Vendor Neutral

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2012

Entergy Louisiana starts construction on gas-fired power project; Virginia Commonwealth University and Dominion partner on a test site for efficient energy technologies; Burlington Electric Department selects Siemens for meter data management platform; IKEA commissions four Blink electric vehicle charging stations; Edison Mission Energy, TIAA-CREF and Cook Inlet Region Inc. form partnership, and others.

Generation

SNC-Lavalin and Aecon Construction are replacing pressure tubes and feeder pipes at the four Darlington nuclear reactors.

Entergy Louisiana started construction at a $721 million gas-fired power project in Westwego, La., per recent approval by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Shaw Group is building Ninemile Unit 6, a 550-MW dual-fuel, combined-cycle unit at its existing Ninemile Point station, under an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract. Entergy Louisiana will own 55 percent of the capacity and energy output of the unit, while Entergy Gulf States Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans, respectively, have contracted to purchase 25 percent and 20 percent of the capacity and output for the life of the units. The plant is expected to start up in the first part of 2015. 

Calpine agreed to supply Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) with capacity and power from the Oneta Energy Center (OEC) from June 1, 2014, through 2035. Under the contract, WFEC initially will purchase 160 MW of Oneta’s capacity, an amount increasing to 280 MW from 2019 through 2035. Conditions of the contract include securing satisfactory transmission service.

Southern California Edison (SCE) received a confirmatory action letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC), which outlines actions SCE must complete at the San Onofre nuclear generating station before seeking permission to restart Units 2 and 3. SCE recently submitted a letter to the NRC describing a series of actions it’s taking regarding steam generator issues at San Onofre. An NRC inspection team has been on site conducting inspections since March 19. Unit 3 has been shut down since January 31, when it was taken off line after station operators detected a leak in one of the unit’s steam generator tubes. Unit 2 was taken out of service for a planned outage on January 9.

The City of West Palm Beach, Florida, contracted EMCOR Group subsidiary Poole & Kent to build a new power plant at its existing operating water treatment plant. The scope of work includes providing standby diesel generators and associated switchgear, fuel storage, and balance-of-plant systems.

CPUC directed California IOUs to negotiate contracts with Calpine’s Sutter plant.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) awarded a $600 million, two-phase contract to replace major components of the four reactors at Darlington nuclear generating station to a joint venture of SNC-Lavalin Nuclear and Aecon Construction. The project involves removing and replacing the 480 pressure tubes and calandria tubes and 960 feeder pipes for each of the station’s four reactors. The refurbishment is part of Ontario’s long-term energy plan, which will involve retrofits and replacements at numerous plants.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is taking action to keep the Sutter Energy Center operating through 2012. The CPUC directed PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San SDG&E to negotiate contracts with the 10 year-old Sutter plant in Yuba City, while the CPUC finalizes changes to its resource adequacy program. Calpine, owner of the plant, told the CPUC in November 2011 that it was planning on retiring the plant in 2012 due to a lack of a resource adequacy contract. The California Independent System Operator (ISO) predicted that the Sutter plant will be needed to help integrate renewable resources and phase out older, dirtier plants by 2017. 

Puget Sound Energy began operating the Lower Snake River wind facility, Washington’s largest wind farm. PSE began building the 343-MW project in May 2010 with lead contractor Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Americas and turbine manufacturer Siemens Energy.

Westinghouse affirmed that it will seek Department of Energy (DOE) funding to support small modular reactor (SMR) technologies. According to a final opportunity announcement issued on March 22, the DOE plans to consider SMR applications that incorporate passive safety features and that can be licensed expeditiously, achieving a commercial operation date on a domestic site by 2022. Up to $452 million in funding is available.

Puget Sound Energy began operating the 343-MW Lower Snake River wind project.

DC Water contracted Pepco Energy Services to design, build and operate a combined heat and power (CHP) plant at DC Water’s Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant. Pepco says the $81 million project will be the first in North America to use biogas from a water treatment facility. It will produce at least 14 MW of electric power to supply the Blue Plains facility with nearly 30 percent of its power demand. In addition to designing and building the CHP plant, Pepco will provide on-site operations and maintenance services valued at more than $89 million over the 15-year contract term. The overall project is valued at approximately $170 million. Construction will begin in August and is due to be completed in December 2014. 

NRG Energy contracted First Solar to build NRG’s 26 MW (AC) Avra Valley solar project near Tucson, Ariz. Electricity from the Avra Valley solar project will be sold to Tucson Electric Power under a 20-year power purchase agreement. Construction began at the end of March and First Solar expects to complete Avra Valley by the end of 2012.

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Southwest Solar Technologies signed a joint development agreement with MaxQ Power Conversion LLC, an affiliate of MaxQ Technology of Tempe, Ariz. Under the Agreement, the parties will cooperate to develop and manufacture Southwest Solar’s concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) module with MaxQ’s closed-loop liquid cooling system.

Smart Grid

Alameda County and Chevron Energy Solutions joined federal, state and local officials to unveil a microgrid that enables the county’s Santa Rita Jail to sustain power should its connection to the utility grid be interrupted. The $11.7 million project provides backup power and is expected to save the county about $100,000 a year in energy costs. The facility requires 3 MW of electricity to maintain daily operations and ensure the safety of the inmates and staff. The self-sustaining microgrid integrates several renewable energy projects implemented at the jail, including solar photovoltaic panels, a 1 MW fuel-cell cogeneration plant, and wind turbines, along with a 2 MW advanced energy storage system. Chevron built the project, which was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the California Public Utilities Commission. The CEC provided nearly $2 million in funding for the project through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

IKEA commissioned Blink EV charging stations at a ninth store location in the Western U.S.

Virginia Commonwealth University and Dominion partnered to use the VCU School of Engineering’s West Hall as a five-year test site for efficient energy technologies and research as a microgrid project. Dominion experts, VCU engineering faculty and facilities management personnel, and third-party products and services providers will work together to implement continuous, real-time energy adjustments to the building, lights and equipment. It’s expected to reduce energy costs by $20,000, or 4 percent, annually. VCU and Dominion will split the $500,000 cost of the project, which includes installing hardware, control systems, and solar panels, to enable both parties to gather voltage data and analyze energy volume, timing, and emissions, and to establish energy usage trends and equipment performance.

Metering

Burlington Electric Department, a municipal department of the City of Burlington, Vt., selected Siemens to implement an eMeter EnergyIP meter data management (MDM) platform. BED and several other Vermont utilities worked together with the state of Vermont to secure smart grid investment grant funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The scoping phase of the Burlington project began in mid-2011, and the second phase will include meter-to-cash functionality, advanced billing functionality, and operational improvements through reduced truck rolls and better outage management. In the future Burlington plans to implement the eMeter EnergyEngage consumer web portal and new energy efficiency programs.

Consumers Energy selected a team of vendors and service providers to implement an advanced metering system for its 1.8 million electric customers in Michigan. GE Energy will provide metering hardware; SmartSynch will provide a celluar-based smart grid platform; Grid Net will provide networking and metering software; Qualcomm will provide mobile broadband chipsets; and Verizon Wireless will provide the communications network. Meter installation is scheduled to begin in Muskegon County in August 2012 with installation phases continuing through 2019.

EVs & Storage

The California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy entered an agreement for NRG to build a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) charging network in California, investing about $100 million over the next four years. The fee-based charging network will consist of at least 200 publicly available fast-charging stations—installed in the San Francisco Bay area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin, and San Diego County—with chargers that can add 50 miles of range in less than 15 minutes of charging. NRG also will provide the wiring for at least 10,000 individual charging stations located at homes, offices, multifamily communities, schools, and hospitals across the state. The agreement, pending approvals and finalization, resolves outstanding litigation arising from a long-term electricity contract entered more than a decade ago by a subsidiary of Dynegy, then a co-owner with NRG of the portfolio of power generating plants now owned by NRG in California.

EV Connect helped the City of Sacramento increase its modern EV charging facilities and moved the state capital toward compliance with the state’s clean-car mandate, requiring one of every seven new cars sold in the state in 2025 to be a zero-emission vehicle. In addition, EV Connect has been deploying residential charge stations for new EV owners in the Sacramento area who took advantage of rebates and other incentives offered by the state. The company expects to do more work getting property owners EV ready, as automakers begin selling more electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in California in order to reach the state’s 15.4 percent goal.

IKEA commissioned four Blink electric vehicle charging stations at its Tempe, Ariz., store as part of its partnership with ECOtality. This initiative represents the ninth such project for IKEA in the United States, with the eight other locations also in the Western U.S. ECOtality is the project manager of the EV Project, a public-private partnership funded in part by an ARRA grant, to provide infrastructure to support the deployment of EVs.

Transactions

Exelon and Constellation Energy completed their merger, effective March 12. The merger makes Chicago-based Exelon the largest investor owned utility in the United States, serving a total load of about 164 TWh per year, across 1 million residential and 100,000 commercial, industrial, and public sector customers. Exelon has operations and business activities in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. The company also has one of the nation’s largest power generation fleets, with approximately 35,000 MW of owned power generation, including more than 19,000 MW of nuclear power—which makes it the largest nuclear generator in the United States.

American Electric Power and its unregulated subsidiary AEP Retail Energy acquired BlueStar Energy Holdings and its independent retail electric supplier BlueStar Energy Solutions. Chicago-based BlueStar supplies retail customers in Ohio, Illinois, and other deregulated electricity markets, and provides energy solutions, including demand response and energy efficiency services, nationwide. The company has been operating since 2002 and has more than 23,000 customer accounts.

NextEra Energy Resources acquired two solar photovoltaic (PV) projects totaling 40 MW (AC) in St. Clair, Ontario, from First Solar. The projects began commercial operation in February 2012. The power is being sold to the Ontario Power Authority via long-term contracts under its renewable energy standard offer program.

Sumitomo Corp. became a 50-50 equity partner in two large-scale wind farms that Duke Energy Renewables is building in Kansas. Sumitomo is buying a 50 percent stake in the 131-MW Cimarron II Windpower Project in Gray County, and the 168-MW Ironwood Windpower Project in Ford County. The projects are under construction and are expected to start operating later this year. Duke Energy Renewables will operate and maintain the projects. In addition, the companies are exploring opportunities to finance construction and operations. Both projects have 20-year contracts in place to sell output; Kansas City Power & Light will purchase electricity and associated renewable energy credits (RECs) from Cimarron II and Westar Energy will buy all the power and RECs produced by the Ironwood wind farm. 

Edison Mission Energy, TIAA-CREF, and Cook Inlet Region Inc. formed Capistrano Wind Partners, a partnership to support and fund wind energy in North America, specifically by acquiring wind projects from Edison Mission Group (EMG). EMG companies currently own and operate a portfolio of 31 wind projects in commercial operation or under construction in 11 states with a generating capacity of nearly 2,000 MW. All wind projects in the Capistrano portfolio are expected to have long-term power sales agreements in place with electric utilities and will be operational at the time of investment. EMG will manage and retain an equity interest. Initial projects in the portfolio include the 61-MW Mountain Wind I and 80-MW Mountain Wind II projects, both located in Wyoming, as well as the 150-MW Cedro Hill project in Texas. Projects to be acquired when they become operational include the 42-MW Crofton Bluffs project and the 80-MW Broken Bow project, both under construction in Nebraska. Capistrano plans to acquire additional projects from EMG in the future, eventually up to seven projects totaling 500 MW. TIAA-CREF and CIRI committed $460 million of capital to the partnership, which includes an up-front investment of $238 million to acquire the first three operating wind projects.

Algonquin Power Co., Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp’s renewable power generation subsidiary, agreed to acquire a 480-MW portfolio of four wind power projects in the United States from Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica, S.A. for $888 million. The portfolio consists of four facilities, Minonk (200 MW), Senate (150 MW), Pocahontas Prairie (80 MW) and Sandy Ridge (50 MW) located in the states of Illinois, Texas, Iowa and Pennsylvania, respectively. Pocahontas Prairie and Sandy Ridge began operating in February 2012, and Senate and Minonk are in construction with startup anticipated in late 2012. The projects are comprised of 240 Gamesa G9X-2.0 MW wind turbines. Gamesa is contracted to provide operations, warranty, and maintenance services for the wind turbines and balance of plant facilities for 20 years.

First Wind obtained $236 million in financing for its 69 MW Kawailoa wind project on Kamehameha Schools’ Kawailoa Plantation lands on Oahu’s north shore. The project obtained a $220 million non-recourse construction and term loan and $16 million in letters of credit. Union Bank served as administrative agent and joint lead arranger, along with Bayern LB, Rabobank, and Siemens Financial Services. CIBC and CoBank also participated in the financing. Early construction work began in December 2011 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. Major construction work, including delivery and erection of turbines, is expected to begin this summer. First Wind says that once complete, the project will be the largest wind energy facility in Hawaii.

Transmission

ITC Transmission selected Quanta Services Michigan subsidiary Iron Mountain to build the first segment of the Thumb Loop high-voltage transmission line. Phase 1 of the double-circuit, 345,000-volt (345 kV) line will extend about 62 miles from the site of the new Bauer substation in Tuscola County, to the new Rapson substation in Huron County in the state’s Thumb region. Line construction began in early April and will continue into 2013, with crews drilling pole foundations, installing steel monopole and lattice structures, and stringing conductors. ITC has negotiated easement agreements and established access points for equipment and materials along a 200-foot-wide transmission corridor.

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Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) contracted Siemens Power Technologies International (PTI) to deliver WECC’s Base Case Coordination System (BCCS) planning tool. Based on Siemens PTI’s Model on Demand software product, the BCCS will improve the collection and compilation of data WECC uses to build its transmission system study models. Siemens says a centralized data base within the BCCS system will ensure model data consistency and data accuracy, and will provide tracking and data logging to comply with North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) standards. The project is scheduled for completion in December 2012. 

People

SoloPower elected General Wesley K. Clark (ret.), to the company’s board of directors as an independent director.

Westinghouse appointed James A. Noyes as v.p. of installation and modification services, nuclear services. Most recently, Noyes was v.p. of marketing and sales for the company’s Asia region.

SunPower named Charles D. Boynton v.p. and CFO of the company. Prior to joining SunPower, Boynton was CFO for ServiceSource International.