Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014

Hooray! The September 2014 edition of the Direct Energy Buzz has arrived, and it’s packed full of engaging energy news. We’ve got recaps on the Tesla deal, alternative energy generation (including methane!), and clean coal.

Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014You Switch We Pay Sweepstakes!

Let’s kick off the Buzz with news about the newest and greatest promotion at Direct Energy. For the entire month of September 2014, the “You Switch, We Pay” Sweepstakes is giving Texas energy customers the change to switch to Direct Energy and win the chance for us to pay your last electricity bill with your old provider! How do you enter? Simply visit the Direct Energy Facebook page, fill out the form, receive your unique promotion code, and enter that code when you place an order to switch to us for your Texas electricity needs! Ten lucky people will win this contest, but everyone who enters and uses that promo code during signup will receive a $50 Visa Gift Card. What are you waiting for?

Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014Tesla Chooses Nevada, Marries in Reno
After flirting with a number of other states (including Texas), Tesla Motors selected Nevada as the site for its revolutionary $5 billion lithium-ion battery plant. Tesla plans to make electric power sedan autos that better fit the American driving environment: more affordable and more convenient to recharge (similar to refilling a regular gas-powered car). Nevada presented Tesla an attractive dowry in the form of $1.3 billion in tax incentives to encourage the company to break ground on the new 6,500 job plant in Reno, but many state legislators aren’t ready to catch that bouquet.

City Utility to Turn Sewage into Energy
Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014It’s not a new notion, but what makes this project different is that the Fort Wayne, IN city utilities received a $1 million grant to install a sewage digester and methane generator capable of powering 600 homes. By the end of 2015, Fort Wayne should be home to two generators that will convert the methane produced by the decomposition of waste into enough electricity to power about 615 homes. It’s anticipated to reduce the city’s sewage treatment costs by $100,000 annually. The plant currently captures and burns methane to heat the building, saving $200,000 a year over using natural gas.

The systems that make electricity from sewage (and manure) can be finicky, with some taking over a year to “tune” so they work at optimum capacity. Last autumn, two Stanford engineers devised “wired-microbes” that directly produce electricity as they digest plant and animal waste.

One-Third of Texans Buy Green Energy, but Real Estate Developers Squash Home Solar Panels
Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014More Texans use green energy than any other state. According to a new report by Choose Energy, one-third of Texas customers are using renewable-sourced electricity, such as wind or solar. They’re also willing to pay for it. Green energy costs about $75 more per year.

But if you’ve moved into a new subdivision and are all set to put up your own solar panels – don’t do it! Texas law allows developers to ban solar panels from being installed on homes in their subdivision projects while they are still selling lots. That means that even if you have lined up all the local permits and inspections and gotten the Home Owner Association to agree, the developer can step up and say, “Take ’em down.” Why? Developers argue that solar panels are unattractive and make it harder to sell lots.

Pressure and Heat Store Renewable Energy
Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014Another renewable energy storage technology is being tested in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Developed by Danielle Fong, the idea is to use compressed air to store energy — from a wind turbine, for example. While nothing new, the innovation comes from the fact compressing gases creates a lot of heat. Spraying a water mist captures that heat energy which can be used for further energy generation. The technology is purported to be many times more cost-effective than batteries for storing renewable energy.

Direct Energy Buzz for September 2014
Post-combustion capture from flue gas using an amine solvent and chilled ammonia. Image courtesy of

Clean Coal Plants Are Growing

Harry Kenyon-Slaney, energy chief for Rio Tinto, a world leader in metals and mining, recently announced that clean coal was key to combatting climate change. His remarks came ahead of a World Meteorological Organization report that said the greenhouse gas CO2 had reached an all-time high. Kenyon-Slaney said that carbon capture storage (CCS), or “clean coal” technology, “can all help to combat climate change but breakthroughs in low-emissions coal generation will be fundamental. They could break the back of this problem.”

While CCS has so far been an expensive way to make coal clean, more development is underway. The EPA recently approved permits for FutureGen Industrial Alliance to retrofit the coal-fired Meredosia plant in Illinois into a CCS plant. Emissions controls would capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted. The gas would be transported and then injected into four deep sequestration wells about 4,000 feet underground.

Find anything interesting in this months’ edition of the Buzz? Did we miss out on some important news? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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