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Monthly Archives: August 2017

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Two dead at FirstEnergy coal-fired power plant

Category : Uncategorized

SHIPPINGPORT, Pa. (AP) — State police say two contractors died after inhaling toxic fumes that also injured several other workers in an underground pit at a western Pennsylvania power plant.

Police said the Enerfab Corp. workers were in a “confined, well-type” area at the Bruce Mansfield Power Station in Beaver County shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday when they removed an elbow joint in a pipe, releasing hydrogen sulfide gas into the air in the confined space.

Police said 34-year-old Kevin Bachner and 42-year-old John Gorchock, both of Pittsburgh, were unable to make it out of the well and died. Three other workers made it to safety and were taken to hospitals.

The plant in Shippingport, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Pittsburgh, is FirstEnergy’s largest coal-fired plant. FirstEnergy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton says the plant remains operational.

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Lawsuit asks to freeze profits over failed S.C. nuclear plant

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Another lawsuit has been filed against one of the two utilities that bailed on a South Carolina nuclear power project last month.

The latest lawsuit filed Monday is a class action suit on behalf of 10 people in Fairfield County, where the two abandoned reactors were being built alongside an existing unit at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

The lawsuit against South Carolina Electric & Gas and its parent company SCANA asks a judge to freeze all the money received from a settlement with Toshiba, the parent company of the project’s main contractor, Westinghouse, which went bankrupt in March.

The suit also asks to freeze the utility’s profits and dividends.

At least two other lawsuits have already been filed over the failed plants.

SCE&G co-owned the project with state-owned Santee Cooper.

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GE opens power grid technology center in Bucharest

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GE speeds up growth for its software and digital resources in Romania and kicks off the recruitment campaign for GE Power’s Grid Software Solutions center in Bucharest.

The company intends to hire highly skilled IT specialists in the coming years. Available jobs range from middle to senior positions in technical leadership, software integration and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) software engineering.

“Our Software Solutions center plays a significant role in achieving GE’s mission to become a Top 10 software company in the following years,” stated Cristian Colteanu, President & CEO GE for Romania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova. “As Romania is turning into the digital center for South Eastern Europe, digitalization has become a major asset for driving value and efficiency in the local energy industry.”

“We’re very excited about the accelerated growth of our Romanian SWS center, in a highly competitive, fast-growing IT market. Since 2015, we have hired over 100 people and are committed to keep the same pace and continue the recruitment of digital specialists over the next two years,” stated Silviu Cretean, Senior Services Director for GE’s Software Delivery Center in Bucharest.

Starting August 2017, employees will be welcomed in the center’s new state-of-the-art headquarters on Aviatorilor 8 – the most high-tech and sustainable office building in Romania. GE’s working space will cover around 3,000 sqm on the 1st and 3rd floors, and will benefit from all the building’s cutting-edge facilities – from electric car chargers, to showers and locker rooms, and over 200 parking spaces.

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Xcel Energy may shut 2 coal-fired units early

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DENVER (AP) — Colorado‘s largest electrical utility said Tuesday it is considering shutting down two coal-fired generating units a decade earlier than planned and replacing them with power from a mix of wind, solar and natural gas.

Xcel Energy said the plan calls for closing two older units at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo — one in 2022 and one in 2025. A third, newer unit would keep operating.

Xcel said it would not put the plan in place unless the overall cost of electricity is the same or less than current costs.

David Eves, president of Colorado operations for the Minneapolis-based utility, said he believes the plan would save money, but he could not say how much.

“We think there’s a material savings,” he said. “It will depend on the bids, whether it’s a lot cheaper or whether it’s marginally less expensive.”

The Pueblo plant would lose 80 to 90 jobs over eight years, some through attrition, Eves said. Xcel would work with other employees on new opportunities, he said.

Eves said the company has never had layoffs as a result of switching from coal to renewable energy.

Taking the two coal-fired units offline is expected to reduce carbon dioxide pollution by 4 million to 4.5 million tons a year, Eves said.

The plant now burns about 5 million tons of coal a year. If the two older units are retired, that would be cut in half, Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said. The newer unit is larger than the other two, he said.

The utility is asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the industry, for the go-ahead to pursue the plan. If regulators agree, Xcel would ask for bids for constructing solar, wind or gas generating facilities and for purchasing renewable or gas-fired electricity from independent companies.

If the bids meet Xcel’s price requirements, the utility would settle on a mix of power sources and ask regulators for permission to put the plan in place.

The two Pueblo units that would be retired have a combined capacity of 660 megawatts.

Because weather can affect wind and solar energy production, renewable generating facilities generally need more capacity to serve the same number of customers as fossil fuel plants.

Xcel’s proposal is supported by 14 groups ranging from the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel and Climax Molybdenum Co. to Western Resource Advocates, an environmental advocacy group.

Xcel has 1.4 million customers in Colorado, including about 1.1 million residential customers.

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Solar power microgrid goes online in Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts

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Cuttyhunk Island had its first summer getting most its electricity from a solar power array that also charges an energy storage system for nighttime power.

Throughout the summer, the microgrid system, developed earlier this year by Solar Design Associates Inc. of Harvard, Massachusetts, has provided most the electricity for Cuttyhunk residents as well as summer boaters visiting its harbor.

The combination of solar and storage provides more than 80 percent of off-season electricity as the summertime population of 300 shrinks to about 50 year-rounders.

The island, which has 174 electric meters, had previously relied solely on diesel-powered generation with fuel delivered by barge for all its electricity. The new Cuttyhunk microgrid comprises 1,020 solar panels with maximum output of 351.9 kW, plus 1,000 kWh of electric storage in a bank of lithium-ion batteries. The project was supported by a U.S. Agriculture Department rural electrification grant.

Paul Elias, a member of the Gosnold Electric Light Commission that oversees the town-owned utility serving the island, said: “We’ve been delighted with the performance of the system Solar Design Associates engineered and installed, and they have been superb to work with. The microgrid’s performance and reliability have exceeded all our expectations, and we are on track to burn 30,000 fewer gallons of diesel fuel this year. That is an excellent benefit for the environment of this unique place and major cost savings for the community.”

Solar Design Associates president Steven J. Strong said: “Solar plus storage is clearly the next frontier for renewable energy, and the Cuttyhunk project validates the extraordinary benefits this innovative approach can deliver for cost, reliability, and sustainability at community scale.”

SDA is currently developing a solar-plus-storage system for the Isle au Haut Electric Power Co. in Maine that is projected to provide 100 percent of its year-round electricity and eliminate its dependence on a 35-year-old undersea electric cable. Isle au Haut has 140 year-round and seasonal electric customers.

“While solar plus storage is an especially compelling approach for island communities dependent on high-cost diesel generators or costly-to-maintain cables, we’ve developed solar plus storage solutions for commercial, industrial, and utility customers as well,” Strong said. “We see enormous potential around the world for this transformational energy technology.’’

On Cuttyhunk, Solar Design Associates served as Engineer-of-Record for the project, providing design and engineering, procurement assistance, permitting support, construction management, and full system commissioning.

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GE Hitachi to pair with ARC Nuclear on small modular reactors

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GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Advanced Reactor Concepts announced steps to advance their collaboration to develop and license the ARC-100 advanced small modular reactor.

Through a newly-signed development agreement, GEH intends to license intellectual property associated with its PRISM advanced reactor design to ARC Nuclear.

GEH has also agreed to provide to ARC Nuclear access to nuclear infrastructure programs related to quality, safety culture, training, processes, procedures and tools. In addition, GEH will make an in-kind contribution to ARC Nuclear through its agreement to provide engineering and design expertise.

“Our work to date with the GEH team has validated our expectation of the synergy of combining ARC Nuclear’s senior engineers — with their deep sodium fast reactor operational and design experience as key members of EBR-II prototype program — with GEH’s next generation of nuclear engineers and designers with their proven competence in modern nuclear design,” said Don Wolf, Chairman and CEO, ARC Nuclear. “We are clearly seeing how the power of this engineering collaboration and GEH’s infrastructure can give us a leap forward in reducing both time to market and development costs.”

“This new agreement recognizes that GEH and ARC Nuclear each have significant experience, investment and intellectual property in sodium fast reactor technology derived from Argonne National Laboratory’s successful EBR-II reactor which operated for more than 30 years at Idaho Falls, Idaho,” said Jon Ball, Executive Vice President, Nuclear Plant Projects, GEH. “At GEH, we are excited to see how this complementary collaboration will allow us to further accelerate commercialization of this technology with ARC Nuclear.”

The companies announced a collaboration in March 2017 to progress the ARC-100 design for global power generation with initial deployment in Canada. GEH and ARC Nuclear are working to commence a preliminary regulatory review of the ARC-100 by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission through its Vendor Design Review process. At the same time, a joint GEH-ARC Nuclear engineering team is working to advance the ARC-100 design.

GEH and ARC Nuclear have agreed to re-examine their relationship upon completion of the Canadian Vendor Design Review and focus for the ARC-100 beyond Canada.

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San Onofre nuclear power plant lawsuit reaches settlement

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The parties in a lawsuit challenging the permit which allows for temporary storage of used nuclear fuel at the San Onofre nuclear plant have settled the case and will not proceed to hearing on Sept. 8, as scheduled.

In a filing with a San Diego Superior Court judge, the parties acknowledge a shared interest in relocating San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel to an off-site facility.

The parties to the settlement are Southern California Edison, majority owner of San Onofre, and plaintiffs, Citizens Oversight, Inc. and Patricia Borchmann, represented by attorneys Michael Aguirre and Maria Severson. The California Coastal Commission, which issued the permit in 2015 authorizing expansion of on-site storage of used nuclear fuel, is the defendant in the suit.

The settlement agreement details multiple steps SCE will take in support of its efforts to move San Onofre’s used nuclear to an off-site location. In light of SCE’s commitments, plaintiffs have requested a dismissal of the lawsuit. Here is a summary of the settlement.

“A cooperative effort between the public, independent experts and Southern California Edison has begun and will continue until the nuclear waste is removed from San Diego,” said Aguirre. “We are thankful SCE worked hard to reach this common goal,” added Severson.

“The agreement plots a prudent strategy in furtherance of the goal of moving the fuel sooner than later,” said Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight.

“SCE is proud to take a leadership role in what we expect will become an industry-wide effort over many years to work with the federal government and other key stakeholders to achieve off-site storage,” said Ron Nichols, president of SCE. “We will be vigilant in our efforts to prompt the federal government to act, and until we can secure off-site storage, will continue our 30-year track record of safely storing used fuel at San Onofre.”

The suit was filed in November 2015 after the coastal commission granted SCE’s permit to expand on-site storage of used nuclear fuel at San Onofre. One-third of San Onofre’s used fuel is currently in dry cask storage and the remaining two-thirds is stored in steel-lined concrete pools. To facilitate the safe decommissioning of the plant, SCE plans to move the fuel from the pools into dry storage by 2019, where it would remain until an off-site storage facility is available.

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Power grid companies nationwide giving money, help for Harvey victims

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U.S. electric power utilities and service companies are stepping up to help Houston with money and manpower as it reels from the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

Exelon Corp., Pacific Gas & Electric, NextEra Energy, Avangrid and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories were among the grid-connected firms which are donating toward Harvey relief efforts. The storm has caused more than 300,000 power outages throughout south Texas and dumped about 50 inches of rain on flood-ravaged Houston.

“We send our thoughts and prayers to the victims of this disaster, and we hope our contribution helps in some way toward rebuilding lives,” Geisha Williams, CEO of PG&E, said in a statement announcing that the utility would contribute toward the American Red Cross. San Francisco-based PG&E will match employee donations up to $50,000, providing up to $100,000 in aid.

The Red Cross has set up more than 200 shelters across south Texas, according to reports. Tens of thousands of residents have been displaced by Harvey, while rescue efforts are ongoing in Houston.

Pullman, Washington-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) has donated $150,000 to the American Red Cross for Harvey relief efforts. The company is also offering its customers a price reduction and expedited shipping for products going into the storm region.

Chicago-based Exelon and its Constellation Energy unit are joining to donate another $150,000 to the American Red Cross. Constellation owns naming rights for the Constellation Field minor league baseball park in Houston suburb Sugarland, which was temporarily opened as a shelter for those displaced early by the flooding.

Constellation, which is in the competitive retail and wholesale electricity business, has about 400 employees  in its Houston offices. All of them are accounted for, the company reported.

“Giving back to the communities we serve is one of our company’s most important responsibilities, and even more so during times like this,” said Joseph Nigro, CEO of Constellation, in a statement. “The safety and security of our employees and their families is our highest priority. We’ll continue to come together to lend support to our colleagues and neighbors in the Houston area in the months ahead.”

Florida-based NextEra Energy also announced it will donate $100,000 to the Red Cross and match employees up to another $100,000. NextEra’s utility unit, Florida Power & Light, also reported sending manpower help to the region.

Avangrid will donate $50,000 to the Red Cross through its philanthropic wing, the Avangrid Foundation.  The Connecticut-based utility holding company employs more than 100 people in Houston and Corpus Christi as part of its gas storage and wind energy businesses.

Closer to home, Dallas-based transmission firm Oncor Electric Delivery is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts. The utility also sent about 160 workers and contractors to help AEP and others repair the south Texas grid.

“Oncor stands with our fellow Texans,” the company’s Twitter feed posted Wednesday morning. 

Money is not the only thing that electric utilities nationwide are sending. Oklahoma Gas & Electric sent about 80 crew members down south earlier this week to help with outage restoration efforts. Kentucky Utilities, Westar Energy, AEP are among many other electric grid companies outside Texas which have sent workers to help in the dire time of need.

AEP Texas reported late Tuesday that more than 100,000 of its customers in the Coastal Bend were still without power. CenterPoint Energy and electric cooperatives in the region also are working around the clock on restoration efforts.

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