EERE Network News -- 03/31/04
A weekly newsletter from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
March 31, 2004
- DOE Partnerships to Develop Wind Turbines for Low Wind Speeds
- DOE and Ford Motor Company Host the SUVs of the Future
- Minnesota and Wisconsin Seek 300 Megawatts of Renewable Power
- Arizona Utility Builds a 1-Megawatt Solar Trough Plant
- Utah Power Installs Innovative Battery Energy Storage System
- Two Companies Break Records with New Superconducting Wires
- Future Uncertain for Natural Gas as Two LNG Projects Cancelled
13 miles per hour. To allow wind power projects in these areas, DOE is establishing
21 partnerships with public and private entities to develop low-wind-speed wind turbines. The program includes conceptual design studies and the development of both turbine components and complete wind turbines, and DOE expects the total investment in the partnerships to total $60 million over the next four years. DOE announced the partnerships on Monday at the wind industry's Global Windpower 2004 Conference in Chicago. See the DOE press release.
The wind energy resources that DOE intends to capture through the new partnerships are currently considered "marginal" or "poor" wind resources. Harvesting wind power from these sites will open up much of the United States to wind power, excluding only the Southeast. For more information, including links to detailed wind resource maps for most states, see the DOE's Wind Powering America Web Site.
Bruce Billian from Virginia Tech addresses attendees to last week's FutureTruck event as Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham (left) and David Garman (right), Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, look on.
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and the Ford Motor Company hosted seven student-designed, energy-efficient sport utility vehicles (SUVs) at an event in Washington, D.C., last week as part of FutureTruck 2004, an engineering competition. The FutureTruck competition challenges 15 teams of university engineering students to reengineer Ford Explorers to achieve lower emissions and a
25 percent increase in fuel economy, without sacrificing performance, utility, or safety. This year's teams have all converted their Explorers to hybrid-electric vehicles, and two teams have modified the engines to run on hydrogen fuel. The competition will conclude in June at Ford's Michigan Proving Ground. See the DOE press release and the FutureTruck Web site.
While university teams are gearing up for the FutureTruck competition, 14 U.S. and Canadian university teams have just finished the Clean Snowmobile Challenge, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The winning team, from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, developed a hybrid electric snowmobile for the event. The competition challenges engineering students to reduce the noise and emissions of a snowmobile while maintaining or improving its performance. See the SAE announcement and Clean Snowmobile Challenge Web site.
Great River Energy and Alliant Energy.
The SEGS solar trough plant in California.
Credit: Kramer Junction Company
APS, Arizona's largest utility, broke ground last week on Arizona's first commercial solar trough power plant. Solar troughs concentrate the sun's heat using trough-shaped parabolic mirrors that swivel on their axis to point at the sun. A pipe carrying oil runs through the focus of each solar trough to collect the heat, and the hot oil is then used to vaporize a liquid. The hot vapor is routed through a turbine, and the spinning turbine turns a generator to produce power. The new APS solar trough plant will be built at the company's Saguaro Power Plant near Red Rock, about 30 miles north of Tucson, and will generate up to
1 megawatt of power. The company expects the plant to begin producing power in April 2005. See the APS press release.
Currently, only nine solar trough plants exist in the United States, and all are located in California's Mojave Desert. The nine plants are known as the Solar Energy Generating Station (SEGS), units I through IX, and are currently owned and operated by several companies. SEGS I began producing power in 1985, and the newest unit, SEGS IX, went online in 1991. They have a combined capacity of
354 megawatts. See the "Projects Deployed" section of DOE's TroughNet Web site.
Utah Power installed the battery energy storage system, which is capable of generating 250 kilowatts of power for eight hours. The system was constructed by VRB Power Systems, Inc. and will be used to improve reliability for Castle Valley customers, who are located at the end of the utility's longest electrical distribution line. See the press releases from PacifiCorp, Utah Power's parent company, and
VRB Power (PDF 130 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.
VRB Power has previously installed its energy storage systems in Australia and South Africa. For a more detailed technical description of the system, see the company's "Executive Summary" (PDF 422 KB).
Despite their advantages, battery energy storage systems are rare in the United States. The world's largest, located in Alaska, uses nickel-cadmium batteries and is capable of generating 27 megawatts of power for up to 15 minutes. Installed by the Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) and completed in January, the system earned a 2004 Technology Achievement Award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) last month. It has already prevented a number of power outages for GVEA's customers. See the EPRI press release and the GVEA Web site.
American Superconductor and Intermagnetics.
American Superconductor also continues to successfully sell its grid stability products. The company sold one of its reactive power compensation systems to a Canadian wind power plant in January, and sold another to the Long Island Power Authority on Monday. The systems help to stabilize voltage in the power grid and avoid power outages. See the American Superconductor press releases from January 14th and March 29th.
Future Uncertain for Natural Gas as Two LNG Projects CancelledThe push to import more natural gas from overseas suffered a setback in recent weeks, when two proposed terminals for receiving liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports were cancelled. On March 10th, TransCanada Corporation and ConocoPhillips announced they were suspending work on the Fairwinds LNG project in Harpswell, Maine, after the town residents voted against leasing a site for the project. On March 18th, Calpine Corporation announced that public opposition had led the company to withdraw its plans for an LNG terminal near Eureka, California. See the press releases from TransCanada and Calpine.
Growing demand for natural gas has led DOE to emphasize increased imports as an essential part of the nation's energy future, and LNG is the only means of importing natural gas from overseas. The oil and gas industry has responded by proposing a large number of projects over the past year. For background on the LNG development plans, see the articles from the January 7th and February 25th editions of this newsletter.
Meanwhile, uncertainty persists over the next-best solution for increasing natural gas supplies to the United States: an Alaskan natural gas pipeline. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company announced last week that its subsidiary, Alaska Gas Transmission Company, has withdrawn its application to build the pipeline after failing to reach a suitable agreement with the State of Alaska. However, TransCanada, which would have helped with the MidAmerican project, quickly stepped in to resume negotiations on the project. See the MidAmerican and TransCanada press releases.
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