WindAction Editorials filed under Energy Policy
California has one of the most aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards ('RPS') in the country requiring 33% of the electricity sold in the state come from renewables by the year 2020. A ruling this month upped the ante on utilities by mandating that 75% of the energy come from projects located in the State. Despite the enormous pressure on utilities to meet the RPS standards, the State has demonstrated that not every project should be built.
The headlines were abuzz last month following Energy Secretary Steven Chu's talk at the National Press Club where he dubbed the global race for clean energy our new "Sputnik Moment" and warned that the U.S. risked falling behind other countries. In this imaginary race, our competition is no longer the Soviet Union, but China, which now leads in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is on a mission to keep its members fat and happy as they bloat up at the public trough. The goals are simple:
This week, we were treated to the Department of Energy's latest advocacy on wind energy: the release of a new report proclaiming the benefits and feasibility of developing wind power along the coastal waters of the United States. The report adds little to the claims touted in DOE's "20% Wind Power by 2030" published in 2008 but this time the focus is on 54,000 megawatts of wind off our eastern seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. Water depths on the Pacific Coast, according to the DOE, still pose a "technology challenge". 
Senate Jeff Bingaman, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, signaled he's determined to see a national renewable portfolio standard ("RPS") passed in the Senate before the members recess for the fall campaign season. Joined by majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and twenty other co-sponsors including three Republicans: Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine and John Ensign of Nevada, Bingaman introduced new RPS legislation that will require retail suppliers of electricity to secure a percentage of their generation from renewable energy resources.
This week, Wisconsin's Wind Siting Council submitted its final recommendations for the proper siting of wind energy facilities to the Public Service Commission. The standards promoted by the Council are some of the weakest Windaction.org has reviewed, especially for a State with a history of turbine complaints reported by its residents.
"Bottom line, the program has raised electricity prices, created a slush fund for each of the member states, and has had virtually no impact on emissions or on global climate change."
Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) disapproved the terms of the a power purchase agreement negotiated between utility giant National Grid and Deepwater Wind LLC. Deepwater proposed to construct a pilot wind project in shallow water off Block Island consisting of 6-8 turbines and a nameplate capacity of up to 30 megawatts.
Energy policy in the United States calls for the aggressive deployment of renewable generation within this decade. This policy has led to an explosion of renewable resources that operate largely off-peak, off-season and intermittently, and are located in rural areas with limited transmission. Conversely, there has been only limited development of renewable generation which operates largely on-peak, on-season, reliably or near load centers.
We've all heard the pitch about how wind is free and that once a wind facility is constructed the cost of generation is appropriately set low thanks to no fuel expense. We're also often reminded that no fuel cost means wind will help insulate consumers from wildly fluctuating energy prices.
With little fanfare last week, the ISO-New England released its latest report, New England 2030 Power System Study: Report to the New England Governors, summarizing the economic and environmental impacts of developing significant amounts of renewable sources within the region including substantial inland and offshore wind resources.
This week, Angus King, former Maine Governor turned wind developer, set out to correct the record on what he termed 'myths' about wind power now circulating. His opinion piece, while devoid of any substantive proof other than his say so and a link to his project's web site, in fact, was teeming with his own myths and half-truths that deserve clarification.
The American Wind Energy Association ('AWEA') released its latest proclamation this week highlighting 2009 as another banner year for the wind industry. Nearly 10,000 megawatts of new capacity was installed in the United States, up from 8,300 megawatts constructed in 2008, the previous record year. Total installed capacity of wind in the US now stands at just over 35,000 megawatts.
Only a few years ago, electric energy policy was all about servicing the power needs of the region with the most reliable, least cost generation. Nowadays, power plant development equals economic development, or at least, that's the pitch.
Eighteen months ago, Windaction.org reported that First Wind's Stetson wind facility (57-megawatts) in Maine would add no new renewable energy to the New England grid due to transmission constraints.
The unpredictability of wind energy will become more problematic as the country aims to deliver more remotely-sited generation to population centers on the east and west coasts. The U.S. Department of Energy and others have argued that geographically dispersing wind turbines nationwide might help to dampen the broad swings in available wind energy, but this provides no assurances that the energy will be where we need it, when needed.
This week, we decided to highlight Jonathan Fahey's piece "Take my juice" published September 7th in Forbes Magazine. Mr. Fahey does an excellent job explaining one of the serious consequences of deploying large quantities of wind on the grid. Read his article here (also provided below).
This week, USA Today explored the renewables debate as it applied to public lands. In the article, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the man responsible for protecting and providing access to our nation's natural and cultural heritage, declared his Department the "real department of energy". In fact, staff at the Interior Department, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are working at his direction to fast-track the release of millions of acres of public land for a massive deployment of renewable energy projects. Developers from around the world are lined up waiting to take advantage of the Obama administration's ‘hurry-up and get it done' renewables policy.
A year ago the US Department of Energy released "20% wind power by 2030", a study that envisioned the US satisfying 20% of its electricity needs through wind power. This February, the Joint Coordinated System Plan 2008 (JCSP'08) proffered a conceptual regional transmission and generation system plan to meet 20% of the Eastern region of the United States' energy needs with wind.
The debate surrounding wind energy development has reached a near fevered pitch particularly in the last few months. Below are just four of many stories Windaction.org is closely tracking, which together suggest the debate is becoming even more divisive.