EU Leaders Lack Climate & Energy Leadership

According to several organizations, although European Union Heads of State agreed upon a climate and energy framework, it fails to provide industrial leadership for Europe. Both Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) criticized the plan. OEE said the new greenhouse gas emission targets, renewable energy and energy efficiency will do little to capitalize on the security, employment and export potential of new energy sectors including ocean, wind and offshore wind energy. The groups argue the framework put Europe’s future energy security and the country’s position as a global renewable energy and climate leader at risk.

The European Council agreed to a 40 percent binding greenhouse gas emission reduction target, a 27 percent binding, EU-wide renewable energy target, and a 27 percent non-binding, EU-wide energy efficiency target.

Ocean Energy Photo ENE“If the EU is serious about tackling big issues such as energy security, unemployment and climate change, it needs to provide industrial leadership on climate and energy by setting hard and fast targets and reduce its exposure to highly volatile fossil fuel imports,” said Dr Sian George, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe. “Economies across the world will have to transition to low-carbon. By staying ahead of this curve, Europe can tap into massive export and job creation potential. This is as true for the first generation of renewable energy as it will be for the next generations, such as ocean energy technologies.”

In 2009, Europe agreed to climate and energy targets for 2020 helping to bring first-gen renewable energy industries to market in part due to market certainty. The new targets need to be higher, said George, for renewables to move into second generation renewable energy technologies.

Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said the lower unenforceable targets create market uncertainty and for the wind industry this “clarity” is critical to investors who rely on long-term policies to provide stability.

“The interconnectivity target is bewildering given the current political challenges Europe is facing. We’re in the midst of an energy crisis with Russia holding Member States to ransom over gas supplies,” said Becker. “Yet Heads of State see fit to trot out a meaningless target that will do nothing to improve connection in the Iberian Peninsula or the security of supply in the Baltic States, let alone allow an internal energy market to develop. On GHG reduction, this weakens the position of the EU for the climate talks in Paris next year,” added Becker. “I can’t understand how Member States are going to reach this target and who is guaranteeing that this is not just an empty shell. I can assure you that the other climate negotiators are very good at finding the holes in the cheese.”

Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for US

According to a new report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” smarter use of energy is the biggest contributor to three positive trends: reducing of oil dependence, slowing the growth of electricity needs and making energy services more affordable to Americans.

“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural NRDC 2014 Energy ReportResources Defense Council (NRDC) energy program, who commissioned the study. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago. However, we can and should do more.”

NRDC’s Second Annual Energy Report is an analysis of new government data on 2013 U.S. energy use that shows optimizing energy use through efficiency continues to contribute more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource, from oil and coal to natural gas and nuclear power.

“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” added Cavanagh. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”

The report notes the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion. Meanwhile, the government’s proposed emissions standards for existing power plants would keep over 5.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.

EIA: Farms Big Energy Users and Producers

Farmers are using… but also making… a lot of energy. A new report from the U.S Energy Information Administration shows that American agriculture used nearly 800 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2012, or about as much primary energy as the entire state of Utah. While growing and harvesting the crops and the energy needed to raise livestock are significant expenditures (with crop operations consume much more energy than livestock operations), those same farms are also big contributors to our nation’s fuel supply.

Energy makes up a significant part of operating expenditures for most crops, especially when considering indirect energy expenditures on fertilizer, because the production of fertilizer is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of natural gas. For some crops like oats, corn, wheat, and barley, energy and fertilizer expenditures combined make up more than half of total operating expenses. The proportion of direct to indirect energy use varies by crop. For example, corn, which is also used as an energy input for ethanol production, has relatively low direct fuel expenditures but has the highest percentage of fertilizer expenditures.
EIAcropenergy
The energy consumed in livestock operations is almost solely direct energy consumption and is relatively low compared with crop operations, both as a percentage of total operating expenditures and on a total energy basis…

In addition to being major energy consumers, some farms are using renewable resources to produce energy. Wind turbines, methane digesters, and photovoltaics are the most common on-farm renewables. Renewable energy can help to offset the need for purchased energy. In some cases, the renewable energy produced on farms is sold to electric power suppliers, providing additional income for farmers.

The report also says that water and chemicals used in agriculture can be big users of energy resources.

How to Power Up Clean Power Plan

According to an analysis conduced by the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS), states can cost-effectively produce nearly twice as much renewable electricity as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated in the Clean Power Plan. Increased renewable electricity growth could allow states to collectively cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from power plants by as much as 40 percent below 2005 levels rather than the 30 percent reduction the EPA included in its draft rule.

EPA-targets-are-modestOverall the EPA calculated that renewables could comprise 12 percent of U.S. electricity sales in 2030, marginally more than business-as-usual projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). If fully implemented, UCS’s proposed modified approach for setting state targets would result in renewables supplying at least 23 percent of national power sales by 2030.

“There is an urgent need to reduce heat trapping gases, and power plants are about forty percent of the problem,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS’s president and former head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “Fortunately, renewable electricity has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past five years and costs keep dropping. That’s great news and the agency should take full advantage of what’s been happening on the ground.”

UCS’s analysis found that seven states are already producing more renewable electricity than EPA computed they could in 2030 under its draft rule. Additionally, 17 states have existing laws that require more renewable electricity than EPA’s targets. Continue reading

Ecotech Institute Offers Free Energy e-Books

Ecotech Institute has released a series of free energy ebooks detailing how to begin a career in wind or solar energy. The guides cover issues from a day in the life of a Ditch the Desk Ecotech Instituterenewable energy technician to potential salaries to required skills and advice form current professionals working in the solar and wind industries.

The wind and solar energy renewable energy industries continue to do well, but according to Ecotech Institute that doesn’t mean getting a green job is easy. The jobs take specialized training, cleantech industry knowledge and passion is a plus.

  • Future solar and wind technicians have one place to access vital information, including:
  • Key industry facts about the renewable energy sector;
  • Tips for job seekers in the energy efficiency field;
  • Expectations and requirements for wind and solar energy green jobs;
  • Cleantech employment trends;
  • And advice from working industry experts and technicians.
  • Learn everything there is to know about “ditching the desk” and landing a green job in the wind or solar industry by downloading the free Wind and Solar Energy eBooks here.

Ecotech Institute is the first and only school in the U.S. that is solely dedicated to sustainable energy. The school currently offers eight associate’s degree programs, including hands-on training for wind and solar energy technology:

U of Wyoming Gets $4.25 Mil for Wind Research

windfarm1The University of Wyoming receives $4.25 million for the federal government for wind energy research. This school news release says the three-year, Department of Energy-EPSCoR grant will fund wind farm modeling, transmission grid monitoring and the economics derived from wind-generated power.

The grant will support 12 researchers from those five UW departments as well as researchers from Montana Tech. Researchers from other academic institutions, Cornell University and Western Ontario University, and four national government labs — the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden and Boulder, Colo.; Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.; and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. — are expected to be involved in the work.

naughton“The grant will be used to look at barriers for penetration of renewables into the electrical grid,” says Jonathan Naughton, a UW professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of UW’s Wind Energy Research Center. Naughton is the principal investigator of the grant. “Our focus is on wind. Obviously, for Wyoming, that’s most prevalent. This is work relevant to the state’s economy.”

Potential impacts of the project include: improved location placement of wind farms; better control and efficiency of wind farm generation; more reliable integration of wind generation with the power grid; and a better understanding of the economic benefits of wind farms and grid optimization.

The release goes on to say rthe project will focus on three interdependent areas: 1. Development of and optimization of wind plant performance, 2. Development of a measurement-based transmission grid modeling capability, and 3. Development of fully integrated economic models for more diverse and variable energy generation and transmission scenarios.

Renewables Outpacing Nuclear

According to a recent Vital Signs, renewable energy is outpacing nuclear electricity expansion even though renewables still have a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants. Michael Renner, senior researcher with Worldwatch Institute writes that nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry according to Renner.

Vital Signs - NuclearIn contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The 140 GW in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is still considerably smaller, but growing rapidly.

In recent years, renewable energy has attracted far greater investments than nuclear power. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear investments averaged US$8 billion per year between 2000 and 2013, compared with $37 billion for solar PV and $43 billion for wind. Individual countries, of course, set diverging priorities, but nowhere did nuclear have a major role in power generation investments.

In contrast with investment priorities, research budgets still favor nuclear technologies. Nuclear energy attracted $295 billion, or 51 percent, of total energy R&D spending between 1974 and 2012. But this number has declined over time, from a high of 73.6 percent in 1974 to 26 percent today. Renewable energy received a cumulative total of $59 billion during the same period (10.2 percent), but its share has risen year after year. Because wind and solar power can be deployed at variable scales, and their facilities constructed in less time, these technologies are far more practical and affordable for most countries than nuclear power reactors. Worldwide, 31 countries are operating nuclear reactors on their territories. This compares to at least 85 countries that have commercial wind turbine installations.

The chances of a nuclear revival seem slim writes Renner. Renewable energy, by contrast, appears to be on the right track. But it is clear that renewables have a long way to go before they can hope to supplant fossil fuels as the planet’s principal electricity source.

ACCIONA Windpower Installs First AW125/3000

gI_46398_Acciona_AW3000_125_1ACCIONA Windpower has completed the installation of the world’s first AW125/3000 wind turbine, which combines a 125 meter rotor with a 3 megawatt wind turbine generator. The turbine is mounted on a 120 meter concrete tower at ACCIONA’s Vedadillo Experimental Wind Farm located in the Navarra Region of Spain. The company has fulfilled orders for an additional 552 MW of AW125/3000 turbines which will be installed at wind farms around the globe in the coming months.

Launched in 2013, the AW125/3000 is an extension of ACCIONA Windpower’s AW116/3000 wind turbine. The 125 meter rotor is among the largest rotors in operation at any onshore wind farm, capturing the wind energy from an area of over 12,300 square meters to deliver maximum production at a lower cost of energy. The AW125 is suitable for a wide range of wind conditions and is certified for IEC Class IIb, IIIa, and IIIb.

“The 125 meter rotor is one of the technological advances made by ACCIONA Windpower as part of our commitment to lower the cost of energy for our customers,” said Jose Luis Blanco, CEO of ACCIONA Windpower. “Design innovation is helping ACCIONA Windpower emerge as a preferred supplier by many major customers and fueling the rapid growth in orders for the AW3000 platform.”

The AW 125/3000 turbine at the Vedadillo Wind Farm will help ACCIONA Windpower complete the requisite testing for Type Certification, which is expected to be complete by Q1 2015. The AW125 is available on 100 and 120 meter concrete towers and an 87.5 meter steel tower.

ContourGlobal Inaugurates Peru Wind Farm

The Cupisnique and Talara Wind farms located in Peru are now producing wind energy. The projects were completed by ContourGlobal, through it subsidiary Energia Eolica S.A., and with the first kilowatts produced, have become the largest wind farm owner and operator in the country.

ContourGlobal Wind Farm in PeruWith a combined investment of nearly US $250 million, the Cupisnique and the Talara Wind Farms are the first operational projects in the northern region of the country and were connected to the National Interconnected Electric System (SEIN) last month. Each of the projects has secured a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement under Peru’s Renewable Energy Resource Program.

“With the inauguration of ContourGlobal’s Peruvian wind farms, the country is taking a big step towards realizing the benefit of integrating wind power into the nation’s electricity grid. Peru is blessed with abundant wind resources, which makes wind generated electricity significantly less expensive than many of the fossil fuel power plants in the country,” said Alessandra Marinheiro, CEO of ContourGlobal Latam.

The development of the wind farms took 22 months beginning in October 2012. ContourGlobal managed the construction of the sites, featuring Vesta’s wind turbines. The 62 turbines are installed in two locations along Peru’s windy Pacific coast and are Peru’s largest wind farms as well as the largest wind farms in South America outside of Brazil.

“We would like to express our appreciation to COFIDE (Corporacion Financiera de Desarollo—Peru’s national development bank), the Government of Peru and the communities of Pacasmayo and Talara for helping us to place Peru’s largest wind complex into operation today,” added Joseph C. Brandt, president & CEO of ContourGlobal. “We have found Peru to be a very hospitable destination for new investment and look forward to growing with the country in the years to come.”

DOE Supports Taller Wind Turbine Tower Development

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $2 million to support the development of technologies to harness stronger winds available at higher heights. The goal is to increase the amount of wind energy produced. The projects will take place in Iowa and Massachusetts and are aimed at reducing the cost of wind energy as well as expand the areas where wind energy can be successfully harnessed.

ISU taller wind tower researchIn the northeastern, southeastern, and western United States, winds near the ground are often slower and more turbulent, reducing the amount of electricity installed turbines can generate. Taller wind turbines capture the stronger, more consistent winds available at elevated heights, increasing the number of potential locations where wind farms can supply cost-effective power to American businesses and homeowners. While wind turbines installed in 2013 had an average height of 260 feet, the projects announced today will support new design and manufacturing techniques to produce towers nearly 400 feet tall.

Keystone Towers of Boston, Massachusetts will utilize its grant dollars to implement an on-site spiral welding system that will enable turbine towers to be produced directly at or near the installation site, freeing projects of transportation constraints that often limit turbine height. Adapted from an in-field welding process used by the pipe manufacturing industry, Keystone’s spiral welding technique can be scaled up to produce large diameter steel towers that they report will be 40 percent lighter than standard turbine towers, which could lower the cost of energy by 10 percent.

The second grantee, Iowa State University, will develop a hexagonal-shaped tower that combines high-strength concrete with pre-stressed steel reinforcements to assemble individual tower modules and wall segments that can be easily transported and joined together on-site. Due to the modular design, thicker towers capable of supporting turbines at increased heights can be produced at a reduced cost.