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Posts Tagged ‘Wind Turbines’

JOHN UPTON, San Francisco Examiner, August 22, 2010

The view to the west from Ocean Beach could one day be cluttered with scores of spinning windmills, generating power.

San Francisco under Mayor Gavin Newsom has long explored the possibility of tapping alternative energy sources, including tidal, wave, solar, geothermal and wind power.

San Francisco is reviewing the environmental impacts of a planned project that would place underwater devices off Ocean Beach to harness wave power, which is a nascent form of renewable energy. The review and its approvals are expected to wrap up within a year.

City leaders are starting to think that construction of the wave power project could help them assess the viability of a more visually striking proposal: a wind farm.

Ocean Beach was found by UC Berkeley professor Ronald Yeung to have good potential for a powerful wave energy farm. Waves that roll into the beach are created by Arctic tempests.

The finding was confirmed last year by city contractors, who determined a facility could provide up to 30 megawatts of electricity — enough power for 30,000 homes.

Environmental review work under way involves studying sediment movement and tracking whale migration patterns to determine the best places on the sea floor to attach futuristic wave power devices.

Recent changes in federal regulations could limit San Francisco to working within three miles of the shoreline because offshore renewable energy projects now require expensive leases instead of less-expensive permits, although the process is clouded by uncertainty.

The federal Mineral Management Services agency has responsibility for regulating offshore renewable energy resources, including wave and power farms, but the agency is being overhauled in the wake of the Gulf oil spill disaster.

The recent regulatory changes could see offshore energy rights snapped up by deep-pocketed oil or utility companies under anticipated bidding processes.

On San Francisco’s clearest days, visitors to Ocean Beach can sometimes see the Farallon Islands, which are 27 miles west of San Francisco — nearly 10 times further out to sea than the three-mile offshore border.

After safe and potentially powerful locations have been identified, wave energy technology will be selected from a growing suite of options including devices that float near the surface, those that hover in midwater and undulating seabed equipment inspired by kelp.

The next step would involve applying for permits and installing the equipment.

Somewhere along the way, costs will be determined and funds will need to be raised by officials or set aside by lawmakers.

Once the wave-catching equipment is in place, it could be used to help determine wind velocities and other factors that make the difference between viable and unviable wind farm sites.

“What we really need to do is put some wind anemometers out there,” Newsom’s sustainability adviser Johanna Partin said. “There are a couple of buoys off the coast with wind meters on them, but they are spread out and few and far between. As we move forward with our wave plans, we’re hoping there are ways to tie in some wind testing. If we’re putting stuff out there anyway then maybe we can tack on wind anemometers.”

Partin characterized plans for a wind farm off Ocean Beach as highly speculative but realistic.

Wind power facilities are growing in numbers in California and around the world.

But wind farms are often opposed by communities because of fears about noise, vibrations, ugliness and strobe-light effects that can be caused when blades spin and reflect rays from the sun.

A controversial and heavily opposed 130-turbine project that could produce 468 megawatts of power in Nantucket Sound received federal approvals in May.

West Coast facilities, however, are expected to be more expensive and complicated to construct.

“The challenge for us on the West Coast is that the water is so much deeper than it is on the East Coast,” Partin said.

Treasure Island is planned site for turbine test

A low-lying island in the middle of the windswept Bay will be used as a wind-power testing ground.

The former Navy base Treasure Island is about to be used in an international project to test cutting-edge wind turbines. It was transferred last week to to San Francisco to be developed by private companies in a $100 million-plus deal.

The testing grounds, planned in a southwest pocket of the island, could be visible from the Ferry Building.

The first turbines to be tested are known as “vertical axis” turbines, meaning they lack old-fashioned windmill blades, which can be noisy and deadly for birds.

The devices to be tested were developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in cooperation with Russian companies. Five were manufactured in Russia and delivered to California earlier this year.

The wind-technology relationship, which was funded with $2 million in federal funds, grew out of an anti-nuclear-proliferation program started in 1993.

“The vertical machines should be good in gusty low-wind conditions, which are those which you expect in an urban environment,” lead LBNL researcher Glen Dahlbacka said recently.

The machines were designed to minimize noise and are easily built.

“They’re relatively easy to work up in a fiberglass shop,” Dahlbacka said.

Eventually, each device could be coupled with solar panels to provide enough power for a modest home, Dahlbacka said.

The team is not expected to be the only group to test wind turbines on the island.

San Francisco plans to provide space for green-tech and clean-tech companies to test their wind-power devices on the island to help achieve product certification under federal standards adopted in January.

The program could help San Francisco attract environmental technology companies.

“It’s an opportunity to attract and retain clean-tech companies,” Department of the Environment official Danielle Murray said. “We’ve just started putting feelers out to the industry.”

The proposed testing grounds might have to shift around as the island is developed with thousands of homes and other buildings in the coming years.

“We need to work with them with regards to where these things go and how they would interact with the development project,” Wilson Meany Sullivan developer Kheay Loke said.

— John Upton

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JESSICA MARSHALL, Discovery.com News, November 30, 2009

The patterns that schooling fish form to save energy while swimming have inspired a new wind farm design that researchers say will increase the amount of power produced per acre by at least tenfold.

“For the fish, they are trying to minimize the energy that they consume to swim from Point A to Point B,” said John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who led the study. “In our case, we’re looking at the opposite problem: How to we maximize the amount of energy that we collect?”

“Because both of these problems involve optimizing energy, it turns out that the model that’s useful for one is also useful for the other problem.”

Both designs rely on individuals capturing energy from their neighbors to operate more efficiently.”If there was just one fish swimming, it kicks off energy into the water, and it just gets wasted,” Dabiri said, “but if there’s another fish behind, it can actually use that kinetic energy and help it propel itself forward.”

The wind turbines can do the same thing. Dabiri’s wind farm design uses wind turbines that are oriented to rotate around the support pole like a carousel, instead of twirling like a pinwheel the way typical wind turbines do.

Like the fish, these spinning turbines generate a swirling wake. The energy in this flow can be gathered by neighboring turbines if they are placed close enough together and in the right position. By capturing this wake, two turbines close together can generate more power than each acting alone.

This contrasts with common, pinwheel-style wind turbines where the wake from one interferes with its neighbors, reducing the neighbors’ efficiency. The vortexes occur in the wrong orientation for the neighboring turbines to capture them.

For this reason, such turbines must be spaced at least three diameters to either side and 10 diameters up — or downwind of another, which requires a lot of land.

Although individual carousel-style turbines are less efficient than their pinwheel-style counterparts, the close spacing that enhances their performance means that the amount of power output per acre is much greater for the carousel-style turbines.

Dabiri and graduate student Robert Whittlesey calculated that their best design would generate 100 times more power per acre than a conventional wind farm.

The model required some simplifications, however, so it remains to be seen whether tests of an actual wind farm produce such large gains. That will be the team’s next step. “Even if we’re off by a factor of 10, that’s still a game changer for the technology,” Dabiri noted.

In the end, schooling fish may not have the perfect arrangement. The pair found that the best arrangement of wind turbines did not match the spacing used by schooling fish.

“If we just mimic the fish wake, we can do pretty well,” Dabiri said. “But, as engineers, maybe we’re smarter than fish. It turns out that for this application there is even better performance to be had.”

This may be because fish have other needs to balance in their schooling behavior besides maximizing swimming efficiency. They seek food, avoid predators and reproduce, for example.

“I think that this is a very interesting possibility,” said Alexander Smits of Princeton University, who attended a presentation of the findings at a meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics in Minneapolis last week.

But a field test will show the idea’s real potential, he noted: “You have to go try these things. You can do a calculation like that and it might not work out. But it seemed like there was a very large reduction in the land usage, and even if you got one half of that, that would be pretty good.”

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, July 22, 2009

north-carolina-bans-wind-turbinesSome North Carolina politicians consider this type of thing an aesthetic blight — and want to ban it from the state’s peaks and ridgelines.

A furious battle over the aesthetics of wind energy has erupted in North Carolina, where lawmakers are weighing a bill that would bar giant turbines from the state’s scenic western ridgelines.

The big machines would “destroy our crown jewel,” said Martin Nesbitt, a state senator who supports the ban, according to a report in The Winston-Salem Journal.

As it currently stands, the bill would ban turbines more than 100 feet tall from the mountaintops. Residential-scale turbines (typically 50 to 120 feet high) could still go up, but the industrial-scale turbines that can produce 500 times as much power or more would be effectively ruled out. The legislation appeared likely to pass the state Senate last week, but got sent back to committee.

Such a ban would be virtually unprecedented, according to Brandon Blevins, the wind program coordinator for the the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and it would make roughly two-thirds of North Carolina’s land-based wind potential unavailable.

(The state is also starting to look offshore.)

“I know of no other state that has so uniformly banned wind,” he said. State lawmakers, Mr. Blevins noted, voted not long ago to enact a renewable portfolio standard requiring North Carolina to get 12.5% of its electricity from renewable energy and efficiency measures by 2021. “Now they’re stripping away some of the most cost-effective options for their utilities” to achieve those targets, he said.

Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said that while some counties around the country have enacted height bans, the association is unaware of similar bans “covering large areas.”

“The main objection seems to be appearance, and the reality is that many people find wind turbines elegant and a symbol of a clean energy future, and that wind turbines often become a tourist attraction,” she said in an e-mail message.

The North Carolina bill has roots in a 1983 law that barred most structures taller than 40 feet along the state’s ridgelines — though exceptions were made for communications towers and windmills, Mr. Blevins said.

An early version of the current bill, supported by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, would have kept big turbines away from the Appalachian Trail and other landmarks, but granted local governments the authority to allow them in other areas.

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CATHY PROCTOR, Denver Business Journal, July 31, 2009

SmartGrid-graphicWind farms and solar power plants may offer free fuel costs and no carbon-dioxide emissions, but don’t assume there’s universal support from environmentalists, according to industry observers.

“The world is changing,” said Andrew Spielman, a partner at the Denver office of Hogan & Hartson LLC who works on renewable energy projects.

Spielman was part of a panel discussing issues in the renewable energy sector at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s annual natural gas strategy conference. “There are more complexities with renewable projects,” he said, “and it’s no longer an assumption that the environmental community will approve and support renewable projects.”

Among the larger considerations of renewable energy:

  • Big wind farms and solar power plants take up a lot of land. Whether it’s for towering wind turbines or acres of solar panels, additional land is needed for construction areas and support services such as workers and storage yards.
  • Rural roads accustomed to a few cars and tractor traffic often need upgrades to handle heavy construction trucks and semis laden with towers, nacelles and turbine blades.
  • Often, the remote new wind farms and solar power plants need a new transmission line — with its own set of construction impacts — to get the renewable power to cities and towns, the panelists said.

For example, the Peetz Table Wind Farm in northeastern Colorado, owned by a subsidiary of big energy company FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL) of Juno Beach, Fla., generates 400 megawatts of power from 267 wind turbines that sprawl across 80 square miles.

The wind farm, which started operating in 2007, also required the construction of a 78-mile transmission line to connect it to the grid and get power to the wind farm’s sole client, Xcel Energy Inc.

It’s called “energy sprawl,” akin to the idea of “urban sprawl,” said Tim Sullivan, panelist and acting state director for the Colorado Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“All energy has a footprint, and renewable energy has to be a concern for anyone concerned about land-based habitat,” he said. “We need to treat renewables and oil and gas equally on their footprints.”

That doesn’t mean, Sullivan said, that every square inch of ground in Colorado should be off-limits to energy development. “We don’t have to protect every inch of ground,” he said.

“We can make trade-offs.”

One area of land good for wind energy might be “traded” for another piece that’s good for wetlands or grasslands where birds flourish, he said.

People who live near wind farms also are growing more aware of their impacts, Spielman said.

There’s the height issue. A wind turbine can soar 400 feet from the base to the top of the blade, he said. That’s about the height of the Tabor Center’s office building.

Also, there are new “flicker” problems — stemming from light flashing off the rotating blades as they go around about once a second. Turbines also make a repetitive, low-key “vrroomp” noise as they rotate, he said.

State regulators are becoming more aware of the impacts from renewable and alternative energy projects, said Kate Fay, energy manager at the Colorado Department of Health & Environment.

“All energy projects have impacts,” she said. “There is no free ride. The impacts from renewables may be small now, but there’s not that many of them out there.”

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DANIEL TERDIMAN, CNET, July 23, 2009

Caspar Wind FarmWyoming — Walking across the former site of the Dave Johnston Mine here, about half an hour outside Casper, you’d never know that over the course of 42 years, 104 million tons of coal was taken out of the ground.

But now, instead of having a heavy carbon footprint–and coal certainly does–these rolling hills have an entirely green footprint. Today, the site is home to a 158-turbine wind farm that produces 237 Megawatts of power, enough electricity for 66,800 households for a year.

And what’s particularly notable about the site is that while the wind farm is among the newest and most state-of-the-art in the country today, it is also likely the first full-scale wind power project to be installed on the site of a former coal mine.

From 1958 until 2000, the Dave Johnston Mine stretched for nine mines through this otherwise barren landscape. But in the late 1990s, after the mine’s operator, Rocky Mountain Power, determined that it was no longer economical to run it, a full-scale reclamation project began.

As part of my road trip in 2009, I visited the wind farm to get a first-hand look at how such a scar on the earth can be successfully converted to a graceful and clean power project.

According to Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp that provides power to Utah, Wyoming and Idaho residents, “Full-scale final reclamation efforts to restore the nearly nine-mile long stretch of land affected by mining began in 1999 and were completed in 2005. Mountains of dirt were moved, miles of land reseeded with native vegetation and major contouring performed in order to return the landscape to its pre-mining appearance. More than 85 million yards of earth were moved to accomplish this feat.”

A big part of the reclamation project was providing long-term grazing land and habitat for a variety of wildlife. To that end, sagebrush and many other forms of vegetation were planted throughout the property as a source of habitat and food for animals such as pronghorned antelope and deer. Further, the team behind the reclamation concentrated on habitat for birds, including building five nesting platforms for eagles and cover for other, smaller bird species.

And more than 120 “rabbitats,” rock shelters for rabbits and other small animals, were built around the property.

All told, the Glenrock Wind Farm is home to antelope, deer, mountain lions, foxes, bobcats, rabbits and golden eagles.

While it’s easy to link the reclamation of the former coal mine and the new, giant, wind farm, Rocky Mountain Power didn’t originally set out with the intention of converting its property from greenhouse gas-intensive power to green power. Rather, the company realized after the decision was made to shut down the coal mine that the property was ideally suited to building a big wind farm.

And that’s because the company already owned the property, had a significant system of transmission lines already installed nearby and understood that these rolling hills had the wind strength to support a multi-hundred million dollar wind project.

But Rocky Mountain Power has by no means abandoned coal. In fact, it still has a coal processing plant adjacent to the former Dave Johnston Mine, which is one reason the transmission lines are still there. Still, the company, and other power generators, have certainly begun to see the value–and the economics–of wind farms like these. Indeed, the day after I visited the Glenrock Wind Farm, the front page of the Casper, Wyo. newspaper had an above-the-fold front-page headline trumpeting another giant wind farm that will soon be developed in the same area.

21 Species of Vegetation

My hosts for the visit to the wind farm were Chet Skilbred, Rocky Mountain Power’s vegetation scientist at the property and Doug Mollet, the director of wind operations at Glenrock Wind Farm. Skilbred explained that as part of the reclamation project, he and his team were required to replace all the indigenous plants that had been there prior to the coal mine. So, a big part of the project was the planting of 21 different species of vegetation, including warm season grasses, cool season grasses, shrubs and many more.

But, with 158 soaring wind turbines dominating the lanscape today, Skilbred told me a joke about the process: “I had no idea my see mixture included wind turbines.”

In order to get back the remaining $2.6 million of an original $56 million bond that was put up when the coal mine was opened, Rocky Mountain Power must monitor the land through 2017 for things like ground water and surface water hydrology, wildlife and vegetation. But I have to hand it to them: If they hadn’t told me there had been a coal mine here, I never would have known.

Instead, I would have been simply overwhelmed by the majesty and breadth of the wind farm (see video below, but turn your volume down because of the wind noise). Big enough to be visible from many miles away, the 158 turbines are breathtaking up close. That’s in part because, when the tips of the 125-foot-long blades are pointing upwards, the turbines are 340 feet tall.

That, of course, casts a large and long shadow, and one thing that has happened is that many of the animals on the property–and no matter where we went, we would see some of the 1400 head of antelope or 600 head of deer bounding about–use those shadows to escape the intense Wyoming sun.

In a sense, because there is so much new habitat for animals, as well as the fact that there is no hunting allowed on the property, the wind farm area is tantamount to a nature preserve, Skilbred said.

Indeed, while there had been wildlife on the property before, life is better for them now, Skilbred said: They are no longer getting stuck in the mud inside the mine.

180 Feet Deep

When in operation, the coal mine was at least 180 feet deep, and nine miles long. So in order to complete the reclamation project, Rocky Mountain Power had to dig up the mine, reconstitute the soil and replant all the vegetation.

But to Skilbred, the project has been a big success. “You couldn’t ask for a better ending for a coal mine,” he said, “to go from a carbon footprint to a green footprint.”

For Rocky Mountain Power, wind is just one power source, and the company sees a mixture in its future: wind, natural gas, coal and, likely, nuclear.

But here, driving around amidst these giant turbines, it’s hard to think of anything but wind power. And what’s amazing is that the turbines are so big, you feel like you’re always right in front of one. In fact, however, they are a minimum of a half-mile apart, east-to-west, and 600 feet, north-to-south. Put them too close together, and the vortexes coming off the blades affects the wind flow of other turbines.

The actual placement of the 158 turbines, done in what is sort of like a staggered, Z-shaped configuration, was done by turbine specialists who examined the property and developed placement models based on the terrain, the topography and the prevailing wind conditions.

You might think that a company spending several hundred million dollars on such a project would expect full-time production. But that’s not realistic. Mollet said that over the course of a year, the best the company can expect is 40% average production. But of course, that’s an average. Between November and March, that number is much higher, and between late August and September, it’s much lower.

The turbines, while a simple concept, are controlled by advanced electronics. And among the tasks those systems have is shutting down the turbines if the winds go above 60 miles an hour–otherwise, they can be destroyed–as well as figuring out where the wind is coming from and automatically rotating the head so that the blades are always working with the best wind. The heads can spin around three full times in search of the strongest wind, in fact, before the system runs out of wire and must reset itself.

Tracking the wind is a major innovation for modern turbines. In the past, the heads were stationary, and so wind farms had limited production when the wind shifted. But now, Rocky Mountain Power and other companies with such projects can maximize the power production.

$2 Million a ‘Stick’

Mollet said that the cost of the turbines averaged about $2 million “a stick,” and that they are intended to last for 20-to-30 years. However, Rocky Mountain Power thinks of them more as 100-year assets, given that they can replace aging systems within the turbines, or even the blades themselves.

Keeping them working properly means constantly monitoring how they’re behaving in the wind. So the wind farm utilizes two types of equipment, annemometers and wind vanes to measure wind velocity and direction in order to ensure that the pitch of the blades is optimal and won’t result in them rotating too fast.

This is all new technology, something previous generations of wind farms couldn’t take advantage of. But today, wind power is a growing resource and companies like Rocky Mountain Power are demanding new technology. They’re also demanding more people who know how to run and maintain these systems, despite there currently being a shortage.

That’s why, for example, the company is working with local colleges in the Casper area to create new, two-year associate degree programs in wind turbine technology.

“We’re going to build 1,000 turbines in the next ten years,” Mollet said. “We need to grow some people.”

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H. JOSEF HEBERT, The Associated Press, March 16, 2009

While the Obama administration has touted offshore renewable energy development, a turf fight between two federal agencies has stymied the government’s ability to issue rules needed to approve wind energy projects off America’s coasts.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday the infighting has got to stop.

“It will be resolved,” Salazar said in response to questions about the dispute. “We will not let any of the jurisdictional turf battles of the past get in the way of our moving forward with the renewable energy agenda.”

The dispute, which dates to late 2007, pits the Interior Department against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over which entity should approve projects that use coastal waves and currents to produce power.

Offshore wind development has been entangled in the dispute because Interior’s Mineral Management Service does not want to separate wind projects from the tidal wave, or hydrokinetic power, programs – which FERC in turn has refused to surrender, according to several officials who have followed the dispute.

Interior and FERC are said to be close to agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that would delineate each organization’s involvement in the offshore renewable energy approval process.

Salazar has been vocal in his call for more aggressive development of renewable energy projects off the country’s coasts, especially off the northern and central Atlantic. He said the governors of New Jersey and Delaware have asked what is holding up the regulations and said projects off their coasts are ready to go.

Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of FERC, played down the interagency dispute and – like Salazar – said he was confident the problem will soon be worked out.

“It’s less of a dispute than people say it is,” insisted Wellinghoff in a brief interview, adding that he doubted it has stopped any wind projects.

“It has nothing to do with wind. It only has to do with our jurisdiction over hydrokinetic systems, whether they are on the Outer Continental Shelf or not,” said Wellinghoff. He said he saw no reason why the Mineral Management Service would insist on viewing the tidal wave and wind issues together.

Salazar over the past week met with Wellinghoff to try to work out a memorandum of understanding that could be issued as early as this week. Both men are expected to be asked about the disagreement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday.

“If we don’t resolve the jurisdictional issues between FERC and the Department of Interior, we are not going to be able to move forward in the development of our offshore renewable energy resources,” said Salazar.

Mike Olsen, an attorney who represents Deep Water Wind, a company that wants to build a 96-turbine wind farm off the New Jersey coast, calls the dispute a classic government turf battle.

“It’s two agencies both feeling each has specific authority and jurisdiction. Neither one wants to yield its authority or jurisdiction to the other,” said Olsen, who as a deputy assistant Interior secretary in the Bush administration observed the dispute first hand.

Interior waged “a full court press” to get the rules on offshore renewable energy development finalize last year, Olsen said, but the effort was thwarted by the lack of an agreement with FERC.

“From our perspective the rule was ready to go in November,” said Olsen. But despite involvement of the Bush White House, no memorandum of understanding on the jurisdiction issue could be hammered out between Interior and FERC.

With a new administration on the horizon “the battle was put on hold,” he said.

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PATRICK BLUM, International Herald Tribune, March 15, 2009

LISBON: Projects for wind and wave energy beset by technical snags and dwindling investment

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisIn July, a Pelamis wave power generator, an articulated steel machine like a giant semi-submerged sausage, was towed into the deep Atlantic, off the coast of Aguçadoura in northern Portugal, and attached to a floating mooring.

By September, two more Pelamis units, each capable of generating 750 kilowatts of electricity, had joined the first, about three miles, or five kilometers, off shore, and the Portuguese power utility Energias de Portugal was able to announce proudly that “the world’s first commercial wave power project,” was transmitting electricity to the national grid.

Costing about €9 million, or $11.5 million, the three machines were the first phase of a plan intended ultimately to be expanded to 28 units, with a total generating capacity of 21 megawatts — enough to power more than 15,000 homes and save more than 60,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide from being spewed into the skies by conventional power plants.

In mid-November all three were disconnected and towed back to land, where they now lie in Leixões harbor, near the city of Porto, with no date set for their return to operation.

So what went wrong?

First, there was a buoyancy problem, said Max Carcas, a spokesman for Pelamis Wave Power, the British company that designed and built the units and retained a 23% stake in the project. According to a report on ocean energy systems published by the International Energy Agency, foam-filled buoyancy tanks for the mooring installation leaked and needed to be replaced, delaying startup.

The buoyancy problem was resolved, Mr. Carcas said during a telephone interview this month, but other technical issues emerged, as could be expected in a prototype project. “Like all things new, you have niggles to work through, and we continue to do that.”

Then, the financial crisis kicked in.

The Aguçadoura wave farm was announced in September as a joint venture between Pelamis and a group of three promoters including EDP, the Portuguese electrical engineering company Efacec, and the asset manager Babcock & Brown, an Australia-based specialist in power and other infrastructure investments.

But, by November, as the global credit crunch and falling share markets took a deepening toll of highly leveraged investors, Babcock & Brown announced a major program of asset sales to pay down its debt: and the Portuguese partners pulled back from the venture.

“Babcock & Brown are in process of winding down and we’re looking at offers for all our assets,” Anthony Kennaway, a Babcock & Brown spokesman, said from London. “Pelamis is part of that. All our assets are for sale. We are not putting any more money into the project.”

Against that background, Mr. Carcas, of Pelamis, said that there was no timetable for returning the generators to sea.

“As soon as things are resolved,” he said. “Could be next week. Could be anything.”

Harnessing ocean power for energy seemed an ideal option for Portugal, a small country with no oil and limited resources, and a long Atlantic coastline south of the Bay of Biscay, famed for its fierce waves and storms.

Portugal now imports more than 80% of its energy supplies, far above the European Union average. Domestic power generation is heavily dependent on hydroelectric projects, which are vulnerable to big fluctuations in output, depending on seasonal weather conditions.

Ambitious government plans still aim for a radical transformation of Portugal’s energy profile, with as much as 60% of the country’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. That compares with an EU target of 20% for the union as a whole.

But the Aguçadoura project points up the risks of a strategy relying on cutting-edge, and potentially costly, technology. Whether or not the target is achievable, particularly in current economic conditions, is a subject of debate among the country’s renewable energy specialists.

“We assumed there would be no critical technical issues,” to hinder deployment of offshore generators, said Antonio Sarmento, director of the Wave Energy Center, WavEC, a Portuguese nonprofit organization that promotes ocean wave power generation.

“Also we assumed there would be no environmental impact and that the energy would be relatively cheap. So we were optimistic,” Mr. Sarmento said. “It’s an educated guess. We are still guessing. When you pick up a new technology and look at the future it’s difficult to say what will be.”

On the cost side, investments in ocean-based technologies “are very high and operating costs are not entirely negligible because you have the problem of corrosion from salt water,” said Colette Lewiner, head of the global energy and utilities sector at the French consultancy and services company Capgemini.

While the Aguçadoura partners put the cost of the first phase at a relatively modest €9 million, the true cost of such developments is difficult to calculate, said Hugo Chandler, a renewable energy analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris.

“Part of the problem is the absence of data,” he said. “Countries are still at an early stage and don’t want to reveal real costs.”

It’s a very young technology, Mr. Chandler said, but “the indications are that it is considerably more expensive than other technologies.”

Still, the Aguçadoura experience has not discouraged EDP from pursuing other high-tech ocean solutions. Last month it signed an agreement with Principle Power of the United States to develop and install a floating offshore wind farm off the Portuguese coast, one of the first projects of its kind in Europe.

The project would use proprietary Principle Power technology designed to allow wind turbines to be set in high-wind but previously inaccessible ocean locations where water depth exceeds 50 meters, or 164 feet. The agreement foresees commercial deployment in three phases, but sets no timetable.

Offshore wind power generation currently costs 50% to 100% more than equivalent onshore wind farms, according to a recent Capgemini report on clean technologies in Europe. But Portugal is eager to press ahead with the new technology. “Offshore wind is one of our key innovation priorities,” said the chief executive of EDP, António Mexia.

“The development of floating foundations for wind turbines is a prerequisite to the development of offshore wind farms world-wide, as areas in which the sea bed is less than 50 meters deep are scarce and fixed structures in deeper waters are economically not feasible,” he said.

Still, he noted, the agreement with Principle Power “is not a binding contract; there are a number of prerequisites, technical and financial, that need to be met.”

A €30 million first phase, covering development and infrastructure construction, could see a small, five megawatt floating generator in operation by the second half of 2012. But for that to happen, full funding would need to be in place “by the end of this semester,” Mr. Mexia said.

WavEC, meanwhile, has several wave power projects in the pipeline, including tests of prototype systems from three companies — WaveRoller, of Finland; Ocean Power Technologies of the United States; and Wavebob, of Ireland.

For sure, the economic recession and financial crisis are adding to the challenges facing such projects, as investors pull back. “There will be a pause, a slowdown, in renewable energy investment until we see the recovery,” said Ms. Lewiner, of Capgemini. But “these investments take time and you can’t sleep through the recession. These plants are needed.”

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TYLER HAMILTON, CleanBreak.ca, February 17, 2009

humpback_finToronto-based WhalePower, maker of the tubercle-lined turbine blades inspired by humpback whale flippers, got the results back from its first independent study in the field. 

The blade design was tested on a 25-kilowatt Wenvor Technologies turbine at the Wind Energy Institute of Canada. The institude found that annualized energy production from the retrofitted blade increased by an estimated 20%.

You can find the data here and analysis here. “Rated power was attained at 12.5 metres per second versus the 15 meters per second previously published performance for the unmodified Wenvor turbine. (Caveat: it’s an estimate because the test of the retrofitted blade followed International Electro-Technical Commission standards, while the benchmark data did not).

“An improvement of just 1% or 2% in AEP is significant,” said Stephen Dewar, WhalePower’s director of R&D. “Here we have about 20% with low noise. We’re thrilled by this result.”

The next step is to perform a more comprehensive apples-to-apples test on a larger turbine. These results may help the company raise the capital it needs to take its testing to the next level. Perhaps at some point it will begin catching the attention of some of the bigger wind-energy players.

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DAVID EWENCHIEF, The Evening Express, February 11, 2009

images2The Aberdeenshire Council has pointed to tides – rather than wind turbines – as the best green solution to the energy crisis. The council took part in a consultation on the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill, which is going through Parliament, suggesting tide and current generation would be more reliable than wind turbines. “Wind cannot take up the slack. And we have a fair amount of coastline to play with,” a report said.

Aberdeenshire council suggested mini hydro-electric schemes on its rivers could also be more effective than wind turbines. Nearly 200 wind turbines have already been approved in the Northeast.

Mervyn Newberry, former chairman of the Skelmonae Windfarm Action Group, said he was not surprised at Aberdeenshire council’s sudden change of heart over the wind turbines. “It is completely expected,” he said. “The politicians just go with whatever is popular at the time. Though I am not as familiar with tidal energy, I am certainly more in favour of this form of energy because it doesn’t destroy the environment.”

Tarves, in Aberdeenshire, has been hit with a proposal for four wind turbines. Chairman of Tarves Community Council Bob Davidson claimed Aberdeenshire Council has been inconsistent in backing wind turbines. “I would not be surprised at inconsistency from the local authority,” he said.

Today Aberdeenshire Council boss Anne Robertson defended the use of wind turbines. She pointed out that tide technology has lagged behind wind-based technology in the North-east. Mrs Robertson stressed that the impact of wind turbines on the landscape was always considered. She said: “The wind turbine issue is one that has been dealt with through the planning process. “There have been quite a number of schemes turned down in Aberdeenshire.”

In its response to the bill consultation, Aberdeen City Council stressed the “importance of joint working” to reduce energy consumption. Wind turbines planned for Aberdeen Bay could supply all of the city’s houses with electricity.

Aberdeen-based Green Ocean Energy Ltd is developing a wave-based energy system to work alongside wind turbines. The Scottish Government rules on planning projects at sea.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, February 4, 2009

imagesWind and solar energy have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 – 50% declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

“I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20% of its work force because of falling sales.

Much of the problem stems from the credit crisis that has left Wall Street banks reeling. Once, as many as 18 big banks and financial institutions were willing to help finance installation of wind turbines and solar arrays, taking advantage of generous federal tax incentives. But with the banks in so much trouble, that number has dropped to four, according to Keith Martin, a tax and project finance specialist with the law firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Wind and solar developers have been left starved for capital. “It’s absolutely frozen,” said Craig Mataczynski, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a wind developer. He projected his company would build just under half as much this year as it did last year.

The two industries are hopeful that President Obama’s economic stimulus package will help. But it will take time, and in the interim they are making plans for a dry spell.

Solar energy companies like OptiSolar, Ausra, Heliovolt and Sun Power, once darlings of investors, have all had to lay off workers. So have a handful of companies that make wind turbine blades or towers in the Midwest, including Clipper Windpower, LM Glasfiber and DMI.

Some big wind developers, like NextEra Energy Resources and even the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, a promoter of wind power, have cut back or delayed their wind farm plans.

Renewable energy sources like biomass, which involves making electricity from wood chips, and geothermal, which harnesses underground heat for power, have also been slowed by the financial crisis, but the effects have been more pronounced on once fast-growing wind and solar.

Because of their need for space to accommodate giant wind turbines, wind farms are especially reliant on bank financing for as much as 50 percent of a project’s costs. For example, JPMorgan Chase, which analysts say is the most active bank remaining in the renewable energy sector, has invested in 54 wind farms and one solar plant since 2003, according to John Eber, the firm’s managing director for energy investments.

In the solar industry, the ripple effects of the crisis extend all the way to the panels that homeowners put on their roofs. The price of solar panels has fallen by 25% in six months, according to Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, who said he expected a further drop of 10% by midsummer. (For homeowners, however, the savings will not be as substantial, partly because panels account for only about 60% of total installation costs.)

After years when installers had to badger manufacturers to ensure they would receive enough panels, the situation has reversed. Bill Stewart, president of SolarCraft, a California installer, said that manufacturers were now calling to say, “Hey, do you need any product this month? Can I sell you a bit more?”

The turnaround reflects reduced demand for solar panels, and also an increase in supply of panels and of polysilicon, a crucial material in many panels.

On the wind side, turbines that once had to be ordered far in advance are suddenly becoming available.

“At least one vendor has said that they have equipment for delivery in 2009, where nine months ago they wouldn’t have been able to take new orders until 2011,” Mr. Mataczynski of Renewable Energy wrote in an e-mail message. As he has scaled back his company’s plans, he has been forced to cancel some orders for wind turbines, forfeiting the deposit.

Banks have invested in renewable energy, lured by the tax credits. But with banks tightly controlling their money and profits, the main task for the companies is to find new sources of investment capital.

Wind and solar companies have urged Congress to adopt measures that could help revive the market. But even if a favorable stimulus bill passes, nobody is predicting a swift recovery.

“Nothing Congress does in the stimulus bill can put the market back where it was in 2007 and 2008, before it was broken,” said Mr. Martin, the tax lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke. “But it can help at the margins.”

The solar and wind tax credits are structured slightly differently, but the House version of the stimulus bill would help both industries by providing more immediate tax incentives, alleviating some of their dependency on banks.

Both House and Senate would also extend an important tax credit for wind energy, called the production tax credit, for three years; previously the industry had complained of boom-and-bust cycles with the credit having to be renewed nearly every year.

Over the long term, with Mr. Obama focused on a concerted push toward greener energy, the industry remains optimistic.

“You drive across the countryside and there’s more and more wind farms going up,” said Mr. Mattern of West Fargo. “I still have big hopes.”

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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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MendoCoastCurrent, January 28, 2009
To Keep Momentum, AWEA Calls for Quick Approval of the Obama Stimulus Package

wind-energy1

Architect Laurie Chetwood's Wind Dam

The massive growth in 2008 swelled the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50% and channeled an investment of some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country today along with natural gas, AWEA added. However, at year’s end financing for new projects and orders for turbine components slowed to a trickle as layoffs began to hit the wind turbine manufacturing sector.

“Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years. At the same time, it is clear that the economic and financial downturn have begun to take a serious toll on new wind development. We are already seeing layoffs in the area where wind’s promise is greatest for our economy: the wind power manufacturing sector. Quick action in the stimulus bill is vital to restore the industry’s momentum and create jobs as we help make our country more secure and leave a more stable climate for our children.”

The new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42% of the entire new power-producing capacity added nationally last year, according to initial estimates, and will avoid nearly 44 million tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking over 7 million cars off of the road.

The amount that the industry brought online in the 4th quarter alone – 4,112 MW – exceeds annual additions for every year except 2007. In all, wind energy generating capacity in the U.S. now stands at 25,170 MW, producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of close to 7 million household. Iowa, with 2,790 MW installed, surpassed California (2,517 MW) in wind power generating capacity. The top five states in terms of capacity installed are now:

  • Texas, with 7,116 MW
  • Iowa, with 2,790 MW
  • California, with 2,517 MW
  • Minnesota, with 1,752 MW
  • Washington, with 1,375 MW

Oregon moved into the top tier states with more than 1,000 MW installed, which now include Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

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MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press, January 22, 2009

laventosax-largeLa Ventosa, Mexico — On January 22, 2009 Mexico inaugurated one of the world’s largest wind farm projects as the nation looks for alternative energy, in part to compensate for falling oil production.   

Mexico is trying to exploit its rich wind and solar potential after relying almost exclusively on petroleum for decades. With oil production down by 9.2% in 2008, Mexico now is turning to foreign companies, mainly Spanish, to tap its renewable riches. 

“If we don’t do something about this problem of climate change it probably could become — I’m sure it already is — one of the biggest threats to humanity,” said President Felipe Calderon at the inaugural ceremony attended by about 1,000 residents, many of whom held on to their cowboy hats on this wind-swept day.

The new, $550 million project is in a region so breezy that the main town is named La Ventosa, or “Windy.” It’s on the narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, where winds blow at 15 mph to 22 mph, a near-ideal rate for turbines. Gusts have been known to topple tractor trailers.

Spanish energy company Acciona Energia says the 6,180-acre farm should generate 250 megawatts of electricity with 167 turbines, 25 of which are already operating. The rest should be on line by the end of the year, making the project the largest of its kind in Latin America.

It will produce enough energy to power a city of 500,000 people, while reducing carbon monoxide emissions by 600,000 metric tons each year, according to the company.

Esteban Morras, Acciona board member, said the project could be just the start for Mexico.

“This country has great potential for wind development and should take advantage,” he said.

The project is also a joint venture with Cemex Inc. and will provide 25% of the Mexican cement giant’s energy needs, fulfilling the company’s goal of using alternative fuels.

Mexico hopes to boost the nation’s wind energy capacity, mainly at La Ventosa, to 5,000 megawatts — about 10 times its current output. Wind energy now accounts for less than 2% of electricity production.

Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel said the government is planning a series of wind projects that by 2012 should generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity.

“The intensity of wind in various parts of the country can make our plants among the most efficient in the world,” she said.

But the project hasn’t been welcomed by local residents, who say they see few benefits and aren’t being paid enough for use of their lands.

Several hundred protesters blocked a road leading to the site, holding a banner reading “no to the project.”

The mayor of Juchitan, the municipality where La Ventosa is located, attended the ceremony but called for more benefits for the local community.

“We want to be part of a project that does not consider us just cheap labor but property owners and partners,” Mariano Santana Lopez said.

Critics argue that foreign companies build the turbines, rent the land, run the project and produce the power for companies like U.S.-owned retailer Wal-Mart.

“They promise progress and jobs, and talk about millions in investment in clean energy from the winds that blow through our region,” a leftist farm group known as the Assembly in Defense of the Land said in a statement. “But the investments will only benefit businessmen, all the technology will be imported … and the power won’t be for local inhabitants.”

The group is calling on supporters to “defend the land we inherited from our ancestors.” But so far it hasn’t been able to stop the project.

Acciona, for its part, says the construction of the project created 850 jobs.

Local residents, largely Zapotec Indians, are accustomed to foreigners’ coveting their land. The United States demanded rights to transport goods over the isthmus in the 1850s, and foreigners tried to build a railway alternative to the Panama Canal there.

 

 

 

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 17, 2009

Here’s the post from MendoCoastCurrent in the Citizen’s Briefing Book at President-elect Barack Obama’s change.gov site:

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force

Immediately establish and staff a Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force chartered with exploring and fast-tracking the development, exploration and commercialization of environmentally-sensitive renewable energy solutions in solar, wind, wave, green-ag, et al.

At this ‘world-class incubator,’ federal energy policy development is created as cutting-edge technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing to refinement and implementation.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

If you wish to support this, please vote up this post at :

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Mendocino Energy:

Renewable energy incubator and campus on the Mendocino coast exploring nascent and organic technology solutions in wind, wave, solar, green-ag, bioremediation and coastal energy, located on the 400+ acre waterfront G-P Mill site.

Mendocino Energy may be a Campus in Obama’s Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

Vision:

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site shall be used for exploring best practices, cost-efficient, environmentally-sensitive renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag, among many others. The end goal is to identify and engineer optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions.

Start-ups, universities (e.g., Stanford’s newly-funded energy institute), the federal government (RED) and the world’s greatest minds working together to create, collaborate, compete and participate in this fast-tracked exploration.

The campus is quickly constructed of green, temp-portable structures (also a green technology) on the healthiest areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is currently being tested (one more sustainable technology requiring exploration). So, readying the site and determining best sites for solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, wave energy, etc.

To learn more about these technologies, especially wave energy, RSS MendoCoastCurrent.

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 9, 2008

DONG Energy and Wind Estate A/S opened the second stage of Overgård wind farm on December 2, 2008. With the construction of 10 new wind turbines next to 20 existing turbines, Overgård will now be Denmark’s largest onshore wind farm.

The wind farm, situated approx. 25 km northwest of Randers in East Jutland, has a capacity of 63 Megawatts (MW) and will be able to produce electricity equivalent to the annual power consumption of about 35,000 households.

“With the construction of Denmark’s largest onshore wind farm, DONG Energy is reaching yet another important milestone in wind energy development. Next year we will be following up with the world’s largest offshore wind farm,” says Anders Eldrup, CEO of DONG Energy.

The first stage of Overgård wind farm was completed in 2002–2003 and comprises 20 turbines, each generating 2 MW. The second stage, which just opened, comprises 10 turbines generating 2.3 MW each.

The construction of the 10 new turbines has resulted in a clean-up of the East Jutland landscape. 35 older turbines all around the region have thus been salvaged, and their production capacity more than compensated for by the 10 new turbines at Overgård wind farm.

Thanks to an increase in generator size (2.3 MW as opposed to 2.0 MW) and longer blades (47 metres as opposed to 36 metres), the 10 new turbines will produce as much power as the 20 old ones. The longer blades entail that the new wind turbines are 127 metres high compared to the older turbine height of 106 metres.

DONG Energy and Wind Estate A/S each own five of the 10 new turbines, while DONG Energy owns eight of the 20 older turbines.

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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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I’m loving this design!  LKBlog

MATTHEW MCDERMOTT, Treehugger.com, September 4, 2008

homeenergyDesigned by Swedish company Home Energy, the Energy Ball breaks from most wind turbine design by using a spherical structure. Home Energy says that by using such a design significantly higher aerodynamic efficiency can be achieved, as compared to traditional designs. What’s more the Energy Ball is claimed to be “completely silent”.

Two Models Available

Two models are available, the 0.5 kW Energy Ball V100 with a diameter of 110cm (43″), and the 2.5 kW Energy Ball V200 with a diameter of 198cm (78″). Home Energy claims that the V200 can provide up to 50% of a typical home’s electrical needs, while the V100 should be seen as a supplement to other energy sources. Both can produce power starting at wind speeds of 3 meters/second, and max out in wind speeds of 40 m/s.

The V100 has a list price of just under SKr 30,000 ($4,600); the V200 sells for about SKr 53,000 ($8,100). Both prices are just for the turbine, inverter and cabling. Mounting materials are additional. Installation on either stand-alone post or on the roof requires two people and is expected to take about 4-6 hours.

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 8, 2008

swiftwindIn late October 2008 Michigan-based Cascade Engineering launched the Swift Wind Turbine in North America.

“With rising energy costs and increased environmental consciousness, we’ve seen more people turning to small wind. For the past several months, we’ve been inundated with requests for the Swift before we’ve even launched the product” said Michael Ford, head of the renewable energy at Cascade Engineering. “The Swift wind turbine design solves many of the challenges of previous residential and commercial scale wind turbines: it registers as a whisper on decibel charts, it’s efficient, it’s safe and it’s clean.”

“We were eager to install one of the first Swift turbines on the roof of the Frauenthal as a demonstration project” said Arn Boesaart, Vice President fo Grant Programs for the Community Foundation of Muskegon County. “It’s not only a clean and cost-effective energy supplement for us long term, but a “best-practice” example that will educate the community about sustainability principles and renewable energy technology that positively impacts on our environment.

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Energy Central News, December 02, 2008

Vestas Wind Systems has received an order to supply 100 units of its V90-3MW wind turbine for installation at the Thanet offshore wind farm, 11.3km offshore from Foreness Point in the Thames Estuary on the easternmost part of the Kent coastline in the UK. The order has been placed by Vattenfall Wind Power.

The order comprises design, supply, construction, testing and commissioning of the 100 wind turbines as well as a five-year operation and maintenance contract. Vattenfall is responsible for foundations, offshore and onshore cables with substations and offshore installation vessels.

Delivery of the turbines is expected to take place during 2009 and 2010, and installation of the wind power plant will take place in 2010.

Anders Dahl, head of Vattenfall wind power, said: “As Vestas is one of the world leaders within wind power manufacturing, we feel very confident in choosing Vestas to supply turbines for the Thanet offshore wind farm. Being one of the first Round 2 projects to be built, it is of utmost importance that the Thanet wind farm becomes a success and it is our firm conviction that the agreement with Vestas helps to ensure the commitment needed to make this a reality.”

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SolanoCountyBusinessNews.com, November 27, 2008

aboutEscondido-based EnXco, a subsidaiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles Co., recently announced that it has closed on the project financing for the Shiloh II Wind Energy Project under construction in the Montezuma Hills area of Solano County, California.

Lenders to the projects are Nord/LB as lead administrative agent, Dexia and Credit Industriel et Commercial; equity arranged by JP Morgan as lead investor with Wells Fargo and New York Life rounding out the investor group.

Construction of the 150-megawatt wind farm, consisting of 75 REpower 2 MW turbines, began in May, with commercial operation expected in December 2008. Pacific Gas & Electric will purchase the power generated under a 20-year power purchase agreement. The Shiloh II wind farm will be operated and maintained by EnXco Service Corporation.

“Bringing the financing to completion during this current financial crisis is testimony to the quality of our projects as well as to the long-term relationship with our financial partners,” said Tristan Grimbert, president and CEO of EnXco in a press release announcing the financing deal. “Even though funding is scarce, this further confirms that first class, high-quality projects will succeed.”

EnXco, Inc. develops, constructs, operates and manages renewable energy projects throughout the United States.

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BRYAN WALSH, Time, November 20, 2008

a_lwindmill_1201Doug Morrell had already installed solar panels on his house in Coopersville, Michigan, but he was eager to get a little bit greener. So the 52-year-old Navy veteran bought something that might seem more at home in the Dutch countryside than in a small town in western Michigan: a personal wind turbine.

The 33-ft.-high (10 m) machine, whose blades span 7 ft. (2 m) in diameter, sits next to the pole barn 100 yd. (90 m) from Morrell’s home. (Turbines like Morrell’s convert the energy of the wind to electricity, while old windmills are geared for mechanical power, like pulling water from a well.)

On days with decent wind — which occur frequently enough, since he can feel the breeze from Lake Michigan — the $16,000 Swift wind turbine can generate 1.5 kilowatts (kW) an hour, i.e., enough to power the average lightbulb for 15 hours. Together with his solar array, that’s enough to take care of much of his electricity bill. “It’s clean energy we don’t have to dig for. It just comes right to us,” says Morrell. And best of all, he says, “it’s fun watching our meter run backward instead of forward.”

 

Thanks in part to a new tax credit put into place by Congress in October, owning your own wind turbine could be the next green trend. While it’s true that wind power has taken off in the U.S. — adding more in new capacity to the electrical grid last year than any other power source — most of that increase comes from utility wind farms, vast fields of turbines more than 300 ft. (90 m) tall.

For homeowners seeking renewable-energy sources, however, better-known solar power has always dominated. Home solar power currently generates 12 times as much energy as small wind power, which is defined as turbines that have a capacity of 100 kW or less (though most household turbines will produce 10 kW at most).

That’s partly because residential wind turbines require space and sky — at least half an acre of open land — to get access to consistent winds. Still, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), some 15 million homes in the U.S. fit that definition — and small turbines, unlike large wind farms, can be productive in weaker breezes, which puts more of the country into play, though the best areas are still windy spots like the Midwest or West Texas.

What’s really held back residential wind power has been the lack of federal subsidies, which have fed the growth of other renewables like solar and large-scale wind. “We’ve had zero federal assistance,” says Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s small wind expert.

But when Congress passed the bailout bill this fall, it added a 30% tax credit for small-wind projects, which Stimmel believes will enable the industry to grow 40% next year, even in a down market.

In other words, small wind may not be small potatoes for much longer. And that could be a boost for domestic green businesses as well: U.S. firms control 98% of the small-wind market, in contrast to large-scale wind and solar, in which foreign manufacturers dominate. “Since the tax credit, our phone has been ringing off the hook,” says Andy Kruse, a co-founder of Southwest Windpower, a major small-scale-turbine producer in Flagstaff, Ariz. “It’s really exciting to see the market coming to us.”

More than 20 states offer separate subsidies, including ever green California and Vermont. “The federal and state subsidies can make it feasible to get a quicker payback,” says Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower, a small wind producer in Norman, Oklahoma.

Even so, buying your own windmill isn’t cheap. A turbine that could produce most of your family’s electricity might cost as much as $80,000 and take as long as two decades to pay back, depending on wind strength and state subsidies. (The 30% federal tax credit is currently capped at $4,000.)

Then there’s the height factor. Residential wind turbines are tall enough to potentially irritate neighbors and require reams of paperwork, especially for the 60 million Americans who belong to a community association. And even though many of the assumptions about small wind turbines aren’t true — they don’t make much noise, and the AWEA notes that sliding glass doors are a bigger risk to birds than residential wind turbines are — not everyone wants to fight the bureaucratic battles. “It can take a lot of court cases for a turbine owner just to be sure he can put one in,” says Stimmel.

But watt for watt, small wind is cheaper than residential solar, and for those willing to make the up-front investment, it can provide freedom from the electrical grid. Plus, in the eyes of some, there’s nothing more beautiful than a wind turbine spinning in the backyard. “It looks like a giant pinwheel and sounds like a plane off in the distance,” says Morrell. “I’d definitely recommend it.”

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TODD WOODY @ Fortune Magazine, November 12, 2008

windfarmAbout 60 miles north of San Francisco, the strip malls of Solano County give way to gently rolling hills where, as far as the eye can see, wind turbines sprout from the golden bluffs overlooking the Sacramento delta. Construction on Solano’s newest turbine farm, Shiloh II, began this summer, part of a wind rush that has transformed the U.S. into the world’s biggest wind market.

An estimated 8,000 megawatts of new capacity will be installed in the U.S. in 2008. That’s enough electricity for nearly three million homes, and it represents a jump of 50% on the heels of last year’s 45% increase. Among the forces driving growth: Congress’s extension last month of a key tax credit and state mandates requiring utilities to tap renewable energy. “Utilities are going to take wind and run with it,” Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, the nation’s biggest turbine maker, said recently. Global growth remains strong as well, with generation capacity continuing to increase at a 30% annual clip, although the credit crunch could slow expansion in the near future.

And it is a truly global business. Take a closer look, for instance, at Shiloh II.

The 150-megawatt project is being developed by enXco, the U.S. subsidiary of French energy giant EDF. The turbines that lie scattered around the construction site like giant Tinkertoys were made by Germany’s REpower, itself acquired last year by Suzlon, an Indian wind-machine manufacturer that has relocated its global headquarters – to Denmark. “If you want to invest in wind, you’re generally looking at overseas stock markets,” says Ethan Zindler, head of North American research for New Energy Finance, a London-based research firm.

Moreover, while wind power has attracted some big names like GE and FPL Group, the business plays only a minor role in their portfolios. Most pure wind outfits are far smaller and can be very volatile – and they tend to sport high price/earnings ratios, despite recent stock drops. With that caution in mind, and after talking to industry insiders and poring over financial reports, we came up with the four intriguing wind stocks discussed below. They are speculative bets, so intrepid investors should check them out carefully before putting any money at risk.

Four ways to bet on wind power

Wind stocks generally come in two varieties: equipment makers, which produce turbines and other hardware, and developers, which build power plants. Among developers, Iberdrola Renewables (IBR.MC), traded on the Madrid stock exchange, is the name to know. Spun out from the big Spanish power company Iberdrola last year, it is the world’s largest wind-power developer, with sales of $1.4 billion in 2007, expected to rise to $2.8 billion this year.

The U.S. is Iberdrola’s largest market outside Spain and will drive its expansion. Terry Hudgens, CEO of Iberdrola Renewables’ North American operations, says the company plans to install 1,000 megawatts of new wind capacity a year in the U.S. “We secured this pipeline years ago, before these other companies decided to get into the U.S.,” he says. The company is growing fast: In its most recent quarter Iberdrola saw sales of $698 million, up nearly 200% from the same quarter a year ago, while pretax profit rose nearly 600%, to $153 million. And the stock has a highfliers’ P/E of nearly 40.

Iberdrola buys turbines from Suzlon, Mitsubishi, Siemens, Vestas, and GE. But its biggest supplier is Spanish company Gamesa (GAM.MC). In fact, Iberdrola just placed the largest turbine order on record with Gamesa, which is now the No. 2 turbine maker in the world. Gamesa’s P/E of 18 is double the industry average, but its profits are expected to grow 30% this year.

The No. 1 windmill maker, with 23% of the world market, is Vestas (VWS.CO), traded on the Copenhagen exchange. It saw revenues grow 26% in 2007, to $7.2 billion, and it has a market cap of nearly $11 billion. The appeal of the stock for wind investors, says London-based Citigroup analyst Mark Fielding, is that “its market-leading positions make it a proxy for the overall strength of the market.”

Finally, an upstart to watch is Clipper Windpower (CWP), which is based in California but trades in London. Customers for its 2.5-megawatt Liberty turbine include FPL, BP – which is developing the world’s largest wind farm with the company – and Queen Elizabeth II, who bought the prototype of a ten-megawatt offshore windmill. Its shares dropped 78% this year over quality issues, but those glitches have been fixed, says CEO Doug Pertz. Clipper lost money in 2007 and will do so again in 2008. Still, analysts and industry insiders say that its innovative technology and the strong demand for turbines could make it a winner in the long run.

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PETER S. GOODMAN, The New York Times, November 2, 2008

Newton, Iowa – Like his uncle, his grandfather and many of their neighbors, Arie Versendaal spent decades working at the Maytag factory here, turning coils of steel into washing machines.

When the plant closed last year, taking 1,800 jobs out of this town of 16,000 people, it seemed a familiar story of American industrial decline: another company town brought to its knees by the vagaries of global trade.

Except that Mr. Versendaal has a new factory job, at a plant here that makes blades for turbines that turn wind into electricity. Across the road, in the old Maytag factory, another company is building concrete towers to support the massive turbines. Together, the two plants are expected to employ nearly 700 people by early next year.

“Life’s not over,” Mr. Versendaal says. “For 35 years, I pounded my body to the ground. Now, I feel like I’m doing something beneficial for mankind and the United States. We’ve got to get used to depending on ourselves instead of something else, and wind is free. The wind is blowing out there for anybody to use.”

From the faded steel enclaves of Pennsylvania to the reeling auto towns of Michigan and Ohio, state and local governments are aggressively courting manufacturing companies that supply wind energy farms, solar electricity plants and factories that turn crops into diesel fuel.

This courtship has less to do with the loftiest aims of renewable energy proponents — curbing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening American dependence on foreign oil — and more to do with paychecks. In the face of rising unemployment, renewable energy has become a crucial source of good jobs, particularly for laid-off Rust Belt workers.

Amid a presidential election campaign now dominated by economic concerns, wind turbines and solar panels seem as ubiquitous in campaign advertisements as the American flag.

No one believes that renewable energy can fully replace what has been lost on the American factory floor, where people with no college education have traditionally been able to finance middle-class lives. Many at Maytag earned $20 an hour in addition to health benefits. Mr. Versendaal now earns about $13 an hour.

Still, it’s a beginning in a sector of the economy that has been marked by wrenching endings, potentially a second chance for factory workers accustomed to layoffs and diminished aspirations.

In West Branch, Iowa, a town of 2,000 people east of Iowa City, workers now assemble wind turbines in a former pump factory. In northwestern Ohio, glass factories suffering because of the downturn in the auto industry are retooling to make solar energy panels.

“The green we’re interested in is cash,” says Norman W. Johnston, who started a solar cell factory called Solar Fields in Toledo in 2003.

The market is potentially enormous. In a report last year, the Energy Department concluded that the United States could make wind energy the source of one-fifth of its electricity by 2030, up from about 2 percent today. That would require nearly $500 billion in new construction and add more than three million jobs, the report said. Much of the growth would be around the Great Lakes, the hardest-hit region in a country that has lost four million manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

Throw in solar energy along with generating power from crops, and the continued embrace of renewable energy would create as many as five million jobs by 2030, asserts Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and an adviser to the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

The unfolding financial crisis seems likely to slow the pace of development, making investment harder to secure. But renewable energy has already gathered what analysts say is unstoppable momentum. In Texas, the oil baron T. Boone Pickens is developing what would be the largest wind farm in the world. Most states now require that a significant percentage of electricity be generated from wind, solar and biofuels, effectively giving the market a government mandate.

And many analysts expect the United States to eventually embrace some form of new regulatory system aimed at curbing global warming that would force coal-fired electricity plants to pay for the pollution they emit. That could make wind, solar and other alternative fuels competitive in terms of the cost of producing electricity.

Both presidential candidates have made expanding renewable energy a policy priority. Senator Obama, the Democratic nominee, has outlined plans to spend $150 billion over the next decade to spur private companies to invest. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, has spoken more generally of the need for investment.

In June, more than 12,000 people and 770 exhibitors jammed a convention center in Houston for the annual American Wind Energy Association trade show. “Five years ago, we were all walking around in Birkenstocks,” says John M. Brown, managing director of a turbine manufacturer, Entegrity Wind Systems of Boulder, Colo., which had a booth on the show floor. “Now it’s all suits. You go to a seminar, and it’s getting taught by lawyers and bankers.”

So it goes in Iowa. Perched on the edge of the Great Plains — the so-called Saudi Arabia of wind — the state has rapidly become a leading manufacturing center for wind power equipment.

“We are blessed with certainly some of the best wind in the world,” says Chet Culver, Iowa’s governor.

Maytag was born in Newton more than a century ago. Even after the company swelled into a global enterprise, its headquarters remained here, in the center of the state, 35 miles east of Des Moines.

“Newton was an island,” says Ted Johnson, the president of local chapter of the United Automobile Workers, which represented the Maytaggers. “We saw autos go through hard times, other industries. But we still had meat on our barbecues.”

The end began in the summer of 2005. Whirlpool, the appliance conglomerate, swallowed up Maytag. As the word spread that local jobs were doomed — Whirlpool was consolidating three factories’ production into two — workers unloaded their memorabilia at Pappy’s Antique Mall downtown: coffee mugs, buttons, award plaques.

“If it said Maytag on it, we bought it,” says Susie Jones, the store manager. “At first, I thought the stuff had value. Then, it was out of the kindness of my heart. And now I don’t have any heart left. It don’t sell. People are mad at them. They ripped out our soul.”

When the town needed a library, a park or a community college, Maytag lent a hand. The company was Newton’s largest employer, its wages paying for tidy houses, new cars, weddings, retirement parties and funerals.

As Whirlpool made plans to shutter the factory, state and county economic development officials scrambled to attract new employers. In June 2007, the local government dispatched a team to the American Wind Energy Association show in Los Angeles. Weeks later, a company called TPI Composites arrived in Newton to have a look.

Based in Arizona, TPI makes wind turbine blades by layering strips of fiberglass into large molds, requiring a long work space. The Maytag plant was too short. So local officials showed TPI an undeveloped piece of land encircled by cornfields on the edge of town where a new plant could be built.

Although TPI was considering a site in Mexico with low labor costs, Newton had a better location. Rail lines and Interstate 80 connect it to the Great Plains, where the turbines are needed. Former Maytag employees were eager for work, and the community college was ready to teach them blade-making.

Newton won. In exchange for $6 million in tax sweeteners, TPI promised to hire 500 people by 2010. It has already hired about 225 and is on track to have a work force of 290 by mid-November.

“Getting 500 jobs in one swoop is like winning the lottery,” says Newton’s mayor, Chaz Allen. “We don’t have to just roll over and die.”

On a recent afternoon, workers inside the cavernous TPI plant gaze excitedly at a crane lifting a blade from its mold and carrying it toward a cleared area. Curved and smooth, the blade stretches as long as a wing of the largest jets. One worker hums the theme from “Jaws” as the blade slips past.

Larry Crady, a worker, takes particular pleasure in seeing the finished product overhead, a broad grin forming across his goateed face. He used to run a team that made coin-operated laundry machines at Maytag. Now he supervises a team that lays down fiberglass strips between turbine moldings. He runs his hand across the surface of the next blade for signs of unevenness.

“I like this job more than I did Maytag,” Mr. Crady says. “I feel I’m doing something to improve our country, rather than just building a washing machine.”

Ask him how long he spent at Maytag and Mr. Crady responds precisely: “23.6 years.” Which is to say, 6.4 years short of drawing a pension whose famously generous terms compelled so many to work at the Maytag plant. “That’s what everyone in Newton was waiting on,” he says. “You could get that 30 and out.”

But he is now optimistic about the decades ahead. “I feel solid,” he says. “This is going to be the future. This company is going to grow huge.”

The human resources office at TPI is overseen by Terri Rock, who used to have the same position at Maytag’s corporate headquarters, where she worked for two decades. In her last years there, her job was mostly spent ending other people’s jobs.

“There was a lot of heartache,” she says. “This is a small town, and you’d have to let people go and then see them at the grocery store with their families. It was a real tough job at the end.”

Now, Ms. Rock starts fresh careers, hiring as many as 20 people a week. She enjoys the creative spirit of a start-up. “We’re not stuck with the mentality of ‘this is how we’ve done it for the last 35 years,’ ” she says.

Maytag is gone in large part because of the calculus driving globalization: household appliances and so many other goods are now produced mostly where physical labor is cheaper, in countries like China and Mexico. But wind turbines and blades are huge and heavy. The TPI plant is in Iowa largely because of the costs of shipping such huge items from far away.

“These are American jobs that are hard to export,” says Crugar Tuttle, general manager of the TPI plant.

And these jobs are part of a build-out that is gathering force. More than $5 billion in venture capital poured into so-called clean energy technology industries last year in North America and Europe, according to Cleantech, a trade group. In North America, that represented nearly a fifth of all venture capital, up from less than 2 percent in 2000.

“Everybody involved in the wind industry is in a massive hurry to build out capacity,” Mr. Tuttle says. “It will feed into a whole local industry of people making stuff, driving trucks. Manufacturing has been in decline for decades. This is our greatest chance to turn it around. It’s the biggest ray of hope that we’ve got.”

Those rays aren’t touching everyone, though. Hundreds of former Maytag workers remain without jobs, or stuck in positions paying less than half their previous wages. Outside an old union hall, some former Maytaggers share cigarettes and commiserate about the strains of starting over.

Mr. Johnson, the former local president, is jobless. At 45, he has slipped back into a world of financial hardship that he thought he had escaped. His father was a self-employed welder. His mother worked at an overalls factory.

“I grew up in southern Iowa with nothing,” he says. “If somebody got a new car, everybody heard about it.”

When Maytag shut down, his $1,100-a-week paycheck became a $360 unemployment check. He and his wife divorced, turning what once was a two-income household into a no-income household. He sold off his truck, his dining room furniture, his Maytag refrigerator — all in an effort to pay his mortgage. Last winter, he surrendered his house to foreclosure.

Mr. Johnson has applied for more than 220 jobs, he says, from sales positions at Lowe’s to TPI. He has yet to secure an interview. His unemployment benefits ran out in May. He no longer has health insurance. He recently broke a tooth where a filling had been, but he can’t afford to have it fixed.

When his teenage daughter, who lives with him, complained of headaches, he paid $1,500 out of pocket for an M.R.I. The doctor found a cyst on her brain. And how is she doing now? Mr. Johnson freezes at the question. He is a grown man with silver hair, a black Harley-Davidson T-shirt across a barrel chest, and calloused hands that could once bring a comfortable living. He tries to compose himself, but tears burst. “I’m sorry,” he says.

He signed up for a state insurance program for low-income families so his daughter could go to a neurologist.

Although the United States is well behind Europe in manufacturing wind-power gear and solar panels, other American communities are joining Newton’s push, laying the groundwork for large-scale production.

“You have to reinvest in industrial capacity,” says Randy Udall, an energy consultant in Carbondale, Colo. “You use wind to revitalize the Rust Belt. You make steel again. You bring it home. We ought to be planting wind turbines as if they were trees.”

In West Branch, Acciona, a Spanish company, has converted the empty hydraulic pump factory into a plant that makes wind turbines. When the previous plant closed, it wiped out 130 jobs; Acciona has hired 120 people, many of them workers from the old factory.

Steve Jennings, 50, once made $14 an hour at the hydraulic pump factory. When he heard that a wind turbine plant was coming in a mere five miles from his house, he was among the first to apply for a job. Now he’s a team leader, earning nearly $20 an hour — more than he’s ever made. Ordinary line workers make $16 an hour and up.

“It seemed like manufacturing was going away,” he says. “But I think this is here to stay.”

Acciona built its first turbine in Iowa last December and is on track to make 200 this year. Next year, it plans to double production.

For now, Acciona is importing most of its metal parts from Europe. But the company is seeking American suppliers, which could help catalyze increased metalwork in the United States.

“Michigan, Ohio — that’s the Rust Belt,” says Adrian LaTrace, the plant’s general manager. “We could be purchasing these components from those states. We’ve got the attention of the folks in the auto industry. This thing has critical mass.”

In Toledo, the declining auto industry has prompted a retooling. For more than a century, the city has been dominated by glass-making, but the problems of Detroit automakers have softened demand for car windows from its plants. Toledo has lost nearly a third of its manufacturing jobs since 2000.

Now, Toledo is harnessing its glass-making skills to carve out a niche in solar power. At the center of the trend is a huge glass maker, Pilkington, which bought a Toledo company that was born in the 19th century.

Half of Pilkington’s business is in the automotive industry. In the last two years, that business is down 30% in North America. But the solar division, started two years ago, is growing at a 40 percent clip annually.

Nearby, the University of Toledo aims to play the same enabling role in solar power that Stanford played at the dawn of the Internet. It has 15 faculty members researching solar power. By licensing the technologies spawned in its labs, the university encourages its academics to start businesses.

One company started by a professor, Xunlight, is developing thin and flexible solar cells. It has 65 employees and expects to have as many as 150 by the middle of next year.

“It’s a second opportunity,” says an assembly supervisor, Matt McGilvery, one of Xunlight’s early hires. Mr. McGilvery, 50, spent a decade making steel coils for $23 an hour before he was laid off. Xunlight hired him this year. His paycheck has shrunk, he says, declining to get into particulars, but his old-fashioned skills drawing plans by hand are again in demand as Xunlight designs its manufacturing equipment from scratch, and the future seems promising.

“The hope is that two years from now everything is smoking and that envelope will slide across the table,” he says. “The money that people are dumping into this tells me it’s a huge market.”

In Newton, the tidy downtown clustered around a domed courthouse is already showing signs of new life, after the pain of Maytag’s demise.

The owner of Courtyard Floral, Diane Farver, says she saw a steep drop in sales after Maytag left, particularly around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, when she used to run several vanloads a week to the washing machine plant. Times have changed since that decline. When TPI recently dispatched workers to a factory in China for training, the company ordered bouquets for the spouses left at home.

Across the street at NetWork Realty, the broker Dennis Combs says the housing market is starting to stabilize as Maytag jobs are replaced.

“We’ve gone from Maytag, which wasn’t upgrading their antiquated plant, to something that’s cutting-edge technology, something that every politician is screaming this country has to have,” he says.

At Uncle Nancy’s Coffee House, talk of unemployment checks and foreclosures now mixes with job leads and looming investment.

“We’re seeing hope,” says Mr. Allen, the mayor.

The town is hardly done. Kimberly M. Didier, head of the Newton Development Corporation, which helped recruit TPI, is trying to attract turbine manufacturers and providers of raw materials and parts for the wind industry.

“This is in its infancy,” she says. “Automobiles, washer-dryers and other appliances have become commodities in their retirement phase. We’re in the beginning of this. How our economy functions is changing. We built this whole thing around oil, and now we’ve got to replace that.”

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ALOK JHA, The Guardian, October 21, 2008

The United Kingdom now leads the world in generating electricity from offshore wind farms, the government said today as it completed the construction of a farm near the coast off Skegness, Lincolnshire.

The new farm, built by the energy company Centrica, will produce enough power for 130,000 homes, raising the total electricity generated from offshore wind in the UK to 590 megawatts (MW), enough for 300,000 UK homes.

The completion of 194MW of turbines at Lynn and Inner Dowsing means that the UK has overtaken Denmark, which has 423MW of offshore wind turbines.

“Offshore wind is hugely important to help realize the government’s ambition to dramatically increase the amount of energy from renewable sources. Overtaking Denmark is just the start,” said Mike O’Brien, a minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “There are already five more offshore windfarms under construction that will add a further 938MW to our total by the end of next year.”

But despite today’s announcement, the UK is still near the bottom of the European league table when it comes to harnessing renewable energy, campaigners say.

Nick Rau, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy campaigner, said: “The government must stop trying to wriggle out of European green energy targets and put a massive effort into making renewable power the number one source of energy in the UK. The UK has one of the biggest renewable energy potentials in Europe – this must be harnessed to make this country a world leader in tackling climate change.”

Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, was enthusiastic but also urged more government action. “We are now a global leader in a renewable energy technology for the first time ever. Now is the time to step up the effort even further and secure the huge potential for jobs, investment and export revenues that offshore wind has for Britain.”

Greenpeace chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the only downside was that many of the turbines for the UK windfarms were being manufactured abroad. “We need a green new deal for renewable energy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and providing a shot in the arm to the British manufacturing sector. If the government now diverts serious financial and political capital towards this project it will put Britain in pole position to tackle the emerging challenges of the 21st century.”

The UK currently gets 3GW of electricity from wind power, but 80% of that is from onshore farms. On Tuesday, the Carbon Trust detailed its plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the UK. The trust plans to work with major energy companies on a £30m initiative to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10%.

“The UK has an amazing opportunity not just to lead the world but to be the dominant global player,” said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust. “Our research shows that by 2020 the UK market could represent almost half of the global market for offshore wind power. To make that happen it will be critical to improve the current economics of offshore wind power.”

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Keith Johnson, Environmental Capital in WSJ, September 15, 2008

Most of the renewable-energy business is busy fretting about the extension of federal tax credits, which expire at the end of this year. But the real story, it seems, is how clean energy’s biggest historical handicap is coming to be seen as one of its biggest selling points: its predictable cost.

Take offshore wind power, the holy grail of big renewable-energy projects. There’s lots of wind a few miles out at sea; go out far enough, and even Kennedys will stop complaining about eyesores. The U.S. Minerals Management Service, lately notorious for opening other things up, is opening up chunks of the U.S. coastline for wind-farm development.

The problem with offshore wind has always been the cost: The turbines cost more, and installing them and maintaining them costs more than their onshore cousins. That helped torpedo efforts in the U.S. to build offshore wind farms in the past. Or, as the NYT phrased it in its lengthy review of Delaware’s battle to become the first U.S. state to embrace offshore wind with the Bluewater Wind Park:

Offshore marine construction was wildly, painfully expensive — like standing in a cold shower and ripping up stacks of thousand-dollar bills.

How did a cold shower turn into an offshore wind farm blessed by same the local power company that had actively lobbied against it? Two words: energy prices.

From the NYT: “Energy markets went significantly higher — and scarily so, particularly in the last six months,” [Bluewater Wind boss Peter Mandelstam] said. Indeed, oil has skyrocketed, and the price of Appalachian coal has more than doubled this year. Tom Noyes, a Bluewater supporter, blogger, and Wilmington-based financial analyst, says that a year ago, “the numbers that both sides of this debate were throwing around were largely academic. Now, those numbers are visceral.” Against this backdrop of steadily climbing energy prices, Bluewater’s offer of stable-priced electricity — an inflation-adjusted 10 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 25 years — became something that no utility, it seems, could credibly oppose. “A few decision-makers got it early on,” Mandelstam said, “some got it slightly later and [local power company] Delmarva finally got it.”

Wind power is suddenly becoming more attractive because the fuel is free; what makes it expensive is the up-front capital costs of the turbines and wind farm installation. That’s almost the opposite case with power sources like natural gas, where the upfront costs are pretty low, and the fuel bill is the main variable.

At a time of wildly volatile oil, coal, and gas prices around the world, that kind of long-term price predictability is a big advantage. The city of Houston is saving money on its power bill after switching one-quarter of its municipal power needs to fixed-price wind-power contracts.

It worked on Delmarva, too. President Gary Stockbridge told Delaware state authorities one of the main reasons he was able to finally agree to purchase power from the Bluewater wind farm was that ratepayers wouldn’t get stuck with much higher utility bills—which is what Delmarva had initially warned about when it opposed the wind farm.

In just the last two months, though, oil prices have collapsed; crude fell below $100 Monday. So the question for Bluewater and every other embryonic offshore wind farm in the U.S. remains the same: Will fossil fuels stay pricey enough to keep renewable energy attractive, or are fresh subsidies the sector’s only hope?

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 4, 2008

The American Wind Energy Association released today that the U.S. wind industry has surpassed the 20,000-megawatt (MW) installed capacity milestone, achieving in two years what had previously taken more than two decades (the 10,000-MW mark was reached in 2006).  Wind now provides 20,152 MW of electricity generating capacity in the U.S., producing enough electricity to serve 5.3 million American homes or power a fleet of more than 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“Wind energy installations are well ahead of the curve for contributing 20% of the U.S. electric power supply by 2030 as envisioned by the U.S. Department of Energy,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “However, the looming expiration of the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) less than four months from now threatens this progress.  The PTC has been a critical factor in wind’s very rapid growth as a part of the nation’s power portfolio.”  The PTC is currently set to expire at the end of 2008.

Swisher and other wind industry leaders noted the 20,000-MW milestone from Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention is currently being held.  Joining Swisher in Minneapolis were AWEA President Jim Walker, of enXco, as well as officials from other leading companies in the wind industry, including Xcel Energy, Vestas Americas A/S, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, and Horizon Wind Power.

Xcel Energy, the host utility for both the Republican convention and the Democratic National Convention held last week in Denver, is providing sufficient wind-generated electricity from its system to power both events.  A 131-foot wind turbine blade, which has been on display at both conventions, was manufactured by wind turbine maker Vestas at a U.S. blade factory.

The 20,000 MW of wind power installed in the U.S. today can generate as much electricity every year as 28.7 million tons of coal or 90 million barrels of oil.  Wind generation currently displaces 34 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to taking 5.8 million vehicles off the road.  A U.S. Department of Energy study released in May found that wind could provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030.  At that level, wind power would support 500,000 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 140 million vehicles off the road.

The U.S. is now the world leader in wind electricity generation.  While Germany has more generating capacity installed (about 23,000 MW), the U.S. is producing more electricity from wind because of its much stronger winds.   AWEA expects over 7,500 MW of new wind capacity to be added in 2008, expanding America’s wind energy fleet by 45% and bringing total U.S. capacity to some 24,300 MW.

Although 20,000 MW is an important milestone, wind power provides just over 1.5% of the nation’s electricity, far below the potential identified by experts. Still, it is one of the fastest-growing electricity sources today, providing 35% of the total new capacity added in 2007 (second only to natural gas). The U.S. had 1,000 MW of wind power installed by 1985; 2,000 MW installed by 1999; and 5,000 MW by 2003.  Its first 10,000 MW was installed by mid-2006.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report, wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America’s electricity supply over the next two decades.  As an inexhaustible domestic resource, wind strengthens our energy security, improves the quality of the air we breathe, slows climate change, and revitalizes rural communities.

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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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THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times Op-Ed, August 10, 2008

Copenhagen

The Arctic Hotel in Ilulissat, Greenland, is a charming little place on the West Coast, but no one would ever confuse it for a Four Seasons — maybe a One Seasons. But when my wife and I walked back to our room after dinner the other night and turned down our dim hallway, the hall light went on. It was triggered by an energy-saving motion detector. Our toilet even had two different flushing powers depending on — how do I say this delicately — what exactly you’re flushing. A two-gear toilet! I’ve never found any of this at an American hotel. Oh, if only we could be as energy efficient as Greenland!

A day later, I flew back to Denmark. After appointments here in Copenhagen, I was riding in a car back to my hotel at the 6 p.m. rush hour. And boy, you knew it was rush hour because 50% of the traffic in every intersection was bicycles. That is roughly the percentage of Danes who use two-wheelers to go to and from work or school every day here. If I lived in a city that had dedicated bike lanes everywhere, including one to the airport, I’d go to work that way, too. It means less traffic, less pollution and less obesity.

What was most impressive about this day, though, was that it was raining. No matter. The Danes simply donned rain jackets and pants for biking. If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark!

Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)

What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20% of its electricity from wind. America? About 1%.

And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy: “No.” It just forced them to innovate more — like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills here.)

There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had “a positive impact on job creation,” added Hedegaard. “For example, the wind industry — it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark.” In the last 10 years, Denmark’s exports of energy efficiency products have tripled. Energy technology exports rose 8% in 2007 to more than $10.5 billion in 2006, compared with a 2% rise in 2007 for Danish exports as a whole.

“It is one of our fastest-growing export areas,” said Hedegaard. It is one reason that unemployment in Denmark today is 1.6%. In 1973, said Hedegaard, “we got 99% of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.”

Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.

“I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up,” Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income — so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy.”

Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.

Why should you care?

“We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,” said Engel, “and not one out of the U.S.”

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RACHEL THOMSON, The Daily World, August 5, 2008

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a preliminary permit to grant the Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co. the exclusive right to conduct a feasibility study for generating power from wind and wave energy on a 28-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast from Ocean Shores to Grayland over the next three years. The permit, issued August 1, 2008, does not authorize any construction.

The project foresees as many as 90 260-foot tall steel wind turbines, as well as wave energy converters to convert ocean waves and wind into a renewable source of energy and could supply enough energy to power the entire Olympic Peninsula and make Grays Harbor one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the world, according to Burton Hamner, president of Hydrovolts, Inc.—the creator of the Grays Harbor Energy Co. Hamner also said the project has the potential to create numerous jobs within the county because the renewable energy equipment would be manufactured locally.

“The ocean off of Washington has the potential to provide all the electricity needed for the western half of the state by 2025,” Hamner said. “We are leading the investigation how to make this a reality and encourage everyone interested in locally-generated clean power to learn more about the possibilities.”

The feasibility study will seek to find out if the turbines would affect gray whale migration patterns and flight patterns of birds, according to Hamner. Hamner said the study will also examine whether or not the locations of the turbines could limit the areas in which fisherman can fish.

Hamner said a cost for completing the project has not been determined, but the feasibility study could cost upward of $500,000. Funding would come from state and federal grants as well as from the Bonneville Power Administration, he said.

Even after the feasibility study is completed, it would take about four years to begin construction, Hamner said.

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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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AFP, July 29, 2008

MADRID (AFP) — Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa Energia, a sector leader, said on Tuesday its net profits soared during the first-half at a time when record high oil prices are fueling interest in alternative energy sources.

The company posted a comparable net profit of 93 million euros ($146 million US) during the first six months, a 69% increase on a directly comparable basis to the same time last year while pro-form first-half core earnings rose 43% to 235 million euros.

The results do not take into account the activity of Gamesa’s solar energy unit Solar which it sold to US private equity firm First Reserve in February for 261 million euros and the gains made with this operation.

When extraordinary gains from this operation are taken into account, net profit hit 198 million euros, a 314 percent increase over the same time last year, it said in a statement.

Sales rose in the first-half 34% to 1.88 billion euros.

In June the company signed a 6.3-billion-euro ($9.7 billion US) contract with a subsidiary of Spanish electricity generator Iberdrola Renewables to provide turbines for the company’s wind parks in Europe, Mexico and the United States.

Gamesa employs about 3,700 people across Europe, the United States, China and the Dominican Republic.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 9, 2008

Efforts to harness the energy potential of Earth’s ocean winds could soon gain an important new tool: global satellite maps from NASA. Scientists have been creating maps using nearly a decade of data from NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite that reveal ocean areas where winds could produce energy.

The new maps have many potential uses including planning the location of offshore wind farms to convert wind energy into electric energy. The research, published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, was funded by NASA’s Earth Science Division, which works to advance the frontiers of scientific discovery about Earth, its climate and its future.

“Wind energy is environmentally friendly. After the initial energy investment to build and install wind turbines, you don’t burn fossil fuels that emit carbon,” said study lead author Tim Liu, a senior research scientist and QuikSCAT science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Like solar power, wind energy is green energy.”

QuikSCAT, launched in 1999, tracks the speed, direction and power of winds near the ocean surface. Data from QuikSCAT, collected continuously by a specialized microwave radar instrument named SeaWinds, also are used to predict storms and enhance the accuracy of weather forecasts.

Wind energy has the potential to provide 10-15%of future world energy requirements, according to Paul Dimotakis, chief technologist at JPL. If ocean areas with high winds were tapped for wind energy, they could potentially generate 500 to 800 watts of energy per square meter, according to Liu’s research. Dimotakis notes that while this is slightly less than solar energy (which generates about one kilowatt, or 1,000 watts, of energy per square meter), wind power can be converted to electricity more efficiently than solar energy and at a lower cost per watt of electricity produced.

According to Liu, new technology has made floating wind farms in the open ocean possible. A number of wind farms are already in operation worldwide. Ocean wind farms have less environmental impact than onshore wind farms, whose noise tends to disturb sensitive wildlife in their immediate area. Also, winds are generally stronger over the ocean than on land because there is less friction over water to slow the winds down — there are no hills or mountains to block the wind’s path.

Ideally, offshore wind farms should be located in areas where winds blow continuously at high speeds. The new research identifies such areas and offers explanations for the physical mechanisms that produce the high winds.

An example of one such high-wind mechanism is located off the coast of Northern California near Cape Mendocino. The protruding land mass of the cape deflects northerly winds along the California coast, creating a local wind jet that blows year-round. Similar jets are formed from westerly winds blowing around Tasmania, New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego in South America, among other locations. Areas with large-scale, high wind power potential also can be found in regions of the mid-latitudes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where winter storms normally track.

The new QuikSCAT maps, which add to previous generations of QuikSCAT wind atlases, also will be beneficial to the shipping industry by highlighting areas of the ocean where high winds could be hazardous to ships, allowing them to steer clear of these areas.

Scientists use the QuikSCAT data to examine how ocean winds affect weather and climate, by driving ocean currents, mixing ocean waters and affecting the carbon, heat and water interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere. JPL manages QuikSCAT for NASA. For more information about QuikSCAT, visit: http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov .

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 23, 2008

If the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities agrees next month to build offshore wind turbines, then projects covering as much as 40 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean could be built locally over the next several years.

Plans on file in the state BPU office here show most of the proposals favor building the projects in southern New Jersey – anywhere from three to 20 miles offshore, visible from most of the region’s beaches.

The state is seeking to get as much as 350 megawatts of power from the projects. By comparison, the B.L. England power plant in Upper Township produces about 214 megawatts. The proposals are meant to take stress off the grid that gets much of its energy from out of state, while replacing energy sources that emit thousands of tons of pollutants each year.

The Committee includes members from the state BPU, Department of Environmental Protection, NJ Governor’s Office, U.S. Department of Energy and the recently disbanded state Commerce Commission. But NJ officials refused to say who would be making recommendations for the $1 billion project.

While four of the projects would use wind turbines similar to those at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority site, one builder proposed a revolutionary design. Instead of spinning like a pinwheel, New York City’s Environmental Technologies LLC’s windmills would spin like a blender, the multiple long, flat blades rotating around a central pillar inside of an open, boxy enclosure. By placing them somewhere off Seaside Park, Ocean County, the plans say that 225 ‘blenders’ would generate 337.5 megawatts of power. Because they do not have giant spinning arms, each taking up about one acre, whereas traditional wind turbines use about 23 acres.

Three other plans would place wind turbines in sprawling rectangular zones.

Planners seek similar sites off Cape May and Atlantic counties. While the ocean seems limitless, plans show builders are boxed in by constraints that include shipping lanes, flight patterns, transatlantic cables, shipwrecks, fisheries, water depths and proximity to the shore.

The plan by Cape May’s Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey seeks to alleviate fishing concerns. Opposition by fishing groups undercut an unrelated proposal by the Long Island Power Authority.

Cape May’s Fishermen’s Energy wrote they would investigate whether special measures should be taken to conserve fish species. While the structures could overrun some habitat, the company did not expect long-term, negative effects.

The plan would put eight wind turbines about three miles off Absecon Island approximately between the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway and the Margate/Longport border, in hopes of rallying the region behind the project. The application noted the project would add to the Atlantic City skyline.

The second phase would put 66 wind turbines of twice the capacity about seven miles east from the Great Egg Harbor Inlet. They would all be operational in 2014. The plan also calls for creating a pair of nonprofit energy collectives to seek federal funds.

Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint effort by PSEG Renewable Generation and Winergy Power Holdings, would put their farm about 20 miles dead east of Avalon, generating 345.6 megawatts. The 96 turbines would be in an area 3.5 miles by 5.5 miles, but barely visible.

The plan said it could build in water up to 110 feet deep because of groundbreaking technology the company did not share in the public proposal. The company seeks $4 million, with $400,000 for development and $3.6 million for environmental monitoring. The company was one of the few to reveal the overall cost, $1.07 billion.

A fourth plan by Hoboken’s BluewaterWind would put 116 wind turbines 16 miles southeast of Atlantic City, generating 348 megawatts. The project would cover about 40 square miles, but outside of a 33-foot safety zone around the turbines, the firm said there would be no exclusionary zone around them. Like several other plans, it could be operational by the end of 2013. The plan touts the firm’s experience, saying team members helped construct wind turbines that generate 1,120 of the 1,193 megawatts generated worldwide.

It also said it is developing a 450 megawatt wind farm about 11 miles east of Rehoboth, Del., and was the financial advisor and manager of the ACUA’s wind park. The firm seeks $19 million from the state’s Clean Energy Program, paid over five years, based on the electricity delivered to the grid.

The BPU committee is expected to recommend one of the five plans at its Aug. 20 board meeting. The BPU allows groups filing proposals to redact certain sensitive information, typically involving financing, private agreements or aspects that could compromise the company’s financial standing.

Cuts have to be justified using the confidentiality claim. Only one firm, Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, was the only company since March to justify their redactions. BPU Board secretary Kristi Izzo said she would ask the other firms to explain redactions in the coming days.

A final proposal by Bayonne’s Occidental Development & Equities, LLC, said it would generate 160 megawatts after a 578-day project. But the 22-page filing didn’t say how many windmills, how tall or in what arrangement. The company plan mentions two sites, but only specified they would be “off the coast within territorial waters.” The file raised more questions about the company than it answered. The company redacted information about the firm’s expertise. Satellite photos seem to indicate the company’s mailing address was in a Bayonne, Hudson County, residential neighborhood, and its state incorporation records do not exist.

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WickenLocal.com via Ocean Energy Council News, July 23, 2008

Consultants for the Army Corps of Engineers are conducting a study at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal to determine if it’s feasible to tap the famous waterway’s hydro-power.

The idea to harness rapid tidal flow to take advantage of alternative and renewable energy possibilities is not new. It’s been studied before – before the price of a barrel of oil topped the $145 mark and government entities started worrying about fuel-line items becoming budget busters.

Six years ago, a hydro project was envisioned near the railroad bridge in Buzzards Bay, but the size of the equipment needed was thought to be so big it would prove a hindrance to Canal navigation.

Now, however, science and technology have advanced and the Canal still produces a huge amount of energy (except for its slack-tide periods each day). Capturing that energy and harnessing it are not a premiere federal priority, but the idea has merit, given those continually rising energy costs.

The new analysis of the Canal’s tidal action as a form of renewal energy may no longer stretch the edges of technological fascination.

Bourne’s Alternative Energy Study Committee says the previous study of what the Canal could do to reduce electric bills was a bust simply because the envisioned equipment at that point could not handle tidal change. The project would also have blocked marine navigation.

Committee Vice-Chairman Robert Schofield said times have changed, however, and the Corps has now retained a contractor to “test equipment outside the navigable channel” at the Canal’s east end near the Visitor’s Center at the Sandwich Bulkhead.

“They’re trying something, but it doesn’t sound too opportunistic,” Schofield said last month. “The Corps’ first job is making sure the Canal is always navigable to marine traffic. But the Corps is also open to new ideas. If something happens on this, it would have to be outside that channel. But, as I say, they’re considering ideas. They’re open to them.”

Another committee member, Thomas Gray Curtis Jr., said “there’s a huge amount of energy there. It’s a shame it hasn’t been taken advantage of.”

The committee agrees on one point, even this immense tidal energy would not produce power every hour of every day. But, they say, it has more capacity than wind.

“You’d almost need a sluice way to cap the flow,” committee member Paul O’Keefe said.

Then there’s the argument that alternative energy projects beg basic questions: Can they stand on their own? Will they disrupt operations or missions? Will neighbors protest? And will they be dependent on subsidies, grants and gifts?

Difficulties aside, the study committee says the Corps’ interest in harnessing alternative energy from its own backyard is a step in the right direction, especially in light of the nation’s oil shock.

“They’re just as interested as everyone else in reducing their energy costs,” O’Keefe said of the federal agency headquartered on Taylors Point.

There is some concern as to whether alternative energy being harnessed from the Canal would be reliable. No energy supply is 100% reliable. The ethanol industry, for instance, is being buffeted by Midwest flooding at a time when the economy is increasingly reliant on corn for fuel.

The Corps, meanwhile, is reviewing the possibility of partnering with the Bourne Recreation Authority and Massachusetts Maritime Academy to construct a second wind-turbine at Mass. Maritime.

The current turbine is situated next to Commodore Hendy Field on the west side of the academy’s campus. The second might be built in shallow water beyond the bow of the training ship Enterprise.

This cooperative governmental venture, however, is still in the nascent discussion and basic-review stages. But if a turbine is built, it might serve to further reduce the cost of energy consumption at Mass. Maritime, Scenic Park, the Gallo Ice Arena and the extensive Corps lighting complex along both sides of the Canal.

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EuroWeekly News, July 24, 2008

The results of a study by business analysts DBK, which have just been released, show that the use of renewable energy resources is increasing rapidly here in Spain.

The energy generated from wind in 2007 rose to 13.8 Megawatts, with a projected increase to15.9 MW by the end of the year. The power generated from solar energy in 2007 totaled 623 MW, with a projection of 1,200 MW, an almost 100% increase, by the end of this year. A town of 10,000 people needs around 6.5 MW.

At the end of 2007, there were 574 wind farms in Spain and the number of solar generation installations has risen form just five at the end of the last decade to 19,000 at the end of last year, meaning the government’s objectives for power generated from the sun by 2010, have already been reached. Power generation from renewable sources formed a little over 10% of the electricity sold in Spain in 2007. Wind generated electricity sales were worth 2.100 million euros and those from solar energy came to 209 million euros – four times the amount made the previous year – and the projection for 2008 rises to 470 million euros.

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ScienceDaily, July 16, 2008

Rock Port Missouri, with a population of just over 1,300 residents, has announced that it is the first 100% wind powered community in the United States. Four wind turbines supply all the electricity for the small town.

Rock Port’s 100% wind power status is due to four wind turbines located on agricultural lands within the city limits of Rock Port (Atchison County). The city of Rock Port uses approximately 13 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. It is predicted that these four turbines will produce 16 million kilowatt hours each year.

Excess wind generated electricity not used by Rock Port homes and businesses is expected to be move onto the transmission lines to be purchased by the Missouri Joint Municipal Utilities for use in other areas.

University of Missouri Extension specialists say that there are excellent opportunities for sustainable wind power in northwest Missouri.

There are currently 24 wind turbines in Atchison County, 24 in Nodaway County and 27 in Gentry County. MU Extension specialists say the wind farms will bring in more than $1.1 million annually in county real estate taxes, to be paid by Wind Capital Group, a wind energy developer based in St. Louis.

“This is a unique situation because in rural areas it is quite uncommon to have this increase in taxation revenues,” said Jerry Baker, MU Extension community development specialist.

The alternative-energy source also benefits landowners, who can make anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 leasing part of their property for wind turbines.

Other wind energy companies are looking at possible sites in northwest Missouri, Baker said.

A map published by the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that northwest Missouri has the state’s highest concentration of wind resources and contains a number of locations potentially suitable for utility-scale wind development.

“We’re farming the wind, which is something that we have up here,” Crawford said. “The payback on a per-acre basis is generally quite good when compared to a lot of other crops, and it’s as simple as getting a cup of coffee and watching the blades spin.”

“It’s a savings for the community in general, savings for the rural electric companies, and it does provide electricity service over at least a 20-year time period, which is the anticipated life of these turbines,” Baker said.

Baker said the wind turbines attract visitors from all over, adding tourism revenue to the list of benefits.

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DAVID LAZARUS, The Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2008

When a guy heavily invested in natural gas and wind power says the answer to our energy woes is natural gas and wind power, it’s hard not to smirk at his Texas-size gumption.

But let’s not be hasty.

Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens unveiled a plan Tuesday to wean the United States from its dependence on foreign oil. By shifting to natural gas as a transportation fuel and increasing our reliance on wind power, he said, we could cut oil imports by as much as 38%.

“Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy,” Pickens said in a statement. “It is the single biggest problem facing America today.”

He called the country’s oil purchases from places like Saudi Arabia “the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, sending billions of our dollars overseas to buy . . . a commodity that lasts 90 days until burned in our gas tanks.”

Pickens, a legendary oilman, said his plan could change things within five to 10 years “if we can get Congress and the administration to act quickly.”

That’s a big if. Another big if is getting the auto industry to play ball by manufacturing more vehicles that run on natural gas instead of gasoline. And yet another wild card is whether the oil industry would support new energy priorities.

“These are big question marks,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign and former head of the Sierra Club’s global warming program. “There are a lot of things out of Mr. Pickens’ control.”

The so-called Pickens Plan would first entail a hefty investment — more than $1 trillion — in wind farms on an unusually breezy stretch of countryside extending from Texas to North Dakota.

The wind power would replace the natural gas now used by power plants to generate electricity. The country currently gets about 22% of its juice from natural gas.

All that freed-up natural gas, in turn, would be applied to fueling millions of vehicles that now run on gasoline but would be converted — it’s not clear how, or on whose dime — to run instead on compressed natural gas.

I couldn’t reach Pickens to ask him these questions. But he told the Associated Press that he wasn’t guided by personal gain. “I’m doing it for America,” he said.

Well, that’s heartening. But the fact remains that he and his business partners are investing an estimated $12 billion to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas. That facility, needless to say, would play a pivotal role in meeting the nation’s newfound demand for wind power.

Meanwhile, Pickens’ more-than-$4-billion hedge fund, BP Capital, is invested in a variety of natural gas companies. He also sits on the board of Clean Energy Fuels Corp., North America’s largest provider of vehicular natural gas.

“Mr. Pickens is a very intelligent man,” said Don Martin, vice president of Enmark Energy, a Texas oil and natural gas company. “People in the oil and natural gas business are rich for a reason. They know where the money is.”

But Becker at the Safe Climate Campaign said he didn’t begrudge Pickens’ turning a buck with the Pickens Plan.

“If he can find a way to make money and help the planet, I don’t have a problem with that,” Becker said.

However, he said, natural gas may not be an easy substitute for oil. Natural gas prices have been climbing in tandem with oil prices and are up 30% this year. Increased demand by the United States would push global natural gas prices higher, Becker said, thus mitigating any relief consumers might initially feel at the pump.

Moreover, we’d still have to import more than a third of our oil — assuming everything went according to plan — and would probably end up importing a greater share of natural gas as well.

Our friends in Russia are the leading natural gas purveyors, accounting for almost 15% of world exports.

“We really need to kick the tires on this and see what works,” Becker said.

For his part, Pickens said he’d be spending $58 million on a multimedia campaign designed to raise awareness of the country’s energy troubles and his plan for fixing them.

He’ll also try to prod the leading presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, to pay more attention to the issue.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis to awaken us from our slumber,” Pickens said. “But once aroused, the American people can accomplish miracles.”

That some may get even richer in the process shouldn’t necessarily deter us from trying.

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TERRENCE DOPP, Bloomberg.com, May 9, 2008

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine wants his state to be the first in the U.S. Northeast to build an electricity-generating wind farm off the Atlantic coast.

Five companies are vying for $19 million in grants and the right to put as many as 200 windmills within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the Jersey Shore. The state plans to select a winner in August, said Lance Miller, chief of policy and planning for the Board of Public Utilities.

Offshore wind would help Corzine fulfill a plan for how the state should receive and use its energy. A draft of the proposal, released in April, calls for the state to get almost a quarter of its power from so-called renewable sources such as solar panels by 2020, including 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind.

“There’s a clear need to produce as much carbon-free energy as possible. If we’re successful, this is going to be replicated” elsewhere, Corzine said during an interview in his Statehouse office. “We have a real need that’s driving our interests.”

The U.S. wind energy industry installed more than 5,000 megawatts in 2007, increasing its total generating capacity by 45 percent to more than 16,800 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Texas has the most wind power capacity, followed by California and Minnesota.

More densely populated areas don’t have the land to build large wind farms and are looking off coast. The U.S. has no operating offshore wind farms. New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts are among Northeast states considering projects.

Economic, Environmental Impact

Corzine, a first-term Democrat, says the state will balance the desire to move ahead on a timely basis, with the need for “thoughtful” economic and environmental studies. The state will try to avoid negative impacts on Jersey Shore tourism and fishing and will seek to ensure property values remain unharmed by the project, he said.

“This is going to be on balance positive for the environment,” Corzine, 61, said. “A lot of people are trying to do what I would say are back-of-the-envelope analyses, but we’re trying to do something that is more in-depth.”

A plan to build a wind farm off the coast of New York’s Long Island was scrapped last year because of its cost. In Massachusetts, a proposal to put wind turbines off the shores of Cape Cod has met with opposition from residents who say it will ruin their views.

The Massachusetts plan to build 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet high, would also threaten the habitat of the area’s endangered terns and right whales, said Glenn Wattley, head of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

“There is this euphoria around wind and solar power. It’s all good, but some of these offshore wind projects have a lot more issues than people let on,” Wattley said.

‘Tremendous Potential’

New Jersey, the most densely populated U.S. state, has installed 11 onshore wind turbines since 2001, including a facility in Atlantic City. Offshore wind energy “offers tremendous potential, while onshore wind energy resources appear to be limited,” the state said in its draft energy master plan.

State energy regulators last year solicited offers from companies to develop offshore wind with a capacity of 350 megawatts, enough to power 110,000 homes, Miller said.

The companies that submitted proposals are the renewable generation division of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., owner of the state’s largest utility, and partner Winergy Power Holdings LLC; Environmental Technologies LLC; Occidental Development & Equities LLC; Babcock & Brown Ltd.’s Bluewater Wind and Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey LL.C.

“We want to guide this process,” said Rhonda Jackson, director of research and communications for Fishermen’s Energy, a Cape May-based group of commercial fishermen. “People realize what is happening in the world and the timing is right for this. We really have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

State Help

The subsidies and promise of state help in overcoming public opposition make New Jersey more attractive as a potential place to build a wind power facility, said Anne Hoskins, Public Service president of federal affairs and policy. The company’s proposal calls for placing 96 turbines 16 miles offshore.

“There’s really not a lot of land to put wind turbines on” in New Jersey, Hoskins said. “As we’ve seen in other states, there has been some opposition to wind, and it takes a lot of resources to overcome that.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the state chapter of the environmental group Sierra Club, said wind is a plentiful source of renewable energy as the state and nation look to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He said the turbines have advanced since early days, when migratory birds were killed by rotors, and finding a way to build the offshore facilities is necessary to reduce the demand for fossil fuel-burning power plants.

“The answer is going to be a series of cheaper and safer alternatives,” Tittel said. “The way we’re going to meet our energy demand over the next 20 years is through a mix.”

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RedOrbit.com, July 8, 2008

Spanish clean energy firm Iberdrola Renovables and Bancaja have announced their participation in the wind energy plan for the region of Valencia, under the auspices of the regional government, in a bid to increase power generation in the province of Castellon.

Both companies suggested their proposal through a newly created company called Sistemas Energeticos de Levante, which is jointly owned by the renewable energy subsidiary of the Iberdrola Group with a 60% share, and Bancaja with a 40% share.

The project presented to the Direccion General de Energia by the joint venture company involves the installation of 304MW of power in the province of Castellon, distributed over 152 wind turbines.

In addition, Sistemas Energeticos de Levante has put forward various initiatives that would accompany the installation of the new wind turbines, such as the construction of a solar power plant in Valencia, or the commitment that at least 55% of the providers used for civil works are companies from the region.

Initiatives proposed by Iberdrola Renovables and Bancaja include the creation of an R&D program, pending agreement with the regional government of Valencia, and the adoption of corrective measures at a rural level established by the relevant environmental impact studies.

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PeakOil.com, July 8, 2008

Sweetwater, Texas — Get ready, America, T. Boone Pickens is coming to your living room.

The legendary Texas oilman, corporate raider, shareholder-rights crusader, philanthropist and deep-pocketed moneyman for conservative politicians and causes, wants to drive the United States political and economic agenda.

“We’re paying $700 billion a year for foreign oil. It’s breaking us as a nation, and I want to elevate that question to the presidential debate, to make it the Number One Issue of the campaign this year,” Pickens says.

Today, Pickens takes the wraps off what he’s calling the Pickens Plan for cutting the United States’ demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade. To promote it, he is bankrolling what his aides say will be the biggest public policy ad campaign ever. You’ll find his plan at www.pickensplan.com.

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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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MendoCoastCurrent, June 13, 2008

Iberdrola Renewables and Gamesa Energia have signed the largest turbine supply contract ever in the wind power industry representing a total capacity of 4,500 megawatts (MW), for delivery between 2010 and 2012. The investment for wind power projects to which the turbines will be assigned is approximately €6.3 billion, a figure that includes the turbines and other costs such as transport, civil works and interconnections, both those at the wind farms themselves and to the grid.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iberdola will assign the turbines to its wind power projects in Spain, the rest of Europe, the United States and Mexico. The contract covers installation and startup of the turbines, as well as operational services and maintenance during the life of the guarantee.

As a result of this important agreement, Iberdola will be able to meet its turbine supply needs during the coming years for its wind power project portfolio, which currently stands at 43,280 MW, not including projects to be incorporated from Gamesa, and thereby avoid one of the major uncertainties in this business by assuring the installation of a significant portion of its projects for the medium term. More than 70% of its requirements will thus be met up to 2012.

The dimensión of this contract, the largest turbine supply agreement ever signed, has enabled the Company to achieve optimum pricing and conditions. It follows another signed with the same company in 2006 for 2,700 MW in capacity, and those signed recently by Iberdrola with General Electric (300 MW), Mitsubishi (300 MW), Suzlon Wind Energy Corporation (700 MW) and Ecotècnia (310 MW).

Strategic Agreement to Develop Wind Farms

Iberdrola Renewables and Gamesa Energía have also signed a strategic agreement to pool their businesses in promotion, development and exploitation of wind farms in Spain and continental Europe, which will increase its potential for future development and growth. For this purpose, they are creating two joint companies, one in Spain and the other abroad, to which they will assign the businesses of promotion, development and exploitation in those territories from the closing of the agreement.

In Spain, Iberdrola will hold 77% of the new company operating there and Gamesa 23%, while in the other international company the shareholdings will be 76% and 24%, respectively.

The strategic agreement, subject to the corresponding approvals from the competition authorities, establishes that Gamesa can increase its shareholding in the Spanish company up to 32% in relation to the number of additional megawatts that correspond to new wind farms adjudicated to it after the agreement takes effect.

Iberdrola and Gamesa have agreed to not sell their stakes before 31 December 2010, and from 1 January 2011, through a mechanism of matching options, Iberdrola will have the option to buy from Gamesa Energía its shareholding in the joint companies envisaged under the agreement and Gamesa Energía can sell its stake in these companies Iberdrola.

In the event that Iberdrola decides to sell its total shareholding in any of the companies from 1 January 2011, the Company has granted Gamesa Energía a joint transmission right to third parties (tag along) and a first option right, subject to certain conditions.

At the same time, the Company will within one month buy Gamesa’s wind power projects in the United Kingdom, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, with a total capacity of 900 MW, for approximately €65 million.

This agreement reflects the two companies’ interest in jointly developing wind power projects, given their experience and know-how in the sector and the advantages of pooling their respective businesses. The complementary nature of their businesses will favour greater creation of value for shareholders of the two companies.

The goal of this agreement is to bring together the two world leaders in wind farm development and consolidate their positioning in existing markets and in those identified in the strategic alliance. Iberdrola will be able to enter new markets where established businesses exist, minimizing the risks relating to geographical diversification, maximizing value creation and achieving economies of scale.

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Summary:

Audubon strongly supports properly-sited wind power as a clean alternative energy source that reduces the threat of global warming. Wind power facilities should be planned, sited and operated to minimize negative impacts on bird and wildlife populations.

Rationale:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has clearly stated that the impacts of climate change are here now and will get worse. Scientists have found that climate change has already affected half of the world’s wild species’ breeding, distribution, abundance and survival rates. By mid-century, the IPCC predicts that climate change may contribute to the extinction of 20-30% of all species on earth.

In order to prevent species extinctions and other catastrophic impacts of climate change, scientists say we must reduce global warming emissions by at least 80% by 2050. Reducing pollution from fossil fuels to this degree will require rapidly expanding energy and fuel efficiency, renewable energy and alternative fuels, and changes in land use, agriculture, and transportation. To avoid catastrophe, we need to do all of these.

Wind power is an important part of the strategy to combat global warming. Wind power is currently the most economically competitive form of renewable energy. It provides nearly 15,000 megawatts of power in the United States, enough power for more than 3 million households, and could provide up to 20% of the country’s electricity needs. Every megawatt-hour produced by wind energy avoids an average of 1,220 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. If the United States obtains 20% of its electricity from wind power by 2020, it will reduce global warming emissions equivalent to taking 71 million cars off the road or planting 104 million acres of trees. Expanding wind power instead of fossil fuels also avoids the wildlife and human health impacts of oil and gas drilling, coal mining and fossil fuel burning.

Protecting Birds and Wildlife:

While Audubon strongly supports wind power and recognizes it will not be without some impact, production and transmission facilities must be planned, sited and operated in concert with other actions needed to minimize and mitigate their impacts on birds and other wildlife populations. Several federal and state laws require this and the long-term sustainability of the wind industry depends on it. Wind power facilities impact birds from direct collisions with turbines and related facilities, such as power lines. Wind power facilities can also degrade or destroy habitat, cause disturbance and displacement, and disrupt important ecological links. These impacts can be avoided or significantly reduced, however, with proper siting, operation and mitigation.

Audubon supports the adoption of federal and state guidelines on the study, siting, operation and mitigation of wind power. Guidelines should provide developers, permitting agencies and conservation groups with the legal, technical and practical steps needed to minimize impacts on birds and other wildlife. Guidelines should provide the following essential elements:

  • Minimum pre-permitting study requirements and guidance on study methods, frequency and acceptable data sources to ensure that wind power is sited in appropriate locations
  • Clearly delineated siting criteria that designate areas where wind power should not be allowed, such as Important Bird Areas, major migratory corridors, wilderness areas, national parks, wildlife refuges, and other sensitive habitat such as wetlands and riparian corridors
  • Clearly defined monitoring and mitigation requirements in permits, with periodic reviews and requirements for adaptive management if impacts significantly exceed levels allowed by permit
  • Guidance on cumulative population impacts assessment and mitigation.

Audubon also encourages wind developers and permitting agencies to consult with wildlife experts, including Audubon staff and local chapters, to help inform study and siting decisions.

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JOHN VIDAL, The Guardian, June 6, 2008

From a distance the bizarre structures sprouting from the high Alentejo plain in eastern Portugal resemble a field of mechanical sunflowers. Each of the 2,520 giant solar panels is the size of a house and they are as technically sophisticated as a car. Their reflective heads tilt to the sky at a permanent 45 degrees as they track the sun through 240 degrees every day.

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm, generating electricity straight from sunlight, is taking shape near Moura, a small town in a thinly populated and impoverished region which boasts the most sunshine per square metre a year in Europe.

When fully commissioned later this year, the £250m farm set on abandoned state-owned land will be twice the size of any other similar project in the world, covering an area nearly twice the size of London’s Hyde park. It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.

Portugal, without its own oil, coal or gas and with no expertise in nuclear power, is pitching to lead Europe’s clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewables. Its intention, the economics minister, Manuel Pinho, said, is to wean itself off oil and within a decade set up a low carbon economy in response to high oil prices and climate change.

“We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas,” said Pinho. “What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.”

He expects Portugal to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This means lifting its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain’s target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Having passed its target for 2010 it could soon top the EU renewables league.

In less than three years, Portugal has trebled its hydropower capacity, quadrupled its wind power, and is investing in flagship wave and photovoltaic plants. Encouraged by long-term guarantees of prices by the state, and not delayed by planning laws or government indecision, it has proved a success. Firms are expected to invest £10bn in renewables by 2012 and up to £100bn by 2020.

However, Portugal says it wants to develop a renewables industry to rival Denmark or Japan. When the government invited companies for tenders to supply wind, solar and wave power, it demanded they work with manufacturing companies to establish clusters of industries.

This is a great success, say regional governments. In northern Portugal, where the world’s biggest wind farm, with more than 130 turbines, is now being strung across the mountainous Spanish border, a German firm employs more than 1,200 people building 600 40-metre-long fibreglass wind turbine blades a year.

The turbines are earmarked for Portuguese farms first, but orders are being taken from Britain and other countries. Half the workforce are women who once worked in the declining textile industry.

It is Portuguese plans for wave power that are prompting the most interest in Europe. The world’s first commercial wave farm is being assembled near Porto. Three “sea snakes”, developed by the Edinburgh-based company Pelamis, will shortly be towed out to sea and will start pumping modest amounts of electricity into the grid later this year.

It is the start of a potentially giant global industry with Portuguese firm Enersis planning to invest more than £1bn in a series of farms that together would power 450,000 homes.

Pinho dismisses nuclear power. “When you have a programme like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the UK is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important.

“Countries that do not invest in renewables will pay a high price in future. The cost of inaction is very high indeed. The perception that renewable energy is very expensive is changing every day as the oil price goes up.”

He added: “Energy and environment are the biggest challenge of our generation. We need to develop a low-carbon model for the world economy. The present situation is dangerous.”

EU Renewable League

Top

  • Sweden 2005 39.8%, target by 2020 49%
  • Latvia 34.9%, target 42%
  • Finland 28.5%, target 38%
  • Austria 23.3%, target 34%
  • Portugal 20.5%, target 31%

Bottom

  • Cyprus 2.9%, target by 2020 13%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Ireland 3.1%, target 16%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Belgium 2.2%, target 13%
  • UK 1.3%, target 15%

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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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NINA LARSON, Agence France Presse, May 13, 2008

How to keep the lights on when all is still and the local windmill won’t budge? A small Norwegian island testing a way to store wind-generated energy for calm days may have found the answer.

The tiny, windswept island of Utsira, situated off Norway’s southwestern coast, is home to what is said to be the world’s first full-scale system for cleanly transforming surplus wind power into hydrogen.

Perched atop a 40-metre-high wind turbine on a perfectly windstill day, technician Inge Linghammer explains that at times like this or on days when the gales whipping the unsheltered island get too strong the windmill shuts down and stops pumping out power.

“You need to have back-up power when this happens,” he says, nodding towards the motionless blades.

On a good day, the island’s two wind turbines, planted on a small hill overlooking several red-painted wooden houses, produce more energy than the 210 people living here can use.

When they are down however, most of Utsira, which measures only six square kilometres, is furnished with electricity from the mainland.

But 10 households receive clean, wind-generated electricity regardless of the weather conditions, thanks to a pilot project launched here in July, 2004 making it possible to store wind power by transforming it into hydrogen.

Surplus wind-generated energy is passed through water and, using electrolysis, the hydrogen atoms are separated from the oxygen atoms that make up water molecules.

The hydrogen is then compressed and stored in a container that can hold enough hydrogen gas to cover the energy needs of the 10 households for two windless days.

“Utsira has more than enough wind power to be self-sustained … but the problem arises on a day like today when there is not enough wind,” explains Halgeir Oeya, who heads up the hydrogen technology unit at Norwegian energy giant StatoilHydro, which is running the project.

“This system allows us to deliver power with expected quality and reliability,” he says, standing next to the large metal electrolyser box baking in the spring sun.

Combining renewable energy and hydrogen, he says, makes most sense in secluded areas like the numerous islands lining the European coast or in remote Australian communities, which until now have been heavily dependent on carbon dioxide-spewing diesel fuel provided by a constant flow of truck convoys.

Islands like Utsira have long been considered ideal laboratories for renewable energy due to their total dependence on outside energy supplies and their access to powerful wind energy.

Oeya boasts that the people participating in the Utsira test project have no restrictions on how they use power, switching on the lights, dishwashers, television sets and stereos without a thought to how the wind is blowing.

And amid growing alarm over greenhouse gas-promoted global warming, they can do so with a clean conscience, he says, pointing out that “the only emission is oxygen.”

Producing and storing energy this way however is still, nearly four years after testing began, far more expensive than the hydraulic power produced on Norway’s mainland.

StatoilHydro has no intention of building up the system to compete with large-scale energy production, but even making it competitive in the small, remote communities far off the grid that make up its target market remains years off.

“This is not a commercial project as it stands,” Oeya acknowledges.

“We must have a bigger scale in order to compete … and this will take a number of years,” he says.

Utsira mayor Jarle Nilsen is nonetheless ecstatic about the system and its effects on his small island community.

“This is a fantastic project that has been good for Utsira,” he says, pointing out that initial concerns about noise levels and birds getting caught in the turbines had been laid to rest.

“We haven’t found a single dead bird,” he says.

Most importantly, the system was helping nudge his Utsira towards its goal of zero emissions within the next decade and had become a major tourist attraction.

“The tourists go over to the lighthouse first, but then they go to look at our windmills. They want to see the world’s first full scale wind and hydrogen project in action,” he says proudly.

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JENNIFER YOUSFI, Money Morning on Seeking Alpha, May 16, 2008

T. Boone Pickens made his fortune in oil. But now the Dallas oilman and famed former corporate raider is betting $2 billion that he can have the same success with a new source of energy – wind.

Pickens’ Mesa Power LLP yesterday (05/14/08) unveiled the first phase of an eventual $10 billion alternative energy project that has the potential to become the world’s largest wind farm.

“You find an oilfield, it peaks and starts declining, and you’ve got to find another one to replace it,” says Pickens. “It can drive you crazy. With wind, there’s no decline curve.”

Mesa Power will purchase 667 wind turbines from General Electric Co. Each turbine can produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The first phase of the project will produce 1,000 megawatts, enough energy to power 300,000 homes. GE will begin delivering the turbines in 2010, and current plans call for the project to start producing power in 2011.

“T. Boone Pickens’ commitment underscores the ability of wind technology to help meet the country’s need for diverse sources of energy,” said Jeffrey R. Immelt, GE’s chairman and CEO. “As America’s demand for energy escalates, it is clear that wind can and will play a bigger part in meeting that need. We’re excited to partner with an energy visionary like T. Boone Pickens to bring our wind technology to the marketplace.”

Ultimately, Mesa Power plans to have enough turbines to produce 4,000 megawatts of energy, the overall project is expected to cost $10 billion and be completed in 2014.

Mesa Power has leased sparsely populated land in the Texas panhandle, where the wind often blows during daylight hours when energy needs are highest. Texas’ Competitive Renewable Energy Zones [CREZ] transmission lines will deliver what Pickens hopes will be “cost effective and reliable electricity generated by renewable energy power projects.”

“We have had a great response to this project,” Pickens said. “We are making Pampa the wind capital of the world. It’s clear that landowners and local officials understand the economic benefits that this renewable energy can bring not only to landowners who are involved with the project, but also in revitalizing an area that has struggled in recent years.”

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JIM LANDERS, The Dallas Morning News, April 18, 2008

WASHINGTON – Dallas energy magnate T. Boone Pickens said Thursday that he plans to execute contracts as early as next week for $1.5 billion in wind turbines across four Panhandle counties to generate power for North Texas.

Mr. Pickens said he also hopes to start acquisition in May for a right-of-way to transmit the power and large volumes of aquifer water to the Dallas area from ranch and farming land around Pampa.

Mesa Power LLC’s wind and water project would spread wind turbines over 200,000 acres and deliver enough water to the Dallas area to fill a pipeline 9 feet in diameter. Mesa plans to build an electricity transmission line for the project with its own funds, spokesman Jay Rosser said.

Pickens, speaking at Georgetown University, warned a group of about 75 students and faculty members that oil and natural gas prices would continue to increase as long as global demand exceeds supply. “The price will come up, and the price will eventually have to kill demand,” he said.

Pickens heads two investment funds that deal in oil and natural gas. Earnings were down in the first quarter 21 percent compared with last year, he said, because he had made a mistake in anticipating that oil prices would fall.

Pickens called Mesa’s power and water proposal in Roberts, Gray, Hemphill and Wheeler counties “the biggest project in the world,” with a combined cost of $13 billion. He said Mesa expects to produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity by 2011 and 4,000 megawatts once the project is finished in 2014.

A $1.5 billion contract for wind turbines expected in May would cover the first 1,000 megawatts, he said. Mesa also hopes to sell 200,000 acre-feet of water to North Texas from the Ogallala Aquifer beneath the same four counties.

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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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TOM BERGIN, Reuters UK, May 14, 2008

London – Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) will build the world’s largest offshore wind farm and has awarded $3 billion (1.5 billion pounds) in contracts to U.S. engineer Fluor and Germany’s Siemens.

Despite industry doubts about the viability of offshore wind SSE said on Wednesday it would build the farm off the east coast. Work would begin on the 504 megawatt Greater Gabbard project shortly and power generation would start in 2011.

The utility added it had bought Texas-based Fluor’s 50% stake in the project for 40 million pounds.

Earlier this month Royal Dutch Shell said it wanted to sell its stake in a planned 1,000 MW British offshore wind farm project called London Array, raising doubts as to whether that project would be built.

London Array partner E.ON, the German utility, acknowledged that rising steel costs and a tight market for turbines had made the economics of the project challenging, despite government incentives for CO2-free generation.

Falling turbine sales in the first quarter at the world’s biggest turbine maker, Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S, added to fears that a boom in wind energy in recent years — driven by fears of climate change — may be cooling.

However, SSE spokesman Justyn Smith said that while rising costs were a feature of the wind industry the utility was confident Great Gabbard would “meet our rigorous investment criteria”.

Fluor will build the wind farm and the company said in a statement the contract was worth $1.8 billion.

Europe’s biggest engineering company Siemens will provide and service the 140 turbines to be installed. The Munich-based company said it would be paid 800 million euros (636 million pounds).

The British government, which criticised Shell’s decision to exit London Array, welcomed SSE’s announcement.

“The massive potential of the UK shoreline coupled with the right market conditions mean the UK is one of the most attractive places in the world to invest in offshore technology,” Business Minister John Hutton said.

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LEWIS PAGE, The Register, May 1, 2008

Oil giant Shell has pulled out of the world’s biggest wind farm project, in a move which has cast doubt over the scheme’s future. The £2bn London Array, intended to be built in the Thames Estuary, will need to find a new backer in order to proceed.

For the London Array Project, Shell was partnered with UK power operator E.ON and Dong Energy, the firm behind much of the substantial Danish wind power base. E.ON chief Paul Golby has suggested that Shell’s pullout could torpedo the scheme. “Shell has introduced a new element of risk into the project which will need to be assessed,” said Golby. “The current economics of the project are marginal at best,” he added, citing steel costs and supply bottlenecks – and this despite the fact the UK government renewable energy quota system is currently said to be offering a bonanza for wind power operators.

Offshore wind farm projects like the London Array are thought by renewables advocates to be the main answer to the UK’s energy needs. They could allow the construction of taller windmills than would be practical ashore; and would potentially be able to reap the benefit of more predictable winds, less affected by terrain and surface phenomena.

The London Array would be the biggest ever, filling the channel in the outer Thames Estuary between the Kentish Knock and Long Sands banks with up to 341 turbines. This is one of the few areas of the estuary where it wouldn’t be in the middle of a heavily used shipping lane, though looking at typical vessel movement in the immediate area you’d have to say there’s still some risk of collisions.

When fully operational, it would make a substantial contribution to the UK Government’s renewable energy target of providing 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010… it is expected that the project would represent nearly 10 per cent of this target. The entire Array would generate one per cent of the UK’s electricity. Wind farm planners like to describe their capacity in terms of maximum possible output, assuming all turbines spinning at best speed – this is the 1,000 megawatts referred to above.

In reality, the wind is seldom blowing at just the right speed. Sometimes the turbines stop altogether, due to flat calms or strong gales; mostly they run at much less than max output. The Array, on average the project would put out 3,100 gigawatt-hours per annum, equating to average output of 354 megawatts rather than 1,000. The London Array at full power could have delivered 0.88 per cent of that; on current trends, by the time it’s built you’d be looking at 0.77 or so.

Still, it sounds better to say “we will deliver nearly 10 per cent of the government’s target” than “we will deliver a fraction of a percentage point of the UK’s electricity”.

And electricity is just one of the ways we use energy. There’s also transport fuel, gas, heating oil, etc. The UK actually used a total of 2,700 terawatt hours of energy in 2006. The conversions between tons of oil and gigawatt-hours are at the back.) That’s a ballpark figure for how much we’d need in order to switch to electric or hydrogen transport, stop using gas heating, to generally stop emitting carbon and be ready for the inevitable post-fossil-energy future.

In other words, the mighty London Array, fully operational, would deliver roughly a thousandth of Blighty’s energy needs. You can see why Shell doesn’t view it as a critical part of its future business.

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BBC, May 8, 2008

Centrica, one of the UK’s biggest energy generators, has warned that the prospect of making money from wind farms is looking “marginal”.

The company says that the rising cost of off-shore wind farms could end up ruining the government’s renewable energy targets. The comments come a week after Shell withdrew from a project that was set to become the world’s largest wind farm. The government wants 33 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity built by 2020.

Mr Sambhi, Centrica’s director of power business unit, says the firm is still planning to build three new wind farms in the UK, but believes that current conditions are making the government’s renewable plans look very ambitious. “The economics at the moment make the returns marginal.” “The worrying trend is that if the manufacturing costs continue to increase, then I think that the wind target is under threat,” said Mr Sambhi.

Wind Farm Expansion

This week Centrica’s Lynn and Inner Dowsing project will deliver power to the National Grid.

The opening of the wind farm comes at a time when the economics of off-shore wind generation are coming into question. But the wind farm off the coast of Skegness has doubled in price in the last three years because of the rising cost of steel and copper. There are effectively only two companies that produce wind farms for the UK market – Vestas of Denmark and the German company Siemens. Both have a huge order book, with Vestas alone having nearly £4bn worth of orders yet to be delivered. The turbine manufacturers point to the rising cost of raw materials and the difficulty they have in securing the parts they need.

Big Projects

Uncertainty over the future of the 1,000 megawatt London Array wind farm off the coast of Kent has increased tension in the industry.

Shell, one of the three major partners in the London Array – meant to be the world’s largest wind farm, last week pulled out of the project.

Lynn & Inner Dowsing Facts:

  • Each turbine can power 2,500 homes
  • Turbines are 100m high and nearly 100m in diameter
  • Each turbine weighs approximately 260 tonnes
  • The 54 turbines have a combined generating capacity of 180 MW

After Shell’s decision, one of the other partners – E.ON – said that the economics of the project were “marginal at best”. The cost of the project is thought to have doubled since 2003, when it was estimated at £1bn.

The BBC has learnt that just one turbine manufacturer made a tender for the project, increasing the impression amongst some in the industry that manufacturers are able to choose their price for the projects they take on. High costs have forced the energy companies to look elsewhere for funding.

Centrica is aiming to build another three wind farms with a total capacity of around 1250 megawatts but does not want to fund the projects alone. In a bid to keep the projects on track the company is looking for investment from City institutions, including from private equity firms.

Government Policy

But this innovative tactic might not have the desired results according to Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford University. “Investors are saying that the current policy for wind energy in the UK is not fit for purpose.” “Unless the government wants to revamp and rebase its wind structure, it isn’t going to get what it wants from wind,” said Mr Helm.

This view is echoed by Charles Anglin from the British Wind Energy Association, who says that a lack of clarity has affected investment. “The fact that the government was slow to wake up to the opportunity of wind did push up uncertainty, and that has affected prices and meant that manufacturers have delayed investment,” he said.

But the government believes that the future for wind power in the UK is secure. It says that there are financial incentives in place to encourage energy companies to invest in wind farms. It also points to the fact that Britain is due to over take Denmark as the largest wind energy generator by the end of the year.

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