Feed-In Tariffs Could Help Small Solar, Wind Power

A proposal that would require utilities to buy power from small-scale renewable energy producers could end up being a boon for solar and wind power in America.

The New York Times reports
that two Democrats in the U.S. House have introduced a bill to do just that:

Inslee1Reps. Jay Inslee of Washington and Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts are preparing a bill that would require utilities to purchase small-scale renewable energy from developers at rates equal to the cost of production plus a premium. The so-called feed-in tariffs proposal would set European-style guarantees for investors that many credit for a recent boom in solar energy in Germany.

Delahunt1“We have some brilliant Americans with brilliant business plans with brilliant technologies, but they don’t have financing,” Inslee said at a briefing last week on Capitol Hill. “The charm of the feed-in tariff is solid, take-it-to-the-bank security and confidence for the investing community.”

Proponents say feed-in tariffs can be more effective than renewable-energy standards, such as the one included in the House climate bill by Democrats Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, because they offer staggered rate incentives for each energy source based on current production costs. The initial rate that utilities would pay for solar energy, for example, would be higher than payments for less-expensive wind energy.

Backers of the bill also point to the model in Germany, where, after passing its own Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2000, Germany was able to become the world’s largest market for photovoltaic systems and wind energy and more than doubled its supply of renewable energy between 2000 and 2007.

Mass. Hands Out $2.2 Mil in Wind Energy Grants

The State of Massachusetts has handed out $2.2 million to fund nine new wind energy projects.

This press release from the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
says the agency’s secretary, Ian Bowles, made the announcement of the grants awarded by the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust through the new Commonwealth Wind Community-Scale Wind initiative:

ianbowles“Wind energy is a core component of Governor Patrick’s plan for the Commonwealth’s clean energy future,” said Secretary Bowles. “These nine grants will help get more wind turbines installed and help more community institutions reduce their use of fossil fuels.”

The Governing Board of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust approved the grants totaling more than $2.2 million. Project funding included design and construction grants for three new wind projects totaling more than 4 megawatts (MW) in capacity, and six feasibility studies for wind energy that would total more than 3 MW in capacity if built. The nine grants go to public projects, educational institutions, a farm, and a shopping center. Funds for the Trust come from renewable energy charges on electric bills, which generate roughly $25 million a year to support renewable energy installations and companies.

“These heavy energy-users—municipal and state facilities, schools, retail centers, and farms—have much to gain from wind power, and the Trust is glad to be able to put wind power within their reach,” said Phil Giudice, Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and chair of the Trust’s Governing Board.

The three projects receiving design and construction grants are the town of Hanover, for its wastewater treatment plant; the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission; and the Massachusetts Department of Correction, for North Central Correction Institution-Gardner.

Awards for the six feasibility studies go to Allen Farm, Martha’s Vineyard; Cape Cod Academy, Osterville; Centerville-Osterville-Marston Mills Fire District; Colony Place, Plymouth; Falmouth Academy, Falmouth; and Up-Island Regional School District, Chilmark, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury.

You can read more about each project here.

Wind Energy Continues on Fast Growth Pace

AWEA2The U.S. wind energy sector has added 4,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity in the first six months of this year, outpacing the first half of 2008′s 2,900 MW.

The American Wind Energy Association’s second quarter (Q2) market report released today says the U.S. added 1,200 in this most recent quarter, with Missouri showing the greatest growth of all the states. Good news, right? Well, there are some troubling aspects in the report:

While the number of completed wind farm installations was solid, AWEA said it is seeing a reduced number of orders and lower level of activity in manufacturing of wind turbines and their components, a development it termed troubling in view of the fact that the U.S. industry was previously on track for much larger growth and the global wind power industry is continuing to expand.

“The numbers are in, and while they show the industry has been swimming upstream, adding some 4,000 MW over the past six months, the fact is that we could be delivering so much more,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Our challenge now is to seize the historic opportunity before us to unleash this entrepreneurial force and build up an entire new industry here in the U.S. that will create jobs, avoid carbon, and strengthen our energy security. To achieve that, Congress and the Administration must pass a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) with strong early targets.”

During the second quarter, the U.S. wind energy industry completed a total of 1,210 MW in 10 states, enough to power the equivalent of about 350,000 homes. These new installations nudge total U.S. wind power generating capacity to 29,440 MW, according to the report. The U.S. wind power generating fleet now offsets an average of 54 million tons of carbon annually, reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2% or the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road.

The state posting the fastest growth in the 2nd quarter was Missouri, where wind power installations expanded by 90%.

Texas still leads the nation in wind energy, in the amount added during the past quarter with 454 MW and total wind power at 8,361 MW. Iowa remains at #2 in overall wind power (3,043 MW), and California is next at 2,787 MW.

Texas Set to Become Offshore Wind Energy Leader

While bureaucrats on the East Coast argue about if they’ll allow green, offshore energy wind turbines (remember the eight-year long battle that continues over a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod?), Texas seems to be on the fast track to getting the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
CleanTechnica.com reports
that last week, the Texas General Land Office awarded Houston-based renewable energy company Baryonyx leases for three wind farms, including two in the Gulf of Mexico:

BaryonyxsitesThe two offshore wind leases, for sites in the Gulf of Mexico, are the sixth and seventh leases for offshore wind farms signed by the General Land Office since 2005, the land office said in a statement. The third site is on state land in the Texas panhandle.

Under the lease, Baryonyx will pay the state’s Permanent School Fund a nominal fee to lease the two offshore areas for wind development, but its payments would climb if and when the company began producing energy on the site.

Once built, the two offshore wind farms would inject a minimum of $338 million into the state’s school systems over the 30-year lease, according to state officials.

Baryonyx said its offshore farms will each produce a minimum of 750 MW and use some of the world’s largest turbines, each one producing up to five MW.

Baryonyx still needs to do the environmental paperwork to get the deal done, but you can bet there will be a lot less opposition on the Gulf Coast than off of Martha’s Vineyard.

Andrew Young Discusses Wind Energy at IFMA17

IFMA 17Wind energy is an up and coming technology in the U.S. and central Illinois. Attendees of the International Farm Management Association 17 Congress (IFMA 17) got a chance to learn more about this current, complex energy issue. Andrew Young, CDO of Horizon Wind Energy, addressed the IFMA 17 Congress today in the Brown Ballroom at Illinois State University. Young’s presentation outlined the wind energy industry, the company itself and the current policies and incentives in place to help grow the industry.

Horizon Wind Energy is the company that manages the wind farm located in McLean County. The Twin Groves Wind Farm is located five miles east of the Central Illinois Regional Airport. The wind farm produces 396 megawatts of clean energy per year enough to power around 120,000 homes in Illinois. With over 240 massive turbines the Twin Groves Wind Farm is one of the largest in the country.

One of the main factors in starting a wind project is getting land owners to sign on to the project. The ideal placement for wind farms is on open range and actively cultivated farm lands, thus relevant to many of the attendees of the IFMA 17 Congress.

Young also stressed the challenges that exist to furthering the wind energy industry in the U.S. Currently, the U.S. energy grid system is not structured to support the full potential capacity for wind farming technology. Lack of connection to the grid has tabled some wind farm projects in areas that are ideal for wind technology. Also, tax credits and incentive programs are another main factor in funding and starting a wind farm project, Also, community opposition and difficulty in obtaining permits can slow a wind project.

Ultimately, tax incentives are critical to wind energy’s success. At the end of the presentation, a man from Australia wondered what the growth of wind capacity would be in the U.S. without tax incentive programs from the government. Young responded, “Very slow, since every form of energy is subsidized in the U.S., there would be no way that this industry could grow without this program.”

Wind Could Spark Minnesota’s Economy

Minn2020In these times of tough economic news, a new wind could be blowing opportunity into the Midwest.

This story from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal says a report from the think tank Minnesota 2020 says that state, already the fourth largest provider of wind energy in the nation, could create more than 2,200 jobs and generate about $9 billion in economic development over the next several decades by constructing 4,059 megawatts of wind generated power:

A good portion of the jobs created would be in the manufacturing sector, according to the report, an industry that has been hit hard during the recession.

In order to achieve this, the report states that Minnesota should focus on localizing wind turbine building and ownership, which has a greater impact on stimulating local economy.

Since 2005, Minnesota rapidly increased its wind capacity, growing by about 31 percent each year.

The increase in wind energy would help Minnesota get closer to its mandate that utilities must generate 25 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2025.

World Wind Potential Much Higher than Estimates

wind_turbineA new study says the potential of wind energy around the world is much higher than what either wind industry groups or government agencies have been estimating.

This story in the New York Times says a Harvard University study shows that the U.S. could end up being the big leader in wind power:

Using data from thousands of meteorological stations, the Harvard team estimated the world wind power potential to be 40 times greater than total current power consumption. A previous study cited in the paper put that multiple at about 7 times.

In the lower 48 states, the potential from wind power is 16 times more than total electricity demand in the United States, the researchers suggested – significantly greater than a 2008 Department of Energy study that projected wind could supply a fifth of all electricity in the country by 2030.

While remote regions of Russia and Canada have the greatest theoretical potential, the Harvard study pointed out that there are real gains to be made in high-emission nations, especially China, which has been rapidly constructing coal plants. “Large-scale development of wind power in China could allow for an 18-fold increase in electricity supply relative to consumption reported for 2005,” the Harvard study said.

The findings are “further validation of what we’ve been saying – that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind,” said Michael Goggin, an electricity industry analyst for the American Wind Energy Association.

The authors based their calculations on the deployment of 2.5- to 3-megawatt wind turbines situated either in accessible rural areas that are neither frozen nor forested, or relatively shallow offshore locations. They also used a conservative 20 percent estimate for capacity factor, a measure of how much energy a given turbine actually produces.

Study authors point out that other wind energy forecasts were based on 50- to 80-meter turbines. They say that turbines could be as large as 100 meters and based their estimates on the larger possible generators.

Congress Urged to Fund Wind Energy

swiftCongress is being urged to make more money available for wind-energy research.

This story from the Abilene Reporter News says that Andrew Swift, director of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech, made the case for a federal proposal to pump $200 million a year into research and development for wind power:

“I believe if research and education investments are made on the scale proposed that this industry can provide 20 percent of the nation’s electrical power by 2030,” the Lubbock professor said in testimony.

The Department of Energy came up with the 20 percent projection, estimating reaching it would create 180,000 wind-industry jobs.

A panel of the House Science and Technology Committee explored needs in wind and solar research Tuesday. The Energy and Environment Subcommittee also took up the 2009 Wind Energy Research and Development Act of 2009.

Authored by Rep. Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat, the bill would provide $200 million a year for wind-energy related research through 2014.

Wind energy experts point out that while unemployment has climbed and energy supplies have tightened, the wind industry has added 35,000 jobs and put out enough power for more than 2.5 million homes.

Lack of Capital Shelves Pickens Wind Plan

pickensPlans to build the world’s largest wind farm have been put on hold, as billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens cites a lack of capital and infrastructure.

CNN reports that Pickens has announced that his 4,000 megawatt Pampa Wind Project planned for the Texas panhandle is on hold:

“I had hoped that Pampa would be the starting point, but transmission issues and the problem with the capital markets make that unfeasible at this point,” Pickens told CNN’s Ali Velshi. “I expect to continue development of the Pampa project, but not at the pace that I originally expected.”

The Pickens Plan was an attempt to wean the United States off foreign oil and switch to wind and natural gas. The project was to be set in four Texas Panhandle counties.

Pickens said he faced hurdles in routing the power from Texas to a distribution system. His plans were also stymied by a plunge in natural gas prices and a tightening credit market.

“The capital markets have dealt us all a setback, and I’m less aggressive with the Panhandle project than I have been,” Pickens said.

Pickens says he is still committed to 667 wind turbines that he has already ordered and would find homes for them.

Missouri Could Be Wind, Biofuels & Biomass Center

nrdclogo2A new report says Missouri could become a real center for wind power, biomass, biogas and other sources of renewable energy, while creating thousands of jobs and more tax revenues, especially in rural areas of the state.

This story in the St. Louis Business Journal says the Natural Resources Defense Council report points out that Missourians spend more than $18 billion a year on energy for their homes, vehicles and businesses:

That comes to $3,000 in energy costs for each person in Missouri, and most of those dollars leave the state because 84 percent of Missouri’s electricity is generated using coal, almost all of which is shipped in from Wyoming, according to the report.

Among the report’s findings:

* Wind power — 25 moderate-scale wind farms would provide thousands of construction jobs, 550 permanent construction jobs, $15 million in property tax revenue and $75 million in ongoing positive local economic impact in Missouri.
* Biofuels — Cellulosic ethanol, which is made from crop waste and nonfood plants, could create thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity and $13,000 in annual gross income for the average Missouri corn farmer.
* Solid biomass — Replacing 20 percent of Missouri’s coal usage with locally grown biomass would create an estimated 11,000 jobs.
* Biogas — Biogas production from cattle waste would be profitable at more than 200 large-scale livestock operations in 60 Missouri counties.

“Within Missouri’s borders are vast resources of wind, land and water — all the ingredients needed for Missouri to become a national leader in new energy development, creating tens of thousands of good jobs and substantial new sources of income for farmers,” said Martin Cohen, the energy policy analyst who authored the report.

You can read the entire report here.

“Pure Energy” Radio Show to Debut

The first national radio show dedicated to the business of renewable energy will make its debut from the Miami studios of 880 The Biz (WZAB) on Monday, July 13, at 6:00 pm Eastern time.

Pure Energy is hosted by noted energy expert Sean O’Hanlon, Executive Director of the American Biofuels Council (ABC).

Pure Energy“We’re going to talk about all forms of energy and we’re going to focus primarily on the business side of alternatives and renewables in the energy sector,” said O’Hanlon. “Most people focus on clean, green and sustainable but overlook the economic side of it – job creation, cost savings, cost competitiveness and the opportunity to invest in various technologies and companies in renewables.” The program will include all aspects of energy, from policy and petroleum concerns to wind, solar, hydro-electric, geothermal, and biofuels.

Guests for the premier show include two renowned energy authorities – worldwide peak oil expert Richard Heinberg, author of nine books including “Peak Everything” and aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of Energy Victory, who says the nation needs and energy show like this right now. “I think it’s a great thing and I think it would be better if we had a network of such in every city across the country,” said Zubrin. “Because for America to break free from the oil cartel is essential for our future and people everywhere need to know how we can do it.”

O’Hanlon says radio stations in other major markets have already expressed an interest in airing the program. “We’ve gotten inquiries from Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York, and as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina,” he said.

O’Hanoln says the program will originate from WZAB-AM as a live call-in and will also be available live on the web at PureEnergyShow.com. It can also be followed on both Twitter and Facebook.

I interviewed both O’Hanlon and Zubrin about the new show, which you can listen to or download here. They are two separate interviews back-to-back in the same audio file. If you have never heard Dr. Zubrin speak at an event, this will give you just a taste of his very commonsense approach to achieving “Energy Victory” in this country and some of the ideas he will be talking about on “Pure Energy” July 13.

USDA Small Wind Turbine Grants Due July 31st

photo_06331There has been speculation as to when some of the funds dedicated to developing renewable energy will come to fruition. It looks like this is finally happening. Farmers, ranchers and rural business owners have until July 31, 2009 to apply for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants. The grants provide funds to purchase and install small wind turbines (or other renewable energy systems). These grants will cover 25% of the total installed cost of the small wind turbine system, and   when used in conjunction with the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), can help a farmer install a small wind turbine system for roughly 50% of the normal cost.

These incentives, when coupled with the cost savings from generating your own electricity, can result in impressive investment prospects. For example, according to David Shirkey of Renewable Options & Investments (ROI), in locations with 11 mph average wind speeds and with utility rates of $0.12 per kWh, a farmer could realize a 12 percent annual rate of return on his investment and a payback of eight years. In addition, some local utility cooperatives are also offering rebates to its members installing wind power.

Applications must be submitted to local USDA Rural Development offices by July 31, 2009. You can get more information on the grants by visiting www.rurdev.usda.gov or you can contact the American Wind Association.

Tri-State, Duke Energy Ink Colorado Wind Deal

tristateduke2A power company that serves portions of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming has inked a 20-year deal to sell power from a 51-megawatt wind energy farm that will be built in East Central Colorado.

This company press release says Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp. signed the deal that will help Tri-State meet the requirements for its 44 member distribution cooperatives:

“This wind power project is an important part of our near-term strategy to diversify our portfolio with renewable resource that complement our fleet of baseload generation,” said Ken Anderson, Tri-State’s executive vice president and general manager. “It also keeps us ahead of targets to meet renewable energy standards on behalf of our member co-ops.”

tristatewindturbineThe Kit Carson Windpower Project, named for the county in which it will be sited, will be comprised of 34 1.5-megawatt General Electric turbines to be erected on a 6,000-acre site northwest of Burlington, Colo. – within the service territory of Tri-State member co-op K.C. Electric Association. “We are glad that Tri-State has chosen this site for its new wind farm,” said John Huppert, general manager of K.C. Electric. “It calls attention to the fact that areas served by the region’s electric cooperatives are ideally suited for the development of renewable resource projects.”

“Duke Energy is pleased to be able to help Tri-State bring clean, renewable wind power to the customers of its member cooperatives,” said David Marks, senior vice president for wind energy at Duke Energy Generation Services (DEGS), a business unit of Duke Energy that owns and develops renewable energy assets.

Tri-State officials say no new transmission facilities will be needed for the project.

New Shape of Wind Energy is a Cube

windcube2Many times when you think of wind turbines, you think of giant, white blades turning effortlessly in the breezes above a Midwestern farm field. But in order for wind energy to become better accepted, it’s got to be practical in the cities and suburban areas that don’t always have the winds you might see on the prairies and coastal areas.

This story from WKYC-TV in Cleveland says a 22-foot Wind Cube has made its debut in the Lake Erie Business Park in Port Clinton:

It was installed by Green Energy Technologies of Akron, which developed the device for urban areas and those in which traditional large wind turbines were not practical.

“We knew that if we were going inside the city limits or if we were going to be putting them in buildings we had to be able to amplify the wind,” Green Energy President Mark Cironi told WKYC before a ribbon-cutting at the Port Clinton plant on Monday.

“We just couldn’t take the straight ambient wind, convert it to energy, and call it a day,” he explained. Thus the concept off the Wind Cube, in which a shroud surrounding the turbine blades actually doubles the ambient wind speed.

“Doubling the wind speed with this tunnel effect actually increases energy generation by a factor of eight,” said John Fedor of MRD Solutions in Eastlake, which helped design the Wind Cube.

The device can operate at ambient wind speeds of as low as five miles per hour. Consultant David Spera, Ph.D., of DASCON Engineering says that can help keep a constant flow of power into the system.

Government officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony say it’s because of local credits for this type of project that made it possible. One congressman even declared Northern Ohio to be the “Saudi Arabia of wind” energy.

Farmers Eligible for Wind Energy Grants

usdaruraldevSome farmers might be eligible for federal grants to cover the cost of putting in a wind energy turbine.

This ZDNet blog entry says farmers and ranchers in rural areas with fewer than 15 employees have until July 31, 2009 to apply for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants:

The grants can be used to cover 25 percent of the total installed cost of a small wind turbine system, or another renewable energy system for that matter. They can be used in conjunction with the Federal Investment Tax Credit that applies to renewable energy technology investments. Caution, in the information I’m reading about this program, it could take up to two weeks to pull together an application, so you probably don’t want to wait until July 30 to start filling this out.

You can find more information at this USDA Web site.