Group Calls Wind “Easiest Crop to Harvest”

PelstringA leader in large-scale community wind project development is making the case that wind turbines on farmland would only take up 1 percent of the land but could double a farmer’s profitability.

In a piece e-mailed to Domestic Fuel, National Wind’s co-founder and co-chair Patrick Pelstring says wind energy doesn’t take up as much room as some people might think and would provide a steady second income without a lot of effort on the part of the landowner:

A rule of thumb regarding wind farm land use is that, while each turbine generally needs a plot of about 100 acres separating it from other turbines, the actual footprint of each turbine is less than one acre. This footprint includes the area surrounding the turbine and all access roads. Therefore, each turbine occupies less than 1% of the open land required by a wind farm, leaving the other 99% of the property available as farmland or pasture.

To examine the impact wind energy can make on a small amount of land, let’s envision a hypothetical farmer, John, who grows corn on 500 acres of land. According to the 2008 Riverland Community College Farm Business Management Annual Report for Southeast Minnesota, the average return per acre of corn from 1999-2008 was $60.13 per acre. A total of 500 acres of corn at $60.13 profit equals $30,065 per year. This is the farmer’s return on labor and management after investing capital, labor, management and taking commodity and weather risks.

windvscornprofitNow, imagine that John has five turbines on his farm, occupying five of his cropping acres, leaving him with 495 acres of corn. His farming conditions are the same, so from those acres he’ll make $29,764 in profit, based on the 10 year average profit of $60.13 per acre. But add in the revenue from the turbines–$35,000 total assuming $7,000 per turbine (on the low end of what National Wind pays)–and his total profits increase to $64,764 per year. This would be almost double his profits from growing only corn without turbines. Under National Wind’s community model, the profit structure may be even better if landowners take an ownership stake in a project company and share in the actual profits generated.

Pelstring goes on to make the case that wind turbines can be a good hedge against natural disasters, such as floods in farmland.

Power Line to Convert to Wind Energy Carrier

minnpowerA high voltage power line that runs from near Duluth, Minnesota to just outside of Bismarck, North Dakota will soon convert to carrying clean wind energy power.

This story from Minnesota Public Radio says Duluth-based Minnesota Power bought the 250-kilovolt power line from the Square Butte Electric Cooperative:

“We’ll be phasing out coal-based electricity that is currently carried via the D.C. line, and that will be replaced entirely by wind energy over the next several years,” [Minnesota Power Spokeswoman Amy Rutledge] said. “It will afford us access to some of the best wind resources in the country, and provide us with the means to deliver more renewable energy to our customers.”

Rutledge said the purchase will save Minnesota Power the cost of permitting and building a new power line. Minnesota Power is planning a 75-MW wind farm to generate power near New Salem, North Dakota.

The wind energy carried on the line is expected to help Minnesota Power meet a state mandate of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Iberdola Completes 149-mw North Dakota Wind Farm

Iberdrola2Construction is complete on a 149-megawatt wind farm in North Dakota.

This post on says the $300 million Iberdrola Renewables Rugby Wind Power Project near Rugby, North Dakota with 71 turbines created more than 250 construction jobs and will support 29 more jobs while in operation:

Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) purchases 40 MW of output from the Rugby project. MRES, based in Sioux Falls, is an organization of 60 member communities in the State.

Iberdrola Renewables Inc. now operates more than 3,500 MW of wind power in the U.S. It is part of Iberdrola Renovables, the largest provider of wind power in the world according to New Energy Finance, with more than 10,000 MW in operation in 23 countries.

The power purchased by Missouri River Energy Services will meet the energy demands of 11,000 subscribers.

AWEA: More Businesses to Adopt Wind Power in 2010

aweaA combination of more affordable wind turbines and more government incentives will make wind power more attractive to businesses, which should mean more will adopt the green energy source in the coming year … that assessment from the American Wind Energy Association.

This article from Environmental Leader says the AWEA has identified its top wind trends for 2010, including a continued increase in the federal investment tax credit on small wind systems and more clarity on environmental regulations regarding wind farm sites:

Here are some more predictions from AWEA:

– Wind power should continue its six-year trend as the second-leading source of new power generating capacity in the U.S., trailing natural gas power plants.

– Utilities and operators of electric grids will become more comfortable with integrating wind energy with minimal added costs. However, AWEA predicts that the fossil fuel industry may try some backdoor methods of imposing new or unfair costs on wind plants.

– Wind turbines will become more powerful in 2010, AWEA predicts. There are already more than 1,000 2 MW wind turbines in operation in the U.S., and a new wind project in Shephard’s Flat, Ore., ordered 338 2.5 MW turbines from GE.

The article goes on to say that AWEA saw strong support for a national renewable electricity standard in the House of Representatives as a highlight of 2009.

Scandia Proposes 1,000-mw Lake Michigan Wind Farm

scandiawindoffshorelogoA Minnesota company is proposing to build a massive wind farm in Lake Michigan, but some of the residents of Michigan, which has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, still aren’t pleased about the project that would bring green energy and jobs to the economically distressed region.

The Detroit Free Press says that Scandia Wind, a Minnesota firm partnering with a Norwegian wind developer, wants to put up a 1,000-megawatt wind farm just offshore from the communities of Pentwater and Ludington:

Several companies have been sniffing out offshore wind farm possibilities in Michigan, but Scandia was the first to jump in and publicly announce its plans. The turbines would be visible all along the shore, which takes in Silver Lake and Mears state beaches, Little Sable Lighthouse and Pentwater Harbor.

The firm wants to build foundations on the lake bottom, which is owned by the citizens of Michigan, and place 100 to 200 turbines — 5 to 10 megawatts each — on top.

The total size would make the wind farm bigger than any proposed new coal plant in Michigan and nearly as large as the Fermi 2 nuclear plant.

Local residents say the wind turbines would ruin the view off their beaches and hurt tourism. Scandia officials point out that the $3 billion project would put people to work to the tune of at least 2 million man-hours.

Chevron to Install Rhode Island Wind Turbines

wind_turbineRhode Island’s governor has selected Chevron Energy Solutions to install and operate six wind turbines on public land in the state.

The Providence (RI) Journal reports
that Governor Donald Carcieri made the announcement about the San Francisco-based clean energy company getting the contract at a Narragansett Town Council meeting:

“Chevron is a proven leader in renewable energy and a proven partner with states and municipalities,” the governor said in a statement.

Chevron will work with the state Department of Environmental Management [DEM] and the Town of Narragansett to develop a plan to erect up to six large wind turbines on properties owned by the state or the town. The exact number of turbines and locations will be determined during the talks with the developer…

Energy produced by the proposed turbines would be used at DEM facilities at the Port of Galilee, which use about $100,000 worth of electricity annually, and at state camping grounds and beaches in Narragansett. It would also be used to power the Scarborough Treatment Plant and other Narragansett town facilities.

Chevron will get no state or local funds to put up the turbines.

Land Lease Moves Minnesota Community Wind Project

rootrivernationalwindA 20,000 acre land lease is helping move forward a community wind project in Minnesota.

Root River Energy and managing partner National Wind have announced they have secured the 20,000 acres in Mower and Fillmore Counties in Southeast Minnesota. This press release from National Wind says the land represents about two-thirds of the leased acres needed to develop up to 300 megawatts of community-owned wind energy in the area:

“The project is really coming together nicely as we continue to receive a positive community response from both the Fillmore and Mower County footprints,” says [Root River Energy’s Jim] Connolly. “The Mower County expansion has helped accelerate the project’s development. Also, landowners are realizing that our business model focuses on building positive relationships, allowing the community to share in the project’s revenues and influence the process to meet their needs.”

Root River officials say they are working with local farmers to make sure access roads to the project don’t interfere with current farming operations.

Wind Works Acquires Interest in 80 MW of Wind Power

WindWorks2Canadian-based Wind Works Power Corp. has acquired half interest in six wind energy projects in Ontario with a total capacity of 80 megawatts. This company press release says Wind Works Power will have the option to up those interests to 100 percent:

“With these 6 new projects, we now have a total of 15 wind energy projects in Ontario totaling 190 MW” commented Dr. Ingo Stuckmann, CEO and director of Wind Works. “All 15 projects submitted power contract applications to the OPA, which offers the highest power rate in North America. Power contracts in Ontario will be awarded in the January to March 2010 time frame, and we are now targeting to commence construction on a minimum of 70MW in Ontario in 2011.”

In consideration for the 50% interest in the 6 wind projects, Wind Works will make a one-time cash payment of $300,000 on April 30, 2010, and issue 1,200,000 restricted common shares.

The projects submitted power contract applications under the new Feed-in Tariff program as part of the Ontario Power Authority initial launch period. The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contract program offers a power contract with a guaranteed rate of C$135.00/MWh over a 20-year term to qualified wind energy projects.

GE Inks Deal to Build U.S.’s Biggest Wind Farm

GEWind1GE has signed a $1.4 billion deal to deliver more than 300 wind turbines for a 845 megawatt wind farm to be built in Oregon.

The Earth2Tech blog says, when built, it would be the largest wind farm in the U.S.:

Independent power producer Caithness Energy will develop the wind farm, called Shepherds Flat, and under three power purchase agreements will provide clean power for utility Southern California Edison (meeting one-tenth of SCE’s state renewable portfolio standard). Caithness Energy says the entire project will cost $2 billion, will create 435 local jobs and is ready to be built now.

The wind industry is pretty much the most mature clean power sector in the U.S. and is being driven in California partly by the state renewable portfolio standard, which says utilities must have 20 percent of their electricity come from clean power by 2010. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said that in the third quarter the U.S. wind energy industry installed 1.6 GW of new power generating capacity, bringing the year-to-date total by the end of the third quarter to 5.8 GW.

Experts are hoping that the tough economy, which hit the wind turbine particularly hard this past year, will turn the corner to free up some of those markets to provide more capital for construction.

Mass. Offshore Wind Farm Takes Big Step Forward

CapeWindlogoThe company building a proposed wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts possibly has found a market for its wind energy … once it starts actually generating the green power.

Wind energy company Cape Wind and utility National Grid are negotiating a long-term contract for the utility to purchase the electricity generated by the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound. According to a press release from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, this agreement is critical for the project to get financing so it can be built in time to get Stimulus Bill money … reducing costs for the builders by 30 percent:

CapeWindpic“For both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and launching the offshore wind industry that will achieve those reductions, it is essential for Cape Wind, like offshore wind in general, to move from wishful thinking to reality,” said Governor Patrick. “A contract with an electric distribution utility like National Grid will move Cape Wind one step closer to reality.”

The power purchase arrangement still has to go through state regulatory review, but it is considered a major milestone for what could be the first offshore wind project in the U.S. The news is being welcomed by environmental groups:

“Anything that moves toward producing megawatts of clean renewable energy and creating the jobs associated with this can only be viewed as positive,” said Pam Solo, president, Civil Society Institute. “This is a critical development that provides the essential assurance Cape Wind needs to secure financing and get real steel in the ground.”

Clean Power Now Executive Director Barbara Hill said: “Clean Power Now will continue to work with the Governor’s office and his administration to ensure that the consumers throughout the Commonwealth, including the Cape and islands, will have the opportunity to not only realize the benefits of cleaner air, jobs and energy independence from the Cape Wind project but also by locking in a predictable, competitive price for many years.”

The Civil Society Institute is one of the initiating organizations of the 140-member (CLEAN), a collaboration of state and local organizations and individuals, lobbying for new energy policies. Clean Power Now is a non-profit organization that gives the public information about renewable energy projects and policies. The group has made wind energy off the shore of Nantucket its focus.

Montana Announces First Community Wind Project

Judith_Highlands_Energy_LogoSeveral counties in central-Montana are working together to develop, what could be, the largest wind development project of its kind in the state. National Wind, working with Billings-based Montana Wind Resources, LLC and along with area ranchers, have formed Judith Highlands Energy, LLC to develop over 500 megawatts (MW) of community-owned wind projects.

“Area ranchers are realizing that National Wind’s established business model is distinctly different than “traditional,” corporate wind farm developments,” said Patrick Pelstring, Co-Chair of National Wind, LLC. ” Our National Wind model seeks to allow local community participation, which provides potential for sharing in both turbine leases and revenues from a successful project.”

A 2009 Harvard study suggests that Montana is second only to Texas with the country’s greatest wind potential.  The Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Program has reported that 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity in Montana could add $1.2 billion in cumulative economic benefits, reduce C02 emissions by 2.9 million tons, and save over 1,200 million gallons of water annually.

According to Judith Highlands Energy, the project incorporates over 50,000 acres, nearly 100 percent of the land needed to develop the wind farm’s first phase. The company is expected to be developed in multiple 100+ megawatt phases over the next 5-8 years, and has stated that they have executed two leases for on-site meteorological equipment (met tower) installation within the next 30 days. The met towers will help determine where the turbines should be placed.

China & U.S. Companies to Build Wind Turbine Plant

APowerTwo powerful renewable energy companies are combining efforts to build a new wind turbine plant in the U.S. reports that the venture between Chinese company A-Power Energy Generation Systems, Ltd. and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, or “US-REG,” will build highly advanced wind energy turbines for renewable energy projects throughout North and South America and comes on the heels of US-REG announcing a major wind farm in Texas:

USREGWith an estimated 320,000 square feet, the new wind turbine facility is projected to produce 1,100 megawatts of wind energy turbines annually. Additionally, after the facility is completely finished, over 1,000 individuals will be employed.

In addition to production and assembly at the new plant, the plan calls for many of the key wind turbine components to be sourced from U.S. manufacturers, further expanding the number of jobs created in the United States.

According to John Lin, director and chief operating officer at A-Power, said that there are great opportunities in renewable energy in America. “This state-of-the-art facility will be our first major step towards bringing clean, renewable energy to the world’s largest wind power country,” he added.

This agreement marks the culmination of a long process initiated in 2007 during which A-Power conducted economic analysis and sought strategic partners to enter the U.S. wind power market.

On October 29, 2009, Shenyang Power Group and US-REG announced plans to develop a $1.5 billion, 600MW wind farm across approximately 36,000 acres in Texas, for which A-Power has been designated as the turbine supplier.

No word on when the factory would be completed.

Duke Energy Uses Stimulus Bucks for Wind Batteries

dukeA $22 million grant … thanks to the federal Stimulus Bill … will help Duke Energy research using batteries to store wind energy from a Texas wind farm.

This story from UPI says the North Carolina company will match the U.S. Department of Energy grant to design, build and install batteries for the storage of wind energy from its Notrees Windpower Project in western Texas:

Duke said it plans to develop a large-scale battery to store excess wind energy for the distribution of electricity when wind turbines are not in cycle.

“Energy storage truly has the potential to serve as a game-changer when it comes to renewable power,” said Wouter van Kempen, president of Duke Energy Generation Services, a Duke Energy subsidiary involved in renewable energy.

There are 95 wind turbines on the Notrees wind farm, which can produce up to 151 megawatts of clean electricity.

Clemson Gets $98 Mil for Wind Research

ClemsonURI2South Carolina’s Clemson University is getting $98 million in federal funds for wind energy research that is expected to create hundreds of wind energy jobs and make the area a center for wind research.

This press release says the school’s Restoration Institute and its partners have received a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as $53 million of matching funds, to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine drive train testing facility at a former Navy base:

The award is the largest single grant ever received in the university’s history and represents an enormous economic development opportunity for the region.

The testing facility will be … capable of full-scale highly accelerated testing of advanced drive train systems for wind turbines in the 5 megawatt to 15 megawatt range, with a 30 percent overload capacity.

Planning and construction of the facility will begin in the first quarter of 2010 with a targeted operational date in the third quarter of 2012.

John Kelly, executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute and vice president of public service and agriculture, said this award will further Clemson University’s strength in research and education and support the establishment of a wind energy manufacturing cluster in South Carolina.

The project is expected to create immediately 113 temporary and 21 full-time jobs. But for the long haul, the Department of Energy believes South Carolina could gain 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs in the wind power industry over the next 20 years.

Solar, Wind Latest Additions to Green Education

mortarboardThere’s an old saying that goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” While it might be true that college does cost, there are some cheaper options out there. And more of those options are including solar and wind degrees from the less expensive community college route.

This article from CNN Money says that more of the more-affordable two-year schools are offering degrees in the ever-growing renewable energy sector:

In part the increase in demand at junior colleges is due to the recession: Many students can no longer afford pricey four-year colleges and are opting to attend two-year programs instead.

And the schools are about to receive a surge of funding thanks to the Obama administration, which has placed the country’s 1,200 two-year institutions at the heart of its recovery strategy, allocating $12 billion over the next decade to help modernize the system.

Already green partnerships between big industry and junior colleges are popping up around the country:

MesalandsCCGE has donated a small wind turbine to Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, N.M., and has plans to hire graduates of the school’s new wind energy technician program. And at Milwaukee Area Technical College, local industrial giant Johnson Controls (JCI, Fortune 500) is building a 2,500-panel solar education farm where students can learn to become photovoltaic installers and designers.

In helping put together the programs, companies are also building a pipeline of potential employees. “Johnson Controls’ headquarters is nearby, and it’s looking for thousands of people,” says Joseph Jacobsen, Milwaukee Area Technical’s associate dean of environmental studies. “The baby boomers are retiring, and it’s going to need new employees.”

The article goes on to say that the increase in people getting the green technical degrees is also building a demand for instructors with practical experience who can teach what this next generation of workers needs to know.

Of course, these programs join some of the biodiesel and ethanol degrees already out there (see my post about the masters degree in bioenergy at the University of Illinois from March 23, 2009).