Asia Pacific: Good Clean Stories with an Energy Flavour

Here’s three good clean energy news items:  1. A NZ$1.6 billion wind farm– New Zealand’s largest – is to be built in Wairarapa with 286 turbines, enough  to provide power for up to 370,000 homes;  2. Hitachi Zosen Corporation will bring to the market its floating wave-activated power generation plant in 2015, ideal for  wherever there constant waves of 1.5 meters or more; 3. Skyscrapers could one day generate enough power to offset much of their energy consumption, thanks to a breakthrough by Australian researchers who have moved a step closer to creating solar-cell windows.

From Dominion Post, New Zealand (20 March 2012):

A $1.6 billion wind farm – the country’s largest – has been given the likely go-ahead to be built in Wairarapa.

Genesis Energy’s Castle Hill Wind Farm will dot hillsides throughout northern Wairarapa with up to 286 turbines and provide power for up to 370,000 homes.

As presently planned, the turbines would stand up to 155 metres high. But while consent is to be granted for the project, details of that consent have yet to be announced, and the company may decide not to go ahead.

A preliminary decision will be issued on March 30, with a final decision due two to four weeks after a closing statement from Genesis.

The height and number of turbines is likely to come down.

Resource hearing chairman Philip Milne said in a minute that Genesis had not properly assessed the effects on amenity values, and ”further mitigation is practicable and required”.

That will include restrictions to the scale and density of turbines, the details of which are yet to be announced.

A Genesis spokesman acknowledged the company had received the statement.

Last month, Genesis chief executive Albert Brantley said irrespective of the resource consent process the company was unlikely to build any new generation projects for years, and when it did there was no guarantee the next project would be Castle Hill.

The wind farm site is located in a remote, sparsely populated area, which includes the settlements of Tinui, Pongaroa, Alfredton, Makuri, Tiraumea and Bideford.


By Denki Shimbun (16 March 2012):

Hitachi Zosen Corporation will bring to the market its floating wave-activated power generation plant in fiscal 2015. The company plans to further pursue its research and development to explore ways to reduce the power generating cost and release the product onto the market by early fiscal 2015. The plant will be sold mainly in a set of five units joined together, with each unit having an output of 100 kW for sale in the domestic market and 200 kW for overseas markets. The company aims to sell about 400 units by the end of fiscal 2020.

The wave-activated power plant of Hitachi Zosen has been designed based on the gyroscopic wave-activated power generating system developed by Kobe University’s emeritus professor Hiroshi Kanki and other researchers. The system uses a physical law known as gyroscopic precession, where a force applied to tilt a disk rapidly rotating in the horizontal direction causes the rotational axis to become vertical while the horizontal rotation is maintained.

Many wave-activated power generators developed by other companies are designed to rotate turbines by using the vertical movements of the waves to create airflow. However, a drawback to this type of systems is that they require large equipment. On the other hand, the gyroscopic system offers an advantage by allowing the use of more lightweight and compact equipment.

Hitachi Zosen intends to expand its plant sales from within Japan to overseas markets in regions where constant waves of 1.5 meters or more can be expected all year round, including Southeast Asian island nations as well as Europe and Australia.



By Justin Norrie on 21 March 2012

Skyscrapers could one day generate enough power to offset much of their energy consumption, thanks to a breakthrough by Australian researchers who have moved a step closer to creating solar-cell windows.

For his recently completed PhD, Mark Bissett, from Flinders University’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, has developed a solar cell using transparent carbon nanotubes that can be sprayed onto windows.

Carbon nanotubes are cheaper and more efficient than their energy-sapping, silicon-based solar cells, Dr Bissett said. The nanotubes can be applied to windows without blocking light, and are also flexible enough to be weaved into a range of materials.

But the technology was 10 years away from becoming a commercial reality, Dr Bissett said.

While the amount of power generated by solar windows would not be enough to completely offset the energy consumption of a standard office building, Dr Bissett said they still had many financial and environmental advantages.

“In a new building, or one where the windows are being replaced anyway, adding transparent solar cells to the glass would be a relatively small cost since the cost of the glass, frames and installation would be the same with or without the solar component,” Dr Bissett said.

A solar cell is created by taking two sheets of electrically conductive glass and sandwiching a layer of functionalised single-walled carbon nanotubes between the glass sheets, he said.

“When light shines on the cell, electrons are generated within the carbon nanotubes and these can be used to power electrical devices.”

At present, solar power is the most expensive type of renewable energy, Dr Bissett said. “The silicon solar cells we see on peoples’ roofs are very expensive to produce and they also use a lot of electricity to purify.”

But Andrew Blakers, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at Australian National University, said most commercial cells were now “16-18% [efficient]. The record is 25%, SunPower makes 23% cells in large volume.”

Silicon cells typically took two to three years to repay their energy investment, and the time frame was falling as the cells became thinner, he said.

The cost of solar cells had “declined by a factor of three since 2007,” Dr Blakers said. “[Solar-generated] electricity is now in the 10-15 cents per kilowatt-hour range for large systems and about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for small systems – highly competitive with retail tariffs … and knocking on the door to competitiveness with wholesale electricity from new gas fired power stations, with gas at world parity prices.”

Justin Norrie is an editor at The Conversation.


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