Non-Binding Renewable Target Questioned by IEA

iea-logoEurope has released it non-binding target for renewable energy at 27 percent by 2030 and in response the International Energy Agency (IEA) has raised the alarm and is asking for a clear and stable framework. According to the IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report, the absence of a binding target raises questions about how effective the overall target can be. Questions arise because member states would be able to voluntarily define their commitment to renewable energy. The report adds that the framework overseeing these commitments lacks detail.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said of IEA call for stable, binding targets, “The IEA report hits the nail on the head when it comes to ambitious national targets for 2030. Not only is a 27% target too low but it doesn’t oblige member states to follow through. Europe’s Heads of State need to agree in October on a binding 30% renewables target if real progress is going to be made to improve Europe’s energy security, competitiveness and climate objectives.”

The report also recognized that binding national targets and National Renewable Energy Action Plans for 2020 have been key drivers in cost reduction and the mass deployment of renewables, particularly onshore wind. However, it highlights that challenges remain for EU member states to meet their commitments.

The IEA expects installed wind capacity to reach 162.9GW by 2018 based on data for European members of the Organisation for Cooperation and Development. The new figure shows a marginal increase of 2.4GW in the forecast from last year’s report.

“It’s imperative that national governments resist making abrupt changes to support mechanisms that can blindside investors and deter financing of wind power projects,” stressed Wilkes. “Political and regulatory risk is reflected in the cost of capital and a stable framework can go a long way to eliminating these risk premiums.”

Natural Gas, Solar & Wind Biggest Power Generation Additions

eiaSome clean renewables and alternatives to petroleum have added the most power-generating capacity in the first half of this year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says out of the 4,350 megawatts of new utility-scale generating capacity to come online in the first six months of 2014, natural gas plants made up more than half of the additions, with solar and wind making up more than 25 percent and about 16 percent respectively.

Natural Gas

Four plants accounted for the combined-cycle capacity additions — the new Riviera plant (1,212 MW) in Florida, expansions at the Lake Side Power Plant (629 MW) in Utah, and the Channel Energy Center (183 MW) and the Deer Park Energy Center (155 MW), both in Texas.

Significantly fewer combustion turbine plants were added (130 MW) compared to last year (3,120 MW), making the June 2014 year-to-date additions of natural gas plants overall about half the level of the same period last year.

Solar

Solar additions experienced strong year-on-year growth, with nearly 70% more additions in the first half of 2014 (1,150 MW) than in the same period last year (690 MW). About three-quarters of this solar capacity was located in California, with Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts making up most of the rest.

Wind

Wind additions (675 MW) were more than double the amount added in the same period last year (330 MW) and were concentrated in California, Nebraska, Michigan, and Minnesota.

California’s 228 MW of capacity additions came from the Alta Wind X and Alta Wind XI projects of the Alta Wind Energy Center (currently the largest wind farm in the United States at 1,548 MW of total capacity), while Nebraska’s 207 MW came from the Prairie Breeze wind farm. In Michigan, 61 MW of the Echo Wind Park plant came online as well as the 75-MW Pheasant Run II plant. In Minnesota, the 50-MW Lakeswind plant came online.

You can read the full EIA monthly report here.

Renewable Energy Continues to Gain

Renewable energy continues to gain as for the month of July all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put into service was from renewable sources according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update“. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Project’s report fond that there was 379 MW of wind installed, 21 MW of solar and 5 MW of hydropower.

Office of Energy Projects July 2014 Energy Infrastructure UpdateFor the first seven months of 2014, renewable energy has accounted for more than half (53.8%) of the 4,758 MW of new U.S. electrical capacity that has come on line with solar (25.8%) and wind (25.1%) each accounting for more than a quarter of the total. In addition, biomass provided 1.8 percent, geothermal 0.7 percent, and hydropower 0.4 percent. As for the balance, natural gas accounted for 45.9 percent while a small fraction (0.3 percent) came from oil and “other” combined. 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 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • Water – 8.57%
  • Wind – 5.26%
  • Biomass – 1.37%
  • Solar – 0.75%
  • 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,” noted 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.”

Report: No Link Between Wind Farms & Health

According to a new report that reviewed 49 cases heard relating to wind farms and health, 48 cases determined that there was no reliable evidence showing wind farms cause health impacts. The report was released by the Energy and Policy Institute and authored by Senior Fellow on Wind Energy Mike Barnard. The report also highlights 16 persons who have self-identified as experts in wind farms and health, even though they lack credentials or experience that would justify an expert perspective in legal cases. Via the report, all 16 people have been rejected outright as experts or the evidence they submitted was rejected.

Wind Health Impacts Dismissed in CourtMike Barnard said of the report findings, “Countries, states, and towns considering wind farms do not have to worry about legal cases related to health. The evidence does not hold up in court. The witnesses that are brought-in to help by those opposed to wind farms are not actually experts. And despite the disinformation campaign by anti-wind advocates, the courts have ruled that wind farms do not cause health impacts.”

The report also discusses ethical issues that plague a number of anti-wind “experts” who are leveraging no-longer-active or irrelevant medical credentials to lend weight to campaigns against wind energy, and are performing research without oversight.

According to the Energy and Policy Institute, there are about 320 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind capacity worldwide providing safe, clean electricity to the grid, two thirds of which has been added in the past five years. In total, 21 reviews of evidence have concluded that, with the usual minimum setbacks of 400-600 meters, wind turbines cannot make people sick.

Barnard added, “The rapid growth of the wind energy industry has drawn opposition from individuals and local groups claiming health impacts in order to prevent wind farms from being built. But these efforts have not been successful, and for good reason: wind farms do not cause health problems. Government entities and developers should not expect to be held liable for health issues blamed upon wind energy, as the cases have been rejected time and time again.”

Sierra Magazine Releases 2014 Coolest Schools

The “Coolest Schools” in America rankings are out and the top school is University of California, Irvine. Compiled annually by Sierra Club, the rankings focus on America’s greenest colleges. The ranking universities displayed a deep and Dickinson College Studentsthorough commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate issues, and encouraging environmental responsibility. More than 150 schools filled out an extensive survey created in a collaboration between Sierra and the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Using a customized scoring system, Sierra ranked the universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

“For eight years Sierra magazine has encouraged America’s colleges and universities to fully embrace their unique and multifaceted role in tackling the climate crisis and protecting America’s air, water, public health, and beautiful places,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor in chief. “From innovative research and development to powering campuses with wind and solar, to educating students in the most advanced thinking on sustainability, colleges and universities are leaders and models for the rest of society. Sierra magazine congratulates those that made our annual ‘Coolest Schools’ list.”

Sierra magazine’s top 10 schools of 2014 are:

1. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
2. American University (Washington, DC)
3. Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
4. Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)
5. Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR)
6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
7. University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
8. Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
9. University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
10. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

This is UC Irvine’s fifth consecutive year as a top 10 finalist, but its first time as the winner, thanks in part to its three on-campus solar projects, a 19-megawatt turbine cogeneration plant, and energy-efficiency goals that are consistently exceeded. Other factors that helped those at the top of our list: American University has D.C.’s largest solar array; Dickinson runs an organic farm; Stanford is divesting from coal; and USF supplies a solar charging station for electric vehicles.

“The Cool Schools ranking is yet another indication of how deeply young people understand the benefits of clean energy and of how adept they are at turning awareness into action,” said Karissa Gerhke, director of the Sierra Student Coalition. “To capitalize on this power, the Sierra Student Coalition will join with students across the country this fall to launch the Campuses for Clean Energy campaign, a transformative movement that will demand 100 percent clean energy for campuses.

SheerWind Offers INVELOX for Wind Power

There is a new technology available for wind power generation: INVELOX system. The new concept for wind power generation was developed by SheerWind and uses multiple turbines in a row or series to produce greater electrical power output. In essence, the INVELOX system is a large funnel that captures, concentrates and accelerates wind before devlivering it to turbines located at ground level, according to the company.

The company explains that by placing two turbines ina series, power increased by 1.7 times when compared to a single turbine. For example, one 1,000 kilowatt turbine-generator system in an INVELOX produces electrical energy for 341 homes, and two turbines operating in succession produces enough electricity to power 579 average sized homes.

“Because the INVELOX system directs and controls wind, we are able for the first time in history, to place multiple turbines together to produce more energy. This means a single INVELOX tower is able to increase its output— reducing cost per kilowatt— all without additional structure or land use,” said Cyndi Lesher, President of SheerWind “Increasing the ability to operate in areas never before feasible or economical with even less environmental impact.”

In addition, the company explains that because there are multiple turbines in a single INVELOX tower there is nearly no operational downtime because maintenance can be done on one turbine while the other continues energy production. With INVELOX, turbines are installed safely and conveniently at ground level, making maintenance less costly, safer and more efficient, according to SheerWind.

Grassley Adds Biodiesel, Wind Amendments to Jobs Bill

grassley-headA U.S. senator has filed amendments to a jobs bill that would renew the expired wind energy and biodiesel tax incentives… although he admits it could be just political posturing. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants to add the renewals to the Bring Jobs Home Act, which he says really is just political messaging and not a serious jobs bill.

“I don’t expect to be allowed to offer my amendments because the Senate majority leader shuts out amendments from the Republican side,” Grassley said. “But I want to draw attention to the potential growth in a sector of the economy that’s right under our noses. This area could get a real boost if the majority in Congress chooses to act to restore these tax incentives.

“In fact, if the majority leader were really interested in jobs, he would devote floor time to debating and processing the pending bipartisan tax extenders legislation as it should be processed, in its entirety, to provide certainty to businesses and individuals alike. There’s no reason this tax relief legislation should be left to sit on the sidelines. Instead, it should be front and center in any effort to spur job-generating economic activity.”

Grassley had already secured renewal of the expired wind energy and biodiesel tax provisions, which expired at the beginning of this year, in a tax measure passed out of the Finance Committee back in April, but that bill is still awaiting action from the full Senate.

Renewable Energy Provides 56% of Electrical Generation

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7% (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed) of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014.

  • Solar provided 32.1% (1,131 MW)
  • Wind provided 19.8% (699 MW)
  • Biomass provided 2.5% (87 MW)
  • Geothermal provided 0.9% (32 MW)
  • Hydropower provided 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

solar installationAccording to the SUN DAY Campaign, the dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity in 2014 is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Over the past 30 months (i.e., since January 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, then renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past 3 1/2 years. In fact, since January 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: water – 8.57%, wind – 5.26%, biomass – 1.37%, solar – 0.75%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. 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.

“A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that renewable energy sources will account for only 24% of new capacity additions between now and 2040,” Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted. “However, the latest FERC data coupled with that published during the past several years indicate that EIA’s numbers are once again low-balling the likely share – and probably dominant share – of renewables in the nation’s future energy mix.”

Wind Power Growth Surging Where Supported

According to Worldwatch Research Associate Mark Konold and Climate and Energy Intern Xiangyu Wu, double-digit growth continued in the global wind market in 2013. In the latest Vital Signs, the writers state that there are 318 GW of wind capacity online today with 35 GW added in 2013. However, the growth 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.

In 2013, offshore wind capacity continued to see growth as projects became larger and moved into deeper waters. Until recently, deep-water 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.

wind_power_figure_1_0It’s these trends, write the authors, that 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 per megawatt-hour (MWh). By comparison, the LCOE of onshore wind installations in various regions of the world is under $150 per MWh, having fallen about 15 percent between 2009 and early 2014.

According to the authors, onshore, wind-generated power is becoming more cost-competitive against new coal- or 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 (which indicates the maximum output of a wind turbine).

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 percent of the global market in 2013, down from 77 percent the year before.

In addition, the writers found that in an effort to maintain profitability, manufacturers are trying new strategies, such as moving away from just manufacturing turbines. Some companies focus more on project operation 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.

Wind Energy Faces Challenges

According to a new paper, “Challenges for Wind Energy’s Future,” although a negligible player in electricity generation, wind energy comes at an exorbitant taxpayer expense. In addition, the report finds that the wind industry faces several likely “insurmountable” challenges to becoming a dependable part of America’s energy portfolio.

Author Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., discusses in the paper that while wind itself may be free, the IPI Ideas Challenges for Wind Energyprice to harness it as a source of renewable energy is not. Matthews reports that wind energy accounted for only 4 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2013, but cost taxpayers a what he calls a staggering $2 billion—a vastly disproportionate tax subsidy as compared to other energy producing industries.

Matthews says it was admitted even by investor Warren Buffett that the wind energy industry would not exist without tax breaks, and the market for it has only been sustained because of government mandates.

  • In addition to its expense, writes Matthews, wind energy’s other key challenges include:
  • It’s unreliable and may not be available during peak usage;
  • It’s shown to be environmentally harmful, for example causing half a million annual bird deaths; and
  • It’s losing favor as a priority with the public.

“The quest for an economy driven by a clean, abundant and affordable renewable energy remains an unfulfilled dream—though not for a lack of lobbying, a supportive media, and lots of government money,” writes Matthews. “Wind energy’s marginal success has come at a huge taxpayer and ratepayer cost. The public’s willingness to continue to pour billions of dollars into wind energy, through higher taxes or rates, appears to be coming to a close.”

Globeleq Inaugurates Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm

Globeleq has inaugurated its latest wind energy project in South Africa. The 138 MW Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is located between the towns of Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp in Eastern Cape and has an estimated annual production of 460 GWh and will provide renewable electricity for nearly 100,000 average South African households.

Jeffreys Bay Wind-Farm-SunsetBack in April, Globeleq marked the start of operations at two solar facilities, the 50 MW De Aar and 50 MW Droogfontein installations on the Northern Cape. All facilities are part of South Africa’s renewable energy program and according to the company, are among the very first large scale renewable power plants to be built in the country.

Mikael Karlsson, Globeleq’s CEO said, “The completion of these facilities is the result of a truly global partnership with the Government of South Africa and Eskom and the private sector of developers, investors, lenders, constructors, suppliers and the local community. It demonstrates significant support for independent private power producers in the region and indicates the sustainability of the renewable energy sector. As the leading African private power company, Globeleq is committed to pursue further investments in clean and reliable power for the region.”

Similar to other countries, South Africa has identified job creation and skills development through development of renewable energy. During the wind farm’s construction, Globeleq said more than 700 people worked on the site, of which 45 percent were drawn from the local community. A percentage of the project’s operational revenues will be reinvested into the local community through socio-economic and enterprise development programs creating the skills needed to support the growth of the renewable energy industry in South Africa.

“What an exciting time to be a part of this industry. In such a short period we have built an alternative source of energy which will provide ongoing benefits for the country and the industry alike,” said Mark Pickering, Managing Director of Globeleq South Africa.

Globeleq is the majority shareholder in a consortium group, consisting of Mainstream, Old Mutual, Thebe, Enzani, Usizo and the Amadla Omoya Trust. Globeleq through its wholly owned South African subsidiary, manages the operation and commercial aspects of the Jeffreys Bay, De Aar and Droogfontein facilities.

Maine Utilities Partner to Improve Grid

Emera Maine and Central Maine Power (CMP) have agreed to jointly develop electric transmission projects in Maine. The goal of all projects is to improve links between southern New England and northern Maine, where more than 2,100 megawatts of wind power development have been proposed. The agreement between the utilities comes in 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.

As the state’s two largest utilities, the companies serve more than 95 percent of Maine’s homes and businesses. The utilities have significant expertise with transmission projects, including the MEPCO transmission line that extends from central Maine to New Brunswick, Canada.

Transmission Project in MaineCentral Maine Power is the state’s largest utility serving 605,000 homes and businesses in the southern third of the state. The company is nearing completion of the Maine Power Reliability Program, a $1.4 billion investment in new transmission lines and substations to reinforce its 345,000 volt bulk power grid.

“Our Maine Power Reliability Program is the largest construction project ever in Maine, and one of New England’s largest transmission projects,” said Sara Burns, president and CEO of Central Maine Power. “It’s a vast and complex undertaking, but four years into construction, the project is on time and on budget.”

Emera Maine serves approximately 154,000 homes and businesses in eastern and northern Maine. Significant transmission projects completed by Emera Maine include the 43-mile, 115,000 volt Downeast Reliability Project, and the 85-mile, 345,000 volt Northeast Reliability Interconnect in 2007.

“Electric transmission can be a significant challenge to new low/no emitting generation sources seeking to enter our New England market”, said Gerard Chasse, president and COO of Emera Maine. “That’s a challenge that our companies have been working together on for some time, particularly in Northern Maine. With this MOU we are renewing and expanding these efforts to identify and develop creative and cost effective transmission solutions to benefit the State and the region.”

The partners 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. Phase Two will include all development activities from design, engineering, siting, through construction bidding.

RES America’s Border Winds Project Blows Ahead

The Border Winds Project is blowing ahead in Roulette County, North Dakota. Renewable Energy Systems Americas has received notice to proceed on construction. The company is the developer and engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project. RES purchased the partially completed project from Sequoia Energy in August 2013. However, when completed, ownership and operation will be transferred to Xcel Energy.

Located near the U.S./Canada border, the 150 megawatt (MW) project is comprised of 75 V100-2.0 MW Vestas turbines. Construction of Border Winds is expected to begin in June 2014 with completion in October 2015. The project is expected to employ up to 300 workers during peak construction.

vestas-v100“Technological improvements in the wind industry continue to drive down the cost of generating clean, carbon-free electricity for consumers,” said Andrew Fowler, chief operating officer of RES Americas. “RES Americas is committed to playing a leading role in developing and constructing wind and solar projects that will further advance a sustainable energy future for North America. Border Winds puts us one step closer.”

Xcel Energy estimates that Border Winds will reduce customer costs by approximately $45 million over the project’s life and avoid approximately 320,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The Vestas V100-2.0 MW turbine, launched in 2013, generates approximately 13% more energy than earlier models at medium wind speeds, according to RES, who expects that the cost of energy generated by the project will be competitive with or below wholesale power prices in the region.

Dave Sparby, president and CEO of Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company said of the project moving forward, “We are committed to meeting our customers’ needs in clean and affordable ways. The Border Winds project is one of four new wind projects under development in our Upper Midwest region. These projects will add 750 megawatts of clean wind energy to our system and demonstrate that we can achieve both environmental and economic benefits for our customers.”

Biofuels and Wind Waiting on Action

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said earlier this year that they planned to issue a final rule on the proposed volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in “late spring or early summer” but spring is gone and summer is here and there’s been no word yet.

grassley-headSenator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said last week that he thought the decision was delayed now until fall. “The fact that they’ve delayed it is a little bit of good news,” he said during an interview on June 19. “The bad aspect of it is that it retards investment in ethanol … and it doesn’t just effect ethanol but biodiesel too.” Grassley said he really doesn’t know when the EPA will announce the final rule, although he does believe it will be better than the proposal released in November. “I don’t think they’ll be that bad, but whatever is less than present law is going to be bad anyway, maybe just less bad.”

Meanwhile, Grassley says the wind energy industry, which is huge in Iowa, is still waiting on Congressional action to extend tax credits. “As a father of the wind energy tax credit, I want to get it renewed,” he said. “It’s part of a package of 53 renewals that have to be passed by the Senate and it’s up to Reid when he brings it up … we don’t get any indication from him on it.” Grassley says he will continue to push to make that happen.

Two Dot Wind Project Completed

Two Dot Wind farmThe Two Dot Wind Project has been completed. The project is located in Two Dot, Montana, and the wind farm is owned by NJR Clean Energy Ventures, an unregulated clean energy subsidiary of New Jersey Resources). The 9.73 megawatt project is the company’s first onshore wind project, which was energized earlier this month. The energy produced will be sold to NorthWestern Energy under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

Mortenson Construction was responsible for the design and construction of access roads, foundations, erection, underground electrical collection system and a 100kV substation interconnecting into an adjacent Northwestern Energy transmission line. The Two Dot wind farm is the fifth wind farm the renewable energy contractor has built in the state to date and its 135th wind project constructed since 1995.

“We are very pleased to support NJR’s entry into the wind industry and to be part of the expansion of their renewable energy portfolio,” said Tim Maag, VP and general manager of Mortenson’s Wind Energy Group. “We value our new partnership and their commitment to furthering the growth of our industry.”

Mortenson will begin construction on their second project for NJR, the Carroll County wind farm, located in Iowa in late summer.