The electricity market is in the doldrums, but the market for new generating stations that use natural gas is going strong, industry experts say. Why? Because gas is beginning to replace coal, according to Randy H. Zwirn, president of the Siemens Power Generation Group.
On Monday, Siemens is announcing that it has won contracts to supply five new high-efficiency gas plants to Progress Energy at two sites in North Carolina that have old coal-fired generators. It is also replacing old gas-fired plants in Florida.
The H.F. Lee Energy Complex, near Goldsboro, has three coal-fired generators that began operating in 1951, 1952 and 1962. The three coal-fired generators at the Sutton plant, near Wilmington, went into service in 1954, 1955 and 1972.
The six plants are among 11 that Progress owns in North Carolina that do not have sulfur scrubbers. The company has said it will eventually close all 11.
On the southern horizon is a new breed of solar plant, one that could be a game changer for the industry.
Just across the California border, Nipton has unveiled a sun-powered generator that is expected to provide about 85 percent of the town’s electricity over the course of a year.
The solar plant uses a new technology, concentrating solar photovoltaic, known as CPV, which could be a boon in places like Nevada where the sun is strong, but water for power plants is scarce.
Concentrating solar power plants are expected to use far less water than their solar thermal cousins because they lack the cooling requirements and don’t need water to heat for steam. And because they have fewer photovoltaic panels to be cleaned than a traditional photovoltaic plant, they could use less water than traditional photovoltaic arrays.
Making ground-source heat a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels has long been a dream for countries that depend on energy imports and need to cut their carbon dioxide emissions. A team of businesses and researchers in Slovenia and Serbia set out to develop the heat pump technology that would make this dream a reality.
The chaos caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland April 2010 and the dispersal of its ash cloud across European airspace was a reminder of the tremendous forces of nature that exist below the ground. Not all subterranean heat sources have such sinister power, however. Across Europe, there are plentiful sources of geothermal energy: heat stored in the ground which can be tapped to provide a renewable and inexhaustible energy supply. Using the right technology to access this power at varying depths and temperatures, we can use this heat to reduce our dependence on imported and climate-damaging fossil fuels.
Until recently, the technology to exploit geothermal energy in a cost-effective way has remained under-developed. However, in response to the growing economic and policy pressures to cut CO2 emissions and improve energy security, one company set out to change this state of affairs, with remarkable results.
Europe’s economic woes have led Tom Werner, chief executive of solar-panel manufacturer SunPower Corp., to change the way he does business.
Companies in many industries have been affected by Europe’s problems, but alternative energy companies are especially exposed. Government subsidies have made Europe a dominant market for alternative energy, and it’s the world’s biggest solar-power market. Indeed, SunPower gets about half its sales there.
To respond to the problems, CEOs of companies that make solar panels and wind turbines are hedging against currency fluctuations more aggressively, boosting sales in other parts of the world and raising prices. They’re also trying to take advantage of lower prices in Europe by purchasing more components and doing more manufacturing there.
A weak Euro means that when sales are translated back into dollars or other stronger currencies, companies get less revenue. The Euro has fallen 16% against the dollar this year.
California’s aggressive campaign to curb global warming will probably not come to a screeching halt even if voters eventually apply the brakes.
An initiative that appears all but certain to qualify for the November ballot would suspend the state’s landmark law to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming until there’s a sustained economic recovery.
The initiative narrowly targets the law passed as Assembly Bill 32 in 2006 and its subsequent regulations and likely would leave other ambitious global warming policies untouched, people on both sides of the ballot measure agree.
Automakers will still have to fill showrooms with models that emit fewer greenhouse gases, utilities must find renewable sources of electricity, and cleaner diesel truck engine regulations will remain in effect.
It was described by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a “sideshow,” but international leaders are mounting pressure on the Canadian government to include climate change as a major issue on the agenda at upcoming G8 and G20 economic summits in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto.
“We are actively consulting our guests to prepare the agenda,” Harper said last week in the House of Commons.
“Obviously, a lot of subjects will be discussed, including some issues surrounding climate change. At the same time, the G20 isn’t expected to replace the United Nations (global-warming) negotiating process.”
In recent weeks, international leaders from the European Union, Mexico, the United Nations, along with Nobel Peace Prize laureates have all come forward, urging Harper to allow the summits to consider the climate-change issues as part of their discussions on achieving a sustainable economy.