More than five dozen giant turbines erected on a remote mesa in western New Mexico began churning out power for the state’s largest electric provider on New Year’s Day. Tapping into the multimillion-dollar Red Mesa Wind Energy Center marks the latest effort by utility PNM to add more renewable energy resources to its portfolio. From New Mexico and Texas to Montana and New York, PNM and other investor-owned utilities are facing higher renewable energy standards starting this year as numerous states and the federal government push for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels for generating electricity.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency account for half of the building blocks EPA has suggested to states as ways to achieve their emissions reduction goals. As of now, Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are the highest-profile way states have encouraged renewable growth. Approximately 30 states have RPS laws in place. And while the percentages and timelines differ, the bulk of states with standards require utilities to purchase somewhere in the range of 15 to 25 percent of their energy from alternative sources within the next decade or so.
In the face of this widespread support, opponents such as the billionaire Koch brothers, who have significant financial interests in fossil fuels, have had to manufacture opposition. They have created a series of groups all with different names, but one common denominator: funding from the Koch brothers.And yet wind energy supporters include hundreds of other U.S. businesses. They know how wind energy can invigorate local economies with affordable power and manufacturing jobs.
In an unusual competition in California, proposals for energy storage systems beat out hundreds of bids to construct new power plants as a way to meet peak power needs. Southern California Edison has retired its San Onofre nuclear reactors and is planning to retire natural gas units with environmentally troublesome cooling systems. So it invited proposals for storage — including conventional batteries and giant ice packs — and new gas-fired power plants. To the surprise of the utility and even the storage companies, in many cases storage won. Demand response, or agreements with customers who volunteer to be unplugged at certain times, also did well.
Natural gas is the Rorschach test of energy policy. Depending on one’s point of view, it can be either an essential tool for meeting the challenge of climate change or another dirty fossil fuel that will speed the planet down the path to calamitous warming.
While the purchase of Kansas wind may perhaps save some money for LES customers, the National Renewable Energy Lab has calculated that a 100-megawatt wind project would bring between $87 million and $186 million in economic development to Nebraska. When added to the wind purchase from Oklahoma announced earlier this year, this is a total of $174 million to $372 million in economic benefit that went out of state instead of into Nebraska’s economy.
Wind-energy development in Ohio has entered a long and sometimes agonizing limbo. State regulators have approved 11 projects that have yet to install a single wind turbine. Developers say the projects — which would more than triple the state’s wind-energy output — are alive, despite state laws passed this year that some of the same companies said would kill investment. At the same time, local residents say they are stuck waiting to see what will happen with proposed projects in their communities. This includes people who support and oppose the turbines.
The electric power generation sector lost more than 5,800 jobs over the last three years, according to an Energy Department stat shop. The losses hit all energy sources across electric power except for renewables, the Energy Information Administration said on Friday. The non-hydro renewable electricity sector, which includes wind and solar, gained roughly 1,800 jobs, EIA said.
Lincoln Electric System officials on Friday announced plans to add two wind farms and a solar energy farm as part of an aggressive move toward utilizing more renewable energy. The pictured solar panels can generate as much as 50 kilowatts of electricity when the sun is shining. Friday was more than a banner day for the Lincoln Electric System. It was equivalent to a seismic shift in the way Lincoln residents will get their power over the next 25 years. Adding power from two wind farms and a solar energy project will increase the utility’s renewable generation portfolio to 48 percent by 2016.
Lincoln Electric System said Friday it has agreed to buy additional supplies of wind energy.
The customer-owned electric utility said it plans to buy 73 megawatts of wind energy by 2016 from the Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center in northeastern Nebraska and 100 megawatts from the Buckeye Wind Energy Center in north-central Kansas. LES also said Friday it plans to add five megawatts of solar power by 2016. The addition of wind and solar generation comes as the nation’s coal-fired electric plants face stricter emissions regulations, leading to plans for shuttering them or converting them to burn natural gas. By next year, Nebraska wind, solar and other renewable generation will account for about 1,209 megawatts, or about 14 percent of the state total.