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.”
(Photo by eXtension Farm Energy via Creative Commons)
A policymaking storm is brewing in Michigan as state officials and lawmakers simultaneously devise a plan to comply with proposed federal carbon rules and also revisit the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that expires next year.
It appears regulatory officials and lawmakers are attacking the two issues separately — the Department of Environmental Quality recently appointed an official to lead the process of complying with President Obama’s rules; meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee has a task force studying a new RPS.
Somewhere in the middle will likely be a debate over ramping up renewable energy production and considering other non-renewable power sources to lower emissions. Michigan may have the added benefit of tackling the two issues at the same time, as each process could inform the other.
Wind turbines planned for Lake Erie will share engineering technology with wind farms in the North Sea. (Photo by Martin Pettitt via Creative Commons)
Developers of an Ohio offshore wind energy project say it will proceed despite losing out last month on one of three $47-million 4-year grants from the Department of Energy (DOE).
The money would have let Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) build its 18-MW Icebreaker pilot project and have it in operation by 2018.
Nonetheless, DOE has agreed to give LEEDCo at least $3 million to complete engineering and other studies. The funds are in addition to approximately $4 million awarded by DOE in 2012.
“The most important thing is that we’re still moving forward,” says LEEDCo president Lorry Wagner.
Blue Creek Wind Farm in Ohio. (Courtesy Iberdrola Renewables)
With little discussion or fanfare, Ohio legislators have essentially put a stop to new wind farms in the state, industry experts say.
Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 483 on Monday, just days after signing another bill that freezes and alters Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. HB 483 includes revised setback provisions that will likely make new projects economically unfeasible.
The bill “basically zones new wind projects out of Ohio,” says Eric Thumma, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Iberdrola Renewables, Inc.
Iberdrola’s Ohio wind farm projects include the 304 MW Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding County. About ten of its Ohio projects are fully permitted, but not yet constructed. The new law lets already-permitted projects continue, but only if no amendments to the permit become necessary.
Exelon’s Byron Generating Station in Illinois. (Photo by Michael Kappel via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Nathanael Massey
Energy giant Exelon Corp. announced this week that it avoided 18 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, meeting its carbon reduction goals seven years ahead of schedule.
The goal, first established in 2008, aimed to reduce 15.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. It was met and exceeded by shutting down old power plants, by improved performance in its sizable nuclear fleet and by energy efficiency measures on both the customer and supply sides of the meter, among other measures.
(Photo by PXLated via Creative Commons)
A legislative reform moving ahead in Minnesota aims to better position the state to become a wind energy exporter.
Minnesota has long been a wind energy leader. The state has nearly 3,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, ranking it seventh in the nation.
Almost all of it’s been built for Minnesota customers. The state exports relatively little wind energy compared to neighboring Iowa or North Dakota.
It’s not for lack of resources. Minnesota has enough land and wind to conceivably generate nearly 500,000 megawatts of wind power.
“We have more [potential] wind energy in the state than we can develop ourselves, and we should use that resource,” said Ben Gerber, energy policy manager for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “If we didn’t develop this it would be like North Dakota only developing the oil they needed in their state to meet their own needs.”
Over the last several months, Gerber worked with the wind industry and environmental groups to identify and target a potential regulatory barrier that may be deterring developers from trying to sell Minnesota wind energy into other states.
A wind turbine near Alma, Michigan. (Photo by Corey Seeman via Creative Commons)
With Michigan’s renewable energy standard set to expire at the end of 2015, and a high-profile fight over the standard in 2012 still fresh in many minds, debate has swirled about the costs and benefits of renewing or strengthening the law.
Amid the discussion, a recent study finds that Michigan could more than triple its renewable energy resources by 2030, with virtually no extra cost to consumers
Michigan’s current Renewable Energy Standard (RES) – created by a 2008 law – is among the least ambitious in the country. It requires just 10 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015.
That compares to Illinois and Minnesota standards that call for 25 percent by 2025; a number of states calling for 20 percent by 2020; and on the high end, a New York standard of 29 percent by 2015 and California’s 33 percent by 2020.
Increasing Michigan’s standard to more than 30 percent is not only feasible, according to the March 12 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, but would result in only a 0.3 percent increase for ratepayers over 15 years.
Workers pour concrete into a wind turbine base at Ohio Northern University in 2010. (Photo by Ken Colwell via Creative Commons)
New rankings from a market-based think tank give Ohio an average score for renewable energy. But advocates say the score doesn’t take into account more recent developments.
Last week, EnergyTrends.org released grades for states based on overall performance in renewable energy. Ohio got a C+.
The website’s scoring system gives points for installed capacity, growth in renewable energy, electric savings, and state incentive programs. It also considers evaluations from groups such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Ernst & Young, and SolarPowerRocks.com.
“The highest of the letter grades that were given was a B+,” notes Don Soifer, executive vice-president for the Lexington Institute, which runs the EnergyTrends.org website. Ohio’s grade was close to the middle.
A wind farm under construction in McLean County, Illinois, in 2007. (Photo by Samdogs via Creative Commons)
Almost 100,000 Illinois workers are employed in clean energy jobs, more than the state’s real estate and accounting sectors combined, according to a new survey.
The Clean Jobs Illinois report, released today by the Clean Energy Trust in partnership with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Entrepreneurs, found 96,875 workers statewide spend some portion of their day supporting clean energy.
The survey used a “narrow” definition of qualifying jobs, defined as “only those workers who have clean energy jobs at organizations that are directly connected to the clean energy industry.”
More than a third of the jobs are in engineering, research, assembly and manufacturing.
“These are good jobs with good benefits, and they make Illinois’ economy more productive and competitive,” the report notes.