One of the world’s largest geothermal power stations was officially opened this May on New Zealand’s North Island. A joint venture between Mighty River Power and Tauhara North No. 2 Trust, the new 140-MW Nga Awa Purua Geothermal Power Station increases geothermal’s share of power in New Zealand to around 14%—a proportion that has more than doubled since 2005.
At the opening ELECTRIC POWER 2010 plenary session, both the keynote speaker’s address and discussion among the Power Industry Executive Roundtable participants pointed to the renewed appeal of natural gas and proposed cap-and-trade legislation as being potential game-changers for the U.S. power industry.
It’s no surprise that China leads the world in recent power capacity additions. What may surprise you is the precise mix of options this vast country is relying upon to meet its ever-growing demand for electricity. As a result, this ancient civilization is fast becoming the test bed and factory for the newest generation and transmission technologies.
While Europe’s offshore wind sector has taken off, interest is resurging in marine energy. The UK’s Crown Estate took the major step this March, for example, of awarding leasing rights to 10 wave power projects to develop generation in Scotland’s Pentland Firth and Orkney waters of the North Sea.
An Australian sewage plant this April began using treated wastewater falling down a 60-meter (m) shaft to produce its own power.
It is clear that energy use will expand in the future as our population and society’s standard of living increase. Meanwhile, the push toward a sustainable lifestyle requires that all resources be utilized efficiently and sparingly. The National Academy of Sciences has identified paradigm shifts from current processes to an ideal vision centered on renewable energy and an atom economy—defined as maximum incorporation of starting materials into final products. These seemingly disparate paths converge if one considers energy production from municipal solid waste (MSW).
When it is completed, later this summer, the UK’s Drax Power Station biomass facility will become the largest dedicated cofiring project of its kind in the world. As U.S. coal-fired generators come under increasing pressure to cut emissions and take advantage of incentives to promote power generation from renewables, Drax offers an example of what is possible.
One indication that the world’s offshore wind sector is poised to soar is the escalating competition between turbine makers. This April, General Electric (GE)—the world’s second-largest manufacturer of wind turbines—announced it would introduce a 4-MW gearless wind turbine (a design requiring no gearbox between turbine and generator) in 2012. The move directly challenges market leader Siemens Energy, of Germany, and its head-to-head competitor, Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems.
After more than a decade of debate, in April, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved Cape Wind, a proposed 130-turbine offshore wind farm for Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. It would be the first wind facility in U.S. waters. Despite remaining hurdles, the approval marks a shift in political winds for the nation’s fledgling industry, and it could spur further development of projects proposed for relatively shallow waters along the East Coast and in the Great Lakes.
Soldiers could one day carry 600-W power plants on their backs, or set up arrays of up to 20 kW in streams deeper than 4 feet, if a prototype being developed by California-based Bourne Energy comes to fruition.