Library filed under Energy Policy from Minnesota
Four Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Inc. (RES) conditional use permit requests for meteorological towers were endorsed by the Mower County Planning Commission. However, they all came under attack by another wind energy developer. RES is a national leader in the development and construction of renewable wind energy. This summer RES was awarded five utility scale wind projects in Canada with a total capacity of 954MW. RES critic James Hartson is a Waltham area farmer who is trying to develop the state's only community-based (i.e., farmer-owned cooperative) wind project in Mower County, Green Acres Wind Farm.
Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the elements needed to put together a 5-megawatt wind energy farm northwest of New Ulm are all coming together for the New Ulm Public Utilities Commission. Giant steps were taken at the NUPUC meeting Tuesday as the commission approved the land and wind easement leases with three landowners in southwestern Nicollet County to provide space for the wind turbines needed to generate that amount of "green" energy. In all, New Ulm Public Utilities would be leasing a total of 237.03 acres just off Highway 7, about 5 miles northwest of Klossner.
Coal mines always have been big business. Wind farms are getting to be. And when heavy-hitting companies such as North American Coal Corp., Minnesota Power and Florida Power and Light are eyeing an area of real estate, you bet it's consequential. The real estate isn't paltry; it's a lot of acreage in Oliver and Morton counties. Minnesota Power and FPL want to build separate wind farms. But the coal company says, "Wait a minute, we may want to mine where you guys are talking about putting up wind turbines. That won't work."
North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer has the right idea when he said this week it is time to bring coal and wind-power industries together to talk about development in the state. FPL Energy of Juno Beach, Fla., is being joined by Minnesota Power of Duluth, Minn., in pursuing wind farms in Oliver and Mercer counties. FLP Energy already has filed papers with the state PSC for its 250 square-mile proposal in the two counties. Minnesota Power is expressing a desire for its own wind farm in Oliver County. The primary problem arises, however, if these wind projects with their expensive turbines are targeted for land that holds coal to be mined.
Wind energy is not an alternative for baseload generation, and the Big Stone II plant will meet Minnesota's increasing demand for baseload electricity. There still is a place for wind energy. The co-owners plan to purchase or install 850 megawatts of wind energy by 2015 in addition to constructing Big Stone II. But Minnesota will need baseload power - power that is available 24 hours a day/seven days a week - and wind energy cannot meet that reliability standard. ...Baseload generation is needed to help justify the million-dollars-a-mile that it costs to construct these transmission lines.
Opponents of the proposed Big Stone II power plant likely cheered a Minnesota administrative ruling that jeopardizes the construction of transmission lines across the state. But that element of the power plant's construction also benefits something opponents probably support: wind power. The same lines that Big Stone II would use to transmit power also would carry South Dakota wind power. ...The search for feasible replacements for fossil fuels will not always be painless. Wind power requires more than turbines, which are eyesores in their own right, to harness energy. That energy must then be moved and stored, and that potentially means heavy-duty lines crisscrossing the country.
If Michigan is to join 25 states requiring that more electricity come from renewable sources, the Legislature must sort out all kinds of issues -including the price tag. Compared with existing power from old, already-paid-for coal plants, renewable energy is more expensive. The House is considering capping residents' extra costs at no more than $3 a month, or $36 a year over 20 years, which could let power companies off the hook for meeting the renewable energy requirement, known as an RPS. Under legislation pending in the House, commercial customers would pay no more than $190 a year more, while the cap for industrial customers would be $2,250.
Because it is uncharted territory, Community Development Director Gordon Hydukovich is requesting a temporary moratorium on wind turbines. The city attorney will be asked during Tuesday's Fergus Falls City Council meeting to draft such an ordinance. It is necessary, Hydukovich said, until city code can be written clearly stating where they can be placed. The moratorium was prompted by an individual requesting to place a turbine in a residential area. Another request was submitted by an industrial user in the city.
At its August 23, 2007 meeting, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission requested that the Department of Commerce's Energy Facility Permitting staff consult with stakeholders and prepare for the Commission's consideration general permit standards and setback recommendations to satisfy the legislative mandate. The PUC issued this order on Jan 11, 2008.
Minnesotans soon can tell state officials what they think of a plan to add hundreds of miles of electric transmission lines across the state. A group of 11 utilities, led by Xcel Energy and including Otter Tail Power Co., has proposed building three high-voltage transmission lines in Minnesota, claiming they are needed to improve service and prepare for growing electricity demands in areas such as the Red River Valley. ...Red Wing attorney Carol Overland has tracked the CapX 2020 proposal and operates a Web site that attempts to debunk the utilities' claim about needed transmission expansion. Overland said a better alternative would be to add generation facilities close to where the electricity is needed. "We're dealing with this false justification of need," said Overland, who will challenge the utilities' claims at the upcoming meetings.
Minnesota renewable energy advocates see great opportunity in wind-generated electricity, but the state struggles to reach that goal. ...efforts to increase Minnesota's use of wind energy face an inconvenient reality: The state lacks enough transmission lines to move the new electricity from wind turbines to customers. ...Also, while wind-generated electricity is more than half of Minnesota's renewable energy, even supporters acknowledge it only works when the wind is blowing, so other energy sources still are needed.
While it is pursuing wind power as a renewable resource -- most recently with a large deal last week -- that source is strictly supplemental, SMMPA spokesman Dan Hayes says. Wind-generated power is available when the wind blows, so it is not always online to ship. SMMPA needs to have enough power available 24/7 to supply its 18 city-owned utility companies and their customers. ...But there are other possibilities for baseline electricity, and SMMPA's chief operating officer, Dave Geschwind, says agency managers now are evaluating them more closely.
More than 100 years ago, erratic wind was replaced by more-dependable coal, then oil, as a means to propel us across oceans. The same dependability is needed for electric power plants. A look at the State Wind Map reveals another wind problem for the Duluth area. Northeastern Minnesota has the lowest average wind velocity in the state. The best winds are far off, on Buffalo Ridge, in the southwest, requiring long and expensive transmission lines.
Nuclear energy is a renewable, reliable, stable, homegrown energy source that does not emit greenhouse gasses, which many believe cause global warming. It works where other renewable sources are limited. It is impossible to produce solar or wind energy when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow, and Minnesota's climate can be inconsistent in meeting those needs. Nuclear energy does not share those same limitations.
ST. PAUL - It could be years before many Minnesotans see the impact of a series of energy-related laws that soon go into effect. Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty agreed on what was described as historic renewable energy and conservation legislation earlier this year, and major components become law Wednesday. A renewable energy standard requires most utilities to derive a quarter of their electricity production from renewable sources - including wind, solar and hydroelectric generation - by 2025. Xcel Energy has a tougher mandate. Ratepayers will not notice a difference in their electricity bills. A provision included in the law is meant to prevent significant price hikes for consumers. There is an effort to push renewable energy initiatives, but not at the expense of cost or reliability, said Ed Garvey, deputy commissioner at the Department of Commerce.
The utilities also argue that the drive for alternative sources of energy -- chiefly wind turbines -- requires more transmission lines to move electricity from the breezy bluffs of rural southwest Minnesota to customers in urban areas.
Passing paper laws is easy; the laws of nature are a little tougher to amend.
The Minnesota landscape will look a lot different if the state's renewable energy plan becomes reality. The 25 by 25 goal as it's known would have renewable sources provide a quarter of the state's electricity by 2025. That could mean thousands of windmills with solar, biomass and even hydrogen facilities mixed in. Another feature of the state's new skyline will be many miles of new power lines. Exactly how many miles is under debate.
Public Service Commission President Ken Norman said he sympathizes with environmental concerns. "I've got grandchildren," he said. "I think long term, anything we do to clean up the environment" is good. But he's also concerned about the implications of the measure. Wind power is one of the primary renewable power sources now available, though there are other renewables such as solar power and the burning of biomass. But the reliability of wind power - or the lack thereof - is an issue. Wind power only works when the wind is blowing, Norman said. There are no giant batteries to hold the power. It has to be used as it's produced. When the temperatures reach 30 below zero as they do in this area, the power source has to be there, Norman said. "Up here, it's a matter of survival." Complicating matters is the proposed Global Warming Mitigation Act in Minnesota. A provision of that bill would block the Big Stone II coal-burning plant project, State Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said. Lanning and State Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, supported the "25 by '25" initiative, but also say that plants such as Big Stone II are needed to supply the on-demand power availability that wind can't. The Big Stone II project includes construction of transmission lines that could also be used to transmit wind power, Lanning said. The kind of renewable sources of energy production proposed by the "25 by '25" initiative are more expensive to operate than coal-burning plants, MPSC officials say. And a great deal of infrastructure will be necessary to supply the requirements of the "25 by '25" legislation.
The state is empowering the wind-turbine industry to crank up its efforts. But creating the electricity may prove to be easier than distributing it. The volatile, unpredictable nature of wind is another problem. A recent study showed that in the summer, when winds tend to blow slower than in the other three seasons, 86 percent of the potential electrical capacity of wind turbines will be idle. "Wind is like having a car that's out of fuel when you need it the most," Osborn said.