Confronted with a district court ultimatum that would have forced it to install expensive pollution controls or close two coal-fired units at its R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside, Ohio, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. announced in April that it would convert them to biomass. When the $200 million retrofit is complete, as is expected by 2013, the Burger Plant will likely be one of the largest biomass facilities in the U.S.
Post-consumer waste could be the newest, ubiquitous fuel source for distributed energy generation if a mobile waste-to-energy conversion system launched this January finds its way onto the parking lots of facilities that produce more than two tons of waste daily. According to its developer, Massachusetts-based IST Energy, the GEM system can process up to 3 tons of waste daily — which can include paper, plastic, food, wood, and agricultural materials — and produce up to 120 kWe and 240 kWth.
About 110 years after the Belgica expedition — a polar voyage organized by the Geographical Royal Society to establish the world’s first Antarctic scientific research program — a new, unique research station sponsored by the Belgian Federal Government has been commissioned. Inaugurated on Feb. 15 after two years of construction, the Princess Elizabeth Station (Figure 4) is the only polar base to run entirely on renewable energies.
Renewable energy, though still accounting for a comparatively small portion of overall supply, generates a larger portion of the world’s electricity each year. Combining many of the available solar energy conversion technologies with conventional fossil-fueled technologies could reduce fuel costs while simultaneously helping utilities that are struggling to meet their renewable portfolio goals.
Upgrading a 1970s-era generator control system to new millennium technology in 12 days during a three-week shutdown would require careful planning and teamwork under any circumstances. The quick replacement of the governor and control system at the PT Inco smelter’s hydroelectric generation system is even more impressive because the facility is located in the middle of an Indonesian jungle.
German researchers in February said they had developed the first-ever biogas plant to run purely on waste instead of edible raw materials. The team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS (Institut Keramische Technologien und Systeme) in Dresden said that the plant, which uses a fuel cell to convert the gas into electricity, exclusively uses agricultural waste such as corn stalks — and it generates 30% more biogas than conventional plants.
It may seem counterintuitive, but fire can be a serious danger in hydropower plants. In some respects, the danger is even greater than in thermal power stations. Most U.S. hydro plants are 30 to 70 years old but can deliver another 20 or 30 years of service with upgrades — including state-of-the-art fire protection systems. The design options outlined here also apply in large part to other generating stations.
Hydrokinetic energy — which generates power by using underwater turbines that harness moving water — is on the rise in the U.S. In January, the first U.S.-licensed, commercial, grid-connected hydrokinetic project installed the first of two 100-kW nameplate-rated turbines downriver from an existing run-of-river hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River.
Like the airline industry, power generators all over the world have been seeking alternative fuels with which to produce electricity, and the blends are bound to get stranger. One company is looking to make liquid fuels from chicken fat, beef tallow, and pork lard, for example. Here’s a list of innovative fuels that generators could use in the near future.
Solar panel prices have taken a 10% tumble since October last year, and they are expected to drop another 15% to 20% this year, owning to an oversupply from the mass of new factories and draining demand in Germany and Spain, where solar incentives were recently cut. In the U.S., the low prices — pushed even lower by the renewed solar tax credits that took effect on Jan. 1 and other incentives — have heightened demand, both on the distributed generation level and at utility scale.