Power & Energy Solutions

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Delegates left the European Wind Energy Conference 2009 (EWEC) last week with the reminder that wind energy is Europe's number one in terms of new power capacity ringing in their ears.{pagebreak}"In 2008, we installed 8,454 MW of wind capacity, making up 36% of power installations", stressed Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). "That was more than any other power generating technology. There are good reasons for the wind sector's top spot: the range of benefits it offers to European citizens is unmatched by any other energy source".There is now a total of 65 GW of wind power in the EU, which will, in a normal wind year, produce 142 TWh of electricity, equal to about 4.2% of the EU's electricity demand. Wind energy is fuel free and so avoids volatile fuel and carbon costs. In 2008, while the oil price shot up to €147 and came unsteadily down again, wind power avoided fuel costs of €5.4 billion and CO2 costs of €2.4 billion. Furthermore, increasing the use of wind diminishes our reliance on fuel imports from unstable regions - currently, Europe imports 54% of its energy, and this is set to grow to 70% by 2030.

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Solar energy capacity in the United States grew by 17 percent in 2008, according to a preliminary report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association. But Rhone Resch, the president of the solar group, warned that the financial crisis has hit the industry hard, since financing for projects has largely dried up.{pagebreak}"We're not immune to the recession at all," he said at a briefing for journalists in Washington. "This first quarter has been brutal." Of the four types of solar power surveyed, photovoltaic capacity grew especially quickly, at 44 percent over total installed capacity through 2007. Solar hot water installations also showed strong growth.Solar pool heating, already the largest solar sector, added slightly less capacity last year than in 2007, and no new concentrating solar power projects - large, utility-scale projects that use mirrors to harness the sun's energy - came online last year.The industry got an enormous boost from provisions in last year's bailout bill and also this year's stimulus, which, according to Mr. Resch, contained 19 different provisions for aiding solar power. But Mr. Resch also said that solar developers and manufacturers were hoping that Congress would soon pass more policies to help the industry.At the top of

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If domestic solar panels become as common on the plains and rooftops of the United States as they are abroad, it may be because the financing technique that gave Europe an early lead in renewable energy is starting to cross the Atlantic.{pagebreak}The idea is to pay homeowners and businesses cash for producing green energy. In Germany, for example, a homeowner with a rooftop solar system may be paid four times more to produce electricity than the rate paid to a coal-fired power plant.Earlier this month, Gainesville became the first city in the United States to introduce higher payments for solar power, which is otherwise too expensive for many families or businesses to install. City leaders, who control their electric utility, unanimously approved the policy after studying Germany's solar-power expansion.Furthermore, Hawaii, where sky-high prices for electricity have stirred interest in alternative energy, hopes to have a similar policy in place before the end of the year. The mayor of Los Angeles wants to introduce higher payouts for solar power. California is considering a stronger policy as well, and bills have also been introduced in other states, including Washington and Oregon."I'm seeing it with my own eyes - it's really having a

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Italy plans to boost capacity of its photovoltaic installations turning sunlight into power- to 16,000 megawatts (MW) in 2020 from about 280 MW now, on the back of generous government incentives.{pagebreak}And industry body GIFI, together with Italy's state power management agency GSE, have recently released the following key facts about the sector:* Italy is Europe's third-biggest PV power producer after Germany and Spain, but with a total installed capacity of about 270-280 MW at the end of 2008, the country makes less than one percent of its power at PV facilities. Italy's current installed capacity is dwarfed by about 3,300 MW installed in Spain and 5,300 MW in Germany by the end of 2008, according to estimates by Emerging Energy Research (EER)* In February 2007, the Italian government approved new incentives for the PV sector, including the feed-in tariff which guarantees operators up to 0.49 euros ($0.63) per kilowatt hour of produced power for 20 years. The incentives for projects to be approved in 2009 vary from 0.353 euros per kW/h to 0.480euros per kW/h, depending on installations' type and capacity* The current incentive scheme puts a 1,200 MW cap on capacity to be covered by incentives; this limit is

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Last week, two major but very different players in the world of aerodynamics - the American airplane builder Boeing and the giant Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas - announced they would seek ways to work together on various projects.{pagebreak}And while it is still early days, the recently announced partnership is an interesting sign of how industries may combine forces under a carbon-constrained economy.The first stage of the partnership - announced at an international climate change congress in Copenhagen, Denmark - gets underway this year, when researchers from the companies in Europe and the United States are expected to identify projects already underway within each company that could benefit from closer interaction.That could lead to joint investments - though there is no talk of a merger, Vestas officials said. "There is a strong correlation between new technologies needed in the aerospace industry and new technologies needed in the wind-energy businesses," said Jan Narlinge, the president of Boeing Northern Europe.A particular challenge for Boeing was improving fuel efficiency, Mr. Narlinge explained. For Vestas - a largely undiversified wind company unlike its main competitors Siemens and General Electric - the partnership could help it improve the construction of its towers and increase the power

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All of Europe's energy needs could be supplied by building an array of solar panels in the Sahara, the recent climate change conference in Copenhagen has been told. Technological advances coupled with falling costs have finally made it realistic to consider North Africa as Europe's main source of imported energy.{pagebreak}And by harnessing the Sun, possibly in tandem with wind farms along the North African coastline, the continent could easily meet its 2020 target of generating at least 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources."It [North Africa] could supply Europe with all the energy it needs," Anthony Patt, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, told scientists. "The Sun is very strong there and it is very reliable. "There is a growing number of cost estimates of both wind and concentrated solar power for North Africa that start to compare favourably with alternative technologies. The cost of moving long distances has really come down."Dr Patt explained only a fraction of the Sahara, probably the size of a small country, needed to be covered to produce enough energy for Europe. He told the conference that calculations reveal that a £50 billion investment by governments over the next ten years would

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Renewable energy resources produced 30% of the electricity consumed in Spain in February 2009, a goal set in 2001 by the EU to be reached by 2010 and which seemed impossible just one year ago. This is according to data from the Electric Network reported this week by Spanish Newspaper El Pais.{pagebreak}In 2008 in Spain, wind and hydroelectric energy generated 18% of Spain's electricity, compared to 10% in the United States and 5% in Great Britain.Among the factors that led to an increase in the use of clean energy is a reduction in electricity demand due to the economic crisis, allowing the capacity of the wind sector to increase during the past decade, and increasing rain, which has led to a 126.4% increase in hydroelectric power between January and March compared to the same period in 2008.In February, wind energy totaled 15.8% of total consumption, and hydroelectric totaled 15.6%. According to sources from the Electric Network, this percentage should be maintained throughout the spring if it continues to rain, although a slight reduction is predicted for the summer.It is also necessary to add photovoltaic energy - whose contribution is beginning to be substantial - to these totals, since during the

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The Research Council of Norway has announced that it will grant funding to eight national research centres for the development of environmentally friendly technologies. Each centre will receive up to NOK 20 million (EUR 2.26 million) a year for five years.{pagebreak}Various topics will be covered during this period, including solar, bioenergy and wind power, and carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage, said representatives from the Norwegian gas technology centre SINTEF/NTNU.Under the programme, the eight research centres will work at developing high-quality technologies for energy that does not harm the environment. The researchers involved will also focus on strengthening skills and know-how in this area.In order to meet its goal, each research centre will focus on three main strategies: to boost power generation from renewable sources including solar, biomass and wind; to handle CO2 emissions from fossil sources of energy such as oil and gas; and to ensure more efficient use of energy.Ultimately, the goal is for the research centres to create jobs and fuel industrial activity, the SINTEF/NTNU representatives said. All the centres participating in the programme should be national leaders in their fields, they added.'These efforts will bring Norway into line with a widespread international trend that is being

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Stockholm and Hamburg were last week named as the first winners of the new European Green Capital award. The Swedish capital will be European Green Capital in 2010 followed by Hamburg in 2011. The European Commission's new award scheme encourages cities to improve the quality of urban life by taking the environment systematically into account in urban planning. The awards were presented by European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik at a ceremony in Brussels.{pagebreak}Commissioner Dimas said: "I congratulate Stockholm and Hamburg for their efforts to give priority to the environment and quality of life. Four out of five Europeans now live in urban areas, and that is where the environmental challenges facing our society are most apparent. With their measures to tackle air pollution, traffic and congestion levels, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste and waste water management, Stockholm and Hamburg can act as role models for the rest of Europe."Luc Van den Brande, President of the Committee of the Regions, commented: "The European Green Capital Award is an innovative scheme which the Committee of the Regions is proud to be involved in. The CoR is focused on making environmental protection at the local level a key priority, and

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Solar power history will be made in Southern California, after it was announced that Southern California Edison and Israeli firm, BrightSource Energy, have signed the world's largest solar energy deal.Now awaiting approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (this could happen by as early as 2013), the Israeli-California sun project will power almost one million California homes.{pagebreak}Israel Kroizer, the CEO and president of BrightSource, says that when completed, it will be the world's largest solar energy project. Some 1,300 megawatts of energy will be created, with the first plant to be built in Ivanpah, California, which is expected to generate 286,000 megawatt-hours per year.The project will also inevitably create more jobs in the region. "It's the biggest solar energy project ever signed," Kroizer claims, and when complete, it will be the largest solar energy plant in the world, he adds.Last year, BrightSource created an industry sensation when it launched its pilot plant in Israel's Negev Desert. Employing thousands of tiny mirrors called heliostats, BrightSource unveiled the Luz Power Tower - the LPT 550 - to reflect sunlight from the heliostats onto a boiler atop a tower. Built with water-conserving principles in mind, the BrightSource system uses air-cooling to convert the

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