Drought evaporates in Legislature

11 02 2009

 

AP

A year ago, legislators couldn’t wait to show the public they were tackling Georgia’s epic drought. One of their first votes was to embrace a statewide water plan. And powerful lawmakers soon backed a quixotic bid to claim water from the Tennessee River. The drought still grips parts of north Georgia, and Lake Lanier — Atlanta’s main water supply — is still around 14 feet under normal level. But the environmental groups fear debate over drought has all but evaporated in the Georgia Legislature. “Water’s definitely not as high profile as it was last year,” said Jill Johnson of Georgia Conservation Voters, an environmental lobby. “But the drought hasn’t gone away, and Georgians are still concerned about their water supply.” It’s not for lack of trying. At least a half dozen proposals have been introduced by lawmakers from both parties that would spur conservation and crack down on pollution. But chamber leaders have not publicly made any of them a priority. Instead, they have said they will deliberate each proposal on an individual basis. And Carol Couch, the state’s top environmental official, said her office is focused on a statewide water management plan to help set Georgia’s water policy for decades to come. “While drought is not making news like it was a year ago, drought management remains an issue and we need to manage water use for the greatest conservation savings,” said Couch, the director of the state Environmental Protection Division. Meanwhile, there’s a growing number of lower-profile measures percolating in the Legislature. State Rep. Richard Smith proposed new rules that would make it more difficult for local governments to add septic systems, which don’t return water into the sewage system.

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Obama Bets Big on Biofuels in Georgia

3 02 2009

Ben Mack | Wired

Plug-in hybrids and electric cars get all the love in Detroit these days, but Washington isn’t giving up on biofuel. Uncle Sam is spending millions of dollars to find ways of turning everything from algae to lawn trimmings into fuel as President Obama promises to invest heavily in alternative fuels.

The departments of energy and agriculture will award $25 million to advance development of “technologies and processes” to produce so-called “next generation” biofuels that aren’t refined from food crops like corn. The announcement follows an agriculture department  promise to loan $80 million to Range Fuels, a Colorado company that produces ethanol from wood chips, so it can build a refinery in Georgia.

“A robust biofuels industry – focused on the next-generation of biofuels – is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our addiction to foreign oil and putting Americans back to work,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

The $25 million will finance projects focused on feedstock development, biofuel and biobased product development and biofuel development analysis. The goal is to create a wide range of “economically and environmentally sustainable” sources of renewable biomass that can be turned into fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent compared to fossil fuels, officials said.

“These grants will help support the development of a sustainable domestic biofuels industry by broadening the nation’s energy sources as well as improving the efficiency of renewable fuels,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

The production of ethanol derived from corn, soybeans and other crops has been blamed for everything from spiraling food prices to clear-cutting in the Amazon. But there is great hope for cellulosic ethanol and other fuels refined from non-food biomass because they nullify the food vs. fuel debate and other criticisms. Several airlines are developing algal fuels, each of the Big Three automakers offers “flex-fuel” cars that can run on ethanol and even super-luxury automaker Bentley is promising a biofuel-burning car.

Washington is funding more than R&D, however. During the last days of the Bush Administration, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced an $80 million loan to help Range Fuels build a new refinery. It is the first time the agency has guaranteed a loan to a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol refinery.

Range Fuels, which Obama visited in October, uses a thermo-chemical process called gasification to convert cellulose to ethanol. Production is slated to begin next year and will be ramped up in three stages, company CEO David Aldous told Ethanol Producer magazine. During the first stage, the refinery will convert 125 tons of woody biomass into fuel each day. That will climb to 625 tons daily and then 2,625 tons – at which point the refinery will produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. All of the biomass will come from the surrounding timber industry.

“It’s located in the Milion Pines area of Georgia,” Aldous said of the refinery. “There is a very significant supply of wood waste in that area, hundreds of years supply for our plant.”





Georgia Power: Nuclear critics’ data is flawed

28 01 2009

 

MARGARET NEWKIRK | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Power fired back at critics this week, saying dire warnings about the cost of its proposal to collect fees upfront for nuclear power expansion were mistaken.

In testimony filed with the state Public Service Commission late Monday, the utility said critics including the PSC’s public advocacy staff had mixed accounting apples and oranges to come up with their estimates. Those critics will have an opportunity to cross-examine the company in two weeks.

The company also blasted a cost-control mechanism proposed by the state PSC staff.

Under that plan, the PSC could roll back Georgia Power’s allowed return on its $6.4 billion nuclear investment if the construction project ran too far over budget.

Georgia Power said no dice.

“We must start by emphatically stating that we cannot and will not agree to the staff’s proposed ‘incentive’ plan,” the company said in the testimony.

“We will not accept a certificate that includes those regulatory conditions,” it said.

The company said its business depends on offering low rates, which is cost-control incentive enough.

Georgia Power’s rebuttal came on the eve of a state Senate committee hearing about a bill that would give the company the early funding it wants, bypassing the PSC.

The Senate Regulated Industry and Utility Committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 31 Wednesday afternoon.

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Officials eye faster rail link from N.C. to Atlanta

26 01 2009

 

AP

Transportation officials are considering the development of a rapid passenger rail service that would link Charlotte and Atlanta with a train that would travel at about 100 mph.

A federal study released this month found that officials could realistically develop service that travels between 90 and 110 mph without needing major changes to the existing rail corridor.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Amtrak service on the route currently has a top speed of 79 mph but still takes more than five hours to make a trip that takes less than four hours in a car.

The preliminary study assumed there would be as many as nine stops between Charlotte and Atlanta, serving passengers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Gastonia, Spartanburg, S.C., Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Greenville, S.C., Clemson, S.C., Toccoa, Ga., Gainesville, Ga., and Atlanta. The study also looked at continuing rail service to Macon, Ga.

Officials in the three states are now preparing to conduct a more detailed study to assess ridership potential and costs.

The railway would not meet the definition of a “high-speed” line, which is generally reserved for those tracks that move faster than 125 mph. But trains traveling at that speed need costly track upgrades.

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Rabun Gap plant to add green power to Georgia EMC grid

26 01 2009

 

Consumers in Middle Georgia interested in using green power will soon have more available to them.

Green Power EMC, a partnership of 38 of the state’s electrical membership corporations, announced recently that it has agreed to purchase 17 megawatts of biomass energy from Multitrade Rabun Gap.

That electrical power, in turn, will be available to customers of the 11 area EMCs that are part of the Green Power partnership – Altamaha EMC, Central Georgia EMC, Flint Energies, Little Ocmulgee EMC, Middle Georgia EMC, Ocmulgee EMC, Oconee EMC, Southern Rivers Energy, Tri-County EMC, Upson EMC and Washington EMC.

Green power is electricity generated from renewable, environmental-friendly technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and low-impact hydropower. Biomass includes landfill gas and agricultural wastes.

The $21.5 million Rabun Gap facility will use woody waste from Georgia’s forestry industry as the primary fuel in a conventional boiler for generation of steam to power a steam-turbine electricity generator.

The North Georgia plant is expected to produce 17 megawatts of electricity when it goes online in August. That is enough electricity to power about 10,000 homes. A megawatt is 1 million watts.

Michael Whiteside, Green Power’s president, says the Rabun Gap project is “renewable” in several other ways, in addition to its use of woody waste as fuel.

The facility is adapting an existing power plant, including its boiler, in a former Fruit of the Loom factory that closed in 2006, with a loss of 900 jobs. The Rabun Gap power plant will employ only 20 people, but another 75 jobs will be needed for people to gather and transport the biomass to the facility.

The Rabun Gap electricity will be added to about 8.3 megawatts now available through the Green Power EMC partnership — 5 megawatts produced in two landfill methane gas operations in Taylor County and in Fayetteville, 2.3 megawatts from the Tallassee Shoals low-impact hydroelectric plant on the Middle Oconee River near Athens and 1 megawatt from an experimental wind power operation of Oglethorpe Power near Rome.

Green Power EMC also expects to add 20 to 23 megawatts of power later this year from Plant Carl near Carnesville, a biomass facility using poultry waste as fuel.

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EnergyStar Certifies Northeast Georgia Home Builder

25 11 2008

 

Gainesville, GA, Mountain View Home Builders, of Gainesville, Georgia, recently qualified as a green home builder under the Department Of Energy’s Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star program. Energy Star homes use up to 50% less energy to maintain than conventional homes. To date, they have built four homes that qualify for the EnergyStar label and plan to make all their future homes EnergyStar qualified. The company is also certified under several other green building programs including Jackson EMC “Right Choice”, Georgia Power EnergyStar, and the U.S. Dept. of Energy “Builders Challenge Program”. Mountain View Home Builders is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. During 2009, the company plans to be certified under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. The LEED green building rating system provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Also during 2009, the company plans to become a certified builder under the EarthCraft House program of the Atlanta Home Builders Association. The EarthCraft House program is recognized nationally as the leading residential green building program. For more information on how Mountain View Home Builders is pioneering green building in the Northeast Georgia area, visit their website at…

http://www.mvhomebuilders.com phone: 770-654-3435 or e-mail at mvhomebuilders@bellsouth.net.

Also visit these other websites to learn more about the Green Building Programs mentioned above.

EnergyStar- http://www.energystar.gov
EarthCraft House- http://www.earthcrafthouse.com/
U.S. Green Building Council- http://www.usgbc.org/
LEED Program- http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=222
Right Choice- http://www.jacksonemc.com/Why-Buy-Right-Choice.137.0.html
Georgia Power Energy Star- http://www.georgiapower.com/energystar/
Builders Challenge- http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/challenge/homebuyers.html





PSC candidates debate touches on regulation, nuclear reactors

24 11 2008

Republican Lauren McDonald said he knows how to run a business and “my business is the same as the public’s business.”

Democrat Jim Powell said he knows energy and energy planning, and that Georgia needs that more than ever these days.  The two state Public Service Commission candidates faced each other for the last time Sunday, in a debate sponsored by Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta Press Club. The debate aired Monday night, a week before their Dec. 2 runoff.

Powell won 47.9 percent of the vote on Nov. 4, and McDonald had 47.2 percent. A Libertarian got the rest.

During the debate, Republican McDonald defended the fact that he used to be a Democrat before losing his PSC seat six years ago.

“My philosophy hasn’t changed,” he said. “The Democratic Party has changed. I am not a Nancy Pelosi. I am not a senator from Nevada, Harry Reid.”

Democrat Powell defended his decades of experience at the U.S. Department of Energy, after McDonald questioned what he’d done “while gas prices soared.”

He said he specialized in energy efficiency and renewable energy, areas that hadn’t been supported by the departing presidential administration. He said he was prepared to lead when the incoming administration reverses that.

The two poked at each other’s supporters.

Read on here.