Energy News: Solar Energy Development, Uranium Prices, and Energy From Garbage

This installment of a regular energy news feature includes stories about a congressional report on solar energy development, rising uranium prices, and a plan to generate energy from garbage.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
November/December 1976
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A rise in uranium prices prompted Westinghouse Electric to "excuse itself" from supplying fuel to power customers in 1978 and beyond.
PHOTO: CONCEPT W/FOTOLIA


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The following energy news items originated from multiple sources.  


Solar Energy Development

"Anything that slows down the development of solar energy is undermining the national security" according to the interim report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Small Business. Another of the Committee's findings: "Had the United States Government followed the recommendations of the Paley Commission in 1952, "for aggressive research in the whole field of solar energy," the country might now be achieving the solar equivalent of ... 3 million barrels of oil per day."

Rising Uranium Prices

NUKE FUEL TOO COSTLY? Due to the fact that uranium has recently tripled in price from $8 to $24 per pound, Westinghouse Electric—makers of 40% of the world's atomic power plants—has declared itself "legally excused" from supplying the material to some of its customers in 1978 and beyond. Action is expected to have "an unsettling effect" on the nuclear power industry.

Energy From Garbage

John Wayne wants to turn Connecticut's garbage into oil and methane with the "pyrohydrogenation" process developed by his Duke Engineering Company of Irvine, California. The Duke process—if it works—will turn the state's 3 million tons of garbage into 7.1 million barrels of oil a year and 12 billion cubic feet of gas. "We put trash in at the front end, and out the back end comes the oil, the methane, the propane, and char residue," Wayne stated in a recent interview. He added: "There's nothing to get the Friends of the Earth or the Sierra Club upset about."

Electrical Rates Protest

THE TOWN OF BRIDGEPORT, TEXAS (POP. 3,600) WILL BE CUT OFF from electrical service by the Texas Power & Light Company soon due to the city's refusal to go along with TP&L rate increases. Residents won't be without wattage when this happens, however, because Solar King Incorporated of Reno, Nevada is building a large sun-powered electric generator for the rural community. The design includes flat-plate collectors and a silicone-fluid-powered hydraulic motor that'll convert the sun's rays into a total monthly power output of 4.2 million kilowatt-hours.

Electrical Power Materials

WILL THE U.S. RUN OUT OF MATERIALS TO DISTRIBUTE ELECTRICAL POWER? Evidently, the Energy Research and Development Administration is worried enough about this question to spend $163,000 for a definitive answer. That's how much money ERDA has given Westinghouse Corporation for a 14-month study designed to foresee shortages of wood, copper, steel, petrochemicals, and other resources presently used to make electrical wares. Looks like we'll be waiting a long time before ERDA asks the truly pertinent question: How much of this country's current material waste might be avoided if homes and communities produced their own electricity "on site" using wind, bio-gas, or solar energy?

Energy Research Funding Bill

At least 20% of all federal funds for energy research and development would be required to go to small businesses and independent inventors under new legislation submitted to Congress by a group of five Senators. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.), a co-author of the bill, maintains that unless more support is given to individuals and small companies working in energy "there is danger that we will strengthen the stranglehold that the major oil companies and other large corporations have on the nation's energy resources."

Largest Wind Generator

The largest wind generator in the country, with a capacity of 500,000 watts, will be built by California's Pacific Gas & Electric Company if the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors approves construction on a company site. To be developed with $500,000 from the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, the PG&E wind plant would be the first of "four to eight" such installations across the country planned by NASA. Biggest wind charger in existence today is NASA's 125-foot rotor located near Sandusky, Ohio, which is designed to produce a peak output of 100,000 watts.

Solar Age Magazine

Solar Age, a magazine of the sun, is the latest entry into the alternative energy publications marketplace. The slick, 24-page monthly started with the January '76 issue and sells for $20 a year. Although the mag looks good, we still think that Solar Energy Digest—at $28.50 per year—is the best buy in sun-power periodicals. 

Alternative Energy Center

A new non-profit alternative energy center, "Boston Wind," has opened in Massachusetts and begins wind-power workshops in February 1976. (Eventually, courses in solar and methane power, shelter design, and food production will be offered.) The group's objectives are to disseminate information on and conduct research into means by which individuals can become energy self-sufficient. 

Solar Heated Burger King

Burger King's "have it your way" campaign has taken on a new meaning for solar energy proponents, now that the company has announced plans to begin constructing sun-heated fast-food restaurants. We still can't say much for assembly line burgers and fast-frozen fries, but there's no doubt that using the planet's most abundant and ecologically sound source for heat is—and always has been—a "whopper" of a good idea.


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