Archive for April 2008

Spain-US Business Development Mission to the State of Texas

April 27, 2008

In four years time, Spain has quadrupled its investments in the United States. Spain´s growing involvement with the U.S. is manifested in the intensification of visits by Spanish trade delegations. Last year, our office organized an Investment Forum in Chicago. This year, first a Spanish trade mission traveled to Washington and Colorado and last week another group visited the states of Massachussetts and Pennsilvania. Next month (May 11- 16), it will be the turn of Texas.

The Honorable Eduardo Aguirre, U.S. Ambassador to Spain, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain will lead a this mission involving 25 Spanish companies from the following sectors: energy, infrastructures, life sciences, information technology and food products. They will visit be touring three main cities (Dallas, Austin and Houston), interacting with the state’s foremost business development institutions, research centers and especially potential business partners. Some confirmed participants are BioHouston, the NASA Space Station and the Houston Technology Center.

Specifically the mission will promote:

  • Direct investments by Spanish companies
  • Joint ventures with US companies
  • Import-Export-Distribution
  • Exchange of know-how
  • Licensing agreements

Besides the Embassy and the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain, the organization will be led by Foreign Commercial Service in Texas and key business organizations in Dallas, Austin and Houston. (Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Houston). The Governor Rick Perry, the Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson, the Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Commerce Israel Hernández and the General Director of the US Commercial Service in Washington will also participate on the mission, according to the program.

Awards for eco-friendly inventions

April 26, 2008

The International Exhibition of Inventions is held every year in Geneva. It showcases a variety of inventions and new products presented by companies and inventors from around the world. Over 700 representatives from 45 countries participated on this year´s edition. Many of the projects presented reflected the reigning concern with environmental issues.

Incidentally, the Grand Prix was awarded to an automatic control system for money spent on electricity, thanks to a system called checktap, created by the Korean inventor, Mr. Lee Jeong-soo, from the company Incasolution Ltd. In fact, this is a multifunction plug linked to a computer by a USB cable. Once it is in the computer, it starts to work, monitoring and interrupting electrical appliances completely or with a time-lag, according to the instructions programmed by the user.

There were prizes for many other ecological inventions:

  • Clothing from bamboo fibers (Pegase Sport Design, France)
  • Recycled wood product from the oil palm tree (Wan Tarmeze, Malaysia)
  • Water purification systems (Svarog, Russia)
  • Low-consumption heating radiator (Wolfgang Kerschbaum, Austria)
  • Autonomous solar ice fridge (Heig-Vd/Solaref, Switzerland/France)
  • Compact portable devices for biological and aerobic treatment of waste water (Duro Horvat, Croatia)
  • High-performance biodegradable thermoplastics from starch-based films (Industrial Chemistry Research Institute, Poland)
  • A building material from recycled crystal glass (Branko Gnjidic, Croatia)

Another environmentally-friendly invention that did well at the event was the device for reducing daily water and power waste by the company Disesta-JP, from Spain. It received four awards: one from the Geneva Tourism Agency, another from the Foundation King Abdelaziz (Saudi Arabia), the event´s gold medal and the special mention from the jury.

When installed in faucets and the piping system, this system is designed for the short wait for hot water (or not so short, depending on the boiler and the distance to the tap). It blocks the release of water until it has reached the optimal temperature (normally 100.4 °F) to avoid wasting it while we wait.

Francesc Alemany, the company´s representative at the convention, estimates that this allows for savings of water consumption of around 20% per year.

Iberdrola to complete a 500 MW wind farm in Granada

April 17, 2008

Iberdrola will expand its current 198 MW wind farm (El Marquesado) in Granada, Spain, to reach an installed capacity of 500 MW. That will bring the total investment in the area to around 380 million euros. This wind farm is already one of the largest in Europe and with the expansion will be among the largest in the world. A local manufacturer, Eozen, is expected to provide a significant share of the wind turbines for the project.

Wind turbine from Eozen – Photo courtesy of Eozen

Iberdrola has been getting headlines every week this last month. Yesterday, it announced at its annual shareholders´meeting that its first-quarter net profit reached 1.2 billion euros ($1.9 billion), up 162 percent year-on-year thanks to new acquisitions and asset sales. Iberdrola Renovables, its renewable energy arm, saw first-quarter profit exceed earnings for the whole of 2007. But there have been many other interesting stories from Iberdrola lately,  and not all of them concerning its efforts to fend off an unwelcome possible takeover bid from the French group EDF.

Earlier this month, analysts from Expansion, a Spanish newspaper, commented that the company is mulling over purchasing the assets Babcock & Brown has put up for sale,  3,000 megawatts of wind power in Europe. It has pulled back, though, from the other bidding war unfolding in the busy European electricity sector, the one for British Energy.

Other recent news from Iberdrola include its plans to develop six offshore wind farms with an aggregate generation capacity of 3,000MW at locations off the coasts of the Spanish Atlantic provinces of Cadiz and Huelva and the Mediterranean province of Castellon.

Finally, this time in the field of solar energy, its engineering division, Iberinco, has won a contract to build the second of two phases of a 20 MW solar photovoltaic plant, Apertura FV, in the Spanish province of Cáceres.

Producing hydrogen from water and sun

April 8, 2008

On Monday March 31, a Greek research team from Thessaloniki working in Spain held its first official demonstration of a pilot-scale solar reactor at the Almeria Solar Platform (PSA).

CESA installation– “Reflected light” by Miguel Hidalgo, Courtesy of the PSA

The project produces clean energy in the form of hydrogen exclusively from water and the sun without emitting any pollutants or greenhouse gases.

The efficiency of converting the solar energy is as high as 70 percent and appears to be the answer to the difficult problem of producing economically efficient hydrogen from renewable energy sources. It is the largest solar reactor in the world and has therefore attracted a lot of attention from researchers and investors. The project was awarded a 2005 International Global 100 Eco-Tech prize in Japan and the Descartes Prize for 2006 for scientific research.

At the heart of the program is the HydroSol Group, coordinated by Athanassios Konstantopoulos, Director of the Chemical Process Engineering Research Institute in Thessaloniki, Greece. The other members of the consortium are the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Stobbe Technical Ceramics from Denmark, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells from the UK and the Spanish Research Center for Energy and Environmental Technologies, Ciemat.

What is truly pioneering about this project is the reactor which is situated at the point where the rays are concentrated. It has no moving parts and is made from a ceramic material with high capacity for solar heat absorption. Its coating nanomaterials, with very high water-splitting activity and regenerability, are a key development in the system. At high enough temperatures (800-1,200 degrees Celsius) these coating materials strip water of its oxygen, leaving hydrogen gas to bubble away. The oxidized materials must then be recycled, driving off their collected oxygen as gas, in a separate reaction step at 1,000-1,200 degrees C.

The hydrogen produced can be channeled into a fuel cell to produce energy or to a combustion point. It can also be stored, solving the problem of storing and transporting solar energy. Secondly, the reactor can be used to recycle carbon dioxide. Thirdly, it can be used to desalinate water. This could be an integrated solution for islands around the world.

The system will take in half a litre of water every minute and should produce around 3 kilograms of hydrogen an hour – equivalent to a thermal output of 100kW. The next step is upscaling to 1 megawatt and bringing the costs down. ‘This will be competitive within a decade,’ Konstantopoulos claims.

Results from this landmark research project promise the potential for long-term production of renewable based hydrogen, particularly for regions of the world that lack indigenous resources, but are endowed with ample solar energy.