Customer orders for General Electric Co.’s advanced wind turbines have surged over the last 18 months, the company announced yesterday, in part because renewable energy developers responded aggressively to Congress’ one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy. The rate of growth has been especially pronounced over the last 12 months, with new orders jumping from roughly 1 gigawatt of capacity in May 2013 to 3.9 GW of capacity today, according to GE. Most of that new capacity, 2.8 GW, will be completed or begin construction over the next 19 months and will use the company’s “brilliant” platform turbines. “We feel confident that, with our strong backlog of orders, we are strongly positioned for 2014 and 2015,” Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE’s renewable energy business, said in a press release.
“Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction and supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local economic investment,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “The Energy Department is working with public and private partners to harness this untapped resource in a sustainable and economic manner.”
The long-promised potential of offshore wind development along American coastlines took a step toward fruition on Wednesday as the Department of Energy pledged up to $47 million each to three projects it previously supported. The grants are intended to help the projects, off the coasts of New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia, begin delivering electricity by 2017. “Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction and supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local economic investment,” Ernest J. Moniz, the energy secretary, said in a statement.
The often-attacked Cape Wind offshore wind farm in Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound scored another win in federal court Friday as a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit contending the state acted unconstitutionally by helping the project get a contract to sell electricity. “We are, at the moment, litigation-free,” said Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers — a situation that the private developers have not experienced in “many, many years,” he added.
Some say that the visual impacts of wind turbines are “in the eye of the beholder.” But in Maine, a piece of legislation attempts to define when a wind farm mars the scenery and when it doesn’t. Recently, that law has been put to the test. A $100 million wind energy development in Maine proposed by the Boston-based company First Wind faces likely rejection by a state agency due to its effect on the surrounding area’s “scenic character.” Renewable energy advocates argue that such a decision could set a confusing precedent for future wind developers in the state. Last week, Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection delayed a decision to confirm or deny the state Department of Environmental Protection’s determination that the proposed Bowers Wind Project, a 16-turbine, 48-megawatt farm, would adversely affect views from the constellation of lakes, ponds and rivers that surround the project.
The Midwest has become a major energy producing region — with renewable energy. Like oil in Texas and coal in Wyoming, wind power and ethanol have become major industries in the Midwest. By tapping into its enormous renewable energy potential and manufacturing know-how, the Midwest has boosted the economy and created thousands of jobs. This progress is detailed in a new report from the Energy Foundation, which is featured as a “Postcard from the Future of Energy” by America’s Power Plan.
Iowa’s push for renewable energy has sparked a $10 billion investment in wind energy capacity, a new report shows. But what about solar? Jonathan Weisgall, Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs, said Iowa and other Midwestern states are unlikely to see large utilities invest in solar energy without setting standards that require it. Weisgall said regulators must weigh costs more heavily than developing renewable resources when electric generation is added in the Midwest. And solar energy isn’t cost-competitive with wind.
The White House is currently vetting an EPA rule for existing power plant emissions that is due to be proposed next month and is likely to face considerable industry push-back. The administration is also plotting a U.S. commitment for post-2020 emissions reductions — an offering that must be released well before next year’s U.N. climate talks in Paris but that is already arousing the suspicions of Capitol Hill Republicans. But while the battle lines are drawn in the Washington, D.C., standoff over these and other aspects of the president’s Climate Action Plan, the White House has spent much of the last year trying to circumvent the inside-the-Beltway logjam and make its case directly to the voters.
President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Norman Bay, appears to have garnered some heavy-hitting support on a Senate panel critical to his confirmation this month. But challenges — and tough questions — loom, as a company targeted for investigation by FERC raises objections over Bay’s leadership as the head of the agency’s enforcement office. On one hand, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the new chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, appears to have warmed to the former New Mexico prosecutor. The Senate panel is slated to consider Obama’s nomination of Bay to lead FERC on May 20, alongside the president’s nomination of Cheryl LaFleur, the agency’s acting chairwoman, to another five-year term.
The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects. Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.