News - Americas
- February 27, 2014 – New England's 'Largest' Renewables Procurement is All Wind, But Less Than Envisioned
- February 26, 2014 – Cape Wind Announces $600 Million Loan from Danish Company
- February 25, 2014 – University Of Delaware Leads New Effort to Catalyze U.S. Offshore Wind
- February 25, 2014 – Court Victory for Ostrander Point Wind Project in Ontario
- February 24, 2014 – Renewables Account For 99% of New U.S. Generation In January
- February 24, 2014 – Health Agency Finds No Reliable Proof That Wind Farms Pose Danger
- February 21, 2014 – Illinois Rivers Transmission Project Receives Final ICC Nod
- February 21, 2014 – Study: Wind Farms Are a Smart Long-Term Investment
- February 21, 2014 – Illinois Rivers Transmission Project Receives Final ICC Nod
- February 20, 2014 – Wind Power Keeps Michigan Utilities on Track to Meet RPS Goal
- February 17, 2014 – Oklahoma Utility Enhances its WindChoice Program for Customers
- February 17, 2014 – Report: Renewable Energy Will Supply At Least 5% of Mining Industry Power Demand By 2022
- February 17, 2014 – U.S. Survey Finds Majority Support for Action on Global Warming
- February 13, 2014 – AWEA Report: Wind Energy Reduces Consumers' Electricity Bills
- February 13, 2014 – Incoming Senate Finance Chairman Signals Plans for PTC Extension
- February 13, 2014 – Mortenson Building 76-Mile Transmission Project for Oklahoma Utility
- February 12, 2014 – U.S. Interior Dept. Releases First National Interactive Map of Onshore Wind Turbines
- February 12, 2014 – New York Green Bank is Officially Open for Business
- February 11, 2014 – Deepwater Wind Takes 'Leap Forward,' Taps Alstom to Supply Rhode Island Offshore Demo
- February 10, 2014 – BayWa Commissions Brahms Wind Project in New Mexico
- February 10, 2014 – New Farm Bill Becomes Law, Includes Millions in Renewables Funding
- February 10, 2014 – U.S. Renewable Energy Maintains Growth in 2013
- February 10, 2014 – Iowa Senator, Wind Energy Supporters Call for PTC Extension
- February 7, 2014 – Okla. Regulators Sign Off on Utility's 600 MW of Wind Power Contracts
- February 7, 2014 – Illinois City Buys Wind-Generated Renewable Energy Certificates
- February 6, 2014 – Canadian Wind Sector Sees Record Year in 2013
- February 5, 2014 – First Offshore Wind Farm Proposed for U.S. West Coast Wins Key Approval
- February 3, 2014 – New Report Maps Out Potential RPS Markets for Renewable Energy Generators
- January 31, 2014 – U.S. Wind Industry Has Record Number of Megawatts Under Construction
- January 31, 2014 – U.S. Energy Department to Fund Wind Tower Research
- January 31, 2014 – Obama Nominates Norman Bay as New FERC Chairman
- January 31, 2014 – Grain Belt Express Transmission Project Signs Deals with Mo. Suppliers
- January 30, 2014 – House Passes Farm Bill With $880M in Renewables and Energy Efficiency Provisions
- January 28, 2014 – Home Furnishings Retailer IKEA Makes Global Renewables Push
- January 27, 2014 – New U.S. Renewable Energy Capacity More Than Triples Coal, Oil and Nuclear Combined
- January 24, 2014 – New Nevada Transmission Line Delivering Renewable Energy
- January 24, 2014 – Kansas Wind Generators Provide Feedback on Clean Line Transmission Project
- January 23, 2014 – Could the Global Share of Renewable Energy Double?
- January 23, 2014 – Mercom Charts the Top Global Wind Energy Deals of 2013
- January 23, 2014 – Patrick Administration Announces Progress in New England Energy Infrastructure Initiative
- January 22, 2014 – Former Gov. Ritter Heads Effort to Offer Obama Comprehensive Clean Energy Plan
- January 21, 2014 – NREL Finds Wind Turbines Can Boost Grid System Readiness Through Active Power Control
- January 21, 2014 – Report: Wind Energy Yields Major Environmental Benefits for New Hampshire
- January 20, 2014 – Environmentalists Call on Obama to Abandon 'All of the Above' Energy Policy
- January 20, 2014 – Maine Offshore Wind Prototype Stands Up to Tough Winter Conditions
- January 15, 2014 – Google Invests $75 Million in Another Texas Wind Farm
- January 13, 2014 – President Obama Orders Quadrennial Energy Review
- January 13, 2014 – Harvard Team Sets Sights on Cheap Energy Storage of Wind and Solar Power
- January 13, 2013 – Wind Power Assists New York Grid Operator with Beating the Cold
- January 13, 2013 – ACCIONA Windpower Inks 93 MW Contract in Brazil
- January 10, 2014 – Wind Power to Supply 100% of N.Y. Boarding School's Electricity Needs
- January 9, 2014 – Study Finds Wind Turbines Do Not Hurt Massachusetts Property Values
- January 9, 2014 – Bullfrog Partners With Municipal Utilities to Bring Nova Scotia Wind Project Online
- January 8, 2014 – Wind Power Helps Nebraska Utility Meet Record-High Energy Demand
- January 8, 2014 – KCP&L to Nearly Double Wind Power Portfolio with New Purchases
- January 3, 2014 – Poll: Ohio Clean Energy Initiative Enjoys Wide Support
- January 2, 2014 – Consumer Survey Finds Big Upswing in Favorability Toward Clean Energy
- December 30, 2013 – Vestas Wins 39 MW Follow-Up Order in Uruguay
- December 27, 2013 – Study Concludes Wind Turbines Have 'No Effect' on Property Values in Rhode Island
- December 26, 2013 – BayWa Acquires Second New Mexico Wind Project
- December 20, 2013 – ACCIONA Awarded Deal for 102 MW Wind Project in Nova Scotia
- December 20, 2013 – MISO Completes 'Largest Ever' Power Grid Integration
- December 19, 2013 – Report: Expect the Focus on Wind Turbine Technology to Shift
- December 19, 2013 – TPI Composites Inc. Reopens Mexico Wind Blade Factory
- December 19, 2013 – MassCEC Announces Two Studies to Help Facilitate Offshore Wind Projects
- December 19, 2013 – Baucus Unveils Ambitious Plan for Energy Tax Reform
- December 18, 2013 – Quebec Issues Call For 450 MW of Wind Power
- December 18, 2013 – Ontario Grants Renewable Energy Approval to Bow Lake Wind Farm
- December 17, 2013 – Interior Department Plans Offshore Wind Lease Auction in Maryland
- December 16, 2013 – Feds Step Up Avian Oversight: What the Wind Industry Needs to Know
- December 16, 2013 – DNV GL Officially Launches New Global Brand
- December 13, 2013 – Blade Maker Wins U.S. Tax Credit to Boost Production and Add 170 Workers
- December 13, 2013 – Positive Near-Term Outlook for Ontario's Electricity Grid
- December 12, 2013 – Study: Wind Energy Yields Major Environmental Benefits for Ohio
- December 12, 2013 – Energy Department Releases Grid Energy Storage Report
- December 12, 2013 – Huge Coalition Calls on Obama to Advance Offshore Wind Development
- December 12, 2013 – Ontario Eliminating Domestic Content Rules for Renewable Energy Projects
- December 11, 2013 – Renewables, Natural Gas Expected to Coexist and Play Large Roles in Lone Star State
- December 10, 2013 – Texas' $7 Billion Transmission Initiative Nears Finish Line
- December 9, 2013 – ACORE: Large-Scale Renewables Drive Northeastern U.S. Capacity
- December 9, 2013 – Oregon State University, Mesalands Wind Center to Study Bird and Bat Impacts
- December 9, 2013 – 3TIER and IRENA Collaborate to Give Researchers Access to Renewable Energy Data
- December 9, 2014 – New England Governors to Collaborate on Energy Infrastructure and Renewables
- December 6, 2013 – BOEM: Milestone Cleared for Research Lease Offshore Virginia
- December 6, 2013 – U.S. Regulators Extend Duration of Eagle Take Permits, Up the Price
- December 5, 23013 – President Obama Sets 20% Renewables Target for U.S. Government
- December 4, 2013 – Virginia Groups Call for Legislative Support of Offshore Wind
- December 4, 2013 – Guess Who's Playing in the Super Bowl: Renewable Energy
- December 3, 2013 – Congress Wades Into Alphabet Soup of Wind Tax Incentives
- December 2, 2013 – Offshore Wind Growth Expected to 'Remain Solid' to 2020
- November 27, 2013 – U.S. Wind Power: Cutting Pollution, Saving Water
- November 26, 2013 – GL Awards ACCIONA Seven New Certificates for 3 MW Platform
- November 25, 2013 – Vestas Launches 'Wind for Prosperity' Venture to Provide Hybrid Systems
- November 25, 2013 – Nordex Unveils N131/3000 Light-Wind Turbine
- November 22, 2013 – Renewables Dominate New U.S. Energy Capacity in October
- November 22, 2013 – Ohio's Clean Energy Law a Success, Environmentalists Say
- November 21, 2013 – World's Largest Wind Drivetrain Testing Facility Opens in S.C.
- November 21, 2013 – DOD and NRDC Develop Guide for Siting Renewable Energy Projects
- November 21, 2013 – U.S. Navy to Deploy WindSentinel Floating LIDAR
- November 20, 2013 – U.S. Energy Dept. Dedicates New Wind Turbine Test Facility
- November 20, 2013 – Researchers Developing Technology to Manage Power Flows, Integrate Renewables
- November 20, 2013 – Retail Energy Supplier Offering Wind Power RECs in Four States
- November 19, 2013 – Study: LEEDCo Offshore Wind Project Safe for Lake Erie Wildlife
- November 19, 2013 – New Mexico Utility on the Lookout for Renewable Energy Resources
- November 19, 2013 – Duke Energy Carolinas Proposes Renewables Program for Energy-Intensive Customers
- November 19, 2013 – Grain Belt Express Clean Line Issues RFI to Kansas Wind Generators
- November 18, 2013 – New Calif. Transmission Line Could Help Integrate Renewables
- November 15, 2013 – Facebook Logs in to MidAmerican's Iowa Wind Farm
- November 15, 2013 – Mexico WindPower 2014 Will Run on 100% Wind Energy
- November 15, 2013 – Xcel Foresees Millions in Savings From Newly Approved Wind Purchase
- November 14, 2013 – Nebraska Utility Selling Wind-Generated RECs to Medical Tech Company
- November 14, 2013 – Quebec Releases Final Regulation For 450 MW Wind Power Block
- November 13, 2013 – Interior Department Approves Most of 1.5 GW Transmission Line Project
- November 11, 2013 – University Lands DOE Grant to Research Grid Integration of Renewables
- November 11, 2013 – Coalition of Governors Calls For Wind PTC Certainty
- November 11, 2013 – CAISO Board Approves Western Energy Imbalance Market Design
- November 11, 2013 – Senators, Advocates Push For Funded Energy Title in New Farm Bill
- November 8, 2013 – Need to Downsize Your Renewable Energy Project? CAISO Says It Has You Covered
- November 8, 2013 – Kansas Regulators OK Grain Belt Express Clean Line Project
- November 8, 2013 – Vestas Seeks Hundreds of New Workers at Colorado Plants
- November 6, 2013 – Pennsylvania Convention Center Opts for Renewables
- November 5, 2013 – Microsoft Buying Wind Power From 110 MW Texas Project
- November 4, 2013 – Vestas Launches V105-3.3 MW Turbine for Windy and Turbulent Conditions
- November 1, 2013 – BayWa Taps Signal Energy to Build New Mexico Wind Farm By Year-End
- November 1, 2013 – DOE Seeks Regional Resource Centers for Wind Power
- October 31, 2013 – Senators Introduce National Renewable Electricity Standard
- October 31, 2013 – Utilities Across the U.S. Are Cashing in on the Lower Price of Wind Power
- October 31, 2013 – Ohio Veterans Work to Protect State Renewables
- October 29, 2013 – Vermont Renewable Energy Businesses Call For 20% By 2020 Target
- October 28, 2013 – ACORE: Policies Make Midwest a Renewable Energy Hub
- October 25, 2013 – Household Products Maker SC Johnson Increases Overall Renewable Energy Usage, Relies on Wind Power
- October 25, 2013 – Liberty Power Donates Wind-Generated RECs to Event in Texas
- October 24, 2013 – Ontario One Step Closer to Eliminating All Coal-Fired Generation
- October 24, 2013 – DOE Report Updates Industry on U.S. Offshore Wind Market, Global Trends
- October 23, 2013 – Mercom Report Tallies up Wind Deals of the Third Quarter
- October 22, 2013 – IEA Report Suggests Wind Could Generate Almost 20% of World's Electricity by 2050
- October 21, 2013 – New Portal Offers Local Businesses a Chance to Work on New Jersey Energy Link
- October 21, 2013 – Long Island Power Authority Seeks 280 MW of Renewable Energy
- October 18, 2013 – California Regulators Set Massive Energy Storage Goal
- October 18, 2013 – U.S. Renewables Outpace Coal, Oil and Nuclear Combined
- October 14, 2013 – Consortium Readies Floating Wind Turbine for Operation in Fukushima
- October 14, 2013 – Climate Change Group Provides C$10 Million to Alberta Wind Project
- October 11, 2013 – Oklahoma Utility Signs Up for 600 MW of Wind Power
- October 11, 2013 – CanWEA Presents its Annual Wind Energy Awards
- October 10, 2013 – Oklahoma Co-op on the Lookout for Wind and Solar Power
- October 10, 2013 – California Ushers in 600 MW Shared Renewables Law
- October 9, 2013 – National Research Council of Canada Announces Energy Storage Program
- October 9, 2013 – Texas High School Cuts Ribbon on Wind and Solar Energy System
- October 9, 2013 – Utility Buying Wind-Generated RECs from University of Delaware
- October 8, 2013 – Galion LIDAR Studying Wind Resource Along Texas Coast
- October 7, 2013 – LM Wind Power Says Production Tax Credit Leads to Jobs
- October 7, 2013 – Wind Energy Showcased at College Football Game in Iowa
- October 3, 2013 – Gamesa Receives First Order for 5 MW Wind Turbines
- October 1, 2013 – Survey: 75% of New Jerseyans Want In-State Offshore Wind
- October 1, 2013 – Vestas Receives 50 MW Wind Turbine Order in Uruguay
February 27, 2014 – New England's 'Largest' Renewables Procurement is All Wind, But Less Than Envisioned
Massachusetts regulators have officially signed off on what the Gov. Deval Patrick administration is hailing as "the largest procurement of renewable energy in New England." The 12 long-term wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) equal an impressive 409 MW from three projects in Maine and New Hampshire; however, due to issues regarding three other wind farms, the deals still represent 156 MW less than what Massachusetts' utility companies had originally proposed last year.
According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the PPAs carry a weighted average price of less than $0.08/kWh, are expected to save ratepayers $853 million over the contracts' lifetime, and will account for about 2.5% of each utility’s total electricity sales.
“The Patrick administration is committed to diversifying our fuel sources with affordable, clean energy,” says Rick Sullivan, secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in a statement. “These contracts will save ratepayers money and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions from our power sector.”
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the agreements for the state’s four electric distribution companies: National Grid, NSTAR Electric, Unitil and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. As mandated by a new law, the companies had issued a joint request for proposals for renewables in 2013 and later filed a plan to procure 565 MW from six wind projects. According to a DPU document, though, the utilities eventually withdrew their requests for contracts with three of the wind farms.
Iberdrola Renewables had two projects up for consideration but took one off the list. The DPU document says the developer terminated the PPAs for its 99 MW Fletcher Mountain wind farm in New Hampshire “due to failure to receive corporate approval for the project."
Iberdrola Renewables spokesperson Paul Copleman tells NAW, “We expected to have received our interconnection study and to have cleared other uncertainties by that time last year, and they were delayed. With this drift, the PPA commitments were tracking ahead of our development schedule.” Nonetheless, he says Iberdrola is continuing to work on the project.
The developer’s 75.9 MW Wild Meadows project, also in New Hampshire, did get its PPAs approved, and Copleman praises Massachusetts for its renewables push.
“Massachusetts' regulatory and policy measures, thanks to the Patrick administration and the legislature, encourage investment in clean energy, particularly the long-term contracting provision,” he says.
But, as it turns out, Iberdrola has halted work indefinitely on the Wild Meadows project. The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) recently returned the project application, saying it was incomplete and ordering the developer to file a new proposal.
“After discussions with local stakeholders, we’ve recently decided that it’s best to pause and reevaluate the application process on our estimated $150 million investment decision at Wild Meadows,” Copleman says. “There is no specific timetable for any further decision at this point.”
He adds that the company is instead focusing its efforts on resolving issues with an already-operating wind farm in the state, the 48 MW Groton project. “Some people have raised an issue with the permit granted to us by the SEC based on some work that was done during construction and some operational questions raised by the state fire marshal,” explains Copleman.
Separately, the Massachusetts utilities terminated all contracts with Exergy Development Group. The DPU document simply says the decision was based on “the developer’s failure to post the required security in accordance with the proposed contracts.”
At press time, Exergy Development Group did not respond to requests for comment.
First Wind, meanwhile, owns two of the three projects that have won PPAs with the Massachusetts utilities. The company’s Evergreen Wind II LLC subsidiary is building the Oakfield Wind facility in Maine. The 147 MW project, consisting of 49 3-MW Vestas turbines, has all necessary permits and approvals. Early construction work began late last year.
In addition, subsidiary Blue Sky West LLC is developing the 186 MW Bingham Wind project. The project will feature 62 3-MW Vestas turbines and is being reviewed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The company hopes to start construction on that project later this year.
“We're thrilled that the power purchase agreements were approved by the Massachusetts DPU,” comments John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesperson. “This is an important milestone for both projects and a great step for bringing more renewable power to the state.”
(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.)
February 26, 2014 – Cape Wind Announces $600 Million Loan from Danish Company
The board of directors of Danish export credit agency EKF has approved a $600 million loan to the 468 MW Cape Wind offshore project, being developed off the coast of Nantucket Island in the U.S. Cape Wind President Jim Gordon made the announcement at a conference in Boston on Wednesday.
"EKF is a very knowledgeable and experienced investor in the offshore wind industry, and they recognize that Cape Wind makes sense both economically and environmentally," said Gordon. "Moving Cape Wind forward will help further diversify New England's electric generation portfolio."
The loan remains subject to final completion of documents and due diligence. EKF, which has backed a number of European offshore wind farms, is not the first Danish investor to help finance Cape Wind: Last year, PensionDanmark announced a $200 million investment in the project.
This latest announcement follows several others that suggest the Cape Wind project is pushing ahead. In December 2013, Cape Wind entered a deal with Siemens for 130 3.6-MW offshore wind turbines, and earlier this month, Bladt Industries and EEW Special Pipe Constructions GmbH signed on to supply foundations for the project. In addition, Cape Wind recently hailed a legal victory against project opponents.
(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.)
February 25, 2014 – University Of Delaware Leads New Effort to Catalyze U.S. Offshore Wind
The University of Delaware (UD) is leading an effort to spark conversation and action among government and industry in hopes of advancing the embryonic U.S. offshore wind industry.
According to UD, the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW) will serve as an independent catalyst for offshore wind development and add momentum to a promising industry that is at a critical juncture. The non-commercial offshore wind program is designed to draw together critical information on cutting-edge technologies, financing and collaboration opportunities, UD notes.
Although housed at UD's College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, the SIOW will be national in scope and already is playing a key role in major projects to harness the vast East Coast and Great Lakes wind resources, according to the university.
SIOW will also aim to connect states with international experts - especially in Europe, where more than 2,000 wind turbines are now installed and grid connected in 11 countries. UD says the resource will provide advice to all states exploring offshore wind and help advance customized policy models.
UD notes that the effort has the support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which will provide $250,000 in seed funding, as well as other philanthropic organizations.
“The Special Initiative on Offshore Wind will be a platform for catalyzing multi-sector collaboration and innovation to advance offshore wind,” says Michael Northrop, program director for sustainable development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “The time is now; there is a huge opportunity here to tap the East Coast’s largest renewable resource and spur a whole new industry.”
For offshore wind to be deployed in the U.S., UD notes utilities must buy electricity from offshore wind projects, with state support for offshore wind contracts. While the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind will not facilitate contracts or state approval of them, the university says it will advocate the value proposition of offshore wind, such as the price-suppression effect and net environmental benefits, explains offshore wind energy veteran Stephanie McClellan, who will lead the effort.
McClellan, who joined the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment in January, previously worked for the Google-financed Atlantic Wind Connection, the proposed transmission backbone slated for the mid-Atlantic.
Given the university’s history of advancing offshore wind through policy analysis, research, public testimony and industrial partnerships, McClellan notes that UD is well equipped to take a leadership position.
For example, in 2010 UD and Gamesa Technology Corp. joined forces to install a utility-scale 2 MW coastal wind turbine at the university’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del., allowing Gamesa to test the turbine in a coastal environment and students to conduct training and research on the turbine.
(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.)
February 25, 2014 – Court Victory for Ostrander Point Wind Project in Ontario
The Ontario Divisional Court has dismissed a recent decision of the province's Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) to overturn a renewable energy approval (REA) for the proposed Ostrander Point wind project. The ERT had argued that the wind farm would cause "irreversible harm" to the Blanding's turtle.
As proposed by developer Gilead Power, the 22.5 MW wind farm will be located on Crown land on the south shore of Prince Edward County and include nine 2.5 MW wind turbines.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) says the Divisional Court's decision reaffirms that the wind industry is meeting environmental protection standards.
According to CanWEA, the Divisional Court cited a number of inconsistencies in the ERT decision, chiefly that the ERT failed to give due consideration to REA conditions that had been met by the developer, such as a protected-species permit, an environmental management plan that has provisions for Ministry of Natural Resources oversight, and expert scientific evidence that protected species and indigenous plants would not be seriously and irreversibly harmed by the project.
The Divisional Court also denied the appeals of project opposition groups, stating the ERT had correctly determined that these groups had not presented sufficient evidence of irreversible harm to human and habitat health.
February 24, 2014 – Renewables Account For 99% of New U.S. Generation In January
Non-hydro renewable energy sources accounted for more than 99% of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed during January for a total of 324 MW, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group SUN DAY Campaign explains solar led the way in January with 13 new "units" totaling 287 MW, followed by geothermal steam with three new units totaling 30 MW. Biomass added three new units totaling 3 MW, while wind had one new unit with an installed capacity of 4 MW. In addition, there was 1 MW added that FERC defined as "other."
The slow-down in new wind power is no surprise. As the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently noted in its fourth-quarter 2013 market report, policy uncertainty led to a dive in new U.S. installed wind capacity last year. However, AWEA found that over 12 GW of new wind capacity started construction in 2013 and is slated to come online within the next few years.
According to the FERC statistics, renewable energy sources, including hydropower, now account for 16.03% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: hydro - 8.44%, wind - 5.20%, biomass - 1.36%, solar - 0.70%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.26%) and oil (4.04%) combined.
"The trends are unmistakable," concludes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Renewables are the energy growth market of the future, with solar - for the moment, at least - the leader of the pack."
February 24, 2014 – Health Agency Finds No Reliable Proof That Wind Farms Pose Danger
Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a draft information paper concluding that "there is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans."
Quoting the paper, NHMRC's CEO Professor Warwick Anderson says, "There is some consistent but poor-quality evidence that proximity to wind farms is associated with annoyance and, less consistently, with sleep disturbance and poorer quality of life. However, it is unknown whether these effects are caused by the wind turbines themselves, or by other related factors."
This newest paper follows a 2010 NHMRC study finding no scientific evidence that links wind turbines to adverse health effects. The draft paper is based on the findings of an independent literature review commissioned by the NHMRC, which says it used internationally recognized methods to select and analyze all available evidence.
“When Australian communities are genuinely concerned about the quality of their health, it is essential they have access to reliable advice based on the best-available evidence,” says Anderson, who has invited public comments on the document and submissions of any additional evidence for consideration.
Clean Energy Council (CEC), an Australia-based industry association, says the draft position statement is “yet another tick of approval for the wind industry from the country’s best health experts.”
"It is the role of health experts like the NHMRC to consider the scientific evidence on these issues and make recommendations, rather than the wind industry, or its opponents,” comments Russell Marsh, director of the council. "That's why we welcome the public-consultation process and look forward to continuing to work with agencies like the NHMRC to inform our best-practice guidelines for wind farm development and community engagement, and ensure the industry can continue to operate in a responsible way."
"While there is mounting evidence that wind farms cannot directly cause health problems, the industry recognizes the need to make communication and community engagement a high priority when building a wind farm," Marsh adds.
February 21, 2014 – Illinois Rivers Transmission Project Receives Final ICC Nod
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has granted siting approval of final routes and substations for Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois (ATXI) to build the nearly 400-mile-long Illinois Rivers electric transmission project.
"Today's action by the ICC is welcome news for Illinois," says Maureen Borkowski, chairman, president and CEO of ATXI. "This project will benefit the state's economy, create jobs and provide Illinois electricity customers greater access to a variety of low-cost energy sources, including wind energy."
Last August, the ICC approved the need for the project and some of the project routes and substations. The 345,000-volt transmission line, using steel poles with a single shaft, will run from Palmyra, Mo., crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy. It will then run east past Meredosia, Pawnee, Pana, Mt. Zion and Kansas, ending at Sugar Creek, Ind., with additional lines running from Meredosia to Ipava and between the Sidney and Rising substations near Champaign. The project previously received approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.
Substation construction is already under way on the $1.1 billion Illinois Rivers project, and line construction is expected to commence later this year.
February 21, 2014 – Study: Wind Farms Are a Smart Long-Term Investment
There has been some debate about whether wind turbines have a more limited shelf life than other energy technologies. However, a new study suggests that wind turbines can remain productive for up to 25 years, making wind farms an attractive long-term choice for energy investors.
Conducted by researchers at the U.K.-based Imperial College Business School, the study notes that the U.K. has a target of generating 15% of the nation's energy from renewable resources by 2020. There are currently 4,246 individual wind turbines in the region across 531 projects, generating 7.5% of the nation's electricity.
The report says a previous study used a statistical model to estimate that electricity output from wind turbines declines by a third after only 10 years of operation. Some opponents of wind power have argued that aging turbine technology could need replacing en masse after as little as 10 years, which would make it an unattractive option in economic terms, the report adds.
But through a nationwide analysis of the U.K. fleet of wind turbines, using local wind speed data from NASA, the researchers found that the turbines will last their full life of about 25 years before they need to be upgraded.
In fact, the research found that some of the U.K.'s earliest turbines, built in the 1990s, are still producing three-quarters of their original output after 19 years of operation, nearly twice the amount previously claimed, and will operate effectively up to 25 years. According to the study, this is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power stations.
The study also found that more recent turbines are performing even better than the earliest models, suggesting they could have a longer lifespan. The team says this makes a strong business case for further investment in the wind farm industry.
"There have been concerns about the costs of maintaining aging wind farms and whether they are worth investing in,” comments Professor Richard Green, co-author and head of the Department of Management at Imperial College Business School. “This study gives a 'thumbs up' to the technology and shows that renewable energy is an asset for the long term."
February 21, 2014 – Illinois Rivers Transmission Project Receives Final ICC Nod
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has granted siting approval of final routes and substations for Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois (ATXI) to build the nearly-400-mile-long Illinois Rivers electric transmission project.
"Today's action by the ICC is welcome news for Illinois," says Maureen Borkowski, chairman, president and CEO of ATXI. "This project will benefit the state's economy, create jobs and provide Illinois electricity customers greater access to a variety of low-cost energy sources, including wind energy."
Last August, the ICC approved the need for the project and some of the project routes and substations. The 345,000-volt transmission line, using steel poles with a single shaft, will run from Palmyra, Mo., crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy. It will then run east past Meredosia, Pawnee, Pana, Mt. Zion and Kansas, ending at Sugar Creek, Ind., with additional lines running from Meredosia to Ipava and between the Sidney and Rising substations near Champaign. The project previously received approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.
Substation construction is already under way on the $1.1 billion Illinois Rivers project, and line construction is expected to commence later this year.
February 20, 2014 – Wind Power Keeps Michigan Utilities on Track to Meet RPS Goal
Thanks to a surge in wind power development, Michigan's utilities are on track to meeting the state's 10% by 2015 renewable portfolio standard (RPS), finds a new report issued by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).
For 2012, the estimated renewable energy percentage reached 5.4%, up from 4.4% the previous year. For 2013, renewables are expected to have reached 6.9%.
"The year 2012 marked the first time that Michigan utilities were mandated to meet an interim compliance requirement, and all of them succeeded," notes MPSC Chairman John D. Quackenbush. "Progress toward Michigan's 10-percent-by-2015 renewable energy standard is going smoothly, and since the standard has been in effect, over 1,100 MW of new renewable energy projects have become commercially operational."
The new report offers findings similar to a previous study the MPSC and Michigan Energy Office issued to Gov. Rick Snyder in November 2013. Both studies highlight that wind energy has been the primary source of new renewable energy in Michigan because of its low cost, and the state’s wind generation is expected to increase to over 1.4 GW by the end of this year. The November report also suggested that 15% by 2020 and 30% by 2035 RPS targets are achievable for Michigan.
To read more about Michigan’s RPS and wind power’s role in the state, click here.
February 17, 2014 – Oklahoma Utility Enhances its WindChoice Program for Customers
Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) says it has made it easier for customers to take advantage of Oklahoma wind energy, and at a lower cost.
According to the utility company, it has reduced the cost of its WindChoice program by more than 40% and is also offering customers more flexibility on the amount of wind energy they purchase. WindChoice is a voluntary program that allows residential, commercial and industrial customers to buy Oklahoma-produced wind power for part or all of their energy needs in 100 kWh blocks or as a percentage of their total monthly billed usage. The utility notes that a typical PSO residential customer could subscribe almost half of their usage for just an extra $5 per month.
“PSO is pleased to now offer customers even better options through the WindChoice program,” says Bobby Mouser, PSO’s director of customer services and marketing. “By providing a lower price and greater flexibility, we’re making it easier than ever for our customers to take advantage of and promote the tremendous energy resource that is our Oklahoma wind.”
The electricity generated for PSO’s WindChoice program comes from the Minco Wind Farm, a 99 MW facility in western Oklahoma that is dedicated to supplying power for the program.
February 17, 2014 – Report: Renewable Energy Will Supply At Least 5% of Mining Industry Power Demand By 2022
The electricity-hungry mining industry is investing in renewable energy, such as solar and wind, to power its operations, particularly those in remote locations, a new report from Navigant Research says. According to the report, rising energy prices and the desire to reduce mining companies' carbon footprints have created a growing consensus in the mining industry that renewable energy at mine sites - both grid-tied and off-grid - is feasible and often necessary.
According to Navigant Research, the portion of energy consumption in the mining industry supplied by renewable energy will grow from less than 0.1% now to at least 5% - and possibly up to 8% - by 2022.
Wind power will account for the majority of deployed renewable energy assets for mining operations by 2022, with nearly 516 MW of capacity, according to the report. Following closely will be solar power, with 493 MW of installed capacity.
In terms of geographical distribution, the Asia Pacific region will see the highest level of renewable capacity, with 505 MW. In all, more than 1,438 MW of renewable energy capacity for mining operations will be deployed worldwide by 2022, the report concludes.
"A number of mines are already utilizing large-scale wind power, but these sites were chosen based on extreme needs and/or ideal wind characteristics," says Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director at Navigant Research. "The industry is now at a point where it can move forward into larger and more complex deployments, potentially including energy storage technologies, which would enable a higher percentage of renewable use per mine site."
February 17, 2014 – U.S. Survey Finds Majority Support for Action on Global Warming
A national survey conducted in the final months of 2013 finds that most Americans support national action on global warming and energy policies.
Performed by investigators at Yale University and George Mason University, the survey discovers that 83% of Americans believe the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs, and 71% say global warming should be a high priority for the president and Congress.
The survey also finds that majorities of both Democrats and Republicans support the following:
- Providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans support this);
- Funding more research into renewable energy sources (84% and 60%, respectively);
- Regulating CO2 as a pollutant (85% and 55%); and
- Eliminating all subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry (67% and 52%).
Similarly, the survey says fewer than half of Democrats and Republicans support eliminating federal subsidies for the renewable energy industry.
“Much of our national dialogue about climate and energy policy focuses on divisions between the political parties,” explains lead researcher Edward Maibach of George Mason University. “Our findings show that while there are important policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, there is also some common ground on which the nation could build an effective response to climate change.”
February 13, 2014 – AWEA Report: Wind Energy Reduces Consumers' Electricity Bills
Wind power is keeping electricity bills low for U.S. homes and businesses, thanks to plummeting wind energy costs driven by technological improvements, finds a new white paper from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The group says the report uses publicly available data and more than a dozen studies from government, utility and other independent sources to explore how wind energy affects consumers' energy bills.
A highlight of the report is just-released U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data showing that consumers in the states that use the most wind energy have fared much better than consumers in states that use less wind energy. In fact, AWEA says consumers in the top wind-energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37% over the last five years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79% over that time period.
“During last month’s cold snaps, we saw very high wind energy output play a critical role in protecting consumers across the country from skyrocketing energy prices. This study confirms that wind energy is providing that benefit every day,” comments Michael Goggin, AWEA’s senior electric industry analyst.
Citing the DOE data, AWEA notes wind energy costs have fallen by 43% over the last four years.
“With the drastic cost declines over the last few years, wind energy offers consumers a great deal today,” says Goggin. “That deal will only get better with time because that low price is locked in for the life of the wind project, as the fuel will always be free. No other major source of energy can offer that kind of price stability. Diversifying our energy mix with zero-fuel-cost, zero-emission wind energy is a win-win for consumers and the environment.”
February 13, 2014 – Incoming Senate Finance Chairman Signals Plans for PTC Extension
The incoming chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee says working to renew a slew of expired tax breaks, including the production tax credit (PTC), will be one of his first priorities when he takes office.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is slated to take over the chairman role for former Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who was recently confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to China. On Feb. 11, Wyden told reporters, "My sense is that the focus at the outset is likely to be the extender package."
The so-called extender package includes over 50 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013, one of which was the PTC. Keith Martin, a partner at law firm Chadbourne & Parke, tells NAW that it’s likely that the package will get passed but not until the last half of this year.
“Wyden is replacing the senior staff on the Senate Finance Committee. It will take time for them to settle in,” he says.
In addition, Martin expects U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will avoid presenting the extender as stand-alone legislation.
“He usually needs something to propel such a bill forward, like doing it in the context of budget reconciliation where special rules limit debate or as a rider to some other must-pass legislation or because Congress is at the end of the session and eager to get home,” Martin explains.
He also warns that outside opposition to a PTC extension for wind is better organized “than ever before,” and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will likely follow suit and stand against the tax incentive. Nonetheless, Martin believes the extenders will eventually pass after both houses of Congress negotiate.
Furthermore, he bets the construction-start deadline for the PTC will be extended for at least a year and suggests, “Companies should start planning how to incur at least five percent of the cost of more projects this year and be ready to pull the trigger when the extenders pass.”
February 13, 2014 – Mortenson Building 76-Mile Transmission Project for Oklahoma Utility
Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction has announced it was recently selected by investor-owned utility Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. (OG&E) to build the Woodward EHV Thistle transmission line project. The project will start at the Woodward EHV District Substation, 12 miles south of Woodward, Okla., and run to the Oklahoma/Kansas border about two miles southeast of Hardtner, Kans.
"OG&E is pleased to have Mortenson Construction working on the Woodward-to-Thistle project," says Phil Crissup, OG&E’s vice president of utility technical support. "This transmission line is essential to delivering Oklahoma’s wind potential and improving regional electric system capacity and reliability."
Mortenson says all aspects of construction are currently under way, and construction is expected to be completed in September 2014.
February 12, 2014 – U.S. Interior Dept. Releases First National Interactive Map of Onshore Wind Turbines
The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released the first publicly available interactive map and geo-dataset showing more than 47,000 onshore wind turbine locations and related information across the entire U.S.
According to the DOI, the new tool is consistent with the goals of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's Order No. 3330, which was released in October 2013 to incorporate a landscape-level approach to development on public lands.
“In making this critical information available to the public, the USGS has provided public agencies and private companies with a new tool to help guide smart landscape-level planning decisions that support domestic energy production while minimizing conflicts,” says Jewell. “The data will help improve the siting of future wind energy projects, as well as aid land managers in devising more up-to-date land-use and multiple-use plans.”
The wind turbine map, which includes turbines installed as of July 2013, was created by combining publicly available datasets from the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as other federal, state and local sources. USGS researchers also identified additional turbines not in those pre-existing databases and added them to the dataset and map.
The DOI notes that before this new release, some individual state maps with turbine information and national maps of facility information existed, but there were no national maps with turbine-specific information and verified locations.
“In addition to informing siting decisions for future wind energy projects, this fundamental, nationwide data will support research on wind generation efficiency, economic impacts and applied science for reducing wildlife impacts,” says Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “Just as we need basic information about stream flows to support good water administration decisions, we must have accurate data on wind generation to better understand and support this important source of renewable energy.”
The interactive map is available here.
February 12, 2014 – New York Green Bank is Officially Open for Business
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., says the New York Green Bank has started business operations. The program is intended to stimulate private-sector financing of renewable energy by providing financial support for creditworthy clean-energy projects in the state that have difficulty accessing financing due to various market barriers.
Through a request for proposals (RFP), the NY Green Bank seeks financing requests from industry participants and financial institutions. Projects to be supported by the NY Green Bank include a range of commercially proven technologies, including solar, wind and other renewable energy generation technologies; residential and commercial/industrial energy efficiency measures; electricity load reduction; on-site clean generation; and similar projects that can support the state’s clean energy objectives.
Cuomo proposed the creation of a $1 billion green bank in his 2013 State of the State address as the financial engine to help mobilize private investment in clean energy projects. In December of last year, he announced $210 million in initial funding for the program.
"The NY Green Bank will be the catalyst for significantly accelerating the flow of private capital to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and will send a message to the financial markets that expanding our clean energy economy is a priority for New York State," Cuomo says in a statement.
February 11, 2014 – Deepwater Wind Takes 'Leap Forward,' Taps Alstom to Supply Rhode Island Offshore Demo
Deepwater Wind has signed an agreement for Alstom to supply the Block Island Wind Farm with five Haliade 150-6 MW offshore wind turbines. Deepwater says the deal represents a pivotal point in the development of the 30 MW demonstration project, located off the coast of Block Island, R.I.
Originally, however, Deepwater Wind had signed a preferred-supplier contract with Siemens in 2011 for five of its 6 MW direct-drive machines. The agreement provided a window of exclusivity for the two parties to hammer out a deal. However, one did not materialize and the agreement expired at the end of 2012.
Jeff Grybowski, Deepwater's CEO, notes it was important that the developer signed with a provider of direct-drive turbine technology.
"We think direct-drive is where the U.S. offshore wind industry is headed," he explains.
Under the new supply contract, Deepwater Wind says it made an initial multi-million-dollar payment in December 2013 that allowed Alstom to begin the manufacturing process for the turbines. Grybowski adds that most of the blade units have already been manufactured. Deepwater expects all of the blades to be completed and delivered to the company at a warehouse in Europe in April.
“This agreement represents a giant leap forward for the Block Island Wind Farm, and the start of turbine construction just last month marked a major project milestone,” says Grybowski. “We’re thrilled to have a company as renowned as Alstom as our turbine partner.”
He adds, “When combined with engineering and permitting work we already completed, we’re confident this payment puts us significantly over the required five percent ‘safe harbor’ for the [federal investment tax credit.]”
The Haliade 150-6 MW turbine features Alstom's Pure Torque design and a 150-meter-diameter rotor. According to Deepwater, Alstom’s technology will provide a greater energy output than the developer had earlier anticipated. The companies expect the project’s capacity factor to exceed 47%, compared to initial projections of 40%. In addition, Deepwater says that, at 589 feet tall, the Haliade turbines will be about 10% - or roughly 70 feet - shorter than the developer’s maximum height allowance provided for in its permit filings. Moreover, the rotors and nacelles of the turbines will be smaller than the permitted maximums.
“We are pleased to be able to provide Deepwater Wind an efficient and powerful turbine that is an ideal match for their exciting project,” says Andy Geissbuehler, general manager of Alstom Wind North America. “We look forward to continuing to participate in the development of the offshore wind industry in the U.S. by working with visionary companies like Deepwater Wind.” Under a separate agreement, Alstom will also provide long-term service and maintenance responsibilities for the turbines.
Deepwater says its partnership with Alstom will create a number of local jobs and boost economic activity in Rhode Island. In addition to operations and management positions the developer will fill to support the project, Alstom intends to base its long-term service operations in the state and to perform pre-installation work in a local harbor. Furthermore, Alstom will investigate opportunities to execute assembly activities in Rhode Island.
However, an Alstom representative declined to give specifics.
“At this point, there is no firm timeframe and or locations in mind,” says an Alstom spokesperson. “Those issues will come together as the project advances.”
The Block Island project could help Deepwater realize plans for a much larger offshore wind farm. Having won the U.S.' first-ever competitive lease auction for renewable energy development in federal waters last year, Deepwater is working to develop the Deepwater Wind Energy Center, a wind project with up to 1 GW of capacity, off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
February 10, 2014 – BayWa Commissions Brahms Wind Project in New Mexico
Wind developer BayWa r.e. Wind LLC has placed its 19.8 MW Brahms project in service.
Located in Curry County, N.M., the project comprises 12 units of 1.65 MW Vestas V82 turbines. The company says commissioning occurred four months after construction began.
In addition, BayWa notes it is preparing its next New Mexico project for construction later this year.
February 10, 2014 – New Farm Bill Becomes Law, Includes Millions in Renewables Funding
On Feb. 7, President Barack Obama signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill. Among a variety of provisions meant to help support rural Americans, the legislation includes $881 million in mandatory funding for the Energy Title program.
The revamped Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), part of the Energy Title, will allocate $45 million in each fiscal year from 2014 through 2018 to offer grants and loans to rural businesses and agricultural producers to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including solar and small wind power systems.
Applications for REAP funding are to be evaluated under a three-tiered approach: projects costing $80,000 or less, those over $80,000 but less than $200,000, and those costing $200,000 or more. The Energy Title also provides funding for biofuel programs.
Renewable energy advocates have praised the Farm Bill's passage. For example, Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition, says, “By making modest investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and renewable chemical technology, the five-year Farm Bill … will have major benefits for energy security, economic growth and environmental gains across the entire United States.”
Michael Brower, president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy ACORE, notes that his organization salutes Congress for coming together and passing the bill.
“ACORE commends Congress for finding a way to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that leaves crucial components of the Farm Bill intact while continuing to fund important renewable energy programs and recognizing the importance of water conservation,” Brower says.
He adds that the programs under the Energy Title “have been and will continue to be important for farmers and small businesses working in the renewable fuels industry or looking to upgrade their facilities with clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy.”
February 10, 2014 – U.S. Renewable Energy Maintains Growth in 2013
Renewable energy provided 13% of U.S. electricity generation in 2013, up from 12% in 2012 and just 8% in 2007, according to a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The report, produced for The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, covers renewables, energy efficiency and natural gas.
The report also says renewable energy costs reached all-time lows in 2013, allowing clean energy, with the aid of incentives, to be cheaper than fossil fuel electricity in some parts of the country. Small, distributed generators and off-grid installations, meanwhile, began to emerge as a transformative force in the power industry, the report adds.
Uncertain and chaotic energy policy in Washington was the biggest speed bump for clean energy in 2013, according to BNEF. For example, new wind power installations decreased dramatically last year due to the late extension of the wind production tax credit. Conversely, BNEF notes federal solar tax credits did not require renewal for 2013, which helped propel a dramatic 50% increase in cumulative solar installations.
“We urge legislators and policymakers to clarify and stabilize clean energy policies both at the federal and state levels in order to accelerate America’s energy transformation,” comments Lisa Jacobson, president of The Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “Clean energy technologies have made major gains in the last five years, and further growth will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve our energy security and strengthen the U.S. economy.”
BNEF notes that renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas are mainly responsible for the nearly 10% decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, taking the country more than halfway to President Barack Obama’s goal of achieving a 17% reduction in emissions by 2020.
“The changes unfolding in the U.S. energy industry have been profound and, by the typical time scale of the industry, abrupt,” says Michel Di Capua, head of North American analysis for BNEF. “The effects of these changes will be felt in seemingly every nook and cranny of the American economy, from military bases to manufacturing plants, from homes to highways. 2013 saw some detours from the long-term trends, but overall, it is clear that the long-term transformation of how the U.S. produces and consumes energy continues.”
February 10, 2014 – Iowa Senator, Wind Energy Supporters Call for PTC Extension
Following news that U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will take over as new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Iowa State Senator and Climate Parents member Rob Hogg plans to send a petition urging Wyden to take action by extending the production tax credit (PTC) immediately.
Climate Parents, a national organization of families advocating for climate change solutions, is spearheading the campaign and says that about 50,000 people have signed the petition.
“We must support wind power and renewable energy,” says Hogg. “Our children and our grandchildren are counting on Congress to act.”
The senator also notes, “Wind power currently provides 25 percent of Iowa’s electricity generation and has increased nationally by 30 percent per year over the past five years. The wind power tax credit made this possible.”
The petition is available here.
February 7, 2014 – Okla. Regulators Sign Off on Utility's 600 MW of Wind Power Contracts
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) has approved cost recovery for three wind power purchase agreements recently signed by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO).
The contracts, totaling 600 MW, are for NextEra Energy Resources' Seiling Wind project, TradeWind Energy's Goodwell Wind project, and Apex Clean Energy's Balko Wind project.
According to PSO, estimates show the agreements will reduce customer costs by $53 million in the first year, with annual savings growing over the 20-year length of the contracts.
“These contracts were based on extraordinary pricing opportunities that will provide substantial savings for our customers,” says Stuart Solomon, PSO president and chief operating officer. “Another benefit is the diversity that an additional 600 MW of Oklahoma wind energy will bring to our fuel mix.”
PSO issued a request for proposals in June 2013 seeking up to 200 MW of new wind energy resources. The utility says the decision to contract for an additional 400 MW was based on all-time-low prices for wind power. When deliveries of energy from the three new wind contracts commence in 2016, PSO’s total wind under contract will be 1.137 GW.
February 7, 2014 – Illinois City Buys Wind-Generated Renewable Energy Certificates
JustGreen, a subsidiary of Just Energy Group Inc., has announced that the City of Joliet, Ill., has purchased renewable energy certificates (RECs) to help offset its greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use for the next three years.
According to JustGreen, the RECs purchased by Joliet are sourced from 100% U.S. wind power facilities and certified by Green-e Energy.
"Choosing electricity from renewable resources like wind gives us the power we need to grow, support job creation, cut greenhouse gas emissions and support additional clean, renewable resources in the U.S.A. Partnering with JustGreen to use green power is a smart choice for our community and our economy," says James D. Hock, Joliet’s city manager.
February 6, 2014 – Canadian Wind Sector Sees Record Year in 2013
Canada recorded exceptionally strong growth in 2013 with a record of close to 1.6 GW of new wind energy capacity installed, placing it fifth globally, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
The association says Canada sustains its position as a global wind energy leader, today ranking ninth in the world in total installed capacity with more than 7.8 GW of wind energy in operation - providing enough power to meet the annual needs of approximately 2 million Canadian homes.
"Many provincial governments are on the threshold of meeting their initial commitments to wind energy development," explains CanWEA President Robert Hornung. "This wide support presents new opportunities to create stable and sustainable markets in Canada for future wind energy development."
"Most notably, the governments of Ontario and Quebec made commitments in 2013 to secure a combined 1,400 MW of new wind energy capacity over the next few years, which is the first step in building the foundation for robust, long-term markets for wind energy in Canada," Hornung adds.
This year, CanWEA says it expects Canada to see a new record for annual installations of wind energy, as new projects are under construction across the country.
February 5, 2014 – First Offshore Wind Farm Proposed for U.S. West Coast Wins Key Approval
The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has given the green light for Principle Power Inc. to submit a formal plan to build a 30 MW pilot project using floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Ore.
"Today's announcement is consistent with President [Barack] Obama's commitment to take actions that will create jobs and develop clean, domestic energy that powers our economy," says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. "This pioneering project would demonstrate floating wind turbine technology capable of tapping the rich wind energy resources in deep waters offshore Oregon. As we look to broaden our nation's energy portfolio, the innovative technology and its future application hold great promise along the West Coast and Hawaii."
Citing statistics from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the DOI says the West Coast holds an offshore capability of more than 800 GW of wind energy potential, which is equivalent to more than three quarters of the nation's entire power generation capacity. Total U.S. deepwater wind energy resource potential is estimated to be nearly 2,000 GW, the department adds.
Principle Power Inc. will seek to site its project within a 15 square-mile proposed lease area. The DOI says the project is designed to generate electricity from five floating "WindFloat" units, each equipped with a 6 MW offshore wind turbine. Sited in about 1,400 feet of water, the facility would be the first offshore wind project proposed in federal waters off the West Coast.
Principle Power, which received $4 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding for its demonstration project, submitted an unsolicited request to BOEM for a commercial wind energy lease in May 2013. As an initial step in the leasing process, BOEM issued a request for interest (RFI) in the Federal Register to determine whether there were other developers interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area. There were not.
Under the noncompetitive process for which Principle Power qualified, the company may now submit a plan for the proposed lease area to BOEM. BOEM will then complete a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making any final decision on lease issuance and plan approval.
"The WindFloat Pacific project is the latest in a series of lease initiatives BOEM has undertaken to move forward offshore wind energy development,” says BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “On the Atlantic Coast, the five commercial project leases we've issued, if fully developed, could generate enough renewable energy to power 1.4 million homes."
BOEM has issued 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 DOI says the competitive lease sales generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The department also notes additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts are expected this year.
February 3, 2014 – New Report Maps Out Potential RPS Markets for Renewable Energy Generators
The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has released a new report that provides information regarding where a renewable energy generator in a particular state or Canadian province can possibly sell its renewable energy certificates in order to meet the demand created by a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
The report was written by Ed Holt of Ed Holt & Associates and made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Energy Foundation, the alliance says. In addition, CESA has released an interactive online map where users can select a state or province and see a list of potential RPS markets.
“This will be a valuable resource for project developers, state RPS administrators, and other people interested in renewable energy markets,” notes CESA Executive Director Warren Leon.
The full report and the interactive map are available for free on CESA’s website.
January 31, 2014 – U.S. Wind Industry Has Record Number of Megawatts Under Construction
As many predicted, the fallout from policy uncertainty led to a big drop in new installed wind capacity in the U.S. last year. According to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2013 Market Report, the country saw 1.084 GW of wind come online in 2013. That is a 92% decrease from the 13.131 GW of new capacity installed during the record-breaking year of 2012.
However, the news isn't all bad. In fact, 2013 set a record of its own. At the end of the year, AWEA says there were more U.S. wind power megawatts under construction than ever in history: Over 12,000 MW (or, 12 GW) of new generating capacity were under construction in 2013, with a record-breaking 10.9 GW starting construction activity during the fourth quarter. The report notes the wind projects under construction could power the equivalent of 3.5 million American homes, or all the households in Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas.
AWEA explains that the start of 2013 for the wind industry was slowed by uncertainty over the production tax credit (PTC), which was allowed to expire momentarily on Dec. 31, 2012, then extended the next day by Congress and signed back into law on Jan. 2, 2013, as part of the fiscal cliff deal.
Historically, when the PTC has been allowed to expire, AWEA says the U.S. industry has faced a 70% to 95% drop-off in installations. The association warns that the huge decrease seen in 2013 is a pattern that could repeat unless Congress acts to extend the PTC, which expired again on Dec. 31, 2013.
Nonetheless, AWEA says that the industry quickly rebounded toward the end of the year, signing a record number of term power purchase agreements (PPAs) and getting projects under construction in the fourth quarter. Developers pushed projects forward to meet new eligibility rules in the PTC, which required the companies to either start construction or spend 5% of the value of their projects by Dec. 31, 2013. Of the 1.084 GW of new wind farms installed in 12 states plus Puerto Rico last year, 1.012 GW were completed in the fourth quarter.
“Our current growth demonstrates how powerful the tax credit is at incentivizing investment in wind energy,” says AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Now it’s up to Congress to ensure that growth continues by extending this highly successful policy.”
AWEA adds that the record growth for wind energy at the end of 2013 resulted not only from the PTC (which provides upfront tax relief of $0.023/kWh for the first 10 years of a project), but also from investments in technological advancements that have driven down the cost of wind energy by 43% in just four years.
Other highlights from AWEA’s report include the following:
- At least 60 PPAs for nearly 8 GW were signed by utilities and corporate purchasers, of which 5.2 GW have not yet started construction.
- Some of the states poised for major growth in wind energy in coming years include Texas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota and Michigan.
- There are now over 5.6 GW of turbine orders placed, with major manufacturing facilities active in regions such as Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota.
According to AWEA, the momentum and excitement toward the end of 2013 will carry over into 2014 as factories fill orders for turbines and construction continues at wind farms, but the association emphasizes that uncertainty over the tax policy again looms and will deter new project development.
AWEA’s full report can be found here.
January 31, 2014 – U.S. Energy Department to Fund Wind Tower Research
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $2 million in funding meant to help develop taller wind turbine towers. The department says these projects will help strengthen U.S. wind turbine component manufacturing, reduce the cost of wind energy and expand the geographic range of cost-effective wind power in the U.S.
While utility-scale wind turbines in operation today average 90 meters, the DOE says projects supported by this funding will engineer design concepts for fabricating and installing turbine and tower systems with a minimum hub height of 120 meters. As described in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Analysis of Transportation and Logistics Challenges Affecting the Deployment of Larger Wind Turbines, enabling cost-effective deployment of wind turbines with hub heights up to 140 meters will unlock an additional 1,800 GW in wind power resource potential across 237,000 square-miles of the U.S., or an area roughly the size of Texas, the DOE adds.
The department notes this effort supports its broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to increase the efficiency of the U.S. manufacturing sector and ensure that clean energy technologies continue to be made domestically.
January 31, 2014 – Obama Nominates Norman Bay as New FERC Chairman
President Barack Obama has nominated Norman C. Bay to become the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Bay, who has served as director of FERC's Office of Enforcement since 2009, would take over for Cheryl A. LaFleur, who the president named acting chairman in November 2013.
Prior to his current position, Bay was a professor of law at the University of New Mexico from 2002 to 2009. He was also the U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico from 2000 to 2001 and held various law-related positions before that.
The nonprofit association WIRES (Working group for Investment in Reliable and Economic electric Systems) has welcomed Obama’s nomination.
WIRES Counsel Jim Hoecker, a former FERC chairman, says, “Acting Chairman LaFleur has maintained FERC’s focus on key electric power issues, enabling Mr. Bay, if confirmed in timely fashion, to hit the ground running. We are confident that the leadership of the commission will continue to appreciate the risks and challenges facing utilities and other developers of critical infrastructure.”
January 31, 2014 – Grain Belt Express Transmission Project Signs Deals with Mo. Suppliers
Clean Line Energy Partners has announced agreements to source products and services from Missouri-based manufacturers ABB Inc., General Cable and Hubbell Power Systems Inc. (HPS) for its Grain Belt Express Clean Line project.
The Grain Belt project is an approximately 750-mile overhead, direct-current transmission line that will deliver up to 3.5 GW of renewable power from Kansas to communities and businesses in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east. Clean Line says ABB, General Cable and HPS employ a total of nearly 1,000 Missourians, and the project represents an approximately $500 million investment in Missouri.
Clean Line designated ABB in 2013 as the preferred supplier to manufacture alternating-current transformers for the Grain Belt Express transmission collector system, where new wind farms will connect to the project in Kansas. ABB plans to manufacture the transformers at its St. Louis, Mo., facility.
General Cable will manufacture the steel core for the transmission line conductor and manage ongoing inventory and logistics at its Sedalia, Mo., facility. Clean Line says General Cable supports its goal of developing a local supply chain and will purchase aluminum rod, made in Missouri, for the Grain Belt Express conductor by partnering with Noranda Aluminum.
HPS has been designated as the preferred supplier of insulators and hardware for the Grain Belt project. HPS will manufacture the hardware and the core of the polymer insulators at its Centralia, Mo., facility and establish a supplier base within the project area to source raw material from local businesses, including companies in Illinois and Indiana, according to Clean Line. To support Grain Belt Express, HPS will invest over $9 million in its Centralia plant.
“Clean Line Energy is committed to sourcing as many of the needed materials as possible from local companies in the Grain Belt Express project area,” says Clean Line President Michael Skelly, adding, “We believe it is increasingly important to invest in energy infrastructure that will contribute to local economies and create new jobs in communities across Missouri and the region.”
January 30, 2014 – House Passes Farm Bill With $880M in Renewables and Energy Efficiency Provisions
The Agricultural Act of 2014 - popularly known as the farm bill - passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, paving the way for $881 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
The legislation includes the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which offers grants and loans to rural businesses and agricultural producers for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including solar and small wind power systems. The so-called energy title also provides funding for biofuel programs.
The REAP provisions, described under Title IX, specify that $45 million be allocated in each fiscal year from 2014 through 2018 to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy. Applications for REAP funding are to be evaluated under the three-tiered approach, representing projects costing $80,000 or less, those over $80,000 but less than $200,000, and those costing $200,000 or more.
The bill passed with a vote of 251 to 166. A majority of Republicans voted in favor of the bill while a majority of Democrats voted against it. Defecting Democrats were reportedly peeved that the legislation trimmed 1% from the food stamp program. Nevertheless, congressional agriculture committees’ members have voiced their support for the five-year farm bill, which was hung up last June when House Republicans opposed spending on agriculture subsidies and food stamps.
Senate approval of the reconciled legislation is considered a formality. The NY Daily News reported that the White House has signaled that President Barack Obama would sign the bill when it crosses his desk.
In November, eight senators signed a letter urging members of the House and Senate conference committee to include a strong energy title in the reconciled farm bill it was developing. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., one of the signatories of the letter and an author of the energy title, has praised the House for passing the farm bill on a bipartisan basis.
In a statement, Franken says, "This bill gives farmers and ranchers badly needed certainty, and it contains several measures I fought for to help Minnesota's rural communities, including my energy provisions that will create jobs and boost our rural economy. Now it's time for the Senate to act quickly, pass the bill and send it to the president's desk."
January 28, 2014 – Home Furnishings Retailer IKEA Makes Global Renewables Push
Big-name companies are increasingly embracing wind power and other sources of renewable energy. Ranked among green investors such as Google and Walmart, home furnishings retailer IKEA is on track to spend about $2 billion on its own wind and solar programs up to 2015. In addition, the company recently announced plans to buy its first North American wind energy project, currently under construction in Alberta.
Brendan Seale, sustainability manager of IKEA Canada, speaks with NAW about IKEA’s global renewable energy progress and ambitions.
According to Seale, the IKEA Group is aiming to become energy independent by 2020 by offsetting all of the electricity it consumes worldwide with company-owned renewable energy. Considering IKEA has stores in more than 25 countries, that means a whole lot of power. The company has a midterm goal to reach 70% renewables by 2017, and IKEA is about a third of the way there.
Sure, going green helps a company improve its public image, but Seale maintains there are other, more important motivations at play. IKEA considers three main benefits: sustainability, cost savings and the availability to continue to improve its core business.
“We really see it as a win-win-win,” he explains. “Obviously, there’s a clear sustainability benefit to increasing the availability of renewable energy around the world. IKEA wants to contribute and take a lead in doing that. But it also enables us to control our costs and manage our cost profile in a really smart way as we move forward.
“Going from a net consumer of energy to a net producer, you could imagine the impact that could have long term on our books,” Seale continues. “It allows us to continue to invest in our business and really translate that into benefits to our customers, which is providing home furnishing solutions that are high quality at low prices. That’s really what’s driving it.”
IKEA is employing several cleantech solutions - including biomass, energy efficiency, and even electric-vehicle chargers - but Seale says the company is looking to make investments primarily in solar and wind power.
To date, IKEA has either installed or committed to install a total of about 765,000 solar panels on its buildings worldwide. Altogether, the panels are expected to produce approximately 120 GWh annually. Because IKEA has rooftops on which to build it, solar makes a lot of sense. So, the bigger question is, why bother with wind power?
“Wind projects generate a lot of energy, comparatively speaking,” Seale notes.
“We look at opportunities on a case-by-case basis,” he adds. “In some markets, wind is a prudent investment to make. In other markets, solar is a more prudent investment to make. And in some markets, both are prudent.” Nonetheless, he says the two resources are highly beneficial.
Seale reports that IKEA either owns or has committed to own 157 wind turbines worldwide. The machines, representing 346 MW in total capacity, are expected to produce about 900 GWh each year. The company has invested in wind farms throughout Europe; however, it recently entered its first North American wind deal.
Located in Alberta, the Oldman 2 project will feature Siemens SWT-2.3-101 wind turbines and is being developed by Mainstream Renewable Power. Once the 46 MW wind farm is operational this fall, IKEA will acquire the project under an agreement announced in November 2013. Notably, IKEA and Mainstream previously signed a similar deal for the 7.65 MW Carrickeeny wind farm, which is slated to enter service soon in Ireland.
Seale explains that IKEA does not necessarily use the company-owned wind energy to power its stores. Rather, IKEA sells the wind power to a local utility or another party and makes a profit.
“The commitment that we’ve made is to produce as much or more renewable energy as the energy we consume. In the majority of cases, the physical electrons are feeding the local grid in the markets where we’re operating our stores but may not be directly feeding the stores,” he says, later adding, “It’s kind of an offsetting, as well as smart business.”
Looking ahead, Seale says, “We’re evaluating renewable energy projects all the time. You can expect that IKEA will make further investments and further announcements.” He will not, however, comment on which specific technologies or markets could be next.
January 27, 2014 – New U.S. Renewable Energy Capacity More Than Triples Coal, Oil and Nuclear Combined
Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydropower, accounted for 37.16% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed during calendar-year 2013 for a total of 5,279 MW, 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 notes that is more than three times that provided for the year by coal (1,543 MW - 10.86%), oil (38 MW - 0.27%) and nuclear power (0 MW - 0.00%) combined. However, natural gas dominated 2013, with 7,270 MW of new capacity (51.17%). Waste heat provided the balance of new generating capacity - 76 MW (0.53%).
Among renewable energy sources, the FERC report says solar led the way in 2013 with 266 new "units" totaling 2,936 MW, followed by wind with 18 units totaling 1,129 MW. Biomass added 97 new units totaling 777 MW, while water had 19 new units with an installed capacity of 378 MW and geothermal steam had four new units (59 MW).
For the two-year period between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec.31, 2013, renewable energy sources accounted for 47.38% of all new generation capacity placed in service (20,809 MW). In addition, renewables now account for 15.97% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water - 8.44%, wind - 5.20%, biomass - 1.36%, solar - 0.64%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.25%) and oil (4.05%) combined.
"Renewable energy sources are leaving coal, oil and nuclear power in the dust as new sources of electrical generating capacity while challenging natural gas' current dominance," comments Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "The growth of renewables is likely to accelerate as the costs for new solar and wind, in particular, continue to drop, making them ever more competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear power."
January 24, 2014 – New Nevada Transmission Line Delivering Renewable Energy
The One Nevada Transmission Line (ON Line) is now operational and transmitting up to 600 MW of electricity, including energy from renewable resources throughout Nevada.
The 231-mile line integrates Nevada's grids and is viewed as the transmission backbone that brings renewable energy from northern Nevada to the major load areas, including Las Vegas. ON Line is carrying renewable energy from seven geothermal projects, two solar projects, one large wind farm and a small landfill gas-to-energy project.
ON Line was developed by LS Power Associates. NV Energy provided construction services and serves as operator and purchaser of the line’s transmission capacity. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office (LPO) provided a $343 million loan guarantee for the project.
"Through a successful public-private partnership, the One Nevada Transmission Line is an important step in our efforts to modernize the nation’s transmission infrastructure and increase the safety, reliability and security of our electricity grid as we move toward a clean, low-carbon future,” says Peter Davidson, executive director of the LPO.
January 24, 2014 – Kansas Wind Generators Provide Feedback on Clean Line Transmission Project
Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, an affiliate of Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, says a recent request for information (RFI) issued to wind generators has shown there are high-quality wind resources in and around western Kansas. According to the developer, its overhead, direct current transmission project could help the state realize its full wind power potential.
The company says the data from the RFI shows wind developers in the western Kansas region are developing projects with the capability to produce over 13.5 GW. These projects demonstrate the need for new transmission capacity to access areas with a strong demand for renewable power, the company adds, noting the 13.5 GW of proposed projects represent more than three times the 3.5 GW delivery capacity of the Grain Belt Express.
While pricing details will not be made public, Grain Belt says the proposed costs of energy submitted through the RFI were in line with other wind energy power purchase agreements recently signed in this region.
Grain Belt Express 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.
January 23, 2014 – Could the Global Share of Renewable Energy Double?
The global renewable energy share can reach and exceed 30% by 2030 at no extra cost, says the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in a new report.
According to the group, the study maps out a pathway for doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix based on the technologies that are available today. The report finds energy efficiency and improved energy access can advance the share of renewables in the global energy mix up to 36%.
“There is a strong economic case for the renewable energy transition. When considering climate change mitigation, health impact and job creation, the transition practically pays for itself,” says Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general. “More renewables in the energy system provide greater flexibility, increase energy independence and make the system more resilient.”
The study further says the deployment of modern renewables - sources that exclude traditional use of biomass - needs to grow more than threefold, and a rethinking of energy taxes and subsidies is critical to the economic case for renewable energy. In addition, the study says a reduction of fossil fuel subsidies will facilitate the uptake of renewables. Subsidies for renewable energy can even disappear altogether, if green house gas emissions and other air pollution are reasonably priced, the study adds.
“Many governments are underestimating the potential of renewables in their planning the for energy transition. To reach the goal of doubling the share of renewable energy by 2030, additional efforts are needed, particularly in the building, industry and transport sectors,” says Dolf Gielen, director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre in Bonn, Germany.
“We identified five areas of national action: Planning realistic but ambitious transition pathways; creating an enabling business environment; managing knowledge of technology options and their deployment; ensuring smooth integration of renewables into the existing infrastructure; and unleashing innovation.”
January 23, 2014 – Mercom Charts the Top Global Wind Energy Deals of 2013
Last year, total global funding into the wind sector reached $28.1 billion, according to a new report from Mercom Capital Group. This includes venture capital (VC) funding, public market financings, debt financings and announced project funding deals.
The report says VC funding increased to $455 million in 2013, compared to $315 million in 2012. In the fourth quarter, such funding came to $93 million in six deals, compared to $135 million in four deals the previous quarter.
According to Mercom, there were seven downstream companies that raised a combined $374.3 million in 2013. Six small wind turbine manufacturers raised $68.8 million, one wind component company raised $6.2 million and three monitoring software companies raised $5.5 million.
The report says the top VC-funded company in 2013 was ReNew Power, an Indian wind project developer, which raised $135 million, followed by Mainstream Renewable Power, an independent renewable energy project developer, which raised $133 million. NSL Renewable Power, also a project developer from India, raised $60 million, and Ogin (formerly FloDesign), a manufacturer of small wind turbines, raised $55 million. Green Infra, a renewable power producer from India, raised $25 million.
Public market financings accounted for $5.8 billion in 17 deals in 2013, including six initial public offerings (IPOs) totaling $2.3 billion.
The report adds that announced large-scale project funding in 2013 amounted to $18.1 billion in 114 deals, compared to $14 billion in 72 deals in 2012. There were a total of 150 investors that participated in project funding last year. Mercom says the most active project funding investors were KfW IPEX-Bank with nine deals, followed by the European Investment Bank with seven deals, and Nord/LB with six deals. Announced large-scale project funding in the fourth quarter ($4.9 billion in 32 deals) increased compared to the third quarter ($3.9 billion in 21 deals).
According to the report, the fourth quarter was very active for large-scale project development activity around the world. Mercom tracked about 104 project announcements totaling almost 10.7 GW in various stages of development.
In addition, the company says 2013 was a strong year for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the wind sector, with 33 transactions, 18 of which were disclosed for a combined $2.6 billion. By comparison, 2012 saw 35 transactions.
Of the 33 M&A transactions in 2013, the report says wind downstream companies accounted for 20 of them, wind component companies accounted for six, service providers and manufacturers accounted for three each, and balance-of-system companies accounted for one transaction.
Mercom says the top M&A transaction in 2013 was the $1.25 billion acquisition of Kaydon Corp., an industrial manufacturer and supplier of wind turbine bearings, by SKF Group, a global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems, and other services.
This was followed by the acquisition of the Polish onshore wind business of DONG Energy, a company involved in procuring, producing, distributing and trading in energy and related products, by two Polish power utilities - Polska Grupa Energetyczna and Energa - for $314 million.
Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, an operator of pure-play renewable power platforms, acquired vertically integrated renewable energy production company Western Wind Energy for $182 million. Private-equity firm Actis acquired 60% of Atlantic Energias Renovaveis, a Brazilian renewable energy company, for an initial commitment of $169 million. Rounding out the top five transactions was the acquisition of wind energy developer Salus Fundos de Investimento em Participacoes by Brazilian utility Copel for about $128 million, the report adds.
Disclosed project acquisitions increased in 2013, with 116 transactions - compared to 72 transactions in 2012 - representing over 16 GW that changed hands. There were 37 project acquisitions in the fourth quarter compared to 26 in the third.
The report says the top five large-scale wind project acquisitions in 2013 included the $577 million acquisition by SEAS-NVE of an 80% stake in the 207 MW Rodsand II offshore wind project from E.ON; Portland General Electric’s acquisition of Puget Sound Energy’s 267 MW Lower Snake River Phase II Wind Project for $535 million; Blue Energy’s acquisition of the 177 MW RidgeWind portfolio from HgCapital for $392 million; Scottish and Southern Energy’s acquisition of the 99 MW Dunmaglass Wind Project from Renewable Energy Systems for $305 million; and Iberdrola Renewables Polska’s sale of 184.5 MW of wind projects to Polish companies Energa Hydro and Polska Grupa Energetyczna for $265 million.
Announced debt financing amounted to $3.8 billion in 10 deals in 2013, compared with $12.5 billion in 16 deals in 2012, the report continues. There were 34 new cleantech and wind-related funds announced in 2013 - 14 were announced in the fourth quarter.
January 23, 2014 – Patrick Administration Announces Progress in New England Energy Infrastructure Initiative
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has announced he is joining New England's governors to seek support from ISO-New England, operator of the region's electric grid, for expanded clean energy electrical transmission and natural gas pipeline capacity.
In a letter requested by the governors, the New England States Committee on Electricity asked ISO-New England to assist the states as they request proposals for transmission infrastructure to deliver at least 1.2 GW and as much as 3.6 GW of electricity from clean energy sources into the grid, as well as to develop a funding mechanism to support investment in pipelines that bring natural gas into the region.
“Our regional energy infrastructure partnership is a big step forward in our effort to provide residents with more affordable, reliable and cleaner power,” says Patrick. “Diversifying our energy mix will help ensure adequate supplies and end our reliance on fossil fuels that come with volatile prices.”
The letter builds on the New England governors’ agreement in December 2013 to work on a collaborative approach to expand energy infrastructure in the region.
January 22, 2014 – Former Gov. Ritter Heads Effort to Offer Obama Comprehensive Clean Energy Plan
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who founded and directs the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University, has released a report offering more than 200 ideas on how President Barack Obama could help curb climate change with a clean energy economy.
The CNEE says the report was developed over eight months with the help of more than 100 CEOs, energy experts, academicians and thought leaders who participated in a series of roundtables last year. Ritter notes that not every participant agreed with all of the ideas, but the report reflects the recommendations that received the strongest support.
“The president has led the nation on clean energy and climate change since he took office, including the initiatives in the climate action plan he announced last June,” Ritter says. “In the face of congressional inaction, the new recommendations are intended to help the administration continue to lead.”
Ritter presented the report and briefed members of Obama’s cabinet and senior policy staff at the White House last week. Among its many recommendations, the report urges the president and his administration to do the following:
- Carefully compare the full life-cycle benefits and costs of each energy resource as Obama’s national energy policy is implemented. According to the CNEE, the report points out that additional opportunities exist to distinguish carbon-rich and low-carbon resources consistent with the president’s goals for minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions most responsible for climate change.
- Direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to review and improve how it counts “green jobs” and to resume reporting the number of those jobs in the economy. The CNEE says the BLS suspended its reporting on green jobs last year after it was criticized for its methodology.
- Direct the Environmental Protection Agency to issue clear preliminary guidance to states as early as possible in the regulatory process to encourage early adoption of new energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, as well as to explain how they will be credited in state implementation plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil-fuel power plants.
- Direct the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to review and, if necessary, improve its methods for projecting the growth of renewable energy technologies in years ahead. According to the CNEE, the EIA has been criticized for underestimating renewable energy’s contribution to the nation’s energy mix.
- Direct federal agencies to work with the nation’s electric utilities and utility regulators to update regulations that are getting in the way of clean energy technologies. The CNEE says utility executives told it that outdated regulations are making it difficult to accommodate new energy resources and technologies such as wind energy and rooftop solar systems.
- Request that the Internal Revenue Service use its existing authorities where possible to issue rulings and interpretations of the tax code that increase incentives for private investors to capitalize clean energy technologies. “The idea is not to make the tax system more complex,” Ritter says. “It’s to make it more fair by offering clean energy the same investment tools and tax benefits now given to fossil fuels.”
- Issue even more aggressive goals for the government’s use of third-party financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in federal operations.
- More clearly define the president’s criteria for “responsible” natural gas production and require that oil and gas companies use best-available production practices on federal lands.
The full report, titled “Powering Forward: Presidential and Executive Agency Actions to Drive Clean Energy in America,” is available here.
January 21, 2014 – NREL Finds Wind Turbines Can Boost Grid System Readiness Through Active Power Control
Wind energy technology can support and enhance reliability of the U.S. power grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system, finds a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The rest of the power system's resources have traditionally been adjusted around wind to support a reliable and efficient system; however, NREL says the research that led to its report challenges that concept.
The national lab conducted the study, "Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps," with partners from the Electric Power Research Institute and the University of Colorado.
The report also finds that it often could be economically beneficial to provide active power control, and potentially damaging loads on turbines from providing this control is negligible. NREL says active power control helps balance load with generation at various times, avoiding erroneous power flows, involuntary load shedding, machine damage and the risk of potential blackouts.
“Utilities and independent system operators are all seeking strategies to better integrate wind and other variable generation into their electric systems,” says NREL Analyst Erik Ela. “Few have considered using wind power to support power system reliability.”
The study included a number of different power system simulations, control simulations, and field tests using turbines at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). The lab says the study developed proposals for new ancillary services designs in U.S. wholesale electricity markets, studied how wind power affects system frequency in the western U.S. with and without active power control, and tested the use of active power control at the NWTC to better understand the performance and structural impacts on wind turbines when providing active power control to the electric system.
“Although many of the control strategies have been proven technically feasible and are used in many regions of the world, only a limited number of wind turbines in the United States are currently providing active power control,” Ela explains. “The reason is that the stakeholders - system operators, manufacturers, regulators and the plant owners - all have different goals and perspectives.”
According to NREL, wind is one of the fastest-growing sources of power generation - supplying up to 20% of electricity in many areas of the world. In some regions of the U.S., wind sometimes provides more than 50% of the electric power. However, NREL says the challenge with integrating high concentrations of wind power into electric systems is that it is a variable, uncertain resource, commonly considered “non-dispatchable.”
The forms of active power control considered in this study are synthetic inertial control, primary frequency control, and automatic generation control regulation. For wind power to provide active power control services, NREL says three things must happen:
1) The wind power response needs to improve power system reliability, not impair it.
2) It must be economically viable for wind power plants as well as electricity consumers. Because power plants may incur additional capital costs for the controls and reduce the amount of energy it sells to the market, there must be an incentive to provide the service.
3) Active power control should not have negative impacts on the turbine loading or induce structural damage that could reduce the life of the turbine.
NREL says the comprehensive study analyzed timeframes ranging from milliseconds to the lifetime of wind turbines, spatial scopes ranging from turbine components to entire regions, and study types ranging from economics to power systems engineering, to control design.
“The study’s key takeaway is that wind power can act in an equal or superior manner to conventional generation when providing active power control, supporting the system frequency response and improving reliability,” Ela concludes.
The full report is available here.
January 21, 2014 – Report: Wind Energy Yields Major Environmental Benefits for New Hampshire
Existing wind energy production in New Hampshire is providing significant environmental benefits for the state, according to a new report released by Environment New Hampshire.
The report says that New Hampshire's wind energy is avoiding more than 157,267 metric tons of carbon pollution, the equivalent of taking 32,764 cars off the road, while it also saves 70,265,000 gallons of water per year, enough to meet the needs of 2,567 people. In addition, the report shows wind energy in the state is avoiding 148 tons of nitrogen oxides and 183 tons of sulfur dioxide.
According to Environment New Hampshire, wind energy is now providing 260,000 MWh of electricity, and the state’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of its renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to provide 24.8% of their power from renewable energy by 2025, as well as federal incentives for wind power.
The full report is available here.
January 20, 2014 – Environmentalists Call on Obama to Abandon 'All of the Above' Energy Policy
Eighteen environmental, environmental justice and public health advocacy groups have sent a letter to President Barack Obama, calling on his administration to embrace clean energy and climate action and abandon its "all of the above" energy policy.
"We believe that continued reliance on an 'all of the above' energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation's capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption," say the groups in the letter.
“With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” the letter continues.
Ultimately, the coalition says the energy policy is “a compromise that future generations can’t afford.”
The groups include the Sierra Club, Environment America, American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Energy Action Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Native American Rights Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Population Connection, and Voices for Progress.
The full letter is available here
January 20, 2014 – Maine Offshore Wind Prototype Stands Up to Tough Winter Conditions
The University of Maine's (UMaine) Advanced Structures and Composites Center notes that its small-scale, floating offshore wind turbine prototype off the coast of Maine has survived harsh winter storms and weather. According to an Associated Press report, the center is now confident that full-scale versions of the technology will fare well if and when they are deployed.
The UMaine-led DeepCWind Consortium flipped the switch on the 65-foot-tall VolturnUS 1:8 turbine in June 2013, making it the first grid-connected offshore wind turbine in North America. The program serves as a stepping stone for UMaine and partners to build and deploy two 6 MW floating turbines for the 12 MW Maine Aqua Ventus pilot project. The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently signed off on Maine Aqua Ventus’ term sheet, which lays out the provisions of a potential long-term power purchase agreement.
According to the AP report, the Composites Center’s Habib Dagher said the 1:8 prototype’s ability to withstand big waves and high winds illustrates the viability of the larger-scale turbines.
"We feel very confident now that we have something we can build that will survive a 100-year storm in the state of Maine,” said Dagher. “So am I worried about the 'perfect storm' coming in and wiping out offshore wind farms? No, I'm not. I think we're in good shape.”
January 15, 2014 – Google Invests $75 Million in Another Texas Wind Farm
Internet giant Google has announced its second wind energy investment in Texas. In an official blog post, the company reveals it is investing $75 million in Pattern Energy Group's 182 MW Panhandle 2 project. This announcement follows Google's previous $200 million investment in EDF Renewable Energy's Spinning Spur wind farm, located in Oldham County, Texas.
Currently under construction in Carson County, Panhandle 2 will comprise Siemens wind turbines and is slated to be online by year-end. Google says the project represents the company’s 15th investment in renewable energy. Furthermore, the Panhandle 2 and Spinning Spur projects are not the only wind power efforts Google has made in Texas: The company is also buying all of the output from the 240 MW Happy Hereford wind farm, which is being developed by Chermac Energy. Located outside Amarillo, that project is slated to be operational later this year.
January 13, 2014 – President Obama Orders Quadrennial Energy Review
President Barack Obama has directed the U.S. federal government to undertake a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), with the first multi-agency report scheduled for Jan. 31, 2015.
Unlike the long-standing Quadrennial Defense Review, a legislatively mandated report of U.S. Department of Defense priorities and strategy, the QER is an executive order that creates a task force that essentially includes all executive departments and agencies with any effect on energy policy, production or consumption.
According to the White House, the initial focus for the QER will be the U.S. energy grid. The executive order says the nation's infrastructure for transporting, transmitting and delivering energy is increasingly challenged by transformations in energy supply, markets and patterns of end use. Moreover, issues such as aging, capacity, the impacts of climate change, and cyber and physical threats are to be addressed in the first QER report.
The presidential memorandum establishing the QER casts a wide net. In addition to mandated federal input, the QER task force is instructed to seek the views of state and local governments; nongovernmental, environmental, faith-based, labor and other social organizations; and academic and nonprofit sectors.
Obama says the interagency QER task force will develop an integrated review of energy policy that builds on his energy security blueprint of March 2011 and last June's Climate Action Plan.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has released a statement regarding the directive.
"We welcome the next Quadrennial Energy Review and the process to engage multiple agencies and stakeholders,” says Rob Gramlich, AWEA's senior vice president for public policy. “So much has changed in the last four years - including an over 40 percent drop in the cost of wind energy - that it is time to review the nation's energy strategy and find ways to make the nation's considerable clean, affordable, and homegrown energy available to all Americans.”
January 13, 2014 – Harvard Team Sets Sights on Cheap Energy Storage of Wind and Solar Power
The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) says a team of university scientists and engineers has demonstrated a new flow battery that could help make energy storage of renewables, such as wind and solar power, more economical and reliable.
SEAS says the metal-free flow battery relies on the electrochemistry of inexpensive, small organic molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals, rather than on costly metals or chemicals.
“The intermittent renewables storage problem is the biggest barrier to getting most of our power from the sun and the wind,” comments team leader Prof. Michael J. Aziz. “A safe and economical flow battery could play a huge role in our transition off fossil fuels to renewable electricity. I'm excited that we have a good shot at it.”
Aziz says the next steps in the project will be to further test and optimize the system that has been demonstrated and bring it toward a commercial scale. By the end of the three-year development period, project collaborator Sustainable Innovations LLC expects to deploy demonstration versions of the organic flow battery contained in a unit the size of a horse trailer.
Under the OPEN 2012 program, the Harvard team received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) to develop the grid-scale battery and plans to work with ARPA-E to catalyze further technological and market breakthroughs over the next several years.
January 13, 2013 – Wind Power Assists New York Grid Operator with Beating the Cold
Last week, wind power helped utilities, such as the Nebraska Public Power District, and grid operators, such as the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), across the U.S. fight extremely cold weather and meet related boosts in energy demand.
Specifically, the NYISO says it successfully met a new winter record peak demand for electricity of 25,738 MW on Jan. 7. The previous record of 25,541 MW was set on Dec. 20, 2004.
On Jan. 7, the operator says it had the benefit of more than 1 GW of wind power throughout much of the day. The NYISO notes it also relied on initiatives such as demand response programs and interregional cooperation.
“Record-low temperatures in many portions of the nation resulted in a challenging day for electric system operators in New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-West,” says NYISO President and CEO Stephen G. Whitley. “However, thanks to excellent regional cooperation and coordination, the expertise of our operators and the performance of New York’s generation owners, utilities and demand response partners, we successfully managed those challenges and maintained system reliability.”
January 13, 2013 – ACCIONA Windpower Inks 93 MW Contract in Brazil
ACCIONA Windpower has signed a contract to supply 31 3-MW turbines for Brazilian wind farms that are jointly owned by Voltalia, CHESF and Encalso.
The 93 MW deal comprises AW125/3000 and AW116/3000 machines, which the company says have the largest swept area designed by AWP and are mounted on 120-meter-high concrete towers. The agreement also covers the supply and installation of the turbines in the field and the operation and maintenance of the site for a period of 15 years.
ACCIONA says this is its fourth contract signed in Brazil, where it has already supplied - or has orders for - 423 MW, all with 3 MW wind turbines.
January 10, 2014 – Wind Power to Supply 100% of N.Y. Boarding School's Electricity Needs
Through a deal with Connecticut-based renewable energy firm Viridian Power Co., The Storm King School (SKS), a New York-based boarding school, has begun consuming electricity that is entirely generated by local wind farms.
Viridian Independent Associate Eric Stewart says that the school is on the vanguard of using alternative energy to power its facilities. While New York State has allowed an open electricity and natural gas market for many years, Stewart notes it has recently seen an increase in the number of companies offering alternative energy sources.
SKS is acquiring electricity powered by U.S. wind farms, which include the High Sheldon Wind Farm in Strykersville, N.Y. The school has also enrolled in Viridian’s “Simply Right 100” natural gas plan that provides for 100% carbon offsets - i.e. the replacement of all of the carbon it expends in producing the natural gas. One of the offsets includes planting trees in places such as the Amazon.
“I think it’s incumbent on us as a 21st-century school to do it, to teach our kids about it, to be consistent with the movement to create a sustainable planet,” says SKS Headmaster Paul Domingue.
January 9, 2014 – Study Finds Wind Turbines Do Not Hurt Massachusetts Property Values
An independent analysis has found no statistically significant evidence that proximity to a wind turbine affects home values in Massachusetts.
The report - commissioned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and written by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - examined 122,000 Massachusetts real estate transactions between 1998 and 2012. It compared transactions within a half-mile of constructed wind turbines to similar transactions between one half-mile and five miles away.
As the MassCEC explains, Massachusetts has expanded the number of wind energy projects in the state from just 3 MW and three turbines installed in 2007 to more than 100 MW and dozens of turbines installed now throughout the commonwealth.
The center says the study compares the relationship between wind turbines and residential home values to those of factors previously shown to affect home prices, such as high-voltage transmission lines, landfills, highways, protected open space and proximity to beaches.
Of the impacts studied, landfills and transmission lines have the greatest negative impact (or disamenity) on home prices, while beachfront and proximity to beaches were found to have the greatest positive impact (or amenity) on home prices. The MassCEC says the study found that operating turbines have a +0.5% amenity, which falls within the study’s margin of error.
“Properly sited renewable energy projects like wind turbines can deliver clean energy for our citizens and boost our local economy,” says MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton. “This report is designed to provide fact-based research to inform decision-makers on potential impacts wind turbines could have on nearby property.”
The full report is available here.
January 9, 2014 – Bullfrog Partners With Municipal Utilities to Bring Nova Scotia Wind Project Online
Bullfrog Power, a Canadian provider of green energy, has announced an agreement with Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA), a partnership between the Towns of Berwick and Mahone Bay, to source electricity from a proposed wind farm in Nova Scotia.
AREA has proposed the seven-turbine wind farm, located near Ellershouse, and hired Minas Energy to develop the project. Power generated by the wind farm will be delivered to the Towns of Berwick and Mahone Bay with the option of other municipal electric utilities to join in the future. Through the agreement with AREA, Bullfrog Power will purchase surplus renewable energy certificates generated by the project.
"Since Bullfrog Power launched in the Maritimes back in 2009, we have been actively seeking renewable energy development projects to partner with in Nova Scotia," says Holly Bond, national sales director at Bullfrog Power. "Bullfrog is proud to be working with the municipalities of Berwick and Mahone Bay on this project to help increase the amount of clean power produced by and for Nova Scotians."
Pending regulatory approvals, the project is expected to begin construction later this year.
January 8, 2014 – Wind Power Helps Nebraska Utility Meet Record-High Energy Demand
The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) says customers drove up their energy use to battle frigid temperatures on Jan. 6, causing the utility to set a new all-time winter peak for generating electricity. Wind power was there to help.
Between the hour of 7 and 8 a.m., NPPD generated an estimated 2,256 MW of electricity to meet customers' demand. The utility's previous all-time winter peak was 2,219 MW set in December 2009.
“NPPD was able to meet this highest level of demand, in part, due to our steady and stable supply of power generated by our nuclear and coal-fired facilities,” says President and CEO Pat Pope. “But the wind also worked in our favor yesterday, contributing more than 216 MW for NPPD during the time of peak demand.”
NPPD notes it also has hydropower resources and a natural gas, combined-cycle plant; however, due to widespread extreme cold and the high demand for natural gas for home heating and other purposes, the utility says it did not operate its natural gas generation because the fuel costs were up more than 300% over typical prices.
“Nebraskans benefit from NPPD’s diverse portfolio of generating resources,” adds Pope. “Using a combination of fuels means we deliver electricity using the lowest-cost resources while maintaining high reliability for our customers.”
January 8, 2014 – KCP&L to Nearly Double Wind Power Portfolio with New Purchases
Kansas City Power & Light Co. (KCP&L) has announced plans to purchase 400 MW of power from two new wind facilities in the Kansas City region. The company says the agreements will increase its total wind energy portfolio to 939 MW.
The first renewable energy facility will be built and operated by EDP Renewables near Waverly, in Coffey County, Kan. The second facility will be built in Holt County, Mo., and constructed and operated by Element Power. Each facility will be capable of producing up to 200 MW of electricity, and both are expected to be online and producing power by the beginning of 2016.
“These two new wind projects will nearly double the amount of clean, renewable generation in our energy portfolio,” says KCP&L President and CEO Terry Bassham. “This addition will be another step in diversifying our generation mix, which has already seen significant reductions in emissions from recent environmental upgrades made at several of our power plants.”
According to the company, these facilities will be economically beneficial to its customers over the lifetime of the 20-year agreements. While wind turbines cannot yet replace base-load generation like KCP&L’s larger power plants, the company says these wind farms will be a cheaper option to supplement base-load generation than purchasing power from other locations.
January 3, 2014 – Poll: Ohio Clean Energy Initiative Enjoys Wide Support
A new poll shows the proposed Ohio Clean Energy Initiative, which would provide $13 billion over 10 years for cleantech projects, enjoys strong support from the state's residents. According to the group Yes for Ohio's Energy Future, the ballot initiative needs 385,247 signatures by July 4 to go before voters in November.
The poll of 884 Ohio voters conducted by Public Policy Polling shows 64% of respondents were likely to vote for the initiative versus 29% who were unlikely, with 7% saying they were unsure. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4%.
If passed, the initiative would create a constitutional amendment to allocate funds from state general obligation bonds for energy-related public infrastructure projects using wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass, smart grid and other technologies.
Project proposals for funding will be reviewed by the independent reviewers at the Ohio Energy Initiative Commission, which is accepting a limited number of early project proposals under a fast start program.
January 2, 2014 – Consumer Survey Finds Big Upswing in Favorability Toward Clean Energy
Public attitudes toward clean and renewable energy concepts have tended to fluctuate and, in several cases, decline. According to a new consumer survey from Navigant Research, however, favorable attitudes for a number of these concepts - particularly wind energy, solar power, hybrid vehicles and electric cars - have rebounded significantly from their 2012 levels.
The survey, which polled 1,084 U.S. adults in fall 2013, found that wind energy was viewed as either favorable or very favorable by 72% of respondents - up from 66% in 2012. Wind was only slightly less popular than solar energy, which held the top spot at 79% favorability - an increase from 69% in 2012.
Notably, Navigant found that just 7% of respondents held unfavorable opinions of wind power, and approximately one in five respondents was neutral or had no opinion on the energy resource.
From a demographic perspective, Navigant says there was a 9% difference in favorability toward wind energy between men and women, although this difference was close to the margin of error in each direction. Consumers with incomes of $75,000 or higher, respondents 45 years of age and older, and those with four-year college degrees and graduate school held more favorable views of wind as well, the research firm adds.
Navigant says the similarly high levels of favorable views toward solar and wind energy indicate that consumers are generally supportive of the more established renewable energies that harness naturally occurring power sources. Since these two concepts have retained their most favored status year after year, the firm asserts that consumers consider these renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future.
Overall, the average favorability rating for the 10 concepts that fall under the categories of clean energy, clean transportation, smart grid and building efficiency rose to the highest level seen in Navigant Research’s annual survey since 2010. The rating rose from 44% in 2012 to 51%.
"Between 2009 and 2012, there were steady declines in favorability for some clean energy concepts, particularly the most favorable concepts, such as solar energy, wind energy, and hybrid and electric vehicles," says Clint Wheelock, managing director at Navigant Research. " saw statistically significant increases in favorability for seven of the 10 concepts, and a decline for only one - nuclear power."
Navigant Research’s white paper regarding the consumer survey can be found here.
December 30, 2013 – Vestas Wins 39 MW Follow-Up Order in Uruguay
Vestas has received a 39 MW order from Vengano S.A. for the extension of the Carape wind power plant in Uruguay.
Vestas says the 13 new V112-3.0 MW wind turbines are scheduled to be delivered in the third quarter of 2014 and commissioned by the first quarter of 2015. In September, Fingano S.A. signed a contract for the first 50 MW order for the Carape wind power plant, and now Vengano S.A., owned by the same shareholders as Fingano S.A., has signed the contract for the extension of Carape plant.
The 39 MW contract comprises delivery, installation and commissioning of the turbines, a VestasOnline Business SCADA system, and a 17-year service agreement (AOM 4000).
(Reposted from www.nawindpower.com with permission, Copyright © 2013 Zackin Publications Inc., All rights reserved. For North American Windpower's latest news headlines or a free subscription, please visit www.nawindpower.com.)
December 27, 2013 – Study Concludes Wind Turbines Have 'No Effect' on Property Values in Rhode Island
The planning, construction and operation of wind turbines in Rhode Island does not depress nearby property values, according to a study conducted by a University of Rhode Island (URI) economist.
Corey Lang, URI assistant professor of natural resource economics, analyzed the sale prices of 48,000 homes in Rhode Island over the last 15 years and compared homes near one of the state's 12 wind turbines to homes far from the turbines. He found that the turbines may cause a drop in property values of 0.4% for those homes within a half mile of a turbine, which is well within the study’s margin of error.
“Proximity to a turbine has no statistical effect on property values,” says Lang. He recently presented the results of his study to about 60 people at a public meeting sponsored by the URI Outreach Center and the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, which funded his research.
Rhode Island’s first wind turbine was constructed in 2006, and since that time, another 11 turbines at 10 sites have been built. Lang’s analysis included property value comparisons before construction was announced at each site, following the announcement, during construction and during each turbine’s operation. He found no statistically significant negative effects on house prices during the post-announcement or post-construction time periods.
“Construction of most of the wind turbines in Rhode Island took place during the period of the housing market downturn, so there was a general downward trend for housing prices for much of the period I studied,” Lang explains. “But that downward trend was similar for those properties far away from the turbines as well as for those up to a half mile from the turbines.”
According to Lang, a number of other related studies elsewhere in the country have drawn conflicting conclusions, with some finding negative effects of wind turbines on property values and others finding no effects. But he notes all previous research has examined large wind farms in sparsely populated areas like Iowa and Texas, circumstances that are very different than in Rhode Island.
“One of the reasons that wind turbines are so contentious in Rhode Island is that our population density is high and there are so many houses all around turbine sites. That worries people,” he says. “However, that density provides me with much more data than other studies have had access to.”
Lang says that a similar study is under way in Massachusetts, where the circumstances are much like those in Rhode Island - a densely populated area with single turbines being constructed in scattered locations around the state. The results of the Massachusetts study are due in the next six months.
“What I’m hoping is that my analysis provides additional input for future decision making,” Lang says. “I hope that people understand the results and take them seriously as they continue the debate about wind turbine siting.”
(Reposted from www.nawindpower.com with permission, Copyright © 2013 Zackin Publications Inc., All rights reserved. For North American Windpower's latest news headlines or a free subscription, please visit www.nawindpower.com.)
December 26, 2013 – BayWa Acquires Second New Mexico Wind Project
San Diego-based BayWa r.e. Wind has signed a purchase and sale agreement with Compass Energies to acquire the 15 MW Anderson Wind Project, located in Chaves County, N.M.
According to BayWa, the Anderson project is expected to begin construction in spring 2014, with a targeted late summer completion date. The wind farm is located approximately 100 miles southwest of the 19.8 MW Brahms Wind Project, which BayWa acquired in July and is currently under construction.
BayWa anticipates both of the acquired wind projects to complete construction in 2014 and qualify for the production tax credit.
(Reposted from www.nawindpower.com with permission, Copyright © 2013 Zackin Publications Inc., All rights reserved. For North American Windpower's latest news headlines or a free subscription, please visit www.nawindpower.com.)
December 20, 2013 – ACCIONA Awarded Deal for 102 MW Wind Project in Nova Scotia
ACCIONA has signed a contract to supply 34 turbines for a 102 MW wind farm in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The company will carry out the construction, internal electrical infrastructures and assembly, as well as undertake the operations and maintenance of the facility.
The South Canoe wind farm, which the company claims will be the largest in Nova Scotia, has been developed by three local companies: Oxford Frozen Foods, Minas Basin Pulp and Power, and the utility company Nova Scotia Power, to which the power generated will be sold. The project will use ACCIONA Windpower AW3000/116 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 3 MW, hub height of 92 meters and a rotor diameter of 116 meters.
Nova Scotia-based DSME Trenton Ltd. (DSTN) will be producing the project’s turbine towers. “Having worked with ACCIONA Windpower in the past, we are looking forward to continuing to build a strong relationship with this leading turbine manufacturer,” comments DSTN CEO M. J. Park. “We are confident that, through hard work and dedication, this project will have a positive outcome for everyone involved.”
December 20, 2013 – MISO Completes 'Largest Ever' Power Grid Integration
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) says cheers went up in its control room the other night after more than two years of intensive planning and training led to the smooth integration of a four-state region of the electric grid across the South into MISO's existing footprint in the Midwest.
The change in control, or "cutover," took place at the stroke of midnight as Wednesday passed into Thursday and extends MISO's operational and market footprints from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Manitoba, Canada.
“With this change, MISO’s new members across the South will begin to receive the broad array of benefits that our markets provide, including the cost savings realized from improved reliability and efficient commitment and dispatch,” says MISO President and CEO John Bear. “Collectively, we celebrate the successful integration and can begin to focus on the future - delivering reliability and economic benefits to millions more people.”
In total, the grid operator says it now manages a combined footprint of 65,280 miles of transmission with total electric generation capacity throughout MISO of approximately 196 GW, making MISO one of the largest power grid operators in the world.
The integration added 10 new transmission-owning companies, six local balancing authorities and 33 new market participants from Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri to MISO. This new region - referred to as MISO South - includes the following transmission owners and local balancing authorities: Entergy (Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Gulf States and New Orleans), Cleco Corp., Lafayette Utilities System, Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, Louisiana Generating, South Mississippi Electric Power Association and East Texas Electric Cooperative.
“Our goal is to provide stronger analysis of operational issues and inclusive policy input to enhance each member’s ability to serve the country’s overarching need of energy stability,” comments Todd Hillman, regional vice president of MISO South.
In early November, MISO received NERC approval to serve as the balancing authority for the region. To better support the recent integration from an operational perspective, MISO says construction is under way on its new South Region Operations Center in Little Rock, Ark.
December 19, 2013 – Report: Expect the Focus on Wind Turbine Technology to Shift
Wind turbines have grown larger and more productive, efficient, cost-effective and reliable due to investments in technology and supply chain. The next 10 years will certainly bring further change, but the technology focus will shift as the industry continues to mature and work toward levelized cost of energy (LCOE) grid parity, according to a new report from MAKE Consulting.
As competitive forces continue to intensify, MAKE says turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must maintain a long-term technology outlook in order to remain relevant. Companies with a stronger focus on research and development will continue to produce superior products at lower cost positions, while those that fail to evolve to the best-available technology will risk market share and profit erosion, the company adds.
According to the report, many technology initiatives will become more evolutionary in nature, as turbine OEMs leverage existing platforms and technologies. However, differences in regional demand will require mass customization of product lines to meet the needs of global target markets.
At the same time, the report says looming consolidation among supply chain participants will lead to a deceleration of product introduction cycles, in contrast to recent years where product announcements have occurred at a dizzying pace. This dynamic will actually help to sharpen the focus on technology, resulting in more optimized and lower-cost products as turbine designers can thoroughly analyze design and supply options.
Many OEMs will continue to build deep domain expertise and rely less on design guidance of supply partners, particularly in the Asian markets, the report continues. This should improve system integration within the turbine and lead to evolutionary improvements in cost, performance and reliability.
However, the report adds, deeper OEM expertise will limit the opportunities for new technology-based entrants, as wind technology start-ups will find it difficult to survive outside of development partnerships with top-tier OEMs.
MAKE predicts the recent proliferation of low-wind large rotor products serving the 1.5 MW to 2 MW segment will slow as these products become more difficult to build cost-effectively. As blades become longer and more expensive, towers will need to be taller, gearboxes will be reinforced and structural elements will become more costly. Nonetheless, the report says the trend toward longer blades for increased energy capture will not abate; it will merely shift to turbines with larger ratings.
Many recent turbine announcements have been aimed toward the 3MW segment in mature markets. MAKE says this trend will continue, as this segment of the market remains underserved with high-capacity factor machines. The report adds that creating world-class, cost-effective products for the 3 MW segment will require substantial improvements in blade, powertrain and tower technology. MAKE expects that advanced technology will be applied in volumes to this growing part of the onshore market.
The report says the most radical technology approaches will continue to be applied to the offshore segment, and OEMs continue to introduce larger machines to this market. These machines include dramatically different drivetrains, rotor systems and power electronics due to the unique technical requirements of the offshore environment.
December 19, 2013 – TPI Composites Inc. Reopens Mexico Wind Blade Factory
U.S.-based blade manufacturer TPI Composites Inc. has announced that it is reopening its plant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to provide blades to the North American wind market.
The Juarez factory was formerly operated as a joint venture between TPI and Mitsubishi Power Systems under the name of VienTek. TPI purchased the assets of the joint venture at the end of 2012, and the facility is beginning operations now to serve multiple customers as a 100%-owned TPI facility.
“TPI is very pleased to be reopening our Mexico operation to continue to drive down the cost of wind energy and to gain market share in the U.S. and Mexico,” says Steve Lockard, president and CEO of TPI Composites. “It will allow us to grow our business with current customers and to support new customers in the region.”
Wayne Monie, TPI’s chief operating officer, adds, “We launched VienTek in 2002 and operated successfully for more than 10 years, providing many thousands of highly reliable blades to the U.S. market. The skills and the blade manufacturing knowledge of the roughly 600 former employees that we are rehiring will be fully utilized during the restart.”
TPI currently operates regional wind blade factories in the U.S., China and Turkey. “Our Newton, Iowa, operation will continue to effectively serve primarily the midwestern U.S. market while the Mexico plant’s location is ideally situated to deliver blades by truck and rail to the western U.S. and Mexico markets,” explains Lockard.
December 19, 2013 – MassCEC Announces Two Studies to Help Facilitate Offshore Wind Projects
As part of Gov. Deval Patrick's efforts to support the development of an offshore wind industry hub in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has announced the preliminary results of a multi-year study of marine wildlife and launched an effort to study the logistics of interconnecting offshore wind to the New England power grid.
MassCEC says both efforts are aimed at ensuring that offshore wind projects are responsibly sited and planned while positioning the Commonwealth to benefit from the 43,000 clean energy jobs the U.S. Department of Energy estimates will be created in the offshore wind industry nationally by 2030.
“Offshore wind presents a significant resource of clean, renewable energy for us to harness here in Massachusetts,” says MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton. “By taking these proactive steps now, we can position the Commonwealth to realize significant job benefits of the burgeoning offshore wind industry.”
The newly released results reflect the first year of a multi-year marine wildlife study sponsored by MassCEC in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and conducted by the New England Aquarium and the Cornell University Bioacoustics Laboratory.
The first year’s data was gleaned from 24 aerial surveys and 11 months of continuous underwater acoustic recording to count and assess the presence of large whales and sea turtles in areas off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard that have previously been designated by the federal government as possible sites for offshore wind development.
During the first year, MassCEC says researchers counted six species of whales and three species of sea turtles. North Atlantic Right whales were spotted 24 times, with four additional probable sightings.
Researchers are currently gathering a second year of data that will be combined with first-year results to assess the location and configuration of future offshore wind energy development and to inform and streamline the permitting process for potential projects in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.
A full copy of the preliminary report can be found here.
In addition to releasing the initial results of the marine wildlife study, MassCEC says it is requesting proposals to help identify optimal locations and configurations for the transmission of renewable energy from the offshore wind planning areas to the regional electric grid.
The center says this study will touch on several facets of the transmission process, including specific transmission system configuration options, the technical feasibility of those options and potential interconnection points and associated infrastructure upgrade requirements.
According to MassCEC, the transmission siting effort is a key element in the update of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, being led and managed by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Office of Coastal Zone Management.
A copy of the request for proposals can be found here.
December 19, 2013 – Baucus Unveils Ambitious Plan for Energy Tax Reform
On Dec. 18, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., proposed a sweeping set of reforms on energy-related tax incentives that would overhaul energy tax breaks offered by the government and consolidate or extend many of the provisions promoting renewable energy that are currently only temporary.
Notably, the plan ensures that all energy tax incentives would be technology-neutral and provide an equal credit to all U.S.-produced resources or technologies based on carbon emission levels.
"Our current energy incentives are overly complex and far less effective than they could be," writes Baucus. "Today, there are 42 different energy tax incentives. More than half are too short-term to effectively stimulate investments. They also provide different subsidies to different technologies with no discernable policy rationale. On top of that, they result in significant revenue loss: If we continue to extend current incentives, they will cost nearly $150 billion over 10 years."
Ostensibly, there are two credits: one for clean energy and one for transportation.
For clean energy, the Baucus proposal would keep all current incentives, such as the production tax credit (PTC) for wind, in place until 2016. Wind projects placed in service in 2017 and later would be eligible for either a 20% investment tax credit (ITC) - down from the current 30% - or a $0.023/kWh PTC for 10 years, adjusted for inflation.
Additional clean energy tax credit highlights include the following:
- Any facility producing electricity that is about 25% cleaner than the average for all electricity production facilities will receive a tax credit. The cleaner the facility, the larger the credit.
- According to documents released by the finance committee, cleanliness is defined by a simple ratio of the greenhouse gas emissions of a facility, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), divided by its electricity production.
- Businesses can choose between claiming the credit as a PTC or ITC.
- The credit phases out over four years once the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. electricity generation declines to the point that it is 25% cleaner than 2013. Interestingly, conventional power generation plants, such as natural gas, are also likely to benefit.
The full discussion draft can be found here
Notably, the plan did not address expanding master limited partnerships to renewable energy, nor did it address depreciation. However, in November, the committee addressed the issue.
When reached for comment, industry watchers gave the finance committee high marks for its ingenuity.
"The proposal is innovative in that it's technology neutral," explains David Burton, a partner at law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. "It is the most thoughtful that Congress has been with energy," he says, adding that the plan's streamlined approach could be used as a future model when - or if - tax reform talks progress.
"Although the proposals set forth in the plan are a good way to approach energy," Burton says, "I don't see tax reform happening."
John Marciano, a partner at law firm Chadbourne & Parke, agrees. "[The proposal] probably has legs,” he says. “It represents a good starting point for discussions." Nonetheless, he cautions that he doesn't expect further action on tax reform to heat up before the 2014 elections.
Akin Gump's Burton calls Baucus' rumored departure from chairing the Senate Finance Committee (to become U.S. Ambassador to China) "a setback" that would ensure the status quo remains in place.
The other wild card is the future of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a leading candidate to succeed Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., as the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. The House Ways and Means Committee is an equal partner with the Senate Finance Committee in the process to overhaul the tax code.
Ryan reportedly supports the idea of tax reform. However, it is unknown if Ryan supports aspects of the Baucus plan. History shows that the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan presidential ticket was opposed to all energy tax credits.
December 18, 2013 – Quebec Issues Call For 450 MW of Wind Power
Hydro-Quebec Distribution has issued a call for tenders for the purchase of a 450 MW block of wind power, composed of 300 MW for the Bas St-Laurent and Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine regions and 150 MW for projects across Quebec.
The 450 MW block is part of Quebec's previously announced plan to acquire an additional 800 MW of wind, and the provincial government recently published the final regulation ordering Hydro-Quebec to make this call for tenders by year-end.
According to Hydro-Quebec, the projects will be linked to its main network within the following timeframes: 100 MW not later than Dec. 1, 2016, and 350 MW not later than Dec. 1, 2017. The energy price, including the cost of transmission and the cost of balancing service and firming capacity, must not exceed C0.09/kWh in 2014 dollars.
In addition, Hydro-Quebec notes the projects will have to include regional and Quebec content: A minimum of 60% of total project costs must be spent in Quebec, including costs for the installation of wind turbines; and a minimum of 35% of wind turbine costs must be allocated to the regional county municipality of La Matanie and the administrative region of Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine.
Hydro-Quebec has mandated the firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and Cie to assist in the tendering process and to act as its official representative.
December 18, 2013 – Ontario Grants Renewable Energy Approval to Bow Lake Wind Farm
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has granted a renewable energy approval (REA) for the 58.32 MW Bow Lake Wind Project.
In 2012, Batchewana First Nation (BFN) and BluEarth Renewables formed partnerships to develop the project through the establishment of Nodin Kitagan LP and Nodin Kitagan 2 LP. The parties say Nodin Kitagan represents one of the largest economic partnerships between a First Nation and a wind energy developer in Canada.
Bow Lake is being developed in the district of Algoma, approximately 80 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, within the traditional territory of BFN. Nodin Kitagan estimates that Bow Lake will employ approximately 80 people to construct the facility, and once constructed, up to seven people will be required to operate the facility.
"The renewable energy approval is the culmination of over six years of public engagement and rigorous environmental and technical studies,” says Kent Brown, president and CEO of BluEarth. “We are very pleased to be moving forward toward the construction of the Bow Lake Wind Project.”
December 17, 2013 – Interior Department Plans Offshore Wind Lease Auction in Maryland
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau joined Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to announce the proposed notice of sale for nearly 80,000 acres offshore Maryland for commercial wind energy leasing.
The DOI says that, if fully developed, the Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA) could support between 850 to 1,450 MW of commercial wind generation, enough electricity to power approximately 300,000 homes. The part of the WEA closest to shore is located about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City, Md.
"Today’s announcement brings our state one step closer to harnessing the tremendous potential of offshore wind energy off our shores and realizing Maryland's clean energy future,” says Gov. O’Malley, a long-time supporter of offshore wind.
Earlier this year, the governor had introduced and later signed into law the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, which aims to promote and subsidize offshore development. It was his third attempt at establishing the legislation; his 2011 and 2012 versions of the act were defeated by the Maryland General Assembly.
The BOEM proposes to auction the Maryland WEA as two leases: a North Lease Area consisting of 32,737 acres and a South Lease Area consisting of 46,970 acres. The sale, which will be held in the form of an online auction, is expected next year.
The proposed sale notice can be found in the Federal Register and triggers a public comment period ending Feb. 18. Comments received or postmarked by that date will be made available to the public and considered before the publication of a final sale notice. That notice will announce the time and date of the lease sale, which will be held no earlier than 30 days after the publication of the final sale notice in the Federal Register.
To be eligible to participate in the lease sale, the DOI says each bidder must be notified by the BOEM that it is legally, technically and financially qualified by the time the final sale notice is published. The department strongly encourages companies planning to submit a qualification package to submit as early as possible during the comment period to ensure adequate time for processing.
The proposed notice of sale offshore Maryland builds upon two successful offshore wind energy auctions that the DOI held this year. A September auction of 112,799 acres offshore Virginia for wind energy development was provisionally won by Dominion’s Virginia Electric and Power Co., generating a high bid of $1.6 million. Earlier this summer, the DOI held its first successful offshore wind lease sale of 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts won by Deepwater Wind, generating $3.8 million in high bids.
December 16, 2013 – Feds Step Up Avian Oversight: What the Wind Industry Needs to Know
Federal oversight of wind energy's adverse impacts to birds, bats and other wildlife will increase due to two recent developments: the pending first programmatic take permit under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and the first criminal enforcement action for avian fatalities under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
Wind farms face a somewhat unique environmental challenge: a clean source of energy with a potential dirty impact to wildlife. Debate over the correct level of governmental enforcement and regulation will continue, but impacts to bald and golden eagles, migratory birds, and other federally protected species play an increasingly significant role in the siting, construction and operation of wind projects.
Going forward, wind projects will encounter an increased need for comprehensive due diligence and a critical assessment of a project’s impact to birds so as to ward off potential future criminal enforcement. This article will highlight some of the likely new challenges that may arise to help place lenders in a better position to assess the risks related to wind projects and to provide developers with an overview of actions and measures to minimize or avoid potential criminal enforcement.
Because wind is a relatively new source of energy in the U.S. and has grown at a rapid pace, regulation of wildlife fatalities and injuries due to collisions with wind turbines and met towers is in somewhat uncharted water, unlike collisions with automobile, planes, utility wires, buildings, and oil and gas pits. Considerable effort has been made by government, private industry and environmental groups to reduce adverse avian impacts.
New voluntary federal guidelines have been issued; comprehensive pre-construction and post-operation studies have become more common; and wind projects typically implement mitigation measures, such as siting turbines away from known nests and other high-risk areas, creating habitat buffers, and using radar, underground transmission lines and other methods to reduce the risk of collision. However, until the legal requirements become clear, developers bear a burden to determine what needs to be done to comply with the law even when a high priority is placed on minimizing any adverse wildlife impact.
Laws and Guidelines
There are two federal laws that regulate the “take” of birds: the BGEPA, which regulates bald and golden eagles, and the MBTA, which regulates approximately 1,000 species of migratory birds. Violations can lead to civil and criminal penalties and potential imprisonment for six months to two years per violation. Although felony prosecutions under the MBTA only apply to the actual or intended sale or barter of migratory birds and migratory bird parts, misdemeanor charges may be levied against any person that takes a migratory bird for any other reason. The BGEPA does not contain a distinction between felony and misdemeanor charges for first-time offenders.
BGEPA defines “take” to include “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb.” However, the definition of “take” under the MBTA is ambiguous, leading courts to disagree over whether the MBTA is limited to intentional takes or if it also includes incidental takes, which means a take that occurs as a result of, but is not the purpose of, an otherwise-lawful activity.
For instance, the Eighth and Ninth Circuits have limited “take” under the MBTA to hunting and related conduct, which would thereby exclude the wind industry from liability for avian fatalities. However, both the Second and Tenth Circuits have adopted strict liability interpretations of the MBTA holding various defendants accountable for avian fatalities, even if the takes were indirect and not willful.
To lower the risk of takes due to the construction and operation of wind energy projects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) adopted the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (FWS Guidelines) on March 23, 2012. The FWS Guidelines are voluntary, not regulations, and set forth five tiers of pre- and post-construction studies that seek to evaluate and address potential negative impacts of wind energy projects on species of concern, including migratory birds, bats, and bald and golden eagles.
Additionally, on May 2, 2013, the FWS released the Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance Module 1 - Land-Based Wind Energy, Version 2 (FWS Eagle Guidance), which is designed as a supplement to the FWS Guidelines. Like the FWS Guidelines, the FWS Eagle Guidance is voluntary and lays out a staged approach to siting new wind projects. It also contains in-depth guidance relating specifically to the protection of bald and golden eagles and compliance with the BGEPA.
First BGEPA Eagle Take Permit
Unlike the BGEPA, the MBTA does not provide for a permit allowing for the unintentional take of a migratory bird during otherwise-lawful activities. In 2009, the FWS established new rules (50 CFR 22.26 and 22.27) that provide for the issuance of two types of five-year incidental take permits under the BGEPA: individual and programmatic. Both permits authorize a take of bald and golden eagles when the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, an otherwise-lawful activity. Individual take permits are issued for an isolated take that cannot be practicably avoided. Programmatic take permits are issued for instances of unavoidable take that may recur due to the nature of the take, such as the operation of a wind facility, even after the implementation of advanced conservation practices. This article focuses on the programmatic take permit, referred to herein as the eagle take permit.
To obtain an eagle take permit, the project developer must (1) avoid and minimize take to the maximum extent achievable; (2) conduct adequate monitoring; (3) offset any remaining take through compensatory mitigation; and (4) ensure that the direct and indirect effects of the take are compatible with the preservation of bald and golden eagles. An eagle take permit qualifies as a federal action and triggers the need for an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
On Dec. 9, 2013, the FWS published a final rule in the Federal Register to extend the maximum term of the eagle take permit to 30 years because the average life of a wind project extends beyond the existing five-year term limit. The final rule will become effective on Jan. 8, 2014.
The FWS has not granted any eagle take permits, even though about 15 applications have been submitted since the FWS authorized issuance in 2009. However, the first permit appears likely to be issued soon.
In September 2013, the FWS released a draft environmental assessment for a five-year eagle take permit for the Shiloh IV Wind Project in Solano County, Calif. The permit would allow the take of up to three eagles over a five-year term. The public comment period ended on Nov. 29, 2013, and the FWS can render its decision after Dec. 29, 2013.
Additionally, on Dec. 4, 2013, the FWS published a notice of intent for a NEPA review for another eagle take permit. The FWS’ recent actions are a sign that eagle take permits may become necessary for wind projects with a potential adverse impact to bald or golden eagles.
First Criminal Enforcement Action
On Nov. 22, 2013, Duke Energy Renewables Inc. entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) after being charged with two Class B misdemeanors under the MBTA for the death of 149 migratory birds and 14 golden eagles at two wind facilities in Wyoming. This represents the first criminal enforcement action against the wind industry under the MBTA or the BGEPA.
Duke will be placed on a five-year probation and be required to pay $1 million in fines, obtain an eagle take permit and implement a five-year environmental compliance plan. The plan must include comprehensive mitigation measures to minimize further avian impacts at four of Duke's wind facilities and could cost up to $600,000 per year. The Duke settlement did not contain a requirement to enjoin current or future operations of either project, even if future takes during the probationary period occur, as long as Duke remains in compliance with the terms of the settlement.
It is important to note that, as avian fatalities were discovered, Duke promptly reported them to the FWS, worked with the FWS to reduce future fatalities, and implemented numerous mitigation measures, including monitoring, radar and curtailment. The settlement acknowledged this concerted effort and made clear that the fine was reduced and potential additional charges were dropped as a result. Nonetheless, such actions did not absolve Duke from liability because the mitigation measures voluntarily put in place prior to the MBTA conviction were not sufficient to overcome the fact that the projects were constructed in a high-risk area despite preliminary studies showing that avian fatalities would likely occur.
What Lessons Can Be Learned?
The Duke settlement offers several important lessons for the development of new projects. First, it is important to conduct extensive due diligence throughout the life of a project and to consult with the FWS starting at the earliest stages of development and continuing through operation as appropriate.
However, simply conducting all recommended surveys and studies and consulting with the FWS is not sufficient. If adverse impacts to avian species are identified, it is the developer’s responsibility to move the project to a new location or implement extensive mitigation measures to reduce the risk of avian fatalities. As demonstrated by the Duke settlement, the FWS’ recommendations need to be given high priority, especially with respect to siting in high-risk areas. As aptly put by the DOJ in its press release announcing the Duke settlement, “[C]arefully siting turbines so as to avoid and minimize the risk as much as possible, is critically important because, unlike electric distribution equipment and guyed towers, at the present time, no post-construction remedies, except ‘curtailment’ (i.e., shut-down), have been developed that can ‘render safe’ a wind turbine placed in a location of high avian collision risk.”
Second, while following the FWS Guidelines and the FWS Eagle Guidance and implementing mitigation measures is by no means a “get out of jail free” card, documented efforts to comply with the guidelines and communicate with the FWS will likely be taken into consideration by the FWS and the DOJ when determining whether and to what extent the DOJ should bring an enforcement action should a violation of the BGEPA or the MBTA occur. Duke’s good-faith effort to reduce fatalities and documented coordination with the FWS did lead to reduced penalties and a decision by the FWS to limit enforcement to MBTA violations.
Third, the Duke settlement demonstrates a strong likelihood of future enforcement against the wind industry, which until now, has not encountered enforcement under the BGEPA or the MBTA. Currently, according to the Associated Press, the FWS is investigating bird deaths at over 18 wind projects, about a half a dozen of which have already been referred to the DOJ for potential enforcement. However, the specific projects were not publicly identified.
Fourth, adopting accepted industry-specific mitigation measures may reduce the risk of enforcement. In a letter sent to U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Lamar Alexander on the same day as the Duke settlement, Elliot Williams, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ, indicated that “[i]n determining whether to prosecute a [wind energy] company for its violations of the MBTA, both the [DOJ] and the FWS consider whether the company has knowingly failed to adopt industry-specific practices to improve their compliance with the law.” Such industry-specific practices may include, among other things, compliance with the FWS Guidelines and the FWS Eagle Guidance.
In addition, while a limited number of cases have been brought against oil and gas companies, utility companies and pesticide manufacturers under the BGEPA or the MBTA - including at least six against oil and gas companies and two against utility companies from 2009-2013 - to our knowledge, none have been brought against building developers, airlines, automobiles or cat owners - all of which have a much larger impact on avian species.
For example, recent studies have estimated that there are over 900 million annual bird fatalities due to collisions with buildings and over 6 million annual bird fatalities due to collisions with communication towers, whereas, according to the FWS’ estimates, there are 440,000 annual bird fatalities due to collisions with wind turbines and met towers.
Consequently, the Duke settlement is not necessarily an indication of widespread enforcement against any and all violations of the BGEPA or the MBTA, but it is an important reminder to wind developers and lenders that a high level of attention must be placed on due diligence, the careful siting of turbines, and the implementation of mitigation measures that would reduce the risk of a take under the BGEPA and the MBTA.
How to Reduce the Risk of Enforcement
Because the law surrounding violations of the BGEPA and the MBTA against wind projects is still evolving, it is advisable for developers and lenders to err on the side of caution by preparing to avoid or minimize the risk of adversely impacting protected avian species.
For developers, it is of crucial importance to conduct extensive surveys to identify the presence and potential impact to avian species and to communicate with the FWS and local wildlife agencies prior to the construction of wind projects. For lenders, it is advisable to contact legal counsel at the start of the financing process to determine the current status of the law, the level of risk for a particular project and the measures that the lender should request from the developer to minimize liability to the greatest extent possible.
Each project is unique, and there is no “one size fits all” approach to mitigation and avoidance of a violation of the BGEPA or the MBTA. The use of mitigation measures will vary depending on project location, design, risk of avian impact and other factors, so it is advisable for developers to create a plan with input from the FWS to take into account the requirements that are specific to each project. However, below are some general recommendations for developers and lenders to consider during the process of developing and/or providing funding for a wind project.
Prior to Site Selection/Pre-Construction
- Initiate consultation with the FWS and state and local wildlife agencies;
- Gather information from publicly available sources to assess the likelihood of avian impacts at potential project sites;
- If possible, site the project in previously developed areas, such as agricultural lands, to minimize impact to previously undisturbed habitat;
- Conduct one to two years of avian, bat and wildlife studies;
- Site turbines away from areas with identified high bird and bat concentrations, and create buffer zones around sensitive habitat in the project area;
- Provide training for construction and project personnel on how to avoid impacts to protected species during construction and operation; and
- Discuss the results of the pre-construction studies with the FWS and develop a strategy to mitigate any unavoidable adverse impacts.
- Continue to conduct studies and monitor impacts to protected species and maintain an ongoing dialogue with the FWS;
- Implement recommended or voluntary mitigation measures;
- Develop a Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy (BBCS) as outlined in the FWS Guidelines; and
- Prepare an Eagle Conservation Plan and apply for an eagle take permit if bald or golden eagles are identified in the project area.
- Conduct several years of post-construction surveys, and continue consultation with the FWS;
- Monitor the site periodically for any avian or bat fatalities;
- Immediately report any avian fatalities; and
- Work with the FWS and state and local wildlife agencies to implement additional mitigation measures to reduce the risk of future takes.
The effect of the Duke settlement on enforcement against wind developers going forward is still unclear, although future enforcement against other wind developers appears increasingly likely and more action will be necessary to mitigate any adverse impact to avian wildlife.
Whether this reflects the start of a long line of charges and what would trigger enforcement remain to be seen. It is certain, however, that the public and regulatory attention placed on wind energy’s impacts to birds, bats and other wildlife is rapidly increasing.
December 16, 2013 – DNV GL Officially Launches New Global Brand
The merger between standards bodies DNV and GL is official, and the new company, DNV GL, has launched its global brand and website.
The merger was originally announced in December 2012 and approved by competition authorities in September. The group says it comprises more than 16,000 employees in over 100 countries.
"In defining our new identity as DNV GL, our company's vision of making a 'global impact for a safe and sustainable future' has never been more relevant than it is today,” says Henrik O. Madsen, president and CEO of DNV GL Group. “The new brand that we launch today reflects our broader service offering aimed at enabling our customers to make the world safer, smarter and greener.”
December 13, 2013 – Blade Maker Wins U.S. Tax Credit to Boost Production and Add 170 Workers
LM Wind Power will use a $700,000 federal tax credit to re-equip and add up to 170 workers to its Grand Forks, N.D., blade manufacturing facility.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued the blade maker the credit as part of a $150 million funding round awarded to 12 clean energy businesses. Under the 48C Program, companies can receive an investment tax credit of 30% for the manufacture of particular types of domestic equipment.
Funded at $2.3 billion, the tax credit was made available to 183 domestic clean energy manufacturing facilities during Phase I of the program. The DOE says these new Phase II awards were launched to utilize $150 million in tax credits that were not used by the previous awardees and support projects that must be placed in service by 2017.
“Cost-effective, efficient manufacturing plays a critical role in continuing U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation, and the tax credits announced today will help reduce carbon pollution from our vehicles and buildings, create new jobs, and supply more clean energy projects in the United States and abroad with equipment made in America,” says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
LM applied for the credits in the first quarter of this year. Bill Burga Jr., head of the company’s Americas operations, says the award is a “significant boost to our competitiveness, which effectively leads to new jobs.”
“The money will be spent on offsetting the costs of mold transportation, supporting tools and equipment required for the introduction of a 48- and a 53.2-meter mold to produce for major customers,” he explains.
Burga adds that the company is grateful for the government’s support of clean energy manufacturing. “This is a significant measure short term,” he explains.
However, “Longer term, it remains crucial to get certainty around schemes such as the [production tax credit]. Our politicians need to show the ambition and commitment to provide a stable economic framework and the necessary visibility for investors to continuously develop this industry and ensure domestic employment.”
December 13, 2013 – Positive Near-Term Outlook for Ontario's Electricity Grid
The outlook for Ontario's bulk electricity grid is positive over the next year and a half, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) says in its latest 18-Month Outlook.
The report anticipates adequate supply levels and transmission resources to meet provincial demand under both normal and extreme weather conditions.
Between December 2013 and May 2015, more than 3.3 GW of renewable resources are expected to be added to the system. At the same time, the IESO says the province will close nearly 2.15 GW of generation through the retirement of its remaining coal-fired generators.
The IESO adds that the flexible resources to adapt to this evolving fuel mix have been found through the maneuverability of nuclear units, demand response measures and new tools for managing wind and solar variability.
"The IESO will continue to look for new opportunities to add flexibility into the market to support reliable and efficient operation of the electricity grid," says Bruce Campbell, president and CEO of the IESO.
Electricity demand will remain relatively flat over the period of the report, as population and economic growth are mitigated by conservation initiatives and growth in embedded generation capacity, which is expected to reach 2,500 MW by May 2015. Generation embedded in distribution systems serves to reduce demand on the bulk power system.
For more on Ontario’s energy future - including wind power plans - click here.
December 12, 2013 – Study: Wind Energy Yields Major Environmental Benefits for Ohio
Wind energy is on the rise in Ohio and is providing huge environmental benefits for the state, according to a new report released by Environment Ohio.
The report says that wind energy is now providing 988,000 MWh of electricity in the state, and Ohio could be on track to see an additional 918,294 MWh increase in wind production in the next five years.
According to the report, Ohio’s wind energy is already avoiding more than 597,613 metric tons of carbon pollution - the equivalent of taking 124,503 cars off the road - 562 tons of nitrogen oxide and 694 tons of sulfur dioxide. In addition, the report says wind power is saving the state 267,007,000 gallons of water per year - enough to meet the needs of 10,602 people.
“Wind energy has given us a lot to be thankful for this Holiday Season,” says Vivian Daly of Environment Ohio. “Now our state and national leaders need to take action to make sure we don’t leave these environmental benefits on the table.”
Environment Ohio says the state’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of a clean energy law named S.B.221 and federal incentives for wind power. However, the group adds, the state policy is threatened in Ohio’s senate, and the investment tax credit and the production tax credit are set to expire at year-end.
“The wind power industry is healing our environment and stimulating our economy,” comments Eric Ritter, communications and strategy manager for LEEDCo, a Cleveland-based non-profit developing a six-turbine offshore wind project in Lake Erie known as Icebreaker. “The State of Ohio is already No. 4 in the U.S. for wind industry employment. Continued support for local projects will help solidify Ohio’s leading role in the global wind turbine supply chain.”
December 12, 2013 – Energy Department Releases Grid Energy Storage Report
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz has released a report on grid energy storage to the members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
According to the DOE, the report was commissioned at the request of Sen. Ron Wyden, committee chairman, and identifies the benefits of grid energy storage, the challenges that must be addressed to enable broader use, and the efforts of the department, in conjunction with industry and other government organizations, to meet those challenges.
“Developing and deploying energy storage opens the door to adding more renewable power to the grid, which is essential to the fight against climate change,” says Wyden. “Energy storage will also help lower consumer costs by saving low-cost power for peak times and making renewable energy available when it’s needed the most, not just when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.”
According to the DOE, the report identifies four key challenges that must be addressed to enable energy storage: the development of cost-effective energy storage technologies, validated reliability and safety, an equitable regulatory environment, and industry acceptance.
The DOE says efforts to address these challenges include integrated activities by the department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, Office of Science, Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
The report is now available here.
December 12, 2013 – Huge Coalition Calls on Obama to Advance Offshore Wind Development
With critical federal tax incentives set to expire on Dec. 31, a massive coalition has sent President Barack Obama a letter calling for swift, bold action by his administration to facilitate the development of U.S. offshore wind power.
The letter was signed by Environment America, the National Wildlife Federation, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Southern Environmental Law Center, as well as over 230 organizations, small businesses and elected officials.
“Climate change is the single greatest threat to America’s wildlife this century, and properly sited offshore wind power is an essential part of the solution,” says Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “Our ability to fight climate change and repower America with pollution-free energy hinges on bold action from our federal and state leaders. Congress must renew the offshore wind investment tax credit immediately to jump-start this critical new clean energy source for America.”
The organizations have lauded offshore wind power as a promising alternative to U.S. power plants and a way to help mitigate extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy. Jonathan Peress, director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Clean Energy and Climate Program, adds, “Offshore wind is the largest available resource to make the transformation to clean energy. Tapping into this resource will also enhance energy security and provide economic benefits, including against volatile fossil fuel prices.”
The groups note that President Obama has made significant commitments to renewable energy in recent months. On Dec. 5, he issued a presidential memorandum directing the federal government to pursue a goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. In June, Obama announced his Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution. In addition to placing national limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the plan called for doubling the amount of renewable energy generated on federally controlled land and waters.
Nonetheless, the letter calls on the president and his administration to build on this progress and do the following:
- Set a bold goal for offshore wind development in the Atlantic, consistent with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) current goal of 54 GW by 2030.
- Support critical investments in offshore wind power including federal incentives and support for federal research, development, and deployment programs at both the Department of the Interior (DOI) and DOE.
- Spur markets for offshore wind power, through power purchase commitments and collaboration among key agencies including the federal Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce with state and regional economic development and energy agencies.
- Ensure that offshore wind projects are sited, built, and operated responsibly in order to avoid, minimize and mitigate conflicts with marine life and other ocean uses. The letter says wind energy development should be consistent with the National Ocean Policy and key state and regional planning efforts.
The coalition’s letter is available here.
December 12, 2013 – Ontario Eliminating Domestic Content Rules for Renewable Energy Projects
Ontario is introducing legislation to eliminate domestic content requirements under its feed-in tariff (FIT) program for future renewable energy projects. If passed, the amendment to Ontario's Electricity Act would remove the need for projects participating in the program to source up to 50% of content within the province.
The Ministry of Energy says the changes would help ensure Ontario is in line with decisions made by the World Trade Organization, which last year ruled that the FIT’s domestic content mechanism breached international trade laws.
Nonetheless, the ministry maintains that the requirements had been put in place as a temporary measure, and strong growth in the renewables sector means the rules are no longer required.
“Ontario has a strong renewable energy sector, one that has created over 31,000 jobs and now exports goods and services around the world,” comments Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli. “Changes included in this legislation will, if passed, save ratepayers $1.9 billion, making clean energy more affordable than ever.”
To date, the ministry says Ontario has more than 18.5 GW of renewable energy online or announced to be built. As part of its recently updated Long-Term Energy Plan, the province intends to seek 300 MW of wind power next year and 300 MW more in 2015.
“The strength of the sector means here at home, when Ontario’s renewable energy providers make decisions about what products and services they purchase, we’re confident Ontario suppliers will be competitive and the supplier of choice,” Chiarelli adds.
December 11, 2013 – Renewables, Natural Gas Expected to Coexist and Play Large Roles in Lone Star State
The future of the Texas electric market will very likely include substantial amounts of both renewable energy and natural-gas-fired power, economists with The Brattle Group find in a new report prepared for the Texas Clean Energy Coalition (TCEC).
TCEC Chairman Kip Averitt, a former state senator and chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, says the report uses state-of-the-art modeling in a series of scenarios - including a range of natural gas prices, a required reserve margin, and different wind and solar energy costs - to simulate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid system through 2032.
"The objective of this report was to examine broad patterns of interaction between renewable resources and natural gas over the next two decades," explains Averitt. "The report illustrates the key drivers of gas and renewable development in ERCOT to better inform Texas policymakers and decision-makers about the range of possible outcomes."
With over 12 GW of installed capacity, Texas is the largest state producer of wind-powered electricity in the U.S., according to the report. At the same time, the report adds, Texas is the leading U.S. producer of natural gas, generating over 40% of its electricity from natural gas plants.
In June, The Brattle Group produced a preliminary study for TCEC that found the relationship between natural gas and renewables had aspects that were both complementary and, in some cases, substitutive. In this new report, the Brattle team examines the future of gas and renewable power in Texas analytically through the simulation of several grid-expansion scenarios.
Key findings include the following:
- Under the range of scenarios, natural gas and renewables both play substantial roles in ERCOT and provide all new generation needed to respond to growth in the state's population. No new coal plants are built in any scenarios.
- Across the more likely scenarios, wind and solar grow from their current 10% generation share to levels between 25% and 43%. Natural-gas-fired generation provides all of the remaining incremental generation, adding 12 to 25 GW of new combined-cycle capacity - a 38% to 80% increase in the current installed base.
- The mix of new gas and renewables generation is sensitive to the price of natural gas and cost declines in wind and solar power. The report says changes in these three factors can cause significant shifts in the mix of future installations, leading to a wide range of plausible generation shares for wind, solar and natural gas.
- The study says it found that the ERCOT system could accommodate all levels of variable renewables likely to occur during this period with no reliability problems. However, accommodating higher levels of renewables required the model to use an additional ancillary service - known as the intraday commitment option - and to adjust the levels of current ancillary services.
- The analysis shows that federal production tax credit and ERCOT ratepayer funding of new transmission lines remain important drivers of wind development.
- A reserve margin has a very small overall effect on the generation mix or emissions in ERCOT through 2032. However, the report says scenarios using higher gas prices and lower renewables costs reduce the growth of CO2, NOX and SO2 substantially. A stringent federal carbon policy reduces 2032 CO2 by 66% versus 2012, the report adds.
- Existing coal units in ERCOT remain profitable and are not retired unless a relatively stringent federal carbon policy is adopted. A federal carbon policy requiring 90% capture and storage of carbon, for example, would prompt the retirement of most ERCOT coal units.
- Under the strong federal carbon policy scenario, gas and renewable generation would together replace the energy formerly supplied by coal plants. In this case renewable energy could rise to become 43% of ERCOT generation by 2032.
The complete report can be found here.
December 10, 2013 – Texas' $7 Billion Transmission Initiative Nears Finish Line
Texas' Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission build-out, representing billions of dollars in investment and a massive effort to help transport wind power across the state, is on track to completion. Construction work has been ongoing for the past several years, and the final lines are expected to be energized by month's end.
In 2005, legislators passed a law ordering the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to identify prime regions for renewable energy development in the state known as CREZs. Three years later, with help from grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the PUCT designated five zones and over 100 transmission projects, including new construction and upgrades.
The CREZ lines are designed to eventually carry about 18.5 GW of wind power from remote areas - including the Texas Panhandle and West Texas - to highly populated regions, such as Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. However, the overall size and cost of the transmission program have changed since the initiative began.
Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s director of operations, explains that a 2008 study calculated a straight-line path for the transmission lines and considered only general locations of substations and other connection points. As time progressed and new siting considerations came to light, plans were adjusted accordingly.
The original forecast estimated 109 projects, spanning 2,963 miles and costing $4.97 billion. An October report, offering the latest-available data, expected the program to comprise 186 projects totaling 3,588 miles - with a hefty price tag of over $6.8 billion.
PUCT spokesperson Terry Hadley verifies that the few remaining projects are on schedule to be energized by the commission’s year-end deadline, but he notes that 15 of the estimated 186 projects have been canceled.
“The PUCT, along with ERCOT, determined that these projects were not needed in order to satisfy the requirements of the CREZ project - namely to ensure a CREZ network delivery capacity of 18,456 MW,” says Hadley.
Most recently, Electric Transmission Texas (ETT) announced that it has energized the last of seven CREZ lines it was assigned as part of the program. A joint venture between MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. and American Electric Power subsidiaries, ETT says the 88.4-mile Edith Clarke-to-Cottonwood project came online Dec. 4.
CREZ work is nearing its end across the state, and it is obvious that wind developers are excited to connect to the new power lines.
Glen Hodges, senior developer at Pattern Development, says the CREZ initiative “absolutely” adds to the appeal of constructing wind farms in Texas. “As the CREZ lines are now being completed, several developers like Pattern Development are building wind projects,” he says. “That would not be the case without the CREZ lines.”
Pattern’s Panhandle Wind project is slated to interconnect to a transmission line that Cross Texas Transmission just completed and energized. The 218 MW wind farm, located in the Texas Panhandle, is currently under construction.
In addition, EDF Renewable Energy has acquired the 161 MW Spinning Spur II, 200 MW Hereford 1, and 200 MW Longhorn projects this year - all of which will take advantage of CREZ lines once the wind farms are commissioned. Philip Moore, Lincoln Renewable Energy’s vice president of development, also recently called its 300 MW Hereford 2 wind farm “another CREZ-enabled project” and congratulated the PUCT and transmission providers on the successful program. The developer started building Hereford 2 late last month.
According to Hodges, Texas legislators helped address “project-on-project risk” for wind developers.
“This risk is the codependency of transmission and wind: Wind projects cannot be developed without associated transmission,” he explains. “Texas took the bold strategy of solving that risk and built out the CREZ transmission system so that … wind could be developed, without wind developers also having to simultaneously build long transmission lines to load. Texas, in effect, socialized the policy benefits of wind in approving this critical transmission first step.”
The Wind Coalition, an advocacy group focused on the south-central U.S., has also praised Texas for the CREZ initiative and promoting wind development.
“Texas has incredible wind energy resources, but access to the most productive areas has historically been limited by a lack of transmission capacity,” comments Jeff Clark, the coalition’s executive director. He says the CREZ initiative means lower electricity costs for Texas consumers, an economic boost for the affected regions, and improved grid stability throughout the state.
“When future generations look back on this investment in Texas infrastructure and analyze its benefits, I believe they will recognize it as one of the most visionary commitments the state has ever made,” Clark adds.
Both Hodges and Clark also suggest other states should follow in Texas’ footsteps. According to Hodges, many U.S. regions will continue to fall short of their wind energy potential without the proper infrastructure to transmit power to market.
December 9, 2013 – ACORE: Large-Scale Renewables Drive Northeastern U.S. Capacity
In the American Council On Renewable Energy's (ACORE) latest installment of a region-by-region report of U.S. clean energy capacity and policies, the group says renewable energy is fast becoming more cost competitive in the Northeast.
Three large utilities in Massachusetts, for example, recently signed long-term contracts to purchase renewable energy at less than $0.08/kWh, below the cost of most conventional sources in the region.
According to the report, there are renewable energy targets in every northeastern state, many of which have solar energy carve-outs. New York and Pennsylvania are first and second, respectively, in both renewable power with and without hydropower.
"For several years now, the renewable energy sector has been growing at an increasingly impressive rate. This has been especially true in the Northeast. These eleven states - plus the District of Columbia - rank second nationwide in both solar and biomass power capacity and may be on the precipice of a massive offshore wind build-out," says Lesley Hunter, ACORE's research and program manager and lead author of the report.
This fall, both the Western Region Report and the Midwestern Region Report were released, and the Southeast Region Report will be released early in 2014. ACORE's "2013 Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region" can be viewed here.
December 9, 2013 – Oregon State University, Mesalands Wind Center to Study Bird and Bat Impacts
New Mexico-based Mesalands Community College has announced that graduate students and professors from Oregon State University will be utilizing Mesalands' wind turbine, located adjacent to the North American Wind Research and Training Center, to evaluate wind farms' potential impact on bird and bat fatalities.
According to Mesalands, the research will explore possible risks to these animals including reduction in habitat, disruptions of migratory pathways, injury/mortality through collision, and injury/mortality in wake vortices. Oregon State University will mount vibration sensors to the wind blades, and impact data will then be collected by launching tennis balls directly at the blades. Mesalands says sensor output will be correlated to allow a quantification of impacts in terms of vibration.
“For the most part, bird fatalities are caused by impact, whereas in bats the cause is the pressure wave hitting the bat,” says Jim Morgan, director of the North American Wind Research and Training Center at Mesalands. “This scientific research is especially important for birds that are of an endangered species. Also, in some agricultural areas bats play a significant role in crop success.”
December 9, 2013 – 3TIER and IRENA Collaborate to Give Researchers Access to Renewable Energy Data
3TIER has teamed up with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization that supports countries in their transition to sustainable energy, to publicly release wind and solar annual averages from 3TIER's global datasets.
According to 3TIER, the data will now be available via IRENA's Global Renewable Energy Atlas, an open-access online platform that provides free information and assessments of renewable energy potential to policymakers, investors and researchers worldwide.
3TIER says its data will help experts such as IRENA’s Gauri Singh and other partners involved in the Africa Clean Energy Corridor initiative evaluate what can be done in terms of transmission and policy planning over the next 20 years to accelerate the expansion of renewable power sources along a power grid stretching from Egypt to South Africa. The company says the data will also aid the U.N. Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
“Updated, high-resolution datasets, like 3TIER's, allow countries to do advanced analysis of resource assessment and help guide policy frameworks that promote renewables," says Gauri Singh, director of country support and partnerships at IRENA.
“With this move, we are saying to the world, ‘This is your data now, put it to good work,’” adds Craig Husa, CEO of 3TIER.
December 9, 2014 – New England Governors to Collaborate on Energy Infrastructure and Renewables
New England's governors have signed an agreement committing their six states to an energy initiative they say is designed to bring affordable, cleaner and more reliable power to homes and businesses across the Northeast. According to the governors, this initiative will accelerate regional cooperation on expanding renewable energy and energy infrastructure in New England.
The governors have directed their staffs to continue working together over the next few months - through the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) and in cooperation with ISO-New England, operator of the region's electric grid network - to develop a regional strategy that “meets our common needs and goals.”
In the joint statement, the governors say that “securing the future of the New England economy and environment requires strategic investments in our region’s energy resources and infrastructure … New England ratepayers can benefit if the states collaborate to advance our common goals.” The agreement also seeks to ensure that “the benefits and costs of transmission and pipeline investments are shared appropriately among the New England states.”
According to the governors, the agreement calls attention to the fact that the region’s electric and natural gas systems have become “increasingly interdependent,” creating a need for cooperative investments in energy efficiency, new and existing renewable generation, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission. Such investments, the agreement adds, “support local markets and result in additional cost savings, new jobs and economic opportunities, and environmental gains,” and must “be advanced in a coordinated approach in order to maximize ratepayer savings and system integrity.”
The governors note that their initiative “must respect individual state perspectives, particularly those of host states, as well as the natural resources, environment, and economy of the states, and ensure that the citizens and other stakeholders of our region, including the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL), are involved in the process.”
The agreement for the Regional Energy Infrastructure Initiative was signed by Govs. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut; Paul LePage of Maine; Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts; Margaret Wood Hassan of New Hampshire; Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island; and Peter Shumlin of Vermont.
“This is an economically and environmentally important collaboration,” says Gov. Patrick. “By expanding opportunities for large-scale hydro, wind and other renewable energy sources, we are putting thousands of our residents to work and creating a healthier region for the next generation.”
December 6, 2013 – BOEM: Milestone Cleared for Research Lease Offshore Virginia
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) says it has taken another important step toward issuing a wind energy research lease to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), after finding there is no competitive interest in the area where the state agency proposes to conduct activities. This would be the second such lease that BOEM is considering for DMME, which previously proposed installing meteorological facilities within Virginia's Wind Energy Area (WEA).
Under its second request, DMME proposes to design, develop and demonstrate a grid-connected, 12 MW offshore wind test facility on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off the coast of Virginia. BOEM says data obtained under this lease will be made publicly available and inform the future production of renewable energy within Virginia's WEA.
“The type of data that would be collected under this research lease is especially important to understanding the wind potential, weather and other conditions relevant to standing up wind power generation offshore Virginia,” comments BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau.
In December 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced funding awards for seven offshore demonstration projects around the nation. One of the awards was given to Dominion Resources Inc., which partnered with DMME and others to establish the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project. This project proposes to build the wind test facility on the OCS, adjacent to the BOEM-designated WEA offshore Virginia. BOEM notes it continues to work collaboratively with the DOE in reviewing these projects.
Before the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project can install any facilities on the OCS, it must obtain BOEM approval. Therefore, DMME submitted an unsolicited nomination to BOEM on Feb. 13 for a proposal to install and operate two 6 MW turbines, associated cabling to shore, and ancillary metocean facilities (e.g., meteorological buoys).
BOEM published a notice to obtain public input and says none of the five received comments expressed competitive interest. Accordingly, BOEM says it will proceed with the leasing process on a non-competitive basis. The decision clears the way for DMME to submit a plan for renewable research activities for which BOEM will prepare a project-specific environmental review with opportunities for public input.
December 6, 2013 – U.S. Regulators Extend Duration of Eagle Take Permits, Up the Price
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have announced rule changes related to eagle take permits. The revised regulations extend the permit tenure, significantly increase fees and allow permits to be transferable to new owners of projects.
As the DOI explains, in 2009, the FWS began a permitting program under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act applicable to developers of renewable energy projects and other activities that may "take" (i.e., injure, kill or otherwise disturb) bald and golden eagles. The act allows the FWS to authorize the programmatic take of eagles, which is take associated with, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity and does not have a long-term impact on the population.
However, these permits have been for a maximum of five years - a period that does not reflect the actual operating parameters of most renewable energy projects or other similar long-term project operations, the DOI says. Therefore, the agency has extended the maximum permit tenure to 30 years, subject to a recurring five-year review process throughout the permit life.
According to the DOI, only applicants that commit to adaptive management measures to ensure the preservation of eagles will be considered for permits with terms longer than five years. Any such increased measures, which would be implemented if monitoring shows that initial permit conditions do not provide sufficient protection, will be negotiated with the permittee and specified in the terms and conditions of the permit.
“Renewable energy development is vitally important to our nation’s future, but it has to be done in the right way,” says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term, while ensuring bald and golden eagles continue to thrive for future generations.”
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has welcomed the new tenure rule. In a statement, the group says the extension will “provide conservation benefits for eagles while granting wind energy companies, and other potential permittees - such as oil and gas exploration and production, mining, military bases, airports, telecommunication tower developers, utility line owners, etc. - a degree of longer-term legal and financial certainty, which is important to the viability of any business.”
AWEA notes that it looks forward to working with regulators on any future rule revisions, adding, “[T]he wind industry has taken the most proactive and leading role of any utility-scale energy source to minimize wildlife impacts in general, and specifically for eagles, through constantly improving siting and monitoring techniques.”
The revised regulations also increase the fees to be charged for processing programmatic permit applications.
Under the new rules, the price for such permits has jumped from $1,000 to $36,000. However, the DOI says the processing fee for programmatic permits for “low-risk projects,” those expected to have negligible effects on eagles, is $8,000. In addition, the FWS will collect permit administration fees totaling $2,600 for each five-year period the permit is in effect.
According to the DOI, the fee changes reflect what it has discovered to be the true cost to the FWS of developing adaptive conservation measures and monitoring the effectiveness of the terms and conditions of the permits.
Permits also will now be transferable to new owners of projects, provided that any successor is qualified and committed to carrying out the conditions of the permit, the DOI adds. The fee for the transfer of a programmatic permit is $1,000.
The final rule is available here.
December 5, 23013 – President Obama Sets 20% Renewables Target for U.S. Government
President Barack Obama has issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. federal government to pursue a goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The document also instructs all federal agencies to take specific steps to better manage building performance, enhance energy efficiency and reduce energy waste.
The missive represents a follow-through on the president's plan to counter climate change, announced in June. It directs agencies to achieve the renewable energy consumption target through a number of approved actions. The actions, in order of priority, are the following:
- Installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities and retain renewable energy certificates;
- Contracting for energy that includes the installation of a renewable energy project on-site at a federal facility or off-site and the retention of renewable energy certificates for the term of the contract;
- Purchasing electricity and corresponding renewable energy certificates; and
- Purchasing renewable energy certificates.
The memorandum sets a number of interim targets for renewable energy usage up to the ultimate 20% by 2020 goal. The first of these is a 10% target for 2015.
In terms of energy efficiency, the document instructs federal agencies to take a number of measures, such as installing building energy and water meters and publicly disclosing annual benchmark energy performance data through the Department of Energy Web-based tracking system.
However, it should be noted that the document does offer the agencies some wiggle room in meeting the memorandum's goals, in that actions are to be taken where practical, economical and technically feasible.
December 4, 2013 – Virginia Groups Call for Legislative Support of Offshore Wind
Environment Virginia says leaders from the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, the City of Norfolk and the Virginia Ship Repair Association recently joined the group to detail the benefits of offshore wind power and its related supply chain industries, as well as to call on the state's legislators to support extending federal incentives for wind energy.
Environment Virginia says the potential for Virginia to help lead the offshore wind industry is squarely in view. In September, a Virginia-based subsidiary of Dominion won the nation’s second offshore wind lease. Dominion was also one of seven national finalists awarded first-round funding for offshore wind project development from the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Hampton Roads is known for its tremendous maritime workforce, shipbuilding capabilities, and deep ports with unlimited clearance,” said Larry Lombardi, business development manager for the City of Norfolk. “The emerging offshore wind industry can change this region’s economic landscape toward greater job growth, higher wages and an increase in tax revenues.”
Although the offshore wind industry has moved forward in leaps and bounds, Environment Virginia says there are still challenges ahead for Virginia, such as continued financial support for a sector still in its infancy. The group says the U.S.’ recent progress on wind is largely the result of the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit, which are currently set to expire by year-end.
“Dominion Power can only move forward as quickly as it makes sense for ratepayers in Virginia, and they certainly need to get approval from the State Corporation Commission. It is also important that Congress renew the tax credits that are so important for alternative energy development,” noted Bob Matthias, chair of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, a state authority facilitating the development of the offshore wind energy industry.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Thomas Carper, D-Del., introduced the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act (S.401), which Environment Virginia says would provide the financial certainty needed to unleash the U.S.’ offshore wind potential by providing an ITC for offshore wind power worth up to 30% of the cost of the project for the first 3 GW of offshore wind projects in the U.S.
However, Environment Virginia says Virginia’s U.S. Senators are not currently among the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act’s committed supporters.
“Wind energy is improving our quality of life in this country. We know the benefits, but we need political will, too,” said Environment Virginia’s Madison Poche.
“To make sure Virginia doesn’t miss out on this opportunity, I urge Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, to do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year. Sens. Warner and Kaine should support the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act without delay.”
December 4, 2013 – Guess Who's Playing in the Super Bowl: Renewable Energy
PSEG, the parent company of New Jersey-based utility PSE&G, is partnering with the NFL Environmental Program to provide green power for Super Bowl XLVIII, the first Super Bowl held in the New York-New Jersey metro region.
For every megawatt-hour of electricity used to power the event, PSEG says it will purchase and retire one renewable energy credit (REC) on behalf of Super Bowl XLVIII. This will include the electricity used at Met Life Stadium, the AFC and NFC team hotels and Super Bowl Boulevard - a public event associated with the Super Bowl - located in Times Square in New York City.
According to PSEG, its REC purchase will include New Jersey solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) equal to a four-week output of PSE&G's 3 MW Kearny Solar Farm. The remaining RECs have been purchased from Community Energy Inc., a certified Green-e Supplier, sourced from the Jersey-Atlantic City Wind Farm.
"By purchasing wind and solar RECs locally, PSEG has added more value to this project," says Jack Groh, director of the NFL Environmental Program. "In addition to providing green energy, purchasing locally puts money into the local economy and can help finance construction of additional renewable energy capacity in the region - something that will have a lasting impact beyond Super Bowl XLVIII."
December 3, 2013 – Congress Wades Into Alphabet Soup of Wind Tax Incentives
Congress recently provided the wind industry fodder for speculation regarding the future of renewable energy tax incentives. Below is a discussion of the modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) depreciation news, followed by a discussion of the future of production tax credits (PTCs) and the possibility of extending master limited partnership (MLP) status to renewable energy projects.
First, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chairs the Finance Committee, released his outline of corporate tax reform. His proposal is intended to achieve a lower corporate tax rate (the exact rate remains to be specified) but sacrifice MACRS.
Under the proposal, a wind farm would be depreciated 5% a year using a declining balance calculation, meaning 5% in the first year, 4.75% (i.e., 5% of 95%) in the second, and so on. This is drastically less accelerated than the current depreciation over five years, using a 200% declining balance. Further, as compared to the 50% “bonus” depreciation that is available for projects in service this year, it is a drop in the bucket.
The value of MACRS in a wind tax equity transaction varies between 10% and 30% of the tax equity investor’s economics. (The range is due to the varying cost of funds of different investors and varying tax appetite assumptions.) Sen. Baucus’ proposed depreciation methodology would wipe out that benefit.
In an apparent effort to avoid triggering heart attacks throughout the industry, the senator’s proposal has a reference to “considering improving and making permanent the energy tax credits set to expire in 2013.” The statement appears to be referring to the PTC. (The 30% investment tax credit (ITC) for solar does not expire until the end of 2016, but it would be surprising if the proposal only addressed PTCs.)
The wind industry must wait until Baucus releases the summary of tax reform provisions related to energy to know what the senator has in store for the PTC.
The likelihood that the proposal to expand MLP rules to include renewable energy projects as part of tax reform increased when the Joint Committee on Taxation “scored” the proposal in the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act (S.795) as costing a modest $1.3 billion over the 10-year scoring period.
In the context of tax reform, $1.3 billion is a low amount. For instance, replacing MACRS raises an estimated $500 billion. Further, the last time the PTC was extended for just one more year, it was scored as costing $12 billion. Thus, the MLP expansion is little more than a rounding error in tax reform.
The benefit of MLP status is being able to raise equity from the public while only incurring a single layer of tax. That tax is imposed at the unit holder level only. Under current law, MLPs cannot effectively pass-through tax credits or tax deductions (e.g., depreciation) in excess of their income to individual investors, and no proposal has been introduced to modify those limitations.
Therefore, the proposed MLP change does not eliminate the need for tax equity investors or address the shortage thereof. What the MLP change would do is permit “sponsor” equity to be raised from retail investors and create a secondary market for projects that are beyond the tax credit period.
The MLP legislation has bi-partisan support. Besides Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who reintroduced the bill in April, supporters include Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. On the Republican side, supporters include Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
A similar bill was introduced in the House in August by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and was co-sponsored by 18 other Democratic House members. In addition, the White House appears to support the proposal.
The MLP expansion also has some odd allies when it comes to trade associations. For example, the proposal has been endorsed by the American Petroleum Institute (API). There are two potential rationales for that support. The first is that API may believe that the MLP rules are less likely to be a sacrificial lamb in the tax reform process if the renewables industry is also a beneficiary of the rules. The second is that API may hope to couch the expansion of the MLP rules as a trade for allowing the PTC and ITC to expire.
For that reason, the support from the renewable energy trade associations has been somewhat tepid. They would like to see the MLP rules expanded but not at the expense of tax credits. The financial benefit of the MLP rule expansion is a fraction of the value of the tax credits.
There has not been an analysis prepared yet that compares the value of the MLP expansion to the value of MACRS.
However, if Baucus carries through on the suggestion that he would improve and make permanent the PTC and that is combined with an expansion of the MLP rules, it would constitute a proposal that would merit careful analysis by the wind industry. It would be a novel experience for wind developers to be able to make long-term plans that do not have to account for the possibility that the PTC may lapse.
December 2, 2013 – Offshore Wind Growth Expected to 'Remain Solid' to 2020
Growth for the global offshore wind industry is expected to remain solid and lead to 25 GW of new capacity from 2013 to 2020, according to a new report from MAKE Consulting.
Short-term demand in Europe - the main market region for offshore wind - is set to stabilize pending policy clarification and implementation. However, MAKE notes the outlook beyond 2020 remains highly dependent on timely clarification of long-term policy commitments to offshore wind and progress in reducing the levelized cost of energy.
According to the report, policy changes and grid-connection delays in Europe continue to challenge offshore wind development in the region, and all eyes are on Germany and U.K. as targets have been reduced or delayed. Recent developments such as the new feed-in-tariff-based CfD support scheme in the U.K. and the extension of the Stauchungsmodell in Germany, however, have allayed fears and renewed investor confidence in the midterm, the report adds.
MAKE says that while European leaders remain ambivalent about their 2030 targets, China is expected to race ahead and spearhead development toward the end of this decade and beyond. The Chinese National Energy Administration has already mapped out a long-term plan for wind power by 2050, and MAKE expects offshore wind to play a prominent role in the region post-2020. The report notes development in the Americas will be limited to a few demonstration projects this decade, with significant growth expected only beyond 2020.
The report says offshore asset ownership will remain dominated by European utilities and developers, with DONG Energy, Vattenfall and E.ON at the forefront. European utilities' weakened balance sheets will usher in an emergence of new and innovative project financing models over the next few years, the report continues. As the traditional norms of financing evolve, MAKE expects capital injections from unconventional sources such as banks and pension funds to increase and the trend of utility/independent power producer co-ownership to intensify.
Globally, a number of next-generation 5 MW+ turbines were tested this year, and MAKE estimates the global average offshore turbine rating to increase from 3.8 MW in 2012 to almost double that in 2017. The report says Siemens maintained its strong offshore market leadership in 2012, but competition will intensify as other players such as Areva, Alstom or the Vestas/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joint venture rush to commercialize their 5 MW+ offshore models. Furthermore, relatively flat near-term growth is expected to prompt competition as turbine original equipment manufacturers race to secure orders.
The report also says the trend toward larger projects in deeper waters further from shore continues to drive technology changes. MAKE expects jackets to overtake monopiles as the dominant offshore foundation structure from 2016 and high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) export cable technology to dominate offshore transmission by 2017. However, the report notes bottlenecks in HVDC technology continue to impede offshore development in Europe, as multiple offshore projects with finished installation during 2013 stand idle due to extensive delays in offshore grid expansion.
November 27, 2013 – U.S. Wind Power: Cutting Pollution, Saving Water
Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity pollutes our air, contributes to global warming, and consumes vast amounts of water - harming our rivers and lakes and leaving less water for other uses. In contrast, wind energy produces no air pollution, makes no contribution to global warming and uses no water.
The U.S.' wind power capacity has quadrupled in the last five years, and wind energy now generates as much electricity as is used every year in Georgia. Thanks to wind energy, the U.S. uses less water for power plants and produces less carbon pollution.
The nation has vast wind energy resources, and there is still plenty of room for growth. But the pending expiration of federal tax incentives threatens the future expansion of wind power. To protect the environment, federal and state governments should continue and expand policies that support wind energy.
Wind energy is on the rise in the U.S.:
- Electricity generated with wind power quadrupled in the last five years, from about 34,500 GWh in 2007 to more than 140,000 GWh at the end of 2012.
- Wind energy was the largest source of new electricity capacity added to the grid in 2012.
- Nine states now have enough wind turbines to supply 12% or more of their annual electricity needs in an average year, with Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas now possessing enough wind turbines to supply more than 20% of their annual electricity needs.
By displacing electricity from fossil-fuel-fired power plants, wind energy saves water and reduces pollution. In 2012, wind energy helped the U.S. do the following:
- Avoid 84.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution - or as much pollution as is produced by more than 17 million of today’s passenger vehicles in a year. Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are the nation’s largest source of CO2.
- Save enough water to supply the annual domestic water needs of more than 1 million people. Power plants use water for cooling, reducing the amount of water available for irrigation, wildlife, recreation or domestic use. More water is withdrawn from U.S. lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers for the purpose of cooling power plants than for any other purpose.
- Avoid 79,600 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOX) and 98,400 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions. Power plants are responsible for about 15% of the nation’s total NOX pollution each year and about 60% of all sulfur dioxide pollution. In addition, nearly two-thirds of all airborne mercury pollution in the U.S. in 2010 came from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants.
If the U.S. were to continue to add onshore wind capacity at the rate it did from 2007 to 2012, and take the first steps toward development of its massive potential for offshore wind, by 2018 wind energy will be delivering the following benefits:
- Averting a total of 157 million metric tons of CO2 pollution annually - or more CO2 pollution than was produced by Georgia, Michigan or New York in 2011.
- Saving enough water to supply the annual domestic water needs of 2.1 million people - roughly as many people who live in the city of Houston and more than who live in Philadelphia, Phoenix or San Diego.
- Averting more than 121,000 tons of smog-forming NOX pollution and 194,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution each year.
Wind energy’s success in reducing air pollution and saving water will continue to grow if the U.S. makes a stable, long-term commitment to clean energy at the local, state and national levels. Specific policies that are essential to the development of wind energy include the following:
- The federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC). The PTC provides an income tax credit of $0.023/kWh for utility-scale wind energy producers for 10 years, while the ITC covers up to 30% of the capital cost of new renewable energy investments. Wind energy developers can take one of the two credits, which help reduce the financial risk of renewable energy investments and create new financing opportunities for wind energy. Both the ITC and the PTC, however, are scheduled to expire at the end of 2013.
- Strong renewable portfolio standards (RPS). A strong RPS helps support wind energy development by requiring utilities to obtain a percentage of the electricity they provide to consumers from renewable sources. These standards help ensure that wind energy producers have a market for the electricity they generate and protect consumers from the sharp swings in energy prices that accompany over-reliance on fossil fuels. Today, 29 states and Washington, D.C., have such standards - other states and the federal government should follow their lead.
- Continued coordination and collaboration between state and federal agencies to expedite siting of offshore wind facilities in areas that avoid environmental harm.
November 26, 2013 – GL Awards ACCIONA Seven New Certificates for 3 MW Platform
ACCIONA Windpower has received seven new certificates for different models of its AW 3000 wind turbine from GL Renewables Certification. ACCIONA says it now has 15 certificates awarded for the 3 MW platform.
Specifically, GL has issued the design certificate for the AW 125/3000 IEC IIIa wind turbine, with a 125-meter rotor, 120-meter concrete tower and 61.2-meter blade, for grids of 50 and 60 Hz. ACCIONA says the model is specially adapted for sites with low wind speeds.
GL has also given the type certificate for another six models of the AW 116/3000 turbine with a 116-meter rotor. ACCIONA says the certificate indicates that AWP has a quality management system according to ISO 9001, that the manufacture of the main components of the turbine is done in line with quality standards, and that the turbine is capable of passing the prototype tests defined in current standards.
November 25, 2013 – Vestas Launches 'Wind for Prosperity' Venture to Provide Hybrid Systems
Vestas says it is teaming up with Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar to launch Wind for Prosperity. According to Vestas, Wind for Prosperity will aim to provide energy-poor regions with hybrid wind and diesel power systems.
Under the partnership, Masdar will focus on managing the development and construction of Wind for Prosperity projects, while Vestas will focus on wind mapping, site design, and sourcing and refurbishing wind turbines.
"Many of the world’s most underserved citizens rely primarily on diesel generators for what power they have, which is expensive and polluting,” says Morten Albaek, Vestas Group senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
“Wind for Prosperity uses Vestas’ unique weather-data-processing capabilities to identify energy-poor but wind-rich areas where Vestas’ wind hybrid solutions can power social and economic growth.” However, Albaek notes that Vestas will make profits from the venture.
According to Vestas, the first Wind for Prosperity projects focus on up to 13 Kenyan communities that are home to more than 200,000 people. The company says these projects - being planned in coordination with the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, Kenya Power and Light Co., and various government agencies - are expected to supply electricity at least 30% below the current cost of power production based on diesel only.
Frontier Investment Management is actively involved in developing the Kenyan opportunity and, together with Vestas, is exploring potential Wind for Prosperity projects in other African countries.
Vestas says the Wind for Prosperity aims to install the hybrid power generation systems in 100 communities reaching at least 1 million people in the next three years. Additional opportunities are being explored in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Yemen, Pakistan, Vietnam and Nicaragua.
November 25, 2013 – Nordex Unveils N131/3000 Light-Wind Turbine
Nordex SE is extending its Generation Delta turbine platform, which the company launched this spring, with the addition of a turbine for light-wind locations.
The company says its N131/3000 is specially designed for IEC-3 locations and features rotor blades measuring 64.4 meters in length. Nordex is offering the N131/3000 on tubular steel towers with a hub height of 99 and 114 meters for international markets. The target markets for the N131/3000 are central Europe, Scandinavia, Turkey and selected regions in Africa and the Americas.
Nordex says the first light-wind N131/3000 turbine is to be installed in the fourth quarter of 2014. Series production of the turbine is scheduled for 2015.
November 22, 2013 – Renewables Dominate New U.S. Energy Capacity in October
The SUN DAY Campaign, a renewable energy advocacy group, reports that the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) latest infrastructure update shows that solar, biomass and wind sources provided 694 MW of new electrical generating capacity in October - representing 99.3% of all new generation placed in-service.
Twelve new solar units accounted for 504 MW (72.1%) of all new electrical generating capacity in October, followed by four biomass units providing 124 MW (17.7%) and two wind units contributing 66 MW (9.4%).
According to SUN DAY, renewable energy sources have accounted for 32.8% of all new electrical generating capacity for the first 10 months of 2013. This exceeds the total from coal's 12.5% and oil's 0.3%. Renewable sources now account for nearly 16% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity.
“As the threats posed by climate change grow increasingly more dire, renewable energy sources have clearly become a viable alternative to fossil fuels as well as nuclear power,” says Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Accordingly, efforts by some at the state and national levels to roll back support for these sources are clearly misguided.”
November 22, 2013 – Ohio's Clean Energy Law a Success, Environmentalists Say
Now in its fourth year, Ohio's Clean Energy Law (S.B.221) continues to spur investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, according to a new report from the Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center.
Passed in 2008, the Clean Energy Law established benchmarks for Ohio investor-owned utilities to get 12.5% of their electricity from renewable sources and save 22% of their electricity through energy efficiency by 2025, Environment Ohio explains. In addition, at least half of the renewable energy required must be purchased from in-state projects.
“The Clean Energy Law is getting results for the Buckeye State,” says Christian Adams, Environment Ohio state associate. “Four years in, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law is reducing pollution, cutting our dependence on coal and gas, creating jobs and saving Ohioans money.”
The report - “Ohio’s Clean Energy Success Story, Year 4” - finds that between January 2009, when the Clean Energy Law took effect, and December 2012, the law has resulted in 5,000 GWh of cumulative energy savings and reduced peak electricity demand by 1.583 GW. In addition, 313 MW of wind power and 25 MW of solar energy were added in 2012.
“We decided to shift our focus to Ohio from Indiana primarily because of the passage of S.B.221. We knew the law would create a market for clean energy that we could compete for,” comments Dan Litchfield, senior business developer with Iberdrola Renewables. “We are looking forward to further investment in the state and hopefully a higher percentage of Ohio labor now that there are some firms with wind energy construction experience.”
Ohio Environment notes that the report comes as Ohio lawmakers debate a new energy bill. The organization says S.B.58, introduced by Public Utilities Committee Chairman Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, proposes to alter significant portions of the Clean Energy Law, including expanding the ability of large industrial energy users to exempt themselves from the law’s efficiency requirements and eliminating the buy-Ohio component of the renewable energy standard.
Environment Ohio is urging Gov. John Kasich to veto any version of the bill that may cross his desk.
November 21, 2013 – World's Largest Wind Drivetrain Testing Facility Opens in S.C.
In a lavish dedication ceremony, North Charleston, S.C.-based Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) has opened what is being called one of the world's most advanced wind energy testing facilities.
The facility - supported by South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) and Duke Energy - aims to help test and validate new wind turbines, particularly for offshore wind, as well as speed deployment of next-generation energy technology, reduce costs for manufacturers and boost global competitiveness.
Called the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center, the facility will also facilitate research, education and innovation. SCE&G supported the center with a $3.5 million gift.
The Energy Innovation Center can test drivetrains on two test rigs - one up to 7.5 MW and the other up to 15 MW. Weighing more than a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet filled with fuel, passengers and luggage, specifications for the facility’s 15 MW test rig are so large many of its components have never before been designed, notes CURI.
CURI says the facility, located at a former Navy warehouse with access to rail and water transport, will test machinery that converts both onshore and offshore wind to electricity and allow engineers to simulate 20 years’ worth of wear and tear on drivetrains in a few months.
Further, CURI says the facility’s proximity to the coast also makes it ideal for U.S. and international companies to begin testing larger offshore wind turbines.
The $98 million testing facility was funded by a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and matched by $53 million of public and private funds.
“Developing America’s vast renewable energy resources is an important part of the Energy Department’s all-of-the-above strategy to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” said Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of Energy. “The Clemson testing facility represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry - helping to make sure the best, most efficient wind energy technologies are developed and manufactured in the U.S.”
According to CURI, testing and research efforts will encompass many facets of the electrical market to help transform the electrical infrastructure into a more distributed, resilient and efficient system. Focus areas include wind and solar energy, energy storage, and traditional energy sources, such as natural gas and diesel systems. Other areas of focus extend to smart-grid and microgrid technologies, fuel cells, aerospace systems, electric vehicle charging systems, and grid security.
Notably, the Energy Innovation Center also has its first client: GE Power and Water says it will use the center’s 7.5 MW test rig next spring to test its drivetrain technology. The unit will be tested over a period of several months to investigate its robustness, reliability and efficiency.
The Innovation Center also will house engineers with two partner companies: Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and FEV Inc. SRNL will conduct research into grid security and resilience. Germany-based FEV, a developer of advanced powertrain and vehicle system technologies, will establish a research and development center at CURI.
CURI says the 82,000-square-foot facility will also house the Duke Energy Electrical Grid Research Innovation and Development (eGRID) center, a grid simulator that mimics real-world conditions and can help private industry and public researchers better study interactions between wind energy technologies and the U.S. power grid.
The grid simulator will help with compatibility testing, smart-grid technology, modeling and certification. Duke Energy is contributing $5 million to help fund laboratory infrastructure and educational program development and fund a Smart Grid Technology Endowed Chair.
The $10.1 million grid simulator is financed, in part, by a DOE grant and funds from the State of South Carolina and industry partners, including utility companies and certifying bodies.
James F. Barker, Clemson University president, said the facility places South Carolina at the forefront of energy systems testing and research.
“Clemson University is renowned for groundbreaking research, super-computing, engineering and workforce development, but the Innovation Center and eGRID take the university to another level,” Barker said. “The fact two such prestigious companies have put their names on this building undoubtedly will help us attract additional industry partners.”
November 21, 2013 – DOD and NRDC Develop Guide for Siting Renewable Energy Projects
A new primer jointly produced by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) addresses core issues for developing renewable energy sources on or around military ranges, airspace and installations. The guidelines are intended to help developers better evaluate solar and wind projects and avoid potential conflicts with military operations or sensitive environmental areas.
The new renewables siting considerations were developed in concert with the Renewable Energy and Defense (READ) Database, a GIS tool NRDC created that combines geospatial data on DOD installations, military flight training routes, radar and other information, along with data on environmentally sensitive areas, national monuments and other protected lands.
"Our highest priority is military readiness, and we’re working hard to mitigate or avoid any potential mission impacts," says Frank DiGiovanni, director for force readiness and training, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, in a statement. "We're also committed to reducing uncertainty for the renewable energy industry through early engagement and outreach. This document gives clear direction for the many intersecting interests involved in developing solar, wind and other renewables on and around military ranges, airspace and installations."
The DOD has a target of deploying 3 GW of renewable energy on military installations and obtaining 25% of its total power requirements from independent renewable sources by 2025.
The guide is available for download here.
November 21, 2013 – U.S. Navy to Deploy WindSentinel Floating LIDAR
SST will provide overall management of the program, coordination with the Navy, ocean engineering expertise, environmental planning and installation support. AXYS will supply its WindSentinel floating LIDAR system, and DNV GL will provide an independent evaluation of the validity of the system by identifying measurement requirements and metrics to qualify the system for use in wind power development.
According to the companies, the WindSentinel uses the Vindicator III, featuring newly developed simultaneous pulse technology with integral motion compensation, to measure offshore wind speed and direction up to the blade-tip heights of 200 meters.
The Vindicator LIDAR system has passed the initial side-by-side testing process overseen by DNV GL and will be shipped to California for deployment in December for a six-month study to confirm the validity of this technology.
November 20, 2013 – U.S. Energy Dept. Dedicates New Wind Turbine Test Facility
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have dedicated a new 5 MW Dynamometer Test Facility at NREL's National Wind Technology Center.
According to the DOE, the $20 million facility enables NREL to work closely with industry engineers to enhance the drivetrains and other electrical systems in the country's largest land-based wind turbines.
In a typical dynamometer test, the DOE explains, a powerful motor replaces the rotor and blades of a wind turbine. The testing focuses on the mechanical and electrical power-producing systems of a wind turbine, including gearboxes, power converters, bearings and control systems. NREL’s new facility uses a hydraulic device that simulates the rotation and bending that a wind turbine rotor places on a drivetrain.
The 5 MW dynamometer is also connected to a controllable grid interface, which can simulate the power grid and help system engineers better understand how wind turbines react to grid disturbances.
“With record growth over the last decade, as they look to the future, wind developers will be installing larger turbines, including off our nation’s shores, to deliver more clean, reliable electricity to U.S. consumers,” says DOE Wind & Water Technologies Office Director Jose Zayas.
“Facilities like the National Wind Technology Center’s new dynamometer will be instrumental in evaluating new technologies, helping to ensure reliability and reduce both risk and cost for the wind turbines of tomorrow.”
November 20, 2013 – Researchers Developing Technology to Manage Power Flows, Integrate Renewables
Consultants at The Brattle Group, working in conjunction with Boston University and other researchers on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, are developing a new technology that will help grid operators more actively manage power flows, reduce congestion and integrate renewables.
Brattle says the technology, which is based on topology control algorithms (TCA), allows for higher utilization of existing and new transmission projects. The technology gives grid operators the ability to reliably transfer power flows to less utilized portions of the grid, the company adds.
In the event of transmission congestion, Brattle reports that TCA quickly develops alternative network configurations to route some power away from and around the congested facilities by opening or closing selected circuit breakers
November 20, 2013 – Retail Energy Supplier Offering Wind Power RECs in Four States
Corporate Resource Services Inc. has announced that Abest Power & Gas, its joint venture in retail energy supply, and Sterling Planet, a retail provider of renewable energy and other carbon-reduction assets, have entered into an agreement for Abest to offer wind power options to its customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
Under the deal, Sterling Planet will supply customers of Abest with Green-e Energy-certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind power projects. Customers can match 50% or 100% of their use of conventionally produced electricity with the RECs. According to the companies, the average residential customer can expect to pay an additional $0.50 daily for wind energy at the 100% level.
November 19, 2013 – Study: LEEDCo Offshore Wind Project Safe for Lake Erie Wildlife
Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo) has announced that a new report determines its 18 MW Icebreaker offshore demonstration project will have no biologically significant impact on the birds and bats that frequent the Lake Erie area.
"The weight of evidence gathered from studies conducted over many years is quite conclusive," says Dr. Paul Kerlinger, a wildlife expert who authored the report. "Biologically significant impacts to any bird or bat species, including those that are endangered and threatened, are highly unlikely."
According to LEEDCo, Kerlinger drew upon extensive survey data collected at the project location and reviewed the impacts on birds and bats of offshore wind farms in Europe and onshore facilities in the U.S.
Cuyahoga County began using radar at Cleveland Hopkins Airport to track bird migration patterns across Lake Erie in 2008. In 2010, the county installed additional radar equipment and an acoustical monitoring station four miles from the project location at the Cleveland water intake crib. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) also conducted visual surveys at the project site and along the shoreline.
“We want to thank Cuyahoga County for helping collect the data and Dr. Kerlinger for his very thorough analysis,” says Lorry Wagner, president of LEEDCo. “Offshore wind is the best chance for the Great Lakes region to build a significant local source of clean energy. Getting this first project right could unlock the vast offshore wind potential of the entire region.”
LEEDCo says the finding is a milestone as it prepares its applications for the permits required to begin construction on its six-turbine demonstration project. As the project progresses, LEEDCo adds, it will work with regulators and experts to refine the risk assessments and design a post-construction monitoring plan to learn more about wildlife interactions with wind turbines in Lake Erie.
LEEDCo was one of seven national offshore wind developers to win a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant last December. The non-profit plans to file permit applications in early 2014 before submitting a final progress report to DOE in February. LEEDCo will then compete with the other offshore wind projects for one of three $46.7 million follow-up investments from the department.
November 19, 2013 – New Mexico Utility on the Lookout for Renewable Energy Resources
PNM, a subsidiary of PNM Resources and New Mexico's largest electric utility, has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for renewable energy resources totaling 150,000 MWh produced and delivered to customers in 2016.
"We are looking for solid proposals that will help us provide affordable and reliable power to meet state renewable energy requirements," says PNM Director of Resources and Planning Pat O'Connell. "A robust, competitive bidding process helps us identify the best options available to serve our customers with PNM’s expanding renewable portfolio.”
PNM says it will consider cost-competitive offers for asset purchases, design-build-transfer projects or power purchase agreements, in addition to renewable energy certificate (REC)-only bids.
Projects should be located in or deliver electricity to customers in New Mexico. REC-only purchases must be from a facility located in New Mexico. Renewable energy sources sought include wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biomass technologies - the utility emphasizes that fossil fuel and nuclear resources will not be considered.
Currently, PNM says it utilizes both wind and solar to serve customers and has a proposal for additional wind and solar resources in 2014 and 2015 before state regulators. Next year, PNM customers will begin receiving geothermal energy from a newly constructed facility in southern New Mexico.
Those who want to participate in the bid process should submit a notice of intent to bid by Dec. 3 and submit their proposal by Jan. 10. Submissions can only be made using a web link to the request for proposals online bidding platform, posted on PNM.com/RFP.
November 19, 2013 – Duke Energy Carolinas Proposes Renewables Program for Energy-Intensive Customers
Duke Energy Carolinas has filed a new renewable energy program with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC).
Duke says the Green Source Rider is an experimental program designed to give energy-intensive customers, including manufacturers, data centers, college campuses and big-box retailers, the option of offsetting some or all of their energy consumption from new load - such as a new or expanded facility - with renewable energy.
According to Duke, a participating customer will make an application to Duke Energy Carolinas requesting an annual amount of energy and renewable energy certificates to be produced or procured over a specific term.
The company will work to match the supply source and contract term request with generation from a Duke renewable energy source or with energy supplied through a power purchase agreement with a renewable energy supplier, Duke adds.
The company says the electing customer will then enter into a contract with Duke Energy Carolinas for three to 15 years, depending on the terms of the agreement between Duke and the renewable energy supplier.
According to the company, both in-state and out-of-state renewable energy resources may be used to meet the energy requirements of the program, contingent on customer preference and availability to meet contract needs.
Renewable energy generation used to meet customer needs through the Green Source Rider is in addition to generation used for compliance with North Carolina's renewable energy portfolio standard, Duke notes.
"This is the first program Duke Energy has developed that gives customers the option to purchase renewable energy to offset new energy consumption," says Paul Newton, Duke Energy president - North Carolina. "We designed a program that responds to certain customer requests for more renewable energy but that does not adversely affect other customers."
The proposed program is now under review by the NCUC.
November 19, 2013 – Grain Belt Express Clean Line Issues RFI to Kansas Wind Generators
Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, an affiliate of Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, has issued a request for information (RFI) to wind generators in Kansas.
The RFI will gather information about the generators' demand for transmission capacity. According to Clean Line, data collected will allow the company to better understand the cost-effectiveness and production potential of the wind resource in western Kansas.
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a 750-mile, overhead, direct-current transmission line designed to deliver up to 3.5 GW of clean generation from western Kansas to utilities and customers in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east that have a strong demand for renewable energy, Clean Line says.
Interested generators must supply a notice of intent to respond by Dec. 2 and submit their final RFI responses by Jan. 13. More information is available at grainbeltexpresscleanline.com.
November 18, 2013 – New Calif. Transmission Line Could Help Integrate Renewables
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), MidAmerican Transmission LLC and Citizens Energy Corp. have been chosen by the California Independent System Operator Corp. to develop, own and operate a new 230 kV transmission line in the Central Valley region of California.
According to PG&E, the transmission line will span about 70 miles across Fresno, Madera and Kings counties, running from the Gates to Gregg substations, which are owned and operated by PG&E. The utility says the new line will help reduce the number and duration of power outages and bolster efforts to integrate renewable energy onto the grid.
"Today's energy infrastructure is adapting to meet the demands for greater renewable sources, while continuing the reliable service to customers," adds John Cupparo, president of MidAmerican Transmission. "This collaboration with PG&E and Citizens Energy is evidence of MidAmerican Transmission's continued investment to ensure that California's energy infrastructure keeps pace with these evolving demands."
The transmission line would be operational no later than 2022 and could come online earlier, PG&E notes.
PG&E reports that the project needs to undergo an approval process through the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E, MidAmerican Transmission and Citizens Energy will work collaboratively with local stakeholders to determine the optimal routing of the line as part of the approval process.
November 15, 2013 – Facebook Logs in to MidAmerican's Iowa Wind Farm
Social network company Facebook will power its new Iowa data center using wind energy from the 138.6 MW Wellsburg wind farm, which MidAmerican Energy is currently building in the state.
Vincent Van Son, Facebook's data center energy manager, explains in an online post, 'We first started working on this project with RPM Access, a local wind project developer, as we were finalizing our decision to locate in Iowa. Earlier this spring, we transferred our rights to the development to MidAmerican Energy, our local utility, to build, own and operate it."
MidAmerican is developing 1.05 GW of new wind generation in Iowa, and Wellsburg is one of five projects. Work on the wind farm is expected to be complete by 2014, while Facebook's new Altoona, Iowa, data center is slated to begin operation in early 2015.
Van Son notes that the Wellsburg project will likely produce more power than what the data center requires, suggesting the facility will rack up renewable energy certificates. He also notes that Facebook is committed to using 25% renewable energy globally by 2015.
November 15, 2013 – Mexico WindPower 2014 Will Run on 100% Wind Energy
Mexico WindPower 2014, taking place in Mexico City in February, will cover 100% of its power consumption by wind energy and be labeled by WindMade. The Mexican Wind Energy Association, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and E.J. Krause are jointly organizing the event.
In order to qualify for the WindMade label, an event must be fully powered by renewable electricity, the largest share of which must come from wind energy. For Mexico WindPower 2014, this includes the preparation of the event, the power consumption by exhibition and conference, and also the receptions and dinners that are part of the event.
"We are pleased that the WindMade label allows us to 'walk the talk' and ensure that we support the transition toward a renewable energy future in every way that we can," comments Steve Sawyer, secretary general of GWEC.
November 15, 2013 – Xcel Foresees Millions in Savings From Newly Approved Wind Purchase
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has approved Xcel Energy's plan to purchase 698 MW of additional wind energy for its Texas-New Mexico system. According to Xcel, area customers are poised to save an estimated $590 million in fuel costs over the 20-year life of the contracts.
The plan to purchase the additional wind power was announced in July, but it required final approval from the New Mexico regulators. The company was not required to seek approval in Texas. New wind facilities planned for Roosevelt County, N.M.; Hansford and Ochiltree counties, Texas; and Dewey and Blaine counties, Okla., will supply the power.
Riley Hill - president and CEO of Southwestern Public Service Co., an Xcel Energy company - says Xcel Energy has already met and exceeded requirements of renewable portfolio standards in both New Mexico and Texas. The additional purchases are being made primarily for economic reasons, but the new wind resources also support the company’s vision of providing clean energy at a reasonable cost, Hill adds.
“The energy purchased from these facilities has been contracted at a price that is less than the price of power generated at some older natural-gas-fueled power plants,” he explains, later adding, “We will continue to make wind purchases when it makes economic sense for our customers.”
November 14, 2013 – Nebraska Utility Selling Wind-Generated RECs to Medical Tech Company
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has entered an agreement to sell wind-generated renewable energy credits (RECs) to Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BD), a medical technology company, for 20 years.
Through a previously establish power purchase agreement, NPPD is buying all the output and associated RECs from NextEra Energy Resources' 75 MW Steele Flats Wind Farm. The project, located between Steele City and Odell, Neb., came online earlier this month.
Headquartered in Franklin Lakes, N.J., BD is the first industrial customer to receive the benefit of the output from a wind farm operating in Nebraska, NPPD says. The agreement enables BD to utilize 30 MW of generation from the wind farm to offset electricity use from its manufacturing facilities in Columbus and Holdrege, Neb., and is an important milestone for the company’s worldwide sustainability program.
According to NPPD, BD has already met four out of five of its 2015 Sustainability Goals, including a target to source 25% of its global electricity use from renewable energy. This agreement will further increase BD’s global renewable energy consumption, which is currently 35%.
“This opportunity with BD was a unique situation where an industrial customer of our wholesale customers was seeking the opportunity to meet its sustainability goals,” says NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope. “Through many discussions and negotiations, we were able to get BD what they were seeking for their Nebraska operations and their sustainability goal, while at the same time adding to our energy portfolio and moving us closer to our board-established goal for renewable energy.”
With the addition of the Steele Flats Wind Farm, coupled with the planned Broken Bow II Wind Farm to be completed by the end of 2014, NPPD says it will be within 45 MW of its target of having 10% of its energy resources come from renewable energy.
November 14, 2013 – Quebec Releases Final Regulation For 450 MW Wind Power Block
The Quebec government has published the final regulation regarding a call for 450 MW of wind energy. The 450 MW block is part of Quebec's previously announced plan to acquire an additional 800 MW of wind.
The TechnoCentre eolien has welcomed the new clarifications and highlighted some of the key rules. For example, Hydro-Quebec will have to introduce a call for tenders for the production of 450 MW of wind power by Dec. 31; 300 MW of this is reserved for the Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine and Bas-Saint-Laurent administrative regions.
The regulation stipulates that the wind farms must be delivered in 2016 and 2017, rather than in 2017 and 2018 as required by the draft regulation introduced last August. There is also a 35% regional-content requirement for the proposed wind farms.
Furthermore, the regulation stipulates that the local "environment" must control at least 50% of the projects and sets the maximum price for electricity producers at C$0.09/kWh.
“This decision by the government of Quebec, eagerly awaited by the wind power industry, is good news and will secure thousands of jobs,” says Frederic Cote, general manager of the TechnoCentre eolien in Gaspe.
November 13, 2013 – Interior Department Approves Most of 1.5 GW Transmission Line Project
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has approved a majority of the proposed Gateway West Transmission Line Project, a 990-mile, high-voltage line poised to provide up to 1.5 GW of transmission capacity in southern Wyoming and southern Idaho.
The DOI says the Gateway West project particularly expects to tap into the abundant wind energy resources that are being developed in the region. During the announcement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, “The line will strengthen the Western grid, bringing a diversified portfolio of renewable and conventional energy to meet the region’s projected growth in electricity demand.”
According to the DOI, Gateway West is one of seven priority projects of the Obama Administration’s Rapid Response Team for Transmission, which aims to improve the overall quality and timeliness of electric transmission infrastructure permitting.
Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power proposed the Gateway West line as 10 segments originating at the Windstar substation near Glenrock, Wyo., and terminating at the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho, 20 miles southwest of Boise.
The DOI says the project underwent extensive review, with the final environmental impact statement issued on April 26. The department’s Bureau of Land Management has elected to approve eight of the 10 segments and will make its decision regarding the final two following additional stakeholder outreach and public engagement. Once the project proponents meet all necessary conditions identified in the right-of-way grant, they can begin construction for the approved segments, the DOI adds.
November 11, 2013 – University Lands DOE Grant to Research Grid Integration of Renewables
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has granted the University of Central Florida (UCF) a $3.2 million award to lead one of four national consortia to develop distributed technologies to help increase engineering capacity and prepare for a national shift from traditional sources of electricity to renewables, such as solar and wind.
UCF says the award for Foundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resources (FEEDER) is a part of a broader DOE investment of $12 million to increase the nation's capacity to support distributed energy technologies. FEEDER is supported by the DOE's SunShot Initiative and through the Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment program.
According to UCF, the FEEDER center will bring together seven universities (Auburn University, Florida State University, University of Arkansas, UCF, University of Florida, University of Kentucky and University of South Carolina), eight utility companies (including Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Southern Co. and Orlando Utility Commission), two national laboratories (National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory) and eight industry partners (including Siemens, SAIC, LEIDOS and Schneider) to speed up the development of technologies needed to prepare the nation's electric grid to operate on renewable energy sources.
The FEEDER center will research technological components, such as distributed control, optimization, advanced communication, renewable generation and smart grids, to help transform the electric grid, UCF reports.
The university adds that the FEEDER center will also focus on education by establishing a cross-institutional smart grid curriculum; facilitating research collaborations among the academic, utility and industrial partners; and incorporating the latest and most relevant research findings into new educational materials and courseware.
November 11, 2013 – Coalition of Governors Calls For Wind PTC Certainty
Throughout the year, several anti-wind groups have lobbied Congress to end the production tax credit (PTC). However, a group of governors seems to have the wind industry's back and is calling for a multi-year extension of the incentive.
Last week, the Governors' Wind Coalition, a bipartisan group of the nation's governors, sent a letter to leaders of Congress defending the wind PTC. Signed by 11 group members, the letter says the following:
“Almost a year ago, many of our citizens who work in the wind industry were subjected to an unnecessary series of layoffs and hardships because Congress failed to extend the wind energy production tax credit in a responsible and timely manner.
Across the nation - from Oregon to Vermont - thousands of Americans working in one of the nation’s most important growth energy industries lost their jobs. We were witness to the hardships that over 5,000 Americans had to endure when they lost their jobs because of the anticipated expiration of the tax credit.
After Congress passed the tax credit extension in January, the nation’s wind industry began a very troubled recovery. The clearest example is the loss of investments. In 2012, the wind industry invested nearly $25 billion. In the first six months of 2013, the wind industry installed just one turbine - a 99 percent drop in investments.
This Congressionally sanctioned uncertainty has hit the nation’s wind industry incredibly hard. The current wind energy production tax credit is due to expire on Dec. 31, 2013. We respectfully urge you not to repeat the legislative brinksmanship of 2012 and to adopt a responsible multi-year extension of the production tax credit so that the wind industry and related industries can plan for a smooth transition to the expiration of the tax credit.
Our nation has some of the best wind resources in the world, but the lack of stable policy hinders the nation’s ability to develop them fully. The nation’s wind industry developers do not need this tax credit forever, but they do need policy certainty in the near term to bring their costs to a fully competitive level.
Please support our states in the pursuit of economic strength, energy diversity, and consumer savings, by acting quickly to adopt a responsible multi-year extension, even if it reduces in value over time, of the production tax credit.”
A copy of the letter is available HERE.
November 11, 2013 – CAISO Board Approves Western Energy Imbalance Market Design
The California Independent System Operator's (CAISO) board of governors has approved the design framework for an energy imbalance market (EIM), which CAISO says will allow western grid operators to voluntarily participate in a real-time energy market that enhances grid reliability and responsiveness, integrates renewable power, and saves wholesale energy costs.
"EIM marks a step forward in the West to more ably manage current complexities as the electric industry undergoes transformative changes to create a significantly cleaner energy network that enhances the utilization of renewables," says CAISO Board Chair Bob Foster.
"By leveraging the ISO's real-time market, a broad array of resources can be shared and economically dispatched," he adds. "This strengthens grid reliability through enhanced real-time visibility across neighboring grids while matching energy needs with the lowest-cost resources."
According to the system operator, its first EIM partner, PacifiCorp, has been working with the CAISO to prepare for implementation of the market, which is expected to go live on Oct. 1, 2014.
Significant increases in the amount of wind and solar power in recent years require grid operators to hold additional flexible generation in reserve to account for the variability of renewable resources, which are dependent on weather conditions, the CAISO notes. Without an EIM, operators generally must rely on generation assets within their balancing authority for any last-minute balancing.
The CAISO says the EIM includes only its real-time market and not its day-ahead market. Costs between balancing authorities are allocated according to cost-causation principles, and EIM balancing authorities still maintain all the operational responsibilities for serving their customers and maintaining reliability in their areas, the system operator adds.
November 11, 2013 – Senators, Advocates Push For Funded Energy Title in New Farm Bill
Eight U.S. Senators have sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry urging it to include a strong energy title in the current farm bill it is developing. A collection of environmental, renewable energy and agriculture advocacy organizations led by the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) fired off its own letter in support.
On Oct. 30, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair of the Agriculture Committee, opened the first meeting House-Senate Farm Bill conference committee. In a statement, Stabenow set out the committee's priorities as crop insurance, subsidy reform, food aid and soil conservation efforts. There was no specific mention of the energy title.
The letter from the eight senators, which includes the signatures of noted energy title supporters Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, pushed for a number of energy programs by name, including the Rural Energy for America Program, which provides grants and loans to help rural businesses and agricultural producers invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, including solar and small wind projects.
The supporting letter from the AgEC urges the Agriculture Committee to adopt a five-year farm bill that includes $900 million in mandatory funding for the energy title.
Last summer, the U.S. House and Senate wrangled with different farm bills, but no legislation made it out of Congress. The 2008 farm bill expired Oct. 1 with no successor in place.
November 8, 2013 – Need to Downsize Your Renewable Energy Project? CAISO Says It Has You Covered
The California Independent System Operator Corp. (CAISO) board of governors has approved interconnection rule changes intended to enable power plant developers to downsize projects in response to economic and demand issues.
The new interconnection changes will provide an annual process beginning in October 2014 for developers to submit a request to reduce the megawatt size of their projects for any reason. To offset possible effects on other developers, downsized projects will be obligated to finance the cost of any network upgrades that resulted from the original project size. Developers modifying the size of projects will have to provide a $60,000 deposit toward the costs incurred by CAISO.
"Building wind and solar generation or any type of power plant can take five to seven years and the business climate can change significantly during that time span," says Keith Casey, CAISO's vice president of market and infrastructure development. "These enhancements to our interconnection queue enable developers to complete projects without being subjected to risks beyond their control."
Proposed projects enter the CAISO interconnection queue as part of a first step in hooking up to the high-voltage grid. CAISO engineers study the projects to determine interconnection costs and any reliability impacts. The operator says allowing flexibility in interconnection rules eliminates the threat of their interconnection agreement being terminated for failing to meet original specifications.
November 8, 2013 – Kansas Regulators OK Grain Belt Express Clean Line Project
Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, an affiliate of Clean Line Energy Partners, reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) has unanimously approved an order granting a siting permit to construct the 370-mile Kansas portion of a new 750-mile direct-current transmission line.
The line will originate near Dodge City, Kans., and traverse north and east to the Kansas-Missouri border. According to the company, the project is poised to deliver wind energy from western Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east that have strong demand for the energy. The entire $2 billion project is expected to take several years to permit and could begin commercial operation as early as 2018.
The company says it submitted the application and proposed route to the KCC in July after taking public feedback into consideration. “We reached this milestone thanks in large part to the thousands of landowners and community members who provided input in the routing process,” comments Michael Skelly, Clean Line president.
Joann Knight, executive director of the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp., welcomes the decision. “The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will allow Kansas to grow its wind industry for the benefit of western Kansas and the entire state,” says Knight.
November 8, 2013 – Vestas Seeks Hundreds of New Workers at Colorado Plants
Vestas is on the lookout to hire hundreds of new employees at its Colorado manufacturing plants. The announcement comes after the turbine maker, citing financial problems caused by 2012's production tax credit uncertainty, laid off workers at the facilities in February.
However, Vestas reports it has already boosted its headcount at a tower factory in Pueblo, Colo., this year and plans to bring additional workers onboard at three of its Colorado factories: the blade factory in Windsor, blade factory in Brighton and nacelle factory in Brighton.
In September, the company secured three major U.S. orders from Duke Energy (400 MW), RES Americas (60 MW) and EDF Renewable Energy (80 MW), in addition to announcing its first V110-2.0 MW turbine project with EDPR (400 MW).
To meet the growing demand and deliver its turbines on time, Vestas says it is recruiting now and expects to add hundreds of production workers in the first half of 2014.
Do the new hires signal renewed life for Vestas’ U.S. operations? According to a company spokesperson, “We are not done with our two-year global turnaround especially, when it comes to profitability. However, we have very high demand for our products in the U.S. validated by major utilities and developers purchasing out turbines in 2013. We have the potential to secure 2.2 GW worth of turbine orders in the U.S. in the near term and are confident we'll announce more orders in the near future.”
Despite the initiative to ramp up its U.S. plants, Vestas indicated in its third-quarter financial report that it remains committed to reducing its overall global workforce to 16,000 employees by year-end as part of its ongoing turnaround plan.
November 6, 2013 – Pennsylvania Convention Center Opts for Renewables
The Pennsylvania Convention Center has announced that NRG Business Solutions, a part of NRG Energy Inc., will be powering its facilities with a portion of renewable energy for the first time beginning next year. The renewable energy certificates will be generated by sources such as wind, and the convention center says it entered the two-year deal as part of an ongoing commitment to sustainability.
The Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority selected NRG Business Solutions as its electricity provider following a competitive procurement process. The convention center's electricity usage, which is estimated at 26,525 million kWh annually, will include 25% renewable energy as part of the recent agreement beginning January 2014.
“The convention center is a Philadelphia icon, and we’re proud to partner with them on their electricity choice,” comments Scott Hart, president of NRG Business Solutions. “The convention center was originally looking at adding a 15 percent renewable energy component to its supply, but we were able to work with them to achieve a 25 percent commitment while still meeting budget demands.”
November 5, 2013 – Microsoft Buying Wind Power From 110 MW Texas Project
Computer software giant Microsoft has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with RES Americas for the output from a Texas wind project.
In a company blog post, Microsoft says construction work will begin on the 110 MW Keechi Wind project, located near Jacksboro, next year. The wind farm will comprise 55 Vestas turbines and is slated to begin operation in 2015. Microsoft notes that the wind power will flow on the same grid to which its San Antonio data center is connected.
“By purchasing wind, we will reduce the overall amount of emissions associated with operating Microsoft facilities in this region and hopefully spur additional investment in renewable energy in Texas,” the blog says.
Further, the company says the PPA helps further Microsoft’s commitment to become “carbon neutral,” adding that the agreement “will certainly not be our last.”
November 4, 2013 – Vestas Launches V105-3.3 MW Turbine for Windy and Turbulent Conditions
Vestas has unveiled the V105-3.3 MW turbine, an expansion of its 3 MW platform. The company says the new model is aimed at high-wind and high-turbulence onshore sites, as well as markets with tip-height restrictions.
"The V105-3.3 MW has been optimized to meet the need for customers developing projects in markets with tip-height restrictions, such as the U.K. and Ireland. It will also increase annual energy production by up to 22 percent in IEC 1A conditions compared to the V90-3.0 MW, resulting in greater revenue for our customers," says Chief Technology Officer Anders Vedel.
Citing U.K. government expectations, Vestas says the onshore wind market in the region is poised to increase by 3.5-5.5 GW by 2020. Around two-thirds of the U.K. market is restricted to operating tip heights of up to 127 meters, and the region is characterized by high and turbulent wind conditions, Vestas adds.
The V105-3.3 MW has the same nacelle, hub and drivetrain technology as the V112-3.0 MW, with a slightly shorter blade, at 51.5 meters long. Vestas says the prototype for the V105-3.3 MW will be installed in Denmark during the second quarter of 2014, with the first serial delivery available at the end of 2014.
November 1, 2013 – BayWa Taps Signal Energy to Build New Mexico Wind Farm By Year-End
Signal Energy Constructors, a general contractor serving the renewable energy industry, was recently awarded a full design/build contract from BayWa r.e. Wind LLC for the 20 MW Brahms wind farm, located in Grady, N.M.
Signal Energy's scope of work includes full design and engineering of all project civil infrastructure, underground and overhead collection systems, wind turbine foundations, project substations and the project interconnection facilities. In addition, the company will erect the project’s 12 1.65-MW V82 Vestas turbines.
Signal says it began construction on the project in October, and the wind farm is scheduled for completion by year-end.
In September, California-based BayWa r.e. Wind LLC acquired the development assets for the Broadview wind project and renamed it the Brahms wind farm after German composer Johannes Brahms.
November 1, 2013 – DOE Seeks Regional Resource Centers for Wind Power
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is on the lookout for organizations to help the agency and lab facilitate regional stakeholder engagement regarding wind energy.
According to the DOE, NREL has issued a request for proposals (RFP) from qualified groups and plans to fund up to six "regional resource centers" (RRCs) to carry out stakeholder-engagement activities to support responsible development of land-based, distributed and offshore wind energy in regions across the nation.
The DOE says the RRCs will serve as centers of knowledge, working collaboratively with organizations to engage diverse stakeholder groups, disseminate targeted technical information about appropriate wind deployment, and provide forums for constructive dialogue.
The RRCs' geographic position and local networks will enable them to understand regional priorities and challenges faced by each region, the DOE adds. Their activities will focus on reducing conflicting uses to preserve or expand access to quality wind resources.
The RFP is available on the Federal Business Opportunities website, and proposals are due Dec. 5.
October 31, 2013 – Senators Introduce National Renewable Electricity Standard
U.S. Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., have introduced a bill to establish a national renewable electricity standard (RES), which the officials say would create almost 300,000 jobs, reduce pollution and save consumers almost $100 billion on their utility bills by 2030.
As proposed, the bill would require the nation's utilities to generate 25% of their power from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025. The legislation would set a 6% requirement by 2014, followed by gradual increases thereafter to meet the 2025 goal.
The senators, who are first cousins, first introduced a similar initiative in 2002 while members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, they say they have continued the fight. In 2010, Sen. Mark Udall helped introduce a federal standard that did not pass; however, he did help establish a state-level renewable portfolio standard in Colorado in 2004.
"Clean energy creates jobs, spurs innovation, reduces global warming and makes us more energy independent,” says Mark Udall. “This common-sense proposal would extend Colorado's successful effort to expand the use of renewable energy alongside natural gas and coal to the entire nation.”
“I've long fought for a ‘do it all, do it right' energy strategy, and a national RES is a critical part of maximizing our country's energy potential," Tom Udall adds.
October 31, 2013 – Utilities Across the U.S. Are Cashing in on the Lower Price of Wind Power
As many expected, newly installed U.S. wind capacity is taking a steep dive this year. However, a just-released report reveals a major success story of 2013: More and more, utilities are embracing wind power.
According to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) third-quarter 2013 market report, U.S. utilities have locked in more than 5.67 GW of wind under long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) and announced over 1.87 GW of self-builds since the beginning of this year - a total surpassing 7.5 GW.
"It is certainly one of the largest numbers we’ve seen,” Elizabeth Salerno, AWEA's director of industry data and analysis, tells NAW. “Having a PPA is a critical step in project development,” she notes, adding, “In the past, it has been a challenge.”
Salerno says utilities’ increasing interest in wind power is mostly a matter of economics, as the cost of wind has dramatically fallen. Citing U.S. Department of Energy data, she says wind PPA prices dropped 43% on average across the country between 2008 and 2012. Last year, the PPA price range was anywhere from $30/MWh to $80/MWh. And the costs may be getting cheaper still.
For example, Minnesota and Colorado regulators recently approved Xcel Energy’s wind PPAs totaling 850 MW. According to AWEA, Xcel CEO Ben Fowke expects the company to pay only $25/MWh to $35/MWh over the contracts’ 20-year term.
“It’s incredible that they can get 850 MW of wind for that price,” comments Salerno.
Thanks to the favorable costs, she says, another emerging trend is that utilities are buying more wind power than they originally seek. AWEA reports that utilities across the country have cumulatively issued at least 27 requests for proposals (RFPs) for new capacity due this year, including 12 RFPs that specified wind.
Several utility companies, such as American Electric Power’s Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO), have gone beyond their RFP goals in an effort to cash in on the cheaper energy. In fact, the PSO just signed 600 MW in new wind deals, triple the 200 MW that the utility requested.
According to a company press release, “The decision to contract for an additional 400 MW was based on extraordinary pricing opportunities that will lower costs for PSO’s customers by an estimated $53 million in the first year of the contracts. Annual savings are expected to grow each year over the lives of the contracts.”
Of course, renewable portfolio standards also play a critical role in boosting wind procurement in the 29 states - plus Washington, D.C. - that have such policies, but Salerno notes that the price of wind is becoming too attractive to ignore for utilities nationwide.
“Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Tennessee Valley Authority, Arkansas Electric Cooperative - all of these utilities have signed long-term contracts with wind, not driven by policy, but purely by the economics,” she explains.
So, why is wind power becoming more inexpensive? According to Salerno, “There are lots of tweaks and improvements that are being made across the industry to push down costs and push up performance - which lowers the price of energy. We’re reaping the benefits of all that.”
She notes technology innovations, such as taller towers and longer blades, as well as better siting techniques focused on how each turbine reacts with another. Furthermore, she says, operations and maintenance practices continue to become more efficient.
“Year after year, machines are down less and availability is up. The smallest changes of shortening downtime from three hours to one hour can greatly change the output of a project.”
Then, of course, there is the production tax credit (PTC), which many utilities themselves have cited as a major incentive for wind procurement and self-builds. Currently at $0.023/kWh, the PTC helps developers offer better prices and find financial backing.
In 2012, wind power was the No. 1 source of new U.S. generating capacity, installing a record 13.1 GW. This year, however, the industry continues to feel the effects of the late PTC extension in January.
“We knew 18 months ago or more that installations were going to suffer if the uncertainty of the PTC ruled the day,” says Salerno. “And so, here we are.”
According to AWEA, the U.S. wind industry commissioned a single 1.6 MW wind turbine, located at North Dakota’s Lake Region State College, during the first half of this year. During the third quarter, the country saw little more than 68 MW of wind come online. This includes a 1.8 MW project and a 0.9 MW turbine in Alaska, a 42.7 MW phase at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo wind farm in California, and 23.8 MW at Alliance Power’s Colorado Highland project.
“This is a story we’ve seen before,” Salerno says. “As an industry, we’ve been in a situation where the PTC is set to expire, and as we approach that expiration date, the industry activity associated with new project development slows down or entirely halts. That’s what happened in 2012.”
As Salerno explains, most developers were focused solely on completing advanced projects by Dec. 31, 2012, in order to qualify for the expiring incentive. Under the new PTC rules, developers now have more breathing room, as they are not required to complete projects by year-end. Rather, they must meet several milestones, such as spend 5% of the project’s cost and be able to demonstrate continuous construction.
The U.S. is currently home to over 60 GW of installed wind capacity and slowly growing. As of Sept. 30, AWEA reports there were more than 2.3 GW of wind projects under construction, and Salerno expects that number will rise significantly in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, she admits, “This is going to be a tough year.”
Projects are under construction across 13 states, with Texas leading the way with over 530 MW. Michigan, Nebraska, Washington and Kansas round out the top five states, respectively. The bulk of those projects are slated to come online next year or in 2015.
October 31, 2013 – Ohio Veterans Work to Protect State Renewables
On Wednesday, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says 20 veterans from across Ohio met with state lawmakers to educate them about the benefits of Ohio's renewable energy standards. According to the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), local utilities are currently required to have 12.5% of their electricity generated by renewable energy resources by 2025.
Clean energy campaign Operation Free organized the advocacy event, and AWEA says many of the veterans are employed in the renewables industry.
“I’m proud that Ohio has shown leadership in this area through our renewable energy standards, which create clean, homegrown energy options - like wind and solar - that save Ohioans and our military on their utility bills, create thousands of jobs, and stabilize energy markets while ensuring reliable access for a more secure energy future,” commented Zach Roberts, Air Force veteran and Operation Free’s Ohio director.
AWEA notes that the event came after State Sen. Bill Seitz recently introduced S.B.58, legislation that would reduce Ohio’s renewable energy standards if passed.
October 29, 2013 – Vermont Renewable Energy Businesses Call For 20% By 2020 Target
Vermont's renewable energy businesses are calling for the state to meet 20% of its total energy consumption with renewable energy, conservation and efficiency by 2020, according to Renewable Energy Vermont (REV).
REV's board of directors laid out the near-term "20 by 2020" goal to its membership at the business group's annual conference and exposition Tuesday. The group says the goal is critical to address climate change, strengthen the local economy and meet Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, which calls for the state to get 90% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050 across all sectors, including its transportation and thermal heating and cooling needs.
"Vermont has set an ambitious goal, and we can't simply wait to take steps toward meeting it. States all around us, New York and Massachusetts among them, have similarly ambitious goals,” says REV Executive Director Gabrielle Stebbins. “By setting the near-term goal of 20 percent by 2020, we can begin the path to a more renewable and energy-secure Vermont."
According to REV, across all energy sectors - electrical, transportation and thermal uses - Vermont consumes 5,000 MW of energy, with approximately 11% (550 MW) of it coming from renewables.
By 2020, the group estimates that Vermont will need to conserve, supply or contract for 450 MW of new energy through investments in renewable, conservation and efficiency. REV recommends 158 MW of solar, 112 MW of conservation, 68 MW of wind, 63 MW of efficiency, 45 MW of bioenergy and 4 MW of hydro.
In addition, REV has outlined specific policy recommendations for achieving the 20% by 2020 goal, including expanding Vermont's Standard Offer Program to deliver an expansion of community-scale solar and wind up to 5 MW; establishing a carbon tax on fossil fuel emissions; and implementing a renewable portfolio standard on par with other states in the region.
October 28, 2013 – ACORE: Policies Make Midwest a Renewable Energy Hub
Largely thanks to renewable portfolio standards, the Midwest is a renewable energy hub and accounts for over a third of U.S. wind power capacity, according to a report from the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE).
The Midwestern Region Report, the second in ACORE's four-part 6th annual Renewable Energy in the 50 States report, focuses on the clean energy sector in the 12 Midwest states: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
“The past couple of years have seen an impressive increase in renewable energy sector activity throughout the American Midwest. Eight of the 12 states we examine in this new report have strong binding standards for renewable and/or clean energy, plus an additional three have non-binding goals,” explains Lesley Hunter, ACORE’s research and program manager and lead author of the report.
“With strong renewable portfolio standards in place, the political will to protect and expand them, and the market stability they bring, these states are certain to protect their large domestic market share.”
According to the Midwestern Region Report, technologies suited for expansion in the region include biomass, solar, hydropower, waste energy, biofuels and wind, among other clean technologies.
In the report, ACORE says five Midwest states generate over 10% of their electricity from wind energy, out of only nine states nationally. Last year resulted in a 29% increase in installed generation capacity in the Midwest, adding over 21 GW of new wind power to the grid, the report notes. However, ACORE says uncertainty caused by congressional debate over the production tax credit, coupled with transmission constraints, has resulted in far fewer wind power facilities to be built to date in 2013.
“The 12 states that comprise the American Midwest are home to nationally recognized bioenergy and wind energy resources,” says Hunter. “Furthermore, smaller-scale renewable energy sources are also experiencing growth in the region. Midwestern solar power capacity, for example, experienced a 150 percent jump in 2012.
“State renewable portfolio standards have been the single largest driver of this growth and expansion. Only one state of our 12 - Nebraska - does not have any sort of binding/nonbinding standard,” Hunter continues. “It is therefore no surprise to see Nebraska come in last for renewable power in the Midwestern States Installed Capacity Rankings.”
This September, ACORE released its Western Region Report, and both the Northeast and the Southeast Region Reports will come out within the next few months.
October 25, 2013 – Household Products Maker SC Johnson Increases Overall Renewable Energy Usage, Relies on Wind Power
SC Johnson, manufacturer of household products such as Windex, Ziploc and Glade, has increased its use of renewable energy to 30% globally. In its newly released 2013 annual public sustainability report, the company says it plans to increase that number to 33% by 2016 and reveals that it relies on wind energy to help power some of its manufacturing plants.
“This report showcases our commitment to sustainable development and to serving the greater good,” comments Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “As a family company that has been around for 127 years, we have always believed that we have both an opportunity and an obligation to better the communities in which we operate.”
According to the report, SC Johnson last year commissioned two 415-foot-tall wind turbines at its largest global manufacturing plant, located in Mt. Pleasant, Wis. With the help of previously existing cogeneration systems, the company says it is now capable of generating 100% of the facility’s electricity itself, on average.
In addition, SC Johnson has been buying wind energy from a nearby wind farm to help power its Bay City, Mich., plant since 2008. The company also entered a deal in June to buy wind energy for a facility in Toluca, Mexico, and SC Johnson says the agreement will boost its renewable energy use at the plant to 86%.
October 25, 2013 – Liberty Power Donates Wind-Generated RECs to Event in Texas
Liberty Power, an independent retail electric supplier, has announced it will donate wind-generated renewable energy certificates (RECs) to match 100% of the estimated electricity consumption at the 2013 National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Conference and Business Opportunity Fair.
The NMSDC Conference is scheduled to take place Oct. 27 through Oct. 30 in San Antonio, Texas. Liberty Power says it will supply enough RECs from regional wind facilities to offset the estimated usage for the four-day event's venue, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
"It is our privilege to support the NMSDC's commitment to sustainability through the donation of RECs sourced from Texas-generated wind power,” comments David Hernandez, co-founder and CEO of Liberty Power.
October 24, 2013 – Ontario One Step Closer to Eliminating All Coal-Fired Generation
Ontario, which has committed to cease coal-fired generation in the province by the end of 2014, is one step closer to its goal.
On Oct. 23, the province marked the end of burning coal at the Lambton Generating Station. This leaves Nanticoke Generating Station as the last operating coal-fired facility in southern Ontario, which is slated to stop burning coal at the end of 2013.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, closing these plants one year ahead of schedule will save ratepayers C$95 million from reduced maintenance and project costs. In addition, the agency says replacing coal with cleaner generation, renewables and conservation will significantly help ease strain on the healthcare system by eliminating emissions that contribute to illness and premature death.
“Ontario is committed to building a clean, modern reliable electricity system to replace dirty coal-fired generation,” said Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli. “Getting off coal is the single largest climate change initiative being undertaken in North America, equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the road. This initiative will leave a healthier environment, cleaner air for our children and grandchildren.”
Since 2003, the Ontario Ministry of Energy says the province has cut its use of coal by nearly 90%. By the end of this year, Ontario will have shut down 17 of 19 coal-fired units; all of them will be shut down by the end of 2014.
October 24, 2013 – DOE Report Updates Industry on U.S. Offshore Wind Market, Global Trends
Eleven offshore wind projects representing 3,824 MW of capacity are currently in an advanced stage of development in the U.S., according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). These projects, the DOE explains, have at least signed a power purchase agreement, received approval for an interim or commercial lease in state or federal waters, or conducted baseline or geophysical studies at the proposed site.
And that's just one key finding from this year's U.S. Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis, which was authored by the Navigant Consortium for the DOE. Additionally, the report notes global trends in the offshore wind space.
The new study builds on an analysis from last year, and the DOE says it plans to update and publish one annually for a three-year period, providing stakeholders with a reliable and consistent data source. Over time, the DOE adds, the report could help create a road map for accelerating development and increasing U.S. competitiveness in the offshore wind market.
According to the DOE, other highlights of the 2013 report include the following:
- The average turbine size for advanced-stage, planned projects in the U.S. is expected to range between 4 MW and 5 MW, which is larger than turbines being used in land-based applications.
- The main challenges faced by U.S. offshore wind developers are cost-competitiveness, a lack of infrastructure such as offshore transmission and purpose-built ports and vessels, and uncertain and lengthy regulatory processes.
- Transmission infrastructure projects that saw progress in 2013 included the Atlantic Wind Connection and the New Jersey Energy Link.
- Globally, offshore wind development continues to move farther from shore into increasingly deeper waters; parallel increases in turbine sizes and hub heights are contributing to higher efficiencies (capacity factors).
- Developers continue to test a variety of platform and foundation types as the industry seeks to address deeper waters, varying seabed conditions, increasing turbine sizes and the increased severity of wind and wave loading at offshore wind projects.
The full report is available HERE.
October 23, 2013 – Mercom Report Tallies up Wind Deals of the Third Quarter
Total funding in the wind sector came in at $5.6 billion during the third quarter of this year (Q3'13), including venture capital (VC) funding and other equity financings, debt financings and announced project funding deals, according to a new report from Mercom Capital Group.
The report says VC funding dropped slightly in the third quarter to $135 million, compared to $210 million in the second quarter. Mainstream Renewable Power, an independent renewable energy project developer, raised $133 million from Marubeni Corp., making it the largest VC deal this quarter. Brazilian utility Cemig’s $621 million investment in project developer Renova Energia, and the $52 million raised by wind developer Rabbalshede Kraft, were the other equity financing deals in the quarter, the report adds.
Mercom says announced large-scale project funding in Q3’13 totaled $3.7 billion in 28 deals, compared to $3.2 billion in 24 deals in the second quarter. There were a total of 59 investors that participated in project funding deals in Q3. The company also tracked more than 5 GW of new project announcements globally in various stages of development.
In addition, Mercom recorded three initial public offerings (IPOs) in the third quarter - one each in the U.S. (Pattern Energy), Canada (TransAlta Renewables) and Brazil (CPFL Renovaveis) - resulting in almost $1 billion raised.
“With the capital markets thawing and renewable energy industry maturing - especially wind and solar - we are seeing more IPO activity," comments Raj Prabhu, CEO and co-founder of Mercom Capital Group.
According to the report, there were 14 merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions in Q3’13, four of which disclosed amounts, totaling $280 million. Mercom says that after a blockbuster quarter of project acquisitions in Q2, Q3 dipped to 26 transactions for a disclosed total of $177 million. There have been 79 project acquisitions year-to-date compared to 72 in all of last year, the report adds.
Of the disclosed project acquisitions in Q3, Mercom says there were eight project developers that acquired wind projects, seven investment funds, three independent power producers and one utility.
October 22, 2013 – IEA Report Suggests Wind Could Generate Almost 20% of World's Electricity by 2050
Wind power currently generates 2.6% of the world's electricity, but the resource could make up an 18% share by 2050, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In order to achieve this, however, the report says global wind power must increase eight- to ten-fold from its nearly 300 GW today. That would require a jump from 2012’s $78 billion in investment to $150 billion annually, the report adds.
In 2009, the IEA originally forecast that wind power could represent a 12% global share, but the agency says it has increased its long-term target because of recent technology improvements and a “changing global energy context.”
The new report says China will replace Europe as the top wind power producer by 2020 or 2025, with the U.S. ranking third. Nonetheless, the IEA says the global wind sector faces various challenges going forward, including grid integration, funding and overall public acceptance.
The full report can be found HERE.
October 21, 2013 – New Portal Offers Local Businesses a Chance to Work on New Jersey Energy Link
The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) has announced a new supply-chain portal meant to help local contracting and service businesses find opportunities related to the New Jersey Energy Link (NJEL) project.
The NJEL will be an offshore electrical transmission cable, buried under the ocean, linking energy resources and users in northern, central and southern New Jersey. The cable will span the length of New Jersey and, when complete, could carry 3,000 GW of electricity.
The NJEL is expected to be built in three phases over a decade, with the first phase carrying 1 GW of electricity. The NJEL is expected to begin construction in 2016, with the first phase to be in service in 2019.
According to AWC, the process of building the submarine and underground cable system and related electric substations is expected to employ approximately 1,100 New Jersey workers for three to four years, plus a permanent operations and maintenance staff of about 75 workers.
Because it will run at sea through New Jersey’s designated wind energy area, the link can be used to connect and deliver power from future offshore wind farms, AWC adds. Building an offshore electrical substation platform to connect the wind turbines to the transmission system would employ an additional 500-600 local workers for two years for each platform, according to estimates by Bechtel, the project’s engineering, procurement and construction contractor.
“We see great potential in New Jersey to use the skills, talent and resources of local firms and craft workers. Together with the NJ Alliance for Action, we sponsored in January an offshore wind supply chain forum in Holmdel, New Jersey, and the interest from New Jersey companies was terrific - it was a standing-room-only event with over 250 attendees,” comments Robert Mitchell, CEO of AWC.
To register for contracting opportunities on the NJEL, interested companies can visit atlanticwindconnection.com/supply-chain-portal.
October 21, 2013 – Long Island Power Authority Seeks 280 MW of Renewable Energy
The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) has issued two separate requests for proposals (RFPs), including one for up to 280 MW of new renewable energy from resources such as solar, fuel cells and even offshore wind by 2018.
LIPA has had its eyes on offshore wind for years. For example, it had proposed a project to install 40 turbines off the coast of Jones Beach, but it later terminated the project in 2007, citing factors such as strong local opposition and costs. The utility also teamed up with the New York Power Authority and Consolidated Edison on the New York City-Long Island Offshore Wind Project, a proposed 350 MW to 700 MW wind farm located off the Rockaway Peninsula. In June 2011, however, LIPA withdrew its proposal for that project. Nonetheless, a utility spokesperson says LIPA and its partners are engaged in an ongoing study to assess the feasibility and advance the development of the endeavor.
The second RFP is seeking as much as 1,630 MW in the form of new peaking or distributed generation, energy storage and demand response resources to be in service by 2019 or earlier, if possible, LIPA explains. These newer sources of energy are intended to replace approximately 1 GW of 1960’s and 1970’s vintage “peaking” units currently under contract to LIPA.
Both RFPs are part of a long-term energy strategy approved by LIPA’s board of trustees in October 2012. LIPA says the plan is expected to increase renewable energy projects and energy efficiency to a total of more than 1 GW by 2022, making non-fossil energy a material component of the Long Island electric resource profile.
Following LIPA’s announcement, several regional advocacy groups commended the authority for its newest RFPs.
“We welcome the opportunity for offshore and on-site wind, solar, fuel cells and other clean technologies to help meet Long Island’s growing demand for energy safely and reliably,” says Valerie Strauss, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York. “We expect the success of these RFPs to be the start of a continued commitment to clean energy that places Long Island - and New York State as a whole - at the forefront of the national clean energy economy.”
Peter Olmsted, East Coast policy advocate for the Vote Solar Initiative, adds, “Having just passed the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, a diversified and resilient clean energy portfolio will prove critical to meeting the long-term energy needs of Long Islanders. As the state considers the future role of renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand response, LIPA is showing clear leadership by issuing these robust solicitations.”
More information about the RFPs can be found HERE.
October 18, 2013 – California Regulators Set Massive Energy Storage Goal
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has established an energy storage target of 1.325 GW for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric by 2020, with installations required no later than by the end of 2024.
The decision will increase California's installed energy storage capacity sixfold from its current 35 MW (excluding large-scale pumped hydro storage), says the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA).
According to the CPUC, the guiding principles of its decision are grid optimization, the integration of renewable energy, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, per California's goals.
The commission's action, CESA reports, sets targets for California's investor-owned utilities and direct access providers to procure a specified amount of energy storage every two years through 2020, with targets increasing with each solicitation. Some energy storage facilities are expected to come into service as early as 2015, the advocacy group adds.
The CPUC says its decision directs the utilities to file separate procurement applications containing a proposal for their first energy storage procurement period by March 1, 2014.
The decision also establishes a target for community choice aggregators and electric service providers to procure energy storage equal to 1% of their annual 2020 peak load by 2020, with installation no later than 2024, the CPUC states.
"Storage is a game changer that can help people manage their energy use and expand the capacity of renewable resources to provide power to homes and businesses," says Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval. "This decision will spur investment and innovation in energy storage and help Californians unleash their creative and economic power."
This multi-stakeholder process and final decision were set in motion by A.B.2514, which became law in 2010, CESA notes. According to the organization, under A.B.2514, the CPUC was required to open a proceeding to consider developing energy storage procurement targets for California utilities to integrate grid-scale storage into the state's electrical power system if determined to be viable and cost-effective.
October 18, 2013 – U.S. Renewables Outpace Coal, Oil and Nuclear Combined
Renewable energy sources accounted for 30.03% of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed in the first nine months of this year, totaling 3,218 MW, according to a new report from the SUN DAY Campaign.
Citing the latest Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Energy Infrastructure Update, the nonprofit group says renewables provided more new generation thus far this year than did coal (1,543 MW - 14.40%), oil (27 MW - 0.25%) and nuclear power (0 MW - 0.00%) combined. However, the report says natural gas dominated the first three quarters, with 5,854 MW of new capacity (54.62%).
Among renewable energy sources, solar led the way for the first nine months of 2013, with 146 new "units" totaling 1,935 MW, followed by wind power with nine units totaling 961 MW. Biomass added 57 new units totaling 192 MW, while hydro had 11 new units with an installed capacity of 116 MW and geothermal steam had one new unit (14 MW).
According to the report, the newly installed capacity being provided by the solar units is second only to that of natural gas. The new solar capacity in 2013 is 77.36% higher than that for the same period in 2012.
Renewable sources now account for 15.68% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: hydro - 8.32%, wind - 5.18%, biomass - 1.31%, solar - 0.54%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.19%) and oil (4.06%) combined, the report says.
October 14, 2013 – Consortium Readies Floating Wind Turbine for Operation in Fukushima
The consortium developing a floating wind turbine demonstration project offshore Fukushima, Japan, says its 2 MW turbine is slated to begin operation in November.
The consortium includes Marubeni Corp. (project integrator), the University of Tokyo (technical advisor), Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., Hitachi, Furukawa Electric, Shimizu, and Mizuho Information & Research. The project, announced in March 2012, is sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government revealed plans to test the viability of large-scale floating wind farms.
So far, the consortium says it has connected an extra-high-voltage undersea cable and dynamic cable to a 66 kV floating power substation and a 2 MW downwind-type floating wind turbine. Depending on the meteorological and sea conditions, operations are expected to commence on the first phase of the project in November. The second stage of the project will test 7 MW technology and is expected to be complete by the end of 2015.
October 14, 2013 – Climate Change Group Provides C$10 Million to Alberta Wind Project
Alberta-based nonprofit Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. (CCEMC) has announced more than C$46 million in funding for eight renewable energy projects, including C$10 million for a wind farm. According to CCEMC, the eight projects have a combined value of nearly C$390 million.
"Renewable energy is now the largest part of the CCEMC portfolio," comments CCEMC Chair Eric Newell. "With growing global energy demand, it is critical that we continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy will play an important role in helping Alberta to reach emissions reduction goals and transition to a lower carbon future."
CCEMC is providing C$10 million in funding to the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge Wind Project, located in Vulcan County, Alberta. The wind farm, currently under construction, is a 50/50 venture between EDF EN Canada and Enbridge. The project will include 166 Vestas V100-1.8 MW wind turbines and is slated to reach commissioning in summer 2014.
Waste-to-energy, solar and battery energy storage projects were also among those that received investments from CCEMC’s seventh round of funding. Thus far, the group says it has committed funding to 51 projects valued at nearly C$1.3 billion.
October 11, 2013 – Oklahoma Utility Signs Up for 600 MW of Wind Power
Citing "extraordinary pricing opportunities," Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) has decided to enter deals for 600 MW of wind power, even though the utility had originally only sought 200 MW.
PSO says it signed 20-year renewable energy purchase agreements (REPAs) for a total 598.7 MW from three wind projects currently under development in Oklahoma. If approved by regulators, the contracts would provide PSO with energy beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
The new REPAs are a result of a request for proposals issued June 10, 2013, through which PSO sought long-term purchases of up to 200 MW of new wind. The utility says it decided to contract for an additional 400 MW because of low prices, and the company expects it could save an estimated $53 million in the first year of the contracts. To boot, annual savings are anticipated to grow each year over the lives of the deals.
“With these long-term power purchase agreements, we’re adding a significant amount of Oklahoma wind energy, bringing more diversity to our fuel mix, and doing so at a price that will provide substantial savings for our customers,” says Stuart Solomon, PSO president and chief operating officer.
When deliveries of energy from the three new REPAs commence in 2016, PSO, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, will have a total 1,137 MW of wind under contract. The new series of 20-year agreements includes the following:
- 198.9 MW from Seiling Wind LLC, owned by NextEra Energy Resources and located in Dewey County;
- 200 MW from the Goodwell Wind Project LLC, owned by TradeWind Energy and located in Texas County; and
- 199.8 MW from Apex Clean Energy’s 300 MW Balko Wind project, located in Beaver County. According to Apex, the development and construction of the Balko project will provide an estimated $430 million investment in the region, and the wind farm is expected to come online in 2015.
October 11, 2013 – CanWEA Presents its Annual Wind Energy Awards
At its 29th Conference and Exhibition in Toronto this week, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) presented its annual awards in recognition of organizations and individuals who have worked diligently to advance the country's wind sector.
CanWEA awarded the Matt Holder Community Connection Award to TransAlta Corp.'s Terry Kwas., the Friend of Wind Award to Malcolm Hamilton, the Individual Leadership Award to ENERCON Canada's Michael Weidemann, the Group Leadership Award to Rio Tinto for its Diavik Diamond Mine Wind Farm, and the R.J. Templin Award to The Pembina Institute.
In addition, CanWEA presented the Wind Energy Project Award for the first time. The group awarded it to EDF En Canada and Enbridge for the Lac-Alfred Wind Farm in Quebec, Canada’s largest wind farm. CanWEA says the project, commissioned this year, has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to responsible and sustainable development through its initial development, community engagement, permitting and construction.
October 10, 2013 – Oklahoma Co-op on the Lookout for Wind and Solar Power
Oklahoma-based People's Electric Cooperative (PEC) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 75 MW of firm, dispatchable generating capacity, up to 50 MW of wind generation, and up to 15 MW of solar generation.
The 75 MW of firm generating capacity will be used to satisfy PEC's capacity margin requirements, while the 50 MW of wind generation and the 15 MW of solar generation will used to satisfy PEC's internal goal of incorporating renewable resources as a larger percentage of its overall capacity.
Through the RFP, PEC is seeking long-term power purchase agreements, asset purchase options, and tolls with a term of 10 to 30 years, although delivery to the PEC service territory in Oklahoma must start between 2016 and 2018. The RFP also specifies that firm capacity bids must be a minimum of 25 MW, wind resources must be a minimum of 10 MW, and solar resources must be a minimum of 2 MW in size. Finally, all solar resources must be sited on a PEC-controlled site in Oklahoma.
PEC has retained Burns & McDonnell to assist with the preparation of the RFP and to act as an independent third party during the evaluation of bids. Bids are due by Nov. 25, and PEC expects to begin negotiations in the first quarter of 2014.
October 10, 2013 – California Ushers in 600 MW Shared Renewables Law
California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed shared renewable energy legislation that requires the state's large public utilities to develop an additional 600 MW of renewable energy generating capacity. The added capacity is over and above the existing 33% renewable portfolio standard.
The enacting of S.B.43, also known as the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program, requires each of the big three public utilities in the state to file an application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to detail its plan to acquire the requisite renewable energy generating capacity. These so-called “green tariff plans” cover each utility's proportionate share of the total 600 MW of new renewable energy generating capacity called for under the law.
According to the law, renewable energy generating facilities specified in a participating utility’s green tariff plan must not be larger than 20 MW. Of the 600 MW capped total, 100 MW of the added capacity would come from facilities rated 1 MW or smaller located in environmentally distressed or economically disadvantaged areas. Moreover, generating capacity is to be built as close to consumers as is practical.
Customers would be able to purchase renewable energy from their utilities not to exceed 100% of their annual consumption. No given customer would be able to subscribe to more than 2 MW, although there are exceptions for federal, state and local governments, along with schools, colleges and universities. Participating customers will pay a rate established by the CPUC.
The CPUC has until July 1, 2014, to approve or reject a participating utility's green tariff plan.
October 9, 2013 – National Research Council of Canada Announces Energy Storage Program
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has announced its Energy Storage for Grid Security and Modernization research program.
According to the NRC, its initiative establishes new collaborative and co-investment opportunities for the energy storage value chain, including material and technology developers and suppliers, systems integrators, utilities, independent power producers and other end-users. The council notes that energy storage efforts will be focused around client-driven research and development, demonstration and validation, and strategic support to facilitate market adoption.
The NRC adds that integrating renewable energy technologies, including wind and solar, into Canada's electricity infrastructure can be accelerated by overcoming technical and cost barriers to grid-scale energy storage.
"This large-scale, multi-year, collaborative approach will deploy a critical mass of expertise in targeted areas to help resolve the reliability and affordability challenges of integrating new technologies into a modernized electricity grid," says Andy Reynolds, general manager of the energy, mining and environment portfolio at the NRC. "This will help grow Canada's renewable energy sector and create new markets for enabling technology and material suppliers, including the mining industry."
October 9, 2013 – Texas High School Cuts Ribbon on Wind and Solar Energy System
Taylor High School (THS) in Texas hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday to celebrate the installation of the school's new renewable energy system, which consists of a 33 kW solar array and a 1 kW wind turbine, with an integrated computer monitoring system.
Executives from IEEE, the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Heliovolt and Taylor High School Duck University participated in the proceedings.
The project was initiated as a result of the school's Beginners Learning Alternative Designs for Energy (BLADE) Club winning first place in last year's IEEE High School Photovoltaic Design Competition. Leveraging its prize money awarded by IEEE and Heliovolt, BLADE was able to secure $120,000 of funding from the State of Texas for this renewable energy project.
"The installation of the school's new renewable energy system and today's ribbon-cutting ceremony represent an exciting time at Taylor High School," said Danny Ward, THS principal. "In addition to offsetting the school's energy costs, the new system provides students the opportunity to learn about renewable energy from an active system.”
October 9, 2013 – Utility Buying Wind-Generated RECs from University of Delaware
Delaware Municipal Electric Corp. (DEMEC) has announced it will be purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) for three years from a wind turbine at the University of Delaware (UD).
According to a report on UDaily, the proceeds will help fund a student fellowship in wind energy. In 2010, the university and Gamesa commissioned a 2 MW wind turbine on the Lewes, Del., campus, and UD uses the turbine to facilitate wind-related research.
DEMEC CEO Patrick E. McCullar said that the REC purchase furthers the utility’s commitment to wind power in the state, the UDaily report adds.
“We can think of no better way to express that support than to buy wind energy renewable energy credits created right here in Delaware to fund this fellowship and the valuable wind research produced by UD,” McCullar commented.
October 8, 2013 – Galion LIDAR Studying Wind Resource Along Texas Coast
SgurrEnergy has announced that its Galion LIDAR device has been deployed on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas coast to study the coastal wind resource in order to prospect for a potential offshore wind farm. The measurement device has begun a nine-month deployment by Baryonyx Corp., a company in the preliminary stage of development of a commercial-scale offshore wind farm.
The GOWind project, which may use Siemens SWT 6.0MW wind turbines, plans to install three turbines for a demonstration phase. The preliminary site-specific wind resource assessment is beginning with Galion LIDAR’s deployment to inform this first phase of the development.
SgurrEnergy, part of Wood Group, will provide support to Baryonyx during the deployment and will conduct a monthly data analysis and preliminary energy yield prediction to inform the next stage of the project.
“There is a large capacity for offshore wind power in the Gulf of Mexico area, and we wanted to deploy a comprehensive measurement device to ensure that we’re properly informed on the wind resource, which is why we selected Galion LIDAR,” says Heather Otten, chief development officer at Baryonyx.
Baryonyx was one of seven developers awarded a U.S. Department of Energy grant to explore offshore wind projects in state and federal waters.
October 7, 2013 – LM Wind Power Says Production Tax Credit Leads to Jobs
Wind turbine blade manufacturer LM Wind Power says it has doubled its U.S. workforce in less than six months from 350 in April to a little more than 700 in August, thanks to Congress' January extension of the production tax credit (PTC). The company adds that it expects to continue expanding into next year, employing around 1,200 people in the U.S. in 2014.
The additional staff will work in LM Wind Power's factories in Grand Forks, N.D., and Little Rock, Ark. The company says the new employees will help serve demand in the U.S. market, where LM Wind Power is seeing increased volumes from key customers following the PTC extension.
“We are pleased to see that the market is improving again following a period of low activity due to uncertainty around the PTC,” comments LM Wind Power’s Bill Burga Jr. “With the political framework in place, our customers are winning more business again, and we are ready to serve their demand for highly efficient quality blades for the U.S. market, adding hundreds of extra jobs. Now it is crucial that the politicians remain committed to securing a stable economic framework to enable continued industry growth and increased U.S. employment.”
LM Wind Power will have around 570 employees in Grand Forks and little more than 400 in Little Rock at the end of this year, adding another 250 in 2014. With the continued expansion of the workforce, LM Wind Power’s U.S. factories will be among the company’s biggest. LM Wind Power operates 14 blade manufacturing plants across the Americas, Europe and Asia.
October 7, 2013 – Wind Energy Showcased at College Football Game in Iowa
On Oct. 2, MidAmerican Energy Co. supplied renewable energy credits (RECs) from one of its wind farms to a football game between Iowa State University and the University of Texas.
Cyclone Sports Properties, Iowa State's athletic multimedia rights holder, used RECs from MidAmerican's Pomeroy wind farm, located in Pocahontas County, Iowa, to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with the energy consumption of a typical game at the Jack Trice Stadium, located in Ames, Iowa.
According to MidAmerican, the event was designed to educate fans about wind energy, noting that Iowa and Texas rank within the top three states in the U.S. when it comes to total wind-powered energy generation. MidAmerican teamed up with transmission company ITC Midwest and Cyclone Sports Properties as corporate sponsors for the awareness campaign.
The campaign was promoted through more than 30 affiliates on the Cyclone Radio Network, in-game videoboard messaging, and a brief on-field recognition ceremony.
MidAmerican Energy currently owns and operates approximately 2.3 GW of wind generation capacity in Iowa. This year, the company received approval for a $1.9 billion, 1.05 GW wind expansion, which will be complete by year-end 2015.
October 3, 2013 – Gamesa Receives First Order for 5 MW Wind Turbines
Gamesa has announced the company's first contract to supply its G128-5.0 MW turbines. Through the 15 MW order, Gamesa will provide three units of the 5 MW turbines to TuuliWatti Oy, a wind energy joint venture between Finnish energy company St1 Oy and the national retail cooperative S-Group. In addition, Gamesa will perform operation and maintenance services for 10 years.
Specifically, Gamesa will install the turbines at a wind farm being developed by TuuliWatti in Salo, Finland. The wind turbines are scheduled for delivery over the course of 2014, and the facility is slated for commissioning toward the end of next year.
Gamesa says this contract is part of a framework agreement signed by the two parties last year for the supply of 135 MW in Finland. As part of this contract, Gamesa has supplied 18 MW of its 4.5 MW turbines to the Simo wind farm, which is under commissioning, and will also supply 54 MW to the Pori wind farm and 36 MW to the Tornio facility between this year and next.
October 1, 2013 – Survey: 75% of New Jerseyans Want In-State Offshore Wind
The Sierra Club has released a new poll conducted by Monmouth University showing strong public support for developing more renewable energy, including offshore wind power, in New Jersey.
According to the poll, 75% of New Jerseyans favor building offshore wind in the state, and about two-thirds favor Gov. Chris Christie making offshore wind a priority for his administration. The poll also found that two-in-three New Jerseyans believe building offshore wind would strengthen New Jersey’s economy.
"New Jerseyans, like most Americans, understand that investing in offshore wind will grow our economy and create good local jobs at a time when we need them the most,” says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
In response, the Sierra Club says it has launched a new advertising campaign that includes billboards, online and newspaper advertisements with images of Jersey beaches using the tagline: “The Jersey Shore is known for a lot of things. Let’s make wind power one of them.”
The Sierra Club notes that Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act into law in August 2010, but the group charges that progress has stalled. The Sierra Club claims the state’s Board of Public Utilities has failed to implement the governor’s initiative and set the required financing rules that would attract offshore wind businesses and builders to the state.
October 1, 2013 – Vestas Receives 50 MW Wind Turbine Order in Uruguay
Vestas has received a 50 MW order from Fingano S.A. for the Carape I wind power plant, which will be installed in Maldonado, Uruguay. The wind deal represents Vestas' first in the country.
The 17 V112-3.0 MW turbines are scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of 2014, and the wind power plant is expected to be commissioned in the third quarter of next year. The contract for the Carape I wind power plant comprises delivery, installation and commissioning of the turbines, a VestasOnline Business SCADA system and a 17-year Active Management Output (AOM) 4000 service agreement.