Sustainable Energy News Around the World

A May 15th New York Times article says that multinationals plan to continue reducing emissions regardless of Bush policy. In fact, many companies advocate action. For example, Peter Pestillo, chairman of the Visteon Corporation, one of the world’s largest auto parts makers, says that efforts to address environmental issues are not very expensive Wind Turbine                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                if identified early in the design process. Companies also continue to face strong pressure in Europe and Japan.

Another NY Times article reports on government studies that conclude that depending on how aggressively the government supports efficiency gains in appliances and buildings, the growth of U.S. energy demand could drop by 20-47 percent. This would eliminate between 265 – 610 of the 1300 new large power plants the Bush Administration insists the country needs. The range also depends on the price of energy – the higher the price, the more efficient technologies become economically attractive.

H Power Corp., a fuel cell development company, is bringing Residential Fuel Cells to California. They will be arriving over the next few months and will be marketed with their partner, Energy Co-Opportunity, Inc. (ECO). Altair Energy LLC, will be the non-exclusive distributor for the Southern California market, to sell, install and service the units. It currently supplies San Diego customers with standardized solar electric systems.

The fuel cells will run on natural gas or propane and will enable homeowners to be independent of utilities. Electric and gas utilities in the U.S., Canada, Japan, France and Scandinavia are testing similar H Power fuel cell generators. H Power also has an $81 million agreement with ECO to provide residential co-generation fuel cell systems to ECO’s electric cooperative members.

Germany, the leading country in wind installations in the world, is steadily moving toward its goal of 22,000MW by 2010. The country added 237 new wind turbines in the first quarter of 2001, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year. This brings the country’ s wind power capacity to almost 6,400MW, 33 percent of the world’s output. Peter Ahmels, president of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), gives credit to Germany’s year-old renewable energy act that offers compensation for energy produced exclusively from renewable sources. The U.S. is in second place.

The total wind energy capacity worldwide is 18,449 MW, according to Danish consultants, BTM Consult ApS, and is expected to increase by 39 percent in 2001 (last year’s increase was 15 percent). Spain is in second place with 2,836 MW, 15 percent of the world total. The U.S. has 2,610 MW and Denmark has at 2,341 MW, 12 percent of global output each. This will be a big year for U.S. installations – 1,440 MW compared with 180 MW last year – but 2002 is expected to slow to 950 MW, largely due to concerns over the Bush Administration. There are 26,390 turbines in Europe, 16,659 units in America, 5,748 in Asia and 441 in the rest of the world, for a global total of 49,238 turbines. According to BTM, the market for new turbines will grow from the current US$8 billion of sales, to $32 billion by 2005. There is increasing acceptance of megawatt size turbines, and they forecast that offshore wind will contribute 10 percent to market total by 2005.

Sweden has given the go-ahead to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, to be built in the sound between Denmark and Sweden. restads Vindkraftpark AB will install 48, 1.8 MW Enercon turbines. Eurowind AB, the majority owner of the wind farm plans for power to begin flowing in the fall of 2002 and final commissioning of all 86 MW of capacity to be in place by the end of 2002. The facility will increase Sweden’s wind energy production by 70 percent. Eurowind is waiting for permits to build a 25 MW onshore windfarm in France and a 100 MW offshore facility in Italy.

19,000 solar panels are being installed on the roof of the Floriade 2002 international horticultural exhibition in Amsterdam. The Dutch power utility Nuon placed the order with Siemens Nederland N.V. a subsidiary of Siemens Solar Industries. The plant is set to begin operating this December. The semi-transparent solar panels will function as the roof of the glasshouse, allowing sunlight to pass through to the plants, as well as generate electricity.

A $65 million solar electric power park, the size of 57 soccer fields, is going up in Spain. AstroSolar, a joint venture of AstroPower Inc., is building it. It will generate up to 4 percent of the peak load for the Murcia region, which has one of the best solar resources in Spain. AstroPower’s patented Silicon-Film(TM) technology will be used for the large-area Apex solar cells.

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), Energy Northwest and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation announced in April that a solar power station would be built on the site of the closed Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state. As the largest solar photovoltaic installation in the Pacific Northwest, it will generate 35 – 50 kilowatts. At least 27.5 kilowatts could be installed and operating as early as this July. Ralph Cavanagh, energy policy project director for the Natural Resources Defense Council notes, “The Northwest isn’t thought of as a natural home for solar. But in fact the region has a world class solar resource, as this project demonstrates.”

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory set a new record for the efficiency of a solar PV cell in the U.S. They achieved a conversion efficiency of 16.4 percent for electricity produced by cadmium telluride solar cells. Until now, researchers haven’t been able to beat the previous record of 15.8 percent, set nine years ago. The efficiency of a PV cell is the percentage of sunlight that is converted into electricity. Cadmium telluride can be used for “thin-film” solar cells, a process that uses less expensive materials and thus lowers the cost of solar panels. Over the past two decades, NREL’s research has resulted in new materials and processes that have helped reduce the cost of solar electric systems by ten fold. NREL’s goal is to reduce PV prices by another 50 percent by the end of the decade. Last year, the U.S. PV industry increased production by 29 percent; the global industry increased production by 39 percent.

In Australia, Sustainable Technologies International opened the first titania dye solar cell manufacturing operation near Canberra. The company is the sole licensee outside Europe of the patented core technology for dyed titania cells. This technology lowers production costs compared to standard silicon based solar cells. They also perform under a wider range of temperature and light conditions including low and diffuse light, and they can be optically transparent or opaque. The company claims the production of its cells is less harmful to the environment than the manufacture of silicon cells which emits hazardous gases and requires a great deal of water and electricity. Titania solar cel
l manufacture produces no toxic gas emissions, Sustainable Technologies says.

A Massachusetts surcharge on electric bills over the past three years is now paying off. The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust announced it would spend $100 million through 2002 to stimulate the deployment of renewables in the state (after which additional programs will be developed). $47 million in grants, loans and other support will be used to promote green power and green buildings. It will: finance new wind, biomass and solar facilities; help people form purchasing groups for renewable energy; fund design and installation costs for green buildings, including schools; and promote the use of fuel cells at facilities such as hospitals with sensitive, ” mission critical” electricity needs. $53 million will be used to help communities purchase pollution control equipment at waste-to-energy plants. The state has issued several Requests for Proposals to implement the program. [sorry this link is no longer available]

The state of New Jersey is following suit. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved a surcharge on electricity to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The less- than- one- percent surcharge double the funding available for these programs. They expect to raise $358 million over three years. Some of the money will be used to provide rebates to people who install the technologies in their homes and businesses, and some will support larger-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms and sustainable biomass projects. About 75 percent will go toward energy efficiency, and 25 percent will go toward renewables.

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