In the quest to remain relevant in the digital age, cities across the country have tapped their vast resources to provide wireless high-speed access to the Internet for all of their residents. Several cities are in various stages of developing their own wireless municipal networks.

In September, the city of Minneapolis announced that it has selected a provider, US Internet, to build and operate a mobile broadband mesh network solution provided by BelAir Networks, which will cover the entire city. The technology is scalable and will support a variety of technologies, including Wi-Fi, 4.9GHz public safety, and WiMAX mesh, to provide flexible options for users throughout the 54-square-mile city. When completed, the effort, named “Wireless Minneapolis,” will result in one of the largest wireless cities in the United States.

A similar effort is underway in the Pacific Northwest. “Unwire Corvalis” has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to build, own and operate an area-wide WiMAX/Wi-Fi network that will offer broadband wireless Internet access in the city of Corvalis, Ore.

When completed, the system will offer access to residential customers, schools, government agencies, outdoor venues, businesses and visitors.

Fiber Connect Joins Leviton

Leviton Manufacturing Co., North America’s largest producer of electrical and electronic wiring devices and manufacturer of voice and data solutions, announced Sept. 8 its acquisition of Fiber Connect Inc., a Chicago-based provider of data center fiber optic solutions.

Daryoush Larizadeh, Leviton’s senior vice president, said that the Voice and Data division’s suite of data center products includes quick-turn, custom, high-performance fiber solutions, a full range of Category-rated connectivity including 10G, as well as cable management and power solutions.

“We can now better serve our clients with Leviton’s global manufacturing and logistics capabilities as well as reach a new set of customers in cooperation with Leviton’s sales force,” said Ron Berrettini, president and founder of Fiber Connect. “As technology infrastructure evolves and increases in importance, we will become a global integration organization.”

“Data center infrastructure spending is growing rapidly and increasing in complexity,” said Don Hendler, president of Leviton. “We have worked with Fiber Connect over the past few years and we look forward to bringing the benefits of a broad, high-performance solution to Leviton’s customers worldwide.”

The complete Leviton fiber product line includes preterminated and field-terminated fiber solutions, standard and made-to-order fiber optic cable assemblies (trunks), enclosures, cable management and overhead raceways.

Fiber Connect is a wholly owned subsidiary and reports into Leviton’s Voice and Data Division, which is led by Ross Goldman, vice president and general manager.

Legrand Acquires Vantage Controls

On Sept. 7, 2006, Legrand announced the acquisition of Vantage Controls, which is located in Orem, Utah. Vantage Controls is now the sixth Legrand business group in North America and has been renamed Vantage/Legrand. The acquisition of Vantage Controls is an important move to position Legrand as a leading provider of control and automation solutions.

Vantage/Legrand offers a means to integrate lighting, audio/video, window treatments, heating, cooling, security and other functions into one central system. The company is positioned for expansion as consumer demand for control and automation increases in the residential and commercial markets.

“Lighting control and automation are seeing significant double-digit growth, and this acquisition ensures we have the increased capacity, expanded product lines and sales channels to meet the growing demand,” said John Selldorff, president and CEO of Legrand North America. “This acquisition is a strategic move on Legrand’s part to further our leadership in residential control and automation. This acquisition strengthens our ability to innovate and grow as well as enhancing our innovative product lines and expanding our market leadership.”

“Legrand North America will enable Vantage/Legrand to accelerate market reach and growth,” said Ron Wilson, president of Vantage/Legrand. “There are expansion opportunities through Legrand North America’s established and emerging channels, partners and markets. We’ll leverage best practices, and international expansion is anticipated, especially in collaboration with Legrand’s Bticino business headquartered in Italy.”

Indiana Coal Gasification Facility Planned

In early September, Duke Energy Indiana and Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana filed a joint application with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to construct an advanced integrated gasification combined cycle facility in Edwardsport, Ind.

Integrated gasification combined cycle technology (IGCC) uses a coal gasification system to convert coal into a synthesis gas, referred to as syngas. The syngas is processed to remove sulfur, mercury and ash before being sent to a traditional combined cycle power plant, using two combustion turbines and a steam turbine to efficiently produce electricity.

If the project proceeds, it will be one of the first commercial-scale IGCC power plants built in the United States in the last 10 years. When completed as expected in the second quarter of 2007, it will have a generating capacity of 630 megawatts.

Horizon Looks Bright for Global Solar Power

Solar power has the potential to soon lead the world’s consumer energy markets.

That is the conclusion of a report released recently by Greenpeace International and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

Due largely to advances in technology, increasing competition and investment in production facilities, solar power is on the brink of entering the mainstream.

The report, entitled “SolarGeneration,” asserts that solar power can deliver electricity to more than 2 billion people by the year 2025. Last year, the total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems around the world crossed the threshold of 5,000MW. Furthermore, global shipments of PV cells and modules have been growing at an average annual rate of more than 40 percent for several years.

The report, which is in its third edition, says that while private industry is committed to making the investments that will lead to growth, governments must also step up to the plate with supporting programs. Many countries have adopted policies to encourage growth in the industry, but more is needed if solar power is to fulfill its potential of providing 16 percent of the world’s energy demand by 2040.