Aging Wind Farms Should Not Be Thrown to the Wind

As the wind energy industry continues to grow, there has been debate about whether wind turbines have a more limited shelf-life than other energy technologies, such as solar panels. With the United Kingdom’s (UK) target of generating 15 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable resources such as wind farms by 2020, aging wind turbines could be a concern. According to researchers at the wind farm in the UKImperial College Business School, today there are 4,246 wind turbines across 531 wind farms generating 7.5 percent of the country’s electricity.

According to a new study from Imperial researchers, who carried out a comprehensive nationwide analysis of the UK fleet of wind turbines, using local wind speed data from NASA, the turbines will last their full life of about 25 years before they need to be upgraded. A previous study used a statistical model to estimate that electricity output from wind turbines declines by a third after only ten years of operation.

In response to this study, some opponents of wind power have argued that aging turbine technology could need replacing en mass after as little as 10 years. This could make wind energy an unattractive option in economic terms.

However, the Imperial research team found that the UK’s earliest turbines, built in the 1990s, are still producing three-quarters of their original output after 19 years of operation, nearly twice the amount previously claimed, and will operate effectively up to 25 years. This is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power stations.

The study also found that more recent turbines are performing even better than the earliest models, suggesting they could have a longer lifespan. The team says this makes a strong business case for further investment in the wind farm industry. Continue reading

Innovation Challenge Leads to Cool Innovation

Innovation Challenge 2The 2014 Northrop Grumman Corporation High School Innovation Challenge (HSIC) has led to some, well, cool innovations in renewable energy and engineering. On February 21, 2014, six student teams from Los Angeles, California high schools took an engineering problem, limited budget and little time and created renewable energy-powered model vehicles. The event was part of National Engineers Week.

The challenge is modeled after a Northrop Grumman program or engineering capability, and designed to stimulate student interest in pursuing careers in scientific or engineering fields. The goal of this year’s competition was to design and build a renewable-energy-powered model vehicle that could carry a payload as efficiently as possible over a set distance.

“The Northrop Grumman High School Innovation Challenge exposes students to the major steps required to develop, document and demonstrate an engineering concept,” said Krystal Puga, a systems engineer on Northrop Grumman’s James Webb Space Telescope project and the company’s HSIC deputy coordinator. “It teaches them how to develop, document and present their ideas; manage a schedule and budget; and prove that their concept meets the customer’s requirements.”

The teams participating in this year’s HSIC included the California Academy of Math and Science in Carson; Da Vinci Science High School in Hawthorne; El Segundo High School; Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy in Inglewood; Hawthorne Math and Science in Hawthorne; and Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates.

Over the course of the 12-week competition, the HSIC teams – each one mentored by a Northrop Grumman engineer – were graded on their ability to develop and document their vehicle’s design in a written report; present the concept orally to a panel of engineers; and prove the vehicle’s performance on the test track. Continue reading

Cali Drought Intensifies, Climate Action Calls Heat Up

As California battles the worst drought the state has seen in centuries, calls for climate action are heating up. During the U.S. Climate Leadership Conference taking place this week in San Diego, California, more than a dozen businesses including Apple, SolarCity, San Diego International Airport, Sapphire Energy and Sungevity signed the Climate Declaration. The declaration urges federal and state policymakers to “seize the economic opportunity of addressing climate change”.

Launched last year by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization, and its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), the Climate Declaration has more than 700 signatories nationwide. The California signatories have added their own special message to the declaration for Washington:

Ceres_BICEPDeclaration_Ad_CA_022414_1“As the world’s 8th largest economy, California is a champion of clean energy progress and innovation,” states the declaration. “Thanks in part to its smart energy policies including its landmark climate law, AB32, California has been a global leader in job creation, clean energy investments and GDP growth.”

In 2012, California supported more than 43,700 jobs in the solar industry (one-third of all solar jobs in the U.S.) and more than 7,000 jobs in the wind industry. In 2013, the state doubled its solar rooftop installations, from 1,000 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts. It also ranks 48th in the country in per capita energy consumption, due in part to the state’s strong energy efficiency programs.

“The 140 plus California companies which have signed the Climate Declaration see the financial upside of tackling climate change today, both for their own bottom lines and the overall economy,” said Anne Kelly, director of policy and BICEP at Ceres. “We welcome them, invite others to come on board and applaud the state of California for its bold steadfast leadership on climate and energy policy.”

Among those is Sungevity, a Bay-Area based solar provider whose workforce has grown from four to about 400 since 2007. The company has operations in nine U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Europe and Australia, and its global network of customers has offset over 100 million pounds of carbon emissions to date.

“Actively addressing climate change is the biggest economic opportunity of our time,” said Danny Kennedy, co-founder of Sungevity and author of Rooftop Revolution, How to Save Our Economy – and Our Planet – from Dirty Energy. “Sungevity’s rapid growth is proof positive that the solar service sector can spur the economy with high-paying jobs that cannot be easily off-shored, particularly in sales, service and maintenance.”

Beyond signing the declaration, or taking their own steps to become more sustainable, many of the company signatories are engaging further with policy makers. Seventy percent of the major company signatories (those with over $100 million in annual revenues) have expressed their views on the need for climate policy by lobbying on Capitol Hill, sending a letter, and/or engaging with the public through social media.

Army Awards Renewable Energy Contracts

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, working with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), has awarded another 20 base contracts to companies in energy-related technologies. The awards are part of the $7 billion capacity, large-scale renewable and alternative energy power production Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC).

MIL_Solar_Farm_Nellis_AFB_lgThe 20 contracts are for the following technologies: solar (15), wind (3) and biomass (2). USACE has previously awarded 58 contracts for solar (22), wind (17), biomass (13), and geothermal (6).

“We are adding these additional companies to those already in the technology pools to ensure we have enough pre-qualified companies ready to submit proposals on task orders as they come up,” explained Col. Robert Ruch, commander, Huntsville Center. “Huntsville Center is doing everything we can to ensure task orders for future projects will be awarded as quickly as possible.”

This second round of MATOC awards is in keeping with the original August 2012 Request For Proposal (RFP) which allowed for immediate awards to firms within the competitive range and additional awards to firms that qualified after further evaluation by the government. The qualified MATOC companies will be eligible to bid on future renewable energy task orders. As renewable energy opportunities at Army installations are assessed and validated, Huntsville Center will issue a competitive task order Request for Proposal to the pre-qualified MATOC companies for the specific technologies.

The MATOC involves third-party financed renewable energy acquisitions and involves no Army or Department of Defense (DOD) capital, or Military Construction appropriation. The Army or DOD will purchase the power from contractors who own, operate and maintain the generating assets. The MATOC’s total estimated value of $7 billion capacity refers to the total dollar value of energy available for purchase under all Power Purchase Agreement task orders for their entire term (up to 30 years).

These contracts will support the Army’s achievement of its congressionally mandated energy goal of 25 percent production of energy (1GW) from renewable sources by 2025, and improving installation energy security and sustainability.

Hawaii: Using More Renewables and Less Oil

Hawaii is addressing its lack of fossil fuels by converting its energy to renewables. The state imports nearly all of its energy, including the petroleum that fuels more than 70 percent electricity generation. This effort is the subject of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Today in Energy report.

Another reason the state is attempting to diversify its electricity supply is since their electricity generation costs are tied closely to petroleum prices, residential electricity rates are three times the national average. The EIA explains that Hawaii’s islands are not connected by transmission lines, so each island must have enough generating capacity to meet local demand and provide emergency reserves.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 7.10.42 PMIn the face of these challenges, Hawaii’s grid operators have turned to a combination of renewable sources (with lower costs than oil-fired generation), distributed generation, and energy efficiency programs that lower the overall demand for electricity in the state.

The petroleum share of electric generation has been declining, from a high of 81 percent  in 2002 to 72 percent in 2013 (through November), while at the same time, generation from renewable sources has climbed from a 4 percent share in 2002 to more than 12 percent in 2013. Generation from coal comes from a single 180-megawatt (MW) facility on Oahu and has been relatively steady at 13-15 percent of total generation each year.

EIA has finds that total utility-scale electric generation has declined from 2007 through 2012. This reduction is attributable to distributed generation and net metering policies that encourage electric generation from homes and businesses, mostly from solar photovoltaic installations, and increased energy efficiency measures.

Hawaii produces renewable electricity from biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric but recent new wind and solar projects have resulted in large increases in renewable electricity production. In 2012, wind accounted for 36 percent of total utility-scale renewable generation in Hawaii with an increase to 42 percent in 2013 (through November). Utility-scale solar generation has increased more than fivefold from 2012 to 2013 but still accounts for less than 2 percent of utility-scale renewable generation in Hawaii. However, EIA reports utility-scale data understate total solar generation in Hawaii because totals do not include the much larger output from small-scale solar power installations.

Hawaii’s installed renewable nameplate capacity in 2013 was just over 600 MW, more than triple the amount that in 2005. Nearly 57 MW of additional renewable capacity is currently under construction and slated to enter service during 2014.

New Generation Power Wind Farm Project Kicks Off

New Generation Power Texas has begun the first phase of construction on their 400 Megawatt (MW) Texas Wind Farm. The newly formed subsidiary of Chicago-based New Generation Power started construction on December 11, 2013, which made the wind farm New Genearation Power Texas Wind Projecteligible for a Federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC). Located in Haskell County, just northwest of Dallas, Texas, the project is estimated around $650-700 million and will be built in two phases.

In order to qualify for the PTC Credit, which expired at the end of 2013, NGP Texas has completed milestones that included: Pre-construction development, early investments, environmental considerations, permitting, an interconnection agreement, excavated WTG foundations and mud mat placements.

‘The cornerstone of our strategy was partnering with the ideal members to bring an exclusive group of talent, project expertise, and industry knowledge to showpiece this 400MW wind farm,” said Ania Kuna, Executive Vice President of NGP Texas. “This reflects our desire to collaborate with companies that share our vision and have common goals. The ground breaking marks a very significant milestone exemplifying the dedication of our team.”

New Generation Power said the project location was determined through long-term collection of wind data by 3 Met Towers who reports 50.5 percent capacity factor for the project.

Located on 22,000 acres of land, the Texas wind project will be capable of producing roughly 1,866 million megawatt hours (MWh) of energy annually and is expected to complete construction of both phases by the end of 2015. The construction, operation and maintenance of this large-scale project will require many boots on the ground and the involvement of numerous contractor parties which will result in the creation of multiple U.S. jobs

Albion Community Power Invests in Wind

Albion Community Power (ACP) has invested £1.5m in partnership with Welsh developer Infinite Renewables to fund the development of a 500kw single wind turbine in Blaencilgoed, in South Wales. The wind turbine, which is the first investment made by ACP, will supply electricity to a local quarry. It is expected to begin producing power in September 2014 and is estimated to generate over 1,700,000 kWh of electricity per year.

albion community power windACP says it aims to be a major producer of community scale renewable energy by raising up to £100 million in due course to power some 35,000 homes, targeting sites where power can be sold to the community at a discount of up to 50 percent. The ACP team will invest in a range of renewable energy projects using proven technologies including brownfield wind, solar, hydroelectricity, biogas and biomass.

Volker Beckers, Chairman of ACP said, “The energy industry is changing, and smaller scale schemes will be playing an increasingly important role. We are excited by our first investment and are looking forward to backing other new projects in the coming months.”

ACP’s projects will qualify for government subsidies such as Feed in tariffs (FiTs). As FiTs are RPI-linked, the company says investors stand to benefit from protection against inflation. To date, Albion has made 10 investments that are currently achieving an investment return of 11%.

“We have an existing partnership with Albion Ventures, having built a number of turbines together starting with a single mast, 500kW Wind Turbine on a brownfield site near Ebbw Vale in Wales,” said Will David, Infinite Renewables. “We are excited to be partnering ACP on this new project, which plays to our collective strengths. We look forward to developing many more sites with ACP going forward.”

Deepwater Wind Selects Alstom Technology

Alstom has announced a contract to supply 5 Haliade 150-6 megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbines for Deepwater Wind’s 30-MW Block Island pilot Wind Farm located off the coast of Rhode Island. The project will be one of the first offshore wind farms in the U.S. and will be the first to feature Alstom’s Haliade 150-6 MW –the largest turbine installed in offshore waters today. The five turbines will produce approximately 125,000 MWh of electricity a year, enough to power over 17,000 homes.

The company will manufacture the Haliade 150-6 MW direct drive wind turbines and provide 15 years of operation and maintenance support for the Block Island Wind Farm owned and ALSTOM HALIADEoperated by Deepwater Wind. The company says its Haliade 150-6 MW wind turbine features Alstom’s Pure Torque design for optimum efficiency and reliability and its 150-meter diameter rotor provides an energy yield that is 15% better than existing offshore turbines.

“Our contract with Deepwater Wind further demonstrates our commitment to the expanding U.S. wind market,” said Andy Geissbuelher, Head of Alstom’s North American Wind Business. “Drawing on the experience and knowledge gained from our collaboration with Dominion Virginia Power, we are driving the technology innovation needed to make offshore generation a strategic part of the energy mix.”

The Block Island project is aligned with The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s “Smart from the Start” offshore wind program, which aims to accelerate the development of clean, renewable offshore wind along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. The project could lead to a larger utility-scale offshore wind farm of more than 1 gigawatt supported by a regional transmission system linking Long Island, New York and South-eastern New England.

In late 2013, Alstom successfully installed its 6MW Haliade, which at the time was world’s largest offshore wind turbine, off the coast of Belgium. Alstom is part of a consortium led by EDF Energies Nouvelles that was awarded three projects in the first tender launched by the French government to install offshore wind turbines generating 3 GWs of wind power off the coast of France. The successful bid included a total of 240 Haliade 150-6 MW turbines.

50,000 Wind Advocates Call for PTC Extension

The Production Tax Credit (PT) that provides tax incentives for the wind energy industry expired on December 31, 2013. Although there has been talk of tax reform, that would include a new formula for clean energy tax incentives, more than 50,000 citizens are urging Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to making a renewing the PTC one of his biggest priorities. Sen. Wyden will be taking over as new chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

wind energy in U.SThe petition was started by Iowa State Senator and Climate Parents member Rob Hogg and is set to be delivered to Sen. Wyden’s offices in Washington, D.C. and Oregon this week.

Last month, Sen. Wyden stated he was “not going to sit idly by while plans for renewable energy development are sacrificed on the altar of inaction.”

Supporters of the PTC point to the lobbying efforts of industry figures, such as the Koch brothers, as the explanation behind its initial expiration. According to a Huffington Post article, the Koch brothers have “enlisted their extensive network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and friends on Capitol Hill to spearhead a campaign to pull the plug on the PTC.”

According to Sen. Hogg, there is growing momentum across the country for an extension of the wind tax credit. An example of this momentum is unanimous approval of a resolution calling on Congress to extend the PTC by a bipartisan coalition of Iowa state senators. “We must support wind power and renewable energy,” said Hogg. “Our children and our grandchildren are counting on Congress to act.”

Hogg explains that despite oppositional efforts, the PTC still enables wind energy to compete with highly subsidized fossil fuel industries, attracts investors for new wind projects, fosters innovation and employs tens of thousands of Americans in the clean energy economy. “Wind power currently provides 25% of Iowa’s electricity generation and has increased nationally by 30% per year over the past five years. The wind power tax credit made this possible,” said Hogg.

Climate Parents Director and Co-Founder Lisa Hoyos said that the decision on whether to extend the wind PTC is a crucial test for Congress that will our children will grow up in. “We have the technology to shift to 100% clean energy. What we’re lacking is the political commitment from Congress to support the investments in renewable energy that will protect our kids’ from the climate impacts already harming communities. Senator Wyden’s leadership on this issue is critical right now.”

“When it comes down to it, Congress has a choice. Are they with the Koch brothers, or with our kids?” said Hoyos. “People across the country have joined this call to action, because we know future generations need us to rapidly deploy kid-safe, climate-safe energy, and stop investing in the dirty energy fueling climate change.”

Iowa Wind Energy Conference Around the Corner

The 7th Annual Iowa Wind Power Conference is just around the corner taking place at the FFA Enrichment Center on the Campus of Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, March 11-12, 2014. Sponsored by the Iowa Wind Energy Association (IWEA), there is a strong line-up of speakers, informative sessions, exhibitors and new research displays.

IWEA logoThe general sessions planned feature nationally recognized leaders in the wind energy industry, elected leaders, policy development specialists and utility leaders in the wind energy industry. A special feature of this year’s conference will be the first ever Education/Job Fair on March 11, 2014 which will provide wind energy companies an opportunity to meet with wind energy training programs and job seekers. There will also be an opportunity for K-12 students and educators to learn more about job opportunities in wind energy.

There will be 30 exhibitors showcasing their products and services during the conference including dozens of university wind energy research project displays will be available during the conference. These project displays will be judged by a panel of experts and cash awards will be given to the top projects in several categories.

Registration is now open.

Get Your Sustainable Energy in America Factbook

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has released the 2014 installment of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The resource was developed for The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and found that renewable energy, natural gas and energy efficiency advancements are leading a transformation of America’s energy.

The 2014 Factbook documents the upward trajectory of energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy, using the latest data from 2013. The report finds renewable energy provided 13 percent of U.S. electricity generation in 2013, up from 12 percent in 2012 and just 8 percent in 2007. At the same time, renewable energy costs reached all-time 2014 Sustainable Energy in America Factbooklows, allowing clean energy, with the aid of incentives, to be cheaper than fossil fuel electricity in some parts of the country. Small, distributed generators and off-grid installations, meanwhile, began to emerge as a transformative force in the power industry. Financiers who back small-scale solar systems have raised nearly $6.7 billion since 2008.

“The U.S. energy transformation that began in the mid-2000s gained additional momentum in 2013,” said Lisa Jacobson, president of The Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “The Factbook plays a vital role in chronicling this fast-moving transformation, which is creating whole new industries and thousands of new jobs in the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors.”

The factbook also found that energy efficiency financing is on an upward trend. Spending by energy service companies and by electric and gas utilities totaled more than $12 billion in 2012. Today 31 states and the District of Columbia, representing 77 percent of the U.S. population, have legislation in place to enable the financing of energy efficiency via property-assessed clean energy programs (PACE). Technology for smart grid and for smart homes is making its way into the market and has potential to be pervasive in the future, driving even further efficiency gains in the years ahead.

“The changes unfolding in the U.S. energy industry have been profound and, by the typical time scale of the industry, abrupt,” said Michel Di Capua, Head of North American Analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The effects of these changes will be felt in seemingly every nook and cranny of the American economy, from military bases to manufacturing plants, from homes to highways. 2013 saw some detours from the long-term trends, but overall, it is clear that the long-term transformation of how the U.S. produces and consumes energy continues.” Continue reading

Despite Record Offshore Wind Projects, Industry Slows

Despite record offshore wind energy projects coming online in 2013, a recent report shows that new projects have slowed. Last year, 418 offshore turbines came online in Europe making a record 1,567 Megawatts (MW) of new capacity. This is one-third more than the capacity installed in 2012.

This makes a new total of 6,562 MW of offshore wind power – enough to provide 0.7 percent of the EU’s electricity.

European Offshore Wind in 2013However, the report finds that when taking a closer look at what happened, there was a slow-down during the year: two-thirds of the new capacity came online in the first six months. With 11 projects now under construction, down from 14 this time last year, market and regulatory stability is critical to bringing forward the 22,000 MW of consented projects across Europe.

“The unclear political support for offshore wind energy – especially in key offshore wind markets like the UK and Germany – has led to delays to planned projects and fewer new projects being launched,” said Justin Wilkes, Deputy CEO at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “This means installations are likely to plateau until 2015, followed by a decline as from 2016.”

Wilkes added, “An ambitious decision on a 2030 renewable energy target by the Heads of State in March would be the right signal to send to the offshore wind sector that Europe will develop its massive offshore wind potential for green growth, jobs, industrialisation, technological leadership and CO2 reductions.”

In 2013 Siemens was the leading turbine supplier (69%), DONG Energy the leading developer (48%), and Bladt the leading substructure supplier (37%), as they were in 2012.

Cape Wind Wins Again

Cape Wind has again defeated the efforts of its opponents to block the country’s first offshore wind farm. In a historic decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FAA’s approval of the Cape Wind project, rejecting every argument that had been advanced by the project’s opponents.

home_page_image_Eco_Tour(1)“The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the Town of Barnstable and their financial backer-coal billionaire Bill Koch– have failed yet again in their continuing campaign to use the courts to delay the financing of Cape Wind,” said Cape Wind Communications Director Mark Rodgers. “The court’s definitive decision is an important legal victory that brings America that much closer to launching its offshore wind industry, a keystone in America’s renewable energy future.”

This decision takes on even greater importance because this was the same court that had previously provided project opponents their sole and temporary relief, opponents have lost all 12 legal decisions in other courts.

On October 28, 2011 this Court had remanded the FAA’s third Determination of No Hazard back to the FAA to better explain the rationale for its decision. On February 9, 2012, the FAA issued a Public Notice of its reinstated project review, indicating its conclusion that “None of the turbines would have an adverse effect on the use of air navigation facilities or navigable airspace.”

On August 15, 2012 the FAA issued its 4th DNH which project opponents challenged, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound pronounced confidence their challenge would be successful. However, this is the case decided again in favor of the FAA and Cape Wind.

Maine Wind Project Gains Key Approval

aquaventasmaineAn update to a story we told you about last week… an offshore wind energy project in Maine has received a key approval from state regulators. This article from CompositesWorld.com says the Maine Public Utilities Commission gave the go-ahead for the Maine Aqua Ventus project, a pilot offshore wind farm project designed to prove the feasibility of floating offshore wind turbines.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a term sheet for the 12-MW Maine Aqua Ventus project proposed by Maine Prime Technologies, a spin-off of the University of Maine (Orono, Maine, USA) and two general partners, engineering firm Cianbro Corp. (Pittsfield, Maine) and energy services firm Emera Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada).

Under the parameters of the term sheet, the project will produce about 43,000 MWh/year of energy at $0.23/kWh, with an annual increase of 2.5 percent per year for 20 years.

The approval by the commission now allows the Maine Aqua Ventus project to compete for $47 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Maine Wind Project Faces Crucial Vote This A.M.

aquaventasmaineThe fate of an offshore wind project is in the hands of the Maine Public Utilities Commission this morning. This story from the Bangor Daily News says the floating turbine technology project is facing the commission vote on whether it can move forward under a long-term power contract.

Tuesday’s PUC meeting is not a public hearing. Only commissioners will be allowed to speak during the deliberations. They will also be able to ask questions of PUC staff about Maine Aqua Ventus’ project and the project’s term sheet, which details the conditions under which the consortium will sell an estimated 43,000 megawatt hours per year to the power grid from its two, six-megawatt turbines at a price of 23 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s about 14 cents more per kilowatt hour than the current standard offer rate set by the PUC.

The pilot project proposed for waters off Monhegan Island is the next step in the development of UMaine’s offshore wind technology. The university in June 2013 deployed a 1:8-scale model of VolturnUS, its prototype floating turbine, in waters of Castine.

Maine Aqua Ventus I would be a pilot for the future development of a 500-megawatt offshore wind farm project in the Gulf of Maine and possibly elsewhere. The goal is to achieve wind-generated electricity at 10 cents per kilowatt hour by the 2030s.

University of Maine economists say the $120 million project will create more than 300 full- and part-time jobs.