For Maine independent Sen. Angus King, answers about the basic science of climate change are just a pocket away. The former governor has carried copies of a plastic laminated card in his pocket for the past several years. One side details the rise of carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere over the last 1 million years, and the other the correlation between CO2 and temperature. “It’s all you need to know.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday evening announced a cloture vote would be held at 11 a.m. today to limit debate on the measure and move to final passage. Invoking cloture would require 60 votes, a threshold likely to be reached for the generally bipartisan bill. Earlier yesterday, the Senate backed two relatively benign amendments boosting wind energy and Western water resources.
Last year might have been a banner year for wind turbine construction, but not for the wind itself. According to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the amount of electricity generated from wind turbines grew by less than 10 million megawatt hours last year, the smallest increase since 2007. In a report Thursday government analysts attributed the slow down to decreased wind speeds across the western half of the United States during the first six months of 2015.
The wind power industry had another banner year in 2015, and the outlook for the future is strong. The U.S. Department of Energy’s national wind-power plan calls for wind to supply 20 percent of the country’s electricity by 2030, up from less than 5 percent today. There’s one major obstacle in the industry’s path, though: much of that electricity is generated in remote, windswept areas of the Great Plains, and the transmission system to send it to market doesn’t exist. Getting power from wind farms in Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa to the populous cities to the east and west has proven far more difficult than wind developers envisioned a few years ago.
“Wind energy is popular wherever it’s given a chance,” Grassley said. “New technology enables all kinds of renewable energy to advance. Research funding promotes the next wave of development. Wind energy deserves fair treatment among government support for different energy sources. This amendment gives wind energy the attention it deserves.”
The United States Senate passed a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that restores funding for wind energy research and development (R&D). Specifically, the Merkley-Grassley amendment restores funding for wind energy research to $95.4 million, the same level as in FY16. The initial draft of the FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill had contained a $15.4 million cut to the program, to just $80 million.
By a 54-42 vote, the Senate adopted an amendment by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to add $95 million for wind energy to the $37.5 billion spending bill. The amendment would restore funding to current levels after appropriators had proposed shaving $15 million from the account. “We have sometimes heard that wind is a mature industry, and [that] is why the funding for research should be revoked or lowered,” Merkley said, urging support. “But, in fact, as wind is emerging, we’re seeing continuous innovations that are resulting in different designs and different strategies for integrating intermittent wind energy into the grid.” Grassley said yesterday that he found it “amusing” that some of the strongest opponents of wind energy are the biggest proponents of research and development investments for “costly … mature, traditional energy sources”
he Danish island of Samsø has reduced its greenhouse gas output to nearly nothing by using renewable energy. “We like the turbines better now because we own them,” said Søren Hermansen, a leader in the city’s local-driven movement. “We don’t have the discussion about ‘they are ugly on the landscape,’ we don’t have noise problems, and the birds, for some reason, don’t die around these turbines.”
To make offshore turbines less costly, we need to create a market where the producers can erect a big park and get experience with the construction of offshore turbines, and also get experience shipping the turbines to the site and building the foundations for offshore turbines. If we look into the future, I would expect that by 2025, the costs from offshore can be competitive. With regard to competitiveness, you also have to realise that if you count externality costs, both offshore wind and PV [photovoltaics] have lower societal costs than fossil fuels, due to the health cost of emissions and CO2 emissions having other adverse effects. But these things are very hard to put an actual figure on.
Two new wind farms are in the final planning stages in Dickinson and Emmet counties as a result of a new high-voltage transmission line being constructed by MidAmerican Energy Co.
The NorthStar and Red Rock wind farms are planned as 200 and 300 megawatt farms, respectively, according to organizer Al Blum, of Estherville. He estimated the total project costs at about $700 million, depending on the size and number of turbines erected. Blum said he expects to have a full announcement about the privately-owned projects by the end of the summer.