US Wind Energy Potential 3Xs Higher Than Thought

The potential amount of wind energy in this country is actually more than three times what is was previously thought to be.

This post from the Energy Collective blog
says a new analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) credits the increase to improvements in wind turbines over the last decade and a half:

The assessment of onshore wind energy potential found that the U.S. could produce almost 37 million gigawatt-hours yearly. According to the American Wind Energy Association, that’s nine times our current annual electricity consumption.

Expressed as gigawatts rather than gigawatt hours, the new estimate for the U.S. wind resource is 10,000 gigawatts, an amount that dwarfs currently installed wind power which totals about 35 gigawatts – enough to power 9.7 million homes. Obviously there’s plenty more where that comes from, even more if offshore wind is included.

NREL’s last analysis in 1993, when wind turbine heights were more limited, estimated U.S. onshore wind potential at less than 10.8 million gigawatt hours.

As noted by Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the new assessment is more than a number, it’s another compelling argument for passage of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation by Congress:

This new analysis confirms that America is blessed with vast wind resources that can energize our economy, create jobs, and avoid carbon for years to come—if we give ourselves the policy tools to do so, including a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard with aggressive, binding near- and long-term targets.

In addition, AWEA points out that if we took advantage of the wind energy potential, we would also create thousands of American jobs building the components and turbines to tap that potential.

US-China Group Announces $1.5 Bil Texas Wind Project

Two American companies have teamed with a Chinese company for a $1.5 billion West Texas wind farm project.

The Austin (TX) Business Journal says Texas-based Cielo Wind Power and U.S. Renewable Energy Group out of Washington, DC have teamed with Shenyang, China-based A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd. subsidiary Shenyang Power Group for a 36,000 acre wind farm:

A-Power will begin shipping wind turbines in March and deliver all units by the same month of 2011. Its subsidiary, Shenyang Power, is contributing $36.6 million to the project, which is expected to produce about 600 megawatts of energy.

Shenyang and U.S. Renewable Energy formed a separate Delaware LLC to own, design, develop, construct, manage and operate the wind turbines, according to the release. A Cielo affiliate will also assist in development.

This is one of the world’s first Chinese-American utility-scale wind power projects, able to produce enough electricity to power 180,000 homes while creating hundreds of U.S. jobs.

New Wisconsin Wind Turbine Plant to Employ 600+

A new wind turbine blade plant in Wisconsin is expected to put more than 600 new workers on the job.

This post on the Web site says the Energy Composites Corp. (ECC) facility in Wisconsin Rapids got some help in the form of $238 million in municipal tax-free bonds from a pool of money created with federal stimulus dollars:

“Tax-free bonds are a critical component of our financing plan for the 535,000 square foot plant,” noted Sam Fairchild, Energy Composites’ CEO, in a statement. “Development costs for our new factory are too large for traditional Industrial Development financing programs, and the Recovery Zone Bond program, which expires at the end of 2010, is precisely the right solution at precisely the right time…

The 535,000 s.f. plant will be capable of making wind blades 65 meters in length that can supply both onshore and offshore wind farms, and will be build with “a maximum range of flexibility in production design” to be able to accomodate technological advances. The facility will partner with Mid-state Technical College, where prospective employees can get training in blade fabrication.

So at a time when we hear about how too many of the stimulus bucks are going overseas and stimulating economies overseas, it’s nice to hear about some of the money staying home and helping here.

Bright Lights of Vegas to be Powered by Wind

A Nevada utility will get some of its power from wind energy.

This story from Las Vegas Review-Journal says NV Energy has signed a a deal to buy energy from a wind farm near Ely for the next 20 years:

Pattern Energy Group of San Francisco will build the 150-megawatt Spring Valley Wind Project, which would be Nevada’s first major, utility-scale wind plant.

NV Energy already has announced plans to codevelop with RES Americas the 200-megawatt China Mountain Wind Project near the Idaho border, but that project is still in the environmental-impact statement permitting process.

The Spring Valley project is scheduled for completion by late 2011. Neither company disclosed the terms of the agreement.

“We’re pleased to add more clean renewable energy for our customers, and this project is a good example of developing renewable energy resources in remote parts of our state,” said NV Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Yackira in a statement.

In addition to creating clean energy, the wind farm will create more than 150 jobs during construction with another 10 permanently employed at the wind farm.

The deal is part of a state requirement that NV Energy get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.

Idaho Power to Add More Geothermal Energy

While alternative energy continues to get a boost from the Obama administration, geothermal still doesn’t seem to be garnering much of the spotlight. However, the energy sector is growing and recently the state of Idaho announced that it will increase its percentage of energy output from wind, solar and biomass and is looking to add more geothermal derived energy.

Photo Credit: U.S. Geothermal Inc.

Based its 20 year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filed with the state last December, the most promising form of geothermal energy for Southern Idaho is binary cycle geothermal development. In this type of plant, the hot geothermal water is passed through a heat exchanger which then heats a binary liquid. From there, the liquid is vaporized and the vapor spins the turbine-generator unit where it is then reliquefied and reused in the heat exchanger. After a portion of geothermal water is used for heat, it exits the plant and is returned back to the reservoir.

The first project, Raft River, is already producing electricity and Idaho Power is looking to develop additional projects over the next decade. To date there are only 12 binary cycle geothermal plants in operation in the US.

In the near-term, Idaho Power plans on adding 266MW of wind capacity in 2010 through long-term power purchase contracts and plans to have over 600MW of wind by the end of 2012. In addition, they have hired Black and Veatch to conduct a feasiblity study for solar techologies.

In an effort to increase geothermal funding and projects across the US, the industry is gathering in San Francisco next week for the GeoPower Americas conference where the goal is to raise more attention to this promising form of alternative energy.

Michigan Grants $1.7 Million for Offshore Wind Study

Two grants totaling $1.7 million have been approved for studying offshore wind technologies in Michigan.

The Chicago Tribune reports the grants come from the state’s Public Service Commission:

Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center and the University of Michigan’s Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute are getting $1.3 million for jointly researching offshore wind and ice data on Lake Michigan.

The Superior Watershed Partnership is to receive $350,000 for researching sites’ wind energy potential on Lake Michigan. The organization also will assess public opinion on offshore wind development.

If the last post I had about an offshore wind energy project in Lake Michigan, where Scandia Wind was proposing a 1,000 megawatt Lake Michigan wind farm, is any indication, there should be plenty of discussion about this topic … on this site and elsewhere. Let’s see what people have to say.

Renewable Energy at Iowa Power Farming Show

harness natureThe mission of Harness Nature (HN) is to design, market, install, and service renewable, sustainable, alternative energy sources in the Midwest, which is why they were exhibiting at the Iowa Power Farming Show this week in Des Moines.

“We’re a renewable energy company based out of Des Moines,” says Harness Nature Team member Randy Skeie, pictured here on the left with HN owner Dan Broderick on right. “Most of our focus here in Iowa is on wind because it’s an abundant resource.”

Skeie says wind energy is growing in the Midwest. “Iowa is currently number two in terms of wind production in the nation, behind Texas, so we’re a leader in that regard,” he said.

Harness Nature works with homeowners, farmers and businesses to help them incorporate renewable energy sources and Skeie says there are incentives and stimulus dollars available to do that.

Listen to or download Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with Randy Skeie from the Iowa Power Farming Show.

Utahns to Get Training for Wind, Solar, Alt Fuels Jobs

About 2,000 Utahns who need good jobs will get some training in fields looking to hire: alternative fuels, renewable energy, wind, solar and geothermal power.

The Deseret News reports that a $4.6 million stimulus bucks grant will pay for training for displaced workers, disadvantaged youths and veterans:

“We’re still working out some of the details,” department spokesman Curt Stewart said Wednesday. “But we have formed a coalition” to settle details on what will be free tuition for workers training for specific types of jobs related primarily to emerging energy industries.

“We’ve identified several partners who provide training academies already,” said Stewart.

Plans are still tentative, but Salt Lake Community College is expected to educate 1,070 people in the fields of green construction, alternative fuels, energy management and renewable energy transmission.

Between the College of Eastern Utah and the Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center, 230 slots are being created in alternative fuels, green construction and energy management.

The Southwest Technology Center will have 100 slots focused on working with wind, solar and geothermal power, Stewart said.

This State Energy Sector Partnership and Training Grant is part of the $440 million in stimulus grants nationwide.

Obama to Slash Gov’t GHGs by 28%

For those of you who still have President Obama’s State of the Union speech in your mind, then you may remember his call for the government to slash greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). He has followed through. Less than a week after the pronouncement, Obama has issued an Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability for the federal government to slash GHG emissions 28 percent by 2020.

According to the White House, the federal government, which includes all of our armed forces, is the largest energy user in the U.S. The 28% reduction would decrease annual electricity use by 1.5% saving between $8 – $11 billion in energy costs through 2020. Just in 2008, the federal government racked up a $24.5 billion energy bill.

“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said Obama as quoted in an article in Recharge. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”

This goal will require the government to shift to clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, which will support job growth and technology development in the clean tech sector – another major goal of the administration. This move also signals Obama’s commitment to passing a comprehensive climate change package, which is currently stalled in the Senate.

In the meantime, departments will be required to develop sustainability plans that will include current GHG emission estimates and to ensure follow-through, achievement reports will be published online for the public to view and submit reponses.

US Wind Industry Breaks Installation Record in ’09

WindTurbineThe U.S. wind industry has broken all records with the announcement that nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity was installed in 2009–enough to serve more than 2.4 million homes for one year. This according to the Q4 report released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). However, not all the news was good as the U.S. still lags in manufacturing; yet the recent announcement of Recovery Act manufacturing incentives are designed to improve this situation.

These new projects put wind energy in a tie with natural gas as the leading sources of new electricity generation for the country, which together account for 80 percent of all new capacity.

“The U.S. wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon, and protecting consumers,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “But U.S. wind turbine manufacturing – the canary in the mine — is down compared to last year’s levels, and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow.  We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their U.S. operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry.”

This was a welcome surprise as many analysts predicted that wind development might drop as much as 50 percent as compared with 2008. Although new generating capacity for the 4th quarter was slightly down as compared to 2009 (4,041 MW completed), the total for the year was up. The industry also expects the passing of a national Renewable Electricity Standard will also help the development of the industry.

In other news, the report showed that Texas is still the leader in wind energy followed by Iowa, California and Washington, who pulled ahead of Minnesota last year. The full report can be accessed on AWEA’s website.

REpower Supplying Wind Turbines for Minnesota Project

REpower_logoDenver-based REpower Systems AG announced that National Wind LLC has awarded them with a contract to supply 20 MM92 wind turbines for the Lake Country Wind Energy project in Minnesota. The turbines have a rated power of 2.05 megawatts (MW) and a hub height of 100 meters. While this is the first phase of the project, ultimately once all phases are complete, the wind energy program will wabi_logoprovide an estimated 340 MW of wind energy annually.

This is the first Minnesota project for REpower and the first collaboration with National Wind. Per Hornung Pedersen, CEO of REpower, stated in a press statement, “The US market is gradually starting to recover. This order and the other signed contracts in the last few months show that our North American business is slowly picking up again.”

According to Windustry, a Minnesota-based non profit aiding communities in developing community wind projects, Minnesota is one of the fastest growing wind energy states, in part due to good local policy and support.

“We strongly value our new relationship with REpower and look forward to building upon it,” said NationalWindLogo_0Jack Levi, co-chair of National Wind. “Securing wind turbines is a significant project milestone for Lake Country Wind Energy. Not only is REpower’s turbine technology an ideal fit for the project’s wind regime, it also advances Lake Country’s first phase toward a late 2010 construction. It is exciting to bring Meeker and Kandiyohi Counties’ first utility-scale community-owned wind project closer to reality.”

Virginia Forms Offshore Wind Coalition

Offshorewindmills2A group of developers, manufacturers, utilities, localities, businesses and environmental groups has created a coalition to promote offshore wind energy in Virginia.

North American Windpower reports that the Virginia Offshore Wind (VOW) coalition wants to make the Hampton Roads area a hub of manufacturing and supply for future offshore wind farms on the East Coast:

“The market opportunity for Virginia to become the East Coast hub for offshore wind manufacturing and logistics is approximately $80 billion and represents more than 10,000 new jobs for our state,” says Josh Prueher, president of Earl Industries and vice chairman of VOW. “We must act now to capture it.”

Last summer, [William D. Sessoms Jr., mayor of Virginia Beach, Va.] created the Mayor’s Alternative Energy Task Force to study new green energy sources for Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads and the state. Wind energy was identified as one likely source of alternative energy.

VOW is working closely with Virginia legislators to place the state in a position of leadership within the industry. The coalition is working on state legislation that will make Virginia competitive with other states pursuing offshore wind.

You can read more about VOW here.

Transmission Challenges Slow Wind Energy Success

HarvestingTheWindThe wind energy industry enjoyed some success during 2009 despite the economic down-turn and the difficulty of obtaining private investment dollars. There are currently 31 gigawatts of wind in production throughout the U.S. that has reduced carbon dioxide emissions and water use. New projects have increased economic development and tax revenue and 35,000 new green jobs were created according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Yet the continued growth of the wind energy industry is going to be seriously challenged by transmission limitations, said Susan Williams Sloan with AWEA during AG CONNECT Expo held in Orlando, Florida.

This is in part what has driven AWEA to support legislation that would develop federal policy on electric grid planning. However, what this policy doesn’t address is who is going to pay for the updated system. The obvious answer: us.

Steve Wegman, with the South Dakota Wind Energy Association not only stresses the importance of transmission challenges, but notes that our country will never see better policy without consumer participation. And without consumer participation, wind energy will be stopped in its tracks.

In the meantime, there is a growing movement to community wind projects. Lisa Daniels, with the Minnesota based non profit Windustry, explains that community wind is about keeping those energy dollars as local as possible. Daniels is especially excited about “renewable projects supplying power for renewable energy.” An example would be an ethanol plant using wind to power its facility.

While citing wind projects can be challenging, all the speakers noted that this shouldn’t be the case. “It shouldn’t take a superhero,” said Daniels. “We need supportive policies and standardized policies.”

Wegman concurred and left the audience to ponder an interesting definition of insanity from Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.” This, says Wegman, represents our country’s current energy policy.

AG CONNECT Expo Photo Album

Listen here to my full wind energy report.

Book Review – The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

TheBoyWhoHarnessedTheWindI have a new hero and his name is William Kamkwamba – “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.” William begins his story by writing, “A windmill means more than just power, it means freedom.” William was born in Malawi and like many in his country, his family struggled to survive in a country defined by drought and hunger. Unable to pay for school, William, gifted in the sciences, began spending his time in the library where he discovered how to bring electricity to his home with a windmill in the outdated American textbook, Using Energy.

What happened after he found that book is absolutely amazing – William spent months collecting the pieces that he would use to fashion a windmill out of junk. Fueled by ridicule and passion along with the support of his family and two best friends, William succeeded in creating a windmill that brought electricity to his home. Word spread and people began coming from miles and miles away to see “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.”

William understood what most take for granted – that electricity would help the family survive. It would replace the expensive kerosene that his family had to travel nearly seven kilometers to purchase. It would bring light to the darkness and it would allow them to pump water and irrigate the land, not only improving the bushel per acres of their crops, but allow them to plant and harvest two crops a year, helping to eliminate the months of hunger suffered year after year.

But the completion and success of his windmill didn’t fix his families problems right away. Continue reading

GE Inks Wind Turbine Deals at Home & Abroad

GEWindAmerican manufacturing giant General Electric is striking some big deals in the alternative energy field, especially wind power. reports deals in China and Oregon … with potentially more deals to come … are bolstering the company’s green energy sector:

General Electric announced they will provide 88 turbines for three projected wind projects in the Hebei and Shanxi Provinces of China. The new deal positions China to potentially surpass the U.S. as the global leader in wind energy by adding 132 megawatts of wind power capacity to the nation.

Thus far, GE has already arranged to provide 895 units of 1.5 megawatt wind turbines to the world’s most populated country. Over the next decade they plan to add an addition 150 gigawatts of winpower.

Just a month ago, GE inked a similar $1.4 billion contract with an Oregon wind farm and looks to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s $2.3 billion initiative to create 17,000 “green” jobs in U.S.