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Some time ago California passed legislation that requires the state's power utility companies to get 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2010. This has created a massive opportunity for companies with solar power generation technology. I blogged about a Spanish company that built and is building concentrated solar power (CSP) generation facilities near Seville and well as US projects in California and Nevada.
A California company, BrightSource Energy, has signed contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) for 1.31 GW and 1.3 GW of solar power generation capacity, respectively. BrightSource's technical team includes engineers who built the SEGS solar-thermal power plants in California in the 1980s. Both SCE and PG&E will purchase electricity from these power plants, which will be owned and operated by BrightSource. BrightSource plans to build the first 100-megawatt power plant in the Mojave Desert near Ivanpah, Calif. The first project could come online by 2013. BrightSource expects to complete the rest of the power projects within six to seven years.
BrightSource Energy has just won a project with Chevron to use its solar technology to produce steam for industrial purposes, but not for power generation, in central California.
The ARRA includes $7.2 billion for broadband infrastructure development. Of this $4.7 billion has been allocated to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for projects that will build out broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas and to promote broadband education, awareness, training and support. The other $2.5 billion has been allocated to the Department of Agriculture for loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
The federal agencies have announced that to date they've received roughly 2,200 applications totalling approximately $28 billion.
A well-known rule of thumb in the building industry is that 75% of the cost of a 40 year old facility is the cost of operating and maintaining it. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a report that encourages us to change the fundamentals of how we fund and manage our critical infrastructure which the ASCE defines as “Critical infrastructure can be natural, built, or virtual. Natural infrastructure systems include lakes, rivers, and streams used for navigation and water supply and storage, as well as coastal wetlands that provide a buffer for storm surges. Built infrastructure systems include roads and bridges, water supply, wastewater treatment, flood-reduction structures, telecommunications, and power grids. Virtual infrastructure systems include the cyber, electronic, and information systems upon which our citizens and economy rely.”
Some of the key points that the ASCE makes that would dramatically change how we fund and manage our critical infrastrucuture are
Critical infrastructure has to have a higher priority on the national agenda.
Funding has to be based on the entire lifecycle of facilities.
Risk assessment of critical infrastructure should be mandatory, with public disclosure.
The US Federal Government's web site devoted to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus reports that as of Aug 21, over US$208 billion has been allocated and US$84.6 billion has been paid out.
Each federal agency is maintaining a similar report for the stimulus funding allocated to it. I've attached the progress report for the Department of Energy that shows that almost US$10 billion has been allocated, and so far almost half a billion has been paid out.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) publishes a monthly assessment of the state of the economy in the architectural industry. For July they found that stimulus funds are reaching more architects now than earlier this year. 15% of their respondents reported that they have received actual billable work from the stimulus plan. In addition almost a quarter (24 %) received inquiries for future projects from stimulus funds. This is significantly higher than in May, when the comparable proportions were 11% and 22%, respectively.
I came across this image on a Wired site. It is one of those amazing lucky shots and was taken by astronauts on board the International Space Station. This is an eruption of the Sarychev Volcano in the Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan, on June 12, 2009. This was the volcano’s first eruption in 30 years. (Image NASA)
There's an interesting article in the Globe and Mail entitled The Greening of Coal which outlines some of the things underway worldwide to reduce emissions from coal-fired power generation plants. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology has been researched for a long time, but has yet to be shown to be economic. At this point many folks in the industry believe that broad CCS adoption by the power generation industry will require government subsidies. The American Clean Energy and Security Bill passed by the US House of Representatives provides billions of dollars in incentives to induce owners of coal-fired power plants to try CCS. It makes the first 6,000 MW of new or retrofitted power plants eligible for up to US$90 for every ton of CO2 that is captured and stored. The bonus for early adopters of CCS exceeds many predictions of what carbon will cost on the open market if the climate bill becomes law. (Image CO2 CRC)
Enel SpA it is a publically traded company with about 95,000 MW of generating capacity whose strategic objective is zero-emission power generation from coal. The technology it is investing in was developed at the Canadian Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology (Canmet) research labs in Ottawa. Enel has done further research in its own labs and now plans to build a demonstration plant in Brindisi, Italy. The Canmet process captures CO2 as a compressed fluid, which can be sold as industrial CO2 or stored. In 2002, coal provided 22 per cent of the Enel's power generation capacity. By 2012, coal will produce 50 per cent and renewable energy and natural gas 50 per cent of output.
Vattenfall, with about 35,000 MW of power generation capacity, 46% fossil-fuel, 31% nuclear, and 22% hydro, began construction in 2006 of a pilot oxyfuel plant including CCS with 30 MW generation capacity at its lignite-fired power plant at Schwarze Pumpe, Germany, which became operational in September 2008. Oxyfuel technology attempts to accelerate the combustion of coal using oxygen to improve efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. The next step is a demonstration plant for which engineering is scheduled to begin in 2010.
The British government has mandated that no new coal-fired power plants will be built in Britain unless they capture and bury at least 25% of GHG immediately and 100% by 2025. The government has announced funding for four commercial-scale CCS demonstration power "clusters" generating a total of 2.5GW of electricity. Each cluster will have at least one new coal-fired power station able to collect carbon emissions and transport them out to sea, where they will be buried in redundant oil or gas fields. The new power stations are expected to begin production in 2015 and will be located in the Thames Gateway, on the rivers Humber and Tees and in the Firth of Forth in Scotland.
The first UK pilot of CCS technology on a working coal-fired power plant started in Scotland in June of this year. Scottish Power started a seven-month trial of a 1 MW CCS unit at Longannet power station in Fife. The prototype has been retrofitted into the 40 year old power station and is a small scale model of the technology that could be used for the four demonstration projects announced by the British government.
Doosan Babcock Energy Co
Doosan Babcock has announcedthe opening of the world’s largest OxyCoal™ clean combustion test facility which is a full-size 40MW burner. The interesting feature of this technology is that it can be used for new plants or for retrofitting existing coal plants. The project is a collaboration between Doosan Babcock, the UK Government (DECC), Scottish and Southern Energy, Air Products, Drax, DONG, EDF, E.ON, ScottishPower and Vattenfall, and UK Coal.
American Electric Power Co
AEP, with 39,000 MW of generating capacity and which consumes 76 million tons of coal annually, has announced that it is applying for US$334 million of stimulus funds to cover 50% of the costs of expanding its CCS test project at its Mountaineer Power Plant in New Haven, West Virginia. The initial CCS project was designed to capture CO2 emissions corresponding to 30 MW of power generation. AEP is one of the first large investors in CCS. AEP and Alstom have funded most of the initial project themselves, though they did receive US$8 million from DoE for early drilling to identify the geologic formations where carbon dioxide will be pumped from the Mountaineer plant. AEP has planned to expand the initial test to an emissions stream equivalent to 230 MW, for which it is applying for Department of Energy stimulus funds.
RWE has about 45,000 MW of generating capacity, of which 56% is lignite and hard coal, 16% gas, 14% nuclear, 3% renewable, and 11% other technologies. RWE is investing in a coal-fired power plant including carbon capture and storage (CCS) using Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology. RWE Power has been researching IGCC technology since the 1980s and 1990s. With this technology, carbon capture is relatively easy so CCS costs can be kept low. It is planned to build a new power plant at the RWE power plant site Goldenberg in Hürth near Cologne and operated using domestic lignite. The plant is estimated to have a gross capacity of 450 MW and could go on stream by the end of 2015. In the IGCC process, the gasification of lignite is combined with carbon capture, and electricity is generated in downstream gas and steam turbines.
Department of Energy
The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has looked at the feasibility of a national CO2 pipeline network to determine the potential scale of a CO2 pipeline network in the US. They found that 95 % of the largest stationary CO2 sources, such as large coal power plants, are within 50 miles of existing storage sites. Consequently, there is no need for long transcontinental CO2 pipelines. At the present time, there are 3,900 miles of CO2 pipelines in the US, built primarily in the 1980s and 1990s for CO2-driven enhanced oil recovery projects. PNNL estimate that between 11,000 and 23,000 miles of additional dedicated CO2 pipeline will be required to support CCS.
80% of Australia's power production is coal. Australia’s coal resources are so large that they could be significant in the global energy mix for several hundred years. Australia opened its first CCS plant in April of last year in the Otway Basin near Nirranda South in southwestern Victoria. This is the world’s largest demonstration of deep geological storage of CO2. The CO2 is injected into a geological formation two km underground. Up to 100,000 tonnes of CO2 will be injected over a period of one to two years. The Otway Basin Project was developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2 CRC).
Autodesk has announced that it has acquired StormNET, RiverCAD and WaterNET software from BOSS International to provide civil engineering and utility customers with water analysis tools. StormNET is used for stormwater management analysis, RiverCAD for floodplain analysis, and WaterNET for water distribution analysis. These applications take advantage of the intelligence of model-based designs. StormNET is important for sustainable design because it helps engineers assess the impact of various stormwater management approaches. An important factor in motivating this acquisition is that economic stimulus spending has provided impetus for the environmental engineering and water/wastewater utility markets.
The sorry state of much of North America's infrastructure is well known through the American Society of Civil Engineer's Report Card. Other parts of the world are also concerned about the state of their infrastructure. A number of years ago the US Federal Government passed legislation under the acronym GASB which was designed to encourage local government to manage and maintain their capital assets.
I blogged earlier about a Canadian bill PSAB 3150 that requires public agencies to report in their annual financial statements the location, condition, and depreciated value of their assets. Michael Schlosser has published a very relevant article, Streamlining Infrastructure Asset Management, about the impact PSAB 3150 is having on local governments, and in particular on the challenge this presents to local government in preparing the required reports. The challenges are the typical ones that agencies responsible for network infrastructure face (here, here, here and here), but the good news is that these challenges can be surmounted and Mike talks about a local government, the City of Lloydminster, which straddles the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta, that has managed to overcome the hurdles to become PSAB 3150 compliant.
Twitter is going to launch a new feature which will make Twitter location-aware. The new geolocation API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. For example, you could restrict the tweets you see to those that are coming from your immediate vicinity. For users this will be an opt-in feature and will off by default. The first release of the geolocation API will be a developers preview.