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).

Largest Offshore Wind Farm in New England Cranks Up

FoxIslandsThe largest community-owned wind facility on the East Coast and the largest off-shore wind farm in New England is now open for business.

This press release
says the Fox Islands Wind Project in Maine features three large-scale wind turbines that will generate 4.5 megawatts of electricity for the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven, providing cheap, clean energy to the islands’ residents, who currently pay twice the national average for their power, for decades to come:

Governor [John] Baldacci and Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree joined leaders of the Fox Islands project to dedicate the wind energy project, a model for communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

“The Fox Islands community wind project demonstrates that a local community can harness the power of a local, renewable resource and become an example to the rest of the State and the nation,” said Gov. Baldacci. “This new wind installation puts Maine at the cutting edge of renewable energy development, and proves that coastal wind is a viable, low-cost energy source.”
The turbines’ dedication is the result of strong support from the entire Fox Islands community since the project’s inception. In a nearly unanimous vote in July 2008, island residents ushered in a new era of renewable power in Maine by approving the project, and the arrival of the turbines earlier this summer was hailed by local residents. Several other island and coastal communities are now looking at community wind power as a viable alternative to traditional energy sources.

The GE Power & Water-supplied turbines can generate about 11,600 megawatt hours of electricity per year and reduce carbon emissions by a total of 5,400 tons.

Several New England-based companies and organizations, including the Island Institute, Cianbro Corporation, EOS Ventures, Diversified Communications and Fox Islands Electric Cooperative, collaborated on the effort.

More information is available here.

And more cool pictures of the project are available here.

Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Farm Gains Traction

Offshorewindmills2A couple of events this week could bring the hope of wind farms off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia … better known as the Delmarva … closer to reality.

The Ocean City (MD) Dispatch reports that on Monday, Bluewater Wind, which already has an offshore wind farm project well underway in Delaware and a conceptual plan for a second one off the coast of Maryland, was taken over by NRG Energy Inc., a major player in energy production and distribution in the region. Then, on Tuesday, the governors of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form a tri-state partnership for the deployment of offshore wind energy in the mid-Atlantic coastal region:

Viewed individually, each event represents a gentle nudge in the direction of future wind farms off the mid-Atlantic coast. Together, however, they represent a significant move toward the development of the alternative energy source in the three states that comprise Delmarva. First and foremost, the MOU agreed upon by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine on Tuesday creates a formal partnership that could pull together the region’s significant offshore wind resources.

“No one state will be able to do this independently of the other states in the region,” said Bluewater Wind’s Dave Blazer. “There will have to be some spillover. It’s a pretty exciting development in this effort and should be beneficial for the region as a whole.”

Blazer explained the MOU essentially opens the door for the three states to partner and pool its collective resources on things like economic development, research and development and job training, for example. O’Malley agreed the MOU represents a significant step in the collaborative effort to develop offshore wind resources off the coast of the three states.

The article goes on to point out that Bluewater Wind already has a 25-year, 200-megawatt power purchase agreement with Delmarva Power and Light that has already been approved by the Delaware Public Service Commission as well as other state agencies. Maryland and Virginia are a bit further behind in their wind energy developments, but the new memorandum of understanding between the three states is expected to push their efforts forward as well.

Largest Wind Energy Project in Utah Begins Operations

firstwindThe largest wind energy project in Utah has started operations, generating enough power to keep the lights on in 45,000 homes per year.

This article from the Deseret News says First Wind’s Milford Wind Corridor project has 97 wind turbines capable of producing 203.5 megawatts of electricity:

Milford_Wind_Turbine2Eventually, the $400 million project will include 159 turbines across 40 square miles of public and private land.

“We’re looking forward to expanding it in the months and years to come,” Paul Gaynor, chief executive officer of First Wind, said in the release. “This project is a great example of the kind of development that helps create jobs and helps stimulate the economy.”

The project’s power will go to the Southern California Public Power Authority, on behalf of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the cities of Burbank and Pasadena, Calif. In December 2007, First Wind signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with the authority.

“We’re pleased to see this project go online and begin delivering clean power to our customers,” said Bill Carnahan, the authority’s executive director, said at Tuesday dedication ceremony.

The article goes on to say that the Milford Wind Corridor is the first-of-its-kind project under a new Bureau of Land Management program to develop wind energy on federal lands.

Stimulus Bucks Fund New Hampshire/Maine Wind Project

A consortium of New England schools will get $700,000 in federal stimulus money to develop three deepwater wind energy test sites in the Gulf of Maine.
This press release
from the University of New Hampshire says UNH’s Center for Ocean Renewable Energy… better known as CORE… has teamed with the University of Maine-led consortium, known as DeepCwind, and will test the first prototype floating structure with a wind turbine:

Unlike other offshore wind projects, which consist of wind turbines mounted on shafts sunk into the ocean floor in relatively shallow water, deepwater wind utilizes floating turbines moored to the ocean floor. The DeepCwind project will launch only the second deepwater wind energy facility in the world (the first is in Norway) and the first offshore, deepwater wind project in the U.S.

“This is a really exciting project, because we’re pushing the envelope,” says CORE director Ken Baldwin, professor of ocean and mechanical engineering.

Within the next year, CORE will install a wind turbine with a 25-foot diameter on a 60-foot tower floating in 170 feet of water just south of the Isles of Shoals, where a mooring grid is already in place – and permitted – from UNH’s Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center. The site is six miles offshore and one mile south of White Island. CORE researchers will equip the 10-kilowatt turbine with extensive instrumentation to measure wind, wave, and temperature effects on the turbine itself, the platform on which it floats, and the mooring lines that anchor it to the ocean floor.

This offshore wind energy project has been a big deal for Maine for several years and picked up UNH’s ocean engineering expertise to help bring this dream of 10- and 100-kilowatt wind turbines home.

Wind’s Success is Transmission Lines’ Problem

Wind power out West is booming… and that’s a bit of a problem. No, not a problem because of all of the clean energy the wind is producing. But the aging infrastructure to get that power to the people who can use it is loaded to the max, and this article from UPI says it’s time for an update:

FentyFuture wind projects mean the region’s electrical grid must be expanded, which won’t be without controversy, said Brent Fenty, who heads the Oregon Natural Desert Association, which is tracking transmission proposals.

“There’s no question that we are changing the face of the state right now. And the important part is that we do that in a way that is responsible and reflects our values,” Fenty told The (Portland) Oregonian.

Hundreds more wind turbine projects are planned for Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, most of them on private land. New power lines to carry that energy, however, must be built on public lands and carry a long-term impact, said Erik Fernandez, spokesman for the group Oregon Wild.

“If we do this the wrong way, there’s going to be a large price tag environmentally,” Fernandez said.

So I guess that’s the right kind of problem to have: too much green power. Now, if some upgrades that are in the works, such as the Tres Amigas Super Station in Clovis, New Mexico that aims to link major wind and solar projects with the U.S. population centers (see my post from October 14, 2009), come to fruition, all this bounty of wind power should be a blessing.

WSI & Enva Partner on WindCast IQ

productshotWeather Services International (WSI), in conjunction with Genscape’s Enva, have launched WindCast IQ, the first wind generation forecasting service designed for energy traders. Wind Energy has seen a big boost with the move to alternative energy and has become the fastest growing source of power generation in North America. However, along with growth comes growing pains, and the increase in wind energy has also been a cause of congestion and price volatility in many regions.

The solution, according to WSI, is WindCastIQ, which gives clients highly accurate hourly forecasts for up to 7 days of wind generation at the ISO-level, regional and wind farm level. The first two products will cover the Midwest (MISO) and Texas (ERCOT) the regions with the highest wind power generation and impact on power markets.

“Wind power is an important source of clean energy and getting accurate wind generation forecasts is a growing challenge for all rpmmarket participants,” said Ira Scharf, General Manager of WSI’s Energy and Risk Division. “The combination of WSI’s highly skilled wind power forecasting teamed with Enva’s expert understanding of the power grid creates an ideal pairing of forces to give energy traders and wind farm operators a true market edge.”

According to the company, this product provides market participants previously unattainable levels of forecasting accuracy by combining WSI’s skillful turbine-height wind forecasts and Enva’s wind generation models and analysis of grid & market factors. Accuracy is further enhanced through calibration with Genscape’s real-time power flow monitors installed at key wind farms.

Obama Pushes Hybrids, Wind & Solar at MIT

ObamaportraitPresident Barack Obama was touting renewable energy during his visit this week to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Wall Street Journal reports that during a speech before 750 MIT faculty, local business leaders and politicians reminded those in attendance that green energy choices will lead the country to true economic prosperity:

Mr. Obama also touted the $80 billion in energy-related spending in the $787 billion stimulus bill he signed in February, saying it “makes the largest investment in clean energy in history, not only to help end this recession, but to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity.” The stimulus package includes spending on battery technology for hybrid vehicles, energy efficiency retrofitting and renewable energy initiatives like wind and solar power.

Mr. Obama had campaigned on the promise of quickly capping U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, a break with the policies of the George W. Bush administration. But legislation that would reduce industrial emissions has lost momentum in Congress this year, as lawmakers labor over health-care system and financial industry regulations that have taken months longer than anticipated.

The president’s aides had once hoped the Senate would pass a climate change bill before the United Nations’ climate change summit in Copenhagen in mid-December. But now, early next year is the soonest final legislation is expected to reach the Senate floor. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to begin hearings next week on legislation to cut U.S. emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020.

The White House believes the legislation could be passed by January, but the article says few in Congress see that happening.

Montana More than Doubles its Wind Energy Output

NaturEnerA new wind energy farm in Montana will more than double that state’s wind energy output.

The $500 million Glacier Wind Farm in Northern Montana is now the biggest in the state, putting out more than 210 megawatts and joins Montana’s Judith Gap farm, which produces 135 megawatts of power. This article in the Great Falls (MT) Tribune says Gov. Brian Schweitzer and NaturEner USA officials were on hand for the completion ceremony:

schweitzer1“This wind farm is one of the reasons Montana is on the map as a leader in wind energy development,” Schweitzer said.

NaturEner USA began construction of the Glacier Wind Farm near Shelby in 2008. It is to be built in two phases.

Schweitzer spoke at the official ground breaking of the first phase on July 17, 2008. The 106.5 megawatts of power from that phase went online at the end of October 2008.

With the completion of the second phase, the entire 210-megawatt output is now on the electrical grid, according to the governor’s office.

San Diego Gas and Electric, an investor-owned utility in California that serves 1.2 million customers, is purchasing some of the power produced at the Glacier Wind Farm.

And yet another wind farm is planned for that area. The $800 million Rim Rock project will feature 206 turbines generating 309 megawatts of power, making it one of the largest wind farms in the Northwest United States.

Solar, Wind Top Survey Choices for Green Energy

NielsenreportAmericans want green energy choices, with the largest motivating factor for those choices being saving some greenbacks. And the top choices for that green-saving energy are solar and wind.

The latest Nielsen Company Energy Trends report shows that 80 percent of the 32,000 respondents polled cited cutting costs as their main motivation for conserving energy:

Overall, the study shows that many consumers have adopted more environmentally friendly habits, while others have not acted as quickly. “The current momentum surrounding green initiatives and reduced energy consumption presents utilities and home improvement companies with a golden opportunity,” says Jonathan Drost, Account Executive, Energy for The Nielsen Company. “When going green is cost effective, such as opting for Energy Star appliances or government incentive programs, customers migrate in that direction. The biggest hurdle for energy companies is educating the consumer on things like Smart Grids, Energy Efficiency programs and Renewable Green Energy.”

Renewable energy sources are at the heart of the emerging green economy, and if consumers have any say, solar would be their carbon neutral source of choice. “I believe solar came out on top as a preference because it is a technology that consumers can identify with,” Drost offers. “Not only can a consumer place solar panels on their home or purchase solar water heaters, but also they see retailers installing solar panels on their roof and hybrid cars with solar roof options. It’s been a media hot topic as well.”

The survey shows that 37 percent of respondents prefer solar power, and 16 percent want wind.

Only 3 percent of those households surveyed say they plan on buying a plug-in hybrid, but about one-fourth say they would purchase one once the technology became more widely used.

Nielsen officials say more consumer education is needed to bring in the next wave of renewable energy “early adopters.”

Wind Consortium Led by Illinois Institute of Technology

iit_logo_2005_2Wind energy has received another gust with the announcement from U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu that three universities have been given investments for wind energy research. An Illinois Institute of Technology (IITT) led consortium has been selected for up to $8 million to support the research and development programs that include private industry, state and local governments, and other universities as partners. The other two benefactors are University of Minnesota and University of Maine.

“Illinois Institute of Technology’s consortium is pleased to have been chosen to help advance wind energy for the nation,” said IIT President John Anderson. “The combination of research and academic opportunities at IIT and its academic consortium partners, in conjunction with industry, will help the United States be at the forefront of this technology.”

The wind projects, guided by “20% Wind Energy by 2030 Report,” will focus on the improvement in current land-based and offshore turbine technology and also provide educational opportunities for college and graduate students in the field of wind energy technologies. The three projects selected are in support of President Obama’s focus on creating clean energy and green jobs. The funds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Wind power has the potential to provide 20 percent of our electricity and create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “We need to position the United States as the clear leader in this industry, or watch these high-paying jobs go overseas. The investment we’re making today will help ensure that America has both the talent and the technology we need to compete.”

National Wind Challenges President Obama

Earlier this week, National Wind CEO Leon Steinberg, challenged President Obama to take a stand by insisting that legislators pass an energy bill establishing a federal oversight committee to implement an interstate transmission highway. Steinberg likens the challenge as similar to President “Ike” Eisenhower’s initiative of creating a federal interstate system. The only difference is that while the nation’s interstate system is for cars, the transmission highway is for electricity.

Transmission_MapThe Midwest is prime real estate for wind energy, especially Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa enabling the states to produce more energy than the people need. However, today, it is nearly impossible to capture and transfer the excess energy from wind turbines for use in overpopulated areas like California. The next logical step is to design a way to do just this all while providing lower cost energy to consumers.

Just like the biofuels industry is struggling to increase the blend wall (if not the country can’t meet the 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022), the electrical industry cannot meet President Obama’s goal of 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025 if the grid is not overhauled and upgraded.

Steinberg writes in an op-ed piece, “President Obama’s goal of securing 25 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025 is restricted by state regulators who act only in the interests of their state and disregard the potential benefits of new, high capacity, interstate transmission line.” If the country is serious about energy security, he continues, then the President should emulate Eisenhower’s approach and, “demand action by Congress to bring our energy infrastructure into the 21st century.”

As many have said and will continue to say, including Steinberg, our government needs to get out of its own way in order to usher in new environmental and economic security for generations now and to come.

Project Looks to Link Wind, Solar Projects to Rest of US

One of the big knocks against solar and wind energy is the lack of infrastructure to connect the power generated in remote areas of the American West with the large population centers back east. But a project in New Mexico could change that.

TresAmigasmapGreenBeat reports that state’s governor has unveiled a plan to build a massive electric transmission station in Clovis, New Mexico. The Tres Amigas Super Station is designed to connect the U.S.’s three main power grids and better channel solar and wind energy:

The proposed project, which would take about five years to build beginning in 2011 or 2012, would be the largest power converter in the world, covering 22 square miles and fundamentally changing how electricity flows across the country. New Mexico, which would benefit tremendously from the jobs and revenue created by the facility, was chosen because it is located nearest to where the three power grids — referred to as the East, West and Texas interconnections — meet up. On top of that, conditions in the state would allow it to geenrate up to 27 gigawatts of solar and wind energy.

The $600 million project will have a capacity of 5 gigawatts to begin with and could be scaled up to 30 gigawatts. It’s expected to put $4 billion back into the local economy.

USDA Loan to Help Green Rebuilding Greensburg, KS

greensburgGreensburg, Kansas, literally destroyed by a tornado in May, 2007, is getting some help from the government to have a green energy source supply the power for the town as it continues to rebuild.

The USDA has announced
a $17.4 million loan to Greensburg Wind Farm, LLC, to provide financing for the 10 wind turbine project that will supply power to the community:

The total project cost is estimated at $23.3 million. Approximately, $17.4 million will come in the form of a loan to Greensburg Wind Farm, LLC, a subsidiary of John Deere Renewables, with the remaining $5.8 million, or 25 percent of the total project cost, being provided through an equity investment by Deere & Company. The loan will support the 10 wind turbine project that will generate 12.5 MWs of electricity that will serve the electric needs of the City of Greensburg and other rural communities through the Kansas Power Pool.

“I am proud of the long standing commitment by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service toward working with community-based electric cooperatives to find new and more energy independent ways to power rural America,” said Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager.

The USDA claims it has provided the town with about $20 million in financing to help with the community rebuilding efforts.

Renewable Energy Grants Available in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is now offering several Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) grants. Eligible projects include agricultural related renewable energy systems, feasibility studies and research projects. The ACRE program is a set of grants that provide funds to conduct feasibility studies, install renewable energy systems or do research into renewable energy projects.

microhydroGrant applications submitted must be for projects that will be completed withing two years of grant award. Examples of past projects that have been supported by the ACRE grant program include wind turbines, solar panels, micro-hydro systems, biomass systems, and biodiesel plants. Funds will be distributed in three categories.

1) Feasibility Studies –  must study the feasibility of an agricultural energy-related project. Feasibility studies may address the market for the product, engineering requirements, economic viability, environmental concerns, legal requirements, management, and other necessary study components. A maximum allocation for each study is $25,000.

2) Project Participation — for projects will completed feasibility studies, awards will be granted to assist with the project.. A maximum allocation of $100,000 has been established per project.

3) Research — applications for research of agricultural energy-related topics will be considered in an effort to bring new information to the marketplace. Research should be tied to a particular issue or problem in Colorado. A maximum allocation of $50,000 per project has been set.

Grant applications are being accepted through October 30th. Contact ROI for more information at 517-812-3285.