US grid shines as heat triggers record demand

Despite soaring temperatures across the US that have prompted record power demand, the nation’s power systems have been able to meet demand with few unexpected disruptions.

According to Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) directors Larry Makovich and Jone-Lin Wang, in some cases, demand reached levels not expected for another three or four years. Substantial investment in new power plants during the first half of this decade has expanded generating capacity by more than 20 per cent, providing an extra capacity margin. Furthermore, management of the grid under extreme stress reflects lessons learned from the analysis of the August 2003 blackout and the hurricanes last year, CERA says.

However, Makovich and Wang warn that in several regions there is not enough in the investment pipeline to ensure that power systems will have enough physical capacity to handle heat waves a few years from now and distribution systems remain vulnerable.

CERA adds that while there is sufficient capacity for this summer, given the long lead time in the permitting and construction of power projects, the investment framework needs to be settled promptly in order to ensure adequate supply.

Tractebel to increase its capacity in Brazil

Suez’ Brazilian subsidiary Tractebel Energia plans to invest in new generation projects and purchase existing plants in order to maintain its market share in the country.

Brazil’s installed capacity has been predicted to grow from the current 90 GW by some 5 per cent annually in coming years, and it is understood that Tractebel is already considering plans to purchase a further 12.16 per cent stake in the 1139 MW Machadinho hydro plant.

The generation facility, located in southern Brazil’s Santa Catarina, is controlled by state-owned Celesc, although Tractebel already holds a nearly 20 per cent stake.

Celesc is selling its generation assets in order to comply with legislation splitting vertically integrated power utilities.

Pulp mill switches to bio power

An industrial-scale test burn of bio-oil as a replacement for natural gas has been completed by DynaMotive Energy Systems Corporation.

The test, in the lime kiln of a pulp and paper mill, was conducted in the Northern Interior of British Columbia at one of Canada’s largest integrated forest products companies.

The combustion testing, in which more than 20 tonnes of bio-oil were fired at around 2 tonnes / hour using existing unmodified equipment, marks an important step toward commercialization of an alternative to natural gas or fuel oil.

The company is currently evaluating a number of project development opportunities for local deployment of its plant modules currently in fabrication.

Four sites left on FutureGen shortlist

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced the final candidate host sites for its $1bn FutureGen programme to develop a near-zero emissions coal fired power plant.

The FutureGen Alliance decision, naming two sites each in Texas and Illinois, follows an extensive technical review that concluded that the four sites, from the 12 competing across seven states, were the best suited to host the facility.

The sites are Mattoon and Tuscola in Illinois and Heart of Brazos near Jewett, and Odessa in Texas.

Argentina plans nuclear revival

Argentina has announced an ambitious programme to expand its nuclear generation capacity through both plant life extensions and new build.

Planning minister Julio de Vido said the strategic plan will increase the lifespan of both the Atucha I and Embalse plants and complete the long-delayed Atucha II by 2010.

Another key measure which may prove controversial is a reappraisal of uranium mining and some concrete steps towards its resumption, together with the possible resumption of an enrichment programme that has been shut down since 1983.

Brazilian asset sale leaves EdF lighter

Electricite de France (EdF) has concluded the sale of a 79.4 per cent stake in its subsidiary Light, an electricity distribution company in the state of Rio de Janeiro that serves 3.8m people.

The company went to Rio Minas Energia Participações (RME), an alliance of Brazilian interests which includes Andrade Gutierrez Concessões, the CEMIG electricity interest from the province of Minas Gerais, and the JLA investment fund.

The stake went for a price of $319.8m although EdF retains a 10 per cent holding. A further 10.6 per cent is publicly traded on the Brazilian stock market.

News digest

Brazil: MDU Resources has purchased an interest in the transmission partnership which operates a series of transmission lines in the northeast and south of the country.

Brazil: The government has signed a 30-year concession deal for seven new hydro projects with a combined capacity of 850 MW due to begin operations by 2010.

Canada: Vestas has won a contract to supply 30 units of its 1.8 MW wind turbine for the Kettles Hill project near Pincher Creek.

Guatemala: Globeleq has sold a 14 per cent stake in Orzunil I de Electricidad Limitatda, a 24 MW geothermal plant, to OrPower 3.

Uruguay: GE has supplied four turbines to make up for the gap in Uruguay’s energy mix caused by a season of lower than expected rainfall. Together the diesel/gas fuelled turbines will generate 200 MW.

USA: Alstom has won a $700m EPC contract for the boiler and air control equipment for an 850 MW coal fired unit in Missouri.

USA: Commercial operations have begun at Alaska’s first geothermal plant, a 200 kW installation at Chena Hot Springs.

USA: GE and Bechtel have signed a contract with AEP for the front-end engineering of a 630 MW integrated gasification combined cycle power plant in West Virginia.

USA: Installed wind capacity has reached the 10 GW milestone, the AWEA reports, while FPL has assumed the mantle of world’s largest producer, operating nearly 4 GW of capacity.

USA: Long Island Power Authority has begun construction of an 800 m superconducting 138 kV cable to be installed in a live grid. Sumitomo Electric has also begun field trials of a 350 m high voltage superconducting cable in Albany, NY.

USA: Seven northeast states have agreed the nation’s first mandatory CO2 cap and trade scheme under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. A model set of regulations will see emissions from power plants in the region capped at approximately current levels, beginning 2009 until 2015, with a ten per cent reduction by 2019.

USA: The Department of Energy has awarded a contract to Consol Energy, a major coal producer, to demonstrate a multi pollutant control technology for the development of low emission coal fired plants. AES is to install the clean coal technology at its 161 MW Dresden facility in New York.

Venezuela: Telefonica Moviles is to begin installation of nine Plug Power fuel cell-based back-up power systems.