfills, either.
Salt Lake City owns the land, while USU brings expertise to the undertaking. The processed biosolids are from Salt Lake's public wastewater treatment facility. South Davis Sewer District is lending its "slinger" to distribute the biosolid waste. The vehicle's title aptly describes how it works, lumbering like a giant mower that slings waste from its side.
The LDS Church will provide equipment and labor for both the planting and harvesting of the safflower.
Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley has led the county's new Urban Farming Initiative, and he introduced the biodiesel plan as a way to show "idle land put to beneficial use on behalf of the public."
Salt Lake County will be a likely beneficiary of the end biofuel product, said county Mayor Peter Corroon. "If this project is successful, it has the potential to recycle waste from sewage and produce fuel for our county fleet through urban farming,"
According to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, the land originally was purchased as the site of a future sewage treatment plant. That's still 15 years in the future, and using the land now to make biofuel feeds into the city's emphasis on "returning as much as possible of the ground to agriculture" and on benefits to the public.
Vacant properties throughout the city are being put to reuse to grow things, he noted.

Even the Sun can't save us from global warming!

ANI, Mar 16, 2010, 08.50pm IST

WASHINGTON: A new study has determined that even if the sun commenced a very long period of low activity, it cannot put the brakes on the relentless rise of global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. Since the 13th century, the sun has gone through four "Grand Minima", one of which is thought to have contributed to the anomalously low temperatures in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. This extended cold period, known as the "Little Ice Age", coincided with a very long period of calm on the solar surface. Tracking sunspot numbers, astronomers noticed that from 1645 to 1715, the sun's disk was "blank", that is, it had few, if any, sunspots. This period became known as the "Maunder Minimum". If the sun lacks spots, that means there is a reduction in magnetic energy, signifying a lower energy output, or a slight reduction in brightness, or "irradiance". Typically, every 11 years, the sun goes through peaks and troughs in energy output (known as solar maximum and minimum, respectively) and this abnormally long minima is largely attributed with contributing toward the Little Ice Age. Solar minimum went on for a little longer than expected during Solar Cycle 24. Unfortunately, it didn't help our warming climate much. Scientists have pondered that if the sun endures another Grand Minimum, could the solar cycle slow down - or even reverse - the amplified global heating caused by greenhouse gas emissions. "The notion that we are heading for a new Little Ice Age if the sun actually entered a Grand Minimum is wrong," said study lead author Dr Georg Feulner of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase unchecked, global average temperatures are predicted to rise by between 3.7 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. If the sun enters another Grand Minimum, the reduction in solar energy will slow heating by a paltry 0.3 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. But, global warming will overwhelm any "cooling" effect caused by reduced solar output. According to Julie Arblaster, a climate researcher at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, a reduction of 0.25 percent in solar irradiance is "on the extreme end of what we would expect for the next century." "This shows that any changes in the Sun, even large changes, will only have a small impact in offsetting that warming," she said.

Mound solar panels to test sun’s power

Miamisburg project fits well with the mission
of the area to help forge new energy economy.
By Steve Bennish, Staff Writer 11:17 PM Monday, March 15, 2010
DAYTON — Dayton Power & Light’s second solar power array under construction will use 300 ground-mounted panels on a southern-facing hill at the Mound Advanced Technology Center in Miamisburg.
The project fits well with the mission of the manufacturing and research cradle that once housed a Department of Energy weapons site.
Firms there are involved in advanced energy technologies, said Mike Grauwelman, president of the not-for-profit Mound Community Improvement Corp.
Work under way at the Mound shows promise at helping forge a new energy economy, Grauwelman said. The area already has leadership in materials technology that could spawn new manufacturing and boost employment in the field of renewable energy.
“It’s time to reinvent ourselves and take advantage of what is here,” Grauwelman said.
The Mound has 550,000 square feet of space. About 200,000 square feet are occupied, Grauwelman said.
The project is at a good location too, DP&L said, because it does not require much clearing or preparation and easily can tie to the electric grid. The hillside is at a good angle to the sun that will get strong solar exposure, and is not valuable real estate for buildings.
The panels are a different kind than those being set up at the utility’s Yankee substation in Washington Twp., where a 1.1 megawatt installation should be online by April. The Mound panels are made of crystalline silicon and rated at 200 watts each, taking up less space for the power generated. The Yankee panels, all 9,000 of them, will be amorphous silicon and generate 125 watts each.
State legislation gave DP&L a choice of purchasing what are known as “renewable energy credits” or RECs, on an open market to meet requirements. However, it couldn’t meet all its solar requirements that way in part because of the state’s lagging development of solar installations.
“To meet the 2011 requirements, it is too far in the future to say if it would be less expensive for (DP&L) to purchase solar RECs,” the utility said, than to expand the Yankee or Mound solar arrays.
DP&L said that according to the Edison Electric Institute, building a solar array costs one and a half times as much as a new coal plant.
For example, a solar photo voltaic project would cost $5,000 per kilowatt and coal costs $3,000 per kilowatt. However, solar power costs continue to decline, the source is renewable, sunlight is strong during summer air-conditioning power peaks and solar energy does not pollute, DP&L said.
The Yankee installation is expected to be online by April and the Mound project by summer. There’s room at Yankee to expand, DP&L said.

Southern Company and Ted Turner Acquire Solar Photovoltaic Power Project

Posted on: Mon, 15 Mar 2010 04:00:00 EDT
ATLANTA, March 15, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ --
Southern Company (NYSE: SO Quote Chart News PowerRating) Chairman, President and CEO David M. Ratcliffe and Turner Renewable Energy founder Ted Turner today announced that the companies have acquired and will bring online one of the nation's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants. The 30 megawatt project, the first to result from the partnership forged by Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy in January, will supply power to approximately 9,000 homes.
(Logo: )
The project was acquired from and will be built by Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar, Inc., (Nasdaq: FSLR Quote Chart News PowerRating) the world's largest manufacturer of thin film solar modules.
"Expanding the role renewables play in our energy mix is a priority for Southern Company," said Ratcliffe. "Renewables, along with new nuclear, increased energy efficiency, cleaner coal technology and additional natural gas, all will be crucial to meeting this nation's growing energy demand."
"It is great that large-scale solar photovoltaic power generation is becoming a reality in the United States," said Turner. "Southern Turner Renewable Energy is excited to develop and own this project and we look forward to generating clean renewable energy in New Mexico."
The Southern Turner Cimarron I Solar Project is adjacent to Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico. First Solar is the contractor for both engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and operation and maintenance for the facility.
"The Cimarron I project is yet another example of First Solar's capability to realize utility-scale solar projects," said Rob Gillette, First Solar chief executive officer. "Combining the required technology, manufacturing, project development and EPC expertise enables First Solar to be a leader in sustainable energy development."
Construction of the solar array will begin this month with completion and commercial operation expected by year end 2010. It will consist of approximately 500,000 2'x 4' photovoltaic modules constructed with First Solar's patented thin film semiconductor technology.
PV modules generate electricity directly from sunlight through an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, known as semiconductors. Solar energy frees electrons in these materials to travel through an electrical circuit, powering devices or sending electricity to the grid.
Electricity generated by the plant will serve a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives serving 1.4 million customers across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. With the plant's output covered by a long-term contract, the Cimarron I Solar Project is a natural fit with Southern Company's overall business strategy and risk profile.
Turner Renewable Energy is wholly owned by Ted Turner. Turner Enterprises, Inc. (TEI), a private company, manages the business interests, land holdings and investments of Ted Turner, including the oversight of two million acres in 12 states and in Argentina, and more than 50,000 bison head.
With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Company is consistently listed among the top U.S. electric service providers in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Visit our Web site at
SOURCE Southern Company

Wind farm power plant substation will 'overwhelm' Norfolk coastal village

A village on the Norfolk coast will be overwhelmed by a giant electricity substation processing power from an offshore wind farm, residents fear.

Published: 7:30AM GMT 15 Mar 2010
The villages of Little Dunham, Norfolk, have collected 1,500 signatures opposing the plan for what they say will be one of the largest such sites in Europe.
They calculate claim that other coastal communities will face similar pressures as the wind power industry expands to reduce Briatain's reliance on fossil fuels.
But Warwick Energy, the company behind the plans, insists that it will ''not have a significant impact on the local environment''.
But residents have calculated that Wembley stadium would fit on the site earmarked for the substation which is needed to transfer power generated by a North Sea wind farm to the National Grid.
Paul Gardner, one of the campaigners, said: "Opposition to the building of one of the largest power substations in Europe next to Little Dunham continues to grow at a massive rate," he said.
"Local residents have been vigorously campaigning against the proposals."
Mr Gardner said campaigners feared more plants would spring up around Britain to transfer energy into homes and businesses.
He added: "One villager has written to Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, demanding his attention to the seemingly uncontrolled way offshore electricity is bought ashore and connected to the National Grid with no care to the environment."
Mr Gardner said the proposed plant would occupy at least 22 acres, villagers had been "overwhelmed" by the idea and felt that they had not been consulted.
He added: "It's the sheer size of the project and devastating effect on the open countryside, and to the village, that has overwhelmed people."
Power firm Warwick Energy applied for permission to build the plant in December.
The company said the plant would transfer power generated by a planned wind farm off Cromer, Norfolk.
A spokesman said the firm hoped the wind farm would start generating power in 2013.
Warwick said surveys and studies showed the Little Dunham plant would "not have a significant impact on the local environment".
The company said, in a press release, that staff had held "public exhibitions" in nearby towns in November and had "been very encouraged by the general level of local support".
"This was confirmed from the questionnaire returns at the exhibitions," added the statement.
" ... Sixty-nine per cent of people supported the specific onshore proposals, 23% were undecided and only 8% of people were against these proposals."
The company says the project will cost around £1.3 billion and save up 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over its expected 50-year life.
Officials said the wind farm could provide more than 0.5% of the UK's annual electricity needs.
They said as many as 168 wind turbines would be built and the project would produce enough power, on average, to supply up to 400,000 homes with green electricity.

Carbon-Capture Method Could Poison Oceans

by Lauren Schenkman on March 15, 2010 4:42 PM
Pretty deadly. Humanmade blooms of this single-celled organism, a phytoplankton of the genus Pseudonitzschia, could boost ocean levels of a potent neurotoxin.
Credit: Virginia Armbrust et al., University of Washington
To help cool a warming world, some scientists have suggested fertilizing the oceans with iron. The idea is to stimulate vast blooms of phytoplankton, which sequester carbon dioxide. But such an approach could have deadly consequences. Experiments in the northern Pacific Ocean show that phytoplankton in waters far from land produce a molecule called domoic acid, a neurotoxin that has killed wildlife and people in coastal areas.
About 20% of Earth's oceans are strangely bare of greenery. Despite abundant nitrogen and phosphorous, these areas—known as high-nutrient, low chlorophyll zones—have very small populations of phytoplankton, single-celled algae that photosynthesize. That's because phytoplankton also need iron, and these zones tend to be too far from the river deltas and land runoff that supply it. So-called geoengineers have proposed sprinkling these regions with iron to foster phytoplankton blooms big enough to consume vast amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and thus cool the globe.
But too many phytoplankton can be a bad thing, especially when it comes to members of the genus Pseudonitzschia. This alga produces domoic acid, which it spews into the surrounding seawater to help it ingest iron. Domoic acid also happens to be a potent neurotoxin that travels up the food chain into shellfish and small fish. In 1987, three people died and 107 fell ill from amnesic shellfish poisoning after eating mussels that fed on Pseudonitzschia blooms off Prince Edward Island in Canada. The poison has also killed sea lions off the coast of California, and coastal regions such as Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada, often close beaches and fisheries because of Pseudonitzschia blooms.
Still, researchers haven't found domoic acid in phytoplankton-poor zones seeded with iron, suggesting that geoengineering efforts would be safe. But that may be because phytoplankton samples in these experiments were preserved and tested on shore, which may have affected their production of domoic acid, says Charles Trick, an oceanographer at the University of Western Ontario in London.
So in the new study, Trick and colleagues tested seawater in the open ocean west of British Columbia. They detected small amounts of domoic acids—about 30 trillionths of a gram per liter—in the samples. After they added iron, the phytoplankton quintupled, and domoic acid concentrations within the algae doubled. Concentrations of domoic acid in the water also increased. Seeding a batch with both iron and copper, which is often found in low-grade iron, amplified the effects, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The implications could be serious for any would-be phytoplankton farmers, Trick says. When given an iron boost, the domoic acid concentrations were in the range of concentrations seen in toxic coastal blooms, meaning they could be deadly to wildlife.
Trick speculates that humans wouldn't have the chance to eat contaminated organisms from these regions, but the toxin could travel up the food chain into crabs and small fish and even higher into sea mammals and birds. Further studies are needed to determine just what the effects would be, he says. "It's a warning that we don't know very much about how nature will really respond."
"They've done a very thorough job," says Philip Boyd, an oceanographer at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, who has run two large-scale fertilization experiments in the sub-arctic Pacific and the Antarctic oceans. On top of pointing out potential risks of iron, Boyd says, the results challenge the notion that iron fertilization strategies would be cheap, as they would require expensive, analytical-grade iron rather than low-grade copper-containing iron. "One of the attractions of iron, and the way they sell it to venture capitalists, is that it can do it quite cheaply—for the carbon you sequester, it's not going to cost that many dollars," Boyd says. "But there may be hidden costs, and this may be one of them."