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.

Light Wind Forecast for Growth of Wind Power Industry

Although wind power is growing globally, especially in places such as China, only a light wind is forecast for wind energy growth in the United States. As reported by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), only 700 megawats (MW) were added in the second quarter of this year, down 57 percent from 2008 and 71 percent from 2009 levels. In addition, manufacturing investment is also lagging behind 2008 and 2009 levels.

The drop in new wind energy installation may come as a surprise to many, especially since the country has been touting the need for renewable energy development and the creation of green jobs for several years. Yet the words have not been backed up with enough action, and AWEA says that without passing a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that would require the nation to meet electricity goals through alternative energy such as wind and solar, the industry will continue to falter.

“Strong federal policy supporting the U.S. wind energy industry has never been more important,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “We have an historic opportunity to build a major new manufacturing industry. Without strong, supportive policy like an RES to spur demand, investment, and jobs, manufacturing facilities will go idle and lay off workers if Congress doesn’t act now – before time runs out this session.”

Although President Obama continues to push climate legislation, policy experts don’t predict that any meaningful climate legislation will pass this year.

The Des Moines Register recently reported that the House included a renewable power mandate in a climate bill that barely passed but then stalled in the Senate. Last week, Senate Democratic leaders said that they would be moving forward with a stripped-down energy bill but this new version lacks any power mandate, despite the fact that consumers are supportive of RES legislation, this according to a national poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Bennett, Petts & Normington.

This is unfortunate, since AWEA ultimately says that a long-term market is needed to guarantee growth, and the only way to do this is through an RES mandate.

Renewable Energy Progress

Earlier this month, the 25x’25 Alliance released a progress report on where the nation is in terms of the goal of meeting 25 percent of our energy needs with renewable resources by 2025, and they held a press conference with representatives of all the major renewable energy sectors to talk about the report and what still needs to be done.

25x'25In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we will hear from each of those representatives – Tom Buis with ethanol group Growth Energy; Bob Cleaves of the Biomass Power Association; Brad Collins with the American Solar Energy Society; Karl Gawell from the Geothermal Energy Association; and Rob Gramlich with the American Wind Energy Association – as well as 25x’25 steering committee co-chairman Reid Smith.

Listen to the Domestic Fuel Cast here. Domestic Fuel Cast

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Green Scissors 2010 Calls for Cut in Wasteful Spending

At the helm of Friends of the Earth, a new report was released today highlighting government programs and subsidies that are wasteful to taxpayers, harmful to the environment and bad for consumers. The Green Scissors 2010 report targeted four major areas for budget cuts including energy, agriculture and biofuels, infrastructure, and public lands.

Many of the recommendations of this report come as no surprise to the agricultural and biofuels industry, as over the past two weeks, members of Friends of the Earth surreptitiously called agricultural organizations across the country, questioning them about their methods of production.

According to an industry insider whose company received multiple calls from various people in the employ of Friends of the Earth, the organization was asking questions about ground water quality (ag production, mainly corn and soybeans have been linked to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone) and hypoxia; two issues that have made national headlines in recent weeks. It is also no secret that Friends of the Earth has engaged in an active anti-agribusiness and biofuels campaign over the past few years, and the environmental organization has been tied to Big Oil through contribution monies.

It should be known that, Friends of the Earth, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Clean Air Task Force are currently engaged in a campaign to end the ethanol tax credit (VEETC) as well as the ethanol tariff. They have specifically attacked Growth Energy’s corn-ethanol advertising campaign in the Beltway.

They write on their website, “Tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money has already been wasted under the credit [VEETC]. And these funds do little more than to further line the coffers of the oil industry. This coalition is working to prevent an additional 30 billion plus dollars from being lavished on the industry to fulfill a legally mandated requirement to blend an environmentally harmful fuel into another environmentally harmful one.” Continue reading

Freshwater Wind Summit Planned for Cleveland

Looks like LeBron James left Cleveland just a little too early, because he could have gone to the Infocast’s Freshwater Wind 2010 Summit, July 19-21.

Well, at least YOU won’t have to worry about him sitting in front of you at the Wyndham Cleveland at Playhouse Square and blocking your view of the event for talking about how to best develop offshore wind power in the Great Lakes:

. Meet the developers, equipment manufacturers, legislators, financiers and other key stakeholders shaping this new industry
. Learn how to position yourself to be a key player in manufacturing and supply
. Identify the development opportunities and technical risks associated with each opportunity
. Develop your profitable market entry strategy

Wind is the fastest-growing industry in North America, and the Great Lakes region offers some of the most reliable and strongest wind resources in the
world. This has led to proposed billion dollar projects and 100MW wind farms, some of the biggest ever in North America. Infocast’s Freshwater Wind 2010: Building the Successful Business Case for Offshore Wind Development in the Great Lakes will provide business solutions that will illuminate both the safe passages and the harboring shoals that could sink otherwise solid developments. The Summit is the place for major players to gather and advance offshore wind development throughout the Great Lakes region. Meet the leading developers, equipment manufacturers, legislators, financiers and key stakeholders as they carve out this new industry and build an economic hub for this nascent industry.

Keynote speakers will include US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. You can find more information at the Infocast website.

Oahu Gets First Utility-Scale Wind Project

Paradise just got greener as ground was broken on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu’s first utility-scale wind energy project today.

This press release from First Wind says the wind energy company has begun construction on its 30 MW Kahuku Wind project on Oahu’s famed North Shore and could provide power for up to 7,700 homes each year:

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle led the celebration, as she, officials from First Wind, community leaders and others conducted a traditional groundbreaking ceremony using o’o (Hawaiian digging sticks).

“The Kahuku Wind project brings Hawaii another step closer to reducing our state’s dependence on imported foreign oil and increasing our energy security,” said Governor Lingle. “These wind turbines will provide another source of clean energy for Oahu’s power grid, further building on the progress Hawaii has made in becoming a world leader in clean energy.”

Construction of the Kahuku Wind project, which was spurred along by an expected $117 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will create immediate economic benefits for Oahu such as employment opportunities during design, engineering and construction including approximately 200 construction jobs. The loan guarantee is expected to close soon.

The project is part of Hawaii’s plan to have 70 percent of the state’s energy come from clean energy by 2030.

New Jersey Passes Offshore Wind Development Act

At the end of June, the Cape Wind project received federal approval much to the dismay of vocal opponents. This will be the first off-shore wind project in the U.S. and will consist of 130 wind turbines and the project is expected to be complete in 2012. While the debate was raging on around Cape Wind, several other states were moving forward with developing off-shore wind projects of their own including New Jersey, Road Island and Maine.

Two months after Cape Wind was federally approved, New Jersey passed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. This act was designed to create financial incentives for offshore wind development and sets a target of 1,100 megawatts of wind generation. This goal ties into the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard which sets targets for renewable energy including solar and wind. The act authorizes the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to set financial regulations and oversee applications for new projects and also requires suppliers of electricity to retail customers to hold an Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC).

In addition to the creation of the ORECs, the act created a 100 percent tax credit for capital investments of $50 million-$100 million in new offshore wind facilities. In addition, the act will work in tandem with the Economic Development Authority to allocate money from the Global Warming Solutions Fund to support these projects and provide assistance to the manufacturers of offshore wind equipment.

While the act may seem somewhat cumbersome, here is what it boils down to. BPU has already provided $4 million to a developer who is looking to build a 346-megawatt project 16 miles off the southern coast of New Jersey. In addition, BPU has approved a 20-25 megawatt project three miles of the coast of Atlantic City. Should either of these projects see fruition before Cape Cod, New Jersey will take the title of the first completed offshore wind project.

However, what may be more important than who is first, is the support that offshore wind is receiving on the East Coast. The Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium was recently established by 10 states to promote the development of offshore wind projects. When you combine all of this activity it appears that offshore wind development has great momentum. Let’s hope that this momentum is not stymied by difficult and drawn out permitting processes.

America’s Slippery Slope of Support for Renewable Energy

Our country is quickly sliding down a slippery slope. Not too long ago, we were the leaders in renewable energy – wind, solar, biofuels. Today, not only have the major technological advancements come from overseas, our manufacturing facilities, entrepreneurs and investors are going, or have gone overseas as well.

Where are they going? Brazil. India. China. Why? Because these countries have the winning recipes for success: cohesive energy policy, long-term incentives and private investors. These are the exact three things we do not have in America.

We have other problems. We have states like California, that purport leadership in green policies and renewable energy, who make it nearly impossible to get permits for projects to meet its “green” initiatives.

Yesterday, Martifer Renewables Electricity dropped its plans to build a 107MW hybrid solar-powered biomass plant in California. The reason? After nearly 2 1/ 2 years, they have yet to obtain permits. Another company run out of California due to difficulty in obtaining permits, Blue Fire Ethanol – a next generation bioenergy company.

It may not be too late to head back up the hill but there are some things that must be done. Continue reading