When a gigantic crane ship mounted the final blade on the final turbine of the Block Island Wind Farm, Deepwater Wind definitively answered one question that had dogged the Providence company and like-minded developers for years. Yes, an offshore wind farm can be built in the United States. But with that milestone a couple of weeks ago comes more questions whose answers will determine whether history looks back at the test project as a success or a failure:
The most impressive place for clean energy isn’t some coastal state, like California or New York. It’s right here in Iowa, home to some of the nation’s mightiest wind energy, writes Daniel Gross, a longtime Slate contributor and editor for The Daily Beast and Newsweek.
The Bureau of Land Management faces a problem and wants to shake up the rules around wind farm approvals. The problem is straight-forward on its face, but difficult to reconcile logically: Why are so few new large-scale wind projects being built? Despite the fact that nearly everyone – environmentalists, government regulators, and business interests –wants to build more wind farms, precious few are making it over the goal line.
The largest planned wind energy project in U.S. history cleared a key hurdle late last month as Iowa regulators ruled that MidAmerican Energy Co. could proceed with a $3.6 billion mega-wind farm to be built over the next three years. The 2,000-megawatt Wind XI project, to be built at a half-dozen sites across Iowa, would become the largest operating wind farm in the United States if completed on schedule by 2019. It is one of a small number of proposals currently in the development pipeline that call for generating wind energy at the scale of a baseload coal or nuclear plant.
With the clock ticking on the 114th Congress, House and Senate conferees will sit down this week for the first time in public to see whether they can buck the odds and pass the first comprehensive energy reform package in nearly a decade. The chairmen and ranking members on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Natural Resources Committee spent weeks this summer discussing whether going to conference was worth the trouble.
TVA could help propel one of the biggest transfers of wind energy across America and get the best price to do so if it agrees within the next four months to buy the electricity generated from Oklahoma and Texas wind turbines and shipped to the Tennessee Valley on a new, $2.5 billion transmission line. Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, a Houston-based company formed to build high-voltage, long-distance transmission lines, is urging TVA to agree by the end of the year to buy at least some of the nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind energy it wants to transmit along a $2.5 billion direct-current line it plans to build through Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Out in a gravel field, next to Flathead Electric Cooperative’s humming Stillwater Substation, sit four sections of future plans, hopes, and ideals soaking up the sunlight. More than 350 solar panels stand sentinel just north of the intersection of Whitefish Stage Road and Reserve Drive, put in place last September to absorb energy from the sun.
A proposed high-voltage line meant to move power from Great Plains wind farms west of here into Chicago and points east has hit a major roadblock in the form of a court decision overturning state approval of it. But the developers, along with the Illinois Commerce Commission, aren’t giving up. They promise to appeal the Illinois Appeals Court ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The nation’s largest grid operator said it could comply with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan while acknowledging its findings were based on unknowns about future nuclear reactor closures and gas pricing forecasts. PJM Interconnection LLC, which spans 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states, said in an analysis that power plants within its jurisdiction could comply without skyrocketing costs. PJM found the price of compliance would range from 1 percent to 3 percent of average wholesale electricity costs.
President Obama wants to make climate change a big part of his life and work after leaving the White House next year, he said yesterday. “I think anybody who has the megaphone that even an ex-president has needs to be working on this and raising awareness,” Obama told pool reporters during a visit to Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean to highlight his conservation legacy