Ornicept: Wind Energy Technology for the Birds

DSC_2294Earlier this month, the winners were announced in the Clean Energy Challenge, and prize winner, Ornicept, has a unique technology that can aid in the mitigation of bird issues associated with wind turbines. The technology was developed last May by young entrepreneurs Justin Otani and his co-founder Russell Conard, who graduated from Indiana University. Early on they won a business plan competition called the “Best Competition,” that gave them the initial seed capacity. From there they relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Conard, says Otani is computer scientist with a bird habit and in college set out to create a computer program that could identify birds with video. When reaching out to biologists and other people on how he could improve the system, the commercial applications became apparent. Simultaneously, while Conard was working with biologists, Otani was working at the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship for Innovation and running the on campus incubator and also serving as a consultant for student-started companies. It was through this process that he was connected with Conard.

RUSSELLOtani said there needs to be a balance between business and the need to protect wildlife – an issue that the wind industry is also dealing with. Eventually, the technology emerged and when it did, it was a state-of-the-art network of distributed cameras, computers, and computer vision algorithms. When working in tandem, it is a system for remotely collecting data on birds by species as they move through a survey zone.

What’s interesting, Otani explained, is that it may not be a whole wind farm that creates risks to bird but maybe one or two wind turbines that have the majority of impact. So if it’s pre-construction, using their data that lets you know where those high use areas are, you can often offset the placement of the turbines, even a 100 meters, and dramatically reduce the risk to birds.

Today, the technology is being beta-tested and refined and the plan is to roll-out the technology full scale soon. In anticipation of the launch, the Ornicept team will be displaying and discussing their technology during the upcoming American Wind Energy Association Conference & Exhibition taking place May 5-8, 2013 in Chicago.

Listen to my interview with Justin Otani here: Wind Energy Technology for the Birds

Lee Consulting: Alternative Energy Knowledge Center

Have a question about renewable energy? Then look no further than Lee Enterprises Consulting based in Sherwood, Arkansas and your go-to guy, Wayne Lee. Lee has been a consultant for nearly 30 years and about a decade ago, began expanding his expertise into biofuels as people began coming to him with questions. He said he began fairly small with the goal of becoming the one-stop shop for those in the renewable fuels industry. Today, his firm has a breadth of talent in biodiesel, ethanol, biomass, cellulosic, biobutanol, waste-to-energy, wind, solar, and more.

RWL1So what types of services do they offer? Lee says in it upwards of 100.

And what might be a common request or question for his team?

For example, Lee said they are often contacted to do project feasibility studies such as the feasibility to build a biodiesel plant, If the the outcome is a green light, the client will often ask his group to serve as the project manager. In this case, they would help find experts to design and optimize the plant, build the plant, install the plant and bring you up to speed and get you trained. Lee said if this is four different people, he has found that if there is a problem, the four different companies would play the blame game. But if it is one person coordinating all the partners, then he or she can get down to the problem quicker and have it resolved in a timely manner.

As the environment continues to take center stage, I asked Lee if when working with his clients, he kept sustainability in mind. He noted, “If you look at the renewable fuels industry and the alternative fuels industry as a whole, there is a lot of overlap, but really it’s an all of the above approach. I can see an ethanol plant with a biodiesel plant sitting adjacent to it and perhaps add solar panels on the roof and wind turbines on the outside. I think that the key is Mother Earth will give us a lot of free stuff if we’re willing to take it.”

Lee added, “I think that alternative fuels is here to stay. I don’t think that there is bad and a good. There is a what’s good right now. My hope is over the next few years the alternative fuels industry becomes a little more mainstream. Petroleum is here to stay but it’s getting harder to find and harder to get and that’s going to make its price go up. And I think we all have a duty to keep the Earth clean and the way it was meant to be.”

Listen to Wayne Lee’s full interview here: Lee Consulting Enterprises: Alternative Energy Knowledge Center

Walmart: 100% Renewable Energy by 2020

Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke has announced the company’s next step on the path to achieving its goal of being supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. Unveiled at Walmart’s Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, the company committed to achieving the following by Dec. 31, 2020: drive the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy globally every year, a 600 percent increase over 2010 levels; and reduce the kWh/sq. ft. energy intensity required to power Walmart’s buildings globally by 20 percent compared to 2010 levels.

“More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is walmart-solar-storesespecially powerful,” said Duke. “The math adds up pretty quickly – when we use less energy that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they’re great for our communities and the environment.”

Walmart’s six-fold increase in renewable energy projects is expected to be equal to eliminating the need for roughly two U.S. fossil fuel power plants. Based on external estimates of projected energy costs and other factors, the two new commitments are anticipated to generate more than $1 billion annually in energy savings once fully implemented. For the first time, the company is projecting this GHG decrease even with significant anticipated growth in stores and sales.

“When I look at the future, energy costs may grow as much as twice as fast as our anticipated store and club growth,” Duke said. “Finding cleaner and more affordable energy is important to our every day low cost business model and that makes it important to our customers’ pocketbooks. Our leadership in this area is something our customers can feel good about because the result is a cleaner environment. And savings we can pass on to them.”

In 2012 alone, Walmart added nearly 100 renewable energy projects, bringing the total number of projects in operation worldwide to nearly 300 today. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, it has more solar power capacity and number of systems than any other company in America. Walmart has also been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as America’s leading user of onsite renewables, using more onsite renewable power than any other company in the U.S. In addition to onsite solar, the company will continue to develop projects in wind, fuel cells and other technologies. It will also procure offsite renewable energy from utility-scale projects, such as large wind projects, micro-hydro projects and geothermal.

Wind Energy Grows 28% in a Year

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012, wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record. Wind energy topped all energy sources with a 42 percent of all new electric generating capacity. Over 6,700 new wind Wind farmturbines were erected that produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 3.5 million homes. Overall, the U.S. finished the year with 45,100 wind turbines that can power 15.2 million homes.

AWEA says all 50 states benefited from the growth in wind energy through $25 billion in private investment in new U.S. wind farms, tens of millions of dollars paid to landowners and local communities in lease payments and property taxes, and billions in projected savings for electricity consumers. The impact of wind power development was so strong that an industry analyst said it caused a noticeable uptick in the entire U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.

Xcel Energy remains the number one utility provider of wind energy in the U.S. for the ninth consecutive year. At the end of 2012, Xcel Energy had nearly 4,900 megawatts of wind electricity generating capacity on its system, enough to power 1.5 million homes and at least 600 megawatts more than the next leading utility. Wind power currently represents about 12 percent of the energy the company supplies to its customers.

“I am proud that Xcel Energy is once again the nation’s leading clean energy utility,” said Ben Fowke, president, CEO and chairman of Xcel Energy. “Our customers and communities are strong supporters of renewable energy, and wind energy plays a vital role in our strategy to meet customers’ energy needs with clean, reliable, and affordable energy.”

AWEA says wind power also helped address the disaster-level drought affecting half of U.S. counties by saving over 35 billion gallons of fresh water (120 gallons for every American), versus other water-intensive energy sources. Wind energy also avoids over 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector annually. Continue reading

Pew Report: Clean Energy Capacity Up, Investment Down

According to research released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the global clean energy sector is undergoing geographic and technological shifts as new markets emerge renewable capacity grows. There were 88 gigawatts (GW) registered in 2012 even though investment levels declined 11 percent to $269 billion from 2011. Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 12.58.28 PMAmong the Group of Twenty (G-20) nations, the United Kingdom (UK) maintained its seventh place ranking despite a 17 percent drop in investment to $8.3 billion.

Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2012 Edition, found that the 11 percent decline in clean energy investments compared to 2011 levels was due in part to curtailed incentive programs in a number of countries, among them Spain, Italy, and Germany. Elsewhere, continuing support for clean energy led to record levels of investment in a number of nations, including China and South Africa. Renewable energy installations grew by more than 11 percent to 88 GW, which reflected price reductions in wind, solar, and other technologies.

“Clean energy trends demonstrate the ongoing resilience of this emerging sector in the global economy,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program. “Investment declines in the UK and throughout Europe were offset by strong performance in the Asian region. Uncertainty surrounding the long-term direction and content of UK policies has given pause to investors. Looking ahead, the advent of a green investment bank and abundant offshore wind resources could help bolster clean energy trends in the UK in coming years.”

China reclaimed the top spot from the United States, attracting $65.1 billion, a 20 percent increase over 2011 and 30 percent of the total for the G-20. China established itself as the leader in attracting investment in wind, solar, and other renewables. It added 23 GW of clean energy generating capacity, bringing its total to 152 GW, the most of any nation.

The United States fell to No. 2 as investment in the sector declined 37 percent, to $35.6 billion. Continue reading

Report: More Wind & Solar = Reliable Grid

According to a new report by Synapse Energy Economics prepared on behalf of the Civil Society Institute (CSI), if the U.S. ceases to burn coal, shuts down a quarter of existing nuclear reactors the trims its use of natural gas by 2050, the resulting increased reliance on wind, solar and other renewables will not result in a less Solar Farm in Las Vegas Photo- Joanna Schroederreliable electricity grid. The new study finds that, in the envisioned 2050 with a heavy reliance on renewables, regional electricity generation supply could meet or exceed demand in 99.4 percent of hours, with load being met without imports from other regions and without turning to reserve storage. In addition, surplus power would be available to export in 8.6 percent of all hours, providing an ample safety net where needed from one region of the U.S. to the next.

“This study shows that the U.S. electricity grid could integrate and balance many times the current level of renewables with no additional reliability issues,” said Grant Smith, senior energy analyst, Civil Society Institute. “Recent improvements in both renewable technologies themselves and in the technologies that are used to control and balance the grid have been proceeding at a rapid pace, and the incentives and rewards for success in this area continue to drive substantial progress.”

“In contrast, the alternative—continuing to rely on increasing combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity, and producing ever-increasing levels of greenhouse gases—is far less feasible, and presents much more daunting technical, economic, and social challenges to human and environmental welfare. In comparison, the challenge of integrating increasing levels of solar and wind power on the U.S. power grids requires only incremental improvements in technology and operational practices, added Smith.”

Listen to Grant Smith’s presentation here: Adding Renewables Doesn't Create Reliability Issues

Report co-author Dr. Thomas Vitolo, analyst, Synapse Energy Economics, explained, “Put simply, the message today is this: It is a myth to say that the United States cannot rely on renewables for the bulk of its electricity generation. This study finds that the projected mixes, based entirely on existing technology and operational practices, are capable of balancing projected load in 2030 and 2050 for each region—in nearly every hour of every season of the year.”

Listen to Tommy Vitolo’s presentation here: The Lights Will Stay On with Renewables Continue reading

New Technology for Offshore Wind

A new technology has been released for the offshore wind turbine industry. According to DNV who developed the software, it includes dynamic simulations, advanced fatigue calculation and code check in one analysis package. The module is powered by FEDEM Windpower and is integrated SesamWind_graph_181_tcm4-548092with Sesam. Sesam Wind Coupled Analysis powered by FEDEM Windpower has capabilities ranging from the purely mechanical aspects of a wind turbine to customizable control systems and detailed wind and wave load simulations. The company says its software will increase efficiency and save cost.

“It saves costs by optimisation of wind turbine design and work processes, says Svein Gjølmesli, Fedem Technology’s software manager. He notes that this software is a complete solution for wind turbine design, strength and fatigue analysis.

“The demand for renewable energy is growing rapidly and offshore wind is a significant part of renewable energy sources. Offshore wind installations are facing the same structural integrity challenges as traditional offshore engineering with structural design, hydrodynamic loads, global stresses and fatigue,” said Are Føllesdal Tjønn, Managing Director at DNV Software.

Tjønn concluded, “In addition there are challenges with loads generated from the turbine itself and turbine rotor blades. As offshore wind is moving into deeper waters, engineering of offshore wind installations will take full benefit of Sesam, whether the installation is based on fixed structures, floating structures, shallow waters or deeper waters. With its leading position within offshore engineering, the offshore wind segment is a natural part of the Sesam strategy going forward.”

Building Energy & Optimum Renewables Ink Wind Deal

Building Energy, an Italian company involved in the production of renewable energy in Italy and numerous foreign markets, has signed a partnership agreement with Optimum Renewables for the development of a wind farm pipeline in Iowa. The agreement provides for the development of wind farms in Iowa with a total capacity of around 50 MW. Specifically, this will include the construction of a series of medium-size farms (4-5 MW each) dispersed throughout the state in a manner structured to reach the greatest possible number of local communities.

Optimum Renewables Wind FarmOptimum Renewables will identify and select opportunities for the development of the wind farms and Building Energy will act as an overall sponsor of the activities. This will involve managing the entire project cycle from the preliminary stages of negotiating with financial providers to the eventual construction and maintenance of the farms, which will be wholly owned by Building Energy.

Fabrizio Zago, CEO of Building Energy, said, “The partnership with Optimum Renewables builds on the agreements we signed with leading U.S. energy providers in 2012, and will enable Building Energy to strengthen its presence in the U.S. market, where the existing program of incentives for the development of renewable sources has just been reconfirmed. This project will be the first significant step towards diversification into wind energy taken by our company, which so far has mainly concentrated on photovoltaic technology both in Italy and abroad.”

In 2012, energy from wind farms exceeded a total capacity of 5,100 MW, or 24.5 percent of Iowa’s total energy production. The U.S. government approved the extension into 2013 of the wind power production tax credit, an incentive program which has fostered solid growth in the sector over the last few years making investing in and building wind farms attractive.

GE to Invest $40 Million Plus Turbines in KS Wind Farm

Buffalo_Dunes1GE is investing $40 million in a wind project in Kansas. GE announced the expansion of its portfolio with Italian power company Enel to include investment of common equity and supplying turbines for the 250-megawatt Buffalo Dunes Wind Project:

Last year, the companies invested in the 235-megawatt Chisholm View wind project in Oklahoma, and in the 200-megawatt Prairie Rose wind project in Minnesota. Both projects also feature GE wind turbines. The GE unit and Enel Green Power North America also invested in the 101-megawatt Smoky Hills wind farm in Kansas and the 63-megawatt Snyder wind farm in Texas.

The transaction gives GE Energy Financial Services a majority, 51 percent, share of the Buffalo Dunes project being built near Garden City, Kansas in Finney, Grant and Haskell counties. Enel Green Power North America, maintains the other 49 percent ownership in the venture. In addition to the money, GE will supply 135 wind turbines for the project and will provide operations and maintenance after completion. Most of the energy generated is slated to go to Alabama Power Company under a 20-year agreement.

LuminAID Wins Clean Energy Challenge

Solar-powered inflatable light maker LuminAID Lab has been named the early-stage winner of the 2013 Clean Energy Challenge organized by the Clean Energy Trust. Bearing Analytics of Purdue University won the Student Challenge. Both companies received a $100,000 grant prize sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Inspired by the 2011 earthquake in Japan, LuminAID Lab’s founders designed a lightweight, ship-flat solar-powered light to provide light in natural disaster situations. The company has sold more than 30,000 units so far and is working on a next generation version, according to LuminAID co-founder Andrea Sreshta.

Bearing Analytics, of Purdue University, offers a patent-protected temperature and vibration sensing solution to the industrial bearing market. This technology allows users to predict bearing failure before it happens, helping to alleviate safety concerns, prevent costly gearbox failures in wind turbines, extend product lifetimes and Luminaid solar lightincrease energy efficiency. Bearing Analytics will go on to compete at the 2013 National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, D.C. this summer.

Additional prizes were awarded to SmarterShade, SkySpecs, Amplified Wind Solutions and Ornicept. SmarterShade, an Indiana-based company that makes an innovative film system to instantly darken windows, received the $50,000 Chicago Lakeside Prize, sponsored by McCaffery Interests.

SkySpecs, a University of Michigan-based firm that uses an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to monitor wind turbines, bridges and other infrastructure, won the $10,000 Invenergy Renewable Ideas prize.

Nicole Zmij, CEO of Amplified Wind Solutions out of Cleveland State University, was awarded the ComEd and Clean Energy Trust-sponsored Breaking Barriers in Cleantech award for her role as an outstanding female entrepreneur. Amplified Wind Solutions harnesses wind energy to self-power cell towers, particularly in remote locations.

“The Challenge is designed to uncover the very best in clean energy technology startups and kickstart their development,” said Amy Francetic, Clean Energy Trust executive director. “This year’s teams inspired us beyond expectation. The judging was very competitive. We are grateful for the support of our sponsors, board and judges for their help in creating more prizes for these creative entrepreneurs.”