Engineer retirements leave US facing crisis – National Grid


US utilities could be facing a crisis unless they attract new engineers to the industry, says National Grid.

Over the next five years, retiring engineers in the country’s electric and gas utilities will leave over 7000 openings, while the number of students choosing to study engineering is falling. National Grid says it is facing a shortage of engineers to build the next generation of energy delivery systems, like smart grid and other high-tech innovations.

Launching its Engineering Our Future initiative to attract a new generation, National Grid said it has invested $3m in the programme to encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to consider studying science, technology, engineering and maths.

The centrepiece of the initiative is the Engineering Pipeline, a six-year programme to allow 60 high school students in summer to job shadow, to receive mentoring and join paid internships. “We must act now to create a corps of smart, dedicated and highly trained engineers to develop innovative technologies and renewable energy solutions,” said National Grid president Tom King.


Loan guarantees to back Southern’s nuclear plant project at Vogtle


Southern Nuclear will receive $8.3bn in federal loan guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors at its Vogtle plant in Burke, Georgia.

The units will be the nation’s first new nuclear power plants in more than three decades and will use Westinghouse AP1000 technology. Georgia Power will use the loan guarantee to borrow from the Federal Financing Bank up to 70 per cent of its share in the new units, or about $3.4bn.

The loan guarantees will help lower its costs for participation in the new units. Southern expects Unit 3 to begin commercial operation in 2016, and unit 4 in 2017.


Vermont votes to close Yankee reactor


The US state of Vermont has rejected a proposal to keep the 40-year-old Vermont Yankee plant going beyond its proposed closure in 2012.

The decision could hamper President Barack Obama’s plan to squeeze more life out of the country’s aging reactors. Louisiana-based Entergy had wanted a 20-year renewal for the plant.

The discovery of tritium in ground water near the plant was said to have been a major factor in the decision to shut down Vermont Yankee.


Venezuelan power system on brink of collapse after drought


Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is facing a deepening electricity crisis because of a combination of a drought in 2009 and rising demand for power.

The country’s power system faces collapse because it relies too heavily on one dam and has experienced a sudden seven per cent surge in demand for electricity.

Venezuela receives almost three-quarters of its electricity from the Guri dam, the world’s third-largest, but the water level there has decline because of a lack of rainfall in the country and continues to fall. In response, President Hugo Chavez’s government has been implementing emergency power-saving measures, such as rolling blackouts and power rationing.

Installed capacity in Venezuela was 23.6 GW in November but only 10.5 GW of this was available.

Some analysts say say the reason for the power crisis is that working fossil-fuelled plants are mostly inefficient or have fallen into severe disrepair. Others say corruption has lead to the neglect of Venezuela’s power infrastructure. The government that it has brought some 4620 MW of new generation online since 2001.


Natural gas blow suspected in fatal US plant blast


A recent explosion that killed and injured people at a power plant in Connecticut, USA, may have been caused by a blow of natural gas.

That is the initial explanation of an investigator at the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for the reason for the blast that killed six and injured 26. Workers had used natural gas at a high velocity to clean debris out of gas pipes at the 620 MW Kleen Energy Plant.

Early inquiries show that some 11 000 m3 of gas escaped into an area containing two heat recovery steam generators before the explosion. Blows at natural gas fired plants are a common practice in the USA.


Brazilian genco Cesp to remain in national hands


A Brazilian state’s electricity generating company is to remain under national government control.

Sao Paolo’s state’s government had wanted to make Cesp follow the model of Cemig, the generator of the state of Mina Gerais, which has invested heavily in the acquisition of assets, including the raising of its stake in the Rio de Janeiro-based power distributor Light.

A spokesman said that Cesp has plans to build small hydro plants and wind farms in northern Brazil.




Brazil: MAN Diesel of Germany is to supply gensets for six diesel power plants, including its 18V32/40 large-bore engines and generators. The €300m ($410m) contract was secured from Grupo Bertin.

Brazil: Environment regulator Ibama has issued the final licence for the $9.3bn, 11.3 GW Belo Monte hydropower plant on the river Xingu. Constructors will have to pledge $793m for preservation work that will compensate for the project’s environmental impact.

Brazil: The state nuclear power company Eletronuclear is close to finishing a technical analysis of the proposed sites for new nuclear plants. The country aims to build the plants by 2025.

Canada: The nation’s wind energy industry enjoyed a record year in 2009. Canada installed 950 MW of capacity last year, the ninth most in the world. However, the end of federal support for renewables threatens this growth, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Colombia: Toshiba has won an order worth $79m for three power generators for Isagen’s hydro plant in the state of Santander. Each will produce 324 MW, making them the largest in the country.

Colombia: HMV Ingenerios has started operating its 9.5 MW Caruquia hydropower plant, which connects to the national grid via a 14 km long 44 kV line. The company will also start operating its 9.5 MW Guanaquitas hydropower plant in April.

Peru: Wood Group will service and maintain two General Electric Frame 7 gas turbines, compressors and generators and three GE LM2500+DLE aero-derivative gas turbine gensets at the Pampa Melchorita site south of Lima. The contract is worth $150m over 18 years.

USA: A solar thermal project in the Mojave desert has won a conditional $1.4bn loan guarantee. The scheme would use thousands of heliostats to heat a tower-mounted boiler to produce 392 MW of power.

USA: Vogt Power International will supply a heat recovery steam generator for Idaho Power’s gas fired combined-cycle 300 MW Langley Gulch plant in Idaho, due to begin operating in August.


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