Building new high-voltage lines is now the biggest obstacle to the growth of wind energy. Out in western Kansas, big wind turbines produce lots of electricity, hundreds of jobs, tax revenue and a fair amount of income for farmers like Kermit Froetschner. “It’s been a boon to this area for sure,” says Froetschner, who has 16 turbines on his land in Spearville, Kansas. “School districts, counties … We like ‘em. Like to see some more.” A lot of people would. After all, wind turbines don’t foul the atmosphere, and they generate electricity for less money than power plants burning fossil fuels. Federal tax credits and mandates to cut pollution can make wind even more attractive.
Senators from both parties yesterday said they expect a wide-open floor debate as the chamber takes up a bipartisan energy package that backers are hoping President Obama will sign.
In announcing plans to bring the bill (S. 2012) to the floor next — probably next week — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday made clear he’s hoping to notch another bipartisan win to his list of accomplishments since taking control of the Senate last year.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says Iowans shouldn’t let Texas Sen. Ted Cruz win his state’s lead-off caucus because he opposes continued federal government support of ethanol. Branstad, speaking at a renewable fuels conference near Des Moines Tuesday bluntly said he wants Cruz defeated in Iowa.
n an attempt to shut down a Wisconsin-based wind farm, opponents of the Shirley Wind farm blasted the county’s health director yesterday during a meeting for saying turbines could not be linked to neighbors’ health issues. In 2014, the health board said turbines emit a low-frequency noise that pose health risks, an announcement believed to be the first of its kind for the board. But after months of deliberation, Health Officer Chua Xiong said in December 2015 there was a lack of scientific evidence to back the statement.
Around the world, nearly 40 nations, including the 28-member European Union, and many smaller jurisdictions are engaged in some form of carbon pricing. In this hemisphere, British Columbia, Quebec, California and nine Northeastern states have raised the cost of burning fossil fuels without damaging the economy. Alberta, Canada’s biggest oil and gas producer, and Ontario have said they will adopt similar policies.
“Solar is poised to take off in Texas,” said Peter Sopher, a policy analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin. He compared it to wind power a decade ago, when turbines were popping up in West Texas. In 2005, wind generated 1.4 percent of electricity on ERCOT, the grid that handles most of the state’s electric load. For the first 11 months of 2015, wind’s share was over 11 percent. And in November, it was over 18 percent. Texas is easily the No. 1 state in wind, with more than twice the capacity of California.
Renewable advocates are eager to further expand the 30 percent investment tax credit that was extended for five years in the tax bill. Last year’s deal only extended the ITC solar credit, leaving out other qualifying sources, including combined heat and power systems, geothermal, small wind, and fuel cells. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the extension for other renewables was “inadvertently” left out of last year’s tax accord and could be quickly resolved this year.
Denmark produced 42% of its electricity from wind turbines last year according to official data, the highest figure yet recorded worldwide. The new year-end figures showed a 3% rise on 2014, which was itself a record year for Danish wind energy generation.
The initial heavy lifting will have to be done by policy makers. I feel for them. It’s hard to take a tough stand on an important but long-term issue in the face of so many near-term problems, amid worries that reducing emissions will weaken our global economic position and fears that other countries may cheat on their emissions targets.Ultimately, though, it will be up to the engineers and industrialists of the world to save us. They must come up with the new technologies and the means of implementing them. The technical and organizational challenges of solving the problems of clean energy generation, storage and distribution are enormous, and they must be solved within a few decades with minimum disruption to the global economy. This will likely entail a major switch to nuclear, solar and other renewable power, with an electrification of our transport system to the maximum extent possible. These engineers and industrialists are fully up to the job, given the right incentives and investments. You have only to look at what they achieved during World War II: American technology and production catapulted over what would have taken decades to do under ordinary conditions and presented us with a world in 1945 that was completely different from the late 1930s.
Google expanded its Project Sunroof to metropolitan areas in nine states last month, enabling people in those hot spots to estimate whether solar panels are worth installing on a particular roof. The project launched last summer in Google’s home base in San Francisco; the creator’s home near Boston; and Fresno, Calif. Now, Project Sunroof is in metropolitan areas in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina.