Archive | Energy & Fuels

Researchers Say Tobacco Could be Next Auto Fuel Source

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 31 (UPI) — Cars of the future could be fueled by tobacco, genetic-engineering university researchers in Philadelphia suggest.

“Tobacco is very attractive as a biofuel because the idea is to use plants that aren’t used in food production,” said Vyacheslav Andrianov, assistant professor of cancer biology at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson Medical College.

While tobacco can generate biofuel more efficiently than other agricultural crops, most of its oil is typically found in its seeds, the researchers say in a study published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

Tobacco plants don’t generally produce enough seeds to be useful — slightly more than 1,300 pounds an acre.

But Andrianov and his colleagues found ways of genetically engineering the plants so that their leaves express the oil — in some instances, 20 times more oil than occurs in nature, Andrianov said.

“Based on these data, tobacco represents an attractive and promising ‘energy plant’ platform and could also serve as a model for the utilization of other high-biomass plants for biofuel production,” he said.

Biofuels — liquid fuels derived from plant materials — are entering the market due to factors such as oil price spikes.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Cars, Energy & Fuels, Engineering1 Comment

Navajo Nation to Build Wind Farm Near Flagstaff Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Dec. 28 (UPI) — The Navajo Nation says it will build a $200 million wind farm near Flagstaff, Ariz., in conjunction with Foresight Wind Energy and Edison Mission Energy.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority confirmed in a press release that plans for the wind farm on the Big Boquillas Ranch were approved by the Navajo Nation Council last week, The (Flagstaff) Arizona Daily Sun reported Monday.

As part of the approved plan, the Navajo Nation will construct a 48-turbine array on the targeted farm lands by December 2011.

The planned 85-megawatt wind farm is expected to produce enough electricity when at full capacity to power more than 20,200 homes.

NTUA General Manager Walter W. Haase applauded the plan, calling it the Navajo Nation’s first major wind farm project, the Daily Sun reported.

“This is historic,” Haase said in a statement. “For the first time, the Navajo Nation is a majority owner of an energy project that will introduce a new economy to the Navajo Nation for the benefit of the Navajo people.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy & Fuels, Wind0 Comments

Amendment to Chinese Energy Law Adopted

BEIJING, Dec. 26 (UPI) — China’s renewable energy law was amended Saturday to require power companies to buy all power generated from renewable resources.

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported Chinese lawmakers adopted the amendment to China’s renewable energy law during a National People’s Congress Standing Committee meeting.

The amendment also requires the State Council Energy Department and the state power regulatory agency to “determine the proportion of renewable energy power generation to the overall generating capacity for a certain period.”

Under China’s renewable energy law, electricity grid companies will face sizable fines if they fail to purchase power generated from renewable resources such as non-fossil fuels or wind and solar power.

The law and its adopted amendment come about as China remains reliant on coal as a power supply. Two-thirds of the country’s power supply comes from coal, Xinhua said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Solar, Wind0 Comments

AGL Energy Doubts Wind Farm Project in Austrailia Due to Renewable Energy Certificates

SYDNEY, Dec. 24 (UPI) — AGL Energy expressed doubt about the future of its proposed $800 million wind farm in Victoria because of a collapse in the price of Australia’s renewable energy certificates.

The value of the certificates, aimed at encouraging investment in renewable energy, has almost halved since the Australian government began issuing them to consumers who install solar hot water systems and other products that do not generate power.

The 350-megawatt wind farm, with a planned 150 turbines nearly 300 feet tall, powering 150,000 homes, was expected to be the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

AGL Managing Director Michael Fraser said Tuesday the government’s approach was a fraud that threatened the industry’s ability to meet the target of obtaining 20 percent of power from renewable sources, the Herald reports. More than $30 billion of expected investment is needed to reach the target.

The oversupply of certificates had caused investment in renewable energy to stop, he said.

The only new wind farms AGL would definitely build were those required under contracts to supply power to desalination plants for the Victorian and South Australian governments, Fraser said.

”Beyond that, you simply won’t see us invest until this issue gets resolved,” he said.

The project was expected to create 500 jobs during construction. Fraser said up to seven of AGL’s other wind farms being considered are also under threat.

”The reality is that you’ve seen virtually no new announcements around large-scale investments in the renewable sector from anybody for months now,” he said.

Victoria state Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said Canberra’s policies have delayed investment in renewable energy projects and undermined job creation.

”We in Victoria want to move away from our overwhelming dependence on brown coal, but to do that we need to encourage investment in new wind farms,” he told The Age.

Coal-fired plants supply about 86 percent of Australia’s electricity.

Batchelor said the value of renewable energy certificates has fallen from more than $50 in May 2009 to less than $35 now.

“We are very concerned about the inability of the national renewable energy scheme to stimulate jobs and investment in Victoria,” he said.

When the legislation was passed in August, it was expected to generate $28 billion of investment in new generation capacity in Australia over the next decade and the creation of 28,000 jobs in industries such as wind and solar power, according to the Clean Energy Council, an alliance of the Australian Wind Energy Industry Association and the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

A spokesman for Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong acknowledged that the fall in price for certificates partly reflected the higher uptake of solar water heaters as a result of state incentives and the federal stimulus package, The Age reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Other, Policies & Solutions, Solar, Wind0 Comments

CDC: Coal Miners Dying at Younger Ages

ATLANTA, Dec. 23 (UPI) — The occupational overexposure to coal mine dust by coal miners continues to occur despite legally enforceable limits, U.S. health officials say.

Deaths occurring among younger persons from coal workers’ pneumoconiosis declined substantially from 1968-2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Wednesday says. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis is the accumulation of coal dust in the lungs and the tissue’s reaction to its presence.

However, annual years of potential life before age 65 of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis have been increasing since 2002, and mean years of potential life before age 65 per decedent has been increasing since the early 1990s — meaning that workers die at younger age — the study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health finds.

The NIOSH study recommends hazard surveillance, workplace-specific interventions and strengthening of current coal workers’ pneumoconiosis prevention and elimination efforts to protect workers’ health.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Ailments & Diseases, Coal, Energy & Fuels, Human Health & Wellness, Occupational Health0 Comments

Duke Energy to Spend $93M for Violations

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 22 (UPI) — Duke Energy will spend $85 million to resolve Clean Air Act violations at its Indiana plant and pay a $1.75 million fine, federal officials said Tuesday.

The company agreed to reduce harmful air pollution and pay the penalty under a settlement to resolve the violations, the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency said in a joint release.

The settlement also requires Duke Energy to invest $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects, the agencies said.

The agreement, filed in federal court in Indianapolis, resolves violations found at the company’s Gallagher coal-fired power plant in New Albany, Ind., across the Ohio River from Louisville. The settlement is expected to reduce the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions by almost 35,000 tons per year, an 86 percent reduction when compared to 2008 emission levels, the Justice Department said.

The settlement also requires Duke to spend $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects, including $250,000 for the U.S. Forest Service to address acid rain in downwind national forests, $5 million for at least one project such conversion to hydro-generation or hybrid vehicle fleets, and $1 million for environmental mitigation projects allocated among the states — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — that joined the settlement.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollution, Air Pollution Remediation, Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Business & Economics, Coal, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Ethics & Responsibility, Justice0 Comments

Department of Energy Must Upgrade Computer Security, Says Inspector

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) — An Inspector General’s report finds the U.S. Department of Energy has been dragging its feet on computer security, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Delays in upgrading security on computer systems at the department’s Office of Science could be both dangerous and costly, the report said. The office is responsible for research in a number of areas and manages nuclear facilities at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., and facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M.

“Any system that is not as secure as it should be could be subject to compromise,” said Rickey Hass, deputy inspector general for audit services. “There are literally thousands of people who scan systems to try to gain access.”

The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy reviewed the office’s spending on computer security in 2008, $287 million for the year. The report said the seven field offices have not upgraded security to a high enough level.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Nuclear, Office, People, Policy, Law, & Government, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local0 Comments

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: Climate Talk Progress Held for Ransom

LONDON, Dec. 21 (UPI) — The new global treaty was held hostage by some countries opposed to a deal in Copenhagen, Denmark, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday.

After nearly two weeks of stalled talks on a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol for curbing greenhouse gases, the countries approved a five-page document that recognizes the need to limit global temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius in 10 years, but doesn’t require signatories to take steps to address climate change. As explained by U.S. President Barack Obama Friday, countries will list “concrete commitments” into the document’s appendix, and would be subject to international consultation and analysis, leading to a hoped-for more binding document later.

Brown said the agreement — considered weak by environmental groups and some European leaders — called for reform of the way such negotiations occur, The Guardian reported.

Brown said the deal a “first step toward a new alliance to overcome the enormous challenges of climate change.” He also called on countries to show resolve to turn the agreement into a legally binding treaty.

“The talks in Copenhagen were not easy,” Brown said. “We must learn lessons from Copenhagen and the tough negotiations that took place. Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down these talks. Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries.”

Looking ahead, Brown said the global community should consider international body to handle environmental stewardship.

“I believe that in 2010 we will need to look at reforming our international institutions to meet the common challenges we face as an international community,” Brown said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy & Fuels, International Relations & Treaties, Nature & Ecosystems, Policy, Law, & Government, Pollution & Toxins, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

DOE Won't Stop Utah Bound Uranium Train

SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 16 (UPI) — The train has left the station and a shipment of depleted uranium headed for Utah cannot be stopped, the U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday.

Gov. Gary Herbert has asked the department to stop the train bringing the uranium from the Savannah River in South Carolina, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“We are planning a briefing with the governor and his staff tomorrow,” Jen Stutsman, a department spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “But this shipment is continuing as planned.”

EnergySolutions Inc. had agreed to take the depleted uranium for disposal in Utah. The company has already buried 5,000 barrels of waste from the Savannah River in a landfill in Toole County and has disposed of a total of 49,000 tons at the site.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently said new rules are needed for disposal of depleted uranium in shallow burial sites. Herbert had asked the Department of Energy to delay any shipments until the Utah Radiation Control Board has had an opportunity to draft interim regulations.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Liability, Law, & Government, Nuclear, Policy, Law, & Government, Radiation, Regional, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local0 Comments

India's First Commercial Solar Power Plant

NEW DELHI, Dec. 16 (UPI) — India inaugurated Azure Power’s 2-megawatt photovoltaic plant in the state of Punjab, the first privately owned, utility-scale power plant on the Asian subcontinent.

Built under a 30-year power purchase agreement with the Punjab State Electricity Board, the plant will help power 4,000 rural homes for 20,000 people.

Farooq Abdullah, minister of new and renewable energy, said the plant showcases India’s pledge to generate 20,000 megawatts from solar power by 2022 under the country’s national solar mission.

Azure Power is India’s first independent power producer in solar energy. It built the plant, situated on 13 acres of farmland in the village of Awan, in a record six months,

Inderpreet Wadhwa founded Azure Power two years ago after a 15-year career in the United States that most recently included software giant Oracle Corp. The 37-year-old native of Amritsar city in Punjab said he wanted to return home and do something for rural areas in India, where millions of people don’t have reliable electricity.

Azure Power received initial venture-capital funding from Helion Ventures and Foundation Capital.

Wadhwa encountered a number of bureaucratic hurdles in the project, including obtaining signatures from 152 local officials in Punjab, The Wall Street Journal reports. And he ended up paying more than double the market rate for the land, about $420 per acre a year.

Yet Wadhwa is pressing on. His company has also inked agreements with local Indian governments of Gujarat and Harayana to build facilities that can produce a total of 22 megawatts. It is also coordinating with the state governments of Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Rajasthan for another 30 megawatts.

“My aim is to be a leading solar power generator in India by offering viable and socially responsible alternatives to conventional sources of energy,” he told the India Business Standard.

About 8 percent of India’s energy comes from renewable sources such as wind and hydropower. Solar power, experts say, has great potential because it can work almost anywhere in India.

But growth in the sector has been hampered somewhat by the high costs of the technology and inability of power companies to obtain sizeable tracts of land for the solar panels.

To encourage more investment in the solar sector, the Indian government is increasing subsidies for solar projects and mandating that state utilities purchase solar power. But some experts say government support won’t help as long as solar technology remains expensive.

“To achieve scale, you’ll need private participation, and that will only happen if the projects are viable without significant state support,” Jai Mavani, head of infrastructure and government consulting at KPMG India, told The Wall Street Journal.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind0 Comments

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