With the recent layoff of 40 employees at Acciona Windpower in West Branch and larger furloughs last fall at Siemens Energy, Trinity Towers and other Iowa wind turbine component plants, the long-term viability of the industry has been questioned. But analysts who follow the electric power industry are quick to affirm the future of wind power as a long-term source of renewable energy. “Wind is not going anywhere,” said Shane Mullins, vice president of product development for the power industry at research firm Industrial Info Resources in Sugar Land, Texas. “Many wind turbine manufacturers did not receive any orders after June of last year as developers waited to see if Congress would extend the production tax credit before it expired on Dec. 31. With the extension of the PTC on Jan. 3, wind turbine construction projects that were put on hold last year are going to be dusted off.
WE will need fossil fuels like oil and gas for the foreseeable future. So there’s really little choice (sigh). We have to press ahead with fracking for natural gas. We must approve the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian oil. This mantra, repeated on TV ads and in political debates, is punctuated with a tinge of inevitability and regret. But, increasingly, scientific research and the experience of other countries should prompt us to ask: To what extent will we really “need” fossil fuel in the years to come? To what extent is it a choice?
In a vote split along partisan lines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today approved plans in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic for revamping the grid planning process, while the two Republicans on the commission rejected the order and expressed concern about the fate of new projects. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat, and Democratic Commissioners Cheryl Lafleur and John Norris found that PJM Interconnection and the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator had largely complied with Order 1000, the agency’s landmark ruling that revamps the way new power lines are planned and paid for.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden promised today to do everything he can to move the government’s “clumsy … machinery” to make the U.S. electric grid a smart grid. The Oregon Democrat said he is planning to hold oversight hearings with federal agencies responsible for building out the smart grid to understand whether they are working on all angles to facilitate a transition to a digitized grid, especially on the consumer end.
Before energy companies invest in developing wind energy off Virginia’s coast, they’ll need to know what’s out there: sea life, what the ocean floor is like, shipping routes, migratory birds and wind speeds. A Virginia Beach startup has begun the daunting task of collecting that data.
“Deals are getting signed; people are ramping up their production facilities again,” said Peter C. Duprey, chief executive of Broadwind. “The whole industry went through either a shutdown or idling at the end of last year and are now quickly trying to gear back up again.” The rush to development is in large part because of Congress. Lawmakers had allowed a popular incentive, known as the production tax credit, to lapse at the end of last year, but then renewed it in January. They also changed the requirement so that projects only have to be under construction by the end of the year to qualify, rather than fully operational, as had traditionally been the case.
After three years of trying, Gov. Martin O’Malley has won approval of legislation that aims to spur construction of towering wind turbines off Maryland’s Atlantic coast. Now comes the hard part. Daunting regulatory, political and financial hurdles remain before a wind-driven power plant could be built in the water 10 to 20 miles from Ocean City. Even if all goes right, construction could be four to seven years away, industry and government experts say — long after O’Malley has left the State House.
The utility normally gets about 12 percent of its power from regional wind farms. But one night last month, the wind share hit nearly a third. Xcel Energy Inc., the nation’s No. 1 wind-power utility, said Tuesday it set a record for wind generation in the Upper Midwest.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Greg Vitali has introduced legislation that would increase the amount of electricity that the commonwealth’s utilities must obtain from wind power and other renewable energy sources. H.B.100 would amend the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) Act by requiring Pennsylvania utilities to obtain 15% of their power from renewable sources by 2023, compared to the current AEPS requirements of 4% by 2013 and 8% by 2021.
There was a telling moment just before Gov. Jay Inslee raised his right hand and took the oath of office. He was introduced as a politician who sees climate change as “an existential threat that transcends politics.” “More than any other president or governor before him, Jay has an electoral mandate on this issue,” Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, told a packed audience in the rotunda two months ago. If lawmakers did not grasp the significance of those remarks then, they do now.