Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Plant Vogtle Receives Early Site Permit

/PRNewswire/ -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today issued an Early Site Permit (ESP) for the two new units of the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Waynesboro, Ga. Plant Vogtle is owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia [MEAG Power] and Dalton Utilities.

The ESP is another step in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) new, streamlined licensing process designed to reduce regulatory uncertainty by completing the process in stages. Completion of the ESP process resolves many site-related safety and environmental issues, determines that the site is suitable for construction of a nuclear energy plant and successfully demonstrates the NRC's licensing process. Southern Nuclear filed an application for the ESP in August 2006.

"This is an important step for the Vogtle project, because the demand for electricity in the Southeast, and particularly in Georgia, will continue to grow," said Mike Garrett, president and CEO of Georgia Power. "The new Vogtle units will help meet our growing energy needs by providing safe, reliable and economical electricity with a zero-emission technology. The project represents a $14 billion capital investment in Georgia that will create thousands of construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs once the units are operational."

"Receiving this ESP on behalf of Plant Vogtle co-owners is a significant accomplishment for Southern Nuclear and for the nuclear industry," said Buzz Miller, executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear. "Southern Nuclear's ESP is the first one in the industry based on a specific technology, the Westinghouse AP1000. It is also the first ESP that includes a Limited Work Authorization (LWA) which allows for certain safety-related activities to begin prior to receiving a Combined License (COL) from the NRC."

In addition to the ESP, in March 2008, Southern Nuclear filed an application for a Combined License (COL) at the Vogtle site. The COL provides one license to construct and operate a nuclear power plant. The COL application is under review by the NRC. Pending appropriate approvals, Unit 3 will begin operating in 2016 and Unit 4 will become operational in 2017.

Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, operates the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant near Baxley, Ga., the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Plant near Dothan, Ala. and the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro, Ga.

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Georgia Environmental Protection Division Issues Draft Permits for Plant Washington

(BUSINESS WIRE)--POWER4Georgians yesterday announced that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has issued draft permits for Plant Washington, a 850 megawatt coal-fired power plant being developed near Sandersville, in Washington County, Georgia.

The EPD issued a variety of draft permitting documents related to the 1,600-acre energy facility, including what are considered to be the four primary permits for the plant: the surface water withdrawal permit, the groundwater withdrawal permit, the water discharge permit, and the air permit. POWER4Georgians, a consortium of Georgia electric membership corporations (EMCs), filed the Plant Washington permit applications with the Georgia EPD in January 2008.

“This is an important step in the development of this power plant, which is critical to making sure that affordable and reliable power continues to be available to the citizens of Georgia,” said Dean Alford, spokesperson for POWER4Georgians. “While we recognize there is a lot of work remaining to be done, the draft permits are a very positive indication that Plant Washington is moving forward.”

“Given the economic challenges our state is facing, the jobs created during the construction of this plant will provide a tremendous benefit to Washington County and the surrounding region,” said Alford. “These jobs are part of a more than $2 billion investment in providing affordable energy, which is critical to a productive, competitive state economy. Once operational, Plant Washington could help attract new industry and jobs to Georgia and even help retain existing businesses and jobs because of availability of dependable and affordable electricity.”

Plant Washington will be one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the country, generating enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 500,000 to 700,000 Georgia homes.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Georgia Southern University to Host Energy Panel August 24

As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, Georgia Southern University will host an Energy Panel on August 24 from 6-8 p.m. in the assembly hall of the Nessmith-Lane Continuing Education Building.

The event, which will feature five panelists with different perspectives on energy usage and long-term solutions, is free and open to the public. Panelists will give their positions on energy issues facing the Southeast, then respond to each other’s comments as well as questions from the moderator, and field questions from the audience.

The panelists are:
Congressman John Barrow – U.S. House of Representatives, Georgia’s 12th District
James Marlow – CEO, Radiance Energies
Ronny Just – Environmental Issues Manager, Georgia Power Company
Mary Carr – Renewable Energy Coordinator, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Pat McDermott – Vice President, Viracon

Congressman Barrow sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which deals with national energy policy and related legislation.

“Our panelists will have different viewpoints on energy and where it should come from to have the least possible impact on the economy and the environment,” said Dr. Lissa Leege, director of the Center for Sustainability in the Allen E. Paulson College of Science and Technology.
“Panelists will also be able to provide a balanced view of the promise and limitations of renewable energy sources and give the audience some perspective on what the future holds for energy use in Georgia.”

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Experts discuss breaking US’s oil addiction

No single renewable energy source, such as biofuel, solar or wind, will break the country’s massive dependence on foreign oil. Industry experts, scientists and policymakers gathered to discuss how the three sources combined could at the 2009 Southeast Bioenergy Conference Aug. 11 at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Ga.

Right now, oil is the “trump card” that beats all others in world power, said keynote speaker and prominent astronautics engineer Robert Zubrin, whose recent book “Energy Victory” outlines a plan to break the decades-long economic grip the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has had on the U.S. economy.

More than any other OPEC country, he said, Saudi Arabia is the strongest, making $400 billion from its oil last year, which costs only 50 cents per barrel to pump from the ground. Saudi Arabia produces more oil than the next four OPEC countries combined and uses its dominance to monopolize the market and fund terrorism.

OPEC’s power is very dangerous for the U.S. and the world, he said. For example, the 1973 Arab oil embargo sent the U.S. into economic chaos. At the time, the U.S. only received 30 percent of its oil from foreign countries.

Today, such an embargo would devastate the U.S., which now gets 65 percent of its oil from OPEC. Adding to the threat, OPEC has trillions of dollars in cash reserves and could implement a prolonged embargo.

“They can keep us shut down until you’re gone,” he said.

Oil control has been the key to success or defeat for many conflicts in the past century, particularly WW II. In 1940, the U.S. produced 60 percent of the world’s oil. Its allies Russia and England controlled another 15 percent. Germany lost the war because it literally ran out of gas.

To turn the tide, Zubrin said, alcohol-based fuels like ethanol and methanol must become the new trump card in the energy game. U.S. agriculture’s fertile ground could take a big lead in growing biomass to turn into fuel to power the world.

The first thing the U.S. can do, he said, is mandate all vehicles be equipped to run on flex-fuel, or a mix of gasoline and an alcohol-based fuel. Within a few years of such an action, gas stations would carry more alcohol-based fuels to meet the growing demand, which would help farmers, drastically increase the bioenergy markets and reduce carbon emissions.

Zubrin also estimates it would put 50 million flex-fuel vehicles on U.S. highways and millions more around the world.

Every resource for energy independence must be considered in terms of tax incentives or ways they are promoted, said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

“Whether it’s 50 percent of our cars by 2015 burning alternative fuels or whether it’s a voluntary system of protocols to reduce carbon emission into our atmosphere or whether it is tax incentives to promote bioenergy, all of those ought to be promoting every single resource so we in the United States can become energy independent,” Isakson said.

Georgia has the agricultural knowledge, climate, infrastructure and business-friendly atmosphere to lead the country in alternative-energy production, said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

“Georgia has been uniquely blessed with the natural resources, intellectual capital and entrepreneurial spirit that can make growing, producing and using our own energy a reality right here in our state,” Perdue said.

The three-day conference drew 450 attendants from across the country and world to hear scores of speakers discuss topics such as biofuel crops and biomass, vehicles and farm equipment, conservation strategies, finance, current bioenergy development in the area and career opportunities.

Several entrepreneurs provided workshops on how to make ethanol and biodiesel on the farm. Dozens of vendors participated in the trade show, including Tesla and Gaia Transport, which displayed their cutting-edge renewable energy vehicles entered in the prestigious X Prize competition.

"I believe that now is the most exciting and profitable time to take advantage of renewable energies, and the Southeast Bioenergy Conference is one of the most comprehensive and affordable ways to learn how,” said Craig Kvien, a professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and conference organizer.

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

State-by-State Analysis of Waxman-Markey Cap and Trade Legislation Paints Dour Picture for Nation's Economy

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) today unveiled a comprehensive study on the impact of The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill (HR 2454). The bill aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to cap the amount of carbon that is emitted by U.S. industry. The legislation does so by mandating a cap and trade program and other provisions governing fuel choices available to businesses and consumers. This bill passed the House of Representatives by a slim margin (219-212) earlier this summer. The Senate is expected to release its version of climate legislation in September.

The study, which was commissioned by the NAM and ACCF and conducted by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) using NAM and ACCF input assumptions, assesses the impact of the Waxman-Markey Bill on manufacturing, jobs, energy prices and our overall economy. The NAM and ACCF released national data as well as the analysis for 15 industrial states that would be impacted greatly if this or similar legislation is signed into law. The full report, including the data covering the remaining 35 states will be released in the coming weeks.

Jay Timmons, executive vice president of the NAM said, "Climate change is a very complex issue and I hope Senators will look closely at this study as they consider climate change legislation this fall. At a time when our country is struggling to come out of our longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, lawmakers should be focused on policies that provide incentives for businesses so they can create jobs and grow. Unfortunately, this study confirms that the Waxman-Markey Bill is an 'anti-jobs, anti-growth' piece of legislation. Further, leaders of countries such as China and India have made it clear they have no intention of reducing their own emissions. Waxman-Markey would give an edge to overseas competitors, discouraging domestic investment and the creation of American jobs."

The NAM/ACCF study accounts for all federal energy laws and regulations currently in effect. It accounts for increased access to oil and natural gas supplies, new and extended tax credits for renewable generation technologies, increased World Oil Price (WOP) profile, as well as permit allocations for industry and international offsets. Additionally, the provisions of the stimulus package passed in February are included in this study. Key findings include:

-- Cumulative Loss in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) up to $3.1 trillion
-- Employment losses up to 2.4 million jobs in 2030
-- Residential electricity price increases up to 50 percent by 2030
-- Gasoline price increases (per gallon) up 26 percent by 2030

Dr. Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist for ACCF, highlighted the importance of reviewing economic findings while debating the climate change legislation. "This data shows that we cannot divorce the environmental impacts from potential economic damages. Policymakers may have the best of intentions when it comes to the environment, but it's crucial that we compare the economic cost to the legislation's actual impact on global GHG reductions. Considering that developing countries such as China and India have publicly stated that they will not undertake similar emissions policies, there would be almost no global environmental benefits from the bill. Ultimately, this study shows that Waxman-Markey, would significantly decrease employment and increase energy prices at a time when we can least afford it."

Further, this study shows industrial states would be disproportionately impacted by high energy prices, loss of jobs and income. The 15 states analyzed in the initial study include:

1. Arkansas
2. Illinois
3. Indiana
4. Iowa
5. Kentucky
6. Michigan
7. Minnesota
8. Missouri
9. North Carolina
10. Ohio
11. Pennsylvania
12. Tennessee
13. Virginia
14. West Virginia

15. Wisconsin

SAIC used a modified version of the National Energy Modeling System, NEMS/ACCF-NAM 2, and the NAM and ACCF input assumptions, to quantify the impact of the Waxman-Markey bill.

"Policymakers and the public must have a clear understanding of the potential impact of climate change legislation to assess whether it will cause more economic harm than environmental good," concluded Timmons.

The national and 15 state-by-state economic impacts can be found by visiting:

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Southern Company Seeks $362 Million in Federal Funds to Advance 'Smart Grid' Initiatives

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company (NYSE:SO) today announced it has applied for $362 million in federal infrastructure funds to advance the company's 'Smart Grid' initiatives across its four-state service territory.

Southern Company submitted its applications to the U.S. Department of Energy, which has allocated $4.5 billion to award grants to advanced infrastructure projects nationwide as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Specifically, Southern Company has requested $197 million for its advanced metering or 'Smart Meter' initiative, and $165 million to increase automation of electric transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Smart meters enable two-way communication between the company and its customers. Southern Company began deploying smart meters in its Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi operating subsidiaries in 2008 and have installed more than one million to date. Over the next three years, the company will install more than 4,000 meters per day and will have more than four million in place by 2012.

Smart meter benefits include reduced operating costs associated with monthly meter reading, off-cycle meter reading and the ability to use advanced technologies to improve the reporting and response to electric distribution system events, such as power outage detection and power restoration. Moreover, smart meters offer a technology platform that enables future services and options, such as customer access to data, rate and pricing options encouraging reductions of peak demand and consumption, and access to enabling technologies such as home area networks, among others.

"In addition to reducing operating costs that help keep our customers' rates lower than the national average, smart meters help reduce environmental impact," said Wes McDowell, Georgia Region Chief Information Officer and Smart Grid Program Coordinator, Southern Company. "By moving from conventional to smart meters, we expect to reduce the vehicle fleet used for meter reading by at least 500, saving 12.5 million miles of driving annually and producing direct benefits in lower vehicle emissions."

Southern Company has also undertaken a series of initiatives to accelerate deployment of Smart Grid technologies in each of its operating affiliates. Funds awarded for these efforts will be used to bolster system reliability and grid efficiency, reduce peak demand, optimize asset utilization and improve the anticipation and response to system disturbances.

For example, line devices with two-way communication will be installed to enable system operators to isolate faulted lines remotely. Moreover, some of these devices will be placed in self-healing network schemes. These schemes will automatically isolate trouble areas and then restore power to unaffected portions of the circuit, all without operator intervention.

The company's 'Smart Substations' program will focus on updating targeted substations and equipment with improved smart monitoring, protection, and control devices. These technologies will produce a leap forward in implementing smart technologies with the intent of improving the monitoring and control capabilities of the system while enhancing its proven grid reliability.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Tapping New Sources of Energy

Can microbes that live in swamp mud help us produce green energy?

Chemistry Professor Brian Dyer is researching that possibility, through his work at the intersection of chemistry, physics and biology. “I’m really into blurring the lines between traditional disciplines,” he says.

Formerly with the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Dyer joined Emory this summer to help unite the University’s multi-disciplinary research into renewable energy sources. “The need for renewable energy is one of the key problems of our time,” Dyer says, “and Emory is well-positioned to really make an impact in this area.”

Dyer uses laser spectroscopy to study how light can interact with materials. Early in his career, he began working with proteins that can do photochemistry, drawing his inspiration from natural photosynthesis.

“Ultimately, plants are taking light and storing it as chemical energy,” Dyer explains. “The elegance of some of these reactions is astounding. It’s an incredibly complex process, done with a series of proteins that are highly optimized for a specific function, such as light harvesting and water oxidation. The proteins are like tiny machines. A good analogy is an internal combustion engine, where you actually have integrated, working parts.”

Artificial photosynthesis
In recent years, science and industry have started searching for ways to develop systems of artificial photosynthesis, to help solve the energy shortage and reduce carbon emissions. So far, man’s attempts at tapping the sun’s power have fallen far short of Mother Nature’s.

While living in Los Alamos, located at 7,500 feet above sea level on the Pajarito Plateau, Dyer installed solar panels on his family home. “I wanted to understand the issues of solar energy at the practical level of a home owner,” he says. Even with 320 days a year of New Mexico sunshine, he found conventional solar panels to be inefficient and not cost effective.

“An even bigger problem is the batteries required to store the intermittent solar flux,” Dyer says. “Their storage capacity is limited and their lifetime is short. They also contain hazardous chemicals, like lead and sulfuric acid.”

Mimicking Mother Nature
Dyer is focused on solving this solar energy storage problem. He wants to covert solar energy to fuel, using a particular protein to develop a photocatalyst for solar hydrogen production — which brings up the swamp bugs.

A type of anaerobic bacteria that lives deep in the mud of swamps, where there is little oxygen, survives by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. While humans need to use expensive systems to perform this process on a large scale, the bacteria does it naturally by generating the protein hydrogenase — the most efficient catalyst known for making hydrogen.

By studying the biological system, Dyer hopes to find ways to adapt the microbial catalysis of hydrogenase so that it can be harnessed for solar hydrogen production.

“You can trick bugs to make lots of certain kinds of proteins, like a little factory,” Dyer explains. “It’s called ‘directed evolution,’ where you push bacteria a certain way, forcing it to adapt and to produce an evolved protein that has the properties you need.”

His goal is to generate hydrogenase in a form that allows the protein to bind to quantum dots, which are good at absorbing light and could provide the energy to drive the reaction.

“We envision producing hydrogen in a photochemically driven process, where the electrons and protons needed to produce the hydrogen are furnished by water,” Dyer explains. “You could then burn the hydrogen as fuel and get water back. It would be a perfectly clean cycle.”

Renewable energy center
At Emory, Dyer is teamed with other scientists in his experiments, including Tim Lian, William Henry Emerson Professor of Chemistry and a leader in quantum dot technology, and Stefan Lutz, an associate professor of biomolecular chemistry who specializes in protein engineering.

Dyer will also serve as the director of a renewable energy center on campus, to launch this fall. The aim is to further integrate ongoing energy research among chemists, physicists, biologists and computer scientists.

“The energy field has suffered from 30 years of people saying that the search for more energy is an engineering problem,” Dyer says. “Actually, it’s primarily a science problem. Emory has a good track record of bringing together interdisciplinary teams, and tremendous strengths in the bio-sciences, as well as the physical sciences. Most of the advances in renewable energy are going to be made at that interface.”

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