A solar boom in Asia and record spending on offshore wind projects in Europe helped propel renewable energy investment to $270 billion last year, a 17 percent increase over 2013, according to figures released this morning by the United Nations. The 2014 spending resulted in 103 gigawatts of new generation capacity, reversed a two-year slump in renewable energy investment and came amid declining oil prices that some experts predicted would further undermine renewables’ growth prospects.
But ethanol isn’t the only renewable fuel that Iowa farmers and state officials love. They also have an ongoing love affair with wind power. Iowa is third in the country in the total amount of electricity generated by wind, placing it behind only Texas and California. According to a report earlier this year from Radio Iowa, the state generates 5,688 megawatts of electricity from wind power, with another estimated 550 megawatts of wind-production capacity under construction.
The nation’s two largest renewable energy trade groups are offering a road map for states to meet emissions requirements under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan through greater adoption of wind and solar power. In a new 184-page document jointly published by the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association, officials say they are providing a “starting point for states that are considering renewable energy as a compliance tool” to help electric power producers meet tough new regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide from existing fossil plants.
The Obama administration formally promised the world today that the United States would use laws already on the books to cut greenhouse gases across the economy by at least 26 percent by 2025, and “to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent.” Today’s submission tracks with the U.S.-China bilateral agreement President Obama announced last November in Beijing and uses a 2005 base line. China pledged at the time to peak its emissions by 2030 and to draw 20 percent of its power from non-fossil-fuel sources by that year.
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.