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.

CalFinder.com 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.

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.