Friday, September 24, 2010

Southern Company Captures CO2 at Georgia Power Plant; Research Milestone is a First for Company

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company has captured carbon dioxide from one of its power plants for the first time, a milestone that significantly advances the development of technology considered crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power generation.

The research accomplishment was achieved this month at subsidiary Georgia Power's Plant Yates near Newnan, Ga.

The pilot-scale project at Plant Yates, which uses a capture system developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), will provide additional process improvements before the technology is demonstrated next year at a much larger 25-megawatt scale at Plant Barry, which is owned and operated by Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power near Mobile, Ala.

During the pilot at Plant Yates, a small amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) was captured, using a solvent that absorbs CO2, and then returned to the plant's flue gas. At Plant Barry, the carbon dioxide will be compressed and transported via pipeline to deep underground storage formations.

"Capturing CO2 from an operating power plant is an important step forward in our efforts to develop effective and cost-efficient technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while ensuring a continued reliable and affordable supply of electricity for our customers," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. "Along with our other carbon capture and storage research initiatives, our success here will help us move closer to the ultimate goal of commercial deployment."

Southern Company is a participant in several major research initiatives to advance the development of carbon capture and storage technology, a key component in the nation's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the projects at Yates and Barry, Southern Company operates the National Carbon Capture Center for the U.S. Department of Energy near Birmingham, Ala., and its subsidiary Mississippi Power is building an advanced commercial-scale coal gasification power plant in Kemper County, Miss., that will include carbon capture and re-use for enhanced oil recovery. Other carbon capture and storage projects are under way or completed at other Southern Company facilities.

The test at Plant Yates will help confirm MHI's emission-control design and provide other findings important to the much larger-scale work next year at the Plant Barry test, which represents one of the industry's largest demonstrations of a start-to-finish power plant carbon capture and storage system.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HHS releases $101 million in emergency funding to states for energy assistance

Georgia to receive $1,081,787 for energy assistance

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today (September 20) announced the release of $101 million in emergency contingency funding to help eligible low-income homeowners and renters meet their home energy needs. These Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contingency funds will provide states, territories, tribes and the District of Columbia with additional assistance to pay heating and cooling costs. Funds will be allocated to all states based on their regular (old) block grant allocations.

"During these times of economic uncertainty, far too many Americans face difficulties affording the basics, such as utilities" said HHS Secretary Sebelius. "The release of these funds will help ease those worries, and assure individuals, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy, that they will not be left behind during the cold winter months ahead."

LIHEAP helps eligible families pay for home heating and cooling costs, as well as helping weatherize eligible families' homes. In recent years, more than eight million low-income households across the country receive assistance under LIHEAP.

As part of this Administration's effort to maximize federal funds, the department has focused on strengthening the program's operations and ensuring integrity at every level. Earlier this year, HHS requested strategic plans from each state to outline their tactics for improving efficiency and integrity in LIHEAP programs. Those plans, having all now been received, are being reviewed to make sure states are using effective program management and improper-payment-prevention strategies to ensure these funds are reaching the families who need them most.

The contingency funds released today are in addition to the $4.5 billion in LIHEAP block grant funding and the $490 million in emergency contingency funds received by states earlier this year. Funds released today are the remaining from FY 2010 LIHEAP contingency fund available for this fiscal year.

In total, Congress appropriated $5.1 billion for LIHEAP in Fiscal Year 2010. "We are releasing these funds at a time when many Americans are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet as our economy begins to recover. These funds will help many families and seniors heat their homes in the coming winter," said David A. Hansell, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families.

Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance should contact their local/state LIHEAP agency. For more information go to http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/ or http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/brochure/brochure.html.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Georgia Power Now Offering Free Online Energy Audit

PRNewswire/ -- In less than 10 minutes, Georgia Power customers can take the guesswork out of determining where their electricity dollars go each month.

An online energy-audit tool, or "Home Energy Calculator," was developed by Atlanta-based APOGEE Interactive to provide residential customers a way to determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes - from air conditioners to refrigerators - and what they can do to reduce their energy consumption.

The customized calculator was developed for Georgia, and reflects the state's most common home construction, weather patterns and typical home appliances used by most residents.

"Energy costs are rising for various reasons and our customers are looking to us for help on ways to save money and energy," said Efficiency and Conservation Director Angela Strickland. "Georgia Power's portfolio of programs and tools puts our customers in the driver's seat to transform the way they use electricity in their homes and businesses."

For more information about all of the company's energy-efficiency programs and to access the free online energy audit tool, visit www.georgiapower.com.

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UGA researchers win $1.34 million USDA-DOE biofuels grant

Researchers at the University of Georgia have won a $1.34 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to attempt to increase the productivity of trees by genetically modifying certain proteins critical to wood formation. The study could have important implications in using trees as biofuel.

The research will be conducted by Scott Harding and Chung-Jui Tsai, who are both faculty members at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

They became interested in the possibility that manipulating sucrose transporter proteins—which shuttle food from leaves throughout the rest of the tree—during a separate, unrelated project conducted by Raja Payyavula, a graduate student working for the pair. The student’s research led to the discovery of a connection between sucrose transporter genes and certain stimuli.

Sucrose transporter genes have been known about for a long time because they enable leaves to send the sugars they produce during photosynthesis to other parts of the growing plant that do not carry out photosynthesis. This would include grain or tubers in food crops. In a key, and somewhat surprising finding by Harding and Tsai, sucrose transporter genes were found to be very abundant in developing the wood of young trees. They now want to know how a tree will react—positively or negatively—to further modification of those proteins.

They hope that tweaking the proteins will modify the way trees divide their photosynthate (sucrose and other sugars) between wood-forming and other organs like roots and bark. Wood is the raw feedstock for biofuels, and the research is being funded to learn about the potential of this gene for affecting wood growth, and thus tree growth, under a variety of environmental conditions.

“We know there’s a connection,” said Harding. “We just don’t know much about that connection right now.”

The research team already has begun its experiments with the award from the joint Plant Feedstock Genomics 2010 program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and DOE. This program funds projects that accelerate plant breeding and improve biomass feedstocks to lay the groundwork for a new class of biofuels that are low-cost, high-quality and maximize the amount produced per acre.

More information about the Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program can be found at http://genomicscience.energy.gov/.

In announcing the award—which is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio and accelerate the development of new energy technologies—leaders of the two funding federal agencies commented on their hopes that such research will help reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil.

“Cost-effective, sustainable biofuels are crucial to building a clean energy economy,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “By harnessing the power of science and technology, this joint effort between DOE and USDA will help accelerate research in the critical area of plant feedstocks, spurring the creation of the domestic bio-industry while creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

“Developing a domestic source of renewable energy will create jobs and wealth in rural America, combat global warming, replace our dependence on foreign oil and build a stronger foundation for the 21st century economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This scientific investment will lay the foundation for a source of fuel made from renewable sources.”

The $1.34 million grant is part of a larger, $9 million grant package awarded to multiple agencies and universities across the U.S.

Harding, senior research scientist, and Tsai, a professor Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar who also has a joint appointment in the department of genetics, joined the Warnell School in 2008. Their work focuses on forest biotechnology with an emphasis on creating high-energy trees for use in biofuel.

Tsai’s interests also include determining how trees defend themselves by using chemical compounds to ward off bugs and grazing animals. Harding also has led a DOE-research project on carbon sequestration, where carbon dioxide emissions from facilities such as power plants are captured by trees rather than released into the atmosphere.

If they are successful in genetically modifying the sucrose transporter genes to create faster-growing trees, it could have tremendous implications for using trees as biofuels.

“We know the sucrose transporter genes are connected to tree growth, and we also know that there are three different such proteins present in the tree stems,” Harding explained. The team plans to manipulate those proteins to learn about their division of labor and to see how the manipulations affect tree growth, especially the competition between leaves, stems and roots for photosynthate. The project will involve an assistant research scientist, a postdoctoral scientist, two graduate students and several undergraduate students.

This investigation is just beginning, Tsai said, and findings during the course of this three-year project will add immensely to the understanding of how tree biomass is produced.

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