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