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.”

Wind Turbine without Blades Debuts at Dutch University

EWICON1A university in the Netherlands debuts a wind turbine without blades, which means it produces no noise nor even casts any moving shadows.

The Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo recently installed the EWICON, or Electrostatic WInd energy CONvertor, which turns wind energy in electrical power without moving parts at the Delft University of Technology:

The Ewicon can be installed on land or sea, and can also be integrated in the roof of a tall building. The principle is as follows: Using high voltage, electrically charged droplets of water are produced in the horizontal elements. At the same time these horizontal elements, which are electrodes, generate an electric field. As the wind forces the electrically charged droplets against this electric field towards the earth, the converter is charged to DC.

This video also explains how the concept works:

This new type of wind turbine might be especially welcome in urban areas, where some opponents have complained about the noise and the repetitive shadows a traditional turbine casts.

Purdue Study: Indiana, Midwest Open to Wind Energy

Purdue University College of Agriculture funded studies shows Hoosiers, and possibly by extension, Midwesterners, are pretty receptive to wind energy. This school news release says that can even be true for areas that might have rejected wind turbine development:

prokopy1Linda Prokopy, an associate professor of natural resources planning, said much of the research on attitudes toward wind energy and wind farms has focused on coastal states and the reasons people don’t want turbines in their communities. She and Kate Mulvaney, a former graduate student, wanted to know how people in the Midwest feel about having wind farms in their communities and the factors that led some places to embrace or reject them.

Prokopy and Mulvaney published two studies on their results in the journals Energy Policy and Environmental Management. One focused on Benton County, Indiana, which has embraced wind farms. The other study compared Benton County with two other Indiana counties – Boone County, which rejected wind farm development, and Tippecanoe County, which at the time was still considering wind farms. The researchers conducted surveys and interviews and studied local newspaper articles on wind energy.

“We found that there is not a lot of opposition from the people in the Midwest,” Prokopy said. “And there are not a lot of perceived negative impacts from people who have or live near wind turbines.”

The survey found that more than 80 percent of respondents said they either supported wind farms in their counties or supported them with reservations. Those most opposed to wind turbines seemed to be those who worked in big cities, such as Indianapolis, but lived in rural areas. They were small in number but loud in opposition.

Wind Energy to Create Boon for Carbon Fiber Industry

Sancton Hill Wind Farm UK Photo Credit: Arnold UnderwoodBig gains in the wind energy industry will lead to gains in the carbon fiber industry. A new report from GBI Research shows that, globally, demand for carbon fiber, a technology making gains as a lighter, stronger alternative to current wind blade materials will nearly triple in the next few years:

[Global] carbon fiber demand will hit 153,700 tons in 2020, climbing from 52,500 tons in 2012 – a massive increase of 193% in just eight years.

Wind energy – a vital segment of the rapidly expanding renewable energy market – will be the key driver of the carbon fiber industry, says GBI Research. Currently, wind turbine blades constructed from Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) dominate the industry landscape, but due to their greater rigidity, lower weight and reduced cost, producers are making the move to carbon fiber alternatives.

Considering this shift in manufacturing materials, combined with the increasing deployment of wind farms across the world, GBI Research forecasts carbon fiber demand for the wind energy industry to jump from 12,270 tons in 2011 to 67,400 tons in 2020, making it the single largest carbon fiber end user segment by some margin.

Aircraft manufacturers are also expected to help drive the uptick in carbon fiber demand, with the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner a couple of the biggest users.

Read the report here.

New Wind Energy Solutions Sharie Derrickson Honored

Sharie Derrickson, Vice President of New Wind Energy Solutions in Nashville, TN, along with 13 other female military veterans, were recently honored by White House as part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future,” initiative. Fourteen female military veterans were selected that have provided exemplary leadership at the local, state or regional level.

“You are the leaders in our businesses and schools in our communities,” Mrs. Obama said. “You all are part of a long line of women who have broken barriers – defied 882296_10200953878758241_1589722989_oexpectations and served this country with unparalleled courage and determination. And the beautiful thing about our veterans – and this is especially true for our women veterans — is that long after you stop serving this country, you don’t stop serving it after you hang up your uniforms.”

Meeting the president and the first lady in the East Wing of the White House, Derrickson said, was an overwhelming experience. “They are rock stars, but so personable and warm. It is invigorating and re-energizing when you know that my passion of a sustainable world is shared all the way up the chain of command. They treated us like honored guests with the works – champagne, hor d’oeuvres, a military jazz band.”

New Wind President, Stuart Wiston, who attended the event, said he is proud to have Derrickson on his sustainability team. “Our company makes it a priority to hire veterans because they bring so much to the table. Getting Sharie was a stroke of luck. Her dedication to her job is unsurpassed and that is a trait I find in all my former military employees. She is a well-spoken advocate for what we do here and she deserved this recognition from the White House not only as a female veteran but as a spokesman for global sustainability. She works hard to help corporations save money and enhance their communities and not be a burden on them by using best practices. She cares about her clients. It’s not as much a business to her as it is a mission.” Continue reading