Google Investing in Massive Wind Project off East Coast

Internet search engine giant Google is investing in a massive wind project off the U.S. East Coast that will end up connecting 1.9 million homes in the Mid-Atlantic region with clean wind power.

According to the company’s blog, the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone between New Jersey to Virginia will be connect 6,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind turbines.

The AWC backbone will be built around offshore power hubs that will collect the power from multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it efficiently via sub-sea cables to the strongest, highest capacity parts of the land-based transmission system. This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy. By putting strong, secure transmission in place, the project removes a major barrier to scaling up offshore wind, an industry that despite its potential, only had its first federal lease signed last week and still has no operating projects in the U.S.

Google says that area is perfect for offshore wind projects, with the potential of 60,000 MW of offshore wind energy. The Mid-Atlantic region has shallow waters that extend far out to sea, enabling developers to build larger turbines able to take advantage of the stronger winds and practically out-of-sight from the land.

The entire project is expected to cost around $5 billion, although Businessweek reports Google is investing just 37.5 percent in the development stage, about $200 million. New York-based Good Energies and Japan’s Marubeni are also investing in the project.

Renewable Energy Market Conference Close at Hand

In it’s 15 year, the Renewable Energy Market Conference is set to kick off in Portland, Oregon on October 19, 2010. But it’s not too late to register and join hundreds of marketers, policymakers, purchasers, utility representatives, and more in learning about where the renewable energy market is heading. Speakers will also discuss ideas and strategies to improve your business, obtain new customers and help promote clean energy.

Here are some highlights of the conference:

1. Take a Seat at the Power Table. The opening session includes a roundtable discussion with industry leaders: Portland General Electric President/CEO Jim Piro; Pacific Power President Pat Reiten; Commissioner John Savage of the Oregon Public Utilities Commission; Whole Foods Market’s Global Leader for Energy Kathy Loftus; and NextEra Energy Senior Director Rick Anderson. PLUS: Keynote Speaker Steve Chalk, Chief Operating Officer for U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

2. Learn the Basics of Buying Green Power. Best practices for buying green power for your home or business.

3. Master the Fundamentals of Markets and Trading. An overview of REC markets, players and their motivations, trading, contracts, and back office support systems that make these markets work.

4. Measure Your GHG Footprint and Find Profitable Solutions. Learn the latest on federal policies for carbon disclosure, accounting practices and the added value of renewable energy.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see over 80 speakers in 30+ sessions over the course of three days while learning everything you need to know about the future of renewable energy and the drive to clean energy will help your business thrive. Click here to register.

States Scale Back RPS’s As Senate Ramps Up RES Efforts

As several senators make one last push for a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) to be enacted before the close of the 111th Congress, several states are considering scaling back their current Renewable Energy Portfolios (RPS). At the federal level, groups such as the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition cite an RES as a way to give the country an economic jolt and regain a leadership role in development and manufacturing. At the state level, organizations against the RES support moves to scale back renewable efforts claiming that the economic cost of moving to wind, solar and biomass will in fact cause more economic turmoil, not economic prosperity.

An increase in the debate regarding a federal RES has come from two sources. Last Monday the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition sent a letter to Senate Democratic and Republican leaders saying, “A strong RES is the most economically-efficient way to advance clean domestic energy and immediately create jobs in renewable energy manufacturing, construction of new projects and associated transmission, and ongoing operation and maintenance of these facilities.”

The letter was addressed by Govs. Chet Culver (D-Iowa) and Don Carcieri (R-RI), who lead the Governors’ Wind Coalition and early this year released a report detailing wind opportunities throughout the country.

The letter continued, “We wish to work with you and with the Administration to help shape federal energy legislation this year. The economic stakes are high for our states, and we see a narrow window of opportunity for Congress to enact a long overdue reworking of federal laws governing renewable energy.”

The letter was followed up by a press conference yesterday held by several bi-partisan senators who introduced a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) bill. Continue reading

Mastic Joins National Wind

Minneapolis-based community wind developer National Wind has brought Peter Mastic on board as President and Chief Development Officer. He will be responsible for project development and finance and will report to company CEO, Leon Steinberg. Mastic will be at the helm of developing the company’s project portfolio, that currently consists of 15 community wind farms delivering over 4,000 megawatts (MW) per year. Prior to joining National Wind, Mastic was the founder and CEO of Third Planet Windpower, LLC.

“We are pleased to have a wind industry executive of such prominence join our team,” Steinberg commented. “Peter is a senior energy executive turned wind developer. He is well versed in renewable energy markets and has been successful in developing large-scale wind projects across the country.”

Mastic is no stranger to wind development. In the past he has managed the development, financing, or commissioning of more than 20 wind projects, that when completed will produce more than five gigawatts (GW) of wind energy across the States. To date, 500 MW are currently operational.

“I am pleased to be joining National Wind at an exciting time in its expansion,” Mastic said. “National Wind is unique in the industry as a utility-scale community-based wind developer, and without question it has major growth potential moving forward.”

Ride for Renewables

This past Sunday, Tom Weis left Boulder, Colorado on a hybrid electric-assist recumbent trike on a 2,500 mile journey that will end in Washington, DC. Coined the Ride for Renewables, Weis is set out to gain support for his plan that calls for a 100% renewable electricity grid for the U.S. by 2020.

Weis believes that 2010 is the year America needs to set the agenda to address climate change and he is so passionate about making change, that he is willing to pedal across the country to build grassroots support for his plan. He writes on his website, “This is about everyday Americans “taking back our power” by demanding a green industrial revolution that will put unemployed Americans back to work, reestablish our role as world economic leader, and help ensure future generations a livable planet.”

Weis will be traveling through Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and ending in Washington, DC. Along the way, he will highlight local renewable projects, bring attention to old, dirty technologies that need to be replaced and solicit signatures for his petition that he will present to DC legislators. You can follow his journey online at www.climatecrisissolutions.com where he will post photos and videos and he will also be posting to various social media sites.

Free Webinar: A Legal Discussion on Wind Energy

In anticipation for the upcoming Midwest Wind Summit & Expo on October 4-6, 2010 in Brookings, SD, law firm Faegre & Benson is hosting a free webinar: A Legal Discussion on Wind Energy: Looking Past the Wind Industry’s Hurdles & Focusing on Completing Projects on September 24, 2010 from 10:00 am – 11:00 am CST. The webinar will focus on several issues affecting the future of the U.S. wind industry including the much-needed Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) and the future of the grid.

One question in particular that will be discussed in whether the wind industry can thrive or even survive without an RES. The webinar will also discuss who will control siting decisions for new transmission lines – federal, state or local authorities and And who will pay for these new lines – utilities, developers or the public sector?

Even without an RES or solutions to hard transmission questions, the industry is still optimistically moving forward with installing wind energy. Yet with all projects come challenges including how to most effectively structure a deal and how to manage contract risk. A few mistakes on the part of the company overseeing the wind project could spell disaster. This webinar will inform you on the current state of the wind industry, assess the future of wind projects in the region and conclude with tips and tactics on development, negotiations and risk management of project contracts.

The following areas will be discussed in detail: transmission issues, including the debate over payment for new lines, jurisdiction over siting and routing and acquisition of necessary property rights; wind project structuring issues including financing, and how to manage risk in wind contracts such as construction contracts.

Speakers include Bill Weimer, Betsy Schmiesing, Peter Halls, and Peter Eckberg, all partners with Faegre & Benson and experts in wind energy.

The webinar is limited to 100 people so register now.

Canada Invests $81 Million in Biodiesel, Wind Ventures

The Canadian government is putting about $81 million in a couple of wind and biodiesel ventures.

This Reuters article says the money will be spent over the next decade in Quebec:

The government announced a C$65 million injection over 10 years in two wind farms in the Gaspe region in Eastern Quebec.

The two farms, Carleton and L’Anse-a-Valleau, are owned by Cartier Wind Energy Inc and are capable of producing enough electricity to power up to 60,000 homes.

The funds come from the government’s C$1.5 billion ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program.

Earlier on Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis also announced a C$18.79 million investment over seven years in biofuel producer Biocardel Quebec Inc.

Biocardel will make about 10 million gallons a year of biodiesel from converted vegetable or cooking oil or animal fat for sale in Canada and the U.S.

Cape Wind Under Fire As Elections Heat Up

There are less than eight weeks until the next elections and experts are predicting that Republications will be swept into office. Should this be the case, clean energy could have even more barriers to overcome, especially since many candidates are running on the platform that clean energy will cost more money.

Once such fight is underway in Massachusetts where candidates continue to fight the first federally approved off-shore wind project in Cape Cod. Their complaints: the cost of the power produced by the 130 turbines will be too high. Every candidate but one engaged in the governor race opposes the project. In addition, all the candidates running for the open seat in the 10th Congressional District are opposed. This is the district where Cape Wind would actually be built and seen, 5 miles offshore.

For those following this debate, you may remember that the late Bobby Kennedy, who claimed to be a supporter of clean energy and the environment, was vehemently opposed to the project because it was in his ‘backyard.’ The “not in my backyard, or NIMBY” mentally has grown in more force in recent months, and wind projects all over the country are struggling to get approvals. Several reasons cited are aesthetics, noise pollution and danger to birds. Kennedy has one major overriding opposition to the project – he didn’t want the turbines to mar his view.

“All people want to talk about is Cape Wind,” said state Sen. Robert O’Leary, a Democrat seeking the House seat in a ClimateWire article. “It’s a very, very high-priced project. We need to do the most … cost-effective, the best ones first. Cape Wind got in early, and it’s now turning out to be much more costly.” Continue reading

Ethanol Industry Urges DOE to Fix Loan Program

Ethanol and other renewable energy industry groups are urging the Secretary of Energy to fix the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Loan Guarantee Program (LGP) and keep Congress from raiding it for other projects.

Growth Energy
, along with the Renewable Fuels Association and six other organizations, sent a letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu urging him to restore billions in funding to the program and address the problems that have prevented the program from providing loans for renewable energy projects.

To date, Congress has “borrowed” $3.5 billion from the Loan Guarantee Program to pay for emergency shortfalls in state revenues and the 2009 “Cash for Clunkers” program. The removal of these funds has left the LGP at 60 percent below the level that Congress originally appropriated.

Congress was able to take the funding from the LGP because the DOE has been slow in dispersing its resources. According to a July 12, 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, since the LGP was established in 2005, it has issued only one loan guarantee as of April, 2010.

In addition to the ethanol groups, the letter was signed by Clean Fuels Development Coalition, Solar Energy Industries Association, American Council on Renewable Energy, Biomass Coordinating Council, Biotechnology Industry Organization, and American Wind Energy Association.

Company Debuts Biodiesel Hybrid Wind Turbine

A Colorado-based wind turbine company believes it has the solution when winds are not enough to generate electricty: team the turbine up with clean-burning biodiesel.

Smartplanet.com says Hybrid Turbines Inc.’s SmartGen system will use biogas, biodiesel and natural gas to run a back-up power generation system fuel the back-up power system that will operate during the 70 percent of time when the winds don’t get the job done:

This would of course depend on the patent-pending design working and being installed throughout the country’s wind farms. According to Hybrid Turbines, the SmartGen system can be retrofitted for existing turbines, scaled between 3 and 100 kilowatts (possibly higher), and integrated into new turbine designs.

A turbo-compressor [right] located at the base of the turbine’s tower draws in ambient air, compresses it and stores it in a tank. When winds are calm, the compressed air travels skyward to the turbo-air motor* connected to the electric generator.

Nick Verini, president of Hybrid Turbines Inc., says in a statement:

If a biofuel is used then the SmartGen™ system is 100% renewable energy based (wind and/or biofuel). Even if natural gas is used the electricity produced by SmartGen™ is twice as environmentally clean as burning coal. This will be increasingly important as we move to electric vehicles with batteries charged from the grid.

Estimates are that wind power generation capacity would increase by 25 GW, the equivalent of 25 1,000 MW nuclear power plants

Midwest Wind Summit Focuses on Policy, Infrastructure & Smart Grid

This year has marked the first year in several that wind installation in the U.S. is on the decline. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported in July in that only 700 megawatts (MW) of wind energy were added in the second quarter of this year. This is down 57 percent from 2008 and 71 percent from 2009 levels. One of the reasons cited for the decline is a lack of investor confidence in the long-term viability of the industry. This could be overcome, in part, by the passage of a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).

So, how should the industry go about overcoming this issue and others? They can learn this very thing during the inaugural  Midwest Wind Summit & Expo October 4-6, 2010 in Brookings, SD. The event will be headlined by Cascadia Capital Chairman and CEO, Michael Butler, who will provide a keynote address focusing on energy policy and future demand for transmission. These two key issues will set the foundation for more investment, new financing and mergers and acquisitions in the industry.

“Although the wind sector is forecast to have a turbulent 2011, we believe that local content requirements, investment by the turbine manufacturers in the U.S., and the reopening of the U.S. capital markets present opportunities for those who understand the changing dynamics of the U.S. market,” said Michael Butler, chairman and CEO of Cascadia Capital. “The Midwest Wind Summit will dissect key trends in wind investment and finance to help industry leaders understand how the market will evolve and what steps companies can take to stay at the forefront of the sector.”

The event will bring together leaders from the wind and solar industry, federal and state government, academia, trade groups, environmental leaders, and research centers to address the opportunities and urgency to develop more investment and expansion in wind, solar, transmission capabilities, and a smart grid for the Midwest and the nation.

“We are excited to present an all-star program at the Midwest Wind Summit, which will focus on several key issues including investment and finance, energy policy and regulations, said Randy Stratton, Summit Co-Chairman. “With Michael Butler, Susan Sloan from AWEA, along with PUC Commissioners Dusty Johnson-SD, Tony Clark-ND and Dr. David Boyd-MN, we will get a clear understanding of what is next for the wind industry and for transmission developments in the region.”

Registration is now open. You can learn more about the conference including the speaker line-up and agenda as well as register online by visiting the Midwest Wind Summit & Expo website at www.midwestwindsummit.com.

Energy Use Down But Wind, Solar Power Production Up

The U.S. is using less energy, but more of it is coming from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

CNN Money reports a new report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) says the 5 percent drop in American energy usage during 2009 is the largest annual drop on record. But wind energy production alone rose more than one-third during the same period:

Despite the drop in overall energy use, [A.J. Simon, an energy analyst at LLNL] said the study also showed a substantial increase in alternative sources of energy, including gains in solar, hydro and wind power.

“The increase in renewables is a really good story, especially in the wind arena,” said Simon. “It’s a result of very good incentives and technological advancements.”

The use of wind power rose “dramatically” to 0.7 quadrillion BTUs in 2009 from 0.51 quadrillion BTUs the year before, according to LLNL which compiles the data for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Under the 2009 economic recovery act, the Department of Energy has offered generous tax breaks and grants to help fund the development of wind energy. President Obama has set a target of doubling the country’s renewable energy capacity by 2012.

The article says the increase of wind power has directly helped reduce the amount of coal used in this country.

Chicago School Districts to Make Wind Power & Money

Three school districts in the Chicago area plan not only to make all the power they need at a new wind farm, but they’ll also net an extra $3 million in the process.

UPI reports that the Keeneyville School District 20, Carpentersville’s Community Unit School District 300 and Prospect Heights School District 23 will be getting all of their energy from a wind farm they plan to build in rural Stark County 140 miles southwest of Chicago. And they’ll have enough extra energy to sell:

The districts’ school boards formed the School Wind Consortium, which is issuing bonds, seeking investors and applying for federal grants to raise $50 million.

All three districts have laid off staff and cut programs but still face budget shortfalls.

The consortium says it hopes to build and begin to operate the wind farm by fall of next year and expects it to bring in $3 million annually for about 30 years.

In 2007, Illinois passed legislation that allowed school districts, community colleges and towns to own and operate their own wind farms, but it’s not practical for too many locations to do so.

Big Apple Could Use Big Breezes to Power City

Besides being home to some politicians who are blow-hards at times, New York City could be in line to have some giant wind turbines to feed the area’s energy needs (much better use of windiness).

This New York Times article says that the long-term plan has been to put up huge wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island. But some offshore wind turbines could end up much closer to the Big Apple:

Within three years, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hopes to have five wind towers, each more than 280 feet tall, operating on the west side of New York Harbor. Nearby, the City of Bayonne, N.J., plans to install an equally large turbine to power a sewage-pumping station. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs is considering placing wind turbines on or near its hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

New York, it turns out, is a windy city, well suited for turning stiff breezes into electricity. If open space were not so rare, the city might be a prime spot for harnessing the wind, said Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority.

“Anybody who’s ever stood out at the dock in Weehawken waiting for a ferry just knows it’s a very windy area,” Mr. Baroni said. “Apparently, it’s a pretty good place to put windmills.”

In 2008, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced his plan to use wind power to help reduce the city’s dependence on power plants that run on fossil fuels. So far, there are no large-scale efforts to harness the wind in the city, only token projects like the small turbines on the roof of an apartment building in the Bronx and a wind-powered electronic billboard for Coca-Cola in Times Square.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation has been studying the feasibility of putting turbines atop buildings, including a warehouse at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx. But the high hopes rest on a partnership, with utility companies and the New York Power Authority, that has designs on building a wind farm on about 65,000 acres of the Atlantic floor. The New York consortium said at the end of June that it would apply for a 25-year lease on the site, with hopes of generating as much as 700 megawatts of power there by 2016.

In addition, a proposed shore-based project on the border of Bayonne and Jersey City of five turbines producing up to 7.5 megawatts — enough to run at least 2,000 homes — could be up and running by 2013.

USDA Proposes Blending Solar and Wind Power

A USDA scientist believes wind and solar power generating systems could be set up to complement each other.

A study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Brian Vick at the agency’s Renewable Energy and Manure Management Research Unit in Bushland, Texas says that by using solar power during doldrum days and wind at night could help offset the two energy sources shortcomings:

Vick discovered that in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas, as well as in northern and southern California, there is almost an exact mismatch between wind power production and peak energy demands over a 24-hour period. In these locations, at the heights of modern wind turbines, winds are lowest at mid-day, when power demands are greatest. In Texas, there is also a seasonal mismatch: The winds are weakest in the summer, when power demands are highest.

But the sun’s rays are most intense at mid-day and in summer months.

Texas is the top state for wind-generated electricity production, with Iowa ranking second and California third. California is the leader in solar-generated electricity production.

The most efficient storage system is one being used in solar thermal power plants, where the sun’s heat is used to heat water or other fluids. The fluids are kept hot long after the sun goes down, ready to be used later to produce steam to generate electricity.

The excess electricity generated by wind in the late night and early morning hours could be pumped into the grid and removed by storage facilities (like pumped-storage hydroelectricity or compressed-air energy storage facilities) to match the utility loading in the daytime.

The article goes on to say that Vick and his colleagues have also been testing wind/biodiesel hybrid systems.