Wind Power

Some very exciting news for US clean energy today. Google announced on their blog last night that they will invest in a project to build 350 miles of transmission off the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Virginia to tap into gigantic off-shore wind potential that we are only just beginning to tap into — the first-ever US approval of an off-shore wind farm, by the Obama administration, was just this year.

The new transmission cables, a superhighway for clean energy, will enable the connection of up to 6,000 MW of offshore wind turbines. That’s equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households.

Putting this system in place removes a major barrier to offshore wind energy in the US: lack of infrastructure. And it should — with a friendly administration — jump-start off-shore wind in this country. The US currently lags so far behind Europe that the first off-shore farm approved, this year’s Cape Wind, which signed the US’ first offshore wind energy lease last week, was reduced to using German turbines (Siemens).

Google’s new superhighway of energy will be built by transmission company Trans-Elect and be financed by Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation.

Google points out in their blog that just a beginning is needed at this early stage. “We are investing 37.5% of the equity in this initial development stage, with the goal of obtaining all the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line. Although the development stage requires only a small part of the total estimated project budget, it represents a critical stage for the project.”

These four mid-Atlantic states are the middle states central to a consortium of what is now 11 Atlantic states whose governors have signed an agreement to develop their tremendous off-shore wind potential, which has been estimated at 330 Gigawatts in total, more than twice what the 11 states use.

Polling of the 5 mid-Atlantic state coastal residents has found that they are very supportive of the development of their off-shore wind (previous story).

These four mid-Atlantic states that Google proposes to get started with have more than 60 GW (60,000 MW) of this gigantic off-shore wind potential in relatively shallow waters that extend miles out to sea, making it easier to install turbines 10-15 miles offshore, where they are barely visible.

This is a historic milestone for the USA. Total off-shore wind power off the Atlantic has been estimated to be enough to take one third of the US population off the fossil grid.

Source: Clean Technica.


Transmission has always been the elephant in the room when it comes to renewable energy (with apologies to energy storage; let’s call that the mildly smaller hippopotamus in the room). Because wind and sun tend to pick and choose their spots to blow strongest, shine brightest and longest, there is usually the need for additional infrastructure capable of bringing all that carbon-free electricity to the load centers.

Offshore wind is no different, and is even more complicated in terms of transmission because it’s, you know, off shore. With the offshore wind industry poised to take off — or at least finally get one foot off the ground — there is now a proposed project that would theoretically ease the transmission issues of wind farms up and down the Atlantic coast.

A project to be known as the Atlantic Wind Connection will create a huge “transmission backbone,” with undersea cables sited miles off the coast aimed at connecting new wind farms to the power grid without the need for piecemeal infrastructure. The project is run by Trans-Elect, with financial backing for its estimated $5 billion price tag from Google and others.

The Atlantic Wind Connection will run for 350 miles along the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. A direct-current series of cables, it will be the first undersea cable in the US to actually pick up generated power along the way. And at 15 to 20 miles off the coast, if wind turbines are built around the backbone they will be barely visible from shore.

It has been a banner couple of weeks for the nascent (still) offshore wind industry. A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory report indicated the massive potential of the wind flying past US shores — four times that of all the existing electricity generation in the country — and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar finally signed a 28-year lease allowing the 130 Cape Wind turbines to be built.

And at the signing of that lease, last week, Salazar hinted at this week’s transmission announcement.

“By identifying high priority areas offshore for potential wind projects, we can explore the development of a transmission backbone in the Atlantic Ocean to serve those areas,” he said. “Rather than develop transmission infrastructure plans on a piecemeal basis, we should – in close coordination with the private sector, states, and tribes – lay out a smart transmission system, up front.”

Source: IEEE Spectrum.

The first offshore wind energy turbine in the US will be installed off the Texas coast by the end of the year.

The 2.75-MW turbine is being installed near Galveston Island in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a precursor to the 300-MW Galveston Wind Project and the development of 3500 acres (1,416.4 hectares) already leased for Texas offshore wind operations.

According to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the US has the potential to generate over 4,150 GW of energy from offshore wind, which would fulfill four times the current energy demand through wind energy.

“Texas has many favorable conditions, such as its own transmission network and plant sites in a 10 mile zone off of its coast,” said Jan Wiedemann, managing director of the German American Chamber of Commerce in Houston (Texas). “This area is governed by Texas state laws, making it unlike any other US state since it does not need the approval of the US Department of the Interior.

“This creates many opportunities for entering the ever growing wind industry The NREL also projects that Texas has the potential to generate 1.06 GW of energy within this 10 mile zone (25.9 square kilometer),” he added.

Not coincidentally, Houston is about to host the first-ever Texas Offshore Wind Energy Roundtable. The conference, and an affiliated forum on offshore wind law will be held 19-22 October. The four-day conference will evaluate the potential of Texas’s offshore wind energy market and address the expected wind energy boom in the Gulf of Mexico. E.ON Climate & Renewables Europe, SIEMENS, Hochtief, Vestas, Thales and Siag, have all confirmed their participation.

Featured speakers will include Michael Lewis, managing director of E.ON Climate and Renewables Europe, who will speak about their experiences as a European offshore wind energy supplier, and William Keating, general manager sales North America of Vestas Offshore, who will speak on state-of-the-art technological capabilities and experiences in offshore wind from the perspective of a turbine manufacturer.

Source: 321 Energy.

While the U.S. wind industry has become a major player in global markets with traditional terrestrial power generation applications, efforts to move offshore – where wind resources are far superior but logistics are more challenging – have been hampered by a lack of regulatory support at both federal and state levels.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) sponsored a conference last week in Atlantic City, New Jersey, attracting roughly 1,500 attendees from around the globe, with heavy representation from European turbine manufacturers such as Vestas, Gamesa, REPower and Siemens, firms that dominate sales in today’s major offshore markets such as the United Kingdom and Denmark.

The conference started off with a bang and a bit of ceremony with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signing a 28-year lease for the first offshore wind project in the U.S., to be located off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The Cape Wind project, which will rely upon 130 3.6 MW wind turbines provided by Siemens, will grow from a first phase of 182 MW up to 468 MW at full build out. The project took 8 years to gain final approvals, and drew staunch opposition from wealthy citizens residing on Cape Cod, including the infamous Kennedy family.

In a passionate speech, Salazar pointed out that taking eight years to permit an offshore wind project was unacceptable. He promised that by the end of 2010, the federal government hopes “to identify places where offshore wind makes sense.” He suggested that this approach — which has been utilized by European countries such as Denmark — could help reduce the length of future permitting battles as environmental reviews could be expedited up-front, “so developer proposals will have a better chance.”

Atlantic City was selected as the venue for this premier conference because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act into law on July 19, 2010. The Act will provide $100 million in tax credits for offshore wind developments in the Atlantic Ocean that connect to the New Jersey grid.

Special “offshore renewable energy credits” (ORECs) help make projects more economic, with a “Clean Energy Manufacturing Fund” offering additional grants and loans based on local job creation. At present, three of the five “interim leases” offered for offshore wind projects in the U.S. have been secured off the New Jersey Coast, representing 1.4 GW of capacity.
Several other U.S. states have set up special incentives for offshore wind projects:

    • Rhode Island has a special 15% by 2019 set-aside for offshore wind, with the so-called “Deep Water” offshore project currently under development.
    • New York has released two RFPs: one for 120-500 MW of freshwater offshore wind on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario; and a second saltwater RFP for 350-700 MW off the coast of Long Island.
    • Virginia offers a unique incentive approach, allowing each MW of offshore wind development to count as the equivalent of 3 MW when complying with the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
    • Even more generous is Delaware, which offers a 3.5 times multiplier on RECs from offshore wind (which increases to a 4.2 multiplier if 50% of turbine components are manufactured in-state).
    • Maine has a special deepwater offshore program focused on 30 MW of pioneering projects that validate new foundation and installation technologies.
    • Since Ohio does not have sufficient wind resources to meet its 12.5% by 2025 RPS, the state is looking to develop 20 MW of freshwater offshore wind on Lake Erie, a total that could grow to 1 GW by 2020.

Despite the hype and headlines, there was also some sobering news at the conference. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that including the current PTC and other available federal incentives, the cost for offshore wind is still over 22 cents/kWh. An estimate from Europe was even higher – 26 cents/kWh.

Given the high costs of offshore wind, the rationale for policy support is increasingly focused on economic development. One study by Siemens showed that offshore wind provides 22 jobs per MW in Europe, which compares to approximately 7 jobs per MW for onshore wind there. Jobs in the U.S. are much lower, according to the study, with just 2 jobs per MW for onshore wind, the key difference being Europe’s market features 90% local content, while the U.S. is closer to 50%. Rather than manufacturing being the key to maximizing jobs on land-based wind projects, it is ongoing maintenance that provides 70% of employment benefits for offshore wind over the long term.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 54 GW of offshore wind could be included in the 300 GW required to meet 20% of the U.S. electricity needs in 2030.

Despite the hype and hope, Europe is way out in front of the U.S. in this clean energy sector. At present, 17 offshore wind projects are under actual construction in Europe totaling more than 3.5 GW. The projected growth rate for 2010 is 75% when compared to 2009, with 1 GW expected to come on-line by the end of the year. Though the U.K. is now by far and away the market leader, Germany – in spite of its very limited coastline – may soon move into second place.

To get a sense of scale of this opportunity consider that one off-shore wind project proposed in the U.K. would total 9 GW alone, and would represent the fifth largest infrastructure project in the world. All told, 5 GW of offshore wind are currently under development in the U.K. with a goal of 33 GW of offshore wind development by 2020, an investment of $150 billion.

Source: Pike Research.

Last week the U.S. Department of Energy released a new report detailing the potential opportunities for offshore wind power development in the U.S. The figures are mighty impressive. Along with generating 4,000 gigawatts, a full blown U.S. wind power development program would create thousands of new green jobs and reduce electricity costs in key coastal areas. Things are already starting to move forward on a grand scale, with eastern seaboard states joining in a new cooperative wind power development effort, called the Atlantic Offshore Wind Power Consortium. The question is, will things keep moving forward after the upcoming election?

Clean Energy and Government Support

What it all boils down to is federal funding and support. Take a look at any major component of the U.S. economy, and you will see massive public support in the form of various federal government subsidies, tax breaks, and regulatory structures. Railroads, seaports, agriculture, our national defense infrastructure, highways, and fossil fuel production — these are all transformational developments that make the modern U.S. what it is today, and they would not have happened without a federal framework. That’s exactly the kind of muscle needed to push us forward, and out of the increasingly risky and unstable fossil fuel economy. President Obama got things started with tens of billions in new federal funds for clean energy programs that help businesses create new green jobs, but depending on the results of the upcoming election the future of federal support for sustainable energy doesn’t look all that secure.

What’s Up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

You would think that strong federal support for new jobs and new business opportunities would get props from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but there you’d be exactly wrong. Clean tech companies, companies with strong sustainability profiles and major utilities have been been protesting and outright quitting the Chamber due to its obstructionist policies on climate change. The Chamber has always lobbied representatives in Congress but now it’s gone a step beyond and is also investing heavily in campaign ads, including attack ads, in support of candidates who are opposed to climate action. Apparently the Chamber is comfortable with supporting candidates who are likely to challenge, block, suspend or de-fund President Obama’s sustainable energy initiatives, even though it means waving good-by to new green jobs and new opportunities for business owners.

All Politics is Local…Except When it’s Not

One explanation for the motivation behind the Chamber’s partisan focus against clean energy can be found in last week’s explosive Think Progress report on the Chamber’s recent campaign activities. According to the report, the Chamber has been soliciting funds from overseas businesses and foreign governments, including oil-rich nations. The Chamber has apparently commingled these foreign funds with domestic funds in an account from which it draws campaign advertising expenditures. There’s a potential for some serious violations of federal election law, and Congress is now investigating. In the mean time, if you haven’t gotten all that excited about any of your local candidates for the upcoming election, it would be worthwhile to check out their position on clean energy, climate legislation, or the need for federal support for new green jobs. If you like what you see, by all means go out and vote.

Source: Clean Technica.

You might have thought the long battle for the Cape Wind project was over back in April, when the Obama administration BLM filed its approval of the project, but there’s more steps than that!

Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Salazar surprised the AWEA at an annual meeting by announcing that at the conclusion of the event he would be publicly signing his approval of a 28-year Federal lease with Cape Wind Associates for 25 square miles of ocean floor 16 miles from Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts where the project is to be built.

The first ever off-shore wind project in this country would involve 130 wind turbines 16 miles off the coast that could produce up to 468 megawatts of electricity and sell power at $0.18 cents per kilowatt-hour, more than any other non-fossil power other than nuclear energy.

The most controversial renewable energy project in the US would raise National Grid customers in Massachusetts home electric bills per month $1.50. Electricity rates for its commercial and industrial customers would increase between about 2%: well under the 5-7% annual rate rise seen among electricity bills nationwide.

On-shore wind is much cheaper, since off-shore wind is nonexistent, something that Salazar attempted to correct in forming the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium earlier this year with 5 Atlantic state governors, to fast track this nation’s stalled off-shore energy industry.

The consortium has worked on eliminating the barriers to off-shore wind development, by identifying the best offshore potential for wind projects, bringing the environmental review in line with reality and speeding up the permitting process by removing redundant layers of bureaucracy.

The Atlantic seaboard has a power potential of 330 Gigawatts, about twice the total electricity needs of the states involved. The consortium has doubled to include the governors from 11 Atlantic states.

“I am determined to accomplish a similar objective of orderly, responsible, and straightforward permitting for wind development on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf” Secretary of the Interior Salazar told the AWEA during his surprise announcement.

“The Atlantic OCS is receiving significant – and increasing – interest from communities frustrated by rising energy costs, states seeking to meet renewable energy mandates, and companies looking to advance their respective turbine and transmission technologies.”

“But as with any new frontier, there needs to be a clear, common-sense, and fair process for exploration and development. Until we started laying the rules of the road for offshore wind development a year and a half ago, no such process existed” he added. “That’s why it took the Cape Wind project eight years to clear necessary reviews.”

As with the solar projects now planned on BLM lands, the 28-year lease signed by Salazar will cost the company rents and fees payable to the federal government. The “ocean” rent is $88,278 in annual rent prior to production, and then once production begins, a 2% fee for fifteen years and from then: 7%. The first off-shore wind power is expensive at $0.18 cents a kilowatt-hour.

On-shore wind companies who can sell power for half that amount are understandably upset. TransCanada Energy, with on-shore turbines in Maine, offered to sell electricity to National Grid for less than $0.11 cents per kilowatt-hour. And that’s just the objections on that side. The US Department of Justice is still battling four pending lawsuits in federal court by the NIMBY contingent.

With the project approval in April, and now the rent agreement signed with the US government, the next step is that the company will need to finalize a power purchase agreement with National Grid, the utility that will make history by purchasing the first off-shore wind power to ever be generated in the USA.

Source: Clean Technica.

Before a wind farm is built, a long time – often years – goes into figuring out exactly where to place the turbines so that they harness an optimal amount of wind energy. But what if you had the ability to move a wind turbine to a different spot whenever the wind changes?

That’s the idea behind the Mobile Wind Turbine concept designed by Pope Design. The turbine is mounted to hybrid truck that runs off energy supplied by the turbine or a diesel generator when the batteries completely drain. When the truck is parked, the turbine can be erected and start producing electricity.

It’s unlikely that an entire wind farm would be made up of these, but for places like military bases, schools or businesses where only one or a few would be used, they might be ideal for maximizing the amount of clean energy that’s generated. Also, a mobile wind energy generator would be a perfect solution for emergency disaster relief operations.

Source: Eco Geek.

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