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March 14, 2001

News and Events

  • L.A. to Draw 10 Percent of City Power from Renewable Energy
  • Neutrogena to Install 200-Kilowatt Solar Electric System
  • Eighty-Megawatt Wind Facility Planned for Northern Texas
  • Northwest Struggles to Balance Fish, Hydropower Needs
  • Biodegradable Cold Drink Cups to be Made from Corn
Site News
  • British Association for Biofuels and Oils
Energy Facts and Tips
  • EIA Publishes "Renewable Energy Annual 2000"
  • EIA: The U.S. Will Not Run Out of Natural Gas This Winter
About this Newsletter

News and Events

L.A. to Draw 10 Percent of City Power from Renewable Energy
The Los Angeles City Council approved on March 2nd the purchase of electricity produced from renewable energy to supply 10 percent of the city government's needs. The purchase, amounting to 50 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, is one of the largest U.S. purchases of so-called green power. Combined with previous commitments from LA World Airports and the city's water system, Los Angeles government agencies will be buying more than 70 million kilowatt-hours per year of green power. The purchase agreement will take effect in July, and the power will be provided by the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water (LADWP). See the LADWP press release.

Neutrogena to Install 200-Kilowatt Solar Electric System
Neutrogena Corporation and the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water (LADWP) announced last week the planned installation of a 200-kilowatt solar electric system at the Neutrogena headquarters facility. Two 100-kilowatt systems will be added to each of two buildings in the skin- care company's headquarters facility, located near the Los Angeles International Airport. The $1.4-million project, covering 24,000 square feet of roof area, will begin in May and be completed in July. The solar modules will be provided by the new Siemens Solar factory in Los Angeles and will be installed by PowerLight Corporation. According to LADWP, the system will help reduce energy consumption at the facility by 20 percent. See the LADWP press release.

Eighty-Megawatt Wind Facility Planned for Northern Texas
Cielo Wind Power, LLC announced late last month that it will build an 80-megawatt wind power plant near White Deer, Texas, about 40 miles east of Amarillo. The company signed a 15-year power purchase agreement with Southwestern Public Service Company, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, on February 27th. The 80-turbine facility will provide enough power to meet the needs of nearly 27,000 homes in the area. Construction will begin in July, and power production is expected by the end of the year. See the Xcel Energy press release.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the recent flurry of wind energy announcements is due in part to declining wind energy costs. Factoring in the savings from the federal wind energy production tax credit, the recently announced Stateline wind farm (along the Washington-Oregon border) will achieve record-low costs of only 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to AWEA. With this winter's elevated natural gas prices, wind energy is now shaping up as one of the lowest-cost options for electricity production. See the AWEA press release, with a link to an energy cost fact sheet.

Northwest Struggles to Balance Fish, Hydropower Needs
The Northwest Power Planning Council warned last week that a continuing drought in the Northwest will complicate efforts to balance fish protection with hydropower production this year. "Western electricity markets are headed for a difficult summer and possibly a difficult winter," said the Council. This year is shaping up to be the second- or third- driest in the past 73 years, and power needs this winter have already drawn some reservoirs below the limits established to protect endangered species of salmon and steelhead. This may reduce Columbia River flows as much as 15 percent this summer, according to the Council.

To protect fish, a minimum flow of water is released from the Columbia River dams, even when power isn't needed. Some water is also spilled over the dam without producing power to help fish migrate down the river. The Council is evaluating reducing these spill flows by 35 percent between April and August, thereby saving more water for power production. The Council also recommends a variety of policy measures, including continued development of renewable resources and expanded energy efficiency efforts. The Council was created by Congress to develop a long-term power plan for the Northwest and to help the Pacific Northwest states make critical decisions that balance the multiple purposes of the Columbia River and its tributaries. See the Council's press release.

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) started its first spill of the season last weekend to aid migrating juvenile chinook salmon that were released from a hatchery near Hood River, Oregon. The spill was timed for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night to maximize its effectiveness while minimizing its impact on power needs. The total spill was only 10 percent of last year's spill, but still released enough water to generate $2.1 million worth of electricity. See the BPA press release.

To demonstrate the extent of the drought, Seattle City Light has been charting cumulative rainfall and snowpack in the regions that feed the city's hydropower facilities, located on the Skagit and the Pend Oreille rivers. With water resources far below normal, the utility has asked its customers to cut their electricity use by 10 percent — so far, customers have achieved a 4.3 percent reduction. See the charts on the Seattle City Light Web site.

Biodegradable Cold Drink Cups to be Made from Corn
Clear, biodegradable cold drink cups are the latest product to be announced by Cargill Dow LLC, which is using corn starch to make fibers and plastics. Cargill Dow has teamed up with Biocorp, Inc. — maker of biodegradable plates, cutlery, hot drink cups and straws — to offer a full spectrum of food service products that can be composted after use. The companies see a significant environmental benefit, cost savings, and convenience in the ability to compost the cups, plates, and utensils along with any food scraps.

Cargill Dow is a joint venture between Cargill Incorporated and The Dow Chemical Company to produce the proprietary NatureWorks polylactide (PLA) polymer from corn starch. Since breaking ground last April for a manufacturing facility that will produce 300 million pounds per year of the product, the company has been actively building its markets. A study by Dystar identified a wide range of color-fast dyes that could be used on NatureWorks fibers, the Woolmark Company has been developing blends of wool and NatureWorks fibers, and Interface, Inc. has announced plans to make a carpet tile from the product. Until its manufacturing plant in Blair, Nebraska, is completed in 2002, Cargill Dow is producing the product at its semi-commercial facility outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. See the Cargill Dow Web site.

See also the July 11th press release from Interface.

NatureWorks and other biobased products — products made from biomass materials — have the potential to reduce U.S. dependence on petroleum. Cargill Dow estimates that the production of its NatureWorks PLA will use 20 to 30 percent less fossil fuels than comparable polymers. For more information, see the "Biobased Chemicals and Materials" page on the EREN Bioenergy Web site.

Site News

British Association for Biofuels and Oils
This organization is dedicated to the promotion of transportation fuels and oils from renewable sources such as biodiesel and ethanol in Great Britain. The site includes a study of these fuels that covers tailpipe emissions and other environmental impacts, health and safety issues, vehicle and engine performance, infrastructure and fuel use issues and more.

For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site, see

Energy Facts and Tips

EIA Publishes "Renewable Energy Annual 2000"
DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) published its latest annual summary of U.S. renewable energy production last week. The report, which includes data from 1999, found that renewable energy as a whole (including hydropower) grew 3 percent in 1999 and accounted for almost 8 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. Most of the renewable energy was produced using hydropower (49 percent) and biomass (44 percent). And although wind energy contributed the least (0.6 percent), it also showed the fastest growth, contributing 48 percent more energy in 1999 than it had in 1998. See the "Renewable Energy Annual 2000" on the EIA Renewable Fuels Publications page.

EIA: The U.S. Will Not Run Out of Natural Gas this Winter
With natural gas inventories in the West already at record lows, and declining inventories in the East and in the south- centrally-located "Producing Region," some doomsayers have predicted that parts of the country may run out of natural gas before the heating season is done. But a recent report from DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that won't happen. The report looks at both "working" gas inventories — the inventories of natural gas that would normally be delivered to the customer — and "base" gas inventories — the extra gas that must be retained in the system to maintain pressure. Although the report sees "little likelihood that working gas levels for the regions will be completely drawn down," it anticipates that some operators may need to "dip into base gas inventories to maintain operations."

The report concludes that working gas inventories "are likely to approach record lows" at the end of this month and remain at low levels for the following several months. Efforts to replace natural gas inventories "will contribute to upward price pressure in the markets." The report also includes a significant amount of information about how natural gas markets work in the United States. See the report, "Natural Gas Storage in the United States in 2001: A Current Assessment and Near-Term Outlook" (PDF 93 KB).

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