Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Renewable Energy News

Some news and some questions.

First, Local engineer lands wind-farm contract:
"Indianapolis-based Bowen Engineering Corp. has been selected by Horizon Wind Energy LLC as contractor for its Meadow Lake wind farm in White County, the companies announced today.

Houston-based Horizon's wind farm in northwest Indiana will consist of 121 wind turbines that can generate 200 megawatts of power. The estimated cost of the project is $500 million. Bowen declined to divulge the value of its contract."

The Indianapolis Business Journal also published Biotown USA development site acquired:
"Valero Energy will buy seven ethanol plants and a key development site in the Indiana city of Reynolds from VeraSun Energy for $477 million, the largest biofuel buyout ever in terms of production capacity.

VeraSun, the country's second largest ethanol producer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October.

VeraSun suspended construction of a 110-million-gallon-a-year plant in Reynolds, north of Lafayette, in 2007, citing deteriorating market conditions. Reynolds is the centerpiece of 'Biotown USA,' a state-led initiative to make Indiana a dynamo in the production of ethanol and biodiesel."

Which sounds like good news compared with this from Scotland, Renewable energy in for a bumpy ride:

Galàn says, in halting English, that Iberdrola "wants to" make new network investments and is pleased that politicians see it as part of the solution for reigniting the economy, but he argues that the credit crunch has made lenders more risk averse. This has meant that the existing rate is no longer high enough to enable companies such as ScottishPower to borrow the money for the upgrades, which echoes a recent report by Ernst & Young that said that rates of return on electricity projects would have to rise by a couple of percentage points to keep investor cash viable.

"I don't know if British banks will provide the money to make the investment," he says.

He contrasts this with the US, where the Obama administration is to subsidise Iberdrola's project to build an interconnection line between Canada and Maine, as part of a $4.5 billion (£3.1bn) programme to build a smart grid' that is more efficient and produces fewer carbon emissions.

I do not believe in clean coal. I learned about coal as a small boy when a relative had a pile of coal. Still, I think human ingenuity ought to be able to find a solution to any problem and so I am piqued by Coal-to-gas system could bring 10,000 new jobs to Fife.

Here is the idea:

Underground coal gasification (UCG) does exactly what the name suggests - it turns coal into a gas while still underground. The gas is then brought to the surface and can be processed to provide fuels for power generation, ultra-clean diesel, and hydrogen.

The concept was invented by Nobel prize-winning Scottish chemist Sir William Ramsay 100 years ago, but it is only in the last few years, with advances in oil and gas technology, that the concept has become commercially viable.

If successful, the technology could offer Scotland energy security for hundreds of years, as geological studies estimate that Scotland is sitting on at least 200 years' worth of coal.

However, Thornton New Energy, the company granted the licence, admits the concept of clean coal will seem like an oxymoron to most people. Steve Walters, director of sub-surface operations, told the Sunday Herald: "Burning coal in the atmosphere will give off smoke and it will give off gases including carbon dioxide - it is the filthiest of all the fuels. So how can the filthiest and dirtiest of all these things become clean coal? The answer is quite simple:you can use oil-field technology deep underground, much deeper than conventional deep mines."

Here is the closest to a rebuke:

McLaren said: "Friends of the Earth Scotland believes this UCG is a technology with some promise - but at present it is only promise'. For the Fife project to contribute in practice to cutting our carbon emissions it cannot be permitted to progress in advance of firm arrangements for the capture and storage of the carbon emissions. If the carbon is captured and the clean hydrogen gas used to generate electricity then this would be a valuable demonstration of cleaner technology. But if the carbon is not captured, and the gas is turned into a vehicle fuel - one of the options proposed by the developers - that is a recipe for increased carbon emissions."

Would this work in our Indiana coal fields? Are there not enough engineering students at Purdue who could make this work?

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