NewEnergyNews More: March 2011

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  • Wednesday, March 30, 2011


    An Energy Plan Derailed by Events Is Being Retooled
    John Broder, March 30, 2011 (NY Times)

    "…President Obama has seen the major elements of his energy and climate-change strategy demolished by a succession of economic, political, technical and natural disasters…[He wanted a] market-based [cap-and-trade] system to combat global warming and encourage development of alternative energy sources…The plan’s complex structure depended on an expansion of offshore oil drilling and nuclear power generation, creation of a trillion-dollar market in carbon pollution credits, billions of dollars of new government spending on breakthrough technologies and a tolerance for higher energy prices by consumers and businesses…But one after another the pillars of the plan came crashing down…Huge Republican gains in the midterm elections also dashed hopes…

    "Cap and trade has morphed into a 'clean energy standard,' under which 80 percent of electricity in the United States would be generated from clean sources by 2035…In a speech at Georgetown University…the president went further to try to recapture the initiative on energy policy…Mr. Obama set a new goal — to reduce American oil imports by one-third over the next decade…He called for producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to distill billions of gallons of biofuels and setting new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. He also said that the United States would continue to rely on nuclear power for decades and would have to find a way to burn coal with fewer climate-altering emissions…"

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    "The president acknowledged that his energy proposals would require legislation and new money for innovative technologies and that getting either would be difficult…Some early efforts toward the president’s plans are now under way in Congress…Senate Democrats are trying to write legislation to meet part of the president’s goal, but the Republican majority in the House seems determined to thwart any energy policy that does not begin with a major expansion of domestic coal production and oil and gas exploration…[T]he administration has fallen back on a two-pronged strategy of discouraging dirty, old energy sources through regulation and encouraging clean, new technologies by heavy spending on innovation…

    "…[Secretary of Energy] Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, is a technology enthusiast and says the nation can produce the innovations in clean energy necessary to meet the president’s goals if the right incentives are in place…[First is] legislation that will require utilities to produce a growing proportion of electricity through clean sources — nuclear, natural gas, hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and new technology players to be named later…[Second] is a robust federal research and development program…"

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    "The president’s plan includes $36 billion in new loan guarantees for building nuclear power plants, in addition to the $18.5 billion for the program left from the Bush administration…[though] the rules of the game for nuclear power in the United States might change, just as regulations for offshore drilling were tightened after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill…

    "The other part of the strategy, federal regulation of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from conventional power sources, also faces a tough challenge. Most Republicans in Congress are skeptical about the science of global warming, some even declaring it a hoax perpetrated by a coterie of self-interested scientists. Hefty Republican majorities oppose virtually any form of federal regulation of the greenhouse gases that contribute to the problem…The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already passed a bill that would forbid the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing any nationwide standard on emissions…The full House is expected to endorse the measure soon, although it is unclear whether Republicans can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate…"

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011


    Japan quake: Inside the evacuation zone
    Dai Saito, 29 March 2011 (BBC News)

    "I am still in the area. Once my mother decided to stay I knew I could not leave her. However I never imagined the situation would become so serious…There are still not enough fuel or relief supplies but some shops are gradually opening and, as long as we don't want a luxurious life, we can get on…My life has calmed down considerably compared to immediately after the earthquake but we still need relief supplies.

    "Rice, bread and emergency rice (onigiri), drinking water, petrol and kerosene are all rationed…But we don't get enough daily necessities like toilet rolls…And although we get fuel rations they are usually not enough…This is my life now. We can't live a 'relatively normal' life if we stay inside our house for too long but also, I have to worry about my health when we have to go outside to pick up the rations."

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    "The nuclear power plant is a worry. When will this situation end and what will happen now? …I don't have confidence in the government's actions especially because I am in the area that has been ambiguously designated the "Indoor Evacuation Zone" …[and] apparently they are now encouraging voluntary evacuations from here…

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    "Indoor evacuation makes no sense because you cannot stay at home all the time. It makes me wonder if this is a ploy by the government to avoid responsibility if we all suffer health issues as a result of radiation exposure - I suppose they could argue that they had informed us not to go out. One just has to laugh...

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    "It angers me that that they are putting much effort into covering up and making deliberately ambiguous statements. We now know that some of the reports were at least a day old at the time of disclosure. Even today, they reported the finding of plutonium at a press conference that was held in the middle of the night…The fact that our lives are in danger right at this minute is apparently less important than the number crunching they seem to do in a safe office far away."

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    "I personally think this accident at the nuclear power plant is, at least partly, a man-made disaster therefore it is Tepco's duty to hold a press conference and report the facts…However, they have been releasing reports that don't give us accurate pictures and at such times that no one would be awake to see them.

    "One cannot help but think they are deliberately trying to tell very little to people like us who live in the area…I am not aware of any actual aid organised by Tepco. The president and the chairman of Tepco have not been seen in public since the earthquake. I demand prompt disclosure of information and immediate relief for the people in the stricken area."


    Understanding the Effects of Ocean/Tidal/Stream Power
    Russell Ray, March 29, 2011 (HydroWorld)

    "Generating electricity from river currents, ocean waves and tides is a budding industry…The Earth’s oceans and rivers could supply us with a lot of clean energy…

    "Wave energy technologies developed by Aquamarine Power, Ocean Power Technologies and Pelamis Wave Power are ready for commercial operation…Still, hydrokinetic energy devices are largely unproven and require extensive testing, especially to determine their effect on the environment."

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    "In a report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy identified the potential environmental effects of hydrokinetic energy devices that need further monitoring and testing. The report also identified ways to mitigate the adverse environmental effects related to the installation and operation of hydrokinetic projects…

    "Among other things, the report points to concerns about installation, electromagnetic fields, spinning turbines, accidental leaks and changes in currents and waves. All of these could alter migration paths, transform beaches and bays, injure marine life, disturb the seabed and diminish food availability…[But] few devices have actually been deployed and tested in rivers and oceans in the U.S. For some environmental issues…effects will prove minor…The report encouraged the use of adaptive management principles…[that] would require the developer to adjust the project to mitigate any unacceptable environmental effects."

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    "The DOE is funding several efforts to assess the environmental effects…[and] improve the siting…[M]ore support for research and assessment in the U.S. is needed. The U.S. is far behind the UK…[which] plans to install 300 MW of new hydrokinetic capacity in the next five years while the U.S. plans to install 50 MW…

    "The technical potential of ocean wave power in the U.S. is 90,000 MW, according to estimates by the Electric Power Research Institute. If the U.S. adopted a national renewable electricity standard of 25 percent, more than 13,000 MW of that potential could be realized by 2025, according to a study by Navigant Consulting..."


    Wind & solar can reliably supply 25% of Oahu’s electricity need, new study shows
    March 17, 2011 (Hawaiian Electric Company)

    "When combined with on-Oahu wind farms and solar energy, the Interisland Wind project planned to bring 400 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu could reliably supply more than 25% of Oahu’s projected electricity demand, according to the Oahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS).

    "…[The OWIS] studied the impact on the Oahu grid of a total of 500 MW of wind energy and a nominal 100 MW of solar power, though a good deal more utility-scale and customer-sited solar power is expected on Oahu…[It] found that the 500 MW of wind and 100 MW of solar power could eliminate the need to burn approximately 2.8 million barrels of low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) and 132,000 tons of coal each year while maintaining system reliability, if a number of recommendations are incorporated including…"

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    "…[1] Provide state-of-the-art wind power forecasting to help anticipate the amount of power that will be available from wind…[2] Increase power reserves (the amount of power that can be called upon from operating generators) to help manage wind variability and uncertainty in wind power forecasts…

    "…[3] Reduce minimum stable operating power of baseload generating units to provide more power reserves…[4] Increase ramp rates (the time it takes to increase or decrease output) of Hawaiian Electric’s thermal generating units…"

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    "…[5] Implement severe weather monitoring to ensure adequate power generation is available during periods of higher wind power variability…[ and, 6] Evaluate other resources capable of contributing reserve, such as fast-starting thermal generating units and load control programs.

    "…[A]ssuring reliability will require further studies, upgrades to existing and new infrastructure, as well as specific requirements on the wind farms to be connected to the Oahu system. With these and other proposed changes, the technical analysis suggests, Oahu can accommodate increased wind and solar projects with minimal limits on output of renewable resources…"


    Keeping the lid on offshore installation costs
    Andrew Williams, 28 March 2011 (Wind Energy Update)

    "Several sector-wide factors have raised the underlying costs for offshore wind over the last few years, including rising commodity prices, currency fluctuations and bottlenecks in the supply chain. At the project level, a sluggish planning and consenting process has also eaten into budgets…

    "At the installation stage, day rates for hiring installation vessels are also very high, so it is essential that developers maximise utilisation rates [by avoiding fabrication and weather delays to ensure vessels aren't sitting idle]…[O]ver-optimistic planning schedules for installation, that don’t consider the compounding impact of delays on other elements of the project, and delays on milestone payments and income from generation, are another cause of cost overruns…"

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    "Planning for weather effects is complex. The impact of a delay in good weather can deliver a one-two punch to project schedules - one at the time, and another later when the installation schedule slips in to periods where the likelihood of weather down time is higher…

    "In an effort to minimise costs and reduce risks…wind energy companies should ensure they devote sufficient time and resources to making the best technology choices and…[do] ‘front end’ engineering design…[along with] more effective project teams and detailed project development process schedules, including integrated contracting strategies and project control mechanisms…"

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    "Another effective strategy is to engage early with experienced installation companies on the wind farm layout and installation infrastructure. This would allow cable manufacturers, foundation manufacturers and installers to collaborate…for optimal installation…[L]ogistics providers…should bring more value to projects…by proposing commercial models that would spread the risk and minimise installation times…[such as] building interesting partnerships with the supply chain, including turbine manufacturers, fabricators and installers - essentially taking lessons from oil and gas to align incentives to minimise system costs…

    "…[A] more rigorous, detailed and integrated approach to the planning, management and execution of key project stages could well pay dividends for forward thinking companies."


    Marine Life Faces Threat From Runoff
    Elisabeth Rosenthal and William J. Broad, March 28, 2011 (NY Times)

    "The announcement by Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy that high levels of radioactive cesium have been detected in seawater near the crippled nuclear reactors raises the prospect that radiation could enter the food chain.

    "Cesium 137 levels were 20 times the normal level about 1,000 feet from the effluent at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. That is far less than the level of the other main radioactive isotope spilling from the plant, iodine 131…[which] was found in concentrations of more than 1,150 times the maximum allowable for a seawater sample a mile north of the plant…[C]esium 137 poses the greater long-term danger to the marine food chain."

    The problem has steadily gotten bigger with no relief in sight. Welcome to the age of nuclear energy. (click to enlarge)

    "Iodine 131 degrades relatively fast, becoming half as potent every eight days. So the radioactive risk can be combated by banning fishing and the consumption of seafood for a period of time, as the Japanese have already done…Cesium 137, on the other hand, has a half-life of 30 years. Worse still, it is absorbed by marine plants, which are eaten by fish and — like mercury — tends to become concentrated as it moves up the food chain…

    "The exact source of the cesium 137 is unclear, although some scientists have speculated that the seawater dumped on the overheating reactors to cool them picked up radiation and then washed back out to sea…[H]ighly radioactive water in several tunnels is threatening to overflow and may also contain cesium 137."

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    "Even so, the ocean has remarkable power to dilute radioactive effluents, because of its sheer volume and depth. And the ocean is already slightly radioactive…[because for] eons, elements like uranium have washed into it from rivers…[and] humans have dumped radioactive materials…including dozens of nuclear warheads and reactors that are slowly decaying, as well as many thousands of barrels of radioactive waste…In October 1993, a Russian ship dumped hundreds of tons of low-level nuclear waste into the Sea of Japan…[creating tension] between Tokyo and Moscow.

    "Oceanographers have monitored the areas around the dumps for dangerous levels of radioactivity but typically find little of consequence because of the sea’s powers of dilution. Even so, in 1994 most countries gave up the longstanding practice of dumping radioactive materials into the sea."

    Monday, March 28, 2011


    Delaware energy: Bluewater wins right to take the next step; Offshore wind energy project clears federal hurdle
    Aaron Nathans, March 25, 2011 (Delaware Online/Gannett)

    "NRG Bluewater Wind has won the exclusive right to negotiate with the federal government to build an offshore wind farm off Delaware, federal officials announced…The decision is the first formal step along a gamut of environmental and permitting reviews that company officials expect will culminate in a landmark renewable-energy project supplying enough power to support at least 54,000 homes.

    "Bluewater is planning a wind farm13.2 miles off the Delaware coast, with between 49 large turbines and 150 smaller ones…The decision by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement [BOEMRE] marks the first time that it has begun lease negotiations with a wind-power developer under new federal rules, and comes nearly three years after Bluewater signed a 25-year supply contract with Delmarva Power."

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    "The contract requires the turbines to start producing electricity no later than 2016…[It] helps Bluewater avoid further delays in its effort to gain a lease and permit to start construction…because it won't have to grapple with another developer for the rights to build on the ocean tracts it has chosen [and done environmental and technical studies for]…[T]he decision was [taken as] a vote of confidence in Bluewater's financial and technical ability [- backed by new parent energy giant NRG Energy -] to complete the project…

    "Bluewater officials estimated in 2008 that the project would bring 400 to 500 construction jobs to the state, as well as at least 80 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs. A Port of Wilmington official estimated last year that building a regional turbine assembly facility there could result in about 770 jobs during construction, and another 750 operational jobs."

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    "…[I]t's difficult to predict when turbines [will] begin spinning. In addition to lease negotiations, Bluewater will need rigorous environmental reviews that will weigh the impact each turbine will have on the ecosystem and human activity…Bluewater expects later this year to build an offshore tower to measure wind speeds and bird migration patterns…

    "…Bluewater's planned Mid-Atlantic Wind Park may not be the first offshore wind farm in the nation. A small pilot project in state waters off Atlantic City has a faster path to permitting…And the planned Cape Wind offshore wind farm off Massachusetts already has its construction permit under old federal rules. With offshore wind energy's high price, however, it's struggling…As the first developer to use the new federal rules, Bluewater's Delaware project is blazing a trail that all large U.S. offshore wind farms are expected to follow…"


    N.C. wind company eyes Meade County; Spokesperson says weather data ‘encouraging,’ but project is early stages
    Heather Murschel, March 26, 2011 (Black Hills Pioneer)

    "Data from a meteorological tower in Meade County [that Duke Energy Renewables, a renewable energy business unit that is a part of North Carolina’s Duke Energy Corp., began reading in 2009] is already showing encouraging results that it is in an ideal location for a large-scale wind farm…

    "Steve Wegman, the executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, said Duke Energy is one of many companies [in preliminary stages of] competing for wind energy projects [which are five or more years from construction] in western South Dakota…"

    Look at all that wind! (click to enlarge)

    "Because [Duke] is simply in the in the exploratory stage…no specifics on the scale, or exact location of the project have been set…[but is clear about] the advantages of constructing a large-scale wind farm in Meade County include the proximity to transmission lines that the wind project could tap into, and the availability of private land for potential lease…[Duke is aware of and plans to protect the regional heritage] of Bear Butte…

    "…[A Duke spokesman said] the company will only commit to building a commercial renewable energy project…after it has signed a long-term agreement with a power purchaser, typically regional utilities, electric cooperatives or municipalities…[and has not] secured one yet [in South Dakota]...Wegman said the actual construction of a wind farm, depending on the size, takes less than 180 days…Wegman said the success of any wind energy company in South Dakota is directly related to economic development…"

    South Dakotans could get 135 times more electricity from their wind than they need. If they invested in wires, they could get richer than Texas. (click to enlarge)

    "Duke Energy is no stranger to the wind energy business…[It] has more than 5,500 megawatts in its pipeline…[and] upwards of 1,000 mega-watts of wind energy online at nine wind farms in the United States. Since 2007, they have invested more than $1.5 billion, and are already in the top 10 for wind generation capacity.

    "…[O]ne megawatt would serve approximately 300 homes with electricity, and a typical residential home uses 1.8 kilowatts an hour, while small businesses such as a hotel or a grocery store, uses 500 kilowatts an hour."

    Sunday, March 27, 2011


    Disaster-hit Japan faces protracted nuclear crisis
    Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yoko Kubota, March 27, 2011 (Reuters)

    "Japan appeared resigned on Monday to a long fight to contain the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years after high radiation levels complicated work at its crippled nuclear plant.

    "Engineers have been battling to control the six-reactor Fukushima complex since it was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across Japan's devastated north east."

    Radiation levels were mistakenly announced Sunday as ten million times normal and then corrected: They are "only" ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND times normal. (click to enlargge)

    "Radiation at the plant has soared in recent days: latest readings at the weekend showed contamination 100,000 times normal in water at reactor No. 2 and 1,850 times normal in the nearby sea."

    "Those were the most alarming levels since the crisis began, experts said…

    "Under-pressure plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. conceded what experts have long been saying: that Japan now faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and prevent a meltdown…"


    target="_blank">BELECTRIC tops Global PV System Integrator Rankings: German suppliers continue to dominate
    March 23, 2011 (IMS Research)

    "Germany’s BELECTRIC developed more than 300 MW of PV systems in 2010, propelling it to the top of IMS Research’s 2010 Global PV System Integrator Rankings…

    "…[D]espite the top spot and a three-fold increase in PV systems developed, BELECTRIC still only managed to capture a 2.4% share of the non-residential PV market, estimated at 13.2 GW by IMS Research."

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    "The company (formerly known as Beck Energy) narrowly edged out Germany-based juwi, and ranked five places ahead of 2009 leader Q-Cells International, which saw close to zero MW growth last year…

    "The latest global rankings also reveal Germany’s ongoing PV dominance, with 13 of the top 30 system integrators from that market. And despite the fact that newly added annual German PV capacity is expected to decline in the coming years, it is clear that these companies will remain prominent…"


    Clean Energy Creates Manufacturing Job Growth in Michigan; New Study Finds 121 Solar Energy Companies and 120 Wind Power Companies Working in Michigan
    March 22, 2011 (Environmental Law and Policy Center)

    "The Environmental Law and Policy Center’s new Michigan’s solar and wind energy supply chain study finds that 121 Michigan companies are engaged in the solar industry and 120 Michigan companies are part of the wind energy supply chain…[Together they] provide over 10,000 jobs in Michigan. The state’s manufacturers and research and development institutions benefit from policies that encourage growth in the clean energy sector…

    [The Solar and Wind Industry Supply Chain in Michigan] profiles the wide variety of Michigan businesses…The state is home to huge manufacturers like Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor, as well as over 100 small businesses such as Walker Miller Energy Services and Hot Watt Solar that serve a growing base of residential and commercial clients…[all of which] are looking forward to sound policies that will support the domestic market for clean energy."

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    [Jerrod Erpelding, spokesman for Dow Corning:] “Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor are investing billions of dollars right here in Michigan to research, develop and manufacture materials critical to the solar and wind energy industries…Our goal is to help alternative energy become an economically viable, sustainable energy option globally. Michigan is well positioned to play a major role in alternative energy with the assets and expertise already residing here.”

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    [Blaire H. Miller, EVP of URV USA, LLC:] “URV USA will build the first major clean-tech foundry in the US in more than 40 years, securing domestic capacity for very heavy wind turbine components as well as other industrial iron castings. We have begun shipping top quality finished components to major US OEMs and look forward to developing the new industry materials standard in collaboration with the US Dept. of Energy, State of Michigan, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Michigan Technological University…”

    "The report notes that strong public policies are key to growing any industry, and the wind and solar industries are no exception. Strengthening the Michigan renewable energy standard and enacting the proposed federal renewable energy standard would help grow the local economy by increasing Michigan’s export opportunities for renewable energy as well as manufactured wind and solar components and professional services."


    O'Malley Introduces Amendments To Offshore Wind Bill
    24 March 2011 (North American Windpower)

    "Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., has introduced new amendments to the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011 that will limit the Public Service Commission's (PSC) ability to approve projects to only those projects with pricing impacts on Maryland families of less than $2 per month.

    "The bill would require that public utilities purchase between 400 MW to 600 MW of power from offshore wind generation facilities in federal waters adjacent to the PJM Control Area for a period of 25 years."

    A great energy asset (click to enlarge)

    "…PSC currently directs the utilities to procure approximately 25% of [residential ratepayers] power at a time, in two-year contracts, making [them] vulnerable to periodic [market price] increases…"

    A great and affordable energy asset (click to enlarge)

    "…[Other amendments] would require the developer of the project to pass along any savings from federal tax incentives to ratepayers…[and] require the PSC to consider, as a criterion of choosing the project, a developer's plan to include minority- and women-owned businesses as well as small businesses in the development and distribution of offshore wind energy.

    "Offshore wind could create more than 20 direct jobs per annual megawatt, including jobs in manufacturing, engineering and skilled labor…A 500 MW wind generation facility in the waters off of the Delmarva coast could generate as many as 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs during the five-year development period, with an additional 400 permanent jobs once the turbines are spinning."

    Saturday, March 26, 2011


    Concerned about unhealthy air, Arizonans overwhelmingly support clean energy; Poll: Majority favors transition from coal to renewable energy, says it’s worth the investment
    March 23, 2011 (Western Clean Energy Campaign)

    "Arizona residents overwhelmingly support a move toward clean energy and away from coal, and/or costly expenditures on pollution control upgrades for aging coal-burning power plants, according to [a survey of Arizona voters]

    "The polling underscores public sentiment about energy issues at a time when two of the state’s largest utilities are considering the future of aging coal-burning power plants that provide much of the electricity used in Arizona."

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    "Salt River Project is in the middle of determining the future of the Navajo Generating Station…a significant source of nitrogen oxide and other pollutants. Because of its age, the nearly 40-year old plant is facing necessary pollution-control upgrades, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars…Arizonans not only supported renewable energy by a four-to-one margin over coal, but also… preferred renewable energy over costly pollution controls…[Similar numbers show SRP customers overwhelming support] more renewable energy.

    "Arizona Public Service also is currently assessing potential strategies to address emissions issues at the Four Corners Power Plant…one of the largest single sources of smog-causing nitrogen oxide pollution in the country. APS owns 37 percent of the plant, and the EPA is holding hearings at the end of this month to consider pollution-control alternatives…"

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    "…[Acknowledging] Arizona’s vast solar energy potential…[a]n overwhelming four out of five Arizona voters feel it is time for the state’s utilities to begin transitioning from coal to renewable energy sources, the poll found…[A] majority of those polled…[believe] making the transition to clean energy from coal would create new jobs in Arizona…

    "…[Though] voters place an increasing focus on energy affordability and reliability, they also trust that renewable energy can meet both criteria…Air pollution was by far the top environmental concern on the minds of Arizona voters…Arizonans feel having affordable electricity is not worth the pollution…"


    Texas Energy Efficiency Investments Would Save Money for Consumers and Businesses While Creating Thousands of Jobs; Investments Would Provide Cheaper Energy than Creating New Power Plants
    March 22, 2011 (American Council for an Energy Efficienct Economy)

    "Investments in energy efficiency in Texas can meet the state's growing electricity needs while saving businesses and households $14 billion on utility bills and creating 47,000 local jobs per year by 2030…

    "…These are the [findings] of…
    Energy Efficiency Investments as an Economic Productivity Strategy for Texas from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)]…commissioned by the Texas Clean Energy Coalition (TCEC)…[with] insights and data provided by Texas experts."

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    John A. "Skip" Laitner, study author/Director of Economic and Social Analysis, ACEEE:] "Energy efficiency is easily the most affordable energy resource in Texas…While a 20% to 30% efficiency gain over the next two decades may seem challenging, Texas is already finding energy efficiency resources at less than 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to the expected cost of power from new generating plants of 6 to 10 cents…[and] the cost-effective efficiency investments will also drive new employment opportunities."

    "The study examines a set of six alternative energy efficiency scenarios that cost-effectively reduce electricity demand. The assessment suggests that an expanded set of productivity investments across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors would not only reduce the growth in electricity demand, they would actually reduce overall electricity consumption 12% to 19% below 2010 levels by 2030…"

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    "…[S]upply-side efficiency improvements, such as those made possible by combined heat and power technologies, and the expanded efficiency improvements in homes and businesses would save ratepayers a net $12 to $14 billion [through 2030]…"

    Kip Averitt, former Texas state Senator/Chair, TCEC:] "We already knew that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to meet the state's growing demand for energy…Now we have solid proof that common-sense energy efficiency would create jobs for Texas workers and produce an economic windfall for the Lone Star State."


    Gazette opinion: Lawmakers should back coal, wind energy
    March 24, 2011 (Billings Gazette)

    "Montana is an energy exporter, shipping coal, oil, gas and electricity to markets far beyond our state line…[It has] higher energy needs than most…[to keep warm] through the winter…[The big state’s long] distances between communities…necessitate long trips…[but bills on] the 2011 Montana Legislature…give a lopsided view of what energy means to Montanans. They would promote oil, gas and coal development while discouraging investment in alternative energy. The…GOP legislative majority actually [seeks] to rescind incentives for energy efficiency and conservation.

    "Promoting wastefulness is bad policy; it would take Montana in the wrong direction…[O]il, coal and gas will be important for many years…[but] it makes no sense to promote state policies that would trap Montanans in energy wasting buildings for another generation…[and it’s] wrong to crush the alternative energy industry that is giving Montanans choices in how they heat and power their homes and businesses. Cleaner energy creates good jobs, too."

    Montana could get half its electricity from hydro resources not going to waste. (click to enlarge)

    "There is room in Montana for both traditional fossil fuels as well as wind, solar, biodiesel and geothermal energy…[L]awmakers [shopuld] embrace a future in which Montana’s fortunes will include fossil fuels but not be dependent on them. The strength of Montana’s economy is in diversity — not in being yoked to booms and busts in energy markets.

    "Montanans’ answers to last week’s Gazette State Poll indicate that the public wants a broad-based energy policy…62 percent said they would support…[efforts to develop] renewable energy, solar power and energy conservation even if…[it] might increase utility costs for consumers…Only 29 percent said they would oppose such efforts…"

    Talk about exports - Montana has 100 times its total electricity use in wind resources! (click to enlarge)

    "53 percent said they would support enacting state laws…[to keep] environmental regulations…[from blocking] more development of oil, gas, coal and precious metals…42 percent of Montanans polled said they would support amending Montana’s existing constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment by…[including] ‘the right to an economically productive environment.’

    "Montana has granted tax breaks and incentives for fossil fuel production as well as for alternative energy and conservation. All of these should be elements of a comprehensive energy policy that recognizes all costs and benefits. Montanans are both producers and consumers of energy whose best interests may conflict. State law should balance promotion of traditional energy sources with promotion of alternative choices and conservation that will minimize consumer costs, reduce pollution and maximize opportunities for energy jobs…"


    First Solar to Build Solar Module Factory in Mesa, Arizona; New Factory Will Create 600 Jobs Annual Production of More Than 250MW
    March 17, 2011 (First Solar)

    "First Solar, Inc…will build its new U.S. manufacturing center in Mesa, Ariz…[and] invest about $300 million in the factory, which will create approximately 600 jobs and will include four manufacturing lines with a capacity to produce more than 250 megawatts (MW) of advanced thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules per year…[I]n combination with First Solar’s recently expanded facility in Perrysburg, Ohio, [this] will increase First Solar’s U.S. production capacity to more than 500MW per year.

    "Construction will begin in the second quarter of 2011 and is expected to last a year, creating an average of 400-500 construction jobs. Module shipments are scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2012. The facility is located on a 135-acre site that was previously home to a General Motors vehicle testing facility and is designed to accommodate future expansion. The facility will include a 3MW rooftop solar installation as well as an extensive ground-mounted PV testing facility. The factory will utilize First Solar’s continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, which contributes to the industry-leading energy payback time and low carbon footprint of systems utilizing First Solar’s thin-film modules…"

    "…First Solar also is currently building two utility-scale PV projects in Arizona, the 290MW Agua Caliente project in Yuma County for NRG Energy and the 17MW Paloma Solar Plant in Gila Bend for APS, which are expected to create more than 500 construction jobs. First Solar’s North American project pipeline includes more than 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of projects expected to create approximately 2,000 construction jobs and drive $6 billion of infrastructure investment over three years.

    "Like all of its PV modules, the entire production output of the Mesa factory will be part of First Solar’s comprehensive, prefunded solar module collection and recycling program, the first of its kind in the industry. Anyone wishing to dispose of First Solar modules can request collection at any time, at no additional cost, and First Solar will pick up the modules and recycle up to 90% (by mass) of the material for use in new products…"

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011


    SPG Solar, SunEdison Inaugurate 2 MW School Projects
    16 March 2011 (Solar Industry)
    California School District Breaks Ground On 2 MW Installation
    17 March 2011 (Solar Industry)

    "Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) in California, SPG Solar and SunEdison have officially connected 2 MW of solar power to the grid. The installations are part of a multi-school program that is expected to generate 25% to 60% of each campus' electrical consumption.

    "Comprising more than 7,300 solar panels at 15 IUSD sites, the solar deployments are expected to generate more than 2.9 million kWh of electricity per year, and more than 51 million kWh over 20 years. IUSD will use all of the energy produced to offset its demand from the grid."

    An Irvine middle school (click to enlarge)

    "The solar power systems were made possible through a strategic solar power service agreement…SunEdison financed and deployed the solar power arrays…IUSD will purchase the power produced from each system at long-term predictable rates for 20 years. SPG Solar was responsible for the design and construction…"

    click to enlarge

    "Lodi Unified School District, in cooperation with Cupertino Electric Inc.'s (CEI) Energy Alternatives Division, has begun the construction phase of a 2 MW solar photovoltaic system located in Lodi, Calif.

    "The CEI-designed solar system will comprise four smaller systems mounted on parking lot canopies throughout the district…Construction is expected to be complete by late summer…"


    Rugby wind farm resumes operation after accident
    Dale Wetzel, March 21, 2011 (Chicago Tribune)

    "A wind energy project in north-central North Dakota has resumed generating power…a week after the rotor and three giant blades on one of its towers plummeted to the ground.

    "The wind farm has 71 turbines perched atop steel towers just north of Rugby, about 150 miles northeast of Bismarck, and is capable of generating up to 149 megawatts of electricity. It was inspected after the March 14 accident and judged to be safe to resume operation…"

    (from Pierce County Tribune – click to enlarge)

    "…[A]n investigation into the cause of the accident has not been completed…[Plant owner-operator Iberdrola Renewables] said the tower suffered a ‘rotor assembly failure.’

    "No one was injured…The wind turbine's manufacturer, Suzlon Wind Energy Corp., described the mishap as ‘an isolated incident.’"

    click to enlarge

    "…North Dakota had more than 1,400 megawatts of wind generating capacity at the end of last year, which ranked it ninth among states…[and] enough wind energy to power 430,000 homes.

    "The Iberdrola wind farm sells its energy to Missouri River Energy Services, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., which supplies electricity to 60 municipal utilities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa…"


    Japan's nuclear disaster boosts renewables
    March 21, 2011 (UPI)

    "With perceptions of nuclear power souring amid the unfolding Japanese disaster, analysts expect subsequent gains for natural gas and renewables.

    "…[Japan’s is] the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant…[A]n alternative energy analyst…[said] the Fukushima disaster could change nuclear energy policies across the globe."

    (from the Financial Times - click to enlarge)

    Robert Clover, analyst, HSBC:] "…[W]e expect that nuclear's loss could be natural gas, energy efficiency and renewable's gain…"

    "Japan's nuclear reactors were taken offline after the quake, leaving the country with a 20 percent energy deficit. Japan is buying additional oil and natural gas to make up for the shortfall."

    "Global energy markets were able to make up for the shortfall after an earthquake struck Japan in 2007. The crisis in Libya, however, left oil producers scrambling to make up for the millions of barrels [needed this time]…

    "Energy prices in part because of the dual crises are at highs not seen since the global financial meltdown in 2008."


    The nuclear option: Safety concerns are only one big reason wind and solar better
    Mark Z. Jacobson, March 20, 2011 (NY Daily News)

    "The powerful earthquake and tsunami that caused reactors at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant to shut down - releasing radiation and endangering workers and evacuees - have many Americans asking whether nuclear energy is worth the investment and risk. [As Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University,] I say not. In fact, it should not have taken a disaster of this kind to move us decisively away from nuclear and
    toward safe, clean, renewable energy."

    click to enlarge

    "First, consider the meltdown. The risk of such a catastrophe is not trivial. In fact, the five reactor meltdowns in history represent more than 1% of the more than 440 nuclear reactors on Earth. Meltdowns can be caused not only by human error and natural disasters, but also by a terrorist with a large plane…[This] is dwarfed by the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, as evidenced by the attempted or actual development of weapons capabilities in Pakistan, India, Iran and to some extent North Korea secretly under the cover of nuclear energy facilities.

    "If the world's energy needs were converted to electricity for all purposes - and nuclear supplied such energy - 15,800 large nuclear reactors, one installed every day for the next 43 years, would be needed…[E]ven 5% of these would nearly double the current number of reactors, giving many more countries the potential to develop weapons…[One such weapon] could kill 1 to 16 million people…"

    click to enlarge

    "Why do we need nuclear energy when we have safer, cleaner options that can provide greater power for a much longer period and at lower cost to society? …[With WWS – wind, water and sunlight – the] chance of catastrophe caused by nature or terrorists…is zero…WWS technologies emit no pollution - whereas nuclear does, since continuous energy is needed to mine, transport and refine uranium, and reactors require much longer to permit and install than do WWS technologies. Overall, nuclear emits 9 to 25 times more air pollution and carbon dioxide than does wind per unit energy generated…"

    "Some argue that nuclear is more reliable than WWS systems. This is not true. A nuclear reactor affects a larger fraction of the grid when it fails than does a wind turbine. The average maintenance downtime of modern wind turbines on land is 2%. That of France’s 59 reactors is 21.5% [and only half is scheduled maintenance]…Nuclear power plants most efficiently provide constant power when they are on. But power demand varies continuously. Some WWS options (such as geothermal and tidal) also provide constant output…[O]thers (wind, solar, wave) are variable, and hydroelectricity can be turned on and off quickly…[C]ombining WWS technologies as a single commodity allows power demand to be supplied hour by hour with virtually no backup."

    click to enlarge

    "…Solar power in sunny locations can power the entire world for all purposes 30 times over; wind in windy locations on or near land can power the world 6 to 15 times over. Only 0.4% more of the entire planet’s physical land would be needed to power everyone, everywhere with WWS…Despite what you may have heard, on-land wind, hydroelectric and geothermal power are cost-competitive with conventional energy. Solar costs are higher but decreasing…[Policy makers] leaning toward nuclear should consider…health and safety… and the scientific method, instead of the trail of lobbyists, when deciding the future of this country…"


    New Senate Bill Contains 25 Percent Renewable Energy Standard; U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced legislation this week that includes a 25 percent renewable energy standard among other strong provisions for domestic alternative energy.
    March 18, 2011 (Sustainable Business via Reuters)

    "The Securing America's Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies (SAFEST) Act would establish renewable energy and energy-efficiency standards…"

    click to enlarge

    "…[T]he legislation would establish…[1] New incentives for biofuels infrastructure and deployment…[2] An extension of tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel that the Senators say would reward efficient producers and be more cost-effective…

    "…[3] A renewable electricity standard of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025…[4] An energy-efficiency resource standard (1 percent per year)…"

    click to enlarge

    "...[And, 5] Targets for the availability of advanced vehicle technologies including hybrid, electric, and flex-fuel vehicles…

    "The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that the national energy-efficiency resource standard in the bill would create energy bill savings of more than $150 billion by 2020 and save enough energy to power approximately one-third of all households in the United States. Recent studies indicate that the renewable electricity standard in the bill could create more than 250,000 new cleantech jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 percent."

    click to enlarge

    "The SAFEST bill has been endorsed by the National Farmers Union, Growth Energy, National Association of Energy Service Companies, American Soybean Association, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and the National Biodiesel Board."

    Monday, March 21, 2011


    Global PV Market Reached 18.2 GW Last Year, But Slower Growth Expected
    17 March 2011 (Solar Industry)

    "Worldwide solar photovoltaic market installations reached a record high of 18.2 GW in 2010, [a growth of 139% over the previous year] according to a new report issued by solar energy consultancy Solarbuzz…

    "The PV industry generated $82 billion in global revenues in 2010, up 105% year over year from $40 billion in 2009. Companies throughout the PV chain successfully raised more than $10 billion in equity and debt…"

    Growth has been even faster than the forecast (click to enlarge)

    "In 2010, the top five countries by PV market size were Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Japan and the U.S. - representing over 80% of global demand. European countries represented 14.7 GW, or 81% of world demand in 2010…The top three countries in Europe were Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, which collectively totaled 12.9 GW. In 2010, the Japanese and U.S. markets grew by 101% and 96%, respectively. In all, over 100 countries made some contribution to soaring global PV demand…

    "Worldwide solar cell production reached 20.5 GW in 2010, up from 9.86 GW a year earlier, with thin film production accounting for 13.5% of total production. Producers in China and Taiwan continued to build share and now account for 59% of global cell production, up from 49% last year…The top two cell manufacturers in 2010 were Suntech Power and JA Solar, which tied for the first position, followed closely by JA Solar and First Solar."

    Not all the production leaders are adding new capacity (click to enlarge)

    "The top eight polysilicon manufacturers had 145,200 tonnes per annum of capacity in 2010, while the top eight wafer manufacturers accounted for 45% of global wafer supply. The excess of production over market demand caused crystalline silicon factory gate module prices to drop 14% in 2010, significantly less than the 38% reduction of the previous year…

    "By 2015, Solarbuzz projects the European market share will fall to between 45% and 54% as the North American and several Asian markets grow rapidly. The U.S. will be the fastest-growing major country market over this period. Over the next five years, factory gate module prices are projected to drop between 37% and 50% from 2010 levels."


    Hydrovolts Wins Imagine H2O Prize, Latest in Industry Recognitions
    March 21, 2011 (Hydrovolts)

    "Hydrovolts Inc., producer of innovative hydrokinetic turbines for renewable energy generation, won First Place [among 50 companies] in the Imagine H2O Water-Energy Nexus Prize, adding one more industry accolade for its solid business model and marketable technology…"

    [Burt Hamner, CEO, Hydrovolts:] “This prize underscores…Hydrovolts’ enormous market potential to produce electricity from slow-moving water systems, such as irrigation canals, and deliver clean electricity to farms, businesses and consumers nearby…Canals are an untapped energy resource, and they are essentially the same around the world so we expect to expand our impact rapidly…”

    click to enlarge

    "Imagine H2O’s judging panel featured many of the water sector’s leading experts. The top 10 finalists are rewarded with access to Imagine H2O’s Accelerator program where they are provided industry expert mentors and professional services. The judges evaluated all business plan entries based on commercial viability…

    "Hydrovolts wins $20,000 in cash from prize sponsors, and $30,000 in professional services from the attorneys at Cooley LLP and the accountants at PwC. Both firms have significant clean tech and energy practices…[T]he firms will help Hydrovolts establish its California market presence, apply for state-based renewable energy incentives, meet potential investors, and create an advisory group of state experts and investors."

    click to enlarge

    "Hydrovolts currently is manufacturing a prototype 25 kW hydrokinetic turbine with an initial investment by DLZ Corp., U.S.-based civil engineering firm, for testing in the Chilla Canal in India. DLZ has indicated it could order an additional 400 turbines and place them in the canal leading up to the traditional hydropower plant. Hydrovolts estimates that 400 turbines will sell for about $20 million…

    "The company recently closed its first financing round which was over-subscribed by angel and corporate investors. Hydrovolts has collaborations with the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Washington, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems…[It] has won several awards…[and] become popular on the venture capital exhibition circuit…"


    Tweety Was Right: Cats Are a Bird’s No. 1 Enemy
    Elisabeth Rosenthal, March 20, 2011 (NY Times)

    "While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds…[Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix:
    sources, sinks and domestic cats
    ] in The Journal of Ornithology on the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that cats were the No. 1 killer in the area, by a large margin.

    "Nearly 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators, and cats were responsible for 47 percent of those deaths…Death rates were particularly high in neighborhoods with large cat populations…Predation was so serious in some areas that the catbirds could not replace their numbers for the next generation, according to the researchers, who affixed tiny radio transmitters to the birds to follow them. It is the first scientific study to calculate what fraction of bird deaths during the vulnerable fledgling stage can be attributed to cats…"

    Data assimilated from various sources (click to enlarge)

    "The American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to 500 million birds are killed each year by cats — about half by pets and half by feral felines…By contrast, 440,000 birds are killed by wind turbines each year, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, although that number is expected to exceed one million by 2030 as the number of wind farms grows to meet increased demand."

    Sorry, but as long as wind's enemies try to use this issue against it, the brutal truth has to be told. (click to enlarge)

    "The American Bird Conservancy generally supports the development of wind energy, but it argues that wind farms should be ‘bird smart’ — for example, positioned so that they do not interfere with major migration paths or disturb breeding grounds, with their power lines buried to prevent collisions…[T]he leading cause of bird deaths over all, as opposed to the catbird fledglings in the study, remain[s] collisions with buildings, windows and towers, followed by predators.

    "Yet wind turbines often provoke greater outrage than cats do…Household cats were introduced in North America by European colonists; they are regarded as an invasive species and have few natural enemies to check their numbers…"