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DOE To Recast Landmark 20% Wind Energy Report

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Program is revisiting the conclusions from its 2008 study that contemplated the technological and regulatory road map for the U.S. wind industry to achieve 20% wind energy by 2030.

The landmark report, “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply” released in May 2008, identified the steps needed to be addressed to reach the 20% goal, including reducing the cost of wind technologies, building new transmission infrastructure and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability.

Produced by the DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories with the assistance of others including the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the report stated that reaching the 20% goal required more than 304 GW of installed wind capacity by 2030.

Jose Zayas, the DOE’s director of the wind and water power technologies office, tells NAW that the intra-governmental initiative will take about “one calendar year” to complete, adding that the updated report will include a road map to address the changes needed before wind energy can achieve increased levels of penetration within a national energy mix.

While Zayas states that the U.S. wind industry is currently tracking ahead of the near-term levels set forth by the 2008 report, upcoming milestones starting in 2016 require the U.S. to begin 16 GW of annual installed capacity. However, only twice in its history has the U.S. wind industry met or surpassed the 10 GW plateau.

For Zayas, a re-examination of the report provides an opportunity to reflect on where the wind industry is five years later. He says one of the goals of the 2008 report was to look at what was feasible for wind energy if it had some level of policy certainty. Notably, he stresses, the DOE’s goal is to study U.S. energy policy as opposed to promoting it.

“Seeing what the wind industry did last year tells me that this industry shows an amazing ability to scale,” he explains. He credits improving turbine technology, such as longer rotors and taller towers, which aids the siting of wind turbines in areas that have less than robust wind resources.

Some challenges faced by the wind industry in 2008, he says, turned out not to be as foreboding as originally thought.

“Transmission [availability] was a big concern back then,” he recalls. “However, since then, there have been enough transmission lines built to carry the equivalent 60,000 MW of renewable energy.”

Also, several macroeconomic forces have changed in ways once thought unimaginable five years ago. Zayas says the recent economic crisis has brought about changes in behavior and efficiency.

While the 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report predicted that energy demand in the U.S. would continue to grow each year, Zayas says statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that household energy consumption actually declined between 2005 and 2009, industrial energy consumption declined and total energy and electricity consumption declined.

“The fact is that we consume less energy today than in 2008,” he says, citing advances in energy efficiency and usage.

While the 2008 report noted that 20% wind energy equated to 304 GW of installed capacity, Zayas is avoiding putting a final tally this time around because too many questions remain.

“How do we reflect on offshore wind?” he asks. The 2008 report envisioned 54 GW of installed capacity from offshore wind farms emanating off the coast of the U.S. To date, the U.S. has not installed a single offshore wind farm. Some say the permitting process to approve offshore wind farms remains too long; others cite the steep costs involved; others both.

“We want to deal in the realities [of the technology], and we also want to be sensitive to the concerns of the DOE’s sister agencies,” he says.

Above all, the 2008 report showed that increased levels of wind penetration was not so far-fetched, recalls Rob Gramlich, interim chief executive officer at AWEA.

“The [DOE] report put us on the map,” Gramlich says, recalling that at the time, cumulative U.S. installations were only 10 GW. “It provided a road map for what needed to be done.”

With regard to timing, Zayas emphasizes that the agency’s “one calendar year” goal is the target for the draft report, not for the final publication.

“We are working closely with the Wind Energy Foundation and other stakeholders on the draft and hope to have the draft report out for comment among a wider group of industry and agency representatives by next year,” he says. “But given the number of concurrences we’ll need from other agencies, it will likely take a little longer before we’ll be able to publish the final version.”


Duke Works Eagle
Mitigation Plan

Duke Energy Renewables has confirmed that it is a subject of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) preliminary investigation resulting from the incidental deaths of golden eagles and other migratory birds at two Wyoming company-owned wind farms.

Duke Energy Renewables, which owns and operates four wind farms in Wyoming, says 10 golden eagle deaths have occurred at its 200 MW Top of the World wind farm since the wind farm began operating in October 2010. Duke also reported three golden eagle fatalities at its 99 MW Campbell Hill wind farm since December 2009.

Golden eagles receive federal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). The law prohibits the taking of eagles, including killing, harassing, molesting or disturbing them or their nests. Concerns over civil and criminal liability under BGEPA have proven to be significant obstacles to the development of wind farms and have resulted in numerous stalled or canceled projects.

And as the company works with the DOJ and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service toward a resolution, Tim Hayes, Duke Energy Renewables’ environmental director, tells NAW that it has employed several adaptive management techniques to avoid additional avian impacts.


Adaptive management

Of the estimated 30,000 golden eagles in the U.S., nearly two-thirds reside in the western U.S. Given that, Hayes says the company has taken to removing objects and debris from its Wyoming sites, such as animal carcasses, to clear anything that birds and other avian species “may find attractive.”

The company also employs biologists to watch for birds at the sites. During the heavy migration season in winter and early spring, he says, Duke employs up to three biologists working at the Top of the World and Campbell Hill locations daily to detect an eagle presence.

If eagles are spotted in the vicinity, he says, the biologists notify Duke’s Charlotte, N.C.-based Renewable Energy Monitoring Center (REMC) to stop the turbines.

To test the effectiveness of curtailment, Hayes shut down 13 turbines during the first week of March where eagles were thought to be concentrated.

In the following weeks, he reinstated the informed curtailment program, where biologists in the field would call the REMC to shut down turbines only when eagles were spotted in the vicinity.

Duke went so far as to employ a radar surveillance system featuring the same technology used by the U.S. military to detect missiles in Afghanistan.

Beginning in December 2012, Hayes says Duke began a six-month test of Syracuse, N.Y.-based SRC’s avian surveillance radar system. He says the surveillance system helps to provide real-time situational awareness and early warning of potential strikes. According to Hayes, the test ends in June.

Thus far, Duke’s adaptive management efforts have resulted in zero golden eagle fatalities at either wind farm since September 2012, Hayes reports.

Despite the challenges to protect the avian species, Hayes says Duke is in a much better position to understand – and therefore protect – avian species, such as golden eagles.

“We know a whole lot more now than we did in the early 2000s, even five years ago,” he says. “We’re just starting to get an understanding of the issues. It’s been a learning process for the entire industry.”


CanWEA Sees 5 GW
For Alberta Wind

The province of Alberta can generate 5 GW of wind power by 2025, says the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) in WindVision 2025: A Strategy For Alberta.

According to CanWEA, the WindVision 2025 policy document makes the case that Alberta is well positioned to take advantage of its significant wind resource, access to skilled trades and interest by independent power producers. Further, the additional deployment of wind energy in Alberta is a direct response to a challenge by Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes for the renewable industry to put forth policy solutions to help “green the grid.”

Since the country’s first wind farm was constructed in southern Alberta in 1993, the province has installed 1.1 GW of wind energy. But Alberta can do more.

“Wind energy can provide substantial amounts of new clean electricity to Albertans while, at the same time, contributing to rural economic development and addressing concerns about increases in greenhouse gas emissions from the province’s broader energy sector. Without immediate action by policymakers, however, the prospects for additional wind energy development in Alberta are limited,” says Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA. “WindVision 2025 proposes measures that will address barriers to wind energy development and help the province meet its goals of reduced greenhouse gas emissions while returning to a leadership role in clean renewable energy production.”

However, CanWEA acknowledges the structure of Alberta’s current competitive electricity market makes it difficult for new wind farms to be financeable and secure the revenues needed to be economically viable.

To overcome these barriers, CanWEA is advocating for a clean energy standard that would impose a maximum greenhouse gas emissions intensity level on electricity sold by retailers in the province. The Alberta government would set this technology-neutral standard, and retailers would seek contracts with developers of different sources of electricity generation in the marketplace to ensure their supply portfolios meet the target.

CanWEA is also advocating for an increase to the current $15/ton carbon price imposed on large carbon emitters under Alberta’s existing Specified Gas Emitters Regulation. According to CanWEA, Alberta has acknowledged it needs to do more to encourage the investment choices and technology advances that will allow it to meet its climate-change targets.

The Alberta policy document is similar to positioning papers that CanWEA has previously authored for wind energy in Ontario and Quebec.


Sec. Moniz Urges
Wind Focus

New Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reiterated the Obama administration’s “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy. During his first public comments, he gave special mention to renewables, such as wind and offshore wind.

Speaking during his first town hall meeting, Moniz said the U.S. should take advantage of the natural gas boom and use it as an opportunity to further develop renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.

“We need to continue our focus on wind, pushing more offshore wind, for example, where cost reduction is critical,” said Moniz. “Certainly pushing on solar across the board, and like I say, I’m very bullish on solar. I think it’s going to be a lot bigger than most people think sooner than they think in my view.”

Moniz was sworn into office May 21 after a 97-0 Senate confirmation.


Siemens Examines
Rotor Blade Crashes

Siemens has confirmed that a B53 rotor blade on an SWT-2.3-108 wind turbine broke off near the blade root and fell to the ground at the Ocotillo Wind project in California. No one was injured.

The manufacturer has convened a team of experts at the site that will examine all facets of this incident, including the production, installation, commissioning and service of the blade, which is under warranty.

Siemens says it does not know what caused the rotor blade malfunction and is working to determine if it is related to a recent similar incident at the Eclipse wind farm, a 200 MW project located in Guthrie and Audubon counties, Iowa.

Siemens is taking the step of curtailing all turbines with the B53 blade type globally. These turbines will remain curtailed until it can be determined they are not at risk of a similar malfunction, Siemens notes. As the inspections and analysis progress, Siemens will make further determinations on curtailment protocols.


Grain Belt Express
Moves Forward

Clean Line Energy Partners says its Grain Belt Express subsidiary has received public-utility status from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) and will now be subject to the jurisdiction of the IURC.

According to Clean Line, Grain Belt Express will increase the supply of low-cost electricity, which could reduce wholesale power costs in the region. The 700-mile, overhead, direct-current transmission line will deliver 3.5 GW of wind power from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east. The project will originate in western Kansas and travel east, where it will interconnect at a substation near Sullivan, Ind.

Utility status in Indiana allows Grain Belt Express to operate, manage and maintain electric transmission facilities in the state, Clean Line notes.


ENEL Increases
Ownership Stake

ENEL Green Power North America (EGP-NA) signed an agreement to purchase, from a GE Capital subsidiary, an additional 26% of the company operating the 235 MW Chisholm View wind farm for approximately $47 million.

EGP-NA has also signed an agreement to purchase, from a GE Capital subsidiary, an additional 26% of the company operating the 200 MW Prairie Rose wind farm for approximately $34 million.

The transactions are subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval.

After closing, EGP-NA will own 75% of the “Class A” interests of both companies operating the wind farms, while the GE Capital subsidiaries will remain as investors with a 25% stake.

The Chisholm View wind farm, located in Garfield and Grant Counties, Okla., has been operational since December 2012. The plant required a total equity investment of approximately $375 million and is supported by a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA).

In June 2012, EGP-NA and EFS Chisholm LLC signed a capital contribution agreement with a syndicate led by J.P. Morgan that includes Wells Fargo Wind Holdings LLC and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., whereby the syndicate funded approximately $220 million for the project.

The Prairie Rose wind farm, located in northern Rock County, Minn., has been operational since December 2012. The Prairie Rose wind farm required a total equity investment of approximately $305 million and is supported by a long-term PPA.

In August 2012, EGP-NA and EFS Prairie Rose signed a capital contribution agreement with a syndicate led by J.P. Morgan that includes Wells Fargo Wind Holdings LLC and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., whereby the syndicate funded approximately $190 million for the project.


Quebec Releases
Procurement Call

The Quebec government announced the province’s intention to secure an additional block of 800 MW of wind power capacity.

Wind industry suppliers and developers had been anxiously awaiting the announcement, which many contend will serve as the bridge to Quebec’s future energy plans.

This new wind power capacity will be allocated as follows:

The calls for tenders will target projects developed by local communities and cooperatives in partnership with private developers.

“The announcement is a positive step forward, but in order to see real concrete economic benefits, these projects will need to be built in the near future,” said Jean François Nolet, vice president of policy and government affairs at the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “As such, the members of the wind industry must join forces to ensure the additional 800 MW are installed between 2016 and 2017. The wind energy industry will continue to work with the government to achieve that goal.”

Although Quebec wind farm construction remains vibrant in the near term, many wind industry advocates were worried that development would come to a screeching halt after 2015, when the last of the wind farms approved under Quebec’s third power call become grid connected.

The additional block of wind power should allow Quebec to meet its goal of approximately 4,000 MW of wind power capacity in compliance with its 2006-2015 Energy Strategy.


MidAmerican Plans
1 GW Post-PTC

In light of the recent federal production tax credit (PTC) extension, MidAmerican Energy Co. says it wants to invest $1.9 billion to add up to 1.05 GW of wind generation in Iowa by year-end 2015.

If approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican says the proposed expansion will add to the approximately 2.285 GW of wind generation capacity the company currently owns and operates in Iowa. In addition, the company says the expansion is planned to be built at no net cost to its customers.

“The proposed wind expansion will not only add to MidAmerican Energy’s and Iowa’s position as a national leader in wind generation capacity, it will help reduce future rates to our customers by as much as $10 million per year and further enhance our corporate principle of environmental respect by reducing our carbon footprint by 10.3 percent,” notes Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy.

Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, a champion for wind energy in the state, commented on the proposal.

“As a leader in wind generation, the State of Iowa welcomes the opportunity to expand our renewable energy portfolio,” he said. “MidAmerican Energy’s proposed project will be the largest economic development investment in the history of the state, bringing needed jobs to Iowa, as well as significant economic benefits.”


Storage Effort
Includes PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and the California Energy Commission have unveiled a battery energy storage system pilot project to better balance power needs of the electric grid.

The Yerba Buena Battery Energy Storage System Pilot Project, charges batteries when demand is low and then sends reserved power to the grid when demand grows. PG&E says this smart grid pilot includes utility-scale sodium-sulfur battery energy storage, has a 4 MW capacity and can store more than six hours of energy.

“Battery storage holds tremendous promise in helping electric utilities like PG&E enhance the overall reliability of an ever-changing energy supply,” says Greg Kiraly, PG&E’s senior vice president of distribution operations. “This pilot project will provide critical, real-world data on the technical and financial performance of battery energy storage.”

The project was made possible thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the Energy Commission to PG&E to help fund the installation.

“Investments in energy storage are critical to California reaching its renewable energy goals,” says Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller.

PG&E is working in close coordination with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to study how sodium-sulfur battery energy storage can improve power quality and reliability, support greater integration of intermittent renewable power and supply energy to California’s electricity market, overseen by the California Independent System Operator.

S&C Electric Co. is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project and supplied the storage management system and power conversion equipment that control the battery’s AC input/output and its interface with the electric grid. NGK Insulators is the manufacturer of the sodium-sulfur battery system, which includes the battery modules and control system for managing DC input/output and other parameters for maximizing module longevity. w

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