China Wind Power Capacity Jumps to Record High

A Vestas wind turbine. Image credit: Vestas

China boosted its installed wind energy capacity last year to a record 19.81 million kilowatts as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter tries to switch its power grid to cleaner energy sources.

The National Energy Administration said Thursday that wind farms produced 153.4 billion kilowatt hours of electric power in 2014, making up 2.8 percent of total generated electricity.

Last year’s installed wind power capacity represented a 23 percent jump from the 2013 level of 16.09 million kilowatts.

China still produces about 80 percent of its total energy and about 60 percent of electricity by burning coal.

In November, the government pledged to produce 20 percent of the country’s total energy through non-fossil fuels by 2030, doubling its current level, while capping growth in its carbon emissions by the same year, it not earlier.

Already, China is a world leader in solar and wind energy production and has announced plans to further boost renewable energy investment. At the same time, China burns about half of the world’s coal and emits twice as much carbon as the United States, the second biggest emitting country.


Australian copper mine adds solar power

By: Michael Allan McCrae

The DeGrussa Copper Mine in Western Australia is building the largest off-grid solar array in the country, a 10.6MW power station with an up front cost of $1 million.

The mine owner, Sandfire Resources (ASX:FSR) announced the power deal on Tuesday with juwi Renewable Energy Pty, which will finance, build and operate the $40 million facility.

DeGrussa, which is located 900km north of Perth, is a volcanic-hosted, massive-sulfide copper deposit with additional occurrences of gold and silver. The mine is an open-pit and underground operation.

Sandfire CEO, Karl Simich, touted the benefits of the new power project.

“It is a very manageable project which, importantly, will not impact on the efficiency or safety of our existing operations, while allowing Sandfire to make a solid contribution to the broader challenge of reducing CO2 emissions and potentially reducing our operating costs in the long run,” Mr Simich continued.

“It has the capacity to significantly reduce our medium and long-term power costs, especially with further extensions of the mine life of the DeGrussa Project.”

The solar power plant will operate in tandem with the existing diesel station:

The proposed solar power station will utilise a 10.6MW solar array comprising 34,080 solar photovoltaic panels that track the sun and a 6MW battery. It will be constructed on 20 hectares of land near the site of the current underground mine and 1.5Mtpa Concentrator. When constructed, it will be one of the largest integrated off-grid solar power systems to be used in the mining industry anywhere in the world.

The solar power station will be fully integrated with the existing 20MW diesel-fired power station at DeGrussa, which is owned and operated by Kalgoorlie Power Systems (a subsidiary of Pacific Energy, ASX: PEA) under an agreement with KPS. This agreement will be structured to maximise the consumption of lower cost solar power and therefore reduce reliance on diesel. KPS has provided great support and cooperation for the project.

This integrated system will be designed such that the diesel power station continues to provide base-load power to the DeGrussa mine with sufficient minimum load to ensure it can respond quickly to meet the power requirements of the process plant and underground mine. The project is expected to achieve savings in the consumption of diesel fuel and will deliver a significant environmental benefit for the DeGrussa Copper Mine, reducing its CO2 emissions by an estimated 12,000 tonnes per year.


Solar energy program shines on two more city neighborhoods


Workers install solar energy equipment on a roof in the Burnham Park neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Layton Boulevard West Neighbors)

A push to make solar power equipment and installation affordable for property owners while educating them on the benefits of solar energy is underway in two Milwaukee neighborhoods.

Milwaukee Shines, the city’s solar program, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance are teaming up to expand a group purchasing program for the alternative energy source into Layton Boulevard West and Washington Heights.

The purchasing program groups property owners together and submits requests for proposals to solar power companies on their behalf. This is less expensive for property owners than purchasing solar equipment and installation alone.

“We’re using the power of buying in bulk to lower the cost for the homeowner,” said Amy Heart, the manager of Milwaukee Shines, in a statement. “Solar is a viable option in Milwaukee, and this program helps residents learn about the technology and connect with financing solutions to make it a reality for their home or business.”

Workers install solar energy equipment on a roof in the Burnham Park neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Layton Boulevard West Neighbors)

Another component of the program is education. Several informational sessions where property owners can learn about solar power have been scheduled in each neighborhood during the next few months.

The use of solar power reduces the amount of coal emissions resulting in cleaner air, according to Peter Murphy of the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance. Another benefit to solar power is that it reduces energy costs for homeowners, he said.

“It’s a sound investment because energy prices will go up; they have gone up forever,” Murphy said.

Solar equipment and installation will typically pay for itself in seven to 10 years with the current pricing structure set by We Energies, Murphy said. However, We Energies has asked the Public Service Commission to allow the utility to boost its fixed charges from $9 to $16 a month and introduce a fee for customers with solar panels on their homes.

The proposed changes in the pricing structure would make the return on investment 15 to 20 years, Murphy said.

Although the effort is concentrated in Layton Boulevard West and Washington Heights, the program is open to anyone in the Milwaukee area, Murphy said.

The group purchasing program was piloted in 2013 in Riverwest, where 17 homeowners installed solar, more than the amount of installs in the rest of Milwaukee the previous year. Another 35 homeowners in the Bay View neighborhood participated in the program earlier this year.


Singapore Students ‘Print’ Solar-Powered City Car

Give some students a 3D-printer, some solar panels and about a year’s worth of time, and what do you get? No, not a solar-powered bong (though good idea) — solar race cars, that’s what! Engineering students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have built 3D-printed solar electric car prototype, the NTU Venture 8 (NV8), and plan to race it in Shell’s Eco Marathon Asia event later this month. The team was originally looking at a supercar design, but decided to go with “a sensible cute micro-car with vertical opening doors” that can run at up to 60 km/h (37 mph).

The students said that the vehicle “is Singapore’s first and probably Asia’s first 3D-printed concept car,” with the cockpit fabricated from 150 lighweight plastic parts. The design maximizes interior space thanks to a strong honeycomb design, and its slightly translucent skin “is a sight to behold,” according to the team. The NV8 was printed in part at NTU’s recently opened $5 million Additive Manufacturing Center, built to allow students and staff to pursue 3D-printing research projects.

While the NV8 will run in the “urban concept” category, the team also developed a carbon fiber three-wheeler to race for the prestigious prototype prize. They went for broke on that design, making the vehicles as cutting-edge as possible using hand-made, curved solar panels and a leaning function to allow for quick cornering — not unlike Toyota’s iRoad EV concept.


Apple to build $2B solar-powered “command center” data center at Arizona factory site

By: Katie Fehrenbacher

The question of what Apple plans to do with its factory in Mesa, Arizona, which it was going to lease to now-bankrupt former partner and sapphire glass maker GT Advanced Technologies, is now answered. On Monday Apple and the Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, announced that the iPhone giant plans to spend $2 billion building out a huge data center facility that will act as “a command center” for its global data center network.

The project is one of the largest investments that Apple has ever made and when completed it will add over 600 engineering and construction jobs. Apple plans to start building the facility as soon as it has control of it from GT Advanced Technologies, and it said that while the project has a 30-year timeline, it will ramp up quickly.

The 1.3 million-square-foot manufacturing facility was previously owned by solar panel maker First Solar, which never used the site after it scaled back its manufacturing in 2012. When Apple announced it planned to buy the site in late 2013 to lease to GT, there was much rejoicing in Arizona, as the sapphire glass factory was going to lead to 1,400 construction and the cachet of having Apple in town. Apple reportedly wanted to use the ultra strong sapphire glass for unbreakable touch screens.

Apple’s solar farm next to its data center in Maiden, North Carolina, image courtesy of Katie Fehrenbacher Gigaom

But about a year after the deal between Apple and GT was announced, GT filed for bankruptcy, siting oppressive and burdensome terms and obligations around its deal with Apple. GT said it was shutting down the factory, winding down operations and letting go many employees. Apple said in a release today that it has worked with its local partners to help about half of the employees that were let go because of the bankruptcy to find new employment.

Apple says the data center facility in Arizona will be powered completely by clean energy, including new solar plants developed with local utility Salt River Project. The solar plants will provide 70 MW of solar power for Apple, which is enough solar energy for 14,500 Arizonan homes. Apple also has clean energy powered data centers in North Carolina and Nevada.

Greenpeace applauded Apple’s 100 percent clean energy-powered facility on Monday. Apple execs said that 70 MW worth of new solar farms could also help spur Arizona’s solar market.