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[greenyes] History - The Renewable Energy Movement's Meaning for Recyclers
    The modern Civil Rights movement that gestated from the 1890's to the
WWII, was born after the War, came of age in the 1950's and exploded on the
scene in the sixties, also served as a role model for the citizen action
that animated the Environmental Movement that followed.

    In a similar way, the modern Recycling Movement that followed the Mobro
Garbage Barge has parallels in the Renewables Movement that was born out of
the Second Arab Boycott in 1978, including today (as dozens of cities
curtail or eliminate recycling programs begun in the early nineties),
certain commonalities with the collapse of the earlier renewable efforts in
the wake of the 1982 Gas Bubble.

    Thus, it is of especial interest to us as recyclers how rejuvinated
efforts emerge for distributed power (i.e. power sources in local factories,
malls, blocks or high rises instead of central station power plants) show a
pathway for recyclers back to the promised land.

    The article below discusses how the crisis following last weeks
Northeast power outage offers new opportunities for renewables and others.
Substituting "local recycling programs" for "distributed power" and
"regional megafills" for "large central station power plants," we should
track how those efforts unfurl in the neverending economic battle between
polluting approachess vs. sustainability to find the pathways that speak
opportunity for ourselves.  The implications are simply enormous.

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

Energizing Off-Grid Power
Blackout Raises Interest in Alternatives To Nation's Stressed Electricity

In the aftermath of last week's power outage, which shut businesses in the
Northeast and the Midwest, an idea once viewed as radical is generating new
buzz: What if enough U.S. buildings could generate enough of their own
electricity to collectively ease the load on the nation's overstretched
power grid?
Proponents of this idea, known as "distributed generation," have been
advocating it for years. Peddling everything from natural-gas-powered
engines to solar cells to "microturbines" to, more recently, fuel cells,
these companies argue the country is kidding itself if it thinks it can rely
exclusively on a decades-old model of electricity production -- huge
centralized power plants connected to consumers and companies by an aging
web of transmission lines -- as the U.S. population, and the average
American's electricity use, continues to rise.
Many of the companies that supply the alternative gear are small and not-yet
profitable. But major players including General Motors Corp. and even some
traditional utilities are getting into the distributed-generation business.
Companies including Dow Chemical Co. and major commercial-real-estate owners
are installing distributed-generation systems in a bid to cut their energy
Typically, the public's interest in distributed generation -- along with the
stock prices of small publicly traded companies in the business -- surges
every time the grid goes down, only to subside just as quickly when the
lights come back on. That was the case with the rolling blackouts in
California a few years ago.
Now, in the wake of last week's more-sudden blackout, the biggest in U.S.
history, distributed-generation backers are arguing that their time has
come. "One couldn't ask for a more exciting marketing and advertising
campaign than what happened in the Northeast," said John Tucker, chief
executive of Capstone Turbine Corp., a Chatsworth, Calif., manufacturer of
small turbines, known as microturbines, that generate electricity.

The popular image of distributed generation is of a feisty homeowner
declaring independence from the grid by slapping solar cells on the roof or
damming a stream to generate power. But if distributed generation is to
perceptibly ease the load on the nation's grid, experts say, lots of big
electricity users will have to adopt it: entire residential communities, big
office buildings and major factories.
Today, distributed generation accounts for a small fraction of the
approximately 900,000 megawatts of electrical-generating capacity in the
U.S. People disagree on the exact percentage because they disagree about
what equipment to count. (One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts; the average
house uses one to five kilowatts, depending on its size, energy experts
Diesel-powered generators are a widespread source of backup power in some
houses and many large buildings and hospitals. But they require fuel tanks
that take up valuable space and that need to be refilled. Installing the
units in major cities is getting tougher because of increasingly stringent
government limits on diesel emissions.
Proponents of distributed generation have grander plans. They envision newer
technologies that produce less in the way of smog-causing and global-warming
emissions. They say using these clean technologies to generate power at the
site where it is consumed can be far more efficient than generating it
centrally. That's because sending electricity through transmission wires
wastes energy while producing electricity on site allows waste heat from the
process to be captured and used -- for instance, to heat the building -- in
a process known as "cogeneration."
Still, few advocates of distributed generation believe that large sectors of
the economy will become independent of the grid. Rather, they hope to get a
significant number of customers to produce at least some of their own
electricity. That would reduce demand on the grid particularly during times
of peak use, such as on hot summer afternoons like this past Thursday.
Distributed generation faces big hurdles, which its backers hope the
attention raised by last week's blackout will help them overcome. Among
their druthers: heftier tax breaks to defray the high initial purchase price
of the electric-generating equipment and government help to get established
utilities to make it easier for electricity users to hook their generating
devices to the grid.
The idea of producing power on-site where it's needed isn't altogether new.
Before centralized utilities with far-flung distribution lines sprung up
early in the 20th century, some large businesses, ranging from railroads to
steel producers, generated their own electricity at their own facilities.
Eventually, the grid offered an economy of scale that was tough to beat, and
most large industrial users hooked up for at least part of their electricity
Diesel generators -- internal-combustion engines that are hooked to
alternators to crank out electricity -- account for the bulk of distributed
generation in the U.S. today. Caterpillar Inc., the dominant player in this
business, says about 8% of its $20 billion in revenue in 2002 came from
selling generators that run on either diesel or, more recently,
cleaner-burning natural gas.
Its generators range from home backup units that crank out about 5 kilowatts
and sell for about $10,000 to 15-megawatt units that sell for upwards of $1
million and can be strung together to form what's essentially a standalone
commercial power plant. In between are 2-megawatt Caterpillar generators --
each of which is fitted into a truck-trailer size shipping container -- that
kept at least critical services running during last week's blackout in much
of New York's financial district and at buildings across the country.
Even before last week's blackout, some big companies already were showing
increased interest in generating power everyday on their own. Equity Office
Properties Trust, which owns more than 700 office buildings nationwide, is
installing distributed-generation equipment at 12 buildings in and around
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego and San Francisco, three
of which involve Northern Power. The devices use natural gas to generate 20%
to 30% of a building's power needs.
Each of these systems costs $1 million to $5 million. But Equity believes it
can recover the cost over time by reducing the amount of electricity it has
to buy from the grid during times of peak demand, the hours during which
office buildings are busiest and power usually costs the most, says Thomas
W. Smith, vice president of energy operations for Chicago-based Equity.
In addition, Equity plans to use the machines as marketing tools to lure
tenants such as financial-services firms that want emergency backup power
for their critical systems. Since last week's blackout, several Equity
tenants have inquired about hooking up to the new distributed-generation
Meanwhile, General Motors and Dow Chemical are involved in a cutting-edge
project. The companies announced in May what they said is the biggest deal
to date to install fuel cells, devices that turn hydrogen into electricity.
Dow will buy GM fuel cells to use at Dow Chemical's largest factory, in
Freeport, Texas. Each fuel cell will sit on a truck trailer and provide 75
kilowatts of power. Dow Chemical will take hydrogen that is a byproduct of
its chemical-production process and run it through the fuel cells to produce
electricity to help run the plant.
The goal over several years is for GM to provide Dow with enough fuel cells
to generate 35 megawatts of electricity, a small fraction of the Texas
complex's total requirement. For Dow Chemical, whose factory already makes
some of its own electricity from natural gas, the benefit will be reduced
electricity costs, since Dow will be making power from what is essentially
waste hydrogen.

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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