(Photo by Angelo Mercado via Creative Commons)
For private entities, renewable energy can appear to be a straightforward way to save money and achieve environmental goals.
Whether utilities can — or will — accommodate those projects is another question entirely, as a small Iowa college recently found out.
Earlier this month Grinnell College formally abandoned its vision of building a 5.1-megawatt wind farm that would meet about half of the college’s electrical needs.
However, Alliant Energy, which serves the college, said it likely would have to curtail much of the project’s energy production because another wind developer had applied for an interconnection agreement first. The combined production, according to Alliant, likely would overload the local distribution circuit.
Sheerwind’s demonstration project in Minnesota. (Photo by Rwsweene via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from the Great Lakes Echo.
By Qing Zhang
The Michigan National Guard is spending $1.5 million on two new machines to generate electricity from wind at Camp Grayling near Grayling and the Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek.
Unlike traditional windmills, the system captures wind from all directions, concentrating and accelerating it before sending it through a turbine on the ground, according to its designer, Chaska, Minnesota-based Sheerwind Co.
Sheerwind calls the design INVELOX, which stands for INcreased VELocity. The company says that the system generates six times more electrical energy than conventional wind turbines and can work at wind speeds as low as 2 mph. And it’s cheaper to build and operate.
Some wind power experts say that’s too good to be true.
Iowa State University engineer Sri Sritharan is developing a modular system that he says will enable wind turbines to be built taller. (Photo by Bob Elbert/Iowa State University)
If wind turbines stood 20 or 40 meters taller than they typically do today, they would produce more energy and possibly make wind energy economically viable in areas where it currently is not.
An Iowa engineer says the solution to provide the necessary growth spurt is to switch from steel to concrete.
Sri Sritharan, the Wilson Engineering Professor at Iowa State University, is developing a wind-turbine tower constructed of modular concrete blocks that can be assembled to any height and any width. He believes it would address one of the major factors now limiting the height of wind-turbine towers: the overhead clearance between highways and their overpasses.
The currently prevailing 80-meter towers typically are transported cross-country in three segments on a costly truck built especially for the job, Sritharan said. The laws of physics prevent a tower from getting taller without also getting wider at the base, and a base wider than the currently-prevailing 14 feet won’t clear the vertical space between a roadbed and bridges that cross over it, according to Sritharan.
“When the tower gets wider, you cannot transport it. Period,” Sritharan said.
Opponents of a proposed We Energies rate plan largely outnumbered proponents at a Milwaukee hearing Wednesday. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)
MILWAUKEE – More than 200 people packed a public hearing on We Energies’ proposed rate restructuring in Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon. And that was before the brass band played in the parking lot and an evening hearing that brought a new crowd.
“Are they having a party here? Is the news coming to cover the pool players?” asked one local walking up to the senior center where the hearing was held.
The attention to the normally obscure rate-making procedure (docket number 5-UR-107) is because We Energies’ proposal is seen as an attack on renewable energy that could nearly halt rooftop solar development in the area and chill distributed generation in general, including small wind projects and farm biogas digesters.
If the Public Service Commission approves We Energies’ plan, it would mean the fixed charges all consumers pay each month would go up by 75 percent while rates for energy consumption would go down, greatly reducing the incentive for installing rooftop solar or other distributed generation.
Bloomfield, Iowa could save millions on utility costs through increased efficiency and renewable energy, according to a new study. (Photo by Pete Zarria via Creative Commons)
A pair of Iowa studies found that both utilities and their customers in small towns can substantially cut costs if they invest in deep efficiencies and, to a lesser extent, in renewable sources of generation.
The analyses, done by energy consultant Tom Wind and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities with some funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, explored whether the communities of Bloomfield and Algona could become energy independent.
The conclusion: in about 15 years, Bloomfield could get to net-zero — generating as much energy as it consumes over a year — but not necessarily always at the times needed.
Algona could get about half that far, cutting current electricity use by about 50 percent.
People in Iowa, which leads the Midwest in wind energy, are the least likely to believe that wind turbines impact human health, according to a recent survey. (Photo by tumblingrun via Creative Commons)
Science has frequently rejected arguments that wind turbines pose a threat to human health. And now the verdict is in both in the courts of legal and public opinion on the matter, according to a recent study and poll.
A bipartisan poll on energy issues released earlier this week found that in six Midwestern states — Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin — only 14 percent of respondents believe wind turbines harm human health.
The survey of 2,477 voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and FM3 on behalf of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.
Among the states surveyed, the lowest percentage of people who believe wind turbines cause health problems (7 percent) was in Iowa, a state that leads the nation in proportion of energy from wind.
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
MONROE CITY, Missouri — A plan to string high-voltage transmission lines 200 miles across the state of Missouri got a chilly reception from area landowners during the first public airing of the project Tuesday.
Over the course of several hours, farmers, business owners, politicians and organized labor representatives aired opinions about the $2.2 billion project, which aims to deliver 3,500 megawatts of cheap wind energy from the southwest Kansas plains to more populated areas hundreds of miles to the east.
The hearing was the first of a series of public meetings on the project being held across the state. While some in attendance support the jobs, taxes and clean energy that developers promised, coalitions of landowners opposed to the project, most of them wearing neon green T-shirts or stickers that said “Block GBE,” dominated the hearing.
Solar panels outside Springfield, Illinois. (Photo by Jeanette E. Spaghetti via Creative Commons)
While the cleantech industry is still largely concentrated on the coasts, a new report shows Illinois is emerging as a national leader.
In Clean Edge’s new 2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index, which ranks states according to multiple factors, only one Midwestern state, Illinois, broke into the top 10 this year.
Ron Pernick, co-founder and managing director of Clean Edge, says Illinois’s success is due to a strong foundation of policy and capital.
Minnesota, which was in the top 10 in previous years, has dropped to a lower tier.
In the technology section of the index, wind catapulted a few Midwestern and Great Plains states to high rankings.
Rich Vander Veen’s collaborative approach helped get Michigan’s largest wind project off the ground with little controversy. (Photo courtesy Michigan Environmental Council)
He doesn’t particularly like the moniker, but he goes along with it.
Rich Vander Veen, the developer behind Michigan’s largest wind project, has been called by one clean-energy advocate the “wind godfather.”
But now the godfather is working on a sequel.
Earlier this month, Vander Veen was honored for his “vision and action” in his role developing renewable energy in the state, particularly for the nearly 213 megawatt, 133-turbine project in Gratiot County, about 50 miles north of the state Capitol. He recently received the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award by the Michigan Environmental Council, the state’s top environmental award.
“He saw the potential for wind energy in Michigan and made it a reality,” MEC Executive Director Chris Kolb said during the honorary presentation. Vander Veen’s mid-Michigan project “became a model for how you build a local wind farm,” Kolb added.
Yet Vander Veen isn’t resting on his laurels. In an interview with Midwest Energy News, he outlined his plan for branching into solar, a renewable sector met with a lukewarm welcome from major utilities, but which renewable advocates say has plenty of untapped potential.
Workers for Michigan Solar Solutions complete an installation in Flint; owner Mark Hagerty says the panels doubled the value of the home. (Photo courtesy Michigan Solar Solutions)
A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers has introduced a bill package meant to encourage renewable and distributed energy development for utility customers.
The four-bill package, dubbed “Energy Freedom” by its sponsors, tackles issues like net metering, microgrids, fair-value pricing and community renewable-energy gardens.
Its sponsors, which include 12 Democrats and five Republicans, say it’s a different approach to expanding Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio, doing so on a small-scale level rather than a statewide mandate to be achieved by utilities. Utilities here are on track to meet the state’s 10 percent renewable standard by 2015.
After being considered for roughly a year between legislators and experts, both of the bills were introduced in mid-June and have been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Technology.
“I just want to make sure we do everything we can to promote renewables and clean-energy development in Michigan,” said state Rep. Jeff Irwin, a southeast Michigan Democrat who is either sponsoring or co-sponsoring all four of the bills. “An (RPS) number isn’t the only thing I’m looking at. I’m particularly interested in fighting for some consumer-side benefits, making changes to the law that make it easier for citizens and business owners to plug into the grid and make it work.”