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Archive for May 2009

Utilities meeting the solar challenge?

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solar-panels-in-fieldThe Solar Electric Power Association thinks so. The association issued a report Thursday identifying the top 10 U.S. utilities that have the most significant amounts of solar electricity integrated into their portfolios.

SEPA’s report, “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” also records the increasing collaboration of the U.S. electric utility and solar energy industries.

More than 550 utilities and solar industry companies are SEPA members, with about 110 of them utilities. “The utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year,” an association press release said.

The total installed solar capacity of the top 10 ranked utilities increased to 882 megawatts from 711 megawatts last year, a 25 percent jump.

The Top 10 utilities in cumulative megawatts installed last year were:

1.  Southern California Edison (EIX) – CA (441.4MW)
2.  Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) – CA (229.5)
3.  NV Energy – NV (77.9)
4.  San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – CA (49.3)
5.  Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy – XEL) – CO (28.5)6 LA Department of Water & Power – CA (13.6)
7.  Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (13.2)
8.  Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (10.6)
9.  Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (10.2)
10.  Long Island Power Authority – NY (7.7)

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 29, 2009 at 11:22 am

Think Plastiki

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plastikiI posted a version of this on Triple Pundit this week and wanted to put it on this site for my faithful readers, whoever and wherever you are.

Waste can be a resource according to David de Rothschild, the handsome, 30-year-old heir to the famed European banking fortune. He’s the guiding light behind the Adventure Ecology eco-community and the star/host of the Sundance Channel’s aptly named Eco-Trip show, which features a mostly bemused, angry or surprised de Rothschild confronting various ecological topics and absurdities on a weekly basis.

The thing that is getting him the most publicity right now is his Plastiki Expedition. It’s a project with a dual purpose: To design and build an entirely recyclable and eco-friendly 60-foot catamaran “yacht” made of thousands of reclaimed plastic bottles, and to sail this revolutionary and surprisingly high-tech craft to the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch as a demonstration both of what humans are doing to the oceans and a think-different message of what is possible to make out of the trash we make and dump.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 28, 2009 at 8:31 am

Solar site competition heats up

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suntechmonocrystallinepanelsChina’s SunTech Power Holdings, a major manufacturer of solar energy products, has announced plans to open manufacturing operations in the U.S., and Oregon is high on the list of potential site locations.

According to the Portland Business Journal, a SunTech executive says that Oregon was the most aggressive suitor for the site, with state representatives traveling several times to China.

“They’ve been pursuing us long before we even made a commitment internally to even build a plant in the U.S.,” said Steve Chadima, vice president of external affairs in the publicly-traded company’s U.S. operations unit, in the BizJournal report. Oregon is “pretty much at the top of the list in terms of their aggressiveness.”

SunTech is the world’s largest manufacturer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules with $3.3 billion in total assets. The company did not disclose the other potential U.S. plant sites under consideration. It also has not disclosed the scope of its potential investments in the U.S.

Oregon is becoming a center for solar manufacturing. Germany’s SolarWorld AG last year opened a 480,000-square-foot solar cell facility in Hillsboro, just outside of Portland, that is North America’s largest. The company is expanding the facility by an additional 210,000 square feet.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 26, 2009 at 10:32 am

Plasma gasification, climate change and best places to work in government?

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We’ll end the week on a high note with items from here on the left coast and one from the “other” Washington.

PlasmaArcTechnologyA new joint venture announced yesterday, called S4 Energy Solutions LLC, will develop, operate and market plasma gasification facilities for renewable energy generation from waste byproducts.

S4 Energy was formed by Waste Management Inc., based in Houston, and by InEnTec, which is based in Bend, OR. InEnTec has developed and trademarked its Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) technology.

The joint venture “is expected to process waste from the country’s increasingly segmented commercial and industrial waste streams to produce a range of renewable energy and environmentally beneficial fuels and industrial products as well as to generate electricity,” the companies said in a joint press release.

The initial focus for S4 will be to process medical and other segregated commercial and industrial waste streams. Future commercialization plans could include the processing of municipal solid waste once the technology has been demonstrated to be economical and scalable for such use.

“We see waste as a resource to be recovered, and this joint venture with the PEM system will help Waste Management’s commercial and industrial customers maximize high energy value waste streams to generate valuable renewable energy products based on their unique environmental and logistical considerations,” said Joe Vaillancourt, managing director at Waste Management.

Under the plasma gasification process, waste materials are fed into a closed chamber where they are superheated to temperatures of between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma. The intense heat of the PEM™ rearranges the molecular structure of the waste, transforming organic (carbon-based) materials into an ultra-clean, synthesis gas (syngas).

The syngas could be converted to transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, industrial products like hydrogen and methanol or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

MO shows for Saline Green biorefinery

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marshallmoAlternative energy company Saline Green Project this week chose Marshall, MO, as the site for a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol bio-refinery facility, producing renewable fuels, chemical products and electricity.

According to a report in The Sedalia Democrat the company has had an interest in opening a plant in Marshall for more than a year. Frank Imo, Saline Green CEO, said that local support for the project was encouraging and was a big factor in making the project possible.

Saline Green will provide start-up funds for the project, and will seek investors as it nears completion.

Saline Green spokesman Donte Tamprateep was quoted as saying that his company has been working with a group of scientists who helped develop the technology required to efficiently convert cellulosic biomass to its simple sugar state.

Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses and inedible plant parts. Tamprateep said the biggest challenge the company faced was finding a way to break down cellulose in a cost-effective manner.

The company apparently has hooked up with Pure Energy Corporation, which has invested more than $30 million over the last 15 years in an effort to develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol technology.

“The Saline Green Project will serve as both a world-class sustainable energy production facility and also a showcase of cutting edge technology in the cellulosic ethanol, chemical and green electricity fields,” said Irshad Ahmed, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Pure Energy.

So why Marshall? One reason becomes apparent by looking at a map. The town of more than 12,000 is located in the middle of the country with excellent access to road and rail routes. From a supply chain distribution viewpoint, it’s a good choice.

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 21, 2009 at 9:13 am

Pacific Ethanol units go under

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newsLate yesterday Pacific Ethanol Inc., the West Coast’s largest ethanol producer, announced that several of its producing subsidiaries in California, Oregon and Idaho filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

PEIX joins a growing roster of at least 10 other ethanol producers that have gone belly up recently, victims of the poor economy and poor conditions in the ethanol market.

For more on this check out the excellent coverage from MarketWatch and the Los Angeles Times’ Greenspace.

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 19, 2009 at 9:13 am

Cruise ship pollution grows

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cruiseshippollution4Cruising is a big deal here in Seattle, bringing lots of tourists, their vacation dollars and economic development into the Emerald City. But those dramatic white behemoths also have a dark side – mainly in the pollution they pour into the world’s oceans and into the air.

The international ocean environmental group Oceana reports that pollution from cruise ships is a growing problem. Now there’s an understatement.

One example: Except for California and Alaska, “lax state and federal anti-pollution laws allow cruise ships to dump untreated sewage from sinks and showers and inadequately treated sewage from toilets into state waters,” the organization says.

Once ships are three miles from shore, they can dump untreated sewage from toilets. “This puts our coastal environment at risk from the threats of bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals generated in these waste streams.”

Some hard, dark numbers produced by Oceana:

Each day, cruise ships generate an astonishing amount of pollution:

  • 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets
  • 143,000 gallons of sewage from sinks, galleys and showers
  • Seven tons of garbage and solid waste
  • 15 gallons of toxic chemicals
  • 7,000 gallons of oily bilge water

And without adequate regulation and attention, the problem will worsen because the cruise industry itself is growing, along with new cruise ships, cruise terminals and added destinations.

The cruise industry enjoys some sweet pollution exemptions. Under the Clean Water Act, cities and industries are required to obtain a permit to treat and discharge wastes. These permits ensure that sewage treatment systems are effective, and that both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that the public know how much pollution is actually being discharged.

“Yet cruise ships are not required to have discharge permits,” Oceana reports. “They can dump sewage into the oceans without monitoring or reporting what they release. As a result, neither the government nor the public know how much pollution is released, and there are no means for citizen enforcement.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

May 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm

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