EREN Network News
December 20, 2000
News and Events
- Report: U.S. Fuel Economy Hits a 20-Year Low
- Astropower, Elkem to Develop Dedicated Solar Silicon Supply
- Orange County Operates First Hybrid Bus on West Coast
- Smithsonian Slated for Energy-Efficient Cooling and Power
- New Jersey Encourages Energy-Efficient Housing
Energy Facts and Tips
About this Newsletter
- EPA Plans to Regulate Mercury Emissions from Power Plants
- Just How Much Energy Do Those Holiday Lights Use?
News and Events
Report: U.S. Fuel Economy Hits a 20-Year Low
The average fuel economy of model year 2000 light vehicles
sold in the United States has bottomed out at 24.0 miles per
gallon (mpg), the lowest since 1980, according to a new
report. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
announced last week that the continuing popularity of so-
called light trucks sport utility vehicles, vans, minivans and
pickup trucks has dragged average fuel economies to their
20-year low point. Light trucks make up half of the U.S. light-
vehicle market and average from 20 to 22.5 mpg, offsetting
the 28.1 mpg average achieved by new cars. According to
the EPA, an increase of 3 mpg in average fuel economy
would save consumers as much as $25 billion per year in
fuel costs while cutting U.S. energy use by a million barrels
of oil per day. See the EPA press release.
See also the full report.
Astropower, Elkem to Develop Dedicated Solar Silicon Supply
The photovoltaics industry has long ridden the coattails of
the semiconductor industry, relying on silicon byproducts
from that industry for the production of silicon solar cells.
That dependence has often caused a limited availability and
high price for solar-grade silicon, constraining the growth of
the solar power industry. That appears to have changed last
week, when Astropower, Inc. announced that it has reached
an agreement with Elkem the world's largest silicon
producer for final process development of a low-cost
method of manufacturing solar-grade silicon. The alliance
will create a dedicated source of silicon for the solar power
industry. Dr. Allen Barnett, president of Astropower, said,
"…we now believe that we have designed and demonstrated
an integrated production process that will enable us to
produce large volumes of cost-effective solar-grade silicon
feedstock for the entire solar power industry." See the
Astropower press release.
Orange County Operates First Hybrid Bus on West Coast
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)
announced last week that it has placed into service the first
hybrid-electric bus on the West Coast. The bus combines an
electric motor with a diesel engine. The propulsion
technology for the 40-foot bus was developed by Allison
Transmission, a division of General Motors. See the OCTA
Smithsonian Slated for Energy-Efficient Cooling and Power
The General Services Administration (GSA) announced last
week that it will upgrade and modernize its Central Heating
and Refrigeration Plant in Washington, D.C., to provide
energy-efficient chilled-water cooling to eight Smithsonian
Institution facilities. The new $64 million project will be fueled
with natural gas and will use cogeneration to produce both
chilled water and electricity. Excess power from the system
will be sold into the power grid. The project, to be completed
by June 2002, will be paid for out of the energy savings,
requiring no up-front investment by the government. See the
GSA press release.
The GSA project's ability to generate both cooling and power
makes it a cogeneration, or "combined cooling, heating, and
power" (CHP) facility, while its use of a centralized facility to
serve many buildings qualifies it as a "district energy"
system. For more information about both of these concepts,
see DOE's CHP Initiative Web site on EREN.
New Jersey Encourages Energy-Efficient Housing
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
announced early this month that it will participate in a
$14 million project that gives low- and moderate-income
families a chance to buy houses that incorporate the latest in
energy-saving features and environmental design
technology. The department will work with mortgage-lender
Fannie Mae and New Jersey's Public Service Electric & Gas
to build or rehabilitate 150 homes in seven New Jersey
cities. The funds will underwrite the construction costs and
mortgages for the homes, which will use 30 percent less
energy than typical new homes. See the press release on
the department's Web site.
DOE's Rebuild America program operates on a model
similar to the New Jersey project, in that it builds community
partnerships to encourage smarter energy use in buildings.
In March 2001, Rebuild America will partner with the
Southface Energy Institute and Greenprints 2001 to present
the 2001 Rebuild America National Forum in Atlanta,
Georgia. The Forum schedule will dovetail with the
Greenprints Conference, billed as "one of the premiere
sustainable design and construction events of 2001." See
the Forum Web site, with a link to the Greenprints site.
Bioenergy in Finland
Sponsored by the Finnish Bioenergy Association, this site
presents the user with an overview of bioenergy
technologies, a searchable database of publications, and the
contact information for Finnish bioenergy companies and
organizations. In addition, the site provides the current status
of bioenergy in Finland, including statistics and legislative
For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site,
Energy Facts and Tips
EPA Plans to Regulate Mercury Emissions from Power Plants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
announced last week that it has decided to regulate power-
plant emissions of mercury. Exposure to mercury has been
associated with both neurological and developmental
damage in humans, and coal-fired power plants are the
greatest source of mercury emissions. The agency will
propose regulations by 2003 and issue final rules by 2004.
See the EPA press release.
Just How Much Energy Do Those Holiday Lights Use?
Electricity woes played the Grinch in California this year as
the state struggled to meet its power needs, the organization
in charge of the power grid called for residents to delay
turning on their holiday lights until 7 p.m. each night. Media
reports said the California Independent System Operator
(ISO) estimated its holiday lighting electrical load at
1,000 megawatts enough to power one million homes. See
the December 5th press release from the California
Independent System Operator.
So how much power do holiday lights use? Seattle City Light
took a more precise look at the issue and noted that it
depends on the type of light you use. The old-fashioned
large light bulbs draw 5 to 7 watts each up to 20 times the
energy use of mini-lights, which draw only 0.35 watts each.
However, the mini-light strands may have nearly 10 times as
many bulbs per strand, which cuts into their energy benefit.
See the "Holiday Lighting" page on the the Seattle City Light
The Alliance to Save Energy took an even larger view. While
arguing against large energy-consuming light displays, the
Alliance also pointed out that for each compact fluorescent
light bulb you substitute for an incandescent bulb in your
home, you can afford to light a string of 100 mini-lights and
still save energy, money, and the environment. And during
the next year, that compact fluorescent will save five times
the energy use of the light string. So perhaps the more
energy efficient among us can dodge the Grinch this year
and justify keeping those holiday lights burning. See the
press release on the Alliance to Save Energy Web site.
Speaking of holidays, the EREN Network News will be taking
next week off. We'll return with a New Year's bundle of news
on January 3rd. Until then, we wish all our readers a joyful,
peaceful, and energy-efficient holiday season.
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