Daily Archives: May 18, 2009

On Energy Source today:

Replaceable batteries: Pipe-dream or the future for electric cars?

Turning tide?

Price surge for recyclable materials should encourage more efficient energy from waste

Elsewhere:

Australia to build world’s largest solar energy plant (Reuters): PM Rudd announces plan to build a plant three times the size of the current largest

Andris Piebalgs: it may have peaked (Oil Drum): Outgoing EU Energy Commissioner suggests that oil production may have already peaked

US cap-and-trade plans risk European mistakes (Reuters): Industrial lobbying means most permits will be given away for free, risking a collapse in their value similar to that in Europe

Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill advances (ClimateBiz): detailing the breakdown of the proposed permit allocation for US cap-and-trade programme

Toyota cranks up heat on Honda with new Prius (Reuters): Honda’s Insight and the new Toyota Prius set to battle it out for the hybrid car market

A giant leap towards space-based solar power (LA Times): Pacific Gas and Electric Co. buys into a scheme to launch solar power collectors into orbit

As reported in the FT over the weekend, the price of waste in the UK has surged this year. Good news for recycling, but what about the energy from waste (EfW) sector?

Higher prices for recyclable materials should reduce the volume of waste that is incinerated. On the other hand the higher value of specific materials is likely to encourage the more effective sorting of waste, which in turn will encourage more efficient EfW technologies such as anaerobic digestion to flourish.

Fiona Harvey

“There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

So muses Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Many tidal energy companies have been waiting for the flood tide for years. Tidal electricity generation was successfully demonstrated decades ago, and yet the impetus for the development of the technology has been largely absent.

Until now? Well, the UK government appears to be taking tidal energy more seriously with its shortlist of proposals for a Severn tidal scheme, which could be a barrage or one of various other methods.

But progress has been slow.

In the meantime, other tidal energy projects have begun to go ahead, on a much smaller scale than the Severn project.

One man who has shown his faith in taking the tide at the flood is Bob Smith. Formerly the chief development officer at BP Solar, he has just taken on the post of chief executive at Pulse Tidal, a company based in Sheffield, in the UK.

Pulse’s pulling point is that its machines work in shallow waters, which are closer to shore and so to the electricity grid and customers. Pulse, which was established in 2007 and has raised £2m to date for its work, currently has a 100kW test rig in the Humber.

Mr Smith noted that the ability to set up rigs in shallow waters gave the company a considerable advantage: “[It] reduces cost and complexity dramatically and we are confident that it will allow us to make tidal power a commercial reality very quickly.”

Or, as Brutus went on to say, if people do not take the tide when it comes round,

“Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves

Or lose our ventures.”

In the race to develop a low-carbon replacement to the internal combustion engine, the electric car has always had something of a handicap. Whilst we are used to refilling petrol engines in a minute or two, the standard time to charge a car-sized lithium-ion battery is 8-10 hours (reports of a 10-minute charge time seem a little far-fetched).

Hence the excitement about Better Place’s battery-switch technology, unveiled last week in Japan. The Silicon Valley startup has developed a $500,000 prototype ‘shuttle’, which can remove a dead battery and have the car back on the road with a fresh one in around 80 seconds, without anyone needing to get out of the car at all.

This would greatly increase the usability of electric cars, but raises at least two further challenges.

James Fontanella-Khan

- Boost for Nabucco from Iraq gas deal
Move to reduce dependence on Russia (FT)

- Nuclear powers agree on treaty agenda
Big five nuclear powers welcome progress (FT)

- Governments turn focus to ‘Coral Triangle’
Failure to protect the region would be felt globally  (FT)

- Russia and Italy sign gas supply deal
Move to increase the capacity of the planned South Stream gas pipeline under the Black Sea (FT)

- Gazprom board recommends sharp dividend cut
Payment down to 0.37 roubles per share (Reuters)

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