In a previous diary I gathered a variety of renewable energy news together that I thought was of note and/or interesting, and was encouraged by a few commenters to come back with more updates. So here I am, back for more, ready to fill your mind with pertinent whealy-dealings. Strap yourself in, buckle your seatbelt belt, and prepare for a jaunt through all things renewable/alternative energy.
State Renewable News
A pair of governors have just signed bills aimed at reducing their states' dependence on non-renewable energy, and that's where we'll start.
Standing before a combined heat and power production facility at Rutgers University's Busch Campus, Gov. Jon Corzine signed a package of energy bills today designed to help wean New Jersey off fossil fuels and promote renewable energy development.
One bill allows renewable energy developers to install solar systems or wind turbines on industrial properties 20 acres or larger. A second requires developers to offer home buyers the option to install solar systems on new construction in developments with 25 or more units, including single family homes and condo buildings.
A third bill signed today by Corzine gives the Board of Public Utilities power to give grants for energy efficiency programs.
A variety of Republicans and other "no America can't" obstructionists are sharing their gripes with the bill.
Though the package passed in March with comfortable margins, Assembly Republicans called both pieces of legislation an intrusion on private or municipal rule.
"I just don't believe the state should be using a broad brush approach to locating these wind turbines in all industrial zones," Assemblyman Vincent Polistina (R-Atlantic) said. "Municipalities should have the right to zone where they see fit."
Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) said if homeowners "wanted to install solar energy or energy saving devices into their homes they could do that on their own without Trenton telling them to discuss the matter."
Fortunately for us, and themselves, said homeowners have made their opinion on the matter known by voting for the people who put this legislation together.
Governor Timothy M. Kaine today announced action taken on several energy bills as part of his Renew Virginia initiative. Legislators are scheduled to consider the Governor's actions during a reconvened session on Wednesday, April 8, 2009.
"Legislative action is a major part of my Renew Virginia initiative, and the energy bills I have signed will move Virginia toward a more sustainable and energy efficient future," Governor Kaine said. "We must continue to reduce our impact on the environment while ensuring that we have reliable and reasonably priced energy sources."
Kaine has amended three bills and signed seven into law. Following the link to the governor's website provides details for all of these actions.
The California senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would require renewable power to account for 33 percent of electricity delivered by the state's utilities by 2020.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has, for several years, been in favor of a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020. Renewable power can be solar, wind, biomass, geothermal or small hydro projects.
The state's big investor-owned utilities are Pacific Gas & Electric Co, a unit of PG&E Corp, Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International, and San Diego Gas & Electric Co, a unit of Sempra Energy.
All three have expressed support for the renewable power goals. One of them, Southern California Edison, said on Tuesday that it supports the 33 percent by 2020 target as long as transmission is in place to remote areas where renewable power is generated.
In an obnoxiously redundant article by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the word "green" is used more than ten billion times, rendering the word completely meaningless. Also, Ohio keeps wanting to make some power.
Talk about green energy and energy efficiency in Ohio heated up last week.
And the reason has a lot to do with money.
Government, business and the environmental movement have concluded there is plenty of "green" in green thinking -- green jobs, green profits and a green transformation of the economy.
Now that revolution is beginning as the Obama administration pumps billions into renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The U.S. Department of Energy has offered Ohio alone more than $446 million, money for everything from solar and wind power manufacturing to home insulation programs to smart electric meters and high-efficiency appliances.
The green parade started Tuesday when veteran oilman T. Boone Pickens and American Electric Power Chief Executive Mike Morris had a town hall meeting in Columbus. They talked up building wind turbines to generate electricity and switching natural gas from a power plant fuel to a transportation fuel.
National Renewable News
Looks like the President has made a strong pick for Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy.
Scott Sklar, who heads strategic clean energy policy and market firm, The Stella Group, and sits on the Boards of Directors of several national clean energy non-profits, labeled the choice as "excellent".
"I know of very few people with the diverse and exceptional background of Cathy Zoi in clean energy," Sklar said. "Her technical, management and market experience makes her an ideal choice for Assistant Secretary of USDOE's EE/RE program that has grown twice in size and must be focused on both aggressive science and deployment."
In January 2007, Cathy Zoi joined the Alliance for Climate Protection as its founding CEO. Established and chaired by former Vice President Al Gore, the Alliance is a non-profit organization spearheading a multi-year, multimillion dollar effort aimed at persuading Americans of both the urgency and solvability of global warming.
In what is sure to be a contentious process that may eventually turn to the "budget reconciliation process" if Republicans insist on preventing Congress from voting on important legislation, House Democrats have introduced legislation to begin a serious effort at developing homegrown, renewable energy.
Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday announced a sweeping plan to change how the nation produces and uses energy in order to reduce the risk of dangerous climate change.
No environmental legislation in America has ever attempted such wide-reaching changes. The bill - an incomplete draft that will evolve in the months ahead - would provide incentives to boost wind, solar and other renewable energy, would improve efficiency so that homes and businesses need less fuel and would support the development of cars that run on biofuels and electricity.
It also would make using fossil fuels more expensive - and that will be the central issue of debate in Congress, with armies of lobbyists on both sides.
The measure contains a variety of terms intended to help businesses survive the energy transition, but it leaves open for debate the central question: how revenues from pollution permits would be used. That means the question of how consumers would be helped also remains to be worked out.
The plan calls for a system to limit for the first time the amount of global warming pollution - mainly carbon dioxide from coal and oil combustion - that's permitted from utilities, oil companies and large-scale industries, which make up 85 percent of the U.S. economy. They'd have to buy permits for each ton of emissions.
While President Obama has made development of cleaner energy sources a priority, an effort is underway to close off a large swath of the Southern California desert to solar and wind energy projects.
In a move that could pit usual allies -- environmentalists and the solar and wind industries -- against each other, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is preparing legislation that would permanently put hundreds of thousands of acres of desert land off limits to energy projects. The territory would be designated California's newest national monument.
The move has triggered cries of NIMBY-ism on Capitol Hill.
"If there is such strong support for renewable energy, then why are they moving to block renewable energy production in their own state?" said Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Myron Ebell, an energy expert with the pro-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, called Feinstein's effort "just the first example of how hard it is going to be to realize President Obama's dream of a green-energy economy."
Feinstein disputed that she is engaged in a not-in-my-backyard campaign. "I'm a strong supporter of renewable energy and clean technology -- but it is critical that these projects are built on suitable lands," she said.
The area of concern to Feinstein is between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, off old Route 66 between Ludlow and Needles. The area includes desert tortoise habitat, wildlife corridors, cactus gardens and the Amboy Crater -- an inactive volcanic crater where portions of the 1959 movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth" were filmed.
"That section of the road is as pristine as it was when travelers came across it in the 1920s and '30s," said James Conkle, chairman of the Route 66 Alliance.
Here in Oregon, efforts continue to make the state a headquarters for solar research and manufacturing.
The University of Oregon and Oregon State University are receiving $1.34 million in research and development funds for solar energy research — part of ongoing efforts to develop Oregon as a national center for solar energy manufacturing.
UO will receive $768,000 to establish a photovoltaics laboratory. OSU will receive $572,000 to set up an innovation center for sustainable solar cell manufacturing,
The investments will be announced today by the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, known as BEST. The public-private partnership was formed to bring together research and development resources in renewable energy and green building with the goal of increasing the research and transforming it into business opportunities and jobs.The University of Oregon and Oregon State University are receiving $1.34 million in research and development funds for solar energy research — part of ongoing efforts to develop Oregon as a national center for solar energy manufacturing.
UO will receive $768,000 to establish a photovoltaics laboratory. OSU will receive $572,000 to set up an innovation center for sustainable solar cell manufacturing,
The investments will be announced today by the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, known as BEST. The public-private partnership was formed to bring together research and development resources in renewable energy and green building with the goal of increasing the research and transforming it into business opportunities and jobs.
And of great news to job seekers in the state:
SolarWorld USA opened the largest photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant in North America in Hillsboro last year, BEST spokesman Gregg Kleiner said. "And a growing list of solar energy companies have a presence in the state."
A combination of state tax credits and access to university research facilities are helping to lure them here, he said.
Just today I heard from a staffing agency in Portland that SolarWorld is looking to double their employment ranks over the next year or two. It's a bright spot for Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, where 1,000 Intel workers were recently laid off.
Florida Power & Light Company will install cutting-edge solar power arrays at six schools in its service territory to help teach future generations about the benefits of renewable energy.
Each school receiving a ‘Next Generation Solar Education Station’ will be able to generate emissions-free electricity and provide students with a hands-on tool to learn how solar power works.
"The next generation of Floridians will live in a world where renewable energy is a central part of the economy and our way of life. The Next Generation Solar Education Stations we are building will give students a head start on understanding the critical role solar power will play in that future," said FPL President and CEO Armando J. Olivera.
When each FPL Next Generation Solar Education Station is complete, it will provide 5 kilowatts of solar electricity. The solar installation will save the schools about $800 each year in electricity costs while giving teachers a way to focus science education on essential energy technologies of the future.
Incredible opportunity for those kids. Reminds me of the "reduce, reuse, and recycle" projects at my elementary school, though this sounds even cooler.
Solar is profitable!
EL DORADO HILLS, Calif., March 31 PRNewswire-FirstCall -- Premier Power Renewable Energy, Inc. (OTCBulletinBoard: PPRW) , a global leader in design, engineering and development of solar projects for the commercial, government and residential markets in the U.S. and Europe, today announced financial results for the fiscal year and fourth quarter, which ended December 31, 2008.
* Premier Power's total revenues for fiscal 2008 were $44.2 million, a 165 percent increase from $16.7 million in fiscal 2007.
* Net income margins were substantially positive during a year that featured significant business growth and additional expenses associated with becoming a publicly traded company.
* Premier Power projects in fiscal 2008 included West County Wastewater District, Otis Elevator Company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Sutter Home and Teichert Aggregate, among others.
* Premier Power remains on schedule to be listed on the Nasdaq stock market in the first half of 2009.
* Notable events for Premier Power in 2008 were numerous including two industrial scale 1MW installations completed in less than 45 days; continued expansion in Spain through a second office in Madrid; continued expansion in the U.S. with a new residential sales office in Southern California.
* The Company reported net income in accordance with generally accepted in the United States (GAAP) of $569,068, or $.03 per share, for fiscal 2008, compared to net income of $843,865, or $.04 per share, for fiscal 2007.
LAKE MARY, Fla. - Advanced Solar Photonics will soon be the only place in the Sunshine State to make panels to capture energy from the sun. Solar power is becoming more popular on homes and businesses, but installers have to get the high-tech panels from outside Florida.
The company hopes to start making the panels by June and plans to add hundreds of jobs. President Barack Obama promised billions in funding to great new green jobs and make alternative energy sources more available. Advanced Solar Photonics hopes to cash in on some of those federal dollars.
An interesting article from the New York Times discusses how wind projects have been financed in the past, and the people involved aren't you who'd expect - nor were fighting climate change or working toward energy independence providing their motivation.
This is how it worked: Large financial institutions like AIG, Wachovia, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers and others would buy federal tax benefits from renewable energy startups that did not have enough taxable income to use the credits on their own.
In other words, big financial firms traded financing to offset tax liability. So-called tax-equity investors would bankroll a solar or wind project in exchange for a tax shelter, which was effectively pinned to profits. The system worked as long as Congress renewed the federal investment and production tax credits that granted developers a range of incentives, and it was widely viewed as a essential avenue within the renewable energy development community.
No more. The system, like other schemes crafted by insiders, has crumbled as AIG, Lehman and others have collapsed. The big boys no longer have cash to bankroll projects or the means to pull the profits to get credits, so the tax-equity space has turned into a financial dead zone.
The article then points to the economic stimulus package as something the industry is turning to for hope.
Like their solar counterparts, wind companies sense opportunity in a stimulus provision that provides cash grants in lieu of tax credits for renewable energy. The program has solar companies breathing a sigh of relief, a feeling that appears to have spread to wind developers (Greenwire, March 26).
Under the previous investment tax credit, renewable energy developers could apply a 30 percent credit only to profits as a deduction. But the stimulus, for a period of two years, has made it possible to get back the 30 percent as cash, under a grant program to be administered by the Treasury Department.
Wind power is now eligible for the grant program, the plans for which are still being finalized by Treasury's understaffed tax department. Once the program gets going, one analyst said, the system should thaw frozen credit markets over the next few months -- a little bit at a time.
"It adds a number of options for how to finance a project," said Tyler Tringas, a wind energy analyst at New Energy Finance. "It gives [the developers] a new sort of very large decision tree to finance a wind project."
State lawmakers want to tap into Colorado's wind and solar power to provide more schools with clean energy.
In many school districts across the state, their utility bill is often their second biggest expense, right behind staff salaries. Now lawmakers will take up a proposal to help them produce their energy on site by getting them state loans to develop wind and solar power.
On the Eastern Plains, in the small town of Wray, a massive wind turbine produces energy for the local schools. Colorado's state treasurer wants to see more of them receive low-interest loans from the state to develop renewable energy.
"We've seen this school model work here in Colorado where a school district has put a turbine up right up in the backyard of the school building, and they're generating all their electricity for that school site and saving their taxpayer's money," State Treasurer Cary Kennedy said.
The burden is on each district to prove that savings are likely to be realized and will directly translate into additional classroom resources. Once that hurdle is passed, the state will grant low-interest loans to the school districts. To this point it hasn't always worked out, but there remains strong support on both sides of the aisle in Colorado.
A $220 million commercial wind farm that would be the first in the region and could bring 100 jobs to Crook County has received the initial go-ahead from Crook County planning commissioners.
"We’re excited and proud to be the first renewable energy wind project in Central Oregon," said Sarah Rankin, the project coordinator for the developers of the West Butte Wind Power Project. "It looks like things are going forward, and I think this project will be a source of pride for the whole community."
Rankin said the project could generate enough energy to power about 50,000 homes. The power would be fed into an existing transmission line, and, she said, it’s possible the developers will eventually sell the project, or simply the power, to another company.
The project would need 80 to 100 people during the construction period, and 10 to 12 full-time employees after completion.
DES MOINES, Iowa - A Florida-based company plans to build a wind turbine repair plant that will bring 25 permanent jobs to Story City.
Gov. Chet Culver will attend a ceremony Wednesday where NextEra Energy of Juno Beach, Fla., will break ground on the site.
Construction of the plant is expected to employ 75 workers, with completion early next year.
And in other wind power job news comes this article from the Kansas City Star on the growing, and soon to be exploding, demand for wind technicians.
In times when it seems no jobs are out there, maybe the solution is to look up there. Copeland is among a corps of wind technicians in training — ambitious and daring men and women filling an exploding demand for workers who can tend to giant windmills — in a rare field that needs more workers.
"I support clean renewable energy," said the 37-year-old student at Cloud County Community College. "But if there’s a job in it, that’s the big thing."
With just enough training in mechanics, electronics and computer know-how, instructors say just about anyone with the perseverance — and arms beefy enough to climb 27 stories one rung after the next — can fashion themselves into a wind technician in one year.
From there, the possibilities seem to expand endlessly with the chance to get in early on an industry that’s essentially government-mandated to grow, and grow fast.
Housed in a strip mall, the wind technician school is the only place in Kansas and one of the few in the region teaching the trade. Indeed, across the country the opportunities for learning the rather specialized work are spread thinly.
A freshly certified wind technician might expect to start at $18 or more an hour, with plenty of chances at steady overtime, and a reasonable hope to move into management within a few years and pull down six figures. Take that, English majors.
Although the United States surpassed Germany last year as the world’s largest harvester of wind energy, wind turbines still account for less than 2 percent of the country’s electricity. The Obama administration aims to push that to 20 percent by 2030.
Already, the industry can’t make turbines fast enough — even though many otherwise-ready-to-go projects are stalled by America’s frozen lending markets — to keep pace with state and federal requirements pressuring utilities to harvest more wind and other renewable sources for electricity.
"Clean Coal" News
As stated previously, my inclusion of "clean coal" and nuclear news does not necessarily indicate my belief that those are truly renewable sources of energy. To be honest, I am open to arguments on all sides for both of those energy sources. That said, given the importance of those energy sources, and given our President's stated support for energy from those sources, I am including news regarding developments in "clean coal" and nuclear energy.
Potential Energy has learned that Energy Secretary Steven Chu met with representatives of the FutureGen Alliance today, reinforcing positive signals from Chu two weeks ago that the troubled project could be revived. The public-private partnership to prove the integration of coal gasification, carbon capture, and sequestration technologies was killed by the Bush Administration in January 2008 using what Congressional investigators have shown to be specious accounting.
One attraction of the project is that it is more "shovel ready" than average--particularly for a capital-intensive energy installation. An environmental impact statement already issued under the Bush Administration, and a Record of Decision (ROD) from DOE formally approving the project seems to be in the works. "Step one is for new sec of energy to issue the ROD. With that we can do a detailed design and start procurement. If that happens quickly we can begin the heavy construction next year, and even some light construction this year," says Mudd. The plant could actually start up in as little as three years from now, with "90% carbon capture and sequestration from Day One," according to Mudd.
Which would be just in time for Obama's re-election campaign.
In surprising headline, a story regarding the above-mentioned project:
The Bush administration's decision to halt production of an experimental power plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide emissions underground may have set back "clean coal" technology in the United States by as much as a decade, according to a congressional report released at a hearing yesterday.
Also, cost estimates used as justification for killing the commercial-scale project known as FutureGen were grossly exaggerated because Energy Department officials did not account for inflation, according to a Government Accountability Office report, also released yesterday.
The two reports, commissioned by the House Committee on Science and Technology, represent the latest efforts by the Illinois congressional delegation to revive the plant, which would be built in the small Illinois town of Mattoon. President Obama took part in the delegation's efforts when he was in the Senate.
The Bush administration killed plans to build the plant in December 2007, just hours after Mattoon was chosen over two sites in Texas, triggering allegations that the move was political.
Texas lawmakers are pressing the U.S. Department of Energy to send up to $1.2 billion in stimulus funds to West Texas to help build a coal-fired power plant that would capture most of its carbon-dioxide emissions.
Summit Power would build the $1.6 billion Texas Clean Energy Project in the city of Penwell, where carbon dioxide could be injected into nearby oil fields to enhance petroleum production. Summit also is asking the Texas Legislature to waive up to $100 million in state franchise taxes.
Laura Miller, Summit's director of Texas projects, said the company would offer to pay back any federal stimulus funds if state lawmakers approve the new incentives and Congress changes existing tax credits to allow Summit's project to benefit from them.
The title of this article is somewhat misleading, as support has not dramatically changed from historical levels, though it is likely that there has been an uptick in support as energy independence in general is a rather popular idea.
A new Gallup poll found growing levels of support among Americans for nuclear energy.
While support for nuclear power in recent years has usally been in the mid-50 percent range, the latest poll found that 59 percent of the respondents favor its use. And the number of people who say they strongly favor nuclear - usually around 20 percent - was 27 percent in the poll.
President Obama has pledged to reexamine nuclear energy, although that promise came under scrutiny this month, when his proposed budget cut most of the funds for a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. His stimulus package also stripped billions for a loan program the nuclear industry wanted.
Still, Steve Chu, Obama's energy secretary, told a Senate budget hearing two weeks ago that "I believe in nuclear power as a central part of our energy mix," according to the Associated Press.
In North Carolina, a study released by a Duke University economist highlights the increased cost of electricity generated by nuclear power plants and a new coal power plant, and discusses alternative ways to handle North Carolina's energy needs.
North Carolina homeowners could see their utility bills climb between 50-100 percent if Duke Energy and Progress Energy are allowed to proceed with four nuclear plants and if Duke completes the new Cliffside coal plant. Any need for these plants could be replaced with modest increases in energy efficiency, cogeneration, and renewable power, according to a major new study produced by the former chair of the Duke University Economics Department for NC WARN (North Carolina Waste Awareness & Reduction Network).
The report is being issued against a national backdrop in which more than 60 of 150 planned coal-fired power plants already have been stopped and many more are likely to be halted. NC WARN issued the report today ahead of a filing this week in which the group is contesting the long-range utility demand forecasts and the supposed need for the new power plants.
All of a sudden, nuclear fusion is becoming an energy buzzword instead of an energy joke: One route to fusion is being hailed as having the potential to become a "holy cow game-changer," another mainstream method is getting a multimillion-dollar boost, and a dark-horse candidate is stealthily moving forward as well. Heck, even cold fusion is back in the game.
So what's behind the seemingly sudden interest?
Part of the buzz is dictated by the calendar. After 12 years of construction, the world's most powerful laser is finally finished at the National Ignition Facility in California, and VIPs are getting a look at some of the best that Big Science has to offer in fusion energy research.
But part of it is dictated by the hard times we're living in, said Richard Nebel, who heads a team looking at an unconventional kind of fusion technology. "These can be the times when innovation can really take hold," he told me today.
The way Nebel sees it, tough times can spur people to look for unconventional solutions to society's challenges - for example, how to develop cleaner, cheaper, more abundant sources of energy. Biofuels (including algae), wind, wave, geothermal and solar power are all part of the mix, along with better batteries and greater fuel efficiency.
After 12 years and billions of dollars spent, the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday officially certified the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.
Key missions of the facility, the world's largest laser operation, are to assess the reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile through simulations and to provide a training ground for a new generation of physicists.
But in 2010, all eyes will be on the facility to deliver on its most visible promise — showing that the fusion of two hydrogen atoms to produce "clean" energy can be achieved on a sustained basis, not just a millisecond in a lab experiment.
With a sustained fusing of hydrogen, fusion energy power plants could be built, said Edward Moses, director of the NIF project, providing an energy source that would use water, including seawater, as fuel, and emit no carbon.
"If you have a wet pile of leaves and light it with a match, you get a little puff but it can't propagate," said Moses, alluding to previous efforts at fusion research. "But now we hope we can create conditions where the leaves are hot and dry."
It's been almost twelve years since my chemistry teacher told the class about the potential of fusion. I was intensely interested, only to later discover that fusion was almost universally laughed off at just the mention of the concept. Shall that soon change?
In an encouraging sign, Renewable Energy Generation Climbs in 2008, Fossil Fuels Dip
Non-hydro renewable energy increased 17.6 percent in 2008 compared to the year before, according to new figures released this week by the Energy Information Administration.
In comparison, electricity generation from coal and natural gas declined by 1.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Overall electricity generation declined 1 percent in 2008, most likely due to the economy.
Non-hydro renewables, which includes wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, accounted for about 3 percent of total generation, up from 2.5 percent in 2007.
Much of the growth in non-hydro renewable energy generation was spurred by the wind and solar sectors, which increased in 2008 by a robust 51 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
2009 is not expected to be as welcoming to renewable energy, but it isn't likely to be welcoming to much of anything. Unless you're peddling whiskey, beer, and lottery tickets, in which case I imagine you're looking forward to collecting quite a handsome profit.
Thanks for reading, hope I've given y'all some useful info!
Note: this diary has been reposted, as I originally, in a stroke of bad luck, posted right as the DoS attack was hitting Kos last night.
In the time since then, the NRDC has issued this pretty damn sweet interactive tool with Google Earth:
Lovers of the American West will tell you that it's blessed -- and they're right. It's home to significant sources of renewable energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal power. The Western states, their residents and the nation will need these resources to repower America and meet the challenge of global warming.
But the West is also home to remarkable wildlands, diverse wildlife and irreplaceable cultural resources. That makes it vital to find the best sites for new clean energy projects and transmission lines, so that America can harness renewable power while doing the least damage to the Western environment.
Working with Google Earth, NRDC has developed this interactive resource to help environmentalists, renewable energy developers, utility companies and others meet the challenge.