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Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

MendoCoastCurrent, October 5, 2010

Since the beginning of 2010, the Kent State Truth Tribunal has been focused on collecting and understanding the truth about the circumstances that surrounded the killing of four students and the wounding of nine others at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4, 1970. As new evidence emerges that supports the belief that the Ohio National Guard was following orders to shoot when they fired into a crowd of peacefully assembled students, we are reminded that this tragic chapter in American history has left an indelible mark on the civic freedoms that define this country.

One of the students shot was my sister Allison Krause and at the moment she died, Allison was protesting the invasion of Cambodia and the escalation of the Vietnam war at a noon peace rally on her college campus. Some of those shot were fellow protestors while others were students simply walking to class.

Like many college students at that time, the protesters at Kent State were fighting the draft and opposed the war in Vietnam. At this peace rally on May 4th at Kent State, they were also protesting the Ohio National Guard’s occupation of their campus that had begun days earlier.  When the shots were fired, the U.S. government robbed the Kent State students of their right to exercise the First Amendment. It also sent a chilling message to young people across the country: If you protest against the government, you could be killed in the process.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was profoundly devalued by this criminal act. This amendment prohibits our government from “interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a government redress of grievance.”

Until the truth about the Kent State shootings is known and laid bare before the public, the value and meaning of our First Amendment continues to be compromised. The words written and preserved in the Library of Congress have very little to do with citizen’s rights in America today.

Fast-forwarding 40 years to May 4, 2010 and with the help of heartfelt Kent State supporters like Michael Moore, as well as many present at the original peace rally at Kent, the Kent State Truth Tribunal began to record and preserve the truth, broadcasting our findings at MichaelMoore.com. The buried truth about Kent State and the continued cover-up that surrounds the Kent State killings has begun to unfold before us.

We now see how that the calculated acts of President Richard Nixon, Ohio Governor James Rhodes and the Ohio National Guard commanders seamlessly silenced and damaged the psyche of the sixties generation, robbing us of our civil rights. The consequences of their violent actions against students still reverberate today.

I was 15 years old on May 4th 1970. Through the eyes of a teenager I felt the deeper personal angst and pain of losing my only sibling Allison as my family and our home was torn apart. Allison’s death and the harassment that followed will never be forgotten. When I lost Allison I was outraged but realized quickly that there was little that a 15-year-old could do.

My parents, Arthur and Doris Krause, pursued redress through the courts, seeking justice the American way. In each and every litigation the shooting guardsmen, along with their commanding officers, claimed there wasn’t an order to shoot ~ that the guardsmen reacted with their shots because they felt their lives were in danger, despite the fact that many eye-witnessed remembered clearly hearing an order to fire.  By taking this position and stating this under oath, the government forced everyone pursuing truth and justice in the Kent State killings to look for proof that an ‘order to shoot’ existed.

Back to the present, just days after we closed the doors at the Kent State Truth Tribunal at the 40th anniversary of the killings in Kent, Ohio, important news was published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Read it here: bit.ly/aM7Ocm The Plain Dealer arranged an examination of an audio tape recorded by a Kent State student from his dorm window ledge. Two, expert forensic audio scientists, Stuart Allen and Tom Owen, independently confirmed an order was issued to the Ohio National Guard. Mr. Allen found that the order “Prepare to fire,” can be heard on the audio cassette ‘as clear as a bell’.

As we turn our attention to the approaching Kent State Truth Tribunal in New York City on October 9 and 10 http://TruthTribunal.org/event , Mr. Allen will present this new evidence so that everyone watching at MichaelMoore.com can judge for themselves. We hope you will tune in to witness this important moment that will prove an order was issued, that the guards followed a command and that there was homicidal intent on the part of our government to kill unarmed, protesting students

We have invited the federal government to send an official to audit and witness our interview with Mr. Allen.

Additionally, we will be interviewing participants and witnesses of the Kent State shootings to hear and preserve their truth, as well as some notable guests with meaningful connection to the prelude and aftermath.

Daniel Ellsberg will participate in our first Skype interview at this KSTT in New York City.  You may remember that Mr. Ellsberg precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of US government decision-making about the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers.  He will be giving us background into the political context and key elements of the Vietnam war at the time of the killings at Kent State.

Mr. Lawrence Dowler, founder of the Kent State collection in the Yale Library where he was chief archivist (now retired), will share his truth on the collection he personally assembled, a collection revered to be the most extensive and accurate archive of the Kent State shootings.

You are invited to share in this important moment in history by watching our live broadcast at www.MichaelMoore.com on Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10, from 10AM to 5PM est.

You hope you’ll join us as we continue to uncover the truth at Kent State.

To learn more about KSTT and support our efforts, visit http://TruthTribunal.org

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MARSHA W. JOHNSTON, RenewableEnergyWorld.com, March 2009

One hundred and forty-one years ago, the relentless sea off Scotland’s coast inspired the following observation from native son and author George MacDonald:

I climbed the heights above the village, and looked abroad over the Atlantic. What a waste of aimless tossing to and fro! Gray mist above, full of falling rain; gray, wrathful waters underneath, foaming and bursting as billow broke upon billow…they burst on the rocks at the end of it, and rushed in shattered spouts and clouds of spray far into the air over their heads. “Will the time ever come,” I thought, when man shall be able to store up even this force for his own ends? Who can tell.”

In the United States, permitting may be an even bigger hurdle to marine energy deployment than financing. Between 25 and 35 different U.S. federal, state and local regulatory agencies claim some jurisdiction over marine power deployment. In the UK, two agencies handle permitting.

Today, we can certainly say, “Yes, the time will come.” The only question remaining is how long it will be before humankind routinely and widely uses electricity generated from the kinetic power of ocean tides, currents and waves.

If one defines “commercial ocean energy” as several tens of megawatts, the world cannot yet boast a commercial ocean energy installation. Indeed, only two installations of either wave, tidal or in-stream current devices are grid-connected and can generate over 1 megawatt (MW) of power. One is Pelamis Wave Power’s 2.25-MW Aguçadoura project off of Portugal’s northern coast and the other is Bristol-based Marine Current Turbines’ (MCT) SeaGen, a US $20-million commercial-scale tidal-energy project under development in Northern Ireland’s turbulent Strangford Narrows. In December, SeaGen boasted the first tidal turbine to hit a capacity of 1.2 MW.

(The biggest exception to commercial ocean energy production is the world’s longest running tidal power plant, the 240-MW La Rance, in France. But the plant’s barrage technology, which traps water behind a dam and releases it at low tide, has fallen out of favor due to its perceived higher environmental impact than underwater turbines. Nova Scotia has also been operating a 20-MW barrage Tidal Generating Station in the tidal-rich Bay of Fundy since 1984.)

The rest of the world’s wave, tidal and current installations, some of which have been in the water as far back as the 1990s, are experimental and prototype units ranging in size from 35 kilowatts (kW) to 400 kW. Because these units operate only intermittently and are not typically connected to any grid, it is not possible to determine their total power generation.

Many of these units are prototype demonstration units for the much bigger installations that are under development and that will begin to realize significant exploitation of the world’s ocean energy resource. For example, Ocean Power Technologies Inc. will use the 150-kW PowerBuoy it has been testing since the mid-90s as the “workhorse” for the 270-MW, four-site wave energy plant off California and Oregon coasts that it has partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop, says CEO George Taylor.

And Inverness, Scotland-based WaveGen expects to use 40 units of the 100-kw turbine it just installed off the Island of Islay for a 4-MW farm off of Scotland’s Isle of Lewis. Meanwhile, Pelamis says if its 750-kw “sea snake” devices, which were installed last year, make it through the winter, it will put 37 more of them in the water, generating 30 MW.

All of the wave, tidal, ocean and river current power around North America that can be practically extracted could together provide 10% of today’s electrical consumption in the U.S., says Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, CA. He adds that the total water resource could, it is sometimes said, possibly power the world twice over, but a lot of it is out of reach. “Hudson’s Bay, off the Arctic Circle, has HUGE tidal power, but it is thousands of miles from where anyone lives. We have HUGE wave resources off Aleutian Islands, but the same problem,” he says.  See EPRI’s U.S. Offshore Wave Energy Resource Map, below.

What will be the “magic” year for large-scale ocean energy deployment? Most developers indicate 2011-2012. Trey Taylor, co-founder and president of Verdant Power, which is moving into the commercial development phase of its 7-year-old Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project, says the firm aims to have “at least 35 MW” in the water by the end of 2011.

Bedard is more circumspect. “I think it will be 2015 in Europe and 2025 in U.S. for big deployment,” he says, adding that the year cited depends entirely on the definition of “big” and “commercial,” which he defines as “many tens of megawatts.”

Verdant’s Taylor expects greater initial success in Canada. “The fundamental difference between Canada and the U.S. is that the underpinning of processes in Canada is collaborative and in the U.S. it is adversarial. It’s just the nature of Canadians, collaborating for community good, whereas in the U.S. people are afraid of being sued,” he said.

Bedard says the U.S. could catch up to Europe earlier, if the Obama Administration walks its big renewable energy infrastructure investment talk. “But if it’s business as usual, it could be later, depending on the economy,” he says.

Since the global economy began to melt down last September, many ocean energy companies have had to refocus their investment plans. With venture capital and institutional monies drying or dried up, firms are turning to public funds, strategic partners such as utilities and big engineering firms, and angel investors.

In November, MCT retained London-based Cavendish Corp Finance to seek new financing. Raymond Fagan, the Cavendish partner charged with MCT, said although tidal energy is not as advanced as wind or solar, he has seen a “strong level of interest so far from large engineering-type firms in MCT’s leading position.” Because MCT holds patents and is delivering power to the grid ahead of its competitors, Fagan thinks Cavendish can bring it together with such strategic partners.

In addition to the economic climate, he notes that the drop in oil and gas prices is further slowing renewable energy investment decisions. “Six to 12 months ago, people were leaping into renewable energy opportunities,” he says, adding that the UK government’s recent call for marine energy proposals for the enormous Pentland Firth zone north of Scotland will improve Cavendish’s chances of getting financing. Though it has yet to make a public announcement, MCT is widely viewed as a prime operator for the zone.

Monies are still available. Witness Pelamis Wave Power’s infusion of 5 million pounds sterling in November, which it says it will use for ongoing investment in core R&D and continuing development of its manufacturing processes and facilities.

In the U.S., permitting may be an even bigger hurdle to marine energy deployment than financing. Between 25 and 35 different U.S. federal, state and local regulatory agencies claim some jurisdiction over marine power deployment. In the UK, two agencies handle permitting. Bedard notes however, that streamlining the process in the U.S. may have begun with the recent opening of a new six-month process for licensing pilot marine energy plants.

Marine energy experts agree that there are more opportunities for wave power than for tidal, as there are simply fewer exploitable tidal sites. In technology terms, however, tidal turbines have benefited from a quarter century of wind turbine development, says Virginia Tech professor George Hagerman. Despite more widely available wave resource, wave energy developers face the challenge of needing many more devices than do tidal energy developers, and have a higher cabling cost to export the power.

As Christopher Barry, co-chair of the Ocean Renewable Energy panel at the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, explains: “The major challenge [to ocean energy] is not pure technology, but the side issues of power export and making the technology affordable and survivable.”

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RICHARD RICHTMYER, AP via Forbes, February 2, 2009

New York state officials are using a small wind turbine atop Albany’s tallest building to test a big renewable energy idea.

The turbine stands 17 feet above the roof of the 41-story Corning Tower. Its 7-foot diameter blades can produce up to 1.5 kilowatts of electricity when spinning at full capacity. That’s less than one-tenth of a percent of the electricity workers in the state office building use every day, said John Egan, commissioner of the state Office of General Services.

But the idea isn’t to use the turbine – which resembles a large pinwheel – to offset the tower’s energy use. Instead, workers will use it to test the feasibility of larger urban wind-energy programs, Egan said.

“This is really experimental,” he said. “It will tell us which way we should be going.”

Egan and his staff are working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on the pilot program. NYSERDA workers will collect performance data from the so-called “micro-turbine” to study how they work in urban environments.

It’s a small step toward achieving a policy goal that Gov. David Paterson  has set for the state to meet 45% of its electricity needs through improved efficiency and renewable energy by 2015. The Corning Tower pilot project cost around $15,000.

“Harnessing the power of the wind in an urban setting could provide us with yet another way to expand the state’s renewable energy resources, create thousands of ‘green collar’ jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and address global climate change,” said Robert Callender, NYSERDA’s vice president for programs.

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TED NESI, Providence Business News, December 5, 2008

riThe list of suitors lining up to develop renewable energy projects off Rhode Island’s coastal waters is getting longer.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has begun reviewing a permit application from Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co., a year-old company based in Seattle, to build 100 large towers that would generate electricity from wave energy and wind turbines. The towers, which Grays Harbor says would use the same support technology as offshore oil platforms, would be located in a 96-square-mile area of federal waters 12 to 25 miles to the south of Block Island. Wind turbines could be placed on top of the towers, although that would require a separate application process. The company estimates the total cost of the project would be between $400 million and $600 million.

Grays Harbor asserts that the structures, known as Oscillating Water Columns, “will be visible from shore for only a few days a year under extremely clear visibility conditions.”

The company also says it will not need to utilize the entire 96 square miles designated in its federal permit. Instead, it will determine which section of that area would be the most conducive to wind-energy generation.

News of the proposed project comes as state officials continue work on an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for the coastal waters off Rhode Island – a project undertaken in part to facilitate permitting of a $1.5-billion offshore wind farm backed by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. However, the project proposed by Grays Harbor is outside the area to be covered by the Ocean SAMP.

Rhode Island officials said the company’s application took them by surprise: Grover Fugate, executive director of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, found out about it when the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) forwarded a copy of the document to him as a courtesy.

“It was news to us, when we heard from MMS,” said Laura Ricketson-Dwyer, spokeswoman for CRMC. “But that’s not totally uncommon,” since the CRMC does not have jurisdiction over federal waters. “FERC did not have to notify us.”

The electricity would be transmitted from the converters into an offshore substation, and then the power would be sent to Block Island via a single transmission cable buried about three feet beneath the sea floor. Part of that energy would be used on Block Island, which has some of the highest electricity costs in the country, and the rest would be transmitted to the mainland, coming ashore in the Narragansett village of Jerusalem.

Grays Harbor says it is already in negotiations “with a consortium of local utilities and companies” for them to purchase electricity from the project, and says existing overhead cables could handle the additional load it creates.

Although local officials have doubts about the prospects for wave energy here, Grays Harbor says prior research has given the company confidence it could work in the area. “The site proposed therefore is not speculative,” Grays Harbor president W. Burton Hamner wrote in a letter to FERC Secretary Magalie Salas. “It is the best place for the only technology package we believe will work in that region.” Hamner’s company cites a 2004 study published by the Electric Power Research Institute that said a 100-megawatt wave energy project would be competitive with a 100-megawatt wind farm. But that study looked at wave-energy resources in Massachusetts, not Rhode Island, and Grays Harbor acknowledges in its permit that “Rhode Island wave energy is less than [in] Massachusetts.”

Grays Harbor is specifically applying for a preliminary permit from FERC, which would allow the company to do in-depth research on the project for three years. From there, the company would apply for a pilot project permit, which would allow it to build a 5-megawatt demonstration version of the project. If the pilot project is successful, the company would apply for a standard 30-year FERC permit to build the full-scale development. If all were to go as Grays Harbor hopes, the company expects to have the 5-megawatt demonstration project up and running in 2011, with the full project to follow in 2016.

Grays Harbor cited two issues that could hamper the project: One is the structures’ possible impact on navigation lanes, although the company downplayed the likelihood of that being a problem. The other is the project’s possible impact on fishermen.

“There is no question that where there are wave-energy systems, recreational and commercial fishing will be affected,” the company says in its application. “This is unavoidable because of the conflicting use of the ocean space.” To reduce the project’s impact on fisheries, Grays Harbor said it is considering turning the wave structures into “artificial reefs … that can support fish and other marine organisms.”

The public has until January 28, 2009 to comment on the proposal at the commission’s web site.  The permit application for the Rhode Island offshore wave energy project was filed by Grays Harbor on October 22 and processed by FERC on November 28.

On the same day it submitted its application to develop the Block Island project, Grays Harbor filed applications for nearly identical projects off Cape Cod, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and San Francisco and Ventura, Calif.

And in July, the company was granted a preliminary FERC permit for a similar project in Washington state. “Our intention in applying for nearly identical projects in several sites is to achieve significant economics of scale in site evaluation and to help federal agencies develop effective agreements regarding management of ocean renewable-energy projects,” Hamner wrote in his letter to Salas.

But all the projects depend in part on the outcome of a bureaucratic turf war between two federal agencies:

  • The MMS, which was granted jurisdiction over most offshore energy projects by a 2005 federal energy law to the MMS, but which is still completing its final regulations for offshore projects.
  • And the FERC, which already has jurisdiction over inland hydroelectric projects, and this fall asserted its right to review and permit wave-energy projects as well.

Unsurprisingly, Grays Harbor has sided with FERC and agreed that the commission has authority over wave-energy projects. But the company also said the MMS still has jurisdiction over leasing the area in question – an issue the FERC has promised to work out.

In its permit application, Grays Harbor promised to work closely with state and local authorities. The company raised the prospect of establishing public development authorities with area communities to establish co-ownership of the project, and also says it “will develop a Settlement Agreement with stakeholders.”

Grays Harbor also pledged to hire local workers for the project, if possible. “The Providence area has capabilities for manufacturing wave energy converters and every attempt will be made to locally construct the machinery needed for the project,” the company says in its application.

Ricketson-Dwyer, the CRMC spokeswoman, said she is not surprised to see more companies moving quickly to develop ocean-energy projects. “People are – no pun intended – entering the waters here and getting into this.”

The CRMC plans to keep an eye on what happens over the next few weeks, she said, adding: “It’s really to early for us to even know if we have any role in any of this.” Meanwhile, Ricketson-Dwyer said, the proposal underlines the need to finish the state’s Ocean SAMP, in order to streamline the permitting process for offshore energy projects.

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Guardian.co.uk, December 3, 2008

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoWay back in Napoleonic Paris, a Monsieur Girard had a novel idea about energy: power from the sea. In 1799, Girard obtained a patent for a machine he and his son had designed to mechanically capture the energy in ocean waves. Wave power could be used, they figured, to run pumps and sawmills and the like.

These inventors would disappear into the mists of history, and fossil fuel would instead provide an industrializing world with almost all its energy for the next two centuries. But Girard et fils were onto something, say a growing number of modern-day inventors, engineers, and researchers. The heave of waves and the tug of tides, they say, are about to begin playing a significant role in the world’s energy future.

In the first commercial scale signal of that, last October a trio of articulated, cylinder-shaped electricity generators began undulating in the waves off the coast of Portugal. The devices look like mechanical sea snakes. (In fact, their manufacturer, Scotland’s Pelamis Wave Power Ltd., takes its name from a mythical ancient Greek sea serpent.) Each Pelamis device consists of four independently hinged segments. The segments capture wave energy like the handle of an old fashioned water pump captures the energy of a human arm: as waves rock the segments to and fro, they pump a hydraulic fluid (biodegradable, in case of spills) powerfully through a turbine, spinning it to generate up to 750,000 watts of electricity per unit. Assuming the devices continue to perform well, Portuguese utility Energis expects to soon purchase another 28 more of the generators.

The completed “wave farm” would feed its collective power onto a single high voltage sea-floor cable, adding to the Portuguese grid about 21 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 15,000 homes.

In a world where a single major coal or nuclear plant can produce more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, it’s a modest start. But from New York’s East River to the offshore waters of South Korea, a host of other projects are in earlier stages of testing. Some, like Pelamis, rely on the motion of waves. Others operate like underwater windmills, tapping the power of the tides.

Ocean-powered technologies are in their infancy, still technologically well behind such energy alternatives as wind and solar. Necessarily designed to operate in an inherently harsh environment, the technologies remain largely unproven and — unless subsidized by governments — expensive. (Portugal is heavily subsidizing the Pelamis project, with an eye to becoming a major European exporter of clean green power in the future.) Little is known about the effects that large wave or tide farms might have on marine ecosystems in general.

Despite the uncertainties, however, proponents say the potential advantages are too striking to ignore. Eight hundred times denser than air, moving water packs a huge energy wallop. Like solar and wind, power from moving seas is free and clean. But sea power is more predictable than either wind or solar. Waves begin forming thousands of miles from coastlines and days in advance; tides rise and fall as dependably as the cycles of the moon. That predictability makes it easier to match supply with demand.

Roger Bedard, who leads ocean energy research at the U.S. utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, says there’s plenty of reason for optimism about the future of what he calls “hydrodynamic” power. Within a decade, he says, the U.S. could realistically meet as much as 10% of its electricity needs from hydrodynamic power. As a point of reference, that’s about half of the electricity the U.S. produces with nuclear power today. Although he acknowledges that initial sea-powered generation projects are going to be expensive, Bedard believes that as experience grows and economies of manufacturing scale kick in, hydrodynamic power will follow the same path toward falling costs and improving technologies as other alternatives.

“Look at wind,” he says. “A kilowatt hour from wind cost fifty cents in the 1980s. Now it’s about seven cents.” (That’s about the same as producing electricity with natural gas, and only about three cents more than coal, the cheapest — and dirtiest — U.S. energy choice. Any future tax on carbon emissions could narrow that gap even more, as would additional clean-power subsidies.)

For some nations, wave and tide power could pack an even bigger punch. Estimates suggest, for instance, that the choppy seas surrounding the United Kingdom could deliver as much as 25% of its electricity. British alternative energy analyst Thomas W. Thorpe believes that on a worldwide basis, waves alone could produce as much as 2,000 terawatt hours of electricity, as much as all the planet’s major hydroelectric plants generate today.

Although none are as far along as Pelamis, most competing wave-power technologies rely not on the undulations of mechanical serpents, but instead on the power captured by the vertical bobbing of large buoys in sea swells. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), based in New Jersey, drives the generators in its PowerBuoy with a straightforward mechanical piston. A stationary section of the mostly submerged, 90-foot buoy is anchored to the ocean floor; a second section simply moves up and down with the movement of sea swells, driving pistons that in turn drive an electrical generator. The Archimedes Wave Swing, a buoy-based system developed by Scotland’s AWS Ocean Energy, harnesses the up-and-down energy of waves by pumping air to spin its turbines. Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables uses seawater as its turbine-driving hydraulic fluid.

Although Pelamis beat all of these companies out of the commercialization gate, OPT appears to be right behind, with plans to install North America’s first commercial-scale wave power array of buoys off the coast of Oregon as early as next year. That array — occupying one square-mile of ocean and, like other wave power installations, located far from shipping lanes — would initially produce 2 megawatts of power. OPT also announced last September an agreement to install a 1.4-megawatt array off the coast of Spain. An Australian subsidiary is in a joint venture to develop a 10-megawatt wave farm off the coast of Australia.

Meanwhile, Pelamis Wave Power plans to install more of its mechanical serpents — three megawatts of generating capacity off the coast of northwest Scotland, and another five-megawatt array off Britain’s Cornwall coast.

The Cornwall installation will be one of four wave power facilities plugged into a single, 20-megawatt underwater transformer at a site called “Wave Hub.” Essentially a giant, underwater version of a socket that each developer can plug into, Wave Hub — which will be connected by undersea cable to the land-based grid — was designed as a tryout site for competing technologies. OPT has won another of the four Wave Hub berths for its buoy-based system.

Other innovators are trying to harness the power of ocean or estuarine tides. Notably, in 2007, Virginia’s Verdant Power installed on the floor of New York’s East River six turbines that look, and function, much like stubby, submerged windmills, their blades — which are 16 feet in diameter — turning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute. The East River is actually a salty and powerful tidal straight that connects Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. Although the “underwater windmills” began pumping out electricity immediately, the trial has been a halting one. The strong tides quickly broke apart the turbines’ first- (fiberglass and steel) and second- (aluminum and magnesium) generation blades, dislodging mounting bolts for good measure.

Undeterred, in September Verdant Power began testing new blades made of a stronger aluminum alloy. If it can overcome the equipment-durability problems, the company hopes to install as many as 300 of its turbines in the East River, enough to power 10,000 New York homes.

A scattering of similar prototype “underwater windmill” projects have been installed at tidal sites in Norway, Northern Ireland, and South Korea. (In addition, interest in moving into freshwater sites is growing. Verdant itself hopes to install its turbines on the St. Lawrence River. At least one other company, Free Flow Power of Massachusetts, has obtained Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits to conduct preliminary studies on an array of sites on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.)

The environmental benefits of hydrodynamic power seem obvious: no carbon dioxide or any other emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based generation. No oil spills or nuclear waste. And for those who object to wind farms for aesthetic reasons, low-profile wave farms are invisible from distant land; tidal windmill-style turbines operate submerged until raised for maintenance.

There are, however, environmental risks associated with these technologies.

New York state regulators required Verdant Power to monitor effects of their its turbines on fish and wildlife. So far, sensors show that fish and water birds are having no trouble avoiding the blades, which rotate at a relatively leisurely 32 maximum revolutions per minute. In fact the company’s sensors have shown that fish tend to seek shelter behind rocks around the channel’s banks and stay out of the central channel entirely when tides are strongest.

But a host of other questions about environment effects remain unanswered. Will high-voltage cables stretching across the sea from wave farms somehow harm marine ecosystems? Will arrays of hundreds of buoys or mechanical serpents interfere with ocean fish movement or whale migrations? What effect will soaking up large amounts of wave energy have on shoreline organisms and ecosystems?

“Environmental effects are the greatest questions right now,” EPRI’s Bedard says, “because there just aren’t any big hydrodynamic projects in the world.”

Projects will probably have to be limited in size and number to protect the environment, he says – that’s a big part of the reason he limits his “realistic” U.S. estimate to 10% of current generation capacity. But the only way to get definitive answers on environmental impact might be to run the actual experiment — that is, to begin building the water-powered facilities, and then monitor the environment for effects.

Bedard suggests that the way to get definitive answers will be to build carefully on a model like Verdant’s: “Start very small. Monitor carefully. Build it a little bigger and monitor some more. I’d like to see it developed in an adaptive way.”

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, September 23, 2008

For years, technological visionaries have painted a seductive vision of using ocean tides and waves to produce power. They foresee large installations off the coast and in tidal estuaries that could provide as much as 10% of the nation’s electricity.

But the technical difficulties of making such systems work are proving formidable. Last year, a wave-power machine sank off the Oregon coast. Blades have broken off experimental tidal turbines in New York’s turbulent East River. Problems with offshore moorings have slowed the deployment of snakelike generating machines in the ocean off Portugal.

Years of such problems have discouraged ocean-power visionaries, but have not stopped them. Lately, spurred by rising costs for electricity and for the coal and other fossil fuels used to produce it, they are making a new push to overcome the barriers blocking this type of renewable energy.

The Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power plans to turn on a small wave-energy farm — the world’s first — off the coast of Portugal by year’s end, after fixing the broken moorings. Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company that recently salvaged its sunken, $2.5 million Oregon wave-power machine, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to produce power off the California coast by 2012. And in the East River, just off Manhattan, two newly placed turbines with tougher blades and rotors are feeding electricity into a grocery store and parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s frustrating sometimes as an ocean energy company to say, yeah, your device sank,” said Jason Bak, chief executive of Finavera. “But that is technology development.”

Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world.

The East River — despite its name, it is really a tidal strait with powerful currents — is the site of the most advanced test project in the United States.

Verdant Power, the company that operates it, was forced to spend several years and millions of dollars mired in a slow permit process, even before its turbine blades broke off in the currents. The company believes it is getting a handle on the problems. Verdant is trying to perfect its turbines and then install 30 of them in the East River, starting no later than spring 2010, and to develop other sites in Canada and on the West Coast.

Plenty of other start-ups also plan commercial ocean-power plants, at offshore sites such as Portugal, Oregon and Wales, but none have been built.

Ocean-power technology splits into two broad categories, tidal and wave power. Wave power, of the sort Finavera is pursuing, entails using the up and down motions of the waves to generate electricity. Tidal power — Verdant’s province — involves harnessing the action of the tides with underwater turbines, which twirl like wind machines.

(Decades-old tidal technologies in France and Canada use barrage systems that trap water at high tide; they are far larger and more obtrusive than the new, below-waterline technologies.)

A third type of power, called ocean thermal, aims to exploit temperature differences between the surface and deep ocean, mainly applicable in the tropics.

Ocean power has more potential than wind power because water is about 850 times denser than air, and therefore packs far more energy. The ocean’s waves, tides and currents are also more predictable than the wind.

The drawback is that seawater can batter and corrode machinery, and costly undersea cables may be needed to bring the power to shore. And the machines are expensive to build: Pelamis has had to raise the equivalent of $77 million.

Many solar start-ups, by contrast, need as little as $5 million to build a prototype, said Martin Lagod, co-founder of Firelake Capital Management, a Silicon Valley investment firm. Mr. Lagod looked at investing in ocean power a few years ago and decided against it because of the long time horizons and large capital requirements.

General Electric, which builds wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment for virtually every other type of energy, has stayed clear of ocean energy. “At this time, these sources do not appear to be competitive with more scalable alternatives like wind and solar,” said Daniel Nelson, a G.E. spokesman, in an e-mail message. (An arm of G.E. has made a small investment in Pelamis.)

Worldwide, venture capital going to ocean-power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million last year, according to the Cleantech Group, a research firm. However, that is a tiny fraction of the money pouring into solar energy and biofuels.

This month the Energy Department doled out its first major Congressionally-funded grants since 1992 to ocean-power companies, including Verdant and Lockheed Martin, which is studying ocean thermal approaches.

Assuming that commercial ocean-power farms are eventually built, the power is likely to be costly, especially in the near term. A recent study commissioned by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission put the cost of harnessing the Golden Gate’s tides at 85 cents to $1.40 a kilowatt-hour, or roughly 10 times the cost of wind power. San Francisco plans to forge ahead regardless.

Other hurdles abound, including sticky environmental and aesthetic questions. In Oregon, crabbers worry that the wave farm proposed by Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey company, would interfere with their prime crabbing grounds.

“It’s right where every year we deploy 115,000 to 120,000 crab pots off the coast for an eight-month period to harvest crab,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The commission wants to support renewable energy, but “we’re kind of struggling with that,” Mr. Furman said

George Taylor, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, said he did not expect “there will be a problem with the crabs.”

In Washington State, where a utility is studying the possibility of installing tidal power at the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, scuba divers are worried, even as they recognize the need for clean power.

Said Mike Racine, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance: “We don’t want to be dodging turbine blades, right?”

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Associated Press, September 4, 2008

Albany — New York utility regulators have given the global energy company Iberdrola the go-ahead to buy Energy East.

The 4-0 vote by New York’s Public Service Commission yesterday clears the way for the $4.6 billion deal, which includes Energy East subsidiaries Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and New York State Electric and Gas.

Energy East also owns power companies in Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, where regulators have already approved the takeover. But New York’s approval comes with a series of conditions that Iberdrola hasn’t yet accepted.

The commissioners, who have had Iberdrola’s proposal before them for more than a year, characterized their decision as a compromise that protects Energy East’s customers while not imposing conditions so onerous they’d cause Iberdrola — which is based in Spain — to nix the buyout.

“This isn’t a perfect deal, and it might not be a great deal,” commissioner Maureen Harris said before casting her vote. “In my opinion, it’s a good deal, and I’m not willing to risk having the company walk away from it.”

Iberdrola had no immediate comment except to say that it looks forward to reviewing the order to determine what steps it will take next.

Staff analysts at the PSC had argued for months against the deal because of concerns about whether it would best serve the public in terms of cost and competitiveness. They laid out a series of conditions they said the agency’s decision-making panel should impose before the deal could go through.

Yesterday’s approval addressed most of the issues staff analysts raised, though the conditions were significantly scaled back from their original recommendations.

For example, the commissioners required Iberdrola to put aside $275 million to offset future rate increases. That’s compares with the $646 million PSC staff analysts initially proposed as a condition of the sale.

PSC staff analysts also initially said Iberdrola should be required to sell its interest in wind and hydropower generating plants as a condition of the deal. That was in keeping with a state policy that power companies shouldn’t own both transmission lines and generating plants, which might give them too much control over setting prices.

Iberdrola — which has wind projects from the Pacific Northwest to Europe — strongly objected to that demand and sought help from state and federal officials, including Senator Schumer, who said he lobbied the PSC chairman, Garry Brown, to find a compromise.

The commission said yesterday that Iberdrola must sell the fossil fuel generating plants but may keep the wind energy plants as long as it commits to spending up to $200 million on wind energy development in the state. The company has publicly said it will spend $2 billion on wind energy in New York, but it hasn’t made a firm commitment.

Under the terms the PSC laid out, Iberdrola would also be required to make any future investments in wind energy using money from a non-Energy East subsidiary.

“We have argued long and hard for Iberdrola’s ability to develop wind power, and we very much urge them to accept this ruling,” Mr. Schumer said in a prepared statement after the PSC’s decision.

It’s not clear, however, if the company will go along with the conditions. A spokesman for the PSC said the agency expects to issue a written order spelling them out within a few days, and it’s up to Iberdrola to accept or reject the offer.

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NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, The New York Times, August 28, 2008

One of the country’s largest builders of coal-fired power plants will give investors detailed warnings about the risks that global warming poses to its business under a deal with New York’s attorney general.

The agreement Wednesday between the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, and the company, Xcel Energy of Minneapolis, is the first of its kind in the country. It could open a broad new front in efforts by environmental groups to pressure the energy industry into reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Until now, advocates have largely relied on shareholder resolutions as a way of pushing the companies to reduce their carbon dioxide output and invest more aggressively in renewable energy sources like wind or solar power.

That effort has picked up pace, according to Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups, with dozens of shareholder resolutions filed during the 2008 financial reporting season.

“This really takes it another step, by making it a settlement agreement that should have an impact across the industry,” said Dan Bakal, the director of electric power programs at Ceres.

Mr. Cuomo subpoenaed Xcel and four other companies last September, seeking to determine whether their efforts to build new coal-fired power plants posed risks not disclosed to investors, like future lawsuits or higher costs to comply with possible regulations restricting carbon emissions.

The attorney general’s office is still negotiating with the four other companies — the AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynergy and Peabody Energy. But Mr. Cuomo hopes that the agreement will help persuade other companies to follow in the footsteps of Xcel, which supplies natural gas and electricity to customers in eight states. Among utilities, Xcel is one of the nation’s largest producers of greenhouse gases and a major provider of wind energy.

Many coal-fired power plants have been proposed or are under construction across the country and environmental advocates have made it a priority to reduce their impact.

“This landmark agreement sets a new industrywide precedent that will force companies to disclose the true financial risks that climate change poses to their investors,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “Coal-fired power plants can significantly contribute to global warming, and investors have the right to know all the associated risks.”

The agreement represents another novel use by Mr. Cuomo of the Martin Act, a powerful tool that allows the attorney general to bring criminal as well as civil charges. Mr. Cuomo’s predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, used the law to vastly expand the office’s investigations of suspected Wall Street malfeasance.

Now Mr. Cuomo has turned it into a de facto form of environmental enforcement, too. For energy companies, including those based far from New York, he is able to claim jurisdiction because they issue securities on Wall Street.

The agreement with Xcel requires the company to analyze the likely effects on its business of current and future legislation or regulations in the states and countries where it operates and to disclose that information in its investor filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Congress and many states are considering global warming legislation. Ten states stretching from Maryland to Maine, including New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, have struck a deal to cap emissions and allow trading of pollution allotments among producers.

Under the agreement with Mr. Cuomo, Xcel will disclose the financial risks of lawsuits and of federal or state court decisions that would affect its business. The company will also analyze and disclosed the “material financial risks” to itself associated with global warming, like drought — coal plants are prodigious users of water — or rising sea levels.In a statement, the chairman of Xcel, Richard C. Kelly, said the company had already voluntarily reduced carbon emissions and planned to continue to do so.

“We previously provided detailed information concerning the expected impact of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions regulations on our operations, and under this agreement we will make even more detailed disclosures,” Mr. Kelly said. “This agreement will enhance our already aggressive efforts to be responsible environmental stewards.”

Xcel officials said their reductions of greenhouse gases had totaled 18 million tons since 2003. They added that the company planned to build an additional 6,000 megawatts of renewable energy generation by the end of the next decade.

Justin McCann, an energy analyst at Standard & Poor’s, said that the company had included more detailed information on climate change risks in its most recent filing, since Mr. Cuomo’s investigation began. But the new agreement will require even more disclosure, he said, and probably encourage other companies to follow suit.

“Utility lobbies are very strong, but they have read the writing on the wall in terms of greenhouse gas reductions,” Mr. McCann said. “They know it is extremely popular with the public, and so they have wanted to get ahead of the curve, so they can have some input.”

But some of the companies that Mr. Cuomo scrutinized might be less amenable to adopting the new requirements than others. When Mr. Cuomo issued his subpoenas last year, Vic Svec, a spokesman for Peabody Energy, described the attorney general’s inquiry as “outrageous” and suggested that Mr. Cuomo’s use of the Martin Act was a form of legal harassment.

Reached Wednesday, Mr. Svec said: “We’re confident that our disclosures around CO2” — carbon dioxide — “have been and continue to be adequate.”

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ROHDEC12, Wind Power Law Blog, August 29, 2008

Noble Environmental Power, Inc. has filed a revised preliminary prospectus in which it indicates that it intends to sell in its initial public offering (IPO) up to 23,437,500 shares, and that it also has granted its underwriters (Lehman Brothers, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse and Citibank) a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 3,515,625 shares, which option kicks in if the underwriters sell more than 23,437,500 shares to the public in the IPO.

In it prior filing Noble Environmental indicated it was targeting raising $375 million in the IPO. Math would suggest a $16 targeted share price.

Noble is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General for allegations of misconduct during the siting process of New York wind farms.

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MATTHEW L. WALD, The Energy Challenge @ The New York Times, August 27, 2008

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

While the United States today gets barely 1% of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20%.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50% more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas.

“The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers,” he said.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.

Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world’s largest wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts.

“If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act,” he said on Capitol Hill.

Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning flywheels.

Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.

The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.

These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to federal figures.

In a 2005 energy law, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic States and one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14 United States senators then signed a letter saying the department was being too aggressive.

Energy Department leaders say that, however understandable the local concerns, they are getting in the way. “Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.

Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to source 20% of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to 2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American Electric Power.

The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive rates up.

Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

Texas and California have recently made some progress in building transmission lines for wind power, but nationally, the problem seems likely to get worse. Today, New York State has about 1,500 megawatts of wind capacity. A megawatt is an instantaneous measure of power. A large Wal-Mart draws about one megawatt. The state is planning for an additional 8,000 megawatts of capacity.

But those turbines will need to go in remote, windy areas that are far off the beaten path, electrically speaking, and it is not clear enough transmission capacity will be developed. Save for two underwater connections to Long Island, New York State has not built a major new power line in 20 years.

A handful of states like California that have set aggressive goals for renewable energy are being forced to deal with the issue, since the goals cannot be met without additional power lines.

But Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a former energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, contends that these piecemeal efforts are not enough to tap the nation’s potential for renewable energy.

Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

“We still have a third-world grid,” Mr. Richardson said, repeating a comment he has made several times. “With the federal government not investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”

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DAVID EHRLICH, Cleantech Group, August 20, 2008

The Big Apple is looking for offshore wind, as well as bridge- and building-mounted turbines, and tidal, solar, geothermal, and landfill gas projects.

New York City has launched a request for renewable energy projects that could see the city’s skyline altered by wind turbines, solar panels and other clean technologies.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation released a Request for Expressions of Interest for projects including offshore wind farms, bridge- and building-mounted wind turbines, and tidal, solar, geothermal, and landfill gas power.

“Such projects might, for example, be designed to draw power from the tides of the Hudson and East Rivers — something we’re already doing on a pilot basis,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

Last year, New York-based Verdant Power installed underwater turbines in the East River.

“They might call for dramatically increasing rooftop solar power production, which we’ve estimated could meet nearly 20% of the city’s need for electricity,” said Bloomberg. “They could tap into geothermal energy. In fact, some private home and building owners have already drilled their own heat wells.”

The mayor said companies may also want to target the potential of offshore wind in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Wind farms located far off our shores, some evidence shows, could meet 10% of our city’s electricity needs within a decade,” he said. “I think it would be a thing of beauty if, when Lady Liberty looks out on the horizon, she not only welcomes new immigrants, but lights their way with a torch powered by an ocean wind farm.”

But there could be significant hurdles to that vision, with an offshore wind project just outside of the city getting killed last year after the cost of the project spiraled upward.

The Long Island Power Authority, which would’ve footed the bill for the 140 megawatt wind farm, released an independent report which estimated costs of over $800 million, including the pricetag for the transmission cable to bring the power to shore. First proposed in 2003, original estimates for the Long Island wind farm were between $150 million and $200 million.

New York City hasn’t set an overall megawatt capacity that it hopes to pull in with its request for renewables, but it said the projects can include demonstrations, small scale installations of less than 50 MW, and large scale installations of 50 MW or greater.

Earlier this year, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority unveiled preliminary plans for a wide range of cleantech initiatives in its system, including solar and wind power, green roofs, water management, and regenerative braking for subway cars.

The MTA, which has an average peak demand in the city of about 600 MW, currently gets about 80% of its power from the New York Power Authority.

Last month, Bloomberg announced plans to spend $2.3 billion to cut greenhouse gas emissions in municipal buildings and operations over the next 30 years.

The mayor said the city is aiming to cut 1.68 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year from 2006 levels by 2017, lowering emissions by 30% in 30 years.

That plan includes making city buildings more efficient, improving preventative maintenance, and capturing energy potential at wastewater treatment plants.

The city is also reportedly set to announce an LED street lamp demonstration project with the Office for Visual Interaction, a New York-based lighting design group. The project just covers six street lamps, with the company redesigning the entire unit, including the pole, and putting up to four LEDs on each pole to light up different areas of the street and sidewalk.

Getting renewable projects up and running for the city could end up being just half the battle, as Bloomberg pointed out that the U.S. transmission grid needs an upgrade. He said that for more than 20 years through to the late 1990s, as demand for power increased, the amount invested in transmission lines fell by half.

“The blackout that hit New York and the Northeast five years ago was a wake-up call that it was time to change course and fast,” he said. “The good news is that investment in transmission lines is up.”

“And it will have to keep going up if we’re going to keep pace with a peak demand for power that some have estimated will grow by more than 17% over the next ten years.”

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MICHAEL BARBARO, The New York Times, August 20, 2008

In a plan that would drastically remake New York City’s skyline and shores, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is seeking to put wind turbines on the city’s bridges and skyscrapers and in its waters as part of a wide-ranging push to develop renewable energy.

The plan, while still in its early stages, appears to be the boldest environmental proposal to date from the mayor, who has made energy efficiency a cornerstone of his administration.

Mr. Bloomberg said he would ask private companies and investors to study how windmills can be built across the city, with the aim of weaning it off the nation’s overtaxed power grid, which has produced several crippling blackouts in New York over the last decade.

Mr. Bloomberg did not specify which skyscrapers and bridges would be candidates for windmills, and city officials would need to work with property owners to identify the buildings that would best be able to hold the equipment.

But aides said that for offshore locations, the city was eyeing the generally windy coast off Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island for turbines that could generate 10 percent of the city’s electricity needs within 10 years.

“When it comes to producing clean power, we’re determined to make New York the No. 1 city in the nation,” Mr. Bloomberg said as he outlined his plans in a speech Tuesday night in Las Vegas, where a major conference on alternative energy is under way.

He later evoked the image of the Statue of Liberty’s torch, saying he imagined it one day “powered by an ocean wind farm.”

But the mayor’s proposal for wind power faces several serious obstacles: People are likely to oppose technologies that alter the appearance of their neighborhoods; wind-harnessing technology can be exceedingly expensive; and Mr. Bloomberg has less than 18 months left in office to put a plan into place.

Turning New York City into a major source of wind power would likely take years, if not decades, and could require a thicket of permits from state and federal agencies. Parts of New York’s coastline, for example, are controlled by the federal government, from which private companies must lease access.

Mr. Bloomberg is known for introducing ambitious proposals that later collapse, as did his congestion-pricing plan for Manhattan.

But aides said he was committed to developing alternative energy sources in the city, and wanted to jump-start the discussion now.

“In New York,” he said in his speech, “we don’t think of alternative power as something that we just import from other parts of the nation.”

Asserting the seriousness of his intentions, aides said, Mr. Bloomberg met privately with T. Boone Pickens, the oil baron who is trying to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas, to discuss possibilities for such technology in New York.

And on Tuesday afternoon the city issued a formal request to companies around the country for proposals to build wind-, solar- and water-based energy sources in New York. “We want their best ideas for creating both small- and large-scale projects serving New Yorkers,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Rohit Aggarwala, the director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said that turbines on buildings would likely be much smaller than offshore ones. Several companies are experimenting with models that look like eggbeaters, which the Bloomberg administration says could be integrated into the spires atop the city’s tall buildings. “”You can make them so small that people think they are part of the design,” Mr. Aggarwala said.

“If rooftop wind can make it anywhere, this is a great city,” he said. “We have a lot of tall buildings.”

Creating an offshore wind farm, he said, requires “pretty much the same level of difficulty as drilling an oil rig, but you don’t have to pump oil.”

“You could imagine going as much as 15, 20, 25 miles offshore, where it’s virtually invisible to land,” he said.

Mr. Aggarwala said that developing renewable energy for New York would take considerable time. “Nobody is going to see a wind farm off the coast of Queens in the next year,” he said.

But “the idea of renewable power in and around New York City is very realistic,” he said. “The question is what type makes the most sense and in what time frame. That is what we are trying to figure out.”

The city has experimented with wind power before. It put a turbine on city-owned land at 34th Street and the East River several years ago, but found that the technology was not efficient enough to expand.

The mayor’s plan includes the widespread use of solar panels, possibly on the roofs of public and private buildings. One proposal is to allow companies to rent roofs for solar panels and sell the energy they harvest to residents.

The city is already using tidal turbines under the East River that provide energy to Roosevelt Island. That technology could be widely expanded under the mayor’s proposal.

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NICOLAS CONFESSORE, The New York Times, August 18, 2008

BURKE, N.Y. — Everywhere that Janet and Ken Tacy looked, the wind companies had been there first.

Dozens of people in their small town had already signed lease options that would allow wind towers on their properties. Two Burke Town Board members had signed private leases even as they negotiated with the companies to establish a zoning law to permit the towers. A third board member, the Tacys said, bragged about the commissions he would earn by selling concrete to build tower bases. And, the Tacys said, when they showed up at a Town Board meeting to complain, they were told to get lost.

“There were a couple of times when they told us to just shut up,” recalled Mr. Tacy, sitting in his kitchen on a recent evening.

Lured by state subsidies and buoyed by high oil prices, the wind industry has arrived in force in upstate New York, promising to bring jobs, tax revenue and cutting-edge energy to the long-struggling region. But in town after town, some residents say, the companies have delivered something else: an epidemic of corruption and intimidation, as they rush to acquire enough land to make the wind farms a reality.

“It really is renewable energy gone wrong,” said the Franklin County district attorney, Derek P. Champagne, who began a criminal inquiry into the Burke Town Board last spring and was quickly inundated with complaints from all over the state about the wind companies. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo agreed this year to take over the investigation.

“It’s a modern-day gold rush,” Mr. Champagne said.

Mr. Cuomo is investigating whether wind companies improperly influenced local officials to get permission to build wind towers, as well as whether different companies colluded to divide up territory and avoid bidding against one another for the same land.

The industry appears to be shying away from trying to erect the wind farms in more affluent areas downstate, even where the wind is plentiful, like Long Island.

But in the small towns near the Canadian border, families and friendships have been riven by feuds over the lease options, which can be worth tens of thousands of dollars a year in towns where the median household income may hover around $30,000. Rumors circulate about neighbors who can suddenly afford new tractors or trucks. Opponents of the wind towers even say they have received threats; one local activist said that on two occasions, she had found her windshield bashed in.

“My sisters and brothers won’t even talk to me anymore,” said Mr. Tacy, who with his wife has become active in recent years in a network of people who oppose the wind companies. “They tear communities apart.” Opponents of the farms say their scenic views are being marred by the hundreds of wind towers already in place, some of which stand nearly 400 feet tall. They also complain of the irritating hum of spinning turbines and what they say are wasteful public subsidies to wind companies.

But corruption is a major concern. In at least 12 counties, Mr. Champagne said, evidence has surfaced about possible conflicts of interest or improper influence.

In Prattsburgh, N.Y., a Finger Lakes community, the town supervisor cast the deciding vote allowing private land to be condemned to make way for a wind farm there, even after acknowledging that he had accepted real estate commissions on at least one land deal involving the farm’s developer.

A town official in Bellmont, near Burke, took a job with a wind company after helping shepherd through a zoning law to permit and regulate the towers, according to local residents. And in Brandon, N.Y., nearby, the town supervisor told Mr. Champagne that after a meeting during which he proposed a moratorium on wind towers, he had been invited to pick up a gift from the back seat of a wind company representative’s car.

When the supervisor, Michael R. Lawrence, looked inside, according to his complaint to Mr. Champagne, he saw two company polo shirts and a leather pouch that he suspected contained cash.

When Mr. Lawrence asked whether the pouch was part of the gift, the representative replied, “That’s up to you,” according to the complaint.

Last month, Mr. Cuomo subpoenaed two wind companies, Noble Environmental Power, based in Connecticut, and First Wind, based in Massachusetts, seeking a broad range of documents. Both companies say they are cooperating with the attorney general.

“We have no comment on specifics, but we want to be clear: Noble supports open and transparent development of wind projects in accordance with the highest ethical standards,” said Walt Howard, Noble’s chief executive.

The industry’s interest in New York’s North Country is driven by several factors. The area is mostly rural, with thousands of acres of farmland near existing energy transmission lines. Moreover, under a program begun in 2004, the state is entering into contracts to buy renewable energy credits, effectively subsidizing wind power until it can compete against power produced more cheaply from coal or natural gas.

Nine large-scale wind farms housing 451 towers, each with a turbine, are in operation in New York, with at least 840 more towers slated for construction, according to state officials. And in June, Iberdrola S.A., which is based in Spain and is one of the world’s largest energy producers, announced its proposal to invest $2 billion to build hundreds more towers here.

Every day in the North Country during the warm months, trucks pulling giant flatbed trailers rumble down the highways, carrying tower sections and turbine blades. Some residents see the trucks not as a disturbance, but as an omen of jobs, money and cleaner air.

“I feel as a mother, as a grandmother, that the country needs it — not just here,” said Susan Gerow, a Burke resident who has signed easements with Noble worth about $3,000 a year. Like others who have signed deals with the companies, Ms. Gerow and her family will also earn a portion of the revenue from the windmills if they are ever built.

The North Country is a chronically distressed region, and farming is increasingly a profitless enterprise here. The General Motors plant in Massena, for years a reliable source of good jobs, is closing in mid-2009. One of the few bright spots in the local economy in recent decades has been the construction of state prisons, of which there are now five in Franklin County alone.

“You’re talking about a poor farming community out here,” said Brent A. Trombly, a former town supervisor of Ellenburg, which approved a law to allow and establish regulations for the wind towers in 2003. “Our only natural resources are stone and wind.”

For some farmers, he said, the wind leases were their last chance to hold onto land that had been in the family for generations. Supporters also say that the wind towers bring in badly needed tax revenue.

“We see this industry coming, we see the payments coming in,” said William K. Wood, a former Burke Town Board member who also signed a lease option. The school board of Chateaugay, he pointed out, received $332,800 this year from Noble for payments in lieu of taxes, money that the district used to lower school taxes, upgrade its computers and provide a prekindergarten class for the first time.

The local debates over wind power are driven in a part by a vacuum at the state level. There is no state law governing where wind turbines can be built or how big they can be. That leaves it up to town officials, working part time and on advice from outside lawyers, some of whom may have conflicts of their own.

Two Franklin County towns, Brandon and Malone, have passed laws banning the wind turbines. But the issue remains unresolved in Burke, population 1,451, where two Town Board members recused themselves from the issue this year because they had leases with wind companies, leaving the board deadlocked.

At a meeting last month at Burke’s Town Hall, opponents and supporters sat on opposite sides of the aisle, arms crossed. The mood, as it has often been at such meetings, was quietly bitter.

“I’d like to hear what people think,” said Darrel Bushey, the town supervisor and a wind-tower opponent.

“We’ve listened to the people for two years,” responded Timothy Crippen, who sits on the town’s zoning board, which favors permitting the turbines. “It’s time to make a move.”

Some hands shot into the air from the audience, but were ignored.

“There is no decision you are going to make that is going to make everyone happy,” said Craig Dumas, another zoning board member, almost pleading for action.

But the meeting soon broke up, still with no decision made.

“This is a problem for these communities,” Mr. Dumas said as the room emptied. “There’s a lot of emotion on both sides.”

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Democrat & Chronicle, August 9, 2008

New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold two sessions related to Iberdrola’s disputed acquisition of Energy East this month in Albany.

The proposed $4.5 billion takeover of Energy East Corp. by Iberdrola SA of Spain will come before the NY PSC on August 20 and 27, 2008, the PSC announced Friday.

Energy East is the parent of Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and New York State Electric and Gas Corp., both headquartered in Rochester.

Iberdrola, a big international utility that specializes in wind energy development, proposed the acquisition of Energy East in June 2007. The deal has been approved by the federal government and by other states where Energy East does business.

New York’s consideration of the deal has been drawn out for months by disagreements between the PSC staff and Iberdrola. Foremost among the issues: Iberdrola’s ownership of wind farms in Energy East’s service territory, which the PSC staff opposes because control of both power generation and distribution might stifle competition and how much rate relief Iberdrola should give to RG&E and NYSEG customers.

Because of continuing disagreement, the PSC staff has recommended against approving the acquisition.

The August 20, 2008 PSC session is a regular meeting of the five-member board, while the August 27, 2008 session is a special meeting. Both will be at PSC offices in Albany.

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NICHOLAS L. DEAN, The Post-Journal, August 5, 2008

The wind that blows above Chautauqua County homes is an oil field waiting to be tapped, and New York’s Chautauqua Wind Energy wants to help area residents harness the free power supply.

A green energy company, the new local business intends to sell, install and maintain personal wind turbines in the 5- to 10-kilowatt range for individual use.

Different from the large-scale, utility-sized wind farms, Walter F. Rittman, president and CEO of Chautauqua Wind Energy, said his company will be in the ”small wind” business. According to Rittman, the turbines installed by Chautauqua Wind Energy will generally be smaller than a tree and will be virtually silent.

”The applications of these small wind turbines are almost endless,” Rittman said. ”We will be doing everything from small ones which fit on your roof to the bigger ones that would theoretically eliminate your power need altogether from National Grid. Smaller ones would offset power usage and give a person an automatic 20 to 40% discount on their electric usage.”

In addition to Rittman, the Stow-based business is comprised of fellow area residents David E. Cherry, executive vice president and CFO, and Joseph Deault, general manager.

Working as a dealer, Chautauqua Wind Energy will offer a variety of types of wind turbines from several different manufacturers.

According to Rittman, the local company will offer both the vertical axis wind turbine systems and the horizontal axis wind turbine systems. Chautauqua Wind Energy will also work with individuals to custom design a system that works for the home based on the person’s needs and wind availability.

Planning to target areas west of the Chautauqua Ridge to the Lake Erie Shoreline, Rittman said Chautauqua County is an ideal place because of its near-constant wind. With Class 3 winds, Rittman said Chautauqua County is home to an increasingly-valuable local resource.

A Chautauqua native and Jamestown Community College alumni, Rittman worked 10 years in radio production and 20 years at MTV Networks in sales and marketing- recently relocating from New York City to Ashville.

”Once I started looking at wind maps, I found the western area of Chautauqua County – as well as the county as a whole, Erie County and Cattaraugus County – is windier than normal,” Rittman said. ”It turns out that New York state is the 15th windiest state in the union and the Western New York and Chautauqua area specifically is one of the windier areas in the state.”

”We saw a niche in the market that we think is something that is going to become increasingly popular,” Rittman said, mentioning the nearest similar type of company is located in Rochester. ”We really want to just sort of establish ourselves as the Western New York leader of this new emerging renewable resource field.”

”I can’t emphasize enough the forward-thinking nature of this type of stuff,” Rittman continued. ”When you think of years down the road, these things are going to become way more visible, way more affordable, way more efficient and smaller. Everybody’s going to be using them. This is going to become a normal part of people’s homes.”

Chautauqua Wind Energy plans on being a member of the American Wind Energy Association and intends on working with such dealers as Bergey, Windterra and Helix Wind. Additionally, Rittman said he expects the company to be certified by the New York State Energy Research Development Authority. As such, Chautauqua Wind Energy will help its clients navigate the numerous assistance programs available through NYSERDA and other agencies to help defray the cost of initial purchase and set up of an individual wind turbine.

”The important thing that I want to get across is that the wind that goes over your home belongs to you,” Rittman said. ”It’s not something that you have to pay for. You can capture this wind and it’s going to help you personally power your house. In a couple of years, electric cars are going to be a reality. And even if you just have one of these small turbines, it could be used to power your car. It would eliminate your need for fossil fuels for your transportation needs. And that’s just one instance.”

In other scenarios, Rittman said a turbine atop a building on Third Street could power the WRFA radio station. Or a turbine at the top of a hill at the Peek’n Peak Resort and Spa could power a ski lift.

Still finishing forming, Rittman said Chautauqua Wind Energy expects to begin full operations in fall 2008.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 21, 2008

On July 15, 2008 Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced launching an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices.

Subpoenas were served on First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind) and Noble Environmental Power, LLC. They are part of an investigation into whether companies developing wind farms improperly sought or obtained land-use agreements with citizens and public officials; whether improper benefits were given to public officials to influence their actions; and whether they entered into anti-competitive agreements or practices.

In recent months, the Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints regarding the two companies from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices.

“The use of wind power, like all renewable energy sources, should be encouraged to help clean our air and end our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “However, public integrity remains a top priority of my office and if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it.”

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JIM STINSON, Gannett News Service, July 2, 2008

The staff of the state Public Service Commission has again advised its five-member board to disapprove the $4.5 billion sale of Energy East Corp. to Iberdrola SA, but staffers have added a big “however” on wind farms.

In a brief filed in the long-running case, the PSC staff has offered alternatives if the five public service commissioners approve the sale, according to James Denn, PSC spokesman.

Iberdrola, the European utility giant and global leader in wind turbine farms, would be allowed to own and operate wind farms within Energy East territory, but with public benefits attached to the agreement.

The staff recommended that Iberdrola’s $2 billion proposal to invest in New York be tied to possible ratepayer rebates. The PSC staff said that to ensure the promise to build more wind farms in New York, the state could set aside $200 million of Iberdrola cash to be returned to ratepayers if the investment never happens.

The alternative proposal, known as Exception 6 in the PSC reply brief, comes after months of criticism and speculation regarding PSC’s opposition to letting Iberdrola buy Energy East.

Energy East owns Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric & Gas. Iberdrola’s plans to keep and build wind farms in the service area have brought controversy but also support from public officials and environmentalists.

The PSC has disallowed distributors of electricity from owning sources of electricity.

In a June 16 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Rafael Epstein, the five-member board of the PSC was encouraged to disapprove the deal, a decision which backed up PSC staff but brought howls from such leaders as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Done correctly, this merger can reduce costs and make New York a leader in providing clean, cheap wind power,” Schumer said. “The acquisition can reduce rates for customers and help to create jobs and billions of dollars of investment in upstate New York. I am glad the PSC staff has recognized this win-win-win, and hope the PSC Commissioners will quickly follow suit.”

Energy East made the offer in May 2007.

Iberdrola officials said the Madrid-based company would walk away from the bid if New York enforced the rule.

The sale of Energy East has already been approved by the federal government and every other state Energy East operates in.

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KELLY HARRINGTON, SNL Interactive, June 18, 2008

Spanish utility Iberdrola SA will reconsider its proposed acquisition of Energy East Corp. should New York regulators “impose unacceptable” conditions on the deal, the company said.

The company’s statement comes a day after Administrative Law Judge Rafael Epstein recommended that the Public Service Commission not approve the deal. The proposal, he wrote, “does not satisfy the ‘public interest’ requirement of Public Service Law.” However, if the PSC decides to approve the deal, Epstein said it should do so with several conditions, including one for Iberdrola and its affiliates to exit the generation business in New York.

An Iberdrola spokesman June 17 said the administrative law judge has issued a recommendation and not a ruling and that the company hopes there will be a positive outcome when the full commission makes its decision.

“We hope that will be next month at the July session,” he said.

Iberdrola’s main areas of concern with the recommended decision are the provisions pertaining to the recommended level of “positive benefit adjustments,” and one that would preclude Iberdrola from owning, operating or developing renewable energy that would be interconnected with Energy East’s New York subsidies New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp.

Iberdrola has outlined a business plan to invest $2 billion in wind energy development in New York, some of which would be connected to those utilities’ systems, he said.

“As Iberdrola Chairman Ignacio Sánchez Galán has said, Iberdrola will reconsider this transaction and seek other options in the United States if the final PSC ruling imposes unacceptable conditions on the transaction in these two key areas,” he said.

In his recommendation, Epstein said that NYSEG and RG&E customers should be credited with positive benefit adjustments of $646.4 million, including $201.6 million initially upon completion of the merger transaction. This would result in NYSEG and RG&E delivery rate reductions of $54.8 million, or 4.4%, initially, according to the recommendation.

Iberdrola in June 2007 said it would acquire Energy East, including its operations in New York, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, for about $4.5 billion. Including the assumption of debt, the transaction is valued at about $8.5 billion.

FERC and regulators from Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire have already approved the deal. New York regulators have yet to rule on the proposal. During the review process Department of Public Service staff have outlined concerns about the deal.

New York Gov. David Paterson also weighed in on the recommendation. In a June 17 statement, Paterson said the PSC is not bound to the recommended decision. The governor said he trusts that the commission will keep in mind “significant statewide and ratepayer benefits” from the deal, including Iberdrola’s plan to invest $2 billion in wind energy and its pledge to offer $200 million in ratepayer benefits.

“Although this amount is less than suggested by the administrative law judge, I hope the commission will not let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to ratepayer benefits,” Paterson said. “I look forward to a discussion of benefits in a broader context to capture the full range of future opportunities this acquisition can bring about. Creative solutions to address the issues surrounding utility ownership of limited wind resources can be found and defining ratepayer benefits more broadly to encompass capital investments in clean energy are among the things the commission should look at in deciding to let this important acquisition move ahead.”

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NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, International Herald Tribune, June 17, 2008

ALBANY: An administrative law judge advised state regulators on Monday to block a Spanish energy conglomerate’s bid to buy Energy East, a Maine-based utility with operations in four states, including New York, citing anticompetitive concerns.

The recommendation by the judge, Rafael Epstein, largely sided with an earlier recommendation by staff members of the Public Service Commission, which must approve the acquisition of Energy East by the conglomerate, Iberdrola. The commission’s five-member board will have the final say.

Iberdrola’s bid has the enthusiastic support of key members of the state Legislature and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, who point to the company’s plan to invest at least $2 billion in building wind power facilities in New York if it is permitted to acquire Energy East, which is the parent company of two other utilities in upstate New York and already owns wind turbine facilities. Governor David Paterson also says he supports the deal as long as Energy East’s customers are protected from unfair pricing.

But regulators say that the merger would give Iberdrola a virtual monopoly on wind power generation in the state while also providing the company with transmission and distribution lines, running afoul of state laws that prevent the generation, transmission and distribution of power by a single company.

In his decision, Epstein noted that “Iberdrola’s wind generation ownership also has engendered an unusual amount of commentary by editorial boards and public officials, uniformly opposing ownership restrictions as contrary to the state’s interests and even ‘stone-headed.”‘

But he appeared unpersuaded by Iberdrola’s promise of investment, writing that “the economic benefits of competition are no less real than an immediate infrastructure investment.”

Epstein also recommended that the board impose numerous conditions on Iberdrola, should it ultimately approve the sale. They include limits on the company’s ownership of electric generating plants in New York and rebates worth hundreds of millions of dollars to customers of the companies being acquired.

A spokesman for Iberdrola said the company was reviewing the judge’s recommendation.

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NICOLAS CONFESSORE, The New York Times, June 4, 2008

ALBANY — One of the world’s largest energy companies proposed on June 3rd to build hundreds of wind turbines in New York, significantly raising the stakes in a nine-month battle with state regulators over its intended purchase of a power company.

Executives of the company, Iberdrola S.A., of Spain, said it would invest $2 billion in wind turbines upstate if the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in New York, approves its purchase of Energy East, which has three million customers in five states, including New York. The new turbines would more than double state energy production from wind and make New York one of the larger producers of wind power in the country.

“Iberdrola has helped many countries meet their renewable energy goals and benefit from our high-tech investments and ‘green-collar’ jobs that result from this kind of investment,” said Xabier Viteri, the chief executive of Iberdrola’s renewable energy division.

The purchase of Energy East has been approved by federal regulators and officials in other states. But in New York, where Energy East owns two utilities, Rochester Gas & Electric and New York State Electric & Gas, Iberdrola has run afoul of state rules meant to discourage what is known as vertical market power, when a single company owns power-generating plants as well as transmission and distribution lines.

In negotiations over the last several months, the commission staff has extracted several concessions out of Iberdrola, including a promise of $201 million in rate subsidies to existing Energy East customers to ensure that they do not pay more for electricity as a result of the sale.

But the commission staff is also insisting that Iberdrola agree to sell off Energy East’s existing wind turbine facilities, arguing that owning them would violate the vertical power rules.

An administrative law judge is expected to issue a recommendation on the deal within weeks, though neither the judge’s recommendations nor those of the commission staff are binding on the five-member commission itself.

James Denn, a spokesman for the commission, said the added investment would not allay the commission’s concern, adding, “On this deal, they would be able to produce, transmit, and distribute power within their region.” . Mr. Denn also noted that Iberdrola had not formally submitted the new proposal to the commission; the current plan has the company making only a binding commitment of $100 million worth of investment in the state.

The commission staff also wants Iberdrola to increase the subsidies, known as ratepayer benefits, to $644 million, as well as to agree to provisions in the merger that would insulate any New York facilities from potential financial problems at Iberdrola.

Iberdrola is one of several foreign-owned energy companies that have entered the United States market, where rising gas prices and a spate of state laws requiring more energy from renewable sources have made wind, solar and hydroelectric power increasingly attractive.

The company’s acquisition of Energy East — and the promise of clean power in an era of high demand — has drawn support from leading business and environmental groups, as well as lawmakers of both parties, though the state power producers association has filed a brief supporting the commission staff.

In a statement on Tuesday, Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the commission to allow Iberdrola to acquire Energy East without divesting its wind power holdings, while keeping careful watch on whether rates increased as a result. Mr. Schumer and some other critics believe that the rules against simultaneous production, transmission and distribution, which date back to efforts in the 1990s to break up the state’s energy market, have failed to help lower energy costs.

“The Public Service Commission ought to get out of the way when it comes to investing in renewable power, and instead concentrate on making sure consumers don’t get burned by rate hikes as a result of this merger,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement.

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COSMO CATALANO, Matter Network, May 28, 2008

News about the advantages of switching to clean, renewable energy sources is everywhere these days. Reduced pollution, higher quality of life, lowered dependence on foreign sources and less disruption caused by fluctuating prices often top the list. But frequently, the transition from older fossil fuels is seen as a premium paid for the luxuries of cleaner air, and knowing that local energy supply treads as lightly on the Earth as possible. Certainly, given current economic conditions, that makes the changeover far less appealing to many cash-strapped communities.

But the town of Lackawanna, New York, is looking to change all that. Lackawanna was a boom town in the early part of the 20th century, driven by a massive steel industry and fueled by several important railway connections. But as in much of the rest of the Rust Belt, the past few decades have not been kind, with plant closures, recession, and other problems hitting hard. Indeed, until very recently, the Lackawanna was best known as an environmental hazard, rather than an environmental leader.

But the Steel Winds energy project, but on a brownfield once home to the massive Bethlehem Steel plant, may have marked a turning point for the beleaguered city. As Lackawanna mayor Norman Polanski told The New York Times, “It’s changing the image of the city of Lackawanna. We were the old Rust Belt, with all the negatives. Right now, we are progressive and we are leading the way on the waterfront.” The wind farm, the largest ever built in a city, transforms the city’s image from one of decay to one of modernity and efficiency. And as the city tries to redevelop its massive waterfront complex, that’s no small step.

Though Steel Winds will never replace the tax revenue or employment provided by the old steel plant, the project has still been received positively. The turbines deliver 56,000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to local consumers and utilities, and the existing eight turbines generate at total of $100,000 in yearly revenue for the city. The project has been so successful that at a recent city council meeting, Steel Winds II, with an additional 13 wind turbines, was granted approval.

With so many middle-American cities, from Detroit to Buffalo, suffering from the economic and environmental consequences of a past too deeply rooted in heavy industry, the success or failure of the Steel Winds project is being monitored very closely. Though it’s clear the shores of Lake Erie will still require a significant economic presence outside the green energy industry, wind turbines like those erected in Lackawanna could provide both the power—and the modern edge—to help the Rust Belt shine again.

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 8, 2007

New York – CIT Energy, a provider of commercial and consumer finance solutions, today announced that it provided $62 million in financing to Noble Environmental Power, a U.S. based wind developer. The financing was secured in part by turbine supply agreements between Noble and GE.

This transaction is CIT Energy’s second with Noble Environmental Power and represents Noble’s first corporate-level loan. In December 2006, CIT Energy served as the Lead Arranger of a $133 million Senior Secured Wind Turbine Facility.

“This additional financing will provide Noble with the added liquidity it needs to continue development of its extensive pipeline of projects” said Brooks Klimley, President of CIT Energy. “The renewables sector is an important part of the energy mix, and we are pleased to continue our partnership with Noble. ” Peter Capitelli, Vice President of Project Finance at Noble Environmental Power said “Noble values CIT’s commitment to finding the right solutions – as provided through both transactions – in implementing our aggressive project portfolio and further solidifying our position as one of the leading wind developers in the United States.”

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Mass High Tech, May 9, 2008

Wind farm developer Noble Environmental Power LLC has filed documents with the SEC for a $375 million initial public offering.

The Essex Conn.-based company plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol NEPI. Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan are serving as co-lead underwriters. A date for the offering has not been set.

Noble Power currently operates 282 megawatts of wind power and expects to have more than 4,000 megawatts under management by 2012. The company’s current and future projects are located predominantly in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Texas, Minnesota and Michigan.

Though founded in 2004, the company’s first wind parks, in upstate New York, did not begin operations until March 2008.

As of the end of 2007, the 152-person firm had generated no revenue, but posted a $42 million loss for 2007. The firm expects to generate revenue from the sale of power and capacity to power companies, as well as through the sale and trading of renewable energy credits.

The company has been financed by almost $927 million in long-term debt from a variety of sources, including The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and JPMP Wind Energy, a private equity division of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Noble Environmental Power has also signed more than $1.5 billion worth of purchase agreements with GE Energy to buy more than 870 1.5 megawatt turbines.

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[MendoCoastCurrent Edited], The Star-Gazette, May 8, 2008

Criminal Investigation of Wind Developers & Public Officials Sought

Steuben County’s District Attorney John C. Tunney gave no comment on Wednesday to a demand from a local citizens group, Cohocton Wind Watch, for a criminal investigation of wind turbine projects in the county and a Grand Jury Investigation of suspected criminal conduct by wind developers and public officials.

The May 5, 2008 Cohocton Wind Watch letter to D.A. Tunney claims “several residents and property owners of Steuben County have information of suspected criminal conduct.” The list of alleged criminal activities includes making false claims and filing false statements, bribery of public officials, larceny and fraud.

The public officials named in the document are James P. Sherron, Executive Director of the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, and J. Harold McConnell, Supervisor in the Town of Prattsburgh.

The document says “constructive fraud has occurred by Mr. Sherron, SCIDA and numerous town officials and town boards.”

It also alleges that “the recent passage of an Eminent Domain Resolution by the Town Board of Prattsburgh provided additional proof of the unlawful conduct by Supervisor J. Harold McConnell.”

Sherron did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. McConnell said he could not respond because he had not seen the letter.

The letter, written by Cohocton Wind Watch spokesman James Hall, alleges that Wind Developers have “knowingly provided and submitted false statements and false instruments.”

Hall added that there is a “clear and consistent pattern on the part of the Developers to improperly influence public officials through a number of schemes, including cash bribes.”

In a number of situations, Hall wrote, “Developers seeking to obtain leases for wind turbine sites or easements for access roads and transmission lines have relied on lies and deceptions to convince landowners to sign away their rights. These falsehoods are felonies under Penal Law Article 155 and other statutes.”

First Wind of Newton, Mass., formerly known as UPC Wind and the developer of the Prattsburgh Wind and Cohocton Wind projects, issued the following statement Wednesday:

“We have a policy of not commenting on allegations made against us by third parties, but we conduct ourselves in accordance with the law and hold ourselves to high standards of conduct when developing our projects,” said John Lamontagne, Director of Corporate Communications for First Wind. “We’re excited about our wind energy projects in western New York and the promise it can bring to the development of the region and the growth of renewable power in New York.”

Hall’s letter to Tunney calls for both a criminal investigation and the impaneling of a Grand Jury to consider criminal charges. It also seeks a meeting with Tunney to discuss the charges and the evidence the group has compiled.

Tunney did not indicate whether he plans to meet with Cohocton Wind Watch.

“Based upon the predominance of evidence from paper trails, video tape documentation, individual testimony and publicly filed documents, your office needs to convene a Grand Jury,” Hall of CWW wrote.

Hall said there are active investigations of wind farm developments in Franklin County and Delaware County.

Thank you National Wind Watch for this post!

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DENISE A. RAYMO, May 7, 2008, The Press Republican

NEW YORK – A Burke official with an option to lease land to a wind farm company lost his court battle and must answer a subpoena from a Franklin County grand jury.

Town Council member David Vincent must turn over all correspondence, contracts, receipts, leases, purchase agreements, options or communications he has had concerning Noble Chateaugay Windpark, Noble Energy, Jericho Rise Windpark and Burke Wind Power.

“The grand jury is apparently investigating allegations of possible criminal conduct in the siting of wind farms in Franklin County,” wrote St. Lawrence County Supreme Court and Acting Franklin County Supreme Court Judge David Demerest.

Vincent “is a member of the Town Board in the Town of Burke and, according to recordings in the County Clerk’s Office, has entered into a contract with a developer of wind energy to lease some of his land,” Judge Demerest stated.

Vincent attempted to have the subpoena quashed, claiming District Attorney Derek Champagne was conducting “a fishing expedition” by asking for a broad range of papers and information.

Vincent said that turning over the paperwork might violate his right to privacy and his right to avoid incriminating himself.

But, in making his ruling, the judge said Vincent did not show any proof that the information sought had “no conceivable relevance” to the grand jury probe, nor did it appear as though the subpoena was issued in bad faith, as claimed.

Demerest said a grand jury must be given wide powers when making an inquiry.

“Here, the inquiry appears to be whether or not wind-energy developers are improperly interacting with local government officials,” he wrote.

Vincent “has been linked to a developer through a search of public records, and it would appear that any writings that he might possess in relation to that transaction could have relevancy to the overall investigation,” the ruling states.

Demerest also turned aside the argument that Vincent could incriminate himself if disclosures were made.

“Other than bald assertions by the petitioner that the production of these documents might tend to incriminate him, there is nothing before me that supports that assertion or that any other constitutional rights have been violated,” the judge wrote.

“The documents sought involve negotiations leading to a public conveyance of a property right. They are legitimate business records.”

Vincent could not be reached for comment Wednesday, nor could Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Delehanty, who represented the DA in the case.

But Champagne said he was “pleased with the judge’s decision,” adding that it was “an important one. It strikes at the heart of our system.

“A grand jury — not just this one — needs to have the ability to investigate, and you cannot curtail or limit the power of a grand jury. They have to have the ability to receive evidence to decide if there needs to be an investigation.”

Vincent’s subpoena challenge, made in March, came about the same time Champagne asked the County Legislature to create a board of ethics to advise municipal officials who may be unsure whether some of the business they conduct would or could be a conflict of interest.

Champagne said at the time that an investigation by his office has turned up “several contracts, easements, lease-option agreements, cooperation memoranda and other types of documents” where elected officials’ duties and third-party interests overlapped.

In some cases, the actions could constitute bribery of a public official, he said.

The DA forwarded the information to the New York State Attorney General’s Office for further investigation, but he did not name specific people who may be part of the probe.

Thank you National Wind Watch for this post!

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LARRY GREENEMEIER, Scientific American, March 10, 2008

Thirty feet (nine meters) below Manhattan’s East River, next to Roosevelt Island, six turbines—each 16 feet (five meters) in diameter, churning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute—stand at attention on the riverbed. The turbines—which belong to New York City-based Verdant Power, Inc., —are built on a swiveling platform that keeps their nose cones facing the tide, whether it’s coming in or going out. Resembling an underwater wind farm, these kinetic hydropower systems use gearboxes and speed increasers—which convert the slower rotating rotor into a faster rotating generator—to transform each turbine’s mechanical power into electricity.

Verdant’s turbines require tides that move at least six feet per second in order to generate enough energy for them to be cost-effective, and the East River is more than obliging. “The East River is a good tidal channel that links the Long Island Sound to the ocean,” says Trey Taylor, the company’s president and head of market development. “Plus, New York is an expensive place to buy power, so it would be easier here to prove that this could help.”

A few dozen feet away from the closest turbine, an onshore control room gets a feed of the energy created by the entire cluster. To prove that this energy could be usable for local businesses, Verdant last year sent a test transmission of electricity to a supermarket and parking garage on Roosevelt Island that were willing to participate in the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project.

The Earth’s oceans, pushed by wind and tugged by the moon and sun, ebb and flow over more than 70 percent of the planet, but only recently has technology emerged to finally harness some of that kinetic energy as usable power for us landlubbers. Underwater turbines, submerged “wind” farms and wave-riding electrical generators are being tested around the world, with new advances in technology promising relief for overworked energy utilities. “We consider wave energy to be more predictable than wind,” says Phil Metcalf, CEO of Edinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power, Ltd., a company taking a different approach than Verdant in developing ocean power–utilizing devices. “You look at the ocean 1,000 miles out, you’ll get a good idea of what to expect over the next 24 to 48 hours. We think it’s actually going to be easier to dispatch to the grid.”

Pelamis’s devices are big red tubes, each 426.5 feet (130 meters) long, 13 feet (about four meters) in diameter, weighing around 750 tons (635 metric tons), and with a life expectancy of up to 20 years. They flex as the ocean swells around them. The wave-induced motion of the tubes’ joints is resisted by hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure fluid through hydraulic motors that drive electrical generators to produce electricity. Power from all the joints is fed down a single umbilical cable to a junction on the seabed. Three of the tubes, which work best at a depth of 165 to 230 feet (50 to 70 meters) and roughly 3.7 miles (six kilometers) from the shore, can produce up to 2.25 megawatts.

Pelamis—which until September had been called Ocean Power Delivery—has taken its prototype through about 2,000 hours of testing at the European Marine Energy Center’s wave test site near Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Three additional machines will form the initial phase of Agucadoura, the world’s first commercial wave farm, in April off the coast of Portugal, a project developed by Portuguese utility Enersis, a subsidiary of Babcock and Brown. Pelamis is negotiating with other utilities and governments as well, with future deployments depending on how well the Portuguese project is able to turn waves of water into currents of electricity.

The waters around Scotland are also host to tidal turbine testing by several organizations, including Lunar Energy, Ltd., in East Yorkshire, England, which in March 2007 announced a deal with Germany-based power utility E.On UK, to develop a tidal stream power project of up to eight megawatts off Scotland’s west coast.

Meanwhile, Florida researchers may soon be testing both wave- and tide-powered energy technologies that could take advantage of the Gulf Stream, which flows north-northeastward about 15 miles (25 kilometers) off Florida’s southern and eastern shores at more than eight billion gallons (30 billion liters) per second. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology in Dania Beach, Fla., are using a $5-million state research grant awarded in late 2006 to develop air-conditioning technologies that tap into the powerful Gulf Stream and large water temperature differences off Florida’s shores. The researchers envision thousands of underwater turbines producing as much energy as 10 nuclear power plants and supplying one third of the state’s electricity. The university is working with academic, government and industry partners on the project, including the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the U.S. departments of Navy and Energy, Lockheed Martin, Oceaneering International, Inc., in Hanover, Md., and Verdant Power, which has provided them with a 10-foot (three-meter) diameter rotor system that they used during 2002 East River tests.

Verdant first began testing its three-blade, horizontal-axis turbines from the surface of the East River in 2002. There have been some hitches: Some of the turbines’ fiberglass blades broke under the tidal force. (The fiberglass blades will be replaced by the end of April with ones made of a magnesium alloy.)

Still, the site has produced nearly 50,000 kilowatt-hours of energy from December 2006 to May 2007. Verdant’s East River testing spot has the potential to support as many as 300 turbines and nearly 10 megawatts of installed capacity. Verdant has been working for the past several years to tweak its tidal turbines so that by the end of 2010 they can deliver up to 1.5 megawatts to the city’s electrical grid (800 households use about one megawatt).

The East River is not Verdant’s only site. The company is also testing its technology in Canada’s St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario, with the hope of creating a turbine infrastructure capable of producing an output of 15 megawatts. The company is also looking at sites in China and India.

It is unclear just how much it will cost to tap into energy from large bodies of water, since there is no tidal or wave power industry. Verdant’s Taylor says his company is at least two years away from being able to quote costs to potential customers. That said, a rough cost estimate for Verdant’s marine renewable energy technology is up to $3,600 per kilowatt hour—a higher price tag than wind power, fossil fuels or hydroelectric dams today, he says. However, he also points out that Verdant will be able to lower its costs over time through the mass production of its technology and the reduction of inefficiencies in the licensing and implementation processes.

The next step for Verdant in the U.S. is to apply for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license that would allow the company to continue its pilot project attempting to prove tidal turbines can be a reliable source of energy for the city’s grid. It took four years to secure the necessary permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That bureaucratic delay speaks to the difficulty of navigating the regulatory processes required to get such turbines into the water. Verdant’s Taylor says his company has spent about $9 million getting its East River project to its current state, with one third of that cost going toward studies gauging how the turbines might affect vessel navigation, aquatic life and fish migration. Although the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) chipped in $3 million toward the East River project, Taylor says the time and money spent to secure changing, and sometimes redundant, regulatory approval wastes precious time that could be used testing new technologies. “That’s got to change,” he adds. “The world is burning up, and we’re fiddling.”

For its part, FERC doesn’t see itself as fiddling as much as trying to find the right tune when it comes new hydroelectric technologies. Chairman Joseph Kelliher last year noted, “these technologies present some challenges relating to reliability, environmental and safety implications, and commercial viability.”

More projects:

In August 2007 nonprofit research and development firm SRI International and Japanese wave-powered generator maker Hyper Drive Corporation, Ltd., tested a prototype ocean wave–powered generator mounted on a buoy in Florida’s Tampa Bay. As the unit bobbed up and down, absorbing energy from the waves, an accordionlike device made of artificial muscle expanded and contracted, creating mechanical energy that was converted into electricity. In the fall SRI will test its more powerful and durable next-generation prototype wave-powered generator.

Finavera Renewables, a Vancouver, British Columbia, renewable-energy technology company, recently signed a contract to deliver power for San Francisco–based Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) by 2012. The deal is North America’s first commercial power purchase agreement for a two-megawatt wave-energy project. The PG&E project will be built about 2.5 miles (four kilometers) off the coast of Humboldt County, Calif., for electricity delivery to PG&E’s customers throughout the company’s northern and central California service territory. Finavera’s technology is the AquaBuOY, a floating structure that converts the up-and-down motion of waves into electricity.

The company was also granted a five-year operating license for its one-megawatt Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project in Washington State by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionthe first-ever FERC license issued for a wave, tidal or current energy project in the U.S. Finavera is also looking to develop wave-power projects off the coast of Oregon and South Africa, and is determining the feasibility of a five-megawatt wave energy project off the coast of Ucluelet, British Columbia.

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DAVID R. BAKER, The San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 2008

NEW YORK – US carbon asset manager Natsource LLC said on Monday it has invested in the first forest-based greenhouse gas emissions reductions under California rules.

Natsource paid a private owner of a redwood forest in Humboldt County represented by nonprofit group the Pacific Forest Trust for credits representing 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

The company declined to say how much it paid for the credits, but a source familiar with the deal said Natsource bought the credits for “well below” $10 per tonne.

Trees soak up the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as they grow, and release it when they rot or are burned.

Carbon market developers like Natsource say they can encourage land owners to make forests grow and absorb more carbon by paying them to take actions that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, like slowing deforestation and harvesting timber more carefully.

The United States does not regulate greenhouse gases, but several states like California and 10 others in the Northeast are creating carbon markets of their own.

In voluntary carbon deals, payments are swapped for carbon credits that investors store in hopes the United States regulates greenhouse gases in the future, which would likely push up prices for the credits.

“From our point of view this is a statement and an investment,” Jack Cogen said in a telephone interview. “We are confident we are going to make money on this over time.”

Cogen said forestry will likely be included in a future greenhouse regulatory regime in the United States and in a global emissions deal.

Voluntary deals hold risk, however, because it can’t be known whether any future US regulatory regime would give credit to early actions, or whether prices would rise significantly in regional markets that are forming.

As global forests are lost to agriculture and urban sprawl, land owners around the world are increasingly looking to generate credits for saving trees. A UN climate conference in Bali late last year agreed to launch pilot projects to grant developing countries credits for slowing deforestation under a new long-term climate pact beyond 2012.

Natsource and PFT said the deal was the first under rules adopted last year by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) which set governmental accounting standards for emissions reductions through slowing deforestation.

Opponents of generating carbon credits for protecting trees say it is hard to prove that land owners would not have slowed harvesting on their own.

But Laurie Wayburn, the president of PFT, said the deal will save emissions by paying land owners to let the forest grow back more fully from the last time it was harvested and that the state’s rules ensure the reductions will be verified.

Eventually that should lead to bigger forests that will grow in value, she said.

“The additional revenue stream allows forest owners to take a long-term harvesting strategy rather than a short-term strategy,” she said.

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Note: This is an older article from 2007 yet still very current in its coverage of environmental and permitting concerns related to Wave Energy and Tidal Energy projects.

MICHAEL LUFKIN & LAURA FANDINO, Marten Law Group, July 11, 2007

The adoption of renewable energy portfolio standards promises to push forward investment in the development of wave and tidal power. Projects are being developed in New York, Washington, Oregon, California and other states, spurred in part by state laws requiring public and private utilities to obtain a portion of their electricity from renewable resources. As an example, Oregon recently adopted a renewable electricity portfolio standard which requires the state’s largest utilities to meet 25% of their electric load with new renewable energy resources by 2025. Challenges to these projects include the environmental and land use impacts associated with them. Just as wind power has drawn its share of opponents, so too are critics of tidal and wave energy raising concerns about the impacts of large-scale development of these resources.

What is Tidal and Wave Energy?

Two types of marine renewable energy resources have garnered substantial interest: wave energy and tidal energy. There are several methods to capture energy from ocean surface waves. For example, one wave power device slated for use by Finavera Renewables, Ltd. (“Finavera”) in Makah Bay, Washington, involves the use of moored wave energy conversion buoys (the “Aquabuoy”) similar in size to the large navigational aids that demarcate shipping lanes. Aquabuoy converts the kinetic energy of the vertical motion of waves into pressurized water, which is directed into a conversion system consisting of a turbine that drives an electrical generator. The power from the buoys is then transported to shore through the use of an anchored submarine transmission cable installed on or just beneath the sea floor. While the Finavera plans to operate the Makah Bay project 3.7 miles offshore, wave energy devices may be used at the shoreline, nearshore, and offshore.

Another ocean energy resource, tidal energy, captures energy from the rise and fall of tides. Most tidal energy projects rely on offshore turbines, which operate much like an underwater wind farm. The ebb and flow of the tides is used to turn the blades which are connected directly to an electrical generator. Energy produced by the system is transferred to shore through the use of a submarine transmission cable installed on the sea floor. In France, and several other countries, tidal energy production has involved the construction of a dam (or barrage) to block incoming and outgoing tides across a delta, estuaries, or other coastal basin area, where the amplitude of tides are increased. In that case, the ebb and flow of the tides is used to turn turbines, or push air through a pipe which then turns a turbine, that drives an electric generator.

Preliminary Projects

Eight tidal energy projects are currently under development in Washington State that use offshore turbine technology. On March 9, 2007, the Snohomish County Public Utility District (“PUD”) received preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) to conduct technical and economic feasibility studies and evaluate tidal energy potential at seven locations in Puget Sound: Spieden Channel, San Juan Channel, Guemes Channel, Agate Pass, Rich Passage, Admiralty Inlet and Deception Pass. FERC has also granted a preliminary permit to Tacoma Power to evaluate the development of tidal power in the Tacoma Narrows. Each of the preliminary permits will enable these entities to study tidal energy at the permitted sites for a period of three years.

In addition to Washington State, FERC has issued preliminary permits for tidal energy projects in Alaska, California, Maine, Oregon, and New York. In New York, the Verdant Power Roosevelt Island Tidal (“RITE”) Project, is on its way to becoming the first tidal energy project to be licensed by FERC. FERC granted a preliminary permit for the RITE project, located in New York’s East River, in September 2002. FERC is licensing the RITE project under the authority granted through the preliminary permit. The project will consist of 200 turbines and will generate up to 10 MW of distributed power.

In addition, Finavera is currently developing a 1 MW demonstration wave power plant at Makah Bay, Washington. The company completed a Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment in October of 2006 which concluded with a finding of no significant environmental effects from the technology. In Oregon, FERC issued preliminary permits to Ocean Power Technologies (“OPT”) to develop a project off the coast of Reesport, southwest of Eugene, and AquaEnergy Group, Ltd. to develop an offshore wave energy project in Coos Bay.

Environmental Concerns

The primary concerns raised by critics of tidal and wave energy projects are their potential adverse impacts on marine ecosystems, fishery resources, and mammals. Environmental concerns raised by these groups include noise, species’ effects, and the physical disturbance of marine habitat. Environmental noise is said by some to affect the behavioral patterns of marine species i.e., feeding, mating and migration in areas where the habitat of protected marine species overlaps with the project. Habitat disturbance is also raised as a concern, as is displacement of benthic organisms in the footprint of the construction, including endangered or threatened species. Other concerns raised are the potential loss of fishing areas and impacts on shellfish resources.

Operating concerns include: (a) potential injuries to marine wildlife and diving birds arising from direct contact with tidal energy turbines; (b) behavioral impacts to marine species; (c) habitat disturbance, including disturbance of contaminated sediments, and impacts to sensitive spawning and nursery areas; (d) water quality impacts; and (e) hydrodynamic impacts. Hydrodynamic impacts resulting from the extraction of energy and physical presence of tidal project structures can include direct alteration of area siltation patterns, and changes to area ecology by alteration of substrate type.

Additional Barriers to Commercial Development

Permitting Process

Because of the relative infancy of wave and tidal energy development, there remains some uncertainty and confusion over which federal and state agencies have regulatory jurisdiction over marine energy projects. Generally speaking, a project’s location determines which federal agency takes the lead in overseeing the permitting process. Under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”), FERC has the authority to regulate and license all hydroelectric facilities on navigable waters of the United States. FERC has interpreted its authority under the FPA broadly to include essentially all wave and tidal energy projects, including ocean projects. In 2005, Congress muddied the jurisdictional waters by granting lead federal agency status to the Minerals Management Service (“MMS”) for renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”). Congress stated, however, that in granting MMS lead agency status over projects on the OCS, it was not eliminating the jurisdiction of other federal agencies. Thus for now, it appears that FERC and MMS will share lead agency status for OCS projects, while FERC will have exclusive authority to license projects in rivers and ocean waters out to the OCS.

The FERC Process

Most of the tidal and wave energy projects under consideration in the Pacific Northwest have not formally entered the FERC licensing process. Rather, these projects have received a preliminary permit from FERC which reserves a project location for the permit holder while environmental and feasibility studies are conducted. The preliminary permit is valid for three years. At the end of the three years, the permit holder must file a license application or lose priority for the location. Construction activities are not allowed during the period in which a project is being studied under a permit.

To construct and operate a tidal or wave energy project a developer must either obtain a hydropower operating license from FERC, or be granted an exemption from licensing. The process for obtaining a FERC operating license can often take five to seven years and requires significant analysis and consultation with state, federal, and tribal resource agencies. Operating licenses are normally granted for 30 to 50 year periods.

Because of the burdensome nature of the licensing process, some developers have sought an exemption from FERC licensing requirements. FERC may exempt hydropower projects “which are 5 megawatts or less, that will be built at an existing dam, or projects that utilize a natural water feature for head or an existing project that has a capacity of 5 megawatts or less and proposes to increase capacity.” FERC has shown a willingness to grant short term exemptions that allow for the deployment and testing of new generation technology. Projects determined to be exempt from FERC licensing requirements must still comply with applicable state and federal environmental and resource protection laws.

Transmission

Another issue affecting the commercial viability of wave and tidal power is the ability and cost of bringing the power to the market. Like other types of renewable based generation, wave and tidal power resources are often located a significant distance from load centers and/or existing transmission systems. The construction costs and additional environmental impacts associated with constructing transmission lines to bring wave and tidal power to the grid can be a challenge to the viability of a project.

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Wind farms are normally associated with mountainous areas and remote regions. But how about one planted in a city on the site of an old steel mill? Drew Robb reports. Steel Winds Wind Farm takes up a 30-acre portion of the old Bethlehem Steel mill, located along the shores of Lake Erie in Lackawanna, NY, USA.

Steel Winds marks many firsts. It is the first urban wind farm in the country, the first to go up on a former industrial site, the first wind farm on the American great lakes and the first commercial deployment of Clipper Windpower’s 2.5 MW Liberty series wind turbines. Eight of these turbines (a total of 20 MW) are now feeding electricity to the grid, enough for over 6000 homes.

“Where Bethlehem Steel once supported an earlier industrial revolution, today the Steel Winds project is bringing new jobs and clean energy technology to the Lake Erie region,” says Paul Gaynor, President and CEO of UPC Wind, co-developer of the project. “We are pleased to be operating at full capacity and introducing this newest generation of wind turbines to the market.”

These turbines feature several innovative features. It includes, for example, a compact two-stage helical designed to reduce loads, minimise the likelihood of damage and increase gearbox lifespan. It accomplishes this by using multiple generators and a multiple path, distributed gearbox. These generators split the load by a factor of 16 – four times greater than in commercially available gearboxes. If one generator goes off line, the other three continue. To ease maintenance demands, a single 650 kW generator can be removed and lowered to the ground by an onboard crane. Further, high-speed gear sets can be replaced without removal of the gearbox.

While gearboxes in comparable turbines weigh 50 to 70 tons, the Clipper model weighs 36 tons. In addition, designers made several upgrades to variable speed technology. The turbine makes use of advanced feedback controls to optimise the blade pitch to reduce drive train loads and improve energy capture. A two-metric ton service crane installed in the Liberty reduces repair time and the costs normally caused by depending on a third-party crane.

The Clipper 2.5 MW Liberty wind turbine is the first wind turbine to utilise a patented, distributed powertrain and four permanent magnet generators to mitigate loads to components found in many of today’s multi-megawatt wind turbine designs. Manufactured in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it is among the largest land-based wind turbines in the world, and the largest wind turbine manufactured in North America.

“We are delighted that our first production Liberty machines will bring to the local area a meaningful contribution toward the beautification, revitalisation and economic development of this brownfield site,” said James G P Dehlsen, Chairman and CEO of Clipper Windpower. “Steel Winds is an exemplary project, and certainly a tribute to the local communities that recognised the benefits early on and enthusiastically supported the effort. We look forward to our continued role in this milestone project.”

BQ Energy, co-developer of the project, selected the Clipper Liberty turbine after looking at models from many different manufacturers.

“Most turbine manufacturers push their best-selling models, but these are based on technology which is now several years old,” says Paul Curran, managing director of BQ Energy, co-developer of the project. “The Clipper Liberty turbine is based on the latest technology and we really liked the fact that it the company is really focused on operational reliability.”

The green industry has gained so much impetus that it has almost become an established part of the mainstream. But the Steel Winds project may be evidence that brown has emerged as the new green.

Steel Winds has returned the Bethlehem Steel facility to productive use under the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Brownfield Cleanup Program. The EPA defines brownfields as being property which has problems in expansion, reuse or redevelopment due to the presence of hazardous substance, pollutants or contaminants.

The EPA estimates that there are 450 000 brownfields in the US. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilises existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped open land and improves as well as protects the environment.

BQ Energy has embraced this brownfields concept as part of its business model. It was founded by Curran to harness the advantage of recent advances in wind technology and the community goal of redeveloping brownfields and creating jobs. It particularly focuses on oil refinery, steel mills, and similar brownfield sites with heavy industry.

Curran first fell in love with the idea during his time with Texaco in Europe. A 23 MW wind farm was opened inside an oil refinery in Rotterdam. This inspired him to form his own company.

“We have several projects in development at oil refineries and steel mills,” says Curran. “Some are at active sites so they might use the wind turbines to generate their own energy.”

He became interested in the old Bethlehem Steel site during a visit to Buffalo to look at a couple of oil refineries that had been closed down. When he saw the famous steel mill site, however, he realised it was a far superior site with excellent wind resource potential.

At its peak, Bethlehem Steel employed over 20 000 people. But it suffered badly from the availability of cheap steel and shrunk steadily starting in the seventies. It filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and was acquired by a steel company named ArcelorMittal in 2005. Today, ArcelorMittal employs 250 people who are engaged in steel finishing.

This history meant that much of the plants assets were still operational. It has a railroad running through it, a major port on the site capable of docking several ocean going vessels, major transmission lines and buildings available to be used for control rooms and offices. With good roads already present, it was easy to bring large cranes and heavy equipment onsite – wind farms in rural areas typically have to construct their own road networks. Further, the substations was rated fro 80 MW yet was only using 3 MW. With a few minor modifications to bring it up to current code, the substation was ready to export power to the grid.

“By renovating these assets we were able to cut our costs significantly,” says Curran. “Choosing a brownfield site makes a big difference when you need to approach the community for a permit.”

While permitting was perhaps easier at this site than in the typical hilltop location, it was far from a pushover. As the community had no experience with wind farms anywhere in the vicinity, they were initially cautious.

Lots of discussion ensued to allay fears about noise and environmental factors. The developers encouraged the locals to go to another wind farm in upstate New York. Many did. Once they saw that wind farm, they got behind the project.

“It is a beautiful site in sharp contrast to the steel mill backdrop,” says Curran.

Development at Steel Winds was also materially helped by brownfields tax credits issued by the State of New York.

“It can be difficult to attract investors to polluted sites,” says Curran. “The state’s program indemnifies you from any pre-existing condition of the site.”

Development Partnership
While Curran paved the way for the project by finding the site, arranging the brownfield grants, negotiating the lease and accelerating the permitting, he turned to UPC as co-developer to harness its wind farm construction expertise.

“Teaming up with UPC was critical as they managed the construction side with a new technology and made the project gel,” says Curran. “With a new kind of turbine to erect, it is vital to partner with a company with lots of experience with other turbines.”

Like BQ Energy, Gaynor of UPC was a fan of the Clipper Liberty turbine. In fact, he plans to use that same turbine in further wind farms the company is developing in Utah and New York. The company has ordered 150 turbines from Clipper.

Gaynor relates that with it being such a tight site, the developers wanted the biggest turbine with the highest yield. To produce 20 MW, it was a lot easier to place eight Clipper 2.5 MW machines rather than 12 Vestas V82’s (1.65 MW) or 13 GE 1.5 MW turbines.

“The ability to get 20 MW in a small site really made Clipper the economic winner,” says Gaynor. “You get an extra MW from the Liberty in comparison to the GE 1.5 for not much incremental real estate. Since we installed the Clipper turbines, they have been performing well and showing high levels of availability.”

Construction, however, was not without its challenges. Being on a former industrial site, it was important to keep foundation placement away from areas of known contamination.
As a result, UPC conducted more pre-siting work than usual to verify the best turbine locations.

Once construction began, rigorous environmental protocols had to be followed with regard to any potential brownfield material. Fortunately, the developers did not have to move any towers. But Gaynor’s team discovered a small amount of material in one foundation area that had to be handled it a specific way to comply with regulations.

The construction period itself stretched out from October through March, mainly due to the high winter winds from Lake Erie. That complicated turbine erection. In addition, UPC learned some valuable lessons specific to the Clipper machines. These turbines have four major parts which are assembled on site – the baseplate, gearing/genset and two parts for the roof assembly. Initially, assembly was attempted at hub height. This required four picks from a crane and involved some fancy footwork eighty meters in the air during windy conditions.

“We realised that Liberty turbine assembly should be done on the ground so that you only need one crane pick to mount it on the tower,” says Gaynor.

Going forward, the project will be operated by UPC Wind, with turbine operation and maintenance services provided by Clipper Windpower for the first five years.

As well as the power Steel Winds will bring to over 6000 western New York homes, the new wind farm has brought jobs to the area. But more importantly, it has helped to revitalise a region that has suffered many decades of decay since heavy industry moved out in the seventies and eighties.

Like his father before him, Lackawanna mayor Norman Polanski once worked at Bethlehem Steel – as a pipe fitter. He never thought the time would come when he would lose that job, but that eventually happened to him along with work for most of the town. The situation grew steadily worse and quite recently Lackawanna’s biggest tax paying business left the area.

That’s all changed now as the sleepy town is now basking in the media spotlight. The story of the area’s transformation has been covered widely on TV and print, both at home and overseas. That’s led to renewed interest in the region and Polanski reports that a dozen new businesses have opened, as well as the first new hotel in over a century.

“Lackawanna was a leader in the industries of the 20th century and now claims a leadership position in this key energy technology of the 21st century,” says Lackawanna mayor Norman Polanski. “We are proud to welcome Steel Winds as a new majestic landmark for our Lake Erie shoreline.”

Drew Robb is with Clipper Windpower Inc, Carpinteria, CA, USA. www.clipperwind.com

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