Next-generation wind technology, with compressed air

February 11, 2008

A noteworthy idea in load management for wind power — compressed air. Energy Daily has a story about a company exploring this technology: Massachusetts-based wind energy company General Compression and its compressor technology partner Mechanology are using Ricardo’s automotive engineering and development expertise to develop technology which aims to make wind power as reliable as conventional power.

With energy security and global warming at the very top of the political agenda in all parts of the world, renewable energy resources are increasingly seen as an important contributor to the future of regional and national grid power supplies. Of the potentially large-scale renewable energy resources wind is perhaps the most universally available, as virtually every part of the earth’s surface experiences the natural force of the wind.

However, as the wind is subject to the vagaries of the weather and as such is inherently unpredictable, wind energy has traditionally been seen as an intermittent source of electrical power. General Compression’s proprietary Dispatchable Wind system carries the descriptive tagline ‘wind energy on demand’ because it decouples wind energy capture from electrical power generation by substituting the electric generators in its wind turbines with advanced compressor systems linked to a central high pressure compressed air reservoir at each wind farm.

The reservoir acts as an energy buffer, storing compressed air which can be passed through an expander plant in order to generate electricity whenever it’s needed – not just when the wind is blowing….

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Offshore wind farms to generate £100m windfall for Crown Estate

February 11, 2008

This story from the Times (UK) also has some comments from readers worth a look: The Crown Estate will earn windfall profits of at least £100million a year from Britain’s booming offshore renewable energy industry. The estate, which owns the foreshore and seabed around the UK, has already signed contracts worth tens of millions of pounds with operators of offshore wind farms.

Rents from the siting of wind turbines are only the beginning of a vast new commercial opportunity for the Crown Estate. In addition to a huge expansion in offshore wind power and the development of tidal power, the estate will profit from the laying of subsea cables and an emerging industry in storing carbon captured from coal-fired power stations.

Rob Hastings, the Crown Estate’s marine director, said that the group, which manages land and assets owned by the Queen but pays most of its revenues to the Treasury, charges offshore wind operators an annual “rent” of just under 1 per cent of the value of the electricity generated. The Crown Estate has full ownership of the seabed for 12 nautical miles around the UK and further rights out to the extent of Britain’s continental shelf, at 200 miles.

Privately, one of Britain’s top six utilities estimates that the Crown Estate stands to earn upwards of £100million a year from offshore wind licences alone if the Government is to achieve its stated aim of generating 33 gigawatts of power from offshore wind energy by 2020. Further revenues could be generated from tidal energy developments, such as the Severn barrage, carbon storage opportunities and subsea cabling – for which the Crown also charges a lease. “[The seabed] is quite a valuable commodity,” said Mr Hastings, who added that the group had signed its first offshore wind lease in 2001. A third round of bidding for new licences is under way and due to close in September. He emphasised that the bulk of the proceeds would go to the Chancellor, while other funds would be set aside to help with long-term management of the seabed.

Nevertheless, the windfall is raising eyebrows in the power industry. “It’s not as if there is an annual maintenance charge for the seabed,” one source said. Britain’s heavily subsidised wind energy industry is expected to form a key part of its efforts to meet targets on tackling climate change announced by the European Union last month. The UK has been set one of the toughest targets, amounting to an increase in electricity generation from renewable sources to 35-40 per cent, from just over 4 per cent at present. There is about 500-600 megawatts of generating capacity in existing offshore windfarms around the UK. This is expected to increase to 7,500 megawatts by 2015, but in December John Hutton, the Business Secretary, set out plans to more than quadruple this to 33,000 megawatts, or 33 gigawatts, by 2020.

Carbon capture and storage could represent an equally valuable source of revenue for the Crown Estate. Captured carbon from coal-fired power stations would be piped out into the North Sea for storage in rock formations in former oil and gasfields.

“The rights to storing it would be vested with the Crown Estate,” Mr Hastings said. However, the legal framework surrounding this emerging industry is unclear and new legislation is being drawn up.


Is the Bank’s carbon markets approach an effective way to address climate change?

February 4, 2008

The Bretton Woods Project (“Critical voices on the World Bank and the IMF”) has perceptive, worthwhile dialogue about carbon trading. The voices are Janet Redman, Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Institute for Policy Studies, taking the critical position. She says, “Despite promises at the outset to the contrary, by the end of 2007 only five per cent of the World Bank’s entire carbon market activities were in wind, solar and small hydropower generation. And only one fund, the Community Development Carbon Fund, focussed funding on local sustainable energy projects. If the World Bank is going to be a major player in fighting climate change it should start by ending its own fossil fuel funding. After that, public and private finance should be directed to existing clean, renewable technologies that promote local control of energy development and consumption.”

Arguing the pro-carbon-trading side is Jon Sohn of Climate Change Capital: “It is true that financing emissions reductions through the CDM in countries without a cap does not provide additional reductions beyond the agreed cap; CDM is designed to meet the caps of industrialised countries more cost-effectively while accelerating and scaling up technology diffusion globally. However, there are proposals for CDM reform that involve setting progressive baselines that would result in greater net contribution to the atmosphere, i.e. by moving beyond 1:1 offsetting. CCC supports these proposals as a desirable evolution in carbon finance for developing countries that have the technical capacity (e.g. data gathering and monitoring) to deploy these more advanced policy tools but are not yet ready to take on hard caps.”


U.S, hearing examines cap-and-trade

January 29, 2008

In the blog Hill Heat, the Cunctator presents the gist of the day’s hearings about carbon trading, with plenty of additional commentary. Well worth a look: At this morning’s House Global Warming Committee hearing on Auctions and Revenue Recycling in Cap and Trade, the witnesses presented some of the first Congressional testimony on the economic implications of a greenhouse-emissions cap and trade system such as the one proposed in Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191). A summary of some of the analysis presented in the written testimony:

  1. Power generators will raise prices the same whether allowances are given away for free or are auctioned, because the price is set by the limitation in supply (the cap)
  2. Investment in energy efficiency provides greater immediate taxpayer return than technology investment
  3. Because power generators are free from competition they don’t need any protection through free allowances
  4. A European Commission analysis found no macroeconomic negative impact of moving their cap-and-trade system to full auction
  5. Free allocation to load-serving entities is a subsidy to electricity consumption, which leads to an increase in allowance prices and requiring greater decreases from other sectors
  6. The “virtual tax” a cap-and-trade system imposes can be greatly alleviated if revenues are used to reduce pre-existing taxes
  7. To fully offset the costs on the electricity sector through free allocation of allowances would cost the government 2.5 to ten times the value of the economic harm to the emitters, depending on whether the free allowances are narrowly targeted (15% of sector allowances) or nationally distributed (65% of sector allowances)
  8. To fully offset the costs on the poorest 20% of the American public takes about 14% of total revenues of a 100% auction system….