Senate Committee Considers Energy Tax Reform

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on Reforming America’s Outdated Energy Tax Code, led by chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“It’s past time to replace today’s crazy quilt of more than 40 energy tax incentives with a
modern, technology-neutral approach,” said Wyden at the start of the hearing, adding that the disparity in how the tax code treats energy sources needs to end. “Traditional sources benefit from tax incentives that are permanently baked into law. But clean energy sources are stuck with stop-and-go incentives that have to be renewed every few years.”

The main goal of the hearing is to focus on extending the dozen or so tax incentives for alternative energy sources such as advanced biofuels, wind, and solar.

aeclogo“The title of the hearing is right,” said Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “Investors are highly sensitive to protections offered by tax law, and today’s energy tax regime drives investment away from viable petroleum alternatives like cellulosic biofuels because oil tax breaks are richer and permanent. The short term fix is extending recently expired and existing tax incentives for clean energy this year, to buttress against those offered to fossil fuels permanently. But any broader discussion about America emerging as the leading energy innovator in the world starts and ends with the federal tax code. It simply won’t happen without serious energy tax reform.”

Among those testifying at the hearing today was former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), now a lobbyist who has represented several energy companies, who spoke against continuing wind energy tax incentives.

EWEA to New Commissioner: Rein in Energy Future

Alenka Bratusek has been named Vice President- and Commissioner-designate for Energy Union and Miguel Arias Canete has been named as European Commissioner-designate for Energy and Climate Action. In response to the news, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is calling on the new commissioner to take the reigns of the Europe’s energy future.

ewea-logo“We look forward to working with Vice President Bratusek and Commissioner Canete on building a new treaty-busting energy union in Europe, which is underpinned by renewables,” said EWEA Chief Executive Officer Thomas Becker. “For a true single energy market to flourish in Europe, energy policy must become the domain of EU lawmakers and should not be shackled to 28 diverging ministries, regulators and agencies at national level.”

Becker said added, “The announcement of Vice President-designate Bratusek, with responsibility for energy union, shows a commitment by the Juncker presidency to make strides toward a single electricity market that places renewable energies, such as wind power, at the heart of European energy security.”

Parliamentary hearings for the new College of Commissioners are expected to commence on the week beginning Monday September 29, 2014.

Polar Bears to Warm Up Elephants at Oregon Zoo

H_slinky-infographic-3What in the world do polar bears and elephants have to do with renewable energy? Lots with a creative use of geothermal energy at the Oregon Zoo where an underground heating-cooling system will improve energy efficiency. Polar bears like it cool and elephants like it hot and with the help of “Slinky” or a geothermal loop, the two endangered species will keep each other comfy. The innovative high-tech system will be buried 12 feet underground.

“Essentially, this system works the same way as your household refrigerator,” explained Jim Mitchell, zoo construction manager. “The condenser that cools the coils in your refrigerator produces heat, which is expelled away from the coils with a fan. Our system has just added another step: capturing that heat for use elsewhere rather than blowing it all away.”

According to Mitchell, heat is created as a byproduct of cooling the polar bear swimming pools at the zoo. And rather than just expel that heat, the geothermal system will direct it through rows of Slinky-like coiled pipes buried deep in the northern section of Elephant Lands.

The ground maintains a constant temperature, insulating the pipes. Then, when it’s time to crank the thermostat, pumps connected to the system will deliver heat to Forest Hall, the 32,000-square-foot indoor portion of Elephant Lands.

The geothermal loop and other energy-efficient design systems are expected to cut Elephant Lands’ energy requirements in half, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and serve as the primary heat source for what will be one of the country’s largest indoor elephant facilities.

Eventually, other renewable sources of heat will be fed into the geothermal system. While it won’t be readily apparent to visitors, the roof at Forest Hall will feature a huge array of solar panels.

“Gradually, we may eliminate the need for fossil fuels at the majority of buildings and exhibits at the zoo,” Mitchell said.

Curator Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo’s elephant program said of the project, “The beauty of this system is in how it gives elephants choice. Most of the time, the elephant family will be able to move freely indoors and out, and we’ll be able to sustainably maintain a comfortable temperature for them.”

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Talk in the Cloud

Plug-In electric vehicles (EV) will soon be “talking in the cloud” as Ford Motor Company collaborates with seven of the world’s largest automakers and 15 utility companies to develop technologies for EVs to talk to the utilities via the cloud. According to Ford, this would help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid.

The pilot program will create a standards-based communications platform for use by plug-in EVs and the electric grids. This platform will enable the utilities to contact vehicle customers who have opted-in to the program, sending a request for those cars to stop charging temporarily to help manage a grid that is DCF 1.0becoming overloaded. This approach uses existing communications technology and standards, such as Ford’s MyFord® Mobile App, and pushes to advance those systems by enabling two-way communication between the electric grid and electric vehicles.

“This innovative platform provides a critical enabler for the next step in vehicle electrification,” said Mike Tinskey, associate global director, Electrification Infrastructure for Ford. “It’s a way for plug-in electric vehicle drivers to be financially rewarded for their willingness to help manage the electric grid.”

Participating utility companies are prepared to offer financial incentives to owners who make their cars available to the grid, similar to utilities offering customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of high demand. Customers who opt-in to the program can charge their cars at a location of their choice and have the ability to ignore the utility’s request to stop charging.

The formal collaboration between the automakers, utilities and Electric Power Research Institute began in fall 2012. However, the concept and application of electric vehicle/grid integration has been studied extensively by numerous research groups for more than 10 years.

Mosaic Launches New National Solar Tech Platform

Mosiac is going national. The first solar company to ever use crowdsourcing investments to finance solar projects has just launched another first of its kind technology platform: Mosaic Places. The technology will enable the nation to go solar one location at a time.

So how does it work? The public can nominate community centers, schools, libraries and places of worship as well as local businesses to go solar. The site already contains nearly 300,000 places across the U.S.

I went to Mosaic Places and checked to see if my friend’s Join Mosaic Put Solar On Western Hills Magnet Centerschool was listed. It wasn’t yet so I nominated Western Hills Magnet Center, an Omaha, Nebraska elementary school for solar energy. The building was built in 1952 and has had no upgrades since. In fact, some rooms have no air conditioning (no, a 100 degree room is not a good learning environment for children). With solar, the school can save money on energy and invest the funds back into the kids. And, it gives these students the opportunity to learn about solar first-hand. This is a perfect example of engaging kids in science, technology, engineering in math (STEM) that our schools need so much more of.

Now that I have my school in the system, it asks for as little as a petition – people just click support (which I already have) to participate. However, serious money can be raised to put solar on a place as Mosaic matches supporters with dollars.

Mosaic Places was born out of a successful New Years pledge launched by Mosaic and actor Mark Ruffalo asking people to #PutSolarOnIt in 2014. While a solar installation was installed, on average, every four minutes in the U.S. in 2013, the nation has put solar on less than 1 percent of the homes and commercial buildings that would financially benefit from solar on their roofs. With thousands of incoming pledges for the #PutSolarOnIt campaign, Mosaic built a platform that would help people achieve their commitments. The product launch comes days before the first national #PutSolarOnIt Day of Action this June 21st, the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year.

Put Solar On It“We have been dreaming about this product for years,” said Mosaic President, Billy Parish. “It’s based on our belief that every building can go solar if the community is behind it. Mosaic has built a product that enables everyone to participate in transitioning the country to 100% clean energy.”

The funds raised are designed to bridge the gap for community buildings whose solar installations may need a few thousand dollars to be financeable by conventional means. For every 50 people that click “support” on a Place’s page, Mosaic will donate $100 to put solar on it. In addition, homeowners who go solar through a Mosaic Place’s page will be eligible to receive a $500 gift, which they can donate to put solar on that place.

Any individual can use Mosaic Places by going to www.putsolaronit.com, finding or adding a Place and sharing their chosen Place with their friends to get supporters and raise funds to put solar on it. Schools, places of worship and other community groups can fundraise to put solar on their buildings by asking their community members to support their Place’s page and put solar on their homes through their Place’s page.

So I want to #PutSolarOnIt on Western Hills Magnet Center. Where do you want to put solar on it?

Six ‘Grand Challenges’ Face the United States

There are six “grand challenges” facing the United States over the next decade according to a report from the national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The challenges include sustainability, water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education. The APLU project was co-chaired by W. Daniel Edge, head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University.

APLU Natural Resources RoadmapEdge said “Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources” is the first comprehensive, nationwide report on research, education and outreach needs for natural resources the country’s university community has ever attempted.

“The report identifies critical natural resources issues that interdisciplinary research programs need to focus on over the next 5-10 years in order to address emerging challenges,” Edge noted. “We hope that policy-makers and federal agencies will adopt recommendations in the roadmap when developing near-term research priorities and strategies.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are:

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

“The natural resources issues with traditional sources of energy already are well-understood,” George Boehlert, report co-author, said, “with the possible exception of fracking. As the country moves more into renewable energy areas, there are many more uncertainties with respect to natural resources that need to be understood and addressed. There are no energy sources that do not have some environmental issues.”

The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Oregon State University, which partnered with APLU and authors from numerous institutions.

Green Gadgets for Earth Day

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with some new gadgets?

Got an email this morning from an industrious PR person touting a book called “Fool’s Return” by Lynda Chervil, “a thought leader and green technology advocate.”

Chervil, who studies the science behind green technology, says environmental awareness has ramped up production of affordable goods that can shrink individuals’ carbon footprints. She shares four devices she says would make a nice gift for Mother Earth on her day.

hybrid-lightAmong her suggestions is the HybridLight Solar Flashlight that never needs batteries, “can be charged from any light source, and they always work.”

There’s also the Bedol Water Alarm Clock. “Imagine a water-powered alarm clock that’s loud enough to scare you out of bed! Bedol’s water clocks run strictly on tap water – no batteries, no nothing else.” And the Pama Eco Navigator Satellite Navigation system that helps save gasoline by providing you with the most energy-efficient routes to your destinations, and feedback on your car’s performance.

Last but not least, the iGo Green Power Smart Wall that helps “cut the suck” of the power “vampires” that use electricity whether we’re using them or not – everything from coffee pots to laptops.

Go on – give your Mother Earth a hug today and get a green gadget!

Ethanol First Spotlight Topic for MyNewHolland.com

MyNewHolland.comToday is the launch of MyNewHolland.com. This new virtual community is set up to provide a meeting place to share information, contribute to farming related discussions and access premium contents and services. It is very simple to create your account by visiting MyNewHolland.com. Then you’ll have access to the features currently active.

A list of features includes:

  • My New Holland: a new online community for all
  • The Spotlight: discussions on a variety of topical subjects in the farming world
  • The first Spotlight: ethanol and renewable energy
  • Valuable information resources: instructional videos, white papers and more
  • Premium content: owners of New Holland equipment and Precision Land Management products gain access to useful materials that will help them get the most from their machines
  • Easy registration and log in through social networks

The Spotlight discussion is a key feature of MyNewHolland.com. Each discussion will feature a guest farmer or industry expert who supports a farming-related topic. All My New Holland members are invited to contribute their comments, opinions, material or images, driving the conversation forward. Each discussion will be open for a number of weeks; subsequently a white paper will be produced and made available for downloading.

Ron Clauson MyNewHolland.comThe first Spotlight discussion topic is “Ethanol: Renewable Energy for America – Profit for American Farmers.” Our guest is Indiana farmer Ron Clauson. His farm has produced corn for ethanol production for the last eight years and he’s passionate about it.

“One hundred percent of the corn and soybeans we produce go into ethanol and biodiesel,” Clauson says. “It makes me proud to be able to say we market our crops to produce fuel that reduces dependence on imports.”

There are several questions being posed in this first Spotlight discussion for you to respond to and your feedback is highly appreciated.

  • Are you producing a crop for ethanol production? If so, what type and why?
  • How would a change in the Renewable Fuel Standard impact your community and you personally?
  • What do you think about the misleading claims against ethanol by critics and what can farmers do about it?

I am very proud to be assisting our long time sponsor in the daily management of MyNewHolland.com in this startup phase. To get some more perspective on it I spoke with New Holland Director of Marketing for North America, Mark Hooper, while visiting headquarters in Pennsylvania recently. He says there are many more features planned for MyNewHolland.com as the community grows and develops.

You can listen to Mark talk about MyNewHolland.com here: Interview with Mark Hooper

So there you have it. The website is live and available for you to create your personal login and let New Holland know what you think, especially about the first Spotlight discussion. See you there.

OSU Spinoff NuScale Goes Nuclear

Oregon State University (OSU) spinoff NuScale Power has been awarded up to $226 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The company is developing a new form of nuclear power and is a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes. Today Reyes has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small “modular” nuclear reactors.

According to NuScale, this technology holds enormous promise for developing nuclear power with small reactors that can minimize investment costs, improve safety, be grouped as needed for power demands and produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The technology also provides opportunities for OSU nuclear engineering students who are learning about these newest concepts in nuclear power.

nuscale-vertical“This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale.”

NuScale said it is bringing closer to reality a nuclear concept that could revolutionize nuclear energy. The Obama administration has cited nuclear power as one part of its blueprint to rebuild the American economy while helping to address important environmental issues.

“OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage.”

News of the NuScale grant award was welcomed by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation. “Oregon State University deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop a promising new technology that the Energy Department clearly thinks holds a lot of potential,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Today’s award shows that investing in strong public universities leads to innovative technologies to address critical issues, like the need for low-carbon sources of energy, while creating private sector jobs.”

OSU officials say the development of new technologies such as those launched from NuScale could have significant implications for future energy supplies. “The nation’s investment in the research of small-scale nuclear devices is a significant step toward a diverse and secure energy portfolio,” said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. “Collaborative research is actively continuing between engineers and scientists at Oregon State and NuScale, and we’re proud and grateful for the role Oregon State plays in assisting them in developing cleaner and safer ways to produce energy.

November 2013 Short-Term Energy Outlook

2013 STEO RenewableThe U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released its November 2013 Short-Term Energy Outlook and Winter Fuels Outlook. The report comes at the same time the 2013 World Energy Outlook was released by the International Energy Agency.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • The weekly U.S. average regular gasoline retail price has fallen by more than 40 cents per gallon since the beginning of September. EIA’s forecast for the regular gasoline retail price averages $3.24 per gallon in the fourth quarter of 2013, $0.10 per gallon less than forecast in last month’s STEO. The annual average regular gasoline retail price, which was $3.63 per gallon in 2012, is expected to average $3.50 per gallon in 2013 and $3.39 per gallon in 2014.
  • The North Sea Brent crude oil spot price averaged nearly $110 per barrel for the fourth consecutive month in October. EIA expects the Brent crude oil price to decline gradually, averaging $106 per barrel in December and $103 per barrel in 2014. Projected West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices average $95 per barrel during 2014.
  • The projected discount of the WTI crude oil spot price to Brent, which averaged more than $20 per barrel in February 2013 and fell below $4 per barrel in July, increased to an average of $9 per barrel in October, driven in part by the seasonal decline in U.S. demand and the resulting increase in crude oil inventories. EIA expects the WTI discount to average $10 per barrel during the fourth quarter of 2013 and $8 per barrel in 2014.
  • U.S. crude oil production averaged 7.7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in October. Monthly estimated domestic crude oil production exceeded crude oil imports in October for the first time since February 1995, while total petroleum net imports were the lowest since February 1991. EIA forecasts U.S. crude oil production will average 7.5 million bbl/d in 2013 and 8.5 million bbl/d in 2014.
  • Natural gas working inventories ended October at an estimated 3.81 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 0.12 Tcf below the level at the same time a year ago but 0.05 Tcf above the previous five-year average (2008-12). EIA expects that the Henry Hub natural gas spot price, which averaged $2.75 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2012, will average $3.68 per MMBtu in 2013 and $3.84 per MMBtu in 2014.

EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski issued the following comments about the findings.

Renewables: “Wind power generation is forecast to grow by 17% this year and by nearly 4% in 2014, accounting for more than 4% of total U.S. electricity generation next year. EIA expects continued robust growth in solar power, with solar generation by the U.S. electric power sector increasing 82% this year and jumping another 84% in 2014. However, utility-scale solar power will continue to be a small share of total U.S. electric generation at less than 1%.”

U.S. Liquid Biofuels: “U.S. ethanol production has recovered from last year’s drought. Ethanol production increased from an average of 806,000 barrels per day in October 2012 to 892,000 barrels per day this October, and is forecast to grow to 900,000 barrels per day during 2014.“ Continue reading

World Energy Outlook 2013 Released

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2013 edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO-2013), technology and high prices are opening up new oil resources, but this does not mean the world is on the verge of an era of oil abundance. The report also finds that the Middle East, the only large source of low-cost oil, will take back its role as a key source of oil supply growth beginning in the mid-2020s. Between now and then, America and Brazil will play a key role in providing oil.

WEO_2013_Cover_WEB1The annual report presents a central scenario in which global energy demand rises by one-third in the period to 2035. The shift in global energy demand to Asia gathers speed, but China moves towards a back seat in the 2020s as India and countries in Southeast Asia take the lead in driving consumption higher. The Middle East also moves to center stage as an energy consumer, becoming the world’s second-largest gas consumer by 2020 and third-largest oil consumer by 2030, redefining its role in global energy markets. Brazil, a special focus in WEO-2013, maintains one of the least carbon-intensive energy sectors in the world, despite experiencing an 80 percent increase in energy use to 2035 and moving into the top ranks of global oil producers.

Energy demand in OECD countries barely rises and by 2035 is less than half that of non-OECD countries. Low-carbon energy sources meet around 40 percent of the growth in global energy demand. In some regions, rapid expansion of wind and solar PV raises fundamental questions about the design of power markets and their ability to ensure adequate investment and long-term reliability.

“Major changes are emerging in the energy world in response to shifts in economic growth, efforts at decarbonisation and technological breakthroughs,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “We have the tools to deal with such profound market change. Those that anticipate global energy developments successfully can derive an advantage, while those that do not risk taking poor policy and investment decisions.”

The availability and affordability of energy is a critical element of economic well-being and, in many countries, also of industrial competitiveness. In WEO-2013, large variations in energy prices persist through to 2035, affecting company strategies and investment decisions in energy-intensive industries. The United States sees its share of global exports of energy-intensive goods slightly increase to 2035, providing the clearest indication of the link between relatively low energy prices and the industrial outlook. By contrast, the European Union and Japan see their share of global exports decline – a combined loss of around one-third of their current share.

“Lower energy prices in the United States mean that it is well-placed to reap an economic advantage, while higher costs for energy-intensive industries in Europe and Japan are set to be a heavy burden,” said Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist. Continue reading

Farm Bill Conferees Urge Energy Funding

The Senate version of the farm bill includes $800 million in mandatory funding for energy programs while the House version contains zero – one of the relatively minor differences in the two bills that could get resolved quickly in conference.

fb-confSeveral senators spoke in support of providing mandatory funding for the energy title during the first meeting of the House Senate Conference Committee on Wednesday. “This title helps our country be more energy independent,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “This is a win-win-win for rural communities and America’s future.”

Sen. Amy Kobuchar (D-MN) said she strongly supports funding for the energy provisions “including expanding home-grown renewable energy” noting that biofuels now account for ten percent of the nation’s fuel supply.

Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) urged his colleagues on the House side to support the senate version for the sake of jobs at home. “We spend over a billion dollars a day importing oil from countries that hate us – they’ll hate us for free,” he said. “Get some mandatory funding for this. It will come back to us economically, it will come back to us in jobs, and it will come back to us in national security.”

The Senate energy title includes increased funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biorefinery Assistance, Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and Biomass Research and Development.

Clarity Needed in Energy Subsidies Debate

Attempts to compare subsidies for different energies in the UK are “apples to oranges” and muddle a skewed debate further, the CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) said today. With the European Commission preparing guidance on public intervention in energy markets, EWEA is calling for greater clarity and more transparency on public support.

Print“At a time when everyone is worrying about energy prices and looking for a scapegoat, we need to know exactly how much taxpayer money different energy sources get,” said Thomas Becker, EWEA’s CEO. “It is therefore alarming when the press claims that EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger is attempting to hide such figures.

“Comparing a price for offshore wind in the UK in 2018 (£135/MWh) which lasts 15 years to a different price for nuclear in 2023 (£92.50) which lasts 35 years is comparing apples to oranges,” he added.

Becker notes these prices are calculated assuming that a new nuclear reactor will last 60 years, which he calls “a world first”. He also points out that they don’t take into account the huge public decommissioning costs – £1.9 billion per year for nuclear in the UK. Nor, said Becker, do these numbers take into account the “incalculable risk to public health and safety” that no-one has yet put a figure to.

“The UK government is injecting an old-school technology, which other countries are relegating to the history books, with a double dose of money – a strike price twice the market price – to keep it alive,” concluded Becker.

Fossil Fuels Still Dominate Energy Consumption

According to new Vital Signs Online trend report released by Worldwatch Institute, coal, natural gas, and oil accounted for 87 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2012. This occurred as the growth of worldwide energy use continued to slow due to the economic downturn. The analysis shows the relative weight of these energy sources keeps shifting, although only slightly. Natural gas increased its share of energy consumption from 23.8 to 23.9 percent during 2012, coal rose from 29.7 to 29.9 percent, and oil fell from 33.4 to 33.1 percent. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2017, coal will replace oil as the dominant primary energy source worldwide.

The report notes that the shale revolution in the U.S. is reshaping global oil and gas markets. The United States produced oil at record levels in 2012 and is expected to overtake Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas combined in 2013. Oil drilling in KansasConsequently, the United States is importing decreasing amounts of these two fossil fuels, while using rising levels of domestic natural gas for power generation. This has led to price discrepancies between the U.S. and European natural gas markets that in turn have prompted Europeans to increase their use of coal power. Coal consumption, however, was dominated by China, which in 2012 for the first time accounted for more than half of the world’s coal use.

Global natural gas production grew by 1.9 percent in 2012, dominated by the United States (with 20.4 percent of the total) and Russia (17.6 percent). Other countries accounted for less than 5 percent each of global output.

In 2012, coal remained the fastest-growing fossil fuel globally, although at 2.5 percent the increase in consumption was weak relative to the 4.4 percent average of the last decade. China increased its coal use by 6.1 percent, and India by a significant 9.9 percent in 2012. Coal use by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) declined by 4.2 percent, as an 11.9 percent decline in U.S. consumption outweighed increases of 3.4 percent in the EU and 5.4 percent in Japan.

Oil remains the most widely consumed fuel worldwide, but at a growth rate of 0.9 percent it is being outpaced by gas and coal for the third consecutive year. The OECD’s share declined to 50.2 percent of global consumption-the smallest share on record and the sixth decrease in seven years. This reflects declines of 2.3 percent in U.S. consumption and 4.6 percent in EU consumption. By contrast, usage in China and Japan rose by 5.0 and 6.3 percent, respectively. Continue reading

Turbines Begin Operation at Echo Wind Park

The first 13 wind turbines at DTE Energy’s Echo Wind Park have been commissioned, with the entire facility set to begin commercial operation by the end of November. The 70-turbine Echo Wind Park in Huron County, Michigan will be operational by the end of 2013 and add another 112 megawatts (MW) to the DTE Energy’s renewable energy portfolio. The wind park, primarily in Oliver and Chandler townships, is sited on nearly 16,000 acres. The Echo Wind Park is the third to be owned and operated by DTE Energy.

echo_wind_park_01The 110-MW Thumb Wind Park reached commercial operation in December 2012. In addition, DTE Energy has an ownership stake in the Gratiot County Wind Park. The Gratiot wind park is a 212.8 MW project. Sixty-four of the turbines are owned by DTE Energy, while 69 turbines are owned by Gratiot Wind LLC, an affiliate of Invenergy Wind LLC. DTE Energy purchases the power from Invenergy’s turbines under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

DTE Energy also announced recently it will purchase the energy from the 20-MW Big Turtle Wind Farm, which will cover 2,800 acres in Rubicon Township in Huron County. The Big Turtle Wind Farm, expected to be operational by late 2014, will comprise a minimum of 50 percent Michigan content and feature new technology advanced by Ventower Industries of Monroe and other Michigan suppliers.

The Big Turtle Wind Farm will have 10 2-MW turbines and will be the first wind park in Michigan to incorporate all Ventower towers. The owner, Big Turtle Wind Farm LLC, is a subsidiary of Heritage Sustainable Energy, a Michigan wind energy producer.

The Big Turtle contract is part of DTE Energy’s efforts to expand the company’s renewable energy resources and meet the state’s renewable energy goals. DTE Energy expects to add more than 900 MW, or 10 percent of its power, by 2015. The Big Turtle contract will bring DTE Energy’s renewable energy portfolio, with contracts signed or projects in operation, to 9.8 percent.