Cape Wind Seen as Indicator of Obama’s Green Efforts

The decision whether to allow a wind energy project off the coast of Massachusetts to move forward could be seen as an indicator of just how serious the Obama Administration is about green energy efforts.

The Washington Times reports that the U.S. Department of the Interior will decide by April 30th whether the Cape Wind Project, planned for 130 wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod, gets the green light … a decision that after nine years of work is expected to have major implications for other wind energy projects:

“If it doesn’t get approved, it will have a big impact,” said Mr. [Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind developer Energy Management Inc. of Boston].

Beyond being a setback for the industry, Mr. Rodgers said a rejection by the administration will be “a real market signal.”

“Stakeholder investors will really be looking to see what’s happening,” he said.

Since taking office 16 months ago, Mr. Obama has made renewable energy a top priority – vowing to double the country’s output in three years, supporting wind turbines along the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, and putting more than $800 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for such clean-energy initiatives as solar and geothermal power.

In a move that pleased many conservative critics, the president last month gave his support to expanded offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas. But Mr. Obama has yet to tip his hand on the pending Cape Wind project that would put 130 turbines in the Nantucket Sound within sight of the Cape Cod shoreline.

Cape Wind poses a particular dilemma for the administration. It was bitterly opposed by Mr. Obama’s close friend and political mentor, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, even though backers say the completed project could supply well more than half of the cape’s power needs.

A White House spokesman passed on commenting on the Administration’s position, referring comments to the Interior Department. Hmmmm … I guess the buck doesn’t stop at a certain executive’s desk.

AWEA Wants Grid More Compatible for Wind Energy

An advocate for wind energy in the country is calling for a better electrical grid to handle wind energy needs.

The American Wind Energy Association has called for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to update the way the nation’s electric utility system is operated to make it more efficient and better able to accommodate wind and solar power:

“While utility system operators have done an outstanding job of managing the system to ensure reliable electricity supply, many of the rules and procedures they are using were developed a generation or more ago, when our energy mix and the structure of the electric industry were very different and computing and communication technology was far less advanced,” explained Rob Gramlich, AWEA Senior VP for Public Policy.

“Our filing suggests a number of steps FERC should take to update grid operating procedures, just as they were updated in the past to accommodate new resources, such as nuclear power a generation ago.

“These reforms will make the power system operate more efficiently, even in areas where there is not a large amount of wind energy. Consumers’ electric bills will be lowered and they will get more reliable power. Being able to better integrate large amounts of wind and other renewable sources of energy onto the grid is an added bonus.”

The AWEA says many of the ideas for reforms have already been adopted in Europe and could be implemented here.

Pickens Encourages Investment in American Energy

“When do we stop investing in OPEC and start investing in America?”

pickensThat’s the question that oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens asked at a House Ways and Means committee hearing Wednesday on “Energy Tax Incentives Driving the Green Job Economy.” Pickens told the panel that he’s for “anything that’s American” when it comes to energy -including wind, coal, solar, hydro, nuclear, geo-thermal, ethanol, propane, or natural gas.

The straight-talking Texan and chairman of BP Capital Management addressed those who discourage tax incentives for renewable energy on the basis of letting the free market work. “If you think OPEC is a free market, you’re a sap,” he said.

Pushing natural gas as an alternative, Pickens said that skeptics say there is no natural gas fueling infrastructure. “If you create the market, the private sector will build it,” he said. “Can you imagine what would have happened if we had told Henry Ford, forget about building the Model T, there’s no filling stations?”

Pickens strongly stressed the need for America to develop an energy plan now. “I’m running out of time, I’m 82 years old next month, and I’ve got to get an energy plan fixed for America because we cannot leave this to generations in the future,” noting his 13 children and grandchildren.

Pickens’ whole opening statement is well worth watching here on the Ways and Means Committee website.

Input Given for Developing Wind Energy on Public Lands

As wind energy is developed on both public and private lands, there is a concern regarding the impact on wildlife and habitat. Today, the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee, created in 2007 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, sent final recommendations to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, designed to further the development of wind energy while reducing the environmental impacts of the projects. Less than a week ago, Salazar received final recommendations on the Cape Wind Project.

Photo Credit: fdmount While the proposed guidelines are currently voluntary for developers, they will be considered by Interior Department officials as they finalize regulations for wind energy development of both private and public land. The committee recommends that developers receive incentives to adopt the guidelines.

In a news release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued today, Director Rowan Gould stated, “The Interior Department strongly supports the development of renewable and sustainable energy, including wind generated electricity. On behalf of the advisory team, I am pleased to present Secretary Salazar these recommendations aimed at responsibly producing wind power on our public lands while protecting our nation’s wildlife resources.”

The report is broken down into two areas: policy issues and “science‐based technical advice on how best to assess and prevent adverse impacts to wildlife and their habitats while allowing for the development of the Nation’s wind energy resources.” The second component was devised as a five-tiered approach.

Highlights of the Committee’s recommendations include:

• A decision-making framework that guides all stages of wind energy development;
• Reliance on the best available science when assessing renewable energy projects and their potential environmental impact; and
• Use of landscape-scaled planning that recognizes the need to think long-term about protecting our nation’s economic and natural resources.

You can download a copy of the final recommendations here.

Constellation Energy Buys Maryland Wind Project

Constellation Energy has finished a deal to buy the 70-megawatt Western Maryland Criterion wind project from Clipper Windpower, Inc.

This Constellation press release says the deal includes purchasing 28 Clipper Liberty 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for the project:

“Maryland’s clean energy goals are among the most ambitious in the nation and we’re committed to working with the state to achieve them by investing in an array of solar, wind, biomass and other sustainable energy projects,” said Kathleen W. Hyle, senior vice president, Constellation Energy, and chief operating officer, Constellation Energy Resources. “The market for clean energy products and services is growing rapidly in Maryland and across competitive energy markets nationwide. Investments in sustainable energy sources improve the environment by reducing carbon emissions, spur much-needed job growth and allow us to broaden our clean energy product offerings for customers.”

The project has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative for energy and renewable energy credits produced by the wind facility. Old Dominion is a not-for-profit wholesale power provider serving public electric cooperatives in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

The project is expected to be operating commercially by the end of this year.

Wind Energy Experts Gather in Iowa

Iowa is getting to be known as a center for wind energy, including production of the green power and production of the tools needed to generate that power. So, it’s no wonder that the state is the host of a pair of wind energy conferences this week.

KCCI-TV in Des Moines
says the gatherings hosted by the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development and the Iowa Wind Energy Association have been taking place in Ames:

Many of the experts said they consider Iowa to be a leader in wind energy. They said it’s more than just the growth of wind farms in the state; it’s also the state’s investment in incentives to draw green companies here.

“You lead manufacturing in the U.S. in wind. You lead more wind manufacturing jobs than any other state,” said [Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association].

Experts said that being a leader brings with it the challenge of maintaining that position and continuing to grow. One of the biggest challenges is how to move the power from wind farms to places beyond Iowa’s borders.

“I mean we’re lucky here in Iowa that we do have some transmission availability and we do have wind availability, but there’s a lot of states that may have wind but not transmission,” said Bob Loyd, the chief operating manager and plant manager at Clipper Windpower in Cedar Rapids.

Some of the challenges that wind energy faces is transmitting the power across state boundaries, which would take a national wind energy policy, and getting more universities to develop renewable energy programs.

Opposition Mounts Against Cape Wind Project

Less than two weeks ago, Iowa Governor Chet Culver and Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri released the “Great Expectations” wind energy report as commissioned by the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. The two governors met with Obama to share their findings, one of which is strong support for coastal, deep water and offshore wind energy technology, research and investment. The report states, “Congress must approve legislation that will allow for the efficient and timely review of wind projects on federal lands and in offshore coastal regions.” The first offshore wind project under federal consideration: Cape Wind, an offshore project that is set to be developed in Nantucket Sound and the winds are blowing furiously against approval for the project.

Photo Credit: lakewentworth via flickr

Interior Secretary Ken Salazer is set to make a historic decision on the project this month and to help make his decision, has reached out to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to provide comments and recommendations that will factor into his decision. The ACHP has recommended that he not approve the project.

ACHP states, “The historic properties affected by the Project are significant, extensive, and closely interrelated. The Project will adversely affect 34 historic properties including 16 historic districts and 12 individually 2 significant historic properties on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island, and six properties of religious and cultural significance to tribes, including Nantucket Sound itself. These districts and standing structures reflect the broad array of properties that represent the rich and unique architectural, social, and cultural history of Cape Cod and the Islands.”

They continue, “Adverse effects on historic properties will be direct and indirect, cannot be avoided, and cannot be satisfactorily mitigated.”

The ACHP findings are raising the debate about offshore wind energy to a fever pitch and putting the Obama administration between a rock and a hard place. Continue reading

Siemens to Provide Cape Wind Turbines

Siemens will be the supplier of 130, 3.6-Megawatt (MW) turbines for Cape Wind, America’s first planned offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts … if the project is ever built.

This Cape Wind press release says Siemens will also open a U.S. Offshore Wind office in Boston:

“We are pleased to be working with Siemens which is a market leader in offshore wind and we are thrilled Siemens is bringing clean energy jobs to Massachusetts by opening up its U.S. Offshore Wind office in Boston. This agreement between Cape Wind and Siemens represents a major step forward to jumpstarting the American offshore wind industry and increasing energy independence, creating a healthier environment while producing hundreds of green energy jobs,” said Jim Gordon, Cape Wind President.

The Siemens 3.6-MW offshore wind turbines are an industry ‘workhorse’ with 1,000 units sold and 150 units installed and successfully operating.

“While the onshore wind industry is well developed in the U.S., the United States offshore wind resources still offer a vast, untapped source of renewable energy potential. The final approval of the Cape Wind offshore wind farm will be key to the success of the offshore wind industry in the U.S.,” Randy Zwirn, President and CEO of Siemens Energy, Inc. stated.

As anyone who has been following this story knows that it’s not a done deal. About a week ago, the the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation held a hearing that could be the end of a nearly 10-year-old fight over the plan to build the wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. If the Department of Interior approves of the project, it could open up green energy and green jobs for the area … unless, of course, the Kennedys and other millionaires find a way to shut it down. Stay tuned.

Constellation Energy Completes Solar & Wind Project

While President Obama only gave a cursory comment about the role of solar and wind in our energy future in his remarks this morning, these industries continue to move forward with completion of renewable electricity projects. Today, Constellation Energy announced that its subsidiary, Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group, has completed the installation of a 1.2 megawatt solar and wind power system at the University of Toledo’s Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation in Toledo, Ohio. The campus will use the wind and solar project for two purposes: sustainable energy and offer students first-hand experience in renewable energy technologies.

“The creation and production of clean, renewable energy sources is vital to the way we power our world. That’s why The University of Toledo created the Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation,” said UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs. “Our relationship with Constellation Energy for the solar and wind electric generation systems on that campus will help students and researchers advance the technology that will power our future.”

The project utilizes thin-film-on-glass photovoltaic solar technology that was originally developed based on the University’s own research. Constellation Energy’s Projects & Services Group also installed a 132-foot wind turbine at the site. Together, the solar and wind systems are annually expected to generate the power equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 140 homes in a year. Generating that same amount of electricity using non-renewable sources would result in the release of more than 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and the equivalent of the emissions from 200 passenger vehicles per year.

Constellation Energy finances, designs, constructs and owns these solar installations and supplies power generated on-site to the customer over a period of 15 to 20 years. This creates an attractive and affordable model that requires no upfront capital from customers, such as The University of Toledo, and reduces customers’ use of power from the electrical grid and associated carbon emissions.

Ohio Pols Look to Increase Lake Erie Wind Turbines

A pair of Ohio politicians is looking to advance offshore wind energy projects in Lake Erie.

This press release from Gov. Ted Strickland says the governor was joined by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-OH) and Cleveland leaders to unveil Brown’s legislation to advance offshore wind turbines in freshwater bodies like Lake Erie and to hear Strickland’s update on state efforts to advance wind energy:

“Lake Erie is ready to be home to the first offshore wind turbines in fresh water,” Brown said. “The Lake is shallow enough to support offshore wind turbines and is also surrounded on land by Ohio’s rich industrial base. With the right priorities in Washington, Columbus, and Cuyahoga County, we will not only make this project a reality, but we’ll also revitalize Ohio’s manufacturing base and create new jobs. Wind energy will not only lower costs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but will also create new demand for components produced by Ohio?s supply chain.”

“Ohio’s greatest potential for creating wind energy is offshore in Lake Erie. Offshore wind, in particular, offers opportunities for our manufacturing sector and for Ohio shipyards. Ohio can build the installation vessels needed in all the Great Lakes; Ohio can build the towers; Ohio can build the turbines and the blades; Ohio can build all the component parts,” Strickland said. “Senator Brown’s legislation will strengthen the federal government’s partnership with Great Lakes states as we make sure the wind energy industry grows in Ohio. This legislation will also provide grants to our universities that are already focusing innovative research on solving the unique challenges of offshore wind in fresh water.”

Brown’s bill, the Program for Offshore Wind Energy Research and Development (POWERED) Act of 2010, would encourage research and require the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a comprehensive plan for offshore wind. Regional efforts include the four-year-old Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force looking at the potential for wind energy in Lake Erie.

Buckeye Wind Project Given Green Light, But…

Fifty wind turbines could soon be turning, cranking out green power in East Central Ohio’s Champaign County … but there are some caveats.

This story from Springfield (OH) News-Sun
says the Ohio Power Siting Board has given Everpower Wind Holdings Inc. the green light for the Buckeye Wind Project, which will be one of the first utility-scale wind projects in the state:

Originally, the application submitted to the OPSB sought to build about 70 turbines, but the board voted not to permit 16 of the proposed turbines because they are viewed as a potential hazard to aviation at Grimes and Weller air fields near Urbana. Two additional turbines will not be sited because they did not meet minimum setback requirements. The turbines are supposed to be built 1,000 feet back from roads and structures. In all, there were about 70 conditions required for the project.

Everpower officials say there’s more to be done before groundbreaking, but this decision from the board moves the project forward.

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.