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

25x’25 Shows Progress Toward Renewable Energy Goal

25x'25The nation is moving slowly but surely toward greater energy independence, according to a new progress report from 25x’25.

Renewable energy produced in the United States between 2004 and 2009 grew by about 23 percent, according to the report, Meeting the 25x’25 Goal: A Progress Report. The 32-page analysis details advances made by the renewable energy sector since the Alliance was formed in 2004 toward meeting 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs with renewable resources from the land by 2025.

Among the report’s findings:

- U.S. renewable energy consumption at the end of 2009 was 8.3 percent of total energy consumption, up from less than 6 percent in 2004

– Ethanol production tripled in the last 5 years with 10.8 billion gallons produced in 2009, while biodiesel production climbed in 2008 to almost 700 million gallons

– The electricity generating capacity from wind facilities has grown an astonishing 429 percent since 2004, with total generating capacity now over 35,000 megawatts

– Solar production capacity for both thermal and electricity generation has grown 41 percent since 2004. Some 40 megawatts of solar energy were installed off the grid in 2009

The report emphasizes that while much has been accomplished, the need to make the transition to a new energy future is even more vital now than it was when the vision was adopted in 2004. “We will continue to forge a path to a cleaner, more secure and economically viable new energy future – one defined by ever-increasing amounts of domestically produced, renewable forms of energy,” said Read Smith, co-chairman of the National 25x’25 Steering Committee, in a press conference this morning.

Read the report here.

Survey Shows Wide Support for Alt Energy Tax Breaks

If Congress is wondering if there’s enough public support for the U.S. Senate to support the $1-a-gallon federal tax incentive (which, could come to a vote this week), a new survey shows Americans do favor these types of tax breaks.

This National Biodiesel Board press release
says a new Stanford University poll finds that 84 percent of respondents favor federal tax breaks to encourage alternative energy, including water, wind and solar:

“The research clearly demonstrates Americans are crying out for home grown solutions to develop clean energy sources and end our addiction to oil,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). “The biodiesel tax inventive is a perfect example of the type of investments the federal government should be supporting to cut carbon pollution, lessen our reliance on petroleum and create green jobs.”

Jobe said the biodiesel tax credit, in just five years since its enactment, has resulted in the construction of over 150 renewable refineries in 44 states, 23,000 jobs, and billions of dollars of net tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury, all while displacing billions of gallons of petroleum.

Congress allowed the biodiesel tax credit to lapse on December 31, along with all other expiring tax provisions. As a result of the expiration, much of the industry has just shut down and almost half its employees have been laid off, leaving the industry on the verge of collapse.

Retroactively reinstating the biodiesel tax incentive was incorporated into H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, which passed the House last month and is now under consideration in the Senate.

Jobe says the delay from Congress so far has been “unacceptable.”

East Coast States Form Offshore Wind Consortium

A group of 10 states along the U.S. East Coast have signed an agreement with the the Department of the Interior to form the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium. says the group will also promote solar and biomass power:

Federal approval of Cape Wind, the United States’ first offshore wind farm near Cape Cod, essentially gave offshore wind the green light up and down the nation’s coasts. This agreement by the DOI and 10 East Coast states essentially assures us that wind energy will be developed in abundance with the full support of federal and regional governments.

The 10 states to sign the memo are: Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia. Six states also formed intergovernmental “leasing task forces” to develop and facilitate leases for private companies to build offshore wind farms. Florida and South Carolina did not sign the memo, but are developing leasing task forces as well. Apparently, Georgia is cooperating in some way, shape or form.

The efforts are expected to help create green jobs in construction, operation and manufacturing of renewable energy systems in the region. In fact, the Department of the Interior has set up a renewable energy office in Virginia to help coordinate the efforts.

How Many Wind Turbines for Leaking Gulf Oil Well?

Found a great piece (well, with some help from some Facebook friends at Beckerman PR) on the real cost of offshore wind turbines versus offshore oil platforms in Forbes.

Karl Burkart’s piece asks, “How many offshore wind turbines could have been installed for the cost of one $10 billion Deepwater Horizon?,” the platform that sank and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history:

How many turbines can $10 billion buy?

Assuming that the next few big offshore projects will drop in price as manufacturing and grid infrastructure improves, let’s say a 60-megawatt project will go for $200 million. Divide that into $12 billion and you get 60 60-megawatt wind projects, or about 33 billion kilowatts of power capacity per year.

How many electric cars does that power?

A typical American drives 12,000 miles per year. The latest plug-in electric vehicles (like the much-anticipated Tesla sedan) use about 370 watt-hours per mile. The U.S. driver’s 12,000 miles x .37 = 4,440 kilowatts per year. Divide 33 billion by 4,440 kilowatts and you get about 7.4 million electric vehicles that could be powered each year with a $10 billion wind investment.

Now while the piece does admit that the Deepwater Horizon well would have fueled more cars … 18.2 million vehicles per year … it does it at a higher cost per mile: 13.6 cents/mile for petroleum and only 3.7 cents/mile for electric vehicles running on wind-generated power.

If you figure that 7.4 million Americans would be saving $1,188 per year, that is about $8.8 billion going back into the U.S. economy rather than into the grubby hands of foreign oil companies like BP.

And that’s not even counting cleaning up the occasional mess created by Big Oil.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that wind energy is too expensive, just ask them: just how high of a price should we continue to pay for non-renewable oil?

Running Out of Room for Wind Farms?

There are concerns that the best areas for wind energy farms have been taken up, and that could be slowing development of wind energy in this country.

This piece in Renewable Energy World International Magazine talks about how it’s getting too hard to find large areas of land with strong and steady winds that have a welcoming community and easy access to transmission:

‘When I talk to developers, this is their biggest issue of concern at the moment. The best spots are taken’, said Joanne Howard, vice consul (Energy) at UK Trade & Investment with the British Consulate-General in Houston, Texas.

With the prime wind sites gone – or disappearing quickly – where does the wind industry go from here?

So far developers in fast-growing markets have been able to overcome the problem by pursuing short-term innovations to improve lesser sites or capture niche markets. In some cases, they are realigning their development queue and focusing on projects in untapped countries. In short, they are rethinking their approach. As Javier Mateache, CEO of Gestamp Wind North America puts it: ‘The answer is not blowing in the wind, but in our brains and hands.’

In the US, a lack of transmission continues to be a primary restraint to the growth of onshore wind farms. The US has land aplenty with strong wind, but it remains undeveloped for lack of a way to get the power to market. Transmission lines cost roughly US$1 million per mile to build in the US. Given that prime wind sites are often far from where the wind power is needed, the price tag is hefty and the federal government has yet to resolve who will pay the bill. Wind developers shy away from proposing wind farms where no transmission yet exists and utilities don’t want to put money into building transmission unless they know a generator stands ready to use the lines. Wind industry insiders call this the transmission chicken and egg dilemma.

In addition to the issue of getting the power from the areas producing it to the areas needing it, farmers have become more savvy about the value of their fields where the wind turbines and transmission lines would be located. The fact that power lines would have to go through multiple jurisdictions is also deterring some companies some jumping in.

The article goes on to say the solution might be more, smaller wind farms closer to population areas, and more importantly, closer to the transmission infrastructure.

Book Review – Powering The Future

This week I read “Powering The Future,” by Daniel B. Botkin. I was motoring along learning about our current energy mix (fossil fuels, fossil fuels, fossil fuels) and then moved on to the section about alternative energy and his evaluation of the viability of wind and solar. Then I got to the biofuels section and this is where in most books I feel authors are either uneducated or intentionally dismiss the data. Botkin was no different in his assessment of biofuels. He only supports biofuels from algae and soil bacteria and he backs up much of his biofuels with bad data from the likes of David Pimentel.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The goal that Botkin set out in his book was to discuss each major source of energy including how much energy it provides today, how much it could provide in the future, how much it would cost, and its advantages and disadvantages. On this note, I do think that Botkin set out what he meant to do and offered analogies and numbers that most will understand.

Here are some interesting takeaways from his analysis. First, he is not a proponent of natural gas because his data shows that if it were used to fuel the 140 million+ cars on the road, we’d run out in less than 20 years. Second, he is not a proponent of nuclear because there is a limited amount of uranium and it costs more to decommission a nuclear plant than build one. While he has reservations about coal, he does anticipate that coal use will increase for electricity.

So what does he like? Continue reading

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.