Sierra Club Launches Wind Energy Jobs Ad Campaign

With uncertainty around the major federal wind incentive, the Sierra Club has launched a national ad campaign urging Congress to reauthorize the critical incentive for domestic wind energy investments. The campaign focuses on Members of Congress with wind manufacturing jobs in their districts and states that are at risk of the Wind Production Tax Credit is not renewed.

The first wave of ads targets 20 House members who have been silent as the Wind Production Tax Credit has expired, and involves a television advertisement targeting Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07) as well as geo-targeted online ad buys in 20 other districts. These members represent districts and states with a growing wind industry who have not taken a position in support of extending the federal Production Tax Credit for Renewable Energy. In most cases, they have taken no position at all.

The Wind Production Tax Credit expired at the end of last year, in part, said the Sierra Club, because of new opposition from groups backed by the billionaire Koch Brothers and other dirty fuels interests who’ve also fought to preserve the $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.

“The Wind Production Tax credit is arguably one of the best bets we’ve made on clean, domestic energy,” said Dave Hamilton, Director of Clean Energy for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “It encourages huge investments, creates good American jobs, helps our country become more energy independent, and cuts air and water pollution. But many in Congress are failing to act, leaving thousands of American workers and communities across the country blowing in the wind.”

The wind industry employs more than 80,000 American workers and produces enough clean energy to power 15 million homes. It saves more than 30 billion gallons of fresh water each year compared with other energy sources. According to the American Wind Energy Association, if growth remains steady, the industry will produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030. Continue reading

Wind, Solar Solution for New EPA Power Plant Rules

epa-logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce later today new rules to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent by 2030, and a couple of renewable energy sources could help states comply. This article from the Boston Globe says solar and wind energy might be part of the compliance mix.

Under the rule, states will be given a menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shut down coal plants, states could reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems — by installing new wind and solar generation or energy-efficiency technology, and by starting or joining state and regional “cap and trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.

And this article from the Houston Chronicle says power plants in Texas could end up in good shape because they use clean-burning natural gas.

[T]he state would have some 110 fully operating power plants, mostly fueled by natural gas, [Al Armendariz, a former EPA official who now leads the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign in Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas] said. “That’s the good news. The problem can be solved at a small number of plants. This will not affect nuclear plants or natural gas plants.”

Texas officials said the low prices for natural gas have led to the seasonal mothballing of coal-fired plants and reduced their output overall. The shift, they said, will lead to fewer emissions of greenhouse gases.

You can bet more renewable energy sources will be chiming in when the rule is announced later today.

Rural Wind Energy Development Act Introduced

capitol-buildingA bill to help rural areas get more power from the wind has been introduced. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Tom Cole (OK-04) say their Rural Wind Energy Development Act will provide an investment tax credit to ranchers, farmers, and small businesses to offset the up-front costs of owning a distributed wind turbine.

Small wind turbines (generating up to 20 megawatts of clean energy) allow farmers, ranchers, and other consumers to cut their energy bills and, at times, sell power back into the grid. They also allow thousands of businesses—from “mom and pop” stores, to retailers, to ranches, and to breweries—to reduce their energy load, to help clean the environment, and to save money. The Department of Energy’s national laboratories estimate that community wind generates a strong economic multiplier for local communities, helping rural areas rebound from challenging economic times.

“Community wind energy not only creates American-produced electricity, but American jobs as well,” said Blumenauer. “Approximately 90% of distributed wind turbines sold in the U.S. are made here, according to domestic manufacturing content, creating non-exportable, family wage jobs.”

“I am pleased to once again work with my friend and colleague in furthering the success of the same credit we worked to create in 2008,” said Cole. “Not only does the credit play an important role in encouraging and developing an all-of-the-above energy approach for our nation, but it also ensures that America continues to be a leader in innovation. By modestly increasing this credit, we can continue to encourage economic development, especially in our rural communities.”

The bill is touted as taking away federal restrictions that work well for large-scale wind projects, but cause issues for the smaller producers.

New Wind Turbine Offers Quiet Rooftop Power

liamWhile rooftop wind turbines aren’t a new idea, one company might have solved the issue of the noise they can generate that keeps most homeowners from putting them in. This article from gizmag.com says Dutch-based The Archimedes has introduced its Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine, which also brings an energy yield that is “80 percent of the maximum that is theoretically feasible” to the table… quite the claim considering most conventional wind turbines average around 25 to 50 percent.

The 75-kg (165-lb) 1.5-meter (5-ft)-wide Liam obviously doesn’t look much like a typical turbine. It draws on the form of the nautilus shell, and the screw pump invented by ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse.

That form factor reportedly results in minimal mechanical resistance, allowing it to spin very freely and to operate quietly – blade noise is one of the common complaints regarding rooftop wind turbines. Additionally, the design is claimed to keep it always pointing into the wind for maximum yield.

Along with its claim of being able to achieve 80 percent of Betz’ limit, The Archimedes adds that “The Liam F1 generates an average of 1,500 kilowatt-hours of energy [per year] at a wind-speed of 5 m/s [16.4 ft/s], which resembles half of the power consumption of a common household.”

The new wind turbine should be available July 1st with a price tag of about $5,450.

Wind Best Option to Meet EPA Pollution Rule

awealogoA new report shows that wind energy is probably the best way to meet a proposed new federal government rule regarding carbon pollution for existing power plants. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has just published a new white paper that shows wind is one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways states can meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule on limiting carbon dioxide pollution expected to be published June 2.

Among the key findings in the new report are:

The 167.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of wind energy produced in the U.S. in 2013 reduced CO2 emissions by 126.8 million tons, the equivalent of reducing power sector emissions by more than 5 percent, or taking 20 million cars off the road.

The top 10 states by volume of carbon reductions from wind energy are: Texas, Illinois, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Wyoming.

States achieving a reduction in carbon emissions of 10 percent or more (compared to a 2011 baseline) from wind energy alone include California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington State, with Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Wyoming coming in just under 10%.

Wind energy also currently reduces sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by nearly 347 million pounds per year and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by 214 million pounds per year. These pollutants acidify lakes and streams, contribute to smog, and negatively impact public health.

AWEA officials say the best part of this news is that many states and their utilities are already familiar with the affordable, reliable product that wind energy provides.

Floating Turbine Looks to Change Wind Energy

altaeros1A new type of wind turbine that floats a couple of thousand feet above the ground could change the wind energy game. This article from EcoSeed says the Buoyant Air Turbine, or B.A.T., which uses a helium-filled shell and was designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alums Ben Glass and Adam Rein in wind energy start-up Altaeros, could bring energy to off-grid areas.

Their B.A.T. uses a helium-filled shell – made of the same fabric used in blimps and sails – to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground to capture the stronger, steadier winds available at that altitude.

The B.A.T. can produce double the energy of similarly sized tower-mounted turbines. This is because, at the altitude that the B.A.T. hovers, the winds blow five to eight times stronger than winds at tower level (roughly 100 to 300 feet).

According to Mr. Rein, the B.A.T. is not designed to replace conventional tower-mounted turbines but, it will be able to bring wind power to areas where tower-mounted turbines are not practical or economically feasible.

“It’s really about expanding wind energy to all those places in the fringes where it doesn’t really work today, and expanding the amount of wind power that’s able to be deployed globally,” said Mr. Rein.

The article also points out that the autonomous working system will eliminate the need for metal towers and concrete bases, which should please environmentalists working on the clean part of the energy angle.

Maryland Gov Vetoes Wind Turbine Moratorium

omalleyA moratorium that would have stopped construction of wind turbines for more than a year near a U.S. military base in Maryland has been vetoed by that state’s governor. This article from the Star Democrat says Gov. Martin O’Malley vetoed the 13-month wind turbine moratorium that would have kept the structures from being put up within 56 miles of the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River,calling the bill unnecessary and a chilling message to renewable energy developers.

The bill would have delayed construction on wind turbines to wait for a study on how they could affect radar use around the base. Supporters of the bill argued it was important to consider needs of the base, a big economic engine in southern Maryland. But opponents contended it sent a bad message to businesses and harms wind farm development in Maryland.

“There are already safeguards in place to ensure that no renewable energy projects conflict with military facilities — those safeguards render this bill unnecessary,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Opponents of the bill said it would have threatened development of a wind farm in Somerset County due to expiring federal tax credits.

The governor explained that the bill would have killed a $200 million investment in the county and said it was unfair because the developers had invested millions of dollars and played by every regulatory rule.

“If this moratorium were to take effect, it would send a chilling message to clean energy investors, developers, manufacturers, construction firms, engineers and sustainable businesses that the state can change the rules at the eleventh hour,” O’Malley wrote.

Vestas Supplying Turbines for First Wind Project

V112 installation, Macarthur Windfarm, AustraliaAs Maine’s First Wind project looks to move forward, a maker of the wind turbine blades will soon be delivering the technology to the New England location. Vestas Wind Systems will fulfill First Wind’s order of 148 MW for V112-3.0 MW turbines in the U.S. in the 2nd quarter of 2015 with the blades expected to be turning by the end of next year.

Vestas has received an order for 48 V112-3.0 MW turbines for the 148-MW Oakfield project in the state of Maine. The order is a call-off on the master supply agreement (MSA) announced in December 2013 for multiple U.S. projects, the potential of which totals 718 MW. With today’s order, Vestas has secured 298 MW under this MSA.

The highly popular V112-3.0 MW turbines – for which Vestas has already received almost 6 GW of orders – will be supplied for this project. The project will also include a 10-year Active Output Management (AOM) 5000 service agreement. AOM 5000 is an energy-based availability guarantee that ensures the turbines are operational when the wind is blowing. This service option includes the VestasOnline® surveillance system that remotely controls and monitors the turbines and minimizes lost production by predicting when maintenance may be required.

“We’re pleased to continue the construction of the Oakfield Wind project and look forward to installing Vestas’ V112-3.0 MW turbines there,” said First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor. “The Vestas turbines at our Bull Hill project in Maine and the Palouse project in Washington State have performed well and we expect the Oakfield project to enjoy similar success.”

This is the fourth project Vestas and First Wind have done together and their second in Maine. The other project in Maine has achieved 99 per cent availability since it was commissioned two years ago.

First Wind Hopes Turbine Project is Approved. Again

firstwind1A New England wind energy company is hoping Maine utilities regulators approve, again, a partnership with a Canadian power company to build a multimillion-dollar wind energy project. This article from the Bangor (ME) Daily News says Boston-based First Wind is asking for approval of its partnership to build the wind farms near Oakfield, Hancock and Bingham with Nova Scotia-based power company Emera, an approval that a court sent back to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

In petitioning the PUC for a new approval after the state’s high court struck down the commission’s first authorization of the partnership, First Wind and Emera say the revised deal advances the state’s renewable energy development goals and that specific regulations governing the deal provide enough protection from opponents’ concerns of favoritism. They also argued that there is still room within the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion for the $360 million partnership to move ahead.

Those arguments have reversed earlier opposition by the PUC’s public advocate, whose job is to represent ratepayers in regulatory cases.

The Industrial Energy Consumer Group, which opposes the joint venture along with Houlton Water Co., criticized that reversal in a legal brief filed Friday with the PUC, arguing the deal would create an incentive for favoritism between Emera Maine and the sister company that would own a stake in wind power resources.

First Wind says it feels confident the $360 million project with Emera will move ahead.

Wind Leads Renewable Energy Increase in Texas

Cielo Wind Power farm in TexasOil-rich Texas is seeing a surge in renewable energy use, and that surge is being led by wind. This article from the Dallas Business Journal says an Electric Reliability Council of Texas report shows wind, solar and other renewable energy sources increased 12 percent last year, with wind making up the lion’s share of that increase.

Renewable energy produced 38.1 million megawatt hours of power in 2013 compared to just 33.9 million MWh in 2013. Wind power makes up 97 percent of the renewable generation. Wind generation grew by more than 4 million MWh , or 13 percent, in 2013 as well.

Solar grew by 33 percent, or 40,000 MWh, in 2013. Landfill gas had a modest increase, too.

The article goes on to say that biomass and hydroelectric actually went down in 2013.

Power Your Electronics with Wind

Most of us have heard about or already own chargers powered by solar energy to charge cell phones, iPads, laptops and more. But did you know that you can now charge all your electronics with wind energy? Skajaquoda has launched its latest version of the Trinity portable wind turbine – small enough to fit in your purse or briefcase yet powerful enough to charge your electronics.

Trinity Wind TurbineThe Trinity 100 has a 100W generator and a built-in battery that holds 30,000mAh. The mini wind turbine folds together into a 20 inch cylinder that can easily be carried anywhere. Trinity 100 weighs only 6 lbs and 5 lbs without the removable internal battery. On the bottom, Trinity 100 has a 110V output with EU/UK/US wall plug/adapter to charge your devices. It also has a 5V 1A USB and 5V 2.1A USB outputs and an input to charge Trinity’s internal battery in a wall socket.

Trinity’s smaller version has a 15W generator and a 15,000 mAh internal battery that can charge USB devices and laptops. The whole unit weighs only 2.5 lbs and 2 lbs without the removable internal battery.

To operate, you simply open the three blades, remove the aluminum legs and arrange them in either a tripod configuration or laid flat. To close the mini wind turbine, you push the legs back in and the blades close automatically. In a closed position the legs lock the blades and prevent them from opening.

Trinity’s unique design allows you to charge your smartphone up to 10-12 times before it has to be recharged either by itself (using the wind) or simply plug it into a wall output so it can be fully charged before you leave your home. I’ll use the wind, please and thank you.

Juhl Energy Purchases 2 Iowa Wind Farms

Juhl Energy is purchasing two Iowa wind farms. The wind farms are located in North Central Iowa outside the towns of Manley and Kensett and utilize GE turbines. Operating since November 2011, combined nameplate capacity is 3.24 megawatts.

“This transaction underscores our ongoing commitment to building our residual, Juhl Energy Wind Farmindependent power production business made up of wind farms today and – we hope – other forms of renewable energy in the future,” said John Mitola, president of Juhl Energy. “We believe that building our asset ownership and operating division, with its predictable revenue and cash flow, is the foundation for the ongoing strength of our company. These two Iowa projects are representative of the thousands of projects under 50 MWs –the market sector where Juhl stands head and shoulders above others in its ability to own, operate and maintain such assets.”

The wind turbines are installed on private farmland approximately 10 miles apart from each other. Juhl Renewable Assets, Inc., Juhl Energy’s wholly-owned subsidiary, will purchase both projects by acquiring 100 percent of the membership interests held by the existing owners for $2.0 million and the assumption of debt in place at the project level. The $2.0 million required to close on the Iowa projects will be raised through JRAI’s 9.0 percent Series A Preferred equity offering to individual accredited investors and qualifying institutions that have an existing relationship with the Company.

Mitola said the projects are being financed with bank debt and their Juhl Renewable Assest preferred stock- only available to current accredited stockholders. He added that similar to other “yieldcos” their stock is paying 9 percent yield annual since inception. After the close of the Iowa projects the JRAI division will own and operate five wind projects totaling approximately 25 megawatts.

“We maintain our long-term goal of building ownership capacity and hope to progress to management’s stated goal of up to 200 megawatts – which would represent energy production assets with an initial installed cost of approximately $400 million,” Mitola added. “We believe we can get there by adding small projects alongside medium sized projects one step at a time over the next few years.”

“To put our platform of accumulating energy assets in perspective, currently there are over 6,000 MWs of wind farms with nameplate capacity of less than 50 MW operating in North America. As a result, we believe our goals for additional asset acquisitions are reasonable given Juhl’s presence in wind power industry and our position in the smaller wind space,” Mitola concluded.

The company created its JRAI Preferred Stock as a direct result of significant interest. The stock allows investment directly into renewable energy projects. Mitola believes with the creation of their JRAI Preferred equity vehicle, they will continue to prove the company can secure assets quickly with a competitive cost of capital and provide investors a solid annual yield.

DNV GL & Texas Tech Partner on Wind Energy Education

Student’s attending Texas Tech University now have more educational opportunities around wind energy. The University’s National Wind Institute and DNV GL are collaborating on a teaching project to expand the availability of wind power courses. Classes will be provided through both in-class and online channels enabling global access to cutting edge instruction and utilizing real-life case studies from the wind energy industry. This collaboration will strengthen future workforce development and allow students in remote locations to participate in a high-quality, certified education process.

Cielo Wind Power farm in Texas“The National Wind Institute strives to educate the next generation of wind energy professionals,” said John Schroeder, director of the National Wind Institute (NWI). “This partnership with DNV GL is another yet another step forward to advance wind energy research and education.”

The program adds depth to Texas Tech’s wind energy program by adding four classes containing up-to-the-minute wind industry case studies developed and led by DNV GL experts who can draw on the company’s 30-year history of involvement in all aspects of the wind industry.

By combining DNV GL’s industry expertise with Texas Tech’s academic excellence, students will have access to wind industry experts to provide current, real-world experiences to supplement the academic fundamentals while working to attain either a managerial or a technical focused Wind Power Certificate from Texas Tech. The program is open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students, and each course will contain cutting edge content from DNV GL, which is known for its high-quality workforce training and thought leadership in the renewable energy industry.

“Renewable energy professionals worldwide already rely on a variety of DNV GL’s existing training programs,” said Kevin Smith, director at DNV GL. “We are excited to participate with Texas Tech in training the wind industry’s future workforce and graduates with industry specific knowledge and case studies so they have increased familiarity with the latest business needs and challenges. We look forward to further collaboration with Texas Tech to educate the wide range of professionals required to meet national wind energy goals – both in the U.S. and other countries.”

This collaboration is slated to last three years and planned to start July 2014 once details are finalized.

2012 Ag Census Includes Renewable Energy

2012-censusThe 2012 Census of Agriculture shows a doubling of on-farm renewable energy production since 2007.

According to the census data released by USDA today, there were 57,299 farms that produced on-farm renewable energy in 2012, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. By far the biggest was solar panels, used on over 36,000 farms. Geoexchange systems and wind turbines each were used on more than 9,000 farms.

For renewable fuels, biodiesel was produced on 4,099 farms and ethanol on 2,397. Small hydro systems were used on about 1300 farms and methane digesters on 537.

The census reveals there are now 3.28 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. Those numbers are all lower than 2007 when the census reported 3.18 million farmers, 2.2 million farms and 922 million acres. The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.

Census data is available from USDA online and a recording of the webcast release of the census data is here: USDA Releases 2012 Census Data

ACORE & Lockheed Martin Partner on Energy Education

Lockheed Martin and the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) have formed a partnership to promote renewable energy education through a sponsorship with NASCAR Green, the sustainability arm of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.

“At Lockheed Martin, we’ve been committed to providing innovative energy solutions for decades and we are thrilled to now work alongside ACORE and NASCAR to educate and inspire fans to go green,” said Frank Armijo, vice president of energy solutions at Lockheed Martin. “By helping fans learn more about renewable energy, we can help build a strong, sustainable future.” ACORE Lockheed NASCAR Green Infographic

The goal of the sponsorship is to promote careers in the renewable energy community by highlighting the life-long value of studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in order to build a strong, secure, economically viable and sustainable future. “This is the perfect vehicle for encouraging and engaging young people and lifelong learners to find careers in STEM using renewable energy as their focus,” said ACORE President and CEO, Michael Brower. “A mirror of America, NASCAR fans thrive on the initiative, innovation and determination of their favorite NASCAR drivers and teams. And our renewable energy industry equally mirrors America with our dramatic successes building the new energy infrastructure and bringing down costs in an amazingly short time.”

ACORE and Lockheed Martin will provide educational materials on renewable energy, sustainability and energy security at three NASCAR races in 2014, showcasing various renewable energy technologies and surveying NASCAR fans on their knowledge of renewable energy. The green messages will include technology features of ACORE members including solar panels, biofuels and wind turbines.

“With the educational components of this partnership, ACORE will help to ensure our nation’s youth are equipped to become the next generation of American renewable energy innovators, inventors and industry builders, well-prepared and fully able to create a more prosperous American future built on clean, renewable energy,” said Brower.

In other news, the partners will also target college-aged students for summer fellowship programs for students interested in pursuing a career in alternative energy, renewable energy or energy efficiency. The fellowships were announced during the USA Science and Engineering Festival and begin in the summer of 2015.