Giving states more time to integrate regional plans to cut carbon emissions could be as vital to keeping the lights on as any electric reliability mechanism, energy regulators will be told at a hearing in St. Louis today. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is rounding out its regional tour exploring how U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan might affect electric reliability. Experts in the central region of the United States, from the Canadian border to the Gulf Coast, plan to tell the commission that states need more time to devise plans so they can collaborate with one another. That way, they can review how their proposals mesh and what infrastructure needs to be built.
Block Island, a quiet, sparsely populated Rhode Island sanctuary of about 750 year-round residents, will soon become the site of America’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. Construction of five 6-megawatt wind turbines will begin later this summer, introducing the industry to the United States after years of frustrating setbacks. “Seeing it operate will be a catalytic event,” predicted Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, a Providence-based energy firm and developer of the project.
“Clearly coal is going to be affected the most,” said Robert Godby, professor of economics at the University of Wyoming and lead author on the report. “Given that how much it could affect the state, the takeaway is that carbon regulations will reduce the demand for coal. The state then faces two problems. One is the economic affect of a significant sector of the state reduced in size and the state revenue that depends on that sector.”
Trade associations representing the U.S. wind and solar industries today released a new report recommending ways to incorporate renewable energy policies into plans states must develop to reduce power-sector greenhouse gas emissions. The “Handbook for States” from the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association breaks down the requirements of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which directs states to come up with plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through new regulations on coal-fired power plants; energy efficiency; additional use of natural gas; and increasing emissions-free sources of electricity, including renewables and nuclear power.
Some of the issues are ones the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to explore tomorrow when it hosts the last of three regional meetings on Clean Power Plan implementation in St. Louis. FERC’s focus will go way beyond the integration of renewable energy, of course. But the role of wind as a compliance tool for states looms large across the central region that’s the focus of the meeting. States including Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma each get at least 15 percent of their electricity from wind and will undoubtedly be looking to do more as a way of reducing the carbon intensity of its generating fleet.
SolarWorld AG, the United States’ largest solar manufacturer, said this week it nearly doubled shipments of modules from its primary U.S. manufacturing facility in 2014, while globally the company boosted shipments by 55 percent, from 548 units in 2013 to 849 units last year.
THE KILLING of Cape Wind brings US offshore wind power back to where it probably should have started: small. At 130 turbines and 468 megawatts — enough to power 200,000 homes — Cape Wind would have been an ocean wind farm on the same scale of those in Europe. It was paralyzed by selfish and powerful people who feared the views from their seaside mansions would be ruined. With about two dozen lawsuits, they were able to litigate the project into something that became too big to not fail. The Cape Wind project effectively collapsed during the winter, when it missed deadlines for financing, resulting in the termination of its power-purchasing agreements and a lease to use the new port terminal in New Bedford built by the state to handle massive turbine pieces.
Wind turbines spinning over prairie cornfields are permanent fixtures of the Minnesota landscape. The state is the headquarters for Xcel Energy, the electric utility with the most wind power in the United States. Yet wind power is growing in other states. Texas now has the most wind power of any state, followed by California and Iowa. Minnesota is eighth. Tom Kiernan is chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Washington, D.C.-based, 1,000-member trade group for the wind power industry. On a recent visit to St. Paul, he talked to the Star Tribune about the industry’s outlook.
Ice shelves in Antarctica have been melting more rapidly in recent years, generating enough water each year since 1994 to fill 66 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. The ice melt has become especially pronounced since 2003. Some shelves have thinned by 18 percent over a two-decade span, a remarkable development given that they had existed unchanged for thousands of years, said Fernando Paolo, a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and lead author of the study.
On March 19, President Obama signed an Executive Order, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.” It mandates a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by federal agencies by 2025, compared to 2008 levels. The mandate is not insignificant, since the federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the United States. A variety of compliance options are available to agencies, including renewable energy, building efficiency, and alternative vehicle technologies and fuels.