Project Looks to Link Wind, Solar Projects to Rest of US

One of the big knocks against solar and wind energy is the lack of infrastructure to connect the power generated in remote areas of the American West with the large population centers back east. But a project in New Mexico could change that.

TresAmigasmapGreenBeat reports that state’s governor has unveiled a plan to build a massive electric transmission station in Clovis, New Mexico. The Tres Amigas Super Station is designed to connect the U.S.’s three main power grids and better channel solar and wind energy:

The proposed project, which would take about five years to build beginning in 2011 or 2012, would be the largest power converter in the world, covering 22 square miles and fundamentally changing how electricity flows across the country. New Mexico, which would benefit tremendously from the jobs and revenue created by the facility, was chosen because it is located nearest to where the three power grids — referred to as the East, West and Texas interconnections — meet up. On top of that, conditions in the state would allow it to geenrate up to 27 gigawatts of solar and wind energy.

The $600 million project will have a capacity of 5 gigawatts to begin with and could be scaled up to 30 gigawatts. It’s expected to put $4 billion back into the local economy.

USDA Loan to Help Green Rebuilding Greensburg, KS

greensburgGreensburg, Kansas, literally destroyed by a tornado in May, 2007, is getting some help from the government to have a green energy source supply the power for the town as it continues to rebuild.

The USDA has announced
a $17.4 million loan to Greensburg Wind Farm, LLC, to provide financing for the 10 wind turbine project that will supply power to the community:

The total project cost is estimated at $23.3 million. Approximately, $17.4 million will come in the form of a loan to Greensburg Wind Farm, LLC, a subsidiary of John Deere Renewables, with the remaining $5.8 million, or 25 percent of the total project cost, being provided through an equity investment by Deere & Company. The loan will support the 10 wind turbine project that will generate 12.5 MWs of electricity that will serve the electric needs of the City of Greensburg and other rural communities through the Kansas Power Pool.

“I am proud of the long standing commitment by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service toward working with community-based electric cooperatives to find new and more energy independent ways to power rural America,” said Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager.

The USDA claims it has provided the town with about $20 million in financing to help with the community rebuilding efforts.

Renewable Energy Grants Available in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is now offering several Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) grants. Eligible projects include agricultural related renewable energy systems, feasibility studies and research projects. The ACRE program is a set of grants that provide funds to conduct feasibility studies, install renewable energy systems or do research into renewable energy projects.

microhydroGrant applications submitted must be for projects that will be completed withing two years of grant award. Examples of past projects that have been supported by the ACRE grant program include wind turbines, solar panels, micro-hydro systems, biomass systems, and biodiesel plants. Funds will be distributed in three categories.

1) Feasibility Studies –  must study the feasibility of an agricultural energy-related project. Feasibility studies may address the market for the product, engineering requirements, economic viability, environmental concerns, legal requirements, management, and other necessary study components. A maximum allocation for each study is $25,000.

2) Project Participation — for projects will completed feasibility studies, awards will be granted to assist with the project.. A maximum allocation of $100,000 has been established per project.

3) Research — applications for research of agricultural energy-related topics will be considered in an effort to bring new information to the marketplace. Research should be tied to a particular issue or problem in Colorado. A maximum allocation of $50,000 per project has been set.

Grant applications are being accepted through October 30th. Contact ROI for more information at 517-812-3285.

Duke (Energy) & North Carolina Team Up for Wind

DukeUNCYou don’t expect Duke and the University of North Carolina to be together on too many things, especially when it comes to items on the basketball court. But in this case, it’s Duke Energy teaming up with the Tarheels on a wind energy project.

The Triangle Business Journal reports that the two are partnering to put up three wind turbines in Pamlico Sound that could become the first turbines placed in water in the country:

The project follows a nine-month UNC study completed in June for the general assembly that concluded the state has the potential to develop utility-scale wind energy production.

Duke will pay for the turbines and their installation. UNC will continue its wind energy research throughout the project.

“This project is a great example of how university research can expand our understanding of an issue – in this case, wind energy,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a prepared statement. “Then an industry partner like Duke Energy can use that research to do what they do best and develop this on a larger scale.”

The project would join Duke’s 634 megawatts of land-based wind power it currently has in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming and another 99 megawatts under construction and an additional 251 megawatts of wind projects that should start producing power next year.

San Francisco Calls for More Wind Power

Windmills might soon be going up all over San Francisco, as a a task force is recommending that the city start putting up the turbines at places like Treasure Island, the San Francisco Zoo, city parks, and the city airport as demonstration sites for how urban wind farms could help power the city.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the recommendations come after a year-long study of the potential of wind power in the city:

“We should absolutely harness the wind,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who as a city supervisor in July 2008 joined Mayor Gavin Newsom in convening the urban wind power task force, which is publishing the report.

“Now if we could just harness the hot air that comes out of City Hall and the Capitol, we’ll have an answer to global warming,” Ammiano quipped.

The ideas proposed in the San Francisco study are intended to help the city reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. While turbines are typically associated with farms and rural areas, cities like San Francisco are increasingly interested in using what is considered a cleaner energy generator.

City hall itself might even sport its own urban wind farm one day.

Grant Helps Iowa State Establish Wind Energy Lab

Researchers at Iowa State University will be able to learn more about wind turbine technology… a good idea when you consider how big wind energy has become in the state.

The school’s work with Arizona-based TPI Composites and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., to improve the process currently used to manufacture turbine blades has led to a three-year, $6.3 million project called the “Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative.” This ISU press release says a third of the money comes from the Iowa Power Fund, a state program to advance energy innovation and independence, and equal shares from TPI Composites and the U.S. Department of Energy:

ISUwindbladesThe grant will allow Iowa State to establish a Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory on campus. The lab will feature the work of four faculty researchers: Matt Frank, Frank Peters and John Jackman, all associate professors of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, and Vinay Dayal, an associate professor of aerospace engineering. The grant will also support the research of five graduate students and several undergraduates.

The researchers’ goal is to develop new, low-cost manufacturing systems that could improve the productivity of turbine blade factories by as much as 35 percent.

“The current manufacturing methods are very labor intensive,” Jackman said. “We need to improve throughput – we need to get more blades produced every week in order for it to be economical to continue to produce wind energy components in the United States.”

Peters said possible manufacturing improvements include developments in automation and quality control.

The researchers will be working with smaller models of the turbine blades to see what are the best ways to boost efficiency and strength. Later work will focus on the towers, the nacelles, gearboxes and other components.

With installed wind capacity at 3,043 megawatts, Iowa ranks second in the nation in wind power production.

Alternative Energy Symposium Set for Chicago

AST1Mark your calendar for October 1st and 2nd for the third annual Alternative Energy Symposium held at the campus of Chicago State University.

The event is put on by the folks at American Science Technology‘s Center for Alternative Energy Technology (CAET):

Renewable and sustainable energy derived from natural resources could hold the key to the United States not only reducing its reliance on foreign oil, but also reducing its impact on the global environment. CAET is a joint initiative between Chicago-based American Science and Technology (AST) and Chicago State University (CSU), established in 2006, in the south-side of Chicago, to perform basic and applied research to evaluate, develop, and commercialize alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, as well as alternative energy technologies such as fuel-cells, and energy harvesting from solar, wind, and other natural resources.

The symposium will highlight the work so far by the CSU and AST scientists as well as other work by researchers at universities and laboratories from around the world.

It’s open to the public, and you can get more information and register here.

Wind, Solar Advocate Picks Up Heinz Award

thomas-smithA man called “one of the most effective renewable energy advocates in Texas” is being honored with an award that has a focus this year on the environment.

Thomas “Smitty” Smith… known for his work in putting together the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that is now being adopted all across the country and has made Texas a leader in wind energy creation, as well as putting it on the path to lead in solar energy… has been honored as a recipient of a Heinz Award and will receive a $100,000 prize:

Since 1985, Mr. Smith has served as director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a consumer and environmental group active in areas concerning energy, environment and other socio-economic issues. His efforts in passing the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), his work on expanding solar energy generation and the passage of the RPS are three of his most noteworthy accomplishments…

Mr. Smith co-founded Solar Austin, a program that advocates for the use of solar power to accelerate the city’s transition to clean, renewable energy. As a result of organizing citizens and collaborating with city council and Austin Energy executives, the city’s electric utility set a goal of 100 MW for the installation of solar energy by 2020 which was the largest in nation at that time and offered the highest incentives in the country for installing solar panels on customers’ homes. In addition, Austin Energy is planning a photovoltaic solar power plant that would be the largest installation of tracking solar photovoltaic panels the United States. Largely due to his efforts to garner support for the legislation in 1999 and 2005, Texas has become the nation’s leader in installed wind energy. As a result, over 9,000 people have been employed building wind plants.

Said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation: “When we hear “Texas,” we don’t think renewable energy. We think oil-refineries and wells. But thanks to Heinz Award recipient Thomas Smith, the Lone Star state is leading the way in both energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy like wind and solar.

Smith joins nine other award recipients in the 15th annual version of the awards named for the later Senator John Heinz.

Wind Energy Gets Billion Dollar Boost from Congress

wind_turbineWind turbines could become more efficient and reliable, with some help from a $1-billion program that has just passed the U.S. House.

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) is the sponsor of the measure that the San Francisco Chronicle says aims to ensure that the biggest of the wind-generating turbines will be the most cost effective… important if wind energy is to hit the Energy Department’s prediction of wind providing 20 percent of U.S. electricity supplies by 2030:

Tonko said more research is needed to overcome the “many significant technical issues” facing wind-generated electricity.

One of the biggest barriers is the high cost of transporting ever-growing rotary blades and heavy tower components from assembly plants to wind farms in gusty but often remote regions.

Under Tonko’s bill, the proposed wind research, development and demonstration program would get up to $200 million annually over five years to spur the creation of low-cost transportable towers and larger, lighter and more affordable blade materials.

Tonko said the initiative could leverage nanoscience research by businesses and research institutions that are working at the molecular level to create lighter and more durable materials.

The program would also look for ways to make the turbines’ gearboxes more reliable and develop cheaper assembly techniques for large components. Plus, it would work on how to overcome the issue of unpredictable winds.

USDA Gives $13 Mil for Renewable Energy Projects

usda-logoThe USDA is handing out another $13 million in loans and grants for 233 renewable energy projects in rural areas of 38 different states.

The projects were announced in this press release and during a speech at the Farm Progress Show in Illinois, that included some of the highlighted projects:

The loan guarantees and grants can be used for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, feasibility studies and energy audits. These funds are not part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In Story City, Iowa, Milford Wind Energy, LLC, has been selected to receive a $1.8 million guaranteed loan and a $500,000 grant to build a 900 kilowatt wind turbine for energy generation. When complete, the turbine is expected to produce nearly 3.3 million kilowatts of electricity annually and generate more than $200,000 in electricity that will be sold to the local utility company. Construction of the turbine is expected to be completed next year.

REAP funding is already contributing to increased renewable energy production. For example, in 2003, USDA Rural Development approved a $300,000 renewable energy grant to Lincolnland Agri-Energy, LLC., in Palestine, Ill. The 453-farmer cooperative operates a livestock feed production plant and a 49-million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant. The grant enabled the cooperative to by a $1.4 million thermal oxidizer to control plant emissions. This critical piece of equipment removes 75 percent of the emissions from the dryer exhaust without reducing plant performance. The oxidizer has another benefit: the heat it produces is captured in a steam recovery system and turned into energy. Lincolnland’s USDA grant produced 37 local jobs.

You can read the complete list of projects here.

Advanced Technologies to Improve Wind Turbines

Getting inspiration from a fish, researchers are looking at making wind turbine blades out of advanced materials that will change shape to make the systems more efficient and longer lasting.

This article from U.S. News & World Report
says the blades with changing aerodynamic profiles will best suit whatever the prevailing wind conditions bring:

Beyene“The idea was born from a simple observation of a fish in an aquarium,” said researcher Asfaw Beyene, a mechanical engineer at San Diego State University. “Many flying and swimming animals have superior efficiencies than manmade devices. The primary difference between natural motion and motion of manmade devices is lack of geometric adaptability to varying flow conditions.

“In flying and swimming creatures, the geometries morph to fit to a flow condition,” Beyene added. “In man-made devices, typically the geometry remains rigid in spite of widely varying flow conditions.”

Beyene is leading one team exploring morphing blades for wind turbines. Another team is working at the University of Bristol in England.

“The wind can be very harsh on blades — turbines turn off if the wind gets too much, or else the blades will break fighting the wind,” explained researcher Paul Weaver, an aerospace engineer at the University of Bristol.

“A morphing blade uses the wind to its advantage rather than fighting it, adapting its shape to get greater performance,” Weaver added. “This has the potential to significantly relieve unwanted stresses in the blades, increasing their efficiency and helping to prolong their life.”

Researchers believe that today’s glass and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic blades can be controlled by an electric signal, and future wind blades made of urethane rubber will be able to flex, bend and twist shape to reach the optimal angles that get as much energy from the wind as possible.

More Green Collar Jobs for Iowa

Iowa Governor Chet Culver is taking action to create more green jobs in Iowa.

CulverCulver signed an executive order last week which creates the Iowa Green Jobs Task Force. “In recent years, thanks to our efforts in biofuels and wind energy, we have created thousands of green-collar jobs for Iowans,” said Governor Culver. “However, if we are to expand these industries, we must also have the workforce necessary to fill those positions. That is why I am creating the Green Jobs Task Force, which will help coordinate our state’s efforts in creating and filling the green-collar jobs of the future.”

Culver previously signed an executive order to require state agencies to purchase more flex-fuel vehicles that use up to 85 percent ethanol.

NREL Installs Two Giant Wind Turbines for Testing

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado has installed two of the biggest wind turbines ever tested at the facility.

The video above shows workers putting up the 220 tons of wind turbine parts for the 253-foot diameter blades. This story in EnergyCurrent.com says they’ll be able to generate 1.5 megawatts of power:

“This turbine is a modern, utility-scale machine that will serve as a general-purpose research platform,” said Fort Felker, director of the wind center.

Thousands of similar turbines are already being used at wind farms across the country, but the blades on those machines need to keep spinning, generating as much electricity as possible and working to recoup investments in the farm.

But at the wind center, researchers will be able to tweak the turbine to get the most energy possible from the available wind in an effort to close the already-shrinking gap between the cost of wind energy and the cost of electricity from fossil fuels.

“Wind energy is cost-effective now, but there are lots of opportunities to be more reliable and more efficient,” said David Simms, manager of testing and operations. “We’re trying to figure out how to get more wind turbines out there that are more effective.”

The article goes on to say that an even bigger wind turbine with a rotor diameter of 331 feet will be put up at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center later this year. Researchers believe the extreme wind conditions, along with snow, ice, lightning and severe storms, in that part of Colorado will be a great testing ground to see how much the big blades can take.

Wind Company Getting Into Biodiesel Biz

NatWindSolutionsA Texas wind energy company is getting into the bioidesel business.

The Houston Business Journal says National Wind Solutions Inc. has just bought a biodiesel plant for $3 million:

The plant, located in Atascosa County just south of San Antonio, produced biodiesel for commercial transportation uses before being mothballed due to high soybean oil prices.

Houston-based National Wind intends to modernize the plant to reduce processing costs and retrofit it to process less expensive feed stocks such as algae and jatropha.

National Wind Solutions is also in the fuel cell business with a wholly owned subsidiary, Zero Emissions Energy.

Colorado Offers Grants for Small Wind Turbines

small-wind-turbineThe state of Colorado is offering businesses the opportunity to apply for grants for small wind turbine installations.Colorado residents and businesses have until August 28, 2009 to apply for the New Energy Economic Development (NEED) grants. The grants provide funds to purchase and install small wind turbines (or other renewable energy systems). These NEED grants help Colorado residents (or businesses) install small wind turbine systems for much below the normal cost. The NEED grants can be used in conjunction with the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which further reduces the cost to install the small wind turbines.

These incentives, when coupled with the cost savings from producing one’s own electricity, result in significant investment prospects. The incentive package may even be more attractive in certain Colorado locations where the local utility offers a wind energy rebate to its members. Furthermore, investments in wind energy are expected to provide increasing returns as electricity prices rise as a result of increasing global energy demands and pending legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the “Cap and Trade” bill.

For those interested in applying, applications are due to the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office by August 28, 2009. More information is also available on the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.