News Digest

Brazil: Brazil’s national development bank, BNDES, has approved a real551m ($189m) loan to the Novatrans consortium that is concluding construction on the 1200 km, 230 kV Norte-Sul II transmission line.

Brazil: Furnas has received government approval to build a $120m, 135 MW power plant in Arraial do Cabo municipality, Rio de Janeiro state. Start up is scheduled for 2006.

Canada: Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has selected the Foxboro unit of Invensys Process Systems to upgrade the existing Westinghouse WDPF distributed control system currently installed at its 490 MW Holyrood thermal plant.

Canada: The Newfoundland government is to invite expressions of interest to develop a hydro project on the Lower Churchill river. The river has significant energy potential and a number of parties have expressed interest in the project.

Chile: The International Finance Corporation is considering financing the $250m La Higuera hydro project in Chile being developed by Australian power generator Pacific Hydro and Norway’s Statkraft Norfund Power Invest.

Dominican Republic: Wärtsilä has been selected to supply a baseload power plant to supply electricity for a large cement factory located near the village of Sabana Grande de Palenque in the Dominion Republic. The order is for four 18V32LN gensets producing over 25 MW.

Ecuador: Ecuador’s government plans to reduce power consumption through an energy efficiency programme running over the next four months, which aims to trim $70m from the country’s fuel import bill.

Guatemala: Hidroelectrica Tres Rios is negotiating with construction companies to build the $83m, 50 MW first stage of its Tres Rios hydro project in Guatemala’s San Marcos department.

USA: CMS Energy is to seek a license renewal for Consumers Energy’s Palisades nuclear power plant, which is due to expire in 2011. A 20 year extension will be sought for the 789 MW plant.

USA: Babcock & Wilcox has received a $190m contract to engineer, design, procure and construct a new 500 MW coal fired boiler and associated equipment at Wisconsin Public Service Corporation’s proposed Weston power plant in Rothschild, Wis.

USA: American Superconductor Corporation and GE Energy have announced an order for two D-VAR transmission grid reliability systems from International Transmission Company to be installed in a 120 kV transmission system in east central Michigan.

Westinghouse gets NRC OK

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted final approval to Westinghouse Electric Company’s AP1000 standard nuclear plant design, clearing the way for the company to begin selling the 1100 MW design internationally. Westinghouse said in a statement that it has already received strong interest in the design from customers in Asia, Europe and the United States.

The AP1000 is the first Generation III+ reactor design to receive NRC approval. The approval came just 30 months after Westinghouse filed the design.

“Such a short review schedule was achievable because the AP1000 application was basically a power uprate of our highly detailed 600 MW AL600 standard design,” said Steve Tritch, Westinghouse president and CEO.

“The Final Design Approval process verifies beyond doubt the advanced safety characteristics of the AP1000 technology, which is designed to be even safer than the existing fleet of already safe nuclear power plants,” said Tritch.

Oil price good for wind power

A report by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services (S&P) points to the high level of oil prices in 2003-2004 as a reason for greater political interest in renewable energy, particularly wind power, but says that daunting obstacles remain if the sector is to be financially viable.

“If high oil prices continue, the competitiveness of wind verses traditional energy sources could improve significantly,” said S&P analyst Jan Willem Plantagie. “Over the last five years, the financial support for the sector has largely been driven by governments’ commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to levels under the Kyoto protocols. Support from tax subsidies, renewable certificates, or subsidized prices remain important.”

S&P points out that few wind energy projects have achieved investment-grade credit quality.

AEP plans IGCC

American Electric Power (AEP) is to build at least one commercial baseload integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) clean coal plant as part of its programme to manage future emission constraints. “Contin-uing significant environmental investments in our current fleet and building a commercial scale IGCC plant are the right steps going forward to ensure that we can continue to burn coal economically while reducing our emissions,” said Michael Morris, AEP chairman, president and CEO.

AEP has agreed to accelerate deployment of at least one base load IGCC plant of up to 1000 MW as soon as 2010. IGCC technology converts coal into gas and passes it through pollutant-removal equipment before the gas is burned.

DE making US residential inroads

New research from energy market analysts Primen suggests that there is an increasing take-up of distributed energy (DE) in North America’s residential market. In a survey, 22 per cent of households expressed a high interest in some form of DE, either for back-up, baseload generation or a utility dispatch leasing programme. Currently only six per cent of US households currently have an onsite generator. In a recent 12 month period, nearly one million onsite generators were sold to households for either their primary residences or vacation homes.

FuelCell Energy Inc. has finalized terms of the three-year first phase of its Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance programme.

Enron deals

Two high ranking former Enron officials have pleaded guilty to charges related to fraud allegations and have struck deals with US prosecutors.

Former head of investor relations Mark Koenig pleaded guilty to securities fraud and pledged to pay a penalty of $1.49m. Kevin Hannon, Enron Broadband Services’ former CEO pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250 000. Enron’s one-time chairman Ken Lay is due to face trial on 11 fraud charges.

Fluor signs EPC agreement

Peabody’s Prairie State Energy Campus and Fluor Daniel Illinois have signed a letter of intent for engineering, design and construction of Prairie State’s planned 1500 MW power generation plant and coal mine facilities in southern Illinois.

The plant is designed to produce low-cost electricity using state-of-the-art clean coal technology and will create 450 permanent jobs. A transmission agreement has been signed to interconnect with the Illinois power system. A group of Midwest electricity providers have signed a letter of intent with Prairie State to acquire partial ownership, which will provide the group with one-third of the plant’s output.

Fluor will now perform preliminary design engineering, and Prairie State and Fluor will negotiate terms of contract covering engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning.