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This is the November 2006 issue of the
Cambridge Energy Forum members' newsletter

Since our last newsletter in July,.....

SolarThermalElectric CSP is a new large-scale competitor  more...

Largest US oil find in 40 years deep in the Gulf of Mexico more...

Trains 40% More Efficient by better traffic management more...

Solar PV Technologies compete  Si, CIGS, thin film more...

Compressed Air Hybrid Vehicles  60% more efficient, cheaper more...

Nuclear Egypt, Nigeria  more countries announce projects  more...

Geothermal Power in Indonesia  a resource of 20GW  more...

USA rehabilitates fuel reprocessing  by calling it recycling  more...

Flow Batteries reappear  at an Irish windfarm  more...

Langled operational, UK gas price negative briefly more...

Enhanced, 30% more efficient car engines, diesel and gasoline more...

Cambridge Energy Forum next meetings November, December, January more...

Cambridge Energy Forum Meeting "Financing Energy Innovation " more...

An online copy of this newsletter can be read at:
The previous newsletter can be read at:

Large Solar Thermal plants producing electricity. These are a well-known technology which are suddenly looking much more competitive. CSP - Concentrated Solar Power - requires large sites (2 ha per MW) and electricity distribution. An array of movable mirrors focuses sunlight on a boiler (or a heat exchanger driving a boiler) which produces electricity using a conventional steam generating set. The 320 days sunshine/year (i.e. 1,900 kWh per sq.m per year) in Andalusia is partly why a 11MW plant is being built outside Seville (the other reason is the Spanish subsidy for solar electricity). The full project of 302 MW is expected to cost 1.3€b .

Jack 2 the largest US oil find in 40 years. 2,134 meters of seawater and 6,100 meters of seafloor to strike oil in rock laid down between 65 million and 24 million years ago.The well could yield 3-15 billion bbl and could boost existing U.S. reserves by 50 percent; but even at the maximum this is less than 2 years of US oil consumption.

Swedish Train Management System. CATO (Computer Aided Train Operation), uses GSM-R digital radio technology to continuously calculate the optimum running speed of a train. This allows the locomotive to proceed at the ideal rate relative to the traffic situation ahead of it, eliminating the ’stop-start’ progress that wastes energy. Transrail’s chief executive Per Leander told the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in London that on the test lines ’we could easily reduce energy consumption by as much as 40-50 percent even if we try to operate the trains at higher average speeds’. Regenerative systems capture the excess energy usually lost during braking are also increasingly adopted as standard on new rolling stock.

Solar PV Technologies Boeing-Spectrolab continue to sell at the expensive, mirror-concentrated, high efficiency (27 - 36%) end of the market: a 10MW project with SolFocus. Spectrolab's main product is a GaInP2/GaAs/Ge semiconductor. Also  A$75m, the first part of  a A$420m project, is being spent  in Victoria. This too is a concentrator system running at 500 suns using Spectrolab cells. Meanwhile the thin  foil CIGS technology (Cu-In-Ga-Se) is also pushing ahead, with Miasole raising $35m, NanoSolar with $100m and DayStar and Ascend Solar working on flexible plastic substrates. First Solar is opening a 100MW CdTe thin film PV plant in Frankfurt/Oder on the Polish border. BP Solar has announced that it is sticking with polycrystalline silicon wafers, but now with better performance for the same price, and researchers in Australia are looking at quantum dots  to improve the efficiency of silicon by capturing longer wavelengths of light.

Compressed air hybrid internal combustion engines don't use batteries, but use compressed air tanks. Some designs use the engine itself as the compressor and the air motor, others (the "hydraulic diesel") have a separate system analogous to a battery hybrid. Lotus/ Ford are supporting a project at Brunel University and Eaton Corp., the US Army, UPS and others have a project  which replaces the drivetrain with hydraulics. Fuel efficiency improvements of 60% have been quoted for a UPS delivery route. These are examples of a general trend where the internal combustion engine fights back against the fuel cell / hydrogen economy bandwagon at the higher-cost, higher-efficiency end of the market; see also the item on hydrogen and ethanol injection.

Nigeria pledges to start nuclear programme. ’I wish to affirm that Nigeria`s aspirations for the acquisition of nuclear technology are for purely peaceful applications,’ said President Olusegun Obasanjo in August. Although the grid is inadequate, and half the people are not on mains electricity, Nigeria has adequate oil income to afford it. In September, Egypt announced plans for a plant at al-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast which would produce more power than the Aswan dam, and two more are planned  later.

Indonesia has 20GW of geothermal electricity resource of which 0.8GW is currently used. PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara is spending $0.6b on a 0.34GW project in Sarawak and will supply the Aceh region.

USA Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing. Despite the lack of commercial success of the French and British reprocessing plants, the abandoned Russian plant and a couple of US plants, and in spite of well-known proliferation risks and the likelihood that seawater-separated Uranium will be cheaper than recycled fuel,  the Bush administration announced a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to reprocess fuel used in other countries reactors. This would, at least, prevent such fuel being reprocessed by someone else into nuclear weapons. $0.25b is being spent on this project, starting last month on October 1st. Part of the work at Brookhaven will investigate how ionic liquids might be used in reprocessing, these did not exist when the other generations of reprocessing plant were designed. "Compared to current aqueous systems.., boron-containing ionic liquids can hold up to a hundred times more dissolved plutonium before reaching the critical threshold."

VRB Flow Batteries in $6m deal for a 39MW windfarm in Donegal. The battery will be of 12 MWh capacity. VRB use the Vanadium ion technology (electrolyte on both sides of the redox cell) and hope to announce a demonstration project in Ontario soon.

UK gas prices went negative briefly it was -5p/therm when the new 600km Langled pipeline from Norway was being "tested" at 40 Mm3 (million cubic metres) a day in early October. The Belgian interconnector is exporting gas, whereas it had been expected to be importing.

Enhanced Internal Combustion Engines have significant scope for efficiency improvements while running on essentially the same fuels  we use now. The diesel-Hydrogen engine uses a small amount of  Hydrogen (usually generated as needed) to change the flame characteristics, increasing power by up to 20% . Kits are available for sale retail from Hydrogen Boost (USA) say that at least a 5% improvement is to be expected. MIT have worked with ethanol injection in gasoline engines which suppresses knock and thereby enables 3 different design optimisations. They reported a 30% improvement in fuel use at an expected cost of $1000 per car (it requires a separate ethanol tank.) This would be in addition to any improvements made by fitting electric hybrid system, but the efficiency of the ethanol alone would undermine the commercial case for buying a hybrid. 

Next Forum Meetings will be in November, December 2006
We will be holding a  teatime economics and politics meeting on the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change  on 10th November at the Judge Business School; details on the Events section of our website.

The December one day conference "Sustainable Energy" will be open to all, and is organised in conjunction with The Cambridge Philosophical Society (est. 1819, "for the purpose of promoting scientific inquiry").

In Jan./Feb. next year our speaker meeting will be on the theme of Transport and Biofuels with talks that compare the energy efficiency of trains, cars and planes over comparable routes.

Our Recent Forum "Financing Energy Innovation" on 19th October 2006
Our meeting with 5 speakers was very well attended. Presentations and a report of the audience discussion are available for download at

Please recommend us
Please tell your colleagues and friends about the benefits of membership. Please also ask your organisation if it would like to become a Advisory Member or a Principal Backer of the forum with associated benefits in promotion for what your organisation is trying to do:

Philip Sargent
Hugh Parnell
Tim Jervis
Mark Haslett

Cambridge Energy Forum

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