July 2009


Duke Energy’s Integrated Gasification Combined-Cycle (IGCC) plant in Edwardsport, Ind. is taking a significant step forward in the use of cleaner coal technology. Notice that I say “cleaner coal” and not “clean coal” because the former is possible while the latter is not. But in the noble effort of creating the former to help meet the country’s future energy requirements, the first major pieces of equipment have arrived. Using GE IGCC technology, the plant is expected to be the largest cleaner coal IGCC facility of its type in the world when it is complete. An Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, is a power plant using synthesis gas (syngas). This gas is often used to power a gas turbine whose waste heat is passed to a steam turbine system, also referred to as a combined cycle gas turbine.

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Better Place, an electric car company just starting to really expand, is developing a $200-250 million network in Hawaii, with 50,000 to 100,000 electric-car recharging stations to be in place by 2012. The $100 million project comes as a three-part effort to radically overhaul the state’s energy diet. Hawaii has an “extreme oil addiction,” according to Gov. Linda Lingle. Ninety percent of her state’s energy comes from imported oil, costing about $7 billion a year. A third of that oil makes its way into automobile tanks as gasoline. With gas on the islands still hovering around $2.65, Hawaiians spend more money on their cars (taxes, insurance, and fuel) than Americans on average in any other state.

Shai Agassi, founder and chief executive of privately owned Better Place, said the cost is an estimated “ballpark” range and that investors have yet to be lined up for the all-island project. Better Place has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hawaiian Electric Companies. Power spots will be first to pop up all over the island, including parking lot locations and stations in the downtown areas.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Under the plan, consumers would buy or lease electric cars, and Better Place would supply recharging services and batteries. Consumers would have a choice of buying mileage plans — which would include recharging services and battery swaps — or being guests on the network and paying for each battery charge”.

The company will continue to work with automakers to design electric cars that fit Hawaii’s driving and traffic patterns. They are saying that Nissan-Renault has already signed on to make vehicles compatible with the proposed network. The other automakers may soon join in. The clever upstart plans to offer electric transportation as a service with drivers paying to access a network of charging stations, much in the same way they pay for access to mobile phone service. Better Place has been selected as one of the “Fifty Best Tech Startups” by Business Week.

Nissan-Renault has said they will build the electric cars, and mass market availability in Hawaii is expected in 2012. According the map on their website, the company is now operating in the United States, Israel, Denmark, Australia and Japan. Find out more about Better Place here.

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