Alt Electricity Surpasses Natural Gas

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, new renewable energy sources generated more capacity than natural gas in 2014. Sources including biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind provided 49.81 percent (7,663 MW) of new electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas accounted for 48.65 percent (7,485 MW). By comparison, in 2013, natural gas accounted for 46.44% (7,378 MW) of new electrical generating capacity while renewables accounted for 43.03% (6,837 MW).

Biomass Photo Joanna SchroederNew wind energy facilities accounted for 26.52 percent of added capacity (4,080 MW) in 2014 while solar power provided 20.40 percent (3,139 MW). Other renewables – biomass (254 MW), hydropower (158 MW) and geothermal (32 MW) – accounted for an additional 2.89 percent.

For the year, just a single coal facility (106 MW) came online; nuclear power expanded by a mere 71MW due to a plant upgrade; and only 15 small “units” of oil, totaling 47 MW, were added.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.63 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • water – 8.42%
  • wind – 5.54%
  • biomass – 1.38%
  • solar – 0.96%
  • geothermal steam – 0.33%

Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.94%) combined.

“Can there any longer be doubt about the emerging trends in new U.S. electrical capacity?” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Coal, oil, and nuclear have become historical relics and it is now a race between renewable sources and natural gas with renewables taking the lead.”

American Wind Rebounds

According to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the American wind industry is rebounding. During 2014, there was four times more new wind energy installed or coming online than in 2013. There was 4,850 MW in generating capacity installed with total installed capacity increasing by eight percent to 65,875.

However, AWEA notes that this amount still falls short of the record 13,000 MW installed in 2012 and blames failing to reach the record due to federal policy uncertainty. The renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) was only extended for two weeks at the end of last year, and has now expired again. Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO notes that every other energy source receives some type of tax relief and wind should not be, well, left in the wind.

Wind is gaining strength, but as recent history shows, we can do a whole lot more,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “We’re looking forward to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle so that a reasonable, responsible tax policy is in place that allows the wind industry to continue lowering costs and investing billions of dollars in U.S. communities.”

Jonathan Weisgall, Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Affairs of the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co., told reporters that the $1.9 billion wind farm his company is building in Iowa is the largest economic development project in 2Q2014 State Blue Mapthe state’s history. When finished, it will pay farmers $3 million a year for land leases, and supply customers such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft that have committed to buying clean energy.

“Our customers want wind,” Weisgall said. “We like wind because it’s a hedge against fossil prices…and wind, with no fuel costs associated, can keep those rates stable.”

The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour generated for the first 10 years of a project’s life. It has encouraged $125 billion dollars of investment across America, creating 500 U.S. manufacturing facilities and technological innovations that lowered the wind power’s costs by more than half in the last five years. Continue reading

IRENA & ADFD Fund 5 Renewable Energy Projects

Five renewable projects in developing countries have been awarded USD 57 million in concessional loans by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). The projects have a combined total capacity of 35 megawatts and will bring power to more than 200,000 people in rural communities. The loans will go to projects located in Argentina, Cuba, Iran, Mauritania and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

IRENA Renewable Energy cycle 2 fundingRenewable energy offers the prospect of clean, affordable power to the 1.3 billion people currently off the electricity grid,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at a press conference during IRENA’s fifth Assembly. “While renewable energy resources are abundant in many communities suffering from energy poverty, finance is still a key challenge for deployment. That is why the partnership between IRENA and ADFD is so important as a pioneering effort.”

According to IRENA, this is the second loan cycle of seven, which together will commit USD 350 million over seven years to the deployment of renewable energy in developing countries, with a total project value of an estimated USD 800 million. Projects approved for funding in the second loan cycle include solar, hydro, hybrid (wind and solar) and geothermal energy. The organization said the projects selected represent a mix of renewable energy sources, are innovative, potentially replicable or scalable, and will improve energy access.

“As part of its mandate to work on projects with a profound impact on the economies of developing countries, ADFD has collaborated with IRENA to support the renewable energy sector as a tool for economic and social development,” said Mr. Adel Abdulla Al Hosani, director of pperations department in ADFD. “Towards this priority, we are keen to support the economic development and deployment of sustainable energy projects in countries with immense clean energy potential, but lacking necessary financial resources and project management expertise.”

The IRENA/ADFD Project Facility pioneers the support of renewable energy as a viable and sustainable focus for foreign development assistance that offers long-term social and economic benefits to developing countries.

President Touts Domestic Energy in SOTU

sotu15“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” said President Barack Obama in the first few minutes of his 2015 State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet,” said Obama. “And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

President Obama also hit on climate change in his address, noting that “over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.”

Responding to the president’s address, Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe said they are excited to see President Obama focusing on climate change and said that the United States “has an opportunity to lead the world in reducing atmospheric carbon by investing in science.”

“The United States also has a chance to be the world leader in alternative fuels,” said Monroe. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has been successful in moving our cars and trucks away from fossil fuels. If President Obama wants to reduce emissions today he should put this policy back on track and support cleaner, domestic biofuels.”

Wind Turbines to be Certified by IRS

Small wind turbines will now have to be certified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who has issued Notice 2015-4 providing new performance and quality standards that require certification of small wind turbines. “Small” turbines are classified as those having a nameplate capacity of up to 100 KW and must fit into this category in order to qualify for the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

“Distributed wind power for homes, farms, and small business is generating clean, affordable and homegrown electricity across all 50 states and as the market grows, it’s of critical importance to ensure high quality products make it to market,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the Distributed Wind Energy Association. “These certification requirements provide performance and quality assurance for consumers, government agencies and the industry, and help to ensure the successful implementation of distributed wind projects domestically.”

Small wind turbine in Winter Harbor, MaineThe IRS certification goes into effect for small wind turbines acquired or placed in service after January 26, 2015. The guidance requires that qualifying small wind manufacturers provide certification to either: (1) American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard 9.1-2009 (AWEA); or (2) International Electrotechnical Commission 61400-1, 61400-12, and 61400-11 (IEC). The certification must be issued by an eligible certifier, which is defined as a third party, that is accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation or other similar accreditation body. Documentation establishing that the turbine meets the new requirements must be provided to taxpayers in order to claim the credit.

Jenkins continued, “The new certification requirement addresses the small, but persistent segment at the fringe of the industry that make wild assertions on efficiency, performance, and the their special ability to work on buildings or very short towers. Now, in order to qualify for the federal tax credits, they will have to prove these claims to third-party experts. That will be very challenging or impossible for unproven designs with exaggerated performance, but will not pose a major barrier for the industry leaders.”

“As an industry, we have been working for many years to strengthen the credibility and reliability of our products,” added Jenkins. “I’m proud to note that our membership has been leading the way on this front, actively pursuing certification since 2010 and poised to comply with these new standards.”

Wind Investments to Top $101B by 2020

Global wind power investments are predicted to rise from $70 billion in 2013 to $101 billion by the end of 2020. The new report, “Global Wind Turbine Value Chain – Production, Market Share, Competitive Landscape and Market Size to 2020,” also finds that installed capacity should rise from around 364.9 GW in 2014 to 650.8 GW by 2020. © Ximinez | Dreamstime.com - Wind Turbine PhotoAlthough demand is on the rise, says Global Data who authored the report,” there may be a low growth rate for wind turbine components over the forecast period.

Wind turbine manufacturers produced approximately 11 percent of wind turbine gearboxes, 48 percent of rotor blades and 43 percent of generators in-house in 2013. Meanwhile, 10 percent, 62 percent and 37 percent of gearboxes, rotor blades and generators, respectively, were manufactured in-house in 2006.

Prasad Tanikella, GlobalData’s Senior Analyst covering Power, said, “Depending on wind power component supplies, turbine manufacturers make strategic decisions over whether or not to produce the equipment in-house. Some of the major manufacturers, such as Enercon and Vestas, prefer to develop components within their business structure, to avoid issues with quality control and design confidentiality.”

Tanikella cautions that constant growth in the global wind power market is forcing turbine manufacturers to seek multiple component suppliers to ensure smooth production. Indeed, several long-term agreements are currently being drawn up between turbine manufacturers and their suppliers. As such, component prices are decreasing thus the predicted low growth rate for component manufacturers.

Clean Energy Investments Jump

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), clean energy investment rose for the first time in three years in 2014. New funds for wind, solar, biofuels and other low-carbon energy technologies gained 16 percent to $310 billion last year. It was the first growth since 2011, erasing the impact of lower solar-panel prices and falling subsides in the U.S. and Europe that hurt the industry in previous years.

The study reported that clean energy benefited from a number of trends that will be difficult to replicate in 2015. For example, with China’s commitment to renewables, funding increased 32 percent. In addition, a record $19.4 billion was committed to offshore wind projects during the year.

BNEF Trends in Renewable Energy ReportThe industry benefited from a number of trends that will be challenging to replicate this year. Funding surged because of a 32 percent expansion in China’s commitment to renewables, as well as a record $19.4 billion committed to offshore wind projects that were years in the making. And prior to the major drop in gas prices, investments were on the rise for electric vehicle development.

“Healthy investment in clean energy may surprise some commentators, who have been predicting trouble for renewables as a result of the oil price collapse,” said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board of the London-based researcher. “Our answer is that 2014 was too early to see any noticeable effect on investment. The impact of cheaper crude will be felt much more in road transport than in electricity generation.”

However, the BNEF, there may be trouble on the horizon for electric cars and offshore wind but even with lower oil prices, they predict installations for solar and wind power to grow about 10 percent in 2015. BNEF says the findings ease concerns that the oil price rout that began in the middle of last year would lead to a sharp reduction in funds for low-carbon energy, which is more costly than fossil fuels.

“This increase in renewable energy investment demonstrates the resilience of the sector in the face of tumbling oil prices,” said Ben Warren, head of environmental finance at the consulting firm EY. “This trend is set to continue as technology around renewables becomes more affordable. The increasing role that renewable energy plays in emerging markets will also help ensure sustainable growth for the sector.”

 

Nat. Gas Inventories Up, Wind to Lead Renewables in 2015

eiaNatural gas inventories are up dramatically from last winter, and wind is expected to lead renewable energy capacity additions in the coming year. Those are just a couple of findings in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Short-Term Energy Outlook. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski says those prices for natural gas have also dropped to two-year lows as growing domestic natural gas production has bolstered the inventories.

“Natural gas inventories at the end of the winter heating season in late March should be about 9 billion cubic feet above the five-year average, much higher than the same time last year when inventories were approaching 1 trillion cubic feet below normal.”

Sieminski adds that following nearly two years of relatively moderate generation capacity growth for renewables, wind power will be the clear leader in utility-scale renewable capacity additions in 2015.

“About 11 gigawatts of wind capacity is expected to enter service in 2015, the second-highest level of generating capacity that the wind industry has ever added in a given year.”

The EIA report goes on to say that petroleum producers continue to see dropping prices for crude oil and many oil companies have cut back on their exploration drilling in response. However, petroleum production is still expected to climb in 2015, as those producers concentrate drilling activities in established areas that already have productive wells.

DOE Offers $2.5M to Improve Wind Forecasting

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated $2.5 million to help improve wind forecasting. Louisville, Colorado-based Vaisala will research the atmospheric processes that generate wind in mountain valley regions and the data will be used to improve wind weather models for short-term wind forecasts. Better forecasts will allow energy plant operators to operate wind turbines closer to maximum capacity.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.51.02 AMThe industry has found that mountain-valley areas bring additional challenges including varying degress of soil moisture and surface temperatures making it more difficult to forecast wind energy output. Vaisala and its partners will use advanced meteorological equipment to analyze specific environmental characteristics that affect wind flow patterns in the Columbia River Gorge region of Washington and Oregon.

Data collected during the project will be shared in near real-time with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Energy Department’s national laboratories, and will be used to develop improved atmospheric simulations for the Weather Research and Forecasting model, a widely used weather prediction system. These new wind measurements and simulations will also be incorporated into NOAA’s Numerical Weather Prediction models to improve short-term wind forecasts in complex terrain.

This important research builds on the Energy Department’s Wind Forecast Improvement Project, which previously explored wind energy resources in the northern Great Plains and western Texas. For the first time ever, NOAA assimilated wind data from tall turbines and nacelle anemometers into meteorological models for use by the wind industry and other sectors. Integrating these new data into existing models produced forecasts that were up to 15% more accurate at predicting future wind conditions in nearly flat terrain.

SheerWind Pilots Wind Project in Apollo Beach

SheerWind has been selected by Tampa Electric for a wind energy pilot project to be commissioned in Apollo Beach, Florida at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station. Tampa Electric has selected SheerWind INVELOX Infographicthe 200-KW INVELOX wind power generation to be built as a pilot project in 2015. According to SheerWind, after sufficient data is collected (6 to 8 months) and if the technology is shown to be viable, Tampa Electric may purchase a utility-scale 1.8MW INVELOX system.

The company explains its INVELOX funnel system is a solution that utilizes current wind power turbines and rotors but brings them to ground level for easier, safer, and cheaper operation and maintenance. Multiple turbines can be used in a row or series to increase output capacity for each tower while reducing downtime to near zero.

“We are pleased to be included in Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station. They understand the importance of exploring and showcasing new technology,” said Steve Hill, Chief Operating Officer of SheerWind. “This project will assist in SheerWind’s mission to provide sustainable, affordable, electrical energy to anyone, anywhere.”