Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nissan Pivo 2: a great green car ?

Nissan unveiled the Pivo 2 an advanced electric concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show. Pivo 2 builds on the popularity of the first Pivo, shown at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. Powered by advanced Compact Lithium-ion Batteries and featuring a unique rotating cabin - meaning no reverse gear required - the first Pivo became a cult hit at shows from Beijing to Geneva.

Reasons to love Pivo 2:
- Electric power from Nissan's advanced Lithium-ion batteries
- A robotic agent to share every trip
- 'Revolutionary' technology with 360 degree turning cabin and 90 degree turning wheels

Pivo 2 takes the idea of an environmentally friendly electric urban commuter vehicle and delivers fun, functionality and a unique relationship between the car and driver. Pivo 2 is powered by advanced Compact Lithium-ion Batteries and employs 'by-wire' technologies for braking and steering.

Where the first Pivo, with its fully rotating cabin design, made reversing obsolete, the Pivo 2 takes that easy mobility concept to a new level. Each of the four wheels are powered by Nissan's advanced electric In-wheel 3D Motor and can turn through 90 degrees to allow Pivo 2 to drive sideways as well as forward.

Thanks to the highly innovative Robotic Agent, you are never alone in the Pivo 2. With conversations possible in Japanese and English, the Robotic Agent has been created to work with Pivo 2 to make every journey less stressful. It provides a unique interface through which to communicate with Pivo 2 on everything from basic vehicle functions through to the nearest available parking.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Energy from the sea : the Pelamis wavepower

Portuguese surfers keeping an eye on the weather will be joined this month by engineers and businessmen, but they will be hoping for very different reports. The men and women behind the latest renewable energy project will be looking for a flat, calm sea.

Portugal is poised to open what will be the world's first commercial wavefarm, and while the coastline's formidable surf will be a source of electricity, the engineers need a decent "weather window" to be able to get their machinery out to sea.

The Pelamis machines, named after the Latin for sea snake and developed by a Scottish company that leads the world in one of the newest renewable energy fields, are a series of red tubes, each about the size of a small commuter train, linked together, and pointed in the direction of the waves. The waves travel down the tubes, causing them to bob up and down, and a hydraulic system harnesses this movement to generate electricity.

The three "sea snakes" will soon be towed out to a spot some three miles from the coast of northern Portugal at Agucadoura, from where the electricity they produce will be pumped into the national grid.

But the hi-tech venture has not been without its problems. The latest date for inauguration of the wavefarm was to be Wednesday, but a combination of bad weather, bad luck and the pitfalls of developing any new technology has meant the machines are still on dry land, awaiting the next calm spell to be taken out to sea.

The machines were designed and built in Scotland by Pelamis Wave Power (PWP), but it took the intervention of the Portuguese to give the project real impetus. The renewable energy company Enersis ordered the wavefarm, recognising that it would not initially be profitable, and the Portuguese government has set tariffs for wave energy well into the future, ensuring that profitability is not the key question. "What we are assembling here is the first wavefarm in the world," says Antonio Sa da Costa of Enersis, and that is not without risk. But Portugal is the ideal testing ground: it has a long coast compared with its size of population and resources, and, with the government's support, developers are keen to invest.

Enersis had planned to expand the Agucadora wavefarm to 30 machines next year, but the setbacks forced it to scale back its aims. If progress in production, development and installation can match its ambitious plans, Enersis would like eventually to have several hundred machines floating off the coast to produce 500MW of electricity. That would be enough to light up 350,000 homes and, Enersis claims, for the whole project to become profitable.

Max Carcas, PWP's business development director, says the company expects to improve efficiency once the system is operating: "Typically costs fall by some 15% for each doubling in installed capacity."

But Teresa Pontes, of the National Institute of Energy, Technology and Innovation in Lisbon, believes it is too early to be sure that these systems will work and be taken up around the world. She is positive about the potential for wave power in Portugal because of its geography, but compares the current state of the technology with that of wind power a decade ago. "Wind energy is a simpler technology than wave power - and it took many years for that to mature.

"Research needs to be continued. Maybe the best system has not been deployed yet - if you think of the first aeroplanes, they are very different from what we use now."

As PWP struggles to get its machines into the water, competitors are springing up. While PWP has signed deals to provide sea snakes for projects off the coasts of Cornwall and Orkney, other models are being developed. A Canadian company is assembling a project based on buoys that it hopes will harness waves off the coast of Oregon. In Australia, a system of buoys tethered to the sea floor has been undergoing tests for years.

But Portugal's enthusiasm for renewable energy has given impetus to wave power. The Socialist prime minister, Jose Socrates, recently increased the country's renewable energy target for 2010 from 39% to 45%. Until now Portugal has relied mainly on wind power, but it will eventually run out of land for the windmills and needs the sea if it is to meet its target.

via The Guardian

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Clipper plans the world's largest offshore wind turbine

Clipper Windpower Plc announced that it has established a Centre of Excellence for Offshore Wind in Blyth, United Kingdom, to develop the world's largest offshore wind turbine at 7.5 MW. The "Britannia Project" has attracted support from the UK's One NorthEast Regional Development Agency.

The development of the 7.5 MW wind turbine will build upon the advanced architecture and technology of Clipper's Liberty 2.5 MW turbine which, in September 2007, was recognized for its unparalleled levels of efficiency, reliability and reduced cost of energy by way of a commendation awarded to Clipper by the United States Department of Energy.

The Britannia Project addresses the growing demand for highly reliable and efficient offshore wind energy. Clipper will enlist the services and test facilities of the Blyth-based New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in this project.

"We are extremely pleased to have the U.K.'s One NorthEast working with us in the Britannia Project," said James G.P. Dehlsen, Chairman and CEO of Clipper. "We established the Project based on the offshore wind application of our technology and in concert with the U.K. government's policy leadership targeted to provide upwards of 20% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources which will rely in great part on offshore wind development. This forward-thinking policy should provide strong and affirmative action on both climate change and the enhancement of domestic energy security."

U.K. Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the Rt. Hon. John Hutton MP, noted that the UK's commitment to wind power is steadfast.

"Clipper Windpower's decision to develop a new generation of offshore wind turbines in the North East of England is further evidence that the U.K. is fast becoming a magnet for renewable energy investment," Mr. Hutton said. "A recent report from Ernst & Young showed that the UK has moved up from fifth to second in the world for attractiveness in new renewable investment. Behind this is the Government's determination to bring down planning barriers and target support at marine and emerging renewables. By 2015 we expect to see a threefold increase in green energy feeding into the grid."

Ian Williams, One NorthEast Director of Business and Industry, said, "The Britannia Project, based on Clipper's advanced technology platform, furthers One NorthEast's goal to develop leading expertise in renewable energy which we have targeted as a key growth market. In this regard, the Britannia Project is an ideal technology model."

In developing this project there has been close collaboration between Clipper, One NorthEast and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) - the UK Government's business development organization, which brings together the work of the BERR, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

One NorthEast's Blyth-based New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) will provide the Britannia Project with a support package for engineering and test laboratory, including its world-class wind turbine blade testing facilities. Engineering for the project will be shared between Clipper's Advanced Technology Group, based in Carpinteria, California, and Clipper operations in Blyth. Funding provided by One NorthEast also will support the development of Clipper's turbine supply chain and related manufacturing facilities.

Dehlsen indicated: "The potential for collaboration with the local companies with skills and capacity for turbine component production will be a significant advantage as turbine manufacturing gets underway." Dehlsen added: "We have seen excellent regional university resources specialized in offshore energy, particularly through the Marine Design Centre's expertise in marine technology and science."

Ian Williams added: "As we work with Clipper to develop the 7.5 MW turbine, we will build upon the advanced architecture and technologies of Clipper's 2.5 MW turbine which Clipper developed and tested in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

"NREL also assisted NaREC in the planning of the blade test facility in Blyth, partnering through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. Working with Clipper, we believe we can couple our marine technology experience to advance offshore wind power for both the European and US wind energy industries."

"Clipper viewed the North East as its global location of choice for this project which we hope will lead to future manufacturing and job creation in the region. Our region has the engineering, research and development and manufacturing expertise to make this happen."

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The world’s first hybrid train built by Bombardier officially enters commercial service in France

Champagne-Ardenne regional and transportation authorities and Bombardier Transportation today inaugurated the first dual-mode and dual-voltage AGC (Autorail Grande Capacité, high-capacity railcar) in the presence of French National Railways (SNCF) CEO Anne-Marie Idrac. This event is a world premiere in that the hybrid AGC combines certain operating features for the first time ever in a train.

Dual-mode (electrical and diesel) and dual-voltage (1500 and 25000 V) technology enables the Hybrid AGC to glide seamlessly across the entire railway network and to access electricity from any available source. This will result in energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions, as well as negating infrastructure constraints and the need for passengers to change trains.

The Hybrid AGC also dovetails with the sustainable-mobility agenda, enabling operators to streamline vehicle management, enhance service quality, and protect the environment. The latest variant in the AGC range is at the cutting edge of railroad technology. As of today,
21 French regions have ordered and/or operate 698 AGC regional express trains.

SNCF will be operating the Hybrid AGC on Champagne-Ardenne lines between Paris - Troyes - Culmont and between Culmont - Saint-Didier - Vitry.

French and foreign VIP guests travelling on Hybrid AGCs from Paris and Dijon to the presentation ceremony in Troyes had an opportunity to enjoy this train’s top-quality features and efficiency – in particular the imperceptible switches from electric to non-electrified tracks.

The Regional President of Champagne-Ardenne, Jean-Paul Bachy confirmed, “This technological breakthrough demonstrates the Regional Council’s determination to remain at the forefront of progress in the rail sector in Europe. This substantial investment from the Region meets the demands of users in terms of both safety and reliability. At the same time, it combines modernity with protection of the environment.”

André Navarri, President Bombardier Transportation, said: “This hybrid AGC is a new leap towards sustainable mobility. It reflects our ability to bring groundbreaking technology to authorities, SNCF and passengers. And it further increases the environmental edge that trains have created over other transportation options.”

Jean Bergé, President Bombardier Transportation France added, “We are especially proud of this train, which was engineered and built in our plant in Crespin, in the Valenciennes area. The many foreign delegations that have joined us at the event reflect the interest that this environmentally friendly technology has generated. We see that as an encouraging sign for our efforts to harness this trailblazing expertise to augment our exports from France.”

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Norway to build world's first osmotic power plant

Norway plans to build the world's first osmotic power plant, a renewable energy source that uses the pressure built up between sea water and fresh water, Norwegian energy group Statkraft said Wednesday.

Osmotic power is based on the natural process of osmosis.

In an osmotic power plant, sea water and fresh water are separated by a membrane. The sea water draws the fresh water through the membrane, thereby increasing the pressure on the sea
water side. The increased pressure is used to produce power with a turbine, Statkraft said.

"Osmotic power is a very-promising technology," the head of Statkraft, Baard Mikkelsen, said in a statement.

"It is clean and [greenhous gas] emission-free, and could become competitive within a few years," he said.

According to Statkraft, the technology could produce some-1,600 terawatt hours (TWh) worldwide. That is equivalent to "13 times the annual hydroelectric production of Norway," which covers almost all of its energy needs with hydro power.

In Europe, the potential is estimated at around 200 TWh, Statkraft said.

The prototype of the osmotic power plant is being built in Hurum in southeastern Norway, and could produce between 2 kilowatt and 4 kilowatt hours.

Construction is scheduled to be completed next year.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Biofuels could boost global warming, finds study

Growing and burning many biofuels may actually raise rather than lower greenhouse gas emissions, a new study led by Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen has shown.1 The findings come in the wake of a recent OECD report, which warned nations not to rush headlong into growing energy crops because they cause food shortages and damage biodiversity.

Crutzen and colleagues have calculated that growing some of the most commonly used biofuel crops releases around twice the amount of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) than previously thought - wiping out any benefits from not using fossil fuels and, worse, probably contributing to global warming. The work appears in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and is currently subject to open review.

'The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuel are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto,' Keith Smith, a co-author on the paper from the University of Edinburgh, told Chemistry World. 'What we are saying is that [growing many biofuels] is probably of no benefit and in fact is actually making the climate issue worse.'

Crutzen, famous for his work on nitrogen oxides and the ozone layer, declined to comment before the paper is officially published. But the paper suggests that microbes convert much more of the nitrogen in fertiliser to N2O than previously thought - 3 to 5 per cent or twice the widely accepted figure of 2 per cent used by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

For rapeseed biodiesel, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the biofuel production in Europe, the relative warming due to N2O emissions is estimated at 1 to 1.7 times larger than the quasi-cooling effect due to saved fossil CO2 emissions. For corn bioethanol, dominant in the US, the figure is 0.9 to 1.5. Only cane sugar bioethanol - with a relative warming of 0.5 to 0.9 - looks like a viable alternative to conventional fuels.

Some previous estimates had suggested that biofuels could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 per cent.2

Global picture

The IPCC's N2O conversion factor is derived using data from plant experiments. But Crutzen takes a different approach, using atmospheric measurements and ice core data to calculate the total amount of N2O in the atmosphere. He then subtracts the level of N2O in pre-industrial times - before fertilizers were available - to take account of N2O from natural processes such as leguminous plants growing in forests, lightning, and burn offs.

Assuming the rest of the N2O is attributable to newly-fixed nitrogen from fertilizer use, and knowing the amount of fertilizer applied globally, he can calculate thecontribution of fertilizers to N2O levels.

The results may well trigger a rethink by the IPCC, says Smith. 'Should we go along the road of adding up the experimental evidence for each of the processes or are we better off using the global numbers?'

Critical reception

But other experts are critical of Crutzen's approach. Simon Donner, a nitrogen researcher based at Princeton University, US, says the method is elegant but there is little evidence to show the N2O yield from fertilized plants is really as high as 3-5 per cent. Crutzen's basic assumption, that pre-industrial N2O emissions are the same as natural N2O emissions, is 'probably wrong', says Donner.

One reason he gives is that farmers plant crops in places that have nitrogen rich soils anyway. 'It is possible we are indirectly increasing the "natural" source of N2O by drawing down the soil nitrogen in the world's agricultural regions,' he explains.

Others dispute the values chosen by Crutzen to calculate his budget. Stefan Rauh, an agricultural scientist at the Instituteof Agricultural Economics and Farm Management in Munich, Germany, says some of the rates for converting crops into biofuel should be higher. 'If you use the other factors you get a little net climate cooling,' he said.

Meanwhile, a report prepared by the OECD for a recent Round Table on Sustainable Development questions the benefits of first generation biofuels and concludes that governments should scrap mandatory targets.

Richard Doornbosch, the report's author, says both the report and Crutzen's work highlights the importance of establishing correct full life-cycle assessments for biofuels. 'Without them, government policies can't distinguish between one biofuel and another - risking making problems worse,' said Doornbosch.

Zoe Corbyn via

1 PJ Crutzen et al, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 2007, 7, 11191
2 J Hill et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2006, 103, 11206 (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0604600103)

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