America Poised to Take Control of Energy Future

According to President Obama, America is poised to take control of our energy future, but this could be compromised due to the arbitrary cuts caused by the so-called “sequestration” now taking place. During his speech last Friday at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois, the President pointed out the cuts would affect the federal research projects, “at a time when the country is poised to take control of our energy future.”

obama-argonne-national-lab from cbs“After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to take control of our energy future. We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We’re producing more natural gas than we ever have before — with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We supported the first new nuclear power plant in America since the 1970s. And we’re sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years.”

While focusing much of his speech on his proposed actions to replace the cuts, he also discussed his proposal to create an Energy Security Trust that would use revenues generated by oil and gas development on federal lands to support new research and technologies that will shift cars and trucks to non-oil fuels. With gas prices high during the past month, Obama urged Congress to adopt his approach.

The renewable energy industry responded to the President’s remarks as well as his proposed Energy Security Trust. Continue reading

Feds Give Nevada Wind Project the Green Light

searchlightwind1A project to build wind turbines to be built on federal lands got the government’s approval to move ahead. KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reports Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office announced the Department of the Interior has a approved the 200-Megawatt wind project in Searchlight, Nevada, just the second utility-scale wind energy project to be allowed in the state:

The permanent wind farm will be located on 163 acres and the wind turbines are designed to stand 415-feet tall, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

“Nevada is fortunate that its sunny skies, strong winds, and geothermal resources provides us an opportunity to brighten our economic future and transform the Silver State into the vibrant core of a Western and national clean energy market,” Reid said in the statement.

The project is expected to provide enough power for about 70,000 homes. It is still awaiting a right-of-way grant, according to the Interior Department.

Two-Home Wind Turbine Tested in Canada

canadawindturbineA wind turbine designed to serve up to two homes is being tested in Canada. CBC News reports the mid-sized turbine designed by students from 16 universities from across Canada have is being tested at P.E.I.’s Wind Energy Institute of Canada and is intended to hit that niche between the really small turbines and the bigger ones too large to service individual homes.

“There are some turbines in that size, but it seems they’re either smaller — so a couple of kilowatts, there’s a large number — and then we’ve got others that are up in the 30, 50 to 100-kilowatt range,” said [Wind Energy Institute CEO Scott] Harper.

“There’s maybe a market niche there for something in the 10-kilowatt size. I think it was more, as they designed it, it was big enough, designed large enough to prove that it can work, and test it here to show real results.”

The project, created by a group called the Wind Energy Strategic Network, is being tested through next fall.

Wind Could Blow Away Nuclear, Coal

WindTurbineinIowa-Photo-Joanna-SchroederWind energy might be poised to do something that should warm the hearts of environmentalists: kill off the nuclear power industry and hurt coal-powered energy operators. This Businessweek article says the news comes on the heels of a record 13,124 megawatts of wind turbines added to the country’s power grid at the end of 2012, trying to take advantage of an expiring federal tax credit.

“Right now, natural gas and wind power are more economic than nuclear power in the Midwestern electricity market,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocate of cleaner energy, said in a phone interview. “It’s a matter of economic competitiveness.”

Wind-generated electricity supplied about 3.4 percent of U.S. demand in 2012 and the share is projected to jump to 4.2 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The wind power boom has benefited consumers in regions where wind development is fastest, contributing to a 40 percent wholesale power-price plunge since 2008 in the Midwest, for example. Yet the surplus is creating havoc for nuclear power and coal generators that sell their output into short-term markets.
‘Perfect Storm’

The impact is greatest in the capacity-glutted Midwest. There, Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion is closing a money- losing reactor and selling coal plants, Exelon warns of shrinking nuclear margins and an Edison International (EIX) merchant coal-plant unit has gone into bankruptcy.

In fact, wind power is becoming so plentiful and so cheap that prices are actually falling below zero, because some utilities are required to keep buying wind power even when they don’t need it. Add in the $22-per-megawatt-hour federal tax credit, and wind can keep blowing away the other guys. Plus, the wind production tax credit has been extended for another year, through the end of 2013.

NW-REI Offers Wind Turbine Training

Northwest Renewable Energy Institute (NW-REI) is offering a Wind Turbine Technician program and is hosting three free informational sessions on the program this month: Tuesday, March 5th at 7:00 pm; Saturday, March 9th at 10:30 am; and Saturday, March rei-site-work23rd at 10:30 am. According to the U.S. Department of Energy energy map of installed wind capacity, Oregon and Washington are two of the top states in the country for wind energy use.

“This school has afforded me the chance to pursue a positive career change that fits in with my lifestyle and plans for the future. This field is growing and I can see it continuing to grow,” said Stephanie Staggs, a recent graduate of the program. “I love the accelerated program — it’s challenging, fast paced and very hands-on. The instructors are amazing and really work hard at helping you every step of the way.”

With green energy in high demand, NW-REI’s says its in-depth technical training and valuable on-the-job experience provides the tools necessary for success in this fast-growing industry. The program takes students out of a classroom and puts them 300 feet into the air on a wind turbine. Students can expect an innovative approach to wind turbine training that will include classroom-based training, computer-based training and hands-on training. The green energy training programs teach the technical skills necessary to service, repair, and maintain wind turbines.

Click here for additional information regarding NW-REI.

Solar Takes Lead in Renewable Energy Growth

According to the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly,” renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased by 12.8 percent last year compared to 2011 and provided 5.4 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. Solar increased by 138.9 percent while wind grew 16.6 pecent, geothermal by 9.6 percent, and biomass (i.e., wood, wood-derived fuels, and other biomass) by 1.6 percent. Since 2007, non-hydro renewables have more than doubled their contribution to the nation’s electrical supply.

geothermal-energy-1At the same time (2012 compared to 2011), total net U.S. electrical generation dropped by 1.1 percent with petroleum coke & liquids down by 24.1 percent, coal by 12.5 percent, and nuclear by 2.6 percent. Less than a decade ago, coal provided more than half the nation’s electricity, fell to 37.4 percent while nuclear fell below 19 percent. Conventional hydropower also declined by 13.4 percent due to last year’s drought and lower water flows, but natural gas expanded by 21.4 percent to provide 30.3 percent of net electrical generation.

Conventional hydropower and non-hydro renewable sources combined accounted for 12.22 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. However, as EIA has noted in the past, these figures do not comprehensively reflect distributed, non-grid connected generation and thereby understate the full contribution of renewables to the nation’s electrical supply.

EIA’s report also reveals the top renewable-electricity generating states for 2012: top five wind states: Texas, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, and Illinois;  top five biomass states: California, Florida, Maine, Georgia, and Alabama; top five geothermal States: California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho; and top five solar states: California, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

“Technical advances, falling costs, and the desire to address climate change have combined to rapidly expand the contribution of renewable energy to the nation’s electrical generation,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With the right policy incentives, one can foresee these cleaner energy sources providing the bulk of the nation’s electrical needs within a generation.”

Auwahi Wind Project Dedicated In Maui

Maui has a new wind farm: Auwahi Wind facility on Ulupalakua Rand. On hand for the dedication ceremony were U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa. There were joined by officials from Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, BP Wind Energy and community leaders. The wind farm consists of eight wind turbines that are situated along the slopes of the Haleakala volcano and will generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.

Sen. Schatz said the Auwahi wind farm contributes significantly to Hawaii’s clean energy goals. He said the project is consistent with the State of Hawaii’s values of cooperation, contributing to a solution nationally on climate change and maintaining the ranching lifestyle on Ulupalakua Ranch. “Auwahi Wind Farm is critically important,” he said. “This auwahi-wind-smis about keeping Maui Maui and setting an example not just for the state, but the rest of the nation.”

Tsutsui, who was born and raised on Maui, said the state and the island welcomed the Auwahi Wind farm as it brought much-needed jobs. More than 180 jobs were created during the project construction. Four full-time employees operate the wind farm today.

“We’re always talking about sustainability and being independent,” Tsutsui said. “This goes hand in hand with a lot of our initiatives. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and we look much forward to other projects.”

The 21-megawatt (MW) Auwahi Wind facility represents BP and Sempra’s first alternative energy venture in Hawaii. An important component of the project is an 11-MW/4.4-megawatt-hour grid battery system. At its peak, this system is capable of 11 MW sustained for approximately 25 minutes. The battery system’s energy helps regulate and sustain power to Maui Electric Co.’s grid during light wind conditions.

Sumner Erdman, president of the Ulupalakua Ranch, said the ranch has benefited from its partnership with Sempra U.S. Gas & Power and BP. “Now, we can preserve much of our ranch land and its grazing areas in open space and continue to raise cattle,” he said. “Auwahi Wind will go a long way toward preserving the ranching lifestyle at Ulupalakua and on Maui.”

Anacaho Wind Farm Dedicated

Anacacho Wind FarmE.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) has officially dedicated its new Anacacho Wind Farm. The project, located in Kinney County, Texas, is approximately 14 miles southeast of Brackettville and consists of 55 Vestas 1.8 megawatt (MW) turbines providing 100 MW of power. Anacacho Wind Farm began commercial operation in December.

“We are honored to be a part of the local community and we look forward to providing economic support and renewable, homegrown energy for many years to come,” said Steve Trenholm, CEO, EC&R North America. “Wind farms create jobs, and provide an economic shot in the arm to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across America.”

The company says it has invested more than $5 billion dollars in the U.S. in the last five years. Locally, this project will contribute more than $17 million in local taxes, while paying $8 million in local salaries and more than $34 million to landowners. This is the company’s 18th operational wind farm in North America.

New Report Shows Wind Energy Continues to Expand

According to a report from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), global installed wind energy capacity increased by 19 percent in 2012 to 282,000 megawatts (MW).  Canada remains a global wind energy leader as it experienced the 9th largest increase in installed capacity in 2012 (936 MW). Both China and the United States, the world’s wind energy leaders, installed more than 13,000 MW of new capacity in 2012.

“While China paused for breath, both the US and European markets had exceptionally strong years,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of GWEC. “Asia still led global markets, but with North America a close second, and Europe not far behind.”

Global Wind Statistics 2012Canada now ranks 9th globally in total installed capacity with more than 6,500 MW of wind energy in operation – providing enough power to meet the annual needs of almost 2,000,000 Canadian homes. Ontario is the Canadian leader in the production of clean wind energy with more than 2,000 MW of installed capacity now supplying over 3 percent of the province’s electricity demand. Both Ontario and Quebec will lead the country with new installations of clean wind energy in 2013 as the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) expects to see a record year for new installations with the addition of almost 1,500 MW of new capacity – driving over $3 billion in new investments.

The growth of wind energy development in Ontario and Quebec continues to have strong public support. According to a survey, 69 percent of Ontarians agreed that, “Ontario should be a leader in wind and solar energy production,” compared to only 20 percent that disagreed. The same poll also found that solar and wind energy scored highest in a top-of-mind question about Ontarians’ preferred choice for new electricity generation.

“Wind energy continues to enjoy strong majority support as a choice for new electricity generation in Ontario and Quebec because it is understood to be both good for the environment and a provider of significant economic benefits for local economies that host developments,” said Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA. “Less well known is the fact that wind energy is also now cost-competitive with virtually every option for new electricity generation. It is for these reasons that wind energy continues to be the fastest growing mainstream source of electricity in the world.”

The rapid growth of wind energy in Canada is also reflected south of the border where the American wind industry had its best year ever in 2012, with more than 13,000 MW installed. The extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in the U.S. means that although the market will slow substantially in 2013, it is unlikely to be as much of a slowdown as originally expected, said Sawyer.

99.9% Electricity from Wind & Solar by 2030

IWEA logoAccording to recent research from the University of Delaware, 99.9 percent of electrical needs in a large power grid can be provided by wind, solar and new storage technologies by 2030 at costs comparable to today. Author Dr. Cory Budischak will present the findings in more detail during the general session on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 as part of the 6th Annual Iowa Wind Power Conference.

Other conference speakers include Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. In addition, the Director of Wind and Water from the US Department of Energy has been invited to speak. The conference will focus on four general themes that reflect the national and world leadership position that Iowa has achieved. Those themes include technology development, small & community wind, operation & maintenance and education training & research. In addition, a Research Poster Display featuring dozens of new university research projects will be a key element of the event. Click here for more information about the conference.