December 31, 2003

NECA releases new publication

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) recently released its 23rd National Electrical Installation Standard publication, the NECA 230-2003, “Standard for Selecting, Installing, and Maintaining Electric Motors and Motor Controllers.”

The guide covers subjects like motor design code letters and characteristics; receiving and storing motors and controllers on job sites; selecting motor branch-circuit, short circuit, and ground fault protective devices; and motor wiring connections.

Charles Trout, the long-time chairman of National Electrical Code-Making Panel 12, was the principal author of NECA 230. The American National Standards Institute approved the guide.

The guide is available in downloadable PDF format at www.neca-neis.org/standards.

December 30, 2003

ILSCO revamps website

ILSCO, a Cincinnati-based manufacturer of electrical connectors, recently launched its enhanced website, http://www.ilsco.com. Authorized distributors and representatives of the company now have secure access to online ordering, real-time inventory availability, account customer pricing, online order status and tracking, and sales reporting.

The Web site also includes a product catalog, cross-reference search, company news, technical data, company contacts, and a sales representative locator.

December 29, 2003

National Association of Electrical Distributors releases results of sales survey

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) recently released the results of its Quarterly Sales Change Expectation Report for the fourth quarter of 2003. Most respondents are positive about fourth quarter sales as 72% of respondents predict a positive gain. Respondents in the Midwest are the most optimistic about fourth quarter sales, with 76.4% respondents expecting an increase. However, some are still cautious, as 11% expect no movement and 17% expect a negative turn in sales.

NAED sent the survey to about 3,500 distributor locations in early October to obtain the previous quarter’s and upcoming quarter’s sales change expectations. The next survey is scheduled for January.

December 24, 2003

Midwest Renewables to invest more than $260 million in Iowa

Earlier this year, Midwest Renewables of Alden, a renewable energy company, began planning a $65 million ethanol plant west of Iowa’s industrial park. Now the company intends to bring a $200 million wind farm to southern Franklin County in north central Iowa.

Midwest Renewables joined Whitney & Co., a private equity firm from Connecticut, to build the ethanol plant. Per year, the plant is expected to consume as many as 14 million bushels of corn to produce 40 million gal of ethanol, and produce 127,000 tons of dried distiller grain. It should be fully functioning by the end of 2004 and could employ 35 people.

The two companies are also working together on the wind farm, which could have as many as 135 turbines, span an area 10 mi to 15 mi wide, and produce 200MW of power. Construction on the $200 million project could begin in 2004, provided a Midwest utility company agrees to buy the power.

December 23, 2003

IEEE seeks legislation to enforce visa rules

IEEE is pushing Congress to enact legislation that requires companies to use L-1 visas strictly for their intended purposes. The group says the visa systems are being abused, and as a result, preventing U.S. workers from finding work.

The purpose of an L-1 visa is to enable multinational corporate executives, managers, and employees with special skills to work at subsidiaries in the United States on a temporary basis. However, IEEE claims companies are using the visas to move foreign guest workers into the country as a source of lower-cost contract labor.

State Department figures show the number of L-1 visas increased from 38,307 in 1998 to 57,721 in 2002. This increase seems to correlate with the rise in U.S. high-tech unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical and electronics engineers were unemployed at a rate of 1% in 1997 and a rate of 6.7% by the third quarter of 2003.

Ultimately, IEEE wants the legislation to close what it perceives as loopholes in the visa programs and strengthen enforcement and penalties for those who violate the laws.

December 22, 2003

Meridian Project Systems creates technical assistance center

Meridian Project Systems (MPS) recently announced the availability of its Technical Assistance Center for its large-scale enterprise clients that deploy any MPS products. The center’s staff collaborates with the MPS Professional Services group to provide technical resources throughout its clients’ implementation and rollout phases.

Client accounts are managed by one customer lead, and services include yearly on-site consultations regarding product use, general performance and extension options, quarterly account reviews, enhancement requests, product revisions or upgrades, and access to MPS technical bulletins.

December 19, 2003

Chicago Public Schools undergo EnergySaver project

Electric City Corp. recently received a contract from the Chicago Public School system to complete a $4 million EnergySaver project. The project aims to cut energy costs through the use of EnergySaver products at all schools that meet specific investment return requirements set by the school board. These products will control the energy sent to the school’s lighting fixtures, therefore reducing the energy consumed when the lights are turned on and off or retrofitted.

Schools will be selected by Electric City Corp. and approved by the Chicago Public School system through a detailed engineering process. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete.

December 18, 2003

Renewable energy companies create solar pumping system in California

Kyocera Solar and WorldWater Corp. have teamed up to produce a solar pumping system for Lehr Bothers, a potato and citrus grower in Edison, Calif. Kyrocera Solar, a provider of solar electric products for industry and agriculture, supplied 760 of its KC-158W solar panels to power a 350-hp pump. The pump is tied to the electric grid and used for processing potatoes at the packing facility. WorldWater, a solar engineering and water management company, designed and installed the solar pumping system.

The 10,000-sq-ft, 120kW solar array is installed on a carport and works with both the conventional utility grid and solar power. It's designed to reduce electricity costs, especially during peak hours, and it makes sure the pump will continue to function in the event of a power outage or power reduction from the electric grid.

Quentin T. Kelly, chairman and CEO of WorldWater Corp., says there are additional benefits to the system. “Solar power offers farmers an alternative energy source that is reliable, affordable, and clean,” Kelly says.

December 17, 2003

Nebraska Public Power District approves construction of wind farm

On December 12, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) unanimously approved the construction of a 75MW wind farm on land south of Ainsworth, Neb. If the project goes forth as planned, as many as 50 windmills will stand 185 ft to 245 ft above the Sand Hills near Ainsworth. The windmill farm has the potential to generate electricity for 24,000 homes.

Pending approval from the Nebraska Power Review Board, the NPPD will build 30MW worth of wind turbines for its own use and an additional 45MW for outside companies. The Omaha Public Power District and the Jacksonville Electric Authority are negotiating with the NPPD to purchase 10MW each, and the NPPD would market the remaining 25MW to other public power districts.

Bill Fehrman, NPPD chief executive officer, says the wind farm would allow the NPPD to reduce its wintertime purchase of power. Its completion date is set for Spring 2005, with an estimated cost of $100 million.

December 16, 2003

National Lighting Bureau offers free publications

The National Lighting Bureau recently announced 11 of its publications are now available as free, downloadable PDFs. Some of the free publications are Getting the Most from Your Lighting Dollar, Guide to Industrial Lighting, Lighting for Safety and Security, and Performing a Lighting System Audit. The manuals include how-to information and case studies.

Hard copies of the publications are still available for about $20 each, with delivery.

For a complete list of free publications, visit at http://www.nlb.org/pubs/.

December 15, 2003

U.S. economy looking up in 2004

The U.S. economy is set to grow at its fastest rate in 20 years, according to a report released by the New-York-based Conference Board. The report attributes the growth to the economy’s strong year-end finish in 2003 and increased profits and productivity, which lead to more business spending.

Gross domestic product could hit 5.7% in 2004, a 2.6% increase over 2003’s 3.1% growth rate. With profits on the rise, businesses are predicted to spend heftily on capitol improvements in 2004. Real capitol spending will be up 11.7% compared to an estimated 2.7% in 2003.

However, the job market isn’t likely to see such dramatic increases. The unemployment rate is expected to drop slightly from 6.0% in 2003 to 5.6% in 2004. Some economists attribute this sluggish increase to dramatic productivity gains, which enable fewer workers to do as much or more work than before.

December 12, 2003

Caterpillar and ZTR Technologies announce joint venture

On December 11, Caterpillar and ZTR Technologies announced the establishment of PointGuard LLC, a 24/7 system monitoring and management solution for the electrical power generation, and the oil and gas engine markets. Both companies own 50% of the joint venture.

The system works from a central point, combining specific site equipment and information to provide a detailed analysis and summary report. System services include automated alarm notification, data storage and trending, fuel dispatch, and Global Positioning System mapping, directions and advanced reports. It features critical standby, peak shaving, and curtailment in the building services segment. Incident Manager, a software-based tool, tracks downtime causes and provides reports to help with contract compliance and process improvements.

Currently the system is available exclusively in North America, but the companies have future plans to market worldwide.

December 10, 2003

Mr. Electric finishes strong in 2003

Mr. Electric, a company that offers residential and light commercial electrical installation and repair, will end 2003 on a positive note. The company added 42 new franchises worldwide and achieved a 13.8% increase in U.S. sales revenue.

This will be one of Mr. Electric’s strongest years, and President Rick Cross attributes the success to the fact that the company aimed to attract the independent electrical businesses looking to diversify into the service and repair industry. The change in focus created more opportunities and more business for the company.

Mr. Electric plans to open 60 additional franchises worldwide in 2004.

December 9, 2003

Sun Power & Geothermal Energy funds California solar system

On December 1, Sun Power & Geothermal Energy announced it will award the Butte County Center in Oroville, Calif., an $8.4 million contract to design and build a 1MW solar photovoltaic system.

The system will use Xantrex inverters and include more than 9,000 Sharp 185W solar modules. It will feature installation methods like two ground-mount arrays, one rooftop array, and solar panels mounted on parking shade structures at a county parking lot. The four solar arrays will provide 100% of the power for the Butte County Administration building, the East jail, and the West jail.

The solar system will store power from sunny days so it can be used at night and when it’s overcast. It has the potential to replace the equivalent energy used by 400 California homes, prevent 1,250 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted in the atmosphere, and will eliminate the annual net electric bill for each of the three buildings.

Upon its completion in June 2004, the solar system will be one of the top 10 largest solar energy systems in the United States.

December 8, 2003

FERC aims to set grid reliability standards

On December 1, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Pat Wood, announced if Congress can’t overhaul the United States energy policy by early 2004, FERC will consider setting its own power grid reliability standards.

During an agency conference on grid reliability, Wood explained the need to create mandatory reliability standards to prevent another blackout like the one in August that left 50 million Americans in the dark.

Officials from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), an industry-funded group, were scheduled to address the conference later in the afternoon. Representatives from NERC couldn’t be reached for comment on FERC’s possible actions.

Wood says FERC wants to set standards possibly by Summer 2004.

December 5, 2003

Economic activity continues to improve

On December 1, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released the results of a monthly survey of manufacturing supply executives that stated November was a positive month for the economy. Economic activity in the manufacturing sector rose for the fifth consecutive month while the overall economy grew for the 25th consecutive month.

ISM’s manufacturing index climbed 5.8 points from 57 in October to 62.8 in November as the new-orders index jumped 9.4 points to the highest level in nearly 20 years, and the production index rose 5.7 points. Both gains were the seventh in a row, and both showed increases in 16 out of 20 manufacturing industries.

December 4, 2003

October’s construction values show positive signs

On November 24, the Census Bureau reported the value of construction put-in-place in October rose 0.9%, bringing the seasonally adjusted rate to $922 billion. October’s figure was the fifth straight monthly increase and fourth consecutive monthly record.

Overall, construction in the first 10 months of 2003 was up 3.7% compared to the first 10 months of 2002. Private residential and public construction contributed to the increase, with gains of 9% and 3%, respectively. Those gains compensated for the 6% decrease in private non-residential construction, which is at its lowest level in six years.

December 3, 2003

Siemens’ trade show gears up for U.S. tour

Siemens Energy & Automation recently announced the company’s 1,000-ft Exider technology train will tour the United States starting February 23 in Chicago for National Manufacturing Week.

After leaving Chicago, “trade show on wheels” will embark on a 10-city, coast-to-coast tour. The train houses technology like 224 plasma screen TVs and monitors, 189 DVD players, four servers, nine miles of electrical cables, and almost two miles of data lines. Visitors can tour railcars modeled after customer themes like machine tool components, commercial and residential power distribution, and engineering services.

Since its European launch in 2002, the trade show has toured more than 90 cities in 20 countries and hosted 80,000 visitors. The company hopes to reach 15,000 engineers, contractors, and other industry professionals in the United States.

For tour dates and more information, visit http://www.usa.exider.com.

December 2, 2003

Siemon publishes new issue of “Cabling For The Future”

The Siemon Co. recently published the new edition of “Cabling For The Future” magazine. This industry magazine covers topics like voice over IP, standards updates, technical support, fiber termination methods, network traffic, and case studies. Visit http://www.cftfonline.com to order or download a complimentary issue of the magazine.

December 1, 2003

Energy Department to hold blackout meetings in December

The Energy Department recently announced investigators will hold three public meetings in December to discuss the power blackout in August that spanned eight U.S states and part of Canada, and left 50 million people in the dark. The meetings are scheduled for Dec. 4 in Cleveland, Dec. 5 in New York, and Dec. 8 in Toronto.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will meet today at its headquarters to take public comment on a report investigators released last week. The report largely blames the outage on the Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., saying in addition to failing to keep trees trimmed, it didn’t have adequate alarms or computer equipment to flag the growing drain on its grid. The report claims the outage was largely preventable. The meeting will also focus on how the agency can promote grid reliability standards.