GE Inks Deal to Build U.S.’s Biggest Wind Farm

GEWind1GE has signed a $1.4 billion deal to deliver more than 300 wind turbines for a 845 megawatt wind farm to be built in Oregon.

The Earth2Tech blog says, when built, it would be the largest wind farm in the U.S.:

Independent power producer Caithness Energy will develop the wind farm, called Shepherds Flat, and under three power purchase agreements will provide clean power for utility Southern California Edison (meeting one-tenth of SCE’s state renewable portfolio standard). Caithness Energy says the entire project will cost $2 billion, will create 435 local jobs and is ready to be built now.

The wind industry is pretty much the most mature clean power sector in the U.S. and is being driven in California partly by the state renewable portfolio standard, which says utilities must have 20 percent of their electricity come from clean power by 2010. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said that in the third quarter the U.S. wind energy industry installed 1.6 GW of new power generating capacity, bringing the year-to-date total by the end of the third quarter to 5.8 GW.

Experts are hoping that the tough economy, which hit the wind turbine particularly hard this past year, will turn the corner to free up some of those markets to provide more capital for construction.

Mass. Offshore Wind Farm Takes Big Step Forward

CapeWindlogoThe company building a proposed wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts possibly has found a market for its wind energy … once it starts actually generating the green power.

Wind energy company Cape Wind and utility National Grid are negotiating a long-term contract for the utility to purchase the electricity generated by the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound. According to a press release from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, this agreement is critical for the project to get financing so it can be built in time to get Stimulus Bill money … reducing costs for the builders by 30 percent:

CapeWindpic“For both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and launching the offshore wind industry that will achieve those reductions, it is essential for Cape Wind, like offshore wind in general, to move from wishful thinking to reality,” said Governor Patrick. “A contract with an electric distribution utility like National Grid will move Cape Wind one step closer to reality.”

The power purchase arrangement still has to go through state regulatory review, but it is considered a major milestone for what could be the first offshore wind project in the U.S. The news is being welcomed by environmental groups:

“Anything that moves toward producing megawatts of clean renewable energy and creating the jobs associated with this can only be viewed as positive,” said Pam Solo, president, Civil Society Institute. “This is a critical development that provides the essential assurance Cape Wind needs to secure financing and get real steel in the ground.”

Clean Power Now Executive Director Barbara Hill said: “Clean Power Now will continue to work with the Governor’s office and his administration to ensure that the consumers throughout the Commonwealth, including the Cape and islands, will have the opportunity to not only realize the benefits of cleaner air, jobs and energy independence from the Cape Wind project but also by locking in a predictable, competitive price for many years.”

The Civil Society Institute is one of the initiating organizations of the 140-member (CLEAN), a collaboration of state and local organizations and individuals, lobbying for new energy policies. Clean Power Now is a non-profit organization that gives the public information about renewable energy projects and policies. The group has made wind energy off the shore of Nantucket its focus.

Montana Announces First Community Wind Project

Judith_Highlands_Energy_LogoSeveral counties in central-Montana are working together to develop, what could be, the largest wind development project of its kind in the state. National Wind, working with Billings-based Montana Wind Resources, LLC and along with area ranchers, have formed Judith Highlands Energy, LLC to develop over 500 megawatts (MW) of community-owned wind projects.

“Area ranchers are realizing that National Wind’s established business model is distinctly different than “traditional,” corporate wind farm developments,” said Patrick Pelstring, Co-Chair of National Wind, LLC. ” Our National Wind model seeks to allow local community participation, which provides potential for sharing in both turbine leases and revenues from a successful project.”

A 2009 Harvard study suggests that Montana is second only to Texas with the country’s greatest wind potential.  The Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Program has reported that 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity in Montana could add $1.2 billion in cumulative economic benefits, reduce C02 emissions by 2.9 million tons, and save over 1,200 million gallons of water annually.

According to Judith Highlands Energy, the project incorporates over 50,000 acres, nearly 100 percent of the land needed to develop the wind farm’s first phase. The company is expected to be developed in multiple 100+ megawatt phases over the next 5-8 years, and has stated that they have executed two leases for on-site meteorological equipment (met tower) installation within the next 30 days. The met towers will help determine where the turbines should be placed.

China & U.S. Companies to Build Wind Turbine Plant

APowerTwo powerful renewable energy companies are combining efforts to build a new wind turbine plant in the U.S. reports that the venture between Chinese company A-Power Energy Generation Systems, Ltd. and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, or “US-REG,” will build highly advanced wind energy turbines for renewable energy projects throughout North and South America and comes on the heels of US-REG announcing a major wind farm in Texas:

USREGWith an estimated 320,000 square feet, the new wind turbine facility is projected to produce 1,100 megawatts of wind energy turbines annually. Additionally, after the facility is completely finished, over 1,000 individuals will be employed.

In addition to production and assembly at the new plant, the plan calls for many of the key wind turbine components to be sourced from U.S. manufacturers, further expanding the number of jobs created in the United States.

According to John Lin, director and chief operating officer at A-Power, said that there are great opportunities in renewable energy in America. “This state-of-the-art facility will be our first major step towards bringing clean, renewable energy to the world’s largest wind power country,” he added.

This agreement marks the culmination of a long process initiated in 2007 during which A-Power conducted economic analysis and sought strategic partners to enter the U.S. wind power market.

On October 29, 2009, Shenyang Power Group and US-REG announced plans to develop a $1.5 billion, 600MW wind farm across approximately 36,000 acres in Texas, for which A-Power has been designated as the turbine supplier.

No word on when the factory would be completed.

Duke Energy Uses Stimulus Bucks for Wind Batteries

dukeA $22 million grant … thanks to the federal Stimulus Bill … will help Duke Energy research using batteries to store wind energy from a Texas wind farm.

This story from UPI says the North Carolina company will match the U.S. Department of Energy grant to design, build and install batteries for the storage of wind energy from its Notrees Windpower Project in western Texas:

Duke said it plans to develop a large-scale battery to store excess wind energy for the distribution of electricity when wind turbines are not in cycle.

“Energy storage truly has the potential to serve as a game-changer when it comes to renewable power,” said Wouter van Kempen, president of Duke Energy Generation Services, a Duke Energy subsidiary involved in renewable energy.

There are 95 wind turbines on the Notrees wind farm, which can produce up to 151 megawatts of clean electricity.

Clemson Gets $98 Mil for Wind Research

ClemsonURI2South Carolina’s Clemson University is getting $98 million in federal funds for wind energy research that is expected to create hundreds of wind energy jobs and make the area a center for wind research.

This press release says the school’s Restoration Institute and its partners have received a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as $53 million of matching funds, to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine drive train testing facility at a former Navy base:

The award is the largest single grant ever received in the university’s history and represents an enormous economic development opportunity for the region.

The testing facility will be … capable of full-scale highly accelerated testing of advanced drive train systems for wind turbines in the 5 megawatt to 15 megawatt range, with a 30 percent overload capacity.

Planning and construction of the facility will begin in the first quarter of 2010 with a targeted operational date in the third quarter of 2012.

John Kelly, executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute and vice president of public service and agriculture, said this award will further Clemson University’s strength in research and education and support the establishment of a wind energy manufacturing cluster in South Carolina.

The project is expected to create immediately 113 temporary and 21 full-time jobs. But for the long haul, the Department of Energy believes South Carolina could gain 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs in the wind power industry over the next 20 years.

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.