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Transforming Clean-Energy Industry Into a Local One

Peter Slevin, The Washington Post
From his desk at the local electricity cooperative, Bruce Gomm can see the looming black smokestacks of the city’s aging coal-fired power plant. He can also see, on his office wall, framed photographs of sleek new wind turbines. Together, they are a changing world foretold.

Gomm is placing a major bet on wind to produce the electrons that will power his customers’ lights and run their dishwashers. He is at the forefront of a movement called community power, the idea that neighborhoods and towns can install their own renewable power sources and rely less on electricity that flows from distant realms.

As costs of solar and wind come down, the concept’s popularity is looking up, though challenges remain for an industry in its infancy.

Willmar Municipal Utilities invested nearly $10 million in a pair of 256-foot towers to capture the prairie wind here, about 100 miles west of Minneapolis. Gomm calculates that the wind power will cost less than the equivalent in coal-powered energy and, when the debt has been paid in 12 years or so, the electricity will come virtually free for as long as the turbines are standing…
(13 Oct 2009)

National Grid plan for local waste-to-biogas plants

Electricity operator National Grid believes that with the right Government incentives, renewable gas could be produced from our waste and fed straight into the mains.

Less than a year after announcing that up to half the UK’s homes could be heated with renewably generated ‘biogas’ derived from food waste, National Grid has unveiled a bold plan for how the gas could be produced on a local level.

In a new report released today, the grid operator sets out how a series of ‘Urban Energy Centres’ could take delivery of separated food and household waste.

The food waste would be fed straight into an anaerobic digester, which breaks down the sludge to produce a methane-rich gas and a nutrient-rich liquid slurry, that can be used as an agricultural fertiliser.

The household waste would be fed into a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) plant, which sorts the waste to remove recyclable materials, and then submits the remaining fraction to high pressure steam, sterilising the waste and reducing its volume.

This waste is then heated to high temperatures in the absence of air to drive off ‘syngas’ – a mixture rich in hydrogen – which can be upgraded and then injected into the gas mains along with the gas from the anaerobic digester for use in home boilers and cookers…
(8 Oct 2009)
The report, The Urban Energy Centre Concept, can be accessed from this page.

Saving energy may generate billions, study says

Erin Ailworth, Boston Globe
What does energy efficiency do for you?

According to report from researchers at the nonprofit advocacy group Environment Northeast, all the money that government agencies, utility companies, and others are spending on efficiency programs not only saves energy, it pumps cash back into the economy – from $6 to $8.50 for every $1 spent.

And that helps businesses grow, creates jobs, and spurs more spending.

The report speculates that if $27.2 billion were spent in New England on such programs over the next 15 years, $180 billion would be reinvested in local economies as a result. Nearly three-quarters of that would be returned to workers in increased income, and an average of 38,000 jobs would be created annually.

“The return numbers are really impressive,’’ said Derek K. Murrow, one of the authors of the report, which was released yesterday. “A lot of states, and especially Massachusetts, have made a significant commitment to capturing energy efficiency . . . [and] moving forward with those opportunities is a real need, especially in a time of economic downturn.’’…
(2 Oct 2009)
This report is available here