Mixed news for wind power emerges from G20

» By | Published 30 Jun 2010 |

The final text of the G20 summit of world leaders in Toronto which ended on Sunday contained mixed messages for wind energy. Here, we report on how the news travelled around the green community.

In a positive move, picked up by Business Green, the G20 reiterated a previous pledge to phase out expensive and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies – which are worth around $550 billion a year. The text said fossil fuel subsidies “encourage wasteful consumption”, adding that they will be phased out “over the medium term”. It also pledged to review progress on the phase out – which could cut global carbon emissions by around 7% according to the International Energy Agency – at upcoming summits, something which we too will be watching closely.

But the bad news for wind energy, reported by the Earth Times, came as the leaders of the G20 agreed to drop an earlier pledge to commit to investments in clean energy. In the final text, this was watered down to a “commitment to a green recovery and to sustainable global growth.”

According to the WWF blog, this is a substantial change from the Pittsburgh G20 summit in 2009 which contained eight references to ‘clean energy’. “They want through this document with a vacuum cleaner to remove any reference to clean energy,” Kim Carstensen, WWF climate expert, said.

References to investment in the fight against climate change were also weak – while the EU and Japan remained strong over their commitments to cut carbon, other countries wrangled over who should do how much, says WWF. Moreover, no initiatives were agreed on financial transaction taxes that could help fund the cost of climate change action in the world’s poorest countries. At the most, the final version of the text pledged to continue to support international climate change talks ahead of the upcoming UN summit in Mexico.

“The greenest thing about the G20 is its ability to reuse and recycle earlier commitments. This summit could have been the beginning of real action towards a clean, efficient and resilient economy but all we got is some nice words about green economy and a recycled statement on fossil fuel subsidies,” Carstensen said.


The power of emissions-free wind power is about to be unleashed in Egypt

» By | Published 30 Jun 2010 |

Egypt is positioning itself to become a major wind power centre in Africa with the announcement last week that the nation is getting ready to choose companies to build a massive 1,000 megawatt (MW) wind farm along the Gulf of Suez.

The announcement, made by Electricity Minister Hassan Younes, is part of Egypt’s aggressive plans to install at least 7,200 MW of new wind capacity by 2020. Egypt wants 20% of its energy needs provided by renewables within 10 years, with wind power expected to generate 12%.

The new Egyptian wind farm would rival the size of the enormous London Array offshore wind facility being built in the Thames Estuary.

According to a report in The National, Egypt currently meets more than 86% of its electricity demand from thermal plants burning mostly natural gas. Another 12% is hydro-electricity from the Aswan High Dam in the far south of the country. The report also said existing wind farms contribute less than 1% to Egypt’s energy mix.

A nation of more than 80 million people, Egypt is seeking to attract $110 billion in investments in its energy sector by 2027. Reports reveal that some of the world’s best wind power resources are in Egypt, especially in the areas of the Gulf of Suez, where at least 7,200 MW could be potentially developed by 2022, with a further 3,000 MW on the west and east banks of the Nile.

Younes’ announcement that the project will soon be tendered followed a decision by the World Bank to approve a $220 million loan to Egypt to support the Wind Power Development Project, out of which $150 million is financed from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). This is the first CTF supported project in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“The project will support the renewable energy strategy of Egypt, which has given the utmost priority to the large scale renewable energy electricity generation program which can serve both national and regional goals of achieving fossil fuel savings, protection of the environment, and the creation of green jobs and technology transfer,” a World Bank press release said.


Wind energy and other renewables take on nuclear

» By | Published 28 Jun 2010 |

A lively and engaging debate was posted on the TED website this month with top-level speakers discussing the benefits and costs of wind energy and other renewables compared to nuclear. Interestingly, more people in the audience converted to wind and other renewables from nuclear than vice-versa after watching and participating in the debate. Here’s why:

Professor Mark Jacobson from Stanford put across these points:

Nuclear takes much longer than wind power to put up – between 10 and 19 years allowing for all permits and actual construction. Wind power takes an average of two to five years. So, says Jacobson, if you count all the time you wait for a nuclear plant to come on-line in terms of fossil fuels burnt during this period, “nuclear puts out at least nine to 17 times more CO2 equivalent emissions than wind energy.”

His next point was wind energy’s ‘footprint’ compared to nuclear. Wind power has “by far the smallest [footprint] of any energy source in the world” because the footprint is just the area of the turbine pole touching the ground. The space between turbines can be used for agriculture or other purposes, he points out. Nuclear, on the other hand, has a larger site, a considerable buffer zone surrounding it, and there’s the issue of uranium mining.

“To power the entire world with 50% wind, you would need about one percent of world land,” Jacobson claims.

Jacobson’s contestant, Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth catalogue, argued in favour of nuclear based on the small amount of waste it produces compared to the vast quantities of CO2 coal-burning pumps into the atmosphere, the ‘footprint’ of wind energy on the land, and his claim that nuclear energy is a “disarmament tool” when it comes to weapons.

Listen to the debate, form your own opinion and tell us about it by commenting below. In the meantime, here’s a quote from Jacobson: “Nuclear energy puts out more carbon dioxide, more air pollutants, enhances mortality and takes longer to put up than real renewable systems.”


Massive wind power expansion to drive Australia’s green energy future

» By | Published 24 Jun 2010 |

As Australia welcomes its first female Prime Minister, an ambitiously comprehensive new plan that sees the country generating 100% of its energy needs from wind, solar and other renewables in 10 years time has sparked a national debate after being released earlier this week.

“The world stands on the precipice of significant change,” notes the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan. “Climate scientists predict severe impacts from even the lowest estimates of global warming. The search for dwindling oil reserves is having dramatic social and environmental impacts. A rational response to the problem demands a rapid shift to a zero fossil fuel, zero-emissions future.”

The plan, published by an independent non-profit organisation, says that Australia’s future energy needs can be reliably met by combining energy efficiencies with a massive expansion of wind power and a shift to Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) with molten salt storage. The two power-generating technologies would be backed up by biomass and existing hydro. The plan predicted that grid electricity demand in Australia will be 40% higher in 2020 than today.

An investment of about $37 billion a year to implement the plan over the next decade would be equivalent to 3% of GDP. About $72 billion would be invested in wind power, while $190 billion would be earmarked for CST.

Wind would supply 40% of the increased electricity demand with 50,000 MW of installed wind turbine capacity, while CST would make up 60%. Approximately 8,000 6MW turbines would be required. The new power plants would be located at different sites around the nation. There would be 23 sites for wind and 12 sites for CST.

A national grid would also be created at a cost of $92 billion, the plan says, adding 80,000 construction jobs and more than 45,000 permanent jobs would be created.

Saying that Australia’s energy, security and economic needs can be transformed, the plan notes the nation has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world.

“What is required to make this happen is leadership from policymakers and society,  with firm decisions made quickly that will allow this transition to occur.”


Innovative ideas for how to produce wind energy in the future in Estonia

» By | Published 23 Jun 2010 |

By guest blogger Tuuliki Kasonen-Lins, General Manager of Estonian Wind Power Association

Two months before this year’s Global Wind Day, the Estonian Wind Power Association announced an imaginative contest with the aim of generating innovative ideas on what a wind turbine might look like in the future. On the 15 June, when the energy from wind was celebrated all over the world, the winners of the contest were announced and an exhibition showing many great ideas for the future opened.

The idea behind the contest was to bring attention to the fact that wind energy is not only about green energy, which indeed is an important factor, but it also produces long-awaited growth in the energy industry sector and creates new jobs. This improves the economy, which has been weakened in most places in the world. Martin Kruus, the CEO of Estonian Wind Power Association said at the Global Wind Day event that we should not talk only about wind turbines and where they should be installed but also about the opportunity for a small country like Estonia to become recognised as a major player in the wind energy industry.

“The aim of the Future Wind Turbine contest was to motivate people to brainstorm about wind energy in the future,” explained Kruus. “Our companies have already been active in this field – proven by the latest news about the Estonian Wind Energy Cluster receiving co-financing from the European Regional Development Fund which will enable wind energy related organisations to cooperate more actively.”

The Future Wind Turbine contest had two categories. The youth group winner was Anton Rosner, a student of power engineering at Tallinn University of Technology. The jury found his idea of wind turbines in a large city remarkable because of the way it presented a possible solution on how to integrate wind energy into the architecture of buildings. In the opinion of Anton Rosner, the buildings should be built in a cylinder shape that does not cause obstacles for the wind. The walls are covered with several hundred vertical axis wind turbines, whose blades are slightly tilted in order to avoid a major obstacle for the wind. The wind turbines may be the same colour as the buildings or transparent or with bright colors that turn the building visually vibrant. Rosner won a trip to WinWind’s wind turbine factory in Finland.

The winner of contest’s main category was Teri-Liis Toome for her “Earth and Sky” with the message that in future technology should blend more into the natural environment and look less like machines. Variable wind turbines should replicate the diversity of nature so Teri-Liis Toome envisages wind plants the shape of trees or clouds. The idea is novel because of the symbiosis of design and use of space and, even though the idea is an artistic imagination, the author hopes it will be a source of inspiration for engineers. Toome won the use of a Toyota Prius for one month.

To see all of the entries for the competition, click here: