The Russian Investigative Committee has completed a probe into the August 2009 accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydro Power Plant in Siberia that killed 75 people. The committee has charged seven people—including the plant’s former head, Nikolai Nevolko, his deputies, and the plant’s former chief engineer, Andrei Mitrofanov—for violating safety rules. If found guilty, the officials could face five years in jail.
Like most forms of generation, solar power has its disadvantages. Two cited most by critics of photovoltaic (PV) or concentrating solar power facilities are that they require large expanses of land and that solar cell fabrication and maintenance costs are high. Several companies have been assessing a new approach to tackling these factors: installing solar plants on water.
Competition among offshore wind turbine vendors vying for market share went into overdrive in the first three months of 2011 as several key players announced gigantic new turbine models.
The Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) pilot project used six full-scale hydrokinetic turbines to capture the power of river tides and currents and convert it into electricity. Located in New York City’s East River, it is the first and only grid-connected tidal array project in the world. RITE project developers are seeking approval to install up to 30 additional turbines in the near future.
A major technical advance in hydroelectric dam safety was achieved this March as Alstom’s Chinese arm, the Tianjin Alstom Hydro Co. (TAH), delivered what it called “the world’s first self-closing electronic ring gate control system” to the Ahai hydropower project in China.
The People’s Republic of China’s Congress approved a much-anticipated draft of the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–2015) on March 14. Along with key objectives that included boosting its gross domestic product (GDP) by 7% annually on average, the country for the first time in a five-year plan established targets to tackle climate change. It plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 17% from 2010 levels by 2015 and to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16% from 2010 levels by 2015.
Geologists drilling an exploratory well in Iceland’s Krafla volcano in search of supercritical geothermal resources in 2009 unexpectedly uncovered a new way to harness energy from deep within Earth’s crust. It involves accessing shallow bodies of molten rock, which the geologists say could likely be found elsewhere in Iceland and around the world, wherever young volcanic rocks occur.
Biomass cofiring has the potential to cut emissions from coal-fueled generation without substantially increasing costs or infrastructure investments. Research shows that when implemented at relatively low biomass-to-coal ratios, energy consumption, solid waste generation, and emissions are all reduced. However, mixing biomass and coal does create some challenges that must be addressed.
As early as the first century A.D., wind energy was harnessed for practical purposes. Since then, turbine designs have come a long way from the archetypal post-mounted four-bladed devices. Today’s ubiquitous three-bladed designs will soon be evolving in many unexpected directions.
Electricity grids are slowly getting smarter. Simultaneously, the use of distributed generation is increasing. Though smart grid advocates tout the ability of a smarter grid to enable greater deployment of distributed resources, the benefits could flow in both directions.