Group Sues Over Eagle Kill Rule
As promised in April, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed a suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The group charges the government agency with multiple violations of federal law in connection with the DOI’s December 2013 ruling to offer wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year eagle take permits. The previous rule provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit, which authorizes projects to “take” (i.e., injure, kill or otherwise disturb) eagles.
On April 30, ABC sent the DOI and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) a notice of intent to sue. ABC argues that the new eagle take rule violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal is representing the conservation group.
ABC says it is initiating this lawsuit in order to have the rule invalidated pending full compliance with federal environmental statutes. The group adds that it believes wind energy and other renewable energy sources can be encouraged without putting bald and golden eagles at risk.
“In the government’s rush to expand wind energy, shortcuts were taken in implementing this rule that should not have been allowed,” says Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Program. “We understand that some bird mortality is inevitable. However, in this case, long-term, cumulative impacts to eagle populations were not properly assessed, and the 30-year take permit rule was adopted in the absence of the required NEPA analysis concerning impacts on eagle populations or any other species that share the eagles’ range.”
ABC President George Fenwick adds, “We issue this lawsuit as a last resort, and we hope it will lead to an approach that better balances the compelling national interests in eagle conservation with the expansion of wind power.”
Report: Policy Key
In U.S., Canada
Policies set by federal and state governments in the U.S. and Canada are driving the growth of renewable power generation and maintaining the countries’ status as global leaders in the industry, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData.
The company’s latest report says federal policies, such as the U.S. government’s production tax credit (PTC) and Canada’s ecoEnergy program, alongside state policies including renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in the U.S., are fundamental to the continued development of renewable power in North America.
“In the U.S., renewable power growth has been stimulated by state-level RPS, led by California and Texas,” explains Swati Singh, analyst for GlobalData. “Under RPS, most participating states have set targets to produce between 10 percent and 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by specified dates from 2015 onwards. Some states have more ambitious targets, such as 33 percent in California by 2020 and 40 percent in Maine by as early as 2017.”
However, state RPS policies are consistently attacked. For example, Kansas’ renewable energy mandate survived yet another legislative assault this year, while Ohio just passed a two-year freeze on its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Furthermore, the expired PTC still awaits revival after a tax extenders bill stalled in the U.S. Senate.
The report says that in Canada, the ecoEnergy program has seen approximately $5 billion invested in a variety of federal schemes to provide feed-in tariffs (FITs) and to fund renewable energy projects, finance technology initiatives and support energy efficiency. There are no federal targets for renewable energy production in Canada, but each province has been authorized to develop its own policy framework, the report adds.
Quebec has a target of achieving 4 GW of wind power by 2015, while provinces such as British Columbia and Saskatchewan are targeting 90% and 100%, respectively, of new power generation from renewable resources by 2016.
“Of all the Canadian provinces, Ontario has the greatest renewable energy capacity due to a comprehensive FIT program developed under its Green Energy Act of 2009,” says Singh. “Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program sets a FIT for small renewable energy production projects, with the aim of making it easier and more economical for businesses to supply renewable power to the provincial grid.”
Wind Energy Powers
Nuclear Arms Plant
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has dedicated the U.S.’ largest federally owned wind farm at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas.
Pantex, the nation’s primary facility for the assembly, disassembly and maintenance of nuclear weapons, will now be powered largely by the Pantex Renewable Energy Project (PREP). The 11.5 MW, five-turbine PREP wind farm has been under construction since August 2013 on 1,500 acres of Department of Energy (DOE)-owned land adjacent to the plant.
The NNSA says construction of the wind farm was recently completed under a unique finance model, known as an “energy savings performance contract,” which allowed Siemens to build PREP with no upfront cost to the taxpayers. Siemens will be paid directly from the value of guaranteed energy savings generated by the turbines – an amount expected to average $2.8 million annually.
In addition to providing 60% of the electricity for Pantex operations, PREP will serve as the keystone for an ongoing collaboration with Texas Tech University (TTU) to make Pantex a leader in innovation within the wind energy sector, according to the NNSA. TTU and the NNSA Production Office recently signed a memorandum of understanding that would combine the resources of the DOE/NNSA, Pantex and TTU’s National Wind Institute to study ways to create a world-class energy research center at Pantex.
“Pantex has an important and enduring mission, ensuring the safety and effectiveness of U.S. nuclear weapons,” says Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Frank G. Klotz, administrator of the NNSA. “In carrying out this mission, here at Pantex and elsewhere in the nuclear security enterprise, we are committed to managing costs and to delivering projects on time and under budget. The Pantex Renewable Energy Project is a major milestone toward keeping that promise to the U.S. taxpayer.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has also presented Pantex with a “Greenovation” award recognizing the plant’s innovative reuse of the PREP site.
NextEra Spins Off
NextEra Energy Inc.’s wholly owned subsidiary, NextEra Energy Partners LP (NEP), has commenced an initial public offering (IPO) of its common units representing limited partner interests.
In May, NextEra Energy announced its plans for the IPO and said it formed NEP to own, operate and acquire contracted clean energy projects with stable, long-term cashflows through its limited partner interest in NextEra Energy Operating Partners LP. NextEra Energy Operating Partners will use net proceeds for general corporate purposes, including funding future acquisition opportunities.
NEP is offering 16,250,000 common units to the public. In addition, the underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 2,437,500 common units from NextEra Energy Partners at the IPO price, less the underwriting discount. The IPO price is currently expected to be between $19.00 and $21.00 per common unit. The common units of NextEra Energy Partners have been approved for listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “NEP.”
BofA Merrill Lynch and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are acting as joint book-running managers and structuring agents for the offering, and Morgan Stanley is acting as a joint book-running manager for the offering.
Feds Open Auction
For Mass. WEA
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has officially set in motion a future offshore wind lease auction for more than 742,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts. The agency says the proposed area, located 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects. The DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposes to auction the designated Wind Energy Area as four leases.
DOI Secretary Sally Jewell says the competitive lease sale “will reflect the extensive and productive input from a number of important stakeholders. This includes interests such as commercial fishing, shipping, cultural, historical, environmental and local communities to minimize conflicts and bring clarity and certainty to potential wind energy developers.”
Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., calls the announcement “a momentous occasion.”
“Through our investments and proactive planning, Massachusetts is poised to lead the charge in offshore wind energy development, with the economic and environmental benefits that come with it,” says Patrick.
The DOI says that since taking office in 2007, Patrick’s administration has worked to position Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry. These efforts include the construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, the first facility in the U.S. designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.
The Proposed Sale Notice triggers a 60-day public comment period ending on Aug. 18. Comments received or postmarked by that date will be made available to the public and considered before the publication of the Final Sale Notice, which will announce the time and date of the lease sale.
The end of the comment period also serves as the deadline for any participating companies to submit their qualification packages. To be eligible to participate in the lease sale, each bidder must have been notified by BOEM that it is legally, technically and financially qualified by the time the Final Sale Notice is published.
To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The DOI notes that competitive lease sales have already generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres in federal waters. BOEM is expected to hold additional competitive auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland and New Jersey later this year.
The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) is offering an estimated $12.5 million in grants and loans for alternative and renewable energy projects.
According to PEDA, grant or loan funds are awarded on a competitive basis. PEDA anticipates awarding approximately $10 million specifically for alternative and renewable energy projects, deploying technologies such as solar energy, wind, hydropower and biomass.
Funding is also available for clean alternative fuels, alternative energy manufacturing and alternative energy research. Funded activities must be conducted entirely in Pennsylvania and be in compliance with applicable laws, notes PEDA.
Those eligible to apply include nonprofit corporations; Pennsylvania schools, colleges and universities; any Pennsylvania municipality; and public or private corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and other legal business entities.
Applications are due by 4 p.m. on Aug. 15 and must be submitted online using the state’s eGrants system.
Grants will be awarded in the fall, notes PEDA.
First Wind Project
The Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) has rejected an appeal by Boston-based First Wind, thus upholding a 2013 decision by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny a permit for the proposed Bowers Mountain wind project. Now the developer must consider whether to issue a new appeal to Maine’s Supreme Court.
“We’re determining our next steps at this time,” says John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesperson. “We’re disappointed in the decision.”
This was First Wind’s third attempt to win approval for Bowers Mountain, a 16-turbine, 48 MW project proposed in Carroll Plantation, Maine. According to Lamontagne, First Wind has been developing the project for about five years. The developer initially proposed it to the now-defunct Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission, which rejected the project in 2012.
Lamontagne says the primary concerns raised by the project revolve around visual impacts. However, he maintains that First Wind made several revisions in 2012, including the following:
- Reduced the number of turbines from 27 to 16;
- Reconfigured turbine locations in response to feedback from the original project;
- Moved turbines further away from nearby lakes;
- Proposed more-efficient turbines, increasing generating capacity by 30% per turbine; and
- Planned to feature aviation lighting that is radar controlled, so as to reduce the effects of nighttime lighting.
Nonetheless, the DEP did not approve the modified Bowers project proposal last year, and First Wind appealed. Although the developer is disappointed by the BEP’s most recent rejection, one local conservation group has welcomed the ruling.
“We are very pleased with this decision, but not surprised,” says Gary Campbell, president of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, in a statement. “This project would have seriously damaged the scenic value of nine lakes that the State of Maine has designated as significant scenic resources, lakes that the legislature specifically shielded from wind projects.
“We’ve been fighting to protect this remarkable network of scenic lakes for four years now,” Campbell adds. “First Wind claims to be doing what’s best for Maine, but these endless hearings cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Three strikes and you’re supposed to be out. I hope this time the developer gets the message [and] leaves this treasured area alone.”
About 20 wind energy companies have joined the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and The Wind Coalition in sending letters to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz, urging him to approve the Plains and Eastern Clean Line transmission project.
According to developer Clean Line Energy Partners, the 700-mile, high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission project would transmit over 3.5 GW of wind generation coming online in the panhandle region of Oklahoma to Arkansas, Tennessee, the Mid-South and the Southeast.
Although AWEA notes it does not take a position regarding specific wind or transmission projects, the group wrote to Moniz that it is “important for DOE, within the confines of its authority, to facilitate the expansion of transmission service to meet President Obama’s and your department’s goals for renewable energy.”
Fourteen companies, including Invenergy and TradeWind Energy, said in a separate letter, “The wind industry strongly supports this project.”
The companies wrote that the project would create various benefits, including the following:
- A $2 billion private-sector investment in transmission and another $7 billion investment in the wind farms – creating more than 5,000 jobs during construction and another 500 permanent operations jobs on the wind farms alone, with more than a thousand additional jobs for the construction and operation of the transmission line and associated facilities.
- Construction of the country’s first new above-ground, interstate HVDC transmission project since 1986. This puts the U.S. back in a competition that China and Europe are currently dominating. China plans to add 33 HVDC projects totaling more than 217 GW of capacity over the next 20 years.
“Most importantly,” the companies continued, “the DOE’s approval of this project will send a strong signal to the markets that long-distance, HVDC lines can be sited and constructed in the United States. Potential investors in these types of projects are watching DOE’s decision-making process in this case very closely.”
Other letters include those from APEX Clean Energy, EDF Renewable Energy, RES Americas, Iberdrola Renewables and Scandia Wind Southwest.
Wind Info Site
In an effort to provide the highest-quality information to support decision-making regarding wind energy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says it has officially kicked off the collaborative partnership between its new WINDExchange initiative and six supporting Regional Resource Centers.
According to the DOE, the new WINDExchange initiative and website will serve as a digital portal providing fact-based informational resources about the costs and benefits of wind power, technical assistance and guidance for simplifying the deployment process, and public access to educational resources.
In addition, six recently announced Regional Resource Centers (RRCs) will serve their regions as wind energy information centers, supporting WINDExchange’s efforts and working collaboratively with local organizations to engage stakeholder groups. The DOE says the RRCs’ geographically based focus will enable the centers to better understand and target the specific priorities and challenges relevant to their regions.
Iberdrola Renewables has decided to abandon its Wild Meadows wind project, which the company was working to develop in Danbury and Alexandria, N.H.
The 75.9 MW project would have become Iberdrola’s third wind farm in New Hampshire: The 24 MW Lempster and 48 MW Groton projects were commissioned in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
However, it appears the developer has had to contend with local opposition and regulatory hurdles in the state. Iberdrola released the following two-paragraph statement regarding its decision to stop pursuing Wild Meadows:
“While we continue to make significant progress resolving various outstanding issues at our Groton wind farm, our experience with that situation combined with the current political and regulatory climate in New Hampshire leave us no choice but to end our efforts to develop and invest $150 million at the potential Wild Meadows wind farm.
“We’re sorry that the vast majority in New Hampshire who want the benefits of clean, affordable power and millions of dollars in local economic development won’t get to see that occur anytime soon. We look forward to trying to work with state and local officials to return New Hampshire to a place that truly wants to bring renewable energy projects into the state again.”
The company declined to comment any further.
In February, though, Iberdrola Renewables spokesperson Paul Copleman told NAW that the company was halting work on Wild Meadows indefinitely after the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) said the project application was incomplete and returned it to Iberdrola.
Copleman also explained the developer was instead focusing on resolving issues with its operating Groton wind farm. “Some people have raised an issue with the permit granted to us by the SEC based on some work that was done during construction and some operational questions raised by the state fire marshal,” he said in February.
Notably, the Wild Meadows project was one of three wind projects that had won power purchase agreements with Massachusetts utilities last year. w
New & Noteworthy
Group Sues Over Eagle Kill Rule
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