Friday, December 30, 2011

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US Wind Tower Group Files Dumping Complaint Against Chinese, Vietnamese Manufacturers

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 08:36 AM PST

Photo courtesy DMI Industries

Trade friction with China is spreading, as a group of four US wind tower manufacturers filed a complaint with the US Dept. of Commerce and International Trade Commission calling on them to investigate and levy punitive duties on Chinese and Vietnamese wind turbine tower manufacturers, The Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger reported earlier today.

Calling itself the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, the group comprises Texas-based Trinity Structural Towers, Fargo, North Dakota’s DMI Industries, Wisconsin’s Broadwind Towers and Nebraska’s Katana Summit.

The US group says that Chinese wind tower manufacturers with operations in Vietnam are dumping their product in the US below cost and are benefiting from Chinese government subsidies that violate international trade agreements.

A similar complaint recently filed by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturers (CASM) against Chinese solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers is currently undergoing a preliminary investigation by the Dept. of Commerce, after the ITC initially found just cause for the complaint.

The Wind Tower Trade Coalition lists 40 separate Chinese government subsidy and assistance programs that the group says enable to adopt predatory pricing to the detriment of domestic US manufacturers, according to Sickinger’s report. They’re requesting that the US impose “countervailing duties” that reconcile the difference between the price of imported wind towers and their normal market value in the exporting countries. They calculate them at 64.37% for Chinese wind towers and 59.11% for wind towers manufactured in Vietnam.

In response to CASM’s complaint, Chinese solar PV producers filed a complaint alleging that US polysilicon producers receive improper subsidies and are dumping product at below cost in China. Polysilicon is the raw material used in the production of solar PV cells and panels. Chinese trade authorities are also investigating whether or not US-based producers of hydro and wind energy products are dumping products in China.

US-China trade frictions are limited to renewable energy. China’s Ministry of Commerce recently decided to impose punitive duties of as much as 22% on large cars and SUVs imported from the US, according to a Dec. 14 CNBC report. Chinese imports of GM’s Cadillac Esplanade, Fiat-Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokee and luxury SUVs made by Daimler and BMW will be affected.

The ITC expects to issue a preliminary determination on the Wind Tower Trade Coalition’s complaint in February, while the Commerce Dept. should complete its own preliminary findings within six months, according to The Oregonian’s report.

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Top 10 Clean Tech Stories of 2011

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 07:18 AM PST


OK, I’m doing my top 10 list now. Following up on AWEA’s top 10 wind energy stories and SEIA’s top 10 solar energy stories, I decided I may as well give my own opinion on the top 10 clean energy stories and energy efficiency stories of 2011 (plus one bonus story). There will be some overlap, of course.

Click to Enlarge

1. 40% drop in cost of solar. This tremendous drop in the cost of solar was, to say the least, massively influential. It helped tons of people and businesses to go solar for less, increased work for numerous solar installers, and helped to put some companies out of business who were working on alternatives to traditional solar PV. The full ramifications are still unclear, but recent reports have shown that solar is now at grid parity in some places (even without proper accounting of the health, environmental, and grid security cost of coal, nuclear, and natural gas). This has also led to some solar thermal power plants switching to solar PV, as well as an ongoing solar trade dispute between Chinese, U.S., and German solar companies.

wind energy top 10 2011

2. Wind energy driving down the price of electricity. We’ve written several stories this year on how cheap wind energy is driving down the price of electricity. This is happening in the U.S. and around the world. As noted just earlier today and earlier this month, 80% of the power contracts in Brazil's latest energy auction went to wind energy, and this follows an announcement earlier this year that wind is cheaper than natural gas there and an announcement that the country would be focusing on wind energy in its 10-year energy plan.

3. The Solyndra non-scandal. One business hit hard by the drop in PV costs, as well as other factors, was the now infamous Solyndra. But the real scandal in this story was not anything on Solyndra or the U.S. government’s side, but the way certain politicians and members of the media used a single company failure (partly related to the success of other solar industry players) to demonize the solar industry and a wildly successful U.S. government loan guarantee program. Using this bankruptcy to do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, these politicians ad media have put a huge dent in one of the most popular things (and the most popular energy option) in the the country.

solar power 2011

4. Solar energy industries employ a ton of people. Sort of as an addendum to the above, the U.S. solar industry, the German solar energy industry, and other solar energy industries around the world are now a significant source of jobs for hundreds of thousands of people. The U.S. solar energy industry and the German solar photovoltaic industry each employ over 100,000 people. For comparison, the U.S. iron and steel industries employ about 84,000, in total.

google solar

5. Google & Facebook going clean. Google invested a tremendous amount of money in clean energy in 2011, continuing several large 2010 investments. In total, Google invested nearly one billion ($1,000,000,000) in clean energy in 2011. With a ton of pressure from Greenpeace and about a million people (including all those who set a world record for Facebook comments on a single page in one day — over 100,000), Facebook has finally decided to go the renewable energy route.

6. Electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging stations roll out. 2011 saw a big roll out of electric vehicles of all sorts and EV charging stations of all sorts. I feel like I saw news about new vehicles or installations every day this year. But we’ve still got a looooong way to go. Only about 20,000 Nissan Leafs and fewer than 10,000 Chevy Volts were sold globally in 2011.

Congress approval

7. Lack of strong federal clean energy policy. No one was expecting it, of course, given the completely dirty Congress we have today, but this is still a top story of the year I think. While Australia, China, the EU, and South American countries move forward with strong clean energy policies, the U.S. is stuck in a paralysis of sorts, or is being held hostage by the rich and powerful fossil fuel industry and their minions in Congress. Unfortunately, attacks also seem to be picking up on the state level, which means that we clean energy advocates really need to step up our game in 2012!

8. Wind penetration hitting record levels in U.S. and abroad. As noted in AWEA’s 2011 wrap-up post, wind penetration has risen above 20%, overall, in two U.S. states now and broke 50% (hit 55.6%) wind penetration at one time in Colorado. Additionally, wind helped to keep the lights on in Texas earlier this year when over 50 power plants went offline due to extreme weather. What’s that about reliability?….

9. Fukushima. Yeah, this should have been high up. While the nuclear industry really can’t compete with cheaper energy options anyway (without tremendous government subsidies), the Fukushima disasters that went on for months (and, truthfully, are still ongoing) have effectively put the nail in the coffin of the so-called ‘nuclear renaissance’. The public backlash against nuclear has been strong and worldwide, with countries such as Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium decided to ditch nuclear 100%, and even the nuclear-leading French “thumbing their nose” at the technology.

better buildings initiative

better buildings

10. Better Buildings Initiative. The Obama administration and former president Bill Clinton, sidestepping a less-than-cooperative Congress, found a way to promote energy efficiency BIG TIME with the Better Buildings Initiative this year. The initiative includes $2 billion of U.S. government investments in energy efficiency retrofits of federal buildings and another $2 billion or so of investments from the private sector in such projects.”Businesses are projected to save a total of about $40 billion a year from the energy savings from this initiative.” The U.S. government would save a similar amount. And tens of thousands of jobs will be created in the hard-hit building sector.

Bonus: geothermal getting some attention. Geothermal energy, a cheap clean energy option, is getting more and more attention. And, a landmark study funded by Google found that there’s enough geothermal potential in the U.S. to power… the entire U.S.! Of course, it will never power the whole country, but the potential for geothermal growth is tremendous.

Image Credits: Wind turbines via shutterstock; Solyndra sign screenshot of energyNOW! video; Solar panels image via shutterstock; Google Going Solar photo via H2SO4; EV charger via OregonDOT; Congress approval rating chart by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO); Wind turbines from side via shutterstock; UK nuclear activists via Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Better Buildings images via the White House; U.S. geothermal map modified from image courtesy of SMU Geothermal Laboratory / Google Earth.

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Tough Road Ahead for Nuclear Power

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 04:55 AM PST

Several experts have recently made it clear that they think nuclear power isn’t going to be growing any time soon, and will continue to experience popular criticism and fear, especially in light of the recent damage taken by the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan.

Haifa, Israel

Nuclear Power Plant in Haifa, Israel

In a heavy-handed opening to a press release announcing the publication of a new paper written by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment (at Vermont Law School), the nuclear industry’s past year is summed up quite succinctly:

With the Fukushima disaster, earthquake-related reactor shutdowns, further reactor project cost escalation, infighting at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and cheap natural gas, 2011 was a year the nuclear power industry would prefer to get behind it as quickly as possible.

Cooper then notes that 2012 will see similar challenges, which it believes will make it nearly impossible for the nuclear power industry to expand in the US beyond what has already been commissioned:

But, looking ahead to 2012, experts see continuing challenges that will make it extremely difficult for the nuclear power industry to expand in the U.S. beyond a small handful of reactor projects that government agencies decide to subsidize by forcing taxpayers to assume the risk for the  reactors and mandating that ratepayers pay for construction in advance.

The new paper, written by Cooper, suggests that the cost of nuclear power will increase by another 50 percent due to an increase in safety oversight and regulatory delays in the wake of the disaster at Fukushima.

“Before Fukushima, the mythical ‘nuclear renaissance’ had already proven to be a bubble with the air rapidly leaking out of it. Fukushima will make it even more difficult to inflate,” noted Cooper, commenting on his new paper entitled “Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics.”

Fukushima is magnifying the economic problems that the ‘nuclear renaissance’ faced, which are the very problems that that have plagued nuclear power throughout its history. Nuclear power suffered from high cost and continuous cost escalation, high risk and uncertainty long before Fukushima. The nuclear reactor disaster at Fukushima will increase the cost and further undermine the economic viability of nuclear power in any country that conducts such a review. The Japanese government has recently estimated that the cost of power from nuclear reactors will be 50 percent higher than estimated seven years ago. My analysis shows this increase is consistent with the impact of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

But Cooper is not the only expert to comment on the future of the nuclear industry in 2012.

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford — currently, adjunct professor on Nuclear Power and Public Policy at Vermont Law School and, formerly, chair of the New York and Maine state utility regulatory commissions — recently said the following:

With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent approval of the design of the AP-1000 reactor and the anticipated approval of specific projects in Georgia and South Carolina, much is being written about a ‘nuclear revival.’ This is an important moment to compare what is really likely to happen over the next 10 years with the industry’s expectations when the ‘nuclear renaissance’ was first announced a decade ago. When that comparison is performed properly, it becomes clear that we are witnessing not a revival but a collapse in expectations for new reactor construction. The two forthcoming projects are all that remain of a thirty-one reactor fantasy fleet that was said to constitute the real nuclear renaissance as recently as early 2009. It is important to understand that this collapse was well underway before the accident at Fukushima. It was the result of nuclear power’s high costs compared to other alternatives. Fukushima and the unseemly effort of four NRC commissioners to oust the chair do nothing to enhance the appeal of nuclear power, but even if these factors vanished tomorrow, the pace of new reactor construction in the U.S. would not increase at all.

While Carol Werner, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), has only piled on to the negative sentiments:

While nuclear energy still enjoys considerable support from the Congress and very significant subsidies, escalating costs for new construction, and uncertainty over adequacy of safety design and compliance following the August earthquake in Virginia, have not fostered realization of the ‘so-called’ nuclear renaissance. There simply are too many other choices which provide greater certainty at lesser cost and without the enormous long-term unresolved problems and risks facing nuclear power.

The Paper’s Highlights

The entirety of the paper written by Mark Cooper [PDF] can be viewed for more details, but there are a few highlights that have been pulled out for those not in the mood for wading through 15 pages of nuclear science and economics. The remainder of this piece is that:

“Fukushima has stimulated vigorous reviews around the world, in part because of the severity of the accident, in part because it is the worst accident affecting a nuclear reactor in a market economy and in part because it occurred in a nation that was assumed to have a  high standard of safety and superb technical expertise.  The challenges perceived by those responsible for nuclear safety around the world in the wake of the Fukushima accident are quite substantial.

“Perhaps more striking than the technical issues raised by Fukushima, are the persistent institutional failures revealed by a comparison between the post-accident evaluations of Three Mile Island (TMI) and Fukushima. For decades, the nuclear industry has been plagued by:

  • Failure of voluntary, self-regulation;
  • Denial of the reality of risk;
  • Lack of safety culture;
  • Lack of a comprehensive, consistent regulatory framework;
  • The challenge of continuous change and the need to retrofit existing reactors;
  • Failure to resolve important outstanding safety issues;
  • Failure to require existing reactors to add safety measures because of cost; and
  • Complexity, confusion and chaos in the response to a severe accident.

“With the global nuclear safety institutions expressing strong concerns, particularly the advanced industrial nuclear nations, and the aftermath of Fukushima likely to command attention for years as the extent of the damage and the challenge of decommissioning unfold,  the issues are likely to continue to have traction.

“The reviews stimulated by accidents are not limited to safety issues. In the wake of Fukushima re-evaluations of energy options and nuclear risks and economics have substantially dimmed the prospects for construction of new nuclear reactors:

  • Major policy reviews by governments have led several nations to decide to scale back or abandon their commitments to nuclear power (including important large industrial national like Japan and Germany);
  • Financial institutions have conducted extensive reassessments of the economic prospects of nuclear power and concluded that the costs will rise (e.g. USB);
  • Utilities with nuclear plants in several nations have been downgraded by rating agencies; and
  • Several major firms in advanced industrial nations have abandoned the sector or been forced to scale back their activities (e.g., Shaw Group, Siemens and Areva).

“As the Cooper paper concludes:  ’As all stakeholders re-examine all aspect of energy policy, the risks of nuclear reactors increase and the attractiveness of nuclear power compared to other options decreases.’”

Source: PR Newswire
Image Source: Chris Yunker

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Vestas Receives Massive Wind Order from Brazil

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 04:36 AM PST

Danish manufacturer, seller, installer, and servicer of wind turbines Vestas has received “a firm and unconditional order” for 127 wind turbines, which would tally up to a total of 254 Megawatts.

The wind farm is expected to produce approximately 1,100 gigawatt hours each year, enough electricity to cover the average consumption of 1.6 million people per year in Brazil, where the wind farm will be built. According to Vestas, that corresponds to an annual emission saving of almost 98,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Described on their website, the Danish company lists the particulars of the project:

Customer:CPFL Renováveis
Project name:Campos dos Ventos and São Benedito
Location/Country:Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil
Number of MW:254 MW
Number of turbines/turbine type:127 x V100-2.0 MW wind turbines
Contract type:Supply-and-installation
Contract scope:The contract includes supply, installation and commissioning of the turbines as well as a VestasOnline® Business SCADA system and a ten-year service contract with an AOM 4000 solution.
Time of delivery:Delivery of the turbines is scheduled to start in the first half of 2013 with completion estimated for the first half of 2014.

The contract was taken out by CPFL Renováveis — a company created from the merger between CPFL Energia´s renewable assets and ERSA Energias Renováveis — and includes delivery, installation and commissioning of the wind turbines; a VestasOnline® Business SCADA system; and a 10-year service contract with an AOM4000 solution.

The delivery of the turbines is expected to start in the first half of 2013 and is expected to be commercially operational within a year.

"It is with great pleasure we announce this order and we are pleased with the commitment and trust which CPFL Renováveis has shown us. CPFL Renováveis is one of the most important players in Brazil and we look forward to a continuous cooperation," affirms Marcelo Anton Pegler Hutschinski, Director, sales region Brazil.

"Vestas is fully committed to help develop wind power in Brazil, as it supports the creation of a strong, diversified and high-quality supply chain contributing to continuously improving the industry as a whole, the products and solutions offered and the type of service provided to the market," declares Miguel Picardo, General Manager, Vestas Brazil, Portugal and Spain and continues: "Wind will help create jobs, develop new local competencies, encourage innovation and obtain benefit from economies of scale."

Note that Brazil’s 10-year energy plan, released earlier this year, showed a strong focus on wind energy, wind energy was below the bidding price of natural gas in August energy auctions in Brazil, and, earlier this month, 80% of the power contracts in Brazil’s energy auction went to wind.

Source: Vestas
Image Source: Brenda Anderson

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Cheap Solar Home Systems Bringing Light, New Opportunities to Millions in Rural Bangladesh

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 01:33 AM PST

Graphic courtesy Grameen Shakti

Solar home systems are bringing the benefits of electrical power to millions in rural Bangladesh, a testament to the numerous and varied benefits access to cheap, clean and renewable distributed solar PV can have in developing countries. Microfinance provider Grameen Shakti’s efforts to market and sell solar home systems (SHS) in rural areas across the country that lack grid access have proved extremely successful.

More than 500,000 SHS systems have been installed cumulatively as of year-end 2010, according to Grameen Shakti. The SHS home energy package includes one or more solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, batteries, a power regulator, and a set of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and LED lights.

Best Investment I’ve Ever Made

It’s the best investment he’s ever made, Nizamuddin Sheikh, the owner of a small restaurant in rural Bangladesh, told Inter Press News Service’s (IPS) Naimul Haq. Sheikh’s doubled his income since signing up for a Grameen Shakti SHS plan that enables him to pay for the solar power system with a small down payment and affordable monthly installments.

Sheikh pad the Bangladeshi Taka equivalent of $24 up-front for an SHS system comprising a 20-Watt solar PV panel, battery, regulator, CFLs and LEDs. He’ll pay another $5 month over the next 36 months to pay off the total cost.

Grameen Shakti’s most popular SHS system provides about 10W of clean, renewable electric power for a total cost of $124. That ranges up to the most expensive system, which provides 135W of uninterrupted power for four four hours at a total cost of $925.

Grameen Shakti’s SHS systems are cheaper than the fossil fuels, such as kerosene, rural Bangladeshis have come to rely on, but the benefits extend far beyond that.

Solar Home Systems Delivering Myriad Benefits

“SHS units are in demand due to many advantages, but especially because it is far cheaper than conventional fuels like kerosene and diesel and has no maintenance expenses,” acting managing director Abser Kamal told IPS. “In the villages solar power provides extended working hours for students, shopkeepers and housewives. Now they can do things like conveniently charge mobile phones – which have already been changing lives.”

Adding to the benefits are zero CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, and significantly improved health and safety conditions as compared to traditional fossil fuel alternatives. Using the solar home systems is also yielding substantial social benefits. Besides enabling small business owners such as Sheikh to stay open longer, thereby significantly increasing their incomes, the artificial light they bring enables students to study in the evening with better quality light. It also lifts some of the burden of running a household carried by Bangladeshi women.

On top of all this, installation of the solar home energy systems is quick, safe and relatively simple. Just 41% of Bangladesh’s 142-million people have access to the national electricity grid. The solar home energy systems can be installed in a day.

“Without solar power many villagers would probably have had to wait years to get electricity from the national grid,” Kamal told IPS’s Haq. “Solar is transforming their lives – this is quick social and economical development.”

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German Solar Power Production Surges 60%; Renewables 20% of Total Electricity Supply

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 11:29 PM PST

Graphic courtesy BSW (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft)

Germany’s solar energy output surged 60% to 18 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2011, accounting for more than 3% of national electricity generation, national industry association Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW) announced yesterday. Solar energy is producing enough electricity to power some 5.1 million households, about 1/8 the number in the entire state of Thuringia, according to a Reuters News report.

The heady performance was achieved even as German solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers have experienced increasing pressures from a glut of low-priced solar panels coming out of China, and reductions in Germany’s solar feed-in tariff (FiT) rates, which will fall 15% on January 1 and another 9% in mid-2012. That’s led to some industry turmoil. A second German solar PV manufacturer, Solar Millennium, recently followed Solon into insolvency proceedings.

Nonetheless, Germany’s solar power industry looks to be in fundamentally sound shape going forward, as the European Union’s largest economy is in the early stages of shutting down its nuclear power plants. Scheduled to be completed in 2022, this should underpin investments in solar and other forms of renewable energy, raising renewable energy’s share of national electricity output as high as 40%.

Though not known for its sunny climate, solar PV and thermal energy have proved themselves in Germany. Proactive government support has been leveraged by the private sector in forging Germany into a world-leading solar power market and industry. That’s led the sector to become an anchor of employment and economic growth as the country continues to lead the world in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

“Solar energy has become an indispensable ingredient of a successful energy strategy shift,” Managing Director Carsten Koernig said in a statement.

Solar PV power was the fastest growing of all German renewable energy economic segments in 2011, accounting for 3.2% of renewable energy output as opposed to 1.9% in 2010. Overall, renewable energy accounted for 19.9% of German power production in 2011, according to preliminary totals, as compared to 16.4% in 2010.

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U.S. Electricity Costs & Consumption Infographic

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 04:46 PM PST


While there isn’t anything especially “clean tech” about this infographic, I thought it was pretty interesting, and is quite obviously related to what we cover every day, so sharing here with you all — enjoy!

electricity cost consumption u.s. infographic

Infographic via Credit Sesame

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5 Wind Energy Trends to Watch for in 2012

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 04:31 PM PST


As indicated in the previous post by the American Wind Energy Association (Top 10 Wind Energy Stories of 2011), below the picture are 5 wind energy trends the association recommends we watch out for. I’ll just add that I think there will be more and more media attention on the cost-saving benefits of wind energy, but that I think the clean-energy-hating-misinformation campaign will increase its attacks on wind energy. We’ll see — let’s hope for the first and pray the second is avoided or is rightly squashed by everyone not involved in that super-minority campaign. Lastly, from me, I imagine that we will see a more massive global increase in wind energy than ever before, with Asian and South American countries, especially, increasing their installed wind energy capacity.

wind turbines in snow

Industry will be pushing for PTC extension, expanding reach and holding costs steady

WASHINGTON, DC, December 28, 2011–A big year is in store for the wind power industry in 2012, both in the policy arena and out in the field. With the Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind power's key policy incentive, set to expire at the end of the year, industry members and advocates will be pushing for a PTC extension so that the industry can grow to nearly 100,000 jobs just four years from now. Meantime, developers will be busy getting wind farms built and online by year's end.

Yesterday the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) looked back at the year in wind power for 2011. Now it's time to take a look ahead at the trends that promise to define 2012 and beyond.

1 - Boom phase of the notorious boom-bust cycle. Anyone who has followed the industry for a period of time is familiar with the up-down nature of the wind industry's growth pattern, caused by Congress's short-term extensions of the PTC. While the PTC has been around since the 1990s, Congress has extended it mostly in one- and two-year increments and even has allowed the credit to expire on occasion. The result is a boom and bust pattern that is difficult for businesses to plan around. Congress has yet to act on an extension to the PTC, which is set to expire at the end of 2012. Under-construction numbers are up; 8,400 MW were counted at the end of the third quarter in 2011. Expect them to continue to surge as 2012 gets underway.

2 – Appropriately, WINDPOWER heads to the Southeast. The wind power industry has been quietly establishing a presence in the Southeast for some time—particularly in the form of manufacturing plants. Today at least 74 manufacturing plants in the region serve the wind power industry. Also, utilities in Alabama and Louisiana recently signed contracts for wind power, and projects are under development in North Carolina and Florida. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that for the first time, the WINDPOWER 2012 Conference & Exhibition, the largest annual wind energy event in the world, will take place in Atlanta, Ga., June 3-6, 2012. The event, considered the industry's annual town square and marketplace, bustled with activity last year in Anaheim, Calif., drawing 16,000 people.

3 – Cost of fuel holds steady for wind power: zero. In 2012 utilities will continue to embrace the price-locking benefit of wind power by signing long-term power contracts for the affordable energy source. That's because unlike the volatile prices of fossil fuels, wind power's fuel cost is fixed: zero. The fuel cost was zero last year, and it's guaranteed to stay at zero in 2012 as well. And wind power chalks up big zeros in other key areas: zero water use, zero air emissions, and zero water pollution.

-Our final two trends for 2012 are really a choice. Either-

4 – Congress takes action quickly and wind power generates more jobs. Congress ended the year without extending the PTC, but it can still act. If Congress extends it quickly in 2012—and a strong bipartisan contingent of members of Congress and business leaders are pushing for an extension—the industry will continue to add jobs and foster economic activity. A new study released this month finds that with stable tax policy the wind industry can grow to nearly 100,000 American jobs in the next four years. Included in those numbers: the wind manufacturing sector would grow by one third, to 46,000 American manufacturing jobs. Such job additions will keep the wind sector on track toward supporting the 500,000 jobs by 2030 projected in a report by the U.S. Department of Energy during the George W. Bush administration.


5 – Congress fails to take action, raises taxes on wind and kills 37,000 jobs. The recently released report from Navigant Consulting also found that if Congress allows the PTC to expire, jobs in the wind industry will be cut in half, meaning a loss of 37,000 American jobs and a one-third cut to American wind manufacturing jobs, while private investment in the industry would drop by nearly two thirds.

"American manufacturing jobs are coming back, with tens of thousands of new jobs from wind power," said Denise Bode, AWEA CEO. "But these jobs could vanish if Congress allows the Production Tax Credit to expire, in effect enacting a targeted tax increase, and sending our jobs to foreign countries. Congress must act as early in 2012 as possible to keep this American manufacturing success story going."


AWEA is the national trade association of America's wind industry, with more than 2,400 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world's largest wind power trade show, the WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, which takes place next in Atlanta, June 2-6, 2012.

Wind turbines via shutterstock

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Top 10 Wind Energy Stories of 2011

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 03:37 PM PST


wind energy top 10 2011

As the leading organization of the U.S. solar energy industry has done, the folks most in the know when it comes to U.S. wind energy, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), have put together a great end-of-the-year wrap-up of the top 10 wind energy stories of 2011. Rather than try to 1-up them, which would be pretty darn hard to do, I’m reposting their wrap-up here:

WASHINGTON, DC, December 27, 2011– Wind power hits 20 percent overall in two states. It contributes a record 50 percent for a period of time in another. And the turbines that pump out all those electrons? Their cost has dropped 33 percent.

The wind power industry never sits still in any given year, and 2011 was no different, as it forged ahead with a slew of benchmarks, policy progress, and hard data that illustrate wind energy continuing its march forward as a mainstream, reliable and affordable energy source made in America.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has established a tradition of taking a look back in December at the events that shaped the year in wind power. Here's a look at just some of the many happenings that made 2011 yet another big year in the continued evolution of the industry.

1 – Iowa, South Dakota reach 20 percent wind penetration overall. U.S. wind industry observers no longer need look to Europe for examples of huge wind power penetrations. Both Iowa and South Dakota reached the important milestone of 20 percent of their electricity coming from wind power, a first for the U.S.  And more projects are coming.

2 – Xcel Energy shatters wind barrier with 50 percent at one time. While Iowa and South Dakota lead the nation with their 20 percent wind penetration overall benchmark, a utility system in Colorado made some noise on the integration front as well. Investor-owned utility Xcel Energy set a wind power world record on the morning of October 6, when subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado got 55.6 percent of the electricity on its system at one time from wind power, as reported in the Denver Post. The leading utility for wind power on its wires, Xcel Energy is proving once again that large amounts of wind can be successfully integrated onto the grid.

3 – Cost drop: Wind power gets leaner and meaner. Wind turbine prices have dropped sharply in recent years, and a government report released in 2011 highlights that trend with some telling numbers. According to the latest edition of the U.S. Department of Energy’s "Wind Technologies Market Report," turbine prices decreased by as much as 33 percent or more between late 2008 and 2010. As discussed in AWEA's most recent industry Annual Report, more efficient U.S.-based manufacturing is saving on transportation, and technology improvements are making turbines better and more efficient.

4 – One-third renewables: California establishes landmark RES. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that ups the state's renewable electricity standard from an already strong 20 percent to an historic 33 percent by 2020. The renewables standard includes near-term and incremental targets (20 percent by the end of 2013 and 25 percent by the end of 2016), an approach that the wind industry considers to be an important component of RES legislation because it allows the industry to begin ramping up and generating economic development immediately.

5 – Offshore streamlining and project progress. The U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior made several important announcements that moved offshore American wind power forward, including: the unveiling of a coordinated strategic plan to pursue the deployment of 10 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030, the creation of high-priority "Wind Energy Areas" off the coasts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, the approval of Cape Wind project's construction and operations plan and the commitment of $43 million over the next five years to help speed technical innovations, drive down costs, and reduce market barriers such as supply chain development, transmission and infrastructure.

6 – WindMade™ label announced. 2011 marked the launch of WindMade™, a new consumer label that will highlight companies getting a large portion of their electricity from wind power. Already 15 companies—including such names as Motorola Mobility, Deutsche Bank, and Bloomberg—have committed to attaining the new label by getting at least 25 percent of their electricity from wind energy.

7 – Momentum builds for PTC extension. The year is wrapping without the all-important extension of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind power's primary policy driver, which expires at the end of 2012. But the PTC movement gathered momentum heading into next year, with bipartisan legislation recently introduced by Representatives Dave Reichert (R, WA-08) and Earl Blumenauer (D, OR-03) seeking to grant a four-year PTC extension (H.R. 3307, the "American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act"). This legislation has garnered the support of 36 cosponsors including 11 Republicans as well as a broad, nonpartisan coalition of over 370 members, including manufacturing, farm and business interests and the bipartisan Governors' Wind Energy Coalition comprised of 23 Republican and Democrat Governors from across the U.S.

8 – Wind power keeps the lights on. When more than 50 power plants totaling 7,000 MW unexpectedly went offline in Texas due to unusually cold weather early in the year, wind power was there to help stabilize the system and keep the lights on. Wind energy played a critical role in limiting the severity of the blackouts, providing enough electricity to keep the power on for about three million typical households. ERCOT, the Texas grid operator, confirmed that wind energy was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of electricity (about 7 percent of ERCOT demand at that time)—roughly what it was forecast and scheduled to provide—during the critical two-hour window when the grid needed power the most. Said ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett, as reported in the Texas Tribune: "I would highlight that we put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this timeframe."

9- Southeast gets more clean, affordable wind power. Two new southern states will soon be powered by wind: Alabama and Louisiana. When Alabama Power secured a power purchase agreement for TradeWind Energy to provide 202 MW of power from an Oklahoma wind farm, Matt Bowden, the utility's vice president of environmental affairs said it all: “This agreement not only boosts our use of renewable energy, it also provides real savings for our customers," he said. "It benefits both the environment and the people we serve.”

The savings are not unique. Just this month in Louisiana, the state public service commission approved a 20-year contract that utility Southwestern Electric Power Co. of Shreveport signed for power coming from a Kansas wind farm. Commissioner Foster Campbell noted the deal will lower costs for consumers. And more wind power will soon be generated in the South, with North Carolina and Florida both having utility-scale wind farms under development.

10- Republican candidates literally sign on to wind power, which figures prominently at Iowa Straw Poll. As seen in item No. 1, Iowa gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind power. So when the nation’s eyes turned to the Hawkeye State for the Iowa Republican Presidential Straw Poll in August, they caught a glimpse of what wind power has already done for Iowans and what it can do for America. Candidates for President and Iowa voters had the opportunity to literally touch the economic power of wind energy at the Straw Poll, where wind component manufacturer TPI Composites displayed a 130-foot-long wind turbine blade made right in Iowa, at a factory in Newton. In addition to Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley (R), signing the blade were then- and current presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Thaddeus McCotter. Candidate Rick Perry signed the very same blade just last week.


Next up: What to look for in wind power for 2012.


AWEA is the national trade association of America's wind industry, with more than 2,400 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world's largest wind power trade show, the WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, which takes place next in Atlanta, June 2-6, 2012. AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America.  Look up information on wind energy at the AWEA website. Find insight on industry issues at AWEA's blog Into the Wind. Join AWEA on Facebook. Follow AWEA on Twitter.

Wind turbines via shutterstock

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Was the Kyoto Protocol a Success or Failure?

Posted: 29 Dec 2011 02:43 PM PST

This year's COP17 United Nations climate change summit in Durban, South Africa increased awareness of the uphill effort required to establish an international emissions reduction treaty. But Durban was just the latest in a long line of attempts to limit global warming.

Almost 15 years ago, the world gathered in Japan to negotiate the Kyoto Protcol, a landmark international treaty to limit greenhouse gases. As the expiration date of the world's first carbon cutting treaty draws closer, energyNOW! asks – was Kyoto a success or a failure? The full video is available below:

COP17 was considered a success by many observers, resulting in agreement by nations to forge a binding global climate deal by 2015 and a $100-billion-per-year fund overseen by the World Bank to help poor countries fight and adapt to climate change. But the COP17 agreements pale in comparison to both the scale of the Kyoto Protocol, and the initial reaction it received.

Kyoto's roots go back to 1992, when the international community gathered at the Rio Earth Summit. Leaders there signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, an attempt to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions. "There was a feeling that the way to proceed would be with an international agreement that had some teeth in it," said Eileen  Claussen, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Claussen spent the next five years working as the lead U.S. climate negotiator to convert the Rio framework into a treaty with legally binding greenhouse gas targets. She says the major obstacle to international agreement quickly became clear – economic interests, especially in the developing nations like China, India, and Brazil.

Those concerns ultimately hamstrung the Kyoto Protocol. Even though it included comprehensive goals that set binding targets to reduce emissions an average of five percent against 1990 levels by 2012, it fell short in signatories. Only 37 industrialized nations signed the Protocol, committing to stabilize emissions.

Optimism initially abounded over Kyoto. In his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Bill Clinton said "our overriding environmental challenge is the worldwide problem of climate change," and signed the Protocol. But Congress was overwhelmingly opposed because of economic fears, and Clinton never sent it to the Senate for ratification.

President George W. Bush later withdrew America completely from the Protocol, saying the treaty was “fatally flawed in fundamental ways.” But even without U.S. participation, the global community moved forward. "The rest of the world, in a pretty unusual step, decided they would continue negotiating the protocol, which eventually came into force without the U.S.," said Claussen.

Even though most Kyoto Protocol signatories succeeded in cutting emissions, worldwide atmospheric CO2 levels have soared, now up 35 percent since 1997. Most of that increase has come from the same large developing countries that were not included in the protocol – China and India are now the world's first and third largest emitters, with the U.S. falling from first to second.

In Durban, the European Union pledged to extend its Kyoto Protocol targets until 2017, but many countries will let their targets expire next year. These defections threaten to limit reductions even further – in the 1990s Kyoto accounted for 33 percent of world CO2 emissions. After 2012, it will only account for 15 percent.

So, while talks continue through the UN Framework and nations have pledged to negotiate binding reduction targets, the same obstacles remain and emissions are higher than ever. "The need to do something on a global basis has never been clearer," said Claussen. "But the ability to actually get there, well this is a very difficult period."

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