The tailwinds are strong for windpower. A number of factors—including pressures from those worried about global warming, high energy costs and the two-year extension in 2005 of the federal renewable energy production tax credit, which provided a stable financial environment for investors in wind power—have combined to create a strong forecast for the industry’s future growth.

The statistics bear out the trend. According to the Energy Information Administration, wind farms were the second-largest source of new power generation last year, after natural gas. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) expects 2006 to be another banner year, with an unprecedented 3,000 megawatts (MW) projected to be installed by year’s end. The AWEA bolstered this positive outlook in mid-August, when it announced that U.S. wind energy installations had achieved another milestone by surpassing more than 10,000MW in generating capacity.

This growth will not come without obstacles. Environmental concerns, increasing demand and rising costs for wind farm construction will present a formidable challenge for the industry.

Nevertheless, announcements of new and bigger projects continue unabated. Iowa Winds LLC has announced its intention to build a 200 to 300MW farm, covering about 40,000 acres in Franklin County. Permits for the $200 million project are pending before a county zoning board. Officials of the Iowa Falls-based company say the farm could be the nation’s largest; however, until it is approved and built, that distinction would appear to belong to another complex to the southwest.

FPL Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of FPL Group announced in early September that it had completed 662MW of the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas, making it the largest wind farm in the world. When the last phase of the project is completed this fall, the center will have a total capacity of 735MW. Horse Hollow comprises more than 420 wind turbines spanning nearly 47,000 acres in Taylor and Nolan Counties.             

North American Business Conditions Continue to Decline

The Electroindustry Business Confidence Index (EBCI), published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), shows the confidence of the electroindustry in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. Based on a monthly survey of senior managers at NEMA-member companies, which represent more than 80 percent of the electroindustry, the EBCI trend has been declining since May, and it only seems to be getting worse.

The index came to a low point of 46.2 in August, which was the first time in 39 months it had dropped below 50 points, down from February’s index of 68.5. Consequently, the future index for North America showed its second straight monthly decline as it fell to 17.3 from 23.2 in July, continuing a downward trend occurring within the last four out of five months.

In other regions of the world, however, the current indexes show improvement. Latin America, Europe and Asia predict an index of more than 50 points, though Europe’s index declined slightly since last month. In contrast, the future conditions predict declines for both Europe and Latin America, while the future index for Asia is holding steady.

For North America, however, this is a total drop of 40 points, and it is the lowest rating since ECBI’s inception in 2001.

The decline may not be as big of an emergency as it may seem, however. The electroindustry has experienced significant growth within the past three years. It is likely that it is now entering into a period of moderation. One of the panelists the EBCI surveyed simply commented, “We see things settling a bit in the next six months—nothing alarming.”            

Out with the Magnetic Strip?

Typically, radio frequency identification (RFID) smart cards are used for transportation for buses, trains or other modes of transport. However, approximately 20 million credit and debit cards featuring this technology were issued in the United States last year. Could this be the end of the magnetic strip?

RFID technology has been around for 60 years, and it was only the low cost that kept the magnetic strip-style of credit and debit cards popular. Now, however, the cost of RFID smart cards and payment key fobs is dropping, and IDTechEx, the world’s leader in the development of low-cost RFIDs, expects a surge in RFID smart cards and payment key fobs as a result of the reduced cost of the contactless card systems.

Government/health RFID cards were very popular in 2005 and are predicted to be even more popular by the end of this year. An almost 50 percent increase is forecast. The demand is rising for the technology in countries such as Australia and Belgium, which is leading to a higher demand for memory and microprocessor cards. The trend shows no signs of slowing, meaning more opportunities for electrical contractors working on installing the RFID readers and systems.

RFID works more ergonomically than contact technology such as the magnetic strip. It is more reliable, more user-friendly and the applications are wider. Many European countries are developing the RFID technology for their e-Passports projects.

In China, 970 million adults will receive an RFID card by 2008 for identification. Korea will also replace 20 million transport cards in 2006 with a new version.

For more information, visit www.smartlabelseurope.com.       

Broadband Over Power Line Networking Could Dominate Residential Networking

As the worldwide race heats up for the residential networking interface, one technology seems poised to emerge the winner.

According to the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market research firm, In-Stat, a wired technology that does not require new cabling to be installed—such as broadband over power line networking—has what it takes to corner the market.

Broadband over power line even has advantages for in-home deployment over coaxial and twisted-pair cabling, which also do not require new cabling, especially in regions with few existing coax or phone jacks, such as Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Last year, according to In-Stat, worldwide unit shipments of broadband power line equipment surpassed 2 million. Growth in worldwide shipments is expected to increase 200 percent this year.

Broadband power line will not entirely eliminate the competition. In fact, in some areas, In-Stat expects the technology to share the market with coax and twisted- pair cabling. Some service providers may even use multiple technologies where they are compatible.          

World Trade Center Site to Seek LEED Certification

New York Gov. George Pataki announced in September a package of energy and environmental measures that will be incorporated into the design of the World Trade Center redevelopment. Plans for the Freedom Tower and other facilities at the World Trade Center site will feature state-of-the-art energy technologies to protect environmental resources, use renewable energy sources, and maximize energy efficiency.

Pataki said that the Freedom Tower; World Trade Center Office Towers 2, 3, and 4; and the World Trade Center Memorial and Memorial Museum will all be designed to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification requirements. These buildings join more than 580 million square feet of building projects already involved with the LEED program, including World Trade Center 7, which was certified as LEED Gold in March 2006.

The facilities will also be built to a design standard that is 20 percent more efficient than the New York Energy Conservation Construction Code. The Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Office Towers will use fuel cell technology to increase efficiency and provide secure clean on-site power generation. The fuel cell installations, totaling 4.8MW of power generation, will together constitute one of the largest fuel cell installations in the world.

Battery Park City, the neighborhood closest to the site and one of the most environmentally responsible neighborhoods in the country, is home to The Solaire, the world’s first green residential high-rise and LEED Gold building, and investment firm Goldman Sachs is constructing a new office tower that will be designed to earn LEED Gold certification.         

Eastern Regional Councils Form Reliability Assessment Group

In august, six regional councils of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) signed an agreement to form a reliability assessment group spanning the entire Eastern Interconnection, including portions of Canada.

The Eastern Interconnection Reliability Assessment Group (ERAG) includes the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC), Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO), Northeast Power Coordinating Council Inc. (NPCC), Reliability
First Corporation (RFC), SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC), and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). 

The six regional councils created ERAG to enhance reliability of the international bulk power system through reviews of generation and transmission expansion programs and forecasted system conditions within the boundaries of the territory they cover.

The signing of the agreement occurs as the regional entities attempt to achieve delegated authority from NERC to propose and enforce reliability standards in their respective regions, consistent with FERC Order 672. The ERAG agreement is one example of how the regional entities will utilize common methods to promote compliance once the delegated authority has been granted.      

Pennsylvania Raises the Bar on Green Electricity

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced that his state has redoubled its green electricity purchase from 10 to 20 percent, making it the largest state purchaser of green electricity in the nation.

Pennsylvania modified its existing contract with Community Energy Inc., a marketer and developer of wind power. The revised contract now calls for the purchase of 200,000-megawatt/hours per year from renewable sources.

The announcement marks the second time the state has doubled its purchase of green power under the Rendell administration. In 2003, shortly after he took office, Rendell doubled the state’s commitment to renewables by requiring all state facilities to meet 10 percent of their energy needs through alternative-power sources.

The contract with Community Energy calls for electricity that is generated 40 percent from wind power and 60 percent from hydroelectric sources.

The green power purchase is one of many ways that the Rendell administration has turned Pennsylvania into a trendsetter in the arena of clean power. For example, Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s most progressive Renewable Portfolio Standards, with a requirement that 18 percent of all retail energy generated come from alternative sources by 2020.

The Sun Causes Energy Crises

Summer is over, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t begin preparing for the next heat wave. On Aug. 2, the summer highs drove energy demands to record-breaking levels in New England. Demand shot to a record-high 28,021-megawatts, according to ISO New England, the company that operates the region’s electrical grid. However, this demand is not what would have caused a blackout like the ones seen in other regions.

The electrical demand of the area is part of the problem, but most blackouts are actually caused by distributor failure. Overall, there is usually enough energy, but it doesn’t go where it needs to go. Just like anything else, as distributors age, they become less efficient and pose more of a risk of failure.

Paul Joskow, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “As those facilities age and more and more demand is put on them, they’re more prone to fail, especially during hot weather.”

This seems like a logical statement. High temperatures mean more energy needed to keep cool. However, the problem usually doesn’t arise from a deficiency. Even when the region produces enough energy, Joskow said, blackouts often occur when the systems that deliver the electricity to neighborhoods become overloaded. On any given year, about 90 percent of blackouts occur due to problems with the local distribution network.

The bottom line is, of course, that a plant can generate all the energy it needs, but if it doesn’t have a reliable system to relay that energy, blackouts will occur.

“In the end,” Joskow said. “If your local distribution system fails, you don’t get power, no matter how many generating plants there are in the region.”

The solution is simple: keep the power relays up to date. The distribution system in New England is 30 and, in some places, 40 years old, which is very old for such a system. As demand increases, the distribution system is going to need to be replaced to be able to handle all the energy. Joskow suggests that consumers understand the need for updated and new systems and that they will have to pay for it.               

Clauss Tools Becomes Miller

In 2004, The Ripley co. acquired the fiber optic, electronics and telecommunication product lines of Clauss brand tools. Since the Miller brand serves the same markets, Ripley will be incorporating all Clauss branded tools under the Miller brand and eliminating any further use of the Clauss brand name. No tools will be removed from the product line.

The brand transition will be complete by January 2007, affecting both the tools and all supporting materials. The No-Nik sub-brand will be unchanged. For ordering purposes, all part numbers and descriptions will also remain unchanged.

Call 800.528.8665 for more information or visit www.ripley-tools.com.            

Graybar Offers Data Center Seminar

Graybar, a distributor of electrical and communications products and related supply chain management and logistics services, has developed a free seminar designed to help technology managers, data center managers, facilities managers and network architects make the most of their data cethrough January 2007, will feature technology solutions from APC, Panduit, Fluke, Ingersoll Rand, Panasonic Security Inc. and Square D.nters, though electrical contractors may benefit from attendance. The half-day seminar, offered in 15 cities from October 2006

“The seminar covers data center redesign and construction, including the problems with space constraints, heat dissipation and the need to increase bandwidth,” said Karl Griffith, director-enterprise market, Graybar. “Other topics include security, thermography, asset management (RFID), grounding and power monitoring. These technologies are critical for optimal data center performance and should be incorporated into all data center redesign projects.”

In addition, the seminar will cover the standards of data center design, practical tricks of the trade and how to create a critical-issues checklist. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with a panel of data center redesign and construction experts. Attendees will also receive a tool kit that includes ROI and cost justification models, standards reference documents, design tools, white papers and site checklists.

For a complete list of locations and dates, visit www.graybar.com/dataseminar.  

Cooper Lighting Offers Training Seminar

On Oct. 25–27, 2006, in Peachtree, Ga., Cooper Lighting will host a three-day seminar focusing on the fundamentals of lighting with additional emphasis on Cooper Lighting’s products. The “Lighting Fundamentals” seminar will provide a unique approach to training that actively allows participants to apply the skills they learned during the sessions.

The “Lighting Fundamentals” seminar is ideal for newcomers to the field of lighting and who are interested in a Cooper Lighting overview.

The three-day seminar costs $500 per participant, and no prior experience in lighting is required. For additional information and to register, visit Cooper Lighting’s Web site at www.cooperlighting.com.

Commercial Contributions to Katrina Relief Still a Priority

Nu-Lite Electrical Wholesalers “Energizing New Orleans” program is aimed at helping local charities and institutions revive the city of New Orleans. The program teams the 56-year-old, locally owned distributor with key manufacturers to donate a percentage of sales to a fund that will aid local charities and institutions.

“We have partnered with select manufacturers for our Energizing New Orleans program to aid local New Orleans charities and institutions, one of which is New Orleans’ Children Hospital,” said Gary Corales, Nu-Lite vice president. “Nu-Lite is proud to be part of this program that will help our city and our citizens recover and rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.”

 Customers of Nu-Lite will contribute, through their purchase, one point for each $1 purchased from participating manufacturers. Participating manufacturers include Square D, Encore Wire, Philips Lighting, Western Tube, Leviton Manufacturing, IDEAL Industries, EGS/Appleton, FCI Burndy, Ferraz Shawmut, Lutron, Advance Transformer and Bridgeport Fittings, and more suppliers may be added throughout the program. All contractor and industrial customer purchases of participating manufacturers’ products from Nu-Lite branches between July 26 and Dec. 25, 2006, qualify in the program.

Points will be accumulated throughout the Energizing New Orleans program.

New Orleans Residents Receive 5,000 Energy-Efficient Lamps to Reduce Energy Costs

TCP Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a supplier of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), donated 5,000 energy-efficient light bulbs to New Orleans residents impacted by last year’s devastating hurricane season. The CFLs will help consumers reduce their energy costs and conserve the environment. 

“Seeing the destruction to the New Orleans area from Hurricane Katrina had a profound impact on many of us in other regions of the country,” said Ellis Yan, CEO of TCP Inc. “Through this small gesture, TCP offers its support to those affected by Katrina in addition to providing them with a viable way to help save both electricity costs and energy in the future.”

The first 5,000 people attending the “Hands-On Hurricane Preparedness” event at the Pontchartrain Center in New Orleans on July 22–23, 2006, received a CFL courtesy of TCP. The CFLs use less than three-fourths the energy of standard incandescent light bulbs and produce the same quality of light. In addition, the event supplied homeowners with the knowledge and tools they need to repair and prepare their homes for another hurricane season.

Over the last five years, there has been a steady increase in CFL sales and a significant increase in the general public’s awareness of energy-efficient lighting. This will only continue to grow as gas prices rise and consumers look for new, creative ways to save money. The simple solution of replacing five light bulbs in the home can help lower monthly utility costs by more than $60 a year.

For more information, visit www.tcpi.com or call 800.324.1496.    

Internet Provider Donates Wireless Access to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles on Aug. 10, Trango Broadband Wireless, a provider of wireless products and backhaul solutions, partnered with the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corp. to donate an Access5830 access point and two FOX5800 subscriber units to provide the Little Tokyo community with high-speed Internet access.

The Little Tokyo Service Center expects long-term savings by using the gear for its network backhaul, estimating a savings of $500 per month for fiber access costs.

“The Trango solution allows the Little Tokyo Service Center to provide a secure Wi-Fi network that can not only provide free or low-cost Internet service to those in the community who cannot afford it, but can also provide a wide range of applications such as public safety and community event Web casting,” said Davis Park, director of Community Technology Programs. “This project serves as the pilot project for future community development projects in other districts.”

The network was live for the Los Angeles Tofu Festival on Aug. 12–13, 2006. Participants in a wireless scavenger hunt searched for clues throughout the neighborhood using wireless devices and the new wireless service. The first 50 participants received a gift, and players who successfully completed the game competed for an MP3 player, a laptop/printer case and other prizes throughout the weekend.            EC and at its conclusion, the points will be donated to local charities and institutions in the names of all of Nu-Lite’s customers and participating suppliers. Charities and institutions can use these points for needed supplies and materials, saving them money while enabling them to refurbish their organizations.