Off-Shore Wind is New Source of U.S. Renewable Energy

Off-Shore Wind is New Source of U.S. Renewable Energy

Cape WindBy John Addison (4/29/10)

The United States now has a new source of clean electricity for homes, buildings, and industrial stationary power and also for the growing use of electricity in rail and electric cars. Wind power is especially available at night when we hope to eventually charge millions of vehicles.

Global wind energy capacity is increasing by 160% over the coming five years from 155 GW to 409 GW, according to the annual industry forecast presented by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). A growing part of the renewable energy (RE) mix is off-shore wind, popular in Europe for 20 years, but stopped in the U.S. by not-in-my-backyard opposition, or more accurately “not in the view of my expensive ocean front property.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar showed political courage on April 28 by approving the Cape Wind renewable energy project on federal submerged lands in Nantucket Sound. He will require the developer of the $1 billion wind farm to agree to additional binding measures to minimize the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the facility. Salazar said,” With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our Nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region.”

The project is a big win for Siemens who will supply 130 3.6 MW towers, outbidding GE, Vestas, and other competitors. Siemens has already sold over 1,000 of these large off-shore turbines. The Cape Wind facility will generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts. At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts, or charge 200,000 electric cars.

One-fifth of the offshore wind energy potential of the East Coast is located off the New England coast and Nantucket Sound receives strong, steady Atlantic winds year round. The project includes a 66.5-mile buried submarine transmission cable system, an electric service platform and two 115-kilovolt lines connecting to the mainland power grid. The project would create several hundred construction jobs and be one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in the nation, cutting carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually.

Over one GW of off-shore wind is proposed for other Eastern coastal states, eager to catch-up with the renewable energy use of Western and Central states. For example, due to California’s abundance of wind, solar, and geothermal power, my California utility does not use coal.

To overcome years of opposition, the number of turbines at Cape Wind has been reduced from 170 to 130, minimizing the visibility of turbines from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark; reconfiguring the array to move it farther away from Nantucket Island; and reducing its breadth to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District. Translation is that from shore it will take Superman vision to notice the wind turbines 5.2 miles from the mainland shoreline, 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island and 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard.

A number of tall structures, including broadcast towers, cellular base station towers, local public safety communications towers and towers for industrial and business uses are already located around the area. Three submarine transmission cable systems already traverse the seabed to connect mainland energy sources to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

“After almost a decade of exhaustive study and analyses, I believe that this undertaking can be developed responsibly and with consideration to the historic and cultural resources in the project area,” Salazar said. “Impacts to the historic properties can and will be minimized and mitigated and we will ensure that cultural resources will not be harmed or destroyed during the construction, maintenance, and decommissioning of the project.”

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U.S. Wind Energy Breaks Record with 10 GW added in 2009

U.S. Wind Energy Breaks Record with 10 GW added in 2009

Wind Energy Growth in USBy John Addison (1/26/10)

 

The U.S. wind industry broke all previous records by installing 9,922 MW installed last year. This expanded the nation’s wind fleet by 39% and bring total wind power generating capacity in the U.S to over 35,000 MW. The five-year average annual growth rate for the industry is also 39%. U.S. wind projects today generate enough to power the equivalent of 9.7 million homes, protecting consumers from fuel price volatility and strengthening our energy security.

Wind power and natural gas are the leading sources of new electricity generation for the United States, generating 80% of new capacity, as most utilities avoid the risks of adding coal and nuclear power plants.

The 39% expansion of wind power is remarkable because many projects required hundreds of millions in long-term financing during the sever recession and time when many banks stopped lending. Also, many lenders who previously wanted production tax credits (PTC), lost money in 2009 and had no need for PTC.

There is mixed optimism about wind power’s continued growth will continue in 2010. Three GW of new wind are under construction with more projects that will be added during the year. TVA added 815 MW is a good example.

Improved price-performance of equipment is one driver. 1603 Treasury Grants (Excel spreadsheet of 240 Funded Projects), Investment Tax Credit, and other tax credit with completion deadlines will also fuel growth in 2010. RPS in 30 states is another driver.

Without new energy or climate legislation we may not see added growth of wind and other renewables. Uncertainty is a deal killer. Lack of new high-speed electricity transmission is the biggest obstacle to growth of renewables. NIMBY activism and lack of appropriate cost sharing are challenges for high-speed transmission.

Natural gas growth may surge ahead if wind growth stalls in 2010. Utilities also prefer natural gas power plants for baseload power. In the decade ahead, large-scale grid storage may make the variability of wind power less of an issue. Report about 32 new grid storage and smart grid projects.

“The U.S. wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon, and protecting consumers,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “But U.S. wind turbine manufacturing – the canary in the mine — is down compared to last year’s levels, and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow. We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their U.S. operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry.”

Early last year, before the Recovery Act (ARRA), the industry anticipated that in 2009 wind power development might drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses. The clear commitment by the President to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives by the Administration in mid-summer reversed the situation.

Recovery Act incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, and management jobs, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy. Some 50 U.S. facilities are planning expansion, including turbine manufacturers headquartered outside the U.S., although some will need financing and greater market certainty to expand. The United States competes with Europe and Asia for wind industry job growth. In 2009, most U.S. wind projects were divided among a dozen turbine manufacturers such as General Electric, Vestas, Suzlon, Siemens, and Mitsubishi.

America’s wind power fleet will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road, and will conserve approximately 20 billion gallons of water annually, which would otherwise be withdrawn for steam or cooling in conventional power plants.

Texas extended its lead benefiting from strong winds and fewer regulatory hurdles than many states in the nation. Fourteen U.S. states now have over 1 GW of installed wind. The top five states by wind power installed (in MW):

  • Texas 9,410
  • Iowa 3,670
  • California 2,794
  • Washington 1,980
  • Minnesota 1,809

AWAE Market Report

Can wind power continue to grow? Yes. The November 2009 feature article in Scientific American reported how wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels by 2030. Recommended reading is “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables”  by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi.