Plans to install a series of solar panel farms in the Sahara Desert to power Europe and North Africa are heating up. The idea was discussed in May as part of the newly formed Mediterranean Union, launched at a summit in Paris, and it now has the backing of both UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarcozy.
Just as reports emerged earlier this year that NASA had abandoned, for lack of financial resources, its research into space-based solar power that would be harnessed via orbiting solar arrays beaming microwaves to earthly receivers, California’s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) wrote the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requesting its approval of a power purchase agreement from a similar technology.
Since 1882, when Thomas Edison installed the world’s first central generating plant in New York City, utility business models have varied little from the basic one: cover costs and generate profit by selling more electricity. But today, unprecedented challenges are sweeping through the industry. Soon utilities will face yet another new challenge: the large-scale implementation of distributed solar power, which can result in lower electricity sales. As solar implementation further challenges business-as-usual models, what’s a forward-thinking utility to do?
The tension between the growing number of renewable energy projects and limited transmission capacity is reflected in Washington’s legislative agenda of establishing a national renewable portfolio standard and new transmission lines dedicated to moving renewable energy coast-to-coast. Even if those ideas become law, hurdles to the happy marriage of renewables and transmission remain.
Ethiopia, the landlocked nation in East Africa from which key tributaries to the Nile River originate, completed construction of the continent’s highest dam, the 188-meter Tekezé Arch Dam (Figure 3) in February.
Engineers at Purdue University and Sandia National Laboratories have developed a technique that uses sensors and computational software to constantly monitor forces exerted on wind turbine blades. Their achievement could one day improve the efficiency of wind turbines by providing the blades’ "smart" structure with necessary data to adjust to rapidly changing wind conditions.
Demand for renewable power is burgeoning as state governments (and maybe soon the U.S. federal government) impose increasingly rigorous environmental and procurement standards on the energy industry. Surprisingly, biomass cofiring has yet to attract much attention, even though it could help many utilities meet their renewable portfolio requirements, reduce carbon emissions, and solve other regional environmental problems. U.S. developers, investors, and regulators should consider including cofiring as part of the energy mix going forward.
Using nonhazardous waste for power generation is a trend that’s gaining steam for several reasons. Though there are several environmental reasons, another is the reliability of the fuel supply.
Obtaining accurate data about the performance of a plant’s heat-recovery steam generator is crucial to ensuring the smooth operation and maintenance of the equipment. Software designed to model and simulate HRSG operations can provide valuable information about corrosion and other operational problems.
Because combined heat and power (CHP) plants optimize energy use, they cut fuel costs and pollution. Even though U.S. power plants have been using CHP for decades, today’s energy experts have a newfound appreciation for its ability to promote sustainable energy use.