If not THIS way, then . . .
Cheaper solar power heads mainstream
Tue May 22, 2007
By Timothy Gardner
If not biofuels then we will soon have this and probably the world will have both of them together. Smart Israeli politicians from Peres to Livni have committed themselves to the latest fashion of multilateralism, jumping on the bandwagon of the Saudi peace plan. Exploiting the Sunni Shia divide is only how far the thinking of these people can go, they plainly don't entertain themselves with the idea that most of these power structures will be gone within a decade (Otherwise they would have poured a few billions into Israel's solar industry represented by companies such as Solel).
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Solar power should become a mainstream energy choice in three or four years as companies raise output of a key ingredient used in solar panels and as China emerges as a producer of them, according to a report by an environmental research group.
"We are now seeing two major trends that will accelerate the growth of photovoltaics: the development of advanced technologies, and the emergence of China as a low-cost producer," Janet Sawin, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and an author of report, said in a statement.
Investors have flocked to solar and other renewable energy sources amid worries about the high costs of oil and natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions. Solar is the fastest growing energy source, but still provides less than 1 percent of the world's electricity, in part because its power can cost homeowners twice as much as power from the grid.
But costs could fall 40 percent in the next few years as polysilicon becomes more available, Sawin said,
More than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States will boost production over the next few years of purified polysilicon, which helps panels convert sunlight into electricity, and is the main ingredient in semiconductor computer chips, according to the report.
Polysilicon's feedstock is abundantly available sand. But a downturn in silicon refining after the high-tech bubble collapse in the late 1990s has constrained the panel market.
In some of the world's sunniest places, like California, electricity from solar panels costs the same as power from the grid. A drop in solar panel prices could expand that to places that only get average sunlight, making solar more of a mainstream choice, Sawin said in an e-mail.
Last year, China passed the United States to become the world's third largest producer of solar panels, trailing only Germany and Japan.
"To say that Chinese PV producers plan to expand production rapidly in the year ahead would be an understatement," Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute, a Massachusetts-based group that promotes renewables, said in a release.
"They have raised billions from international IPOs to build capacity and increase scale with the goal of driving down costs," said Bradford, who helped write the report.
Many companies are producing thin-film solar technologies that cut the amount of silicon used in panels. Thin-film could grab a 20 percent share of the market by 2010, up from 7 percent of the market in 2006, the report said.
The same Saudi Arabia, the author of the original plan, will be one of the first to succumb. With its 30 million strong population living in the state of a permanent demographic explosion, the kingdom is the first candidate to be erased off the map of the region, using the slang of our friend Ahmalalah (Iran is the second). Its restless underclass is just waiting for the dynasty to run out of handouts it throws out every now and then to keep these people quiet.
The future looks solar
China may eye more than solar energy
As governments across the globe are increasingly imposing mandatory biofuel blends on markets by means of legislation, China may have its eyes set on more than just solar energy. A new biofuel law that went into effect in the Philippines on May 6, requires a 1% biofuel blend in diesel. The law also envisions a 5% ethanol blend in gasoline by 2010 and then increasing it to 10% after the next four years. Philippine Agriculture Secretary reported that no less than four Chinese groups expressed interest in setting up ethanol plants across the country.
MANILA (Reuters) - China's Guangxi State Farm Bureau and a Philippine oil firm will spend $350 million to develop 4-5 ethanol plants in the country in the next two to five years, an executive with the local partner said on Sunday.
Fernando Martinez, chairman of local oil retailer Eastern Petroleum Corp., said the joint venture will look for plantations, and put up plants with an annual capacity of 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of ethanol each.
He said the plants would initially use cassava as feed stock, but may also consider sugarcane.
"We plan to either go into contract growing with farmers or lease plantations of up to 350,000 hectares to grow the feedstock," Martinez told Reuters by phone.
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"This project will revolutionise Philippine agriculture. Of the country's 10 million hectares of agricultural lands, about 2 million hectares are underutilised due to lack of capital and access to markets," Martinez said.
Martinez said cassava production from the contract growers will initially be exported to China, until the plantations reach a level of 30,000 hectares, enough to feed the requirement of one ethanol plant.
He said his group aimed to have one plant operational by 2009, in time for the mandatory blending of ethanol in local gasoline, and have 2-3 plants operational by 2010.
A Philippine biofuels law took effect on May 6, requiring a 1 percent coconut blend in diesel, and within two years gasoline will have to contain 5 percent ethanol.
After four years, the mandated ethanol blend will be increased to 10 percent.
Mario Marasigan, director of the Department of Energy, said the country needed 270 million liters of ethanol a year by 2009 and 400 million liters by 2011.
Martinez said the production of his group's ethanol plants will be sold locally and any excess will be exported to China.
Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap has said four to six Chinese groups have expressed keen interest to put up ethanol plants in the country.
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When the Real Game starts . . .
With so many countries aiming at imposing 5% and 10% blends by the beginning of the next decade the market of biofuels is going to reach huge proportions. It is at this point and even earlier, and even right now, that investment into research starts surging. And from that moment on the timing of a massive switch to low carbon economy world wide will depend squarely on when a second generation technology, enabling production of a reasonably priced cellulosic ethanol (should be equivalent to $30-$35 per barrel), becomes available.
YORK (Reuters) - Wood rather than wheat may hold the key to Europe's efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by expanding biofuels production, the head of a research body funded by the UK government told Reuters.
Jeremy Tomkinson, chief executive of the York-based National Non-Food Crops Centre, said government support would be needed as wood-based technologies required large capital investment and long-term guarantees of future demand.
He said wood-based biofuel production plants could become widespread by the middle of the next decade although they required an investment of around 500 million pounds ($986 million), or 10 times the cost of a first-generation bioethanol or biodiesel refinery.
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First generation biofuels are usually produced from food crops such as wheat, maize, sugar or vegetable oils. They require energy-intensive inputs like fertilizer, which make it difficult to cut the emissions of gases contributing to climate change.
The global boom in these fuels has also pushed up the price of foodstuffs.
Tomkinson said fuels based on grains and vegetable oils should not be abandoned until the second generation technology became widespread as they helped introduce biofuels to the market and provided experience on how to blend them into fuel.
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"That's a stepping stone that gets us on the race track. The real game is second generation," he said.
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The UK requires road transport fuels to incorporate 2.5 percent biofuel by 2008 and 5 percent by 2010 . . .
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In a less probable case governments may soon start imposing additional taxes on gasoline to push prices up in order to suppress demand and, with it, carbonic emissions. In this case the notion of what is an acceptable price will change too.
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