News - Americas
- November 14, 2014 – New York Awards $206 Million For New Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects
- November 14, 2014 – ERCOT: Texas Wind Generation Sets Another Record
- November 13, 2014 – U.S., China Reach Ambitious Climate Change Accord
- November 11, 2014 – AWEA Dives Deep Into Data to Reveal U.S. Wind Tops China in Key Metric
- November 7, 2014 – U.S. Ex-Im Bank Approves $200M to Back Renewable Energy Exports in FY 2014
- November 7, 2014 – Canadian Govt. Study Finds No Link Between Wind Turbine Noise and Health Problems
- November 6, 2014 – OPA Reveals Developers Qualified to Bid in Renewables RFP
- November 5, 2014 – French Government Officially Signs Off on GE-Alstom Deal
- November 4, 2014 – ExxonMobil to Invest $25 Million in MIT Energy Initiative
- November 3, 2014 – Governors Call on U.S. DOE to Support FERC Order 1000
- November 3, 2014 – ABB Builds HVDC Station to Enhance Michigan Grid, Integrate Wind Power
- November 3, 2014 – First Wind Kicks Off Annual Scholarship Program For Host Communities
- October 30, 2014 – DOE Announces New Program to Accelerate National Labs' Cleantech Commercialization
- October 28, 2014 – Wind and Solar Helped California Grid During Challenging Summer
- October 27, 2014 – U.S. Renewables Continue to Outpace Coal, Oil and Nuclear
- October 23, 2014 – ICC Approves Key Illinois Transmission Line
- October 23, 2014 – Poll: Offshore Wind in New Jersey Has Broad Public Support
- October 23, 2014 – Vermont to Receive DOE Grants to Help Grid-Connect Renewable Energy, Improve Energy Efficiency
- October 21, 2014 – Yearly Installed Capacity Figures Already Beat 2013 Numbers, More Wind on the Way: AWEA
- October 17, 2014 – Quebec Government Issues Thumbs Up to 150 MW Wind Project
- October 15, 2014 – Virginia Governor Unveils Energy Plan That Includes Offshore Wind Focus
- October 14, 2014 – University Of Delaware Uses On-Campus Wind Turbine to Fund Fellowships
- October 10, 2014 – MidAmerican Plans $280M Investment to Expand Its Iowa Wind Energy Portfolio
- October 10, 2014 – Poll Shows Albertans Support Development of More Wind Energy
- October 9, 2014 – IRS Urges Congress to Take Prompt Action on Tax Extenders
- October 9, 2014 – Ontario Beer Retailer Raises a Glass to Green Energy, Launches Pilot Program
- October 9, 2014 – U.S. Industry Expects Tipping Point for Offshore Wind
- October 3, 2014 – Fishermen's Says N.J. Offshore Wind Project Will Create 500 Jobs
- October 3, 2014 – Alberta City Offsetting Power Use With Renewable Energy Credits
- October 2, 2014 – MVP Transmission Projects Are Exceeding Expectations, Says MISO
- October 2, 2014 – NV Energy Seeks 100 MW of New Renewables
- October 2, 2014 – BNEF: Clean Energy Investment Still on Track to Recovery
- October 1, 2014 – Missouri Utility's Proposal Has Major Focus on Clean Energy
- October 1, 2014 – Vestas Receives Order For 49 MW Wind Project in Uruguay
- September 30, 2014 – Wind and Solar Are Catching Up With Nuclear Power, Says Report
- September 30, 2014 – Massachusetts Clean Energy Sector Sees Double-Digit Job Growth, Again
- September 29, 2014 – Big-Name Companies Commit to 100% Renewables Campaign
- September 29, 2014 – Xcel Powers Up Texas Line Slated to Help Carry Wind Energy
- September 29, 2014 – Houston Park Continues to Embrace Wind Power
- September 26, 2014 – Interior Dept. Proposes Competitive Leasing Process to Help Spur Renewables in the West
- September 25, 2014 – Southern California Edison Opens Tehachapi Energy Storage Project
- September 25, 2015 – Bank of America Announces $10 Billion Initiative to Boost Clean Energy Investments
- September 23, 2014 – New U.S. House Bill Includes Wind PTC Extension
- September 23, 2014 – Companies Propose $8 Billion Wind, Energy Storage Project to Power Los Angeles
- September 23, 2014 – Community Wind Farm in New York Opens Equity Offering
- September 22, 2014 - DNV GL Releases Recommended Practice For Offshore Wind HVDC
- September 19, 2014 – Senate Confirms Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as New DOE Deputy Secretary
- September 19, 2014 – Liberty Power Supplying Wind-Generated RECs to Convention in Utah
- September 18, 2014 – Utility-Scale Wind and Solar Keep Getting Cheaper
- September 18, 2014 – U.S. DOE Helps Fund Quest for Taller Wind Turbine Towers
- September 18, 2014 – Sen. Wyden Calls For Level Playing Field For Clean Energy Incentives
- September 18, 2014 – New England Aquarium Offsetting Power Usage with Renewable Energy Credits
- September 17, 2014 – EPA Extends Public Comment Period on Carbon Pollution Rules
- September 17, 2014 – Report: Global Offshore Wind Market to Reach Almost 40 GW By 2020
- September 17, 2014 – California ISO, PacifiCorp Outline Implementation Plans For New Energy Market
- September 16, 2014 – ACORE Highlights Western States' Renewable Energy Momentum
- September 16, 2014 – New Wind Power Study Aims to Put Bird Fatalities in Perspective
- September 16, 2014 – U.S. National Lab Commissioning Two Offshore Wind Buoys
- September 15, 2014 – Sen. Wyden on Tax Extenders: Congressional Inaction 'Unacceptable'
- September 11, 2014 – Why States Should Adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard
- September 10, 2014 – Wind Turbines at Ohio Honda Transmission Plant Outperforming Expectations
- September 9, 2014 – UMaine Clinches $3.8 Million Federal Offshore Wind Grant
- September 8, 2014 – DOE Awards $4.5 Million to Wind Power R&D Projects
- September 8, 2014 – Sen. Reid Vows to Bring Wind PTC to a Vote By Year's End
- September 5, 2014 – Feds Sign Off on Block Island Offshore Wind Farm
- September 5, 2014 – Majority of Midwest Voters Support Boosting Renewables, Energy Efficiency
- September 4, 2014 – DOE Issues Offshore Wind Progress Report, Says U.S. Has Big Potential
- September 4, 2014 – Steadily, Wind Turbine OEMs Resume R&D Investment
- September 3, 2014 – BayWa Acquires 80 MW South Dakota Project and Secures GE Turbines
- September 2, 2014 – New York Town Buys Green Energy to Offset Municipal Power Use
- September 2, 2014 – President Obama Taps Colette Honorable to Join FERC
- September 2, 2014 – Report: U.S. Cleantech Jobs Double in Second Quarter
- August 28, 2014 – GE Helps Bring More Wind Energy to New England Transmission Network
- August 28, 2014 – Ohio Siting Board Extends Certificate Needed For EverPower Project
- August 27, 2014 – SUN DAY Campaign: Renewable Energy Continues Net Electrical Generation Gains
- August 27, 2014 – Study: Wind Power Can Improve Resiliency of Electrical Grids
- August 27, 2014 – Renewable Energy Financial Services Lender Surpasses $500 Million in Financings
- August 26, 2014 – New York Legislature Sends Property Tax Exemption Bill to Cuomo
- August 21, 2014 – Eagle Take Permits For Wind Farms - Will They Fly?
- August 20, 2014 – Renewable Energy Provides 100% of New U.S. Power in July
- August 20, 2014 – US Wind Inc. Wins Maryland Offshore Wind Auction
- August 19, 2014 – FERC Grants Key Approval to 3.5 GW Wind Power Transmission Line Project
- August 19, 2014 – Despite 2013 Challenges, U.S. Wind Power Reaches All-Time Low Price
- August 18, 2014 – Michigan International Speedway Races Toward Renewables
- August 18, 2014 – Court Orders N.J. BPU to Reconsider Fishermen's Energy Offshore Wind Project
- August 15, 2014 – Wind Coalition Makes Its Case to Texas Regulators Mulling Over New EPA Plan
- August 15, 2014 – Beer Brewer Anheuser-Busch Adds a Second Wind Turbine At California Facility
- August 14, 2014 – Poll: Majority of Americans Want Their Utilities to Use More Renewables
- August 13, 2014 – Sierra Club Launches Ads Thanking Illinois Reps for Supporting the Wind PTC
- August 13, 2014 – Mexico on Pace to Set New Renewables Investment Record
- August 12, 2014 – IRS Issues More PTC Guidance, Easing Some Wind Industry Concerns
- August 11, 2014 – WTO Upholds Ruling Against China's Export Policy on Rare Earths
- August 11, 2014 – Feds Map Out Three Wind Development Areas Offshore North Carolina
- August 8, 2014 – U.S. Offshore Wind Developer Fishermen's Energy Signs $46.7M Federal Grant
- August 6, 2014 – Embryonic No More: U.S. Offshore Wind Industry Gaining Momentum
- August 5, 2015 – AWEA: U.S. Installs 853 MW of Wind in First Half of 2014
- August 4, 2014 – California City Builds Wind Turbine to Further Its Sustainability Initiative
- August 1, 2014 – EIA: U.S. Hydropower Generation Now Routinely Exceeded By Wind, Solar and Other Renewables
- July 30, 2014 – New York Offers $250 Million For Large-Scale Clean Energy Projects
- July 29, 2014 – EPA Holds Public Hearings on Proposed Clean Power Plan
- July 29, 2014 – Alberta Breaks Wind Power Record, Then Does it Again
- July 29, 2014 – Nordex Receives 50 MW Wind Contract in Uruguay
- July 25, 2014 – U.S. Energy Department Funds Distributed Wind R&D Work
- July 25, 2014 – Report Ranks U.S. Utilities' Renewables, Energy Efficiency Performance
- July 25, 2014 – Ontario Grid Operator Announces Energy Storage Projects
- July 24, 2014 – Mercom Tallies Up Global Wind Deals of the Second Quarter
- July 24, 2014 – Google, IEEE Kick Off $1 Million Contest to Create Smaller Inverters
- July 22, 2014 – Renewables Make up Over 50% Of New U.S. Power in First Half of 2014
- July 18, 2014 – Interior Department Plans New Jersey Offshore Wind Auction
- July 18, 2014 – Quebec Creates New Wind Power Task Force
- July 17, 2014 – New Report Details 2013 Global Wind Power Growth and Trends
- July 15, 2014 – Global Clean Energy Investment Surges with Help From Massive Offshore Wind Deal
- July 15, 2014 – Microsoft to Buy Power From 175 MW Illinois Wind Farm
- July 14, 2014 – Study Says States Are Prepared For EPA Carbon Pollution Rules
- July 11, 2014 – Major U.S. Companies: Unmet Renewable Energy Demand Requires Market Shift
- July 11, 2014 – Trade Reps Launch Global Talks to Eliminate Tariffs on Environmental Goods
- July 10, 2014 – PSC Authorizes NYSERDA to Double Term For Renewable Energy Contracts
- July 10, 2014 – Report: Atlantic Offshore Wind Power is 'Within Reach'
- July 10, 2014 – Mesalands Students Selected For Granite Wind Technician Intern Program
- July 9, 2014 – U.S. Offering Up to $4 Billion in New Cleantech Loan Guarantees
- July 9, 2014 – Ontario Co-op Raises C$2 Million in Two Weeks, Seeks More Investment
- July 9, 2014 – Official: Maryland ORECs to Come After Lease Block Auction
- July 9, 2014 – Federal Research Spurs Washington State to Store Energy, Increase Renewables
- July 8, 2014 – BayWa r.e. Sells Equity Stake in Brahms Wind Farm
- July 7, 2014 – Joint Transmission Project to Ease Renewable New England Interconnection
- July 7, 2014 – Quebec Wind Farm 'Officially' Opens
- July 3, 2014 – Macquarie Infrastructure Company Discloses Performance Fee Payable for Second Quarter of 2014, Additional Investment
- July 3, 2014 – Maryland to Auction Two Lease Blocks For Offshore Wind Development
- July 3, 2014 – Consumers Energy, Chamber of Commerce to Give Public Tours At Wind Construction Site
- July 1, 2014 – BNEF: Renewables Will Account For Two-Thirds of New Power Investment By 2030
- July 1, 2014 – Despite Market Turbulence, Jobs in Renewables Gain Momentum
- July 1, 2014 – Cape Wind Obtains DOE Loan Guarantee to Support Offshore Wind Project Construction
- June 27, 2014 – U.S. Government to Issue First-Ever Eagle Take Permit to California Wind Farm
- June 27, 2014 – ACORE Poll Shows U.S. Business Leaders Support Renewables, Carbon Limits
- June 26, 2014 – 302 Clean Energy Groups Urge Congress to Pass Stalled Tax Extenders Bill
- June 25, 2014 – Survey: More Execs Believe U.S. Can Achieve Energy Independence Within 15 Years
- June 24, 2014 – Thanks to Falling Wind Power Costs, Consumers Energy Eliminates Surcharge
- June 24, 2014 – California Utility Seeks 290 MW in Small-Scale Renewables
- June 24, 2014 – Wind Helps Renewables Dominate New U.S. Generation in May
- June 19, 2014 – Report: Key Policies Keep U.S. and Canada Among Global Renewable Energy Leaders
- June 18, 2014 – Feds to Auction Off Huge Wind Energy Area Offshore Massachusetts
- June 18, 2014 – DOE Recognizes Two Utilities For Wind Power Leadership
- June 16, 2014 – Quartet of Nova Scotia Wind Farms Get Financed
- June 16, 2014 – Renewable Energy Grant Program Begins in Pennsylvania
- June 13, 2014 – Governing Liberal Party Prevails in Ontario Election
- June 13, 2014 – Energy Dept. Launches Regional Approach to Wind Energy Information
- June 12, 2014 – Companies and Groups Urge DOE to Approve 3.5 GW Wind Transmission Project
- June 12, 2014 – Nationwide Ad Blitz Targets Congress Members For Inaction On Wind PTC Extension
- June 11, 2014 – Vestas Secures 10-Year Service Renewal For 27 MW Canadian Project
- June 11, 2014 – Energy Dept. Orders WindSentinel LIDAR Systems For Offshore Research
- June 10, 2014 – Global Wind Power Capacity to More Than Double By 2020
- June 10, 2014 – GE Breaks Ground on Power & Water Manufacturing Facility in S.C.
- June 9, 2014 – Virginia Governor Creates Council to Update State's Energy Plan
- June 9, 2014 – Penn State Launches Online Renewable Energy Programs
- June 6, 2014 – EDPR to Upgrade U.S. Fleet with Vestas PowerPlus Solutions
- June 4, 2014 – BayWa Secures Tax Equity Investment for New Mexico Wind Farm
- June 3, 2014 – Lawmakers Introduce Rural Wind Energy Development Act
- June 3, 2014 – Wisconsin Utility on the Lookout for 600 MW of New Power
- June 2, 2014 – EPA Proposes Highly Anticipated Carbon Pollution Guidelines
- June 2, 2014 – AWEA: EPA Rules Could Be Third Biggest Driver for Wind Behind PTC And RPS Policies
- May 30, 2014 – Wind Power Helps Utility Xcel Energy Slash Carbon Emissions
- May 30, 2014 – Vestas Wins Deal to Supply Guatemala's First Wind Farm
- May 29, 2014 – What to Expect From the EPA's Upcoming Greenhouse Gas Regulations
- May 29, 2014 – BOEM Seeks Input on Oregon Offshore Wind Demo Project
- May 29, 2014 – Report: Switch from Coal to Renewables Would Ultimately Be Cheaper For Alberta
- May 29, 2014 – AXYS Readies Wind LIDAR System for U.S. Navy Test
- May 27, 2014 – Competitive Lease Process Begins For N.Y. Offshore Wind Development
- May 27, 2014 – Xcel Energizes $64M Transmission Line to Strengthen Grid, Export Wind Power
- May 27, 2014 – U.S. Non-Hydro Renewables Outproduce Hydropower for The First Time
- May 23, 2014 – 47 Senators Request More Study Time for Upcoming EPA Standards
- May 22, 2014 – Piggybacking Wind and Solar: Can Two Renewable Energy Sources Peacefully Co-Exist?
- May 22, 2014 – Regulators Unanimously Approve Georgia Power Wind Contracts
- May 22, 2014 – 3.5 GW Wind Transmission Project Seeks Interested Customers
- May 22, 2014 – Nordex Pumps Funds Into Producing Bigger, More Modern Rotor Blades
- May 22, 2014 – FERC Signs Off on 3 GW Southern Cross Transmission Project
- May 21, 2014 – Vestas Announces 78 MW North American Turbine Order
- May 19, 2014 – Texas Renewable Energy Production Up 12%; Wind Remains No. 1
- May 15, 2014 – CanWEA Urges Ontario PC Party to Reconsider Wind Energy
- May 13, 2014 – Global Wind Power Sector Created 80,000 More Jobs Last Year
- May 12, 2014 – FERC Grants Key Approval to 3.5 GW Wind Transmission Project
- May 12, 2014 – CanWEA Calls For Closer Study of BC Wind Energy Resource
- May 9, 2014 – Block Island Offshore Wind Demo Receives First Major Permits
- May 8, 2014 – Governors Call on EPA to Keep Wind Power in Mind for New Rules
- May 8, 2014 – DOE Shocker: Down-Select Offshore Winners Raise Some Eyebrows
- May 8, 2014 – Penn State Wins DOE's Inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition
- May 7, 2014 – Energy Department Determines 35% U.S. Wind by 2050 is Achievable
- May 7, 2014 – Kansas RPS Perseveres Despite Three Years of Attacks
- May 5, 2014 – U.S. Taps K2 Management to Build Offshore Wind Database
- May 5, 2014 – Hawaiian Electric Seeks Energy Storage to Support Renewables
- May 5, 2014 – Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Cape Wind PPA
- May 1, 2014 – Vestas Announces Upgrades to Boost Performance of Existing Wind Turbines
- May 1, 2014 – Energy Storage Test Center Opens in New York
- April 30, 2014 – With REC Purchase, Mars Moves Toward Carbon-Neutral Operations
- April 29, 2014 – Maine Students Set to Compete in Blade Design Challenge
- April 24, 2014 – EPA Reveals Top 100 U.S. Organizations Using Renewable Energy
- April 23, 2014 – Google Inks 407 MW Wind Power Contract in Iowa
- April 23, 2014 – Connecticut Ends Three-Year Moratorium on Wind Development
- April 22, 2014 – Western Texas Community College Announces Wind Energy Degree Program
- April 21, 2014 – Majority of Ohio Voters Support State Clean Energy Law
- April 21, 2014 – Is Global Clean Energy Investment Bouncing Back?
- April 16, 2014 – DOE Plans $4 Billion Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Cleantech Projects
- April 16, 2014 – Minnesota Power Files For Permits to Build Canada-U.S. Transmission Line
- April 15, 2014 – Twelve States Produced 80% of U.S. Wind Power in 2013, Says EIA Report
- April 15, 2014 – Ontario is Officially Coal-Free, Shuts Down Final Plant
- April 14, 2014 – Regulators Seek Comment on Proposed Southline Transmission Project
- April 11, 2014 – CalWEA Says 50% Renewables Target in California is Possible, Affordable
- April 11, 2014 – Houston METRO Offsetting Electricity Use With Renewable Energy
- April 10, 2014 – Maine Regulators Order First Wind to Prove Financial Capacity
- April 10, 2014 – IKEA Makes Its First U.S. Wind Farm Purchase in Illinois
- April 9, 2014 – MAKE Expects North American Wind Market to Grow 207% This Year
- April 9, 2014 – Global Wind Power Market Poised to Rebound This Year, Install at Least 47 GW
- April 7, 2014 – Wind Power Helps Significantly Cut U.S. Emissions In 2013
- April 7, 2014 – Texas A&M University Wins $2.2M Award to Foster Offshore Wind
- April 4, 2014 – AWEA Calls Recent Wind Energy Records 'Transmission Success Stories'
- April 3, 2014 – Senate Committee Passes Bill With Two-Year PTC Extension
- April 2, 2014 – New Vermont Law Raises Net Metering Cap to 15%
- April 2, 2014 – Stakeholders Form Global Energy Storage Alliance
- April 1, 2014 – Update: Maine Legislature Rejects Governor's Attempt to Change Wind Energy Law
November 14, 2014 – New York Awards $206 Million For New Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) have released $206 million in funding for approximately 164 MW of renewable capacity, including two New York-based wind farms.
Funding is provided by NYSERDA, which administers New York’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Contracts for the renewable projects will be awarded for a term of up to 20 years - double the term of previous contracts.
The selected projects are as follows:
- Arkwright Summit Wind Farm, 78 MW, Arkwright, Chautauqua County;
- Jericho Rise Wind Farm, 78 MW, Chateaugay, Franklin County;
- City of Watervliet Delta Hydroelectric Project, 8 MW, Rome, Oneida County; and
- Village of Wappingers Falls Hydroelectric Project, 100 kW, Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County.
According to NYSERDA, the weighted average award price for the ninth Main Tier solicitation is $22.96/MWh of production over the 20-year contract term - about one-third less than the average contract price for the previous solicitation, which was $34.95/MWh of production over 10 years.
NYSERDA says its nine RPS Main Tier solicitations for large-scale renewable projects have resulted in approximately more than 5 million MWh of installed capacity at 71 projects. NYSERDA says it will issue at least one more Main Tier solicitation under the RPS in 2015.
(Reposted from www.nawindpower.com with permission, Copyright © 2014 Zackin Publications Inc., All rights reserved. For North American Windpower's latest news headlines or a free subscription, please visit www.nawindpower.com.)
November 14, 2014 – ERCOT: Texas Wind Generation Sets Another Record
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that wind-powered generation recently set another record - albeit by 5 MW.
According to ERCOT, the record was set at 10:39 a.m. on Nov. 2, when instantaneous output reached 10,301 MW, providing 33.4% of the power within ERCOT. The old record, set on March 26, totaled 10,296 MW.
Of the total generation at the time, 975 MW came from wind generators on the Gulf Coast, while 9,326 MW came from other regions. Most came from West Texas, where transmission projects in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were recently completed to transport more power from that region to more populated areas of the state.
Year-to-date, Texas wind generated 23.9 million MWh of electricity - roughly 9% of all generation in the state, according to ERCOT data.
(Reposted from www.nawindpower.com with permission, Copyright © 2014 Zackin Publications Inc., All rights reserved. For North American Windpower's latest news headlines or a free subscription, please visit www.nawindpower.com.)
November 13, 2014 – U.S., China Reach Ambitious Climate Change Accord
In a landmark agreement between global superpowers, the U.S. and China have jointly agreed on a series of sweeping initiatives aimed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
The deal, reached during President Obama's recently concluded trip to China, not only extends the president's existing Climate Change Action Plan, but also places limits on the amount of carbon emitted by China for the first time.
The U.S. will set a new target of cutting net greenhouse-gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025 - nearly doubling its current plans. The new plan will require the U.S. to double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2% per year on average during the 2005-2020 period to 2.3% to 2.8% per year on average between 2020 and 2025.
This ambitious target is grounded in intensive analysis of cost-effective carbon pollution reductions achievable under existing law and will keep the U.S. on the right trajectory to achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80% by 2050.
For its part, China's President Xi plans to increase the share of renewable energy and nuclear power that China uses to roughly 20% by 2030. To reach that target, it will require China to deploy an additional 800 GW -1,000 GW of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero-emission generation annually - more than all the coal-fired power plants that currently exist in China and nearly equal to the total current electricity generation capacity in the U.S.
As the U.S. and China account for more than a third of global greenhouse-gas emissions, an agreement to substantially reduce pollutants will certainly jump-start negotiations in advance of next year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
The objective of the climate change conference - which begins Nov. 30, 2015 - is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate. The U.S. says it plans to submit its 2025 target plans no later than the first quarter of next year.
While the agreement is ambitious, it is unclear how feasible it would be for either superpower to reach its goals. For starters, the plan’s many milestones will occur after Obama is out of office. More pressing, however, is the fight that is certain to come from the Republican-controlled Congress, many of whom were already upset by Obama’s 2009 Climate Change Action Plan.
To support the agreement, the U.S. and China are expanding dialogue and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse-gas emissions technologies.
For example, several U.S. agencies, including the Department of Energy, will undertake a number of additional pilot programs, feasibility studies and other collaborative efforts to promote China’s energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. These will include expansion of our cooperation on “smart grids” that enable efficient and cost-effective integration of renewable energy technology, as well as the implementation through a U.S. and Chinese private-sector commercial agreement of a first-of-its-kind 380 MW concentrating solar plant in China.
For its part, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) say the bilateral agreement sends a market signal to private investors to continue investing in wind energy, among other clean electric power solutions. More importantly, the agreement also signals that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from electric power plants is the right policy at the right time.
"Wind power is one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways to reduce carbon pollution, and it means American workers can make more of our own energy right here in America," says Tom Kiernan, CEO at AWEA. "This agreement sends the right message to businesses and investors that scaling up clean energy not only benefits our economy, but will continue to be supported at the highest levels as something the world needs."
(Reposted from www.nawindpower.com with permission, Copyright © 2014 Zackin Publications Inc., All rights reserved. For North American Windpower's latest news headlines or a free subscription, please visit www.nawindpower.com.)
November 11, 2014 – AWEA Dives Deep Into Data to Reveal U.S. Wind Tops China in Key Metric
The U.S. has more wind energy powering its grid than any other country in the world, including China, according to a recent analysis by wind industry veteran Dr. James Walker and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Some mistakenly believe that China has become the leading producer of wind energy, surpassing the U.S. in this sector. While it is factually correct that China has more megawatts installed than the U.S. - China has 90,000 MW installed compared to just over 60,000 MW for the U.S. - the better measure of effectiveness is the total amount of electricity delivered.
According to Walker, vice chairman of the board at EDF Renewable Energy and author of the analysis, the total amount of electricity, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), is a better metric to compare the wind superpowers.
"Capacity (MW) measures wind turbine production and installation, but it is the electrical energy (kWh) delivered to the grid that powers our factories, businesses and homes," Walker notes.
Writing via AWEA’s blog, Walker further adds that recent reports by the International Energy Agency and the Global Wind Energy Council shows that China’s wind industry produced and delivered less than 138 billion kWh in 2013 or less than 20% of the 167 billion kWh that the U.S. produced in the same time.
"This confirms what many in the wind industry have thought for some time: that by the important measure of energy delivered to the grid, the U.S. is the No. 1 wind energy producer in the world."
Further, he says, the U.S. has been the world leader by this measure since 2008.
The analysis released by AWEA is part of an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit, two incentives whose futures are being deliberated by Congress.
Walker then listed other factors responsible for the success of U.S. wind energy.
- Project developers, while not infallible, have made special efforts to choose project sites to avoid and minimize wildlife and other environmental impacts. Projects cannot be financed without an assurance of access to transmission interconnections to deliver their output to market. These and other factors have meant that the over $120 billion worth of U.S. wind projects installed since the year 2000 are of high overall quality and reliability, ready to operate, on average, more than 95% of the time the wind is strong enough to generate power.
- Another key factor in the success of the U.S. wind industry has been that the government incentives and private-sector financing methods used here reward long-term production, not initial capital investment. The main government support mechanism, the PTC, is only earned for kilowatt hours actually produced and delivered during a 10-year period.
"This performance-based policy has led to dramatic increases in the electricity output from individual turbines - turbines today have a nameplate capacity eight times larger than a typical one in 1990, generating 17 times more electricity," writes Walker. "Unfortunately, Congress allowed the PTC to expire at the end of 2013, resulting in a 92% reduction in new wind farm installations in 2013 compared to 2012."
Walker is urging Congress to pass an extension of the PTC as part of the EXPIRE Act in the lame duck Congress. Doing so, he says, will help the U.S. regain and maintain its momentum.
November 7, 2014 – U.S. Ex-Im Bank Approves $200M to Back Renewable Energy Exports in FY 2014
The Export-Import Bank of the United States says it has authorized approximately $200 million to finance U.S. renewable energy exports in fiscal year 2014, bringing its total support to nearly $2 billion since 2009.
Backed by a congressional mandate to support environmentally beneficial U.S. exports, Ex-Im says it is committed to empowering American companies to sell their renewable energy goods and services in overseas markets, which results in more highly skilled jobs for U.S. workers.
"American businesses have the innovation, technologies and skilled workers needed to seize the unprecedented opportunities emerging in the global renewable energy sector," comments Ex-Im Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "Our goal at Ex-Im is to fill the gap when private lenders can't offer support, so that U.S. companies can compete on a level playing field in this growing market."
Last year alone, the bank says its nearly $200 million in financing authorizations enabled U.S. companies to ship approximately $550 million worth of renewable energy exports to the global marketplace in support of wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal projects.
Ex-Im adds that private-sector lenders generally are unable to offer longer financing terms on renewable energy projects, so the bank's support is especially important in a sector where capital needs and fuel costs are spread across the lives of projects in very different ways as compared with traditional energy projects.
November 7, 2014 – Canadian Govt. Study Finds No Link Between Wind Turbine Noise and Health Problems
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has welcomed new research by federal department Health Canada that concludes there is no evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and self-reported medical illnesses and health conditions.
Launched in 2012, in collaboration with Statistics Canada, the study was conducted in Southwestern Ontario and Prince Edward Island. It included 1,238 households out of a possible 1,570 households living at various distances from 399 separate wind turbines in 18 wind turbine developments.
According to Health Canada, the study is the first related to wind turbine noise to implement the use of both self-reported and physically measured health endpoints. Measured health-related indicators included hair cortisol as a biomarker of stress, blood pressure, resting heart rate and sleep.
The Health Canada study finds the following:
- No evidence to support a link between exposure to wind turbine noise and any of the self-reported illnesses and chronic conditions;
- No association between multiple measures of stress and exposure to wind turbine noise;
- No association between wind turbine noise and self-reported or measured sleep quality; and
- No association between wind turbine noise and any significant changes in reported quality of life, or with overall quality of life, and satisfaction with health.
The study did find a correlation, but not a causal relationship, between increasing levels of wind turbine noise and annoyance. The Health Canada report identified a number of other factors that may contribute to annoyance levels, including economic benefit, visual appearance and noise sensitivity.
“Based on the summary, the Health Canada study is an important new addition to scientific research on wind turbines and human health. We look forward to reviewing the results of the Health Canada study in more detail and will continue to monitor the scientific literature in this area,” says CanWEA president Robert Hornung.
“The balance of scientific evidence to date continues to show that properly sited wind turbines are not harmful to human health and that wind energy remains one of the safest and environmentally friendly forms of electricity generation.”
Health Canada says it is important to note that the findings from the study do not provide definitive answers on their own and must be considered in the context of a broader evidence base. The department has consulted the Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study Expert Committee on the data.
November 6, 2014 – OPA Reveals Developers Qualified to Bid in Renewables RFP
The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has qualified companies, including about 20 wind developers, to bid in an upcoming call for 565 MW of new renewables under the province's large renewable procurement (LRP) program.
The OPA says it received 70 applicants and qualified 42 after two months of review. The chosen entities will be eligible to submit bids under the LRP I request for proposals (RFP), which will seek up to 300 MW of wind, 140 MW of solar, 75 MW of hydropower and 50 MW of bioenergy.
Some wind developers that qualified include EDF EN Canada Development, Algonquin Power Co., Invenergy, Mainstream Renewable Power, Samsung C&T Corp., and Pattern Renewable Holding Canada.
The full list of qualified developers is available here.
The OPA says it is working to finalize the draft versions of the LRP I RFP and LRP I contract and anticipates they will be posted and ready for public feedback this month. Once the documents have been finalized, the qualified applicants will be invited to submit proposals to the OPA.
Last year, the Ontario government announced it was creating the LRP to replace its feed-in tariff program for large-scale renewable energy projects. The LRP is a competitive process for procuring energy from projects generally greater than 500 kW.
November 5, 2014 – French Government Officially Signs Off on GE-Alstom Deal
U.S.-based General Electric's massive deal to buy the energy assets of France-based conglomerate Alstom has moved several steps forward, as the French government and other stakeholders have officially signed off on the agreement. Now, the acquisition is slated for an Alstom shareholder vote in December.
According to multiple reports, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron announced formal approval of the multi-billion-dollar agreement, which the government originally contested.
GE’s proposal was up against a joint bid by Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the French government wanted GE’s offer to include more job creation and "a balanced partnership.” The company negotiated with French officials to amend its proposal, which Alstom’s board of directors selected in June.
Notably, the French government has entered an agreement to buy a 20% stake of Alstom from shareholder Bouygues once GE’s acquisition of Alstom’s energy business is completed.
As part of the agreement between GE and Alstom, the companies will form 50/50 joint ventures, including one in Alstom’s offshore wind business. The companies will also combine Alstom Grid and GE Digital Energy, as well as create a 50/50 global nuclear and French steam alliance.
According to Alstom, the deal has cleared several hurdles, including works council consultations. The companies have also signed the final sale contract and other agreements.
Alstom will hold a general meeting on Dec. 19, where the approval of the transaction will be submitted for a shareholder vote.
“The project with General Electric is progressing well,” says Patrick Kron, Alstom’s chairman and CEO. However, he notes, “Should the shareholders approve it, General Electric’s offer would still be subject to authorizations from regulatory and competition bodies in a number of jurisdictions.”
If and when the transaction is complete, Alstom says it will focus on its transport business.
November 4, 2014 – ExxonMobil to Invest $25 Million in MIT Energy Initiative
ExxonMobil has signed an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to become a founding member of - and invest $25 million in - the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), a collaboration aimed at advancing and exploring the future of energy.
ExxonMobil says it will work with MIT on a wide range of projects, including research to improve and expand renewable energy sources and find more efficient ways to produce and use conventional hydrocarbon resources. The company will invest $25 million during the next five years to support faculty and student research efforts, as well as establish graduate energy fellowship appointments at MIT.
“At MIT, we find that working closely with industry alerts us to real-world problems and opportunities for progress. There is simply no better way to ensure that our research has an impact in the world,” says MIT President Rafael Reif. “That concept is at the heart of our long and successful relationship with ExxonMobil.”
“If we are going to continue to meet the world’s growing energy demand, we need to leverage partnerships such as this one with MITEI to help find efficient, scalable and responsible ways to bring affordable energy to global markets,” adds TJ Wojnar Jr., president of ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.
ExxonMobil says this latest investment is part of a larger, ongoing effort by the company to explore early-stage innovative projects through partnerships with other leading universities around the world.
November 3, 2014 – Governors Call on U.S. DOE to Support FERC Order 1000
The bipartisan Governors' Wind Energy Coalition has urged the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to show strong support for FERC Order 1000, as the group says the order could help bring more renewable energy to power markets.
The 23-member group makes its call after the U.S. Court of Appeals recently denied a rehearing of its unanimous decision in South Carolina Public Service v. FERC. That decision upheld every aspect of Order 1000.
FERC approved Order No. 1000 in 2011 in an effort to reform electric transmission planning and cost-allocation requirements for public utility transmission providers. The coalition says the order is the legal and policy framework for the expansion and modernization of the U.S.’ power grid and is slated to further enable the integration of renewables.
“It’s time to begin in earnest a discussion of our nation’s transmission needs and to focus on the benefits of getting renewable energy resources like wind to the people and businesses who want them,” says Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, vice chairman of the coalition. “The Court of Appeals has spoken. Let’s get to work.”
In a letter sent to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Inslee and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, chairman of the coalition, urged the secretary to use his authority under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to promote high-voltage transmission facilities that could encourage clean energy and economic development.
“The nation’s electrical transmission system is as important to our states’ economic development today as the nation’s interstate highway system was 50 years ago,” the governors wrote. “And, like the interstate highway system, the nation’s high-voltage network is aging.”
The letter goes on to state that “the nation’s most cost-competitive wind energy resources will never bring value to our states’ economies or the nation’s unless we support the private sector’s creation of a modern system to deliver that power to the marketplace.”
November 3, 2014 – ABB Builds HVDC Station to Enhance Michigan Grid, Integrate Wind Power
ABB says it has commissioned a 200 MW HVDC Light station that will enhance grid stability and integrate more wind energy in Michigan.
ABB designed, supplied and installed the back-to-back station for American Transmission Co. According to ABB, a back-to-back system comprises two HVDC converters connected directly to each other, without any direct transmission line, making it possible to fully control the power transfer through the connection.
The company says the voltage and reactive power control features of the system enable the integration of additional wind energy and stabilization of the network. Furthermore, the station’s “black-start” capability allows for fast network restoration using power from the other end of the system in the case of a power outage, ABB adds.
November 3, 2014 – First Wind Kicks Off Annual Scholarship Program For Host Communities
First Wind, an independent U.S.-based renewable energy company, has announced that applications are now open and available online for its annual scholarship program. First Wind Scholars, now in its sixth year, offers scholarships to qualified high school seniors in communities where the company operates.
As part of the 2015 First Wind Scholars program, students within host communities in Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Vermont and Washington will be granted 16 one-time awards of $3,000. The company says it will also award one scholarship of $5,000, renewable for up to four years, to the year’s single most qualified applicant.
“We are excited to open the application process for the sixth year of our First Wind Scholars program,” comments Carol Grant, senior vice president of external affairs at First Wind. “We started the scholarship program as a way to support future generations interested in clean energy and make a commitment to our project host communities. Since we started the program, we’ve given more than $300,000 in scholarships going to a total of 77 students throughout the Northeast, West and Hawaii. We’re proud to offer the program once again.”
Eligible students must have a GPA of at least 2.75 and must plan to enroll in full-time undergraduate study with a focus in the sciences, technology and/or engineering. Submissions are due by Jan. 6, 2015, and the winners will be announced in April.
More information is available here
October 30, 2014 – DOE Announces New Program to Accelerate National Labs' Cleantech Commercialization
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a new $2.3 million pilot program to accelerate the transfer of innovative clean energy technologies from the DOE's national laboratories into the commercial marketplace.
The DOE says the new Lab-Corps program, which builds on the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps model, is a specialized technology accelerator and training curriculum for the national laboratories that will enable lab-based teams to gain direct market feedback on their technologies and pursue the development of startup companies, industry partnerships, licensing agreements and other business opportunities.
“The Energy Department’s National Laboratories are science and engineering powerhouses,” says Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. “In support of the president’s Lab-to-Market Initiative, the Lab-Corps program launched today supports the entrepreneurial spirit at our national labs and will bring new lab technologies to market that advance American leadership in clean energy.”
Six national labs have been selected to participate in the Lab-Corps pilot program. Over the next year, they will assemble, train and support entrepreneurial teams to identify private-sector opportunities for commercializing promising sustainable transportation, renewable power and energy efficiency technologies.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, located in Golden, Colo., will leverage its expertise to develop, deliver and manage the Lab-Corps training program across the laboratory sites.
October 28, 2014 – Wind and Solar Helped California Grid During Challenging Summer
Wind and solar power helped the California grid maintain reliability during a challenging summer this year. According to the California Independent System Operator (ISO), grid operators were up against heat waves, historic drought conditions and major wildfires.
The ISO says this summer's highest level of demand reached 45,090 MW at 4:53 p.m. on Sept. 15, 2014. This compares to 45,097 MW set on June 28, 2013, and 46,846 MW on Aug. 13, 2012. The ISO's highest peak on record is 50,270 MW on July 24, 2006.
On a local level, the ISO says southern California set new demand records that underscore the impact from hot temperatures recorded during the summer, especially along the coast.
For example, the San Diego Gas & Electric area experienced record use on Sept. 15 and then topped the next day with an all-time record demand of 4,895 MW. The standing record peak was 4,684 MW set on Sept. 27, 2010.
The Southern California Edison area also experienced heavy loads, reaching 23,266 MW on Sept. 15. According to the ISO, this was just shy of the area’s all-time peak of 23,388 MW set on Sept. 7, 2011.
During high demand, grid operators often rely on any and all available resources to help keep the lights on, including renewable energy. However, the ISO says there were 1,628 MW less of in-state hydropower this summer because of historic drought conditions.
Meanwhile, wind and solar power facilities have performed well so far this year. In fact, wind set an ISO production record on April 12, with 4,768 MW, and solar production hit a new peak on Sept. 29, with 4,903 MW.
Oscar Hidalgo, an ISO spokesperson, tells NAW, "We experienced some significant demand this summer in California, and renewable resources, such as wind, helped us maintain reliability statewide. With hydroelectricity generation down due to drought conditions in the state, we’ve relied on other resources to keep power flowing. Wind generation played a significant role, setting a record this year with nearly 5,000 megawatts of production.”
The ISO says it has about 5,900 MW of wind resources and about 5,500 MW of utility solar resources connected to the grid. Counting all renewable resources (including small hydro, biomass, biogas and geothermal), the ISO notes that it has 15,226 MW of clean power on the grid.
Notably, the ISO region, which covers most of California and a small part of Nevada, also experienced numerous wildfires this year. Nonetheless, the ISO says only a limited number threatened the high-voltage grid, and hard work helped avoid electrical interruptions.
The ISO says it is already working with stakeholders to prepare for next summer.
October 27, 2014 – U.S. Renewables Continue to Outpace Coal, Oil and Nuclear
Renewable energy sources accounted for more than two-fifths (40.61%) of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put in service during the first three quarters of this year, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity.
Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group the SUN DAY Campaign says new capacity from renewables so far this year is almost 35 times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW).
For the month of September alone, renewables accounted for over two-thirds of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in service, with 367 MW (60.86%) coming from wind and 41 MW (6.80%) coming from solar.
Of the 8,860 MW of new U.S. capacity from all sources installed since Jan. 1, 187 "units" of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind totaling 1,614 MW (18.22%), seven units of hydropower equaling 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass making up 140 MW (1.58%), and five units of geothermal totaling 32 MW (0.36%).
The balance came from 41 units of natural gas totaling 5,153 MW (58.16%), one 71 MW unit of nuclear (0.80%), 11 units of oil equaling 33 MW (0.37%), and six units of "other" totaling 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014, the SUN DAY Campaign notes.
Comparing the first nine months of 2014 to the same period in 2013, the organization says new U.S. generating capacity from renewable energy sources grew by 11.8% (3,598 MW vs. 3,218 MW).
Renewable energy sources now account for 16.35% of total installed operating capacity in the U.S. - up from 15.68% a year earlier: hydro - 8.45%, wind - 5.35%, biomass - 1.38%, solar - 0.84%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.23%) and oil (3.97%) combined.
"The steady and rapid growth of renewable energy is unlikely to abate as prices continue to drop and the technologies continue to improve," says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "The era of coal, oil and nuclear is drawing to a close; the age of renewable energy is now upon us."
October 23, 2014 – ICC Approves Key Illinois Transmission Line
Commonwealth Edison's (ComEd) Grand Prairie Gateway Project, a transmission line that is expected to remove wind energy bottlenecks in Illinois, has received approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).
According to the company, the line will extend for 60 miles across Ogle, Dekalb, Kane and DuPage counties. The new line will create immediate customer savings by reducing grid congestion, increasing customers' access to lower-cost generation, including wind power. Construction is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of next year, and the line is expected to be in service in 2017.
"As the competitive electricity market expands, transmission lines become congested over time, just like highways do as the communities around them grow," says Terence Donnelly, ComEd executive vice president and chief operating officer. "This congestion impedes the flow of low-cost energy, increasing the cost of delivering that energy to our customers, and we’re obligated to solve that problem. We are pleased that the Commission has recognized the need for this important new line, which will offset those increases just as soon as it’s energized."
The line will expand ComEd customers' access to generation by approximately 1 GW, providing greater access to clean energy.
"Congestion on the system is inhibiting the lowest cost generating plants – like wind – from getting power to customers that want it," says Sean Brady, regional policy manager of Wind on the Wires. "These bottlenecks force wind farms to operate less efficiently and restrain the future development of more environmentally friendly wind generation in Illinois, so this project will further promote a competitive marketplace and the continued growth of wind power."
The 345kV electric transmission line will be constructed between ComEd's existing substations near the communities of Byron and Wayne. The route would begin at the Byron substation and run east until Plato Center in Kane County, where the line would run southeast along railroad corridors to the substation near Wayne. The project adds a third major transmission path across the ComEd territory, which also enhances reliability, particularly during extreme weather events.
The need for the project was first identified as part of the annual regional planning process managed by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that plans and operates the ComEd transmission system.
October 23, 2014 – Poll: Offshore Wind in New Jersey Has Broad Public Support
New Jersey residents showed widespread support for sustainable energy solutions, including offshore wind energy projects, according to a poll conducted by The Delaware Sea Grant College Program at the University of Delaware.
The poll results show that Atlantic City, N.J., residents - and the surrounding communities - favor the construction of an offshore wind power project. Results show that 77% of residents are inclined to support a demonstration project of five offshore wind turbines visible from the shore, versus 20% leaning the other way. The remaining 3% were undecided.
The results are the latest in a series of public opinion polls that support Fishermen's Energy, which proposed a demonstration offshore wind project located nearly three miles off the coast of Atlantic City.
After stating their opinion of the project, residents were asked to name the three issues they considered most important with regards to offshore wind power development. Surprisingly, the results show that electricity costs were considered important issues only among supporters.
"It suggests that respondents either believe that the Fisherman's Energy project has substantial merit even if it will raise electricity bills slightly, or they believe that the project will ultimately lead to lower electricity rates as the offshore wind power industry matures," notes Jeremy Firestone, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and director of the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration.
Two out of three New Jerseyans say the state should focus on developing more renewable sources of energy for the future, compared to just 13% who say the focus should be on more fossil fuel development. The same percentage (66%) say that building offshore wind power in New Jersey would help the state’s economy. Another 17% say wind power development would have no impact and just 6% say it would hurt the state's economy.
Nearly two out of three respondents support having Gov. Chris Christie make offshore wind power development a priority for his administration. This includes 33% who strongly favor this priority and 32% who somewhat favor it.
October 23, 2014 – Vermont to Receive DOE Grants to Help Grid-Connect Renewable Energy, Improve Energy Efficiency
Vermont will receive two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants to help connect renewable energy projects to the grid and improve energy efficiency.
The DOE grants, totaling $629,966 are part of a $5 million funding effort in 13 states to advance innovative approaches for local clean energy development.
One of the grants will go to a partnership being set up between the state Department of Public Service and Vermont's largest electric utility, Green Mountain Power. The goal is to standardize and streamline how Vermont interconnects and distributes the generation of renewable energy into the grid. The other grant will support energy efficiency in the state.
The grant will also develop a single online application for permitting and connecting small energy projects to the grid and tools to monitor and better understand the electric distribution grid.
"With these funds, we will build on our national model for energy efficiency by focusing on ways to increase investment in efficient technologies for our buildings," says Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. "We will also enhance our efforts to connect more solar and renewable energy to the grid."
October 21, 2014 – Yearly Installed Capacity Figures Already Beat 2013 Numbers, More Wind on the Way: AWEA
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported that 419 MW of installed capacity came online during the third quarter ending Sept. 30, taking the total amount of year-to-date installs to 1.3 GW.
The figure, which easily surpasses the mark of 1.08 GW installed for all of 2013, includes 19 U.S. wind projects completed this year, says Emily Williams, AWEA’s manager of industry data and analysis, during a conference for Wall Street investors at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York.
Citing historical analysis, Williams says the number of completed projects will undoubtedly rise in the fourth quarter as developers rush to complete projects. Typically, 60% to 70% of annual installations are completed in the fourth quarter, Williams notes.
She says approximately 13.6 GW are currently under construction across 105 projects. More than half of that total is in Texas where approximately 7.6 GW are under construction thanks to the buildout of Texas' Competitive Renewable Energy Zones transmission project.
The majority of the projects started under the last extension of the production tax credit (PTC) are expected to finish construction. An additional 3.7 GW of projects are "under development" with off-take agreements, but have not started construction, she adds.
Taken together, she says, the two figures point to better times ahead for developers and suppliers in 2015.
While the total number of wind projects waiting to be built is an encouraging sign, the association continues to grapple with Congress for extending its most pressing legislative priorities: the PTC and investment tax credit.
Tom Kiernan, CEO, told conference attendees that he is optimistic that Congress will extend the PTC after the election.
"We believe Congress will do what it takes so we can keep these U.S. factories open and offer this increasingly affordable source of electricity to more Americans, instead of seeing the 92% dropoff we saw in 2013 when the tax credit was last allowed to expire."
AWEA notes that efforts to secure an extension are under way, noting that the EXPIRE Act, a bill that extends nearly 60 tax provisions, is now pending in the U.S. Senate. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service recently warned Congress that added delay in passing the extenders bill could lead to problematic delays for 2015 tax filers.
"With continued technological innovation," Kiernan notes, "wind energy has become so affordable that it offers utilities and consumers an irresistible value."
October 17, 2014 – Quebec Government Issues Thumbs Up to 150 MW Wind Project
Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. has announced that the 150 MW Mesgi'g Ugju's'n wind farm has obtained a decree from the Quebec government. The official decree marks the end of the environmental approval process and gives the green light for construction to begin on the project, which is located in the Gaspe Peninsula.
Project company Mesgi''g Ugju's''n Wind Farm LP is controlled 50-50 by Innergex and three Mi'gmaq communities of Quebec: Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Listuguj. Innergex is responsible for the management of the construction and operation of the wind farm.
“Innergex and its partner, the Mi’gmaq communities of Quebec, have reached an important milestone in the development of this wind project, and we look forward to beginning pre-construction activities soon,” declares Michel Letellier, president and CEO of Innergex.
The partners expect to begin pre-construction activities, such as wood clearing, in late 2014 and to begin construction in 2015. They further expect to begin commercial operation of the wind farm at the end of 2016. Hydro-Quebec will buy all of the project’s output under a 20-year power purchase agreement.
October 15, 2014 – Virginia Governor Unveils Energy Plan That Includes Offshore Wind Focus
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., has formally unveiled the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan, which highlights an "all of the above" strategy that features an emphasis on developing more renewables, especially offshore wind power.
In his remarks, McAuliffe said, "If we are going to build the economy Virginia families deserve, we must begin by giving them the energy plan our economy demands. The plan we are rolling out today is focused on growing our energy economy (particularly in the renewable sector), emphasizing energy conservation, strengthening our energy infrastructure and training the workforce we need for the future.
“By working together, I am confident that four years from now, we will live in a stronger commonwealth that is less dependent on external forces and is fueled by cleaner, cheaper and more abundant Virginia energy.”
Although the plan calls for more reliance on natural gas and nuclear energy, it also calls for increased development of renewable generation, such as solar and wind power.
According to the plan report, Virginia currently has no utility-scale wind power in operation, but the state has an onshore wind resource potential of about 1.8 GW at an 80-meter hub height. So far, though, only one wind project has received approval. Nonetheless, the report says a number of developers have been exploring projects in the state and notes that out-of-state wind projects serve Virginia load.
According to the report, “Offshore wind has the potential to provide the largest, scalable renewable energy resource for Virginia.” Offshore wind in the state could also prove to be a $15 billion industry over the next 10 years, the report adds.
Last year, Dominion Virginia Power won a federal lease for 112,800 acres off the Virginia coast to develop offshore wind power. The leased area has the potential to support 2 GW of wind generation. Furthermore, offshore research projects are under way. In March, McAuliffe, an outspoken supporter of offshore wind development, announced research grants and declared that the state was “open for business” to offshore wind.
Other goals of the energy plan include the following:
- Reducing energy consumption by aggressively pursuing energy efficiency measures in government, businesses and residences;
- Investing in reliable and resilient energy infrastructure to strengthen Virginia’s business climate; and
- Preparing Virginia’s workforce to drive the future energy economy.
The full energy plan can be found here.
October 14, 2014 – University Of Delaware Uses On-Campus Wind Turbine to Fund Fellowships
The University of Delaware (UD) has announced it is now funding graduate fellowships through the sale of renewable energy credits (RECs) from the university's 2 MW wind turbine. UD uses the turbine, which has been in operation at its Hugh R. Sharp Campus for about four years, to provide wind energy training and bolster research.
According to a UDaily report, the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp. has inked a three-year agreement to buy the turbine's RECs in support of the new Graduate Fellowship for Wind Energy Research program.
UD has already chosen its first recipients: a doctoral candidate focusing on offshore wind optimization and a master’s degree student focusing on geological aspects of offshore wind development.
In addition, UD says it has launched a new Graduate Certificate in Wind Power Science, Engineering and Policy. More information about the certificate can be found here.
October 10, 2014 – MidAmerican Plans $280M Investment to Expand Its Iowa Wind Energy Portfolio
Utility company MidAmerican Energy Co. has announced plans to invest up to $280 million more in Iowa wind generation to develop one new wind farm site in Adams County and expand a second site in O'Brien County.
If approved, the company's proposed wind project would result in the installation of up to 67 wind turbines. The project, scheduled for completion by the end of 2015, would add up to 162 MW of new wind generation capacity in Iowa.
Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy, said the new project reflects the company’s commitment to the development of renewable energy. Using wind as the fuel source to generate energy for this project helps the company reduce its fuel costs, which, in turn, helps stabilize electric rates for customers. Energy costs passed through to customers are projected to be reduced by approximately $93 million over 10 years, according to MidAmerican.
Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, joined Fehrman at a news conference to announce the latest wind expansion project.
“Iowa has attracted major tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, because of our low energy prices and commitment to renewable energy,” said Branstad. “MidAmerican Energy’s newest wind project will help the state meet the demand for renewable energy that is attracting major companies and high-quality jobs to Iowa.”
MidAmerican says it is working with county officials and landowners to secure development and interconnection rights for the project sites. The company expects these sites to provide more than $40 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years, along with annual landowner payments.
Blades for the new turbines will be manufactured locally at the Siemens facility in Fort Madison, Iowa. The next step in the development process is for MidAmerican to file for approval of its wind expansion project with the Iowa Utilities Board. If the board approves the project, construction could start in the summer of 2015, with completion by the end of that year.
Coupled with projects currently under way in Grundy, Madison, O’Brien and Webster counties, MidAmerican Energy says it will have approximately 3.5 GW of wind generation capability in Iowa by year-end 2015. With the completion of this newest project, MidAmerican says it will have invested more than $6 billion for wind generation development in Iowa, making wind approximately 40% of its electric generator nameplate capacity.
October 10, 2014 – Poll Shows Albertans Support Development of More Wind Energy
Almost 80% of Albertans say the government of Alberta has not done enough to develop wind power and other renewable forms of large-scale electricity generation, according to a recent survey.
Nanos Research performed the public opinion poll on behalf of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). Nanos Research examined the views of Albertans on a wide range of electricity issues, focusing on the largest sources of electricity generation currently operating in Alberta. Currently, Alberta ranks third in Canada for installed wind capacity, with more than 1.1 GW.
According to the survey, Albertans give wind energy the highest “very favorable” rating, receiving 35% of the vote, followed by hydroelectricity (34.3%). However, natural gas was considered the most overall favorable resource (a mix of “very” and “somewhat” favorable), receiving 78.2% of the vote, with wind energy receiving 70.5%.
Furthermore, the study says 91.4% of respondents agree or somewhat agree that renewable sources like wind are an important part of Alberta’s energy future, and 83.8% agree or somewhat agree that the Alberta government should provide financial support for developing renewable energy.
CanWEA says that if Alberta Premier Jim Prentice “is committed to achieving cost-effective, long-term greenhouse-gas emission reductions in the electricity sector as part of addressing climate change, wind energy will need to play a primary and growing role in Alberta’s electricity system.”
“The good news,” the association adds, “is that new opinion polling data shows Albertans are firmly behind him in doing so.”
October 9, 2014 – IRS Urges Congress to Take Prompt Action on Tax Extenders
John Koskinen, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is urging Congress to promptly make a decision on whether or not to renew dozens of tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Koskinen emphasizes that action must be taken "as early as possible when Congress returns [from recess] and no later than the end of November" in order to avoid problematic delays to the 2015 tax filing season.
In April, the Senate Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act, a tax extenders package that would renew over 50 expired provisions, including the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power and wind developers’ option to choose a 30% investment tax credit in lieu of the PTC. However, the full Senate stalled the legislation in May amid partisan feuding and have yet to revisit the bill.
Koskinen warns that such inaction is causing concern at his agency. “The IRS is currently facing a great deal of uncertainty related to the expired provisions, which raises serious operational and compliance risks,” he writes.
"This uncertainty, if it persists into December or later, could force the IRS to postpone the opening of the 2015 filing season and delay the processing of tax refunds for millions of taxpayers," adds Koskinen. If Congress waits until 2015 to make a decision and passes retroactive changes, he says the problems could be even worse.
“It has been over six months since the Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act with strong bipartisan support,” says Wyden. “As the 2015 filing season begins to loom large, it is more urgent than ever that Congress moves in a decisive and bipartisan way to renew expired tax provisions that will give taxpayers the certainty they need to plan their finances.”
“As the economy begins to show signs of strength, uncertainty from the federal tax code is the last thing American businesses and families need as they look to grow and invest,” he continues. “Congress needs to act swiftly on these important tax provisions so it can get to work on a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code and lift the fog of uncertainty from taxpayers.”
Notably, there have been some signs of encouragement for the wind industry lately, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowing in September to bring the EXPIRE Act to a vote by year’s end and U.S. Representatives introducing a similar tax extenders bill in September.
October 9, 2014 – Ontario Beer Retailer Raises a Glass to Green Energy, Launches Pilot Program
The Beer Store, an Ontario beer retailer operating over 400 locations, has teamed up with Bullfrog Power, a Canadian green energy provider, to launch a pilot program at seven of its stores.
Under the partnership, Bullfrog Power will provide renewable energy credits to match the power consumption of the Beer Store locations. Bullfrog says it sources its green electricity from a blend of wind energy and hydropower across Canada.
"This announcement marks the first phase of the partnership between Bullfrog Power and The Beer Store and is part of a broader commitment to supporting green energy," says Shaun Lewis, vice president of sales at Bullfrog Power. "By choosing green electricity with Bullfrog Power, The Beer Store is reducing its environmental impact and helping to advance new renewable energy projects in Canada."
"The Beer Store has a long tradition of being at the forefront of environmental sustainability through our strong focus on recycling and by placing environmental leadership at the core of our values," adds Ted Moroz, president of The Beer Store. "Our partnership with Bullfrog Power marks the latest chapter in The Beer Store's environmental story by demonstrating our commitment to building on our past successes and finding innovative new ways to make greener choices."
October 9, 2014 – U.S. Industry Expects Tipping Point for Offshore Wind
Many company executives and wind power stakeholders believe the U.S. offshore wind industry is turning a corner, with construction of more than one offshore project set to begin in 2015, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). This week, industry members and government officials met at AWEA's 2014 Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition in Atlantic City to discuss the growing sector.
"We are going to put steel in the water in 2015," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA, during the conference. "By developing offshore wind power, we can create well-paying jobs, attract billions of dollars in private investment into our national economy and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions for generations to come.”
AWEA says offshore wind projects off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts are aiming to start construction next year and bring an energy source familiar in Europe to the U.S. for the first time.
“This is the year it happens,” said Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, developer of the Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island and three other projects. “We are nine months away from the installation of our first foundations.”
Also forging ahead is the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, Mass. "It's an exciting time for the U.S. offshore wind industry,” said Dennis Duffy, vice president of regulatory affairs for Energy Management Inc., developer for Cape Wind. “Cape Wind is closing its financing this fall and looking forward to the start of construction."
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered the keynote address at the AWEA conference, saying, "America's offshore areas contain tremendous wind energy potential.”
“I am encouraged by the collaborative spirit and the thoughtful planning that has been the hallmark of our approach to ensure that development is realized in the right way and in the right places," said Jewell. "Offshore wind is an exciting new frontier that will help keep America competitive and expand domestic energy production, all without increasing carbon pollution."
Although the U.S. offshore wind power industry is gaining momentum, AWEA says many industry leaders recognize that to maintain it, Congress must provide policy stability by extending both the production tax credit (primarily used by land-based projects) and the investment tax credit (used by offshore and community wind developers) by the end of the year.
AWEA’s Kiernan emphasized this urgent need: “Congress must extend both these successful tax policies that have attracted up to $25 billion a year in new private investment to the U.S. economy. With these policies in place, wind power has been able to improve its technology and lower its costs by 58 percent over the last five years, saving consumers on their electric bills.”
Regardless of policy uncertainty, many in the industry remain optimistic about U.S. offshore wind. John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation, said, “After many years of hard work by members of the offshore wind community and its friends and allies, projects are going into the water soon. Once people see it, they know it’s real; it’s part of everyday business. Everything changes from here on out.”
October 3, 2014 – Fishermen's Says N.J. Offshore Wind Project Will Create 500 Jobs
As it continues its long battle for project approval from New Jersey regulators, offshore wind developer Fishermen's Energy has released a "Job Creation and Economic Content" report.
According to the report, the developer's 25 MW demonstration wind project off the coast of Atlantic City will create almost 500 jobs and bring more than $150 million in direct investment into New Jersey.
“This project is just a down payment on job creation,” says Chris Wissemann, CEO of Fishermen’s Energy. “Iowa took a leadership position in the land-based wind business a decade ago and garnered more than 80 new suppliers and generated more than 3,200 jobs in that state. New Jersey is poised to do the same in offshore wind.”
In March, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) rejected Fishermen’s project application, claiming that the energy price was too high. The developer maintained that its proposed price was much lower and appealed the ruling.
“We expect that with our lower price supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will approve the project and make way for this vital job creation,” says Wissemann.
October 3, 2014 – Alberta City Offsetting Power Use With Renewable Energy Credits
The City of Red Deer, Alberta, has entered into a contract with electricity retailer Bow Valley Power to buy renewable energy credits (RECs).
Under the agreement, Red Deer will purchase the equivalent of 11,842,000 kWh of green power to offset electricity use this year. This covers 25% of the City's power requirements. The EcoLogo-certified RECs are produced from renewable sources such as biomass, wind, solar and hydro.
"We are proud to provide the City of Red Deer with green power. A commitment to buying green power speaks volumes about their dedication to sustainability and their commitment to the future," says Charlie Bredo, president of Bow Valley Power.
October 2, 2014 – MVP Transmission Projects Are Exceeding Expectations, Says MISO
MISO, a regional transmission organization whose footprint includes 15 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, says that the benefits of its Multi-Value Project (MVP) portfolio not only remain intact, but also are greater than originally estimated.
The MVP portfolio was first approved by the MISO board of directors in 2011. The portfolio consists of 17 transmission projects designed to address regional reliability needs, deliver economic benefits, and provide greater access to renewable energy resources - especially wind power - across the MISO footprint.
According to MISO, its latest review found that the MVP portfolio does the following:
- Enables 43 million MWh of wind energy annually to meet renewable energy mandates and goals - 2 million MWh more than what a 2011 analysis estimated;
- Creates net economic benefits for customers, with $13 billion to $50 billion expected over the next 20 to 40 years - a substantial increase from 2011 estimates; and
- Provides benefits in excess of its costs, with its benefit-to-cost ratio ranging from 2.6 to 3.9 - significantly higher than the range of 1.8 to 3.0 previously calculated.
MISO says the review also found that the MVP portfolio reduces carbon emissions from electric generating units by 9 million to 15 million tons annually, as well as continues to support the creation of thousands of local jobs and billions of dollars in local investment.
"This study confirms that the MVP portfolio will deliver significant value across the MISO region," comments Jennifer Curran, MISO’s vice president of system planning and seams coordination. "As generation supply tightens across the MISO footprint, these MVPs will play a key role in ensuring access to reliable, low-cost energy."
According to MISO, the increases in benefit projections are primarily attributed to natural gas price assumptions and declining capacity reserves.
The full MISO report is available here.
October 2, 2014 – NV Energy Seeks 100 MW of New Renewables
Las Vegas-based NV Energy has announced it is seeking proposals to secure up to 100 MW of additional renewable energy resources. The utility says this request for proposals (RFP) is for its operating company in Southern Nevada, and subsequent 100 MW RFPs will be issued in 2015 and 2016.
Merrimack Energy Group will serve as the independent evaluator for the RFP, with PowerAdvocate providing the response platform and related technology for the process. Bids are due Nov. 12, and NV Energy anticipates finalizing a shortlist by Feb. 17, 2015. Additional information is available here.
October 2, 2014 – BNEF: Clean Energy Investment Still on Track to Recovery
World clean energy investment in the first three quarters of this year was 16% ahead of the same period in 2013, at $175.1 billion, making it almost certain that 2014 will produce a bounce-back in dollars invested after two years of decline, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The report says clean energy investment in the July-to-September quarter was $55 billion, up 12% from the $48.9 billion achieved in the third quarter of 2013 (Q3’13). The report notes that the third quarter is generally weaker than the second quarter, as it was this year, with the Q3'14 total 16% down on a strong $65.2 billion in Q2'14.
Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at BNEF, comments, “It is heartening to see investment heading for an up-year in 2014 after two down-years, thanks in large part to the greatly enhanced competitiveness of solar and, to some extent, wind.
"However, there is no room for complacency because clean energy investment of between $200 billion and $300 billion a year is not large enough to herald the rapid transformation of the power system that experts say is required if the world is to see a peak in CO2 emissions around 2020. There is still too much policy instability holding back investor confidence."
The Q3'14 figures show global asset finance for clean energy projects such as wind farms, solar parks and geothermal plants reaching $33.3 billion, up slightly from $32.8 billion in the third quarter of last year. Investment in small-scale projects such as rooftop solar was $18.3 billion, up from $13.9 billion a year earlier, while equity capital raised by specialist clean energy companies on the public markets was $2.7 billion, up from $2 billion in Q3’13. Venture capital and private equity investment was $918 million in Q3’14, up from a multi-year low of $592 million in the same quarter of 2013.
The report says a regional breakdown of clean energy investment shows the continuing troubles of the sector in Europe, where just $8.8 billion was committed last quarter, the lowest figure for over eight years, down from $12.1 billion a year ago. There was a notably weak total in the U.K., at $789 million, down from $3.1 billion a year earlier as policy uncertainties took a toll. The report says Germany was at $1.5 billion compared to $1.6 billion in Q3’13, and Italy was at just $262 million compared to $1 billion, reflecting the impact on investor confidence of retroactive cuts in support for existing solar projects. France saw a rise to $1.4 billion from $951 million in Q3’13.
Meanwhile, the U.S. saw clean energy investment of $7.3 billion in Q3’14, well down from $10.7 billion in Q2’14 but up from $5.7 billion in the third quarter of last year. Overall, Chinese clean energy investment was $19.9 billion in Q3’14, up from $15.1 billion a year earlier, while India’s investment totaled $2 billion, up from $1.3 billion.
The report says Canadian investment was $1.9 billion, up from $1.3 billion, and Brazil’s was $863 million, up slightly from $830 million but still one of that country’s weakest quarterly figures for many years.
“The third-quarter data owed a lot to solar in China and Japan,” notes Luke Mills, associate of clean energy economics at BNEF. “We would expect to see a broader range of countries and technologies attracting investment in the billions of dollars in the fourth quarter, traditionally the busiest of the year for clean energy.”
October 1, 2014 – Missouri Utility's Proposal Has Major Focus on Clean Energy
Ameren Missouri has filed a 20-year plan that the utility says supports cleaner energy in the state, including major expansions of wind and solar power.
Every three years, the utility files its Integrated Resource Plan with the Missouri Public Service Commission. The plan examines electric customers' projected long-term energy needs and describes Ameren Missouri's preferred approach to meeting those needs. The utility, a subsidiary of Ameren Corp., says this latest plan proposes to transition its generation fleet to a cleaner and more fuel-diverse portfolio over the next two decades as older energy centers reach the end of their useful lives.
Under the proposed plan, Ameren Missouri would add nearly 500 MW of renewable power generation, including 400 MW of wind power, 45 MW of solar, 28 MW of hydroelectric and 5 MW of landfill gas. Together with other planned changes to its generation resources, the utility says this would allow the utility to achieve a 30% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2035, based on 2005 levels.
The plan also calls for continuing to offer energy efficiency programs, retiring approximately one-third (about 1.8 GW) of Ameren Missouri's current coal-fired generating capacity, continuing to rely on existing nuclear generation, and adding 600 MW of combined-cycle natural gas generation.
"We are committed to accomplishing this transition to cleaner energy in a way that is cost-effective and environmentally responsible while maintaining the reliability our customers expect," says Michael Moehn, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Missouri.
Ameren Missouri adds that its plan includes a diverse mix of energy resources in order to ensure customers get dependable power while keeping rates reasonably priced.
"Ameren Missouri residential rates are more than 20 percent below the national average, 16 percent below the average of Midwest states and the lowest of any investor-owned utility in the state of Missouri - and it's important for us to maintain rates that are reasonably priced," says Moehn.
October 1, 2014 – Vestas Receives Order For 49 MW Wind Project in Uruguay
Vestas has received an order for 16 V112-3.0 MW turbines for the Kiyu wind farm in Uruguay. The turbines are scheduled to be delivered in the first quarter of 2015 and commissioned by the end of that year. Taxway SA, which is fully owned by Spain-based Grupo Cobra, placed the order.
The 49 MW contract comprises delivery, installation and commissioning of the turbines, as well as a five-year service agreement. This service option includes the VestasOnline surveillance system to remotely control and monitor the turbines and to enable Vestas to carry out predictive maintenance.
Vestas says that once installed, the Kiyu wind power plant will have an estimated annual production of approximately 187,000 MWh, generating green electricity for more than 170,000 people in Uruguay, roughly 5% of the country's population.
September 30, 2014 – Wind and Solar Are Catching Up With Nuclear Power, Says Report
Advocates of nuclear energy have long been predicting its renaissance, yet this mode of producing electricity has been stalled for years. Renewable energy, by contrast, continues to expand rapidly, even if it still has a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute.
The independent research organization says nuclear energy's share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6% in 1996 to 10.8% in 2013. Renewables increased their global share from 18.7% in 2000 to 22.7% in 2012.
Citing statistics from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the report says that following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 GW in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013. The report says 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.
In stark contrast, the report says wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Global wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The report says 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. Citing estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the report says nuclear investments averaged $8 billion per year between 2000 and 2013, compared with $37 billion for solar PV and $43 billion for wind. The report notes that 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, the report notes. Among members of the IEA (most European countries, the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand), nuclear power has received the lion's share of public energy research and development (R&D) budgets during the last four decades. The report says nuclear energy attracted $295 billion, or 51%, of total energy R&D spending between 1974 and 2012. However, this number has declined over time, from a high of 73.6% in 1974 to 26% today. The report says renewable energy received a cumulative total of $59 billion during the same period (10.2%), but its share has risen year after year.
The report argues that 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, the report says 31 countries are operating nuclear reactors on their territories. This compares to at least 85 countries that have commercial wind turbine installations.
The report says the chances of a nuclear revival seem slim. Renewable energy, on the other hand, appears to be on the right track.
September 30, 2014 – Massachusetts Clean Energy Sector Sees Double-Digit Job Growth, Again
Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., has announced that the Massachusetts clean energy sector saw double-digit job growth for the third consecutive year and now employs more than 88,000 workers in the state.
The 2014 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report shows that the state's clean energy sector has grown by nearly 50% since 2010 and now includes 88,372 employees and 5,985 businesses. From July 2013 to July 2014, clean energy jobs in Massachusetts grew by 10.5%.
“We have long believed that a strong commitment to investing in clean energy would not only provide significant environmental benefits, but would also serve as an economic catalyst in the commonwealth,” says Patrick. “This sustained job growth proves our strategy is working and working well.”
Although energy efficiency represents the largest segment of the state’s clean energy workplace, with 65,000 workers, renewable energy accounts for nearly 21,000 jobs. More than 12,000 of the renewables jobs are related to Massachusetts’s growing solar industry, followed by employment in other technology sectors, including nearly 2,000 jobs in hydroelectricity and 1,100 jobs in bioenergy.
Meanwhile, the wind power sector in Massachusetts is also growing, now totaling more than 3,000 jobs. The state currently has 103 MW of installed wind capacity, but with the emergence of offshore wind, the report says the sector appears promising for continued growth in the future.
Notably, a site off the coast of Massachusetts was one of two parcels that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) leased last year in the U.S.' first-ever federal offshore wind auction. In June, the DOI announced plans to auction another lease for over 742,000 acres off the state's coast.
Furthermore, Cape Wind, developer of a 468 MW offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound, recently signed a lease agreement to stage its project out of a Massachusetts terminal.
According to the report, the Massachusetts clean energy sector is now a $10 billion industry, responsible for 2.5% of the gross state product. The report adds that employers are optimistic about the future, predicting a 13.3% jump in clean energy employment over the next year, with clean energy jobs expected to surpass 100,000 in early 2015.
“The clean energy industry is no longer a niche sector of the Massachusetts economy,” says Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Alicia Barton. “It’s a vibrant market with jobs spanning all aspects of the supply chain and across a wide breadth of technologies.”
The Clean Energy States Alliance, a national coalition of state and municipal clean energy funds, has praised Massachusetts for its progress.
“With this report, Massachusetts demonstrates its leadership on both energy efficiency and renewable energy,” says Warren Leon, executive director of the alliance. “The report offers solid evidence that clean energy technologies and deployment offer multiple benefits, and that state policy can be a key driver for the rapid growth of the clean energy industry.”
Leon adds, “Other states should consider developing similar reports so that they, too, can track the job-related impacts of their clean energy programs.”
September 29, 2014 – Big-Name Companies Commit to 100% Renewables Campaign
Large companies, including IKEA, H&M, Mars and Nestle, recently joined a group of non-governmental organizations and clean energy stakeholders to launch a multiyear initiative to encourage major businesses to commit to using 100% renewable power.
Led by The Climate Group - in partnership with CDP, the International Renewable Energy Agency and others - the RE100 campaign will showcase how companies are making the journey toward 100% renewable power. RE100 will also engage business leaders, policymakers and financial institutions to encourage their role in accelerating a clean energy future. Ultimately, the campaign’s goal is that, by 2020, 100 of the world’s largest businesses will have committed to 100% renewables.
Thus far, at least IKEA, Swiss Re, BT, Commerzbank, Formula E, H&M, KPN, Mars, Nestle, Philips, Reed Elsevier, J. Safra Sarasin and Yoox have all made firm commitments. Some of the companies, such as IKEA, had previously announced their renewables target.
Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer of IKEA, says, “Investing in renewable power makes complete business sense. It aligns with our corporate expectations on financial returns and our values. So far, we have generated 1,425 GWh of power from renewable sources. We plan to invest approximately EUR 1.5 billion in new renewable energy projects to meet [our] 100 percent by 2020 goal - and RE100 is a great way to tell our story.”
Swiss Re says it recognizes the business opportunity of renewable energy, too. “We decided on a 100 percent renewable power approach because, as a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance and insurance, we believe that tackling climate change while meeting the energy needs of a growing and developing world is an urgent matter,” explains Juerg Trueb, head of environmental and commodity markets at Swiss Re.
Ben Ferrari, The Climate Group’s director of partnerships, highlights the focus for the campaign in the coming year: “We are delighted with the ambition of leading companies to go 100 percent renewable. We plan to continue to grow this group and expand our outreach in China and India over the coming year. It is an exciting time for renewable power.”
September 29, 2014 – Xcel Powers Up Texas Line Slated to Help Carry Wind Energy
Xcel Energy has announced that the TUCO-to-Woodward transmission project, built between the company's TUCO substation in Texas and the Oklahoma state line, has been energized. In addition to boosting grid reliability, the 345-kV transmission line is expected to provide more export capacity for wind energy generated from area wind farms.
Xcel Energy built the line from TUCO to just east of the Texas-Oklahoma boundary in Beckham County, Okla., and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. built a segment connecting from Beckham County to Woodward, Okla. The total cost for Xcel's portion of the line is approximately $205 million, shared among the member utilities of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). The project is one of 22 improvements grouped in the Power for the Plains enhancement project, which was launched after a 2010 SPP study. Of these 22 projects, 11 have been completed.
“Electricity demand has grown phenomenally across northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico, driving the need for more power and enhanced delivery systems,” says David Hudson, president and CEO of Southwestern Public Service Co., an Xcel Energy company. “These connections boost reliability and save customers money in the long run by opening this region to new power markets.”
In addition to the TUCO-Woodward project, Xcel Energy says it currently has more than 1,000 miles of 345-kV projects in permitting and under construction in seven states.
September 29, 2014 – Houston Park Continues to Embrace Wind Power
Discovery Green, a 12-acre park created by a public-private partnership between the City of Houston and the non-profit Discovery Green Conservancy, has renewed its commitment to power the park and facilities with renewable energy credits (RECs) from Green Mountain Energy.
Discovery Green first teamed up with Green Mountain in 2008, and the park has utilized 100% wind-powered RECs since 2012. This new contract will extend the commitment through 2016. Over the next two years, Discovery Green is estimated to avoid an additional 6.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
“We like to think of the park as an oasis amidst the bustling city of Houston, and choosing 100 percent wind energy from Green Mountain plays a large role in helping us maintain our mission,” says Barry Mandel, president of Discovery Green. “Renewable energy is just one piece of the puzzle of environmental sustainability that is expanding our efforts to go green.”
September 26, 2014 – Interior Dept. Proposes Competitive Leasing Process to Help Spur Renewables in the West
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced a new competitive leasing process by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) meant to help spur solar and wind energy development on public lands in the West.
"This competitive process will encourage access to leasing opportunities for renewable energy projects, create greater certainty for developers and provide a fair market return to American taxpayers for the use of public lands," says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. "The competitive proposal will help move the United States toward a cleaner environment - cutting carbon pollution and creating American jobs, while supplying communities with reliable and affordable power.”"
According to the DOI, the proposed regulations would promote the use of "designated leasing areas," such as the BLM’s Solar Energy Zones. The rule would establish competitive processes, terms and conditions (including rental and bonding requirements) for solar and wind energy development right-of-ways (ROWs) both inside and outside the designated leasing areas and provide incentives for leases in designated leasing areas. The DOI notes that existing regulations limit the competitive process to situations involving overlapping ROW applications.
As part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013, the president directed the DOI to approve at least 20 GW of renewable energy capacity on public lands by 2020. The department notes that it had already approved more than 10 GW of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands between 2009 and 2013.
The competitive leasing proposal has been published in the Federal Register, kicking off a 60-day comment period that closes on Dec. 1.
This announcement comes just days after the DOI and a California state agency released the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. According to the DOI, the plan is a landscape-level blueprint for conservation and streamlined renewable energy development, covering more than 22 million acres in the California desert. However, the California Wind Energy Association has voiced its concern, claiming that the draft plan, as currently proposed, “could end most wind energy development in California.”
September 25, 2014 – Southern California Edison Opens Tehachapi Energy Storage Project
Southern California Edison (SCE) has opened the 32 MWh Tehachapi Energy Storage Project, which the utility describes as the largest battery-based storage installation in North America. The project is located in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area, which is projected to generate up to 4.5 GW of wind energy by 2016.
The $50 million demonstration project is funded by SCE and federal stimulus money awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The battery energy storage system features lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries housed inside a 6,300 square-foot facility at SCE's Monolith substation in Tehachapi, Calif. The battery system, supplied by LG Chem, comprises 604 battery racks, 10,872 battery modules and 608,832 individual battery cells - the same Li-ion cells installed in battery packs for General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt.
"This installation will allow us to take a serious look at the technological capabilities of energy storage on the electric grid," says Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager in the DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. "It will also help us to gain a better understanding of the value and benefit of battery energy storage."
Over a two-year period, the project will examine the performance of the Li-ion batteries in actual system conditions. SCE also will evaluate its ability to automate operations of the battery energy storage system for integration with the utility grid. Primary goals of the project are to demonstrate the effectiveness of Li-ion battery and smart inverter technologies for improved grid performance and to assist in the integration of variable renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power.
"The role of energy storage in the electric grid will continue to increase with the growth of renewable energy and distributed energy systems, and our collaboration with SCE will provide key insights for current and future energy storage projects," says Sung-Hoon Jang, vice president of the energy solutions group at LG Chem.
September 25, 2015 – Bank of America Announces $10 Billion Initiative to Boost Clean Energy Investments
Bank of America has announced an initiative designed to stimulate at least $10 billion of new investment into clean energy projects. According to the company, the Catalytic Finance Initiative will focus on developing or advancing innovative financing structures that reduce investment risk, thereby attracting a broader range of institutional investors.
"We want to take a leadership role in helping remove barriers to investment in clean energy projects around the world," says Brian Moynihan, Bank of America's CEO. "The capital we commit and our strong global client and institutional investor relationships can lead to considerable additional investments in a lower-carbon future."
As part of the initiative, Bank of America says it will commit $1 billion in capital to investment structures that employ a range of de-risking tools, developed in conjunction with development finance institutions (DFIs), insurance providers, foundations and institutional investors. The goal of the initiative is to make clean energy investments more financeable, particularly in emerging markets where project impact is often amplified - addressing other large-scale issues like health, education and job creation.
The company says the Catalytic Finance Initiative will broaden the impact of the bank’s work with partner organizations and ensure that at least $10 billion of incremental capital is deployed in investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy access. It will target primarily larger-scale financing opportunities that use de-risking structures such as first loss and mezzanine tranches, risk guarantees and new insurance products to crowd-in capital that would not otherwise be deployed in this sector. The bank says it will also explore opportunities to work with foundations and impact-focused clients to support smaller energy access opportunities, using catalytic first-loss capital and other forms of credit support.
“In recent years, there’s been increased focus on de-risking tools that can be used to support clean energy and energy efficiency investment,” says Purna Saggurti, Bank of America Merrill Lynch chairman of global corporate and investment banking. “We look forward to expanding our work with DFIs, investors and peers to develop approaches to credit enhancement, blended finance and aggregation structures that will open the door for a rapid rise in investment in this area.”
September 23, 2014 – New U.S. House Bill Includes Wind PTC Extension
U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa - along with 16 more members of Congress - recently introduced new legislation to extend expired clean energy incentives, including the production tax credit (PTC). The bill has received much fanfare and comes as other leaders in Congress keep pushing to jump-start a similar bill, the stalled EXPIRE Act, in the U.S. Senate.
Blumenauer says H.R.5559, called the "Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act of 2014," would extend critical incentives for two years in order to provide market certainty, strengthen investment, and make sure clean energy is on an even playing field with the fossil fuel industry.
For example, the legislation would extend the PTC, as well as a wind developers’ option to choose an investment tax credit (ITC) in lieu of the PTC, through 2016. The bill would also allow the solar industry to access credits at the start of a project’s construction. The legislation contains many provisions for other clean energy resources, such as energy efficiency and biofuels.
“I’m eager to push this across the finish line this Congress,” comments Blumenauer. “My state of Oregon is a leader in renewable energy technologies, and Dave’s state of Iowa is the second largest wind energy producer in the nation, so we understand the importance of stability and security in the clean energy sector.”
Loebsack adds, “The production tax credit has helped the still-growing U.S. wind energy industry employ 80,000 Americans, including thousands of Iowans. Like all businesses, the wind energy sector needs stability and predictability so long-term investments and business decisions can be made.
“The continued expiration of the PTC causes slow-downs at manufacturing facilities and could lead to additional layoffs,” he adds. “For our nation to move toward energy independence and continued job growth, we need to prioritize clean energy like wind and act immediately to pass this extension of the PTC.”
Environmental advocates have welcomed the legislation. Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says, “Americans are suffering right now because some in Congress are blocking tax incentives for clean energy.”
Matzner continues, “This commonsense bill sends a clear message: When Congress returns in November, anyone who cares about saving jobs and cutting pollution should make restoring clean energy incentives priority one.”
The Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) has also praised H.R.5559 for including an extension of the ITC option.
Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the DWEA, says, “A renewed ITC will provide business certainty to the community and distributed wind segments of the wind industry that are generally unable to utilize the PTC. This incentive enables them to continue to drive economic development across farms, schools, business and communities across the country.
“Distributed wind projects are present in all 50 states, providing clean, homegrown, affordable power - helping to keep the lights on and Americans at work. In order for this industry to continue to grow and expand, we urge swift passage of the ITC when Congress returns from recess.”
September 23, 2014 – Companies Propose $8 Billion Wind, Energy Storage Project to Power Los Angeles
Four companies have teamed up to propose an $8 billion initiative to bring large amounts of clean electricity to the Los Angeles area by 2023. The project would require construction of a 2.1 GW wind farm in Wyoming, one of the world's biggest energy storage facilities in Utah, and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites.
"This project would be the 21st century's Hoover Dam - a landmark of the clean energy revolution," says Jeff Meyer, managing partner of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, one of the four companies involved in the initiative. The other partners include Magnum Energy, Dresser-Rand and Duke-American Transmission. They say the proposed project would generate more than twice the amount of electricity produced by the giant 1930s-era hydroelectric dam in Nevada - 9.2 million MWh per year vs. 3.9 million MWh per year.
Pathfinder would build, own and operate the $4 billion wind farm, located near Chugwater, Wyo., 40 miles north of Cheyenne. According to the company’s website, the wind project would use GE turbines and incorporate over 150,000 acres of private leases with more than 100 ranching and land owner partners.
As for the energy storage project, Pathfinder, Magnum Energy and Dresser-Rand would install a $1.5 billion compressed air energy storage system at a site near Delta, Utah, 130 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Four vertical caverns - carved out of an underground salt formation at the site - would be key components of the storage system.
Each cavern would be about a quarter-mile in height, 290 feet in diameter and 41 million cubic feet in volume. The companies say the four caverns combined would store the energy equivalent of 60,000 MWh of electricity.
During periods of low customer demand, the storage facility would use excess electricity from the Pathfinder wind farm to compress and inject high-pressure air into the caverns for storage. During periods of high customer demand, the facility would use the stored, high-pressure compressed air, combined with a small amount of natural gas, to power eight generators that would produce electricity.
The companies say that linking the wind farm to the energy storage facility would enable the wind project to function largely like a traditional coal, nuclear or natural gas power plant - capable of reliably delivering large amounts of electricity whenever needed, based on customer demand.
The companies add the energy storage facility also would reduce the need for Los Angeles-area utilities to build backup power plants and power lines to serve customers on days when there's no wind, at night when there's no sunlight, and during other periods when traditional wind and solar farms are unable to produce electricity.
Duke-American Transmission, owned by Duke Energy and American Transmission Co., proposes to build the $2.6 billion, 525-mile, high-voltage electric transmission line that would transport the Wyoming wind farm's electricity to the Utah energy storage facility.
The transmission line - a shorter alternative to Duke-American Transmission's previously proposed 850-mile Zephyr transmission project - would traverse Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, with a target in-service date of 2023.
A separate, existing 490-mile transmission line - traversing Utah, Nevada and California - would transport electricity from the Utah energy storage facility to the Los Angeles area.
The four companies say they will formally submit their proposal to the Southern California Public Power Authority by early 2015 in response to the agency's request for proposals to supply the Los Angeles area with renewable energy and electricity storage.
September 23, 2014 – Community Wind Farm in New York Opens Equity Offering
Black Oak Wind Farm LLC, the team behind an 11.9 MW community-owned wind project in New York, says it has opened a new equity investment round for New York residents and companies to join existing investors in owning the project.
Financial consultancy Val-Add Service Corp. and developer Juhl Energy are part of the Black Oak team, which is aiming to build a wind farm featuring seven GE 1.7-100 turbines in the town of Enfield, N.Y. Tetra Tech Construction, based in Gloversville, N.Y., will build the project.
An AA-credit-rated institution is purchasing all the power output from the project for 10 years. The wind farm was also awarded a 10-year contract with NYSERDA for its renewable energy credits and qualifies for the federal investment tax credit. The wind farm is expected to enter commercial operation in fall 2015.
Black Oak says the new investment opportunity comes in two parts: The current round is open only to accredited investors in the New York, and there will be another round this fall for non-accredited investors as well. Black Oak adds it will be hosting meetings throughout the state to present people with in-depth information.
September 22, 2014 - DNV GL Releases Recommended Practice For Offshore Wind HVDC
DNV GL has announced a new recommended practice to help ensure safe connection of offshore wind farms to the transmission grid using high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) technology.
Through a joint project, the company teamed up with the Swedish Transmission Research Institute and nearly a dozen industry players to develop a methodology for technology qualification of offshore HVDC.
DNV GL says that because offshore wind farms are being built farther from the coast and more offshore oil and gas installations are powered from shore, there will be an increasing need for long-distance underwater power transmission and HVDC will often be the preferred solution. However, the company adds, operational experiences with offshore HVDC transmission technologies are very limited, and there is a lack of relevant standards, guidelines and recommendations for stakeholders to rely on.
"Implementation of new technology always introduces uncertainties that imply risk for its developers, manufacturers and end-users,” says DNV GL’s Peter Vaessen. “With this technology qualification, we enable our customers to provide the evidence that the technology used will function within the specified limits with an acceptable level of confidence. Customers can ensure that each step is agreed in advance with the technology provider and the buyer, whilst delivering projects on time."
DNV GL says the new recommended practice is based on the company’s methodology for technology qualification, which has been used extensively for managing technology risks in the oil and gas industry for more than a decade.
Project partners included industry players ABB, Alstom Grid, DONG Energy, Elia, Europacable, Scottish Power, Statkraft, Statnett, Statoil, Svenska Kraftnat and Vattenfall. The recommended practice is available for download here.
September 19, 2014 – Senate Confirms Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as New DOE Deputy Secretary
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) deputy secretary. In her role, Sherwood-Randall will support Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in the management and operation of the DOE.
As a top advisor to President Barack Obama for nearly six years, Sherwood-Randall served as the White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control for the National Security Council, from April 2013 until her Senate confirmation. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the president's principal advisor on Europe, including 49 countries and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Prior to her service in the Obama administration, Sherwood-Randall was a senior research scholar at Stanford University from 2000 to 2008 and a founding principal in the Harvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project from 1997-2008. She was also an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2004-2008.
Sherwood-Randall served in the Clinton administration from 1994 through 1996 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Previously, she co-founded and served as the associate director of Harvard University’s Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project. At the outset of her public service career, Sherwood-Randall was Chief Foreign Affairs and Defense Policy Advisor to then-Sen. Joseph Biden.
“Liz’s confirmation comes at a historic time in our nation’s energy evolution,” comments Moniz. “She joins us with deep expertise in the department’s nuclear security mission, including both nuclear weapons and countering proliferation. Her extensive public service and recent responsibilities on the White House National Security team position her to contribute to the department’s energy and security missions in a major way, both domestically and internationally.”
Sherwood-Randall adds, “I am deeply honored by President Obama’s nomination to this new role and by the trust the Senate has placed in me by confirming me today. I am excited to have this opportunity to serve with Secretary Moniz and the multi-talented Energy Department staff, whose mission is vital to a strong economy and to our national security.”
September 19, 2014 – Liberty Power Supplying Wind-Generated RECs to Convention in Utah
Liberty Power has announced that it will donate renewable energy certificates (RECs) to match 100% of the estimated electricity usage at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's (USHCC) Annual Convention. This is the second year in a row the retail energy supply company will donate RECs as part of its sponsorship of the event.
Liberty Power says the convention is known as the largest gathering of Hispanic business leaders in the U.S., and it will take place this year in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 21-23. The company explains that it will supply enough RECs from U.S. wind energy facilities to match the estimated consumption for the event's venue throughout the three-day convention.
"The USHCC is thrilled to have Liberty Power's support for green energy at our National Convention once again, and we are proud to have their unwavering commitment as a partner of our association," says USHCC President and CEO Javier Palomarez.
September 18, 2014 – Utility-Scale Wind and Solar Keep Getting Cheaper
Utility-scale wind and solar power are increasingly cost-competitive with traditional energy sources such as coal and nuclear, even without subsidies, according to a new report from financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard.
The study, titled "Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis - Version 8.0," also highlights the ongoing need for diverse power generation technologies, especially in regions with limited renewables resources.
“The economics of alternative energy have changed dramatically in the last decade,” comments George Bilicic, vice chairman and global head of Lazard’s Power, Energy & Infrastructure Group. “Utilities still require conventional technologies to meet the energy needs of a developed economy, but they are using alternative technologies to create diversified portfolios of power generation resources.”
The study offers a variety of insights, including the following:
- Land-based wind generation costs continue to decline dramatically. The study estimates that the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of leading wind technologies has fallen by more than 15% in the past year and nearly 60% in the last five years. However, the report does note that offshore wind generation is currently at least twice as expensive as land-based wind and, therefore, not cost-competitive without subsidies.
- The costs of generating electricity from all forms of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) technology also continue to decline dramatically. The study estimates that the LCOE of leading PV technologies has fallen by nearly 20% in the past year and nearly 80% in the last five years. The report says that in many parts of the world, utility-scale solar PV continues to increase its cost advantage over conventional generation as a source of peak energy, without any subsidies (appreciating the important qualitative differences related to dispatch characteristics and other factors). However, the report adds that without subsidies, residential-scale solar PV (rooftop solar panels) remains considerably more expensive than utility-scale solar PV, raising the question of whether subsidies are distorting the long-term energy planning process.
- The study says battery storage technologies, a potential complement to intermittent energy resources such as wind or solar, continue to be very expensive and not cost-competitive without subsidies. However, the LCOE of “next generation” battery storage technologies could decline by as much as 40% by 2017, given expected reductions in capital costs, operations and maintenance costs, and improvements in efficiency.
- Large-scale conventional generation projects (such as IGCC or nuclear) continue to face a number of challenges, including high absolute costs, significant cost contingencies, competition from natural gas in many parts of the world, and policy uncertainty. However, notwithstanding these issues, the report says alternative energy sources will not be capable of meeting the baseload generation needs of an advanced economy for the foreseeable future.
Lazard’s full report is available here.
September 18, 2014 – U.S. DOE Helps Fund Quest for Taller Wind Turbine Towers
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it is awarding $2 million to support two projects focused on manufacturing taller wind turbine towers. Although wind turbines installed in 2013 had an average height of 260 feet, the DOE says the projects will support new techniques to produce towers nearly 400 feet tall.
As the DOE explains, 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.
The DOE says Boston-based Keystone Towers will 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 the company says will be 40% lighter than standard turbine towers, which could lower the cost of energy by 10%.
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. The DOE says that due to the modular design, thicker towers capable of supporting turbines at increased heights can be produced at a reduced cost.
According to the DOE, improving the manufacturing process for taller wind turbine towers supports the department’s broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase U.S. competitiveness in the production of clean energy products and boost domestic manufacturing competitiveness across the board by increasing energy productivity.
September 18, 2014 – Sen. Wyden Calls For Level Playing Field For Clean Energy Incentives
During a hearing on Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for tax reform that creates a level playing field to allow the U.S. clean energy sector to thrive.
"In order to lead the global energy transformation, the United States should strive for energy exceptionalism that addresses the challenges of the 21st century and no longer slows down energy innovators," said Wyden. "It's time to end the crazy quilt of more than 40 energy tax incentives with a modern, technology-neutral approach. Pursuing predictable, level playing-field tax policies could clear the way for America’s clean energy sector to thrive at home and outmatch global competitors.”
Wyden said the tax code must be updated to take the costs and benefits of energy sources into account. He added that U.S. energy policy must reflect factors such as energy efficiency, affordability, pollution and sustainability.
Wyden also called for an end to stop-and-go treatment of certain energy tax incentives - a process that causes uncertainty and hurt investment for clean energy producers. The senator said these short-term extensions put renewables at a disadvantage compared to traditional energy sources that have tax benefits permanently baked into law.
“Congress has developed a familiar pattern of passing temporary extensions of those incentives, shaking hands and heading home,” he said. “But short-term extensions cannot put renewables on the same footing as the other energy sources in America’s competitive marketplace.”
Recently, Wyden publicly called on congressional colleagues to revive the stalled EXPIRE Act, which would extend a slew of expired tax provisions, including the wind energy production tax credit. He said inaction on the legislation was "unacceptable.”
September 18, 2014 – New England Aquarium Offsetting Power Usage with Renewable Energy Credits
The Boston-based New England Aquarium will again be offsetting 100% of its estimated annual electricity usage with renewable energy certificates (RECs), thanks to a donation from GDF SUEZ Energy Resources.
For the sixth consecutive year, GDF will donate the RECs, which represent the environmental attributes or benefits associated with a specific quantity of energy generated from a renewable source, such as wind or solar. In addition to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, RECs encourage the development of domestic sources of renewable energy.a
"We're proud to maintain our support of the New England Aquarium and its ongoing focus on achieving eco-friendly operations," says J.D. Burrows, vice president of marketing for GDF SUEZ Energy Resources. "Helping our customers incorporate sustainable practices in energy strategies is a priority for us. This donation reflects that priority and reinforces our dedication to promoting investments in cleaner energy sources."
"Conservation is at the very foundation of everything we do in our exhibits, educational programs and visitor attractions," adds Nigella Hillgarth, president and CEO of the New England Aquarium. "GDF SUEZ Energy Resources understands that and helps ensure our energy management strategy mirrors this strong commitment to environmental responsibility. We couldn't be more honored to have the company as our retail electricity provider."
September 17, 2014 – EPA Extends Public Comment Period on Carbon Pollution Rules
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will extend the comment period on its proposed Clean Power Plan for 45 days. The plan was released in June and is the EPA's first-ever effort to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said the agency is stretching the comment deadline from Oct. 16 to Dec. 1. According to a Huffington Post article, McCabe told reporters the EPA has seen a “strong amount of interest” and, therefore, aims to give more time to stakeholders. So far, the EPA has received over 750,000 comments and even held public hearings on its Clean Power Plan in July.
“We want the best rule possible, and we want to give people every opportunity to give their ideas and contributions,” explained McCabe. Despite the extension, she said, the EPA still expects to finalize the new rules by President Barack Obama’s June 2015 deadline.
The EPA’s announcement comes about a week after 53 U.S. Senators sent the agency a joint letter requesting a 60-day extension of the public comment period.
“This extension is critical to ensure that state regulatory agencies and other stakeholders have adequate time to fully analyze and comment on the proposal,” the senators wrote. “It is also important to note that the challenge is not only one of commenting on the complexity and sweeping scope of the rule, but also providing an opportunity to digest more than 600 supporting documents released by EPA in support of this proposal.”
At least two signers of the letter - U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb. - have publicly welcomed the 45-day extension.
“It's good for all sides that the EPA listened to the bipartisan group of senators that Senator Fischer and I led by providing more time to review these complex new rules so states, utilities and others potentially impacted by them can comment on them," says Heitkamp in a press release from the two senators.
Environmental groups have also praised the EPA for allowing more time. Liz Perera, the Sierra Club’s climate policy director, says in a statement, “Already, the EPA has shown unprecedented outreach to engage with states, and extending the deadline will only allow for more comments and helpful input to be considered as the EPA finalizes the plan.”
David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says in a separate statement, “It’s critical that EPA adopt the strongest, most effective standards to curb dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. The brief extension … allows for more public input without compromising the president’s deadline for EPA to finalize these first-ever climate pollution limits by next June.”
September 17, 2014 – Report: Global Offshore Wind Market to Reach Almost 40 GW By 2020
With more countries utilizing offshore wind potential, the global offshore wind power market is expected to increase more than fivefold from 7.1 GW in 2013 to 39.9 GW by 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28%, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData.
The company's latest report states that the global offshore wind space registered substantial growth between 2006 and 2013, rising from 0.9 GW in 2006 to 7.1 GW in 2013, at a higher CAGR of 33.9%. Of this, 1.6 GW came online in 2013, driven mainly by the U.K., Germany, Denmark and Belgium.
The report says offshore wind is now expected to become one of the largest renewable power market segments by 2020. The U.K., Germany and China will contribute significantly toward this, thanks to a number of projects currently in the planning and construction stages.
“Offshore wind power is increasingly being explored for its high yield, due to stronger and more consistent winds compared to onshore, and the scope that this provides for the construction of large-scale projects,” explains Swati Singh, GlobalData’s analyst covering power.
“An additional benefit is the fact that future offshore wind power technology development will ensure a decline in the average cost per megawatt, although overall project costs are expected to rise in countries with wind farms planned in deeper water and further from the shore,” Singh continues.
According to the report, the main obstacles that will hinder market growth are environmental concerns, as well as the lack of skilled personnel and sophisticated technology catering to offshore requirements.
Despite these barriers, GlobalData expects offshore wind’s share in the global wind power market to climb from 2.2% in 2013 to 6.1% by 2020, as more countries eye the advantages of the technology.
September 17, 2014 – California ISO, PacifiCorp Outline Implementation Plans For New Energy Market
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) and PacifiCorp have announced they will launch their planned energy imbalance market (EIM) on Oct. 1 in stages to ensure seamless integration.
The ISO and PacifiCorp, two of the largest western U.S. grid operators, partnered in February 2013 to create the real-time energy market. Once fully operational, the EIM is expected to reduce energy costs and help integrate renewables, among other benefits.
For the past several months, the EIM has been tested in a simulation environment. During October, the EIM will run parallel to PacifiCorp’s existing systems, giving both organizations a more accurate view of actual market and operating conditions. PacifiCorp will submit daily schedules of demand and supply to the ISO, with the EIM creating advisory dispatch instructions based on accurate data to optimize the EIM area. Binding dispatches and related financial settlements will begin on Nov. 1.
“I am grateful for the partnership we have with PacifiCorp and our shared commitment to launching a successful market that produces lower energy costs and improves how we integrate renewable resources,” says California ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich.
Pat Reiten - president and CEO of Pacific Power, a unit of PacifiCorp - adds, “The EIM marks an important step toward improving the way energy is managed in the West, and I’m pleased we remain on track to bring the benefits of increased coordination to our customers and the region this fall.”
The ISO says the new market will use technology to automatically meet demand with the lowest-cost resource across the West. This is effective in using excess generation produced by wind and solar resources during especially favorable weather conditions that otherwise would go unused. The increased geographic diversity also means utilities can pool resources and reduce costly reserves, the grid operator adds.
An additional participant, NV Energy, has been given regulatory approval to participate in the EIM in 2015.
September 16, 2014 – ACORE Highlights Western States' Renewable Energy Momentum
The U.S. West saw the addition of nearly 4 GW of new renewable energy last year - equal to more than two-thirds of total 2013 capacity additions in the country, according to a new report from the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). The Western Region update, part of the group's annual Renewable Energy in the 50 States series, covers 13 western states from California to Wyoming.
According to the report, renewable energy is now responsible for over 20% of electricity generation in six western states. Furthermore, the report expects that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cut carbon-dioxide pollutants from power plants will have a significant effect on western states' energy sectors, further increasing the role of renewable energy in the region's overall power mix.
"The American West continues to be the most advanced area of the country for renewable energy," comments lead author Lesley Hunter. "Nearly all available renewable technologies are represented at some scale in the West, from solar thermal to hydrokinetic energy. We should continue to see major investment into the West, driven by falling costs and concerns about carbon pollution and other challenges, such as the water-energy nexus."
ACORE also used data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance to map investing trends. In 2013, the report says the West attracted over a third of the country's combined venture capital, private equity and asset finance investment in the renewable energy sector. Altogether, the region produced approximately 34% of its total electricity generation from renewable energy sources - compared to roughly 13% nationally.
ACORE released a Northeastern Region report in June and will be releasing Midwestern and Southeastern reports later this year.
September 16, 2014 – New Wind Power Study Aims to Put Bird Fatalities in Perspective
Cell towers - and, yes, cats - are responsible for substantially more bird fatalities in North America than are wind turbines, according to a new study.
WEST Inc. and two scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Federal Communications Commission authored the report, which was sponsored by the nonprofit American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI).
The study details the impact of bird fatalities at North American wind farms, and the report authors claim it is the first to measure the relative impact of those fatalities on populations of small passerines, including songbirds.
The study says all bird fatalities from North American wind turbines range from 214,000 to 368,000 annually - a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers, as well as the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion fatalities from cats. Furthermore, the study finds that, of the more than 5 billion small passerines in North America, an estimated 134,000-230,000 - or less than 0.01% - collide annually with wind turbines.
“While total fatality numbers inform the scale of the issue, one of the most important scientific contributions from this research is our new understanding of the level of impact on individual songbird and other small passerine species,” says West Inc.’s Wallace Erickson, lead author of the report.
Commenting on the study’s release, Terry Root, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, says, “These findings come just a week after new reports on some of the truly major threats that all bird populations face today, including climate change, and provide a solid and useful perspective on the relatively minor impact that wind turbines have on populations of birds.”
On Sept. 8, a report by the National Audubon Society for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that climate change threatens the survival of more than half of all species of birds in North America. On Sept. 9, State of the Birds 2014, a report prepared by a 23-member partnership of government agencies and bird conservation organizations, documented the decline of many bird species in North America, particularly from loss of habitat in the arid lands and grasslands of the U.S. due to conversion of wild lands to agriculture and suburban development, among other causes.
“With comprehensive measures to further minimize impacts on birds, wind power is a growing solution to some of the more serious threats that birds face, since wind energy emits no greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change and backs more and more of those and other pollutants out of our energy mix,” says Root.
The AWWI-sponsored study is published in PLOS ONE and available here.
September 16, 2014 – U.S. National Lab Commissioning Two Offshore Wind Buoys
The U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has announced it is commissioning two buoys fitted with meteorological and oceanographic equipment in order to help enable more accurate predictions of the U.S.' offshore wind power potential.
The two 20,000-pound buoys - each worth $1.3 million - are being commissioned and tested by the PNNL in Washington state's Sequim Bay. AXYS Technologies Inc. manufactured the buoys, which carry a bevy of instruments, including LIDAR and acoustic Doppler sensors. Starting in November, they will be deployed for up to a year, with one located near Coos Bay, Ore., and the other near Virginia Beach, Va.
"We know offshore winds are powerful, but these buoys will allow us to better understand exactly how strong they really are at the heights of wind turbines," explains Will Shaw, a PNNL atmospheric scientist. "Data provided by the buoys will give us a much clearer picture of how much power can be generated at specific sites along the American coastline - and enable us to generate that clean, renewable power sooner."
The PNNL notes that although a recent report estimates the U.S. could power nearly 17 million homes by generating more than 54 GW of offshore wind energy, more information is still needed.
September 15, 2014 – Sen. Wyden on Tax Extenders: Congressional Inaction 'Unacceptable'
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has called on congressional colleagues to revive the stalled EXPIRE Act, which would extend a slew of expired tax provisions, including the wind energy production tax credit (PTC).
In a statement released by his office, Wyden said renewing such credits is necessary to give certainty and relief to American workers and businesses.
"It’s unacceptable that inaction by Congress is denying American business the clarity and certainty they need to plan for tomorrow," said Wyden.
"With renewable energy incentives like the wind production tax credit in question, hundreds of millions of dollars in job-creating investments are at risk, and the U.S. is falling further behind its economic competitors, like Germany and China, in transforming its energy markets," he said.
The EXPIRE Act covers more than 50 expired U.S. tax breaks, including the wind PTC. The legislation would retroactively extend the PTC through Dec. 31, 2015 - meaning that wind projects that start construction this year or by the end of 2015 would be eligible to take advantage of the $0.023/kWh incentive. In addition, the bill extends wind developers’ option to choose a 30% investment tax credit in lieu of the PTC.
"The Finance Committee came together this spring to produce the EXPIRE Act in a cooperative, bipartisan way. It wasn’t easy, but it got done," he said, referring to the committee’s action on the bill. However, when the committee passed the legislation to a vote of the full Senate in May, Senate Republicans blocked it.
"Now is the time to revive the EXPIRE Act and renew these important tax provisions while we push ahead on comprehensive reform."
Wyden is the second influential senator to spearhead the cause for wind energy. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed to take up the legislation by the end of the year.
September 11, 2014 – Why States Should Adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard
Some states throughout the U.S. have implemented various policies to encourage renewables and energy efficiency that could be adopted by neighboring states to improve local economies, provide energy security and reduce emissions, according to a new study. In addition, the report says these innovative policies could be particularly valuable as states develop plans to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) pending rules to cut power plant emissions. One effective clean energy policy, the study points out, is a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
Dubbed "The State Clean Energy Cookbook," the study was created by Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance and Hoover Institution's Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy. It was led by former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and former Secretary of State and Treasury George Shultz. Overall, the study analyzes and makes specific recommendations regarding 12 clean energy policies.
According to the report, states seeking to increase renewable power generation significantly should consider adopting or expanding an RPS. An RPS mandates that electricity suppliers generate or procure a certain percentage of electricity from a set of specific clean energy technologies.
Currently, 29 states and Washington, D.C., have RPSs in place, with about half extending through 2020 and most of the rest through 2025. Five additional states have non-binding renewable power deployment goals. The report notes that RPS policies have taken different forms in light of the relative cost of renewable energy technologies and availability of resources.
The study says renewables can be an important part of a state’s electrical generation portfolio. However, sometimes they are more expensive than conventional power generation. Nevertheless, experience to date suggests that any resulting rate increases from RPS implementation have been relatively modest compared to those attributed to other power system infrastructure costs. The study cites a 2014 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) analysis that pegs the increase at approximately 1% of retail rates, with significant state-to-state variation.
The study says RPS policies clearly are effective at increasing renewables generation: Only five of 29 states have fallen below 90% of expected annual progress toward RPS targets. The impacts of the policy are generally well understood, with 10 states having a decade or more of RPS operational experience. Furthermore, the study says RPSs operate at significant scale and drive substantial new investment.
Because they are generally long term and politically stable year-to-year, RPSs have helped to build markets for the supply of renewable generation technologies. The study says the mandates are also one of the few explicit tools available to policymakers and regulators to improve diversity in the power-generation mix. This helps provide a hedge against overall electricity rate volatility, such as from changing natural-gas prices.
Such diversity could also help in the event of fuel supply disruption, the report adds. From an environmental standpoint, RPSs can help reduce local or regional pollutants and associated health impacts from a state’s power sector. An RPS also reduces carbon-dioxide emissions in cases where new renewable generation displaces more carbon- intensive incumbents throughout the regional grid.
The study notes that an RPS, on its own, should be seen as helpful to environmental goals but not a comprehensive strategy to meet power-sector carbon-dioxide emission targets. It is one of several avenues, particularly under the EPA’s proposed carbon emission standards.
A Closer Look
The study also provides analyses of two states with RPS policies. Minnesota, for example, has an RPS ranging from about 25% by 2025 for public utilities to 32% by 2020 for the state’s largest investor-owned utility. The policy was first set out as a voluntary goal in 2001 and now consists of mandatory, utility-specific targets adopted in 2007.
The study says that although Minnesota’s current electric load is served primarily by existing coal and nuclear power, newly added generation in recent years has consisted primarily of wind-generated electricity.
Wind power is an important element of the state’s RPS planning. In 2006, before the mandatory renewable standard was adopted, the state’s utility commission and the state’s second-largest utility both commissioned studies to determine the impact on reliability of operating the Minnesota grid with higher levels of wind power (approximately 20%).
The reports found that doing so would be technically feasible given sufficient thermal power backup and if new transmission development kept up with new renewable deployment. By 2013, about 16% of the state’s electricity was supplied by wind power. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, is the nation’s largest wind-energy provider and is required to meet 25% of its electricity supply with wind by 2020 as part of the state’s RPS.
To help address wind’s dominance in the renewable portfolio, legislators added a 1.5% solar photovoltaic carve-out to the existing overall RPS in 2013, with 10% of that required to be customer-sited distributed generation. The RPS also allows hydropower plants with capacities up to 100 MW, recognizing the surrounding regional grid’s hydro resources.
The study says that although Minnesota’s RPS contains no explicit cost cap, the state’s utility commission is specifically authorized - through “off-ramps”- to intervene and modify the RPS if it determines it to be in the public interest - that is, if it finds unacceptable cost or reliability impacts, as well as transmission bottlenecks. Although this clause is vague, the study says it has a potential advantage by preventing utilities from “racing to the cap” through development of expensive and potentially ineffective renewable projects.
Legislation in 2011 required the state’s utilities to report on how much the RPS was costing customers. The study says that although results have been mixed, the data has helped improve policymaker, regulator, utility and customer understanding of this important policy.
According to the report authors, there are a number of considerations in designing an effective, cost-efficient and fair RPS, including the following:
Which technologies should be eligible to meet RPS targets? Recognizing that an RPS is essentially a technology mandate, the report authors say they believe that the eligibility pool should be defined as broadly as reasonable. This helps ensure that already-deployed and suitable clean energy technologies remain in the mix and that emerging renewable technologies do not face barriers to deployment as they become commercially available. At the same time, if overall RPS eligibility is kept broad, then it may be useful to limit the level of a single technology so it does not dominate the RPS portfolio. Another issue is whether renewable generation on the customer side of the meter should count toward RPS targets.
Should an RPS allow energy efficiency improvements to count in meeting targets? Some states have included energy efficiency as an RPS-eligible resource. While this can provide flexibility, the study says it can also detract from the basic purpose of the RPS - that is, to encourage investment in and deployment of renewable generation and supporting infrastructure. In the report authors’ view, the preferred approach is to encourage improvements in energy efficiency through other policies, such as an energy efficiency resource standard, and adjust RPS targets accordingly.
At what overall level should the RPS be set? Because states may choose to include existing renewable energy or other low-carbon technologies in an RPS, and because compliance periods may vary, the report says there is no correct or universally appropriate RPS target level. Current levels range from 8.5% in Pennsylvania, to 20% in Kansas, to 30% in Colorado, to 33% in California, to 40% in Hawaii. Importantly, the study says experience to date suggests that grid-integration issues have not been major barriers to the deployment of renewable technologies. At the same time, research into cost and reliability issues at higher penetration levels of variable generation is needed as a next generation of likely higher RPS levels is considered.
Should carve-outs be created to encourage diversity in deployed technology type, scale, form or location? The study says LBNL estimates that 88% of RPS capacity additions from 1998 to 2012 came from one technology: wind power, the cost of which for many years has benefited from a relatively mature technology and federal tax benefits. Carve-outs can be used to specify a mix of renewable generation. For example, they can require a share of distributed generation or a modest level of an emerging technology. However, the study says it is important to avoid being too detailed or prescriptive in establishing carve-outs that may not be attainable for reasons of technology, grid integration or cost.
How will RPS costs be allocated among customers in utility cost recovery? If utilities are allowed to pass on the increased costs of renewable power to customers, it is important to ensure that the existing rate design does this fairly across and within user classes. The study says evidence to date suggests that the cost of renewable deployment is manageable in the aggregate, but it is important that it does not become too concentrated and burdensome for any particular subset of customers.
What form will cost-containment measures take? The study says RPS policy should be designed to limit costs in a reasonable way - e.g., through a percentage cost cap or a utility “safety valve” whereby a ceiling is set on per-kilowatt-hour compliance obligations and alternative compliance payments are established. A regulator may also be able to improve RPS cost-effectiveness through the adoption of additional procurement rules and mechanisms. California, for example, has adopted a standard contract and least-cost competitive bidding procedures for utilities to use, with independent oversight. The study says because attributing electric system costs is not trivial, the RPS should designate responsibility and provide funding for independent monitoring and reporting on total cost impacts to consumers, including those related to transmission and capacity as well as avoided costs such as fuel or environmental compliance. The report says this is important for ongoing policy support, especially given the existence of simultaneous, non-RPS power system cost drivers, such as generation replacement, grid investment or new environmental compliance costs.
To what degree will out-of-state renewables count toward RPS targets? The study says that, all else equal, allowing cross-border trade of renewable power will generally reduce total costs by giving states with fewer renewable energy resources access to larger - and perhaps cheaper - supplies in other states. At the same time, the study says the use of out-of-state generation can affect the overall diversity, reliability and security of a state’s electricity supply. For example, long-distance imports may be more subject to point disruption, but they can also help reduce overall weather-related intermittency by providing greater geographic diversity. Also, there are pending cases based on the Commerce Clause challenging the authority of states to limit RPS to in-state sources.
How will responsibility for and costs of supporting grid infrastructure be determined? Because RPSs mandate the development of new-generation infrastructure, this may require investment in new transmission, firming or other supporting infrastructure. The study says protocol for this should be set out explicitly in an RPS, as the cost and availability of new transmission, distribution and firming can significantly affect the success of an RPS. Texas established a Competitive Renewable Energy Zone model, which socializes the cost of developing new transmission lines in advance across all customers. And in California, billions of dollars have been spent developing new transmission capacity, following a structured stakeholder initiative, to help bring rural renewable power resources to coastal demand centers. Much of those costs have likewise been socialized across the state’s investor-owned utility transmission grid.
September 10, 2014 – Wind Turbines at Ohio Honda Transmission Plant Outperforming Expectations
Two wind turbines at Honda Transmission Mfg. of America's Russells Point, Ohio, plant are producing more power than was anticipated when they first began operating in January.
According to Minnesota-based Juhl Energy, which developed and installed the project, the turbines have exceeded the projected power output figures by 6.3%. The two GE turbines, standing 260 feet tall with 160-foot blades, were initially expected to produce upwards of 10,000 MWh of electricity per year, accounting for about 10% of the plant's annual power needs. However, Juhl says machines have outperformed company projections in four of the six months since operation began. At their highest output, the turbines provided 16.26% of the plant's power requirements for the month of April.
"We are extremely pleased with the performance of the wind turbines' production over their first six months," says Gary Hand, vice president of Honda Transmission Mfg. of America. The two turbines, which are owned by ConEdison Solutions, are only a part of Honda’s global goals to reduce the environmental impact of its products and manufacturing operations by 2020. This includes a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from Honda products, as well as significant CO2 reductions from the company's plants and other operations, compared with year 2000 levels.
September 9, 2014 – UMaine Clinches $3.8 Million Federal Offshore Wind Grant
The University of Maine (UMaine)-led consortium behind the planned 12 MW Aqua Ventus offshore wind pilot project has finalized a $3.8 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Aqua Ventus was one of seven U.S. offshore wind projects to receive $4 million in DOE funding in 2012, but the department did not choose the pilot as one of three projects to win a $47 million follow-up grant in May. The DOE did, however, say it would issue UMaine a smaller cooperative research grant to continue the design and engineering work of the 6 MW VolturnUS floating turbine.
A DOE representative signed the new grant on Sept. 5 during an event celebrating the yearlong deployment of a small-scale version of the VolturnUS machine off the coast of Castine, Maine. VolturnUS 1:8, a one-eighth-scale model with more than 50 sensors on board, became the first grid-connected offshore turbine deployed in the Americas in June 2013. The project brought together more than 30 organizations as part of the UMaine-led DeepCwind Consortium.
At the celebration event, U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, commented, “Today’s investment by the Department of Energy is another milestone in [the project's] progress and is a renewed recognition of the excellent work done by so many across Maine who will continue to strive to secure a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy future through VolturnUS.”
According to UMaine, the VolturnUS 1:8 notably withstood 18 severe storms equivalent to 50-year storms and one 500-year storm since it was deployed.
Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, said, “The success of the VolturnUS 1:8 test project deployed off Castine is a critical milestone on our path to allow us to economically harness the enormous wind power far offshore the U.S.”
September 8, 2014 – DOE Awards $4.5 Million to Wind Power R&D Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $4.5 million for four research and development (R&D) projects to help optimize the operation, boost efficiency and improve the environmental performance of wind energy systems.
The DOE says the projects, located in Maine, North Carolina, Nebraska and Texas, will contribute to the department's effort to advance innovative technologies that reduce carbon emissions, as well as support the Obama administration's goal to double renewable energy by 2020. The DOE adds that the projects will pursue R&D not significantly represented in its current portfolio. The projects include the following:
- Biodiversity Research Institute of Gorham, Maine, will receive $1.1 million to develop a stereo-optic camera system to detect and document bird and bat flight behavior in the vicinity of wind turbines. This system will use near-infrared cameras and specialized software to detect animal movements throughout the day and night and will work to automate the identification of different species of birds and bats. The DOE says the project will help researchers better understand potential environmental impacts of wind turbines.
- Texas Tech University in Lubbock will receive $1.4 million to develop a radar-based prototype to measure the flow of wind through wind farms, which the DOE says will increase data availability and lead to improved modeling. While radar platforms have been used extensively in meteorological applications, the department says this will be the first radar system specifically designed for wind energy research. This new design for a modular and portable system will require less power to operate and be able to measure larger areas than currently utilized conventional radar systems, the DOE adds. The project complements the department’s ongoing Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Initiative, which aims to improve wind plant performance by increasing understanding of how wind moves throughout wind farms.
- The University of North Carolina at Charlotte will receive $500,000 to design and build a 30 kW multistage magnetic gearbox, which will be validated for reliability, efficiency and its potential to operate more quietly than currently available generators. The DOE says the project will demonstrate that a magnetically geared generator has the potential to improve the reliability and efficiency of wind turbines.
- The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will receive $1.5 million to develop an online health monitoring system that uses the electric current signals produced by a turbine’s generator in order to track the generator’s performance and help determine when it needs to be repaired. The DOE says this technology could reduce operating costs by decreasing unscheduled downtime due to unplanned maintenance.
September 8, 2014 – Sen. Reid Vows to Bring Wind PTC to a Vote By Year's End
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last week he intends to push for legislation that would extend the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) - and other clean energy incentives - before year's end.
During remarks at the National Clean Energy Summit 7.0, held last week in Las Vegas, Reid acknowledged the importance of extending the wind industry's most important policy mechanism.
"Letting these critical incentives expire is not an option. I’ll bring these incentives to the floor for a vote by the end of the year," Reid said. The conventional wisdom - at least at the conference - has it that Reid will address the PTC during the lame-duck session of Congress.
During his speech, Reid did not specify which legislative vehicle he plans on using to pass a PTC extension; however, the most likely candidate is a stalled extenders package known as the EXPIRE Act.
The EXPIRE Act covers over 50 expired U.S. tax breaks, including the PTC. The legislation would retroactively extend the PTC through Dec. 31, 2015 - meaning that wind projects that start construction this year or by the end of 2015 would be eligible to take advantage of the $0.023/kWh incentive. In addition, the bill extends wind developers’ option to choose a 30% investment tax credit in lieu of the PTC.
In April, the Senate Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act and sent the legislation to the full Senate. However, in May, Senate Republicans blocked the bill.
A Reid spokesperson acknowledges there is a possibility that the EXPIRE Act could again serve as the PTC’s legislative vehicle. Nonetheless, the spokesperson notes that other possibilities remain.
Reid’s proclamation was greeted with optimism by other summit speakers, such as John Podesta, counselor to President Barack Obama.
“We need to renew the credits, and [Reid] is going to get a vote this year,” said Podesta. “And the administration supports Senator Reid’s efforts.”
Podesta, whose duties include overseeing climate change and energy policy, stressed the need to keep the progress going, emphasizing how solar energy has grown 10 times and wind energy has grown three times during the Obama administration.
Regarding the timing of the tax credit vote, Podesta stated it is not going to happen before the mid-term elections.
Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), is optimistic about the legislation getting passed.
“AWEA is very encouraged to hear leaders from Senator Reid to John Podesta to former Secretary [Hillary] Clinton support renewable energy tax credits,” he said. “In particular, to have Senator Reid commit to bringing them to the floor by the end of the year.”
The summit ended with the keynote address by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In her speech, Clinton noted Texas and Iowa are already generating large percentages of their electricity from wind and stated, “There's no reason why other states can't do that as well.”
Clinton said, “Now, the future that I envision is one where we move past, finally, the old false choice between protecting our environment and growing our economy, and instead we decide to do both.”
She later added, “Today, I don't need to tell you that tax incentives for alternative energy investments are unpredictable at best.”
Clinton went on to point out the discrepancies regarding tax credits, stating, “Generous subsidies for fossil fuels are still too easy to come by. In fact, the world spends more than $500 billion subsidizing fossil fuels every year, bloating budgets and creating incentives against innovation and progress.”
Reid’s National Clean Energy Summit brings together clean energy leaders, public officials, business executives, energy policy experts, entrepreneurs, investors, citizens and students to develop U.S. clean energy supplies that will secure greater energy independence and create jobs.
September 5, 2014 – Feds Sign Off on Block Island Offshore Wind Farm
Deepwater Wind has received the final federal approval needed to build its Block Island Wind Farm, a 30 MW offshore wind demonstration project located off the coast of Block Island, R.I. The company says it expects "steel in the water" by summer 2015.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has become the last federal agency to grant its approval of the Block Island project, which Deepwater says has now been completely reviewed and approved by nine state and federal agencies.
“Today marks a pivotal moment, not just for Block Island, but also for the start of a new American industry we’re proud to be leading from here in the Ocean State,” says Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “We’re gratified and emboldened by the thousands of Rhode Islanders and people around the world who have passionately supported our efforts since we embarked on this project more than six years ago. We’re ready to build this project and to bring new jobs and clean energy to the region.”
Earlier this year, Deepwater selected Alstom as its turbine supplier and long-term maintenance and service provider. The developer says it has begun the initial stages of project construction.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is reviewing Deepwater’s application for a right-of-way in federal waters for the Block Island Transmission System, the transmission cable associated with wind farm. Deepwater anticipates receiving BOEM’s approval in the coming weeks.
Offshore construction is expected to begin next summer, with the wind farm in-service in 2016.
September 5, 2014 – Majority of Midwest Voters Support Boosting Renewables, Energy Efficiency
Seven out of 10 Midwesterners say that renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, is a reliable, affordable option that is an increasing source of good jobs, according to a new public opinion survey released by a collaboration of environmental and conservation organizations within the RE-AMP network. The poll shows eight out of 10 people surveyed believe that renewable energy will allow the Midwest to be more self-reliant and make its energy supply more secure.
The survey of 2,477 Midwesterners in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin was conducted this summer by a bipartisan team: Public Opinion Strategies, which conducts polling for Republican candidates, and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, which specializes in polling for Democratic candidates.
The study finds that voters in the Midwest - across political party, gender, age, and income categories - broadly agree that energy efficiency and renewable energy are necessary to meet future energy needs:
- 95% support increasing energy efficiency;
- 91% support increasing the use of solar energy; and
- 87% support increasing the use of wind energy.
Voters overwhelmingly said that the Midwest should move toward cleaner sources of energy (four out of five), while just 29% said that the region should focus on drilling and digging for more oil, natural gas and coal. Notably, when asked if they would be willing to pay a little extra on their energy bills to promote clean energy and energy efficiency, more than 80% of respondents said they would be willing to pay at least $1 more per month.
September 4, 2014 – DOE Issues Offshore Wind Progress Report, Says U.S. Has Big Potential
There are currently 14 U.S. offshore wind projects in advanced development, and the country has sufficient resources to support at least 54 GW of offshore wind capacity, according to new reports released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis report, produced by Navigant Consulting for the DOE, says there has been steady progress for the U.S. offshore wind energy industry over the past year. The report says 14 projects representing nearly 4.9 GW are in advanced stages of development. This means the projects have either been awarded a lease, conducted site studies or obtained a power purchase agreement.
The report notes that two of the U.S.' most advanced projects - Cape Wind and Deepwater’s Block Island project - have moved into their initial stages of construction. In addition, the report says the U.S. government’s commercial lease auctions for federal Wind Energy Areas have contributed to more projects moving into advanced stages of development.
The report also finds that globally, developers continue to build offshore wind projects farther from shore in increasingly deeper waters, while increased turbine sizes and hub heights enable higher efficiency and output from turbines. Worldwide, the report says the average capital cost for offshore wind projects completed in 2013 fell 3.7% per kilowatt-hour from 2012, with an additional decrease expected in 2014. Total project installation costs have fallen 6% since 2011, the report adds.
Meanwhile, the National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study has found that the U.S. has sufficient offshore wind energy resources to enable the installation of at least 54 GW of offshore wind capacity. The DOE-commissioned study was led by ABB, AWS Truepower, Duke Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Pittsburgh.
The report says at a regional or national level, offshore wind energy may provide significant value. The study estimates that the 54 GW of offshore wind could reduce the national annual electricity production costs by approximately $7.68 billion, which corresponds to approximately $41/MWh of offshore wind added to the grid. The report says these savings can help justify the high initial investment costs.
Furthermore, the report says the appropriate technologies exist for the interconnection of large amounts of wind energy to the U.S. grid. Multiple technologies for both high-voltage AC and high-voltage DC systems already exist that can be used to bring offshore wind electricity to the onshore grid. Some technologies may also help alleviate troublesome congestion in the onshore system, the report adds.
September 4, 2014 – Steadily, Wind Turbine OEMs Resume R&D Investment
Research shows that after a few years of slow growth, the pace of wind technology innovation is about to pick up again.
The analysis was completed by taking a comprehensive look at the global intellectual property (IP) landscape and over 75,000 filed patents and applications. Each patent filing was evaluated qualitatively to determine whether the patent-protected technology was used within the industry by someone other than the inventor, as well as whether the patent claims would potentially allow the patent holder to enforce IP rights.
The report reveals that the U.S. has the greatest number of patent filings on wind turbine technology. Domestic companies have collectively spent more than $162 million on IP protection, and there are over 8,365 individual patent filings in the country. Europe is second at $138 million with more than 6,100 filings, and China is third at $61 million with more than 5,000 filings. China is poised to overtake Europe within the next 12 months, based on the pace of filings.
Globally, the entire wind industry has spent $522 million to date on patent protection. Expenditure on IP protection by wind companies is expected to escalate, with $1 billion to be spent by 2019 and $2 billion by 2026.
The pace of patent filings has finally dropped for the first time after an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47% during the 2007-2011 time frame. There was only a 7% growth in the number of filings in wind in 2012 vs. 2011, and a slight decline is expected for 2013 as the recent market downturn has put a damper on research and development (R&D) spending and expenditure on IP protection.
Market conditions indicate that the pace is set to increase again in the coming years due to an increased commitment of expenditure on R&D. Some companies are spending up to 6% of their revenue on R&D, which is almost double the spend rate in 2010 after the financial crisis. Filings are expected to return to the levels seen in 2011 by 2015/16, although the average CAGR is expected to be a more modest 5% to 10%.
IP ownership rankings show General Electric still leads with more than 1,400 patent families, and the company's ability to now leverage the Alstom wind portfolio puts the combined total above 1,550. Siemens has overtaken Vestas for No. 2 as predicted last year, and Mitsubishi drops from No. 4 to No. 5. Previously outside the top 10, Guodian United Power has rocketed up into the No. 4 spot due to more patent filings in 2012 than any other company, although most were exclusive to China.
September 3, 2014 – BayWa Acquires 80 MW South Dakota Project and Secures GE Turbines
BayWa r.e. has acquired all rights to the 80 MW B&H wind farm development in South Dakota and secured 43 GE 1.85-87 turbines for the project. Morrison & Foerster advised BayWa during the acquisition, and terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The project, located in Charles Mix, Bon Homme and Hutchinson counties, will sell energy to NorthWestern Energy. Construction on B&H commenced in 2013, and BayWa says it intends to achieve commercial operation of the self-funded project in 2015.
"The U.S. is one of the core markets for BayWa r.e.'s renewable energy business. We are pleased to announce the construction of the fifth project since BayWa r.e.’s first step into the U.S. wind business three years ago,” states Matthias Taft, CEO of BayWa r.e.
GE will provide operations and maintenance support through a five-year service agreement. This is the first turbine supply agreement signed between GE and the BayWa r.e. group.
“We look forward to be working with the various stakeholders of the project and establishing a relationship with GE,” says Florian Zerhusen, president of wholly owned subsidiary BayWa r.e. Wind LLC.
September 2, 2014 – New York Town Buys Green Energy to Offset Municipal Power Use
The Town of Ithaca, N.Y., has purchased green power from Boulder-based Renewable Choice Energy to offset all of the electricity use of its municipal operations, as well as to help reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.
Ithaca has purchased 4,533,239 kWh of renewable energy credits (RECs) for this year. According to Renewable Energy Choice, the RECs come from a blend of resources, including wind power and biomass, and are certified by Green-e Energy. The company says the RECs will decrease GHG emissions by 2,300 metric tons, and Ithaca is on target to surpass its stated goal of reducing such emissions from government operations 30% by 2020.
“We are excited about this initiative - the Town Board approved it unanimously,” says Town Supervisor Herb Engman. “Purchasing renewable energy credits is a pragmatic and flexible short-term option for reducing our greenhouse-gas emissions. As we scale up our energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts in the years to come, we will be able to decrease the amount of RECs we purchase.”
September 2, 2014 – President Obama Taps Colette Honorable to Join FERC
President Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate Colette Honorable as a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Honorable currently is commissioner and chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, positions she has held since 2007 and 2011, respectively. She also serves as chairman of the board and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).
NARUC Executive Director Charles D. Gray congratulates Honorable.
“President Honorable has gone above and beyond in her service since joining the association in 2007,” says Gray. “If confirmed, we will miss her enthusiasm, dedication and leadership she has brought from day one. At the same time, we are grateful that President Obama nominated another state commissioner who understands how energy and utility issues impact retail consumers.”
Honorable’s nomination to the FERC board is subject to Senate approval. If confirmed, she would replace John Norris, who, according to The Hill, resigned to take a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
September 2, 2014 – Report: U.S. Cleantech Jobs Double in Second Quarter
More than 12,500 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the U.S. during the second quarter of this year - more than double the number of jobs announced in the first quarter, according to a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
The nonprofit business group says solar power led all sectors in the second quarter, with more than 5,300 jobs announced, and the wind industry announced more than 2,700 jobs, many stemming from projects that qualified for the recently expired production tax credit. Other major announcements came from electric car manufacturers Tesla and General Motors.
According to the report, the jump in jobs took place despite mixed signals on clean energy policies from Congress but amid new confidence about future clean energy growth tied to the recently proposed Clean Power Plan.
Announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in June, the Clean Power Plan aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% by 2030. Along the way, E2 says the policy is expected to drive growth in energy efficiency and renewable energy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and saving U.S. businesses and consumers an estimated $37 billion in energy costs.
E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe says more Americans are working because of clean energy. “But to keep that growth going, we need our state and federal leaders to do their jobs, too,” he notes. “We need them to support smart policies that grow our economy and protect our environment.”
The report also ranks the top 10 states with the most cleantech job announcements in the second quarter.
Arizona won the top spot, with Solar Wind Energy Inc. planning to hire at least 350 permanent workers for a new project in the state. California ranks second in the E2 report, thanks to announcements from the utility-scale solar industry and 500 new jobs announced by Tesla Motors. Michigan placed third, with GM expected to add as many as 1,400 jobs producing advanced battery technologies.
Rounding out the top 10 are Utah (4), Massachusetts (5), New York (6), Nevada (7), New Mexico (8), North Dakota (9) and North Carolina (10).
More information about the report can be found here.
August 28, 2014 – GE Helps Bring More Wind Energy to New England Transmission Network
GE Digital Energy has announced that in order to support the public's demand for wind energy, it is providing a synchronous condenser technology for First Wind's Oakfield wind farm in northern Maine.
While the integration of wind energy continues to have broad public policy support, GE explains, consumers are playing a larger role to ensure their electricity provider is using higher levels of renewable power to meet their clean energy expectations.
"The Oakfield project is moving forward, bringing economic development to Aroostook County and will soon be delivering renewable power to New England homes," comments Michael Alvarez, president of First Wind.
The wind farm, which will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015, is expected to generate 148 MW of power.
"We have worked closely with Reed & Reed Inc., our [balance-of-plant] contractor, and GE’s team on this, and they’ve provided us custom engineering analysis and technology solutions to build a power network that conforms to the region’s unique requirements and optimizes the grid’s existing infrastructure," Alvarez adds.
Synchronous condensers, GE says, increase the grid's strength and improve the voltage stability - allowing a wind turbine to operate in an otherwise weak grid.
"To support the continued success of wind and solar power, GE is providing the renewable industry with electrical solutions so that the grid is resilient enough to anticipate and withstand power fluctuations, and recover from damage incurred during storms and other major events," says Bob Turko, general manager of GE Digital Energy.
August 28, 2014 – Ohio Siting Board Extends Certificate Needed For EverPower Project
The Ohio Power Siting Board has extended a certificate needed to build the first phase of Everpower's proposed Buckeye Wind Project, located in Champaign County, Ohio.
The Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need was set to expire next March. If the request had been rejected, EverPower would have had to begin construction on the wind farm before March 22, 2015 or ostensibly start the lengthy certificate process from the beginning. The extension allows EverPower until May 28, 2018 to begin construction of the project.
The proposed project is located on a glacial ridge, encompasses up to 52 wind turbines across six townships.
August 27, 2014 – SUN DAY Campaign: Renewable Energy Continues Net Electrical Generation Gains
Renewable energy continued to make inroads against conventional generation sources during the first half of 2014. In fact, renewable resources, such as wind and solar, provided 14.3% of net U.S. electric generation, according to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In its latest electric power report, the EIA notes that electrical generation from non-hydro renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and biomass, expanded by 10.4% compared to the first half of 2013. Conventional hydropower accounted for 7.0%, while non-hydro renewables contributed 7.3%.
Wind power alone increased by 9.0% compared to last year and accounted for 5.0% of the nation's electrical generation during the first six months of 2014, while solar-generated electricity more than doubled (growing by 115.7%).
However, geothermal power dipped by 1.5% and conventional hydropower declined by 4.2%.
Even with the lower output from hydropower and geothermal, net U.S. electrical generation from all renewable sources combined grew by 2.73%. By comparison, net electrical generation from all energy sources - renewables, fossil fuels and nuclear power - grew by 2.59%.
"Not long ago, [the] EIA was forecasting that renewables would not reach 14% of U.S. electrical generation until the year 2040," says Ken Bossong, executive director at nonprofit SUN DAY Campaign. "And even the current 14.3% figure undoubtedly understates the real contribution from renewables,” he explains, noting the EIA's data does not fully reflect distributed and off-grid generation.
August 27, 2014 – Study: Wind Power Can Improve Resiliency of Electrical Grids
A new frequency response study from GE's Energy Consulting business found that when equipped with the appropriate modern plant controls, wind applications could substantially enhance grid resiliency.
Using the U.S.' Eastern Interconnection as a model, the study addressed questions about how the U.S. electrical systems would respond to a large-scale interruption of generation, such as multiple power plants tripping offline. Such an event could result in significantly lower frequencies on the system, customer interruptions or even large-scale blackouts, notes GE.
According to GE, the study explored in detail how the grid could respond to a major event and maintain its resiliency with significant wind power added to the generation mix. The conclusions of the study found that wind can be more effective than thermal generation in controlling frequency on the grid due to its ability to respond more quickly.
"While GE's study considered the impact of wind power on the Eastern Interconnection of the U.S., the lessons we've learned can be applied in Europe and around the globe," says Nicholas Miller, lead author of the study and GE's senior technical director.
"The conclusions demonstrate that wind power can be more effective in maintaining frequency than thermal generation when wind farms are equipped with grid-friendly controls. These findings should show that the future of wind energy is bright, and it will continue to play a larger role in the power we consume."
The findings of the study, which was sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, was presented at the CIGRE Session 45 in Paris.
To find out more about the full study, click here.
August 27, 2014 – Renewable Energy Financial Services Lender Surpasses $500 Million in Financings
Belleair Bluffs, Fla.-based lender Seminole Financial Services has committed more than $533 million in construction and permanent debt financing toward U.S. wind and solar projects.
Of the 68 projects spanning 14 states financed by Seminole since it entered the renewable energy arena in 2009, $110 million has been committed to 46 MW of energy generated by wind farms and more than $423 million has financed solar power installations totaling 137 MW.
Seminole - which typically focuses on transactions between $2 million and $35 million - has financed the equivalent of 183 MW of renewable energy projects.
In other company news, Seminole says it will finance a $37.8 million construction loan toward the total project development cost of the Halifax County Old Airport Solar Project, located on a 220-acre site in Halifax County, N.C. The project is jointly developed by Geenex and ET Solar's U.S. subsidiary ET Capital and will consist of a combination of ET Solar ground-mounted solar modules.
August 26, 2014 – New York Legislature Sends Property Tax Exemption Bill to Cuomo
In a move that is expected to boost renewable energy in the state, the New York legislature has sent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., a bill that would extend property tax exemptions for wind and solar to Jan. 1, 2025.
The bill carries a 15-year property tax exemption for homeowners and residences installing qualified renewable energy systems. However, local governments are permitted to disallow the exemption in their jurisdictions.
Cuomo has 10 days to either sign or veto the bill. If he does not act, the bill automatically becomes law.
August 21, 2014 – Eagle Take Permits For Wind Farms - Will They Fly?
On July 31, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued the first ever eagle take permit. Although it has been nearly five years after regulations authorizing such permits went into effect, the permit - which was issued to EDF Renewable Energy with respect to the Shiloh IV wind project in Solano County, Calif. - may be a sign of things to come. In its June 26 press release, the FWS stated that this permit will set "a precedent for proactive and collaborative eagle conservation at wind farms in northern California and beyond." EDF noted that "the process wasn't always the smoothest, but in the end, we believe that wind turbines and eagles can co-exist, so the journey was worthwhile."
Obtaining an eagle take permit is beneficial from both a conservation and business perspective because the permit seeks to protect eagles while also providing the project with a level of regulatory certainty.
However, until more are issued, it remains to be seen whether, when and to what extent eagle take permits will become a regular requirement for other wind farms or how much time will be required for the underlying application process.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) prohibits the “taking” of bald and golden eagles, and a violation can result in significant civil and criminal fines and penalties. In 2009, the FWS published BGEPA permit regulations that authorize permits for the limited non-purposeful take of eagles when the take is the result of an otherwise-lawful activity. Under the regulations, wind projects could potentially be eligible for programmatic permits to authorize recurring take that is unavoidable even after the implementation of advanced conservation practices.
Although enforcement for the take of eagles and other protected birds by wind projects has been minimal to date, due to the increased public attention on wind projects’ impacts to wildlife and the enforcement action against Duke Energy last year, prosecution for BGEPA violations may be on the rise. This has generated increased interest regarding the use of eagle take permits as a measure to assist the FWS with protecting eagle populations while providing a level of certainty regarding BGEPA enforcement for projects that could otherwise pose a risk to eagles.
However, until last month, an eagle take permit had never been issued to a project in any industry. Although the FWS encouraged developers to apply for take permits and to prepare eagle conservation plans (ECPs) in accordance with the Eagle Conservation Plan eagle guidance issued by the FWS in May 2013, the chances of obtaining an eagle take permit and the terms of any such permit were far from certain.
Based on the agency’s press release and the fact that the first eagle take permit has been issued, it appears likely that the FWS may more frequently recommend that developers apply for eagle take permits for projects with the potential to disturb eagles or result in eagle fatalities. Many developers, especially those that already comply with the FWS eagle guidance, may give more weight to such recommendations now that a precedent for such a permit has been set.
Nonetheless, the feasibility of obtaining an eagle take permit remains unknown. Furthermore, although the FWS eagle guidance was designed to streamline and expedite the process for permitting wind project development while providing protection to eagles, there is no legal mandate to comply with the FWS eagle guidance, and not all wind projects will need to obtain an eagle take permit. In addition, although the FWS estimates the application period will significantly decrease when the issuance of eagle permits can become routine, the application process might remain difficult, at best, for any particular project.
Even if the application process does indeed become more streamlined and expedited, applications are likely to remain both time-consuming and potentially costly. An eagle take permit qualifies as a federal action and triggers the need for a comprehensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which will include monitoring of a project’s potential impact to eagles. The FWS has estimated that applicants should anticipate a processing time of four to 24 months for a programmatic take permit, depending, in part, upon the scope of the NEPA review. Unless and until more permits are issued, it is difficult to assess the certainty of these time estimates.
Opportunities for public comment and challenge are built into the application process, which can lead to extensive delays, a more comprehensive NEPA review, amendments to the permit application and additional mitigation obligations. The amount of public support or opposition will vary from project to project. According to the FWS, only 32 comments were received during the NEPA review for the Shiloh IV project, none of which required substantive changes to the NEPA review or the proposed eagle take permit.
Five or 30 Years?
Under the BGEPA permit regulations, eagle take permits can have a maximum term of five years. However, in response to comments requesting a longer term in order to provide lasting certainty, on Dec. 9, 2013, the FWS extended the maximum term to 30 years to correspond with the operational life of most wind projects. Such permits will still require a review of the project every five years, and depending on the findings of the review, the project may be required to undertake additional conservation measures.
Although the 30-year extension was supported by the wind industry, as the longer permit term provided certainty for developers and lenders alike, it generated strong opposition from several environmental groups, including some many of whom had supported the eagle take permit with a five-year term. In fact, on June 19, the American Bird Conservancy filed suit in federal court charging the Department of the Interior and the FWS with violations of the NEPA and the BGEPA in connection with the issuance of the 30-year term extension.
On June 20, the FWS announced that it intends to conduct a NEPA review of the eagle permitting process as part of its ongoing effort to review and revise policies for managing impacts to eagles as wind power continues to expand. The NEPA assessment will review proposed revisions to the BGEPA permit regulations, including, among other things, the duration rule. This announcement kicked off a 90-day public comment period, which will end in September. The NEPA process could take up to 18 months or longer, depending on the scope of the FWS’ review; therefore, revised regulations are unlikely to be issued before the end of 2015 at the earliest.
According to the FWS, at least one application for a 30-year eagle take permit is pending. However, until the legal challenges regarding the maximum permit term are settled, the viability of obtaining a 30-year take permit will remain uncertain and developers may elect to seek a five-year term.
The FWS will likely begin issuing more eagle take permits for proposed and operating projects, and more applications will likely be submitted. Even if an eagle take were to occur by a permit applicant prior to the issuance of a permit, pending eagle take permit applications and compliance with the BGEPA permit regulations and FWS eagle guidance will likely be taken into consideration by the FWS when it determines whether to pursue enforcement thereof. Nonetheless, prior to permit issuance, there will be no “get out of jail free” card for eagle takes.
Even after issuance of the first eagle take permit, the likelihood of obtaining an eagle take permit and a project’s liability for adversely impacting eagles without a permit remains in uncharted territory until more permits are issued. Given the pending NEPA review and legal challenge with respect to the 30-year term, it is unclear at this point how the eagle permitting process may evolve over the next couple of years. According to the FWS, approximately 20 applications for eagle take permits are pending, which is a very low percentage of the total number of proposed and operating wind farms. The length of time for the application process, the cost of the application, the likelihood of issuance, and the possible terms and conditions for any permit are project specific and currently difficult to predict.
Because the BGEPA permitting process is still evolving, it is advisable for developers to consult with the FWS and local wildlife agencies as early as possible and to build into the project timeline additional time for the preparation of an eagle conservation plan and application for an eagle take permit in case potential impacts to eagles are unavoidable. The decision about whether any project will need to seek a permit will be unique and will depend on a complex analysis of the project’s site and risk profile, as well as an assessment of the likelihood a project may result in a take of a bald or golden eagle.
August 20, 2014 – Renewable Energy Provides 100% of New U.S. Power in July
All new U.S. electrical generating capacity put into service in July came from renewable energy sources, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group the SUN DAY Campaign says 379 MW of wind, 21 MW of solar and 5 MW of hydropower came online in the month.
For the first seven months of this year, renewables have accounted for more than half (53.8%) of the 4,758 MW of new U.S. electrical capacity that has entered service, with solar (25.8%) and wind (25.1%) each accounting for more than a quarter of the total. In addition, biomass provided 1.8%, geothermal 0.7% and hydropower 0.4%.
As for the balance, natural gas accounted for 45.9%, while a small fraction (0.3%) came from oil and "other" combined. SUN DAY notes that there has been no new electrical generating capacity from either coal or nuclear thus far in 2014.
Renewable energy sources now account for 16.3% of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: hydro - 8.57%, wind - 5.26%, biomass - 1.37%, solar - 0.75%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%.
"This is not the first time in recent years that all new electrical generating capacity for a given month has come from renewable energy sources," comments Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "And it is likely to become an ever more frequent occurrence in the months and years ahead."
August 20, 2014 – US Wind Inc. Wins Maryland Offshore Wind Auction
US Wind Inc. has been crowned the provisional winner of the U.S.' third competitive offshore wind lease auction, which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held Tuesday for two parcels totaling nearly 80,000 acres offshore Maryland.
The company, a subsidiary of Italian developer Renexia, won with a bid of over $8.7 million for both Maryland lease areas and was up against Green Sail Energy LLC and SCS Maryland Energy LLC. The auction lasted 19 rounds.
The Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA) consists of two leases, referred to as the North Lease Area (32,737 acres) and the South Lease Area (46,970 acres). According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the WEA has the potential to support between 850 MW and 1.45 GW of commercial wind generation.
“Today’s results are a major achievement and reflect industry confidence as we strengthen our nation’s foothold in this new energy frontier,” says U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell. “I want to thank Governor Martin O’Malley, his team and members of BOEM’s Maryland Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force for all of their hard work and leadership leading up to today’s successful auction. The collaboration and thoughtful planning that went into this lease sale will serve as a model as we continue up and down the coast in our efforts to ensure wind energy is developed in the right way and in the right places.”
The Attorney General, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, will have 30 days in which to complete an antitrust review of the auction. BOEM will then send unsigned copies of the lease form to the winning bidder, which will have 10 days to sign and return the leases, file required financial assurance and pay the balance of the winning bid.
Each lease will have a preliminary term of one year, during which the lessee will submit a site assessment plan to BOEM for approval. The plan describes the activities (installation of meteorological towers and buoys) a lessee plans to perform for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area.
If a site assessment plan is approved, BOEM says the lessee will then have up to four-and-a-half years in which to submit a construction and operations plan (COP) to the agency for approval. This plan provides detailed information for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease. After BOEM receives a COP from a lessee, BOEM will conduct an environmental review of the proposed project.
The DOI says this latest auction builds on the agency’s work to stand up a sustainable offshore wind program for the Atlantic Coast. Previously, BOEM awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast: two noncompetitively issued leases (one for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound offshore Massachusetts and one offshore Delaware); and three competitively issued leases (two offshore Rhode Island-Massachusetts and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales generated over $5 million in winning bids for more than 277,500 acres in federal waters. BOEM plans to hold additional competitive auctions for WEAs offshore Massachusetts and New Jersey in the coming year.
August 19, 2014 – FERC Grants Key Approval to 3.5 GW Wind Power Transmission Line Project
Clean Line Energy says its Plains & Eastern Clean Line project has obtained a key regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agency has granted the project permission to sell transmission service to customers at negotiated rates and to negotiate bilateral agreements for 100% of the transmission line's capacity.
According to the developer, the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project will deliver up to 3.5 GW of wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle region to communities in Arkansas, Tennessee and other states in the Mid-South and Southeast. In addition, Clean Line has proposed an intermediate delivery converter station in central Arkansas that would have the capacity to deliver up to 500 MW of power.
“Oklahoma boasts some of the best wind in the country. We are pleased to see this approval from FERC to subscribe up to 100 percent of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line’s capacity,” comments Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague. “We believe it is another important milestone toward developing Oklahoma’s low-cost clean energy resources, enabling new jobs and growing economic development in our state and the nation.”
Receiving this authority from FERC allows Clean Line to sell transmission capacity to potential customers of the project, including utilities and other load serving entities or clean energy generators. Generator interconnection to the Plains & Eastern line will be subject to the requirements of the project’s open access transmission tariff.
Clean Line estimates the Plains & Eastern project will enable more than $6 billion of investment in new wind farms. From May through July, the company conducted an open solicitation for transmission capacity on the project, and Clean Line notes 15 potential customers submitted more than 17 GW of requests for transmission service.
Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, says the FERC decision moves the Plains & Eastern project one step closer to reality. Based on current estimates, and subject to other approvals, Clean Line expects the project to achieve commercial operation as early as 2018.
August 19, 2014 – Despite 2013 Challenges, U.S. Wind Power Reaches All-Time Low Price
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have released a new report detailing a mixed bag of trends seen in the U.S. wind industry last year.
According to the 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report, new U.S. wind installations essentially halted last year, again underscoring the importance of policy certainty. Nonetheless, the DOE maintains that the U.S. wind industry remains strong, with the country ranking second worldwide in installed capacity and the cost of U.S. wind power reaching an all-time low.
Some key findings of the report include the following:
- U.S. wind power additions stalled in 2013, with only 1,087 MW of new capacity added and $1.8 billion invested. Wind power installations were just 8% of those seen in the record year of 2012.
- The U.S. fell to sixth place in annual wind additions in 2013 and was well behind the market leaders in wind energy penetration. After leading the world in annual wind power additions from 2005 through 2008 - and then narrowly regaining the lead in 2012 - the U.S. represented only 3% of global additions in 2013. In terms of cumulative capacity, however, the U.S. remained the second leading market, reaching 61 GW - equal to 4.5% of the country’s total electrical demand.
- The report says the manufacturing supply chain experienced substantial growing pains. With recent cost-cutting moves, the profitability of turbine suppliers rebounded in 2013 after a number of years in decline. Five of the 10 turbine suppliers with the largest share of the U.S. market had one or more domestic manufacturing facilities at the end of 2013. According to the report, nine years earlier, there was only one active utility-scale turbine manufacturer assembling nacelles in the U.S. Domestic nacelle assembly capability stood at roughly 10 GW in 2013, and the U.S. also had the capability of producing approximately 7 GW of blades and 8 GW of towers annually. Despite the significant growth in the domestic supply chain over the last decade, the report says prospects for further expansion have dimmed. More domestic wind manufacturing facilities closed in 2013 than opened. Additionally, the entire wind energy sector employed 50,500 full-time workers in the U.S. at the end of 2013, a deep reduction from the 80,700 jobs reported for 2012. With significant wind installations expected in 2014 and 2015, turbine orders have now rebounded. But the report says that with uncertain demand after 2015, manufacturers have been hesitant to commit additional resources to the U.S. market.
- Wind technology continues to advance. The report says turbine nameplate capacity, hub height and rotor diameter have all increased significantly over the long term. The average nameplate capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the U.S. in 2013 was 1.87 MW, up 162% since 1998-1999. The average hub height in 2013 was 80 meters, up 45% since 1998-1999, while the average rotor diameter was 97 meters, up 103% since 1998-1999.
- Wind turbine prices remained well below levels seen several years ago. After hitting a low of roughly $750/kW from 2000 to 2002, average turbine prices increased to more than $1,500/kW by the end of 2008. The report says wind turbine prices have since dropped substantially. Recently announced turbine transactions have often been priced in the $900-$1,300/kW range. The report says these price reductions, coupled with improved turbine technology and more-favorable terms for turbine purchasers, have exerted downward pressure on total project costs and wind power prices.
- The report says wind power purchase agreement (PPA) prices have reached all-time lows in the U.S. After topping out at nearly $70/MWh for PPAs executed in 2009, the national average levelized price of wind PPAs that were signed in 2013 fell to around $25/MWh nationwide, a new record. Notably, the average price stream of wind PPAs executed in 2013 also compares favorably to a range of projections of the fuel costs of gas-fired generation extending out through 2040.
Looking forward, the report predicts that because the production tax credit is available for projects that initiated construction by the end of 2013, significant new builds are anticipated in 2014 and 2015. Near-term wind additions will also be driven by the recent improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, leading to the lowest power sales prices yet seen in the U.S. wind sector. However, the report says the outlook for 2016 and beyond is much less clear, due mainly to federal policy uncertainty.
In a press release announcing the report, DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz says, “As a readily expandable, domestic source of clean, renewable energy, wind power is paving the way to a low-carbon future that protects our air and water while providing affordable, renewable electricity to American families and businesses.
“However, the continued success of the U.S. wind industry highlights the importance of policies like the production tax credit that provide a solid framework for America to lead the world in clean energy innovation while also keeping wind manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.”
The full 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report is available HERE.
August 18, 2014 – Michigan International Speedway Races Toward Renewables
Michigan International Speedway (MIS) is waving its green flag, having committed to match 100% of its electricity use with renewable energy.
MIS has teamed up with Consumers Energy and enrolled in the utility's Green Generation program. Close to 20,000 homes and businesses in Michigan participate in the program, contributing each month to purchase power from in-state renewable sources.
"We're totally committed to a greener Michigan, and with the help of Consumers Energy, we know that we can show the way for our state and for racetracks across the country," says Roger Curtis, MIS president. "A half-million people watch races, take part in events and camp overnight at MIS each year. We want to make sure they - and we - are doing our part to care for the environment."
MIS and Consumers Energy have also partnered to plant over 3,000 trees in Michigan, identify ways to cut MIS’ energy usage, and look at developing wind, solar and other renewable energy at the racetrack.
August 18, 2014 – Court Orders N.J. BPU to Reconsider Fishermen's Energy Offshore Wind Project
On the heels of signing its $47 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Fishermen's Energy says it has scored a big win in its three-year fight to gain approval from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to build a demonstration offshore wind project off the coast of Atlantic City.
In light of the DOE grant, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, has ruled in favor of Fishermen's on a motion filed to require the BPU to reconsider the developer's application for the 25 MW project. The BPU's approval would allow Fishermen's to use New Jersey's offshore renewable energy certificates - as part of the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act - to support the financing and construction of its demonstration project.
The BPU denied the project application in April, claiming that the alleged energy price of $263/MWh was too high; however, Fishermen’s has maintained that its actual proposed price was $199.17/MWh.
“August 19th marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, and thanks to the intervention of an independent judiciary, we hopefully will finally see this bipartisan legislation implemented,” says Paul Gallagher, Fishermen’s COO and general counsel.
Mike Stein of Pashman Stein, litigation counsel to Fishermen’s, adds, “We are gratified by the court’s decision to remand the matter back to the BPU for further consideration. We believe that the record, as now supplemented clearly and unambiguously, supports Fishermen’s position, and we fully expect that the BPU will now grant its application."
August 15, 2014 – Wind Coalition Makes Its Case to Texas Regulators Mulling Over New EPA Plan
The Wind Coalition has urged Texas regulators to keep wind power in mind when considering how the state could meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan.
Today, the Texas Public Utility Commission, the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are meeting jointly to hear invited testimony on the EPA's plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% below 2005 levels. The Wind Coalition says it believes constituents and consumers can be well served by an approach that leverages Texas' home-grown energy resources, especially wind, solar and natural gas.
The coalition issued its comments to the Texas commissioners in writing, explaining the progress and benefits of wind power. In the letter, the coalition notes that Texas is the U.S. wind leader, with 13 GW of installed capacity meeting 10% of the state's electricity needs. And the coalition says there’s a whole lot more wind to be tapped.
"According to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Texas' land-based wind potential at an 80-meter hub height is 1,901,530 MW, the best resource in the United States and the equivalent of 18 times the state’s current electricity needs," the letter explains.
The coalition says that because wind power creates no emissions, the resource could greatly help the state meet emissions-reduction targets. "Wind energy is already providing consumer savings and emissions reductions; a typical 2 MW wind turbine avoids around 4,000-4,500 tons of carbon emissions annually," the letter says. In fact, the coalition notes that the installed wind projects in Texas already help avoid 25 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions per year, "the equivalent of taking 4,075,000 cars off the road."
Furthermore, the coalition says wind power is drought-resitant and requires no water, while traditional power generation is the second-largest consumer of U.S. water. In fact, the group says Texas wind power saves more than 7.8 billion gallons of water annually.
Environmental benefits aside, the coalition also points out how wind power helps boost the state’s economy. “We see the dramatic economic impacts of energy development every day across our state,” the letter says. “In some regions, oil and gas development is leading economic growth. In others, the more than $26 billion invested by the Texas wind energy industry is providing an economic stimulus to long-neglected rural areas.”
Nonetheless, the coalition claims that, on a per-megawatt basis, wind power creates 66% more jobs than nuclear plants and 30% more jobs than coal plants. Altogether, about 26,000 Texans are employed in wind-related fields.
The coalition also maintains “wind is no longer ‘alternative’ energy” and makes its case that regulators should promote and rely on local power options to meet final EPA goals.
“Texas is blessed with incredibly abundant supplies of clean energy, including infinite wind and solar resources, and a nearly infinite supply of natural gas. Working together, these Texas energy resources provide consumers with long-term price stability, reliability and affordability,” the letter says. “Each has characteristics that are advantageous and, used together, can help us meet requirements under federal rules while increasing our energy independence.”
August 15, 2014 – Beer Brewer Anheuser-Busch Adds a Second Wind Turbine At California Facility
Anheuser-Busch says it is installing a second wind turbine at its Fairfield brewery in northern California.
According to the company, the 1.6 MW machine will boost the facility's renewable energy generation up to 4.1 MW - covering 30% of the brewery's electricity needs. The first turbine was constructed in 2011, and the new machine is slated to be operational in October. Anheuser-Busch notes that the brewery is also home to seven acres of solar power arrays and a bio-energy recovery system, as well as utilizes water conservation and recycling efforts.
Tony Sanfillipo, general manager of the Fairfield brewery, says, "Increasing energy efficiency through wind reflects our commitment to reducing environmental impact while producing the best beers in the world."
August 14, 2014 – Poll: Majority of Americans Want Their Utilities to Use More Renewables
Eighty-one percent of U.S. utility customers expect their utility provider to use higher levels of renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal biogas in the future to meet their energy needs, according to a new report from GE's Digital Energy business.
That is just one of many findings from GE's Grid Resiliency Survey, which was conducted by Harris Poll and measures the U.S. public's current perception of the power grid, experiences and future expectations. Other interesting findings include that 82% of respondents would like their utility to do more to encourage energy conservation and share ideas to improve energy efficiency in their homes; and 41% of Americans living east of the Mississippi River are more willing to pay an additional $10 per month to ensure the grid is more reliable, compared to 34% of those living west of the Mississippi.
"Twenty-first-century consumers are more sophisticated and expect reliable power 24 hours a day to support their power-hungry lifestyles," says John McDonald, director of technical strategy and policy development at GE's Digital Energy business. "Moreover, when there is a power outage, consumers expect their utility to communicate effectively and provide real-time updates on power restoration progress. Leveraging big data, minimizing recovery times and optimizing renewable energy will be key for utilities to meet consumers’ evolving needs."
August 13, 2014 – Sierra Club Launches Ads Thanking Illinois Reps for Supporting the Wind PTC
The Sierra Club, which kicked off a nationwide ad blitz targeting Congress members for inaction on the wind production tax credit (PTC) in June, has launched another ad campaign. During Congress' recess, the organization will run digital ads throughout Illinois thanking members of the state's congressional delegation for supporting the incentive and wind energy.
These new ads thank each of the signers of a letter originating with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who led several members of the Illinois congressional delegation in asking U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to bring legislation that includes a PTC extension to the House floor for a vote. Additionally, Duckworth wrote an op-ed recently in the Daily Herald on the importance of developing renewable energy to strengthen national security and support our troops.
“With Congress in recess, these ads congratulate and encourage most of Illinois’ congressional delegation for protecting public health and creating good-paying jobs,” says Dave Hamilton, director of clean energy for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Unfortunately, some other representatives are letting those benefits blow away by failing to act to renew the PTC.”
An example of the ads can be found here.
August 13, 2014 – Mexico on Pace to Set New Renewables Investment Record
Plentiful resources of renewables like wind and solar power - combined with a need for new, more economical power capacity - are fueling strong momentum in clean energy in Mexico and the six main countries of Central America, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). In fact, Mexico is on track to set a new investment record this year.
The report says investment in clean energy in Mexico totaled $1.3 billion in the first half of this year, compared to $1.6 billion in the whole of 2013. If activity continues at the rate of the first six months, the report says 2014 will become a record year for the country, overtaking the previous high of $2.4 billion set in 2010. Furthermore, significant increases in both wind and solar are forecast in the next two years.
In Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama), clean energy investment in the first half of this year was $317 million, short of the pace required to match 2013's full-year total of $1 billion. However, the report says drivers of wind, solar and geothermal investment are even stronger in those countries than in Mexico, and this year's political changes have mostly been positive for renewables.
"One of the striking things about this region is the very high exposure to expensive oil- and diesel-based generation. This makes up 20 percent of installed capacity in Mexico and 42 percent in Central America," explains Yayoi Sekine, Latin America analyst at BNEF.
"Yet these countries have unusually good wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power resources. Using these to meet much of the additional electricity demand in coming years, and replacing that costly oil and diesel power, makes sense. It is becoming a key plank in the region’s energy policies."
BNEF's analysis of the project pipeline suggests that Mexico and Central America are likely to install just over 1 GW of wind power capacity this year, beating 2012’s record of 757 MW, with potentially another 1.3 GW in each of 2015 and 2016. Solar may see just a modest 193 MW installed this year, but the figure is likely to leap to 355 MW in 2015 and 456 MW in 2016.
"Renewables are not having everything their own way in these countries," notes Michel Di Capua, head of Americas analysis for BNEF. “Mexico continues to see strong investment in gas-fired generation, taking advantage of both its domestic resources and its proximity to U.S. shale plays.
"Hydroelectric has run into some difficulties in Costa Rica and Panama, because of drought,” he continues. “And across the Central American region, financing for renewables does not come easily, making the role of development banks and export-import banks vital for projects to get off the ground. But policy is being amended in most countries to encourage stronger investment in wind, solar and geothermal."
The report says these changes include Mexico and Honduras reforming their power sectors to allow a larger role for private-sector generation, Costa Rica’s parliament possibly approving an increase to the share of private-sector generation, and tenders in El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala providing specific opportunities for wind and solar project developers.
August 12, 2014 – IRS Issues More PTC Guidance, Easing Some Wind Industry Concerns
On Aug. 8, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance to wind developers and investors further spelling out what it means for a wind project to have started "significant work of a physical nature," one of the key eligibility requirements to qualify for the production tax credit (PTC).
To be eligible for the PTC, wind developers must have incurred 5% of the project's cost by the end of last year. Developers must also demonstrate work of a significant nature and ensure the wind farm is under continuous construction. If the wind farm is completed by Dec. 31, 2015, then the so-called "continuous construction" requirement is assumed. Developers whose wind projects go into service after 2015 will be required to demonstrate continuous work.
In its latest ruling, the IRS provides new examples of what constitutes significant physical work, including “physical work on a customer-designed transformer that steps up the voltage” or the construction of access roads at a project site. Last year, the IRS cited several other examples, such as excavating a foundation, setting anchor bolts into the ground or pouring concrete pads to the foundation.
According to Keith Martin, a partner at law firm Chadbourne & Parke, a group of owners and operators and tax equity investors encouraged the IRS to provide several clear examples of what qualifies as significant physical work. He notes that some investors were concerned that excavating a handful of turbine foundations or putting in a few hundred feet of string roads at a project site would not be enough to meet the IRS definition for PTC eligibility.
The new guidance also helps to dispel a popular myth held by some wind farm owners and tax equity investors that the IRS required wind developers to have started work on 20% of a project’s turbine foundations by the end of last year.
“The IRS said it did not intend to suggest there is a 20 percent threshold or any fixed minimum amount of work required,” Martin notes.
While the guidance is expected to goose wind farm construction, David Burton, partner at law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, maintains the IRS may have inadvertently introduced further complexity with respect to ownership transfers.
“I was surprised that the IRS did not permit a simple transfer of turbines or other grandfathered equipment to an unrelated party,” he says. As currently written, the rules stipulate that project transfers must be to a party that is at least 20% related or must include contracts, such as a power purchase or interconnection agreement, or land for the project.
The agency says it will not issue further guidance related to start of-construction requirements.
August 11, 2014 – WTO Upholds Ruling Against China's Export Policy on Rare Earths
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has rejected China's appeal of a ruling that found the country violated trade rules by restricting the export of rare earth materials. Rare earths are used in various products, including permanent-magnet direct-drive generators for wind turbines and hybrid car batteries. China produces about 90% of the world's rare earths.
According to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the U.S. initiated this WTO dispute in 2012, in cooperation with the European Union and Japan, after China drastically reduced its export quotas for rare earths and caused a spike in world prices. The WTO later determined that China's export duties and quotas breach trade rules. The WTO Appellate Body has now upheld that decision, and China will be charged with abolishing its export restraints.
In a statement, Froman says this latest decision “marks the end of the line for this dispute.” He later adds, “By upholding rules on fair access to raw materials, this decision is a win not only for the United Sates, but also for every nation that respects the principles of openness and fairness. Those principles are the pillars of the rules-based global trading system, and we must protect them vigilantly.”
The WTO decision was also praised by the United Steelworkers (USW), which says it helped spark the WTO case after filing a petition in 2010. Leo W. Gerard, USW’s international president, calls the ruling “a big win.”
"Rare earth minerals are used in countless products from lighting to high-technology products to batteries and auto parts,” says Gerard in a statement. “China's restrictions starved foreign producers of these vital products and raised the price to foreign purchasers.”
According to a Reuters report, China had claimed its export restraints on rare earths were necessary in order to keep from over-mining. The report cites a statement from China's Ministry of Commerce, which says, "China will carefully assess this ruling, continue to improve its management on resource-consuming products in a WTO-consistent manner, facilitate the protection of natural resources, and maintain fair competition with the objective of achieving sustainable development.”
August 11, 2014 – Feds Map Out Three Wind Development Areas Offshore North Carolina
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has designated three areas off the coast of North Carolina for the potential development of offshore wind power. The Wind Energy Areas (WEAs), totaling about 307,590 acres, include the following:
- The Kitty Hawk WEA begins about 24 nautical miles (nm) from shore and extends approximately 25.7 nm in a general southeast direction at its widest point. It contains approximately 21.5 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) blocks totaling 122,405 acres.
- The Wilmington West WEA begins about 10 nm from shore and extends approximately 12.3 nm in an east-west direction at its widest point. It contains just over nine OCS blocks totaling approximately 51,595 acres.
- The Wilmington East WEA begins about 15 nm from Bald Head Island at its closest point and extends approximately 18 nm in the southeast direction at its widest point. It contains approximately 25 OCS blocks totaling 133,590 acres.
“Today represents an important step forward for North Carolina in harnessing the vast wind energy potential along the Atlantic Coast to power homes and strengthen our clean energy economy,” says U.S Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “This milestone is the result of collaboration with stakeholders and partners at all levels to identify areas off the coast with great resource potential while also minimizing conflicts with other important uses.”
For example, BOEM says it worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that development in the identified areas would not pose significant risks to navigational safety. The agency also worked with the National Park Service to address concerns regarding potential visual impacts. As a result, BOEM refined the areas originally considered for commercial wind energy development in 2012.
In fact, according to the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition, the Wilmington East WEA was reduced from its previous 276,718 acres due to vessel traffic and sensitive habitats. The Wilmington West WEA was reduced from its previous 66,185 acres, omitting areas within 10 nm of the shore based on the results of a visual simulation study released by BOEM in 2012. Furthermore, the Kitty Hawk WEA was reduced 86% from its previous 877,837 acres due to vessel traffic and a 33.7 nm visual buffer requested by the National Park Service.
The Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition says it is pleased to see progress toward an offshore industry in North Carolina, but the group adds that it is concerned about some aspects of the BOEM announcement.
The coalition charges that although the visual buffer for the Wilmington West WEA “was based on a scientifically valid visual simulation study,” the “unprecedented and exceptionally wide” buffer of 33.7 nm for the Kitty Hawk WEA “does not appear to be supported by any solid scientific assessment.”
“North Carolina has the largest offshore wind resource potential on the East Coast,” the coalition says in a statement. “However, the state’s ability to play a significant role in the offshore industry, and thus reap the associated economic benefits, is dependent on an open process to identify sites that are suitable for offshore wind based on solid scientific assessment. We anticipate that actual experience with offshore wind farms in the U.S. will demonstrate that such a buffer is unnecessary and that future leasing sites for North Carolina can be identified accordingly.”
The coalition says it looks forward to working with BOEM. The agency, meanwhile, is only considering the issuance of leases and approval of site assessment plans at this time. Before any leases are offered for competitive auction, BOEM will complete an environmental assessment to determine potential impacts in the WEAs in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
This latest announcement builds on BOEM’s recent activities to grow offshore renewable energy through the leasing of WEAs. The agency has awarded five leases off the Atlantic Coast: two non-competitive leases (for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). BOEM will hold a competitive auction for an area offshore Maryland on Aug. 19 and plans to hold additional auctions for WEAs offshore Massachusetts and New Jersey in the coming year.
August 8, 2014 – U.S. Offshore Wind Developer Fishermen's Energy Signs $46.7M Federal Grant
Fishermen's Energy, one of three offshore wind developers to win follow-up funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), held a ceremony on Aug. 7 with state and federal officials to sign its DOE grant. The developer was joined in New Jersey by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, State Sen. Jim Whelan, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, and Jose Zayas, director of the DOE's Wind and Water Power Technologies Office.
In 2012, the DOE awarded grants to seven U.S. offshore wind developers, which then competed for a second round of funding. In May, the agency revealed the three winners at the American Wind Energy Association's WINDPOWER 2014 conference: Fishermen's Energy, Dominion Virginia Power and Principle Power will each receive $46.7 million over the next four years.
However, many in the wind industry were surprised that Fishermen's Energy had won, as the developer's demonstration project, located off the coast of Atlantic City, was rejected by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU). Fishermen’s is still pursuing a legal remedy to the BPU's decision.
The developer plans to install five 5 MW direct-drive wind turbines from China-based XEMC New Energy three miles off the coast of Atlantic City. Fishermen’s says the DOE funding will supplement the investment by the company’s principals to finalize construction planning, fabrication and deployment for the offshore project.
“Projects like Fishermen’s Atlantic City Windfarm and the other projects sponsored by the Department of Energy are a first step in the direction of a building a robust, sustainable energy infrastructure,” said Chris Wissemann, Fishermen’s Energy CEO, at the signing ceremony.
Sen. Menendez said, “Clean, responsible energy development projects like this bring good-paying jobs to our state and help us modernize New Jersey’s economy. We must continue looking into innovative energy options - like clean wind and solar projects - that can one day become the next energy giant and can reinvigorate our workforce in the 21st-century global economy.”
“This industry has created over 60,000 jobs in Europe,” stated Paul Gallagher, COO and general counsel of Fishermen’s. “We would like to bring some of those jobs here.”
Fishermen’s Energy says it has all federal and state permits necessary for project construction, and the company plans to get to begin onshore work in 2015. Offshore construction and commissioning are scheduled for 2016.
August 6, 2014 – Embryonic No More: U.S. Offshore Wind Industry Gaining Momentum
At long last, the U.S. offshore wind industry is showing real progress toward putting steel in the water. The offshore sector is progressing not only with key projects like Cape Wind and the Block Island wind farm, but also more broadly as the federal government provides new grants and works with coastal states to offer large leases for future offshore development.
As of the end of July, the developer behind the 468 MW Cape Wind project had secured close to two-thirds of the approximately $2.5 billion needed for the wind farm, to be located off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. In addition, the developer sold more than 77% of the projected output (363 MW) through stable, 15-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) at $0.187/kWh plus inflation.
Deepwater Wind’s more modest 30 MW wind plant, located off the Rhode Island coast, has its entire output secured with a 15-year PPA at $0.244/kWh. It also has preliminary contracts for turbines from Alstom and an installation vessel from Fred Olsen Windcarrier, and continues to move through final regulatory hurdles, including receiving state approvals for its transmission system.
Construction of both projects is planned to commence in 2015.
This year saw the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) offshore wind demonstration projects secure substantial funding. Fisherman’s Energy landed two grants of $6.7 million for final engineering and $40 million for construction of a 25 MW wind plant off Atlantic City, N.J. - although the project is mired in a dispute with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which administers an important offshore wind renewable energy credit program that may be necessary to obtain financing for construction of the project. Dominion Virginia Power secured a similar rate of $46.7 million for two 6 MW turbines to be installed off Virginia Beach, Va., on novel twisted jacket foundations derived from the offshore oil industry.
After the Storm
Another unusual project, proposed by Principle Power and selected for $46.7 million in DOE grants, is slated to have five 6 MW direct-drive turbines on semi-submersible floating foundations assembled near shore and towed to depths of around 1,000 feet off the Oregon coast. The company’s previous partnership with big Portuguese developer EDP saw a 2 MW Vestas turbine successfully deployed off Portugal’s coast on a floating platform, not long before a major storm brought waves over 60 feet high. The turbine survived, demonstrating that the deepwater development has a real chance at success and that the U.S. West Coast, with its much deeper sea floor, could also accommodate offshore wind.
The pipeline potential being built up through offshore lease signings through a program administered by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is also an exciting development. Off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Deepwater Wind has agreed to pay $3.8 million to develop in an area that could support 3.4 GW of wind. Off the Virginia coast, Dominion won an auction to invest $1.6 million in the phased development of over 2 GW. In Maryland, two lease sites will be auctioned in August that could support up to 2.3 GW. Further auctions for a total of nearly 10 GW of offshore wind capacity have been announced by BOEM for Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York in the coming year.
This obvious progress in U.S. offshore wind is garnering headlines beyond the trade presses because offshore wind is still novel in the country. But the revived onshore market is where substantial capacity is again being deployed, despite the boom-and-bust cycles caused by on-and-off-again tax policies.
The production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) are currently expired, yet the wind market is booming, with nearly 100 projects totaling as much as 13 GW in various stages of construction in over 20 states. This is the result of the PTC being extended on Jan. 1, 2013, for one year and special safe-harbor guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The guidance allows wind plants that began construction during the extended PTC to qualify, as long as developers either began construction in 2013 - the so-called “physical work test” - or spent at least 5% of the project capital costs that year.
The owners of Cape Wind and the Deepwater Wind Block Island projects have announced compliance with the 5% test for the ITC. Development of more offshore projects will depend on the extension of the ITC and state incentives such as the ocean renewable energy credits or long-term contracts. Onshore projects that meet the physical or 5% test then have two years to come online in order to qualify for the PTC or ITC.
In an ideal scenario, the 13 GW of construction reportedly under way would come online by the end of the two-year window ending Dec. 31, 2015.
In Navigant’s World Market Update 2013, the report forecasts that around 12 GW of the 13 GW will come online, split roughly between 2014 and 2015. A few items of uncertainty surround this build cycle. More than 9 GW of PPAs have been signed during 2013 and through the first quarter of this year. PPAs in almost all cases are essential for wind plants in the U.S. to secure financing.
Extending the Wind Cycle
That’s not to say a further 3 GW to 4 GW of PPAs cannot be signed for this build cycle, but time is running out for turbine purchases that would lead to installation by the end of 2015. Some developers that started construction but did not put down payments on turbines by the end of 2013 may ultimately not secure PPAs, turbines or financing, nor qualify under the IRS safe-harbor stipulations during this build cycle for certain projects.
Even if just over 9 GW is commissioned between 2014 and 2015, that still represents a healthy baseline of wind installation. But it shows again the inefficiency of the U.S. system of stop-start development cycles, driven by a Congress that has failed to provide the wind industry with long-term policy stability. The wind industry and its stakeholders are lobbying fiercely for an extension of the credits now, but the more likely scenario for passage is within a broader tax extenders package that stands a better chance of passing in the lame-duck Congressional session after the November elections.
One notable upside to the possible passage of the wind tax credits at the end of the year covering 2015 is that they will most likely include the same IRS safe-harbor and start-construction stipulations, which would effectively extend out a two-year build cycle from the end of 2015 into 2016 and 2017. With projects already under way for 2014 and 2015, that could potentially create a four-year build cycle beginning with this year’s initial recovery and ending in 2017.
August 5, 2015 – AWEA: U.S. Installs 853 MW of Wind in First Half of 2014
The U.S. wind energy industry installed 835 MW during the first half of this year - dwarfing the 1.6 MW installed during the first half of 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) Second Quarter 2014 Market Report. However, these latest figures still lag behind historical installation trends, due to policy uncertainty caused by the last-minute production tax credit (PTC) extension in 2013.
The report says 15 wind energy projects have been completed and gone online since the start of this year, adding 217 MW in the first quarter and 619 MW in the second quarter. As of June 30, total installed U.S. wind capacity stood at 61,946 MW. The report says the leading states for installed wind capacity are Texas (12,753 MW), California (5,829 MW), Iowa (5,177 MW), Illinois (3,568 MW), Oregon (3,153 MW) and Oklahoma (3,134 MW).
Furthermore, AWEA notes another 109 projects were under way at midyear, representing up to 14.6 GW of additional capacity. According to the report, Texas has by far the most wind energy under construction in the nation, with approximately 8.3 GW of the total. Another 6.2 GW are under construction in 20 other states, focused in the Midwest and Plains. The report says new activity began in the second quarter in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, Michigan, Maryland, California, and Indiana.
“The economic benefits of all these projects are significant,” says Emily Williams, AWEA’s manager of industry data and analysis. “They include U.S. manufacturing jobs, with many factories hiring new workers to meet demand, and all the local benefits from the capital investment of billions of dollars in rural America.”
Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA, notes that leading brands like Google, IKEA, MARS and Microsoft have announced new contracts or investments for additional wind energy since April. A variety of industries are also investing in their own on-site wind turbines: At the end of the second quarter, there were utility-scale turbines under construction at a brewery, a produce processing plant and a tribal casino.
AWEA says its new report comes as the U.S. industry continues to adjust to new rules signed into law at the start of 2013 for the federal PTC. The rules now allow any wind energy project that started construction or invested 5% of its capital by the end of 2013 to qualify for the PTC once the project starts generating energy for the grid.
Notably, further PTC guidance is expected soon from the Internal Revenue Service, and AWEA says that may help increase the percentage of projects with long-term power purchase agreements.
Nonetheless, Kiernan says action by Congress to extend the incentive is once again urgent in order to avoid another downturn in wind development. And although the tax extenders bill, known as the EXPIRE Act, includes a PTC renewal, the legislation is still pending in the U.S. Senate.
“We can double American wind power by 2020, and double again by 2030,” Kiernan says, “if Congress gets the rules straight by extending these critical tax policies as soon as possible, and continues to work on long-term policies that would provide a more predictable business environment.
“Wind is a very good deal right now for American consumers, and with consistent policies we can build a lot more of it.”
August 4, 2014 – California City Builds Wind Turbine to Further Its Sustainability Initiative
As part of its Community Sustainability Initiative, the City of Gonzales, Calif., has begun construction of a commercial-scale wind turbine on land adjacent to its Agricultural Industrial Business Park.
Foundation WindPower, a Silicon Valley-based company, is building the 350-foot-tall wind turbine. Taylor Farms, a food processing company, is leasing the machine from the City for 25 years and is buying the power under a separate agreement with Foundation.
According to the City of Gonzales, the construction project began a year after the Board of Supervisors approved a conditional use permit and amendment to the Monterey County Code to allow commercial wind turbines to exceed 200 feet in height if certain standards are met. This project is the first of two wind turbines to be constructed by the City.
“Harnessing the strong valley breeze that arises in Gonzales every afternoon just seemed like the next logical progression toward making the city more sustainable and less reliant on traditional sources of energy,” says City Manager Rene Mendez. “Just the first of two wind turbines will account for an 80 percent reduction in the city’s carbon footprint for its commercial and industrial sectors.”
August 1, 2014 – EIA: U.S. Hydropower Generation Now Routinely Exceeded By Wind, Solar and Other Renewables
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), April marked the eighth consecutive month that the nation's total monthly non-hydro renewable generation exceeded hydropower generation.
The recent growth in wind and solar, which reflects policies such as state renewable portfolio standards and federal tax credits as well as declining costs of technology, has been the primary driver in the increasing market share of non-hydro renewable generation, the EIA says.
October 2012 was the first month on record in which non-hydro renewable generation exceeded hydropower generation, although significant month-to-month variation kept the trend lines crossing back and forth. The most recent ascent of non-hydro renewables, lasting from September 2013 through April 2014, has been the most enduring.
The data used to develop the EIA's trends analysis includes only generation from plants whose capacity exceeds 1 MW, and as a result, does not include generation from most distributed generation (DG) solar PV capacity. Inclusion of DG solar, which the EIA estimates at roughly 10 billion kWh hours in 2013, modestly accelerates the timing of the crossover between hydro and non-hydro renewable generation.
The EIA projects that 2014 will be the first year in which annual non-hydro renewable generation surpasses annual hydropower generation. By 2040, non-hydro renewables are projected to provide more than twice as much generation as hydropower.
July 30, 2014 – New York Offers $250 Million For Large-Scale Clean Energy Projects
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, D-N.Y., has announced that $250 million is available to fund large-scale clean energy projects such as wind farms, fuel cells, biomass facilities, renewable biogas, and hydropower upgrade projects.
"With access to some of the brightest minds in the country, as well as an abundance of renewal natural resources, New York has been a leader in renewable energy development and is committed to building a diversified, modern power grid," says Cuomo. "This investment will help us reach this goal by driving the development of new projects and boosting economic growth in the process."
Funding will be provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) through the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and contracts for these projects will be awarded for a term of up to 20 years.
NYSERDA says its previous eight RPS Main Tier solicitations for large-scale renewable projects have resulted in approximately 1.9 GW of installed capacity at 65 projects. A recent New York Public Service Commission order instructed NYSERDA to issue at least one more RPS solicitation in 2015, as well as to double the length of current contract terms to 20 years.
"In keeping with Governor Cuomo’s energy priorities, changes in this solicitation will increase the feasibility of developing large renewable energy generation projects in New York State that will spur economic opportunities," comments John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. "We expect this updated program design to attract greater private-sector investment to help reduce strain on the electric grid and protect the environment."
NYSERDA says that for every dollar New York invests in RPS Main Tier projects, the state realizes an additional $3 in economic benefit. More than $2.7 billion of direct investment in New York State is expected to occur as a result of existing Main Tier projects in the form of jobs, payments to public entities, in-state purchase of goods and services, and land leases.
July 29, 2014 – EPA Holds Public Hearings on Proposed Clean Power Plan
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has kicked off four two-day public hearings about its proposed Clean Power Plan, and groups from around the country are chiming in.
The hearings will be held in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh and will provide the opportunity for interested parties to comment on the proposed rule before it takes effect. The EPA says it has received around 300,000 comments on the proposal and anticipates hearing oral comments from about 1,600 people.
In June, the EPA released its Clean Power Plan, which seeks to cut carbon pollution from existing U.S. power plants for the first time. Ultimately, the plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% below 2005 levels, and many people believe renewable energy, including wind power, stands to benefit greatly from the regulations.
In anticipation of the EPA's public hearings, various organizations have released statements regarding the Clean Power Plan. Furthermore, an advocacy group has revealed a new poll showing that minority voters view climate change as a real threat and support carbon pollution standards.
In a statement, Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the EPA plan "a giant leap forward." "This week we'll hear loud and clear that the American people are strongly behind the EPA's plans because climate change already, today, is harming our health and environment," says Beinecke. "We're almost out of time, but not out of solutions."
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, says, "We have a moral obligation to do all we can - by cutting pollution, accelerating a transition to clean energy and by taking advantage of a tremendous opportunity to modernize how we power our country. Once finalized, the EPA's Clean Power Plan will do just that, and that's why Sierra Club activists are mobilizing to support and bolster this important public health protection at the EPA's public hearings this week."
Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, adds, "The National Wildlife Federation and our affiliates look forward to working with the administration and the states to achieve the new standards and protect wildlife across the nation."
Advocacy group Green For All also released a new poll. The study surveyed 400 African American and 400 Latino likely voters from so-called "battleground states" (Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virgina), as well as 100 Asian likely voters from California.
According to the survey, 62% of respondents say not enough attention and resources are being devoted to climate change, and 75% agree that the new EPA carbon pollution standards will spur research and innovations to keep energy prices low and create new industries with good-paying jobs. In addition, 70% of respondents say they are more likely to support candidates willing to expand resources to tackle climate change.
"There is a lot of rumor and speculation surrounding what people of color think about climate change and the environment," says Nikki Silvestri, Green For All's executive director. "Yet, too often the communities that are hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change are not part of the discussion. But, the answer is clear. People of color care deeply about the environment and the impacts of climate change."
Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, has announced a rally in Georgia to oppose the Clean Power Plan.
"President Obama's EPA is waging a war on affordable energy through burdensome regulations and unrealistic mandates," the group says in a press release. "It's time to send a message that we cannot afford to pay for Obama's environmental ideology."
Michael Harden, the group's Georgia state director, adds, "This is a pocketbook issue. Federal micromanaging of Georgia's electricity generation portfolio will invariably cause electricity prices to rise, and higher electricity bills are bad news for struggling Georgia families - and the most vulnerable families will be the hardest hit.
"And because such a significant portion of Georgia's electricity comes from coal," he continues, "the EPA regulations would have an overwhelmingly negative impact on jobs in Georgia."
According to the EPA, people can comment on the proposal by email, fax or letter, and the comment period is open until Oct. 16.
July 29, 2014 – Alberta Breaks Wind Power Record, Then Does it Again
Canadian province Alberta broke its wind generation record not once, but twice, last week. Between 11 a.m. and noon on Thursday, July 24, Alberta produced an average of 1,188 MW of wind power. The province then surpassed that on Friday, July 25, peaking at an average of 1,255 MW between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Before last week, the previous record was set on May 29, with an average of 1,134 MW.
Angela Anderson, a spokesperson for the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), explains that the most recent records were due to a combination of very windy days and new wind farms. Specifically, she says the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge project, which went online in Vulcan County in May, "allowed the system to produce more wind than ever before."
According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), Alberta is home to over 1.4 GW of installed wind capacity and ranks third among the country’s provinces. Tim Weis, the association’s Alberta regional director, says the new wind production records are certainly noteworthy.
“This is significant, not only because it was just this past April that Alberta broke the 1,000 MW plateau for the first time, but [also because] Alberta’s electricity system is showing that it can integrate large amounts of wind energy seamlessly,” states Weis.
He also mentions that the AESO lifted a 900 MW threshold for installed wind capacity in Alberta in 2007, and now wind production has peaked at over 30% more than that original limit.
Furthermore, it appears wind power is poised for growth in Alberta. “There is a lot of interest in wind development in the province, and that's expected to continue over the coming years,” comments Anderson. She says the AESO currently has 15 active wind projects totaling about 2.1 GW in the grid operator’s connection queue.
Overall, the AESO anticipates wind capacity to nearly double over the next 20 years from approximately 1.4 GW to 2.7 GW. “In fact, by 2034, we are forecasting Alberta will have more wind power than coal-fired generation on the system.”
Nonetheless, Weis says most new power generation in the province will likely come from natural gas, not wind.
“Alberta is facing two issues simultaneously,” he explains. “First of all, federal regulations require that coal units retire when they reach their 50th birthday. Alberta’s market is over 60 percent coal, and the first units will start to hit their 50th birthday this decade.
“At the same time, Alberta’s system operator is forecasting significant growth in electricity demand over the next two decades, largely as a result of the growing oil sands industry. Several independent forecasts suggest that the vast majority of new electricity supply will come from natural gas to fill this gap.”
Weis points out that the price of wind power isn’t the reason, though, as the AESO estimates wind energy within 7% of gas costs. The truth is, natural gas is simply easier to build in Alberta’s electricity market because “it can more easily bid into the market and respond to changes in future costs.”
But there’s a problem: Weis says forecasts suggest a big switch to natural gas will eventually undo the environmental benefits gained from closing down coal plants, with greenhouse-gas emissions starting to increase again in just over a decade.
Weis argues that although the AESO has proven it can handle more and more renewable energy on its grid, the province still needs “a new policy framework that recognizes the benefits of renewables so that we can continue to see wind grow in Alberta.”
July 29, 2014 – Nordex Receives 50 MW Wind Contract in Uruguay
Nordex says it has won a contract from a subsidiary of one of Italy's largest utilities for the construction of a 50 MW wind farm in Uruguay. The project, which is located about 60 km from the Brazilian border, will feature 20 N100/2500 turbines.
Situated in the Cerro Largo area, the wind farm is characterized by mean wind speeds of over 8.5 m/s - ideal for the N100/2500 turbine, which Nordex says has been specially designed for the IEC-2 wind class. Moreover, the customer has signed up for the premium light service for a period of two years.
Uruguay has set the goal of covering 30% of its electricity requirements by wind power in 2015, notes Nordex.
July 25, 2014 – U.S. Energy Department Funds Distributed Wind R&D Work
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced funding for projects led by four U.S. companies that will aim to drive down the cost of small and midsize wind energy systems.
Through the second round of the Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP), the teams will receive a total of $1.35 million between them. In support of the DOE's Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, this funding will help U.S. manufacturers improve their turbine designs and manufacturing processes to reduce hardware costs, boost efficiency and eventually earn certification from accredited third-party bodies.
The DOE notes that although distributed wind systems can range in size from 5 kW to multiple megawatts, the CIP focuses on small and midsize turbines up to 250 kW in rated capacity. The following companies will receive funding:
- Pika Energy of Westbrook, Maine, will improve the performance of its existing components and manufacturing process. Pika will scale up its existing turbine components to roughly twice their current size to produce a turbine capable of producing more energy at a reduced end-user cost. The company will also implement the use of an injection molding technique for manufacturing in order to produce lighter and stronger components.
- Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vt., will develop and deploy a blade designed for low-wind-speed applications. The company will also model and test an advanced control method that will help increase the amount of energy produced by its turbine.
- Endurance Wind Power of Spanish Forks, Utah, will test the prototype of its expanded rotor that allows for a larger wind-sweep area, leading to a more efficient turbine.
- Urban Green Energy of New York City will test its vertical-axis wind turbine against the American Wind Energy Association’s Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard.
July 25, 2014 – Report Ranks U.S. Utilities' Renewables, Energy Efficiency Performance
Many U.S. electric utilities are deploying lower-carbon fuel sources, with state policies a key driver in that performance. So says a new report co-produced by Boston-based advocacy group Ceres and San Francisco-based market research firm Clean Edge. However, there is variability in performance even among utilities operating in the same states.
Five of the 32 companies included in the report accounted for nearly 54% of renewable energy sales.
According to the report, which ranks the 32 largest electric utility holding companies - representing about 68% of U.S. retail electricity sales in 2012 - NV Energy, Xcel, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Sempra and Edison International were found to rank the highest for renewable energy sales, with renewable resources accounting for about 17% to 21% of their retail electricity sales in 2012.
Southern Co., SCANA, Dominion, AES and Entergy ranked at the bottom, with renewable energy sales accounting for less than 2% of each company’s total power sales.
Energy efficiency top performers among holding companies included PG&E, Edison International and Northeast Utilities, the report says, with those utilities realizing cumulative annual energy efficiency savings equivalent to 16% - 17% of their annual retail electric sales in 2012. PSEG, SCANA, Pepco Holdings, Dominion Resources and Entergy ranked at the bottom, with cumulative annual energy efficiency savings accounting for less than 1% of their annual retail sales.
Analyzing 2012 data from nearly a dozen federal, state and industry sources, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration, state renewable portfolio standard annual reports, and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K filings, the report benchmarked companies on the following three indicators:
- Renewable energy sales - the total amount of retail renewable electricity sold, including renewable energy credits retired by the utility;
- Cumulative annual energy efficiency savings, which include savings from projects that were implemented in prior years and were still saving energy in 2012; and
- Incremental annual energy efficiency savings - the energy savings from new programs or new participants in existing programs.
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares for its listening sessions on its Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, the report’s producers say more scrutiny must fall on how utilities are deploying clean energy and energy efficiency programs.
"Renewable energy and energy efficiency, two of the EPA's Clean Power Plan building blocks, are increasingly cost-effective options for electric utilities seeking to lower their carbon emissions," says Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. "Our analysis shows that some utilities are beginning to deliver substantial amounts of clean energy and energy efficiency, while others are lagging."
The full report can be found here (registration required).
July 25, 2014 – Ontario Grid Operator Announces Energy Storage Projects
Ontario's grid operator, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), has announced new energy storage projects meant to help increase grid reliability and efficiency, as well as to maximize the output from wind and solar power.
The IESO selected technologies from five companies, including Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., Convergent Energy and Power LLC, Dimplex North America, Hecate Energy, and Hydrogenics Corp. The grid operator says the energy storage facilities will connect to the high-voltage transmission network in southern and northern Ontario or the distribution system in southern Ontario.
The IESO says it will take the learnings from these new projects, totaling 34 MW, to understand how to better manage the day-to-day operation of the power grid using storage.
“Storage facilities on the grid are a real game-changer,” comments Bruce Campbell, president and CEO of the IESO. “Our electricity system was built on the concept that you can’t store large amounts of electricity - we produce electricity at the same time as we consume it. Energy storage projects will provide more flexibility and offer more options to manage the system efficiently.”
The Ontario government’s Long-Term Energy Plan identified the need to move forward with 50 MW of energy storage. The Ontario Power Authority will follow this procurement by the IESO to obtain the remainder of the 50 MW target.
“Investing in energy storage technologies is an important part of the Ontario government’s plan to provide clean, reliable and affordable power to consumers,” says Ontario Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli. “Together with the IESO, we’re building a smarter, more advanced grid that will ensure our entire system uses energy as efficiently as possible.”
July 24, 2014 – Mercom Tallies Up Global Wind Deals of the Second Quarter
Global wind power venture capital (VC) funding reached $48 million in the second quarter of this year (Q2'14), an increase from $32 million in Q1'14, according to a new report from Mercom Capital Group. Total corporate funding in the wind sector, including VC funding, public market financing and debt financing, came to $4 billion in the quarter.
The report says the largest VC deal in the wind sector in Q2'14 was by STX France, a provider of offshore construction to renewable marine energy and oil and gas markets, which raised $27 million from BPIFrance, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, Credit Agricole, Banque Populaire, and Region Pays de la Loire. That was followed by Nenuphar, a developer of vertical-axis floating wind turbines, which raised approximately $20.8 million from new investors, Areva and FCPR Ecotechnologies, and existing investor IDInvest Partners.
Announced large-scale project funding in the quarter totaled $6.3 billion in 38 deals, compared to $7.2 billion in 29 deals in Q’14.
Mercom says it also tracked nearly 11 GW of new project announcements globally this quarter in various stages of development.
According to the report, there were seven merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions in Q2’14, four of which disclosed amounts totaling $828 million. The top disclosed M&A transaction during the quarter was the acquisition of a 33.33% stake in ACCIONA Energia International, the renewable energy generation business of ACCIONA Energia, by investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for approximately $567 million.
Announced project acquisitions in the second quarter came to $1.4 billion in 31 transactions, compared to 30 transactions in Q1’14.
The report says the top five project acquisitions by disclosed amount were led by independent power producer NRG Yield, which signed a deal with Terra-Gen Power, a renewable energy project developer, to acquire the Alta Wind projects in California for $870 million.
That was followed by renewable energy project developer Pattern Energy Group, which agreed to acquire 179 MW of the Panhandle 1 Wind project in Texas from Pattern Development for $125 million. Investment company Greencoat UK Wind acquired the 24 MW Maerdy wind project in South Wales from Velocita Energy Developments for approximately $89.8 million, as well as the 18.4 MW Kildrummy wind project in Scotland from BayWa r.e for approximately $73.5 million.
The report says the final top spot was shared by Enel Green Power North America, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power, which purchased an additional 26% of the Class A interests in 250 MW Buffalo Dunes wind project in Kansas from EFS Buffalo Dunes, a GE Capital subsidiary, for approximately $60 million, and TradeWind Energy, a developer and manager of wind energy projects, which acquired the 150 MW Osage wind project in Oklahoma from Wind Capital Group, the U.S. wind company of renewables investment group NTR, for $60 million.
Of the disclosed project acquisitions in Q2’14, the report says 10 investment firms, eight project developers, four utilities and two independent power producers acquired wind projects.
More information about the Mercom report is available here.
July 24, 2014 – Google, IEEE Kick Off $1 Million Contest to Create Smaller Inverters
Internet giant Google has teamed up with IEEE to launch the Little Box Challenge, an open competition to build a much smaller power inverter.
The companies say the Little Box Challenge, which will offer a $1 million prize, is designed to spur innovation that can drive a 10 times or greater reduction in the size of power inverters. Inverters are used to convert direct-current energy that comes from wind, solar and electric vehicles, among other things, into alternating current. Specifically, the project is looking for a kilowatt-scale inverter that is the size of a small laptop and has a power density greater than 50 W per cubic inch.
The companies say these technology advancements can lead to higher efficiency, increased reliability and lower energy costs. For example, a smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world.
“We are very pleased to present this important initiative together with Google to encourage innovation,” comments Don Tan, president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society. “By participating in this challenge, members of industry and academia can play a pivotal role in a technological innovation that could have a major impact on the world.”
Registration for the competition is due Sept. 30, and the contest will run through 2015. For more information on the Little Box Challenge, click here.
July 22, 2014 – Renewables Make up Over 50% Of New U.S. Power in First Half of 2014
Renewables provided 55.7% of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of this year (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed), according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group the SUN DAY Campaign says solar alone has accounted for nearly one-third of new U.S. generating capacity thus far in 2014: 32.1% (1,131 MW). Wind provided 19.8% (699 MW), followed by biomass (2.5% - 87 MW), geothermal (0.9% - 32 MW) and hydropower (0.5% - 16 MW). Most of the balance (1,555 MW - 44.1%) of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas, while no new coal or nuclear power capacity was reported.
The SUN DAY Campaign says the dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity this year is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Over the past 30 months (i.e., since Jan. 1, 2012), renewable energy sources have accounted for almost half (48.0%), or 22,774 MW, of the 47,446 MW of new electrical generating capacity.
If calendar-year 2011 is also factored in, SUN DAY says renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past three-and-a-half years. In fact, the group says since Jan.1, 2011, renewables have provided more new electrical generating capacity than natural gas (31,345 MW vs. 29,176 MW) and nearly four times that from coal (8,235 MW).
Renewable energy sources now account for 16.28% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: hydro - 8.57%, wind - 5.26%, biomass - 1.37%, solar - 0.75%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. SUN DAY says this is up from 14.76% two years earlier (i.e., June 30, 2012) and is now more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined.
July 18, 2014 – Interior Department Plans New Jersey Offshore Wind Auction
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have announced plans to sell leases for nearly 344,000 acres offshore New Jersey for commercial wind power development.
BOEM proposes to auction the designated Wind Energy Area (WEA), which begins about seven nautical miles off the coast from Atlantic City, as two leases: the South Lease Area (160,480 acres) and the North Lease Area (183,353 acres). The agency says analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows the New Jersey WEA could support up to 3.4 GW of wind generation, enough to power about 1.2 million homes.
The proposed sale notice, to be published in the Federal Register on July 21, will include a 60-day public comment period ending Sept. 19. Comments received or postmarked by that date will be made available to the public and considered before the publication of the final sale notice, which will announce the time and date of the lease sale.
The end of the comment period also serves as the deadline for any companies wishing to participate in the lease sale to submit their qualification package. To be eligible to participate in the lease sale, each bidder must have been notified by BOEM that it is legally, technically and financially qualified by the time the final sale notice is published. BOEM says it will also host a public seminar on Aug. 6 to describe the auction format, explain the auction rules and demonstrate the auction process.
This latest announcement builds on the DOI’s ongoing offshore wind initiatives. To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). BOEM also expects to hold additional competitive auctions for WEAs offshore Maryland in August and Massachusetts in the coming year.
July 18, 2014 – Quebec Creates New Wind Power Task Force
The Quebec government is creating a new task force to assess future wind power development in the province, and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) says it is confident this initiative will serve to strengthen Quebec's wind energy sector. The association adds that it will actively participate in the task force to further promote the merits of wind energy.
“Wind energy has a role to play in Quebec’s economy and sustainable energy development,” says Jean-Frederick Legendre, Quebec Regional Director for CanWEA. “The province is well positioned for the next development phase of the wind energy sector to generate new investments and to further attract component manufacturing.”
He continues, “We are determined to work with the government to allow the industry to grow in a favorable and predictable context, which is necessary in order for new wind projects to materialize.”
July 17, 2014 – New Report Details 2013 Global Wind Power Growth and Trends
Double-digit growth continued in the global wind market in 2013, according to a new report from Worldwatch Institute. Of today's 318 GW total generating capacity, 35 GW was added in 2013 alone. However, the report says this growth (12.5% increase over 2012) was a significant drop from the average growth rate over the last 10 years (21%). In addition, overall investment declined slightly from $80.9 billion in 2012 to $80.3 billion in 2013.
According to the report, onshore wind power is becoming more cost-competitive against new coal- and gas-fired plants, even without incentives and support schemes. Over the past few years, capital costs of wind power have decreased because of large technological advances such as larger machines with increased power yield, higher hub height, longer blades and greater nameplate capacity.
The report says offshore wind capacity continued to see impressive growth in 2013 as projects became larger and moved into deeper waters. Until recently, deepwater offshore wind has developed on foundations adapted from the oil and gas industry, but deeper waters and harsher weather have become formidable challenges requiring newly designed equipment. Shipbuilders are expanding to make larger vessels to transport bigger equipment and longer and larger subsea cables to more-distant offshore projects.
Thee report says these trends have kept prices high in recent years. As of early 2014, the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for offshore wind power - which includes the cost of the plant's full operational and financial life - was up to nearly $240/MWh. By comparison, the report says the LCOE of onshore wind installations in various regions of the world is under $150/MWh, having fallen about 15% between 2009 and early 2014.
Furthermore, the report says tighter competition among manufacturers continues to drive down capital costs, and the positioning of the world's top manufacturers continues to shift. The top 10 turbine manufacturers captured nearly 70% of the global market in 2013, down from 77% the year before.
In an effort to maintain profitability, manufacturers are trying new strategies, such as moving away from just manufacturing turbines, the report notes. Some companies focus more on project operations and maintenance, which guarantees a steady business even during down seasons and can increase overall value in an increasingly competitive market. Some manufacturers are also turning to outsourcing and flexible manufacturing, which can lower overall costs and protect firms from exchange rate changes, customs duties, and logistical issues associated with shipping large turbines and parts.
Among the world's regions, the report says the European Union is in the lead for installed wind power capacity. Its 37% share of global capacity edges out Asia's 36%. However, the European wind market slowed in 2013. The two most dynamic markets were Germany, which added 3 GW to bring its total to 34.25 GW, and the U.K., which installed nearly 2 GW, much of which was offshore installations.
In 2013, China installed 16.1 GW of new wind power capacity, 24% more than it added the previous year. By the end of 2013, total installed wind capacity there measured 91.4 GW.
In India, the report says government policies in support of wind power have lapsed. Only 1.7 GW were installed there in 2013, compared with a record 3 GW in 2011. To return to more robust growth, the Indian government reintroduced its generation-based incentive for wind and solar power projects between 100 kW and 2 MW.
According to the report, the U.S. now has 61 GW of wind power capacity installed. But the report also notes that the expiration of the production tax credit (PTC) at the end of 2013 led to factory closures and layoffs due to the scarcity of new turbine orders. Renewal of the PTC was proposed as part of a larger bill this spring. If the legislation passes, the report says it could mean an uptick in new wind power projects this year and in 2015. However, the bill will likely remain stalled until after the November elections.
Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East saw only 90 MW of new wind power additions in 2013. Taken together, these three regions have 1,255 MW of installed capacity.
Continuing its drive to increase energy security and diversify supply, Latin America added almost 1.2 GW of new capacity, bringing the region up to 4.8 GW by the end of 2013. The report says innovative policy approaches taken by Brazil and Uruguay played a big role in the region's wind expansion last year.
July 15, 2014 – Global Clean Energy Investment Surges with Help From Massive Offshore Wind Deal
Global clean energy investment jumped to $63.6 billion in the second quarter of this year (Q2'14), up 33% compared to Q1'14 and 9% compared to Q2'13, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The report says Q2'14 was the strongest quarter for investment since Q2'12, which reached $69.6 billion, and was down only $14.4 billion from the quarterly record of $78 billion in Q2'11. Last quarter's strong figures were driven by a combination of big financings for wind and solar projects sized in the hundreds of megawatts, as well as busy activity in the installation of small-scale rooftop photovoltaics.
According to BNEF, the stand-out deal of the quarter was the $3.8 billion financing of the 600 MW Gemini offshore wind farm in the North Sea - the largest investment decision ever in renewable energy (excluding large hydroelectric). Signed in May, the transaction involved the developer - Canada’s Northland Power - plus three other equity investor groups; 12 European, Canadian and Japanese commercial banks; the European Investment Bank; a Danish pension fund; and three export credit agencies.
However, the report notes Gemini was only one of the highlights. Also looming large were the $818 million financing of the 121 MW Ashalim I Sun Negev solar thermal project in Israel, and the $647 million investment go-ahead for the 252 MW Cemex Ventika wind farm in Mexico.
Geographically, the report says the biggest contributions to the bounce in clean energy investment in Q2’14 came from China, which committed $19.3 billion, more than double the Q1’14 figure and up 16% on the same quarter a year ago; the U.S., which invested $10.6 billion, up 34% from Q1’14 and 2% above another strong figure in Q2’13; and Europe, which invested $14 billion, up 26% on Q1’14 and 47% on a weak Q2 last year.
“The past two years have seen investment decline by over 20 percent from its 2011 peak, driven equally by the European fiscal crisis, policy uncertainty and plummeting costs for renewable energy equipment,” explains Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at BNEF. “Now, what we are seeing is the new competitiveness of renewable energy winning through, driving a surge in demand.”
“We are expecting the full-year figures for 2014 to show a clear rebound in global investment in clean energy,” Liebreich continues. “The debt-and-policy-fuelled bubble years of 2007 to 2010 were inevitably going to be followed by a period of consolidation; that period now definitely looks to be over, and the industry is gathering momentum once again.”
July 15, 2014 – Microsoft to Buy Power From 175 MW Illinois Wind Farm
Computer software giant Microsoft has signed up to buy the power from the 175 MW Pilot Hill Wind Project, located 60 miles southwest of Chicago. In addition, developer EDF Renewable Energy has acquired a 96% stake in the Illinois project from Orion Energy Group and Vision Energy.
Microsoft's newly inked 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) represents the company’s largest wind investment to date, following a November PPA with RES Americas for the 110 MW Keechi wind project in Texas. The tech company says it is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and becoming carbon neutral.
Pilot Hill will consist of GE and Vestas wind turbines, and the wind project is situated on the same electric grid that powers Microsoft’s Chicago-area data center. EDF says physical construction will commence shortly, with commercial operation anticipated during the first quarter of 2015.
“The Pilot Hill Wind Project is important to Microsoft because it helps solidify our commitment to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources to meet our energy needs,” says Brian Janous, director of energy strategy for Microsoft. “Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services from the power plant to the chip. Long-term commitments like Pilot Hill help ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our data centers.”
Ryan Pfaff, executive vice president for EDF Renewable Energy, says the company is pleased to partner with Microsoft.
“The participation of companies like Microsoft in renewable energy generation projects points to a growing trend of ‘blue chip’ organizations taking charge of their energy destiny by procuring directly, with a focus on both reducing their carbon footprint and controlling long-term energy costs,” says Pfaff.
“It is encouraging to see leading corporations investing in the U.S. wind sector based not only on their desire to positively impact the environment, but also because it simply makes good business sense, as the cost of wind energy continues to decline, and with the support provided by the federal production tax credit (PTC).”
In fact, Microsoft has joined other big-name U.S. companies in the past to call on Congress for PTC extensions.
July 14, 2014 – Study Says States Are Prepared For EPA Carbon Pollution Rules
The report, funded by the Energy Foundation and the Merck Family Fund, was released at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' conference in Dallas. Analysis Group says the study is based on a careful analysis of states that already have experience regulating carbon pollution. It finds that those states' economies have seen net increases in economic output and jobs.
“Several states have already put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, and their economies are doing fine. The bottom line: the economy can handle - and actually benefit from - these rules,” says Analysis Group Senior Advisor Susan Tierney. “Those states have shown they already have the tools available to cut CO2 emissions while generating macroeconomic benefits and protecting consumers from dramatic hikes in their energy bills.”
The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan would regulate carbon emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants using the EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act. Due to be finalized next year, the draft rules allow states to choose a variety of market-based and other approaches, such as renewables, to cut the greenhouse gas emissions.
The Analysis Group team analyzed the carbon-control rules already in place in several states to see what insights they might hold for the success of the national rule.
“We found that well-designed programs implementing the Clean Power Plan will not lead to major price impacts or economic disruption,” comments Paul Hibbard, vice president of Analysis Group. “Costs from well-designed CO2-pollution-control programs will be modest in the near term and likely offset by longer-term benefits for all and common protections for low-income customers.”
So far, the report says net economic effects on states that already regulate carbon pollution have been positive in terms of both economic output and jobs, and the same can be expected if states comply thoughtfully with the Clean Power Plan. States that work together to form carbon markets or other collaborative initiatives have the potential to experience greater benefits than they would by trying to meet the new standards by themselves, the report says.
“Experience shows that states that work together on market-based compliance initiatives - like [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)] in the Northeast - can provide net economic benefits in terms of jobs and economic output,” says Hibbard. “And RGGI shows that each state can have control over its own program design, so that combined efforts don’t step on states' rights.”
Multi-state market-based programs to control CO2 emissions can also respect the practicalities of electric system operations and can work for both traditionally regulated and competitive electric markets, the report finds.
Analysis Group notes that the report was based on states' existing track records, rather than projecting costs and benefits that might be expected under the Clean Power Plan. Although the report suggests energy efficiency has so far proven to be the most economically beneficial way to achieve carbon cuts, many predict the Clean Power Plan will also greatly help spur renewable energy development. In fact, the American Wind Energy Association's recently said the EPA plan could be the third largest driver of wind-powered generation behind state renewable portfolio standards and the federal production tax credit.
July 11, 2014 – Major U.S. Companies: Unmet Renewable Energy Demand Requires Market Shift
Seeking to increase the availability of cost-competitive renewable energy to run their businesses, 12 companies have signed the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles to better communicate their purchasing needs and expectations to the marketplace.
The companies - Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint, and Walmart - hope the principles will open up new opportunities for collaboration with utilities and energy suppliers to increase their ability to buy renewable energy.
With a combined renewable energy target of 8.4 million MWh per year through 2020, the 12 participating companies are seeking a market shift to achieve their sustainable energy goals. Large-scale buyers often have to work around traditional utilities to purchase renewables at competitive prices at the scale they need, increasing complexity and transaction costs.
The Buyers’ Principles outline six criteria that would significantly help companies meet their ambitious purchasing goals:
- Greater choice in procurement options;
- More access to cost-competitive options;
- Longer- and variable-term contracts;
- Access to new projects that reduce emissions beyond business as usual;
- Streamlined third-party financing; and
- Increased purchasing options with utilities.
The principles address several major obstacles large companies face in procuring and installing renewable energy. For example, large buyers find current renewable energy markets are complicated to navigate and don’t deliver the products corporate customers are looking for. The sheer volume of renewable energy needed to meet their goals demonstrates both a clear demand and a market opportunity for any provider that can deliver what they need.
"We know cost-competitive renewable energy exists, but the problem is that it is way too difficult for most companies to buy," says Amy Hargroves, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability for Sprint. "Very few companies have the knowledge and resources to purchase renewable energy, given today’s very limited and complex options. Our hope is that by identifying the commonalities among large buyers, the principles will catalyze market changes that will help make renewables more affordable and accessible for all companies."
The Buyers’ Group is an informal consortium of companies interested in overcoming the obstacles to buying renewable energy and sharing best practices - not a power purchase group.
The principles evolved from a collaboration between World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to identify barriers to corporate achievement of renewable energy targets. The groups convened a Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Day in 2013 to prioritize possible solutions - resulting in RMI’s creating the Renewables Resource Center and WWF’s partnering with the World Resources Institute to develop the new Buyers’ Principles.
July 11, 2014 – Trade Reps Launch Global Talks to Eliminate Tariffs on Environmental Goods
Diplomats from 14 World Trade Organization (WTO) members have launched a set of plurilateral talks intended to eliminate tariffs on so-called "environmental goods" - products such as solar panels, wind turbines and other technologies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of sustainable energy.
On July 8, the representatives met in Geneva to start ongoing negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). Taking part in the talks are Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland and the U.S. The WTO says the participating members make up 86% of global environmental goods trade, and the negotiations are open to any WTO member.
Earlier this year, the 14 governments revealed their intention to launch international negotiations to eliminate the tariffs. The talks will build on a list of 54 environmental goods put together by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in 2012 to reduce import tariffs to 5% or less by the end of 2015.
According to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, global trade in environmental goods totals nearly $1 trillion annually, and some WTO members currently apply tariffs as high as 35% on these products. He says the EGA is the primary trade aspect of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013.
"By eliminating tariffs on the technologies we all need to protect our environment, we can make environmental goods cheaper and more accessible for everyone, making essential progress toward our environmental protection and trade policy goals," Froman says in a statement.
Negotiators will meet regularly in Geneva to discuss substance and product coverage. The WTO says the first phase of the negotiations will aim to eliminate tariffs or customs duties on a wide range of environmental goods. A second phase will address the bureaucratic or legal issues that could cause hindrances to trade - known as non-tariff barriers - and environmental services.
July 10, 2014 – PSC Authorizes NYSERDA to Double Term For Renewable Energy Contracts
The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to begin issuing 20-year contracts for renewable energy projects, increasing the term from a previous limit of 10 years. Additionally, the PSC directed NYSERDA to issue one main-tier solicitation this year and at least one additional solicitation in 2015.
According to the PSC, the change was made to encourage more renewable energy developers to develop utility-scale renewable projects, such as wind and solar, to help reach New York’s 30% by 2015 renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Approximately 10 million MWh are needed to reach New York’s 2015 RPS target date.
The RPS process works through renewable energy certificates (RECs), which are awarded to developers through NYSERDA, which administers the RPS program. Because New York is a deregulated market, developers can either sell their power to utilities via a power purchase agreement or on the wholesale electricity market with the RECs added on.
To date, NYSERDA has conducted eight main-tier solicitations resulting in contracts for the annual production of approximately 4.6 million MWh of renewable energy.
In making the change, the PSC says that it has responded to the needs of developers, which have consistently stated a preference for stable, longer-term contracts to hedge risk. Providing developers of large renewable energy projects with longer-term contracts provides greater certainty of future revenues and reduces the risks related to financing the project, notes the PSC.
July 10, 2014 – Report: Atlantic Offshore Wind Power is 'Within Reach'
According to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), more than 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic coast are already designated for offshore wind energy development and could generate more than 16 GW of electricity.
The report, Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power, underscores the potential economic and environmental benefits if offshore wind resources off the Atlantic coast were maximized. According to the NWF, offshore wind can do the following:
Power More than 5 Million American Homes. As a result of significant federal leadership, there is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners with the capacity to power the equivalent of all households in New Jersey and South Carolina combined. What’s needed now is action by state leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying the East Coast’s energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million-per-year reduction in energy costs from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England’s grid.
Spark Massive Job Creation in the U.S. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive, untapped, pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
Remain an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice. As decades of experience in Europe indicate strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce the pollution that threatens current and future generations of people and wildlife.
In fact, the report mentions that two offshore wind projects are on track for construction in 2015: Cape Wind in Massachusetts and the Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Block Island. The NWF says that permits and/or leases and power contracts are in hand and offshore construction will begin next year.
However, thanks to the cost of offshore wind power and uneven state policies, progress has been rocky. The report recommends five key actions required by Atlantic Coast leaders:
- Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in state energy plans.
- Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector, pursuing regional market-building opportunities and supporting key federal incentives.
- Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase agreements and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.
- Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process by working closely with the federal government, key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.
- Invest in key research, initiatives and infrastructure that is helpful for advancing offshore wind development, including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities.
July 10, 2014 – Mesalands Students Selected For Granite Wind Technician Intern Program
Three students from Mesalands Community College's wind energy technology program were selected to participate in the wind technician internship program sponsored by Granite Services International.
According to Mesalands, the students will be paid during their summer internship while applying their trade. If the students complete the internship program - and obtain a degree while maintaining their grade point average (GPA) - they will be guaranteed full-time employment with Granite.
An affiliate of General Electric, Granite says that students interested in the summer Wind Technician Internship Program must be pursuing a two-year wind/renewable technology degree from a college that participates in its program. Participants must also submit a cover letter, resume, letter describing why they are applying for the internship, letter of recommendation and college transcripts demonstrating a minimum 2.8 GPA.
July 9, 2014 – U.S. Offering Up to $4 Billion in New Cleantech Loan Guarantees
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a loan guarantee solicitation, making as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gases.
According to the DOE, this solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable and market-ready. Although any project that meets the appropriate requirements is eligible to apply, the department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvements.
"As [President Barack Obama] emphasized in his Climate Action Plan, it is critical that we take an all-of-the above approach to energy in order to cut carbon pollution, help address the effects of climate change and protect our children’s future," says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
"Investments in clean, low-carbon energy also provide an economic opportunity. Through previous loan guarantees and other investments, the department is already helping launch or jumpstart entire industries in the U.S., from utility-scale wind and solar to nuclear and lower-carbon fossil energy. Today’s announcement will help build on and accelerate that success."
Currently, the DOE says its Loan Programs Office (LPO) supports a diverse portfolio of more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees and commitments - supporting more than 30 projects nationwide. The projects that the LPO has supported include one of the world’s largest wind farms; several of the world’s largest solar generation and thermal energy storage systems; and more than a dozen new or retooled auto manufacturing plants across the country, the department adds.
July 9, 2014 – Ontario Co-op Raises C$2 Million in Two Weeks, Seeks More Investment
The Oxford Community Energy Co-operative (OCEC) has raised more than C$2 million in two weeks to support funding for the Gunn's Hill wind farm, located in Oxford, Ontario.
The OCEC is a renewable energy cooperative established in response to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. It offers Oxford County and Ontario residents an opportunity to become members and investors. The co-op's goal is to create a more environmentally sustainable community without the need to compromise its stated objective for profit potential.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in late fall 2014, according to Juan Anderson, vice president of Prowind Canada, which is helping to develop the project.
According to the OCEC, project milestones include:
- Obtaining a feed-in tariff contract in July 2011;
- Passing Ontario's Renewable Energy Approval process; and
- Signing a turbine supply and maintenance agreements with Senvion, which will supply blades for the project from its Welland, Ontario-based manufacturing facility.
"This project creates opportunity for investment, contributing to a more integrated energy system in Oxford County and bringing local residents together to act in a more coordinated fashion to address environmental issues," says Helmut Schneider, president of the co-operative.
The co-op seeks to raise an additional C$7 million in equity capital by September.
July 9, 2014 – Official: Maryland ORECs to Come After Lease Block Auction
Would-be developers seeking to build an offshore wind farm off the Maryland coast should expect the release of the state's offshore renewable energy certificates (ORECs) sometime after the Aug. 19 federal auction for nearly 80,000 acres, according to Regina Davis, spokesperson at the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC).
"While the Commission is aware that [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] issued the Final Sales Notice on July 3rd with a scheduled auction date of August 19th, our state regulatory process is separate and distinct from the federal auction process," Davis tells NAW, adding that once the regulations are published, there is a 45-day public comment period followed by a final rulemaking.
Maryland is one of the first states trying to create a state-based financing mechanism using ORECs. New Jersey is using a similar state-based model.
Passed in April 2013, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act created a mechanism to catalyze the development of up to 500 MW of offshore wind capacity at least 10 nautical miles off of Maryland’s coast. A target project size of 200 MW would require the installation of an estimated 40 turbines off the coast of Ocean City.
Although the act does not technically equate to a power purchase agreement (PPA), Maryland has developed a state-based model to get the basic financial and economic conditions in place to support the growing offshore wind sector. The state-based models are thought to be a viable alternative to traditional PPA.
Each of the three U.S. offshore wind PPAs signed to date has been executed under the traditional model, wherein a utility agrees to buy all - or a portion - of a project's output.
However, as the state-based programs are relatively new, offshore wind developers have yet to reap the benefits.
July 9, 2014 – Federal Research Spurs Washington State to Store Energy, Increase Renewables
Three Washington state utilities have been awarded $14.3 million in matching grants from the state's Clean Energy Fund to lead energy storage projects with ties to federally funded research at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
According to the PNNL, the three battery projects will integrate renewable energy and improve the power grid. They comprise the following:
- Spokane-based Avista Utilities received $3.2 million. Its project includes installing a UniEnergy Technologies (UET) flow battery in Pullman, Wash., to support Washington State University’s smart campus operations. The PNNL will collaborate with WSU to develop a control strategy for this project. Avista is participating in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project and previously received a DOE Smart Grid Investment Grant.
- Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy (PSE) received $3.8 million. Its project includes installing a lithium-ion battery. As part of a previous project that was jointly funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, Primus Power, Puget Sound Energy and the DOE, the PNNL analyzed the costs and benefits associated with installing energy storage at various sites within PSE's service territory.
- Everett-based Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) was awarded $7.3 million. Its project includes installing a UET flow battery and a lithium-ion battery. This project builds on experience gained as well as the equipment and technologies installed with a DOE Smart Grid Investment Grant.
"We're using our Clean Energy Fund to position Washington state as a leader in energy storage and work with utilities to develop technologies and strategies that will move the market for renewables forward," says Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. "Delivering operational value for our utilities is crucial if we're going to successfully develop and deploy clean energy technologies that save energy and reduce energy costs, reduce carbon emissions and increase our energy independence."
Results from the state-based demonstrations are expected to contribute to national energy storage efforts, notes the PNNL.
July 8, 2014 – BayWa r.e. Sells Equity Stake in Brahms Wind Farm
BayWa r.e. Wind has sold an equity stake in the 19.8 MW Brahms wind project to an affiliate of the Macquarie Group. Financial details were not disclosed.
The Brahms deal marks the first wind generation investment for Macquarie Infrastructure Co. BayWa informs that it will continue its role as Brahms' asset manager.
According to BayWa, the balance-sheet-funded project, located in Curry County, N.M., was placed in service last February. Additionally, the company closed a tax equity investment with an affiliate of Union Bank last month.
BayWa r.e. Wind LLC acquired the development rights in July 2013 and quickly moved forward to complete the project.
"This transaction completes the full lifecycle of the project and confirms the successful execution of the new business plan set out since the company's takeover by BayWa r.e. only two-and-a-half years ago," says Florian Zerhusen, CEO. "Our business plan is to acquire development assets, self-fund construction, secure tax equity investment and then sell the sponsor interests in the projects at or after commercial operation. Using this model, we sell turnkey, fully structured projects to strategic and financial investors."
BayWa says Brahms represents the third completed project since parent company BayWa AG entered the U.S. market in 2011. The fourth project is expected to be completed later this year, the developer notes.
July 7, 2014 – Joint Transmission Project to Ease Renewable New England Interconnection
Emera Maine and Central Maine Power - Maine's two largest utilities - have agreed to jointly develop electric transmission projects to enhance the strength and capacity of the state's bulk power grid and improve access for new generation resources, such as wind power.
According to a recently signed memorandum of understanding (MOU), the projects would improve transmission links between southern New England and northern Maine, where more than 2.1 GW of wind development has been proposed.
Per the MOU, the companies have outlined two initial phases of work. Phase one will analyze the feasibility of each project, including technical feasibility, public policy, regulatory considerations and outreach to other potential parties to the project. The second phase will include all development activities from design, engineering, siting and construction bidding.
According to the utilities, the agreement is a response to a call by the six New England governors for investments in the region's energy infrastructure to diversify the energy portfolio and gain access to new renewable energy resources.
July 7, 2014 – Quebec Wind Farm 'Officially' Opens
With several local dignitaries in attendance, the developer consortium behind Quebec’s 272 MW group of Seigneurie de Beaupre wind farms - one of Canada's largest - reports that the project has officially opened.
According to Boralex, dignitaries included Jacques Roberge, general superior of the Seminaire de Quebec, and Caroline Simard, member of the Charlevoix-Cote-de-Beaupre, representing the Quebec’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources as well as company officials and other invited guests.
According to Boralex, the wind farm has been supplying power to the Quebec grid since last December. Additionally, the company notes a 68 MW second phase of the project is expected to be commissioned later this year with the 25 MW community project anticipated to come online in 2015. Once completed, the Seigneurie de Beaupre development will be one of Canada's largest wind farms.
July 3, 2014 – Macquarie Infrastructure Company Discloses Performance Fee Payable for Second Quarter of 2014, Additional Investment
- $5.0 million payable to management company to be invested in additional shares
- Additional contracted power assets acquired
Macquarie Infrastructure Company (NYSE:MIC) announced that a performance fee of $5.0 million is payable to its management company, Macquarie Infrastructure Management (USA) Inc. ("MIMUSA"), for the second quarter of 2014. Performance fees are payable when the total return for shareholders of MIC exceeds that of a benchmark index and cumulative total returns are in excess of any prior underperformance.
Performance fees are calculated based on a comparison of the 15-day volume weighted average price of MIC's shares at the end of each quarter with the same calculation for the prior quarter. The average closing value of the MIC accumulation index for the last 15 trading days of the second quarter was approximately 11.5% above the average closing of the accumulation index for the 15 trading days ended March 31, 2014.
MIMUSA has elected to reinvest the performance fee for the second quarter in additional LLC interests. In accordance with the Management Services Agreement in place between MIC and MIMUSA, the price at which additional shares are to be issued will be calculated using the volume weighted average price of MIC's shares over the last month of the quarter for which the fee is calculated. MIMUSA will reinvest the second quarter performance fee in an additional 81,680 shares of MIC. All performance fees previously generated have also been reinvested in additional shares.
MIC expects to publish its financial results for the second quarter of 2014 after the close of the markets on July 30, 2014. A conference call during which management will discuss the results will be conducted the morning of July 31, 2014.
MIC also reported that it closed on the acquisition of 19.8 megawatts of wind power generating assets located in New Mexico for $10.6 million including transaction costs. The investment is the Company's first investment in wind power generation.
"We have been discussing the potential to diversify our Contracted Power and Energy segment into projects other than solar photovoltaic for some time," said James Hooke, chief executive officer of MIC. "This particular opportunity meets our investment criteria in that it is an existing facility with a proven wind resource, there is a 20 year power purchase agreement in place with an investment grade counterparty, and we were able to structure the investment in a manner that provides us with good visibility into the cash generating of the facility, similar to our existing contracted power projects."
MIC acquired the wind farm from BayWa r.e. Wind, LLC.
(Reposted from www.macquarie.com with permission. Copyright © 2014 Macquarie Infrastructure Company, All rights reserved.)
July 3, 2014 – Maryland to Auction Two Lease Blocks For Offshore Wind Development
The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced it will hold a competitive lease auction for commercial wind energy on Aug. 19 for nearly 80,000 acres off the coast of Maryland.
According to the DOI, the Maryland announcement builds on its efforts to advance offshore wind energy along the Atlantic Coast.
The Maryland Wind Energy Area, located about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City, will be auctioned as two leases: the North Lease Area (encompassing 32,737 acres) and the South Lease Area (46,970 acres).
BOEM says the area available for auction is identical to the one announced in the proposed sale notice that was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 18, 2013.
According to analysis prepared by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, if fully developed, the Maryland Wind Energy Area could support between 850 MW and nearly 1.5 GW of commercial wind generation.
Sixteen companies have been deemed qualified to participate in the auction for the Maryland Wind Energy Area:
- Apex Offshore Maryland LLC
- Bluewater Wind Maryland LLC
- Convalt Energy LLC
- Dominion Wind Development LLC
- EDF Renewable Energy Inc.
- Energy Management Inc.
- Fishermen’s Energy LLC
- Green Sail Energy LLC
- Iberdrola Renewables Inc.
- Maryland Offshore Wind LLC
- Orisol Energy US Inc.
- RES America Developments Inc.
- SCS Maryland Energy LLC
- Sea Breeze Energy LLC
- Seawind Renewable Energy Corp. LLC
- US Wind Inc.
The sale is being conducted using an online bidding system. The two lease areas will be auctioned simultaneously. Under procedures outlined in the final sale notice, BOEM will consider monetary and non-monetary factors in determining the winner.
According to the DOI, an example of a non-monetary factor is a power purchase agreement or a Maryland Public Service Commission-issued Offshore Renewable Energy Certificate held by the bidder. The non-monetary phase of the auction will begin on Aug. 15, and the monetary phase on Aug. 19.
To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). BOEM is expected to hold additional competitive auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Massachusetts and New Jersey in the coming year.
July 3, 2014 – Consumers Energy, Chamber of Commerce to Give Public Tours At Wind Construction Site
The Caro, Mich., Chamber of Commerce is will be giving public tours during the construction of Consumers Energy's 105 MW Cross Winds Energy Park beginning July 12.
According to Consumers Energy, the public education program will include a safety briefing regarding transportation of large wind park equipment and a guided tour of a construction site where wind turbines are being erected.
"We're pleased to offer this unique educational opportunity to the public," says Brenda Caruthers, executive director at the Caro Chamber of Commerce. "This experience will focus on safety, details on how a wind park is built, and a guided tour of actual construction site."
The $255 million Cross Winds Energy Park, located in Tuscola County, will be powered by 62 wind turbines when completed this year.
July 1, 2014 – BNEF: Renewables Will Account For Two-Thirds of New Power Investment By 2030
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says it expects $7.7 trillion to be invested globally in new generating capacity by 2030, with 66% of that going to renewable technologies including hydro.
In a new report called BNEF 2030 Market Outlook, the company says that out of the $5.1 trillion to be spent on renewables, Asia-Pacific will account for $2.5 trillion, the Americas $816 billion, Europe $967 billion and the rest of the world, including Middle East and Africa, $818 billion.
The report says fossil fuels will retain the biggest share of power generation by 2030, at 44% - albeit down from 64% in 2013. Some 1,073 GW of new coal, gas and oil capacity worldwide will be added over the next 16 years, excluding replacement plants. The vast majority will be in developing countries seeking to meet the increased power demand that comes with industrialization, as well as to balance variable generation sources such as wind and solar.
Notably, the report expects solar PV and wind to increase their combined share of global generation from 3% last year to 16% in 2030.
BNEF’s report also has a focus on the Americas. It says the next decade and a half will see renewable energy raise its share of electricity generation capacity in the Americas from 7% in 2012 to 28% in 2030 (excluding the contribution of hydropower), while the share of coal-fired capacity will fall from 21% to 9%.
According to BNEF, North, Central and South America will add 943 GW of gross new capacity by 2030, including replacement plants. Some 522 GW will be added in the U.S., 341 GW in Latin America and 80 GW in Canada.
The report says this will equate to $1.3 trillion of investment in new power generation capacity, with the largest single slice of that ($314 billion) going to gas-fired plants, followed by rooftop solar photovoltaics ($231 billion) and onshore wind ($200 billion). There will be smaller slices of investment going to nuclear (almost all in the U.S.), hydroelectric (mainly in Latin America), biomass-to-power, offshore wind and large-scale solar.
“Two striking conclusions from our research: First, wind and solar will win bigger and bigger shares of the investment in new capacity as their technology costs go on falling; second, coal will be in rapid retreat, [with] its share of generation in the Americas falling from 26 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2030,” says Michel DiCapua, head of Americas analysis for BNEF.
July 1, 2014 – Despite Market Turbulence, Jobs in Renewables Gain Momentum
There may now be as many as 6.5 million direct and indirect jobs in renewable energy, according to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In fact, the latest job numbers suggest that positions in renewable energy industries will continue to grow as the world's energy system shifts to low-carbon sources.
Interestingly, the report identified that despite turmoil in some industries, such as solar and wind, the job trend points upward.
According to IRENA, the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector is a prime example. Researchers say intensified competition, massive overcapacities and tumbling prices have caused a high degree of turbulence in the last two to three years but have also triggered a boom in installations. Global PV employment is thought to have expanded from 1.4 million jobs in 2012 to as many as 2.3 million in 2013.
In fact, solar PV has bypassed biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) as the top renewable energy job generator.
One notable exception was wind power. While employment is estimated at 834,000 jobs globally, uncertain policy threatens to undermine those numbers.
In the U.S., the authors say the number of wind jobs has fluctuated due to the “stop and go” nature of the production tax credit (PTC). With the PTC in question, the paucity of new wind installations resulted in steep job declines. According to IRENA, wind-related jobs tumbled 60% to 50,500 jobs in 2013 from 80,700 jobs in 2012. In contrast, developments in China and Canada were more positive.
Although the estimates suggest a strong expansion in employment in renewable energy, the figures also represent successive efforts to broaden data collection across countries and sectors.
According to IRENA, better information is necessary for a range of countries to generate a more complete and accurate renewable energy employment picture. Attention is also needed on the question of whether development of renewable energy leads to job loss elsewhere, including in the conventional energy industries.
July 1, 2014 – Cape Wind Obtains DOE Loan Guarantee to Support Offshore Wind Project Construction
The embattled Cape Wind offshore wind farm is getting closer to fruition. On July 1, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said it would conditionally issue Cape Wind Associates LLC a $150 million loan guarantee that will help support the construction of the proposed 468 MW offshore wind project, located off the coast of Nantucket Sound.
Including the conditional commitment, Cape Wind has raised $1.45 billion - more than half of the estimated cost that it need to build the project.
Although the agreement still needs to be finalized, company spokesperson Mark Rodgers says the key takeaway is that the project has passed more than two years of federal scrutiny and that the DOE has deemed it an "exceptionally sound project."
The DOE says it will continue to monitor the project's development and work to reach a final agreement before closing the loan guarantee.
Throughout this year, Cape Wind has methodically arranged its project finance team. In March, Cape Wind and The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. added France-based Natixis and Netherlands-based Rabobank to serve as lead arrangers for the project. The group has also pledged to provide more than $400 million in commercial debt.
In February, Cape Wind announced a $600 million loan from Danish export credit agency EKF. Additionally, Pension Denmark will also provide $200 million in mezzanine debt.
In its release, the DOE noted that it would provide a loan guarantee of up to 360 MW - less than the project’s 468 MW nameplate. The discrepancy, notes Rodgers, stems from the fact the developer is currently financing the 101 wind turbines that it has under power purchase agreements (PPAs). Currently, Cape Wind has sold 77.5% of its output via a pair of 15-year PPAs with National Grid and NSTAR.
As soon as Cape Wind finds a buyer for the rest of its power - about 29 turbines - it will work to finance the remainder. "Our goal is to complete project financing by the end of this year," Rodgers says.
It should be noted that Cape Wind had previously applied for a loan guarantee under Sec. 1703 and Sec. 1705. However, in 2011, the DOE eliminated the loan guarantee program and notified Cape Wind that its application could not be processed.
Under the proposed financing structure for the Cape Wind project, the DOE notes that it would be part of a group of public and private lenders. This co-lending arrangement will help build private -sector experience with offshore wind projects in the U.S. while reducing taxpayer exposure.
A loan guarantee - through which the federal government covers a borrower's debt obligation in the event that the borrower defaults - has been a critical tool for wind developers to obtain financing.
"By working with the industry, the department has helped drive down the cost of onshore wind in the U.S. by about 90 percent since the early 1980s," writes Peter Davidson, executive director at the DOE's loan programs office (LPO) via a DOE blog.
Davidson continues, "Through a $1.3 billion partial loan guarantee to the Caithness Shepherds Flat project, one of the world’s largest wind farms, the LPO helped to show that large-scale onshore wind energy can be commercially viable in the U.S. Today, onshore wind can power 15.5 million American homes and drives annual investment of $25 billion. We hope to replicate that success with offshore wind."
June 27, 2014 – U.S. Government to Issue First-Ever Eagle Take Permit to California Wind Farm
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced it will issue an eagle take permit, the first of its kind, to EDF Renewable Energy for an operating wind farm in California.
Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the FWS has the authority to issue such permits to entities whose otherwise-lawful activities may result in the "take" (i.e., injury, death or other disturbance) of eagles that is unintentional and incidental. Wind energy companies are not required to have an eagle take permit, and EDF’s will represent the first permit granted; however, the FWS says companies operating without one risk federal penalties, including criminal prosecution, for any unauthorized take of eagles.
The FWS plans to grant EDF a five-year permit for the 102.5 MW Shiloh IV wind farm, located in Solano County. The permit will allow the take of up to five golden eagles over the five-year period and requires EDF to engage in an array of conservation measures.
“The Shiloh IV eagle permit sets a precedent for proactive and collaborative eagle conservation at wind farms in northern California and beyond, and we commend EDF Renewable Energy for taking this critical step,” says FWS Director Dan Ashe in a statement.
“We encourage other wind-power developers in the region to follow this model to reduce overall eagle mortality at wind farms while reducing their risk of prosecution for the take of eagles, particularly as they repower their developments with newer turbines,” he continues. “We can’t solve the problem of eagle mortality at wind farms overnight, but this commonsense solution merits the support of all who advocate for the long-term conservation of eagles.”
Rick Miller, director of wind business development at EDF Renewable Energy, tells NAW the developer has long collaborated with the FWS and environmental stakeholders at the Shiloh IV wind farm. Originally installed in 1989 with a capacity of 25 MW, Shiloh IV was successfully repowered using REpower MM92 2.05 MW turbines at the end of 2012.
“Our company pursued the permit based on our responsible development practices to avoid and minimize environmental impacts while generating zero-emissions energy,” says Miller. “We are proud of our leadership position. Being the first permit issued, the process wasn't always the smoothest, but in the end, we believe that wind turbines and eagles can co-exist - so the journey was worthwhile.”
In December 2013, the FWS issued a controversial ruling allowing for 30-year eagle take permits, but Miller notes that when EDF started its application process in 2011, the five-year permit was the only available option.
“Given our experience in the Montezuma Hills area and thorough understanding of the avian characteristics, we believe the risk for impact is minimal and that the five-year timeframe is acceptable,” he says.
Nonetheless, he adds that EDF is in favor of a longer permit timeframe for wind developers. "It is important for the long-term success of renewable energy projects to have certainty in the environmental regulations and permit requirements,” he says.
The FWS’ decision to offer 30-year eagle take permits has resulted in some backlash. On June 19, the American Bird Conservancy filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior, charging the new eagle take rule violates multiple federal laws.
June 27, 2014 – ACORE Poll Shows U.S. Business Leaders Support Renewables, Carbon Limits
The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) has released the results of a new poll demonstrating strong support from U.S. business leaders for renewable energy and limits on carbon pollution.
Conducted with Global Strategy Group in early June, the survey polled 800 business leaders in the Southwest and Midwest. By a margin of more than two to one, respondents say that the U.S. should emphasize alternative energy like solar and wind over the production of fossil fuels. By the same margin, business leaders also support federal regulations that would significantly reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, such as the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recently proposed Clean Power Plan.
"This poll validates the economic opportunity of renewable energy in this country," says Dan Adle, ACORE board co-chair and president of CalCEF. "At a pivotal moment for energy policy in America, this polling data should encourage EPA to double down on renewable energy as they move forward with finalizing their new carbon rule."
Overwhelmingly, respondents also believe that renewable energy technologies are good for their own businesses: Four in five say that using renewable energy can help their own businesses, and three-quarters say renewable energy will reduce costs for their business over the next 10 to 20 years.
"As a business owner myself, I see that renewable energy has a lot to offer,” says Steve Morgan, ACORE board member and CEO of American Clean Energy. “Whether it's through putting solar on your roof to cut electricity costs or doing business deals with the clean energy supply chain, renewables are feeding the U.S. economy and are a growing, profitable American industry that's here to stay."
June 26, 2014 – 302 Clean Energy Groups Urge Congress to Pass Stalled Tax Extenders Bill
Although some political leaders have suggested Congress won't take on a stalled tax extenders bill until after the November elections, a coalition of 302 groups is calling for action now, not later.
The coalition, representing companies and associations from the renewable energy, energy efficiency and biofuels industries, has issued a joint letter to the heads of Congress. The letter asks for the immediate passage of the EXPIRE Act, legislation that would extend over 50 lapsed tax credits, including several that benefit the coalition members’ respective sectors. For example, the bill includes a two-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and wind developers’ option to choose an investment tax credit in lieu of the PTC.
The Senate Finance Committee had passed the tax extenders package in April, but the full Senate later halted progress on the legislation amid a partisan feud regarding amendments. In its letter, the coalition warns that prolonged inaction - and the resultant uncertainty - threatens clean energy growth in the U.S.
“Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies,” the coalition writes. “Allowing the lapsed clean energy tax provisions to languish undermines investor confidence and jeopardizes continued economic and environmental benefits.”
During a telephone press conference hosted by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), several representatives from the coalition explained why their groups signed the letter.
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the public overwhelmingly backs continued federal support for clean energy. In fact, she cited recent polling that showed nearly 70% favor spending more government money on developing wind and solar power.
In addition, Beinecke said renewing tax credits is essential to help the U.S. meet its clean energy goals. That includes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recently released Clean Power Plan, which proposes to set carbon pollution limits on new power plants.
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency stand at the center of that [EPA] plan,” said Beinecke. “Clean energy is already putting Americans to work and improving the air we breathe, but we can and must do more: The EXPIRE Act is central to that.”
Not surprisingly, a representative from the wind industry noted the importance of the PTC to the sector. Terry Royer - CEO of Winergy and president of Winergy Drive Systems, an Illinois-based wind turbine gearbox manufacturer - said the PTC helps drive down the cost of wind power and helps create jobs.
Royer recounted the effects, both good and bad, that the policy has had on Winergy. When the company started up in 2001, it had only 11 workers, but he said stable tax policy between 2008 and 2012 created huge growth. In fact, the company grew to 400 workers in that period.
“But then when the legislation of the PTC expired at [the end of 2012], it created a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and investors weren’t willing to invest in wind farms,” explained Royer. As a result, Winergy’s employment dropped to less than half of what it was in the peak of 2012.
However, he said that the last PTC extension, which Congress passed in the beginning of 2013, helped fuel the wind industry again. According to AWEA statistics, over 12 GW of new wind projects were under construction at the end of last year - though 2013 still saw a 92% drop in new installed capacity due to the last-minute extension.
“My request is that Congress acts now,” Royer said. “Do the right thing for the economy, do the right thing for the American energy buyer and the industry, and pass this legislation today.”
Stu Dalheim, vice president of shareholder advocacy at mutual fund provider Calvert Investments, also deemed the PTC and other renewable energy incentives important to provide certainty for investments. He said, “Unstable and unequal policy is a challenge to progress.”
Rob Walther, director of federal affairs at ethanol producer POET, said that without an extension of some biofuel incentives in the EXPIRE Act, the company and others in the biofuels industry will have difficulty finding financial backing. POET is launching a new cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa this year and certainly wants to build more.
“This technology hasn’t been done before, and we really need to build multiple plants in order to lower the risk profiles that capital markets associate with our plant technology, construction and operations,” explained Walther. “These are the things that make firms hesitant to invest. But in order to build more plants, we need project capital, so it’s a catch-22.”
He said the tax incentives help biofuel companies ease investors’ concerns. “Biofuels made up two percent of the fuels market in 2005. Today, we are 10 percent. That doesn’t happen without certainty,” Walther said. “And without certainty, well, we cannot continue to invest in this country. A company like POET, which is wholly American, will begin to look outside our borders.
“So," he continued, "the question that we’re facing as a company is whether, the next time we announce a plant, we draft our press release in English or we have to first think about drafting it in Portuguese or Chinese. The answer to that question will be largely dependent on stable tax policy in the U.S.”
Furthermore, Mark Wagner, vice president of government relations at technology and industrial controls company Johnson Controls, said energy efficiency incentives in the EXPIRE Act greatly help business.
“Tax deductions can sometimes make or break where a project goes and really tip the scales in terms of making a project’s cashflow,” said Wagner, who is also chairman of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “These have been very important tools for us.”
Other signers of the coalition letter include a range of major players in the U.S. economy, including Sherwin Williams, MidAmerican Energy and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
To read the full letter and see all of the companies and associations that signed it, click here.
June 25, 2014 – Survey: More Execs Believe U.S. Can Achieve Energy Independence Within 15 Years
More and more energy executives believe the U.S. can attain energy independence within the next 15 years, eliminating the nation's dependency on foreign energy sources, according to the results of an annual survey by the KPMG Global Energy Institute.
KPMG's survey, which polled more than 100 senior executives in the U.S. representing global energy companies, found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of energy executives believe the U.S. can attain energy independence by 2030 or sooner - up 10 percentage points from KPMG's 2013 survey. Of those 73%, 17% believe the U.S. could fully meet current energy demand with only U.S.-based sources by 2020.
Other than the continued development of conventional and unconventional domestic energy reserves, the KPMG survey found that 37% of executives cite the development of energy transportation infrastructure such as pipelines and transmission lines as the most important action they believe the U.S. should take to attain energy independence. However, 23% also cite greater use of renewable energy sources, and 20% point to greater use of alternative fuels for transportation, including natural gas, electricity and biodiesel.
June 24, 2014 – Thanks to Falling Wind Power Costs, Consumers Energy Eliminates Surcharge
Citing the decreasing cost of wind power, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has approved Consumers Energy's request to eliminate a renewable energy surcharge for the utility's customers.
"The elimination of the renewable energy surcharge reflects the falling cost of wind-generated energy," says MPSC Chairman John D. Quackenbush. "Technology improvements make wind energy more efficient, reducing its cost and benefiting customers."
On May 28, 2013, Consumers Energy filed an application requesting the review and approval of an amended renewable energy plan, most of which the MPSC has now approved. Thanks to the commission’s ruling, the utility will stop charging residential electric customers the $0.52/month renewable energy surcharge beginning with the July billing month.
June 24, 2014 – California Utility Seeks 290 MW in Small-Scale Renewables
Southern California Edison (SCE) has launched a 290 MW round of solicitations for small-scale renewable source projects, including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass facilities between 3 MW and 20 MW.
The submission deadline for this solicitation, which is being done through a renewable auction mechanism (RAM), is June 27. SCE notes it has obtained 530 MW of renewable power for its customers through four prior auctions.
“The previous solicitations have been successful in encouraging small-scale renewable development, and once operational, these projects will add to the portfolio of clean energy that we provide to our customers,” says Tony Frontino, principal manager of contract origination at SCE.
According to SCE, RAM was adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission in December 2010 with the objective of lowering transaction costs and promoting the development of small-scale, system-wide renewable distributed generation. The program encourages development of resources that can use existing transmission and distribution infrastructure, promote competition, elicit the lowest costs for customers and contribute to California’s 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard.
SCE says 22% of the power the utility delivers to its customers currently comes from renewable sources.
June 24, 2014 – Wind Helps Renewables Dominate New U.S. Generation in May
Renewable energy, including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, provided 88.2% of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity for the month of May, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group the SUN DAY Campaign says two new "units" of wind power provided 203 MW, five units of solar provided 156 MW, one unit of biomass provided 5 MW, and one unit of hydropower provided 0.2 MW.
By comparison, two new units of natural gas provided just 49 MW, while no new capacity was provided by coal, oil or nuclear power. Thus, for the month, SUN DAY says renewables provided more than seven times the amount of new capacity as that from fossil fuels and nuclear power.
For the first five months of 2014, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, water and wind) accounted for 54.1% of the 3,136 MW of new domestic electrical generation installed. This was made up of solar (907 MW), wind (678 MW), biomass (73 MW), geothermal steam (32 MW) and hydro (8 MW).
During the same time period, coal and nuclear provided no new capacity, while 1,437 MW of natural gas, 1 MW of oil and 1 MW of "other" provided the balance.
SUN DAY says that since Jan. 1, 2012, renewable energy sources have accounted for nearly half (47.83%) of all new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity. This was followed by natural gas (38.34%) and coal (13.40%), with oil, waste heat, and "other" accounting for the balance.
Renewable energy sources, including hydropower, now account for 16.28% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water - 8.57%, wind - 5.26%, biomass - 1.37%, solar - 0.75%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined.
"Some are questioning whether it's possible to satisfy the U.S. [Environmental Protection Agency's] new CO2 reduction goals with renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency," says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "The latest FERC data and the explosion of new renewable energy generating capacity during the past several years unequivocally confirm that it can be done."
June 19, 2014 – Report: Key Policies Keep U.S. and Canada Among Global Renewable Energy Leaders
Policies set by federal and state governments in the U.S. and Canada are driving the growth of renewable power generation and maintaining the countries' status as global leaders in the industry, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData.
The company's latest report says federal policies, such as the U.S. government's production tax credit (PTC) and Canada's ecoEnergy program, alongside state policies including renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in the U.S., are fundamental to the continued development of renewable power in North America.
“In the U.S., renewable power growth has been stimulated by state-level RPS, led by California and Texas,” explains Swati Singh, analyst for GlobalData. “Under RPS, most participating states have set targets to produce between 10 percent and 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by specified dates from 2015 onwards. Some states have more ambitious targets, such as 33 percent in California by 2020 and 40 percent in Maine by as early as 2017.”
However, state RPS policies are consistently attacked. For example, Kansas’ renewable energy mandate survived yet another legislative assault this year, while Ohio just passed a two-year freeze on its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Furthermore, the expired PTC still awaits revival after a tax extenders bill stalled in the U.S. Senate.
The report says that in Canada, the ecoEnergy program has seen approximately $5 billion invested in a variety of federal schemes to provide feed-in tariffs (FITs) and to fund renewable energy projects, finance technology initiatives and support energy efficiency. There are no federal targets for renewable energy production in Canada, but each province has been authorized to develop its own policy framework, the report adds.
Quebec has a target of achieving 4 GW of wind power by 2015, while provinces such as British Columbia and Saskatchewan are targeting 90% and 100%, respectively, of new power generation from renewable resources by 2016.
“Of all the Canadian provinces, Ontario has the greatest renewable energy capacity due to a comprehensive FIT program developed under its Green Energy Act of 2009,” says Singh. “Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program sets a FIT for small renewable energy production projects, with the aim of making it easier and more economical for businesses to supply renewable power to the provincial grid.”
June 18, 2014 – Feds to Auction Off Huge Wind Energy Area Offshore Massachusetts
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has officially set in motion a future offshore wind lease auction for more than 742,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts.
The agency says the proposed area, located 14 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial scale wind energy projects. The DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposes to auction the designated Wind Energy Area as four leases.
DOI Secretary Sally Jewell says the competitive lease sale “will reflect the extensive and productive input from a number of important stakeholders. This includes interests such as commercial fishing, shipping, cultural, historical, environmental, and local communities to minimize conflicts and bring clarity and certainty to potential wind energy developers."
Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., calls the announcement “a momentous occasion.”
“Through our investments and proactive planning, Massachusetts is poised to lead the charge in offshore wind energy development, with the economic and environmental benefits that come with it,” says Patrick.
The DOI says that since taking office in 2007, Patrick’s administration has worked to position Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry. These efforts include the construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, the first facility in the U.S. designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.
The Proposed Sale Notice triggers a 60-day public comment period ending on Aug. 18. Comments received or postmarked by that date will be made available to the public and considered before the publication of the Final Sale Notice, which will announce the time and date of the lease sale.
The end of the comment period also serves as the deadline for any participating companies to submit their qualification packages. To be eligible to participate in the lease sale, each bidder must have been notified by BOEM that it is legally, technically and financially qualified by the time the Final Sale Notice is published.
To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The DOI notes that competitive lease sales have already generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres in federal waters. BOEM is expected to hold additional competitive auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland and New Jersey later this year.
June 18, 2014 – DOE Recognizes Two Utilities For Wind Power Leadership
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), together with the American Public Power Association (APPA), has recognized the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (OMPA) and Silicon Valley Power (SVP) as the winners of the 2014 Public Power Wind Awards.
The DOE says the awards, presented at the APPA National Conference in Denver, are granted to publicly owned utilities that demonstrate outstanding leadership in advancing wind power in the U.S. Together, OMPA and SVP join 17 other utilities that have received this award over the past 12 years.
According to the DOE, Santa Clara, Calif.-based SVP received the award in the public power utility category for its 30-year, sustained commitment to acquiring, developing and integrating wind energy.
Instead of regularly utilizing hydro-generated power to serve day-to-day needs, SVP says it has access to as much as 200 MW of wind energy. Tapping that power when it is available allows SVP to preserve water levels at its hydroelectric reservoirs for use when electricity demand spikes during heat waves.
In 1982, SVP invested in a 20 MW wind farm on Altamount Pass in the East Bay. Subsequent long-term investments with Iberdrola Renewables, the latest in 2012, also bring in power from the Big Horn wind project in Washington and the Manzana wind project in Southern California.
“Wind and water are two of our cleanest and cheapest sources of electricity,” comments John Roukema, director of SVP. “Wind power helps Santa Clara keep electric rates among the lowest in the state and helps make up for the scarcity of hydroelectric power in a drought year.”
According to the DOE, SVP provides its customers with renewable energy at the lowest average rate in the state of California. As of 2012, SVP's power mix was 13.8% wind energy, far above the state average of 5%.
“We recognize our responsibility to provide efficient, clean and reliable energy to our community at rates up to 45 percent lower than those in neighboring cities,” adds Roukema.
OMPA, a consumer-owned public power entity that serves 39 municipally owned electric systems, received the award for steadily building its renewable energy portfolio in an effort to support its members' green power initiatives.
More than a decade ago, OMPA became the first commercial power company to offer wind power to municipal customers in Oklahoma and, in 2011, purchased more than 49 MW of wind generating capacity, bringing the company’s wind energy generation to 14% of its total annual power production. Additionally, the DOE says OMPA has demonstrated creativity in its approach to integrating wind energy into its portfolio.
June 16, 2014 – Quartet of Nova Scotia Wind Farms Get Financed
Four Nova Scotia wind farms developed by juwi Wind Canada have obtained C$57 million in non-recourse financing. In conjunction with the financing, the projects were sold to Firelight Infrastructure Partners.
Nova Scotia Power Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Emera Inc., has agreed to purchase all of the output from the four wind farms under 20-year power purchase agreements.
The non-recourse project financing was structured and arranged by Travelers Capital Corp., acting as loan agent and security agent, and was funded by Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc.
The projects consist of the following:
Truro Heights Community Wind: Located near the community of Truro, Nova Scotia, the 4 MW project is owned by Truro Heights Wind Limited Partnership, an equity partnership between the Eskasoni First Nation and Firelight Infrastructure Partners LP;
Millbrook Community Wind: Located near the community of Truro, Nova Scotia,
the 6 MW project is owned by Millbrook Wind Limited Partnership, an equity partnership between the Millbrook First Nation and Firelight Infrastructure Partners L.P.;
Chebucto Pockwock Community Wind: Located in the community of Upper
Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, the 10 MW project is owned by Pockwock Wind Limited Partnership, an equity partnership between the Chebucto Pockwock Lake Wind Field Ltd, a community economic development investment fund and Firelight Infrastructure Partners LP and;
Whynotts Community Wind: located in the community of Whynotts Settlement,
Nova Scotia the 4 MW Project is owned by Whynotts Wind Limited Partnership, an equity partnership between the Whynotts Mi’kmaq Wind Company, Ltd. (a company owned by and managed for the benefit of all 13 Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq) and Firelight Infrastructure Partners LP.
June 16, 2014 – Renewable Energy Grant Program Begins in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) is offering an estimated $12.5 million in grants and loans for alternative and renewable energy projects.
According to PEDA, grant or loan funds are awarded on a competitive basis. PEDA anticipates awarding approximately $10 million specifically for alternative and renewable energy projects, deploying technologies such as solar energy, wind, hydropower and biomass.
Funding is also available for clean alternative fuels, alternative energy manufacturing and alternative energy research. Funded activities must be conducted entirely in Pennsylvania and be in compliance with applicable laws, notes PEDA.
Those eligible to apply include nonprofit corporations; Pennsylvania schools, colleges and universities; any Pennsylvania municipality; and public or private corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and other legal business entities.
Applications are due by 4 p.m. on Aug. 15 and must be submitted online using the state's eGrants system.
Grants will be awarded in the fall, notes PEDA.
June 13, 2014 – Governing Liberal Party Prevails in Ontario Election
The ruling Liberal Party prevailed in Ontario following an election Thursday - a victory that could keep wind energy well positioned for further growth in the province.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, a supporter of wind power, beat New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath and Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak. The latter challenger, who ran on an anti-wind platform, has announced his intention to resign his position. A new party leader will be selected in the coming months.
Wynne's re-election means that the Liberal Party rules by majority government going forward. Prior to the election, the Liberal Party ruled by minority government, meaning that the party had to rely on one of the other political parties to pass legislation.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) congratulates Wynne on her victory and says the group stands ready to work to ensure that the wind industry plays an important part in Ontario. With more than 2.75 GW of installed capacity, the province is the country’s wind power leader and has about 2 GW of more wind projects in its pipeline.
“We look forward to working with Premier Wynne and her government and all political parties to facilitate Ontario’s pursuit of a clean, reliable electricity system that will stabilize future electricity prices, promote economic development and protect our environment,” says CanWEA President Robert Hornung.
Following the election, the Ontario Legislature is set to reconvene on July 2. A new Cabinet will be appointed prior to this date. There will be a Speech from the Throne as the first order of business and the re-tabling of the budget will follow shortly thereafter.
June 13, 2014 – Energy Dept. Launches Regional Approach to Wind Energy Information
In an effort to provide the highest-quality information to support decision-making regarding wind energy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says it has officially kicked off the collaborative partnership between its new WINDExchange initiative and six supporting Regional Resource Centers.
According to the DOE, the new WINDExchange initiative and website will serve as a digital portal providing fact-based informational resources about the costs and benefits of wind power, technical assistance and guidance for simplifying the deployment process, and public access to educational resources.
In addition, six recently announced Regional Resource Centers (RRCs) will serve their regions as wind energy information centers, supporting WINDExchange's efforts and working collaboratively with local organizations to engage stakeholder groups. The DOE says the RRCs’ geographically based focus will enable the centers to better understand and target the specific priorities and challenges relevant to their regions.
June 12, 2014 – Companies and Groups Urge DOE to Approve 3.5 GW Wind Transmission Project
About 20 wind energy companies have joined the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and The Wind Coalition in sending letters to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz, urging him to approve the Plains and Eastern Clean Line transmission project.
According to developer Clean Line Energy Partners, the 700-mile, high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission project would transmit over 3.5 GW of wind generation coming online in the panhandle region of Oklahoma to Arkansas, Tennessee, the Mid-South and the Southeast.
Although AWEA notes it does not take a position regarding specific wind or transmission projects, the group wrote to Moniz that it is “important for DOE, within the confines of its authority, to facilitate the expansion of transmission service to meet President Obama’s and your department’s goals for renewable energy.”
Fourteen companies, including Invenergy and TradeWind Energy, said in a separate letter, “The wind industry strongly supports this project.”
The companies wrote the project would create various benefits, including the following:
- A $2 billion private sector investment in transmission and another $7 billion investment in the wind farms - creating more than 5,000 jobs during construction and another 500 permanent operations jobs on the wind farms alone, with more than a thousand additional jobs for the construction and operation of the transmission line and associated facilities.
- Construction of the country’s first new above-ground, interstate HVDC transmission project since 1986. This puts the U.S. back in a competition that China and Europe are currently dominating. China plans to add 33 HVDC projects totaling more than 217 GW of capacity over the next 20 years.
“Most importantly,” the companies continued, “the DOE’s approval of this project will send a strong signal to the markets that long-distance, HVDC lines can be sited and constructed in the United States. Potential investors in these types of projects are watching DOE’s decision-making process in this case very closely.”
June 12, 2014 – Nationwide Ad Blitz Targets Congress Members For Inaction On Wind PTC Extension
The Sierra Club has launched a national ad campaign calling on Congress to reauthorize the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power. The environmental group says its effort, which includes substantial online and television ad buys, focuses on members of Congress with wind manufacturing jobs in their districts and states that are at risk if the PTC is not renewed.
The first wave of ads targets 21 U.S. House of Representatives members who the Sierra Club says have been silent as the incentive expired. The group has released a television ad targeting Rep. Tim Walberg, MI-07, as well as extensive online ad buys in 20 other districts across the U.S.
The ad targeting Walberg, which can be viewed HERE, will air more than 5,000 times throughout June on broadcast and cable channels in Michigan’s 7th district. Geo-targeted online ads calling out the 20 other representatives will run at least through June on local and national news sites.
“The wind production tax credit is arguably one of the best bets we’ve made on clean, domestic energy,” says Dave Hamilton, director of clean energy for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “It encourages huge investments, creates good American jobs, helps our country become more energy independent, and cuts air and water pollution. But many in Congress are failing to act, leaving thousands of American workers and communities across the country blowing in the wind.”
According to the Sierra Club, the wind industry employs more than 80,000 U.S. workers and produces enough clean energy to power 15 million homes. The sector also saves more than 30 billion gallons of fresh water each year compared with other energy sources, the group adds.
Until 2012, the Sierra Club says the U.S. wind industry averaged more than $15 billion in new investment annually, and the cost of wind energy dropped 43% from 2008 to 2012. Wind was the U.S.’ fastest-growing source of new electrical capacity in 2012; however, uncertainty created by the PTC’s expiration slowed new investment and growth for the industry since 2012.
In April, the Senate Finance Committee approved a tax extenders package that included the PTC. Movement has since stalled in the full Senate, likely until after the November elections, and the House Ways and Means Committee failed to include an extension of the wind PTC in a similar package in May.
The Sierra Club says forthcoming online, television and print ads are planned as the group continues to pressure members of Congress to act to protect clean energy jobs in their own communities.
The first wave of online ad targets will include the following representatives: Doug Collins, GA-08; Todd Rokita, IN-04; Larry Buchson, IN-08; Thomas Massie, KY-04; Dan Benishek, MI-01; Tim Walberg, MI-07; John Kline, MN-02; Steve Daines, MT-AL; Steve Pearce, NM-02; Patrick McHenry, NC-09; Robert Pittenger, NC-10; Joe Heck, NV-03; Jim Jordan, OH-04; Mike Turner, OH-10; Greg Walden, OR-02; Pat Meehan, PA-07; Randy Neugebauer, TX-19; Scott Rigell, VA-02; Robert Hurt; VA-05; Jaime Herrera Beutler, WA-03; Reid Ribble, WI-08.
June 11, 2014 – Vestas Secures 10-Year Service Renewal For 27 MW Canadian Project
Vestas has signed an agreement with Elemental Energy for a 10-year AOM 4000 service agreement renewal that covers the 27 MW Fermeuse wind power plant, located in Newfoundland, Canada. The project features nine V90-3.0 MW turbines and was commissioned in 2009. Vestas has conducted service on the site since installation.
"We have been extremely pleased with the entire Vestas team and the overall performance of the wind plant," says Ron Hankewich, vice president of corporate development at Elemental Energy.
"Our dedicated service team has worked hard to optimize the performance of the Fermeuse wind power plant,” adds Chris Brown, president of Vestas’ sales and service division in North America. “We have been able to tailor our service schedule to ensure planned maintenance on low-wind days, which contributes to a world-class lost production factor well below two percent. For a smaller, remote site, this is a significant achievement, of which we are very proud.”
June 11, 2014 – Energy Dept. Orders WindSentinel LIDAR Systems For Offshore Research
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has awarded AXYS Technologies Inc. the contract to supply two WindSentinel floating LIDAR systems. The systems will be managed by PNNL to support research and development to help advance the U.S. offshore wind industry.
"This award reflects the DOE's commitment to the use of new technology to assist in reducing the cost of offshore wind energy in the United States," says Graham Howe, director of sales at AXYS. "We are pleased to be able to assist the DOE in their work.”
According to AXYS, the WindSentinel is a wind resource assessment buoy that uses LIDAR to measure wind speed, wind direction and turbulence offshore up to blade-tip heights of 200 meters.
June 10, 2014 – Global Wind Power Capacity to More Than Double By 2020
Despite an overall slump in installations last year, global wind power capacity will more than double from 319.6 GW at the end of 2013 to 678.5 GW by 2020, led by China, according to a new report from GlobalData.
The company says it expects China, the largest single wind power market responsible for 45% of total global annual capacity additions in 2013, to have a cumulative wind capacity of 239.7 GW by 2020. China overtook the U.S. as the leading market for installations in 2010, when it added a massive 18.9 GW of wind capacity.
“China doubled its cumulative wind capacity every year from 2006 to 2009 and has continued to grow significantly since then,” says Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData’s analyst covering alternative energy. “Supportive government policies, such as an attractive concessional program and the availability of low-cost financing from banks, have been fundamental to China’s success.
“While China will continue to be the largest global wind power market through to 2020, growth for the forecast period will be slow due to a large installation base.”
The report also states that the U.S. will remain the second largest global wind power market in terms of cumulative installed capacity, increasing from 68.9 GW this year to 104.1 GW in 2020. GlobalData says this will largely be driven by renewable energy targets in several states, such as Alaska’s aim to reach 50% renewable power generation and Texas’ mandate to achieve 10 GW of renewable capacity, both by 2025.
Nagatham concludes: “The slump in 2013 was largely a product of a decrease in installations in the U.S. and Spain. While there are likely to be further slight falls in annual capacity additions in 2015 and 2016, overall industry growth will not be affected as global annual capacity additions are expected to exceed 60 GW by 2020.”
June 10, 2014 – GE Breaks Ground on Power & Water Manufacturing Facility in S.C.
GE's Power & Water unit has commenced construction on its first Advanced Manufacturing Works facility, to be built in Greenville, S.C. According to GE, the facility will serve as an incubator for innovative manufacturing process development and rapid prototyping for the Power & Water businesses, including wind turbines.
GE plans to invest $400 million over the next 10 years in Greenville to expand the company's manufacturing capabilities. The new facility is expected to open in 2015 and create more than 80 jobs. The company says it currently has more than 3,000 employees in Greenville and, in the past five years, has invested more than $500 million to bolster manufacturing activities housed on the already-standing GE Power & Water campus.
“Greenville serves as the ideal location for the Power & Water advanced manufacturing site,” comments GE Power & Water President and CEO Steve Bolze. “Here we will be able to deliver even more innovative breakthrough products and services, work better with each other and our customers, and bring best-in-class technologies to market quicker.”
June 9, 2014 – Virginia Governor Creates Council to Update State's Energy Plan
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., has signed an executive order establishing the Virginia Energy Council, which will make recommendations for the development and implementation of an updated Virginia Energy Plan.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones will chair the new 25-member council, and the updated plan is to be submitted to the General Assembly by Oct. 1. The council will be tasked with meeting various objectives, including developing strategies to promote a diverse energy mix and ways to accelerate the development and use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and offshore wind. McAuliffe is an outspoken supporter of offshore wind development, having recently announced related research grants and declaring the state is “open for business.”
Speaking about the new executive order, the governor says, “Virginia must develop an aggressive strategy to protect existing jobs in our energy industries while positioning the commonwealth to be a leader in new energy technologies.
“An innovative energy strategy will enable us to attract the best businesses and entrepreneurs to Virginia, create more jobs in growing industries and lead a 21st-century Virginia economy,” he continues. “As we move forward with this process, the Virginia Energy Council will be an important partner as we work toward meeting our energy goals.”
June 9, 2014 – Penn State Launches Online Renewable Energy Programs
Penn State is launching online graduate certificate programs at its Penn State World Campus in wind energy, bioenergy, solar energy, and sustainability management and policy. The university says the certificates can help adults build additional skills in such areas as project development, sustainability assessment, systems engineering, and strategic planning.
“Penn State’s programs are designed to provide working professionals with the latest knowledge and skills needed for success in the renewable energy field,” says Daniel Ciolkosz, academic program coordinator for Penn State’s online intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (iMPS-RESS). “Students can start with a certificate and continue in the master’s program, or if they have a master’s degree, they can use the certificate as a stand-alone educational credential.”
All of the online courses in the certificate programs can be applied toward the iMPS-RESS, and Penn State is now accepting applications.
June 6, 2014 – EDPR to Upgrade U.S. Fleet with Vestas PowerPlus Solutions
EDP Renewables (EDPR) has placed the very first order for the Vestas PowerPlus solutions, a new range of technology upgrades Vestas launched to the market in June. EDPR will use PowerPlus to boost the performance on hundreds of turbines in its U.S. fleet.
"EDP Renewables and Vestas have been partners for many years, and we are excited to take this partnership to the next level by incorporating this new Vestas PowerPlus offering into a portion of our Vestas fleet," says Brian Hayes, executive vice president of operations at EDPR North America.
Chris Brown, president of Vestas’ North American sales and service division, comments, “Since the launch, we have seen considerable interest from the market. The U.S. market is driven by annual energy production and price, and we expect sales of Vestas PowerPlus to be strong.”
Vestas PowerPlus consists of three product offerings: Power Uprate (V82-1.65 MW, V90-1.8 MW and V100-1.8 MW); Extended Cut Out (V90-3.0 MW, V100-1.8/2.0 MW); and Aerodynamic Upgrades (V82-1.65 MW).
June 4, 2014 – BayWa Secures Tax Equity Investment for New Mexico Wind Farm
San Diego-based BayWa r.e. Wind LLC has secured a tax equity investment for its 19.8 MW Brahms wind project from an affiliate of San Francisco-based Union Bank N.A.
BayWa r.e. self-funded the development and construction of the wind farm, which is located in Curry County, N.M., and achieved commercial operation on Feb. 7. In addition to Brahms, BayWa r.e. says it has constructed, owns and operates two wind projects in Texas and California.
“This is a very important milestone for our company,” notes Florian Zerhusen, CEO of BayWa r.e.’s U.S. wind business. “Since BayWa’s takeover two-and-a-half years ago, we have self-funded all of our projects, and this marks our first tax equity financing. Going forward, we intend to continue to access the tax equity market as well as other forms of project finance to build out our pipeline.”
Morrison & Foerster represented BayWa r.e. Wind LLC in securing the tax equity investment.
June 3, 2014 – Lawmakers Introduce Rural Wind Energy Development Act
U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Tom Cole, R-Okla., have introduced the Rural Wind Energy Development Act to provide an investment tax credit to ranchers, farmers and small businesses to offset the up-front costs of owning a distributed wind turbine. According to the lawmakers, the bill would expand current law and help keep small business energy jobs growing across the U.S.
The legislators says small wind turbines (generating up to 20 MW of clean energy) allow farmers, ranchers and other consumers to cut energy bills and, at times, sell power back into the grid. They also allow thousands of businesses - including “mom and pop” stores, retailers, ranches and breweries - to reduce their energy load, help clean the environment and save money.
“Community wind energy not only creates American-produced electricity, but American jobs as well,” says Blumenauer. “Approximately 90 percent of distributed wind turbines sold in the U.S. are made here, according to domestic manufacturing content, creating non-exportable, family wage jobs.”
The legislators say the existing investment credits, which may be taken in lieu of the federal production tax credit for large-scale wind projects, have worked very well but are too limiting. The bill strikes the existing 100 kW nameplate limitation for small wind systems and expands the maximum wind turbine size to 20 MW, in line with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission definition of distributed wind power.
Blumenauer and Cole say this will provide stability and certainty for the distributed wind market and unlock the necessary investment to grow a global leadership role in distributed wind power.
The Distributed Wind Energy Association has commended the legislators for introducing the bill.
“I applaud Representatives Blumenauer and Cole for their leadership at this critical time for our industry,” says Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the association, in a press release. “This industry is bigger than just one job or one type of turbine.”
June 3, 2014 – Wisconsin Utility on the Lookout for 600 MW of New Power
As part of the company's strategy of providing more power from cleaner resources and relying less on any single fuel, Alliant Energy's Wisconsin utility has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 600 MW of new capacity.
"We are actively evaluating what future mix of fuel sources makes the most sense for our customers, the environment and our company," says John Larsen, president of Alliant Energy's Wisconsin utility. "We believe it is in the best interest of our customers to have flexibility in the power we generate or purchase. To achieve this, we expect natural gas and wind to become a larger part of our energy portfolio."
The RFP is requesting that respondents supply up to 600 MW of capacity and energy beginning in 2019, reflecting anticipated retirements of coal units and potential retirements of gas peaking units. The RFP solicits ownership and/or long-term power purchase agreement proposals for new or existing resources, or access to a portion of the output of a system of resources, to supply all or a portion of its long-term electric capacity and energy needs.
Alliant Energy says the RFP is one component of the company’s overall evaluation process, and Alliant is considering building or purchasing a power plant, converting a current one, or purchasing power from another source.
"Wisconsin customers need a new resource to support expected demand and to help ensure reliability into the next decade," adds Larsen. "Our focus remains on providing generation options that are most reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible for our customers."
Concentric Energy Advisors Inc. will manage the RFP process, and electronic proposals are due by July 25.
June 2, 2014 – EPA Proposes Highly Anticipated Carbon Pollution Guidelines
At the direction of President Barack Obama, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its highly anticipated Clean Power Plan proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, which the agency describes as the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Many in the renewable energy industry say the plan could create a big opportunity for wind and solar power.
Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the EPA says. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.
The Clean Power Plan seeks to do the following by 2030:
- Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% nationwide below 2005 levels;
- Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25% as a co-benefit;
- Shrink electricity bills roughly 8% by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.
The Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. The proposal provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution. States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs, the EPA says. Provisions enable states to work together to develop regional plans.
The EPA proposal is a timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency - with plans due in June 2016. There is an option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal, the EPA says.
"The EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source - power plants," says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, in a statement. "By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids."
The EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings on the proposed Clean Power Plan during the week of July 28 in the following cities: Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. Based on this input, the EPA will finalize standards in June 2015 following the schedule laid out in the June 2013 presidential memorandum.
June 2, 2014 – AWEA: EPA Rules Could Be Third Biggest Driver for Wind Behind PTC And RPS Policies
Renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar, stand to benefit from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) sweeping proposal to limit carbon dioxide pollution from existing power plants under Section 111 (d) under the Clean Air Act.
Under the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan, the agency seeks to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% below 2005 levels. Although few hard numbers were available immediately following the EPA's 1,000-plus-page proposal, Tom Vinson, the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) vice president for federal regulatory affairs, says the EPA plan could be the third largest driver of wind-powered generation behind state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and the federal production tax credit (PTC).
Stricter power plant regulations could mean less coal, which could open up a big opportunity for wind power. Last year, AWEA did a study that estimated the retirement of U.S. coal plants could lead to an increase of up to 17 GW of wind capacity - roughly 28% of the current installed U.S. wind generation.
Just the same, the likely raising of electricity rates caused by the proposed regulations on existing power plants would also bring wind and solar generation closer to grid parity - an opportunity not lost on the wind and solar developers contacted by NAW.
“We know from firsthand experience that building more wind and solar power facilities [has] proven to be the fastest, cleanest and cheapest way to replace dirty power plants and combat climate change,” says Paul Gaynor, CEO at Boston-based wind and solar developer First Wind, adding the cost for wind power, for example, has dropped 42% since 2009.
“We hope that these new EPA rules underscore that we have a chance right now to make long-term decisions to lock in affordable power with clean, renewable energy for decades to come.”
Gabriel Alonso, CEO at EDP Renewables North America, says, “Wind energy has been a proven, cost-competitive and stable source of carbon-free electricity that has driven and continues to drive billions of dollars of investment nationwide, creating jobs and supporting rural economies while contributing to substantial reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This rule will help accelerate that trend.”
According to the EPA, its draft legislation will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states will identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies.
As opposed to shutting down the power plants immediately, the EPA plan allows states to tailor a method to comply over a specified period of time. States can choose a mix of energy efficiency, demand-side management and state/regional policies to meet the program’s goals.
While the notion of ratcheting up emission standards at U.S. power plants is not new - nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states comprise the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the U.S.’ first market-based regulatory program to reduce carbon dioxide - critics contend that such a mandate to limit carbon reductions is complex and arbitrary.
"Some have suggested that the 30 percent target is more reasonable than anticipated," says Scot Segal, executive director at the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a coalition of power companies working on clean air issues.
"But the truth is that the most cost-effective reductions since 2005 - perhaps the first 10 percent - have already been undertaken. What is left on the road to 2030 is increasingly more expensive and less tested alternatives.”
Segal also cautions that if the economy grows, so too will energy demand, “which will complicate the glide path the EPA anticipates.”
Just the same, RGGI maintains that the program is working. According to a RGGI spokesperson, the program has helped participating states reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 40% since 2005, in conjunction with market responses and other state clean energy polices. RGGI says the program is based on emission allowances that are distributed, providing certainty that the projected emission reductions will be achieved, including reductions attributable to energy efficiency and renewable energy, such as wind and solar.
Individual states are already working to determine their level of exposure created by the EPA’s draft legislation, according to Vinson. In fact, he says, some forward-looking states are looking to New York, a RGGI member, for information on how to comply.
The EPA plan will also likely have a profound effect for the 29 states plus the District of Columbia that feature an RPS, says Tom Wood, a partner at Stoel Rives. He says the EPA plan will likely stimulate “regulatory and market-based actions” to acquire additional wind and solar generation. Conversely, Wood says non-RPS states have already indicated that they consider any “outside the fence line” options to be illegal and subject to extensive legal and legislative challenges.
Wood says states must submit CO2 reduction plans to the EPA for approval by June 30, 2016. These plans can be single state or multi-state. States preparing single-state plans can get an extension to June 30, 2017; states joining a multi-state plan can get a two-year extension.
May 30, 2014 – Wind Power Helps Utility Xcel Energy Slash Carbon Emissions
As of 2013, utility company Xcel Energy says it has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 20% since 2005, thanks in large part to its commitment to clean energy such as wind power.
"Over the past decade, Xcel Energy has invested in a cost-effective clean energy strategy that is benefiting both our customers and the environment," says Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. "We are making significant progress reducing emissions at an excellent price through a combination of energy efficiency programs and coal plant retirements and conversions, and by embracing renewable energy earlier than other utilities. We are on track to surpass our company’s original carbon reduction target of 20 percent to achieve a projected carbon reduction of 31 percent by 2020.”
In its annual corporate responsibility report, Xcel Energy also reveals it has more than doubled its use of renewable resources from 7% of the company’s energy mix in 2004 to 20% in 2013, and the company plans to reach 27% by 2020.
As part of that commitment, Xcel announced plans in 2013 to add another 1.9 GW of wind power and 170 MW of solar energy to its portfolio - all at prices below fossil fuel alternatives. In addition, the company notes the American Wind Energy Association recently named Xcel the top U.S. utility wind provider for the 10th consecutive year.
May 30, 2014 – Vestas Wins Deal to Supply Guatemala's First Wind Farm
Vestas will supply 16 V112-3.3 MW turbines for the San Antonio wind power plant in Guatemala. According to the turbine maker, the 53 MW project will be the first wind farm in the country.
Eolico San Antonio El Sitio S.A. and Wind Turbine Investments S.A. Corp., two special-purpose companies owned by Centrans Group and Victoria Corp., placed the order. Vestas says the contract includes the supply, installation and commissioning of the wind turbines, along with a VestasOnline Business SCADA solution, full scope civil and electrical work, and a 10-year service agreement.
Delivery of the turbines will start in the fourth quarter of this year, and the wind project is expected to be commissioned in the second quarter of 2015.
“We are proud to be able to announce the signature for the first wind power plant in Guatemala,” says Vestas’ Adrian Katzew Corenstein, later adding, “Vestas’ strategy is to develop new markets together with our customers, and we express our gratitude to San Antonio for selecting us as their trusted partner.”
May 29, 2014 – What to Expect From the EPA's Upcoming Greenhouse Gas Regulations
President Barack Obama is preparing to announce complex regulatory guidelines for existing power plants that he hopes will define his presidency's role in addressing climate change. The president has repeatedly stated his commitment to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy sector, which accounts for roughly 40% of the nation's GHG emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules on Jan. 8 that are expected to make it impossible to build new coal-fired generating units. However, those rules leave GHG emissions from existing power plants unregulated. On June 2, new rules are expected to be proposed by the EPA that stand to change all that, with significant long-term impacts to the renewable energy field.
On June 25, 2013, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum directing the EPA to issue GHG standards for existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The EPA has been working feverishly ever since. The GHG guidelines are to be proposed by June 1 and issued by June 1, 2015, and the states’ implementation plans are to be received by the EPA by June 30, 2016. The proposed 111(d) guidelines were received by the Office of Management and Budget on March 31, and were still under review as of May 27. Nonetheless, the White House has broadcast its intent to announce the EPA’s new proposal on June 2.
Section 111(d) differs from conventional rule-making authority. For new power plants, the EPA simply issues standards - under CAA Section 111(b) - that are directly applicable to all new affected facilities. The EPA’s 111(d) authority is more circumspect. Rarely employed, Section 111(d) grants the EPA the authority to issue emission guidelines that then must be used by the states to craft programs that are consistent with the EPA’s stated objectives. These state programs must then be approved by the EPA.
However, the guidelines are just that - options for how to create a program, not mandates as to what the state rules must entail. The EPA's Regional Haze program, also guideline-based, resulted in years of litigation and court decisions holding that the EPA had been too proscriptive and not respectful of states' rights. The EPA’s most recent use of the Section 111(d) authority involved mercury guidelines, where the EPA attempted to establish a nationwide cap and trade program. That attempt ended with the D.C. Circuit striking down the rules without addressing the agency’s use of its 111(d) authority. As a result, the limits of the EPA's authority under a guideline-based approach are uncertain.
The precise contents of the proposed rule are closely guarded. However, it is expected that the proposal will identify several different options that states can choose from to demonstrate compliance with the program requirements. The most extreme option would be for states to require retrofitting existing power plants with carbon-capture equipment. For many plants, this requirement would equate to ordering the plant to be shut down. A more palatable option would allow the establishment of regional GHG trading programs.
It is also expected that the proposal will reflect proposals made by the Natural Resource Defense Council to allow for states to take credit for improvements that occur outside a power plant’s fenceline. This suggests that a state can meet its obligations under the 111(d) program through energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards (RPS). One of the most contentious elements would be the designation of the baseline year against which reductions are measured - a decision that could penalize early mover states. The year 2005 has been suggested, but that pleases some states more than others.
For states that have embraced the RPS, the rules will likely stimulate regulatory and market-based actions to acquire additional wind and solar generation. In contrast, several states have already indicated that they consider any “outside the fenceline” options to be illegal, adding further complexity to any approach crediting RPS and energy efficiency.
Given the complexity of the rules and the speed with which they were developed, it is expected that the EPA will heavily rely on comments to craft a final set of options. The head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, has already indicated that the final rules could differ significantly from the proposal. She has emphasized the agency’s commitment to an approach that maintains the reliability of the nation’s energy supply. This suggests an emphasis on incentives that both curtail GHG emissions in the utility sector and encourage utilities to accelerate the move toward integrating additional wind and solar generation sources.
How the rules will impact markets and incentivize additional renewable energy development will gain clarity as the utility sector and the states react to the proposed rules. Given the current uncertainty over the long-term prospects for Congress to extend the renewable energy production tax credit, regulatory requirements that influence market-based responses could have a powerful impact on significantly pushing the utility sector toward additional renewable sources. However, while the new rules will be embraced by many, they will also be controversial, with public comments and judicial review crowding the road ahead.
May 29, 2014 – BOEM Seeks Input on Oregon Offshore Wind Demo Project
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is seeking public comment as it prepares an environmental assessment to analyze potential impacts of the proposed 30 MW WindFloat demonstration project offshore Coos Bay, Ore.
Principle Power and Deepwater Wind plan to build the floating wind farm, which will feature five 6 MW direct-drive wind turbines. The offshore project was one of three selected to receive up to $47 million each in follow-up grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Principle Power had received an initial $4 million grant from the DOE in December 2012 and submitted an unsolicited request to BOEM for a commercial wind energy lease in May 2013.
BOEM has published a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment for the proposed project in the Federal Register, kick-starting a 60-day public comment period. The agency will accept comments through July 28 and also plans to host two public meetings in Coos Bay on June 17.
For more details, click here.
May 29, 2014 – Report: Switch from Coal to Renewables Would Ultimately Be Cheaper For Alberta
Within 20 years, Alberta has the potential to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels for power generation and replace it with renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal energy, according to a new report by Clean Energy Canada and the Pembina Institute.
New modeling conducted for the report, titled "Power To Change: How Alberta Can Green its Grid and Embrace Clean Energy," also shows that increasing clean electricity production will actually cost consumers less in the long run than continuing to rely so heavily on coal or natural gas combustion.
The report finds that a large-scale shift to clean energy would slightly increase the average price paid for electricity in the near term (6.3% by 2023). Soon after, however, the price difference would begin to shrink and ultimately head in the opposite direction. By the year 2033, the report says the cost of power would be 4% lower than it would be if the province opted to continue to rely on carbon-based generation. The clean energy scenarios could also provide greater security for consumers against unexpected fuel price shocks, the report adds.
“Polling tells us that the vast majority of Albertans are ready to reduce their reliance on coal power and transition to a renewable energy future. Now we know that a wholesale energy transformation is not only technically possible, but that in the long run, it will actually save Albertans money,” says Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.
May 29, 2014 – AXYS Readies Wind LIDAR System for U.S. Navy Test
AXYS Technologies Inc. has completed pre-commissioning of a WindSentinel platform for a U.S. Navy project to validate an offshore floating LIDAR wind resource assessment system.
AXYS teamed up with Sound & Sea Technology (SST) and DNV GL to secure the Navy contract and supply the system. The LIDAR underwent an initial six-month, side-by-side testing process overseen by DNV GL in 2013. Upon passing this test, the LIDAR was integrated onto the WindSentinel platform.
AXYS and SST personnel assisted in the commissioning of the WindSentinel platform earlier this month in Port Hueneme, Calif. AXYS says the WindSentinel is now ready and waiting the final deployment location to be determined by the Navy.
As part of the project, AXYS supplied the WindSentinel floating LIDAR system, which measures offshore wind speed and direction up to the blade tip heights of 200 meters. SST, meanwhile, will provide overall management of the program, coordination with the Navy, ocean engineering, environmental planning and installation support. DNV GL will provide an independent evaluation of the validity of the floating LIDAR system by identifying measurement requirements and metrics to qualify the system for use in wind power development.
May 27, 2014 – Competitive Lease Process Begins For N.Y. Offshore Wind Development
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is launching a competitive lease process for wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore New York.
The bureau is publishing a call for information and nominations to gauge companies' interest in commercial offshore wind development within an area located 11 nautical miles south of Long Beach, N.Y. The proposed 127-square-mile site contains 132 whole OCS blocks and 19 partial blocks.
“The call is an important step in planning for wind offshore New York,” explains BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “After the completion of the necessary environmental reviews, consideration of the existing uses of the area, and consideration of feedback from the New York Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force and the public, BOEM will decide whether to publish a proposed sale notice to describe the area to be offered and the proposed terms and conditions of wind energy leases.”
BOEM also is seeking public input on the potential for wind development in the call area, including comments on site conditions, resources and existing uses of the area. In particular, BOEM says it requests public comment on two issues that may impact future wind development offshore New York, namely a liquefied natural gas facility that is proposed to be located in the same area under consideration, as well as existing commercial and recreational fishing activity in and around region.
In addition to publishing the call, BOEM is publishing a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment, which would determine whether there are significant impacts associated with issuing a lease, conducting site characterization surveys and conducting site assessment activities.
BOEM had published a request for interest (RFI) in 2013 after receiving an unsolicited request from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for a commercial lease to build an up-to-700 MW offshore wind project. The purpose of the RFI was to determine whether it was appropriate for BOEM to issue the lease to NYPA on a non-competitive basis.
However, Fishermen’s Energy LLC and Energy Management Inc. both responded to the RFI and indicated interest in the lease area; therefore, BOEM is now required to follow the competitive lease sale process and seek other interested parties.
So far, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The agency says it expects to hold additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey in the coming year.
May 27, 2014 – Xcel Energizes $64M Transmission Line to Strengthen Grid, Export Wind Power
Xcel Energy has completed a 345 kV transmission line running from northern Hansford County, Texas, to Woodward, Okla. According to the company, the $64 million project is part of Xcel's Power for the Plains capital investment plan to help increase grid reliability, as well as to tap into cheaper wind power supplies in the east.
Xcel Energy built the project in partnership with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., and the two companies are also working on a second major connection project: The TUCO-to-Oklahoma 345 kV transmission line runs almost 200 miles from the TUCO Substation north of Abernathy, Texas, to Woodward, Okla. That project is scheduled for completion this fall.
“Much in the same way the interstate highways opened up new markets and brought more choices to Americans, these lines will provide more options for purchasing power that is often less expensive than power sources closer to home,” says David Hudson, president and CEO of Southwestern Public Service Co., an Xcel Energy company.
May 27, 2014 – U.S. Non-Hydro Renewables Outproduce Hydropower for The First Time
For the first time ever, during the first quarter of this year, electricity generated in the U.S. by non-hydro renewables (wind, solar, biomass and geothermal) exceeded that provided by conventional hydropower. That is according to the SUN DAY Campaign's new analysis of data in the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Monthly. In addition, solar and wind generation both increased during the quarter.
The Sun Day Campaign, a renewable energy advocacy group, says non-hydro renewables provided 53.16% of the net U.S. electrical generation from renewable energy sources for the period Jan. 1 - March 31, 2014, while hydropower provided the balance of 46.84%.
This reflects an increase of 11.3% in electrical generation by non-hydro renewables compared to the first quarter of 2013, as well as a decline of 4.5% in hydropower's output - possibly contributed to by the worsening drought in California, SUN DAY says. Notably, electrical generation from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal grew by 103.8%, while wind expanded by 12.6%; biomass also increased by 2.2%, but geothermal dipped by 3.3%.
Electrical generation from all renewable energy sources combined, including hydropower, was 3.29% higher during the first quarter of this year compared to the first three months of 2013 and accounted for 13.09% of net U.S. electrical generation. Hydropower accounted for 6.13% of net U.S. electrical generation for the period, followed by wind (4.82%), biomass (1.46%), geothermal (0.39%), and solar (0.29%).
"For more than a decade, renewable energy sources - led by wind and solar - have been rapidly expanding their share of the nation's electrical generation," says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "The most recent data affirm that the trend is continuing unabated.”
May 23, 2014 – 47 Senators Request More Study Time for Upcoming EPA Standards
U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., have led a bipartisan group of 45 other senators in sending a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting a 120-day public comment period for the agency's proposed regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants.
The public typically has 60 days to comment on a proposal once it is published in the federal register, but the senators are calling for more time for stakeholders to study the potential impacts of the standards and offer input.
The EPA is expected to release the first-ever GHG performance standards for existing U.S. power plants on June 2. Although clean energy advocates, including American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan, have said the new EPA rules could create a big opportunity for more renewables, the senators argue that the standards could have widely negative effects.
If implemented, the senators say these new limits on emissions could raise energy costs for American families, effectively shut down many existing coal-fired power plants, and hurt coal jobs.
In their letter, the senators stress that utilities, rural electric cooperatives, employees and consumers need sufficient time to analyze the rules and the potential impacts on reliability, electricity providers, jobs and the economy.
The senators write, “Affordable, reliable and redundant sources of electricity are essential to the economic well-being of our states and the quality of life of our constituents. While we all agree that clean air is vitally important, EPA has an obligation to understand the impacts that regulations have on all segments of society.”
The full letter is available here
May 22, 2014 – Piggybacking Wind and Solar: Can Two Renewable Energy Sources Peacefully Co-Exist?
Spurred on by opportunity and the desire to maximize existing generating assets, several wind developers are now beginning to look at adding solar generation on existing wind sites.
Although combining wind and solar is not new - Oregon-based Element Power, for example, has been seeking ways to combine wind and solar on the same project site for the past five years - many developers are now looking at adding solar generation to monetize the investment tax credit, which, for solar, expires Dec. 31, 2016. The production tax credit for wind expired at the end of last year.
"Having the federal tax credit still available certainly makes solar generation interesting,” notes John Lamontagne, spokesperson at Boston-based developer First Wind, one of a handful of companies that have ventured into solar generation after starting out in wind development.
Federal tax credits aside, there are many benefits of co-locating wind and solar generation, explains wind industry veteran Robert C. Rugh.
“[Wind and solar] can conceivably work together to provide a more levelized joint output than either could do standing alone,” Rugh explains. “This effect serves to firm the power supply to the grid, and for those projects where the economics work, this is a reasonable approach to pursue, to avoid supply-demand gaps which would necessitate alternate actions to firm the wind supply.”
Mark Tholke, EDF Renewable Energy’s vice president of the western U.S. region, agrees. “When the generation profile is such that solar generates during the day and wind generates during the night and parts of winter, it enables maximum use of available transmission.”
Tholke ought to know. EDF’s 140 MW Pacific Wind project, located in Kern County, Calif., is co-located with the 143 MW Catalina Solar project. It is among the largest co-located wind and solar plants in North America.
“The most important characteristic is determining whether there is a sufficient wind resource and solar resource at a particular location,” Tholke explains. For example, while solar insolation is strong in the Southwest - unless there is sufficient wind resource in the same location - a hybrid project does not make sense. “The best locations for a wind/solar hybrid is when the generation profile differs between each.”
Because wind and solar projects must obtain approvals from the same agencies and jurisdictions, wind developers are already well versed in the basic requirements of renewable energy projects, Tholke states.
In cases when a developer starts out to build wind and solar on the same site, Tholke advises to permit both projects together. He says it is typically less costly and quicker.
Attitudes toward renewable energy in the community at large can also determine if a developer should co-locate, explains Wren Wescoatt, First Wind’s director of business development in Hawaii, where the company is in the early stages of developing a utility-scale solar project on the same site as its 69 MW Kawailoa wind farm, located in Oahu.
Hawaii is a central location in the company’s efforts to co-locate wind and solar projects. In fact, First Wind’s new solar division, First Wind Solar Group, was established to explore solar energy opportunities near the company’s three wind farms in Hawaii and other company wind sites.
Hawaii is attractive for several reasons, Wescoatt notes, not the least of which is cost. According to First Wind, utility-scale solar projects can now be built below a utility’s avoided cost. For example, the developer recently submitted a plan to the Hawaii Public Utility Commission for a 20 MW solar project.
In its proposal, First Wind says power from the planned project will be sold to Hawaiian Electric at $0.156/kWh, which is significantly less than the utility’s recent cost of generating power of $0.233/kWh.
“And because of that, there’s very high acceptance [of our projects] in the community,” explains Wescoatt.
What about your site? Does it have the characteristics needed to successfully co-locate wind and solar projects? According to the experts, there are several factors to consider.
Location. As in real estate, location is everything. Ideally, explains First Wind’s Wescoatt, “You’re looking for land in large, flat areas.” While wind turbines can be sited atop mountainous ridgelines, he says such a location is not the best use of land for solar. Wescoatt says the best sites for solar should feature south-facing slopes because the sun tracks across such terrain more often over the course of a year than it does north-facing slopes.
Spacing. Historically, it was believed that the shadows cast on solar panels by wind turbines led to high yield losses; however, recent studies suggest the losses are lower than previously thought.
“The wind turbines must be located in such that they do not shade the solar panels - even the occasional flicker from the spinning rotor will disrupt energy projection and potentially threaten power electronics,” Tholke says.
Wescoatt notes that solar resource maps can help determine irradiance and, thus, how much space solar panels need to co-exist with wind turbines.
Interconnection. If you have maxed out transmission capacity from your wind farm, then you’re going to have to add another point of interconnection, which can be cost prohibitive. At First Wind’s 69 MW Kawailoa wind project, the company is designing a new transmission line to interconnect the solar output to the grid.
Of course, combining wind and solar sources of generation will not work everywhere. While operational efficiencies would be an advantage, notes Milton Howard, vice president of Duke Energy Renewables, there are other considerations, such as available transmission capacity.
"Every project, wind or solar, must stand on its own merit," Howard says. "We do have wind projects in high irradiance areas, and we are considering adding solar if it makes sense.”
May 22, 2014 – Regulators Unanimously Approve Georgia Power Wind Contracts
The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has granted unanimous approval for utility Georgia Power to purchase power from two wind farms in Oklahoma.
Starting in 2016, the utility will buy a total 250 MW of wind energy from EDP Renewables North America's Blue Canyon Phase II and VI wind farms. The contracts were initially announced in April 2013 but required PSC approval.
According to Georgia Power, these wind purchases are cheaper than other forms of electric generation already on the grid and will put downward pressure on rates. Utility spokesperson John Kraft says, “It is significant anytime we can diversify our generation resources by adding cost-effective renewables. This is an exciting time to add wind generation to our portfolio.”
The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, has also welcomed the PSC approval.
“Sierra Club members overwhelmingly supported these wind power contracts to bring clean, cheap wind to power our homes and businesses here in Georgia, and our Public Service Commissioners did the right thing by voting to approve them,” says the Sierra Club's Seth Gunning. “This leadership from the PSC will bring real benefits to Georgia families and proves again how clean energy is powering Georgia and America.”
May 22, 2014 – 3.5 GW Wind Transmission Project Seeks Interested Customers
Plains and Eastern Clean Line LLC and its affiliate Plains and Eastern Clean Line Oklahoma LLC have commenced an open solicitation process for capacity on the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project.
The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a 700-mile, overhead 600 kV HVDC transmission line that will be capable of delivering 3.5 GW of power from western Oklahoma to Shelby County, Tenn. The developer says the Oklahoma Panhandle region boasts some of the U.S.’ richest wind resources, and the project is designed to connect these strong wind resources to communities in Arkansas, Tennessee and other areas in the Mid-South and Southeast.
Plains and Eastern says the project is currently under development and, based on current estimates, is expected to achieve commercial operation at the end of 2018. The developer intends to allocate up to 100% of the project’s capacity to customers through an open and transparent capacity allocation process.
Interested parties can learn more about the process and how to participate by visiting plainsandeasterncleanline.com.
May 22, 2014 – Nordex Pumps Funds Into Producing Bigger, More Modern Rotor Blades
Turbine maker Nordex has announced plans to invest up to EUR 50 million through 2016 to strengthen its rotor blade capabilities.
This investment will initially involve the expansion of the company's own plant in Rostock, Germany, where Nordex plans to concentrate on producing "the most modern and largest rotor blades." Over the next few years, the company says these will be the NR58.5 and NR65.5 blades for the N131/3000, N117/3000 and N117/2400 turbines.
Nordex explains that the greater dimensions of the products and tools (molds) necessitate modifications to the plant’s existing production halls. In addition, an entirely new hall for rotor blade finishing will be built. Nordex says the resultant physical separation of basic production and finishing removes the need for complex production steps in cabins and facilitates quality assurance.
At the same time, the company says it remains committed to covering only 20% to 30% of its requirements internally, as about 80% of all turbines it installs go online in countries outside Germany. Therefore, the other half of the planned funds will be channeled into a long-term “built to print” strategy with international partners to harness the cost advantages of their international production facilities.
May 22, 2014 – FERC Signs Off on 3 GW Southern Cross Transmission Project
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted Pattern Development final approval for the 3 GW Southern Cross transmission project.
Pattern says it is developing the Southern Cross project to add a high-voltage direct-current transmission tie between the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the transmission grid deep in the southeastern U.S. by 2019.
"Southern Cross is an innovative transmission project that will allow Texas to share its abundant low-cost wind energy resources with its neighbor states to the southeast," says Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Development. "We appreciate the assistance we've received from the many parties in Texas who worked with us on securing this order and are excited to now be able to move forward with this unique project which will create jobs and economic development in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.”
FERC has announced four orders following a compliance filing earlier this year, and they are in response to applications initially filed by Pattern Development in September 2011.
The commission has directed the City of Garland, Texas, to interconnect with Southern Cross; ordered Oncor and CenterPoint to provide transmission service for power flows into and out of the ERCOT; approved an associated offer of settlement among the parties; and affirmed that neither the order nor the offer of settlement would cause ERCOT, Oncor, CenterPoint or any other ERCOT utility that is not already a public utility to become a public utility.
May 21, 2014 – Vestas Announces 78 MW North American Turbine Order
Vestas has received an order from an unidentified customer for a 78 MW wind project in North America.
Vestas says it will supply 39 of its V110-2.0 MW turbines, which increase annual energy production by up to 13.6% compared to the V100-1.8 MW model. The deal also includes a five-year service agreement.
Deliveries for the project will take place in the third quarter of 2016, with commissioning expected by the fourth quarter of 2016. Vestas expects its factories in Colorado to be involved in the manufacturing of the blades, nacelles and towers for this project.
At the customer's request, Vestas says it is not releasing additional project details at this time.
May 19, 2014 – Texas Renewable Energy Production Up 12%; Wind Remains No. 1
Energy produced in Texas using renewable resources grew by 12% in 2013, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). The grid operator says wind power continues to lead in the state, while solar generation has increased and biomass and hydro have decreased.
ERCOT provided these updates to the Public Utility Commission of Texas in its new 2013 Annual Report on the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) Trading Program.
Generators participating in Texas' REC program reported producing 38.1 million MWh of renewable generation in 2013, compared to 33.9 million in 2012 - a 12% overall increase. At more than 36.9 million MWh in total generation, wind power represented nearly 97% of the total. Energy produced from wind generation was up by 13% compared to 2012.
ERCOT says solar energy production in 2013 was up by about one-third, based on information from commercial solar resources and aggregators that participate in the program. Biomass production dropped 31% from 2012, and hydropower decreased 24%.
May 15, 2014 – CanWEA Urges Ontario PC Party to Reconsider Wind Energy
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is urging the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party to reassess its energy policy platform and to acknowledge that affordable energy for the province should include wind power.
The association is making its case in advance of an upcoming election in Ontario on June 12. The PC Party and New Democratic Party are vying to unseat the Liberal Party, which rules as a minority government. CanWEA says its is actively trying to address concerns that the PC Party has about wind energy.
For example, CanWEA President Robert Hornung says the PC Party is "mistaken when claiming renewable sources like wind energy are the key driver of rising electricity bills."
“Independent analyses by the energy consulting firm Power Advisory LLC show that wind energy was responsible for only five percent of the increase in electricity bills between 2009 and 2012,” he explains. “The bulk of rising electricity prices comes from expensive upgrades to decades-old power plants and transmission systems.”
Hornung adds that the PC Party is confusing facts and logic by declaring wind energy is subsidized.
“Wind energy can provide electricity more cheaply than new nuclear power and is cost-competitive with new hydro developments,” he says. “Wind energy developers absorb almost all of the upfront costs in developing their projects, which means no front-end or long-term risks to taxpayers and ratepayers. New wind-driven electricity is being secured through long-term, pre-set contracts that contribute to price certainty and to keeping Ontario electricity rates stable and competitive across North America.”
According to CanWEA, wind projects continue to see falling costs as new turbine technology boosts output and as economies of scale reduce production and supply costs. Requiring no fuel costs to maintain the flow of electricity, wind energy is not subject to variable market pricing for fuel supplies bought outside Ontario, the group adds.
CanWEA says wind energy companies have spent over $5 billion since 2009 to develop Ontario’s wind industry. Every megawatt of new wind energy represents an investment of approximately $2 million, a large portion of which is spent in the local community. Largely through these efforts, CanWEA says Ontario wind energy today has supported new manufacturing facilities and new jobs for graduates. Wind power also now meets over 3% of the province’s electricity demand, doubling over the past four years to 5.2 TWh.
Hornung says any energy platform should be more in step with how modern electricity systems are evolving around the world. “Progressive governments are seeing how wind energy reduces carbon emissions, improve grid reliability, and leads to more predictable and stable electricity prices.”
CanWEA says it is urging the PC Party to recognize that a key future economic driver for Ontario is a responsive, cost-competitive electricity system that respects the environment.
“Procuring a stable stream of wind energy complements Ontario’s new energy conservation measures and provides the province with unprecedented flexibility to align electricity supply needs to meet changing economic and environmental circumstances,” Hornung concludes.
May 13, 2014 – Global Wind Power Sector Created 80,000 More Jobs Last Year
In 2013, about 834,000 people were employed in the wind power industry worldwide, an approximately 11% increase from 753,000 in 2012, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). However, employment opportunities in the sector saw a regional shift from developed to emerging countries.
In addition, IRENA's Renewable Energy and Jobs - Annual Review 2014 report reveals that the overall global renewable energy industry employed 6.5 million people last year, a rise from 5.7 million in 2012.
“With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche - it has become a significant employer worldwide,” says IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.
The report says renewable energy employment was shaped by regional shifts, industry realignments, growing competition, and advances in technologies and manufacturing processes in 2013. The largest employers by country are China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh, while the largest employers by sector are solar photovoltaic, biofuels, wind, modern biomass and biogas.
In the wind industry, China and Canada provided positive impulses, while the outlook for the U.S. remains somewhat mixed because of political uncertainty regarding the production tax credit (PTC), the report says. The offshore wind industry is still concentrated in Europe, particularly the U.K. and Germany.
By region, the report says China accounted for 356,000 wind jobs in 2013, up from 267,000 in 2012. Last year, Germany employed 138,000 wind sector workers, followed by India (48,000), Brazil (32,000) and Spain (24,000). The report says the “Rest of EU” region employed 166,000 wind workers.
Notably, U.S. wind jobs dropped from 81,000 in 2012 to 51,000 last year. The report says that although the domestic content of turbines has risen from less than 25% prior to 2005 to 67% in 2012, the “stop-and-go nature” of the PTC has created periodic fluctuations in deployment and associated employment. Between 2011 and 2013, the report says U.S. wind manufacturing jobs declined from 30,000 to 17,400 jobs. However, the report suggests that a project pipeline in the country of 12 GW should help alleviate some of the employment concerns this year.
IRENA’s full report is available here.
May 12, 2014 – FERC Grants Key Approval to 3.5 GW Wind Transmission Project
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC approval to sell transmission service to customers at negotiated rates.
As proposed, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line is an approximately 750-mile, overhead direct-current transmission line that will deliver up to 3.5 GW and connect wind energy from western Kansas with utilities and customers in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east. Clean Line says the Grain Belt Express could enable more than $7 billion of investment in new wind farms.
The FERC order was issued in response to the application filed by Clean Line in November 2013, and the approval will allow Clean Line to sell transmission capacity to potential customers of the project, including utilities and other load-serving entities or clean energy generators. In addition, Clean Line was granted authorization to negotiate bilateral agreements for 100% of the line’s capacity.
“We thank the FERC commissioners and staff for approving our application,” says Clean Line President Michael Skelly. “This is another great milestone for the Grain Belt Express project, and we look forward to advancing discussions with potential customers.”
Clean Line is a public utility in Kansas and Indiana and received an order from the Kansas Corporation Commission in November 2013 granting a siting permit to construct the 370-mile Kansas portion of the line.
Based on current estimates, Clean Line expects the Grain Belt Express to achieve commercial operation as early as 2018.
May 12, 2014 – CanWEA Calls For Closer Study of BC Wind Energy Resource
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is calling on the British Columbia government to look at wind energy and consider it as an alternative to a proposed hydropower project meant to help meet future electricity needs.
The Joint Review Panel has released a new study on Site C, a 1.1 GW hydro project proposed by utility BC Hydro. CanWEA BC Regional Director Nicholas Heap says the panel has done a thorough job of assessing a wide range of impacts, both positive and negative, regarding the Site C project.
He says the panel recognizes Site C as a zero-emission facility and finds that a number of assessed environmental impacts would not be significant if recommended mitigation actions are implemented.
However, the panel also highlights areas where Site C would cause “significant adverse effects” on a range of other environmental issues, including fish and fish habitat, valley bottom wetlands, several threatened or endangered species of birds and bats, and on “visual resources.”
Of equal value to this environmental impact assessment, Heap adds, is the panel’s identification of critical information gaps that prevented it from reaching a broader conclusion on whether the Site C project is the best option for expanding electricity supply.
“Clearly, we need better numbers for Site C, and more analysis of other low-cost electricity supply options that can be brought on incrementally and at the appropriate scale to meet our future needs, ” he says.
Heap adds that with rapid technology improvements and lower turbine costs, BC Hydro’s own analyses indicate that wind energy now comprises the bulk of lowest-cost renewable energy generation opportunities.
“Wind is zero-emission, low-impact renewable energy generation that enjoys strong support from First Nations and British Columbians,” he explains. “Wind is already producing enough electricity in the province to power every household in northern BC, and there are lots of additional low-cost, low-impact resources identified and ready for construction.”
Heap says the recommendations of the panel call for better information and more informed outcomes.
“CanWEA and the wind energy industry in BC will be working with BC Hydro and the provincial government in the months ahead to ensure that all viable options - including wind - are thoroughly assessed so that the province’s next-generation assets really do offer the greatest benefit at the lowest economic and environmental cost to ratepayers and to all British Columbians.”
Earlier this year, Heap spoke with NAW about BC's current wind power market and future hurdles. That article is available here.
May 9, 2014 – Block Island Offshore Wind Demo Receives First Major Permits
Deepwater Wind says it has received the first major environmental permit approvals needed to begin deployment of its Block Island Wind Farm, a 30 MW offshore wind demonstration project located off the coast of Block Island, R.I.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) has issued Deepwater Wind water quality certificates. The developer says the permits deem the project and its transmission system in compliance with state water quality regulations and the Clean Water Act. These regulations ensure the protection of fish and wildlife, as well as the recreational use and navigation of Rhode Island inland and coastal waters, Deepwater explains.
Furthermore, RIDEM issued the project a freshwater wetland permit for certain onshore construction activities.
“The approval of RIDEM is a major step forward for the Block Island Wind Farm. Momentum for the project is strong, and we are moving closer to having ‘steel in the water,’” says Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “We appreciate RIDEM’s thoughtful consideration of this project, and we’re confident that we’ll soon secure the remaining state and federal permits.”
Deepwater Wind must next obtain an assent from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, as well as approvals from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Deepwater says each permit application has undergone extensive review and public comment, and the developer expects to secure all remaining permits this spring.
Deepwater says the Block Island project remains on schedule and expects the wind farm to be in operation in 2016. Earlier this year, the developer selected Alstom as the project’s turbine supplier and long-term maintenance and service provider. This month, Alstom delivered 15 wind turbine blades.
May 8, 2014 – Governors Call on EPA to Keep Wind Power in Mind for New Rules
The Governors' Wind Energy Coalition has released a letter to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expressing the group's support for wind energy as an eligible measure for states to utilize to comply with upcoming carbon emission rules. The EPA is currently working on standards under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants.
"We urge the EPA to appropriately recognize wind energy and other renewable energy sources that can reduce carbon emissions," the letter says. “Additionally, EPA should give states flexibility in meeting EPA requirements, expedite approval of state plans, reduce state and federal administrative burdens, and provide credit for the clean energy investments that have already been made to improve our nation’s energy future.”
“On behalf of the coalition, we respectfully urge you to support wind energy’s potential to further reduce carbon emissions while helping to maintain the reliability and affordability of the nation’s electricity system,” the letter continues.
Notably, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan recently said at the organization’s WINDPOWER 2014 conference that the implementation of the Section 111(d) rules could increase demand for wind power, as well as help revive some state renewable portfolio standards.
The full letter from the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition is available here.
May 8, 2014 – DOE Shocker: Down-Select Offshore Winners Raise Some Eyebrows
In a highly anticipated announcement made during Wednesday's opening general session at the American Wind Energy Association's WINDPOWER 2014 show, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) named the winning recipients for the next round of funding in the agency's effort to incentivize innovative offshore wind technologies.
According to the DOE, Dominion Virginia Power, Principle Power and Fishermen's Energy will each receive $46.7 million over the next four years to deploy innovative, grid-connected systems in state and federal waters. Each project is expected to be commercially operational by 2017, according to David Danielson, who leads the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
The three recipients were narrowed down from seven original applicants that each received a $4 million grant in December 2012. In addition to the three winners, the original recipients included Statoil; Austin, Texas-based Baryonyx; Cleveland-based LEEDCo; and a consortium led by the University of Maine (UMaine). Notably, Norwegian energy company Statoil eventually abandoned its 12 MW Hywind demo project in Maine, citing delay, uncertainty and changes in the state's regulatory framework.
Dominion Virginia Power will install two 6 MW direct-drive wind turbines 26 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach using U.S.-designed twisted jacket foundations. According to the DOE, Dominion's project will demonstrate how to design and install projects far from shore.
Principle Power will install five 6 MW direct-drive wind turbines approximately 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Ore. The U.S.-developed WindFloat semi-submersible floating foundation will be installed in water 1,000 feet deep, demonstrating innovation in great water depths and eliminating the need for specialized ships, the DOE notes. Shortly after the DOE announcement was made public, Providence, R.I.-based Deepwater Wind announced that it has agreed in principle to develop the WindFloat project and own it.
However, Deepwater's news was only the second most surprising aspect behind the DOE's announcement. The “most shocking” award went to Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey - whose offshore wind demonstration project, located off the coast of Atlantic City, was recently rejected by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
Fishermen's Energy will install five 5 MW direct-drive wind turbines from China-based XEMC New Energy three miles off the coast of Atlantic City using a U.S.-designed twisted jacket foundation that is meant to be simpler and less expensive to install than traditional offshore wind foundations. The DOE notes that the Fishermen's project will also serve as a laboratory and research center to learn about the interactions between wind turbines.
The project has all state and federal permits needed to build the project but was waiting for BPU approval. In March, the BPU rejected the Fishermen's application, ruling that the proposed project would cost ratepayers too much. For its part, Fishermen's says that regulators mistakenly based the decision on a $263/MWh offshore renewable energy certificate (OREC) price when the actual proposed price was $199.17/MWh. Following rejection of its application, Fishermen's vowed to challenge the regulators’ decision in court.
"Fishermen's is confident that the NJ Board of Public Utilities will recognize the vetting by the DOE of the project and will now engage with Fishermen's to finalize our OREC application so the project can proceed expeditiously," said Chris Wissemann, Fishermen's CEO, in a statement.
Notably, the DOE also said that the UMaine-led project and LEEDCo will each receive about $3 million in research grants.
In a post-session press conference, Jose Zayas, director of the DOE's Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, defended the Fishermen's selection.
"We valued innovation as the biggest single criterion," he said, adding that the second phase of the offshore wind grant program did not require a full reconciling of extenuating circumstances - meaning Fishermen's troubles with the BPU did not factor into the DOE's decision. However, off-take agreements will matter going forward, he explained.
"If [a project] can't get an off-take agreement, the project won't move forward," Zayas said, leaving open the possibility that UMaine or LEEDCo can still qualify for the $46.7 million DOE grant if the Fishermen's project fails to win state approval.
"We understand there are risks," Zayas noted.
May 8, 2014 – Penn State Wins DOE's Inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition
Pennsylvania State University has won the first-ever U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Collegiate Wind Competition.
The inaugural competition challenged undergraduate students from multiple disciplines to design and build a lightweight, transportable wind turbine with the ability to power small electronic devices. Teams also presented a detailed business plan and demonstrated their knowledge of key market drivers and deployment opportunities. The event took place alongside the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2014 Conference and Exhibition, held in Las Vegas May 5-8.
Blattner Energy, a power generation contractor and provider of renewable energy construction in North America, was a supporter of the competition and congratulates the teams for their work.
“The Collegiate Wind Competition allowed us to support the next wave of wind industry professionals who represent some of the brightest minds, freshest ideas and most creative approaches to solving our industry’s challenges,” says Scott Blattner, president of Blattner Energy.
“The involvement of companies such as Blattner Energy is critical for preparing student competitors for real-world challenges as they enter the workforce,” adds Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA. “We need strong relationships between the private sector, higher education and industry associations in order to ensure that the U.S. wind market - one of the fastest-growing in the world - succeeds, and that the best and the brightest know they have a career path in wind energy.”
In addition to winning the competition, Penn State’s technology will be on temporary display at the DOE headquarters building in Washington, D.C. The team’s Remote Wind Power Systems Unit is a small-scale wind turbine that can be easily deployed to provide power in emergency and/or remote power situations.
Other schools competing at the event were Boise State University, California Maritime Academy, Colorado School of Mines, James Madison University, Kansas State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Kansas and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
May 7, 2014 – Energy Department Determines 35% U.S. Wind by 2050 is Achievable
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has previewed an ambitious vision for the growth of U.S. wind energy to account for 35% of the nation's grid by 2050.
At the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2014 Conference & Exhibition, being held this week in Las Vegas, the DOE revealed preliminary findings of its Wind Vision initiative: 10% wind energy by 2020, 20% by 2030 and 35% by 2050.
According to AWEA, that will require as much growth in the next six years as the past 40. Jose Zayas, the director of the DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, said research so far suggests the benefits to the U.S. could include the following:
- $520 billion saved for electric consumers between now and 2050, when electricity will cost 3% less than it otherwise would;
- 336 billion gallons of water saved by 2050; and
- 140,000 industry jobs by 2020 and 400,000 jobs by 2050, plus spin-off benefits.
AWEA says the current draft of the Wind Vision suggests that approximately 10 GW per year would be deployed over the next several years, including substantial offshore wind starting to come online by the latter part of this decade, and major repowering of older projects starting by the mid-20s. The industry has proven it can manufacture and install more than that annually, so “we have the ability to do this,” said Zayas. “This is achievable.”
Susan Reilly, newly installed as AWEA Board Chair, agreed with Zayas that the industry can deliver on the Wind Vision, particularly because of the growing urgency over cutting carbon emissions to avert climate change. By 2050, the DOE’s initial projections are that U.S. wind energy will cut 550 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Reilly said further peer review this summer is welcome and essential: “This is not a sales document. It’s got to be intellectually robust and stand up to scrutiny.”
The DOE’s draft document will be circulated by June, and then peer review will continue with industry experts. The Wind Vision will be finalized and released to the public this fall.
May 7, 2014 – Kansas RPS Perseveres Despite Three Years of Attacks
It appears the battle over the fate of Kansas' renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has come to an end for yet another legislative session, and the mandate, which requires the state's utilities to procure 20% renewables by 2020, will remain in effect.
In a 63-60 vote on May 2, the state House of Representatives rejected a bill that aimed to gradually do away with the RPS. As reported by NAW, the House had slapped down a previous proposal in March that sought to completely repeal the clean energy mandate.
According to a report from The Wichita Eagle, this latest bill would have frozen the RPS at 15% in 2016 until the statute expired in 2021. Although proponents of the new bill considered the proposal a compromise, some wind power advocates argue that it still would have damaged the state’s renewable energy sector and economy.
Kimberly Svaty, director of Kansas for The Wind Coalition, says the new bill was “merely an RPS repeal rebranded,” rather than a compromise.
“Since all affected Kansas utilities are over 15 percent renewable energy integration already, the new bill would have effectively halted any new renewable energy integration needed per the RPS statute,” she explains.
Kansas has about 3 GW of installed wind power capacity, and Svaty says the survival of the RPS and other wind-related policies that came under attack in the legislature this year is a noteworthy success story. For the past three years, lawmakers and anti-mandate groups have attempted to weaken or repeal Kansas’ RPS, but opponents made a particularly strong effort in 2014. For example, conservative group Americans for Prosperity launched a huge media campaign against the RPS through television and radio ads.
Nonetheless, it seems the RPS is safe - at least for now. The Wichita Eagle says the two head lawmakers pushing against the RPS admitted the issue is over for the 2014 legislative session, and state Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, said, “It’s the final hour. We have important things to talk about, and we should not be wasting time on something that clearly the House has had a position on.”
Svaty expects legislators and anti-mandate groups to revamp their anti-RPS agenda next year. However, she notes that the upcoming 2014 election will have a major impact on the overall outcome, because the entire Kansas House is up for election, as is the office of governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide titles.
May 5, 2014 – U.S. Taps K2 Management to Build Offshore Wind Database
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has engaged K2 Management to build a global installation database for offshore wind.
According to K2, the objective is to provide NREL - and, thereby, the U.S. wind industry - with easily accessible data on installation times, correlation effects, implications and processes to secure the use of best practices and avoid delays and cost overrun on planned U.S. offshore wind projects.
To date, 62 offshore wind farms globally have been commissioned and 18 are in installation. Overall, K2 Management says its staff has been directly involved in more than half of them.
"We will use a mix of [publicly] available data, anonymous internal project data and interview K2 Management staff to map real experienced time consumption and pitfalls in the various parts of these projects,” explains Carsten Jensen, managing director of K2 Management in the U.S. “The ambition is to get as much validated data as possible in the database so we can service all main aspects and differentiate, for example, between jackets and monopiles."
K2 Management has commenced the project, and work is scheduled until mid-July.
May 5, 2014 – Hawaiian Electric Seeks Energy Storage to Support Renewables
To meet its goal of adding more renewable generation to the Oahu grid, Hawaiian Electric Co. is seeking proposals for one or more large-scale energy storage systems able to store 60 MW to 200 MW for up to 30 minutes.
The utility says large-scale wind and solar projects are continuing to be built in Oahu, and rooftop solar is now in use by more than 11% of its customers; therefore, energy storage is needed to help ride through sudden changes in availability of these variable resources.
Potential contractors will be evaluated on the overall cost of their proposals and non-price factors, such as design concept and feasibility, implementation, and operational viability. Hawaiian Electric says it invites bidders to propose the best-available technologies, including batteries, mechanical flywheels, capacitors, compressed gas systems, pumped hydro storage or a combination of such technologies.
Any project selected with a cost of $2.5 million or more must be reviewed and approved by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) with input from the Consumer Advocate. Hawaiian Electric says it aims to complete and file energy storage agreements with the PUC by year-end. Bidders must provide a schedule with the goal of having the system in service in the first quarter of 2017.
The deadline for proposals is July 21. More information is available here.
May 5, 2014 – Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Cape Wind PPA
A federal judge has dismissed Cape Wind opponents' latest lawsuit, which challenged the offshore wind project's power purchase agreement (PPA) with utility NSTAR. According to the developer, the decision marks the 26th failed legal action brought by opponents to the 468 MW Cape Wind project, proposed off the coast of Massachusetts.
Federal Judge Richard Stearns' decision rejected all claims against the State of Massachusetts, NSTAR and Cape Wind. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a long-time project opponent, filed the lawsuit in January along with the Town of Barnstable, businesses and residents. The opponents announced the legal action right after losing a separate lawsuit against the project.
Among its many claims, the lawsuit charged that NSTAR's contract to purchase electricity from the Cape Wind project at “three times the price of competing out-of-state green energy” violated federal law and would unfairly burden ratepayers. It alleged that the State of Massachusetts discriminated against out-of-state companies by pressuring NSTAR to buy power from in-state generator Cape Wind. Furthermore, it also claimed Massachusetts regulators exceeded their authority in setting wholesale rates for the contract.
However, Stearns ruled, "The allegation that [the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities] dictated that NSTAR procure power from Cape Wind at a specified price is misleading and ultimately untrue."
He also noted in his decision that the lawsuit would violate the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives states immunity from being sued for past actions in federal court. Stearns concluded his decision by observing the following:
"[T]he governor, the legislature, the relevant public agencies, and numerous courts have reviewed and approved the project and the PPA with NSTAR and have done so according to and within the confines of the law. There comes a point at which the right to litigate can become a vexatious abuse of the democratic process. For that reason, I have dealt with this matter as expeditiously as possible."
Cape Wind President Jim Gordon welcomes the court’s decision. "This important legal victory provides further momentum for Cape Wind to secure project financing and produce the energy, economic and environmental benefits to the region and the United States by launching a domestic offshore wind industry,” he says.
On its website, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound posted a statement responding to the decision: “The ruling is based on a legal technicality that does not address our claim that state regulators acted illegally. … The NSTAR-Cape Wind contract is unconstitutional, and we plan to appeal this ruling on behalf of Massachusetts’ businesses and consumers, who would be forced to pay nearly one billion in additional electricity costs to cover the exorbitant cost of this deal.”
May 1, 2014 – Vestas Announces Upgrades to Boost Performance of Existing Wind Turbines
Vestas has launched new technology upgrades designed to help boost the performance of its customers' installed wind turbines. According to the company, Vestas PowerPlus features a range of product offerings to increase the power output on existing wind power plants by up to 5%.
"The Vestas PowerPlus technology solutions are part of Vestas' overall strategy of growing our service business and to respond to a strong customer demand to increase power output while maintaining high reliability," explains Chief Technology Officer Anders Vedel.
The company says it has already sold and implemented upgrades on more than 500 wind turbines. “So far, Vestas PowerPlus has been very well received by customers - particularly in North America, where we expect the fastest impact on sales,” adds Vedel.
Vestas PowerPlus consists of three product offerings: Power Uprate (V82-1.65 MW, V90-1.8 MW and V100-1.8 MW); Extended Cut Out (V90-3.0 MW, V100-1.8/2.0 MW); and Aerodynamic Upgrades (V82-1.65 MW).
Power Uprate is a modification to the turbine control parameters that allows the wind turbines to increase their maximum power output from 1.8 MW up to 2.0 MW (or from 1.65 MW up to 1.8 MW in the V82). Vestas says the result is an increased annual energy production (AEP) of 1-4%.
Extended Cut Out is a modification of the turbine control parameters that allows turbines to capture more wind at higher speeds by extending the maximum wind speed limit from 25 m/s up to 30 m/s. Vestas says the result is an increase in AEP generally 0.5-2.0%.
The Aerodynamic Upgrades are Vortex Generators, which Vestas says are a cost-effective solution using small fins that optimize air flow over the blades to improve the aerodynamics and increase AEP of a wind power plant (generally up to 0.8%).
May 1, 2014 – Energy Storage Test Center Opens in New York
The Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Test and Commercialization Center has opened in Rochester, N.Y., to provide testing and validation services needed to bring technologies such as batteries, ultracapacitors, fuel cells and flywheels to the commercial market.
The facility was created through a partnership between the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST) - an association of more than 130 industry, academic and government partners - and DNV GL to support the development of energy storage technologies for the electric grid, transportation, buildings and portable electronics sectors.
The BEST center will provide testing, product development, performance validation, certification testing, environmental testing and battery lifetime testing. The center will support mobile field testing and onsite product commissioning.
In terms of funding for the $23 million center, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) provided $5.9 million, Empire State Development provided $1 million and DNV GL provided $16 million. As part of its investment, DNV GL is re-locating its existing energy storage testing capabilities from Pennsylvania to New York.
April 30, 2014 – With REC Purchase, Mars Moves Toward Carbon-Neutral Operations
In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Mars says it will purchase enough renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the soon-to-be built Mesquite Creek wind farm to offset the energy used in its U.S. operations.
Mars - the maker of M&M'S, Snickers and Milky Way - says the wind farm will generate 100% of the electricity needs of its U.S. facilities, which include 70 sites, 37 factories and 25,000 workers.
With an annual output of more than 800,000 MWh, the energy created from the wind farm will represent 24% of Mars’ total global factory and office carbon footprint - the largest long-term commitment to renewable energy use of any food-manufacturing business in the U.S.
"We are committed to doing our part to limit climate change," says Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer. "We are therefore delighted to be announcing this major renewable project that takes us a big step towards our goal of becoming carbon neutral in our operations."
Mesquite Creek, a 118-turbine wind farm located in Lamesa, Texas, was jointly developed by Sumitomo Corp. of America and BNB Renewable Energy.
According to Sumitomo, development of the wind farm began in 2008 on a 25,000-acre site. Blattner Energy is constructing the wind farm and electricity will be generated via 118 1.7 MW GE turbines. Turbine delivery is scheduled to begin at the end of the summer, with commercial operations expected in the second quarter of 2015.
April 29, 2014 – Maine Students Set to Compete in Blade Design Challenge
Maine high school students are readying themselves for the sixth annual Maine Wind Blade Challenge on May 2.
Developed by Maine Composites Alliance, in partnership with the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative, the contest partners high school teams with Maine-based advanced composites manufacturers to research, design and manufacture model wind blades. In addition to giving presentations, teams will compete to generate the most energy over two minutes.
The Maine Wind Blade Challenge was designed to inspire student exploration of alternative energy and advanced materials by participating in a hands-on application of science, math, engineering and technology.
According to the University of Maine, students that competed in past competitions have gone on to earn degrees at the University Of Maine College Of Engineering, Southern Maine Community College Composites Technician Program, Northern Maine Community College Wind Turbine Technician Program and the Landing School Composite Boat Building Program. Past participants also now work professionally as engineers, composite technicians and wind turbine technicians in Maine.
April 24, 2014 – EPA Reveals Top 100 U.S. Organizations Using Renewable Energy
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Power Partnership has released a new list of the top 100 organizations that use electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.
Intel Corp. continues its seven-year run as the nation's largest voluntary user of green power, meeting 100% of its electricity load with renewable resources. Other technology companies in the top 10 include Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Apple Inc.
The list is calculated based on annual green power usage in kWh by Green Power Partners.
The top 10 partners are as follows:
- Intel Corp. Santa Clara, Calif.
- Kohl’s Department Stores, Menomonee Falls, Wis.
- Microsoft Corp. Redmond, Wash.
- Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas
- Google Inc., Mountain View, Calif.
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.
- Staples, Framingham, Mass.
- Apple Inc., Cupertino, Calif.
- City of Houston
- U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.
April 23, 2014 – Google Inks 407 MW Wind Power Contract in Iowa
Internet giant Google has entered a deal for MidAmerican Energy to supply its new Council Bluffs, Iowa, data center with up to 407 MW of wind energy.
The power will come from several projects that are part of MidAmerican's Wind VIII program, which will bring 1.05 GW of Iowa wind energy online by the end of 2015. This agreement fully supplies the first phase of Google’s facilities in Council Bluffs with 100% wind power, bundled with and tracked by renewable energy certificates, and will allow additional phases to be supplied with wind-sourced energy as the company grows in Iowa.
This deal also represents Google’s seventh and largest renewable energy purchase to date, bringing the company’s total amount of renewable energy under contract to over 1 GW.
“At Google, we pursue a variety of approaches to power our operations with renewable energy,” says Gary Demasi, Google’s director of global infrastructure. “One great way to do this is by working with our utility partners like MidAmerican Energy, and we hope this agreement will inspire all of our utilities to work with us in finding ways to increase the supply of clean power.”
April 23, 2014 – Connecticut Ends Three-Year Moratorium on Wind Development
In a unanimous vote, Connecticut legislators have approved regulations on wind power development and ended a three-year moratorium on new turbines in the state.
According to an Associated Press report, the state's Regulation Review Committee signed off on siting rules, such as those related to shadow flicker, noise and setbacks. In 2011, the state legislature established the wind moratorium that would remain in effect until the Connecticut Siting Council could come up with and adopt development regulations. However, the Regulation Review Committee had continually rejected the Siting Council’s proposals, citing the need for more specificity and further collaboration, among other things.
Although Connecticut is not expected to become a huge player in wind development due to the state’s East Coast location and lack of access to the Atlantic Ocean, AP notes that the moratorium was holding up several project plans, such as one proposal to install between four and eight turbines in the eastern part of the state.
April 22, 2014 – Western Texas Community College Announces Wind Energy Degree Program
Western Texas Community College (WTC) says it is offering an Associate of Science degree that could prepare students to earn their undergraduate degree in wind energy from Texas Tech University.
Ed Ardizoni, a curriculum specialist with a background in renewable energy, is leading the WTC wind energy program.
"This is an exciting opportunity to provide an educational path for students into a maturing industry,” he says. “Most colleges provide only a single graduate-level course as an overlay onto a traditional degree program such as electrical or mechanical engineering. Our program provides more information on wind energy extraction and can be a major or a minor degree topic for the student to apply to their life’s professional pursuits.”
Currently, Texas Tech University offers a wind energy undergraduate degree that could lead to various employment opportunities in the wind industry.
April 21, 2014 – Majority of Ohio Voters Support State Clean Energy Law
At a time when Ohio's renewable energy standard is coming under attack, voters overwhelmingly support maintaining the state's current energy-related laws, according to a new poll released by Ohio Advanced Energy Economy (Ohio AEE).
The survey, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, recently questioned 600 Ohio voters. It found that nearly 75% of respondents support the state's RPS, and 86% register their support for the current energy efficiency law.
Under the RPS, Ohio utility companies are required to gradually increase their use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to 12.5% by 2024. However, Ohio AEE says recently proposed legislation aims to freeze those requirements at 2014 levels and would require future legislative action to reinstate the law. Current law also requires utility companies to provide programs through which customers can make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes and businesses.
“Ohio is home to some 400 advanced energy companies employing 25,000 Ohioans,” says Ted Ford, president and CEO of Ohio AEE. “Simply put, Ohio’s clean energy law is working. It’s saving money for consumers, creating jobs and making Ohio competitive. And now, we can demonstrate that the voting public strongly supports it, too.”
Other key findings in the poll include the following:
- 72% of Ohio voters say that Ohio should continue to replace traditional sources of energy like coal with other energy sources like wind and solar power.
- 66% of voters prefer a legislative candidate who wants to promote greater use of renewable energy, rather than continuing to rely on traditional energy sources like coal.
- Voters rate job creation, reducing pollution, and encouraging the development of new technologies and innovations as more important priorities in a state energy policy than reining in increases in energy costs.
According to Ohio AEE, the anti-RPS bill, SB 310, has been heard in a state Senate committee and is expected to move to the Senate floor when legislators return from a break. The group says it is working to educate officials about the negative impacts the bill could have on the state’s clean energy industry and ratepayers.
April 21, 2014 – Is Global Clean Energy Investment Bouncing Back?
Investment in clean energy worldwide rose nearly 10% in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year earlier, reaching $47.7 billion, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The report notes that the first quarter is often the weakest of the year for investment in clean energy, reflecting the fact that developers tend to rush to finance projects in the closing months of each year to take advantage of expiring subsidies, as well as the effect of colder weather in the Northern Hemisphere on project progress. So, although global investment in Q1'14 was down from the $58.1 billion seen in the fourth quarter of last year, BNEF says the more useful comparison is with the first quarter of 2013’s $43.6 billion.
Notably, BNEF recently reported that full-year 2013 global investment in clean energy fell 11% to $254 billion, the lowest annual figure since 2009.
“It is too early to say definitively that 2013 was the low point for clean energy investment worldwide and that 2014 will show a rebound, but the first-quarter numbers are encouraging,” comments Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for BNEF.
Breaking the figures down by region, the report says Asia and Oceania, excluding China and India, saw $12.1 billion of investment in Q1’14, up 26% compared to the same quarter of 2013, helped by the solar boom in Japan. The U.S. enjoyed a 95% gain in Q1 compared to a year earlier, although investment - at $7.9 billion - was only half the bumper figure for Q4 last year, when a number of large wind projects were financed.
BNEF says Europe’s investment was down 30% compared to Q1’13, at $11.1 billion, while China’s was up 18% at $9.9 billion. The biggest percentage gain on the year came in Brazil, where investment rebounded to $1.3 billion in Q1 this year, up 211%. The Americas, excluding the U.S. and Brazil, saw an 11% drop in investment compared to the same quarter last year, with the latest figure at $2.1 billion. The Middle East and Africa managed an 82% increase to $2.4 billion.
Looking at the different types of investment, the report says the dominant driver of the rise in investment was spending on small-scale projects of less than 1 MW, including rooftop solar. This increased 42% compared to the first quarter of 2013, reaching $21.2 billion.
Also rising strongly year-on-year was public markets investment in specialist clean energy companies, with a 195% gain to $3.6 billion. The report says the biggest capital raisings of the quarter were a $2 billion convertible issue by U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, followed by a $603 million secondary share issue by Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems.
Overall investment in solar was up 23% at $27.5 billion, while that in wind fell 16% to $13.9 billion. Investment in energy-smart technologies, such as smart grid, efficiency, power storage and electric vehicles, powered up 243% year-on-year to $3.1 billion in Q1, while investment in biofuels fell 28% to $664 million. Investment in geothermal heated up from virtually nothing in Q1’13 to $1.8 billion in the first quarter of this year, the report adds.
April 16, 2014 – DOE Plans $4 Billion Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Cleantech Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gases. When finalized, the solicitation is expected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.
"Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the department's Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio,” says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today.”
The DOE has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities; and efficiency improvements.
The department says it welcomes public comment on a range of issues and will consider public feedback in defining the scope of the final solicitation, after which the Loan Programs Office will begin accepting applications.
April 16, 2014 – Minnesota Power Files For Permits to Build Canada-U.S. Transmission Line
Minnesota Power has applied to state and federal regulators for permits to build the 500 kV Great Northern Transmission Line from the Minnesota-Manitoba border to an electric substation on the Mesabi Iron Range.
According to the utility, the project would deliver hydroelectricity generated by Manitoba Hydro to meet growing and changing energy demands in Minnesota Power's service territory, as well as to help with wind integration.
“The Great Northern Line enhances a unique synergy involving hydropower and wind,” says Minnesota Power Chief Operating Officer Brad Oachs. “The new transmission capacity more readily allows the Manitoba Hydro system to store intermittent wind generation during times when energy markets don’t need it. This is important to Minnesota Power as we expand our Bison wind project to 500 MW in North Dakota by the end of this year.”
Minnesota Power says the new transmission line would facilitate the delivery of at least 750 MW of energy into the U.S. beginning in 2020. The utility, which will have majority ownership of the project, will utilize the Great Northern Transmission Line to deliver to its service area 250 MW from Manitoba Hydro through a power purchase agreement approved by state regulators. The two utilities are also finalizing an agreement outlining how Minnesota Power will purchase additional energy and substantially expand its energy storage opportunities using the new asset.
Minnesota Power estimates total project cost in the U.S., including substation work, between $500 million and $650 million, depending upon the final approved route.
April 15, 2014 – Twelve States Produced 80% of U.S. Wind Power in 2013, Says EIA Report
In 2013, 12 states accounted for 80% of U.S. wind-generated electricity, according to preliminary generation data released in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) March Electric Power Monthly report.
The EIA says Texas was again the top wind power state with nearly 36 million MWh of electricity. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota and Wyoming.
These 12 states produced a combined 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, the EIA says 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19% increase from 2012. Wind power also increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation last year from 3.5% to 4.1%.
The EIA says all but 13 states reported some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10% above 2012 production levels. Notably, California's wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.
The proportion of wind to total electricity generated varied widely by state. The EIA says Iowa led the nation in wind generation share, with 27.4% of net electricity production coming from wind turbines. Second was South Dakota, at 26%. Other states with more than twice the national share of 4.1% wind power were Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming and Texas.
April 15, 2014 – Ontario is Officially Coal-Free, Shuts Down Final Plant
Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation. The Thunder Bay Generating Station, Ontario's final remaining coal-fired facility, has burned its last supply of coal and will be converted to burn biomass.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, this means the province has fulfilled its commitment to close all of its coal plants in advance of its year-end 2014 target. Ontario has replaced coal with a mix of emission-free electricity sources like wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, along with lower-emission electricity sources like natural gas and biomass.
Last year, Ontario also introduced the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act, which the ministry says would ensure coal-fired generation as a source of electricity in the province never happens again. Citing a 2005 independent study, the ministry says the estimated cost of coal generation was approximately $4.4 billion annually when health, environmental, and financial costs were taken into consideration.
“Getting off coal is the single largest climate change initiative undertaken in North America and is equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the road,” comments Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli. “Today we celebrate a cleaner future for our children and grandchildren while embracing the environmental benefits that our cleaner energy sources will bring.”
April 14, 2014 – Regulators Seek Comment on Proposed Southline Transmission Project
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) have issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Southline Transmission Project, a proposed 360-mile transmission line that would run across southern New Mexico and southern Arizona.
According to Southline Transmission LLC, a subsidiary of Hunt Power, the project will help relieve congestion, strengthen the existing electrical system and improve transmission access for local renewable and other energy sources. The BLM and WAPA have scheduled public hearings in May to provide information and receive comments on the DEIS.
"We are pleased to have achieved this milestone for the Southline Transmission Project, and we look forward to receiving public comments in response to the DEIS," says Hunter Hunt, president of Hunt Power. "We are proud to put forward a project that will meet critical electric power needs for the region while respecting and preserving important local resources."
April 11, 2014 – CalWEA Says 50% Renewables Target in California is Possible, Affordable
A recent study performed for California's five major utilities by the research firm Energy and Environmental Economics (E3) provides a roadmap for achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030 in the state with a relatively modest 2% impact on rates, or less, according to an analysis of the report by the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA). Currently, California has a 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard.
The E3 report estimated the system average rate impact of a 50% solar-heavy renewables scenario at 14% in 2030. A more diverse E3 renewables scenario dropped that figure to 9%. However, CalWEA claims that its further analysis reveals that the E3 study did not fully utilize its sound methodological framework to develop a cost-effective mix of renewable resources and system-integration mitigation measures for a 50% renewable energy future.
According to CalWEA, it is possible to dramatically reduce total overall costs by applying the low-cost mitigation measures identified by E3 to a renewable resource mix with lower total costs (including both procurement and integration costs). The result was a 2% rate impact in 2030.
“E3’s model not only accounts for the variation in the many factors that influence system operations and costs under a high penetration of renewables, but it reduces integration issues and costs to a single ‘common currency,’” says Dariush Shirmohammadi, CalWEA’s transmission advisor. “This common currency readily enables these impacts, and the mitigation measures to be directly and objectively compared under various scenarios and assumptions.”
CalWEA Executive Director Nancy Rader adds that “while many important policy and institutional changes will certainly be necessary to achieve 50 percent renewables, it is encouraging that E3’s study shows that this goal is affordable and technically achievable.”
April 11, 2014 – Houston METRO Offsetting Electricity Use With Renewable Energy
Retail electricity provider GDF SUEZ Energy Resources NA has signed a deal to supply the Houston METRO with renewable energy certificates (RECs).
Under the agreement, the authority will offset 20% of its electricity consumption by purchasing RECs from GDF, which, in turn, will provide 6,232 RECs to offset another 5%. Each REC represents the environmental attributes or benefits associated with a specific quantity of energy produced from a renewable source, such as wind or solar.
Additionally, GDF says it will determine the carbon footprint of three key parts of METRO's operations - buildings, public facilities (e.g., rail stations, park-and-rides, transit centers) and traction propulsion substations - and provide a monthly carbon footprint report.
April 10, 2014 – Maine Regulators Order First Wind to Prove Financial Capacity
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has called on First Wind to prove it will still have the financial capacity to build three wind farms following a court's recent decision to deny a joint venture between the developer and Emera.
In March, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled against the state Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) approval of the JV and sent the matter back to the regulator for redetermination. The decision affects four wind energy developments in Maine, all of which had a portion of their financing funded by Emera.
Construction on the Oakfield Wind project is under way. The Hancock Wind project has been approved by the DEP, but construction has not yet commenced. The Bingham Wind project application materials are now under review, and the DEP has denied the Bowers Wind project, but that decision is under appeal.
The DEP says it is concerned project financing has been affected by the Supreme Court’s decision and has requested that First Wind submit revised financial documents for three of the affected projects. The department says submission of revised financial capacity documents for the Bowers Wind project needs to wait until after the conclusion of the appeal process.
John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesperson, says the developer has invested almost $1 billion in Maine to date and doesn’t plan on stopping there. The company will work to try and prove its financial capacity to the DEP and has every intention to move forward with all four projects.
“The Emera joint venture provides an important, but certainly not the only, source of capital for First Wind’s Northeast projects,” he explains. “For example, First Wind closed on a $75 million bond offering last week. That offering is further evidence of First Wind’s ability to raise capital from other sources and the attractiveness of these projects to investors.”
Lamontagne adds that First Wind is confident the joint venture with Emera will be successful. “The PUC has outlined a process by which they will review the joint venture, and we will follow that closely,” he says.
April 10, 2014 – IKEA Makes Its First U.S. Wind Farm Purchase in Illinois
Home furnishings retailer IKEA has announced its first U.S. wind farm investment with the purchase of the Hoopeston Wind project in Hoopeston, Ill. The 98 MW project is IKEA's largest single renewable energy investment globally to date, and Hoopeston represents the company's second North American wind project: Last year, the retailer entered a deal with Mainstream Renewable Power for a 46 MW wind farm in Alberta.
IKEA says the U.S. project will help make a significant contribution to its goal to generate as much renewable energy as the total electricity the company consumes globally by 2020.
"We are committed to renewable energy and to running our business in a way that minimizes our carbon emissions, not only because of the environmental impact, but also because it makes good financial sense," says Rob Olson, chief financial officer of IKEA US. “We invest in our own renewable energy sources so that we can control our exposure to fluctuating electricity costs and continue providing great value to our customers.”
IKEA expects Hoopeston Wind to generate up to 380 GWh of renewable energy each year, which is equivalent to 165% of the electricity consumed annually by IKEA US (38 stores, five distribution centers, two service centers and one factory).
Apex Clean Energy is currently constructing the wind farm, which will feature 49 Vestas V100-2.0 MW turbines and is slated for completion by the first half of 2015. IKEA will fully own the project, and Apex will manage the wind farm.
“Wind energy has been the fastest-growing source of new energy generation in the U.S., and the potential is only beginning to be tapped,” says Apex President Mark Goodwin. “This project with IKEA US is an opportunity for Apex to work with a new type of investor and partner to expand wind energy development in this country.”
Earlier this year, an IKEA representative spoke with NAW about the company’s global renewables push. That article is available here.
April 9, 2014 – MAKE Expects North American Wind Market to Grow 207% This Year
The North American wind market will recover in 2014 after a lackluster performance in 2013 and grow 207% year-over-year, according to a new report from MAKE Consulting. In addition, the research firm expects the region to install 58.6 GW through 2023 - 30% of which is expected from 2014 to 2016 on account of an anticipated production tax credit (PTC) extension in the U.S. this year and provincial feed-in tariffs (FITs) and procurements in Canada.
Beyond 2016, MAKE expects two more growth cycles from 2018 to 2020 and from 2021 to 2023, which will largely track state renewable energy standard (RES) targets and fossil fuel capacity retirements in the U.S.
The firm says that although North American wind power development continues to hinge on intermittent policy support mechanisms, economic factors, including volatile natural gas prices and reductions in wind power’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE), will have growing importance and help drive new capacity through 2023.
With an expected CAGR of 17.1% from 2013 to 2023, the U.S. will remain the dominant market in North America. Cumulative installations over the next 10 years in the U.S. are expected to be four times larger than Canada’s. In terms of long-term development, MAKE says growth in the U.S. appears to be more secure as state RES policies, coal retirements, and stronger economic growth offer steady sources of demand for wind power; while Canada awaits successor policies.
Although this paints a very positive picture for development in the U.S., MAKE notes that the encouraging 17.1% CAGR is mainly on account of the PTC bubble in 2012, which caused an unusual downturn in 2013. Last year saw a 91% drop in installations from 2012 and also marked the first year Canada outpaced the U.S. in terms of new wind turbine capacity installations.
From 2014 to 2016, the Canadian wind industry will have the largest three-year growth in its history, as it is expected to add 5.1 GW of new wind capacity. More than 70% of this record growth will occur in Ontario and Quebec, thanks to their provincial FIT and procurement policies specifically for wind power. New procurement policies in these two provinces were announced in 2013, with 1.4 GW of new wind power to be installed within the next four years.
In the U.S., 18.1GW will be commissioned in the next three years. Nearly half of the new build will occur in Texas, and another 36% in states with RES policies. MAKE expects a PTC renewal in the fourth quarter of 2014, extending the eligibility deadline for new project starts until 1 January 2016.
MAKE says the LCOE of new wind power is declining, while average wholesale electricity prices are rising. The company expects wind power’s LCOE to reach grid parity in key markets in 2016 and most of the U.S. by 2023. This will be a driver for the U.S. wind market during this decade, but grid parity is on a longer time horizon in Canada due to lower electricity prices and large reserves of hydroelectric power.
April 9, 2014 – Global Wind Power Market Poised to Rebound This Year, Install at Least 47 GW
The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) says it expects new global wind installations to reach at least 47 GW this year, a dramatic increase over 2013 levels. According to a new report from the group, China will lead the market, but there will also be a strong recovery in the U.S. sector, record installations in Canada and Brazil, and hundreds of megawatts in South Africa.
"The global market is back on track for 2014," says Steve Sawyer, GWEC secretary general. After 2014, he says, "the market will resume its steady, if unspectacular, growth and end up just about doubling total global installations during the five-year period to 2018."
However, GWEC cautions that without a strong global climate policy, the market is unlikely to return to the 20-25% or more average growth that has characterized most of the last two decades.
In the absence of a global price for carbon, or anything close to it, GWEC says wind energy’s other attributes come to the fore. In many markets today, wind’s most compelling selling point is cost-competitiveness, the group adds. Wind is already competing successfully against heavily subsidized incumbents in a growing number of markets around the world as the technology and its implementation steadily improve, and job creation remains a priority just about everywhere. Furthermore, GWEC says recent events in the Ukraine and elsewhere point to wind energy’s contribution to energy security.
“Wind is now a mainstream technology, and a central part of electricity market development in an increasing number of countries,” says Sawyer. “But for the industry to reach its full potential, it is essential that governments get serious about climate change, and soon.”
April 7, 2014 – Wind Power Helps Significantly Cut U.S. Emissions In 2013
In 2013, the U.S. wind power fleet reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the power sector by 96 million metric tons, or 4.4%, the equivalent of taking 16.9 million cars off the road, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The group adds that, at the end of 2013, there were over 12 GW of wind energy under construction, which will eventually help to make an even bigger dent in emissions. On average, AWEA says wind generation avoids roughly 0.6 metric tons (1,300 pounds) of CO2 for every megawatt-hour of wind generation. When all 12 GW have completed construction, the group expects operational wind projects in the U.S. will reduce power section emissions by a total of 117 million tons annually, or over 5.3% of the sector’s emissions.
“Wind energy is leading the U.S. to a low-carbon future,” says Emily Williams, senior policy analyst for AWEA. “Not only is wind energy reliable and affordable, but it’s providing sustained emissions reductions in the sector that contributes the most to climate change: the power sector.”
AWEA also points to analyses by independent grid operators that confirm increasing wind energy could significantly reduce emissions.
For example, a 2014 study for Mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM found that a scenario of 20% wind energy would reduce the region’s CO2 emissions by 80 million tons, or 18%, while reducing the cost of producing electricity by more than $9 billion.
Furthermore, AWEA says a 2013 study covering the Western region of the U.S. found that producing 33% of the region’s electricity from wind and solar energy would reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 34%.
April 7, 2014 – Texas A&M University Wins $2.2M Award to Foster Offshore Wind
Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, has announced the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) is awarding $2.2 million to the Texas A&M University Wind Energy Center for a collaborative project that brings together researchers from universities across the state to develop and increase the capacity of offshore wind energy technology and help bring it to market.
"Texas leads the nation in wind energy production, generating more wind power than all but five nations, and this investment will support an important collaboration between our universities and the growth of our offshore wind capabilities,” says Perry.
The TETF award will support the development of new offshore wind farms, turbines and platform technologies in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Project. The state's award will be matched with DOE funding, an initial $13.3 million investment from industry members of the GoWind consortium and a $1 million total investment from the participating Texas universities.
The governor says that subject to the outcome of environmental and feasibility assessments, the collaborative project could help realize the GoWind consortium’s three-turbine, 18 MW offshore wind demonstration project in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas-based Baryonyx Corp., which leads GoWind, was one of seven developers awarded DOE grants to explore offshore wind projects in state and federal waters. The developer is now competing to receive a $47 million follow-up DOE grant.
April 4, 2014 – AWEA Calls Recent Wind Energy Records 'Transmission Success Stories'
Wind energy is breaking records across the U.S., thanks to long-needed transmission upgrades that are relieving congestion on the power grid and allowing more clean energy to reach consumers, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The group notes the Electric Reliability Council of Texas's (ERCOT) announcement that it had set a new wind production record on its grid last week, reaching over 10 GW. AWEA says this was the most ever for a U.S. power system, the equivalent of powering more than 5 million average Texas homes.
In two previously unreported records, wind energy also supplied a record 39.7% of total ERCOT electricity demand on March 31, and two weeks ago, the Southwest Power Pool region just to the north of Texas set a new wind record with over 7.2 GW of wind production.
Nationwide, AWEA says that up to 60 GW of new wind energy development would be enabled by major transmission projects that are in advanced stages of development. The group adds that Texas is the national leader in wind energy, in part, because it has been a leader in creating policies that enable private sector investment in and open access to an expanded transmission grid.
Specifically, AWEA says Texas’ recent wind records were made possible by the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines earlier this year. The lines connect wind energy resource areas in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to electricity demand centers, and the state currently has more than 7 G MW of wind capacity under construction.
Other regions are following Texas’s lead in adopting policies that will enable long-needed grid upgrades, AWEA adds. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator has adopted similar cost-allocation policies for a set of transmission lines called the Multi-Value Projects. These projects will potentially integrate nearly 14 GW of new wind capacity. Similarly, AWEA says the Southwest Power Pool has adopted a Highway/Byway transmission cost-allocation policy and is making progress toward building a set of lines called the Priority Projects, which are expected to serve more than 3 GW of new wind capacity.
“It may have taken a few years, but in many parts of the country the grid is finally catching up with wind energy’s rapid growth,” says Michael Goggin, senior electric industry analyst for AWEA. “These recent wind energy records, and the tens of billions of dollars of new wind energy investment in the pipeline, are a product of those transmission success stories.”
April 3, 2014 – Senate Committee Passes Bill With Two-Year PTC Extension
Hope for a revival of the wind production tax credit (PTC) has been buoyed, as a two-year extension of the incentive has made its way into a newly passed Senate Finance Committee tax extenders bill. An earlier version of the bill, released by Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Tuesday, did not include the PTC.
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., had pushed for an amendment to add the PTC extension prior to a committee markup hearing on April 3. The bill also includes a two-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC). Both incentives expired on Dec. 31, 2013, and the legislation would extend them through Dec. 31, 2015.
The Senate Finance Committee passed the tax extenders package Thursday afternoon and has sent it to the Senate floor.
“We’re grateful to all the supporters of renewable energy on the Senate Finance Committee,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in a statement. He adds that the vote “provides a critical signal for our industry.”
According to AWEA, a number of Senators on both sides of the aisle highlighted the success of the PTC and ITC during the hearing. Grassley spoke at length in favor of the tax credits and called arguments against their extension from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., “intellectually dishonest.”
John Thune, R-S.D., then withdrew a proposal to phase down the PTC, saying that discussion belonged in comprehensive tax reform, not the debate over the extenders package. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., called the PTC “vitally important” to his state - an incentive that is “driving not just economic growth, but job growth and wage growth.”
Lately, loud support for PTC and ITC extensions has been prevalent among elected officials. Last month, 144 Congress members signed letters urging their colleagues to act quickly to revive the incentives. Twenty-six Senate members signed the letter to Wyden, and 118 House members signed the letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Furthermore, President Barack Obama’s recent fiscal-year 2015 budget proposal reiterated his call for a permanent PTC.
Nonetheless, some groups had urged the Senate Finance Committee not to include the incentive extension. For example, conservative advocacy Americans for Prosperity issued the following statement on April 2: "Wind energy companies have been receiving special handouts from the Obama administration for years and still haven't been successful. It's time for Congress to put an end to this corporate welfare and encourage a free market in the energy industry that will lower costs for Americans across the country."
Although the Senate Finance Committee reported out the tax extenders bill, which includes about 50 other expired provisions, the battle is likely far from over.
As David Burton, a partner at law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, points out, the vote is “a first step in a long journey and unlikely on its own to create enough confidence to spur investment in the development of new projects.”
April 2, 2014 – New Vermont Law Raises Net Metering Cap to 15%
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed self-generation and net-energy metering (NEM) legislation (H.702) into law. The new law raises the 4% cap utilities had been using as the limit on their NEM programs to 15% of peak load.
The legislation applies to grid-connected renewable energy generation systems smaller than 500 kW that are intended primarily to offset the customer's own electricity. Supporters, such as Renewable Energy Vermont, say the measure will be a boon for small solar, wind and hydro energy. The politically popular measure passed by a vote of 136-8 through the Vermont House and unanimously in the Senate.
April 2, 2014 – Stakeholders Form Global Energy Storage Alliance
The Global Energy Storage Alliance (GESA) has been established as an international nonprofit organization to bring together energy storage and clean energy industry associations to help advance education, collaboration and frameworks about the benefits of energy storage.
Co-founders of GESA include the U.S. Energy Storage Association, California Energy Storage Alliance, China Energy Storage Alliance, Germany Energy Storage Association, India Energy Storage Alliance and Alliance for Rural Electrification.
In the alliance's first international initiative, GESA says it partnered with the Renewables 100 Policy Institute to facilitate a series of meetings between German and European policymakers and regulators and a delegation of energy experts and regulators from California.
According to GESA, the participants discussed strategies for utilizing energy storage technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a more adaptable and resilient grid infrastructure to handle the rapid deployment of renewable generation and changing demands of the grid around the world.
April 1, 2014 – Update: Maine Legislature Rejects Governor's Attempt to Change Wind Energy Law
Last week, both the Maine House and Senate voted down a governor-backed bill that would have required wind developers in the state to prove a proposed project's economic benefits, such as job creation and lower electricity prices, before receiving regulatory approval.
As NAW reported in March, Republican Gov. Paul LePage wanted to add the requirements to the state's Wind Energy Act of 2008. Although the administration claimed the proposal would have helped keep electricity prices low and protect Maine ratepayers, some renewable energy advocates argued that the new requirements would have created uncertainty and hindered wind development in the state.
Originally, the bill also wanted to eliminate megawatt goals of the 2008 wind energy law, but the proposal was later amended to preserve the targets. The Maine legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted down the amended bill, which then moved to the House and Senate floors for debate. Following last week’s decisions, the bill is now officially dead.
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, commends the state legislature for doing away with the proposal.
He says, “It's a victory for those who care about the development of emission-free, clean energy in Maine - environmental and business leaders and the general public came together to oppose the bills, and the House and Senate rightly sided with their constituents, knowing that the uncertainty the bill would've created was not in the best interest of Maine's energy future.”