Sunday, July 30, 2006

Heatwave shuts down nuclear power plants

Heatwave shuts down nuclear power plants

Juliette Jowit and Javier Espinoza
Sunday July 30, 2006
The Observer

The European heatwave has forced nuclear power plants to reduce or halt production.
The weather, blamed for deaths and disruption across much of the continent,
has caused dramatic rises in the temperature of rivers used to cool the reactors,
raising fears of mass deaths for fish and other wildlife.
Spain shut down the Santa Maria de Garona reactor on the River Ebro, one
of the country's eight nuclear plants which generate a fifth of its national
electricity. Reactors in Germany are reported to have cut output, and others
in Germany and France have been given special permits to dump hot water into
rivers to avoid power failures. France, where nuclear power provides more
than three quarters of electricity, has also imported power to prevent shortages.

The problems have come to light just weeks after Britain declared it will
build a new generation of nuclear power stations, prompting opponents to
claim the crisis proved nuclear reactors - although they emit no carbon dioxide
greenhouse gases - are not the solution to the problem of global warming.

'The main problem they have is: How are they going to expand nuclear power
when they are so vulnerable to such things as global temperature?' said Shaun
Burnie, Greenpeace International's nuclear specialist.

But Bruno Comby, president of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, said
future power stations could have bigger cooling towers, or be built near
the sea. 'The big problem the earth is facing today is global warming, it's
not a one-degree local increase in [the temperature of] a river,' he added.

The heatwave in Britain appeared to break last week, with the Met Office
forecasting more normal summer weather this week. Today London and south-east
England face a repeat of last week's heavy rains; for the rest of the week
the country is expected to alternate between sunny spells, with warm temperatures
and showers.

However, hotter weather is set to return. 'We could be looking at some very
warm weather coming back towards next weekend,' said meteorologist Andrew

Last week a series of power cuts in central London prompted fears of regular
blackouts as global temperatures are predicted to keep rising, bringing more
long, hot summers. EDF, the capital's main electricity supplier, said the
problems were caused by a 'very unusual' combination of several faults and
huge demand for air-conditioning.

'Over the weekend, our engineers are working round the clock to maintain
power supplies to the area and avoid any further interruptions,' a company
official said.

Network Rail, the main rail infrastructure operator, said fewer speed restrictions
were expected in cooler temperatures, although track temperatures can rise
to 20C above the air temperature on hot days.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Small Wind Generator Announced

A new small residential wind generator from Southwest Windpower will give homeowners another choice in the fight against rising electricity costs. Skystream 3.7(TM) is the first fully integrated wind generator designed specifically for the grid-connected residential market.

Sw_windpower_1A combination of new technologies, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, resulted in a product that quietly produces electricity for a fraction of the cost of current technologies. According to Skystream the generators low cost and low profile provides homeowners an affordable energy supplement that's appropriate for installation in many residential areas around the country. With no batteries, Skystream 3.7 connects directly to the home to supply power. When the wind is not blowing, the home is powered by the electric utility. Depending on the local utility, excess electricity can be sold back to the utility or used at a later date.

"Skystream will change the way many Americans power their homes and take control of their energy costs," said Andrew Kruse, co-founder of Southwest Windpower. "Wind energy for the individual homeowner is finally main-stream."

With a typical cost of $8,000 to $10,000 to purchase and install, Skystream 3.7 can pay for itself in 5 to 12 years. This payback period will vary and can be much quicker in states with investment rebates. It's anticipated that Skystream 3.7 will save the average homeowner $500 to $800 per year, based on 4,800 to 6,600 kWh produced per year and a $0.12/kWh cost of electricity. This output would provide 40 to 90 percent of an average home's energy needs. In states like Hawaii, where the cost of energy and wind speeds are both high, Skystream 3.7 can pay for itself in less than 4 years.

"This new technology is an important step forward for small wind," said Robert Thresher, director of NREL's National Wind Technology Center. "As technology becomes more efficient at harnessing energy at low wind speeds, small-scale users will become more and more able to take advantage of wind power."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Silicon Valley's DFJ raises largest clean-tech venture fund


Menlo Park, California, June 28, 2006 -- DFJ Element, L.P., a venture capital fund formed to invest in clean technology companies, has closed with a total of $284 million in capital commitments from a broad range of leading institutional investors. Lehman Brothers Private Fund Marketing Group served as exclusive global placement agent for the Fund.

DFJ Element was formed by Element Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a leading global venture capital firm. DFJ Element will invest in companies bringing innovative solutions to environmental and resource constraints in energy, water and other large industrial and commercial markets. The Fund has already invested in four companies: CoalTek, Inc., a developer of clean coal technology; Fat Spaniel Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of critical IT infrastructure for distributed power generation specializing in renewable energy technologies; Miartech, Inc., a mixed-signal fabless semiconductor design company initially focusing on the power line communications market; and EcoSMART Technologies, Inc., which has developed a line of break-through products in the organic pesticide markets.

DFJ Element had an initial target of $150 million. The Fund was well oversubscribed with a final closing of $284 million. "There is an enormous investment potential in the growing number of companies bringing innovation and technology solutions to global environmental issues," said David Lincoln, managing partner of the Fund. "As the commercial importance of these issues is increasingly coming to light, institutional investors are recognizing the opportunity to participate in the rapid growth of the clean technology industry."

Limited partners in the new fund include CalPERS, Swiss Re, Coca Cola, ITT, Robeco, LA City Employees Retirement System, WP Global, and British Airways to name a few.

"Our clients are increasingly interested in the emerging cleantech markets and we are delighted with the results we were able to produce for DFJ Element," said Christopher Kirsten, managing director of Lehman Brothers and Head of Private Fund Marketing. "The quality of this team and their track record garnered tremendous interest in the Fund from the limited partner community. Accordingly we lifted the original cap to accommodate the demand."

Element Venture Partners was formed by a group of well-known industry investors who previously worked with leading venture capital firms, Advent International and EnerTech Capital Partners. Collectively, the team has managed four prior venture capital funds and has a track record of success investing in clean technology companies since 1995. In aggregate they have invested more than $225 million in over 40 companies in the cleantech sector.

Element has offices in Radnor, Pennsylvania and Menlo Park, California and is affiliated with Draper Fisher Jurvetson enabling it to take advantage of DFJ's established global network, strong deal flow and reputation as a leading early stage investor. Said DFJ Managing Director Raj Atluru, We recognized the tremendous growth and opportunity in cleantech back in 2001 and have been actively investing ever since. We are excited about our partnership with Element and our role in the launching of one of the premier funds in the space. DFJ Element is an important and strategic addition to the growing DFJ affiliate network worldwide."