The Hill: Trump Picks Renewable Energy Policy Skeptic to Lead DOE Office

President Trump has named Dan Simmons, an opponent of policies meant to promote renewable energy, to lead the renewable energy office at the Department of Energy.

Simmons formerly worked at the Institute for Energy Research, a self-styled free-market energy think tank that is funded largely by fossil fuel interests.

An Energy official announced Simmons’ appointment to lead the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in a recent email to employees, which noted that Simmons started at the department during the Trump administration’s transition period.

His appointment was first reported by E&E News.

Financial Times: Eclipse to Test U.S. Electric Grid Reshaped By Solar Power

The first total solar eclipse to darken U.S. skies in a generation has forced utilities to draw up contingency plans for an electric grid increasingly powered by the sun.

A giant shadow moving west to east on August 21 will temporarily remove “a large amount of photovoltaic resources” from the country, a regulatory body concluded last week. California’s grid operator on Monday estimated the eclipse would boost its net demand by 6,000 megawatts, enough power for the city of Los Angeles, as solar output nosedives.

Eclipses are among the latest factors utility managers must consider as renewable energy becomes a bigger part of the generation mix. The last total solar eclipse crossed the U.S. in 1979, when president Jimmy Carter bemoaned an energy crisis and renewable technology was in its infancy.

Reuters: How Two Cutting-Edge U.S. Nuclear Projects Bankrupted Westinghouse

In 2012, construction of a Georgia nuclear power plant stalled for eight months as engineers waited for the right signatures and paperwork needed to ship a section of the plant from a factory hundreds of miles away.

The delay, which a nuclear specialist monitoring the construction said was longer than the time required to make the section, was emblematic of the problems that plagued Westinghouse Electric Co. as it tried an ambitious new approach to building nuclear power plants.

The approach -- building pre-fabricated sections of the plants before sending them to the construction sites for assembly -- was supposed to revolutionize the industry by making it cheaper and safer to build nuclear plants.

But Westinghouse miscalculated the time it would take, and the possible pitfalls involved, in rolling out its innovative AP1000 nuclear plants, according to a close examination by Reuters of the projects.

Those problems have led to an estimated $13 billion in cost overruns and left in doubt the future of the two plants, the one in Georgia and another in South Carolina.

Tri-City Herald: GAO -- Energy Department Lax in Fighting Fraud at Hanford, Other Sites   

The U.S. Department of Energy isn’t doing enough to cut back on the risk of fraud among its contractors, including at Hanford, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

“The Department of Energy is responsible for maintaining large parts of our nuclear arsenal, and an inability or unwillingness to root out contracting fraud endangers not only taxpayer dollars but our national security,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former auditor, said in a statement. “The most troubling part is that the agency seems unwilling to acknowledge this is a problem.”

In one case, several employees of former contractor Fluor Hanford Inc. charged purchases, including appliances and TV, for their own use to federal credit cards or they received kickbacks for purchases they made.

In the second case, Hanford vitrification plant contractor Bechtel National and its subcontractor AECOM agreed in November to pay $125 million to settle a lawsuit over allegations that they had charged DOE for parts and work that could not be shown to meet the agency’s strict standards for nuclear facilities.

Microgrid Knowledge: An Environmental Case for the Fuel Cell Microgrid -- Producing Power With No Combustion

A fuel-cell microgrid produces electricity through a chemical reaction -- not combustion. This gives it an environmental advantage over many conventional generation technologies, as explained in this excerpt from “Fuel Cell Microgrids: The Path to Lower Cost, Higher Reliability Cleaner Energy.“

A recent study by Argonne National Lab found that fuel cells have lower greenhouse gas emissions than those produced by the U.S. grid mix of technologies.

The same study found that if higher-efficiency fuels cells are used, such as those that use solid oxide or molten carbonate technology, the greenhouse gas emissions are comparable to those produced by the California grid mix, which generates 43 percent of its electricity from non-fossil renewable and nuclear sources.

A California wastewater treatment plant, operated by the City of Riverside, offers a good example of the superior environmental performance of a fuel cell. The Fuel Cell Energy project uses renewable biogas, produced from the wastewater treatment process, as a fuel source to generate carbon-neutral power. As compared to other fuel cells which require ‘directed’ biogas with the same composition as pipeline natural gas, the FCE system operates directly on biogas, thus creating more cost efficiency.