Baucus’ impending exit also likely leaves tax reform in limbo for the coming year, although Wyden could draw on some ideas from the outgoing chairman’s radical proposal to replace more than 40 energy-related incentives with a trio of tax credits to promote “clean” fuels, low-emissions electricity, and carbon capture and sequestration. More pressing, though, will be the fate of more than a dozen temporary breaks, such as the production tax credit, that expired Dec. 31 and that Wyden has said should be renewed posthaste. House Republicans, by contrast, have shown little enthusiasm for dealing with these provisions, known as “tax extenders,” which encompass incentives for industries throughout the economy.
In exchange for the right to kill eagles, a San Diego-based wind developer offered to retrofit 75 power poles to reduce eagle deaths near California’s Lake San Antonio, prime winter habitat for the iconic birds. Another California developer agreed to upgrade 11 “problem” power poles, idle certain wind turbines and donate $20,000 for eagle conservation.
The law, passed under former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, set aggressive goals for adding wind power while simplifying the regulatory process in much of the state. Current Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been a wind-power critic, but Ms. Williams said wholesale changes have been a tough sell under both Democratic and GOP control. There have been efforts to rein in wind-farm development on the edges. Mr. Dunphy sponsored a bill this year that he said would give some sparsely populated unorganized territories, which lack local government, more say over wind projects. The proposed change didn’t make it through the Senate, but Mr. Dunphy is continuing the push with the governor’s support.
Vestas Wind Systems is continuing its recent run of customer orders, with an announcement Monday that the Danish manufacturer will supply 75 wind-power turbines to a company called First Wind for a wind farm in Texas. Vestas said its four Colorado plants will be involved in the order — making blades, nacelles and towers for First Wind’s Route 66 wind farm near Amarillo, Texas.
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.