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Correction: In our January report about Stion Solar's new solar panel manufacturing plant in Hattiesburg, Miss., we erroneously reported that it would be located in a former Sunbeam bakery. In fact, it is a former Sunbeam appliance manufacturing facility. We regret the error, but, thankfully, the cooking metaphor remains intact.


At the opening ceremony of Bayer's first emissions-neutral office building in Asia: Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, Bayer AG Board member responsible for innovation (l.), Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience (m.), and Stephan Gerlich, Senior Bayer Representative India, in Greater Noida, India
Photos courtesy of Bayer MaterialScience AG
Dr. Tony Van Osselaer, Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer MaterialScience, at the coconut breaking ceremony. This is a Indian ritual, carried out here on occasion of the inauguration of the new polyisocyanates plant.

In January Bayer MaterialScience opened its first emissions-neutral office building in Asia in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, India. The €5-million (US6.6-million), 10,764-sq.-ft. (1,000-sq.-m.) facility draws 100 percent of its electricity from a photovoltaic plant, requiring 50 percent less power than comparable buildings in the region. It's part of a €26-million investment package that Bayer has been implementing at the Greater Noida site that includes a new color competence and design center for polycarbonates and Bayer MaterialScience's existing systems house.

The building is aligned according to the path of the sun, and the walls, roof and floors are insulated with polyisocyanurate (PIR) rigid foam to keep the heat out. Over its service life, this material helps save some 70 times as much energy as is needed to produce it. Highly efficient air-conditioning and lighting systems are also used in the building. What's more, the ratio of windows to walls has been calculated with great precision, with transparent surfaces making up a good third of the total area, says Bayer.

Bayer has previously built a climate-neutral company child daycare center at its Monheim site in Germany and an energy-optimized office building in Belgium, all part of the company's EcoCommercial Building program. But it's also taking sustainability into the production process. In February, a pilot plant (pictured) developed in partnership with energy firm RWE came on stream at Chempark Leverkusen in Germany that produces a chemical precursor into which CO2 is incorporated and then processed into polyurethanes that are used in many everyday items. As a result, CO2 can now be recycled and used as a raw material and substitute for petroleum.

Duke University earlier this week released a report, "U.S. Smart Grid: Finding New Ways to Cut Carbon and Create Jobs," which identifies 334 U.S. locations in 39 states that are already developing or manufacturing products for a smart grid. The region with the largest number of sites is the Southeast, with California having the most sites of any one state. Nationwide, utilities now have more than 200 smart grid projects underway.

The Duke team studied 125 leading U.S. smart grid firms to assess their potential role in creating jobs in areas that include information technology, core communications, smart hardware, energy services, energy management, telecom service and system integration. They estimate that U.S. suppliers for smart grid technologies have already created more than 17,000 U.S. jobs.

To make the most of job opportunities, the United States must continue pursuing the cutting edge of smart grid technologies, especially those needed for integrating renewable energy sources and electric vehicles into the grid," said Marcy Lowe, the study's lead author and a senior research analyst at Duke's Center for Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness.

ABB HVDC cable is wound onto turntables and stored until it is loaded onto a cable-laying ship. One turntable can hold 7,000 tonnes of cable.
Photo courtesy of ABB

Doing its part for the smart grid is ABB, which last week broke ground in Duke's home state of North Carolina for a new high-voltage cable factory in Huntersville, part of the Charlotte metro area.

The new facility, located at the Commerce Station Business Park, will supply high-voltage and extra high-voltage transmission cables to carry electric power underground. "These smart grid-compliant cables, for use in both AC and DC applications, will strengthen America's energy infrastructure and enable power from renewable resources, like wind and solar, to reach homes and businesses," said ABB. ABB is investing approximately $90 million in the new manufacturing facility, which will employ more than 100 people.

It is projected that the building of the plant will contribute more than $20M to the local economy, and once running, more than $5M annually.

"ABB has enjoyed working with the N.C. Department of Commerce, Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the town of Huntersville to make this day possible," said Enrique Santacana, President and CEO of ABB Inc. and Region Manager for North America. "Huntersville is an excellent choice for our new cable factory because it offers top-notch engineering talent and training capabilities at local colleges. This, in combination with proximity to first-rate transportation and an attractive living environment, makes Huntersville an ideal location."

ABB already employs over 1,500 people state-wide in manufacturing and other facilities, including Cary, Raleigh, Pinetops, Kings Mountain, Weaverville and Marion. ABB's North American corporate headquarters are located in Cary and its North American Power headquarters are in Raleigh.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on April 7 released a broad assessment of the costs and benefits to modernize the U.S. electricity system and deploy the smart grid. "Factoring a wide range of new technologies, applications and consumer benefits the investment needed to implement a fully functional smart grid ranges from $338 billion to $476 billion and can result in benefits between $1.3 trillion and $2 trillion," said EPRI. The report balances costs with benefits, which include:

  • More reliable power delivery and quality, with fewer and briefer outages;
  • Enhanced cyber security and safety with a grid that monitors itself and detects and responds to security and safety situations;
  • A more efficient grid, with reduced energy losses and a greater capacity to manage peak demand, lessening the need for new generation;
  • Environmental and conservation benefits, better support for renewable energy and electric-drive vehicles; and,
  • Potentially lower costs for customers through greater pricing choices and access to energy information.

The analysis updates EPRI's 2004 EPRI assessment, which estimated the cost of implementing a smart grid at $165 billion. The updated analysis assumes steady deployment of smart grid technologies beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2030. The project team analyzed projected costs over the next 20 years, looking at core smart grid technologies in four areas: transmission, substation, distribution and customer interface.

One place integrating electric vehicles is Watt Plaza (pictured) in Century City, Calif. The twin 23-story office tower complex has installed two electric vehicle charging stations on the first floor of its parking garage, making it the first office building in Century City to adopt the technology.

The charging stations are equipped with dual outputs that deliver energy simultaneously: a 7.2 kW "Level II" hookup charging at 240 volts and a second outlet providing slower "Level I" charging at 120 volts. Each station is embedded with an on-board computer, a fluorescent display and a utility-grade meter providing precise energy measurement. The stations are also able to send SMS or email notifications to the driver about charging status or interruptions in charging.

"Due to the mileage and limited range of early electric vehicle models, owners traveling long distances will need to charge their cars both overnight at home and during the workday," said a release from Watt Plaza. "The charging station installation at Watt Plaza may give employees the confidence to purchase electric vehicles, which generate approximately 25 percent fewer carbon emissions than conventional models."

"There is a clear role for electric vehicles in the future, especially in a city as car-centric as Los Angeles," said Cameron Benson, General Manager of Watt Plaza. Watt Plaza in 2009 received LEED-Gold certification in the "Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance" category.

The Woodrow Wilson Center's Program on America and the Global Economy last week presented a talk by Peter Huber, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, on "The Free Market Path to Electric Cars." You can view the entire presentation here.

Huber most recently wrote "The Bottomless Well," coauthored with Mark Mills, which Bill Gates said "is the only book I've ever seen that really explains energy, its history and what it will be like going forward."

Bert Bruggeman, CEO, SVTC Technologies

After a comprehensive, nationwide competition, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded SVTC Solar, a subsidiary of San Jose, Calif.-based SVTC Technologies, $25 million in funding as a part of DOE's SunShot Initiative. The grant supports the start-up of the first photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing development facility (MDF) in the U.S. to reduce the costs and development time for the PV industry.

The SunShot Initiative was launched to make large-scale photovoltaic solar energy systems competitive with other forms of energy and eliminate the industry's reliance on subsidies by the end of the decade. The initiative's goal of reducing the costs of PV solar systems to roughly six cents per kilowatt-hour will allow solar energy systems to be broadly deployed across the country. The DOE program provides developers two access models: a consortium model patterned after the highly successful Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SEMATECH) effort of the 1980's, and a commercial model based on SVTC's highly successful Technology Development Process (TDP) - a process that provides customers access to leading-edge technology and enables accelerated commercial development while protecting their valuable IP.

SVTC will create a PV MDF based on the company's highly successful business model of providing semiconductor manufacturers with a state-of-the-art, IP-secure fabrication facility combined with a full suite of commercialization services. No mention was made of the MDF's location. SVTC maintains facilities in San Jose and in Austin, Texas.

"We are committed to the goals of the SunShot Initiative and dedicated to applying SVTC's proven business model to the photovoltaic industry," said Bert Bruggeman, CEO SVTC Technologies. "We will support all types of silicon and wafer-based PV technologies, providing PV innovators with access to a wide range of technologies."

The Platts special report "Japan: Coming to Terms with the Power Crisis" assembles information gathered by dozens of Platts journalists through April 7. "Some 31,800 megawatts of generating capacity have been affected and Japan's nuclear expansion program – which envisages fourteen new reactors entering service by 2030 – is in tatters," said Platts. Among the report's highlights:

  • Tepco is currently operating only 4,912 MW of its 17,100 MW of nuclear capacity, while all Tohoku Electric's reactors are offline as well as the Tokai Daini plant. "More than 20,340 MW of capacity at Japan's 47,500-MW nuclear fleet is thus offline in the northeast alone, in a country where nuclear generates about 30 percent of all electricity."
  • "Excluding pumped storage and hydro plant, the availability of which Tepco noted is uncertain, the available generating capacity in the service area of the country's largest utility had risen from 33,000 MW on March 16 to about 40,000 MW on April 8. Other plants identified as potentially operational by the end of July are set to take the total then to 46,500 MW. But as the year advances and demand rises the situation looks set to change for the worse. Tepco projects that its summer peak demand will reach 55,000 MW, while some forecasts have put the potential level at 60,000 MW, implying a summer peak shortfall of up to 13,500 MW."
  • The Japanese government said on April 5 that Tepco will be exempted temporarily from the need to conduct environmental impact studies before expanding and building fossil-fueled plants. The studies and related approval processes normally take up to three years. "Estimates of the fossil-fired output needed to replace the closed nuclear plants vary. Based on the IAEA's individual reactor production figures for 2009 and 2010, the 14 reactors in the affected area produce up to 83 TWh/year, although the International Energy Agency has suggested a lower replacement figure of 60 TWh/ year. The figures equate to a range of 200,000 to 275,000 barrels per day (b/d ) of oil equivalent."
  • LNG may help. "Japan is already the world's largest LNG importer. It saw LNG imports reach a record level of more than 70 million mt in 2010, up 8.6 percent from 2009." Leading sources of LNG, in order, were Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Qatar and Russia.
  • Finally, with regard to the nation's industrial development, "an existing trend in the Japanese electricity market may also be accentuated by the disaster. In recent years a large amount of industrial production has moved offshore. While often driven by lower labor costs, Japan's high electricity prices have also been a factor, with much of the relocated industry being energy intensive. The upshot is that the share of electricity used by large industrials, who often show a relatively uniform seasonal and diurnal pattern of consumption, has been declining compared to the share of commercial and especially residential customers. The latter's consumption is intrinsically more peaky, both diurnal and seasonal, and subject to weather-related spikes. Over the past year or so this trend has been less apparent as heavy industry electricity consumption rebounded from the 2007 global economic crisis. But the underlying trend appears to be for increasingly peaky electricity demand, and the March 11 disaster could accentuate this long-run shift."

Frost & Sullivan thinks there may be a distributed generation opportunity as the Japanese energy market recovers.

Want more? Make sure to visit the Energy Report Archive.

"Energy Matters" is compiled, written and edited by Adam Bruns.

Vol.3 , Issue 04

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