• Department of Energy Announces $93 million to Support Wind Energy

    Steven Chu discusses ARRA with President Barack Obama at DOE
    DOE Secretary Steven Chu with President Barack Obama

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 29, 2009 - Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that $93 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) will be used to support the development of wind energy projects. “Wind energy will be one of the most important contributors to meeting President Obama's target of generating 10 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2012,” according to Secretary Chu. “The projects funded by this opportunity will advance wind technology so that it can reliably supply a substantial portion of our nation's electricity. They will also help in creating more new jobs and expanding a clean energy economy.”

    The funding will leverage the Department of Energy's national laboratories, universities, and the private sector to help improve reliability and overcome key technical challenges for the wind industry. These projects will create green jobs, promote economic recovery, and provide the investments needed to increase renewable energy generation.

    The funding includes these allocations:

    • $45 million for wind turbine drivetrain research and development and testing of the performance and reliability of current and next generation wind turbine drivetrain systems. This project will improve the country's competitiveness in wind energy technology, lower capital costs of wind systems, and maintain a high level of wind energy capacity growth.
    • $14 million for technology development in the private sector. The aim is to improve the quality and use of advanced materials for turbine blades, towers and other components. This will also fund development in process controls for lamination, blade finishing, trimming, grind, painting, materials handling and inspection.
    • $24 million for wind power research and development among a consortia between universities and industry to focus on critical wind energy issues including advancing material design, performance measurements, analytical models, and improving power systems operations, maintenance and repair, and component manufacturing.
    • $10 million for the DOE National Wind Technology Center in Colorado to support testing current and next generation wind turbine technology and upgrades to the electrical distribution system.

    Chu, who is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, made the announcement while touring the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. NREL will receive ARRA funding for a variety of other renewable energy research projects:

    • $68 million for a Research Support Facility to create the nation's most energy efficient office building at the same cost of low efficiency commercial construction today. It will achieve LEED Platinum and 50% energy use reduction over standard commercial office buildings.
    • $19.2 million for Renewable Energy and Site Infrastructure to use solar and potentially geothermal and fuel cells to replace power currently purchased from utilities and reduce our carbon use.
    • $13.5 million for upgrades to the Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility to create a continuous process research and development capability to develop commercial scale cellulose to ethanol technologies.

    Read the full press release from the Department of Energy.

  • PTC, ITC or Cash Grant? Which Should a Developer Use?

    Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released a combined report that may help wind project developers understand which federal incentives will be most economical: PTC, ITC, or Cash Grant? An Analysis of the Choice Facing Renewable Power Projects in the United States.

    The report takes a close look at key provisions in the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These key provisions could have a significant impact on how renewable energy projects are financed in the near future.

    Included in these provisions is an extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC). Another provision allows for projects that are eligible for the PTC to elect to receive a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) instead of the PTC. An even more intriguing provisions allows for a project that qualifies for the ITC (or the PTC but elects to receive the ITC) to receive the value of that credit as a cash grant from the Treasury.

    The authors analyzed a number of technologies in the report including wind, open- and closed-loop biomass, geothermal and landfill gas projects. The purpose of the analysis is to both quantitatively and qualitatively analyze the choice between the PTC and ITC (or cash grant) from the project developer perspective. Only two technologies showed a clear preference for one incentive over the other: open-loop biomass gets more value from the ITC across the board, while geothermal gets more value from the PTC.

    For wind energy, the authors looked at a range of installed costs from $1.500/kW to $2,500/kW and a range of capacity factors from 25% to 45%. They did not include the potential influence on project costs due to nameplate capacity in the presence of economies of scale. These quantitative results showed the PTC provided more value in approximately 2/3 of the cases analyzed.

    The authors also looked at qualitative factors that can also influence the decision of which incentive a developer wants to use. These factors include: the option to elect the cash grant; performance risk; tax credit appetite; liquidity; subsidized energy financing; power sale requirement; and the owner/operator requirement. Combining the quantitative and qualitative considerations, the authors found that most wind projects may benefit more from the ITC than they will from the PTC.

    As the report concludes, whether a particular project chooses the PTC or ITC or cash grant will depend on any number of factors that will be weighed by each project according to their priorities, and the fact that these choices for federal incentives now exist (temporarily) is a step in the right direction to broaden the participation base in renewable energy.

    Click here to download and read the full report (19 pages)
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  • Over 8,000 MW of Wind Energy Installed in 2008

    The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced yesterday that in 2008 alone over 8,000 MW of wind energy was installed. This increased the nation's wind energy capacity by 50% and created an investment of $17 billion into the economy.

    The United States now has a total installed capacity of 25,170 MW of wind energy. Minnesota is ranked 4th nationally with 1,752 MW installed and Iowa has exceeded California and is now 2nd with 2,790 MW.

    AWEA's press release also urged policy makers to maintain the momenutm from 2008 and support smart policies that will help grow the wind industry. You can read the entire press release here.

  • South Dakota Wind Energy Association

    The South Dakota Wind Energy Association (SDWEA) elected a Board of Directors, named an Executive Director and set goals for 2009 at its first official meeting on January 13.

    The group will work to support the development of wind energy as a sustainable economic and environmentally-friendly resource for South Dakota and its citizens. Board President Jeffrey L. Nelson commented on South Dakota’s wind energy opportunity, “South Dakota has the fourth best wind in the country and many people want to further maximize this potential.” Nelson said, “We look forward to SDWEA advancing the opportunities for South Dakotans as further wind energy is developed throughout our state.”

    Click here to read the SDWEA press release.

  • Brookings County-Hampton Transmission Line Project Application Review

    The CapX2020 utilities filed a permit on December 29, 2008 for the Brookings County-Hampton 345kV transmission line project at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

    As required by law the application contains two route options for the approximately 240-mile transmission line and associated substations. The MN Public Utilities Commission will decide on a route and issue a permit after a public process that includes public input through meetings and hearings.

    The permit application is available to view online as well as at one of the following local libraries:

    • Brookings Public Library
    • Redwood Falls Public Library
    • New Ulm Public Library
    • Bird Island Public Library
    • Carver County Library
    • Henderson Public Library
    • Chippewa County Public Library
    • Scott County Library - Shakopee Branch
    • Granite Falls Public Library
    • Northfield Public Library
    • Montgomery Public Library
    • Heritage Library
    • Ivanhoe Public Library
    • Farmington Library
    • Marshall-Lyon County Library
    • St. Peter Public Library
    • Hutchinson Public Library

    For more information and to view this route application online please click here. For more information on all the CapX2020 activities, you can visit their website at www.capx2020.com. CapX2020 consists of 11 utilities that own transmission lines in Minnesota and the surrounding region.

  • Nominations for 2008 Wind Co-op of the Year

    Nominations for Wind Cooperative of the Year for 2008 are now being accepted. All electric cooperatives that are members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association are eligible, and there is no cost to nominate.

    The Wind Cooperative of the Year Award is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program.

    The 2008 winner will be recognized at the NRECA TechAdvantage Conference in New Orleans, La., Feb. 11-14, 2009. All nominations are due by close of business on Jan. 5th, 2009.

    Download the application here (MS Word 57KB)

  • "Renewable Energy Payments in the US" from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute

    Europe has a very successful feed-in tariff program for renewable energy. Under this type of program priority of interconnection to the grid is given to energy produced from renewable sources, premium rates are paid to generate a reasonable profit for investors of a renewable energy project and standardized 20-year term contracts. Germany is the leading country in this type of payment program and has dramatically increased its renewable energy production so much that it had met its 2010 renewable energy goal by 2007. Germany is now the world’s largest market for photovoltaic and wind energy.

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute had a conference on this type of payment program as a likely candidate to increase the renewable energy production in the United States. The presentations and audio of the conference are available here, including a comprehensive paper detailing the European system and the various legislative proposals by the states as well as a Federal tariff proposal, available here.

  • 2010 Wind Technologies Market Report

    U.S. Department of Energy logoThe U.S. Department of Energy released the  "2010 Wind Technologies Market Report,"  prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, providing a comprehensive overview of trends in the U.S. wind power market.  Despite a trying year in which wind power capacity additions declined significantly compared to both 2008 and 2009, the U.S. remained one of the fastest-growing wind power markets in the world in 2010-second only to China-according to the report.

    Wind power comprised 25% of new U.S. electric capacity additions in 2010.

    Wind power comprised 25% of new U.S. electric capacity additions in 2010 and represented $11 billion in new investment. Wind power contributes more than 10% of total electricity generation in four states, and provides more than 2% of total U.S. electricity supply.

    2010 Wind Technologies Market Report cover

    Roughly 5 GW of new wind power capacity were connected to the U.S. grid in 2010, compared to nearly 10 GW in 2009 and more than 8 GW in 2008. "The delayed impact of the global financial crisis, relatively low natural gas and wholesale electricity prices, and slumping overall demand for energy combined to slow demand for new wind power installations in 2010," said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Berkeley Lab and one of the authors of the study.

    Some key findings of the study include:

    • Due to the size and promise of the U.S. market, wind turbine manufacturers continued to localize production domestically in 2010, despite the relatively slow year.
    • A growing percentage of the equipment used in U.S. wind power projects is domestically manufactured.
    • Wind turbine prices have declined substantially since 2008.
    • Technological advancements have improved wind turbine performance, particularly at lower wind speed sites.
    • Turbine price reductions, coupled with improved turbine technology, are expected to exert downward pressure on total project costs and wind power prices over time.
    • Looking ahead, projections are for modest growth in 2011 and 2012.

    Berkeley Lab's contributions to this report were funded by the Wind & Water Power Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy.  The full report ("2010 Wind Technologies Market Report"), a presentation slide deck that summarizes the report, and an Excel workbook that contains much of the data underlying the report, can all be downloaded from the Berkely Lab website.

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