Federal regulators on Friday permitted grid operators in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic to temporarily allow generators to exceed a $1,000-per-megawatt-hour price cap on power from gas-fired power plants, citing unprecedented gas price spikes. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted PJM Interconnection’s request to waive the cap through March 31 in response to “unprecedented spikes in fuel costs caused by recurring extreme cold weather events.” PJM had initially told market participants it would ask for a waiver through March 1.
We’ve all heard the warnings about how intermittent renewables could “crash” the grid if for instance all of a sudden the wind stops blowing and grid operators are left in the lurch for power when they need it. But what if wind turbines actually improve grid reliability? May sound far-fetched to some people, but that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reports in the new study Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps.
A preliminary report suggests Wyoming wind power could save California ratepayers $750 million annually. Those findings, announced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at a meeting of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority here on Friday, was the latest in a series of reports backed by Cowboy State policymakers aimed at promoting the state’s wind industry.
Carl Horstmann strode around the floor of his factory here, passing welders honing head-high metal tubes as sparks flew. He is one of a dying breed: the owner of Mass Tank, a steel tank manufacturer in a down-at-the-heels region that was once a hub of the craft. Four years ago, having heard of plans to build a $2.6 billion wind farm off the shores of Cape Cod, he saw opportunity. Much of the work, the developers and the politicians promised, would go to American companies like his, in what would be the dawn of a lucrative offshore wind industry in the United States.
“Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, listing the problems that he said were also disrupting the company’s supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats.”
The Energy Department plans to zero in on transmission and distribution infrastructure when it releases its much-anticipated Quadrennial Energy Review. Melanie Kenderdine, head of DOE’s Office of Policy and a senior adviser to Secretary Ernest Moniz, said today that the agency is kicking off the policy report with a look at the connection between energy supplies with consumers. “Our year one is going to focus on transmission and distribution,” Kenderdine said at a Washington, D.C., energy event. “We’re talking wires, pipes, increasingly rail — a new issue that we never dealt with when I was here before — and the ethanol biofuels distribution infrastructure, and import-export terminals,” among other things.
Renewable energy companies and advocates are urging Congress to extend a bevy of expired tax breaks while expanding eligibility for the main solar energy tax credit with a modification similar to one applied last year to the credit for wind and other renewable sources. One of the most lucrative renewable energy incentives, the production tax credit (PTC), expired at the end of last year, but activity in the wind sector is expected to remain high for at least the next several months because Congress earlier conditioned eligibility for the credit on when project construction begins, rather than when it ends.
In Kansas, home of sprawling wind farms and the Koch brothers, conservative groups and renewable energy advocates are girding for a battle over the state’s green power law — a fight with broad political implications that’s drawing interest from far outside the state’s borders. Kansas was the last among 30 states to put a renewable standard into law — one that requires utilities to step up their use of renewable resources for electric generation to 20 percent by 2020. Now opponents seek to be the first to win a repeal of a clean energy mandate.
The focus on infrastructure is meant to identify ways to make pipelines, storage facilities, the electric grid and other facilities “much more resilient” to threats from extreme weather becoming more prevalent due to climate change, Moniz said. It also would aim to integrate cybersecurity protections as well as more traditional physical threats, he said.
A controversial wind farm in the works in Nantucket Sound near Massachusetts faces a new legal hurdle. Opponents of the Cape Wind project are arguing in a federal lawsuit that state regulators did not have the right to broker an agreement to have utility NStar buy the power generated from the farm. They said only the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has that power.