A wind turbine under construction in Meeker County, Minnesota, in 2010. (Photo by likeaduck via Creative Commons)
Although a key federal tax credit expired at the end of 2013, the U.S. wind industry is still going strong.
At least for now.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its quarterly market report last week, which reported a record-breaking finish to 2013 as companies raced to qualify for the expiring federal production tax credit.
Construction companies broke ground on 10,900 MW worth of projects, the highest ever three-month total. Wind developers also signed at least 60 power purchase agreements with utilities and corporate buyers for nearly 8,000 MW, also a record.
“The industry ended the year with an unprecedented number of new wind farms under construction and a record number of power purchase agreements signed with utilities as well,” said Emily Williams, a senior policy analyst for AWEA.
(Photo by Guy Monty via Creative Commons)
New federal rules that offer 30-year “take” permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act have been described by wind energy opponents and some prominent conservationists as a license to “slaughter” the very symbol of America.
Wind energy advocates, on the other hand, say the rules provide necessary certainty for developers, who were made uneasy by a recent $1 million settlement between the federal government and Duke Energy Renewables over violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which also protects bald and golden eagles.
In that case, Duke pleaded guilty to charges that 14 golden eagles and 149 other birds were killed at two Wyoming wind farms, and that developers should have known the wind farms were built in a way that endangered birds.
Meanwhile, wildlife groups that support wind power are in a tight spot. Audubon, the nation’s premier bird conservation group, is firmly against the 30-year permits.
“It’s a blank check for the industry, it’s an eagle-killing rule,” said Audubon director of national programs Mike Daulton. “They put in place a new rule that really does nothing for conservation. It just gives the industry 30 years of protection from prosecution under the law. We think it was a weak law done secretively and we think it will lead to more dead eagles.”
(Photo by Crishna via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission
By Martin LaMonica
Wind energy suffers from an image problem: because it’s intermittent, wind complicates the grid’s operation and requires fossil fuel power plants for backup. But wind farms could actually improve power reliability in an economic way, according to a recent study.
In an analysis, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that wind farms can quickly change their output to provide frequency regulation, a service grid operators rely on to ensure reliable power delivery. The finding could change how regulators, grid operators and wind-farm owners view wind energy.
Wind turbines in Butler County, Kansas. (Photo by Brent Danley via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
In Kansas, home of sprawling wind farms and the Koch brothers, conservative groups and renewable energy advocates are girding for a battle over the state’s green power law — a fight with broad political implications that’s drawing interest from far outside the state’s borders.
Kansas was the last among 30 states to put a renewable standard into law — one that requires utilities to step up their use of renewable resources for electric generation to 20 percent by 2020. Now opponents seek to be the first to win a repeal of a clean energy mandate.
The legislative tussle began two years ago in Kansas and is set to intensify this spring after the state Chamber of Commerce, led by a former Kansas House speaker, made a rollback of the renewable energy standard one of its legislative priorities.
This inflatable wind turbine developed by Altaeros Energies is among several designs for systems that can harness high-altitude winds. (Photo via Altaeros Energies)
A weather phenomenon that’s feared by conventional wind farm operators could make the Great Plains an ideal location to tether airborne wind turbines.
Airborne wind turbines are a relatively new concept in which devices resembling blimps or gliders generate electricity as they are flown like kites in the lower atmosphere.
They’ve yet to get off the ground beyond a few test runs, but it’s conceivable that in the not-too-distant future developers will be scouting sites to deploy them.
University of Delaware wind power researcher Cristina Archer says they’d be wise to consider the Midwest, but for a characteristic that can limit ground-based turbines.
As a red-state Republican who also acknowledges global warming, Gary Hanson needs to tread carefully in conversations about the environment.
Hanson, a former Sioux Falls mayor who chairs the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, shared his views on climate change, distributed generation and other energy-related topics last Thursday at an event hosted by the Sierra Club’s eastern South Dakota chapter.
“I try to look for safe islands; islands where I can get people to agree to work together,” Hanson said.
For him, that’s meant a focus on energy independence, planetary stewardship, and a “responsible” roll-out of renewable energy that doesn’t add costs for utilities or their customers.
Manitoba Hydro’s Seven Sisters Dam. (Photo by Darren Fast via Creative Commons)
Norway has been called the “battery” of northern Europe because of its huge potential to store energy in its hydro power facilities, which produce virtually all of the country’s electricity.
When generation ramps up at Danish wind farms, Norway can slow production at its hydro facilities, storing water in reservoirs to be released later when electricity is in shorter supply.
As much as 40 percent of Danish wind power is “stored” like this behind Norwegian hydro dams, according to a 2012 paper by Norwegian energy economist Johannes Mauritzen.
In northern Minnesota, an electric utility is proposing a 500 kV, cross-border transmission line that would let it tap Canadian hydropower under a similar arrangement.
Minnesota Power says the Great Northern Transmission Line would allow it to balance intermittent power from its North Dakota wind farms with dispatchable power from Manitoba hydro facilities.
“I think we here at Minnesota Power have coupled together what I like to call the holy grail of renewable resources,” said Dave McMillan, the utility’s executive vice president.
A wind farm under construction in Germany in 2009. (Photo by Windwärts Energie via Creative Commons)
Chicago energy experts who spent a week in Germany and Brussels in mid-November on a fact-finding expedition came back with a complicated take on Germany’s famous Energiewende, the sweeping transition to clean and renewable energy.
They were highly impressed with the fact that unlike the U.S., Germany has a cohesive national energy policy, and that it has meant rapid adoption of solar and wind power, including through substantial governmental support and subsidies.
But they also learned how Germany has in some ways been a victim of its own success, with the swift transition to solar and wind and the closure of nuclear plants raising reliability issues.
“They’ve been successful beyond their wildest dreams – there’s so much solar and wind coming on to their grid that it’s actually destabilizing their grid,” said Rachel Bronson, vice president of studies for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which convened the delegation along with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) – a political organization close to the center-right Christian Democratic Party. “It’s exciting, but there is too much (renewable power) coming on at times, and sometimes not enough.”
Wind advocates in Nebraska say Bruce Pontow, who represents rural co-ops in the state, has been a major obstacle to wind development. Pontow says his position has been misunderstood. (Image via YouTube)
Nebraska is rated third among the states for its wind-energy potential. And yet a year ago, it ranked only 26th for its actual wind-energy production.
It’s a long-debated issue that came to a head earlier this year, when neighboring Iowa’s vast wind farms helped it beat out the Cornhusker State to land a $300 million Facebook data center.
In fact, among Midwest states, only Ohio has less installed wind capacity than Nebraska.
The reason for the gap? Several people familiar with the curious dynamics of wind energy in Nebraska place much of it squarely on the doorstep of one Bruce Pontow.
Construction of an offshore wind turbine off the coast of England in 2010. (Photo by DECC via Creative Commons)
Offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes could create thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs in the region — if lawmakers get the policy right.
A new report by an Illinois economist concludes that the economic impact of offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes greatly depends on whether the industry can grow at a steady pace.
Offshore wind developers are more likely to open regional offices and manufacturing facilities if they view the Great Lakes as an opportunity for sustained, long-term growth, it says.
But if incentives and permitting turn out to be as choppy as Lake Superior during a wind storm, those companies would probably import parts and expertise from elsewhere instead.