RSS Entries ATOM Entries

Posts Tagged ‘renewable energy’

Teaching neighbours to build small renewable energy projects for resilience

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 31st, 2012

Source: Resilience

Photo via JfS

From “Transition Town Fujino goes for local energy independence” by Carol Smith via OurWorld 2.0:

Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.

Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies and regularly holding charity events.

In the wake of the [March 03 2011] disaster, the working group Fujino Denryoku (“denryoku” meaning “electric power”) was established to help people break away from their dependence on electricity provided by the traditional power utilities and transition towards self-sufficient, locally-distributed energy created with the participation of local people.  The group’s first project was to supply power for lighting and sound systems at a local festival. Project teams also went out to festivals in the earthquake disaster zones in the Tohoku region and offered support to the affected areas by supplying power generated with renewable energy.

The working group also holds monthly “Solar Power System Workshops”, where participants, including beginners, can easily assemble a home system by connecting photovoltaic (PV) panels and batteries, etc., as part of a campaign called “An Energy Shift Starting at Home”.  At the first workshop in December 2011 participants initially learned from one another, but the workshop began to attract attention from a wider public and within six months it was being introduced on TV and in magazines. Now the workshops host not only local residents, but increasingly people from outside communities.

Read the full article on the Resilience website to find out more about Transition Towns in Japan, energy independence and local resilience, or read the Japan for Sustainability (JfS) newsletter article by Yuriko Yoneda that this article was based on.


Tidal Energy for Darwin: pilot plant and research centre

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on September 26th, 2012

Source: RenewEconomy

Photo by Oceanflow Energy via flickr CC

From “Plan to power Darwin with tidal energy gains momentum” by Sophie Vorrath

A plan to power Darwin with tidal energy – and to turn the Northern Territory into a tropical tidal energy hub – has come one step closer to being realised this week, after the signing of an MoU to build a 2MW pilot plant and research centre in Clarence Strait, off the Territory’s coast. Australian tidal energy company Tenax Energy said on Tuesday it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NT’s Power and Water Corporation to develop a 2MW Pilot Plant and Research and Tropical Tidal Testing Centre, the first steps on the path to a utility-scale generation facility that would deliver renewable power to Darwin.

Tenax says the project – to be located between Darwin and Melville Island – will be generating electricity by 2015, and could reach commercial scale before the end of the decade. The 2MW project will be followed by a 10MW pilot array test.  The Darwin-based company was first given a provisional licence to occupy 16.8sqkm in the Clarence Strait in 2010, having identified the area as one of three locations around Australia ideally suited to tidal energy; with high tidal velocity movement, sufficient water depth, and proximity to existing power grid infrastructure. (The other two locations are Banks Strait, Tasmania, and Port Phillip Heads, Victoria.) Tenax says power from the Clarence Strait has the potential to provide a “significant percentage” of Darwin’s electricity supply, and would go a long way to helping the Territory achieve a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

The project’s staged development process is designed to allow the establishment of appropriate environmental and performance standards for tidal energy technologies in tropical waters, while also showing the Darwin community that tidal energy is a safe, convenient and reliable energy source.  “The idea with the testing station is to test out a number of different turbines and technologies in the Clarence Strait,” said Power and Water’s manager for sustainable energy, Trevor Horman, on ABC radio on Monday. “(The project) is reasonably close to an existing power line, so we’ll give it a trial over a couple of years and see how the technologies work out there… but we do hope this will prove a safe, reliable and inexhaustible energy source.” According to Tenax’s managing director, Alan Major, reliability is one of tidal energy’s strong points. ”The generating capability of tidal generators is predictable, with exceptional accuracy many years in advance,” he said back in 2010. “Twice a day, every day, the sea rises and falls … creating powerful and reliable water currents.” Major also says that one of the company’s main goals is to to position Darwin as the global centre of excellence in tropical tidal energy, “before the opportunity is captured by others.” “Tidal energy generation in tropical waters will demand new technical solutions that will be developed first in Darwin,” he said in the company’s statement on Monday. “This project is going to place Darwin at the forefront of a global industry, providing local employment and skills development and opening major export opportunities to Asia.”

Read the original article by Sophie Vorrath.

Transforming Tokelau: Heading for 100% solar by the end of 2012

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on August 27th, 2012

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme

From “Tokelau: A Leading Light in Renewable Energy


An innovative renewable energy project is set to transform Tokelau and lead the world in transitioning from dependence on fossil-fuels to renewable energy.  

With global attention focused on the effects of climate change and the international price of oil, it may come as a surprise that the tiny nation of Tokelau, comprising three remote atolls midway between New Zealand and Hawai’i, is moving to the forefront of the debate by installing renewable energy systems that will dramatically slash its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Undertaking a project of this scale on all three atolls is no mean feat. The closest atoll is around 500km north of Samoa; there are no airstrips or wharves, and the only access is a long boat trip from Samoa that ends outside the reefs, where a landing barge takes passengers and equipment to shore. Offloading goods in the swell is challenging. However, soon the job will become easier since almost 2,000 barrels of diesel a year will no longer be required to generate electricity.

Developing renewable energy projects in the Pacific brings unique challenges. Systems and components must be designed to withstand harsh tropical and marine environments, strong winds, high temperatures, and a corrosive salt-laden atmosphere. Unlike in New Zealand, where if a part breaks or needs replacing it is possible to replace easily, in Tokelau the systems and components must be designed to promote robustness and longevity, because transport is infrequent and challenging. And yet by the end of 2012 Tokelau expects to switch off its generators and begin to use an indigenous resource it has plenty of – sunlight.

Tokelau’s 1,411 residents are New Zealand citizens, and New Zealand is advancing $7 million to the Government of Tokelau to install the renewable energy systems that will help achieve its long-term goals of energy independence and reducing reliance on expensive imported diesel, which will put Tokelau at the forefront of global climate change mitigation efforts.

The energy crisis in the Pacific is not confined to Tokelau. Most Pacific Island nations are highly dependent on imported fossil fuels to meet energy needs, and are vulnerable to international price fluctuations and escalating fuel costs. Almost every aspect of Pacific economies is underpinned by imported fossil fuels, and the increasing cost of diesel results in extremely high costs of electricity for households and businesses. In many cases, the cost of importing fuel is many times higher than all export earnings combined, so Tokelau’s, and the Pacific’s, dependence on diesel is bad for the economy as well as the environment. […]

“This project is unique and has the potential to demonstrate what can be achieved through the perseverance and hard work by the Government of Tokelau,” adds Joseph Mayhew, Development Manager Energy in the New Zealand Aid Programme. “Photovoltaics are a mature, reliable off-the-shelf technology that has been proven for years. Given the high cost of diesel, renewable energy should not be seen as an ‘alternative’ source of energy, but rather an essential key to unlocking the Pacific’s potential.”

Read the full article from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Energy Independence: A Rural Town in Germany

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on March 14th, 2012

Photo: Matt Biddulph via Flickr CC

From “A Power Grid of Their Own: German Village Becomes Model for Renewable Energy” by Renuka Rayasam:

Werner Frohwitter drives his white Prius into Feldheim, parking halfway down the village’s one street in front of what looks like a shipping container. Behind the street is a field where 43 giant wind turbines loom over the village’s 37 houses. Frohwitter works for Energiequelle Gmbh, which owns the wind park. He greets a Russian camera crew and ushers them into the chilly container, which has become Feldheim’s impromptu visitor’s center. It’s the only sign of life in this otherwise quiet village. Inside, he uses posters on the wall to explain the town’s energy transformation for the Russian crew’s renewable energy documentary.

This town of 150 inhabitants, tucked away in the Brandenburg countryside some 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) southwest of Berlin seems like an unlikely tourist hotspot. It has no bars, museums or restaurants. But since the Fukushima nuclear disaster one year ago, Feldheim has become a beacon for cities across the world that want to shift their energy mix toward renewables.

Feldheim is the only town in Germany that started its own energy grid and gets all of its electricity and heating through local renewable sources, primarily wind and biogas. This mix of energy self-sufficiency and reliance on renewables attracted 3,000 visitors in 2011. Visitors came from North and South Korea, South America, Canada, Iran, Iraq and Australia. About half of the visitors are from Japan. Eri Otsu served as a translator for a group of Japanese energy analysts and politicians who came to Germany to see Feldheim. “Feldheim is not a charming Bavarian village; it is gray and they have little,” says Otsu, an organic farmer in southern Japan. Still, the group found Feldheim the most impressive of the three German villages they visited because it is energy independent and uses renewables. “They were amazed and said they had never seen anything like that,” Otsu says.

A Mayor’s Work
“People are here almost every day,” says Michael Knape, shifting through a stack of business cards on his desk. He sighs, saying that he can’t keep track of all the visitors. The 41-year-old, with dark hair and wide eyes that make his young face look even more boyish, is the mayor of Treuenbrietzen, the larger municipality where Feldheim sits. In many ways Knape’s work is typical of a small town mayor, dealing with residents when snow is not cleared fast enough and sometimes answering the phone at the city hall. What makes Knape different is that he is also a patient ambassador for Feldheim, convinced that investing in renewables is the only answer to the country’s energy dilemma.

After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Chancellor Angela Merkel planned a phase-out for Germany’s nuclear power plants and set the goal of requiring 35 percent of Germany’s energy to come from renewables by 2020, up from 20 percent at the time. Yet the federal government is now cutting funding for renewable energy projects and phasing out solar subsidies. […]

A Series of Coincidences
It started with a few windmills in 1995. A series of coincidences transformed Feldheim from a backwater town in eastern Germany into a model renewable energy city. “Back in the 1990s no one expected it would get this far,” says Frohwitter. Feldheim’s strong wind and abundant land are pretty much the only reason that Michael Raschermann, head of Energiequelle Gmbh, decided to install a wind turbine in the village. Now the wind park has more turbines than the village has houses.

By 2008, after two years of planning, Feldheim built a €1.7 million biogas factory to be used for heat and fueled by slurry of unused corn and pig manure. The village received about half of the startup costs from a European Union program. Because farmers in Feldheim already grew corn and raised pigs, the biogas factory also benefits local agriculture. A furnace burning wood chips left over from felled trees in the local forest serves as a backup heat source when the temperature dips.

In 2008 Feldheim decided to take control of its own grid. Cutting out the middleman was a natural step since the town was producing all of its own energy right in its backyard. But when E.on refused to sell or lease its energy grid, Feldheim, with help from Energiequelle, had to build its own smart grid. They completed the grid in October 2010 with each villager contributing €3,000 ($3,972). Now Feldheimers pay about 31 percent less for electricity and 10 percent less for heating. The project has created about 30 jobs in Feldheim. […]

Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting Britain To A European Supergrid

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 19th, 2011


Image: The Guardian

From “BritNed power cable boosts hopes for European supergrid” by Damian Carrington:

It stretches 260km under the North Sea, contains 23,000 tonnes of copper and lead, and may represent the first step towards a renewable energy revolution based on a European electricity “supergrid”. The £500m BritNed cable, which has just entered operation, is the first direct current electricity link from the UK to another country in 25 years. The high voltage cable, a joint venture between the UK National Grid and the Dutch grid operator TenneT, has a capacity of 1,000MW, the equivalent of a nuclear power station. It runs from the Isle of Grain in Kent to Maasvlakte, near Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

High voltage DC (HVDC) cables allow electricity to be transmitted over much greater distances than existing alternating current lines, which start losing power after 80km. A network of HVDC cables across Europe is seen as the key to “weather-proofing” the large scale use of renewable energy, some forms of which are intermittent and have to be balanced in real time with generation elsewhere. “Our investment in this interconnector means that we are joining a much wider European electricity market,” said Nick Winser, executive director of National Grid. “This ability we now have to move power across national borders means we can use the full potential of renewable energy from wind – making it easier to import when wind is not available and export when there is a surplus.”

In the short term, linking the UK and European grids boosts the UK’s energy security and helps stabilise wholesale energy prices. Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy and climate change, said: “Renewables win as it means surplus wind power can be easily shared [and] consumers win as a single European market puts pressure on prices.”

“This is a major step,” said Louise Hutchins, head of UK energy campaigns at Greenpeace. “It sends a signal to renewable manufacturers that we’re a step closer to unlocking the potential of one the world’s main renewable power houses – the North Sea.”

Read the full article by Damian Carrington on the Guardian.

Self-Repairing Photovoltaic Cells

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on September 23rd, 2010

Source: Environmental Research Web

Photo: Patrick Gillooly

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have fabricated the first synthetic photovoltaic cell capable of repairing itself. The cell mimics the self-repair system naturally found in plants, which capture sunlight and convert it into energy during photosynthesis. The device could be 40% efficient at converting solar power into energy – a value that is two times better than the best commercial photovoltaic cells on the market today.

During photosynthesis, plants harness solar radiation and convert it into energy. Scientists have been trying to mimic this process in synthetic materials, but this has proved difficult because the Sun’s rays damage and gradually destroy solar-cell components over time. Naturally occurring plants have developed a highly elaborate self-repair mechanism to overcome this problem that involves constantly breaking down and reassembling photodamaged light-harvesting proteins. The process ensures that these molecules are continually being refreshed, and so always work like “new”.

Michael Strano and colleagues have now succeeded in mimicking this process for the first time by creating self-assembling complexes that convert light into electricity. The complexes can be repeatedly broken down and reassembled by simply adding a surfactant (a solution of soap molecules). The researchers found that they can indefinitely cycle between assembled and disassembled states by adding and removing the surfactant, but the complexes are only photoactive in the assembled state.

Read the full article by Belle Dumé.

‘Rental Goat’ Weeding Service: low-carbon solutions

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 22nd, 2010

Source: Japan for Sustainability via Food Climate Research Network

From “Company to Begin ‘Rental Goat’ Weeding Service

Mikuni Construction Co. in Kitakyusyu City, southern Japan, announced in August 2009, that it would be launching a new service to rent goats for weeding grass starting in April 2010. This unique weeding method does not require any machinery, and is drawing attention as an environmentally friendly technique.

Having first heard about weeding with goats from his business associate, Katsuhiko Sera, the president of the company, has been investigating the approach for three years in an effort to devise a viable business model. He bought five goats in May 2009, and by tethering the goats with a cable, about 500 square meters of grass can be grazed over the course of a week. A trial “rent-a-goat” began in August 2009, but will be fully launched in March 2010.

Goats eat various types of weed. They eat all aboveground stems and leaves, and prefer to graze on slops, which people often find it difficult to weed. Furthermore, weeded material does not require disposal when using this method and the goat dung produced simply decomposes and is returned to the soil.

In addition to renting goats, the company plans to provide its own weeding service by increasing the number of goats, and to manufacture cheese and other products from goat milk. Mr. Sera hopes that his rental goat service will serve not only as a new tool to maintain urban green spaces, but will also assist the comfort of local residents.

From “Company to Begin ‘Rental Goat’ Weeding Service

Building the Smart Grid

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on June 23rd, 2009

This article discusses about investment in technology and innovation in energy sector to promote renewable energy.
Original article published in The Economist.

Smart Grid

“Even though the demands being placed on national electricity grids are changing rapidly, the grids themselves have changed very little since they were first developed more than a century ago. The first grids were built as one-way streets, consisting of power stations at one end supplying power when needed to customers at the other end. That approach worked well for many years, and helped drive the growth of industrial nations by making electricity ubiquitous, but it is now showing its age.”

To read more of the article visit The Economist.

Perth Solar Cities projects EOI

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on April 6th, 2009

Perth Solar City

The Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has committed $13.9 million in Commonwealth funding to Australia’s seventh Solar City, Perth. “The Perth Solar City project is expected to deliver carbon pollution reductions of more than 15,000 tonnes – equivalent to taking 3,500 large vehicles off the road – and cut energy use equivalent to that of 3,200 homes.”

Perth Solar Cities Project is led by a consortium. SunPower as one of six organisations on the consortium is looking for proposals of photovoltaic solar projects above 30kWp on iconic/highly visible buildings to nominate to the steering committee.

Read the rest of this entry »

Peats Ridge Festival

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on November 6th, 2008

What: Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts & Music Festival
When: 29 December 2008 to 1 January 2009
Where: Glenworth Valley, NSW – 1 hour north of Sydney
Tickets: through Moshtix

Peats Ridge is the first major event in Australia to run completely on renewable energy and winner of the NSW Government 2008 Green Globe Award for Environmental Sustainability across all industries.

Read the rest of this entry »