New Jersey Offshore Wind Farm Gets Endorsement

fishermensenergyA New Jersey offshore wind farm is reeling in an important endorsement. This article from The News Journal says the aptly named Fishermen’s Energy has received endorsements for its proposed offshore wind farm from the Atlantic County Freeholders and the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce. It comes as the company awaits approval of its funding from the State of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“As stated in the resolution, the creation of new, well-paying jobs is vital to the economic success of Atlantic County” stated Freeholder Colin Bell. “Wind energy is a growing sector of the economy that provides construction, manufacturing and professional employment opportunities.”

Chris Wissemann, CEO of Fishermen’s Energy, said: “Having the support of the Atlantic County government, as well as the local business community shows how valuable the project is to the local economy. The project meets everything required by the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, including, most importantly, bringing hundreds of jobs to New Jersey.”

The five-turbine, Fishermen’s Energy wind farm would be the first off of New Jersey’s shores, and if approved, would be the first to get an offshore wind renewable energy credit from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

Google Hopes for Good Results from Wind Project

makaniSearch engine giant Google is hoping the expansion of a California wind energy operation by one of its companies will give good results. This story from KCBS in San Francisco says Google-owned Makani Power is expanding its presence at, or maybe more accurately, ABOVE the formal naval base in Alameda.

When Google bought Makani Power in 2013, the seven year-old start up was leasing 17, 000 square feet at Alameda Point. The new lease calls for 127,000 square feet—with an option to take over the adjacent hangars and buildings as they become available.

“It’s exciting to the city of Alameda on number of different levels,” Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore told KCBS. “One, we get to keep a tenant and who is seriously on the cutting edge of technology, and with Google’s investment. Who wouldn’t want to have a high profile tenant like Google?”

Makani Power is trying to build off-shore wind farms using tethered-winged devices that capture wind energy at high altitudes or above deep waters. Check out the video on that project:
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Vestas Becomes World Wind Leader, Adds US Jobs

vestasmachosprings1Danish wind turbine builder and installer Vestas has become the world’s leader in wind energy installation, while adding jobs right here in the U.S. The company says it installed 13.2 percent of all wind energy in 2013, nearly a third more than its closest competitor. And this record-setting year for Vestas prompted the company to hire about 400 workers at its Colorado factories, with another 450 expected to be hired this year.

Vestas installed turbines in 31 countries last year. According to Vestas’ own figures, our largest market for installations in 2013 was Germany, followed by China, Canada, and Brazil. Vestas’ largest market for sales in 2013 was the United States, followed by Germany, Canada, and Sweden.

CEO Anders Runevad says, “Vestas has been through a tough two-year turnaround process to return to profitability. That we simultaneously achieved our financial goals in 2013 and solidified our market leadership is a testament to the strength of the company.”

One of the best years for wind-turbine orders for Vestas has led to significant hiring at its four Colorado factories. The company’s blade factory in Windsor, blade and nacelle factories in Brighton and tower factory in Pueblo expect to add more than 850 production workers this year after Vestas secured orders in 2013 for nearly 900 turbines.

“We are going to be extremely busy making blades, nacelles and towers this year through at least 2015,” said Chris Brown, President of Vestas’ sales and service division in the United States and Canada.

Vestas’ V110-2.0 MW and V100-2.0 MW turbines are made in Colorado and shipped out all over the world.

Ill Winds Blow for Energy Production Tax Credit

single wind turbine Photo Joanna SchroederThings could be looking bleak for a federal tax credit that helps wind power projects. This article from Bloomberg Businessweek says the production tax credit is facing a bumpy ride as Congressional Republicans look for a bigger tax break overhaul.

“Maybe there will be some in the Senate who will try to revive it but I really do think it’s dead in the House,” said [Representative Charles] Boustany, a Louisiana Republican and member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview today in New York. While the credit might be revived as part of lame-duck legislation after the November elections, that seems unlikely, he said.

The 2.3-cent per kilowatt-hour production tax credit, which pays owners for power produced during a project’s first decade, expired at the end of last year. A broader tax reform proposal released last month by Representative Dave Camp, chairman of Ways and Means, would reduce the amount project owners can claim to 1.5 cents, boosting government revenue by an estimated $9.6 billion.

President Obama has proposed a permanent extension and expansion of the production credit at a cost of $19.3 billion over the next decade. His efforts might be boosted by Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is planning a vote on restoring the measures in the next few months.

Meanwhile, officials with the American Wind Energy Association promise to stay engaged in tax-reform discussions.

GE Space Frame Revolutionizing Wind Tower Tech

A new wind turbine tower is changing the game in tower technology. This article from Clean Technica says GE’s Space Frame Tower is helping along a rapidly growing wind energy sector.

From the outside, the Space Frame Tower looks like a regular tube-shaped turbine tower with a bit of an Eiffel Tower splay to the bottom, and there’s your clue regarding what’s hidden behind that plain white exterior: a new approach to turbine tower design that GE hopes will play into the demand for taller wind turbines.

spaceframe1With taller turbines, wind energy can be harvested more efficiently from a broader range of sites, so in case you’re wondering why we’re making such a fuss over a tower, there’s your answer.

Now let’s cut to the mustard. Those of you who are familiar with the engineering term “space frame” already know what’s afoot under that plain white exterior. A space frame refers to latticework, with the Eiffel Tower being one classic example.

The article goes on to point out that the new tower cuts down the amount of steel required for the frame, and the five-sided lattice inside allows for a much wider base than the usual tube-style turbine towers, allowing the tower to climb higher into the sky where it can work more efficiently.

Offshore Wind Farms Could Cut Hurricane Winds

jacobson1Not only do they generate lots of clean energy, but offshore wind farms could help lessen the winds of hurricanes. A new study from Stanford University researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the school, says the data could give shore-based communities another reason to put in the turbines.

The researchers simulated three hurricanes: Sandy and Isaac, which struck New York and New Orleans, respectively, in 2012; and Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

“We found that when wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane,” Jacobson said. “This feeds back to decrease wave height, which reduces movement of air toward the center of the hurricane, increasing the central pressure, which in turn slows the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster.”

In the case of Katrina, Jacobson’s model revealed that an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have significantly weakened the hurricane well before it made landfall.

In the computer model, by the time Hurricane Katrina reached land, its simulated wind speeds had decreased by 36-44 meters per second (between 80 and 98 mph) and the storm surge had decreased by up to 79 percent.

While the researchers admit there is political resistance to putting in large wind turbine farms offshore, the incentive of saving a city billions in damages might give wind energy advocates another tool in their belt in the fight. For example, Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012 caused about $82 billion in damage across three states. Big arrays such as the ones proposed would cost between $10 billion and $40 billion per installation.

Clean Jobs Increase 19% in 2013

Ecotech Institute Clean Jobs IndexThe Clean Jobs Index shows 2013 ended with a 19 percent increase in clean jobs. The study also shows more than 3.5 million clean jobs were available in 2013 with a 57 percent increase in solar jobs. Published by Ecotech Institute, the Clean Jobs Index was created to provide objective job information about the renewable energy industry. In addition, the index looks at various sustainability factors including alternative fueling stations, LEED projects and total energy consumption across the U.S.

The index found large growth in clean jobs when compared to 2012 job postings, with solar jobs increasing 57 percent, wind jobs up 20 percent and renewable energy jobs increasing 9.3 percent. The report also looked at states with the most incentives for sustainability and renewables: Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Indiana, Colorado, Florida, New York and Iowa.

“Renewable energy is the future and this data proves that more than ever,” said Kyle Crider, Ecotech Institute’s Program Chair and Manager of Environmental Operations. “With solar jobs up 57 percent and clean tech jobs up overall nearly 20 percent, it’s definitely an exciting time in the sustainable energy industry.”

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.