The fallout from Fukushima has had ripple effects in the nuclear industry across the world, but nowhere outside of Japan has the impact been so significant as in Germany. Here the ensuing frenzy has resulted in a moratorium on nuclear power plant permit extensions and the closure of seven nuclear plants. Now the nuclear power plant operators have fired a shot across the political bow: they have stopped supporting green energy.
Why is the German nuclear industry investing in green power? And why are they stopping now? The story starts in 2005, when the German conservative party, the CDU, promised to overturn a law by the socialist-green coalition to close down all nuclear power by 2021. The CDU won the national elections. To calm public protest, they negotiated a deal with the nuclear industry: The nuclear operators would invest a good percentage of the windfall profits from extending nuclear power plant permits in funds for the expansion of alternative energy. The nuclear investment was expected to boost green energy funds by €16.9 billion (US$24 billion) in total, approximately 300 million euros in 2011-2012 alone.
On Saturday 9 April, all nuclear operators — RWE, EnBW, Vattenfall and E.ON — announced they were stopping payments into the green energy fund. It is particularly interesting that the nuclear operators are not keeping a low profile during what was announced as merely a three month moratorium to review the planned permit extensions. On the one hand, the nuclear operators are within their rights. The windfall profits expected from permit extensions (subject to extensive safety reviews) have turned into sudden, unanticipated red ink as power plants have undergone politically ordered shutdowns. Thus, the monies earmarked for the green energy fund do not exist. (It should be noted that the nuclear operators intend to put the agreed payments into a collateral account until resolution of the issue.)
But the strategy may backfire. The peremptory and unilateral cessation of payments makes the investment fund look more like a political bargaining chip than ever. What was arguably a reasonable political strategy to use nuclear plants as a bridge to greener energy now lays in tattered disarray, exposed as politics pure rather than logical risk management and strategic energy planning.
The study was a collaboration between The World Institute of Sustainable Energy, a policy think tank and wind energy associations the Global Wind Energy Council and Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association.
Wind Energy Outlook 2011 examines the potential of wind power in India up to the year 2030.
The study projects that India will have an increase of 79 percent in total wind power installations by 2020 from the 13.1 GW of 2010, with a cumulative growth of around 13 GW yearly. By 2030, estimated installed capacity could reach as much as 160.7 GW. Read more…
Like its stablemate the Domespace house, David Fanchon’s eco-friendly design is aimed at maximizing passive solar energy – though unlike the Domespace there’s no rotating option. Dubbed “The Pearl,” the standout features of the elegant domed structure are its integrated solar panels which can be adjusted to different angles to provide additional shade and optimize energy collection through the changing seasons.
The pictures tell the story of the way in which The Pearl takes advantage of passive solar principles. Large south-facing (or north-facing if you reside below the equator) bay windows fitted with an automated venting system soak up the winter sun and allow light to enter every room, while the white steel roof reflects the sun in summer.
Some additional energy saving options are not as apparent from the designs – the roofing shell can be insulated with a layer of air and cork beads (>R28), external walls are made of 12″ thick compressed straw and the design can incorporate geothermal and wood pellet fed heating systems. There’s also a rain water storage tank located at the base of the northern pedestal.
The aerodynamic dome shape delivers protection from high winds and wild weather and the arch shape also provides resistance to earthquakes.
The timber is FSC certified and the interior layout is fully customizable – the trick would be to make sure your property’s best views lay to the south so you can make the most of the full 180 degree view from the main living area.
We’ve heard about ideas for floating data centers and floating wind turbines; it was only a matter of time before we heard about floating solar power plants. Australian solar power company Sunengy has just gotten approval for a pilot project in India through a partnership with Tata Power.
The floating solar power units, called Liquid Solar Arrays (LSA), use concentrated photovoltaic technology where a lenses direct the light onto solar cells and move throughout the day to follow the sun.
The company says the advantage to floating a solar power plant is that it erases the need for expensive structures to protect it from inclement weather and high winds — when rough weather comes along, the lenses just submerge. Floating on water, whether it be the ocean, a lake or a tiny pond, also keeps the solar cells cool, which increases their efficiency and lifespan. You can see a video demonstration of the technology here.
The pilot project should begin construction this August. Sunengy as another larger array in the works for 2012 and if both projects go well, they plan to go into full production.
Mechanical engineers at Arizona State University are experimenting with graphite as a cheap way of augmenting the efficiency of solar thermal systems by improving the heat-absorbing properties of liquid used for generating steam.
“We estimate that this could mean up to $3.5 million dollars per year more revenue for a 100-megawatt solar power plant,” said Robert Taylor, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Arizona State University.
The team from Arizona State University turned their attention to the solar thermal collectors, an essential part of a solar thermal power system, also known as concentrating solar power systems. The collectors focus sunlight to heat liquid that makes steam which drives a turbine to generate power.
“The big limitation of PV panels is that they can use only a fraction of the sunlight that hits them, and the rest just turns into heat, which actually hurts the performance of the panels,” said Mr. Taylor. In contrast, solar thermal collects and uses the heat which would be lost by PV.
Rising Opportunities “SOLAR BALKANS 2011” – 1st Solar Business Forum for the Balkans, 14-15 April 2011, Sofia, Bulgaria
The solar sector in Europe has been very dynamic recently, accounting for 70 percent of the entire solar market. There was a reported increase in demand last year, resulting in 13 gigawatts from newly added PV projects. In terms of earnings, the German solar sector holds the spot as the world’s biggest global solar market; their top solar companies reporting substantial increases in their revenue. With factors like lower installation costs, enhanced technology, continued investor interest, and political support, experts agree that interest in solar energy, PV in particular, can only continue to grow.
The Balkans show promise as a potential solar market in the near future. At Rising Opportunities “SOLAR BALKANS 2011” – The 1st Solar Business Forum for Balkans to be held on 14 and 15 April 2011 in Sofia, Bulgaria, major players in Balkans solar and international solar industry will have the opportunity to get together and explore possibilities for mutually advantageous cooperation in the solar business. Big names in the Balkans solar sector like Heliosphera, Bisol, SunService or Solarpro, as well as international companies such as Satcon Technology, Canadian Solar, BP Solar, Martifer Solar, MAG, Upsolar, Jinko Solar have already confirmed their participation in this business-to-business initiative.
Architects around the world have escalated efforts to build energy-efficient buildings that make the most of natural resources for energy and water. While some building rely on the use of solar energy to reduce grid electricity consumption, designers at Rolf Disch have created a net positive city in Freiburg, Germany that produces up to four times the amount of energy it consumes.