Power Year in Review: Editor's Picks 2012


Beginning in January 2012, at the end of each month PennEnergy’s editorial staff would present its top ten picks for the best industry news content in the power and petroleum sectors.  Moving into 2013, our editors have compiled the very best of 2012 from across the energy industry.

Presented here are the top picks from the Electric Power industry in 2012 as selected by PennEnergy’s Content Director, Dorothy Davis. Let us know what you think and share your own favorites.  We look forward to bringing you the very best of 2013!

January 2012

1) Researchers develop cleaner process for liquefied coal
Researchers at the Menlo Park-based SRI International believe they have developed a process that could effectively eliminate the carbon emissions from the liquefaction of coal into fuel. 

2) Iran sends letter to the U.S. over killed nuclear scientist
Tensions have risen higher than ever over the ambitions of Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is only for creating peaceful energy and not for nuclear weapons.

3) DOE takes first step to spur U.S. manufacturing of small modular nuclear reactors
The U.S. Department of Energy announced the first step toward manufacturing small modular nuclear reactors, demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to advancing U.S. manufacturing leadership in low-carbon, next generation energy technologies.

February 2012

1) U.K. opens world's largest wind farm off the coast of Cumbria
With 102 turbines and a total capacity of 367.2 MW, Walney can supply up to 320,000 households a year with renewable power.

2) Air Force eyes small modular nuclear reactors, beamed power for spacecraft
The U.S. Air Force has laid out a new vision for its energy science and technology needs over the next 15 years – a forecast that includes plans for space-based power stations and the prospective use of small nuclear reactors for new spacecraft.

3) Plunging natural gas pushing down coal demand
The growing prominence of natural gas generation is spurring a collapse in coal-fired generation and the coal market more generally.

March 2012

1) Nuclear power majors RWE, E.ON abandon plans for new UK reactors
 RWE npower and E.ON announced they would not proceed to develop new nuclear power projects in the UK through the Horizon joint venture. Both utilities will now focus on finding a new owner for Horizon Nuclear Power.

2) Small modular nuclear reactor to be employed at DOE Savannah River Site
The U.S. Energy Department announced three public-private partnerships to develop deployment plans for small modular nuclear reactor technologies at Savannah River Site facilities, near Aiken, South Carolina.

3) New chemical technology could lead to batteries able to store 3x more energy
Sandia researchers have developed a new family of liquid salt electrolytes, known as MetILs, that could lead to batteries able to cost-effectively store three times more energy than today’s batteries.

April 2012

1) Germany adding, updating 84 power plants
The majority of this added generation will rely on fossil fuels, including 29 gas-fired power plants and 17 coal-fired power plants.

2) Coal-fired plant reports over 96 percent reduction in emissions
Recent tests show that the Public Service of New Hampshire’s Clean Air Project is reducing emissions by 96 - 98 percent at its coal-fired Merrimack Station.

3) GE Hitachi signs MOU toward small modular nuclear fast reactor to tackle UK plutonium stockpile
National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd. will provide expert technical input to the potential U.K. deployment of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s innovative PRISM small modular nuclear fast reactor, which would be specifically, designed to disposition the U.K.’s plutonium.

May 2012

1) Japan shuts down last active nuclear power plant
As the country considers whether it will abandon nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima, nuclear plants that have shut down for scheduled maintenance have been held from restarting.

 2) Natural gas consumption hits record high
Consumption from natural gas power plants rose 34 percent from a year before in February, as prices lingered at a 10-year low and many utilities began to switch away from coal-fired generation.

3) Activists breach nuclear power plant site in France
The publicity stunt was designed to highlight the potential security concerns of relying on nuclear generation, which is responsible for roughly 75 percent of French electricity production.

June 2012

1) Shaw, Exelon join NET Power to develop new tech for gas-fired power generation
The new technology, called NET Power, is based on a high-pressure, supercritical carbon dioxide oxyfuel power cycle, which produces cost-effective electric power with little to no air emissions.

2) House passes $10 million Yucca Mountain measure
By a 326-81 vote, the House passed an amendment to an energy appropriations act allocating $10 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fund the proposed long-term repository for high-level nuclear waste.

3) Romney shies away from energy record
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has prevented himself from claiming credit for some of his greatest success in the energy sector, based on his criticism of President Barack Obama's renewable energy programs.

July 2012

1) GE to develop in-home natural gas fueling station
With natural gas prices hitting decade-low prices, General Electric, in partnership with Chart Industries and scientists at the University of Missouri, announced plans to develop a system for rapidly refueling natural gas-powered cars in the home.

2) Small modular nuclear reactor test facility begins full operations
The B&W mPower™ reactor Integrated System Test (IST) facility has achieved full operating conditions. The IST is the world's only operational, design-specific test facility for a small modular nuclear reactor design.

3) Overemphasis on natural gas a threat to energy stability
Executives from three major American utility companies shared their belief recently that the shift to natural gas-fired generation could create as many problems for the country's electricity transmission system as it solves without certain checks.

August 2012

1) World's first commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility operational
Sapphire Energy, Inc., one of the world leaders in algae-based green crude oil production, announced the first phase of its Green Crude Farm, the world's first commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility, is now operational.

2) India: Massive blackouts leaves over 600 million in the dark
Huge portions of northern and eastern India suffered from crippling blackouts, leaving nearly one-tenth of the world's population without power.

3) EPA's Cross State Air Pollution Rule overturned
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a 2 to 1 decision has overturned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

September 2012

1) Wind power turbine creates clean drinking water from humid air
French engineering firm Eole Water has developed a new wind power turbine technology designed to create clean drinking water from condensed air.

2) Canada imposes new emissions restrictions for coal plants
The Canadian government has announced a new array of carbon emissions rules for coal-fired generation. The regulations, set to take effect July 1, 2015, will limit coal-fired power plants to no more than 420 metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide per gigawatt-hour.

3) Ex-Im approves $2B in financing for nuclear power plant in U.A.E.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank has authorized a $2 billion direct loan to the Barakah One Company of the United Arab Emirates to underwrite the export of American equipment and service-expertise for the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

October 2012

1) Hurricane Sandy claims lives, knocks out power to millions
Hurricane Sandy has slammed the mid-Atlantic coast, leaving roughly 6 million in the region without power and reports of at least 17 fatalities.

2) Activists occupy EDF’s gas-fired West Burton power station halting operations
Over two dozen activists evaded security at EDF’s West Burton gas-fired power station, with sixteen climbing and rappelling down into two of its 300 ft. smokestacks to halt operations.

3) New Exelon report blasts subsidized wind generation
Economic and litigation consulting firm Continental Economics has released a report commissioned by energy major Exelon that tears down the value of the highly debated Wind Production Tax Credit.

November 2012

1) ABB develops world’s first circuit breaker for HVDC
ABB has announced a breakthrough in the ability to interrupt direct current, solving a 100-year-old electrical engineering puzzle and paving the way for a more efficient and reliable electricity supply system.

2) USC: 59 GW of U.S. coal-fired power capacity ripe for retirement
As much as 18 percent of the country’s coal-fired generating capacity should be considered for closure, according to a new independent analysis released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

3) South Korea shuts down two nuclear reactors as probe into parts scandal continues
South Korea’s nuclear power watchdog has extended an investigation into forged safety certificates for thousands of reactor components in use at several nuclear facilities.

December 2012

1) B&W winner of DOE’s Small Modular Reactor program
The Babcock & Wilcox Company has been selected as the winner of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) competitively bid Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Licensing Technical Support Program.

2) Wind outpaces gas-fired power in 2012
More wind energy capacity was added to the grid than that from new natural gas-fueled power plants in the United States in 2012.

3) UK uses more coal than natural gas
In the UK coal-fired power increased by about 50 percent in the third quarter of 2012 to reach 28.66 terawatt-hours, while gas-fired generation fell 41 percent to 22.83 TWh.

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