Katrina creates mass devastation

Entergy and Mississippi Power, the utilities most severely hit by the most destructive hurricane in US history, have warned that the pace of restoration will be slow as they continue to asses the damage and move into the worst affected areas.

Hurricane Katrina forced many utilities to close power plants due to transmission lines being wiped out or a cut in fuel supply. Damage to the key Gulf region’s oil and gas rigs severely affected the nation’s fuel supply and caused severe price volatility, the effects of which have rippled across the economy.

Officials have warned the public to expect their utility bills to hit record highs as the industry attempts to recover and restore service to normality.

Progress makes nuclear headway

Progress Energy has informed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it is considering a plan to build a new nuclear power plant to meet its need for additional generation capacity.

The company said that dependent on whether it decides nuclear energy is the best option available to provide the extra power, it would expect to select a site and reactor vendor by the end of the year.

The next stage in the company’s plan would be to submit an application to the NRC for the combined construction and operating license, which could be filed in early 2008. If this was approved, Progress would aim to start construction in 2010 with the intention for the plant to begin generating around 2015.

Minnesota could host world’s cleanest coal fired power plant

US power provider, Excelsior Energy has selected two potential sites as the final candidates to host what will be the cleanest utility scale coal fuelled power plant in the world.

Both sites for the $1.5bn Mesaba Energy Project are located on Minnesota’s Iron Range. The preferred option is the so-called West Range site, located just north of Taconite in Itasca County. Excelsior has acquired a site option on the 405 ha site and is awaiting approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Excelsior said that both sites were capable of accommodating multiple generating units. The first unit will produce 600 MW of base load electric power using integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology, which will make it the cleanest coal fuelled power plant on this scale in the world. In contrast to traditional coal power plants, the IGCC unit will produce a synthetic gas from coal, which is then cleaned and used to fire the generation of electricity.

Brazil to hold mass auction

Brazil is gearing up for a mass power auction with a surplus of electricity pushing prices as low as generators are able to sustain.

The country’s mines and energy ministry is scheduled to tender for 17 new hydroelectric projects in December. The winning companies will then enter an auction process to sell the output on long-term contracts alongside new generation projects that have been awarded over the last five years.

The government hopes that by selling the combined installed capacity it will outstrip distributors’ demand for power, resulting in low prices for the consumer. The government has recognized that the prices will have to be high enough to guarantee owners a return on investment.

US states to introduce own emission cuts

Nine north-eastern US states are set to introduce mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions. If agreed it will be the first plan of its kind in a country that has so far refused to sign the Kyoto protocol.

A draft proposal, published in the New York Times, detailed that power plants with a capacity of over 25 MW would agree to freeze current carbon dioxide emissions by 2009 and then reduce them by 10 per cent by 2020 under a cap and trade system.

The US government has refused to introduce such a scheme nationally believing that it would have a negative impact on the economy. It has recently signed a pact separate from Kyoto, with several Asian countries to encourage the growth of cleaner generation technologies.

US electricity demand to grow 70 000 MW in five years

The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) has said that provided the planned addition of 49 000 MW of new generation capacity is achieved over the next five years, the US will sufficiently meet the rise in demand. However, NERC warned that the longer term is more uncertain.

NERC’s 2005 Long-Term Reliability Assessment states that electricity demand will grow by 69 500 MW between 2005 and 2009. It says that 19 960 km of new transmission lines are to be added before 2014 to allieviate the problems expected to be caused as certain areas reach their reliability limits.

NERC also warned that the US was becoming too dependent on natural gas as a primary fuel for new power plants.

News digest

Brazil: Federal prosecutors are seeking to halt the planned development of a 5500 MW hydroelectric power plant in the Amazon after the local indigenous population argued that they had not been consulted.

Brazil: Nearly $6bn will be invested in expanding the country’s transmission grid by over 11 000 km by 2009, according to Brazil’s national grid operator ONS. SOme 25 per cent of the investment will be spent on integrating the country’s different regions.

Canada: Enbridge Inc., will take a one third stake alongside Suncor Energy Products Inc., in the construction of the $60m, 30 MW Chin Chute wind power project in southern Alberta.

Canada: Generation has restarted at DynaMotive Energy System’s West Lorne BioOil pyrolysis plant after a shutdown for maintenance.

Canada: The country’s largest steel producer, Stelco, has decided to construct its own 60 MW wind farm. The company is currently the subject of a lawsuit after allegedly reneging on a major wind project earlier in the year.

Chile: A subsidiary of Endesa has submitted plans to invest $15.5m to create a 9 MW mini-hydraulic power plant that will generate 60 GWh of electricity per year.

Mexico: State power company CFE is to call for bids to construct the third La Venta wind farm in 2006. To be located in Oaxaca state, the project will have a capacity of 101 MW.

USA: A 400 kW fuel cell commercial demonstration project is to be established in Ohio after the developer, HydroGen Corporation, was given a $1.25m grant by the State’s Department of Development. The project will validate the performance of a 400 kW air-cooled phosphoric acid fuel cell module.

USA: Babcock & Wilcox will install two wet FGD units at the Mitchell power plant in Ohio, after it was awarded a $120m contract by American Electric Power.

USA: Platts has reported that the rate renewable generated electricity increased by last year was just 1 per cent, lower than both the rise in demand and the growth in overall power supply.

USA: San Diego Gas & Electric is considering building a 193 km transmission line by 2011 that would provide 1000 MW of cheaper and cleaner electricity generated outside the region.

Venezuela: The state government has asked the power utility Seneca to increase its generation capacity to meet the 21 per cent rise in demand expected over the next 12 months. The utility said it cannot increase capacity without a corresponding increase in rates, which have been frozen since 2003.

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