Cape Wind Associates said Monday that it has finalized a major deal with the German conglomerate Siemens AG to buy giant turbines, the offshore transformer, and maintenance services for its planned multibillion-dollar wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind, described the agreement as one of the last major steps toward getting the 130-turbine wind farm built and running after 12 years of acrimonious debate over building such a project off the coast of Cape Cod. It could also prove key to securing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal investment tax credits, which are critical to Cape Wind financing the $2.5 billion project.
A rush by wind farm developers to beat an end-of-the-year deadline to qualify for a federal renewable energy tax credit is translating into a crush of orders for wind turbines made by Vestas Wind Systems, which has four factories in Colorado. Vestas on Friday reported it had locked in a firm order for 110 turbines, capable of generating 220 megawatts of electricity, from EDF Renewable Energy for two wind-energy projects in Texas. EDF is the North American renewable energy arm of French power company Electricite de France SA.
Snyder in November 2012 delivered a special message on energy and the environment. He called for a one-year study after voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have amended the constitution to require Michigan utilities to derive at least 25 percent of their annual electric retail sales from clean renewable sources by 2025. The Michigan Energy Office and Michigan Public Service Commission held seven public forums and submitted four reports to the governor. One of the reports found that it’s theoretically feasible for Michigan to achieve renewable energy standards as high as 30 percent by 2035. Snyder said that he wouldn’t push for 30 percent by 2025, but prefers to set “a reasonable range.”
As increasing levels of renewable energy enter the U.S. electrical system in decades to come, conventional baseload power suppliers will have to become more flexible, with plants ramping up and down to compensate for the inherent gaps in wind and solar power production. Power “cycling,” however, comes with its own set of complications. Plants that run only part of the time have more difficulty recovering costs than those that can perpetually send out power. Likewise, frequent cycling can lead to greater wear and tear on generation equipment, not unlike the effects of inner-city driving on a car’s engine. And like a car, just turning on a power plant comes with its own energy cost.
Sen. Max Baucus’ ascension to a plum ambassadorship is weeks if not months away, but the reality of an oil and gas stalwart controlling a Democratic Energy and Natural Resources Committee began to sink in yesterday for both sides in the capital’s environmental culture wars. Although Baucus’ likely departure from the Finance Committee chairmanship he first claimed in 2001 hinges on multiple political variables, the current Energy chief in the upper chamber — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — is poised to replace the Montana Democrat and hand over the ENR panel’s gavel to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in the spring. That leaves a champion of the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling expansion, whose re-election battle next November further heightens the value of industry support, in charge of a committee with outsize importance to the U.S. fuel mix.
In 2011, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu brought in an ambitious Wisconsin state utility commissioner to advance the Obama administration effort to site and build critical power lines and transmission technologies. Lauren Azar was seen as the person who could help Chu’s Department of Energy navigate a maze of local opposition, permitting delays and lengthy reviews to get transmission projects going. But it’s unclear whether Azar’s two-year run that ended in September will bring about clear game-changing transmission breakthroughs.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission marked yet another milestone in implementing one of its largest and most controversial rules, Order 1000, but questions remain about just how long it will take to make the rule a reality.Grid operators and utilities in October submitted plans to comply with the landmark rule, aimed at revamping the way new power lines are planned and paid for while considering policies like renewable portfolio standards. FERC has now taken action on the first round of compliance filings, including 15 submitted plans from utilities and grid operations across the country. The agency’s focus in coming months will now turn to more granular interregional filings.
“The challenge is — as with every big project like this — there’s multiple parallel processes going on,” said Jesse Gronner, the Oregon-based company’s vice president for business development for the western United States. “So we’re left with being in a position of doing things slightly out of order.” That’s just one consequence of new rules this year to determine eligibility for the production tax credit (PTC), the federal incentive that’s key to determining whether a wind farm can sell electricity at an attractive price. As long as developers begin working on projects by Dec. 31, they’ll have at least two years to remain eligible for the lucrative subsidy.
With the clock ticking loudly on the U.S. wind energy sector’s production tax credit, which is set to expire Dec. 31, another blockbuster deal between two major wind energy firms materialized yesterday, as Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Enel Green Power North America Inc. cemented the terms of a 350-megawatt deal to significantly expand EGP’s wind energy portfolio in the United States. Denmark-based Vestas, whose U.S. operation includes large turbine, blade and tower manufacturing plants in Colorado, said it would supply 75 2 MW turbines to EGP’s $250 million Origin wind farm in Oklahoma, which is set to begin producing power by the end of 2014.
Even before news broke that Sen. Max Baucus would soon be heading to China, Democrats on Capitol Hill were starting to get antsy over the fate of dozens of expiring tax credits that had been placed on the back burner while Baucus tried to craft a complete overhaul of the tax code. Now that the Montana Democrat is all but officially headed for the exits, momentum behind extending the temporary incentives like the production tax credit, home efficiency rebates and alternative fuels tax breaks has shifted into high gear in the Senate. “I think people are thinking about that now that this transition is happening. … People are thinking about getting that done sooner rather than later,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a member of the Finance and Energy committees, said of the coming push for tax extenders.