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  • In GCL-Poly Rolls On, we peer inside the fast-growing workings of a Hong Kong solar products and power company intent on ramping up around the globe.

  • Take Me to the Pilot shows us how Ford is taking major steps toward solar energy use at manufacturing sites ... including products from a company redeveloping one of Ford's former plants.

  • Just as some Chicago fleets discover natural gas-fired vehicles, a French charging station manufacturer discovers Chicago is the right place to situate its U.S. headquarters for the electric vehicle revolution to come, in Station to Station.


Among the nuclear power plant projects still moving forward in the U.S. is Southern Company's two-unit expansion of Plant Vogtle just south of Augusta, Ga. Here, excavators in December cleared the way for piping for the Unit 3 cooling tower. Meanwhile, Southern's Georgia Power earlier this month said it has requested approval by the Georgia Public Service Commission to decertify two coal-fired plants, due to exorbitant environmental controls costs related to existing and expected regulations.
photo courtesy of Southern Co.

While a scare has been thrown into the global nuclear power industry, some projects continue apace. They include Shaw Group's nuclear module operation in Lake Charles, La. The $100-million project, announced in August 2008, originally promised as many as 1,400 jobs by 2014. It received a $10.8-million federal tax credit in January 2010.

"At this time, we do not believe there will be an impact on Shaw's nuclear projects currently under construction in the United States and China," said J.M. Bernhard Jr., Shaw's chairman, president and CEO, on March 13, citing new-generation technology and the industry's practice of continuous learning. "Our customers have indicated they intend to move forward, and we believe the construction timelines will continue as planned."

Nine days later, on March 22, Shaw announced it would assist Toshiba Corp. in providing support services for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan. "As an extension of the relationship the two companies have shared since 2006, Shaw will assist Toshiba with mitigation, remediation and recovery services at the plant," said the company. "A team of experts from Shaw's Power and Environmental & Infrastructure Groups has mobilized to provide services both on the ground in Japan, as well as engineering, analysis, assessment and design from the U.S."

Nuclear projects still moving forward also include the Ninh Thuan complex in Vietnam. According to the news site, Dr. Vuong Huu Tan, head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute, said significant steps need to be made, however, before the scheduled groundbreaking in 2014: attaining the human resources, establishing the legal and fiscal framework, and establishing control of the land parcels that the two-phase project will require.

"According to Hoang Anh Tuan, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, each nuclear power project requires about 500 hectares of land," reported Uni-Bros. "For the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant, a total of 156 households with about 650 people would have to be relocated, while it would take 611 households with over 2,000 residents to be relocated to build the Ninh Thuan 2 plant."

While much of the manufacturing focus in the wake of Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident catastrophe has been on the automotive sector, alternative energy is in the spotlight too, thanks to the country's polysilicon industry, as well as such solar leaders as Sharp. Among the companies issuing guidance in the past week was San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp., which said its suppliers had indicated some infrastructure-related disruptions, but had not sustained major facility damage.

"Polysilicon from SunPower's Japanese suppliers will account for less than 10 percent of the company's total polysilicon supply for the second quarter of 2011, and SunPower would seek to replace any polysilicon from alternate sources to the extent events in Japan warrant such action," said the company.

Two days before the earthquake, SunPower had announced a supply agreement with Toshiba Corp., which will order 48 megawatts of solar panels from SunPower during the 2011 Japanese fiscal year ending March 31, 2012. Toshiba planned to use the panels to support the company's residential solar offering in Japan, which was launched last year with a supply agreement for 32 megawatts of SunPower panels.

That plan jibes well with a March 22 bulletin from Frost & Sullivan that said the power grid crisis in Japan may help spur growth in non-centralized electricity generation, solar power and micro combined heat and power (microCHP).

"Japan is already a world leader in green and alternative power research and usage," said Frost & Sullivan energy and environment markets research director Roberta Gamble. "Expanding the market at a faster rate can help spur innovations that increase efficiencies and reduce costs, which can have a global impact in terms of making these technologies more attractive outside of Japan as well."

Alternative energy costs are high compared to traditional solutions, but Japan has a history of aggressive incentives and mandates that help grow the market.

"The concerns of nuclear power and an extensive grid system, both of which have been adversely affected by the earthquake and tsunami, may further mobilize national sentiment," said Gamble.

First Wind has a whole bunch of wind farms going up in New England, employing a whole bunch of workers. What this bodes for Maine depends on your point of view, as this article from the Bangor Daily News and the comments about it demonstrate.

Home to the headquarters of Peabody Energy, Gateway One provides unobstructed views of the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River from all floors.
Photo courtesy of Daymark Realty Advisors

Daymark Realty Advisors, Inc., announced on March 2 that it had secured a 15-year lease renewal and expansion with Peabody Energy for a total of 215,362 square feet of office space at the 15-story, 409,920-sq.-ft. Gateway One building in the central business district of St. Louis.

Peabody, which uses the space for its corporate headquarters, produced nearly $7 billion in revenue during 2010 and increased its St. Louis work force by 12 percent, bringing the total number of employees located at the headquarters to more than 500 spread throughout seven floors. Peabody Energy will take occupancy of an additional two floors totaling 56,174 square feet of space in July, increasing the building's occupancy rate to 96 percent. The company has been a tenant of the property since 1991 and acquired naming rights, which have yet to be announced, as part of the new lease agreement.

"With this expansion, Peabody Energy will occupy more than 50 percent of Gateway One," said Robert Assoian, executive vice president, asset management, Midwest. "The company has been a local economic anchor and civic leader in St. Louis for more than 50 years and we are thrilled to have them stay and expand within this trophy property."

Driven by a court deadline, the EPA on March 16 proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants, ending "20 years of uncertainty across industry" but certainly not ending strident opposition. "This rule will provide employment for thousands, by supporting 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs," said the EPA, after citing a litany of medical problems that the new regulations would help reduce.

"EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public and American businesses will see up to $13 in health and economic benefits," said the announcement. "The total health and economic benefits of this standard are estimated to be as much as $140 billion annually." The proposed rule provides up to four years for facilities to meet the standards.

The announcement comes 11 years after EPA announced it would set such limits for power plants, and following a February 2008 court decision that struck down the previous administration's mercury rule. In October 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree that required a proposal to be signed by March 16, 2011, and a final rule to be completed by November 2011.

A public comment period is under way. Here's a link to the proposed standards:

One day later, the EPA extended the deadline for thousands of companies, including chemical manufacturers, to report their greenhouse gas emissions, from March 31 to Sept. 30. That program was launched in 2009.

"This extension will allow EPA to further test the system that facilities will use to submit data and give industry the opportunity to test the tool, provide feedback, and have sufficient time to become familiar with the tool prior to reporting," said the EPA.

Photo courtesy of John Cornicello of Adobe.

Adobe Systems on March 16 received its 11th LEED certification and ninth LEED-Platinum certification for its office building in Seattle.

New features at the Seattle building include the addition of a building management system that allows Adobe to take internal control of the building; replacement of the building lighting controls to tighten daily operations schedules; an EvapoTranspiration (ET) Controller to monitor irrigation efficiency and water use; a software system to allow for Web-based and real-time energy monitoring of the building; and replacement of incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs to reduce energy use.

These projects have helped Adobe achieve energy reduction of 18.5 percent over two-year project period; 10-percent reduction in overall building water utilization – 59 percent reduction in water usage for irrigation needs; and a 33-percent increase in waste diversion.

The six buildings that have earned the 11 certifications also include facilities at Adobe headquarters in San Jose; San Francisco and Boston.

After 14 years at a Mitsubishi electric plant in Jpaan, a giant turbine is transferred to the newly established Savannah Machinery Works facility as a training platform for the growing employee work force at the Pooler megasite.
Photo courtesy of Georgia Ports Authority

Last week a 332,000-pound gas turbine used for long-term testing at the Mitsubishi T-Point facility in Takasago, Japan, was offloaded at the Georgia Ports Authority's (GPA) Ocean Terminal. Mitsubishi is the only large frame gas turbine manufacturing company in the world to operate its own factory-based power plant, where it performs extended testing and verification of its products before they are released for worldwide sales.

This unit operated for more than 14 years at Mitsubishi's electric plant and has now been transferred to the newly established Savannah Machinery Works facility as a training platform for the growing employee work force at the Pooler megasite. "With its arrival at the Pooler facility, Mitsubishi is considering establishing a global training center for field service and technical personnel bringing more jobs and investment to the Savannah area," said a GPA news release.

The heavy lift and transport capability involving GPA's facilities and a host of partners in Savannah was one of the factors in Savannah's favor when the site was originally selected. Mitsubishi's Savannah Machinery Works has completed the first phase of its new gas turbine manufacturing center, opening 128,000 sq. ft. at the Pooler megasite in late 2010. Upon completion, the total manufacturing complex will employ approximately 500 people — at an average salary of $58,000 — in 500,000 square feet of facilities.

"The GPA's capabilities and support were a key factor in selecting the Pooler location for the Mitsubishi facility," said Mitsubishi Power Systems General Manager of Savannah Machinery Works Steve Woodall. "Now, their responsiveness and flexibility have exceeded our expectations."

Earth Hour happens this Saturday, March 26, at 8:30 p.m. local time, wherever you are in the world. While many organizations will turn off lights, this year's theme calls for going "beyond the hour."

Massachusetts-based energy efficiency and renewable energy company Ameresco announced March 16 that it had signed an agreement with the City of Portland, Maine, to provide energy conservation measures (ECM) to 45 City of Portland facilities including 30 municipal buildings and 15 public schools. Based on the findings of an audit conducted with MACTEC, a leading engineering firm, Ameresco will implement the $9.4-million project. It is estimated that the project will save the City nearly $17 million over the 15-year project term while reducing Portland's carbon footprint.

The City of Portland has no upfront capital expense for the project. Ameresco will guarantee a minimum level of energy savings over the 15-year term of the contract and an assurance to the City that the cash inflows from the project will exceed the cash requirements for the project, offsetting the costs of these improvements. In addition, Ameresco will provide grant funding services that will enhance the value to the City by assisting it in applying and securing additional funds from outside public and private sources.

The facilities include a nursing home, the Portland Exposition Building, City Hall, Merrill Auditorium and Portland High School. Among other improvements, the city will switch from fuel oil to natural gas and Ameresco will install a 2,000-watt solar array at the Portland Arts and Technology High School.

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

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

Vol.3 , Issue 03

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