A federal judge today ruled the evaluation of a project aiming to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm was generally aboveboard, but directed two agencies to further review some of the project’s impacts on wildlife. The decision has led both sides to declare victory. Cape Wind backers say the project off the coast of Massachusetts scored a major win because the bulk of plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed and because the judge did not question the underlying conclusions of supporting agencies even as he determined they hadn’t quite completed everything that was required of them. But project challengers say the work that must be redone cuts to the heart of whether the wind farm would be viable, exacerbating the uncertainty that has surrounded it for more than a decade.
The group aiming to install America’s first offshore wind farm announced yesterday two new contracts that it says will ensure U.S.-based labor during construction. The proposed 420-megawatt Cape Wind project, which aims to install 130 turbines in Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, has awarded contracts to Prysmian Cables and Systems USA, which will manufacture the onshore transmission cables, and Caldwell Marine International, which will install the underwater cables that will connect the farm to the grid.
The deployment of larger and more technologically advanced equipment has helped the wind energy industry boost generation rates on a per-turbine basis since 2008, resulting in greater operational efficiencies and lower costs for consumers, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The data, culled from AWEA’s 2013 annual report, show that while U.S. wind energy capacity grew 140 percent — from 25,000 megawatts to more than 61,000 MW — over the last five years, the amount of electricity generated from those wind turbines grew by 200 percent.
The windy plains of Kansas could be a treasure trove in the nation’s effort to harness clean energy, but a major proposal to move wind-generated electricity eastward is running into a roadblock: Farmers who don’t want high-power transmission lines on their land. Clean Line Energy Partners wants to spend $2.2 billion to build a 750-mile-long high-voltage overhead transmission line. Towers 110 to 150 feet tall, 4-6 per mile, would carry lines with power generated by Kansas’ modernistic windmill turbines through sparsely populated northern Missouri, through the cornfields of Illinois and to a substation in Sullivan, Ind. The exact route has not been finalized.
The formula is simple: Take a high-minded topic and a few knowledgeable talking heads, and rent a hall. Then get a sponsor willing to shell out top dollar to splash its name on the ensuing discussion. To give the event an extra sheen of authority and credibility, it helps if the organizer is a prestigious news organization. For the news media, it’s no longer enough to merely report the day’s events. At a time when traditional advertising revenues are under stress, news organizations are developing a lucrative — and sometimes controversial — sideline by orchestrating live discussions about events and ideas in the news.
The Obama administration’s controversial social cost of carbon underestimates the economic damage done by carbon dioxide emissions by ignoring some of warming’s effects on health and resource availability, according to a report released today by New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. The paper seeks to refute industry allies’ charges that the Obama administration inflated costs when it revised the tally sharply upward last year.
The Department of Energy this week launched another effort to accelerate wind energy development in the United States. The agency announced the creation of six Wind Energy Regional Resource Centers, aimed at providing up-to-date information to help tackle the financial, regulatory and industry-related challenges facing wind energy development at the regional level.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s acting chairwoman faulted The Wall Street Journal yesterday for releasing “sensitive information” in a story about physical attacks on the grid. Cheryl LaFleur took aim at a story published yesterday that says the United States could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knock out just nine transmission substations on a hot summer day. The story cited a “previously unreported federal analysis” conducted by FERC officials that warned of a blackout that could linger for weeks to months.
Federal, state and regional policies to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency and to cut greenhouse gas emissions helped produce a 12 percent decline in U.S. carbon emissions between 2007 and 2012, according to a new study by Environment America. The environmental group said in its 44-page report that state renewable energy standards and other policies have helped wind, solar and other renewable industries to quadruple in that time, leading to 62 million metric tons in avoided CO2 in 2012. Efficiency standards for lighting, building efficiency and other sectors have also contributed. A new rule for fluorescent and incandescent lamps that took effect in 2012 — and that has sometimes been a bone of contention on Capitol Hill — cut greenhouse gases by 3.6 million metric tons in the final six months of that year, the report said.
About 80,000 clean energy and transportation jobs were created in 2013, according to a study put out this week by an environmental nonprofit group. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says the bulk of these were in the solar power sector, which announced more than 21,000 new jobs. But building efficiency and public transportation also had strong showings. The top states were California with more than 15,000 new clean energy jobs announced, followed by Texas, with more than 6,000. Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts were close behind.