Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lower bills may not be blowing in the wind

Lower bills may not be blowing in the wind

There is no guarantee that putting a turbine on your roof will produce enough electricity to make worthwhile savings, writes Terry Slavin

Sunday June 25, 2006
The Observer

Ever since David Cameron announced he was planning to put a wind turbine on his new house in London, demand for the gadgets has soared. But that is as nothing compared with the interest that will be whipped up next week when the government announces it intends to scrap the need for planning permission for domestic energy generators, including solar panels and wind turbines.
The government will propose that homeowners can install mini wind turbines without applying for planning permission. Yvette Cooper, the planning minister, will tell MPs that, subject to a consultation, the government intends to make it much easier for people to use their homes as generators by cutting red tape that has so far acted as a brake on renewable energy.

This move, combined with B&Q's aim to sell rooftop wind turbines at its 'Warehouse' stores for about £1,600, including installation, and with 30 per cent of the cost offset by a government grant, means you won't need to be a member of Cameron's Notting Hill set to afford one.

But renewable energy experts, including government-funded agencies, fear that roof-mounted turbines could be another double-glazing overselling debacle in the making. They are concerned that the unregulated technology has not been adequately tested and that devices claimed by some manufacturers to produce up to a third of the average family's electricity needs could produce a fraction of that. Some also fear the turbines could cause structural damage.

'There's a lack of independent, verifiable evidence to support the performance claims of turbines attached to buildings,' says Kirk Archibald of the Energy Saving Trust (EST). 'There's been a lot of hype and a lot of interest, but you could have a situation where they get rolled out and don't work.'

One consultant who sits on the government's renewables advisory board and has undertaken extensive testing of some of the turbines says: 'We found the performance of them is on average between 10 and 25 per cent of what the manufacturers are claiming.'

Unlike solar panels, which were thoroughly tested with government field trials before their introduction, rooftop wind turbines have seen very little such testing, says Archibald. They were assumed to perform like larger wind turbines on poles sited in exposed areas, but air turbulence caused by neighbouring buildings and obstructions such as trees can affect performance dramatically.

Windsave, which makes the turbine that will be sold by B&Q and will be selling directly via the internet from August, says its 1.75 metre turbine produces 1,000-2,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. Renewable Devices says its Swift 2 metre turbine produces between 2,000 and 3,000 kwH of energy a year, and could save the householder up to £300 a year, including the value of green energy generation certificates.

But Archibald says that low wind speeds in urban areas mean that most installations will never come near that. 'In better locations we'd expect wind speeds of six metres per second, but in urban areas, with lots of other buildings around, you're probably looking at four [metres per second], and that will affect performance considerably.'

Nick Martin of the Hockerton Housing Project, a sustainable development in Nottinghamshire, is a construction expert who has monitored performance of much larger, pole-mounted turbines and investigated the claims of the rooftop turbine makers. He says that Swift and Windsave's performance claims 'defy the law of physics' and that they will produce much nearer to 10 per cent of the average household's energy needs.

It is an awkward situation for the EST, which administers a new Department of Trade and Industry programme to fund 30 per cent of the cost of small-scale renewables. The Swift and Windsave turbines were accredited under a previous government scheme, Clear Skies, which did not require them to meet performance criteria, Archibald says. Clear Skies rolled over into a new scheme, the Low Carbon Building Programme, in April, meaning that the two turbines still qualify for grants - although the government has not yet announced the criteria that products will need to meet.

Scottish and Southern Energy has a stake in Renewable Devices and is looking to offer the Swift turbine to another 400-500 customers this year. Business manager Nigel Ellis stands by the 2,000-3000 kwH performance claim, which he says is based on wind speeds of between 4.4 and five metres a second, but agrees that 'output does vary' and that obstructions, such as nearby trees or buildings, will eat into performance.

David Gordon, chief executive of Windsave, also defends the performance claims. He says that even at four metres a second, the turbine will produce more than 500 kwH a year, taking £60 off the average bill. Consumers will also be eligible to get a green energy certificate worth £60 from the government, taking the annual value of the electricity up to £120: 'And that has to be worth having.'

Shoppers will not just be able to pop a wind turbine in their trolley and head for the tills at B&Q, Gordon pointed out. They will be sold to order, and the company's installers will put them up only if windspeeds are at least 3.5 metres a second. This will be judged using data from the DTI, which has windspeeds for every postcode in Britain.

But the Hockerton Housing Project's Martin, says the DTI windspeed data is misleading: 'The DTI computer generator looks at topography but doesn't take into account fences, trees and buildings, which affect windspeeds.' He also worries about structural damage to houses if they are not installed properly: 'If you bolt it to the end of the gable of a Victorian house made with lime mortar, it's going to come apart.'

The consultant on the government's renewables advisory committee also noted vibration problems with some turbines that were 'more than the building [they were being tested on] could take'.

Windsave's sales literature warns that its wind turbines are not suitable for some roof types, including lime mortar, and says every building will be tested by its installers for suitability. Neither are all house types suitable for the Swift turbine, and Scottish and Southern will require a full structural survey by its engineers before a rooftop device is installed. Ellis says the availability of trained installers is limiting how fast it can go in rolling out the devices.

Meanwhile, Cameron's wind turbine of choice, the 1.1-metre diameter Stealthgen by Eclectic Energy, is too small for grant funding under the previous Clear Skies regime, which only funded turbines bigger than 1.7 metres. The Stealthgen costs about £3,000, including installation, but Peter Anderson, managing director of Eclectic, says he hopes it will be accredited for a grant under the new scheme. 'Of the three companies, ours is the smallest turbine and the most appropriate size for domestic houses,' he says, adding that it can be put on any building and produce about 660 kwH a year.

But he fears that the entire industry could be tarred if the claims of makers of larger wind turbines are not borne out: 'This is a viable technology, but we're concerned about the varying claims. There's a strong desire on everybody's part to develop UK standards for consumers and for the industry to be on a level playing field so that it develops professionally and consumers are protected.'

Find out more

So what should you do if you want a rooftop wind turbine? You might be better off waiting until the situation regarding planning permission is clear, and the accreditation scheme for the Low Carbon Building Programme is in place, but if you want to start the process rolling now:

· Call your local council to find out how difficult - and expensive - it might be to get planning permission. If you live in a conservation area, it's unlikely you'll get it, but there are exceptions. David Cameron's Notting Hill house is in a conservation area, but Alex Michaelis, who designed the renovations to Cameron's house, hopes he will be given permission. His company has previously received planning permission for Stealthgen turbines in another conservation area in Hammersmith and Fulham.

· RWE Npower has a microgeneration scheme that helps customers to apply for planning permission and grants. But of 250 customers on the scheme, only half received planning permission, with many local authorities telling them not to bother to apply. Chris Tomlinson, of the British Wind Energy Association, warns that the cost of getting planning permission could be from £600 to £3,500. ·

· Check the BWEA small wind website, This has links to the Low Carbon Building Programme for grant information and to the DTI to calculate wind speeds in your area. The Energy Saving Trust helpline is 0845 727 7200, or visit for information about grants, manufacturers and installers.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wind-Powered Electrolysis of Coal Bed Methane Water for Hydrogen Production

Wind-Powered Electrolysis of Coal Bed Methane Water for Hydrogen Production
15 June 2006
A Wyoming company has received a National Science Foundation Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to determine the technical feasibility and economic viability of the electrolytic production of hydrogen from coal-bed methane (CBM) water using power generated from wind turbines.

In Ladd Energy’s concept, the electrolysis units would only operate when the wind blows. The hydrogen could be used industrially (in oil refining, for example), used in a stationary fuel cell to generate power, or eventually provided for vehicles.

Most CBM operators are desperate to get rid of their water. We are more than happy to take it and put it to good use, not only improving environmental quality but also making a profit at the same time.

—Ted Ladd
The extraction of the methane (natural gas) contained in coal seams (Coal Bed Methane) has boomed recently, and now accounts for approximately 7.5% of the total natural gas production in the US.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Rocky Mountain Region has extensive coal deposits bearing an estimated 30-58 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of recoverable CBM. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (2002) estimates 31.8 TCF of recoverable CBM in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming alone.

In the late 1980s there were fewer than 20 CBM wells in Wyoming; today there are more than 13,600 producing and shut in CBM wells across the state, according to the Wyoming State Geological Survey. The most active development is currently in the Powder River Coal Field.

Schematic diagram of a CBM well. Click to enlarge. Source: Wyoming State Engineers Office.
To extract CBM, operators drill wells into the seam and pump out water to reduce the water pressure holding gas in the seam. The CBM readily separates as pressure decreases, allowing it to be piped out of the well separately from the water. Water moving from the coal seam to the well bore encourages gas migration toward the well.

The amount of water produced is high, although it varies from deposit to deposit. The Power River wells have one of the higher water-gas ratios, according to the USGS, at an average 2.75 barrels per thousand cubic feet (MCF) of gas. On average, a Power River CBM well produces about 400 barrels (16,800 gallons) of water per day per well.

Over time, the water ratio decreases and gas production increases as the beds are dewatered.

The product water must be disposed of; it is not re-injected into the field as in some oil production. The application of the water is determined in part by its composition—the type and amount of total dissolved solids (TDS). But CBM product water generally has a moderately high salinity hazard and often a very high sodium hazard based on standards used for irrigation suitability.

There are currently four primary approaches to dealing with CBM product water, according to Montana State University:

Discharge into a stream channel. Direct stream discharge is no longer permitted on new wells, but existing operations were grandfathered and are still discharging directly into streams.

Impounded in holding ponds. Most impoundments are not lined and do discharge to the subsurface. Some percentage of seepage flow from impoundments is likely to reach stream channels via subsurface flow.


Other uses, such as dust control.

Ladd’s concept would use this product water, alleviating some of the disposal problem. He speculates that the salts in the water might be beneficial to the electrolytic process.

The largest wind farm in Australia

$400m wind farm agreements finalised
The largest wind farm in Australia will be located in South Australia's south-east as agreements are finalised for the construction of stage two of the Lake Bonney wind farm.

Fifty-three turbines will be built next to the existing wind farm at Lake Bonney, near Millicent, at a cost of $400 million.

A statement from project owners, Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, to the Australian Stock Exchange says construction will begin immediately.

The new turbines will be built by a Danish company and will sit on 80-metre high towers.

They are expected to be fully operational by the middle of 2008 and will generate 159 megawatts of power.

The company says the wind farm will be one of the largest in the world.

The announcement comes almost two weeks after Roaring 40s put its project near Saddleworth in the Clare Valley on hold claiming a lack of Federal Government support.

Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Project Could Surpass 700 MW

Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Project Could Surpass 700 MW
by Jesse Broehl, Editor,

June 5, 2006

Prince Edward County, Ontario [] A new challenger has thrown its hat in the ring to be the first offshore wind project in North America. If the plan goes through, it could also be the largest single wind project on the continent.

"Recently instituted changes have created a regulatory climate for the development of renewable energy in Ontario that is the best it has ever been. This has provided Trillium Power with the confidence to move this unique project forward at this time. In return, the Trillium Power Wind 1 site will put Ontario, and Canada, on the world wind map in a very major way."

-- John Kourtoff, Trillium Power, president and CEO Last week, Toronto, Canada-based Trillium Power Energy Corporation announced the plan. The site, to be known as Trillium Power Wind 1, will consist of up to 142 of the latest multi-megawatt wind turbines and will have a total installed capacity of up to 710 MW -- enough clean, renewable power to satisfy the electricity needs of more than 200,000 homes.

News of the project comes amidst an increasingly caustic atmosphere in the U.S. where offshore wind has been stymied by local opposition and faced repeated legislative attacks from U.S. lawmakers. This has particularly been the case with the 420 MW Cape Wind project proposed off the coast of Massachusetts. Cape Wind was the first proposal for an offshore wind farm in North American but new proposals such as Trillium's bid may ultimately see construction first.

"The project, which is in very shallow waters 15 kilometers offshore from Prince Edward County, is unique for Ontario in that other wind power developments being planned or under construction are on hilltop or shoreline locations," said John Kourtoff, President and CEO of Trillium Power. "However, going offshore takes advantage of excellent wind conditions while considerably reducing the potential impact of the environmental footprint."

Kourtoff said the project has all of the attributes necessary for successful development: an excellent wind resource measured over 36 years, sufficient transmission, positive environmental qualities, an experienced engineering and development team, and solid financing and support.

Kourtoff also explained how a number of factors in Ontario have made this project possible. This includes the policy of the present provincial government that encourages the development of renewable energy in Ontario by entering into long purchase power agreements (PPA) and the policy of the present government to allow the registration of Crown Land for the development of wind generation, which up until 2004 was not possible.

The development of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has also been helpful through its strategic and long-term planning. Kourtoff said that with the advent of the OPA, once a long-term plan is decided, there is an entity able to enter into long-term PPAs with private sector generators.

"Recently instituted changes have created a regulatory climate for the development of renewable energy in Ontario that is the best it has ever been," said Kourtoff. "This has provided Trillium Power with the confidence to move this unique project forward at this time. In return, the Trillium Power Wind 1 site will put Ontario, and Canada, on the world wind map in a very major way."

The company expects the development of the Trillium Power Wind 1 site to create significant economic spin-offs in manufacturing, construction and services, both locally and throughout Ontario. In addition, its development will assist Ontario in improving its air quality while at the same time helping Canada meet its Kyoto reduction targets for greenhouse gases, treaty obligations for the reduction of mercury and other hazardous emissions as well as reducing smog-causing pollutants such as nitrous oxides and sulphur dioxides.

Trillium Power Energy Corporation, a privately owned company headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, is focused on the development of unique renewable and alternative energy solutions. The Trillium Power management team has developed and operated waterpower facilities in Ontario since the 1980s and has been involved in other major installations around the world.


For further Information
Trillium Power Energy Corporation



Kickoff Takes Place at WINDPOWER 2006 in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – June 5, 2006 - The American Wind Energy Association, U.S. Department of Energy, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory today committed to develop an action plan focused on providing up to 20% of the nation’s electricity from clean, renewable wind energy, the potential of which was highlighted in the Advanced Energy Initiative released by President George W. Bush in February.

Today at the WINDPOWER 2006 Conference and Exhibition in Pittsburgh, experts in wind technology, energy policy, public outreach, utility operations, and project development gathered to begin the creation of the action plan. The process will solicit input from key stakeholders including environmental groups, utilities, policy planners, investors, educators, communities, and others, with the action plan being unveiled at the WINDPOWER 2007 Conference and Exhibition in Los Angeles, Calif., June 3-6, 2007.

“In his Advanced Energy Initiative, the President described his vision of changing the way we power our homes and businesses by increasing energy efficiency, alleviating price pressure on natural gas, lessening dependency on imported fuels, and fostering alternatives for power production, including wind energy,” said Andy Karsner, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “I am pleased to join with AWEA and pledge the support of the U.S. Department of Energy for this critical effort which will accelerate the use of the Nation’s vast wind energy resources.”

“Wind is an abundant and free domestic energy resource,” said Randall Swisher, Executive Director of the American Wind Energy Association. “Coupled with modern technology, wind energy displaces the need for fossil generation and reduces U.S. dependence on imported energy.

“As we have seen in Europe and with growing popularity in other nations of the world, wind power is proven, and can play a substantial role in powering America’s energy future. Wind energy works—for our economy, environment, and energy security.”

Pittsburgh Declaration (pdf)