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May 18, 2013

Green Technology Week in Review



In green technology developments this week, the second consecutive scientist to lead the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)—nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, 68—has been unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Moniz replaces outgoing DOE Secretary Steven Chu—a physicist who served during President Barack Obama’s first term. Since 1973, Moniz has been on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT (News - Alert)), where he has been named Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, as well as the director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

However, he is not just an academic; he served as undersecretary of DOE during the Clinton Administration. His confirmation was relatively smooth, compared to the process that is being experienced by Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee to helm the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Approval of McCarthy has been delayed by Republican opposition; however, she did pass a 10-8 party-line vote by the Senate Environment Committee on May 16.

In other green tech news, one company that will be surprisingly happy about the confirmation of Moniz is Shell Oil. Moniz is an acknowledged booster of natural gas—and Shell, which to date has been a major fossil fuel player, just this week sealed a deal to market liquefied natural gas (LNG) at fueling stations nationwide.

Shell and TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) have finalized an agreement to develop a U.S. network of LNG fueling centers for heavy-duty road transport customers. The plan is to construct at least two LNG fueling lanes and a storage facility at up to 100 existing TA and Petro Stopping Centers along the U.S. interstate highway system. Shell anticipates the first of these stations will be operational in roughly one year’s time, with a priority to develop the main trucking corridors to provide the potential for the first-ever coast-to-coast LNG-fueled commercial transport network.

And here’s another case of good timing: the mayor of Lancaster, Calif., R. Rex Parris, has achieved what another city in the same state had hoped to accomplish. He has beaten Sebastopol to the title of first municipality in the United States to require all newly constructed single-family homes to deploy solar arrays. In doing so, Mayor Parris has retained bragging rights to call Lancaster “the solar energy capital of the world.”  

Parris successfully passed legislation in March that will require all newly constructed residences in Lancaster to install solar arrays that generate between 0.5 kilowatts (kW) and 1.5 kW of power, depending on lot size and location, effective January 1, 2014.  In response to the announcement, Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes grumbled to The New York Times, “We were going to be number one. Now we’re number two.” Sebastopol’s ordinance , passed this month, would require new residential and commercial buildings — as well as major additions and remodeling — to provide solar generation equal to 2 watts of power per square foot of insulated building area (or to offset 75 percent of the building’s annual electric load).

 Identifying the “positives” in the situation, Kyes told Watch Sonoma County that Lancaster is a “Republican community” and that Sebastopol is “liberal”—asserting that the nearly simultaneous passage of their laws speaks to the “broad support” nationwide for solar power.

Finally, Dominion Generation and FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCE) broke ground earlier this week in Bridgeport, Conn., on what will be the largest fuel cell power project in North America—surpassed worldwide only by another FCE installation planned for Pohanag, South Korea. The facility, Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell, will be built on a remediated brownfield site and will produce 14.9 megawatts (MW) of electricity using a reactive process that converts natural gas into electricity. Danbury, Conn.-based FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCE) will build, operate and maintain the plant under contract to Richmond, Va.-based Dominion.  FCE is supplying five Direct FuelCell stationary fuel cell power plants and an organic rankine turbine that will capture the waste heat from the fuel cells and convert it into additional electricity.  

Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell is part of Project 150, an initiative to build and operate 150 MW of renewable generating capacity in Connecticut. The program, which is sponsored by the state and supported by the Clean Energy (News - Alert) Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA),  is the nation's first full-scale clean energy finance authority that leverages public and private funds to drive investment and scale up clean energy deployment in Connecticut. This project was supported by the City of Bridgeport, which provides a tax incentive development agreement that will be in place for the life of the project.




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