A strong gust of wind energy could blow into northern Illinois within a few years if state regulators authorize a $1.8 billion transmission superhighway linking the Great Plains with one of the largest wholesale electricity markets. The Illinois Commerce Commission today is scheduled to consider a petition by developer Clean Line Energy Partners LLC to build the Illinois portion of the 500-mile project — one of several key regulatory hurdles the company must achieve before it can lock up customers and financing commitments.
A new market for electricity is starting this week aimed at integrating renewables onto the power grid in seven Western states. The “energy imbalance market” will give Western buyers the option to purchase electricity in five-minute increments, a privilege previously enjoyed only by participants in the California grid. “It’s a way for us to provide our real-time market to other entities across the West,” said Don Fuller, director of strategic alliances for the California Independent System Operator, which manages much of California’s grid. “The increasing variability of both wind and solar on the system, I think, has added some impetus to the interest in this.”
When the Supreme Court returns this week, its docket will be missing the high-profile environmental cases that dominated last term. There are no challenges to President Obama’s greenhouse gas program for addressing climate change, nor is there anything on U.S. EPA’s effort to clamp down on air pollution that drifts across state lines. “The Supreme Court had its fill of environmental cases last term,” said Thomas Lorenzen, a former Department of Justice environmental attorney now at Dorsey & Whitney LLP.
But perhaps the most influential tool these states have used to spur growth in renewables is implementing business-minded policies. From Washington to Arizona, innovative state policies to harness the region’s renewable energy resources drive major investment. Nine of 13 western states have binding targets for renewable energy production. Take California’s 33 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which has helped lead to its dominance in solar and wind project deployment this year. Or look at Nevada, which recently coaxed Tesla to build its new gigafactory in the Silver State with business-friendly policies — bringing with it $5 billion and over 6,000 jobs. RPS policies and financial incentives across the West have been beyond successful, opening the door for a rush of eager entrepreneurs to create thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in investment, and substantial savings for millions of consumers.
Seeing no end to gridlock in Congress, national environmental groups are trying a new strategy for winning battles on climate change and green power: pouring record amounts of money into legislative races in a handful of states. The multimillion-dollar push by groups like the League of Conservation Voters and liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s super PAC aims to secure friendly majorities in the legislatures of states such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Victories there could help blunt their grim prospects in D.C., where the all-but-paralyzed U.S. Senate may be in Republican hands after November.
The U.S. Energy Department has awarded a $4.25 million grant to the University of Wyoming for wind energy research. UW will use the money to conduct wind farm modeling and transmission grid monitoring and research the economics derived from wind-generated power.
An international company has applied for permits to build a wind farm with 54 turbines in southern Lancaster and northern Gage counties. Volkswind USA Inc., through its Nebraska subsidiaries Hallam Wind LLC and Hallam Wind Two LLC, wants to build the wind farm on 7,000 acres of land in Lancaster County and 4,000 acres in Gage County, near Hallam and Cortland. More than 50 landowners already have signed leases, according to documents filed with the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Department. Volkswind USA is a member of the Volkswind Group, which has built more than 60 wind farms, mostly in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Poland.
Sometime Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vision for the state’s energy future will be posted to a website and delivered to the General Assembly. The update of the 2010 energy plan will be an inclusive prescription that will maintain Virginia’s current electric power mix dominated by nuclear (36 percent), natural gas (30 percent) and coal (29 percent), with an eye toward increased deployment of solar power, a serious push to foster offshore wind farms and having the state government lead a robust effort to adopt energy efficiency, according to a senior adviser to the governor.
Senior U.S. EPA personnel spent much of the summer briefing states about the agency’s proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, according to new entries posted to the draft rule’s docket. Officials from Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, California, New Hampshire and Nevada participated in meetings and telephone calls with EPA personnel to answer technical questions on the draft rule, according to entries posted Wednesday and Friday. Utilities, cities including Denver, and foreign countries including Denmark and Germany were also briefed. EPA was represented in several of the meetings by regional staff, though Office of Air and Radiation Senior Counsel Joe Goffman represented the agency at a July 17 briefing that drew participants from 14 Western states and a handful of other stakeholders.
For all their environmental bad marks, U.S. coal-fired power plants have been good citizens of the grid, their engineers are quick to say, rapidly and dependably adjusting output to keep power in balance and flowing. Now, as wind farms and distributed solar power spread, so must sophisticated electronic devices that will have to help take over the essential stabilizing role of retired coal plants.