An environmental group is criticizing U.S. Reps. Mike Conaway and Randy Neugebauer over the expiration of the Wind Energy Tax Credit, but the two West Texas congressmen say sooner or later wind energy must stand on its own. The Sierra Club in a set of political ads attack Conaway and Neugebauer, saying they’re “doing nothing while Texas wind jobs blow away.” The Sierra Club isn’t alone in touting wind energy’s economic benefits in hopes of getting congressional backing for the credit.
A federal appeals court today upheld a landmark ruling that overhauls the process for upgrading the country’s aging electric grid. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a sweeping win, rejecting the arguments from more than 40 state regulators, utilities, regional transmission organizations and industry groups that challenged the commission’s Order 1000. “We conclude that their contentions are unpersuasive,” the three-judge panel wrote in a 97-page opinion.
Overall, climate change is predicted to hurt agriculture around the world. It could even threaten corn production in the Corn Belt. But in North Dakota conditions are now better for raising corn, and that’s a big benefit for farmers. When I was growing up in Wolford, N.D., up near the Canadian border, wheat was king. It had been the dominant crop since the prairie was first plowed in the late 1800s. So it was kind of strange to go back this summer and find Larry Slaubaugh, a local farmer, filling his 18-wheeler with corn from a huge steel grain bin.
Climate change is creating all kinds of challenges and opportunities for business. One of the sectors that feels the effects most immediately is agriculture. Already, weather patterns are making it more challenging to raise corn — even in Iowa — in the middle of the Corn Belt.
The country’s top electricity regulator today said that the current process for ensuring the U.S. grid remains reliable as newly proposed carbon rules take effect is working and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t need a more active role in advising U.S. EPA.FERC Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur also said the commission, a key agency overseeing the grid and energy markets, may issue a white paper outlining its advisory role as EPA implements its proposed Clean Air Act rule.
In a unanimous vote this week, the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council approved construction of a massive wind farm to be sited in a 320,000-acre swath of Carbon County, just south of the towns of Rawlins and Sinclair. Once completed, the Chokecherry & Sierra Madre Wind Project will house 1,000 3-megawatt wind turbines, scattered over a checkerboard of private and federal land. It will be the largest wind farm in the United States.
Across the nation, investment funds and major banks are wagering billions on similar trades using computer algorithms and teams of Ph.D.s, as they chase profits in an arcane arena that rarely attracts attention. Congestion occurs when demand for electricity outstrips the immediate supply, sending prices higher as the grid strains to deliver power from distant and often more expensive locations to meet the demand. To help power companies and others offset the higher costs, regional grid operators, which manage the nation’s transmission lines and wholesale power markets, auction off congestion contracts, derivatives linked to thousands of locations on the grid. When electricity prices spike, contract holders collect the difference in prices between points from the grid operators. If the congestion moves in the opposite direction, holders pay the operators.
In a first, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has struck a deal with a power company that requires it to add batteries to the electric grid in order to avoid blackouts. The Imperial Irrigation District (IID), which delivers power to a swath of the Southern California desert, was ordered last week by FERC to spend $9 million to add the capacity for 33 megavolt amperes to its transmission infrastructure. The settlement ends a FERC investigation that began after a September 2011 blackout that cut power to much of Southern California.
Coal-fired rural co-ops dig in against EPA emission rules, but a few mavericks flirt with renewables
After spearheading a 3 ½-year effort to build what is now the largest solar farm in Iowa, Warren McKenna is optimistic about his rural electric cooperative’s renewable energy goals in Frytown — a tiny, unincorporated town in the southeast corner of the state. “Solar is coming on strong,” said McKenna, who is the general manager of the 650-member electricity co-op, formally known as the Farmers Electric Cooperative, and has been involved in solar energy since 2008. “Our goal is to have 15 percent of our power produced locally [with renewable energy] by 2025.”
From Brazil to South Africa, from northern Europe to the American heartland, wind is on the rise. Already among the world’s fastest growing energy sources, wind technology is on the cusp of advances that could multiply a turbine’s ability to transform currents of air into electricity, and at a time when global leaders are seeking ways to power the planet without greenhouse gases. So wind energy should be poised for wider acceptance and tremendous growth. And perhaps it is.