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.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
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.
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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.

Wood Burning Heat Apparatus

You can have a HAHSA for $500 to $1,200 (depending on whether you build with new or used materials). The new "Heating and Heat Storage Apparatus"—billed as the "safest wood-burner of all"—claims to provide all the space and water heating needed by the average home. HAHSA's fire chamber—which is located outside the house—is surrounded by a mass of sand that absorbs and stores heat from wood, paper, and miscellaneous burnable wastes. Two heat exchangers—one for hot water and one for house-warming—are connected to the dwelling by underground pipes.

Federal Bicycle Aid

Peddle away pollution: Bicycles now make up two-thirds of the vehicles in a typical rush hour in Davis, California, and 90% of the riders are adults. If you'd like to get some safe bike paths for your community, funding for up to 70% of the construction costs of such facilities is now available under Section 134 of the 1976 Federal-Aid Highway Act (Title 23, U.S. Code, Section 217). For more details, write the Federal Highway Administration and request the Department of Transportation's publication, "Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities in the Federal-Aid Highway Program." Additional bikeway money can be obtained from the Department of the Interior's Land & Water Conservation Fund.

Nuclear Bigfoot

Strange days in Pennsylvania: Shortly before the Three-Mile-Island accident last March, the York Daily Record told of a trucker who advised plant security personnel that he had seen a large, hairy creature near the Peach Bottom Nuclear Reactor. While dogs in the area "went berserk" and eerie, shrill squeals came out of the woods, investigators turned up footprints later identified by Sasquatch experts as those of a "Bigfoot."

In Brief

Despite the fact that the defunct Fermi I nuclear plant cost Detroit Edison's customers $70 million for only 373 hours of power, the utility company is still pushing to build its Fermi II reactor .... It's rumored that Congress has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to prepare legislation that would remove much of the red tape necessary to get a permit for a small experimental alcohol-fuel distillery .... We've heard reports that high-ranking gasoline industry officials were saying as far back as last Thanksgiving that they would be all out of 60¢-a-gallon gasoline within a year, but would have "plenty of $1.25 a gallon gas"! (Or, as Gordon Vander Till—Director of the Energy Division of Jordan College—noted: "It certainly is wonderful what a deregulated price structure can do to make a product available.")


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