Nebraska Seeks to Export Wind Energy

Nebraska Renewable Energy Exports ReportThe Nebraska Power Review Board (PRB) has commissioned a study that identifies the factors that impact the desirability of developing between 5,000 -10,000 MW of renewable energy for the state. Performed by the Brattle Group, the study also presents options available to policy makers to meet the state’s economic development objectives. The report has been submitted to the Nebraska Legislature for review.

Based upon a review of state, regional, and national renewable energy and transmission policies, The study, “Nebraska Renewable Energy Exports: Challenges and Opportunities,” identifies the following challenges to wind generation developments in Nebraska:

1. Transmission Constraints: Transmission projects currently in development will provide transmission infrastructure sufficient to integrate at least another 2,000 MW of wind projects. However, achieving the considerably higher target of renewable generation in Nebraska would require a substantial expansion of the state, regional, and interregional transmission systems.

2. Limited and Uncertain Demand for Renewable Energy: The regional market for renewable generation is currently saturated. However, demand for additional renewable generation will likely emerge as costs decline relative to conventional resources, wholesale electricity prices increase, coal plants retire, and new environmental policies are implemented. Nebraska will need to better position itself to be prepared to take advantage of emerging new demand for renewable generation.

3. Less Attractive Economics Compared to Neighboring States: Renewable generation developers in Nebraska face competitive disadvantages relative to some other states in the wind-rich Great Plains region, including lower financial incentives and lower wholesale power prices.

4. Greater Perceived Risks: Due to the requirements of the Certified Renewable Export Facility (CREF) process and limited experience in developing renewable generation under that standard, there is a perception among developers that wind projects in the state are more risky and more difficult to pursue than in neighboring states.

The study discusses both the costs and benefits of supporting renewable generation development in Nebraska. If, after considering these tradeoffs, the Nebraska Legislature chooses to promote the development of renewable resources in the state, the authors identify a number of options available to meet these goals.

“Nebraska has some of the best wind in the country but a surprisingly low amount of wind generation installed and under development,” said Brattle principal Judy Chang, a co-author of the study. “Nebraska policy makers and legislators have been working to increase the attractiveness of the state to renewable energy developers. They have already reduced some barriers, including those related to limiting public power condemnation rights. We anticipate that Nebraska policy makers will consider the options laid out in our report to make decisions about further improving the economics and regulatory setting for renewable development.”

 

Senate Passes Tax Extenders

senateFollowing the recent action by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate on Tuesday evening passed the package of tax incentives for 2014 that will expire once again in just two weeks.

For the renewable energy industry, the legislation includes the second-generation biofuel production tax credit and the accelerated depreciation allowance for cellulosic biomass properties, as well as tax credits for alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure, alternative fuel mixtures, and wind energy and the dollar-per-gallon Biodiesel Tax Incentive.

Renewable Fuels Association
(RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the temporary extensions are a step in the right direction, but called on Congress to provide more certainty in the future. “These incentives can help to level the playing field in a tax code that is overwhelmingly tilted toward incumbent fuels and established oil extraction technologies,” said Dinneen. “Congress should be commended for helping businesses and consumers alike. But next year is a whole new ball game and in order to balance the scales and make future tax incentives truly helpful, Congress must take a good hard look at overarching tax reform legislation.”

Noting the short term nature of the legislation, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said, “With this tax bill, the Congress is turning in its tax homework 11 months late…The legislation accomplishes nothing for 2015.”

The bill now goes to the president who is expected to sign it.

Invenergy Wind’s Le Plateau 2 Wind Farm in Operation

Invenergy Wind and the Régie intermunicipale de l’énergie Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine have begun commercial operations at their 21.15 MW Le Plateau 2 wind farm in Québec. Le Plateau 2 is located in the Ruisseau-Ferguson unorganized territory in the MRC d’Avignon, Québec, Canada, approximately 300 miles east of Québec City. The project features nine Enercon E-92 wind turbines, with output purchased by Hydro-Québec Distribution through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.28.21 AM“We are delighted to reach this milestone together with our community partner, the Régie,” said Jim Shield, Chief Development Officer at Invenergy. “Le Plateau 2 enhances our growing presence in Québec and demonstrates our ability to work in partnership with local communities. The Régie is an excellent and innovative example of the benefits of economic diversification in the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region.”

The wind farm is a collaboration between leading North American clean energy company Invenergy and the Régie, a coalition representing MRC’s and municipalities comprising more than 90% of the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine administrative region. The facility is sited nearby Invenergy’s existing 138.6 MW Le Plateau wind farm that began operations in 2012 and also has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Hydro-Québec Distribution.

“Today all of the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine region is delighted with its 2008 decision to establish the Régie,” added Richard St-Laurent, spokesman for the Régie. “The wind farm brings financial benefit to the municipalities through our share of the profits, in addition to the usual host voluntary payments. Our establishing a solid and successful relationship with Invenergy reflects a regional consensus and proves that by working together, we can achieve great results.”

Biodiesel, Ethanol & Wind Lead Energy Jobs in Iowa

advancedenergyeconomy1Biodiesel, ethanol, wind and energy efficiency are the leaders in a survey on job growth in advanced energy in Iowa. This news release from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute says those industries employ more than 22,000 people.

Prepared by BW Research Partnership, a leading workforce and economic development research firm, the Iowa Advanced Energy Employment Survey report is available at http://info.aee.net/ia-jobs-report-14. The AEE Institute published a similar report on California’s advanced energy industry, California Advanced Energy Employment Survey, last week, which is available at http://info.aee.net/ca-jobs-report-14.

Advanced energy comprises a significant part of Iowa’s economy, employing 1.3 percent of Iowa’s total workforce. Employment in advanced energy-related businesses is greater than employment reported for crop production, general freight trucking, and animal production in Iowa.

“In states from coast to coast and in between, the advanced energy industry is substantial and growing,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE and the AEE Institute. “This first-ever survey of advanced energy firms in Iowa shows that energy efficiency, biofuels, wind power, and other advanced businesses are creating jobs and contributing to the Iowa economy.”

While advanced energy jobs in Iowa dropped by 4 percent from 2013, the survey shows advanced energy employment is expected to rise 6 percent in the coming year.

AWEA: Wind Provides Economic, Consumer Benefits

According to a study recently released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), AWEA Report- economic benefits of wind energy in SPPwind energy provides the Southwest Power Pool Region (SPP) with $2.8 billion in societal benefits per year. In 2013, wind energy accounted for 10.8 percent of the electricity produced in this region.

“The economic benefits of wind energy in the Southwest Pool” looked at the effect of wind energy in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska as well as parts of New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri. The study found that one MWh (megawatt hour) of wind energy in SPP, enough to power an average home for one month, provides an average of $109 in economic benefits to society and $7 in benefits to consumers.

The report found four major societal benefits:

  1. Wind reduces the cost of producing electricity. Wind energy is a zero-fuel cost so when utilities use the least-cost power plant first electricity produced from sources such as wind are tapped first.
  2. Wind energy reduces pollution. The reports notes that pollution from fossil-fired power plants, that are shown to harm health, are not currently reflected in electricity market prices. Wind reduces the costs to society in terms of pollution including no production of sulfur dioxide, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases.
  3. Wind energy hedges against fuel price volatility. Wind energy helps to hedge against price volatility because unlike fossil fuels, wind energy is sold at a long-term fixed price through a Power Purchase Agreement.
  4. Fixed-priced wind energy becomes an even better deal as other fuels increase in price over time. Nearly all of wind plant’s costs are fixed up front and the majority of prices are fixed through the PPA. In contrast, the cost of conventional generation changes significantly based on fuel costs. These costs are passed along to consumers.

The report also cites two major benefits:

  • Wind energy protects consumers by reducing use of the most expensive power plants. Because wind energy has a low production marginal cost because it has zero-fuel costs it drives down the market price for all electricity that is being purchased in the market.
  • Fixed-price wind energy reduces consumer prices more as other fuels get more expensive. Fossil fuel prices are expected to increase whereas wind energy is a fixed price and the savings are passed along to consumers.

The report concludes that due to a drastic decline in wind energy adding new wind generation to the SPP will result in significant societal and consumer benefits.

MIT Study Finds Wind Turbines No Risk to Humans

A new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found that living near wind turbines poses no risk for human health. The review took into consideration health effects such as stress, annoyance and sleep disturbance among others that have, in the past, been raised in association with living close to wind turbines.

“No clear or consistent association is seen between noise from wind turbines and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health,” the study found.

JOEMThe MIT authors considered a number of case studies in Europe and the U.S. to assess the impact of infrasound and quality of life for the populations close to wind farms. Although complaints from residents were more common during the construction of wind farms, other technologies such as gas and oil facilities drew more public criticism.

For example, one human health case study based on a wind farm located in northern Poland found that those living next to wind farms reported the best quality of life and those living further than 1,500 meters scored the worst. The report concluded that living in close proximity to wind farms does not result in the worsening of, and might even improve, the quality of life in that particular region.

Iván Pineda, head of policy analysis at the European Wind Energy Association commented on the report. “These results should lay to rest any concerns that some citizens may have with regard to living near wind turbines.”

Measurements of low-frequency sound (LFN), infrasound and tonal sound show that infrasound is emitted by wind turbines but disturbances to homes are typically well below audibility levels. Four large turbines and 44 smaller turbines were investigated in the Netherlands but infrasound levels were not deemed to cause problems and LFN sound in residential areas did not exceed levels from other common noise sources such as traffic.

CRS Announces Green-e Certification

A new Green-e certification program has been launched by the Center for Resource Solutions. The program is targeted to organizations that build clean energy projects or contract for renewable energy from these facilities. Apple, who received the 2014 Green Power Leadership Awards, is the first company to participate in Green-e Direct, which certifies the energy that the company generates from renewable resources and purchases directly including solar, wind and geothermal energy.

Green-e worked closely with Apple to develop the new certification option that offers independent, third-party oversight over the renewable electricity’s chain of custody beginning with generation and ending at retirement. Green-e Direct also offers participants assurance that the electricity will not be double-counted or double-claimed by regulations or other electricity users, and confirmation that the electricity meets the environmental quality requirements in the Green-e Energy National Standard.

Green-e Direct“We developed this new Green-e certification option so that renewable energy leaders like Apple can have the assurances and recognition of Green-e certification for their direct renewable energy purchases and onsite generation,” said Jennifer Martin, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions. “We are excited to continue working with Apple as they set the example for companies looking to power their operations with 100% renewable energy.”

Green-e Direct is intended to encourage long-term commitments by organizations that want to reduce the environmental impact of their electricity use, while providing a way to help recognize and promote leading companies that invest in clean energy. Renewable electricity certified through Green-e is subject to an extensive third-party verification process that ensures the energy meets the highest standards for quality in North America, and is eligible for use in a wide range of environmental standards, including LEED, B Corp., and Cradle to Cradle.

Martin added, “Green-e Direct reduces some of the complexity and uncertainty for companies that contract directly for clean energy. They want a clear message to their stakeholders about the difference they are making, and we can guide them through the complicated tracking and claims process, while certifying their clean energy use.”

Green-e Direct is available through Green-e, a nonprofit certification program that certifies renewable energy that meets environmental and consumer protection standards developed in conjunction with leading environmental, energy, and policy organizations.

Lloyd’s Register Energy Unveils Wind Turbine Cert

Lloyd Register Energy has launched a new Wind Turbine Certification IEC 61400 service. The goal of the certification is to help overcome many of the technical, financial and environmental risks associated with turbine design and manufacturing. It will also ensure that the wind turbine is designed, documented and manufactured to comply with design specifications, specific standards and other technical requirements.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 7.26.54 PMRoss Wigg, VP Renewables at Lloyd’s Register Energy said, “Success in the wind energy industry requires multi-disciplinary competences to understand the wind resource; choose appropriate technology; and design, install, and operate robust projects. With the certification landscape changing, we have launched this new certification service to address a growing need in the market for independent provision of type certification for onshore and offshore wind turbines.”

The Lloyd’s Register Type Certification process is carried out in accordance with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) — IEC 61400-22 — which is an internationally recognized and a mandatory requirement in some regions. It sets out the key requirements for assessment of wind turbine design, manufacturing and testing.

“We feel that clients in Europe, America and Asia could benefit from a fresh, more intuitive, approach while retaining the technical excellence already associated with Lloyd’s Register Energy as an acknowledged independent global certification and classification company,” added Wigg.

The company also has launched a pre-certification ‘SMART Audit’ module specifically designed to plan for innovation challenges in future technology advances. Its experts conduct a full audit of a client’s early stage design, management systems and resource so they can make adjustments where necessary. A pre-certification audit is then put in place to plan for likely technical or innovation challenges which can be worked through in advance and minimizing delays further down the line.

Poll: Americans Want More Wind Power

A recent national poll commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) finds that the majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents want more American-produced wind power; they also back an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC). The poll found 73 percent of registered voters support continuing the PTC, including 63 percent of registered Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, and over 71 percent overall in all regions of the country.

This poll supports similar results from a national survey conducted by USA Today, Standford University and Resources for the Future in December 2013 when the PTC was originally set to expire (it was extended one year). The renewable energy PTC and Investment Tax Credit have a history of bipartisan support, as they did last April when five Republicans joined Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee in an 18-6 vote to include them in this year’s tax extenders bill, the EXPIRE Act.

AWEA PTC chart“These poll results couldn’t be clearer. American voters support wind power and support continuing the incentive for investment in wind power,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA. “It’s time for Congress to do what the majority of Americans want – and that means extending the Production Tax Credit so we can keep scaling up this critically important American energy source.”

The latest poll also found 79 percent of registered voters, including 69 percent of Republicans, agree with the statement “incentives for investment in wind energy help American workers make more of our own energy right here in America.” The data finds that in nearly all regions, the PTC is essential if new wind installations and cost reductions are to continue and benefit more consumers. According to AWEA, failures to continue the PTC by Congress in the past has caused an up to 92 percent drop in new wind power installations over the previous year, causing the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in private investment to the U.S. economy.

U.S. Census Bureau Releases Renewable Energy Stats

For the first time the U.S. Census Bureau is now publishing economic census statistics for wind, geothermal, biomass and solar electric power generation. Between 2007 and 2012 revenues rose 49 percent from $6.6 billion to $9.8 billion. The electric power generation industry saw an overall decline of 1.2 percent in revenues from $121.0 billion to $119.5 billion between 2007 and 2012. The overall decline was driven by the fossil fuel electric power generation industry, which saw revenues decrease from $85.4 billion to $79.7 billion, or 6.7 percent, during the same five-year period.

Renewable Energy RevenueIn the 2007 Economic Census, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar electric power generation were included in the broad “other electric power generation” industry but were not given separate designations. Beginning in the 2012 Economic Census, these industries had been broken out with the “other electric power generation” industry limited to only tidal electric power generation and other electric power generation facilities not elsewhere classified. Among the newly delineated industries (wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and other electric power generation), the number of establishments more than doubled in five years, from 312 in 2007 to 697 in 2012.

“As industries evolve, so does the Census Bureau to continue to collect relevant data that informs America’s business decisions,” said Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson. “Industries that use renewable energy resources are still relatively small, but they are rapidly growing.”

Specifically revenues for the wind electric power generation industry totaled $5.0 billion in 2012, the highest revenues among the industries using renewable energy resources. Hydroelectric power generation followed with revenues of $2.4 billion. Geothermal electric power generation had revenues of just under $1 billion ($995.4 million), followed by biomass electric power generation, with $934.6 million in revenues, solar electric power generation, with $472.4 million, and other electric power generation, with $59.0 million.

Together, these industries were a relatively small portion of the electric power generation industry, collectively accounting for just 8.2 percent ($9.8 billion) of total industry revenues in 2012. Fossil fuel and nuclear electric power generation are still the major revenue sources of the electric power generation industry, comprising 66.7 percent ($79.7 billion) and 25.1 percent ($29.9 billion), respectively, of total revenues.

Wind Power Sees Gain in U.S.

Wind power provided over two-thirds (68.41%) of new electrical generating capacity in October 2014 in the U.S. according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report. Five wind farms came online during the month in Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas and Colorado. These projects added 574 MW of new capacity.

eiaIn addition, seven “units” of biomass (102 MW) and five units of solar (31 MW) came online accounting for 12.16% and 3.69% of new capacity respectively. The balance came from three units of natural gas (132 MW – 15.73%). Moreover, for the eighth time in the past ten months, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for the majority of new U.S. electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas took the lead in the other two months (April and August).

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.39 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • hydro- 8.44%
  • wind – 5.39%
  • biomass – 1.38%
  • solar – 0.85%
  • geothermal steam – 0.33%

“Congress is debating whether to renew the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The continued rapid growth of these technologies confirms that the PTC has proven to be a very sound investment.”

ACCIONA Windpower to Supply IKEA Turbines

Apex Clean Energy has selected ACCIONA Windpower to provide wind turbines for its 165 MW Cameron Wind farm that will be purchased by IKEA upon completion. The Brownsville, Texas wind farm will feature the first U.S. installation of AW125/3000 turbines. Each turbine will have a rotor diameter of 125 meters and a 3 megawatt generator mounted on an 87.5 meter steel tower. The agreement includes the supply of 55 ACCIONA Windpower AW125/3000 turbines and a 20-year Full Service Warranty.

Acciona logo“ACCIONA and IKEA share the same commitment to a clean energy future, and we are proud that our innovative wind technology was selected to help IKEA meet its global sustainability goals. We are also pleased to collaborate with Apex Clean Energy, a prominent and respected wind energy company,” said Rafael Mateo, CEO of ACCIONA Energy.

ACCIONA plans to begin turbine deliveries in mid-2015, and the project is expected to reach commercial operation in late 2015. When completed. The project will be a key part of IKEA’s commitment to produce by 2020 as much renewable energy as the company consumes globally and will mark the single largest renewable energy investment made by the IKEA Group globally to date.

Mark Goodwin, Apex president, added, “We are very pleased to be working with ACCIONA on this important project. The Texas gulf coast has a very unique wind resource, and Cameron Wind will harness this power to provide clean, homegrown, affordable energy to the residents of South Texas.”

OwnEnergy Completes Windthorst II Wind Farm

OwnEnergy has completed the Windthorst II Wind farm located in Windthorst, Texas. The project was developed by OwnEnergy while Mortenson Construction was responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction of the project including erecting 28 Siemens turbines.

gI_161038_Windthorst-2-photo“Completing construction on the Windthorst II wind project, which is our sixth wind farm to spin and our seventh completed project overall, is a major milestone for OwnEnergy,” said OwnEnergy Founder and CEO Jacob Susman. “We are proud to demonstrate our construction and asset management capabilities with the completion of Windthorst II. What’s more, we are thrilled to work with BlackRock and Mortensen to bring clean, cost-competitive wind energy to Texas. We appreciate the long-term support from the community leaders and residents of Archer County, and we are looking forward to continuing our commitment to Texas’s clean energy economy.”

The Windthorst II project is the 26th wind facility Mortenson has built in Texas out of 140 wind energy projects.

“We are very pleased to have entered into a relationship with OwnEnergy as they continue to grow their wind portfolio and make their mark in the industry,” said Tim Maag, VP and general manager of Mortenson’s Wind Energy Group. “We applaud their growing commitment to building projects with local ownership.”

Wetzel Blade Wins Clean Energy Award

Wetzel Blade was awarded a 2014 Clean Energy Venture Award during the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s NREL Industry Growth Forum. The company won the honor for its work on a pre-fabricated, field-assembled turbine blade that boosts production capacity and outlasts current generation composite blades. The start-up company will receive in-kind commercialization support designed to help increase its chances of becoming commercially successful.

According to Wetzel Blade, the new blade technology is based on a space frame design and features independently fabricated Wetzel Blade Awardpultruded FRP spars. The parts are sized for easy transport and field-assembly, in similar fashion to high reliability military equipment.

According to Kyle Wetzel, CTO/Founder of Wetzel Blade and a well-published expert in wind blade design, “This concept emerged from a project that our parent company, Wetzel Engineering, was involved with in China. We were engineering a 100-meter blade for a 10MW turbine and wanted to eliminate shell panel buckling as a design driver. The balsa requirements presented another challenge – almost 10,000 kg of this expensive core material absorbing ~6,000kg of epoxy.”

Wetzel noted that 3-5 percent of total installed cost of each turbine is logged to transportation. However, their technology reduces these costs. The company is currently in the structural testing phase with plans to demonstrate a sub-scale prototype in early 2015. The project has been partially funded through an SBIR/STTR award from the DOE.

“Because of our involvement with the entire turbine lifecycle, we understand that to make a real shift in the economics, a blade design must generate more electricity, cost less to build and maintain, and be more efficient to transport and install,” added Webzel. “The industry is hungry for a solution that delivers on all those points.”

Gaelectric Opens Dunbeg Wind Farm

Gaelectric has begun producing power at its £58 million Dunbeg Wind Farm, which is located between Limavady and Coleraine in Northern Ireland. Dunbeg is one of the largest wind farms constructed on the island of Ireland. The 42 MW wind farm comprises 14 Enercon wind turbines (Model E82, each with the capacity to generate up to 3 MW) with a maximum tip height of 125 metres. It will generate sufficient renewable power to meet the electricity demand of nearly 24,000 homes on an annual basis.

Brendan McGrath, Gaelectric Group CEO, said, “Dunbeg marks a major milestone for our business and further strengthens Gaelectric’s platform within the Single Electricity Market (SEM) on the island of Ireland. Our total permitted portfolio now stands at 140 MWs in Northern Ireland and represGaelectric Opens £58 Million Dunbeg Wind Farm in Irelandents a total investment of approximately £170 million. This consolidates Gaelectric’s position as the largest indigenous renewable energy company in Northern Ireland.”

“Gaelectric has been progressing an ambitious wind energy development programme in Ireland, the United States centered on the State of Montana, and in energy storage utilising compressed air energy storage (CAES) technology in our CAES Project near Larne in Northern Ireland,” added McGrath. “The launch of Dunbeg is a fitting way to mark our 10 years in existence and a tribute to our internal team and our technology and funding partners who have made this happen.”

In the last three years, Gaelectric has secured planning approval for nine Northern Ireland Wind Farm developments, including Dunbeg. The company’s first operational Wind Farm in Northern Ireland, the £20 million Carn Hill Wind Farm located in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim was officially opened in May 2013. Gaelectric plans to commission its remaining seven NI Wind Farm projects by 2017.