Congressional Energy Bill Fuels the Conversion to a Green Economy
by Shirley Georgi
The Energy bill (H.R. 6) or more formally known as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has some positive policies and programs for the industries pictured on the front cover. At the time of writing this article, President Bush has not yet signed the bill but news reports indicate that he will do so sometime in early August. While the bill is not directly focused on batteries, other green technologies, described hereafter, will require hybrid configurations which will promote battery business and technology.
Solar/Photovoltaics - A federal investment tax credit will promote all forms of solar energy. For commercial solar installations, the 10 percent investment tax credit will increase to 30 percent for two years for property placed in service after December 31, 2005 and before January 1, 2008. For residential solar installations, the bill creates a new 30 percent tax credit, capped at $2,000 for the same time period as given to commercial installations.
The photo (upper right) on the cover shows a dish Stirling solar power system at the Arizona Public Service Solar Test and Research Center. This solar technology, capable of producing 25kW of electricity, uses mirrors to focus sunlight onto a thermal receiver. The heat is used to run a Stirling heat engine, which drives an electric generator. (The photo is courtesy of the DOE.)
Fuel Cells - Approximately $4 billion were slated for this industry. About half of this funding will go for more research and development while $1.3 million will be set aside for demonstration projects, and $450 million will be allocatedfor state and federal governments to buy fuel cells.
Tax credits will be available for fuel cell vehicles. Fuel-cell powered vehicles, weighing less than 8,500 pounds, will qualify for a base credit of $8,000. Larger and heavier vehicles get even higher credits. These credits apply to vehicles purchased through 2014.
The photo (lower right) is a Ford Focus fuel cell zero emissions vehicle. (The photo is courtesy of the DOE.)
Nuclear Power - Tax credits for building nuclear power plants, a reduced tax on interest earned from nuclear plant decommissioning funds and the repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, restricting investment opportunities in the power utility industry, could help nuclear power. CEO John Rowe of Exelon, which has a number of nuclear plants, reported to the ChicagoSun-Times that more nuclear power plant deployment is necessary “if we are to address the serious issues of energy security and global warming.” (“Energy bill power-packed for Illinois industries” by Mary Wiseniewski, Chicago Sun-Times, 08/01/05). Higher priced oil and lower cost electricity from nuclear power could rebuild the interest in plug in hybrids
The photo (upper left) is an interior view of the nuclear waste processing facility in the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York. The plant solidifies high-level radioactive waste for permanent disposal. Note the battery-powered transfer cart used to transport canisters to and from the vitrification cell. The primary mission of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) West Valley Demonstration Project is to safely solidify liquid high-level radioactive waste into a solid borosilicate glass, suitable for eventual shipment to and disposal at a federal repository. (The photo is courtesy of the DOE.)
Wind - The wind power industry’s tax credit will be extended two-years; it was scheduled to expire in December 2005. This provision in the bill provides a 1.9 cent-per-kiloWatt tax credit for electricity generated with wind turbines over the first ten years of the project’s operation. The American Wind Association projects that up to 2,500 megaWatts of wind energy capacity are scheduled to be completed this year. This translates into new power for about 700,000 homes and a $3 billion investment in power generation.
The photo (lower left) pictures the commercial installation of U.S. Windpower, Inc.’s wind farm in Flowind, Altamont Pass, California. The site has 192 Enertech 44 foot diameter, 40 kW turbines. (The photo is courtesy of U.S. Windpower and the DOE.)
The central photo is the west front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (The photo is credited to the architect of the Capitol at the website: www.aoc.gov)