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THE VICE PRESIDENT: Those are the two key questions. I think there's an emerging consensus that we do have global warming. You can look at the data on that, and I think clearly we're in a period of warming. Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that's part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera.
Wind power could supply all the energy needs of much of the East Coast and then some, if a phalanx of wind turbines running from Massachusetts to North Carolina were installed offshore, a new study concludes.
As Democratic leaders in Congress prepare to put climate change legislation on the agenda, some in the utility industry are arguing that it will take decades of investments and innovation to get substantial reductions in their emissions of greenhouse gases.
Electric power companies, which emit about one-third of America’s global warming gases, could reduce their emissions to below the levels of 1990, but that would take about 20 years, no matter how much the utilities spend, according to a new industry study.
The report, prepared by the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit consortium, is portrayed as highly optimistic by its authors, who will present the findings on Thursday at an energy conference in Houston.
Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, governments around the world have paid plenty of lip service to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. But only a few governments have been able to engineer policies that have begun to bring alternative energies into wider use. Renewable fuels provided 18% of the world’s total electricity supply in 2004, according to figures from the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization. Almost all of that, though, came from hydropower, a source with limited growth potential because of geographic constraints. The use of wind and solar power is growing, but they still generated only 1% of global electricity production in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available.
Infrared monitoring shows that savvy seabirds steer clear of wind turbines.
Uncertainty surrounding wind power's impact on wildlife--particularly the potential for deadly collisions between birds and turbines--has tarnished its image and even delayed some wind farms. Indeed, the first large offshore wind farm proposed for U.S. waters--the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts's Nantucket Sound--has been held up in part by concerns that its 130 turbines could kill thousands of seabirds annually. Now a simple infrared collision-detection system developed by Denmark's National Environmental Research Institute is helping clear the air.
The Thermal Animal Detection System (TADS) is essentially a heat-activated infrared video camera that watches a wind turbine around the clock, recording deadly collisions much as a security camera captures crimes. The first results, released this winter as part of a comprehensive $15 million study of Denmark's large offshore wind farms, show seabirds to be remarkably adept at avoiding offshore installations. "There had been suggestions that enormous numbers of birds would be killed," says Robert Furness, a seabird specialist at the University of Glasgow, who chaired the study's scientific advisory panel. "There's a greater feeling now among European politicians that marine wind farms are not going to be a major ecological problem, and therefore going ahead with construction is not going to raise lots of political difficulties."
Strain on the wind energy market in 2006 led to a record number of mergers and acquisitions among companies and more are expected in 2007.
Mergers and acquisitions in wind energy included all sectors from utilities to manufacturers to developers, according to a panel of investors at the 2007 Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit in San Diego.
The boom in the market driven by capital and temporary tax incentives along with increasing availability of joint venture money and tax equity is countered by the stress from large price increases in turbines as well as installation, said John Calway, chief development officer of Wind North America, which was acquired by Babcock and Brown.
The price of equipment going up will likely cause an increase in the cost of power as well, said Ted Brandt, chief executive officer and managing director of Marathon Capital.
But Leif Andersen, vice president of sales for Suzlon Wind Energy Corp. said he is optimistic the supply chain will balance out. Prices should go down he said, once there is a more stable political climate and the production and manufacturing process is more streamlined.
New legislation that would require many U.S. utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020 was introduced yesterday by Congressman Tom Udall of New Mexico.
House bill 969 proposes to “amend title VI of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to establish a Federal renewable energy portfolio standard for certain retail electric utilities and for other purposes.”
The bill defines a renewable energy resource as solar (including solar water heating), wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, biomass, landfill gas or incremental hydropower.
Capital cost of wind development has significantly increased over the past five years, said a panel of independent wind developers.
The cost of transporting a large-scale turbine is about 20 percent of the cost of the equipment and land costs, and royalties to land owners are increasing as well, said Jan Paulin, president and chief executive officer of Padoma Wind Power, LLC at the 2007 Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit in San Diego. Land cost has increased about 60 to 70 percent in the last two years.
The two major reasons behind the cost increase are fuel costs, especially high petroleum prices, and the perceived supply shortage of turbines also drives cost of the turbine and its transportation up.
Another growing capital cost is in risk management because of the lack of strong warrantees. For a $3 million turbine, the average warrantee is for $20,000.
Wind per kilowatt hours is cost competitive to fossil fuels, but the high capital cost, along with substandard warranties, make it difficult, for independent developers especially, to fund a project from start to finish. The capital cost has caused many consolidations of smaller developers into larger companies.
Without federal support from both a long-term commitment to a production tax credit and a federal renewable portfolio standard, the future of wind power may be uncertain.
Developers and investors at the 2007 Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit in San Diego voiced concern for the industry past the end of 2008 when the production tax credit expires. Much of the investment that’s been put into the developing technology has come from the incentives given through the PTC.
President Bush might be talking about alternative energy, but he's not giving many types of green energy sources a financial boost.
Bush's $2.9 trillion budget proposal released Monday includes no funding for geothermal technology, a prominent industry in Nevada, or for hydropower research and development.
Bush's proposal also trims funding for wind energy to $40 million, nearly a 10 percent drop from last year's request. The 2008 request keeps funding levels stagnant for solar energy development: $148.3 million.
But some alternative energy industries are winners under the president's budget plan. Biomass, hydrogen technology and carbon sequestration at coal-fired power plants would see increases in funding.
The operator of the power grid for the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest said Monday it reached an all-time record for winter electricity use amid frigid weather on the East Coast.
Valley Forge, Pa.-based PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid in 13 states and Washington, D.C., said it set an all-time record for winter electricity use on Monday morning, with demand rising above 112,500 megawatts. The previous record for winter use, set in December 2005, was 110,414 megawatts.
The all time record for summer use on the PJM grid, 144,644 megawatts, was set during a heat wave last August.
The wind resource off the Mid-Atlantic coast could supply the energy needs of nine states from Massachusetts to North Carolina, plus the District of Columbia--with enough left over to support a 50 percent increase in future energy demand--according to a study by researchers at the University of Delaware and Stanford University.
Willett Kempton, Richard Garvine and Amardeep Dhanju at the University of Delaware and Mark Jacobson and Cristina Archer at Stanford, found that the wind over the Middle Atlantic Bight, the aquatic region from Cape Cod, Mass., to Cape Hatteras, N.C., could produce 330 gigawatts (GW) of average electrical power if thousands of wind turbines were installed off the coast.
The estimated power supply from offshore wind substantially exceeds the region's current energy use, which the scientists estimate at 185 gigawatts, from electricity, gasoline, fuel oil and natural gas sources.
The investment giant announced an ambitious series of environmental goals, and found them directly in line with its primary goal of making money, Christopher Wright reports.
In November 2005 Goldman Sachs surprised many people in the financial sector when it announced an ambitious new environmental policy framework. [PDF] The slew of green measures included commitments to consider the environmental and social impacts of investments, encourage the development of environmental markets, and reduce the investment bank’s overall climate footprint.
Now a little over a year later (and on the back of soaring profits) the investment giant is taking stock of its efforts. On January 21, 2007, it quietly released its year-end environmental report, [PDF] demonstrating that environmental commitments are indeed in line with Goldman’s raison d’etre: making money.
“We tried to make the framework as business-oriented as possible, because we believe it would be the best way for us to have a positive impact on the environment,” says Sonal Shah, vice president of corporate citizenship at Goldman Sachs. “We want to show that there is a way to make money on this.”
The American Wind Energy Association recently predicted large increases in wind-power capacity in its 2007 outlook, but industry buzz doesn’t faze the many staunch wind opponents.
Groups like National Wind Watch, Stop Ill Wind, War Against Wind, We Oppose Wind Farms, Industrial Wind Energy Opposition and many others in the United States and internationally are trying to get their message out about the negative aspects and effects of wind energy.
“It is novel for Kentucky to be experimenting in wind power,” said James Bush, program manager at the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy.
Bush pointed to a map by the Department of Energy that classifies the strength of wind power, on a scale of 1 to 7, across different states and regions within the United States.
The study classified most of Kentucky as a 1, meaning it had little to no wind power. Southeastern Kentucky received a 2, and a thin area bordering Virginia (along the Allegheny Front) fared better with a 3.
The overall DOE assessment indicated that Kentucky would be a poor place to set up wind farms, and no further government studies on its wind power were conducted, Bush said. Sykes has narrowed his search to a handful of counties in Eastern Kentucky that fall along the Class 3 area.
The top five states for wind energy are North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota and Montana, respectively, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
In a precedent-setting move that could have national implications, the California Independent System Operator Corporation (California ISO) filed today with its regulator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to approve in concept a financing plan for transmission trunklines to remote locations in order to get green power from multiple users onto the grid.
If the new payment mechanism is approved and implemented, it would be a first-of-its-kind means of removing financial barriers that can hinder development of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources. Fostering these resources can help California achieve its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires most utilities in the state to obtain 20 percent of the electricity they deliver from environmentally-friendly resources by 2010.
Unlike natural gas-fired power plants that can usually be built relatively close to existing high-voltage facilities, renewable generation is often built in remote areas. “Wind turbines, large solar power plants and geothermal resources all need to be built close to their natural fuel sources,” said California ISO President and CEO Yakout Mansour. “The California ISO is committed to removing barriers to these types of green resources and doing everything we can to help meet the State’s renewable standards and climate change policies in a timely and reliable manner.”
The U.S. wind energy industry installed 2,454 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2006, an investment of approximately $4 billion, billing wind as one of the largest sources of new power generation in the country -- second only to natural gas -- for the second year in a row. New wind farms boosted cumulative U.S. installed wind energy capacity by 27 percent to 11,603 MW, well above the 10,000-MW milestone reached in August 2006.
Scientists long have issued the warnings: The modern world's appetite for cars, air conditioning and cheap, fossil-fuel energy spews billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, unnaturally warming the world.
Yet, it took the dramatic images of a hurricane overtaking New Orleans and searing heat last summer to finally trigger widespread public concern on the issue of global warming.
Climate scientists might be expected to bask in the spotlight after their decades of toil. The general public now cares about greenhouse gases, and with a new Democratic-led Congress, federal action on climate change may be at hand.
Problem is, global warming may not have caused Hurricane Katrina, and last summer's heat waves were equaled and, in many cases, surpassed by heat in the 1930s.
Democrats said the legislation could produce as much as $15 billion in revenue. Most of that money would pay to promote renewable fuels such as solar and wind power, alternative fuels including ethanol and biodiesel and incentives for conservation.
In a sign that US electricity companies are recognising that the Democratic-controlled Congress will seek to impose aggressive climate change initiatives, six companies, including Exelon, one of the largest utility companies, on Wednesday endorsed a bill that would reduce their projected emissions by 25 per cent below projected levels by 2020.