The Interior Department today unveiled a major new proposal establishing a competitive leasing process for renewables projects that it said should spark commercial-scale project development inside more than a dozen solar energy zones across the West. The proposed rule unveiled today by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is meant to advance President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which has challenged Interior to approve an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on federal lands by 2020.
An alliance of four companies proposed an $8 billion project Tuesday that within a decade could send wind power generated on the plains of Wyoming to households in Southern California. If approved and financed, the sprawling venture would produce clean power equivalent to the output of a large nuclear power plant by creating one of the country’s largest wind farms near Cheyenne, a huge energy storage site inside Utah caverns and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting them.”This would certainly be one of the most ambitious and expensive energy infrastructure projects we have seen,” said Travis Miller, an industry analyst for investment research giant Morningstar Inc. “Energy storage, paired with renewable energy, has been the holy grail of utilities and energy companies.”
A conservation group and two private landowners are suing the Interior Department and the agency’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for approving the expansion of a California wind farm in alleged violation of environmental laws and despite objections from federal and state wildlife officials who warned of significant impacts to eagles.
Susan Combs, Texas’ comptroller of public accounts, said the state needs to take a more market-based view of electricity and focus on making it reliable and affordable. Her office issued a report yesterday on Texas power that called for an end to tax breaks and subsidies for certain new generation. “It’s time for wind to stand on its own two feet,” Combs said in a statement. “Billions of dollars of tax credits and property tax limitations on new generation helped grow the industry, but today they give it an unfair market advantage over other power sources.”
One of the nation’s largest utilities today unveiled the biggest battery system in North America, which will store energy generated by wind farms outside Mojave, Calif., and provide critical information for the design and operation of storage on the grid. Southern California Edison (SCE) financed the 32-megawatt-hour battery system that cost $50 million, half of which was funded by a 2009 smart grid stimulus grant from the Energy Department, according to the company. The demonstration project will test the performance, integration and automation of a lithium-ion battery storage system and “smart inverter” technology into the grid over a two-year period, Doug Kim, director of advanced technology at SCE, said in a statement.
Other countries, such as Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany, have built massive turbine farms off their coastlines in the past few decades. In the United States, however, efforts to tap the power of coastal winds have gone nowhere because of environmental concerns, bureaucratic tangles and political opposition. That may soon change. Ecological studies indicate that carefully planned wind farms should not significantly harm birds or marine mammals. And business and politicians are increasingly interested in exploring and investing in offshore wind power.
And representatives of the California Wind Energy Association issued a strongly worded statement condemning the draft DRECP and its approach to wind power development in the desert. The draft plan, among other things, calls for establishing 2 million acres of “development focus areas” within the planning area that are deemed suitable for commercial-scale renewables development or transmission line projects. Proposed projects in these designated areas would still undergo environmental review, but the process would be streamlined because the areas have already been surveyed and studied, and mitigation requirements already established as part of the conservation plan.
A four-company alliance is pitching what it calls wind energy’s “holy grail,” but the plan to power an estimated 1.2 million homes in Southern California with Wyoming wind has a long way to go. Coinciding with President Obama’s speech at the U.N. summit urging world action on climate change, Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy’s Jeff Meyer called an $8 billion plan to connect what would be Wyoming’s second-largest wind farm to California homes via a 525-mile transmission line “a landmark of the clean energy revolution.”
Munich-based Siemens AG — GE’s German competitor — will acquire Houston-based energy equipment producer Dresser-Rand Group for $7.6 billion, the companies announced Sunday. The buyout’s announcement came just months after Siemens bought Rolls-Royce Holdings’ energy business for $1.3 billion. Dresser-Rand sells compressors that aid oil and gas production, which are in increasing demand in U.S. shale fields, where wells’ initial output often quickly wanes.
A wind energy company that planned to install 84 to 118 wind turbines directly in the path of a migratory bird route in Missouri has quietly pulled out of the project. Element Power LLC had leased 25,000 acres to erect the 350-foot turbines just east of the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, where 1 million snow geese showed up in March.