Turning to the sun in the land of oil  

Posted by Big Gav

The International Herald Tribune has a report on Abu Dhabi's plans to transition to a post oil world by harnessing the power of the sun.

Just on the outskirts of this Gulf city, past a refinery and a water desalination plant, the foundations are being poured for an ambitious project intended to take this big oil producer into the next energy boom.

Oil, however, will have nothing to do with it.

The sun will.

Abu Dhabi, one of the world's largest oil producers, is seeking to become a center for the development and the implementation of clean energy technology. Last year, the emirate, which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, began the Masdar Initiative, a far-reaching program that seeks to rope in various companies, government ministries and universities around the world to help develop and commercialize renewable energy technologies backed by Abu Dhabi's money.

Despite initial skepticism and a few snickers, Abu Dhabi has sought to prove it is serious about clean energy. Masdar has already started a $250 million "clean technology fund" and begun construction of a special economic zone for the advanced- energy industry.

Last month, it announced plans to build a 100-megawatt solar plant in the area, and shortly after that it announced the formation of a graduate teaching and research institute in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The progress has many advocates of clean energy buzzing. "For a player in that world to recognize that there's this other component to the energy business is itself a recognition that the world is changing," said Marc Stuart, director of New Business Development at EcoSecurities, a research firm. "It is a very significant move because the Middle East is one of the areas where renewable energy has never made any strides."

From its gleaming high-rise towers to its billion-dollar marble-encrusted Emirates Palace Hotel, this city prides itself on being an example of what oil money, put to good use, can do.

Oil helped turn Abu Dhabi from a desert fishing village into a major Arab capital with political clout. It helped build a citizens' trust fund that is estimated to be worth as much as $300 billion and today brings the emirate almost twice as much income as its oil sales do.

Now, Abu Dhabi means to show that petrodollars can spark and develop innovation in the clean energy business, too.

Ultimately, Abu Dhabi's leaders envision the emirate as the Bangalore, India, of clean energy, both producing research and selling the technology.

In a decade, Abu Dhabi should have expertise in solar energy, photovoltaics, energy storage, carbon sequestration and hydrogen fuel.

Most important, they say, it hopes to prepare itself for a world that will not be as reliant on fossil fuels as it is today.

"We realize that the world energy markets are diversifying, so we need to diversify, too," said Sultan al-Jaber, the chief executive of Masdar. "We see the growth of renewable energy as an opportunity, not as a problem."

The project is not so much sizable as it is symbolic. The emirate, with about 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, could have a lot to lose from the adoption of clean energy in place of oil. Yet its effort is the most serious acknowledgment by a major oil producer that the energy market is changing.

"They've seen the writing on the wall: Where will all these places be post-oil?" said Virginia Sonntag-O'Brien, managing director of BASE, a center in Basel, Switzerland, that facilitates investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. "It's their message that they are an oil-producing nation taking the energy and climate issue seriously, and developing their own economy."

Last month, Masdar announced plans to build a $350 million solar power plant, the first plant of its kind in the Gulf region, in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Power and Water Authority. The plant will have a capacity of 100 megawatts — enough to power as many as 10,000 homes — and could be either a stand-alone plant or part of a water desalination project.

The Age has a report this weekend from Phil Hart of ASPO Australia on oil depletion called "Oil companies running hard to stand still" (obviously they felt the need to balance their reprint of the New York Times' cornucopian essay a week or so ago).
DURING a previous oil price crisis in the United States, a jovial service station attendant may have remarked to customers that "We've run out of $2 gas, but we've got plenty of $5 gas". Attendants on the trading floors might today observe that we've got plenty of $80 (US) barrels, but we're running short of $50 barrels.

Last Friday, the US Energy Information Administration released oil production data to the end of last year. Crude oil production was nearly 200,000 barrels a day lower than in 2005. Total liquid supply was flat. That's gripping news and should be enough to rattle any economist's confidence.

Despite a calm hurricane season, record prices and a forecast consensus from energy agencies that supply would continue to grow, oil production stalled last year. Were the oil companies not trying hard enough?

Chris Skrebowski, editor of the British oil industry journal Petroleum Review, would not agree. He has just published his annual Megaprojects report. The numbers show the global oil industry implemented oilfield projects providing an extra 3.2 million barrels a day to the market last year.

This is a historically high level of activity. So why was production flat, and even falling in many countries? The answer begins with "d" and gets to the heart of the debate about when global oil production will finally peak and begin its terminal decline: depletion.

A typical oilfield is a layer of sandstone buried far underground, with oil filling the tiny spaces between the grains of sand. Buried so deeply, the oil is under extreme pressure. When a well is drilled into the reservoir, the oil eagerly flows up to the surface. Then, with less competition for space in the reservoir, the pressure falls and the flow rate declines. To compensate, the operator drills more wells and can put in place elaborate mechanisms to maintain pressure in the field.

For several years, even decades for the largest fields, it is possible to continue extracting oil at a high rate. Inevitably though, the amount that flows from the reservoir begins to decline.

Many of the world's largest and oldest oilfields are succumbing to this fate; production is falling, sometimes rapidly. Two of the biggest fields, Cantarell in Mexico and Burgan in Kuwait, are confirmed in this category. Even the giant Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia, the largest discovered, may be showing the same symptoms of old age.

Despite enormous industry efforts, production from the largest fields and regions such as the North Sea is declining. Companies must now exploit new frontiers. They are taking enormous strides; into deep water off Africa and Brazil, remote areas of the Caspian and East Siberia, and also into unconventional Canadian tar sands. All this and more in a bid to shore up falling production in old heartlands.

The oil industry is running hard but only just managing to stand still. The size of discoveries in the new frontiers is falling. Depletion, the rate production is declining in existing oil provinces, meanwhile, increases.

In just a few years, the scales that are now finely balanced between new production coming on stream and declines in mature regions may lean more heavily on the side of depletion. Peak oil would then be behind us and our economies will be forced to survive with less oil each year. ...

The Age also has an article called "A climate of fear" which compares fear of global warming to that of nuclear armageddon.
Apocalyptic talk about global warming has stirred the sediment of old fears - the mushroom cloud has returned to haunt us. But, Thornton McCamish writes, the last great fright was a little different from the new one.

LAST year felt a bit like Armageddon all over again. It began on TV. Jericho was first: the sinister snickering of geiger-counters, the ICMBs flaming across the American evening sky. Then came Heroes, in which one of the characters, who can paint prophetic images, starts depicting New York under nuclear attack. On the latest 24, the terrorists upgraded to A-bombs.

It spread to literature. One of last year's most celebrated novels, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, is an awesomely bleak epic set in the ashen aftermath of what seems to be a nuclear war.

The Bomb was back, like the ghost at a banquet of anxiety. And it wasn't just explicit imagery that evoked nukes. It was all the stuff about the world ending. From Al Gore to the International Panel on Climate Change, everyone had grim news for the planet.

At the leading edge of climate pessimism, the prognoses were frankly apocalyptic. "Before this century is over, billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic," predicted James Lovelock, a renowned environmental scientist.

In his book The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery puts aside his essential optimism for long enough to write: "If humans pursue a business-as-usual course for the first half of this century, I believe the collapse of civilisation due to climate change becomes inevitable."

We shouldn't be surprised that when planetary destruction is on the mind, we start seeing nukes again. Climate change has stirred the lees of old fears.

It makes sense that the mushroom cloud, the great spectre of the 20th century, would return to spook the 21st. Bill McKibben, author of a foundation text of the climate change era, The End of Nature (1990), explicitly links the last great fright to the new one. Climate change is "the single biggest challenge facing the planet, the equal in every way to the nuclear threat that transfixed us during the past half-century", he wrote last year....

Energy Bulletin has an article by Paul Rogers on the US turning its oil control forces towards a new prize - Africa.
The new United States defence budget involves a substantial increase in spending and a redirection of many military programmes towards counterinsurgency and responding to asymmetric warfare (see "The costs of America's long war", 8 March 2007). It also entails a relatively little-noticed change in the orientation of the US military towards Africa, announced on 9 February 2007: the planned establishment of Africa Command (Africom).

At first sight this may appear a surprising move, given the comparatively less prominent place of Africa in the global war on terror compared with the middle east or south Asia. ...

When it becomes operational in September 2008 it will initially occupy headquarters alongside Eucom in Germany. Africom will share with Centcom a primary concern with resource security, but it will also keep a careful watch on two other current perceived threats: international terrorism and the rise of China.

Indeed, all three factors - resources (especially oil), the war on terror, and China's role in Africa - have already resulted in a steady increase in US military involvement in Africa (see Jim Lobe, "Africa to get its own U.S. Military Command", Inter Press Service, 1 February 2007). The US military has made major counterterrorism training commitments in a range of countries across north Africa and the southern Sahara, and is developing closer ties with oil-rich states such as Nigeria.

In the Horn of Africa, Centcom now has a substantial permanent base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, with around 1,800 troops based there for operations in the Horn and east Africa more broadly. In the extensive campaign against the Islamic Courts Union movement in Somalia in December 2006-January 2007, US units worked closely with the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments to remove the courts from the capital, Mogadishu, and conduct attacks on the movement's alleged al-Qaida associates. These involved air operations conducted from a base in Ethiopia, and special-force units moving into Somalia from across the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders.

Most of the US operations in north Africa, the Sahara and the Horn are directed against presumed paramilitary groups, but the longer-term issue remains oil, especially in relation to China. Moreover, this focus is arising at a time when China, too, has its concerns over oil supplies. As recently as 1993, China was still able to produce all the oil it needed from its own reserves, but the change in recent years has been dramatic. Declining domestic oil production coupled with rapid economic growth and increased energy needs has meant that in 2006, China had to import 47% of all the oil it used, an increased import dependence of over 4% on 2005. At current rates, China will need to find close to two-thirds of all its oil from overseas by 2015.

The Chinese, like some Americans, are increasingly worried - several huge and long-term oil deals with Iran notwithstanding - at their heavy reliance on Persian Gulf oil. They have moved to develop better links with other producers, most notably Venezuela, but one of their greatest commitments is to African producers. In 2006, nearly a third of all Chinese oil imports came from Africa. Beijing has forged a particularly strong relationship with Sudan, and this has become a major factor in China's reluctance to endorse any collective, international response to the Darfur crisis.

China's interests in Africa are by no means limited to oil. China already has access to many international markets for a range of industrial and consumer products, but its rapid industrial growth makes it very keen to develop and expand into new ones. It currently sees African countries both as sources of raw materials (oil among them) and as potential markets for its own products. The growing interconnection between the two regions is reflected too in major political gatherings and visits, such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in November 2006, and the eight-country tour of Africa by Hu Jintao in January-February 2007.

All this raises the prospect of more intensive economic and political competition between the United States and China, rather than the risk of open conflict. The establishment of Centcom, however, raises the expectation of a shift in the nature of the US's bonds with a number of African countries - towards a situation where policy towards Africa is mediated through military relationships fostered by the Pentagon, with all its financial resources rather than through the much more constrained state department and its operation of (for example) Usaid development programmes.

The accumulated result is likely to be that the US approach to Africa will increasingly be determined by considerations of US military and political security rather than the human-security needs of relatively poor countries. At best that could see a curtailing of some valuable programmes; at worst it could mean a progressive militarising of relationships between Africa and the global north.

Defence Tech has a post noting that the US Army "Foresees A Natural Gas Crisis" within 25 years.
The Pentagon has been talking recently about going oil-free by 2050, a fairly radical initiative given the hidebound nature of the institution and the complexity of the technologies it employs. But oil apparently is among the least of the Army's energy problems.

According to this [pdf] newly-minted memorandum, the Army's assistant chief of staff for installation management is more worried that the worldwide supply of natural gas will dry up within 25 years.

Says the memo: "Current Army assumption is that natural gas may cease to be a viable fueld for the Army within the next 25 years based on price volatility and affordable supply availability."

If the Army's assumptions are correct, the situation may "threaten the Army's ability to house, train and deploy soldiers," adds the memo. What will replace natural gas? This is certainly not my field of expertise, but perhaps readers or other bloggers may have something to add here.

More from The Age, this time a report that claims that Melbourne's main dam may be empty within a year. Hopefully the end of the latest El Nino event will result in a bit more rain this winter.
MELBOURNE'S main drinking water source, the Thomson dam, could be dry in a year. Without heavy rain, it will reach its "dead water" level in just 12 weeks — not next year as Melbourne Water claims.

Worse, equipment needed to pump the dead water from the dam is not ready, meaning Melbourne could face a water crisis in quality and quantity — with an immediate step up from stage 4 restrictions (set for next month) to stage 5. Meanwhile, nearly half the water coming out of the dam every day washes down the Thomson River to satisfy irrigation contracts.

The claims are made by former Melbourne Water hydrologist Geoff Crapper and engineer Ron Sutherland. Their latest predictions follow their forecasts about the Thomson dam last year, which contradicted Melbourne Water's projections but were later proven true.

"The Government is taking a punt on the weather to solve the crisis … while an outrageous amount of water is being wasted every day," Mr Crapper said.

ABC Radio is holding a challenge called the 40 hour drought this week.
Can you manage with just 40 litres of water in a 40 hour period ? That's the challenge being set by ABC Local Radio in a nationwide initiative launched today to encourage people to experience what it's like to live with a limited amount of water.

The 40 Hour Drought will commence at 7am on Wednesday 21 March and finish at 11pm on Thursday 22 March. During this time participants are asked to limit their water use completing a water usage chart to track their progress.

Launching the event Michael Mason, Head ABC Local Radio said: "For many Australians, living with a small amount of water is an every day reality. Whether or not you succeed in the challenge we hope that by thinking more about water use at home, we can better understand the value of water and some of the problems facing those who live with serious water restrictions."

The 40 Hour Drought was the brainchild of four young people Gabrielle Connolly from Mitchell in QLD, David McPherson from Streatham VIC, Letitia Irwin from Nth Rockhampton QLD and Martin McConnon from Stonor TAS. The group were part of the Heywire Youth Issues Forum organised by the ABC in Canberra in February, bringing together young people from all parts of rural and regional Australia.

"We're stoked that ABC Local Radio has taken up our idea and is now sharing it with others around the country. It shows what happens when the views of young people get heard," said Martin McConnon.

The average water use per person is about 200 litres per day. Five to ten litres of this is used for basic needs such as drinking and the remainder is classed as discretionary use covering showers, toilets, washing dishes and the garden.

Past Peak notes the US winter is the warmest on record.
This has been the world's warmest winter since record-keeping began more than a century ago, the U.S. government agency that tracks weather reported Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the combined global land and ocean surface temperature from December through February was at its highest since records began in 1880.

A record-warm January was responsible for pushing up the combined winter temperature, according to the agency's Web site.

"Contributing factors were the long-term trend toward warmer temperatures, as well as a moderate El Nino in the Pacific," Jay Lawrimore of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said in a telephone interview from Asheville, North Carolina.

The next-warmest winter on record was in 2004, and the third warmest winter was in 1998, Lawrimore said.

The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. [...]

Temperatures were above average for these months in Europe, Asia, western Africa, southeastern Brazil and the northeast half of the United States, with cooler-than-average conditions in parts of Saudi Arabia and the central United States.

Global temperature on land surface during the Northern Hemisphere winter was also the warmest on record, while the ocean-surface temperature tied for second warmest after the winter of 1997-98.

Over the past century, global surface temperatures have increased by about 0.11 degree F per decade, but the rate of increase has been three times larger since 1976 — around 0.32 degree F per decade, with some of the biggest temperature rises in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

The Guardian has an article on a device for fridges which is claimed to cut energy usage and thus slash greenhouse emissions (I'm somewhat skeptical about this myself).
It is made of wax, is barely three inches across and comes in any colour you like, as long as it's black. And it could save more greenhouse gas emissions than taxes on gas guzzling cars, low energy light bulbs and wind turbines on houses combined. It is the e-cube, and it is coming soon to a fridge near you.

Invented by British engineers, the £25 gadget significantly reduces the amount of energy used by fridges and freezers, which are estimated to consume about a fifth of all domestic electricity in the UK. If one was fitted to each of the 87 million refrigeration units in Britain, carbon dioxide emissions would fall by more than 2 million tonnes a year.

The patented cube mimics food and is designed to fit around a fridge's temperature sensor, which usually measures the temperature of the circulating air.

Because air heats up much more quickly than yoghurt, milk or whatever else is stored inside, this makes the fridge work harder than necessary. With the cube fitted, the fridge responds only to the temperature of the food, which means it clicks on and off less often as the door is open and closed.

Trials are under way with supermarkets, breweries and hotels. One of the largest, the Riverbank Park Plaza hotel in London, fitted the device to each of the hotel's 140 major fridges and freezers. David Bell, chief engineer, says energy use decreased by about 30% on average - enough to slash the hotel's annual electricity bill by £17,000. The Park Plaza group plans to fit them throughout its UK hotels, and to recommend them overseas.

An independent report by Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association Group said: "The devices do indeed save energy. The slightly increased variation in temperatures in dummy loads would indicate that food safety would not be compromised." ...

Singapore is one of those countries (or at least cities) that needs to take issues like peak oil and global warming seriously, as it possesses no resources of its own, and is particularly vulnerable to changes in sea level and availability of fossil fuels. So their government is showing a lot of sense getting in on the clean energy boom.
Singapore will invest more than 110 million US dollars to develop a "clean energy" industry with solar energy as a key area of research, the government announced Friday. The tropical island-state with average temperatures of 26.8 Celsius (80 Fahrenheit) is hoping that the five-year programme will generate more than a billion dollars in annual value-added income and create 7,000 jobs by 2015.

The programme was announced at the close of a Research Innovation and Enterprise Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "Green energy or clean energy is something which is in great demand worldwide because of climate change. Growth is dramatic," Lee told reporters. "There is a lot of investment going in around the world, in America, including Silicon Valley," he said. "And we believe this is an area where technology will move and the market opportunities will grow and investments are likely to come."

The term "clean energy" refers to energy derived from environmentally-friendly and renewable sources such as solar power, biofuels and wind, as opposed to oil and gas.

New Scientist reports on work into a fairly obvious application of biomimicry principles - using sunlight and carbon dioxide to create fuel.
Plants use the energy of sunlight to cleave the relatively stable chemical bonds between the carbon and oxygen atoms in a carbon dioxide molecule. In photosynthesis, the CO2 molecule is initially bonded to nitrogen atoms, making reactive compounds called carbamates. These less stable compounds can then be broken down, allowing the carbon to be used in the synthesis of other plant products, such as sugars and proteins.

In an attempt to emulate this natural process, Goettmann and colleagues Arne Thomas and Markus Antonietti developed their own nitrogen-based catalyst that can produce carbamates. The graphite-like compound is made from flat layers of carbon and nitrogen atoms arranged in hexagons.

The team heated a mixture of CO2 and benzene with the catalyst to a temperature of 150 ÂșC, at about three times atmospheric pressure. In a first step, the catalyst enabled the CO2 to form a reactive carbamate, like that made in plants.

The catalyst's next useful step was to enable the benzene molecules to grab the oxygen atom from the CO2 in the carbamate, producing phenol and a reactive carbon monoxide (CO) species.

"Carbon monoxide can be used to build new carbon-carbon bonds," explains Goettmann. "We have taken the first step towards using carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a source for chemical synthesis."

Future refinements could allow chemists to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels as sources for making chemicals. Liquid fuel could also be made from CO split from CO2, says Goettmann. "It was common in Second World War Germany and in South Africa in the 1980s to make fuel from CO derived from coal," he adds.

The researchers are now trying to bring their method even closer to photosynthesis. "The benzene reaction currently supplies the energy that splits the CO2," Goettmann says, "but in plants it is light." The new catalyst absorbs ultraviolet radiation, so the team is experimenting to see if light can provide the energy instead.

Tom Konrad at EE/RE Investing has a note on the importance of demand response systems in the smart grid.
Another way of thinking of Demand Response as “dispatchable demand.” In general, the electic utility matches supply and demand of electricity by controlling supply and trying to keep it in sync with demand from customers. But the other side of this coin is to allow customers to respond to price signals from the utility to allow them to choose to use electricity when it is easier and cheaper for the utility to supply. I see the widespread use of demand response (along with energy storage) as essential if we are going to meet our energy needs with intermittent resources such as solar and wind.


Yesterday, I had lunch with Howard Geller, Ph.D., one of our nation's leading experts in energy efficiency and energy policy. Howard is the director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), former Executive Director of ACEEE, and has a Doctorate in Energy Policy from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

My first question for industry experts is which companies are doing good things in their feilds, and I was especially interested in Howard's answers because energy efficiency is so much more difficult to pin down than most other types of renewable energy. If you want to invest in wind power, you can choose from a list of over a hundred companies. Investing in energy efficiency is much trickier: it is possible to buy manufacturers of more efficient products, such as LEDs or hybrid vehicles, but the greatest gains in efficiency come from better system design. If you want to invest in hybrids, you might buy Toyota (NYSE: TM), but you might also consider investing in batteries, or efficient electric motors. And a hybrid car is an extremely simple system when compared to efficient buildings.

We talked about several public companies, but for most of them, energy efficiency is only a small part of their operations. There's no Vestas of energy efficiency. An then he mentioned a company I had not yet heard of, because they are not yet public. EnerNOC specializes in demand response and energy management, which basically means making better use of the generation capacity we already have. If we are going to avoid building more coal plants and make better use of intermittent power from renewable sources such and wind and solar, we can invest in expensive electricity storage, or we can shift our use of electricity to times when it is easier to supply. This is exactly what demand response technologies enable.

In addition, Demand Response allows utilities to delay the construction of new transmission by reducing peak loads, and helps to prevent power outages. Large cities such as New York are particularly good prospects for demand response, because they have the added constraint that additional transmission is particularly hard to add in densely populated areas.

After Gutenberg has a roundup of news on solar thermal power plants.
According to Red Herring, Vinod Khosla specifically believes the greatest opportunity is with the application of concentrator technology. This blog was unaware that one solar thermal electric power plant produces 90% of the world’s commercially produced solar power. Solel, an Israeli company, operates the plant, which covers 1000 acres in the Mojave Desert in Southern California.

At 354 MW, SEGS (Solar Energy Generating Systems) is not only the largest operational solar thermal energy system, but the largest solar power system of any kind. SEGS is a trough system; linear parabolic mirrors concentrate sunlight upon a receiver running along the focal line of the collector. Each mirror has a diameter of almost 20 feet concentrating solar energy upon a 4 inch diameter specially-insulated tube filled with oil. There are seven different production units (SEGS III to SEGS IX) with 400,000 mirrors.

Each mirror is able to heat the oil to almost 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The heated oil circulates through a heat exchanger. The last stage is similar to a conventional steam turbine generator.

Khosla is not alone in favoring concentrated solar power. A number of industry observers have included thermal solar, when suggesting that solar energy finally may be coming into its own. Or, at the very least, solar power is becoming competitive with traditional load-following / peaking generation, particularly as the costs of natural gas and diesel fuel increase and air quality standards are raised. (If it ain’t the Feds, it’s the States.)

Particularly in the Southwestern United States, utilities have been more amendable to thermal solar systems and have been investigating ways to increase their efficiency.

Studies have indicated that the use of Stirling engines for generation or combined cycle generation is somewhat more efficient than just using steam turbines for generation. Back in February 2006, Jim Fraser1 commented that Stirling Energy Systems , without any incentives, was able to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of a Stirling installation for Southern California Edison.

Studies also have indicated an advantage to thermally integrated systems, a.k.a., ISCC (Integrated Solar Combined Cycle), whereby recovery of heat from a gas turbine is combined with solar thermal energy and used to power a steam turbine. The example previously used in this blog was combining the gasification of waste biomass with a solar thermal.

Combined heat and power generation show the highest system efficiencies. Still there is considerable variability in reported efficiencies depending upon what usage is made of the process heat, e.g., absorption cooling, desalination, district heating or industrial applications. Reducing transport losses is key to higher efficiencies.

The optimum capacity of a solar thermal power plant is smaller than coal or nuclear powered generation. On the other hand, utility-scale solar thermal needs to be on a sufficiently large enough scale to justify the capital cost. The use of two turbines with ISCC adds significant cost, which is one reason for research into other lower cost generation.

Nonetheless, material costs for thermal solar are less than for photo voltaic systems. Since this translates to a quicker ROI (Return On Investment) on solar thermal power, there would seem to more monies available for investment in large scale, thermal solar projects.

According to a 2005 policy analysis from Greenpeace2, the five most promising regions in the world for development of large scale, thermal solar projects are:

1. Spain
2. Middle East
3. North Africa
4. Australia
5. the South Eastern and South Central United States

There is even greater market potential since other areas throughout the world, typically arid, semi-desert areas, receive a great deal of sunlight. The challenge is to lower the cost of technology; simpler solar power systems are indicated where materials are scarce and costly to import. These other areas are located in South America, Southern Africa and India.

Today was the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The building of the current bridge can be said to have started in 1890, when a royal commission determined that there was a heavy level of ferry traffic in the Sydney Harbour area, best relieved with the construction of a bridge. Vehicular access to the north shore was undertaken with a series of smaller bridges located further westwards in the harbour, but this was insufficient for the traffic in the Sydney/North Sydney area.

Designs and proposals were requested in 1900, but a formal proposal was not accepted until 1911. In 1912, John Bradfield was appointed chief engineer of the bridge project, which also had to include a railway. After travelling extensively to look at a number of bridges worldwide, he based his idea upon New York's Hell Gate Bridge. He completed a formal design — the now familiar single arch shape — in 1916, but plans to implement the design were postponed until 1922, primarily because of World War I.

In November 1922 the NSW parliament passed laws that allowed the bridge's construction. Construction tenders for the bridge were requested the same year, and the British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd, Middlesbrough won. To offset concerns about a foreign firm participating in the project, assurances were given by Bradfield that the workforce building the bridge would all be Australians.

The building of the bridge coincided with the construction of a system of underground railways in Sydney's CBD, known today as the City Circle, and the bridge was designed with this in mind. The bridge was designed to carry six lanes of road traffic, flanked by two railway tracks and a footpath on each side. Both sets of rail tracks were linked into the underground Wynyard railway station, on the south side of the bridge, by symmetrical ramps and tunnels. The eastern-side railway tracks were intended for use by a planned rail link to the Northern Beaches; in the interim they were to be used to carry trams from the North Shore into a terminal within Wynyard station. ...

The bridge was formally opened on 19 March 1932. Amongst those who attended and gave speeches were the State Governor, Sir Philip Game, the Minister for Public Works, and Ennis. The Premier of NSW, Labor politician Jack Lang, was to open the bridge by cutting a ribbon at its southern end.

However, just as he was about to do so, a man in military uniform moved forward on horseback and slashed the ribbon with a sword, declaring the bridge to be open "in the name of His Majesty the King and the decent and respectable citizens of New South Wales". He was promptly arrested. The ribbon was hurriedly retied and Lang performed the official opening ceremony. After he did so, there was a 21-gun salute and a RAAF flypast.

The intruder was identified as Francis de Groot. He was convicted of offensive behaviour after a psychiatric test proved he was sane. De Groot was not a member of the regular Army but his uniform allowed him to blend in with the real cavalry. He was a member of a right-wing paramilitary group called the New Guard, opposed to Lang's leftist policies. This incident was one of several that Lang had with the New Guard in that year.

A similar ribbon-cutting ceremony on the bridge's northern side by North Sydney's mayor, Alderman Primrose, was carried out without incident. It was later discovered that Primrose was also a New Guard member, but his role in and knowledge of the de Groot incident, if any, are unclear.

Other features of the opening ceremony included a vast display of floats and marching bands — one quite remarkable by Depression standards. The public was allowed to walk on the highway.


Speaking of Singapore, rumour has it that BG is on his way there.

Yes, he is volunteering to help this Page Three leopard change her spots.

Anonymous   says 9:55 AM

Where are they going to get all the benzene (mmmm benzene), and what are they going to do with all the phenol?

The ball of wax on the fridge temp sensor might work. But 25 pounds! Maybe people should try some plasticine.

check out...
Destroying Journalism in Order to Save It

scroll down a bit.

JCW - A leopard can't change its spots - not even a page three leopard.

I must admit that I've never seen a large cat at a trade show before either.

SP - I think there's a whole lot of benzene in the groundwater around Botany Bay - maybe they'll get it from there :-)

My point was that its worth keeping an eye on research into how to recreate photosynthesis, not that a benzene based reaction is of any particular practical use.

I like that Journalism link - pure Orwellian doublespeak.

While fleeing an ambush in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers reportedly opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians and then destroyed photos and video taken at the scene by freelance journalists. Destroying the evidence was necessary, a military official explained later, to protect "investigative integrity" because photos or video taken by "untrained people" might "capture visual details that are not as they originally were."

He added, "We are completely committed to a free and independent press, and we hope that we can help encourage this tradition in places where new and free governments are taking root."

Now I understand what a "free press" is !

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