“Nice issue, Mr. Flanigan! [The Metrolink #609 Special] I'm printing it out as we speak to use as a future reference.”
Jeanette Meyer, Burbank Water and Power
Big Winds of Change
This week Southern California Edison signed an agreement with Alta Windpower Development. It is the largest wind energy contract ever signed by a U.S. utility, securing 1,500 megawatts (MW) generated by new projects to be built in the Tehachapi area of California.
The contract more than doubles SCE’s wind energy portfolio and will require more than 50 square miles of wind parks – triple the size of any existing U.S. wind farm.
Michael Peevey, President of the California Public Utilities Commission, applauds Edison and what he called a historic contract. “This contract will help California move closer to its goal of generating 20% or more of our electricity with clean, renewable energy.” The project depends on regulatory authorization for SCE to construct new and upgraded high-voltage transmission lines to deliver electricity from new wind farm.
SCE currently serves nearly 17% of its customers’ needs with renewable energy. It leads the nation in renewable power delivery, procuring more than 13 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy per year, more than any U.S. utility or state except for California. SCE’s renewable portfolio currently delivers more than 2,700 MW of electricity.
Breaking News: GM Plugging into the Future
After abandoning its popular EV-1 a few years ago, and being lambasted for doing so in the feature movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, GM has returned to the electric car business with a potentially revolutionary design. Just this week, GM introduced its new Chevrolet plug-in hybrid called the “Volt.”
GM claims that the Volt is a preview of a high-mileage vehicle platform. Its battery pack system is designed to be recharged at home in 6.5 hours using an ordinary electric socket giving the Volt a 40-mile, all-electric range. For longer drives, a small, 3-cylinder on-board combustion engine will recharge the batteries. Industry experts claim that the timing of the Volt’s release depends on the development of the lithium-ion battery-pack systems.
Sweden, Britain, and Denmark at Top of Climate Change Efforts
Climate Action Network – Europe has taken on an interesting assignment, indexing nations around the world for their level of effort in mitigating climate change.
The 1997 Kyoto pact obliges 35 industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. The index – developed by Germanwatch -- takes into account emissions levels, emissions trends, and climate policies. It released this year’s ranking of the 56 nations that either signed a 1992 climate treaty or that contribute at least 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. These countries make up 90% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
The ranking was released at the Nairobi, Kenya United Nations conference in November attended by 180 nations and that focused on extending the treaty that expires in 2012. Matthias Duwe summarized the research findings by stating that, "We don't have any winners, we only have countries that are better compared to others." Even the best nations’ efforts are “not nearly enough” the report found.
Sweden tops the list. The report cited that country’s accomplishment with renewable energy (providing 25% of the country’s electricity), and the Stockholm bus system that runs on biogas and ethanol.
The United States and Australia are the only major industrialized countries to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which calls for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases. The U.S. is ranked by Germanwatch at number 53 of 56, with only China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia doing worse. Climate Action Network claims that Saudi Arabia has “policies [that] generally block attempts to reduce greenhouse gases.”
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions grew by 16% between 1990 and 2004, according to a recent U.N. report. That doesn’t bode well with the 5% reduction specified by the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. emitted 7.15 billion metric tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in 2005, up 0.6% from a year earlier. The good news is that the rate slowed from an average annual growth rate of 1% since the EIA began measuring the gases in 1990. Better yet, data also reflects the decoupling of emissions and economic growth, as the U.S. economy grew by 3.2% while greenhouse gas emissions grew by 0.6%.
New Jersey Solar
New Jersey more than doubled its solar capacity in the first nine months of 2006, resulting in 1,840 solar electric systems across the Garden State with over 26 MW of installed capacity. The rapid growth in solar installations is due to New Jersey's Solar Financing Model which has driven solar investments by combining state financial incentives with net metering benefits, electric cost savings, federal tax credits, and clean energy credits.
Business and residential customers have taken advantage of state's Customer Onsite Renewable Energy (CORE) rebates, which reduce the upfront costs for the installation of renewable energy technologies including solar, wind and biomass by as much as 50%. During the first nine months in 2006, New Jersey reports over $46 million dollars in rebates to NJ ratepayers for the installation of over 10 MW of solar photovoltaics. An additional $56 million in CORE rebate commitments was made available in September. The Office of Clean Energy estimates that an additional 200 installations representing an additional 5 MW of solar capacity will be completed within the fourth quarter. In comparison, between 2001 – 2005 New Jersey installed a total of 9.9 MW of solar.
"Despite this success, rebates alone are not sufficient to drive growth and investment," said Michael Winka, director of the Clean Energy Program. "Only when combined with the state's Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) Program does the payback period drop to within ten years or less. " SRECs provide long term financing for solar systems by compensating the solar generators for each MWh of clean, solar electricity produced.
Other Coastal Solar Highlights
New Jersey is in the limelight for its ascent as a solar leader. The State’s solar installations include a 454- kilowatt system at Monmouth University dedicated in mid-November.
The Long Island Power Authority dedicated the 750th residential solar power system on Long Island in early October. LIPA attributes the growth in solar power to its Clean Energy Incentive rebate.
Massachusetts reports on the installation of the largest solar system in New England. A 425-kilowatt system using Schott solar modules was dedicated in Brockton in late October. Brockton also is home to New England's first condominium project that is 100% solar.
With 23,000 solar installations and counting, California continues to lead the nation in solar developments: Among the state's recently completed solar power installations is a 1.14-megawatt system installed by PowerLight Corporation in a development in Rohnert Park (north of San Francisco) and a 910- kilowatt system installed by Chevron Energy Solutions on a U.S. Postal System facility in Oakland.
Responsible Appliance Disposal
Each year Americans dispose of 13 million refrigerators and freezers. Many of them – and notably those manufactured before 1995 -- contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change.
About 23 million U.S. households have secondary units in their basements or garages, which are often older, less efficient models that may consume 3-4 times more energy than newer units.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and nine utilities have launched the new, voluntary Responsible Appliance Disposal program to promote environmentally responsible appliance disposal and to reduce emissions and save consumers money. The new partnership will help utility companies encourage the retirement and proper disposal of older units while ensuring that CFCs, both in the insulation foam and in the refrigerant, are captured and destroyed or recycled. The program also will promote the recovery and proper disposal of PCBs, mercury, and used oil contained in the appliances.
Just where do you take your electronics to be properly disposed of? It depends, and if you don’t know, call your local city or county government to find out. In Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties here in California, one call will have your old computer (monitor and CPU), servers, batteries (auto and UPS back up), televisions, printer cartridges, cell phone equipment, PC boards, metals, cables, picked up and recycled for free. In 2003 California added a surcharge to electronic equipment to pay to certified collectors to “jumpstart” the recycling process. For readers in our neck of the woods, call Miguel for a free pick-up at (714) 553-4735.