Power in Ocean Breezes

North America’s first offshore wind turbine has just been launched, a prototype for gathering data. The full size floating  turbines will be nearly as tall as the Washington Memorial, and will be tethered 20 miles offshore where winds are stronger. Within 50 miles of the US shoreline there is enough wind energy to power the entire US several times over.

Developed at the University of Maine, the turbines will be made of composite material that won’t rust. They will be connected to an underwater power cable that will take power to thousands of homes.

The turbine, called Volturnus, will be competing for  funding with Norwegian energy company Statoil that has already tested floating wind turbines in the North Sea.  A turbine industry in Maine would create thousands of jobs and bring millions in private investment.


Grid systems balance power as wind and solar increase

How do we keep refrigerators running 24/7 as more solar and wind power is installed? Texas, California and Iowa are now getting 20% of their electricity from renewables; and the US average is 13% and growing.

Electricity needs to flow continuously. All power plants stop sometimes, for maintenance or accidents, and demand changes by the minute, with temperature changes or popular media events.

Grid operators are the quarterbacks; they keep it happening; they call the plays. Working in giant control rooms with huge arrays of dozens of screens monitoring electric input and output,  they balance the supply and move electricity to where it is needed. Weather reports help  grid operators plan. When the wind is dying down, or  clouds are on the horizon, operators pull power from other areas that are making plenty of electricity, or  turn on idled plants, and increase supply. The bigger the area served by a grid station, the more options it has for balancing the electric load.

Check out this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSiCRZcJnfE

Wind power costs less than nuclear

Wind generation costs $0.10 per kWh now in France.  After 10 years, at windiest sites, it’s expected to drop to $0.03 per kWh.

Cost of nuclear energy varies from $0.15 to $0.24 per kWh.  Construction of nuclear in France and Finland have been plagued by delays and doubling of costs. France is planning to reduce nuclear from 75% to 50% of energy used by 2050.

Does American business want to manufacture and export nuclear components or solar and wind???


Tax credits for wind production

In the middle of a drought that has affected half the country, the worst since the 1930s, with scientists saying that the likelihood of drought is greatly increased by warming emissions from fossil fuels, oil, coal and natural gas, the Republican presidential candidate is supporting continued tax breaks for these fossil fuels, but opposing tax incentives to help the developing wind power industry.


It appears that some Republican Senators disagree with candidate Romney and several of them joined Democrats in a 19-5 vote in the Senate Finance Committee to renew tax credits for wind power. 81% of  installed wind power plants are in Congressional districts that are represented by Republicans, such as Iowa and South Dakota.

A one year extension of a production tax credit for wind would be a step in the right direction if Congress approves it, even though it is tentative, tiny, and late. According to testimony before a Subcommittee last December by a Congressional economic analyst,  tax incentives for wind energy has been mostly temporary, extended 7 times since 1992, and allowed to lapse three times. The uncertainty of these provisions discourages investors. There is usually a 3 to 4 year period of planning, siting and permitting before wind equipment is ordered. A tax credit that may expire before it can be used is marginally useful.    The credit should be extended for at least 5 years to allow investors and producers some consistent support as the industry scales up.

Wind energy has huge potential for growth and is growing fast, – over 31% last year, providing over a third of all new power generating facilities. Analysts believe that the US can increase the share of electric power coming from wind from 3% now to 20% in 18 years. South Dakota and Iowa are already at about 20% each. Germany now gets 25% of its electricity from renewables.

Consumers will see the cost of solar and wind technology drop as research improves them and increased production reduces prices.  Bloomberg analysts estimate that the cost drops 7% for each doubling of wind energy installation.

Oil, coal and natural gas are mature industries that have become powerful with the help of subsidies which have been permanent features of the tax code for over 50 years and have been much larger than the subsidies to renewables according to congressional testimony.  Exploration credits, depletion credits, and royalty relief reduce costs and raise profits for the petroleum industry.  The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated continued direct subsidies for oil and gas or $74 billion over the next couple years unless Congress changes these laws. $75 billion is the average yearly profit of Exxon-Mobil between 2008 and 2011.

It is time for consumers to get some government help for the development of competitive energy production without fossil fuels.

Green energy jobs

Light rail construction in Seattle, CHS blog

Media report of slower job growth.


A growing clean energy industry is the best way to increase job growth.

The petroleum industry requests for permits for more oil and natural gas pipelines state that they will spur employment.

Likewise, wind turbine manufacturers claim the same thing. Wind industry growth from 2004-9 prompted creation of 75,000 U.S. jobs and several thousand U.S companies according to John Regan of TPI Composites, Inc,, a manufacturer of wind turbine blades. John Purcell, a VP of the Wind Energy division of Leeco Steel said in a congressional hearings that extension of the wind tax credit would mean preservation or creation of 37,000 jobs.

An independent analysis of job creation at UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group found that renewable energy would create more jobs per unit of energy than coal or natural gas. They estimate that combining aggressive energy efficiency measures and a 30% renewable portfolio standard could generate over 4 million full time jobs years by 2030.

Cheaper energy is in the wind


Wind energy will sweep us off our feet

A WSJ commenter uses small scale solar and wind in remote sites in the mountains of Arizona, but is not convinced of the viability of wind on a large scale.

Our response:

The U.S. could save $83 billion over the next 40 years by changing to a clean energy future according to a report by Synapse/CSI, “Toward a Sustainable Future for the U.S. Power Sector: Beyond Business as Usual 2011,”

According to Bloomberg analysts, “The world’s wind-power capacity increased 113-fold over the past 20 years.” “The improved efficiencies of technology and scale — the industry’s learning curve — reduce wind-power prices by 7 percent every time installed capacity doubles. The price for a megawatt of wind power dropped by almost half since 1991”

“ Countries with high power prices and strong winds are already past parity: Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Canada, the U.K. and Portugal.” “However in the best locations onshore wind is already competitive with fossil fuel electricity, and most wind farms in fair resource areas will be at parity by 2016.”