- Cape Wind Moves Forward: Herald of a Boom in Offshore Wind, Marine Engineering & Construction?
- Alaska’s 1st Utility-Scale Wind Farm Gets Energy Storage Boost from Xtreme Power
- Smart Grid Spending to $46.4 Billion by 2015
- EWEA 2012 Conference Recieves WindMade Label
- US Retakes #1 Spot in Clean Energy Investment in 2011
- Top 25 US Cities for Energy Star Buildings
- New Initiatives to Increase Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Military
- PNC Bank Leads with Energy Efficiency
- Los Angeles Solar Feed-in Tariff Launched
- 70-MW Solar Power Plant (Japan’s Largest) to Go Online in Kagoshima
- Mercedes-Benz Wins World Green Car Award — Again
- Antelope Valley’s “Solar Ranch One” Gets Financing
- Natural Gas Is Bridge to Nowhere without Carbon Price & Serious Methane Leak Improvements
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 07:33 AM PDT
Offshore oil and gas industry contractors have been having a hard time of it since BP’s Deepwater Horizon tragedy, but they’re very likely to see a turnaround in their fortunes if the drive to develop US offshore wind resources continues to build momentum. Cape Wind– developer of the largest offshore US wind power project development proposed to date, as well as the most hotly contested– today announced that it’s selected the joint venture team of Cal Dive International, Cashman Equipment Corp and Flatiron Construction to build America’s first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
The announcement is the second piece of good news regarding the massive 130-turbine, 468 MW Cape Wind project to come out recently. On March 30, Massachusetts utility NStar filed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Utilities (DPU) to purchase 27% of the clean, renewable offshore wind energy produced by Cape Wind.
National Grid and Cape Wind previously concluded a PPA, already approved by the DPU, for the purchase of 50% of Cape Wind’s output. That leaves a bit less than 1/4 of the Cape Wind offshore wind farm’s planned capacity still unsold.
The Many Challenges Facing a Historic US Clean Energy Project
Cape Wind project construction is slated to begin in 2013, though design work will begin this summer. Seeing the offshore wind farm project through to fruition poses first-of-their-kind challenges to the US marine engineering and construction consortium forming around the project, as well as for the US wind energy and electric power industries. The experience marine engineering and construction industry players, including the three Cape Wind contractors, have developed and honed in building, operating and maintaining offshore oil and gas drilling platforms is sure to serve them in good stead.
Boston-based Cashman Equipment has a long history of building marine projects off the Massachusetts coast. The opportunity for locals to work on a historic US offshore and renewable energy project adds to the project’s benefits and attractiveness. “It’s a perfect fit for what we do,” company president Jamie Cashman said. “I am thrilled that our Massachusetts company will be helping to make Cape Wind happen."
Founded in 1947, Colorado’s Flatiron Construction is one of the leading civil engineering and construction firms in the US. "We are excited to build Cape Wind, this project is moving forward and there is no better way for us to enter the US offshore wind market than to help build the first commercial project," said Rik van den Berg, Flatiron Construction Corp. project manager.
Houston’s Cal Dive International brings a wealth of offshore oil and gas platform and marine construction experience to the joint venture Cape Wind contractors’ group, having accumulated some 35 years of experience in the field, including successfully completing multiple projects in the US Northeast. “We are excited about the opportunity to expand our business into the offshore wind sector," Cal Dive International, Inc. General Manager, Construction Russell Vandiver said.
Moving Forward in the Face of Staunch Opposition
Opponents remain staunchly committed to stopping the Cape Wind project. They’ve said it will ruin the views and marine ecosystems from Nantucket Island and coastal Massachusetts. They’ve claimed that the PPA prices NStar and National Grid have agreed to pay are way too high. These assertions have been rebuffed and countered by Cape Wind, project partners, supporters and independent economic and environmental studies of offshore wind power projects.
Electricity from the Cape Wind will cost the average residential customer on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard a whopping $1.44 per month extra in the first year of the 15-year NStar contract, according to the documents filed by the utility. NStar is to purchase Cape Wind’s clean, renewable electricity for 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the project’s first year, with the price increasing 3.5% each year therefafter. NStar will collect an additional 4% of the contract’s value as per Massachusetts’ 2008 Green Communities Act.
Though not enough time has passed to comprehensively assess the impact of offshore wind farms on marine ecosystems and other public use, the evidence coming in contradicts opponents’ claims that they will harm the environment. As to the aesthetic value of the views of the seascape, “I think it’s going to be very hard-pressed for anybody to see those things from land,” Cashman stated.
Critics nonetheless continue to actively oppose further progress. “Cape Wind has no authority to build,” Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, was quoted as saying in a Cape Cod Times report.
“There is no valid determination from the FAA, they haven’t even begun their preconstruction survey work, they have no financing, they haven’t sold a quarter of their power, they’ve got 10-plus parties filing federal lawsuits in court, and these are more tactics to convince the public that they’re ready to go when in fact they will never be built.”
No hype: either way it turns out Cape Wind will be a historic moment with respect to US marine, offshore energy and renewable energy. Stay tuned.
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:48 AM PDT
Xtreme Power will supply a 3-MW Dynamic Power Resource (DPR) power management and energy storage system to Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) for its 9-MW Pillar Mountain Wind Project.
The Pillar Mountain Wind Project was originally 4.5 MW in size, and has been supplying KEA with nearly 10% of its electricity generation, but KEA’s satisfaction with it, combined with wind power’s cost compared to other alternatives, has triggered the company to boost the capacity to 9 MW. At 9 MW, though, KEA feels that an energy storage and power management boost would be helpful in maintaining or improving grid stability.
"We were drawn to Xtreme Power for its proven performance in renewable rich grid environments and sought to bring this same stability assurance to our Pillar Mountain Wind Project," said Darron Scott, President and CEO of the Kodiak Electric Association. "The XP team assessed Pillar Mountain's energy storage needs to develop a Dynamic Power Resource system that enhances grid operations while adhering to KEA's financial targets. Together, we are furthering KEA's goal of reaching 95 percent renewable power generation by 2020."
“The Dynamic Power Resource will leverage its real time control system to automatically respond to grid disturbances by absorbing or releasing real and reactive power instantly and accurately,” a news release from Xtreme Power notes. “This will help KEA realize significant savings in its operating costs by maximizing the wind energy generated at Pillar Mountain without sacrificing grid stability.”
A quick look around Xtreme Power’s website shows that the company has a number of such projects up and running, and more planned. It is connected to solar projects in Hawaii and Colorado, as well as several wind projects in Hawaii and “end-user” projects in Detroit, Michigan and the South Pole in Antarctica (maybe that’s where it gets its “Xtreme” name). Right now, the company notes that it has “22 megawatts of installed systems for utilities, renewable energy developers, and microgrid operators, with an additional 55 megawatts of systems to be installed by the end of this year.”
"Our highly responsive, intelligent, and scalable energy storage and power management solution enables utilities to efficiently deploy abundant clean energy resources and brings greater flexibility to their operations," said Alan J. Gotcher, Ph.D., President and CEO of Xtreme Power. "Achieving market penetration in new regions highlights the universal benefits of the Dynamic Power Resource for customers with varying needs, and we anticipate additional expansion as the value of energy storage is demonstrated through our projects around the world."
Aside from utility-scale or even community-scale projects (which Xtreme power is reportedly looking to get into more), there’s also speculation that such energy companies could break into the individual house level, to help smooth out solar power intermittency and make solar an even more attractive power option than it already is. In cases where solar power can be sold back to the grid at the time of peak electricity demand, perhaps people could even use such systems to buy cheap electricity at night, store it in batteries for daytime use, and sell solar-generated electricity back to the utility in the daytime for a higher price.
All in all, energy storage is a critical and fast-growing field due to the great benefits it offers to companies, individuals, and jurisdictions looking to switch to renewable energy. The field is even more nascent than solar or wind in some respects, so there’s still a lot of uncertainty about which companies will lead us into the future. Xtreme Power certainly looks like a good contender.
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:51 AM PDT
Worldwide Smart Grid Spending to Reach $46.4 Billion in 2015 (via http://greenbuildingelements.com)
According to a new report released by IDC Energy Insights, global smart grid spending is likely to increase 17.4 percent from 2010 to 2015 with overall spending reaching over $46 billion worldwide in 2015. The IDC Energy Insights report was released Monday, entitled 'Worldwide Utility Smart Grid…
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:26 AM PDT
Europe's premier wind conference, being held in Copenhagen, Denmark April 16 to April 19 this year, will receive a special label.
“EWEA is proud to be the organiser of the world’s first WindMade event — run 100% on wind power,” said EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer.
“EWEA strives to make its events sustainable, and to promote wind energy not only through political lobbying but also by making direct use of wind power. EWEA is convinced that WindMade will drive investment into this technology, and we encourage other organizations and events to follow our lead in becoming WindMade."
WindMade, a non-profit organization, works to increase global wind power use. The organization works to increase wind energy power, while also promoting energy security, promoting energy efficiency, and combating climate change.
All of the electricity used at the upcoming EWEA event in Copenhagen will be obtained through wind power.
“Many conference organisers are already making efforts to ‘green’ their events, and WindMade is pleased to present them with a tool for having their commitment to renewable power certified by a credible label,” said WindMade CEO Henrik Kuffner.
In order to receive the WindMade label, events have to get 100% of their electricity footprint from renewable forms of energy. In this case, for the EWEA conference, the EWEA had to go through a six-month-long event preparation at its headquarters. EWEA also had to make sure to get wind energy for use at the Bella Center, where the conference is being held, and where wind electricity is being used at the dinner and reception events.
The WindMade standard came after increasing demand from conference organizers who wanted to strengthen their commitment to wind power and the idea ad implementation of the WindMade label for consumer products (see video above). Under the standard, any event, ranging from a small conference to a major sporting event, can work toward receiving the label.
However, despite the program, it only addresses energy use at the conference. Organizers are suggesting attendees also offset other potential carbon intensive activities, including transportation.
The WindMade label is a step in the right direction in encouraging major events to harness the potential of renewable energy, including wind, as a way to promote sustainable development.
Photo Credit: Vimeo
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:04 AM PDT
The U.S. attracted $48 billion in clean energy investment in 2011, a 42 percent increase over the previous year. As a result, the U.S. saw an addition of 6.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind and, for the first time, more than 1 GW of solar energy, enough to power 800,000 homes. By the end of the year, total U.S. installed renewable energy capacity topped 93 GW, second only to China, but this position will be difficult to hold with the expiry of Treasury grants and the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee programs.
“In 2011, the global clean energy sector grew again, the U.S. reclaimed its lead as the top destination for private investment, and consumers reaped the rewards of significantly reduced prices for clean energy technologies, such as solar panels, which are now nearly 50 percent cheaper than a year ago,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “And yet, the yo-yo effect of U.S. clean energy policy hurts the ability of the United States to consistently compete and turn U.S.-led innovation into manufacturing, deployment, and export opportunities. Creative, stable, and transparent policies remain a critical signal to private investors.”
Globally, the combination of falling clean energy technology prices coupled with growing investments saw an acceleration of clean energy generating capacity by a record 83.5 GW in 2011, bringing the global total to 565 GW.
Experts believe that with solar and wind technologies becoming more cost-competitive, renewable energy will become the preferred electric generating capacity for emerging economies. 2011 saw G-20 investments in solar continue to rise, increasing 44 percent to $128 billion, making solar the leading technology for clean energy investment for the second year in a row. This increase offset a 15 percent decline in investments for both wind and energy efficiency in 2011.
“The clean energy sector received its trillionth dollar of private investment just before the end of 2011, demonstrating significant growth over the past eight years,” said Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Pew’s research partner. “Solar installations drove most of the activity last year as the falling price of photovoltaic modules, now 75 percent lower than three years ago, more than compensated for weakening clean energy support mechanisms in a number of parts of the world.”
Overall clean energy investment continued to grow, with China attracting $45.5 billion, spurring the deployment of 20 GW of wind power, the most of any nation. Germany ranked third for the second year in a row among the G-20 members with $30.6 billion and 7.4 GW of solar power installed, while Italy attracted $28 billion and deployed a world record of nearly 8 GW of solar power.
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 02:53 AM PDT
According to the EPA, by the end of 2011, there were nearly 16,500 Energy Star certified buildings across the United States, which had helped to save nearly $2.3 billion in annual utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to emissions from the annual energy use of more than 1.5 million homes.
“More and more organizations are discovering the value of Energy Star as they work to cut costs and reduce their energy use,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Energy Star program, and today Energy Star certified buildings in cities across America are helping to strengthen local economies and protect the planet for decades to come.”
The list was first released back in 2008 when Los Angeles topped the list, where it has remained ever since. Washington, DC. continues to hold second spot for the third year in a row, while Atlanta — with the third spot — has climbed up from the sixth spot in 2010.
Boston and Riverside (California) broke into the top ten, while Tampa (Florida), Colorado Springs (Colorado), and Salt Lake City (Utah) are all new to the list of 25 in 2011. California had a total of six cities on the list for 2011, more than any other state. Here’s the full list:
A commercial building that earns an Energy Star rating must perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide and be independently verified by a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect.
Buildings which are Energy Star certified have been found to use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than typical buildings.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 02:42 AM PDT
The military is a major energy consumer!
The United States Department of Defense (DoD) is one of the largest energy consumers in the World. DoD consumed 932 trillion Btu of energy at the cost of 13.3 billion dollars (based on data from their 2009 version of the DoD Financial Management Regulation report).
This translates to about 90% of the entire energy consumption by the federal government, which again is equivalent to about 2% of the total energy consumed by the United States.
New goals for 2025
A competition has been launched to speed up the transition towards green sources of energy and improved energy efficiency. The goal is that, with the help of these discoveries and innovations, renewable energy consumption on every military base will be equivalent to the power output of three nuclear power plants.
Another important goal (in planning stages, yet to be announced) is the electricity generation of 3 GW at Army, Navy and Air Force bases, which is the combined average power consumption of about 750,000 American households. This will done using renewable energy sources, mainly with solar and wind.
Less dependence on the electrical power grid
The goals above will not only serve the environmental good, but also make sure that the military is less dependent on the electrical power grid — in case of power failures, sabotage, etc.
It is also not unlikely that the technological advancements by research conducted in the name of improving combat machinery will one day benefit the general population as well.
Image Credit: US DoD
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 02:00 AM PDT
For many companies trying to increase profitability without increasing costs, reducing electrical consumption provides a very attractive return on investment. There is a direct correlation between capital investments in energy reduction and profitability. With the economy trending in an upward direction, more and more businesses are looking to go green and save money.
A new study from University of Notre Dame management professors Edward Conlon and Ante Glavas looks at Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified bank branches at PNC Bank.
In their study, "The Relationship between Corporate Sustainability and Firm Financial Performance," they looked at 562 PNC bank branches. Of those, 93 were LEED-certified and 496 were not. Conolon and Glavas concluded that the employees who worked in the LEED-certified branches were "more productive and engaged in their work."
"It's a significant finding, and it surprised me," Conlon, an associate dean and Sorin Society Professor of Management said in a statement. "We compared the amount of money deposited at LEED and non-LEED branches, and we found more money has been deposited in the LEED branches. We divided the amount by the branches' total number of employees to come up with a per-employee dollar amount."
That per-employee dollar amount was nothing to sneeze at either. Conlon and Glavas found at LEED bank branches $461,300 per employee more was deposited, after controlling for other variables that influence performance (such as: consumer net worth, employee demographics, market demographics, size and age of branch, marketing spend). The researchers were not certain if it's because LEED buildings are more attractive to visit or because their employees are more satisfied, and consequently providing better service.
"PNC has built more than 100 LEED-certified buildings, which is more than any other U.S. company," Conlon says. "So, PNC is perfect for a LEED study because they have a lot of them and the branches all do the same thing — same products, same systems — the only thing that's different is the LEED strategy."
The researchers say the strategy is working, whether it's because the buildings look better or the people inside are more fulfilled. Speaking with customers at one of the LEED branches, they mentioned that knowing the company is working at reducing electric consumption makes them feel better about the bank and would be a contributing factor in recommending PNC to family and friends.
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 12:00 AM PDT
I included this in a “Clean Links” roundup the other day, but it’s really such a momentous thing that I’ve decided to come back to it.
Los Angeles City Council has granted the city's utility, the biggest municipal utility in the US, the right and impetus to sign solar power contracts of up to 150 megwatts with small-scale producers of solar power for above retail rates.
These feed-in tariff (FIT) contracts would be for both residential and commercial power producers.
“A demonstration FIT plan previously approved by the City Council and already budgeted by DWP allots $58 million over twenty-two years to support ten megawatts of rooftop solar contracts. It is expected to cost $0.9 million in its first year, increase slowly to $2.9 million in 2016 and, finally, to expend $46 million from 2017 to 2033,” Herman Trabish of Greentech Media writes. “Its 22-year term is likely indicative of what DWP is considering for larger volume programs.”
Now, if you’re not familiar with solar power policies, it’s important to note that most of the solar power in the world is in place through solar feed-in tariffs. World-leading Germany (which refined what was initially a US-based policy) has put tons more solar on its residents roofs than anyone else through such a policy, and many countries and municipalities have followed suit since then.
Los Angeles is mandated to have 33% percent of its energy coming from renewables by 2020. It also must have 75 megawatts of FIT-supported renewables in place by that time.
Palo Alto also recently put into place a feed-in tariff program for solar power, and Gainesville, FL and Sacramento have had feed-in tariffs in place for awhile, but Los Angeles is now the largest city in the US to have such a policy. I’m sure many eyes will be on the city and the city’s roofs to see how the program goes.
Image: Hollywood sign via shutterstock
Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:20 PM PDT
With all but one of its nuclear power plants offline, Japan is looking for cleaner and greener ways to produce electricity that won't explode in the case of a natural disaster. Kyocera Corporation, IHI Corporation, and Mizuho Corporate Bank have reached a basic agreement in that regard, planning to build a 70-MW solar power plant in the country’s southern region.
The plant is supposed to revitalize the local area in Kagoshima City (of Kagoshima Province), and in addition to the three companies forming the basic agreement, it has the support and cooperation of the Kagoshima prefectural and municipal governments.
27 Baseball Stadiums
The plant will be built on 314 acres of land owned by IHI (enough to build 27 baseball stadiums) using 290,000 Kyocera multicrystalline solar modules. It is now the largest officially announced solar power plant in Japan, and is supposed to make enough electricity for 22,000 average (Japanese) households. Current calculations estimate that it will offset 25,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.
The solar power project is supposed to make use of each company's distinctive strengths — Kyocera has had over 3 decades in the solar power industry, IHI promotes renewable power, and Mizuho has been fairly successful at the whole banking and finance thing. While their powers combined don't quite make Captain Planet, a massive solar array in Kagoshima is a much more useful way to resolve power supply issues caused by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake.
The Basic Numbers
Questions or comments? Let us know below!
Source & Image: Business Wire
Posted: 11 Apr 2012 12:56 PM PDT
Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for quality and durability, but it isn't necessarily the first automotive company that comes to mind when talking about green cars. Today, the company's reputation is now a little bit greener, as its S250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY has been named 2012 World Green Car.
BlueEFFICIENCY, Green Car
The S250 beat out its final two rivals, the Ford Focus Electric and the Peugeot 3008 hybrid, in a second such success for Mercedes Benz (the E320 Bluetec was its first winner in 2007). Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber of Mercedes-Benz Cars Development was quite proud of the announcement and the S250:
Three "green experts" review all the documentation and specifications for each candidate car. They're responsible for creating the short list of potential winners. The experts help make sense of some of the complexity of the various green technologies reaching the market. According to this year’s experts:
It's All About Protecting The Environment
The World Green Car Award is presented by Bridgestone Corporation (Japan). In order to qualify, the vehicle has to be all new (or at least all redesigned), and at least 10 have to be available for sale or lease in a major market. Once the car is actually in production, the committee looks at how its emissions, fuel consumption, and use-advanced-power-plant tech work to be make the vehicles more environmentally responsible.
Ryoji Yamada, General Manager of Bridgstone's brand management, spoke briefly at the award presentation about what the award means to Bridgestone itself and what it represents in the greater world market:
Questions or comments? Let us know below.
Source: World Car of the Year
Posted: 11 Apr 2012 12:39 PM PDT
The massive solar farm slated to be built in Antelope Valley, Solar Ranch One, just received its first loan advance this week. Exelon Corporation and First Solar, Inc. also announced that the received loan was guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office, and Exelon is now officially the owner of the project.
First Solar, a world leader in solar module manufacturing, will be providing the hardware. Exelon, headquartered in Chicago, is one of the nation's leading competitive energy providers — as well as BGE in Maryland, ComEd in Illinois, and PECO in Pennsylvania. The joint project is expected to further the growth of solar power in the U.S. and around the world.
Solar Ranch One
The solar project, named Solar Ranch One, is one of the largest in the world. It's a 230-megawatt project that is supposed to generate enough electricity to power 75,000 average California homes (yes, energy consumption was calculated specifically for California). It will also enable a reduction of 140,000 (metric) tons of carbon emissions per year, with the only waste production created during the actual production of the solar panels (a minimal amount compared to other power options).
As the loan advancement has now been received, the first part of the array is scheduled to go online later this year. The array is expected to be fully operational by the end of next year, and the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a 25-year power purchase agreement for the full output of the plant.
Whether or not the plant functions at the expected capacity, hopefully the ambitious project will act as something of an example for the solar industry.
Questions or comments? Please let us know below.
Source: First Solar
Posted: 11 Apr 2012 12:26 PM PDT
It is often argued that natural gas is an important bridge to a completely renewable energy economy. I have bought into that a bit, but some recent studies have really made the case for natural gas questionable, at best. One of those studies is linked above, and another is a new one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled "Greater Focus Needed on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas Infrastructure” that finds that current methane leaks are higher than thought and largely or even completely undercut the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas.
Natural gas is mostly methane, and methane is an extremely strong greenhouse gas (though, a greenhouse gas with a shorter lifespan than CO2).
For more on this study and numerous others related to the statistics of methane leaked by natural gas, the global warming harm of natural gas vehicles, and other natural gas topics, check out this Climate Progress post. If you’d rather skip the details, here’s the summary at the end:
“BOTTOM LINE: If you want to have a serious chance at averting catastrophic global warming, then we need to start phasing out all fossil fuels as soon as possible. Natural gas isn't a true bridge fuel from a climate perspective. Carbon-free power is the bridge fuel until we can figure out how to go carbon negative on a large scale by the end of the century.”
Now, one important issue not discussed in Joe Romm’s piece above is whether or not natural gas limits or helps to hasten renewable energy growth. The assumption is that it limits such growth. I lean towards thinking it does, as well. However, an argument not discussed above is that natural gas makes it easier to switch to clean energy such as solar and wind since it is easily dispatchable, unlike coal or nuclear — when there’s a gap in power coming from solar, wind, hydro, or other such sources, natural gas can quickly be used to fill in the gap, whereas coal or nuclear take a long time to start up or shut down and, in order to have them filling the gap, they must be running more. While this may be a benefit of natural gas that makes it more appropriate than coal or nuclear in a largely renewable energy mix, I think we’d be better off going the route of more energy storage, a smarter grid and energy management systems, and a broad mix of a variety of renewable energy options. Why build a bridge when you you don’t need one?
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