Interim steps toward solving America’s spent-fuel dilemma.
Barriers and breakthroughs to a smarter grid.
Technology is quickly making energy storage more economical and effective than ever before. But companies that wish to invest in storage capacity face a journey through a frustrating regulatory no-man’s land. Opening the gateway for storage to deliver smart grid benefits will require a more streamlined and coherent approach to regulating storage as utility infrastructure.
Prospects for clean energy legislation in 2011.
With budget battles heating up in Washington, Congress and the Obama administration are squaring off to debate energy policy legislation. While Democratic leadership favors a clean energy standard, Republican lawmakers are focused on blocking administration initiatives to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A compromise approach might bring substantial changes to America’s national energy strategy.
A trio of eager tech startups confronts an industry intent on preserving the status quo.
In light of all the excitement created by smart-grid regulatory initiatives and stimulus funding, three clever tech startups have come forward with proposals for novel grid projects. In California, Western Grid Development proposes to install energy storage devices ranging in size from 10 to 50 MW at various discrete and strategic locations in PG&E’s service territory where the California ISO has identified reliability problems. Second, a company called Primary Power proposes to deploy a total of four advanced, 500-MVAR static VAR compensators (SVC) at three separate locations within the PJM footprint. Third, in Clovis, N.M., Tres Amigas plans to allow power producers to move market-relevant quantities of electric power and energy between and among the nation’s three asynchronous transmission grids: ERCOT and the Eastern and Western Interconnections.
Utilities cut support for climate-change deniers.
This summer marked the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in the environmental movement. On June 22, 1969, the oily surface of the Cuyahoga River caught fire, drawing national attention to the plight of America’s lakes and rivers. However, clean water standards didn’t begin with the Cuyahoga River fire, the EPA or the Clean Water Act. A series of common-law nuisance lawsuits, combined with a patchwork of state laws and (weak) federal statutes, preceded the comprehensive legislation that emerged from the smoke of the Cuyahoga. Today we’re seeing a similar progression in greenhouse gas regulation, with civil suits, state initiatives and marginal federal actions apparently marching toward a national climate policy.
How solar PV could redraw the map for green energy and grid investment.
When Pacific Gas & Electric broke the news six weeks ago that it had signed a deal with Solaren Corp. to buy 200 MW of solar energy from satellites launched into geosynchronous orbit, the idea seemed almost laughable. Solaren’s plan is to catch unobstructed sunlight falling on arrays of photovoltaic solar panels deployed in the crystalline void of outer space, and then to convert the generated electricity into radio-frequency energy for transmission to Solaren’s ground-based receiving station outside Fresno. Welcome to the new renewable reality.
Will power plants get caught in ethanol’s food fight?
The debate over food vs. fuel never has been louder. Using corn to make the biofuel ethanol is perhaps the best known point of argument. Everyone is asking: Should the United States require a certain percentage of U.S. corn crops be turned into fuel in the face of global food shortages and exorbitant food prices? And what are the effects of diverting food croplands into producing fuel?
The 2008 elections portend federal regulation of greenhouse gases by 2010.
The outcome of the 2008 elections will determine how the nation deals with greenhouse gas emissions. With the presumptive nominees for president for both parties supporting mandatory GHG regulation, a cap-and-trade system likely will become U.S. law. How soon and how tough depends on the choices voters will make in November.
Congress is shifting U.S. energy policies toward green alternatives. Is the new direction temporary or permanent?
Fundamental questions about fuel supply, efficiency standards, and environmental performance have splintered Republicans and Democrats into warring factions. As a result, the only proposals legislators can agree upon seem to be watered down half-measures.
The spotlight is on. But true stardom will require more direction from utilities.
Wind has become today’s hit—a potential blockbuster, even—but still needing that one big break. To make it big, utilities will have to lead the charge as owners. That will force utilities to consider and evaluate the significant credit implications that can arise when signing a power purchase agreement with developers that lack deep pockets, or implement fly- by-night schemes.