Archive for August 2007

Wind energy and hydrogen will power the Zaragoza World Expo 2008

August 27, 2007

In a very timely announcement (neatly tying up Saturday´s post), the Spanish utilities Endesa and Iberdrola have been awarded separately the construction of two wind farms that will supply renewable energy to the Zaragoza World Expo.

To complement this source of energy, the Expo will also have a Hydrogen fuel station, to be built by Carburos Metálicos for around 1.76 million dollars. Carburos is the Spanish subsidiary of the American company Air Products Group, with headquarters in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Zaragoza World Expo 2008: Water and sustainable development

August 25, 2007

Cities around the world have long followed the strategy of using a landmark project or an international event to put themselves on the map or to revitalize the urban landscape. In Spain, this has been done with a good measure of success by Bilbao, with the Guggenheim Museum, Barcelona with the 92 Summer Olympics as a springboard and, lastly, by Valencia with its City of Arts and Sciences and the America´s Cup. In the US, the Millennium Park in Chicago has been a boon to the Downtown area.

expo-2008.jpgNow it is the turn of Zaragoza (a.k.a. Saragossa, in English). The city is hosting next year´s World Expo, under the theme of Water and Sustainable Development. Four key thematic elements will be treated, developed in areas ranging from individual to global responsability (Water, a Unique resourceWater for Life WaterscapesShared Water).

An Environmental Resources Agency has been established to ensure that the event meets its required environmental obligations.

The event is expected to receive about 7.5 million visitors during its first three months. Tourists visiting the Expo at Zaragoza will be able to get there from Madrid by high speed train. In about one hour and fifteen minutes, the train covers a distance of 186.4 miles. That is more or less the distance from Indianapolis to Toledo, Ohio.

As befits the green spirit of the Expo, the design of the Spanish pavilion has been awarded to the Center for Renewable Energies and is being built following environmental and bioclimatic criteria. Francisco Mangado is the architect selected for the project (his work was displayed recently at the MOMA museum in New York).

The MIT-designed Digital water pavilion for the Expo has already made a splash. It features liquid curtains for walls. Not only can they be programmed to display images or messages but they also sense an approaching object and automatically part to let it through.

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Another exciting feature related to the Expo is the “Zaragoza Digital Mile” or “Milla Digital”. logohome.gifThe whole idea behind this project is to link the spaces of the old city with the new, through a pathway called “Paseo del Agua”, because of its innovative use of water. It is also a tribute to the precious element that, in a dry land, gives the city its personality through the river Ebro.

This Digital Mile project, also developed by the MIT, will incorporate digital media into everyday aspects of the public realm to make places that respond to their users, like the “Memory Walk”, a walkway in which digital pavers record and illuminate where citizens tread the most and thus become paths of light. Digital street furniture will display practical information for citizens such as bus arrivals, restaurant menus, and the location of available parking spaces.

A system of waterwalls will extend for a thousand feet in front of buildings and across the pedestrian bridge. The system will be fed by a landmark water tower which will collect and cleanse storm runoff from the roof of the new rail station and nearby highways.

Bordering the Digital Mile, there will be other key elements of city development such as a business center, high-tech offices, research facilities, plus, of course, gobs of: bandwidth for wireless connectivity and green spaces.

The centerpiece of the Digital Mile will be a new landmark, the Aragon School of Media Arts and Sciences, bringing the city´s long tradition in the visual arts and higher learning together with digital technology and culture.

A third line of presence of the MIT in the city is through their International Logistics Program at PLAZA (the Logistics Platform of Zaragoza). PLAZA is the largest logistics park in Europe, a 140 million square feet complex of distribution centers, transportation, dry port and intermodal services.

Greenwashing and green marketing

August 19, 2007

Government Procurement News has a thorough article from Scot Case about environmental claims and greenwashing. They cite a forthcoming study that identifies the following six greenwashing “sins”, which I reproduce, as they are priceless:

Sin of Fibbing
—While rare, some manufacturers do mislead customers about the actual environmental performance of their products. Some manufacturers have claimed that their products meet the environmental standards developed by EcoLogo or Green Seal when it is clear they do not. The EcoLogo program even has a fraud advisory section on its web site warning purchasers about misuses of the EcoLogo certification mark.

Sin of Unsubstantiated Claims
—Also known as the sin of “just trust us,” some manufacturers are unable to provide proof of their environmental claims. Others use words like “green” or “eco” in their corporate or product names and hope no one asks for details. All environmental claims should be verified by an independent certifying body or auditor, or the manufacturer should be willing and able to provide the necessary documentation to prove a claim when it is requested. Purchasers should be able to easily verify the recycled content of a product or to learn whether it contains any ingredients of concern.

Sin of Irrelevance
—Some manufacturers make factually correct environmental assessments that are no longer relevant for the particular product category. As an example, many aerosol products continue to make “CFC-free” claims even though CFCs have been banned in these products since 1978. These accurate but irrelevant environmental claims can confuse even savvy purchasing professionals.

Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
—Many products make bold claims about a single environmental attribute, which can lead purchasers to mistakenly believe that it is the only environmental attribute of concern for a particular product category. A cleaning product manufacturer, for example, is currently displaying an environmental certification mark documenting that its cleaning products are manufactured in a facility powered by renewable energy, which is clearly a beneficial environmental feature. The product makes no claims, however, about the potential human health or environmental hazards of the product itself. Purchasers could easily be misled by the certification mark to believe that the product is safer or uses safer ingredients than its competitors when that may not be true. Review products with single attribute claims carefully.

Sin of Vagueness —Broad, poorly defined environmental claims continue to challenge purchasers seeking high-quality environmentally preferable products. A vague claim such as “100 percent natural,” for example, can be very misleading because some naturally occurring substances such as arsenic and dioxin can be very harmful to human health. Legitimate environmental claims are not vague.

Sin of Relativism —A product can be the most environmentally preferable product in its class, but still be an inappropriate choice. The most fuel-efficient sport utility vehicle (SUV), for example, is still less preferable if a mid-sized passenger car will suffice.

Of course, there are many reliable and legitimate environmental standards and certification organizations, so that you may be sure you are buying the highest quality “green” goods.

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But the fact that a product is “green” is not enough on its own to attract regular consumers. Greenness may be the key factor in a purchase for some hardcore environmentalists, as being cool does it for another segment of the population (See article at Cleantech Blog). For most people, though, the green factor comes behind quality and satisfaction issues.

According to Jacquelyn Ottman (founder of J Ottman, a green marketing consultancy), the manufacturer should treat green benefits as added value to a good product and he will be left with something that is appealing to the customer as well as environmentally friendly.

Ottman highlights Energy Star, a labelling initiative sponsored by the EPA and the Department of Energy. Energy Star products are not asking consumers to trade ecological benefits for product quality. Their distinctive label, easy to recognise, provides information about 44 different benefits, mainly economic savings in energy and water use, on top of the product’s purely green credentials.

The final tip from Ottman to companies is that green marketing tactics must include the input of environmental critics – often in the form of NGOs – who have the power to either legitimise or discount a company’s green message, giving or taking away credit where it’s due.


Spain’s EuroBasket 2007 to be a carbon neutral event

August 14, 2007

gb.jpgVia: The Guardian and CO2-Solutions (Reuters) – The basketball European championship in Spain next month will be a carbon neutral event, organisers have declared.

“For the first time in Spain, a sporting event has taken up the challenge to calculate the emission of greenhouse gases during a tournament to be able to offset its emissions to produce a neutral balance,” the organisers said in a statement on their Web site (Eurobasket 2007).

For the event to be carbon neutral all its emissions must be offset, which involves paying someone else to cut greenhouse gas emissions on your behalf, with the aim of not adding to the world’s stock of gases blamed for global warming.

The organisers have enlisted the help of a Spanish company called CO2-Solutions to help devise strategies that reduce the amount of CO2 they produce from their activities and to calculate emissions before, during, and after the event.

Allied to this, organisers have worked to impress on individuals their responsibility to help reduce their carbon footprint, to recycle waste and to promote the use of public transport for the event.

EuroBasket 2007 takes place from Sept. 3 to 16 with the final in Madrid.

Special report by Technology Review (MIT) on the Spanish solar industry

August 13, 2007

In a special report, the American magazine Technology Review, produced by the MIT, highlights the latest developments and technologies in the Spanish solar power industry. The report (by Cynthia Graber) can be found here: Solar Energy in Spain or downloaded as a pdf file here.

Spain is forging ahead with plans to build concentrating solar power plants, establishing the country and Spanish companies as world leaders in the emerging field. At the same time, the number of installed photovoltaic systems is growing exponentially, and researchers continue to explore new ways to promote and improve solar power. The report expounds on the evolution of the industry, the technology behind the latest CSP projects and the main research and testing centers in the country.

This is the seventh of an eight series focusing on Spanish innovation, produced by the MIT magazine in partnership with the Trade Commission of Spain.

EON grows in the Spanish wind market by purchasing Energi E2

August 10, 2007

The German utility E.ON has taken only four months in making good on their word to be back in the Spanish market with further acquisitions.

After being outmanouvered in their €43bn ($59bn) bid battle for Endesa, the country’s biggest electricity group, it is buying Energi E2 Renovables Ibericas, which operates wind farms in Spain and Portugal, from Denmark’s DONG Energy in a deal worth €722 million, or $996.7 million. The purchase price includes $353.4 million in assumed debt.

The company led by Wulf Bernotat outbid the also German utility RWE, a consortium formed by Unión Fenosa and Enel and the largest Portuguese utility, EDP (owners of Horizon Wind Energy).

The operation comes hard on the heels of its winning EU approval to buy Spanish power utility Viesgo from Enel SpA and to acquire additional generation capacity from Endesa SA, making it the fourth-largest player on the Spanish power market. All in all, things have not turned bad for E.ON in its Spanish saga. The company expects to have a generating capacity of 7 Gigawatts in Spain for 2010.

Energi E2 has wind, hydro and biomass generation facilities in operation in Spain and Portugal with net installed capacity of approximately 260 MW. It has further wind farms with an extra capacity of 560 megawatts planned for completion in the next four years.

images.jpg“Energi E2 Renovables Ibericas ideally supplements our future activities in Spain” Chief Executive Wulf Bernotat said. “Wind power will play an important role in our future energy mix.”

This operation moves E.ON closer to its goal of 2,600 megawatts of total wind power. With yesterday’s deal, E.ON now has more than 700 MW of wind in operation and another 1,500 MW under development.

For E.ON, the purchase is strategically important: Spain and renewable energy are its two biggest growth areas as regulation gets tougher in its core German market.

E.ON‘s big renewable strategy, announced in May, is part of a major reorganization of the company that includes a new renewables unit, likely to be named E.ON Renewables. The new unit will oversee all of E.ON‘s green energy operations, with the exception of hydroelectricity.

Ways to store power from wind turbines

August 10, 2007

The Economist recently featured an article (Trapped wind) about ways to improve the storage of the energy captured by wind farms. It focused specifically on “compressed air”. The air is hermetically stocked up to be released when needed to provide electricity by turning a generator.

The storage of the energy is a key advance in order to minimize the inconvenients of a source of energy that is intermitent, such as wind, and to capture excess electricity that is generated -and wasted- at times when usage is low (e.g., at night).

For the main wind power producing areas, the benefits of a way to store, and therefore export the energy, are enormous. In Europe, there is an ongoing project seeking to link the electricity grids to achieve a better match of supply and demand by crossing national borders. In the USA, a group of municipal power companies from Iowa in the American Midwest are building a wind-powered compressed-air plant to take advantage of the windy Great Plains. They have just selected a site in Iowa, (Iowa Stored Energy Park) and hope to be operational by 2011.

The article also mentions a more direct approach, from General Compression, a small firm in Massachusetts. Its windmill compresses air directly. This eliminates two wasteful steps: the conversion of the mechanical power of a windmill into electricity and its subsequent reconversion into mechanical power in a compressor. The snag is that an air-compressing windmill cannot transmit electricity directly to the grid.

In Spain, another way to enable the storage of excess wind power that has been put to the test is through the use of hydrogen, in the experimental wind farm of Sotavento (Galicia).0006598.jpg

Sotavento features 24 turbines using 5 different technologies and showcases R+D applications related to renewable energies (optimization of wind farm management principles, prediction of energy production, solar thermal monitorization and automation, etc.)

As for the storage plant, the production of hydrogen is obtained by an electrolyzer which works on electricity from wind turbine generators. The electrolyzer produces hydrogen at low pressure, which is compressed to reduce the volume of storage in steel cylinders at about 200 bar. The H2 is stored in containers under pressure until the moment when it is used to generate electricity in situations of demand or need.

A company that is developing this concept in Spain is Acciona Energia. It is the project coordinator of Wind-Hy, a utility scale Wind-Hydrogen Integration project in Navarra. The main objective of this project is to design, develop, construct and test a new large-scale wind turbine operation technology, based on an integrated concept of wind + electrolyzer technology.

The project will include the adoption of an onshore 1.5 MW grid connected wind turbine, a large Electrolyzer system (350/700 kW) and other components required for their direct integration. The difference with Sotavento is that Acciona will also explore the use of the hydrogen thus obtained as a fuel destined to transportation purposes, through a distribution network.