EREN Network News
May 30, 2001
News and Events
- Home Fuel Cells to be Sold in California, Tested in Chicago
- Biodiesel Fueling Stations Debut in Nevada, California
- General Motors to Squeeze Efficiency out of V-8 Engines
- Innovative Solar Electric Systems Use Holographs and Dyes
- Mustard Plants Produce Low-Cost Enzymes for Making Ethanol
Energy Facts and Tips
About this Newsletter
- NERC Predicts U.S. Electricity Woes this Summer
News and Events
Home Fuel Cells to be Sold in California, Tested in Chicago
H Power Corp. announced on May 10th that it plans to sell
residential fuel cell systems in California in the near future.
The company claims that it will start manufacturing and
shipping the fuel cell systems on a limited basis "within the
next several months." H Power will work with Energy
Co-Opportunity, Inc. to market the fuel cells to homeowners,
and Altair Energy LLC will sell, install, and service the
systems. See the H Power press release.
Fuel cells will also be delivered soon to several Chicago-
area families as part of a pilot project run by the Community
Energy Cooperative and EPRIsolutions, a subsidiary of the
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). EPRI announced
in mid-May that the pilot project will begin in the fourth
quarter of this year. See the EPRI press release.
Fuel cells can use natural gas or other fuels to produce
electrical power for homes or commercial buildings. Excess
heat from the fuel cell can also be used to heat water or
provide space heating. To learn more, see the Fuel Cells
page on EREN.
Biodiesel Fueling Stations Debut in Nevada, California
Two public fueling stations one in Nevada, one in
California began selling biodiesel fuel last week, marking
the first time that the U.S. public can purchase the fuel at the
pump. Biodiesel is a clean-burning diesel fuel produced from
such sources as soybeans or recycled cooking oil.
World Energy Alternatives began selling biodiesel at a gas
station in San Francisco that is run by Olympian, Inc. See
the World Energy press release.
Biodiesel Industries, Inc. also began selling biodiesel at a
gas station in Sparks, Nevada, that is run by Western
Energetics Cardlock. Biodiesel Industries, in conjunction with
Haycock Petroleum, operates a biodiesel plant in Las Vegas
that produces the fuel from waste cooking oils from the city's
casino resorts and restaurants. The company was recently
awarded a contract from the Las Vegas Valley Water
District, the City of Las Vegas, and the Clark County Health
Department that will total more than a million gallons of
biodiesel annually. See the Biodiesel Industries Web site.
The biodiesel industry is growing, as witnessed by the
announcement last week of a new biodiesel production
facility in California. Southern States Power Company, Inc.
announced that its Coachella Valley Biodiesel Production
Facility is near completion and will start producing fuel in
early June. The plant will initially produce 10 million gallons
of fuel per year, but has room for added capacity in the
future. See the Southern States Power press release.
General Motors to Squeeze Efficiency out of V-8 Engines
General Motors Corporation (GM) is doing its best to hold
onto the powerful V-8 engine while pursing improved fuel
efficiency. The company announced last week that it has
developed a new technology that will use only four of the
eight cylinders for most driving conditions, firing up the other
four cylinders for accelerating or pulling heavy loads. Called
"Displacement on Demand," the system can improve fuel
efficiency by up to 25 percent, according to GM. The
company plans to sell more than 150,000 trucks and sport
utility vehicles (SUVs) with the new engines in 2004,
increasing to 1.5 million vehicles in 2007. See the GM press
GM also released new details about its hybrid electric Chevy
Silverado and GMC Sierra, both of which will be introduced
as an option in 2004. The vehicles will feature GM's 5.3-liter
V-8 engine and will use a 42-volt lead-acid battery pack. GM
claims the hybrid version will improve fuel efficiency by 10 to
15 percent. See the GM press release.
While GM works to increase the fuel efficiency of its trucks
and SUVs, its 80-mile-per-gallon Precept, a concept car
developed through a government-industry partnership,
recently received first place honors at the Auto Interiors 2001
Design & Technology Awards. The Precept interior uses
lightweight foam and mesh fabric materials to minimize the
vehicle's weight. See the GM press release.
Innovative Solar Electric Systems Use Holographs and Dyes
Innovation in the field of solar photovoltaic electric systems
continues to create new possibilities for producing electricity
from sunlight. In mid-May, TerraSun LLC announced that it
has developed a unique method of using holographic films to
concentrate sunlight onto a solar cell. Concentrating solar
cells typically use Fresnel lenses or mirrors to concentrate
sunlight. TerraSun claims that the use of holographic optics
allows more selective use of the sunlight, allowing light not
needed for power production to pass through the transparent
modules. This capability allows the modules to be integrated
into buildings as skylights. See the TerraSun Web site.
Another example of photovoltaic innovation is the opening of
the world's first factory for dye-sensitized solar cells. These
cells use a dye-impregnated layer of titanium dioxide to
generate a voltage, rather than using more expensive
semiconducting materials. In early May, Sustainable
Technologies International (STI) began manufacturing the
cells at its facility in Australia. See the STI announcement.
To learn more about photovoltaic technologies, see the
Photovoltaics page on EREN.
Mustard Plants Produce Low-Cost Enzymes for Making Ethanol
Researchers at the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder
announced last week the development of a potentially low-
cost method of producing the cellulase enzyme. Cellulase is
a crucial component in the conversion of woody biomass
materials, like grasses and trees, into ethanol. The CU-
Boulder researchers transplanted a bacterial gene that
codes for the production of cellulase into a tiny weed species
in the mustard family known as Arabidopsis thallana. Raised
under controlled conditions, the plants manufactured
significant quantities of cellulase, which could then be
harvested from the plants. The researchers believe that
other plants, such as tobacco or corn, could also be used to
produce the enzyme. See the CU-Boulder press release.
The 20 Percent Solution
This site, developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory, can help Californians reduce energy use by
20 percent or more. The site identifies energy efficiency
measures for Californians according to the region they live
in, the size of their house or apartment, and whether or not
they have air conditioning. The suggestions are in three
parts: no-cost measures, low-cost measures and more
In addition, visitors can find out about California's 20/20
Rebate Program. The program offers a 20 percent rebate on
electricity bills from June through September 2001 for
customers of Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and
Electric, and Southern California Edison who use at least
20 percent less electricity than they consumed in each of the
four comparable months during 2000.
For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site.
Energy Facts and Tips
NERC Predicts U.S. Electricity Woes this Summer
Electricity supplies are expected to be tight not only in
California this summer, but also in the Pacific Northwest,
New England, and New York City, according to the North
American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). NERC, a not-
for-profit corporation with members from throughout the
electric power industry, released its summer assessment in
NERC anticipates power shortages in California to be more
severe than California officials anticipate, with about
260 hours of rotating blackouts over the summer. The
council does not predict outages in the Pacific Northwest this
summer, but with a drought continuing, the council warns
that power shortages could occur by winter unless the area
sees a significant increase in precipitation. New York City
will also dodge power shortages if new generating facilities
are brought on line in time, and New England is expected to
avoid any power outages. The NERC assessment is
available as a Power Point presentation on the NERC Web
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has been doing its
part to alleviate the electricity crisis: it recently increased
rebates for renewable energy systems from $3 to $4.50 a
watt, or up to 50 percent off an eligible renewable system's
purchase price, whichever is lower. See the CEC press release.
In the Pacific Northwest, DOE's Bonneville Power
Administration (BPA), which controls most of the area's
hydropower production, has noted important progress in
reducing its loads, with both PacifiCorp and Clark Public
Utilities committing to load reductions last week. See the BPA
The Northwest Power Planning Council (NWPPC) says the
area's electricity crisis is easing but is not over. The council
notes that energy savings have come at the cost of jobs and
the environment, and it predicts a 17 percent chance of a
power shortage next winter. See the NWPPC press release.
Tight supplies in the West have led other states to announce
conservation plans as well. In Nevada, a conservation plan
has been developed for state government that includes both
short-term and long-term energy-saving measures. See the announcement from Governor Kenny Guinn.
See also the full Nevada energy plan.
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