NewEnergyNews More: April 2011

NewEnergyNews More

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  • Saturday, April 30, 2011


    Google: renewable energy is long-term effort
    Timothy Gardner (w/Sofina Mirza-Reid), April 28, 2011 (Reuters)

    "Google Inc has not given up on its goal of making renewable energy cheaper than coal for consumers but it is not predicting victory soon…

    "The Internet search giant said in late 2007 it would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in solar, wind and geothermal technologies to help make renewables cost competitive with coal, reviled by environmentalists for its emissions...Google's co-founder Larry Page, now the company's chief executive, said then the company was optimistic the goal could be met in years, not decades."

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    "The pledge was made before 2008's financial crisis depleted the number of players willing to make big investments in renewable energy…[and on the hope] that Congress would pass a comprehensive energy bill that would have put a higher price on burning coal and other fossil fuels, an effort that died in the Senate last year.

    "…[Google still sees] a lot of opportunities in renewables but it takes time to make an impact…Google investment in renewable energy technology companies has tapered off while it has ramped up investment in generating projects, including two this month…{all together, it] has made five major investments in renewable energy generation projects, worth more than a combined $350 million [and is exploring more opportunities]."

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    "…[In April, it invested] about $100 million in the world's largest wind farm under construction in Oregon, a $2 billion project called Shepards Flat…[and] $168 million in BrightSource Energy Inc's $1.7 billion-plus Ivanpah solar thermal complex in the California desert, the company's largest investment in the clean energy sector to date…Both projects will produce power that is far more expensive than that from coal…But Google believes it can eventually help reduce the costs of renewables by spurring innovation and by showing other companies that renewables can be a good business opportunity…

    "One reason Google invested in the Shepards Flat wind farm, for instance, is because the project will deploy 2.5 megawatt wind turbines, a size of equipment not used before in the United States…[S]uccess at the project could help deploy more of the turbines at other U.S. wind farms or lead to more research and development on large turbines, which could eventually make them cheaper."


    Baucus crafts oil tax break repeal plan amid high profit reports
    Ben Geman, April 28, 2011 (The Hill)

    "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)…vowed to shepherd a plan through the [his committee] that ends billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies…

    "Baucus released a short “blueprint” of the plan – which would expand investment in “clean” fuels and efficient vehicles – the same day that oil giants Exxon and Shell reported big gains in first-quarter profits…[and] a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he planned to bring a tax break repeal measure to the floor. The White House and Democrats are targeting the subsidies in the wider political debate that has erupted over high gasoline prices."

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    "The plan would prevent the five biggest oil companies from claiming a lucrative deduction on domestic manufacturing income, reduce the foreign tax credit for royalty payments to foreign governments and impose an excise tax on certain Gulf of Mexico leases…[T]he excise tax could be a revival of past Democratic efforts to target leases issued in the late 1990s that currently allow royalty-free production even when oil and natural gas prices are high…"

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    [The Baucus Blueprint:] “[The plan will] encourage increased production of cleaner and more affordable domestically-produced fuel by making it easier for manufacturers to produce and for consumers to purchase…[and] “incentivize the infrastructure needed to support clean energy vehicles, such as alternative energy fueling stations, that will make the clean energy transportation of the future possible…”

    "The plan would not add to the deficit because repealing the oil industry tax incentives would pay for the “clean” energy programs in the bill, according to the Senate Finance Committee…"


    BLM Facilitates Renewable Energy Development on Public Lands through Rules
    April 25, 2011 (U.S. Dept of the Interior/Bureau of Land Management)

    "In support of the [Obama] Administration’s work to develop environmentally-responsible renewable energy on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) [has] moved…to facilitate right-of-way (ROW) applications for lands with wind and solar energy development potential…

    "…Under existing regulations, lands included in a renewable energy ROW application or within an area identified by the BLM for such ROWs differ from lands proposed for exchange or sale, which can be closed to the filing of mining claims. Lands included in a proposed ROW, however, remain open to appropriations such as the location and entry of mining claims while the BLM is considering the application."

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    "Since 2006, the BLM has processed 24 solar and wind energy development ROW applications. In two proposed ROWs, mining claims were located after the applications were submitted but before the ROWs could be authorized. Over the past two years, 437 new mining claims were located within wind energy ROW application areas in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, while 216 new mining claims were located within solar energy ROW application areas."

    There is no apparent need for conflict between mining and New Energy, so why is there conflict? (click to enlarge)

    "The BLM published two rules…to help resolve such conflicts. The two rules grant the BLM authority to temporarily remove lands included in a renewable energy ROW application and lands offered for wind or solar energy lease from land appropriations like mining claims. Through temporary segregation of lands covered by a currently pending or future wind or solar ROW application, the BLM can ensure no new resource conflicts will arise with respect to mining claims.

    "…Such segregations would only be authorized as needed and would not necessarily cover all lands where renewable energy ROW applications have been filed…The rules would also provide for termination of the segregation…The segregation would be effective for two years and can be extended for an additional two years if the appropriate BLM State Director determines that an extension is necessary…The proposed rule will be completed within two years."


    Designing wind farms for max output
    April 11, 2011 (WindPower Engineering)

    "Designing a wind farm requires…[maximizing] energy capture while minimizing wind loads on turbines, balance-of-plant costs, and maintaining all setback and avoidance criteria. This complicated task is most easily accomplished with assistance from specialized computer programs developed just for the wind industry. The most widely used program, WindPRO, developed by EMD in Denmark, has been used by the industry with continual improvements for over 20 years. In one computer model it combines all the information needed to efficiently design a wind farm.

    "…A designer inputs digital background maps (topographic maps, orthographic imagery, or other graphics) digital elevation data, wind data, surface roughness information, GIS data such as property lines and road-center lines, along with wind-turbine power curves to create a 3D computer model. Changing alterable data allows optimizing…annual energy output, [calculating] noise emissions, shadow flicker, visual impacts…[and provides] photo-simulations…"

    WindPRO's image of the factors on the landscape (click to enlarge)

    "Turbine arrangement is one of the most important aspects of a wind farm’s design. A small change…can result in a significant difference in annual energy output…[and] translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in revenue…[D]esigners try to take advantage of the natural speed-up effects that occur on hill tops…[and minimize] wake-induced turbulence that results in energy loss (array loss) and increased mechanical loads on the turbines…

    "…[D]esigners also must satisfy numerous setback and avoidance constraints, such as a safe distance from public roads and environmentally sensitive areas…[and] minimize the effects of noise emissions and shadow flicker on nearby residences…"

    WindPRO's image of what the turbines will look like on the land (click to enlarge)

    "…WindPRO easily factors in…[everything] and allows testing over [m]ultiple iterations…[t]o predict a wind farm’s annual energy output…[It predicts] the wind speeds at each turbine throughout the wind farm, as well as array losses…

    "Even with all the tools available, it still takes experience, scientific knowledge and engineering judgment to properly design a wind farm and accurately predict an annual energy output. Today’s modern computer tools are helpful, but as with any computer modeling, it is the user’s responsibility to determine the quality and appropriateness of the inputs and the reasonableness and accuracy of the results."


    California wind energy sets record
    Tom Gray, April 27, 2011 (Regulacion Eolica con Vehiculos Electricos)

    "California wind farm plants set a new record for instantaneous generation...[at the end of April], churning out 2,432 megawatts (MW) to easily best the old record of 1,915 MW...[It] was announced by the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), the company that manages California's utility system...[which said] the record "symbolizes the beginning of an important shift in the state's power mix" as California moves steadily toward a new goal of obtaining 33% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020...

    "Peak demand on the ISO grid [in the coming summer] is expected to reach 47,814 MW, which is 687 MW more than the actual peak of 47,127 MW set in 2010. The 1.5% increase represents a modest economic recovery, leading both the ISO and the CEC to encourage energy conservation on hot days...An estimated 2,357 MW of demand response and interruptible load programs will be available to the ISO to deploy this summer. These “negawatts” can offset the need for new generation and counterbalance the variable output of renewable resources."

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    "The probability of rotating power outages is less than 1%, assuming moderate levels of imported power. California gets a quarter of its daily electricity needs met from imports. Under normal peak demand conditions, operating reserve margins are projected to be greater than the [required] 15% resource adequacy requirements...

    "By September 2011, the Energy Commission states that 846 MW of the state's electric generation capacity will be retired...[mostly facilities] using seawater for power plant cooling. New generation capacity added by the end of September 2011 is expected to be about 1,158 MW, with 893 MW of the new generation provided by renewable energy resources."

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    "Record-high level of wind turbines comes as the California snowpack reaches 160% of historical average. The heavy snow inventory, combined with warm temperatures, could lead to fast stream flows that fuel a glut in hydroelectricity...[possibly requiring] the ISO to send quick signals for power plants to “back down”—sometimes even paying generators last minute to reduce output. Flexible on/off ramping capability is critical in making sure megawatts do not overload the grid.

    "New geospatial technology and advanced visualization capabilities in the control center will help operators stay one step ahead of nature. With the first dedicated renewables-only dispatch desk in North America, the ISO is better prepared to anticipate swings in wind and solar production...The control center itself is a mini-power plant, with rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels...[and] carport PV...The soon-to-be LEED-rated campus exemplifies California’s commitment to the environment..."


    FRV Contracts with RES Americas to Build Landmark Project for Austin Energy; Construction Begins on Webberville Solar, One of the Largest Solar PV Systems in the U.S
    April 26, 2011 (Fotowatio Renewable Ventures)

    "Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV)…[has] closed financing and begun construction on the 30 megawatt (MW) Webberville Solar project, one of the largest solar PV systems in the U.S…

    "The project, which will be located just outside Austin, Texas, is scheduled to be operational by year-end. Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES Americas), headquartered in Colorado with an Austin office of 20 employees, has been selected to construct the project and provide operations and maintenance services for the power plant for five years. Once operational, the solar energy from the plant will provide electricity under a long-term power purchase agreement with Austin Energy for 25 years…"

    This keeps Austin on track (click to enlarge)

    "FRV has partnered with Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB), which has fully underwritten the construction debt for the project. With this team now in place, the construction of the Webberville Solar project — sited on Austin Energy-owned land in Travis County, approximately 15 miles east of Austin in Webberville, TX — is fully under way…

    "…[T]o maximize the solar energy output at the site, the solar plant will be constructed by mounting modules on a flat, single-axis tracking system. The project will deploy crystalline 270W photovoltaic modules that FRV procured directly from Trina Solar. The Webberville Solar project will provide enough clean energy to power 5,000 homes, while avoiding the emission of approximately 30,000 tons of CO2 per year…"


    NYISO: Grid Outlook Is Positive, But Challenges Persist
    27 April 2011 (Renew Grid)

    "Although the immediate outlook for New York state's electric grid is generally positive, the sustained adequacy of power will be impacted by a range of challenges, according to a new report released by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO).

    [Power Trends 2011; Energizing New York’s Legacy of Leadership] is NYISO's annual review of the forces and factors affecting the state's electric system. According to the authors, developments over the past decade have contributed to a more reliable system, and with planned additions in the near future, the adequacy of power resources is not an imminent concern."

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    "…[D]evelopments include smart grid efforts…to enhance the operation of the transmission and distribution systems, as well as to empower the end-use electricity consumer…[T]he new technology may be combined with consumer access to dynamic pricing that involves a rate structure reflecting the changing supply-and-demand conditions in the wholesale electricity market…

    "…[T]he sustained adequacy of resources may be challenged by several factors…[including] the considerable lead time required for power infrastructure project development…Consequently, the report recommends that the planning horizons of policymakers and regulators encompass the time required for the electric industry to address new laws and changes in regulatory requirements [for financing, permitting and constructing major energy projects]."

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    "…[There is also a] need to address aging generation and transmission infrastructure. As of the end of 2010, 60% of the state’s power-plant capacity was put into service before 1980. Similarly, 84% of the high-voltage transmission facilities in New York went into service before 1980…[It is especially urgent] to develop adequate replacement generation to serve southeastern New York in the event of the retirement of the nuclear power units at Indian Point…[so as] to prevent violation of mandatory resource adequacy reliability standards and maintain the supply of power and transmission voltage support needed to move electricity over power lines…

    "…[T]he New York electric system faces the cumulative impact of impending environmental regulations…Renewable energy integration is also lacking, and although the mix of fuels used to generate electricity in New York is relatively diverse - including a relatively balanced mix of hydropower, nuclear, coal, natural gas and oil - fossil-fueled generation predominates in the high-demand downstate region…[Removing] barriers to trade among regional power markets, [increasing] renewable resources and energy efficiency, [improving] coordination among neighboring grid operators and…[planning] across the Eastern Interconnection…[could] yield annual savings of $193 million for New York."


    Utilities look to renewables as natural gas dwindles
    Tim Bradner, April 28, 2011 (Alaska Journal of Commerce)

    "Despite its high costs, renewable energy is a good risk-management strategy for Southcentral Alaska electric utilities, which currently depend heavily on natural gas for power generation…[because] natural gas reserves are running down…

    "Renewable energy – wind, hydro and geothermal – can be expensive at the front-end but its key advantage, in the long run is that the fuel is free…The state and the Railbelt utilities partnered to build the Bradley Lake dam near Homer [20 years ago]…Natural gas prices have since doubled from what they were 20 years ago but the cost of Bradley Lake hydro power has been stable and low…"

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    "Cook Inlet Region Inc.'s planned $160 million Fire Island wind project…[has met] difficulties in securing power sales agreements with local utilities…[but if] it's just business-as-usual, and aside from the gas supply issue, Alaskans in the Railbelt communities will spend an estimated $60 billion to purchase fossil fuels over the next 20 years, money that flows out of the state's economy, and this doesn't assume any increases in price…In rural Alaska, where communities are heavily reliant on diesel, $6 billion will be spent…[so there] are about 30 wind projects operating in rural communities in combination with conventional diesel generation.

    "While a portfolio of energy supplies is important, conservation is key, and Alaskans have proven successful in this. The state's popular energy rebate program, which refunds homeowners' investments in energy efficiency, is a demonstrated success…The state has mandated energy efficiency measures for public buildings. These things are important because studies show that about 50 per cent of the total "life-cycle" cost of a structure over time is in operating costs, and much of that is in heat and power…Only about 17 percent of total costs is actual construction."

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    "The good news is that a variety of renewable energy options are available to utilities in Southcentral and Interior Alaska…[including] the Fire Island wind project and also a potential geothermal resource at Mount Spurr…Ormat Nevada, a geothermal company, plans to resume testing this summer…Mount Spurr could provide 50 megawatts to 100 megawatts to the Southcentral grid…[if] a 40-mile transmission line [is built]…Geothermal power projects are typically online 99 percent of the time, which beats even gas-fired power generation…

    "There are other wind projects that could feed power into the Railbelt grid…Integration of variable wind power into a local grid, which requires the assurance of steady, reliable power, is always a challenge…[but the] Kodiak Electric Association has solved this…There are smaller hydro projects in the region, too…"

    Friday, April 29, 2011


    Ted Turner puts his money to work tackling global issues
    Henry Unger, April 23, 2011 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    "…[Ted Turner is tackling] some of the planet’s biggest messes with his money — a running total of $1.5 billion to the U.N. and a variety of environmental and anti-nuclear causes — and his mouth…"

    [Turner:] “My top priority is nuclear weapons because they can end it all in an afternoon…There’s going to be a nuclear-weapons accident [like the nuclear power plant disaster in Japan]…We need to get rid of all nuclear weapons immediately…”

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    "That same style takes hold when he talks about our reliance on oil and coal."

    [Turner:] “The days of fossil fuels are over…The trouble is we’re going to run out of atmosphere first…[And who] wants to have a nuclear power plant in their backyard today?…I think clean, reliable energy should be our top priority…”

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    "Turner is involved with promoting clean energy, favoring solar, wind and geothermal projects. He has reservations about natural gas and opposes the resurgence of nuclear power…[In the Turner Enterprises parking lot in downtown Atlanta] he has installed solar panels to help power the building…

    "….The federal government should phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, he believes, and transfer that money to beefing up alternative energy sources…He recently teamed up with Atlanta-based Southern Co. and the local power cooperative serving Cimarron, N.M., on a big solar project there…"


    Wells Fargo Enters Funding Agreement With SunEdison
    26 April 2011 (Solar Industry)

    "Wells Fargo & Co. and SunEdison LLC, a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials, have signed an agreement by which Wells Fargo subsidiaries will invest up to $120 million to fund U.S. solar photovoltaic distributed-generation power projects developed by SunEdison over the next year."

    This SunEdison built commercial rooftop solar installation is a perfect example of the distributed generation Wells Fargo will help fund. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T]he program builds on a SunEdison solar investment fund established in 2007, in which Wells Fargo invested more than $200 million in approximately 150 solar projects developed by SunEdison in eight states…"


    Bonus Depreciation Rules Increase Optimism For Wind Developers
    John Marciano, 5 April 2011 (North American Windpower)

    "…[T]he 100% depreciation bonus Congress passed at the end of 2010…permits the owner of certain property, including wind turbines and certain transmission assets, to write off the entire cost of the property in the year it goes in service…[It] is an expansion of an existing 50% bonus…[that applies to property placed in service after 2007 and before 2013…[with which] half of the project cost [can] be written off immediately…

    "The new rules relieve some uncertainty and have increased optimism…The 100% bonus can be worth as much as $0.0445 per dollar of capital cost for wind turbines and $0.18 per dollar of capital cost for certain transmission assets…[It] applies to property acquired and placed in service between Sept. 8, 2010, and Jan. 1, 2012. Certain long-lived properties have until Jan. 1, 2013…"

    Though wind developers are happy to have the depreciation opportunity, it seems to fall short of what investors consider the best of incentives. (click to enlarge)

    "…A property is considered acquired when the owner pays or accrues the cost of the property, depending on its accounting method…Any taxpayer that enters into a written binding contract…for the acquisition or construction of the property meets the acquisition requirement…[T]he project will meet the acquisition requirement if the owner starts real physical work on the property during the eligibility window…[P]hysical work…[is when] more than 10% of the total cost of the bonus-eligible property is accrued…

    " A taxpayer must also place the property into service during the eligibility window. In addition, the original owner/user generally is the only one eligible for the bonus. A disposition of the property during the first year will cause that property owner to lose the bonus…[with] two exceptions [involving sale-leasebacks]…"

    Other incentives are vital until tax equity investment, which is better than during the depths of the recession, returns to previous levels. (click to enlarge)

    "Project owners who claim a 30% cash grant from the U.S. Department of the Treasury are required to reduce their depreciable basis in the related property by 50% of the grant or credit…In certain situations, the owner of the grant-eligible property may lease the property to a third party and elect to pass the incentive to the lessee…

    "The new rules make clear that the recovery period under general rules is not altered by the fact that the 100% depreciation bonus permits a complete write-off in one year…[I]ncome related to wind or solar equipment would be taken into account over five years, even where the 100% bonus is claimed…[A] taxpayer may opt out of the 100% bonus and instead claim the 50% bonus for property placed in service in the tax year that includes Sept. 9, 2010. However, if equipment qualifies for the 100% bonus in 2011 or 2012, then the taxpayer may claim only the 100% bonus or nothing."


    EPA Publishes National U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory
    April 18, 2011 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

    "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the 16th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. The final report shows overall emissions during 2009 decreased by 6.1 percent from the previous year. This downward trend was attributed to a decrease in fuel and electricity consumption across all U.S. economic sectors.

    "Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2009 [using the most up to date data] were equivalent to 6,633 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by more than 7.3 percent from 1990 to 2009. Emissions in 2009 represent the lowest total U.S. annual GHG emissions since 1995…"

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    "The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2009. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by “sinks,” e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation and soils.

    "This inventory, prepared in collaboration with federal agencies, is the latest submitted by the United States to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC sets an overall global framework for nations to address climate change…"


    U.S. wind industry reports enduring growth in first quarter of 2011; States continue to lead nation with clear, strong policies
    April 28, 2011 (American Wind Energy Association)

    "America's wind power industry installed 1,100 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2011 alone and entered the second quarter with another 5,600 MW under construction, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported...

    "…The under-construction figure is nearly twice the megawatts that the industry reported at this time in both 2009 and 2010; moreover, two-thirds of those megawatts are already locked in under long-term power purchase agreements with electric utilities, indicating an enduring industry that has proven both nimble and strong through a range of economic and policy conditions. The total wind fleet now stands at 41,400 MW—producing enough clean energy to supply 10 million American homes."

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    [Denise Bode, CEO, AWEA:] "…[T]hese first-quarter figures indicate an industry poised for a renaissance. Refined technologies, affordable prices, and continued demand for clean, homegrown energy…[are the] reasons why wind has consistently posted strong growth numbers, adding 35% of all new generating capacity since 2007…In an economy in which gas prices have hit $4 a gallon and are still on the rise, America must implement long-term energy policies centered on homegrown sources. And wind delivers. By powering our electric cars using wind, Americans can pay the equivalent of 70 cents a gallon at the pump."

    "The first quarter's 1,100 MW of new capacity came online in 12 different states, with some seeing double-digit growth. U.S. states with the most capacity additions so far include: Minnesota (293 MW), Illinois (240 MW), Washington (151 MW), Idaho (119 MW), and Nebraska (81 MW)."

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    "Of the 5,600 MW currently under construction, one third is located in Oregon, Washington and California, making the West Coast a leader in wind project activity."

    [Elizabeth Salerno, chief economist, AWEA:] "States continue to lead the nation with clear, strong policies…For example, 10 years ago, California led the nation with 60 percent of U.S. wind capacity. With the recent passage of the strongest renewable target in the nation—calling for 33 percent renewables by 2020—California is poised to retake its leadership, as it already had over 600 MW under construction in the first quarter."


    Total invests £800m in US solar power firm; French oil company is to buy 60% of SunPower Corporation, the second biggest solar panel manufacturer in America
    Terry Macalister, 29 April 2011 (UK Guardian)

    "Total, one of the world's largest oil companies, is to make a $1.38bn (£800m) investment in solar power reversing a trend that has seen Shell and BP cut back their involvement in green energy.

    "France's biggest company is to purchase 60% of SunPower Corporation, the second biggest solar panel manufacturer in America, and use it as a new springboard into a renewable sector struggling for competitive edge."

    Sunpower is among the world's leading sunmakers (click to enlarge)

    "Shares in SunPower surged 40%…[The] oil company that had been expected to put major new investment into nuclear rather than solar or wind…until the Japanese earthquake raised new questions about the safety of atomic power…

    "Total has been raking in enormous profits from oil at $120 a barrel – but is said to see renewables energy as a useful hedge. High crude prices make alternative power sources more attractive but the solar industry has also been hit in places such as Britain, Germany and Spain which have started to cut their public subsidies as part of wider plans to reduce debt levels."

    Does Total need a tax write-off? (click to enlarge)

    "Total…has held a half share in two solar firms since the early 1980's – Photovoltech and Tenesol. In November Total unveiled plans to build a solar panel manufacturing plant in the Moselle region of France with annual capacity of 220,000 solar panels a year. The oil company will now inject $1bn into SunPower over the next five years…SunPower has been hit by mounting competition from lower cost Chinese panel makers but still claims to design, manufacture and deliver the highest efficiency solar products in the industry.

    "BP and Shell made major forays into renewables but have backed off in recent years. BP shut down its stand alone Alternative Energy head office while Shell sold off a major part of its photovoltaic module production…[and] disposed of its solar rural business in the developing world…Total had been investing in nuclear…[but the] Fukushima plant accident – coupled with the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident – has spread a pall of negativity over nuclear energy business…"


    With Shepherds Flat Signed, Sumitomo Eyes Additional Investment
    Mark Del Franco, 27 April 2011 (North American Windpower)

    "…Masao Miyamoto, vice president and head of the…power and telecom business of [New York-based Sumitomo Corp. of America (SCOA), the U.S. subsidiary of the Tokyo conglomerate, recently] suggested that [the company’s investment in] Shepherds Flat [which is slated to be the world's largest wind farm after it is completed] was merely a beginning point for the company's North American wind investment…[and said they want to own ‘about 500 MW’ of North American wind by 2014]….

    "SCOA agreed to become a joint owner in the 845 MW Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, currently being constructed in Oregon. SCOA, along with Google and ITOCHU, joined GE Energy Financial Services and Caithness Energy by investing about $500 million in the project…Shepherds Flat marks Sumitomo’s second investment in the U.S. wind space. In 2009, it acquired a 42.5% interest in the Stanton Wind project, a 120 MW wind farm in Texas. Sumitomo also owns and operates two wind farms in Japan and a 50 MW project in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, China."

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    "Miyamoto says Sumitomo considers the renewable energy business one of its main business areas and has extensive experience developing, operating and owning power-generating facilities, such as wind, biomass and solar, around the world. Sumitomo… owns 30 MW of solar power in Spain, France and Italy…[and] has acted as a primary engineering, procurement and construction contractor for more than 50 GW of power plants worldwide, of which most are owned by government-owned utility companies.

    "Although Sumitomo has not yet managed a construction project for wind in the U.S…it has developed and constructed two Japan-based wind farms and could offer assistance to Caithness Energy on Shepherds Flat if needed."

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    "While the company would not provide specifics on where or when it would make its next investment, Cannon says Sumitomo will continue to focus on the U.S., investing in wind projects with long-term off-take agreements in place… Canada is also of interest….[because of] Ontario's [feed-in tariff (FIT)]…

    "Ironically, the nuclear disaster in Japan might provide additional opportunity for the company to invest in renewable energy…[because the] Japanese government is reconsidering its policy on renewables…[and] a FIT in Japan could help increase renewable energy in its energy mix…"


    Marine hydro firm OPT awards wave energy project contracts
    April 20, 2011 (PennWell via HydroWorld)

    "Ocean Power Technologies Inc. is awarding four new contracts to Oregon companies in connection with the manufacture of its PB150 PowerBuoy wave energy generating device and its deployment off the coast of Reedsport, Ore…

    "The new contracts, with the previously awarded contract to Oregon Iron Works for the fabrication of the buoy's steel structure takes the total invested by OPT in the local economy to over $6 million, creating or saving up to 100 manufacturing and marine services jobs…"

    There is a lot of machinery to be made here. (click to enlarge)

    "After the initial PowerBuoy is deployed and tested off the coast of Reedsport, expected later this year, OPT plans to construct a commercial-scale wave power station, consisting of up to nine additional PowerBuoys and grid connection infrastructure, subject to receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals and additional funding…"

    There will be maintenance work, too. (click to enlarge)

    "The four Oregon companies receiving contract awards are…[1] American Bridge Manufacturing…will manufacture the subsurface floats and tow-out fixtures that are part of the mooring system for the PowerBuoy…[2] Cascade General, a subsidiary of Vigor Industrial, LLC…will perform the final assembly of the PowerBuoy and position it in the Columbia River for towing to the coast…

    "…[3] Oregon Iron Works…will perform the insertion and assembly of OPT's innovative and proprietary power take-off and internal electronics into the PowerBuoy spar…Sause Bros. Inc…will assist OPT in the deployment of the PowerBuoy, including towing it from the final assembly site in Portland to the Port of Coos Bay, and the positioning and installation of the buoy, mooring lines and anchors…"

    Monday, April 25, 2011


    Obama backs renewable energy amid oil hikes
    April 23, 2011 (AFP)

    "Taking issue with a Republican budget proposal that calls for steep cuts in energy programs, President Barack Obama said on Saturday that higher gas prices require investments in renewable energy…In his weekly address, Obama also called again for an end to the $4 billion in tax breaks the oil and gas industry receives each year…

    "Rising gasoline prices are expected to be a crucial factor in next year's presidential election, and Obama has ramped up his public statements on the issue…[He recently announced] a Department of Justice working group that will probe oil price fraud and speculation…The oil and gas industry's billions in tax subsidies were also singled out for criticism during [his] State of the Union address…"

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    "The Republican budget plan, aimed at dramatically reducing the country's $14 trillion deficit, calls for steep cuts in transportation and energy, including slashing by 70 percent a Department of Energy loan guarantee program that supports renewable energy like wind farms and solar installations."

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    "The Obama budget calls for a 70 percent increase in spending for renewable fuels…[to create] jobs and opportunities…

    "Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, in his Republican rebuttal to Obama's address, said the idea that government policies could create job growth ‘misses the point entirely’…[because job creation] ‘starts with our businesses, especially our small businesses’…"


    BrightSource Files for $250M IPO: A Closer Look; Another greentech IPO aspirant with massive VC and DOE loan funding, negligible sales, big losses, and uncertain costs. And beware the desert tortoise, my son, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch.
    Eric Wesoff, April 25, 2011 (Greentech Media)

    "BrightSource Energy just filed for a $250 million initial public offering…The big question is: Do public markets and institutional investors have the stomach for a low-revenue, non-profitable, capital intensive energy firm with a technology unproven at scale -- plus, a tortoise problem?

    "…BrightSource (BSE) is a utility-scale solar thermal player with massive funding from private equity sources and U.S. DOE loan guarantees…[It uses] an air-cooled 'power tower' architecture in which vast arrays of mirrors or 'heliostats' focus sunlight at a central elevated boiler, producing steam and powering a turbine."

    (click to enlarge)

    "Late last month Alstom, the French power plant firm, invested $201 million into BrightSource -- bringing the firm's total VC funding to $530 million…Separately, BrightSource has secured substantial sums for their flagship Ivanpah project…With a total project cost of $2,180 million, the US DOE Loan Guarantee program is to provide loans worth $1.6 billion, NRG has committed up to $300 million in equity, and earlier this month Google committed $168 million…The balance will be contributed by BSE and Bechtel.

    "BrightSource has signed 14 power purchase agreements (PPAs) to deliver approximately 2.6 gigawatts of installed capacity to two of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., PG&E, and Southern California Edison…[estimated] as $4 billion of revenue opportunity…Ivanpah is the first project…[It] will have a gross installed capacity of 392 megawatts and a net output of 370 megawatts…"

    A 12 megawatt market is projected for the next decade. (from Greentech Media Research - click to enlarge

    "According to the S-1 [IPO filing], BSE has a development site portfolio of approximately 110,000 acres under their control in California and the U.S. Southwest, with the potential to accommodate approximately 11 gigawatts of installed capacity…BrightSource has lost a cumulative $177.3 million since its inception with debt and financial obligations totaling $1.8 billion…Total revenue for the firm over the last three years was $32.2 million…[primarily] from Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) applications…

    "According to the S-1, VantagePoint Venture Partners is the majority controlling interest in Brightsource. VantagePoint holds 24.9 percent of BrightSource’s stock, Alstom has a 17.8 percent share, Morgan Stanley has a 10.5 percent share, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson owns 6.7 percent of the company. The company has had five funding rounds…[It also has environmental challenges]…[unspecified PPA pricing]…[and a protential transmission access obstacle]… So, should you invest your nest egg in BrightSource shares?"


    U.S. helps homeowners get loans to improve energy efficiency
    Wendy Koch, April 24, 2011 (USA Today)

    "…U.S. homeowners [with good credit scores, manageable debt and some equity in their homes] are now eligible for up to $25,000 in federally insured [PowerSaver loans at or below market rates] to make energy-efficient upgrades such as adding [new HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels and geothermal heating/cooling,] insulation, sealing ducts or replacing windows…

    "Eighteen regional and national lenders, including Quicken, have signed on to the two-year pilot program, said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan…Donovan said he expects the loans will serve about 30,000 homeowners and will not only save them money on energy bills but also reduce pollution and create at least 3,000 construction jobs."

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    "The loans are part of the Obama administration’s broader efforts to improve home energy efficiency…In November, Vice President Biden announced a pilot program to test a new Home Energy Score [similar to the miles-per-gallon label for cars], which ranks a home’s energy efficiency on a scale of 1 to 10…[It] will tell consumers how their homes compare with others and how much money they could save with efficiency upgrades based on an energy audit…"

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    "…David Kreutzer, an energy expert at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based research group often critical of President Obama’s environmental policies…[said] only homeowners who could qualify for normal home-equity loans will likely meet the lending criteria, which include a credit score of at least 660 and a mortgage balance that’s less than 45% of their annual income…[and called this] ‘a program to subsidize home improvements for those who don’t need subsidies…”

    "Donovan said the Home Energy Score could help prove the payback for various upgrades,and the PowerSaver loans could expand demand for them that will prompt greater private investment…The Federal Housing Administration will cover up to 90% of the loans’ amount in the case of default, leaving the remaining risk to the lenders..."


    ACI Unveils Cleaning Product Industry Sustainability Report
    April 13, 2011 (American Cleaning Institute)

    "The first-ever sustainability report for the U.S. cleaning products industry – released by the American Cleaning Institute® (ACI, formerly The Soap and Detergent Association) – showcases…a common set of sustainability-related metrics relevant to both its consumer packaged goods and raw material supplier members…20 member companies (representing 73 percent of ACI’s dues-assessed member product sales) participated [in ACI’s Sustainability Metrics Project]…

    [The ACI 2011 Sustainability Report] summarizes data on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), energy use, water use and solid waste associated with U.S. production of cleaning products."

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    "Among the project’s findings…[1] Between 2007 and 2009, total energy use, which includes electricity, steam and fuel used by stationary combustion sources, decreased by approximately 18% per ton of production…[2] Between 2007 and 2009, the rate of GHG emission per unit of production decreased by approximately 25%, reflecting applied practices to reduce GHG emissions among member companies…

    "…[3] Water use decreased approximately 10% per unit of production between 2007 and 2009…[and, 4] Waste generation per unit of production decreased between 2008 and 2009, but increased by approximately 2% overall between 2007 and 2009…[due] largely to an increase in waste by a company whose overall waste generation is an order of magnitude higher than the other[s]…"

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    "Besides the sustainability metrics data, the Report features snapshots of many ACI member company sustainability efforts and a profile of ACI’s social and environmental sustainability programs and activities…

    "Under ACI’s Principles for Sustainability, a sustainability definition is laid out for the cleaning products industry: The ability to improve the quality of life for this and future generations, by creating products that promote hygiene and cleanliness, are environmentally sound, and are economically successful…"


    Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife: A Vision to Facilitate Sustainable Development
    Joseph M. Kiesecker, et. al., April 2011 (PloS One)

    "…Wind energy offers the potential to reduce carbon emissions while increasing energy independence and bolstering economic development. However, wind energy has a larger land footprint per Gigawatt (GW) than most other forms of energy production…Species that require large unfragmented habitats and those known to avoid vertical structures are particularly at risk…Developing energy on disturbed lands rather than placing new developments within large and intact habitats would reduce cumulative impacts to wildlife…

    "…The U.S. Department of Energy [DOE] estimates that it will take 241 GW of terrestrial based wind development on approximately 5 million hectares to reach 20% electricity production for the U.S. by 2030. We estimate there are ~7,700 GW of potential wind energy available across the U.S., with ~3,500 GW on disturbed lands…[A] disturbance-focused development strategy would avert the development of ~2.3 million hectares of undisturbed lands while generating the same amount of energy…Wind subsidies targeted at favoring low-impact developments and creating avoidance and mitigation requirements that raise the costs for projects impacting sensitive lands could improve public value for both wind energy and biodiversity conservation."

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    "…Within the United States, the world's largest cumulative producer of greenhouse gases, societal concerns have shaped energy policy… DOE envisions the U.S. producing 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030, as outlined in [0% Wind Energy by 2030 (20% vision) ]…Meeting the DOE 20% vision (~241 Gigawatts of on-shore wind with an additional 64 Gigawatts of off-shore wind) would result in 5 million hectares of impacted land, an area roughly the size of Florida, with an additional 18,000 kilometers of new transmission lines…

    "[Wind] is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sectors…This growth is manifested in arrays of turbines that cover large areas…Wind “farms” have a broad footprint and thus are highly susceptible to land use conflicts…[I]t is the increase in fragmentation and habitat loss associated with development that creates an important conservation challenge…[T]he Federal Endangered Species Act currently protects over 1300 species and another ~250 species are under consideration for protection. The majority of these species list habitat loss and fragmentation as the primary cause for federal protected status…Siting of wind development that avoids habitats important for biodiversity reduces the potential for significant habitat loss and fragmentation…"

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    "In this study we examine patterns of wind energy potential in terrestrial landscapes that are already disturbed by human activities (e.g., agriculture, oil and gas development)…[T]his is the first to examine if renewable energy goals can be met on disturbed lands that could reduce conflict with wildlife. Our goal is to estimate the potential electricity generation capacity of lands of low value for biodiversity conservation rather than estimate impacts associated with wind farms and associated transmission…

    "…Here we focus on the 31 states that comprise the majority of the DOE 20% vision, excluding states that have ≤1 GW of projected development…We calculated the area needed to meet DOE wind energy scenarios within each state, providing a broad overview of the potential for wind energy generation on disturbed lands, but did not attempt to predict where within each state wind energy development will take place…"

    Sunday, April 24, 2011


    Jeffries Survey Finds Investor Focus On Clean Technology Is Becoming More Diversified; Continued Government Subsidies and Regulation Also Remain Important for Sustainable Growth
    April 20, 2011 (Jeffries Group)

    "…[The key findings of the Jefferies Group’s] recent Clean Technology Investor Survey [include:]

    "…[1] Approximately two-thirds of investors surveyed believe that a full recovery of the IPO market for clean technology companies is likely to occur by the first half of 2012…"

    Another intersting question survey (click to enlarge)

    "…[2] More than three-quarters of investors surveyed believe that large company conglomerates [wiol] begin consolidating the clean technology sector during or after 2012…

    "…[3] [T]he most attractive investment themes, in order of importance, [were identified as] smart grid / energy efficiency, solar photovoltaics, energy storage, LED / lighting and electric vehicles…"

    And another (click to enlarge)

    "…[4] Stable government subsidies and regulation are seen as being the most important growth driver for the clean technology sector, a finding that is consistent with the similar survey conducted in November 2010…

    "…[5] North America, Europe and China together are expected to lead the deployment of smart grid infrastructure, a finding that is in slight contrast to…[the] November 2010 [survey], which found that Europe and North America would likely lead…"


    China Rebuilds Its Power Grid as Part of Its Clean Technologies Push
    Coco Liu, April 20, 2011 (NY Times)

    "As the world's largest fossil fuel consumer, China is trying to use more clean energy, but…[its] current electric grid can't handle it…State Grid Corp. of China, the country's top electricity distributor…[is therefore] building what it calls a "strong, smart grid." After two years of testing…[it is] now throttling up to full-speed implementation.

    "The [hopes are] to rescue renewable energy, especially wind power, from a technical bottleneck…create demand that could give China a better position in the lucrative and highly competitive global smart grid component manufacturing race…[and] reduce the nation's transportation emissions by developing a nationwide electric vehicle charging network…"

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    "…[State Grid] will make the decisions for national grid development…[affecting] its more than 1 billion customers in China…[and] the outside world…The overarching goal for the more advanced transmission network, according to the company, is to reduce enough carbon emissions to help China achieve at least 20 percent of its targeted emission cuts…China's emission cuts have never been more important to the success of combating global warming... China now consumes more energy than any other nation, accounting for more than a fifth of the world's energy-related greenhouse gas emissions…

    "For the sake of its environment and energy security, China in recent years has been trying to add renewable energy into its power mix, but the country's strongest winds, brightest sunlight and most powerful rivers aren't found near the nation's energy-hungry regions…And [those connected] often have to be shut down when wind is at its peak because the existing grid is too weak…In the first half of 2010 alone, wind-generated electricity that could have been used by about 10 million Chinese for a whole year had nowhere to go…"

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    "…[State Grid’s] strategy is to adopt ultra-high-voltage power lines that can carry heavy flows of electricity across the vast country.. By 2015, the company declared, its grid infrastructure would be in line with growth in the nation's wind power sector…[which] is scheduled to more than double in the next five years…[M]ore solar and hydro power would [also] be able to flow into the grid…

    "In addition, technology innovation is under way to make the grid smarter…[and] grid development is also expected to forge Chinese manufacturing power…China's wind turbine industry -- which barely existed in 2004 -- now holds four seats among the world's top 10 manufacturers…[Finally,] over the next five years, hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles charging points will be added as part of the grid plan…[T]hat will encourage Chinese automakers to produce electric cars and pave the way for drivers who want to switch…"


    Get garage ready for electric car
    Tom Krisher, April 22, 2011 (AP via News & Observer)

    "With gas prices rising and instability in the Middle East, the thought of an electric car in the garage might be getting more appealing…Experts say [a ready garage has] at least a 12-amp circuit [with little or nothing on it] to charge a car in a reasonable amount of time…

    "…[A] dedicated 240-volt outlet, similar to those that power an electric dryer [rather than a standard 120-volt outlet], can cut charging time in half…Two mass-market electric cars, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf, have different power systems and different charging needs…"

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    "…It takes eight hours to recharge [the all-electric] Leaf even with a 240-volt circuit, double that at 120 volts. The Volt has a small gas motor…[for when] the battery runs out. Its smaller battery pack can be recharged in 10 hours even on 120 volts, five hours or less at 240.

    "AeroVironment, which makes charging stations for Nissan, recommends…a special 240-volt station...[installed by] an electrician who knows about car charging…[It] costs about $2,000 for the dock and standard electrical installation services through AeroVironment and a Nissan dealership…"

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    "The Volt, however, may not need anything…General Motors recommends charging the car first on 120 volts before buying a 240-volt charging station…[If not satisfied, then consider the 240-volt upgrade…GM's Volt charger costs $495, and about $1,500 to install…

    "…If you go only 20 miles a day, a 120-volt outlet will work for either car because the battery doesn't have to be fully charged every night…"


    Google's energy unit to buy more wind power from NextEra
    Krishna N Das (w/Sriraj Kalluvila), April 21, 2011 (Reuters)

    "A NextEra Energy Inc unit will sell 100.8 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to Google Inc's energy subsidiary…[to] help the Internet search giant power its data centers using renewable sources of energy…[T]o reduce its carbon footprint, Google has been buying renewable electricity… on the same grid[s]…as its [data] centers.

    "Last year, the company's energy unit…Google Energy…[signed a 20-year power purchase agreement for 114 MW of NextEra wind and]…will now purchase power from NextEra Energy Resources' Minco II Wind Energy Center in Oklahoma. The electricity from their prior deal will be used at Google's Council Bluffs, Iowa center."

    Google seems recently to find wind an irresistably seductive deal. (click to enlarge)

    "…[The] Mayes County, Oklahoma center…is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year and could employ about 100 people…NextEra expects the Minco project to be operational by the end of 2011.

    "Google [also recently] partnered with units of Japan's Sumitomo Corp and Itochu Corp for a stake in General Electric Co's under-construction wind farm in Oregon for $500 million…NextEra is one of the largest wind power producers in North America, running more than 9,500 wind turbines at 85 farms in 17 U.S. states and in Canada. Its wind farms can power more than 2 million average homes…"


    Fewer Americans, Europeans View Global Warming as a Threat; Worldwide, 42% see serious risk, similar to 2007-2008
    Anita Pugliese and Julie Ray, April 20, 2011 (Gallup)

    "Gallup surveys in 111 countries in 2010 find Americans and Europeans feeling substantially less threatened by climate change than they did a few years ago, while more Latin Americans and sub-Saharan Africans see themselves at risk…42% of adults worldwide…see global warming as a threat…[That has not changed] in the last few years, but increases and declines…in some regions reflect the divisions on climate change between the developed and developing world.

    "Majorities in developed countries that are key participants in the global climate debate continue to view global warming as a serious threat, but their concern is more subdued than it was in 2007-2008. In the U.S., a slim majority (53%) currently see it as a serious personal threat, down from 63% in previous years…"

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    "…[Concern] has also declined across western, southern, and eastern Europe…even more precipitously than in the U.S. In France, for example, the percentage saying global warming is a serious threat fell from 75% in 2007-2008 to 59% in 2010. In the United Kingdom, ground zero for the climate data-fixing scandal known as Climategate in 2009, the percentage dropped from 69% to 57% …

    "…Latin Americans, who already were among the most aware of climate change and the most likely to view global warming as a personal threat, became even more aware and more concerned in 2010. Seventy-seven percent of Latin Americans claim to know at least something about climate change, and nearly as many see it as a personal threat (73%)…[perhaps because of] bad rainy seasons and flooding that leaders in the region…"

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    "In sub-Saharan Africa, where populations are likely to be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, awareness is still among the lowest in the world, but was up in 2010. Nearly half of the adult population in the region (46%) say they are aware of climate change, up from 38% in 2007-2008…[T]he percentage who perceive climate change as a serious threat [also] increased slightly…

    "The feuding between rich and poor nations at climate talks in Bangkok in April demonstrates the obstacles that remain before the world…[F]ewer Americans and Europeans, whose nations are central players in these talks, feel threatened by global warming today than they did in recent years. However, majorities in many of these countries still see climate change as a serious threat, which means the issue remains personally important…"


    FWS, Wind Industry Collaborate To Promote Endangered Species Conservation
    20 April 2011 (North American Windpower)

    "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and wind energy companies have signed a memorandum of understanding, pledging to work together to develop a wind energy habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the FWS' Midwest region…[to] conserve threatened and endangered species that may be affected by wind energy facilities in eight Midwestern states.

    "A multi-species, regional HCP approved by the FWS would include measures for long-term conservation of federally endangered Indiana bats and members of other protected species that may be incidentally harmed or killed by wind turbines or other activities associated with the construction and operation of wind energy facilities…[in] Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan."

    The endangered Indiana bat. The wind industry is moving to protect it. (from Wikipedia - click to enlarge)

    [John Anderson, director of siting policy, AWEA:] "It is the industry's expectation that development of the regional HCP will streamline the permitting process, allowing effective conservation of wildlife and easing the [FWS'] administrative burden, while also allowing for more wind energy to be deployed nationally…"

    "Under the HCP, wind developers will acquire an incidental take permit, which will exempt otherwise lawful activities (i.e., construction and operation of a wind energy facility) from the prohibition of take [i.e., harming, harassing, or killing endangered or threatened species] under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)…"

    The Indiana bat ranges over the states participating in the new HCP. (from Wikipedia - click to enlarge)

    "The FWS has awarded [the] states…an ESA grant of approximately $3.3 million to develop a broadly constructed HCP designed to address the potential impacts of wind energy. The wind industry…[will] provide the required 10% matching funding…

    "The Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit, will lead the strategic conservation work…[W]ind industry applicants…work with the FWS and states to develop the HCP."