Wind Can Play Big Role in Clean Power

As states begin to put their Clean Power Plans (CPP) into place, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has conduced analyses on potential optimal energy sources as part of a state’s electricity  mix. The leader: wind.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind’s role has not been widely discussed. As it relates to wind energy, the EIA found (as detailed in a report from AWEA):

  • Wind energy plays the largest role in the lowest cost energy portfolio for CPP compliance, with significant wind energy deployment in nearly all regions.
  • Recent declines in the cost of wind energy, coupled with the wind’s role in protecting against increases in the price of natural gas, make wind energy the lowest cost compliance options for nearly all regions.
  • Using zero-emission wind energy provides states with valuable flexibility that allows for less dramatic changes to the generation mix than using a resource with some emissions.
  • Based on EIA’s analysis, wind energy should be viewed as a “no regrets” solution for meeting the CPP.
Michael Goggin, Senior Director of Research, American Wind Energy Association.

Michael Goggin, Senior Director of Research, American Wind Energy Association.

In an interview with Michael Goggin, senior director of research for AWEA, he said that states are already forming regions and they are in the process of developing their plans and wind energy is playing a role in these plans. AWEA has provided a handbook for states to use as a guide for incorporating wind into the CPP plans.

Today, he noted, wind energy is being transferred from one region to another; however, improving transmission lines will be an important factor for states as they continue to add more renewable energy to their mix and replace aging infrastructure.

Using EIA’s analysis as a guide, Goggin explained that by 2030, the energy generation mix is expected to be: wind (57%), natural gas (10%), solar (14%) and energy efficiency (19%) while the costs of wind significantly declines and in the last four years, wind energy prices have declined by 60 percent along. However, he noted that wind opportunity identified by the EIA is conservative and does not account for changes that the EPA has proposed to the CPP rule that are expected to expand wind energy’s role even further. He added that their costs are outdated and about 15 percent higher than actual wind costs today, so in the future, wind is likely to be even more cost-effective than indicated.

Wind will play a role in all regions, said Goggin, even those that don’t generate the wind electricity themselves. He along with the AWEA team are working with regions to help them develop their plans. The EPA is expected to issue final rules in August.

To learn more about wind’s role in the Clean Power Plan, listen to my interview with Michael Goggin here:AWEA's Michael Goggin Talks Wind, CPP

Wind Energy Zoning Needs Improvement

Tthe Center for Rural Affairs has released a report, “Zoned Out: An Analysis of Wind Energy Zoning in Four Midwest States,” that finds zoning need improvement. According to Alissa Doerr, Center for Rural Affairs legal extern and author of the report, Zoned Out analyses different approaches to zoning commercial wind energy systems in four different Midwest states – Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The report also broke down the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, and what makes for effective zoning standards.

Center for Rural Affairs Logo“Wind energy zoning remains generally uncoordinated and subject to state and local regulations, resulting in a piecemeal approach where zoning standards vary between states and within states,” Doerr said. “In order for wind energy development to continue increasing, there must be an effective approach to wind energy zoning implemented that reduces inconsistency and unpredictability caused by the patchwork approach that is currently in place.  The key is finding the right balance between local and state control.”

Doerr noted that as more wind energy projects are developed, members of local communities continue to have questions including how it will affect the community and what role the community plays in the development process. She added that zoning authorities must aim for efficient and effective standards, incorporating considerations from the local areas where wind development would take place.

Doerr further explained that the key to effective wind siting and zoning regulation is to strike the right balance between local and state control, avoiding some of the pitfalls for either approach, while trying to capture the benefits. Authorities at the state and local level must consider the pros and cons that can result from difference ordinances. The ideal balance should be focused on consistent standards that still allow for local autonomy.

“As wind power continues to play a bigger role in meeting our energy demands, it’s important that we craft regulations that incorporate local preferences and address local concerns, while also providing clear and consistent standards for developers,” Doerr concluded.

Block Island Wind Farm Has Steel in Water

The American wind energy industry along with Rhode Island state legislators and others celebrated what Deepwater Wind is calling a “historic moment” for the offshore wind industry as the first “steel in the water” milestone was met this week for the Block Island Wind Farm. This marks the installation of the first offshore wind farm foundation component – a 400-ton steel jacket on the sea floor – by Weeks Marine and Mason Construction. The site is located roughly three miles off the Block Island coast.

On hand for the ceremony were Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper, the state’s Congressional delegation, and more than a hundred other elected officials, leaders of national environmental advocacy organizations, federal and state regulators, Block Islanders and project supporters to celebrate the milestone where guests took a ferry tour of the offshore construction site.

Block-Island-RI-Google-300x190

Block Island – Photo Credit: Coastal News Today

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – a great opportunity for our state to stake out real leadership in this growing industry,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Not only are we going to create over 300 good-paying jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has a more diversified energy supply and greener energy. I’m committed to supporting this progress with a comprehensive jobs plan focused on making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making sure we are training the workforce today to support the innovations of tomorrow.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski noted, “We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American clean-tech industry launching right here in the Ocean State. This moment has been years in the making – and it’s just the start of something very big.” When complete, the offshore wind farm will generate 30 MW.

Construction is set for an eight-week period this summer and more than a dozen construction and transport barges, tugboats, crew ships and monitoring vessels will be active at the offshore construction site. In addition, vessel and crane operators, engineers, welders, scientists, protected species observers and dozens of others are all involved with this momentous operation.

“Weeks Marine and Manson Construction are enthused to assist with this challenging project and excited for the future opportunity it promises,” said Rick Palmer, Project Director for Weeks/Manson, a joint venture leading the installation work. “We commend Deepwater Wind for their diligent efforts that have led to this milestone achievement.” Continue reading

Energy Policy Modernization Act Intro’d

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) have introduced legislation entitled “The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015,” a bipartisan bill designed to increase the use of renewable energy in the U.S. Karl Gladwell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) noted that the legislation would help America achieve its geothermal potential, “by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.”

Photo Credit: Geothermal Technologies Office

Photo Credit: Geothermal Technologies Office

The legislation features five titles reflecting common ground on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation. In the supply title, it includes several provisions supporting geothermal energy. It would:

  • set a 50,000-MW National Geothermal Goal;
  • direct federal agencies to identify priority areas for development;
    •allow federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal power — today 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States;
  • facilitate new discoveries by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made; and
  • provide geothermal exploration test projects a limited categorical exclusion provided the lands involved present no extraordinary circumstances.

“Our energy renaissance has taken us from a position of energy scarcity to one of energy abundance, but current law rarely reflects that fact. After months of working together, the bipartisan legislation we introduced today marks a critical step toward the modernization of our federal energy policies. By focusing on areas where agreement was possible, we have assembled a robust bill with priorities from many senators that will promote our economic growth, national security, and global competitiveness,” Chairman Murkowski said in a press statement.

The Senators cite that the end result will be more affordable energy, more abundant energy, and more functional energy systems that will strengthen and sustain our energy nation’s renaissance. The bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act will also achieve these goals in a fiscally-responsible manner.

Earlier this week the Senate Finance Committee voted 23-3 in support of legislation sponsored by Sens. Hatch, R-Utah, and Wyden, D-Ore., to extend the expired Production Tax Credit for geothermal power plants that start construction by December 31, 2016.  The Murkowski-Cantwell legislation builds upon legislative proposals introduced previously by Sens. Heller, R-Nev., Wyden, D-Ore., and Tester, D-Mont., along with several co-sponsors. The bill now awaits the Committee’s markup, expected next Tuesday.

Green Charge Networks & ChargePoint Partner

Green Charge Networks and ChargePoint have forged a partnership in the electric vehicle (EV) space. The two companies will combine EV charging with EV charging stations. The companies cite combining energy storage with EV charging will eliminate the high cost of demand charges caused by spikes in power usage. This challenge is oftentimes a barrier for EV charging installation.

Photo Credit: CarStations.com

Photo Credit: CarStations.com

“We are proud to partner with ChargePoint, whose mission is to bring convenient charging to every EV driver,” said Vic Shao, CEO at Green Charge Networks. “Having EV charging readily available at public locations, especially along highly traveled corridors, will enable further electrification and accelerate adoption of electric vehicles. The combination of energy storage with EV charging is important and necessary, especially in California where demand charges are some of the highest in the nation.”

The first customer of the combined technology is Redwood City, California. The city is focused on reduced its environmental footprint (they have their own Climate Action Plan) and electric vehicle use is one their solutions. Today, Redwood City has five EV charging stations combined with energy storage including two DC Fast Charging Stations that were installed in 2014.

Redwood City said these EV charging stations, located at the public library and in a public parking garage, are heavily used with an average of 8-10 sessions per day. Green Charge Networks’ said their intelligent energy storage is shaving multiple peaks per day (80 in May, 2015) caused by the EV charging stations. The energy storage is expected to save nearly $7,000 annually in demand charges at the five Redwood City locations alone. The Redwood City energy storage equipment and installation came at no cost to the City; rather, Green Charge’s financing model provides a zero down cost solution. Green Charge Networks installs, owns and maintains all of the energy storage equipment.

“By combining EV charging and energy storage to reduce consumption during peak hours, businesses can save money,” added Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint CEO. “This can significantly reduce the cost for a business to offer EV charging thereby increasing EV adoption while promoting grid stability.”

PG&E Donates Solar to Habitat Homes

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has donated $1 million to support the installation of rooftop solar on 79 homes with 18 different Habitat for Humanity local affiliates throughout Northern and Central California. The company said its Solar Habitat Program, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, is making affordable housing and solar energy a reality for deserving families, particularly in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved and overlooked.

PG&E is proud to support Habitat for Humanity’s mission of making homeownership a reality for deserving families. Our sustained collaboration on the Solar Habitat Program allows these homes to be both financially and environmentally sustainable. Together, we’re building a cleaner, brighter future for the people of California,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley.

PG&E employee volunteers help to put in landscaping on a Habitat home equipped with solar panels in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

PG&E employee volunteers help to put in landscaping on a Habitat home equipped with solar panels in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The company has been supporting the housing program for more than 10 years. Today, they are the exclusive solar partner for Habitat for Humanity and to date, more than 660 new homes have been built with solar energy.

“Thanks to our partnership with PG&E and the Solar Habitat program, Habitat homeowners spend less on electricity and that helps us keep the overall cost of homeownership low. This is a critical piece of the overall affordability of Habitat homes,” said Phillip Kilbridge, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

The PG&E’s said their Solar Habitat program lowers the electricity bill of an average household by $500 per year. Each solar panel generates nearly 300 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy from sunlight per month, avoiding the release of more than 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the 30-year life of the system. In total, Habitat families have saved $9 million in energy costs through this partnership.

Earlier this year, the company and the non-profit celebrated their decade-long solar partnership by hosting the Brown Bag Build at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. Community members contributed over 200 volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity to safely construct 60 doors and window frames in 30-minute shifts during their lunch breaks for the Habitat Terrace development in San Francisco’s Ocean View neighborhood.

Nature Conservancy Looks to Bird Friendly Wind

The Nature Conservancy has installed the first phase of a bird friendly wind power project. The project is taking place in Palmyra, a national wildlife refuge located in Hawaii, where more than a million nesting seabirds call home. With low wind speeds, traditional wind turbines would have low output, plus, says the Conservancy, conventional wind turbines pose a risk of bird strikes. Thus, the group selected INVELOX, a funnel-based wind power technology developed by SheerWind.

Nature Conservancy/ U.S. Fish Wildlife's Palmyra Atoll by A. Purves (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

Nature Conservancy/ U.S. Fish Wildlife's Palmyra Atoll by A. Purves (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

The custom system is designed to mirror an hourglass laying on its side. Extending 83 feet horizontally with a big wind scoop at one end, an exhaust on the other, a Venturi section in the middle increases wind speed potentially three to six times. Nets over the intake and enclosed blades keep it bird friendly. The first phase of the installation includes a single turbine inside the Venturi, allowing for two additional to be installed.

The first phase of the INVELOX project is successfully charging batteries at night, says The Nature Conservancy, and on cloudy days to supplement the photovoltaic system also installed on Palmyra.

INVELOX on Palmyra Atoll by Cindy Coker (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

INVELOX on Palmyra Atoll by Cindy Coker (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

“With a goal to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, SheerWind’s INVELOX was the only viable solution for the multiple restrictions including height, wind speeds, and of course bird populations. This solution works and helped bring the goal to reduce fossil fuel use a reality,” said The Nature Conservancy’s David Sellers, who is the driving force behind the design solution and details of the INVELOX installation.

Palmyra Atoll is located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii in the vast equatorial Pacific, and hosts spectacular coral reef and tropical island ecosystems, but is a challenge for humans to inhabit. There are no commercial flights to this remote outpost, which is co-owned and managed as a scientific research station and national wildlife refuge by The Nature Conservancy and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Until the recent installation of wind and solar, Palmyra was run on diesel fuel generators. These installations reduced its dependence on fossil fuels by 95 percent according to The Nature Conservancy.

“We are grateful for David Sellers and The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to installing the first commercial system in an extremely challenging location. We are pleased we were able to contribute to this important achievement and hope this is an example to be duplicated globally,” added Dr. Daryoush Allaei, founder and CTO of SheerWind.

U.S. Senate Votes to Extend Federal Tax Credits

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has voted 23-3 to extend over 50 tax policies through 2016, including the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that helps to encourage the development of more renewable energy projects including wind. To qualify for the credits, construction of a product must begin while the tax programs are in place.

The credits has expired at the start of this year, and according to Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the action threw “the future of American wind energy into doubt once projects currently under construction are completed”.

© Hongtao926 | Dreamstime.com - Wind Turbines Photo

© Hongtao926 | Dreamstime.com – Wind Turbines Photo

“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Kiernan. “We applaud the committee’s vote because it recognizes that the vast majority of American voters support these policies and want them continued. We urge the full Senate and the House of Representatives to follow the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan lead, and quickly pass this tax extenders package, which will continue to grow American jobs and heavy manufacturing, and support rural economic growth.”

Kiernan said the federal PTC and ITC are predominant drivers of new wind farm development, and have helped lower the cost of American wind power by more than half over the last five years, while making the U.S. number one in the world in wind energy production.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the hearing regularly acknowledged the strong sense of bipartisan support for renewing the tax extenders package. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Rob Portman (R-OH) withdrew amendments opposing the PTC, while Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) made the senators aware of the tremendous amounts of economic benefits and jobs wind power has created in Colorado. Continue reading

Mid-Year Renewable Energy Check-Up

Heading in to the second half of 2015, renewable energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation for the firs six months as reported by the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The report finds wind accounts for more than half (50.64%) of the 1,969 MW of new installed capacity. Solar accounted for 549 MW, bimomass with 128 MW, geothermal with 45 MW and hydropower with 21 MW. The rest of the new capacity was added using natural gas (1,173 MW).

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels Photo

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels Photo

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, as calculated by the SUN DAY Campaign, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. For June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97 percent of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61 percent, wind – 5.84 percent, biomass – 1.40 percent, solar – 1.08 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.28 percent of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, sources the SUN DAY Campaign, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96 percent in mid-2013 to 26.83 percent today.

“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” noted Ken Bossong, executive eirector of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.”

Businesses Should Lead Way on Clean Power

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) are calling on the National Governors Association (NGA) to implement the federal Clean Power plan. If done correctly, states can reap benefits, say the groups, that come with a clean energy economy. NGA is preparing for its summer conference in West Virginia July 23-25, 2015, around the same time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to announce final standards. The Clean Power Plan is the first plan that limits carbon pollution emitted by power plants.

logos“The Clean Power Plan is not just smart environmental policy, it’s a major economic catalyst that will create jobs and drive economic growth,” said Bob Keefe, E2’s executive director. “Governors have a choice: They can implement the plan on their own terms and reap the benefits, or they can skirt the law and get left behind by other states.”

The formal letter also suggests NGA can help states by leading and facilitating engagement between governors, the EPA, state regulators and others.

“The Clean Power Plan will help states grow their economies and create jobs,” said ASBC’s Vice President of Policy Richard Eidlin. “It also gives businesses the certainty and transparency they need to increase investment in clean energy.”

E2/ASBC made their calls to action as some in Congress and industry urge states to skirt the law by failing to develop state plans. For instance, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell in March began urging governors to refuse to implement the standards. However, as the E2/ASBC letter states, steering a state down such a legally reckless path would negatively impact a state’s economy.

According to the letter from E2 and ASBC, the decision to “opt out” of the Clean Power Plan is simply bad for business. “The business community needs a consistent regulatory system based on sound science,” ASBC’s Eidlin added. “The Clean Power Plan provides this. Tackling climate change isn’t just good for the environment – it’s good for businesses, too.”