Archive for March 2007

The concentrated power of the sun in action

March 29, 2007

Video by Shaine Ibrahimi (Life on the Green side TV) and seen first in RE Access on the Nevada Solar One plant, the third largest Concentrating Solar Power facility in the world.

Acciona Solar Power owns the plant and Schott Solar provides the mirrors. More info. here (RE Access) and here (ZD Net)

Profit and sustainability: not mutually exclusive

March 28, 2007

A team of MBA students from Instituto de Empresa (IE) came up with the Grand Prize at the Thunderbird Sustainable Innovation Summit competition, taking home $20,000 and the title “2007 Global Champions of Sustainable Innovation.”

The IE team competed against 85 teams from 45 universities from the US, Europe and Asia. German students Philipp Pausder and Tobias Schirmer, Macedonian Blagoja Hamamdziev and Mexican Guillermo Ortega presented their work called “Disruptive Thoughts” to a jury integrated by experts in innovation and CSR, including entrepreneurs, business men, consultants and academics.

IE Students also won in 2004 and were in 3rd place last year at the same competition , which was named Global Citizenship Challenge back then.

The 10 teams in the final round of the competition were challenged to develop the most innovative and sustainable business plans that addressed real-life challenges faced by Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co. Inc.

sustain_innovation.gifMerck asked the MBA teams to develop a plan for the company to shape the overall healthcare landscape in the emerging markets of China and India, thereby producing sustainable markets for its products. Johnson & Johnson’s posed the question of how the company could provide its high-tech health care solutions in emerging and developed economies at an affordable price for growing middle and lower income consumer groups.  

The winning solution for Merck suggested way that the company could become a knowledge leader in rural markets by integrating technology to educate the rural consumers about health-care practices and solutions available for their unmet needs.

The solution the Instituto de Empresa team developed for Johnson & Johnson had the company closing the affordability gap by partnering with other large corporations to provide affordable payment plans for employees in the middle and lower income markets.

“Innovative, real-world solutions presented by the student teams that participated in the  summit exceeded our expectations in many ways,” said Neil Currie, a spokesman for Johnson & Johnson.

An MBA team from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University placed second,  and a graduate team from John Hopkins University placed third.

“The summit demonstrated the power of integrating business thinking and sustainability thinking,” said Greg Unruh, director of Thunderbird’s Lincoln Center for Ethics in International Management. “The teams showed that real gains come from innovative commercial solutions that simultaneously create business value as well as collateral social and environmental value“.

The Financial Times has ranked Thunderbird No. 1 in International Business in the first year the publication included that category in its annual worldwide ranking of full-time MBA programs.

Instituto de Empresa (IE) is a leading business school based in Madrid, Spain, routinely recognized as being among the top 15 business schools worldwide. It is characterized by its global approach, its applied research projects and the promotion of socially responsible initiatives.

Portuguese EDP buys U.S. Horizon Wind Energy

March 27, 2007

Portugal´s largest industrial company, the power utility EDP, has agreed to buy U.S. wind-park company Horizon Wind Energy from Goldman Sachs at an enterprise value of $2.9 billion to enter the U.S. market  and boost its position in renewable energy. 

Both EDP and Horizon had been expanding their portfolios in wind power projects very aggressively. Houston based Horizon has 559 gross megawatts of operating wind projects and another 997 MW under construction due to be completed by the end of this year.   

“Horizon also has a strong pipeline of projects in several stages of development in 15 different states across the country, with combined aggregate generating potential of over 9,000 MW,” EDP said. 

marcaedp.jpgEDP or Energías de Portugal moved into the number seven spot in the global ranking of MW wind power owned through 2006.  

EDP saw a 68% spike in its total wind MW owned in 2006 following an aggressive acquisition strategy in its neighbouring country, Spain, where it has plans to invest around $2 billion in Renewable Energy projects.   

The acquisition of Horizon will reinforce EDP´s position in the world’s top ten wind power owners, with expected wind-power generation of 3,800 megawatts by the end of 2007.

BP Solar builds in Spain one of the largest solar cell plants in Europe

March 25, 2007

solar-cell.jpg BP Solar, a division of BP, announced on March 22 that it has begun constructing a mega cell plant at its European headquarters in Tres Cantos, Madrid. The company is aiming to expand its annual cell capacity from 55 megawatt (MW) to around 300 MW.   

BP Solar´s activities in Spain go way back, since it arrived in the country in 1982. The other two largest solar cell manufacturers in the country are Atersa and Isofoton. Coincidentally, Isofoton  inaugurated a 200 MW  manufacturing plant last year as well, so this announcement is yet another confirmation of the good perspectives perceived for solar industry in the country, both as a market and a manufacturing base. 

Bertrand Boulin, BP Solar’s vice president of Manufacturing and Supply alluded to their confidence in the growth projections of the European market. “We already have an established manufacturing presence in
Madrid, a skilled and talented workforce, and direct access to some of the fastest growing PV markets in the world” he said.  

The new cell lines will use state-of-the-art screen-printing technology, according to the company. By fully automating wafer handling, the lines will be able to handle the very thinnest of wafers available and ensuring the highest possible quality. The first line is expected to be operational before the summer. 

Earlier this week the company announced the construction of a similar facility in Bangalore, through its Joint venture with Tata.

BP Solar is also very active in the US. It is one of the 13 companies recently selected by the DOE to receive funding for its R+D program aimed at decreasing the cost of solar cells and increasing their efficiency

From batteries to silver and fertilizer

March 24, 2007

From time to time, I like to bring you the story of a small company or outfit that is working in renewable energies or the environment in simple ways. The reason is to prove the point that it is not a question of large companies and budgets. Innovation can come from anywhere and may be done with relatively modest means.

Terra Viva, the channel for Environment from Euronews, features the story of two Spanish businessmen that have a small operation recycling shutterstock_2032366.jpgbutton batteries to extract their silver (used again in jewelry) and other elements that are turned into fertilizer.  They have received offers for their technology from other companies abroad (China, France and Belgium). 

 To watch the video, click here

Introduction to the video from Terra Viva:

“In the small Andalusian town of Montilla, a few kilometers from Cordoba, two men are pioneering a revolutionary system of recycling. Their company has become the first in Europe capable of recycling the tiny button batteries we use in our watches, cameras and computers. “Luque de Reciclajes” reclaims the batteries’ components in a completely safe manner and makes money from the process”.

For the 1st time, Wind power becomes Spain´s top energy source

March 24, 2007

Tree Hugger, via The Age, reported yesterday how, “taking advantage of a particularly gusty period, Spain’s wind energy generators this week have reached an all-time high in electricity production, exceeding power generated by any other source“.

Wind power generation rose to contribute 27 per cent of the country’s total power requirement, said a statement by the nation’s electricity network authority (Red Electrica).

Wind power contributed 8,375 mega watts to the nation’s power consumption of 31,033. Although we must consider that this is a peak, not an average, this is a symbolic moment for the wind industry, not just in Spain.

The special intermittent nature production of wind power means it is necessary to have a backup power system provided by other sources of energy. Therefore, forecasting, tracking and control functions related to this type of generation must be as accurate as possible.

Red electrica uses state-of-the art technology to capture, second by second the required data. You may see here real time wind power output measurements monitored by Red Eléctrica via tele-metering (representing 80% of the total installed).


Red electrica´s Power control Center (in charge of real time coordinated operation and supervision of the Spanish electricity network)

The Spanish Government´s objective is to reach 22,000 MW of installed capacity by 2010.   It had to revise its goals upwards as it realized the market was growing much faster than what it expected.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the countries with the highest total installed capacity in 2006 were Germany (20,621 MW), Spain (11,615 MW) and the USA (11,603 MW).

For the second year in a row,  the US was again the country with more new installed capacity in 2006 (2,454 MW).

The new kid on the block

March 22, 2007

In posts in the last few weeks I have been following the tracks of Spanish investors in the field of renewable energies in the US, such as Gamesa, Acciona Energy, Iberdrola and Naturener. Now it is the turn for an additional entrant stepping up to the plate.  

Elecnor, a diversified holding with a $ 1,030 million revenue in 2005 is coming to Chicago in April to participate in a Spain-US Investment event, with the view to expanding its activities in turnkey projects in the US and, specifically, in the Midwest

We expect to have more news to report about this significant move, given that the Elecnor Group is one of Spain’s leading companies in the field of project planning and development in the areas of renewable energy, electricity and infrastructures. It currently has a presence in over 20 countries and 11 subsidiaries ranging from aerospace to wind power (Enerfin) to production of Solar modules (Atersa).


View from a wind turbine of the largest (150 MW) wind park in Latin America (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)

Project developed by Enerfin-Enervento (Elecnor Group)  Picture by Bernardo Fiusa

To give an idea of the size of some of the projects it is currently involved in:

– Through Atersa, Elecnor´s own subsidiary for pv solar energy, it is currently building not one, but two 20 MW pv solar plants in Spain, one in Extremadura (close to Portugal) and another one in Murcia (Mediterranean Coast).  Just to remind you, the largest operational pv solar plants worldwide hover around 10 MW.

Its partners for these projects are Suntech (China), that will provide solar panels for the plant in Extremadura, and Powerlight (USA) to provide its Powertracker systems for both plants to maximize the panels´ energy generation.

– It has created a joint venture called Cape Trafalgar Marine Wind Consortium with the Spanish utility Endesa  to develop offshore wind power projects using technology that leverages know-how gained in oil rigs. Its subsidiary for wind energy (Enerfin) already participates in operative wind farms with total capacity of over 650 MW

Elecnor seeks a long-term presence in the US, offering its expertise in the design and construction of wind power plants. It already has opened a subsdiary in Texas and is looking for partnerships with other engineering or contracting firms.

It will take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Spain-US Investment Forum, an event that will bring 21 Spanish companies looking for investment and business development opportunities in Illinois and surrounding states. 

(For the record: The TC of Spain in Chicago and, specifically, your humble English-impaired correspondent are among the organizers)

Non-stop power from micro wind turbines

March 19, 2007

I enclose an extract of an interesting story by Claudia Blume (full story here), picked up at VOA News (Hong Kong): 

Engineers at the University of  Hong Kong and a private renewable energy company have developed a new micro wind turbine that can generate electricity even if wind speeds are as low as two meters per second.

wind_turbine_eng_195_eng_18mar07.jpgMicro wind turbines (Courtesy of VOA News)

“We never stop this machine and they never stop because there is always one meter per second wind – 365 days, 24 hours a day, they keep working,” said Lucien Gambarota – the main inventor of the technology. 

They are ideal for crowded cities because they can be installed on rooftops and balconies.  

Their design is simple: plastic gearwheels, each about 25 centimeters in diameter, are linked to one another and turn, moved by the wind. Groups of gearwheels can be arranged in an array of shapes and sizes. The energy generated by the turbines is stored in a battery, which then powers electrical appliances.

The wind turbine is easy to install and comparatively cheap. At the moment, a set of 20 gearwheels costs about $25. Gambarota says the price will go down once the turbines are being mass-produced.

See also another version of the story, from CNN, here

Harvesting the sun

March 18, 2007

Yesterday, Monte alto (9,5 MW),  one of the solar pv plants with the highest yield in the world (14 Million annual Kwh) was officially inaugurated by Acciona Solar in the city of Milagro (Navarra, North Eastern Spain – mentioned in a post some days ago). 

The project will produce clean electricity equivalent to the consumption of five thousand families and will avoid the emission of 13.5 million tons of CO².

It is a peculiar style of plant, of the kind called in Spain “Huerta Solar” (pronounced more or less like wehrtah sohlar) It means literally solar orchard, though, less poetically, they could simply be called solar farms.

A “Huerta Solar” is a grid-connected solar power plant based on individual structures, each with their own investor. Individuals may invest directly in these small photovoltaic installations that become their property but are located on a common site with other owners. These subsystems are usually equipped with automated sun tracking devices that allow them to generate up to 40% more energy than fixed systems. 



Image courtesy of Acciona Solar – “Huerta solar in Navarra”

Acciona Solar is the company that pioneered the concept of “huertas solares” (they use the terms “solar gardens” in English).  What is more interesting about these “solar gardens” is precisely their ownership structure as a sort of cooperative.  It adds a social dimension to the plant, as around 98% of the 752 individual investors are from Navarra.  

Recently I mentioned the rush of venture capitalists into renewable energy. Here, the investments are available for people with more modest means (prices start at around 70.000 dollars for a 7 kilowatts panel).

According to Solar Plaza (a marketplace for pv solar energy) the returns offered to investors are good and lie around 8-10% per year. The feed-in tariff guarantee for 25 years makes the investment very interesting compared to savings in a bank account. The Huerta Solar is, therefore becoming a new and popular way to invest and make money, that holds promise for other markets as well.   


In the right path to control climate change?

March 17, 2007

The Day after tomorrow

This video from the World Wildlife Fund WWF about developments in CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) and biomass from olives in Spain and solar energy in Australia ends with a call for bold measures that was at least partially heeded at the last European Union summit.

The European leaders agreed to a greenhouse gas reduction in the EU of 20 per cent by 2020, and 30 per cent if other industrialized countries will take action.

This  commitment by European leaders to scale up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 per cent by 2020 sets the right path to control climate change at the global level. But appropriate laws and measures are needed to be put into place so that the goal does not remain hot air.

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