Archive for February 2008

EnergyLab, an international technological center for energy efficiency and sustainability

February 29, 2008

energylab.jpgA Spanish utility Union Fenosa-led consortium has launched EnergyLab, an international technological center for energy efficiency and sustainability.

The center seeks to become a standard-setter in Spain and internationally, to guide, co-ordinate and lead the way for projects which have a significant impact on society, the economy and the environment.EnergyLab’s primary goal is to encourage the use of more environmentally-friendly technologies at competitive prices and with an equal or greater level of quality and comfort for the consumer.

Founding partners include Inditex, Indra, Finsa, Philips, GOC and Union Fenosa, the Galician Foundation for an Information Society, the regional government’s Ministry for Innovation and Industry, and three universities from Galicia, a region in Northwestern Spain.

Alberto Gago, rector of the Vigo University, where EnergyLab will be located, has been nominated as the chairman.

Spain’s annual energy efficiency indices reveal significant potential for saving energy and cutting costs in homes and SMEs, simply by changing basic consumption habits and equipment.

EnergyLab represents a nexus between energy needs and demands on the one hand, and the existence of technologically-competitive companies in the field of energy systems and installations plus universities with the human and material resources required for research.

Abengoa Solar to build a 280 MW CSP plant in Arizona

February 21, 2008

Abengoa Solar, a subsidiary of Spain’s Abengoa technology company, has signed a contract with Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) to build, own and operate what would be the largest solar power plant in the world if it were operating today.

It is scheduled to go into operation by 2011 and will have a total capacity of 280 megawatts

The plant will sell the electricity produced to APS over the next 30 years, generating total revenue of around four billion dollars, and “bringing over one billion dollars in economic benefits to the state of Arizona.”

The plant will be located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend, and will cover a surface of around 1,900 acres.  

It will employ a proprietary Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) trough technology. The site will be filled with 2,700 high precision parabolic mirrors that track sunlight.  Concentrating its energy, they heat a fluid to over 735 degrees Fahrenheit and use that heat to turn steam turbines. The solar plant will also include a thermal energy storage system that allows for electricity to be produced as required, even after the sun has set.

“This is a major milestone for Arizona in our efforts to increase the amount of renewable energy available in the United States” Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said in a news release.

Construction of the Solana Generating Station, as it has been named, will create about 1,500 construction jobs, and will employ 85 full-time workers once it’s operational, Abengoa Solar said.

APS will pay for the entire project, which will only serve APS customers. The project is more than two-years in the making and will be the first of many in the state, said Don Brandt, APS president.

For diagrams about the overall aspect and sections of the plant, you may watch this video:

A welcome tree-planting frenzy

February 16, 2008

In a move that surprised many people, Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy promised last week that 500 million trees will be planted by 2012 if his party wins the Spanish general election on March 9th.

Given that it followed the announcement that Prime Minister Zapatero will plant one tree for every inhabitant if he is re-elected, amounting to around 45 million new trees, these moves show that environmental issues are important enough to be given some thought in both campaigns. It is good to see this issue take center-stage at a general election, even for a brief time.

 Alongside planting new trees, some wise measures should be taken to avoid the burning of existing ones in the fires that engulf Spanish forests every summer.

Places like Finland or Japan have shown the world how to reforest and to exploit forests sustainably, so everybody wins.

Rio Lobos Canyon in Soria

Forests in areas where  there are valued economically as well as ecologically (wood, mushrooms and ecotourism) are infinitely less likely to be consumed in a fire.

In Spain there is a glaring example in the province of Soria (Castile and Leon region) where forests are an economic resource to be looked after. Therefore, in Soria, undergrowth cleaning and firewatch towers are prevalent and wildfires a rare ocurrence.

 I want to finish sending out some props to some guys here in the US with the same goal: American Forests, a non-profit that has planted 23 million trees in its Global ReLeaf campaign and that is planning to plant 100 million more by 2020.

Lie detector for Organic products

February 6, 2008

Star of the kitchen  Originally uploaded by Rune T

How can you tell if food labeled as organic truly is organic, that is, grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides? Live Science reports that Scientists in Spain, trusting chemistry more than corporations, are developing a method to sniff out food grown with synthetic fertilizers. Their technique, published in the January-February issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, relies on the detection of an isotope of nitrogen found in organic food but not in non-organic food.

Atmospheric nitrogen is made mostly from the nitrogen-14 isotope, with seven protons and seven neutrons. There’s virtually no isotope nitrogen-15 in the air nor, as a result, in the manufactured nitrate-based fertilizers.  However, the nitrogen in manure, the primary fertilizer used in organic farming, can contain up to 20 percent nitrogen-15, according to the researchers, led by Francisco del Amor of the Instituto Murciano de Investigación y Desarrollo Agrario y Agrario y Alimentario (IMIDA)  in Murcia, Spain in a joint project with the Institute of Agrobiotechnology (UPNA-CSIC)

Plants suck up nitrogen, so organic fruits and vegetables are loaded with nitrogen-15. Any food with no nitrogen-15 or a low N15/N14 ratio betrays the use of synthetic fertilizers.

The Spanish researchers, who used sweet pepper plants in their study, said someday their method could be useful in detecting small amounts of synthetic fertilizers used by organic farmers worried about low nitrogen levels in the soil and thus the potential for a low-yield harvest. As organic farming goes global, isotope sniffers could be used by nations to monitor the integrity of imported organic food.

8.5 MW Solar installation for SEAT´s car factory

February 2, 2008

19537.jpgSEAT’s factory in Martorell has been chosen by the Spanish Automaker (part of the Volkswagen Group) as the location for one of its most ambitious environmental conservation projects, where the installation of solar panels will make it possible to generate clean electrical energy. This move is the last in a trend of companies realizing that solar power may be both environmental and economically sound.

By installing 8.5 MW of solar photovoltaic panels, the system will generate 11.2 GWh of electricity annually by the end of this year.

The solar panels will be in place on the roof of SEAT’s corporate building in Martorell (Catalonia, Spain) next March, as well as on the support structure of one of the finished vehicle parking lots. All the clean energy created will get redirected towards the power mains for distribution. With the new systems in place, the company will be able to satisfy the plant´s huge demand of energy (1.3 million Kw/h).

In order to take full advantage of one of Spain’s greatest resource, the Sun, and the high number of sunlight hours in the area of Martorell and its surroundings, the next step will be to completely cover two further distribution areas with a total surface area of more than 66,000 m2 and the roofs of assembly buildings 8, 9, 10 and 11, which will add an additional 139,000 m2.

This phase will total more than 206,000 m2 of solar panels to produce solar energy.