Weekly Clean Energy Roundup:December 8, 2004

News and Events

Energy Connections

DOE Report on “Cold Fusion” Studies Recommends More Research

News and Events

Pennsylvania Governor Approves Renewable Energy and Alt-Fuel Bills

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed a bill into law last week that will require the state’s electric utilities to draw on renewable energy and other alternative energy sources for a percentage of their electricity supply. By late in 2019, 8 percent of their electrical supply must be derived from “Tier One” sources, defined as solar power from photovoltaic systems, wind power, low-impact hydropower, geothermal energy, fuel cells, biomass energy (from dedicated crops or waste streams), biologically derived methane gas, and methane recovered from venting coal mines. In addition, 10 percent of their power must come from “Tier Two” sources, defined as demand-side management, distributed generation systems, large-scale hydropower, municipal solid waste, wood manufacturing by-products, waste coal, and integrated combined-cycle coal gasification technology (also known as “clean coal”). The bill specifically requires solar photovoltaic power to provide 0.5 percent of the state’s power by late in 2019, a requirement that the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says will yield 408 megawatts of solar power. See the SEIA press release.

For most utilities in the state, the bill’s requirements begin to phase in two years from now. The bill, called the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act and designated as Senate Bill 1030, also requires the state’s Public Utilities Commission to establish a credit-trading system to help utilities meet the requirements and sets fees for non-compliance. The bill was lauded by Citizen’s for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), an advocacy group for the state’s environment and economy. See the PennFuture press release (PDF 105 KB), the governor’s press releases from November 30th and December 7th, and the full text of Senate Bill 1030.

Governor Rendell also signed Senate Bill 255, the Alternative Fuels Incentive Act, which establishes a fund to help people and organizations buy alternative-fuel vehicles and convert existing vehicles to allow them to use alternative fuels. A one-time transfer of funds this fiscal year will support research and installation of alternative energy systems that produce power. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) hailed the bill. See the governor’s press release, the full text of Senate Bill 255, and the NBB press release (PDF 27 KB).

Wisconsin Energy Task Force Recommends Efficiency, Renewables

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle released the final report of his Task Force on Energy Efficiency and Renewables last week. The task force report recommends establishing a requirement to draw on renewable energy for 10 percent of the state’s electricity needs by 2015, while setting tougher goals for state agencies: buying 10 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2006, and 20 percent by 2010. The report also recommends a sales and use tax exemption for customer-owned renewable energy systems, while taking a variety of actions to support renewable energy systems?especially anaerobic digesters?in rural areas. In terms of energy efficiency, the report recommends updating and improving the state’s commercial building energy codes; requiring state agencies to buy energy-efficient products and appliances; establishing goals or requirements for state facilities to exceed energy-efficiency codes; and restructuring the state’s Focus on Energy program. See the task force report.

New Large Wind Power Plants Planned for Washington and Oregon

The Pacific Northwest may soon see more wind energy projects, as two new wind power plants are in the works for Washington and Oregon.

In Washington, Blue Sky Wind, LLC is proposing to build a 150-megawatt wind power project in Columbia County, near the southeast corner of the state. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) signed a letter of intent with Blue Sky to purchase the project, which should be complete in late 2005 or early 2006. PSE estimates the cost of the project at roughly $200 million. While some utilities eschew owning wind plants in favor of simply buying the power from others, the new proposed purchase is the second for PSE. See the PSE press release.

In Oregon, Columbia Energy Partners LLC (CEP) is planning to build a 104-megawatt wind power project near Arlington, at about the center of the state’s northern border. The Arlington Wind Farm will consist of 63 1.65-megawatt wind turbines and should be completed in 2005. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian R
eservation announced last week that they will invest in the project. Before entering into a partnership agreement with CEP, the tribe and CEP worked with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to analyze wind data collected over two years at the site. Those wind tests found ample wind resources, with winds averaging 14 to 15 miles per hour at the site. See the
CEP Web site and the Umatilla Tribe press release.

Meanwhile, other large wind power projects are moving ahead. GE Energy announced in late November that it will supply 207 of its 1.5-megawatt wind turbines to MidAmerican Energy Company, which is installing a total of 310.5 megawatts of wind power at two sites in Iowa. Vestas, a Danish wind company, announced it will supply 36 of its 1.65-megawatt wind turbines to Nebraska Public Power District for its 60-megawatt wind plant. And on a smaller scale, American Municipal Power-Ohio (AMP-Ohio) announced that its wind facility in Ohio, the state’s largest, has doubled in size to 7.2 megawatts. The facility, near Bowling Green, consists of four 1.8-megawatt wind turbines. See the GE Power and Vestas press releases and the November 19th press release from AMP-Ohio.

Nevada Tribe Uses Solar Power, Earns First State Rebate

The Washoe Indian Tribe of Nevada and California has achieved a milestone in renewable energy that no other group or organization has achieved before: it earned the first-ever rebate check for installing a solar power system in Nevada. The tribe received a $33,185 rebate check from Sierra Pacific Power Company for installing a 7.5-kilowatt solar power system on a small office building on Highway 395, just southeast of Lake Tahoe. See the Sierra Pacific press release and the announcement on the Washoe Tribe Web site.

According to Sierra Pacific, another 55 small commercial and residential solar projects are now under construction in Nevada and will have a combined capacity of nearly 200 kilowatts. These projects are eligible for a combined total of $1 million in rebates through the state’s SolarGenerations program. See the SolarGenerations Web site.

Connecticut and Moab, Utah, Show Support for Green Power

Here’s a good deal for municipalities in Connecticut: Commit to buying 20 percent green power by 2010, and earn a free solar energy system. The offer, announced by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) last month, launched the state’s new Clean Energy Communities program, which will let the state’s cities and towns pitch in on efforts to promote renewable energy in the state. According to CCEF, New Haven and Portland have already committed to buy 20 percent green power by 2010. See the CCEF press release.

While its mostly a matter of will and budget for towns to buy green power for their own facilities, getting all the town’s residents to do so as well can be quite a struggle. That’s why Moab, Utah, stands out as the nation’s first “Green Power Community.” Four percent of the electricity used in the entire Moab area community is now supplied by green power, an achievement that comes from the combined efforts of a committee of citizens, business leaders, and public officials, as well as the help of Utah Clean Energy and Utah Power. Although the town achieved its goal in August, it was officially recognized for the achievement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in November. See the EPA Region 8 press release.

Energy Efficiency Report Highlights Commercial Buildings, Ducts, and Power Supplies

Without a doubt, there are a multitude of technologies for saving energy currently in the works, from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for lighting to advanced compressors for air conditioners. But which of these is most likely to have an impact on U.S. energy use? A new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) tackles that question by reviewing 200 emerging energy-saving technologies and practices, and ranking them based on their potential to save energy at low costs. Some technologies and practices, such as advanced window glazings, earned bonuses for avoiding lost opportunities in new building construction; others, such as evaporative coolers, earned bonuses for their potential to save energy in limited regions. Overall, the highest scores were earned by a diverse group of technologies and practices: new leak-proof ducts and duct-sealing systems; integrated design of high-performance buildings; “retrocommissioning,” which means going over an existing building to correct problems and make sure its systems are operating efficiently; and standby power systems for home appliances that use 1 watt or less.

While the report itself is informative and interesting (including summaries of 66 energy efficiency technologies and practices), its comparison to similar reports prepared in 1993 and 1998 is enlightening. Since the first report in 1993, 16 technologies have moved into mainstream acceptance, 7 have remained a high or medium priority, 2 have moved down to a low priority, 3 were moved into the special bonus category, and 24 are no longer included. Among the technologies now in the mainstream are improved washing machines and dishwashers, improved inkjet printers, low-power televisions, and bright screw-in compact fluorescent bulbs. See the ACEEE press release or go directly to the report.

Energy Connections

DOE Report on “Cold Fusion” Studies Recommends More Research

DOE’s Office of
Science released a report last week that examined the results of roughly 15 years of experiments dealing with low-temperature nuclear reactions, commonly known as cold fusion. In 1989, researchers B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that a palladium electrochemical cell had generated heat from an unknown source, which they postulated was a low-temperature fusion reaction. Later that year, a review by DOE’s Energy Research Advisory Board recommended against establishing DOE programs devoted to the science of cold fusion, but supported the funding of peer-reviewed experiments for further investigations. Since 1989, research programs in cold fusion have been supported by various universities, private industry, and government agencies in several countries.

In late 2003, a team of researchers approached DOE and requested another review of the experimental results to date. Their report, submitted to DOE in July, found experimental evidence for a physical effect that produces heat, the production of helium 4 (the product of fusing two nuclei of deuterium, which is a hydrogen nucleus with an added neutron), and the emission of high-energy particles. DOE, in turn, solicited comments from nine scientists, then held a one-day review of the material with another nine scientists.

Reviewing the evidence for the production of excess heat and fusion products, two-thirds of DOE’s reviewers did not feel the evidence was conclusive. Most reviewers also indicated that the evidence did not conclusively demonstrate the occurrence of cold fusion. In the final analysis, the reviewers were inconclusive about cold fusion’s existence, and they recommended specific avenues for new research to resolve the uncertainties in the previous research results. See the report on the DOE Office of Science Web site.

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Kevin Eber is the Editor of EREE Network News, a weekly publication of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

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