Mixed Greens: Whyalla may host first commercial algae fuel plant

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ARENA funds algae fuel project and “bio-crude” for aviation fuels. Largest US utility says solar will redefine energy markets. CBD Energy returns to black.

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The Federal Government has announced $4.4 million grant for a new algae plant in the industrial city of Whyalla that will develop fuels for the aviation sector and diesel users. The grant will help fund a $10.7 million “marine algal production and harvesting technology” demonstration plant to be built by Muradel, a joint venture Murdoch University, Adelaide Research and Innovation and SQC.

Muradel already has a two acre pilot plant of its open pond system near Karratha in WA, and the new plant will test the commercial viability of providing sustainable “green crude” for the petroleum industry and to provide fuel for aviation. Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said if successful, Muradel will be in a position to build the first commercial algae-to-biofuels plant in Australia.

The grant was awarded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which has also allocated a $5.4 million grant for Licella to conduct an $8.2 million feasibility study into the construction of a biofuels plant that could provide “bio-crude” made from plant biomass such as sawdust, which could be used as a drop-in fuel for the aviation industry.

“Australia has a chance to capitalise on a number of competitive advantages, such as our abundant sunshine and climate, to build an advanced biofuels industry that will help diversify our liquid fuel sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Ferguson said. “Technologies such Licella’s, which will produce a ‘drop-in’ alternative to fossil based crude oil, have the potential to directly displace traditional high-emission fuels.”

CBD returns to profit, still clouds on horizon

Listed diversified renewables group CBD Energy has posted a December half profit of $5.8 million, rebounding from an $8.6 million loss in the same period last year, as its solar business recovered after a “disastrous” fiscal 2012, the completion of asset sales, and the return to profits of its Parmac and Captech subsidiaries. The company intends to list on the Nasdaq exchange this year after a merger with Westinghouse Solar, but says there is still concern about its long-term future because liabilities still exceeds assets, and it will need to meet its budgets in the coming year.

On the solar market, CBD Solar said it has significantly restructured the business by reducing costs and obtaining better pricing from suppliers thereby increasing our operating margins. “Throughout the balance of this financial year and into the next we intend to increase our market share, building from our now much leaner operation. We have now built utility scale solar PV projects in the South Pacific, Asia, Europe and the US making us one of the most geographically diversified and experienced companies.”

Solar to redefine energy markets, largest US utility says

Duke Energy, the largest utility in the US, is looking to expand its rooftop solar business because of growing public popularity. CEO Jim Rogers says the growing use of solar PV is cutting demand for electricity from the grid, and will likely redefine the traditional utility business model. “It is obviously a potential threat to us over the long term and an opportunity in the short term,” Rogers told Bloomberg in an interview after an analysts briefing. “If the cost of solar panels keeps coming down, installation costs come down and if they combine solar with battery technology and a power management system, then we have someone just using us for backup,” Rogers said.

Harnessing wind created by passing trains

Students at one of India’s leading universities are planning to harness high speed winds generated by trains in Delhi’s metro network. The students believe that small turbines can, under ideal conditions, generate up to 500 watts per hour (or 12 kW in a day). Due to frictional losses and other ground conditions, the turbines may be able to generate around 200 watts per hour (or 4.8 kW in a day), the team estimates. The Delhi metro already generates substantial carbon offsets every year through its kinetic energy recovery system and has also implemented rainwater harvesting initiatives

 

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