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.
Federal appellate judges today rejected a challenge to the controversial Cape Wind offshore wind farm project from Massachusetts residents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Federal Aviation Administration finding that the proposed 130-turbine farm would not pose a risk to aeronautical navigation over Nantucket Sound.
On Wednesday, the European Union proposed an end to binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020. Instead, it substituted an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce. It also decided against proposing laws on environmental damage and safety during the extraction of shale gas by a controversial drilling process known as fracking. It opted instead for a series of minimum principles it said it would monitor.
For the better part of the last decade, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has gone out of his way—and dipped into federal funds—to help get a massive, cross-state transmission line built in his home state of Nevada. On Thursday Reid will attend the opening of the 235-mile line, which at the beginning of this year started carrying large amounts of electricity produced from renewable sources rather than coal, just as Reid envisioned seven years ago.