Final Hearing on Cape Wind Project Brings Fireworks

There was no “on-the-fence” for the proponents and opponents who turned out for what could be the last public hearing on a proposed wind project off the coast of Cape Cod.

The Springfield (Mass.) News-Sun reports that the hearing before the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation could be the culmination of a nearly 10-year-old fight over the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound:

The historic panel was collecting public comment before making its recommendation to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who has said he will decide by April whether to approve Cape Wind. Salazar must take the council’s advice into consideration but is not required to follow to it, the board’s chairman, Mark Sadd, told the crowd.

The Minerals Management Service, a division of the Interior Department, found in 2008 that the wind turbines would adversely affect 28 historic structures or districts, including the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, and one traditional cultural property…

Cape Wind’s benefits would far outweigh any visual or other effects on historic properties, according to supporters.

The project would help combat climate change and reduce acid rain, which has been proved to damage historic buildings, said Eleftherios Pavlides, a professor of architecture at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

Now, let me see if I got this right. Opponents believe that an area littered by boat traffic and mansions, such as the Kennedy Compound (nice to see they’re looking out for the common guy who might have benefited from lower energy bills from the cheap energy from this wind project), would be made un-pristine by some windmills whirring in the ocean breeze? Tell you what, ban all the boats and raze all the mansions, return it to its original environment, then we’ll talk about whether the windmills are clean or not.

Wind Power Faces New, Tough Opponent in US Military

Wind energy has faced some opposition, mostly against people who are afraid their oceanfront views will be obscured by windmills seven miles offshore, but now it has a pretty tough opponent in the U.S. military.

This article from BiofuelsWatch.com says the military is raising concerns about wind farms disrupting military radar arrays:

The primary military concern about wind farm development stems from the fact that in order to maintain adequate efficiency wind farms must operate at least 80 to 100 feed in the air, with the higher the placement the more efficient the turbines can operate due to the “cleaner” wind streams. RADAR detection, however, generally begins at roughly 50 feet, thus any wind turbines present would potentially block any RADAR signals by bouncing back signal waves with their blades and create an effective “dead zone” on the opposite side of the turbine from the RADAR emitter.

Experts say the issue could, at best, delay some projects or, at worst, cancel individual wind turbines … and even bring about a whole new set of regulations.

Green Energy Benefits from Recession

While parts of the renewable energy sector have had some tough times lately … biodiesel with the loss of the federal tax credit, ethanol with the food vs. fuel fight, the economic downturn and the tightening of the credit markets … it seems green energy has actually benefitted from the recession. Well, at least in the area of new ideas.

The Financial Times has details:

Not only did the funding model for much of the US renewable energy industry put the sector within a whisker of being dragged down in Wall Street’s wake, but the general economic climate also threatened to put numerous projects on hold.

But clean tech patents – admittedly only a rough indicator of industry sentiment – suggests a more confident picture. US patent filings for clean energy rose to their highest-ever level in the last three months of 2009, according to a report from consultancy Cleantech Group and intellectual property lawyers Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti:

U.S. patents for clean-energy technologies in 2009 were at an all time high with 200 more patents than 2008 at 1125.

… patents in fuel cells and hybrid/electric vehicles were each up over twenty percent over 2008 with solar patents up sixty percent and biomass/biofuel energy patents up two hundred sixty percent. Fuel Cells, wind, and biomass/biofuel energy patents were also at all time highs in 2009. In contrast, hydroelectric and tidal patents decreased in 2009 while geothermal patents were up only one patent over the year prior.

The article goes on to point out that while Silicon Valley is usually known for its venture capitalists going green, the real growth in renewable energy is being fueled by what’s happening in Detroit, with fuel cells dominating the conversation … four times the number of patents as closest competition wind and solar … and Honda, GM and Toyota are speaking the loudest.

Newest Cash Crop – Clean Energy

Farmers and small business have found a crop to make them more money – clean energy. This according to a recent report from the Environmental Lay & Policy Center (ELPC) which just released “Farm Energy Success Stories” that demonstrate how a farm or small rural business adopted clean energy technologies and cut energy costs. Examples cited in the report include a Montana brewery that runs on solar power and an Illinois dairy that generates electricity from manure. Much of the monies that made these projects possible came from the Farm Bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

“With the help of farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses, America can make great strides toward solving its energy problems.” said Andy Olsen, Policy Advocate for ELPC. “REAP is creating economic development, energy independence and a cleaner environment one farm at a time.”

Since 2003, REAP has funded over 3,000 clean energy projects, in 50 states that cover the clean energy spectrum – wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and energy efficiency. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the program receives applications for more than three times the amount of funds available, and in February, President Obama raised the funding levels to the highest amount ever to $109 million.

ELPC has been a public supporter of the program since its inception and notes that the program,”leverages billions in private investment, reduces pollution, builds interest and awareness about the benefits of clean energy.” Many legislators support the program as well and Represenative Colin Peterson (D-MN) commented, “This is the kind of common sense program that will help transform rural America into an energy resource for the entire nation.”

You can download Farm Energy Success Stories here.

Site Picked for Idaho’s Largest Wind Farm

The site for the largest wind farm in Idaho has been picked by the two companies that will construct the project.

KIFI-TV in Idaho Falls says Ridgeline Energy, LLC, and BP Wind Energy will soon start building the Goshen North wind farm, a facility that is expected to generate 124.5 megawatts:

“We are excited about commencing Goshen North construction and furthering our commitment to wind energy development in Idaho,” said Steve Voorhess, Ridgeline Energy CEO. “Goshen North and our other Idaho wind energy projects will help diversify the region’s energy supply while continuing Idaho’s tradition of clean energy generation.”

The site will sit on 11,000 acres 10 miles east of Idaho Falls. It will have 83 GE wind turbine generators. When it is in operation, the farm has the potential to deliver 380 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

The companies said the project will employ about 250 people during the peak of construction.

“The investment that BP and Ridgeline Energy are making will create new jobs during construction, deliver an additional revenue stream to rural communities without impacting traditional farming and ranching, and provide clean, affordable power,” said John Graham, BP Wind Energy President.

The Goshen North wind farm will power about 37,000 homes.

GWEC Releases “Great Expectations” Wind Report

“It is clear that Congress must pass a strong federal renewable electricity standard so that investors, developers and state policy makers are working together to achieve a common goal,” said Iowa Governor Chet Culver today during a press call to release the findings of a new wind energy report: Great Expectations: U.S. Wind Energy Development, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition’s 2010 Recommendations. This comprehensive report is the first ever to be submitted to Congress by a national group of governors, and today representatives of the organization including Governor Culver and Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri met with President Obama, Senator Reed, Speaker Pelosi and the minority leadership in both the House and Senate to present their findings.

Governor Carcieri noted that Congressional action on the energy bill appears to have stalled and he hoped that these bipartisan recommendations will advance the energy deliberations currently underway. He stressed, “In order to achieve energy independence in the United States, we must increase the role of wind. Why is that? Wind energy is clean, it’s cost effective and it’s abundant.”

While the main recommendations were centered around passing a Renewable Electricity Standard, developing a new interstate electric transmission system infrastructure and reducing the time it takes to permit both offshore and on-shore wind projects, there were several other recommendations of note:

  • • Fully Support Coastal, Deep Water, and Offshore Wind Energy Technology and Transmission Research and Development
  • • Expand the U.S. Department of Energy’s Work with the States and the Wind Industry to Accelerate Innovation
  • • Extend the Treasury Department Grant Program in Lieu of the Investment Tax Credit, and Adopt a Long-Term Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit With Provisions to Broaden the Pool of Eligible Investors

Both governors highlighted the importance of creating green collar jobs through the increase of wind power. A national 25 percent renewable electricity standard by 2025 could create more than 300,000 new green collar jobs.

Governor Culver also put out a call to action to keep the wind manufacturing here in the States. “If Congress fails to pass a strong national goal on renewable energy and transmission upgrades, the continued uncertainty will cause the nation to potentially surrender wind manufacturing to other countries.”

You can click here to download a copy of the full report.

Deleware Introduces Clean Jobs Act

Earlier this week, Governor Jack Markell announced that he would be seeking legislation aimed at creating new green jobs, help home and businesses secure energy from alternative sources and spur the growth of emerging industries such as solar and wind power. The Clean Jobs Act would add a longer-range target to the state’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard which sets a target for the state to receive 30 percent of its energy supplies from renewable energy by 2029.

“The purpose of the initiative – the Delaware Clean Energy Jobs Act – is simple: to create quality jobs, expand local manufacturing and establish Delaware as a national leader in the adoption of renewable energy,” Markell said. He continued, “To restore our economic promise and prosperity, the State can and will lead by example when it comes to creating efficiencies, supporting jobs and being good stewards of our environment.”

Solar power would get a boast in The Clean Jobs Act, which, if passed, would support nearly 300 MW of new solar photovoltaic systems by 2029. In addition, it would facilitate the installation of more than 1000 MW of utility-scale wind power by 2029. Hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs would be created to fulfill this piece of legislation, and additional jobs would be created by prioritizing Delaware renewable-energy projects and incentivizing the use of locally manufactured systems.

Markell made the announcement at Motech Americas, a solar company in Newark. Motech Americas currently employs more than 70 people and is in the process of expanding manufacturing capacity. They are expected to add 75 more jobs before the end of the year. Markell was joined by many other state leaders and concluded, “We are working closely with our neighboring states to create a vibrant mid-Atlantic clean energy market, but we also want to maximize capital investment and quality jobs in Delaware. We can move more rapidly, respond to opportunities more quickly and get people back to work.”

R4R – Research for Renewables Event Launched

Everyone needs an excuse to go to Italy and now you have one – Solarexpo. Solarexpo in an international conference and expo on renewable energy and distributed generation. The event will be held on May 5-7, 2010 in Italy and as part of the event, is launching the R4R – Research for Renewables event.

R4R is a “research consortium” of sorts representing Italy’s entire range of renewable energy technologies. Organizations involved in research, technology developments, university spinoffs and innovative startups have the opportunity to be involved. The concept has been developed and managed in partnership with Galileia, a spinoff from the engineering faculty of the University of Padua that specializes in the energy sector.

“With the R4R project, Solarexpo is building on its innovative approach and continuing to create new spaces in which the vast worlds of renewable energy can come together. R4R is our way of engaging with parts of the renewables sector that would only be marginally interested in a traditional exhibition event: the world of research and new companies in the renewable energy field,” said Luca Zigale, scientific director of Solarexpo. “This is an environment that is evolving rapidly and is full of new talents, ideas and projects, but isn’t very visible for more established companies and public sector decision makers.”

Another interesting twist of the R4R is that is will have a dedicated hall in Solarexpo and 20 of the most promising startup companies will be selected to exhibit at no charge. In conjunction with the expo, a series of networking events, informational sessions and workshops will take place around two themes: “Research Day” and “Green Financing Day”.

But what may be the coolest thing about 4R4 is its support of young, innovative companies that have great ideas but not enough funding. This event will give these companies that audience they need to attract investments and bring these cutting-edge technologies to market.

You can learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Take an Energy Tour in North Dakota

You don’t hear much about North Dakota, especially about renewable energy. But today, that is changing. One of the top states for wind, they are inviting people to take an “energy tour” through North Dakota. The tour begins with a look at its oil shale production capabilities (and you thought oil shale was only for Canada). The Wall Street Journal recently featured the state’s oil exploration efforts to cultivate more than an estimated 4 billion barrels of oil underneath the Baaken shale.

In addition to this project, the tour may stop at three other locations including a North Dakota wind farm. As of the end of 2009, the state broke in to the Top 10 Wind Producing States with its 6,500 MW of current production with another 6,500 MW planned. LM Glasfiber and DMI Industries are two companies that recently committed to wind projects in North Dakota.

Next, you may check out the Great Plains Synfuels Plant located in Beulah. According to the company, it is the only commercial-scale coal gasification plant that produces synthetic natural gas from coal in North America. By selling its CO2, captured as a byproduct of production, the sales are estimated to be as much at $30 million each year.

Finally, you may stop at Great River Energy’s Blue Flint Ethanol plant located at Coal Creek Station. Coal Creek Station is the state’s largest power plant using 22,000 tons of coal each day. Sited next to the plant is the Blue Flint Ethanol plant that produces 50 million gallons of ethanol per year and utilizes the waste heat from the coal plant for production.

GE Chief: US Must Win Global Wind Turbine Race

America is in danger of falling behind Asia when it comes to wind energy production. And the chief of General Electric says that is jeopardizing this country’s energy future.

Business Week reports that in remarks to the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Conference near Washington, DC, General Electric Co. chief Jeffrey Immelt said America must not give away this growth to every other country in the world:

Asia makes more than half the world’s wind and solar energy equipment, and is gaining ground as U.S. factories lose out to cheaper labor and higher demand for clean energy. China for the first time topped the U.S. in wind-turbine manufacturing and installations last year, the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council said yesterday in a report.

Immelt has helped lead the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP, a coalition of businesses and environmental groups calling for Congress to put a cap on carbon-dioxide emissions. The group says legislation is needed so companies such as utilities and their suppliers know how to proceed with long-term investments. A measure passed by the House last year has stalled in the Senate.

The article goes on to say that Duke Energy Corp. CEO Jim Rogers told reporters at the conference that politicians need to change the argument away from scaring the public with polar bears on melting icebergs to focusing on what will stimulate the economy and create jobs … and then save the environment.

3TIER REmaps the World

The REmapping World Initiative that was launched in March of 2008 is finially complete, this according to 3TIER. The goal of the program was to address the biggest barrier to global renewable energy adoption, which is the lack of reliable information regarding resource potential. Today, the company released the global solar map and dataset and has already released a 5 km resolution global wind map and dataset, based upon proven techniques and the application of advanced numerical weather prediction models, which accurately and consistently diagram wind spatial and temporal variability.

“3TIER’s aim in developing these maps is to help accelerate the adoption of renewable energy around the world by providing a blueprint for development,” said Kenneth Westrick, founder and CEO of 3TIER, the global leader in renewable energy information services. “The creation of these maps is part of a larger effort to build a renewable energy information services platform which will provide customers with on-demand access to 3TIER’s massive datasets for wind and solar resources. Access to this critical data will enable global decision-makers and organizations to look at wind and solar potential on a regional scale and help maximize the value of renewable resources while mitigating the risks of their inherent variability.”

According the the company, the global solar map and dataset is based on 10 to 13 years of half-hourly, high-resolution visible satellite imagery collected from nine different satellites, dispersed across the globe and covering the entire surface of the earth. Satellite imagery was processed using a uniform methodology based upon a combination of in-house and peer-reviewed research documents supported by the global atmospheric science community.

Westrick concluded, “This dataset provides the in-depth solar irradiance information essential to developers, financiers, and governments for targeting the best regions in the world for development. Our solar resource technology provides the critical data to make renewable power a viable alternative and will be increasingly important in areas where solar data only exists at coarse resolution and inferior quality or is simply unavailable.”

US Wind Energy Potential 3Xs Higher Than Thought

The potential amount of wind energy in this country is actually more than three times what is was previously thought to be.

This post from the Energy Collective blog
says a new analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) credits the increase to improvements in wind turbines over the last decade and a half:

The assessment of onshore wind energy potential found that the U.S. could produce almost 37 million gigawatt-hours yearly. According to the American Wind Energy Association, that’s nine times our current annual electricity consumption.

Expressed as gigawatts rather than gigawatt hours, the new estimate for the U.S. wind resource is 10,000 gigawatts, an amount that dwarfs currently installed wind power which totals about 35 gigawatts – enough to power 9.7 million homes. Obviously there’s plenty more where that comes from, even more if offshore wind is included.

NREL’s last analysis in 1993, when wind turbine heights were more limited, estimated U.S. onshore wind potential at less than 10.8 million gigawatt hours.

As noted by Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the new assessment is more than a number, it’s another compelling argument for passage of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation by Congress:

This new analysis confirms that America is blessed with vast wind resources that can energize our economy, create jobs, and avoid carbon for years to come—if we give ourselves the policy tools to do so, including a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard with aggressive, binding near- and long-term targets.

In addition, AWEA points out that if we took advantage of the wind energy potential, we would also create thousands of American jobs building the components and turbines to tap that potential.

US-China Group Announces $1.5 Bil Texas Wind Project

Two American companies have teamed with a Chinese company for a $1.5 billion West Texas wind farm project.

The Austin (TX) Business Journal says Texas-based Cielo Wind Power and U.S. Renewable Energy Group out of Washington, DC have teamed with Shenyang, China-based A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd. subsidiary Shenyang Power Group for a 36,000 acre wind farm:

A-Power will begin shipping wind turbines in March and deliver all units by the same month of 2011. Its subsidiary, Shenyang Power, is contributing $36.6 million to the project, which is expected to produce about 600 megawatts of energy.

Shenyang and U.S. Renewable Energy formed a separate Delaware LLC to own, design, develop, construct, manage and operate the wind turbines, according to the release. A Cielo affiliate will also assist in development.

This is one of the world’s first Chinese-American utility-scale wind power projects, able to produce enough electricity to power 180,000 homes while creating hundreds of U.S. jobs.

New Wisconsin Wind Turbine Plant to Employ 600+

A new wind turbine blade plant in Wisconsin is expected to put more than 600 new workers on the job.

This post on the GreenRightNow.com Web site says the Energy Composites Corp. (ECC) facility in Wisconsin Rapids got some help in the form of $238 million in municipal tax-free bonds from a pool of money created with federal stimulus dollars:

“Tax-free bonds are a critical component of our financing plan for the 535,000 square foot plant,” noted Sam Fairchild, Energy Composites’ CEO, in a statement. “Development costs for our new factory are too large for traditional Industrial Development financing programs, and the Recovery Zone Bond program, which expires at the end of 2010, is precisely the right solution at precisely the right time…

The 535,000 s.f. plant will be capable of making wind blades 65 meters in length that can supply both onshore and offshore wind farms, and will be build with “a maximum range of flexibility in production design” to be able to accomodate technological advances. The facility will partner with Mid-state Technical College, where prospective employees can get training in blade fabrication.

So at a time when we hear about how too many of the stimulus bucks are going overseas and stimulating economies overseas, it’s nice to hear about some of the money staying home and helping here.

Bright Lights of Vegas to be Powered by Wind

A Nevada utility will get some of its power from wind energy.

This story from Las Vegas Review-Journal says NV Energy has signed a a deal to buy energy from a wind farm near Ely for the next 20 years:

Pattern Energy Group of San Francisco will build the 150-megawatt Spring Valley Wind Project, which would be Nevada’s first major, utility-scale wind plant.

NV Energy already has announced plans to codevelop with RES Americas the 200-megawatt China Mountain Wind Project near the Idaho border, but that project is still in the environmental-impact statement permitting process.

The Spring Valley project is scheduled for completion by late 2011. Neither company disclosed the terms of the agreement.

“We’re pleased to add more clean renewable energy for our customers, and this project is a good example of developing renewable energy resources in remote parts of our state,” said NV Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Yackira in a statement.

In addition to creating clean energy, the wind farm will create more than 150 jobs during construction with another 10 permanently employed at the wind farm.

The deal is part of a state requirement that NV Energy get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.