GE to Supply Wind Turbines for Lake Erie Project

General Electric has been tapped to provide the wind turbines for an offshore wind project in Lake Erie.

BusinessWeek reports
GE will supply five direct-drive turbines that can generate as much as 4 megawatts each in a project with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., expected to be completed in 2012:

“Offshore wind has the potential to create thousands of new jobs in Ohio and become a major source of economic growth,” Victor Abate, who runs GE’s renewable energy businesses, said in the statement.

GE will work with Lake Erie Energy to identify additional locations for offshore wind projects, with the goal of developing 1,000 megawatts by 2020, he said.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said the project will help reduce the state’s reliance on generating electricity from coal. The state gets about 90 percent of its power from burning the fossil fuel, which contributes the largest single man-made source of greenhouse gases.

The announcement was made at the American Wind Energy Association’s annual conference in Dallas.

Study Finds Wind Produces 10,000 Jobs in Texas

A new study shows that wind energy has produced 10,000 jobs in Texas… and new infrastructure to carry more power could add another 40,000+ jobs to the Lone Star State.

North American Windpower reports that the Perryman Group economic study, which comes as the American Wind Energy Association gets ready to host Windpower 2010 in Dallas next week, shows the jobs for which wind is already responsible and the prospect of jobs that would be created building new transmission lines under the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) proposal approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC):

“This report answers any questions related to the impact the wind industry has on jobs in Texas, which is substantial,” says Paul Sadler, executive director of The Wind Coalition. “Nearly 10,000 Texans have jobs in wind, whether in manufacturing, headquarters, construction or maintenance and support. Wind energy is big business in Texas, and under CREZ, its growth will be equivalent to the economic impact of air transportation on the low end and the computer and electronic sector on the high end.”

Of the nearly 10,000 jobs in Texas tied to wind energy, Perryman estimates 3,876 are permanent jobs within the industry.

When jobs tied to construction, royalties and other indirect impacts are considered, the wind industry produces roughly one job per megawatt. CREZ alone is estimated to expanded business activity in Texas by $30.6 billion and create 383,972 person-years of employment. This economic activity leads to notable incremental tax receipts over the development period, according to the study.

The construction and development of CREZ is also expected to create $1.6 billion in state revenues and $329 million in local revenues.

Iowa Wind Turbine Plant to Get $2.5 Mil Loan

A proposed wind turbine blade plant in Sioux City, Iowa is getting some help from that state’s economic development board.

The Des Moines Register reports
that the Iowa Economic Development Board gave TPI Composites approval to build a new blade manufacturing plant, while Sioux City will get a $2.5 million forgivable loan to improve a road running along the proposed 40-acre TPI site:

Arizona-based TPI Composites says the proposed $38.6 million project would employ 500 workers.

The ability of TPI to create the jobs pledged to the state came into question Wednesday, when the company said it was cutting its Newton workforce to 233 workers. The company did not disclose how many workers were getting laid off.

The company said it plans to “rehire and raise the work force to 400 by October and 500 by February.”

State documents show the company has until July 30 to create 504 jobs in Newton. As of June 30, the company told the state it had created 286 jobs in Newton. The state provided $2 million in incentives for the Newton plant, which opened in 2008.

Board member Toby Shine said he believed the company would seek more time to hit its job-creation goals in Newton.

The board is also giving TPI nearly $500,000 in tax credits, and the city and state are considering more than $2.2 million in job-training assistance for workers at the new plant.

Western Wind & Solar Integration Study Released

Today, GE Energy has released “The Western Wind & Solar Integration Study,” which was prepared for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The purpose of the report was to investigate the operational impacts and economics of wind, photovoltaics and concentrating solar on the power system operated by the WestConnect group of utilities located mainly in the southwest. The study specifically looked at the benefits and challenges of integrating up to 35 percent wind and solar energy by 2017.

The states involved in WestConnect include Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming and four of these five states currently have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that require 15-30 percent of the states yearly electricity output to come from renewable energy between 2020-2025.

Among the key findings the study found that:

  1. 1. Fuel and emission costs decrease as more wind and solar are added. Using 35 percent wind/solar will decrease fuel costs by 40 percent and carbon emissions by 25-45 percent by 2017, depending on the price of natural gas. This is the equivalent of removing 22-36 millions cars from the road.
  2. 2. CO2 emissions decrease as more wind and solar are added and the emission reductions are even greater if coal is displaced.

It was also discovered that integrating large amounts of wind and solar into the grid does not require extensive additional infrastructure if key changes are made to current operational practice. In addition, increasing the size of the geographic area over which the wind and solar resources are drawn substantially helps to reduce the variability of the resources as does using wind and solar forecasts. The report also noted, as many key wind and energy experts have been saying, that efficiency upgrades will need to be made as well as additional transmission capabilities will need happen in order to realize the full potential of wind and solar energy.

“If key changes can be made to standard operating procedures, our research shows that large amounts of wind and solar can be incorporated onto the grid without a lot of backup generation,” said Dr. Debra Law, NREL project manager for the study. “When you coordinate the operations between utilities across a large geographical area, you decrease the effect of the variability of wind and solar energy sources, mitigating the predictability of Mother Nature.”

You can download a copy of the report here.

Oklahoma House Passes Renewable Energy Bill

The Oklahoma Energy Security Act, House Bill 3028 sponsored by House Speaker Chris Benge of Tulsa, was passed yesterday by the House, 91-2. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. If the bill passes the Senate, Oklahoma will become the 32 state to have passed state renewable energy legislation. The bill would require 15 percent of all electricity generated in Oklahoma to come from renewable sources such as wind by 2015.

Although Oklahoma is a major natural gas and oil state, it imports significant amounts of coal to generate its electricity. Under the leadership of Democratic Governor Brad Henry, the state pushed for the development of wind energy and biofuels and at the end of 2009, boasted 1,130 megawatts of installed wind capacity, placing the state fourth in the Midwest behind Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota for total wind generation. The states utilities are now planning projects to improve the grid in order to handle the extra capacity generated by additional wind energy projects.

Interesting to note, Oklahoma’s bill sets a higher standard than either of the versions of the Federal Renewable Energy Standard that is still in consideration. The House bill calls for 20 percent renewables by 2020 with the option of 5 percent coming from efficiency improvements. In addition, state governors can ask for a weaker standard if they can’t meet the Federal mandate. The Senate, however, sets the bar lower with only 15 percent of the nation’s electricity coming from renewables by 2020 while simultaneously a large portion of that energy gain coming from efficiency improvements.

TVA Now Transmitting Wind Power

The Tennessee Valley Authority is now transmitting clean, wind energy to some of its customers.

This TVA press release
says 300 megawatts of power from Iberdrola Renewables Inc.’s Streator Cayuga Ridge wind park in Illinois is the first delivery under seven contracts that will total 1,380 megawatts from Midwest wind farms:

“Activation of this new wind-power source is an important milestone in our plans to expand TVA’s clean and renewable energy options,” said John Trawick, TVA senior vice president of Commercial Operations and Pricing. “We anticipate a long and productive working relationship with Iberdrola Renewables as we continue to grow our alternative energy portfolio.”

The Iberdrola Renewables purchase agreement is the largest of TVA’s wind- power contracts, which altogether may provide enough electricity for about 325,000 average-size homes in the TVA service region.

“Iberdrola Renewables will begin delivering power to TVA under our largest single power purchase agreement to date,” said Ralph Currey, CEO of Iberdrola Renewables. “TVA is an important new customer for us and we look forward to supplying clean, renewable energy for years to come.”

The next purchased wind addition to the TVA power grid will be 115 megawatts scheduled to arrive this fall from Horizon Wind Energy LLC’s Pioneer Prairie wind farm in Howard and Mitchell counties in Iowa.

TVA officials say they have to get the wind power from out of the Southeastern U.S. region because winds in that area are less reliable.

Wind Farms Getting Boost from Google

Google is getting into the wind energy business.

North American Windpower says the Internet giant is putting more than $38 million into two North Dakota NextEra Energy Resources wind farms that generate about 169 megawatts of energy … Google’s first direct investment in a utility-scale renewable energy project:

“Smart capital includes not only these early-stage company investments, but also dedicated funding for utility-scale projects,” says Rick Needham, Google’s green business operations manager. “To tackle this need, we’ve been looking at investments in renewable energy projects, like the one we just signed, that can accelerate the deployment of the latest clean energy technology while providing attractive returns to Google and more capital for developers to build additional projects.”

The project uses the latest wind turbine technology and control systems, according to Google. The turbines can continuously adjust the individual blade pitch angles to achieve optimal efficiency and use larger blades with 15% more swept area than earlier generations, allowing capture of even more wind energy for each turbine.

Even the control systems are remotely controlled, allowing the turbines to be monitored 24 hours a day for optimized production.

Wind Energy Co. Launches Buoy off New Jersey

Perhaps buoyed by the federal Interior Department’s decision to let an offshore wind energy farm be built off the coast of Massachusetts – the first of its kind in this country – a New Jersey wind energy company has launched a real buoy to test the winds for what might be that state’s first offshore wind farm.

The Press of Atlantic City reports
Fishermen’s Energy set out the buoy to gather for the next two years weather data, such as wind speed and barometric pressure, while also monitoring migrating whales, dolphins, birds and bats:

Fishermen’s Energy and two other companies plan to build offshore windmills between Atlantic City and Avalon. But the Cape May company has a head start on its competition, Garden State Offshore Wind and Bluewater Wind, because Fishermen’s Energy is building a 20-megawatt demonstration project in state waters where there is less red tape.

This smaller project 2.8 miles off Atlantic City will help determine the viability of Fishermen’s Energy’s larger 350-megawatt project planned for 10 miles off the coast.

The buoy will record the sounds of passing whales, dolphins, birds and bats. Studies have shown that bats are especially vulnerable to windmills, which create areas of low pressure between their spinning blades that can kill the small flying mammals.

New Jersey has set a goal of producing 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2020.

Cape Wind Green Light Big for Offshore Wind Industry

A wind energy project off the Massachusetts has gotten the federal government’s OK to move forward … and it’s seen as a major victory for the offshore wind energy industry in this country.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will allow the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, to be built. This story from CNN says the ruling will have a major impact for other offshore wind projects:

“The United States is leading a clean energy revolution that is reshaping our future,” Salazar told reporters in Boston. “Cape Wind is an opening of a new chapter in that future, and we are all part of that history.”

“Cape Wind will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, supplying clean power to homes and businesses in Massachusetts, plus creating good jobs here in America,” he said. “This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.”

The Cape Wind project has been in the works for nine years, tied up while people, such as the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, argued the turbines … miles offshore … would ruin the view from their mansions.

But don’t expect this decision to be the final word on the wind farm. The opposition is vowing to continue the fight, and those millionaires and billionaires have some mighty deep pockets.

Obama Visits Iowa Wind Turbine Plant, Off to Missouri Ethanol Plant

President Barack Obama visited a wind turbine plant in Iowa today, part of his Midwest tour that will also take him to a northern Missouri ethanol plant (watch for Chuck’s coverage on this Web site and follow him on his Twitter account @AgriBlogger).

The Environment News Service reports
Obama got to see up close some of Siemens Energy’s expanded wind turbine blade factory at Fort Madison, Iowa, during his “Washington to Main Street” tour:

“So you’re manufacturing blades for some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world; each one as tall as Air Force One is long; each is capable of generating enough power for hundreds of homes, just by harnessing the wind,” Obama said. “So what’s going on here, what each of the employees of Siemens are involved with, is helping stake America’s claim on a clean-energy future.”

Siemens, a global company based in Germany, built the wind turbine factory three years ago on the site of a closed tractor-trailer manufacturing business.

Today, the turbine factory employs more than 600 workers, almost two-thirds of whom were previously unemployed, and supports more than 350 other jobs throughout Lee County.

The article goes on to say that the Siemens plant was able to use $3.5 million in Stimulus Bucks to expand the plant.

As I mentioned earlier, Chuck will be following the president tomorrow (Wednesday) as he visits the POET Biorefining ethanol plant in Macon, Missouri.

World’s Largest Land Wind Project Planned in Romania

While the debate goes on whether to move forward on the Cape Wind energy project in this country, the Europeans seem poised to leave those efforts in the wind-swept dust.

BusinessWeek.com reports Spain-based Iberdrola SA will build the world’s largest onshore wind-energy project in Romania, a $2-billion project that will produce 1,500 megawatts of capacity … five times bigger than Europe’s largest wind complex and three times bigger than the Massachusetts offshore wind project:

Iberdrola, which became the world’s biggest wind-farm owner by using government incentives and charging above-market electricity rates for clean energy, now operates in 10 markets including the U.S. and U.K. The Romanian mega-park, near its operations in neighboring Hungary, may extend the Spanish company’s lead over second-ranked wind producer FPL Group Inc. of Florida.

Romania generates much of its electricity by burning oil and gas, which can be easily scaled back during a windy day to allow for surges of power from windmills, said Will Young, a wind energy analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London.

“That makes Romania an attractive market,” Young said today in an interview. “Romania has relatively high power prices and flexible energy generation that allows power producers to feed in electricity easily.”

Iberdrola plans to build 50 wind farms in Romania, able to light up almost one million homes.

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.