Monday, June 07, 2004

Baby steps toward green energy.

Community Works With Solar Power

This old mill city built prosperity from the force of its waterways. So there was a legacy of renewable energy when the local electrical utility sought to thrust Gardner into the age of inexhaustible sun power, ahead of everyone.

On a summary evening in June 1985, Massachusetts Electric Co. dispatched three managers, two engineers, and an analyst to demystify photovoltaic power for about 70 mostly working-class locals gathered in a college auditorium.

Panels that convert sunlight into electricity had been powering satellites. Now they could electrify Gardner's homes, not to mention its library and even the Burger King. They would help the country save oil and coal used by utilities to make electricity.

People listened politely. But what got them excited -- and helped launch the first photovoltaics test on a community scale -- was a question:

How would you like to save up to 40 percent on your electric bills?

Sun-catching panels soon covered rooftops of 30 homes and five other buildings around town. The experiment is still running today, almost 20 years later.

Hot rocks energy moves one step closer.

The process of producing electricity from hot subterranean rocks is set for another step forward.

Minotaur Resources' off-shoot Petratherm Limited is the latest to develop the process in conjunction with Adelaide University.

Petratherm will hold a briefing session for potential investors in Adelaide tonight, with others to be held later in Melbourne and Sydney.

If successful, geothermal energy could provide electricity for the next stage of the major Roxby Downs copper-uranium mine.

Shell, PPM Energy dedicate Colorado Green Wind Power project

Scottish Power PLC unit PPM Energy Inc. and partner Shell WindEnergy Inc., Houston, dedicated the Colorado Green Wind Power project in Lamar, Colo. in mid-May. Construction began in December 2003 and the commissioning phase began in February.

Situated on more than 11, 000 acres south of Lamar in southeastern Colorado, the wind farm—the fifth largest in the country—can deliver 162 Mw of power from 108 General Electric turbines. Prime customer Xcel RFP said that, compared with the current high cost of natural gas, the wind farm is expected to save its customers about $6 million/year.

And yet, for all the progress being made in renewable energy, the Department of Energy still predicts that 20 years from now, renewable energy will amount to less than 7 percent of Americans' fuel. By then oil production will almost certainly be in a steady decline. Meeting the energy demands 20 years from now will be extraordinarily difficult.


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