(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.
Bill White is a senior advisor at Americans for a Clean Energy Grid and the president of Norton White Energy.
By Bill White
Over 33 million Americans tuned in to watch President Obama reiterate his commitment to an “all of the above” climate change strategy in his State of the Union address. As advocates clamored to promote solutions from energy efficiency to carbon capture and storage, viewers in the Lone Star State were silent, even though they may have already uncovered the best climate protection investment of all: high voltage transmission.
Thanks to a series of far-sighted policy decisions to open the way for transmission investments, Texas recently completed 3,600 miles of new high-voltage lines connecting wind in the panhandle and west Texas to cities like Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. Texas now accounts for 20 percent of installed U.S. wind capacity – more than all but five countries worldwide and double the amount in California (in second place). The Electric Reliability Council of Texas predicts the new lines will spur another 30 percent increase in the state’s wind capacity, to 16,000 MW, by 2016. That’s powerful evidence for how transmission paves the way for explosive renewable energy growth – exactly what we’ll need to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and avoid catastrophic climate change.
Solar panels help run irrigation equipment on the Spring Valley Farm in northeast Iowa. (Photo via USDA)
As Iowa faces a potential surge in distributed generation, advocates and some legislators are concerned the state isn’t prepared.
In recent comments to state regulators, MidAmerican Energy, one of the state’s two largest investor-owned utilities, says that to date this year inquiries about interconnections for distributed generation are coming in at twice the rate they did in early 2013.
However, the utility forecast that substantial growth in distributed power will cause a raft of problems, at least in the current policy environment.
The Iowa Utility Board, sensing a growing interest in renewables, in January invited feedback about where the potential and the pitfalls might lie. While dozens of people expressed a desire for more distributed energy in the state, they also identified significant issues that stand in the way.
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.