The federal government Friday announced the first-ever criminal enforcement of bird-protection laws at a wind energy facility, fining a North Carolina-based energy giant $1 million for killing more than 150 migratory birds, including 14 golden eagles, at two Wyoming wind farms over the past few years. The government’s plea agreement with Duke Energy Corp. could have broad legal implications as the Obama administration and the wind industry grapple with the ecological trade-offs of building commercial-scale wind farms across the landscape.
Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater in the United States in the middle of the last decade than prevailing estimates, according to a new analysis by 15 climate scientists published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The analysis also said that methane discharges in Texas and Oklahoma, where oil and gas production was concentrated at the time, were 2.7 times greater than conventional estimates. Emissions from oil and gas activity alone could be five times greater than the prevailing estimate, the report said.
In recent years, solar energy has emerged as a solution for powering places that lack sufficient electricity, frequently remote areas in developing nations where conventional fuel can be expensive. Now, Vestas, the wind technology giant, is betting its products can do the same. On Monday, the company announced a project called Wind for Prosperity, with the goal of bringing low-cost power to rural populations around the globe.
Nebraska is rated third among the states for its wind-energy potential. And yet a year ago, it ranked only 26th for its actual wind-energy production. It’s a long-debated issue that came to a head earlier this year, when neighboring Iowa’s vast wind farms helped it beat out the Cornhusker State to land a $300 million Facebook data center. In fact, among Midwest states, only Ohio has less installed wind capacity than Nebraska. The reason for the gap? Several people familiar with the curious dynamics of wind energy in Nebraska place much of it squarely on the doorstep of one Bruce Pontow.
U.S. federal energy regulators imposed more than $304 million in fines against energy companies in fiscal 2013 primarily for market manipulation and false reporting activities. It was the highest yearly total, according to Reuters data. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday said its enforcement division staff in fiscal 2013 also forced companies to disgorge an additional $141 million in unjust profits.
Duke Energy agreed on Friday to pay $1 million in fines as part of the Justice Department’s first criminal case against a wind power company for the deaths of protected birds. A subsidiary of the company, Duke Energy Renewables, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Wyoming on Friday to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that protects migratory birds. The company was charged with killing 14 golden eagles and dozens of other birds at two wind projects in Wyoming since 2009.
Saudi Arabia today threatened to block negotiations toward a 2015 climate change treaty unless the world compensates it for oil production losses stemming from reduced petroleum use, according to two sources who were in the closed-door session. Saudi Arabia, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, earned more than $336 billion in petroleum exports last year. Negotiators didn’t name a specific dollar amount, but Saudi Arabia has previously estimated it will lose $19 billion annually as nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and move to cleaner energy sources.
At first glance, Iowa seems like a strange place for a national energy capital. Our state does not have an abundance of coal, oil or natural gas. From the air, Iowa looks like farmers’ territory, reflected in its patchwork of corn and soybean fields. Zooming in, however, reveals another important piece of the Hawkeye State’s vibrant and diverse economy — 3,198 wind turbines dot the Iowa landscape. Iowa is a national leader in the production of energy from wind and ranks third for installed wind capacity, at 5,133 megawatts, or nearly 25 percent of Iowa’s electricity generated in 2012.
Iowa’s growing wind industry is reducing carbon pollution, saving water and supporting jobs, according to environmental and industry leaders. By replacing the use of fossil fuels to generate energy, Iowa’s wind energy generation avoids “more than 8.4 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution – the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road,” according to a report released by Environment Iowa.
Minnesota environmental groups and wind energy advocates are urging Congress to renew federal tax credits for renewable energy projects that are set to expire at the end of the year. The production tax credit and investment tax credit have helped spur wind developments across the country, but dozens of Republican members of Congress say the subsidies have gone on long enough and that the credits should be allowed to expire.