IT’S NO LONGER SURPRISING TO encounter 100-foot pinwheels spinning in the breeze as you drive down the highway. But don’t get too comfortable with that view. A Spanish company called Vortex Bladeless is proposing a radical new way to generate wind energy that will once again upend what you see outside your car window. Their idea is the Vortex, a bladeless wind turbine that looks like a giant rolled joint shooting into the sky. The Vortex has the same goals as conventional wind turbines: To turn breezes into kinetic energy that can be used as electricity. But it goes about it in an entirely different way.
After a decade of growth, Pennsylvania’s wind energy industry finds itself in the doldrums. No new wind farms have come online in more than a year, and no development is expected soon. Advocates say cheaper fossil fuels have muscled wind out of the market, and uncertainty over government support of the sector makes utilities wary of long-term contracts that investors require. “The market signals are not inducing new build,” said Jim Spencer, CEO of Strip District-based EverPower, an owner and developer of wind farms that include four sites in Pennsylvania. “It’s very difficult without relatively long-term secured revenue.”
“We strongly support Senator Udall’s introduction of the Renewable Electricity Standard Act and applaud his leadership in promoting renewable energy nationwide,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Wind Energy Association. “The establishment of a national renewable electricity standard will lower energy costs for consumers, drive new investment and job growth, and diversify our nation’s energy resources.”
The Senate voted today to move forward with its “fast-track” trade legislation, paving the way for final passage in the upper chamber as soon as next week. The vote sets up a debate next week on a trade promotion authority (TPA) bill the Obama administration is seeking to finalize for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Asian countries and a separate trade pact in Europe. The TPA bill would give Congress an up-or-down vote, without any amendments, on trade deals over the next six years.
Entergy New Orleans Inc. has announced its first solar power project as part of its effort to explore how sunlight can reliably and cost-effectively jazz up the power grid in the city. The company plans to install more than 4,000 solar panels at an existing site that holds the capacity to generate 1 megawatt of electricity, with a deadline of late 2016. The company also hopes to integrate new battery technology for storing excess energy from the grid.
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are all getting into green energy in a big way. But for companies with a lack of capital or direct access to energy sources, going green isn’t so easy. Corporate power purchase agreements from renewable energy providers have surged in popularity amid a slew of policies aimed at increasing renewable power sources in states and nationwide. But signing off on 20-year power purchase agreements for renewable energy resources is often the easiest part of the process. Often companies encounter a Gordian knot of regulations, financial and legal protocols that eat up valuable work hours.
Hundt believes the same experience could be repeated in developing clean energy to cope with global climate change. Borrowed money paid for the communications boom, Hundt explained, speaking yesterday at an energy efficiency conference in Washington, D.C. He added that world leaders should apply the same method to fund the renewable energy market.
“Everything in communications has been purchased with debt,” he said, holding up an iPhone and describing how rapidly mobile phones have spread internationally.
The bipartisan co-chairs of the Grid Innovation Caucus unveiled two bills yesterday for shoring up critical transformers, paving the way for federal recognition of “smart grid” technology.
Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of California floated H.R. 2244, which would direct the Energy secretary to shore up an emergency stockpile of mobile high-voltage grid transformers that could replace units damaged by storms or a terrorist attack.
A hearing before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee homed in on some of the key considerations Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and her colleagues will have to balance as they try to craft the first bipartisan, comprehensive energy bill to be considered in years. The hearing was called to consider nearly two dozen proposed energy infrastructure bills proposing various approaches to compensating owners of rooftop solar panels, siting new gas pipelines and electric transmission wires, and updating decades-old laws governing utilities, among other issues.
In the United States, Tesla is set to sell a 10 kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery that is mounted on the wall for $3,500, and another lower-capacity model for $3,000. The batteries are expected to be available in Europe this year and in the Asia-Pacific region in early 2016, according to Khobi Brooklyn, director of global communications at Tesla. International pricing has not yet been announced.