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This has really been a roller coaster type of week for renewable energy activists huh? First Lindsay Graham throws his temper tantrum, throwing any possible climate bill into doubt.  Then the Cape Wind project was approved, giving the US it's first off shore wind energy operation.  Then, the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf happened, and we're still dealing with the horrible effects of that disaster.  But, the week has ended on a bit of a high note which I'll include in the round-up (if you just can't wait, check out this diary from Magnifico.

Much has been made of the approval of the Cape Wind project, and rightfully so.  While we focus on the impact it will have on the people who live in the area, the project could have a massive impact on the wind energy industry as a whole. From Grist:

There are currently proposals to build nearly 2,500 megawatts' worth of offshore wind farms from Massachusetts to North Carolina, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Other developers want to put wind farms off the Texas coast and in the Great Lakes.

Given that such wind farms would be close to major East Coast population centers, there'd be no need to construct long-distance transmission lines, which would avoid some costly environmental and political battles. (Though putting such lines under water comes with its own high costs and environmental considerations.)

A series of Cape Wind-sized turbine farms-each generating, at peak output, the electricity of a mid-sized coal-fired power plant-would also create thousands of construction and maintenance jobs and put the U.S. in a position to compete in the massive megawatt offshore market now dominated by European companies and countries, with China not far behind.

And, what do you know, already a nearby state is getting in on the act:

Fishermen's Energy launched a weather and whale buoy Thursday three miles off the coast in the race to build New Jersey's first offshore wind farm.

Anchored in 40 feet of water, the yellow and brown buoy will spend the next two years gathering weather data such as wind speed and barometric pressure. Its sensors also will monitor migrating whales, dolphins, birds and bats.

Fishermen's Energy and two other companies plan to build offshore windmills between Atlantic City and Avalon. But the Cape May company has a head start on its competition, Garden State Offshore Wind and Bluewater Wind, because Fishermen's Energy is building a 20-megawatt demonstration project in state waters where there is less red tape.

And, one more piece of good news on the wind energy front:

The Pentagon has dropped its opposition to the huge Shepherds Flat wind farm in north-central Oregon and will allow construction to proceed, Oregon's two Democratic senators and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said today.

Instead of thwarting the project, the military will instead upgrade a nearby radar system in Fossil to prevent wind towers from signigicantly interfering with radar signals, the politicians said.

There has been a solar energy expansion in NC:

Power company Duke Energy said Thursday that it will install solar panels at 10 buildings in North Carolina as it builds on its solar generation program.  The panels will generate enough electricity to power about 525 homes.

Duke began the program last October when roof space was leased from four large manufacturing and commercial facilities for the placement of solar panels.

When the program is complete, Duke will have invested about $50 million on a project that will be capable of generating enough electricity for 1,300 homes.

Yeah, that's nice.  But if you want real solar expansion, head to CA:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) said it plans to begin implementing a major new solar photovoltaic (PV) program, which the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved today.

The program, once complete, will generate up to 500 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, enough to meet the needs of about 150,000 homes in PG&E's Northern and Central California service area.

PG&E's solar PV program is part of its larger effort to provide its customers with more clean energy. The five-year initiative will consist of up to 250 MW of utility-owned PV generation and another 250 MW provided by independent developers through a streamlined regulatory process.  The moderately sized projects targeted by PG&E's initiative, ranging from 1 MW to 20 MW, should require less time to plan and build than many large projects that have faced lengthy delays. Projects to be owned by PG&E will be located near company substations to reduce the costs and delays of interconnecting them to the power grid.

Solar power is creating jobs in CA:

SunPower Corp., a leading U.S.-based supplier of solar photovoltaic modules for residential and commercial use, has announced that its first manufacturing plant in this country will be established in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Milpitas.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrated the announcement Thursday with officials at the Milpitas site, which SunPower will operate in partnership with Flextronics, a Singapore-based company that manufactures high-tech equipment.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, after praising SunPower's expansion, which is expected to create about 100 new jobs this year, berated oil companies that he said are trying to undermine years of work that has made California the leading solar state and boosted job creation.

And wind energy is creating jobs in GA:

A German company plans to build a wind energy plant and bring 215 new jobs to Gainesville.

ZF Group, an automotive industry supplier, said Friday the plant will make wind turbine gearboxes for systems that convert wind energy into electricity. The company said it will invest $90 million in the project.

Construction is scheduled to begin immediately, with the plant to open in February 2011 and the start of production set for January 2012.

Power companies in the New England area have begun work on a huge project to update the electric grid:

Power companies in New England are beginning work on a nearly half-billion-dollar plan to upgrade the region’s electric grid to make way for appliances that can shut down to reduce electric bills, improve energy conservation, and connect to wind and solar energy.

The first step is replacing decades-old meters with so-called smart meters that detail the use of computers, appliances, TVs, lights, and other household equipment.

The new meters — the front line of plans for an advanced electricity grid — communicate with utilities and can respond to constantly changing energy prices. Customers will be able to respond to electricity prices in real time and shut down appliances to save money. Utilities can offer better rates as incentives for using appliances in off-peak hours.

More wind energy is coming to North Dakota:

Basin Electric and NextEra Energy Resources will work together on their sixth deal in which Basin Electric will buy the energy output from a wind project that NextEra will build, own and operate in North Dakota.

The two companies signed a 30-year power purchase agreement through which Basin Electric will buy 100 MW of electricity from the planned wind farm. The proposed farm will have 68 wind turbines each with a generating capacity of 1.6 MW. The project is expected to be up and running by the end of 2010.

There is a new solar energy program for residents of Texas:

But that was before TXU Energy announced in February that it is pairing up with a California-based company, SolarCity, to launch a groundbreaking residential solar energy program that doesn't require homeowners to put up any money in advance. There is no upfront cost for installation, and homeowners can instead make monthly lease payments on the solar panels. The savings on electric bills generally can be expected to exceed the monthly lease cost, TXU Energy and SolarCity officials say.

TXU spokesman Michael Patterson said the company has received more than 4,500 inquiries about the program, but might do only 200 to 300 residential solar installations this year, beginning in May.  Because the program already is "full for 2010 ... we are not encouraging new applications," but "are offering to place folks on a waiting list for future programs," Patterson said.

And finally, those weeds in your yard could one day fuel your car:

Pennycress is a winter annual, a member of the mustard family, which grows commonly throughout much of the United States. It is most easily recognized by the penny-shaped seedpods for which it is named, and it is within these pods that its energy-producing potential lies, said Peter Johnsen of Biofuels Manufacturers of Illinois (BMI).
Pennycress seeds contain approximately 36 percent oil, twice the proportion of oil found in a soybean, yet with similar properties. This oil can be easily extracted and used to produce biodiesel at 95 gallons per acre of plant, which is again nearly twice the amount as soy, Johnsen said.

At the same time, pennycress production offers social and economic benefits that completely bypass the food-versus-fuel debate over using corn or other food crops as biofuels. Pennycress is not a food crop and would only be raised for energy. Therefore proponents say this particular biofuel circumvents a scarcity-based theory that many scientists have already disregarded, in that it would not short-change the aggregate food supply.

Nor would pennycress production compete for valuable farm land. Pennycress is a winter crop, which can be grown in what is considered the offseason.  Pennycress is planted in the fall, lies dormant during the coldest winter months, and then grows again in the spring. Scientists are confident that with further development, it could be harvested in time to clear the land for another crop, most likely soybeans, Johnsen said.

And don't forget to visit the eKos Earthship!

Originally posted to mark louis on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 02:29 PM PDT.

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