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.

TransWorldNews.com 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.

New Smart Wind Turbine Sees Breeze and Adjusts

A new wind turbine coming out of Denmark will be able to “see” the wind and make adjustments that optimize power production.

RisoeDTU_Logo_ukThis post from TreeHugger.com says Denmark’s Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy has successfully tested the world’s first wind turbine that uses a built-in anemometer to adjust itself to the oncoming wind:

The system works by using a laser (“wind LIDAR”) to essentially see the wind before it reaches the turbine blades and adjust to what the conditions are going to be a moment later. By doing so electricity production can be increased by 5%, translating into increased revenue of DKr 200,000 ($39,000) per year for a 4 MW turbine.

The article goes on to say that the LIDAR system makes turbine blades more reliable by better coping with the wind’s irregularities.

Group Calls Wind “Easiest Crop to Harvest”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Line to Convert to Wind Energy Carrier

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

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

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

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

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

Iberdola Completes 149-mw North Dakota Wind Farm

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

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

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

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

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

AWEA: More Businesses to Adopt Wind Power in 2010

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

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

Here are some more predictions from AWEA:

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

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

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

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

Scandia Proposes 1,000-mw Lake Michigan Wind Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chevron to Install Rhode Island Wind Turbines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Land Lease Moves Minnesota Community Wind Project

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

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

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

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