One Iowa State University professor is leading the development of a new way to increase national wind energy production. Sri Sritharan, ISU’s Wilson Engineering professor in civil, construction and environmental engineering and leader of the College of Engineering’s wind energy initiative, is developing new details for his Hexcrete project, a concrete alternative to create taller wind turbines across the country.
But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.
A wind turbine project on North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indian Reservation is getting $90,000 in federal funds. U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced the funds from the U.S. Department of Interior in a statement Thursday. The money will reinstall a wind tower, update a feasibility study and get land for the project.
But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms. The tension could have broad implications for the expansion of wind power in other parts of the country.“What we’ve got in this state is a time bomb just waiting to go off,” said Frank Robson, a real estate developer from Claremore in northeast Oklahoma. “And the fuse is burning, and nobody is paying any attention to it.”
The wind is so strong in Iowa and Kansas that more wind farms there could power the country’s largest cities if only there was a way to move that electricity to where most people live. Enter Michael Skelly, a Houston businessman who envisions building five superhighways — transmission lines — to carry vast amounts of wind-generated power across more than 3,000 miles, multiple states, hundreds of jurisdictions and thousands of pieces of privately owned land. The lines, the diameter of a human arm, would be hoisted on 150-foot-tall structures, about the height of the Statue of Liberty foot to top of torch.
Some of U.S. EPA’s environmental justice advisers are unhappy with the agency’s proposal to clamp down on greenhouse gases from power plants, arguing that it doesn’t do enough to protect already overburdened communities. Tensions over the rule were running high this week during a gathering of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in Arlington, Va.
Rising subsidies, along with noise complaints and loss of scenic views, have provoked many in Oklahoma to speak out against the wind power industry. The wind industry has grown rapidly to more than 1,700 turbines from 113 a decade ago. As the industry has grown, so has its political power. There are about a dozen registered lobbyists in the state that lobby on behalf of the wind industry to protect industry subsidies that are estimated to exceed $40 million in 2014.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency appear to be first among equals in Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s all-of-the-above energy plan released yesterday. While the 2014 plan, as expected, offers policy prescriptions to revive the state’s coal economy through exports, expand natural gas pipeline infrastructure, support nuclear reactors, and drill for oil and gas off the Virginia coast, what stands out is McAuliffe’s desire to exploit the “tremendous untapped potential” of wind and solar generation and lead a statewide efficiency drive to lessen the need for new power plants.
The Ontario Power Authority has agreed to purchase 100 megawatts of new generation from the Belle River Wind project in southern Ontario, developers Samsung C&T Corp. and Pattern Energy Group LP announced yesterday. The project, to be built in the town of Lakeshore about 40 miles east of Detroit, will be the fifth wind power project undertaken by Samsung and Pattern Energy in Ontario, where the companies have committed to spend $5 billion on renewable energy investments under a formal agreement with Ontario’s government.
Think of it as a Goodyear blimp for the era of alternative power. Well, sort of. What Erik Sofge describes in the October issue of Popular Sciencemagazine is a kind of giant tubular helium balloon with a three-bladed turbine inside, floating as much as 2,000 feet in the air so it can capture energy from winds that blow stronger and more steadily than they do at ground level. It’s the BAT, for buoyant airborne turbine, a robotic airship being developed by Altaeros Energies, a company founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The system is designed to deliver energy to a ground station via one of the cables that would tether the balloon to Earth.