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The News About Renewables

Using renewable resources for electricity generation is a cost-effective way of ensuring a reliable energy supply and achieving customer satisfaction.

Apr/May 08
(page 2 of 2)
Solar power is popular where the sun shines.
The array of projects offered by the Arizona Public Service Company (APS) illustrates the diversity of solar power installations. APS now has more than 5 MW of installed solar capacity statewide. APS' Flagstaff solar plant produces 82 kW of solar power using a single-axis tracking technology to maximize the intake of the sun's energy. APS installed high-concentration photovoltaic arrays at the Glendale Municipal Airport that track the sun's movement and concentrate the sun's rays onto each solar cell. A solar-hybrid power system was installed at the remote Gray Wolf Regional Landfill using photovoltaics and battery storage. APS and the City of Scottsdale combined the need for covered parking at a commercial building with clean energy generation, resulting in an 8,500-square-foot parking structure covered with photovoltaic panels that generate 93 kW.

In late February, APS entered into an agreement with Abengoa Solar to build one of the largest solar power plants, 280 MW, at a cost of $1 billion, in Gila Bend, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. The Solana Generating Station should be producing energy by 2011. APS will pay Abengoa $4 billion over 30 years for the electricity it generates, tripling the amount of renewable electricity APS produces. Unlike most solar collectors, Solana will use the sun's heat instead of its light to produce power as it trains thousands of parabolic mirrors to focus the sun's heat. This heat will be used to heat liquid that can be used to power turbines even when the sun is not shining.

APS President Don Brandt is clearly thinking big when it comes to solar energy: "APS is committed to making Arizona the solar capital of the world and bringing affordable renewable energy to all our customers." It is not just the green benefits that are important. APS estimates that the Solana Generating station will create about 1,500 construction jobs and will employ about 85 highly skilled people. Total economic benefits to the state are estimated at more than $1 billion.

In Florida, FPL Energy, a wholesale generation company and part of the FPL group that includes Florida Power and Light, is a leader in wind energy but also operates the two largest solar fields in the world. FPL also operates 55 wind farms in 16 states, with 5,000 MW capacity. FPL offers the Sunshine Energy program to residential and commercial customers who want to "go green." To ensure sufficient renewable energy to meet program demand, FPL is building solar projects in Florida, including a 230 kW project at Rothenbach Park in Sarasota. A second project is under construction at the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium.

Smaller utilities also can benefit from solar power. Austin Energy's GreenChoice claims to be the nation's most successful utility-sponsored green pricing program, with over 665 million kWh in subscriptions. Austin has more green-powered businesses than any city in the nation. To meet demand, Austin Energy augments wind power from fields in McCamey and Sweetwater with several solar installations in Austin. Some of the solar installations are on city buildings - the largest are at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, a large city parking garage, and atop a hotel.

Utilities that operate in sunny climates do not always go the solar route when investigating renewable resources for their portfolios. Alabama Power, Georgia Power, and Mississippi Power, all part of Southern Company, offer their customers energy powered by biomass - sawdust, switchgrass, and landfill gas. However, Gulf Power, another part of Southern Company, offers its customers energy generated from photovoltaics.

Renewables are being integrated into energy conservation plans.
Because of energy shortages and higher prices, the utilities on the West Coast have been using renewables as part of a plan to reduce dependence on fossil fuel generation for many years. These utilities are bundling their green power options with other programs and services for businesses, helping them to get maximum benefit from every energy dollar they spend.

A top green program belongs to Oregon's Portland General Electric Company (PGE), which offers two renewable energy programs for businesses. For small and mid-scale business, PGE's Green Source option matches 100 percent of energy usage with several types of renewable power. Large businesses can purchase a separate Clean Wind product, where small units of renewable energy are purchased for a set fee. PGE offers added inducements including free publicity and advertising, depending on level of participation. Supporters are included in advertisements that appear in local newspapers and periodicals and in PGE's renewables newsletter. PGE provides a range of marketing tools including window decals and Web graphics to help businesses demonstrate their concern for the environment to their customers.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California is a municipal utility dedicated to green power - its power mix emphasizes hydropower and other renewables and is one of the cleanest in the country. SMUD has a goal to meet 23 percent of its retail electricity sales with renewable power by 2011. To help achieve this goal, SMUD has integrated "go green" programs for both residential and commercial customers with new wind field construction and renewable power purchases. In addition to buying green power, SMUD has programs to encourage businesses to generate their own solar power, offers advice and assistance to help business evaluate new energy-saving technologies, and provides information on rebates and tax incentives and energy audits.

Whether it is by implementing new renewable technologies, expanding existing facilities, offering incentives to "go green," or bundling green power with other products and services for residential and commercial customers, U.S. utilities have embraced renewable resources. With their predictable costs, security of supply, local economic benefits, and clean power, renewable energy is a good choice to meet future electricity needs.

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