Study Finds U.S. Solar Jobs Grew 20% in 2013

The Solar Foundation (TSF) has released its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census, which found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013. This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar jobs over the previous year, representing a 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. Solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.

TSF National Solar Jobs Census Graphic“The solar industry’s job-creating power is clear,” said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director and President of TSF. “The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Our Census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly-skilled workers. That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.”

The good news was mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 and he has been vocal in his support of clean energy in including solar.

Solar employers are also optimistic about 2014, expecting to add another 22,000 jobs over the coming year. By comparison, over the same time period, the fossil fuel electric generation sector shrank by more than 8,500 jobs (a decline of 8.7 percent) and jobs in coal mining grew by just 0.25 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Survey.

“This is an exciting time for the solar industry in the United States, made even more clear by the latest industry job figures,” commented U.S. Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz.  “According to the Solar Foundation, today there are more than 140,000 Americans employed up and down the U.S. solar supply chain and across every state. Since 2010, the solar industry has created nearly 50,000 new American jobs and employment has grown nearly 20 percent in the last year alone.”

“President Obama has set an ambitious goal to double electricity generation from renewable sources once again by 2020, and a vibrant U.S. workforce is vital to achieving this, Moniz added. The DOE has a solar program known as the SunShot Initiative to help support the future of the solar industry. “To support a growing workforce and a new generation of clean energy leaders, the Energy Department is providing training and education opportunities for engineers, utility workers and students, as well as supporting projects across the country to ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation.”

MIT Researchers Enhancing Solar Power

MIT researchers have developed a new approach to harvesting solar energy. The technique uses sunlight to heat high-temperature materials whose infrared radiation would be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. Researchers say this both improves efficiency as well as could make it easier to store the energy for later use. By adding the extra step, it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that typically go to waste.

The process is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.MIT nanophotonic solar thermophotovoltaic device

A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.

To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby.

This basic concept has been explored for several years but Wang says that with TPV systems, “the efficiency would be significantly higher — it could ideally be over 80 percent.”

Lenert, Wang, and their team have already produced an initial test device with a measured efficiency of 3.2 percent, and they say with further work they expect to be able to reach 20 percent efficiency — enough, they say, for a commercially viable product.

In their experiments, the researchers used simulated sunlight, and found that its peak efficiency came when its intensity was equivalent to a focusing system that concentrates sunlight by a factor of 750. This light heated the absorber-emitter to a temperature of 962 degrees Celsius. The MIT researchers say that after further optimization, it should be possible to get the same kind of enhancement at even lower sunlight concentrations, making the systems easier to operate.

Such a system, the team says, combines the advantages of solar photovoltaic systems, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, and solar thermal systems, which can have an advantage for delayed use because heat can be more easily stored than electricity. The new solar thermophotovoltaic systems, they say, could provide efficiency because of their broadband absorption of sunlight; scalability and compactness, because they are based on existing chip-manufacturing technology; and ease of energy storage, because of their reliance on heat.

Cape Wind Wins Again

Cape Wind has again defeated the efforts of its opponents to block the country’s first offshore wind farm. In a historic decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FAA’s approval of the Cape Wind project, rejecting every argument that had been advanced by the project’s opponents.

home_page_image_Eco_Tour(1)“The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the Town of Barnstable and their financial backer-coal billionaire Bill Koch– have failed yet again in their continuing campaign to use the courts to delay the financing of Cape Wind,” said Cape Wind Communications Director Mark Rodgers. “The court’s definitive decision is an important legal victory that brings America that much closer to launching its offshore wind industry, a keystone in America’s renewable energy future.”

This decision takes on even greater importance because this was the same court that had previously provided project opponents their sole and temporary relief, opponents have lost all 12 legal decisions in other courts.

On October 28, 2011 this Court had remanded the FAA’s third Determination of No Hazard back to the FAA to better explain the rationale for its decision. On February 9, 2012, the FAA issued a Public Notice of its reinstated project review, indicating its conclusion that “None of the turbines would have an adverse effect on the use of air navigation facilities or navigable airspace.”

On August 15, 2012 the FAA issued its 4th DNH which project opponents challenged, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound pronounced confidence their challenge would be successful. However, this is the case decided again in favor of the FAA and Cape Wind.

Sugar, Bringing in the New Age of Batteries?

Cutting back on your sugar intake? Than consider using it to create a battery. Not really but doesn’t it sound cool? A Virgina Tech research team did just this and has developed a battery that runs on sugar. The research team believes it has an energy density unmatched by any on the market and could lead to the replacement of conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

sugar batteryWhile other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled. In as soon as three years, his new battery could be running a myriad of electronic gadgets.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

This is one of Zhang’s recent successes that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. He has published articles on creating edible starch from non-food plants and developed a new way to extract hydrogen in an economical and environmentally friendly way that can be used to power vehicles.

In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

Zang explained, “We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade.”

Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are also biodegradable.

Largest Solar-Thermal Plant in Chile Announced

Abengoa has been selected by the Ministry of Energy of the Chilean Government and Corfo (Corporacion de Fomento de la Produccion) to develop a 110 MW solar plant using tower technology with 17.5 hours of thermal energy storage using molten salts. The project will be located in the Atacama Desert, the region, believed to have the highest solar radiation concentrations in the world. It will be the first solar-thermal plant for direct electricity production in South America.

Abengoa solar thermal plantAbengoa’s project won the international tender launched by the Chilean Ministry of Energy and Corfo to construct the first Concentrated Solar Power plant in Latin America. As part of this tender, the project will receive direct subsidies from the Chilean Government and the European Union, as well as financing from the Inter-American Development Bank, KFW Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau, the Clean Technology Fund and Canadian Fund.

Solar-thermal tower technology uses a series of mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun on two axes, concentrating the solar radiation on a receiver on the upper part of the tower where the heat is transferred to the molten salts. The salts then transfer their heat in a heat exchanger to a water current to generate superheated and reheated steam, which feeds a turbine capable of generating around 110 MW of power.

The solar plant will also have a pioneering thermal storage system with 17.5 hours of storage that has been designed and developed by Abengoa. The company explains this approach makes the technology highly manageable, enabling it to supply electricity in a stable way, 24 hours a day, responding to all periods of electricity demand.

Abengoa’s new project will be located in the commune of Maria Elena in the Antofagasta region, northern Chile. The project forms part of Chile’s national renewable energy program, intended to provide Chile with a cleaner energy future, while also promoting its economic development and reducing its dependency on coal and natural gas. Chile has set a target to produce 20% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2025.

Construction of the project is due to start in the second half of 2014.

EIA Seeks Renewable Energy Comments

eiaThe U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is seeking input on proposed changes to electric power and renewable energy data surveys. EIA is soliciting comments on the proposed changes in a Federal Register Notice.

The proposed changes involve the following surveys:
• Form EIA-63B, Annual Photovoltaic Cell/Module Shipments Report
• Form EIA-411, Coordinated Bulk Power Supply Program Report
• Form EIA-826, Monthly Electric Utility Sales and Revenue Report with State

Distributions
• Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report
• Form EIA-860M, Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report
• Form EIA-861, Annual Electric Power Industry Report
• Form EIA-861S, Annual Electric Power Industry Report (Short Form)
• Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report
• Form EIA-930, Hourly and Daily Balancing Authority Operations Report

The proposals were announced to the public via a Federal Register Notice (FRN) published March 6, 2013. Interested parties were given 60 days to submit their comments. EIA received comments from 44 organizations or individuals. EIA reviewed all comments and made certain changes to the original proposals in response to the comments. EIA’s responses to comments can be found in the Supporting Statement posted at EIA’s 2014 Forms Changes webpage.

As part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance process, a second Federal Register Notice was published on Tuesday, December 24, 2013. The publication of this notice opens a second and final comment period that is open for 30 days. Written comments are due by Thursday, January 23, 2014.

Ethical Electric Receives Electrifying Investment

Ethical Electric, a renewable energy provider that connects consumers to 100% renewable energy, has announced $11 million in Series A funding. A group of investors was led by entrepreneur and impact investor Matthew Palevsky, who will be joining Ethical Electric’s board of directors.

Ethical Electric“Our business model offers the potential to shift a significant number of households to renewable energy sources and help transform the energy industry in the United States,” said Tom Matzzie, founder and CEO of Ethical Electric. “We are proud to be backed by investors who see the potential to give consumers a clean, renewable choice for their energy.”

Matzzie has experience building cause-based communities and was formerly a leader with MoveOn.org. In his past and current role, he has aggregated millions of Americans together for causes for more than a decade.

“The Ethical Electric team is applying their experience building large-scale progressive movements to disrupt incumbents in the energy sector,” said Palevsky. “The company has a compelling, scalable business plan and the right team to make it work.”

Brian Arbogast, a clean tech investor and current director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who led Ethical Electric’s earlier investment round and serves on its board of directors, added, “Tom has developed a very smart business plan and its success has the potential to drive adoption of renewable (solar and wind) energy faster than any other investment opportunity I have seen.”

EU to Miss Its Climate Objectives

According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the European Commission’s “EU Energy, Transport and GHG Emissions Trends to 2050,” published during the holiday shows that on the basis of current policies the European Union (EU) will fail to meet is 2050 commitment of 80 percent to 90 percent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions.

The European Commission’s latest reference scenario, based on current trends and adopted policies, shows that EU GHG emissions would fall by 24 percent in 2020, but by EU Trends to 2050just 44 percent in 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), with energy import dependency increasing during the period to almost 57 percent.

“With the EU’s power sector expected to be still pumping out almost 400 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2050, and the EU in an even worse energy security situation, an ambitious 2030 climate and energy framework, with targets for renewable energy and GHG reductions, is more critical than ever. Without such targets energy security and a zero-carbon power sector will be impossible,” said Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s Deputy CEO.

The scenario shows that even under current trends and policies, more wind power capacity will be installed over the next 20 years than any other generating technology – accounting for 37 percent of new installations – with the result that wind energy will be the leading generating technology in Europe by 2040.

“The European Commission’s scenario highlights a positive medium- and long-term outlook for the wind industry. However, a sharp decline in new installations of wind power from 2021 onwards of 27% highlights the vital importance of a long-term stable regulatory framework for the sector, underpinned by a 2030 renewable energy target,” continued Wilkes.

In the European Commission’s scenario, wind and other renewables together account for 59 percent of all new electricity generating installations over the 20 year period to 2035.

Dynamometer Test Facility Sets Wind on New Course

Days before the holiday season, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) set the wind industry on a new course with the addition of a new 5MW Dynamometer Test Facility at its National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). The new facility will better enable NWTC engineers and their industry partners to verify the performance and reliability of wind turbine drivetrain prototypes and commercial machines. Increased performance and realiability will lead to more competitively cost wind energy.

The facility will be able to test virtually any land-based turbine in more “real time” conditions that turbines experience out on the “farm”.

“These new capabilities make this a very special facility, one of the largest and finest of its kind in the world,” said NWTC Director Fort Felker. “It gives NREL an enhanced ability to do comprehensive testing of modern multi-megawatt wind turbine systems in a laboratory environment to verify their performance and reliability before they are widely deployed.”

A dynamometer system replaces the rotor and blades of a wind turbine and allows researchers to control the turbine drivetrain’s mechanical and electrical systems while simulating normal and extreme operating conditions. Historically, this testing has been done under torque (rotating) loads only. However, the NWTC facility incorporates a non-torque loading s20131226_dynamometer_28229ystem into the testing regimen, a hydraulic device that allows for simulation of both the rotational and bending loads that a wind turbine rotor places on a drivetrain.

“The non-torque loading system is what really sets this facility apart from other comparable test sites,” explained NWTC Dynamometer Project Manager Mark McDade. “This allows us to test the drivetrain system with the types of loads that it will see in a real-world application. It’s a very important feature for a test apparatus because the adverse impacts these types of loads can have on a system are significant.”

The system features a 6-MW motor, which provides the power to a turbine during testing. The motor turns at very high speed and low torque. The motor drives a gearbox, which transforms the output to the high torque and low speed that is appropriate for a wind turbine drivetrain. This provides the rotating loads on the test article. Add to this motorized torque testing the non-torque loading capability unique to the NWTC, and NREL is able to put a wind turbine drivetrain through the most realistic loading tests possible in a laboratory.

“These machines are expected to operate reliably in the field, often in harsh conditions, for 20 years or more,” Felker said. “The ability to comprehensively test these systems in the lab, to verify their reliability and performance before they go into service, is a critically important capability for the wind industry.” Continue reading

UCR Harnesses the Sun to Power Education

University of California Riverside (UCR), who just announced they are hosting a solar summit on February 6, 2014, has unveiled plans for a large-scale 10.92 acre solar farm to be located on the West Campus. UCR is partnering with SunPower Corporation for the project that when completed sometime in July of this year, will generate nearly three megawatts of electricity. Back in 2009, UCR and SunPower worked with UC Merced to install a one-megawatt solar array.

“Three megawatts is about 30% of our base load on a daily basis. Our peak load is 17 or 18 megawatts,” Ken Mueller, director of Physical Plant Operations said. “This is a good start and the campus will use 100% of the power that we generate.”

UCR campussolarfarm2-356x237UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) and site license agreement (SLA) that will allow SunPower to construct, operate and maintain the facility, and the university will purchase the power that is generated by the dozens of 435-watt solar panels that will track the path of the sun through the sky. Mueller said that UCR will spend about $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as interconnections costs with the existing substation.

The projected savings to the university are estimated to be in the range of $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.

When completed, the solar project will be the largest on any University of California campus and when combined with other solar power projects in Riverside, solar energy will generate nearly 40 percent of the city’s electricity needs. The solar project is one of many that UC campuses are undertaking to meet the university’s policy on sustainable practices that includes generating up to 10MW of on-site renewable power by 2014.

Mueller said that the university hadn’t previously utilized solar power on campus because it did not make financial sense.

“We have had very favorable electrical rates with Riverside Public Utilities, but recently the price of solar has come down to where it is competitive with that electrical rate,” Mueller said. “We will be getting the most cost-effective solar array on the market.”

C-Max Solar Energi Taps Sun for Power

Ford Motor Company has announced its new C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, what they call a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers, without depending on the electric grid for fuel.

Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi ConceptThe result is a concept car that takes in essence a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electric grid. Today, Ford C-MAX Energi is getting an EPA-estimated 108 MPGe (miles per gallon electric) city and 92 MPGe highway, for a combined 100 MPGe.

“Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. “As an innovation leader, we want to further the public dialog about the art of the possible in moving the world toward a cleaner future.”

SunPower is providing solar cells for the roof of the concept car. Ford also partnered with Georgia Tech Institute of Technology to develop a way to amplify the sunlight in order to make a solar-powered hybrid feasible for daily use.

The collaborative research teams developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator that uses a special Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight. Fresnel is a compact lens originally developed for use in lighthouses. Similar in concept to a magnifying glass, the patent-pending system tracks the sun as it moves from east to west, drawing enough power from the sun through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts).

With a full charge, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi of up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles. Additionally, the vehicle still has a charge port, and can be charged by connecting to a charging station via cord and plug so that drivers retain the option to power up via the grid, if desired.

After C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is shown at the 2014 International CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios. The outcome of those tests will help to determine if the concept is feasible as a production car.

UC Riverside to Host Solar Energy Summit

The University of California, Riverside is hosting a summit focused on solar energy in Inland Southern California on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at its Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology. “Solar Energy in Inland Southern California: The Future is Now,” will take place from 7:30 am to 6 pm PST.

The event is designed for city leaders, planners, council members, businesses, utility companies and the public to learn about the latest technologies, public policy/regulations, UC Riverside Solar Careconomics and environmental/sustainability issues relating to solar energy.

Topics covered will include: regional, state and federal legislative perspectives on solar energy; financing options for solar systems; and bringing together solar technology, policy, economics and the environment.

Among the scheduled speakers are: David Hochschild, commissioner, California Energy Commission; Roland Winston, director, UC Advanced Solar Technologies Institute and a professor, UC Merced; John White, executive director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies; Ed Randolph, director, California Public Utilities Commission Energy Division; and Sarah Kurtz, photovoltaics reliability group manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The conference is co-sponsored by three UC Riverside entities: the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, which is part of the School of Public Policy; the Center for Environmental Research and Technology; and the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy. The latter two are part of the university’s Bourns College of Engineering.

First Wind Supports Local Teachers

First Wind is supporting local teachers for the third year through its partnership with DonorsChoose.org. The program was developed to enhance the value of the company’s financial contributions in communities where they have wind projects. During 2013, the company will award $15,000 to teachers for educational efforts.

Through DonorsChoose, First Wind supports teachers and their innovative classroom projects in its communities that include Sheffield and Lyndonville, Vermont; Danforth, Maine; Beaver, Utah; Boston, Massachusetts; Kahuku, Hawaii; Tekoa, Washington; and other communities.

“As we continue to grow, First Wind is committed to being an active community member and we want to help support innovative and exciting educational projects in our host First Wind Kidscommunities,” said Carol Grant, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at First Wind. “This program starts with the good idea of a teacher in one of our communities. Our contribution is to support that idea and help bring it to life. We’re glad to have a small part in helping these inspiring teachers and their students.”

In its second full year, First Wind funded 43 projects at 31 schools, which reached and positively touched nearly 2,600 students. For example, First Wind donated funds toward a project to supply graphing calculators for a pre-calculus classroom in Mars Hill, Maine, which is near the Mars Hill project. First Wind also donated funds to a classroom in Cedar City, Utah, which is near the Milford Wind projects, to help the classroom purchase books to implement the S.T.E.A.M. program (Science & Technology interpreted through Engineering & the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements).

The recipients of the funds have been publicly grateful to First Wind. “Thank you so much for your donation. Our school has limited funding, especially for anything in addition to what is required,” said Mrs. Heidi Thomas of Milford Elementary School in Milford, Utah who wrote the response on the First Wind DonorsChoose webpage. “Your donation makes it possible for the students in my classroom to experience their learning hands-on. This allows students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the curriculum. Once again, thank you so much for your support of our school and the vision to create a better future generation.”

New York Shines with Solar Support

The state of New York is a shining example of what solar support can do for the industry. NY Governor Andrew M Cuomo recently announced the additional commitment of $108 million in funding over the next two years for the his NY-Sun initiative. The funds cover for residential and commercial solar energy projects and bring the two-year budget to $216 million for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Long Island Solar Farm“Solar power is critical to making our environment healthier and our energy system more resilient,” said Governor Cuomo. “The funding approved today will expand the use of clean, renewable power across New York State and ensure we continue to be a national leader in solar energy. Today’s announcement highlights the ongoing success of NY-Sun, attracting the economic benefits of a vibrant solar industry, creating more jobs, and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Governor Cuomo launched the NY-Sun initiative in 2012 in an attempt to increase the amount of solar power installed each year in New York State. Since its inception, the NY-Sun initiative, which brings together and expands existing programs administered by NYSERDA, New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), has installed or funded development for a total of 299 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity. This is more than was installed in the entire prior decade.

The funding was approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Chair Audrey Zibelman said of the decision, “The Commission recognizes the substantial opportunities that solar power offers residential and commercial customers to reduce electricity bills and improve the environment. We fully support the solar power goals set by the Governor’s NY-Sun initiative.”

With this decision, the PSC authorizes NYSERDA to plan a transition of its current solar programs to a regional megawatt block structure that includes a longer-term schedule for incentive rebate levels that change according to a predetermined set of targets. In essence, as more solar megawatts are installed, the per-megawatt rebate level falls. Also, as part of this transition, NYSERDA will continue to set aside $30 million to increase solar installations in the downstate regions. The remainder of the $108 million will be allocated based on regional budgets and market conditions.

“At a time when many of our political leaders are failing to address the need to transition to clean energy sources, Governor Cuomo continues to position New York as a leader in solar energy,” said Shaun Chapman, president, New York Solar Energy Industry Association. “Through the NY Sun Program, which the Public Service Commission has responsibly acted upon, our industry is now empowered to deliver jobs and clean, low cost, renewable energy to all New Yorkers.”

Cogeneration Explained

WASILENKOFF headshot-1The country is beginning to hear a lot about cogeneration, or cogen, but what it is exactly? How is it different, then say, a traditional electricity plant? To get the low-down on cogen I spoke with Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper whose company has been working with cogeneration and recently put its first cogen project online.

Q: Can you explain how cogeneration is different than a traditional electricity plant? For example, “wind” can provide power to the grid but is not considered cogen.

A: Wind will run a turbine and produce electricity similar to cogeneration. The difference is cogen also produces energy mechanically with steam to turn the turbine but also uses the thermal energy produced in the industrial process for additional energy needs. In conventional systems the heat is an unused byproduct of energy production. Cogen can also uses waste material as the energy source and in our case residual biomass from the paper making process.

Q: Obviously, cogeneration is not a new idea. Why do you think there is such a small rate of adoption/use of cogeneration in North America?

Cogen OutsideA: Cogeneration plants are capital intensive and the costs involved have to be balanced with the costs of other energy sources in the area. For industrial installations cogen works well for operations that use a lot of power, steam and heat. Cogen also tends to be more suitable in areas where the heat can be utilized. An example is Denmark where some cities get 95 percent of heat from cogeneration sites. There are also some small scale cogeneration units on the market for the individual homeowner.

Q: The potential for cogeneration is quite large. For cogen to reach its full potential, what would need to happen? Would there need to be legislation, tax credits, etc?

A: Yes assistance with financing, preferential pricing tax credits etc. would all help cogen to reach its full potential. Cogeneneration is already part of many plans for expanding renewable energy, According to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Q: Fortress Paper has made a significant investment in cogen at your Fortress Speciality Cellulose Mill in Thurso, Québec where you have constructed a cogen facility. Can you give the readers of DF more information about this project?

A: The Fortress Specialty Cellulose mill capex for the Cogen Plant was over Canadian $120 million and included a new turbine and generator with cooling tower and condenser, new biomass boiler, and new water treatment system among other items. Continue reading