EREN Network News
August 30, 2000
News and Events
- Reliant Energy Plans 208-Megawatt Texas Wind Facility
- U.S. Jobs Created by the Nuts and Bolts of Wind Turbines
- Commercial-Scale Biomass Gasifier in Operation
- Hybrid Electric Bus With GM Drive Coming to California
- GAO: Increased Fuel Economy Need Not Compromise Safety
- SMUD Installs Large Solar Electric System at Cal Expo
Energy Facts and Tips
- Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
About this Newsletter
- U.S. Photovoltaic Shipments Jump 52 Percent in 1999
News and Events
Reliant Energy Plans 208-Megawatt Texas Wind Facility
Reliant Energy announced last week that the world's largest
single wind power installation will soon be built in western
Texas. Construction will begin in the fall on a 208-megawatt
facility to be installed on King Mountain, about 70 miles
south of Odessa. The company is also developing 12 small
power plants that will generate electricity from landfill
methane emissions. The 12 facilities, located at landfills
throughout Texas, will generate an additional 44 megawatts
of power. Both the wind and the landfill gas projects are
expected to be producing power by the end of 2001.
Reliant Energy will sell the electricity from the projects to
utilities and other electricity providers when the state's
electricity system is restructured in 2002. As part of this
restructuring, Texas mandated that 2000 megawatts of new
renewable power projects be built by 2009. See the Reliant
Energy press release.
One indicator of where Texas is headed is the number of
proposed projects that have requested the right to connect to
Texas transmission lines by 2002. Reportedly, a total of
2650 megawatts of renewable energy projects have
requested such rights, although not all these projects will be
built. Of these, seven wind energy installations totaling
1500 megawatts (including the King Mountain project) have
agreed to let the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas post
their project information. See the list.
Such access to electrical transmission systems is critical for
new wind energy projects. The American Wind Energy
Association (AWEA) recently released a white paper that
examines U.S. electrical transmission policy, which it claims
is one of the greatest impediments to wind energy
developments in the United States. See "Fair Transmission
Access for Wind" on the AWEA Web site.
U.S. Jobs Created by the Nuts and Bolts of Wind Turbines
While the growth of the wind industry and other renewable
energy industries has long been touted as a source of high-
tech jobs, the recent flurry of wind projects has brought jobs
to some relatively low-tech U.S. companies. With FPL
Energy LLC planning several large wind installations, the
company has placed an order with Beaird Industries of
Shreveport, Louisiana, to fabricate 800 wind turbine towers.
Trinity Industries of Dallas, Texas, also received a large
order for wind turbine towers and is now creating a new
subsidiary called Trinity Structural Towers, Inc. The
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that
U.S. wind installations will total $1 billion to $1.5 billion in
new construction by the end of 2001. See the AWEA press release.
Commercial-Scale Biomass Gasifier in Operation
DOE and the Future Energy Resources Corporation
(FERCO) announced last week the successful commercial-
scale operation of a biomass gasifier. Gasification is a high-
temperature process that can convert biomass fuels such as
agricultural, municipal, or forestry wastes into a clean-
burning gas similar to natural gas. The gas can then be used to
fuel a high-efficiency gas turbine a process that is cleaner
and more efficient than current biomass combustion
processes. The FERCO gasifier, at the McNeil Generating
Plant in Burlington, Vermont, converts more than 285 tons of
wood chips per day into gas. It achieved full operation on
August 11th. See the press release on DOE's Golden Field Office Web site.
Hybrid Electric Bus With GM Drive Coming to California
General Motors (GM) and California's South Coast Air
Quality Management District (AQMD) announced Monday
that southern California will be among the first regions in the
nation to receive hybrid electric transit buses from New Flyer
of America, featuring propulsion systems developed by GM.
The hybrid technology, which uses a combination of electric
motors, batteries, and an internal combustion engine,
significantly reduces emissions while increasing fuel
economy by up to 50 percent and boosting acceleration by
up to 50 percent. The first hybrid bus will be delivered this
fall, with a second delivery scheduled early next year.
The news was included as part of an announcement that GM
and AQMD are establishing a "Community Clean Air
Partnership" to clean the air in southern California. GM will
contribute significantly to the partnership, including the
provision of the hybrid electric drive trains. GM will also
donate nine bifuel vans, which run on either gasoline or
compressed natural gas. See the press release.
GAO: Increased Fuel Economy Need Not Compromise Safety
A report released last week by the General Accounting
Office (GOA) found that an increase in fuel economy
standards would not necessarily compromise vehicle safety.
The main consideration, according to the GAO, is to allow
auto manufacturers sufficient lead time to incorporate
improvements. At issue is whether to increase the federal
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for
U.S. passenger vehicles. "We found consensus among
safety experts and auto manufacturers that as long as there
is sufficient lead time to meet higher CAFE levels, auto
manufacturers could use fuel-saving technologies … instead
of simply building smaller, lighter cars, thereby minimizing
any negative impact on safety," states the report.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been prohibited
from raising the CAFE standards since 1996. The report was
requested by Senator John McCain in his role as the
chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science,
and Transportation. See the GAO report.
SMUD Installs Large Solar Electric System at Cal Expo
The site of the California State Fair now has a shaded
parking lot, thanks to a 540-kilowatt solar electric system
newly installed by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District
(SMUD). Twenty sun-tracking arrays at the Cal Expo parking
lot in Sacramento provide shade for 1000 parking spaces
while generating enough electricity to power about
180 homes. See the SMUD press release.
Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
This site provides an overview of several research programs
the Centre sponsors in the areas of power generation,
energy efficiency, energy storage, power conditioning,
systems integration, and strategic planning and market
assessment. Visitors can investigate graduate and
postgraduate education and training opportunities available
in these areas and find fact sheets on a variety of renewable
For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site,
Energy Facts and Tips
U.S. Photovoltaic Shipments Jump 52 Percent in 1999
U.S. shipments of solar photovoltaic modules and cells
increased in 1999 for the fourteenth consecutive year,
leaping 52 percent above 1998 shipments. According to a
new report by DOE's Energy Information Administration
(EIA), U.S. manufacturers shipped enough photovoltaic
products to generate 77 megawatts of electricity.
Photovoltaic cell prices dropped by one third, although
module prices declined only about 8 percent. Exports
continue to dominate the market, accounting for 72 percent
of the shipments.See the EIA press release.
DOE is looking for ideas on new ways to advance the
commercialization of solar energy systems. Workshops will
be held in September in four U.S. cities. DOE is particularly
interested in exploring near-term opportunities involving
builders and developers and the use of state funds, but
discussion will not be limited to these topics. See the
announcement on the Utility Photovoltaic Group Web site.
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