Limits on what Xcel can charge customers for Boulder Smart Grid

Submitted by Lili Francklyn on November 10, 2010 – 6:34pm

Under the settlement Xcel would be entitled to full cost recovery from 1.4 million ratepayers across Colorado – not exceeding $44.5 million.

The utility’s SmartGridCity, originally estimated at roughly $15 million – and not to be incurred by Boulder ratepayers – has seen costs rise to more than $44.5 million since its 2007 inception.

If no protests are lodged within 20 days, the PUC will adopt the recommendation and pass the cost of Xcel’s SmartGridCity onto ratepayers.  Email the PUC with protests or complaints;
pucconsumer.complaints@dora.state.co.us

Kansas Coal Plant Controversy Mounting

Submitted by amyguinan on November 5, 2010 – 10:05am

“As goes Kansas, so goes the Nation” – and Kansas is taking on coal.

In 2007, Kansas Environmental Chief Roderick Bremby drew the attention of the nation as the first state regulator to use greenhouse gas emissions as a reason to reject an air quality permit to build the proposed Sunflower coal plant in western Kansas. He declared carbon dioxide emissions from the proposed plant would be a public and environmental health risk and noted the risks of global warming. The Legislature later changed the laws, allowing the coal plant to proceed.

After Bremby denied the permits, Sunflower launched a legal and legislative battle. The state legislature voted to allow the new plants, and Governor Sebelius – who has since become Obama’s U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services – vetoed the bill three times.

On Nov 2nd, as midterm elections dominated the news, Kansas’ newest Governor, Mark Parkinson, fired Bremby.  And Sunflower Electric Power Corporation is back again with a deadline looming.  In January of 2011, new federal rules on greenhouse gas emissions begin to take effect.  If Sunflower receives a state air-quality permit before that date, its propsed plant will be grandfathered under the current standards.

“It was a midnight execution,” says NRDC senior advocate Theo Spencer. “When everybody’s eyes were on the election, the governor fires the guy who was responsible for protecting public health and the environment so he can ram this power plant through against public opinion.”

Scott Allegrucci, director of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy (GPACE), says “there isn’t anyone in the state who doesn’t know what this was about.” He’s certain Bremby was removed to clear the way for someone willing to expedite the air permit for Sunflower’s proposed 895-megawatt coal plant in western Kansas and allow it to avoid the looming EPA rules.

For more information, visit: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2008/may/17/sebelius_vetoes_third_bill_allowing_coalfired_plan/

http://www.onearth.org/article/regulator-who-blocked-kansas-coal-plant-ousted-by-governor

Solar Thermal Alliance Forming in Colorado

Submitted by amyguinan on November 5, 2010 – 9:17am

The Colorado Renewable Energy Society and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association are leading the formation of a Solar Thermal Alliance for Colorado.  According to National Renewable Energy Lab researchers, “Colorado’s sunshine, climate, and heating requirements make solar thermal technologies perform better in Colorado than in any other state in the U.S. Colorado’s solar thermal expertise is among the best in the world.”

Their vision is to make Colorado a global leader in solar thermal adoption, installation, manufacturing, and R&D to boost Colorado’s economy, generate jobs, and help build a sustainable energy future.

If you are interested in lending your support to the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado, please send a quick e-mail to STAC@cres-energy.org

Continued Reliance on Coal Will Lead to Higher Utility Bills

Submitted by Amy Guinan on November 4, 2010

With growing foreign demand, diminishing “economically-feasible” coal reserves, and rising mining costs, since October of 2009, the price for a one- month contract for Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal, a main Colorado supplier, has risen 67 percent to $13.80 a ton.  Powder River Basin coal has historically been priced at $5 a ton.

With almost 60 percent of Colorado’s electricity generated from coal-fired power plants, the increasing cost of coal will likely continue to be reflected in rate-payers electricity bills.  Xcel Energy, for instance, has had three rate increases in the last 4 years in part to pay for construction of the utilities’ newest coal-fired power plant, Unit III, in Pueblo, CO.

And current electricity prices don’t take into account the impact of possible legislation to curb emissions of carbon dioxide at the federal and state level. “Legislation that’s now stalled in Congress could have placed up to a $17 charge on a ton of carbon emissions. Burning a ton of coal creates about 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide.”

For more information, visit the CEA Coal Supply Constraints Report: Coal_Supply_Constraints_CEA and the Denver Post article on rising coal costs.

Impressive Developments in Concentrated Solar Projects – The Sun Shines Bright!

Submitted by amyguinan on November 4, 2010 – 2:05pm

Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors to focus a large area of sunlight onto a small area. Electrical power is produced when the concentrated light is directed onto photovoltaic surfaces or used to heat a transfer fluid for a conventional power plant.  Recent research and developments in CSP systems are yielding impressive results – and beyond the R&D phase, real CSP projects are moving forward and being implemented creating renewable energy and new jobs.

In our home state of Colorado, tests conducted by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden confirm that SkyFuel’s parabolic trough solar concentrator, the SkyTrough, has the highest standard for efficiency in its class.  NREL tests show the SkyTrough’s thermal efficiency at 350 degrees C (662 degrees F) to be over 73% efficient, meaning that nearly three quarters of the solar radiation striking the trough surface is converted into thermal energy.

In California six utility-scale solar power plants have been approved in California.  When completed, the combined power generation will be 2.8 GW, powering up to 2 million homes.   The largest of these 6 projects is the Blythe Solar Power Project, it will be the largest solar project ever on public land and will use parabolic trough similar to that used by SkyFuel in Golden.  Beyond the efficiency of this CSP systems, another advantage of this technology is that the heat can be stored in molten salt and used to create power when the sun isn’t shining.

For more information, visit

http://caivn.org/article/2010/11/09/six-utility-scale-solar-power-plants-now-approved-california

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/477871/ccfadfda7f/137926145/900c9543f9/

http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/09/03/skyfuels-skytrough-is-worlds-most-efficient-solar-concentrator/

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