Solar Index, Co-Generation, and Other Energy News

The energy news stories covered in this installment of a continuing feature include a report on the Department of Energy's Solar Index and the rising popularity of co-generation as a hedge against electricity blackouts.


| July/August 1979



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The Solar Index shows how much solar energy is available to run domestic solar water heaters on a given day.


ILLUSTRATION: DEVV984/FOLTOLIA

The following energy news items were gathered from multiple sources. 


Solar Index

The solar index—a new daily-amount-of-sunshine statistic prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Weather Service—is specifically designed to show how much solar energy was available to run domestic solar water heaters on any given day. Such "sun information" is rapidly becoming a part of standard weather reporting along with the usual pollen counts, wind-chill factors, and air quality evaluations.

Co-Generation Gains Ground

Electricity rates that are twice the national average coupled with the possibility of power blackouts have caused some New York manufacturers, apartment complexes, and businesses to break away from Con Edison and install their own generators. The most successful of these systems—called "co-generation"—captures the steam normally wasted at utility power plants and uses it, along with electricity, to produce energy savings of between 10% and 30%. Even though such industries (which occasionally sell their excess power back to the utilities) could technically be subject to regulation, most "co-generating" firms say they're delighted to "cut the umbilical cord" from Con Ed. The "parent" company, of course, is far from pleased.

Major Wind Energy Installation

"the biggest wind energy system on the planet," consisting of 20 separate windplants, is planned for construction by U.S. Windpower, Inc. of Massachusetts. The $75 million project will be erected at Pacheco Pass 80 miles south of San Francisco and is expected to supply enough power for 1,000 people while saving 175,000 barrels of oil a year.

Tilby Cane Separator

The Tilby cane separator, a machine invented by Canadian Theodore E. Tilby, can extract sweeteners from sugar cane and sorghum at half of today's costs and also preserve the husks as raw material for an inexpensive lumber substitute! The sugar industry (which, it seems, would rather lobby for higher prices than adopt cost-cutting methods) has purchased only one Tilby so far. But the fact that the new device can process cane so inexpensively that the crop could be used to make cattle feed and—more important—ethyl alcohol has finally sparked interest in the remarkable invention.

Antinuclear Clearing House

An antinuclear national clearing house will provide upon request information about resources, speakers, experts, and funding sources to other like-minded groups. The organization hopes to set up six regional networks, which would funnel such information down to grassroots nuclear protestors.





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