Constuction Begins on the World’s Largest Solar-Thermal Plant in CA’s Mojhave Desert

Submitted by amyguinan on December 21, 2010 – 10:30am

The 370-megawatt solar-thermal Ivanpah project, located just over the California border, 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, is the world’s largest power plant project currently under construction.  By year’s end, California and federal regulators expect to approve additional projects that will produce a total of 4,143 megawatts. At peak output, that’s the equivalent of several nuclear power plants and more than seven times the solar capacity installed in the United States last year.

The power plants licensed so far will cover some 39 square miles of desert land with a variety of new and old solar thermal technologies. Unlike rooftop photovoltaic panels that directly convert sunlight into electricity, solar thermal uses the sun to heat liquids to create steam that drives electricity-generating industrial turbines.

BrightSource, the company behind the construction of Ivanpah, received a $1.37 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy to build the project, which will deploy 347,000 large mirrors that will surround three towers on 3,500 acres of federal land. The mirrors will focus the sun on a water-filled boiler that sits atop the tower to create high-temperature, high-pressure steam.

According to BrightSource CEO, John Woolard, “In the U.S. we’re lucky. The southwestern U.S. has high desert, which means it’s closer to the sun, less atmosphere to go through. It’s the best solar resource anywhere, outside the Atacama Desert in Chile or a few places. Harnessing that resource effectively is the most important thing. So we don’t have a quantity and energy problem; it’s a collection and distribution problem.”

China Likely Unable to Meet Own Domestic Coal Needs: Imports May Rise 78%

Submitted by amyguinan on December 21, 2010 – 9:41am

The end of 2010 saw communities in central and northern China facing power cuts and rationing as winter coal supplies fall short of surging demand: about 620,000 households were left without power due to bad weather in Zhejiang, a province west of Shanghai, a report on the State Grid website said

In order to meet surging demand and the relaity of coal constraints, China and India may increase imports of coal by 78 percent to 337 million metric tons next year, further driving up prices from the highest in two years and diverting supplies from Europe to Asia.

China’s appetite for the commodity sent benchmark domestic prices at the port ofQinhuangdao to a two-year high of $129 a ton for the week ended Nov. 26, according to data from IHS McCloskey, a Petersfield, U.K.-based researcher.

“All the indications are for increased demand in 2011,” Andrew Harrington, an analyst at Patersons Securities Ltd. in Sydney, said in a Dec. 9 interview. “China has become much more important especially because of the expectations that they will be unable to meet their own needs from domestic supply.”

China added about 51 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity last year, according to data from Daiwa Capital Markets and the U.S. Energy Department.

China will need 2 billion tons of coal over the next 10 years to fuel the country’s industrial development, the China Securities Journal reported today, citing Dai Yande, deputy head of China’s Energy Research Institute.   The United States, in comparison, uses roughly 1 billion tons of coal/year.

“China still has many decades left to develop. Only a fraction of the population, and really just the eastern part of the nation, has experienced profound growth. The rest of the country needs to develop as well.”

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Coal Ash is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste

Submitted by amyguinan on December 16, 2010 – 5:17pm

Coal ash, the waste produced by coal plants, is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the coal ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.

At issue is coal’s content of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements. They occur in such trace amounts in natural, or “whole,” coal that they aren’t a problem. But when coal is burned into coal ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels.

Coal ash is currently exempt from toxic waste rules and instead can be reused in almost limitless applications under the “beneficial use” rule. Around the country, it’s used, unmonitored, in road construction and to some extent in running tracks, including at schools. It’s used to make everything from carpets to fertilizer to cinder blocks, and sometimes gypsum board and roofing shingles.

The EPA is being urged at a minimum to adopt the hazardous waste classification for coal ash when it decides between the proposals currently under consideration.  A decision from the EPA related to fly ash classification is expected in early 2011.

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Colorado Citizens Spoke, Governor Ritter Listened

Submitted by amyguinan on December 16, 2010 – 4:47pm

Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter, has been named America’s greenest Governor for his leadership efforts in transitioning Colorado to a “new energy economy” and Colorado citizens can take pride in knowing their bottom up activism related to clean energy and job creation was heard at the state level and helped to drive policy.

In a recent interview, Governor Ritter stated that “cultivating a competitive edge in energy and sustainable development is what we should be doing” and that these goals meet job creation and environmental concerns – both of which Colorado citizens has expressed concerns about.

Amendment 37, approved by Governor Ritter, sets Colorado’s renewable energy standard at 30% by 2020 – one of the highest standards in the country.  Furthermore, Ritter supports HB-1365 and belives that a transition off of coal and onto renewables or natural gas helps to address human-caused climate change and improves energy security.

In addressing citizen concerns about the stalemate in a national clean energy policy, Ritter said, “This isn’t Democrats versus Republicans so much as lobbyists and special interests standing in the way. If you see someone opposed to something like energy efficiency, they are probably hanging onto an industry that has seen its day.”

For more information on Governor Ritter’s new energy economy plans, click here:

A Dramatic Drop in Coal-Based Power Predicted by 2035

Submitted by amyguinan on December 16, 2010 – 3:09pm

According to a new study by Black & Veatch, coal’s share of the United States’ electricity market will drop dramatically over the next two decades as reliance on natural gas expands and new pollution controls for coal plants come into effect.  The firm projects that “coal-fired power plants will provide 25 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2035, down from 49 percent today. Natural gas-powered facilities’ share of electricity generation will rise to 40 percent, up from 21 percent. Renewable energy production will spike from four percent to 11 percent while nuclear generation increases slightly from 20 percent to 21 percent in 2035.”

Lilke many models, Black and Veatch assume that federal legislation will pass that would impose caps on carbon emissions and increase the price for coal-based power generation.

Black & Veatch predicts that about 16 percent of the U.S.’ coal-fired fleet will be retired in the coming years to avoid the cost of complying with new pollution control measures.

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