General News

Windustry to Organize Community Wind Energy Conferences

Community Wind 2008 Conference
Community Wind Conference 2008 in Albany, New York, organized by Windusty

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) recently granted Windustry $100,000 to organize six regional Community Wind Energy Conferences over the next two years. Under its 20% Wind Energy by 2030 initiative, the DOE is investing in wind energy projects across the nation to advance market acceptance of wind energy in order to meet these renewable energy goals. Windustry will draw upon its extensive track record of organizing successful Community Wind Energy Conferences to approach new communities in key regions where wind energy development is growing rapidly.

Please check back with our website for more details regarding timing and location of these Conferences in the next several months. If you would like any further information, contact Samantha Smart, Development Coordinator at samantha@windustry.org.

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.

Minnesota Transmission Line to Carry Wind Energy

ST. PAUL, MN, April 16, 2009 — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) has granted the CapX2020 utilities a Certificate of Need to construct three 345-kilovolt electric transmission lines in Minnesota. The three lines will run from Fargo, SD to Monticello, MN; from Hampton, MN  through Rochester, MN to La Crosse, WI; and from Brookings, SD to Hampton, MN.


CapX2020 is a joint project of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region led by Great River Energy and Xcel Energy to expand the electric transmission grid. "Today's decision provides direction for new transmission that will ensure customers in and near Minnesota will continue to receive reliable electricity and help provide capacity to meet the nation's most aggressive renewable energy standard," said Terry Grove of Great River Energy.As part of its decision the MN PUC required that 700 megawatts of capacity on the Brookings-Hampton line to be reserved for renewable energy, which will allow electricity generated by wind farms in the Buffalo Ridge area of southwestern Minnesota to be transmitted to the Twin Cities area. Moreover, all will be capable for double circuit transmission lines to allow for increased capacity over time.

Some environmentalists opposed the certificate of need, and other critics were concerned that the transmission lines favor existing large power plants over smaller renewable energy sources that would benefit from a different transmission grid infrastructure that was more widely distributed. The MN PUC decision was a compromise between the various propronents and opponents of the project, and it will have an impact on the ability to connect wind farms to the transmission grid in the Midwest.

“It's clear that significant transmission will be needed to reach Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standard,” commented Beth Soholt, director of Wind on the Wires, “and the Commission took an important step in granting the utilities the ability to construct the pieces of the transmission system that will deliver renewables to Minnesotans.”

The MN PUC has yet to decide on the lines’ routes, with Route Permit applications currently under state review or in development, and decisions are expected in 2010. Regulatory processes are still pending for line segments in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota; while an additional transmission line has been proposed between Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Construction of the lines could begin in 2012 and take several years to complete.

Wind Energy Growth in 2008

In 2008 U.S. wind energy grew by over 8,500 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity, increasing the nation’s cumulative total by 50% to over 25,300 MW, pushing the U.S. above Germany as the country with the largest amount of wind power capacity installed, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Assocation (AWEA). Iowa surged past California into second place in the U.S. adding nearly 1600 MW to more than double its wind power generating capacity, with Texas still the leader in wind project capacity.

The top five states in terms of capacity installed are:

  • Texas, with 7,118 MW
  • Iowa, with 2,791 MW
  • California, with 2,517 MW
  • Minnesota , with 1,754 MW
  • Washington, with 1,447 MW

Both Iowa and Minnesota now get over 7% of their electricity needs from wind, with Minnesota ranking first with 7.48% followed closely by Iowa with 7.1%. Oregon moved into the club of states with more than 1,000 MW installed, which now numbers seven: Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.

"The wind energy industry today generates not only clean energy for our economy, but also hope and opportunity for American workers and businesses,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode.  “Whether it is building or maintaining a wind project, or producing wind turbine components, you’ll find people employed in wind power in nearly all 50 states today."

Wind projects boost local tax bases, helping to pay for schools, roads and hospitals, according to the report. Wind projects also revitalize the economy of rural communities by providing steady income to farmers and other landowners. Each wind turbine contributes $3,000 to $5,000 or more per year in rental income, while farmers continue to grow crops or graze cattle up to the foot of the turbines.

The American Wind Energy Association Annual Wind Industry Report for 2008 is available at the AWEA web site.

Iowa Wind Farm Photography by Edith OSB, Some rights reserved.

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)
.

Rewards of Ownership

“Community-based renewable energy projects can produce big benefits,” according to Julie Curti and Justin Goetz in their article “Rewards of Ownership” in a recent issue of Rural Cooperatives Magazine, published by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They review various business models and sample cases for community-based renewable energy from around the world, finding that “Community ownership empowers local decision-making and maximizes the local economic benefits of renewable energy projects, as more money stays in the community than when outside owners are involved.”

They cite four phases that comprise a successful community development strategic planning process:

  • Community assessment
  • Strategic planning
  • Implementation and benchmarking
  • Evaluation

The article is available in an online version of the November/December 2008 issue of November/December 2008 at the USDA web site:

Rural Cooperatives Magazine: Rewards of Ownership

How Will Stimulus Bill Help Community Wind?

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Obama signs stimulus bill
President Obama signs American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Now that Congress has passed and President Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, how will this help to stimulate Community Wind projects? According to Denise Bode, American Wind Energy Association CEO, "the stimulus bill contains a number of provisions aimed at helping our industry continue the very strong growth in new installations and new jobs we have seen over the past few years." Some of the provisions include:

  • 3-year extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC)
  • Option for a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) instead of the PTC
  • Option to convert the ITC into a grant for projects placed in service before 2013
  • Additional loan guarantees, bonds, and tax incentives

President Obama's goal with the stimulus package is to create a wide variety of initiatives to jumpstart the American economy. This opens up new sources of funding for renewable energy at a time when the Wind Energy industry is set for even more growth despite  being stalled by the economic downturn. These programs will allow Community Wind projects to take advantage of more funding opportunities.

“Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines...”

President Barack Obama
Presidential Address to Congress
February 24, 2009

Wind facilities that qualify for the PTC can now make an irrevocable decision to take a 30% ITC in lieu of the PTC. In order to do so the project must be placed into service by December 31, 2012, and the PTC will no longer be available for the project. This has the potential to attract more investors who may not have enough passive activity income to realize the PTC. Which credit a taxpayer uses will depend upon an analysis of the project revenue and cost projections as well as analysis of the investor tax appetite. 

Further, if the project qualifies for the PTC or the ITC and is placed into service between 2009-2010 (or it begins construction at that time and is placed into service before 2013) the project can choose to apply to the Treasury Department for a cash grant that is equal to 30% of the qualified costs of the project. This cash grant is in lieu of both the PTC and ITC. This means the value of the ITC can be realized, even if the taxpayer cannot take advantage of the credit. The rules and application guidelines for this program have not been finalized yet.  

There are other provisions that address renewable energy financing on other levels. The Act removes the $4,000 cap on the small wind credit so taxpayers can now take the full 30% credit for a qualified small wind system.

The Act also provides for an additional $1.6 billion for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) that are used to finance renewable energy. There have been no announcements yet that applications are being accepted for these new allocations, and no guidance has been given on how the program will operate. Previously, these bonds have been given at 0% interest rate, and the bondholder receives a tax credit in lieu of bond interest. 

The Department of Energy received an extension of their authority to provide loan guarantees for qualified technologies under Title XVII of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 and an additional $6 billion for this program. Eligible technologies include electricity-generating renewable energy projects.   

Read more on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Wind Energy Provisions at the Fredrikson & Byron P.A. web site and read how The Geniuses at DSIRE Translate the Energy Parts of the Stimulus Package via the Interstate Renewable Energy Council web site.

Along with this important step forward to make wind power and other renewables a catalyst for America’s economic recovery, the American Wind Energy Association has launched an effort to enact a national renewable electricity standard (RES) and to make progress toward construction of the Green Power Superhighway, a new transmission system needed to fully develop America’s immense wind resources. Read more about the AWEA New Wind Agenda.

Green Power Express

ITC Holdings Corp. has worked to develop the Green Power Express, a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy.

This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

The Green Power Express could be a step to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid by building a high-voltage backbone to meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid. Once built the Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost of approximately $10 to 12 billion.

"The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express is in many ways the true definition of a 'smart grid'."

Due to the size and scope of this project along with the various state and federal approvals that will be required, ITC is aggressively targeting to have the Green Power Express in service by 2020.

Read more about the Green Power Express.

Wind Energy Jobs Grew 70% in 2008

The United States wind industry created 35,000 new jobs in 2008, according to a news report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). 85,000 workers are now employed in the wind industry including jobs in manufacturing, development, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance.

Wind turbine and turbine component manufacturers added or expanded 55 facilities creating 13,000 new direct jobs last year.

“The massive growth in 2008 swelled the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50% and channeled an investment of some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country today,” according to AWEA. Iowa reached an installed wind energy capacity of 2,790 MW surpassing California to take the number two spot in the U.S.:

  • Texas - 7,116 MW
  • Iowa - 2,790 MW
  • California - 2,517 MW
  • Minnesota - 1,752 MW
  • Washington - 1,375 MW

“Wind jobs outstrip coal mining” read a recent Fortune Magazine headline for an article contrasting the growing wind industry to the U.S. coal mining industry, which employs about 81,000 workers. Writer Todd Woody suggested that the AWEA report provides “a talking point in the green jobs debate.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a 20% Wind Scenario report last year showing that wind power could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030. Accoding to the DOE report, in the decade preceding 2030 the U.S. wind industry could support:

  • 500,000 jobs with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.
  • more than 100,000 jobs in associated industries.
  • more than 200,000 jobs through economic expansion based on local spending.

“Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years.” But, Bode also notes that the economic downturn has forced some layoffs in wind turbine manufacturing, so economic stimulus and smart policy incentives are needed for the growth to continue.

Xcel Energy Solicits C-BED Project Proposals

As a part of Xcel Energy’s Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) program, Xcel Energy is soliciting proposals for Community Based Wind Projects.

Xcel Energy will be accepting proposals for new Minnesota wind generation resources to be in commercial operation by Dec. 31, 2010. Xcel Energy will seek approvals for any resulting Renewable Energy Purchase Agreements from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The submission deadline is February 20, 2009.

For more information see the Xcel Energy RFP.

Pages

Subscribe to General News