Archive | June 2013

Better policies would allow hydropower to back up wind power

The issue of wind turbine downtime can be compensated by hydropower but only with the correct policy and regulations, found researchers at Pennsylvania State University.

At present, wind is the fastest growing renewable energy source in the United States. The United States Department of Energy recently found that the country could produce 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030.

But because Americans want low-cost electricity and expect things to continue working without blackouts, full reliance on wind is impossible as there are times when the winds suddenly cease blowing or blows to hard causing operators to shut down the turbines. Researchers at Penn State said that viable options that can back wind energy up are natural gas and hydropower, but because natural gas is not carbon neutral, hydropower is the clear and greener choice.

As part of their case study, the researchers studied the Kerr Dam in North Caroline and found that the power produced from the dam goes into the PJM segment of the electrical grid. The PJM segment includes Pennsylvania through Virginia in the East Coast, west to Indiana and the Chicago area. Due to agreements made before the establishment of the PJM market. The Kerr Dam also supplies other local outlets.

The researchers noted that the Kerr Dam can accommodate the unexpected variations in wind power generators, but the problem is that hydroelectric dams cannot simply release water to meet the demand for electricity when wind energy suffers a downtime. This is because water dams operate using guide curves that are based on a one-week weather forecast and consider factors such as electric production, drinking water needs, irrigation, fish, and wildlife requirements.

To allow hydropower to come in when wind energy falls, the researchers suggest that instead of a guide curve requirement of one week, it should be two weeks. The researchers also determined that if the price of the electricity was changed in such a way that backing up wind is more lucrative, hydropower plants can pledge their electricity to make up for wind energy, instead of selling the excess on the spot market.

The president’s emphasis on renewable energy is “a big winner for Iowa,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago. In addition to being a major wind energy producer, Iowa also has become a hub for turbine manufacturing, from spinning blades to nuts and bolts. Opening more public land to wind generation should keep those plants running strong, he said.

“To the extent that the president’s climate action plan moves forward, that’s good for more wind power developments in Iowa, that’s good for job creation, that’s good for economic growth and it’s good for the environment,” Learner said.

Neila Seaman, director of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, echoed the president’s argument that the plan moves the country as a whole closer to a “clean energy economy,” in which new technologies create new jobs that more than offset those lost in the transition.

“We’re not trying to put anybody out of business,” Seaman said. “We think there will be enough green jobs resulting from this plan today that I’m not sure the critics would have good argument against it.”

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Public Eye

Opponents of a potential eastern Howard County wind turbine project packed the Howard County Commissioners meeting this past week. It was the fifth straight commissioners meeting dominated by the white-shirted opponents.

The opponents want county officialsto create larger setback requirements and to require wind turbines to obtain a special exception use permit from the Howard County Board of Zoning Appeals.

The irony here is that the opponents are appealing to two of the individuals responsible for the current setback requirements, and for the fact that in Howard County, you need a special exception permit to build a cell phone tower, but you don’t need one to build a much taller wind turbine.

On May 19, 2009, the Howard County Plan Commission met to consider a proposed wind turbine amendment to the Howard County Zoning Ordinance.

At the meeting, the plan commission voted to change key provisions of the proposed new wind turbine rules, jettisoning a proposal to require a special exception permit, and voting for shorter setback requirements.

Commissioner Tyler Moore, who was on the plan commission at the time, “said he felt he spoke for the Commissioners in saying they would like to see the 1,000 foot setback from residences reduced. He said seeing that reduction considered was a welcome surprise. He felt the process needed to be as smooth as possible. The Special Exception process was probably prohibitive for the land owner as well as the wind energy companies,” the minutes state.

Commissioner Paul Wyman was also at the meeting, to speak in favor of the changes.

According to the minutes, Wyman said “He would like to see the change of the 500 feet and the Special Exception as a requirement. He said Howard County needs to be in the most competitive position possible.”

Several representatives of wind energy companies, as well as individuals and attorneys representing landowners interested in leasing property to the wind companies, were also at the meeting to press for the last-minute changes, which passed unanimously.

Brian Oaks, who was acting as the plan commission’s attorney at the time, also recommended getting rid of the special exception permit requirement, telling the commission members he didn’t think it would hold up in court, if the BZA rejected a special use permit application.

Thursday, Wyman said he hasn’t changed his position on the issue, but is hopeful there may be room for compromise between wind developer E.On Climate & Renewables and the opponents, noting that E.On has proposed setbacks for recent projects which exceed the Howard County zoning requirements.

Wyman also said he was concerned about economic development in 2009, a year when Kokomo was beset by bankruptcies in the auto industry, and unemployment reached 20 percent.

“Our community was looking to diversify, and wind energy was an up-and-coming investment,” he said. Click on their website http://www.scfwindturbine.com for more information.

Sustainable Energy boss’s windfarm ‘conflict of interest’

Labour Senator John Whelan has warned that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte will have to address the “apparent conflict of interest” where the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland chairman Brendan Halligan, a long-term Labour apparatchik, is also a director of Mainstream Renewable Power; one of the major wind-farm developers in Ireland.

Mr Whelan issued the warning in the wake of a major demonstration outside Dublin Castle against proposals to erect 2,500 “185 metre high wind turbines, higher than the spike in Dublin, near family homes in 14 counties across Ireland”.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he warned the status of Halligan was leading to “much public disquiet and fuelling public cynicism with regard to wind energy policy and an increasingly controversial planning process.”

The Labour senator asked, “How can Mr Halligan serve both the public interest and the commercial interests of a private company? This is not best practice and will have to be addressed; there is no way around it.”

He added that “it is unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue and I will now be raising the issue with both Minister Rabbitte and the Oireachtas Committee on Energy and Natural Resources”.

This is likely to lead to tensions between the senator and Mr Rabbitte, who has made renewable energy one of his core departmental objectives.

But Whelan warned that on this issue Labour “can’t come across all pious and highly principled on other issues and then turn a blind eye when [it] suits us. In public life you cannot serve two masters”.

Decisions, he said, “to be made around wind farm policy and planning are going to have a profound effect on thousands of rural families for generations to come”.

Whelan’s position was echoed by the Labour Senator John Kelly who noted “all that the people want is for the Government to sit up and listen to them, that they don’t want to live beside residential wind turbines for reasons of health, noise, and the safety of their children.

He said Friday’s protest was peaceful and passionate, held by decent families trying to protect their human right to live in peace and tranquillity, not surrounded by wind farms “that are bigger than the spike”.

Kelly added: “It is indeed ironic that Enda Kenny is saying the Seanad is ineffective, whilst at the same time, when I brought a Wind Turbine 2012 Bill through the Seanad, achieving cross-party support, it was Enda who blocked the same bill going the Dail. He considers this to be democracy, when in fact he himself is blocking democracy”.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent Mr Whelan also claimed “much of the public disquiet would be resolved and allayed if the Government accepted Deputy Willie Penrose’s and Senator John Kelly’s legislative proposals affording 1.5km setback from family homes”.

Germany Opens Another Hybrid Wind Power Plant

From this tweet by the always excellent Energiewende Germany I learned about an article titled “Hydrogen plant starts storing wind energy in Germany“.

As is clear from the title, this is another project to use wind energy in times where demand can’t keep up with supply to make some hydrogen from water. That is the future for storage of surplus renewable energy, since the existing infrastructure can store massive amounts of hydrogen gas.

The German existing gas infrastructure could handle storage of up to 200 TWh, which is much more than the about 30 TWh an electricity system of 100% renewable would need. But to get that capacity, people need to start building these kind of plants that store electricity from wind or solar as hydrogen. We still have a decade or two to go until renewable gets to 100%, but it is still a good idea to start early.

Enertrag has opened the first plant like this in 2011. At the time with a capacity of only 500 kW. The new plant reported on in that article has 2 MW. And it is operated by E.ON, one of the “big four” German utilities that used to show no interest in renewable energy and leave the investment in the sector to citizen projects.

As the article notes, only about 50% of the energy from the surplus electricity can be stored in hydrogen.

But that is of course not a problem. In the many time slots where demand can’t keep up even now, the electricity would be wasted anyway. And in the few time slots without wind and solar available (the occasional cold November night) that stored energy will have a very high value on the market.

Over this weekend, many countries in Europe saw negative electricity prices, with France and its inflexible nuclear plants reaching minus 4 cent per kWh. People were paid good money if they used electricity, helping to reduce the supply overload. In such a time slot it doesn’t matter that only 50% of the energy will be stored. There is too much available in the first place.

And while the technology for making hydrogen may still be somewhat expensive (that 2 MW plant cost around $2 million), there is only a need to store around 5% of yearly demand. Spread that cost over all electricity over a feed-in tariff or some such policy, and it won’t matter much. Let’s also note that gas plant capacity is by far the cheapest to build of all power plants at only about EUR400 a kW, which helps save money on the cost of the whole system as well.

The idea involves flying a turbine in circles 800-1,950 feet up in the air, where winds are steadier and stronger than on the ground. Because most of the power in a traditional turbine is generated at the tips, these new generators would consist of a pair of such tips mounted to a wing. The wing flies in vertical circles, attached to the ground by a tether, which both carries the traction force of the wing, and transmits the electricity generated to the ground. A computer uses the flaps on the wing to control the flight.

It will also be possible to use similar wings in offshore areas, where the wing would be stowed atop a buoy until wind conditions are favorable. Then, the wing would take off like a helicopter, fly up to 1,300 feet high, generate electricity and then land once more on the buoy. Click on their website http://www.scfwindturbine.com for more information.

Anger at wind turbine plan on land that inspired David Hockney

PLANS for a 45m wind turbine in the heart of Wolds – which has inspired artist David Hockney – are being opposed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The owner of Tuft Hill Farm in Woldgate, near Bridlington, has already installed a 34m turbine in the same area after it was granted on appeal.

East Riding Council had rejected the original turbine due to the impact it would have on the Wolds countryside.

Now, there is further opposition and concern raised by the MoD, English Heritage and the Humber Archeology Partnership.

An MoD spokesman said: “The turbine will cause unacceptable interference to the radar at Staxton Wolds.

“The probability of the radar detecting aircraft flying over or in the vicinity of the turbines would be reduced and the RAF would be unable to provide a full air surveillance service in the area of the proposed wind turbine.”

English Heritage is concerned the turbine is close to a number of important sites and could have a detrimental visual impact.

In submitting comments, the organisation said: “The application site is adjacent to a number of scheduled monuments and listed buildings and the Kilham Village Conservation Area.”

English Heritage is calling for the application to be deferred as it does not feel there is enough information.

Humber Archeology Partnership has echoed English Heritage’s concerns and is asking for a geological survey to be carried out to provide more information about the impact of the proposed turbine.

Rudstone and Burton Agnes parish councils have also opposed the application, believing the turbine would spoil the view along the ridge of the Wolds and are concerned because there is already a turbine on site.

But there has been support for the application with more than 20 neighbours backing the plans, claiming that there is an vital need for renewable energy.

In the design statement, landowner Harrison Farms said: “The second turbine would ensure that the energy needs of the farm are met in the long-term, as well as the aspirations of the Harrison Farm business be carbon neutral overall.

“The turbine would provide a number of economic and environmental benefits, enabling the business to absorb the energy demands resulting from its recent expansion.

“The business is also under pressure to introduce sustainable sources of energy linked to an agreement it has with a local growers’ co-operative.”

The first turbine was rejected by East Riding Council planners, who feared it would intrude on views across the countryside.

But, following a public inquiry, planning inspector David Pinner said the turbine’s impact on the area would be “slight”. Read the full story at scfwindturbine web.

Runway extension could affect wind farm plans

Cielo Wind Power has been thinking about building a wind farm somewhere on Port of Brownsville property for a decade or so.

The Austin-based company is still thinking about it, and it’s by no means certain all the pieces will fall into place and all the obstacles will be cleared away for such a project to become a reality.

So says Walter Hornaday, who founded Cielo in 1998. According to its website, the firm has completed more than a dozen wind farm projects, most of them in Texas and two in New Mexico. The company recently began another wind farm outside Amarillo that will feature 87 GE wind turbines.

Brownsville is a promising site for a wind farm, though the project could meet an obstacle in the form of Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport’s plans to extend its runway, Hornaday said.

A longer runway would mean planes on approach would fly lower farther away from the airport, which could preclude construction of towering wind turbines.

It’s premature to say, though, since it all comes down to where Cielo wants to build versus how airspace is affected. Airport officials hope to extend the main runway from its current 7,400 feet to 10,000 feet or longer. An environmental review is still under way, though, and no funding has been allocated for the project yet.

“Obviously if you extend the runway there’s more airspace that’s going to be covered,” Director of Aviation Larry Brown said. That said, it’s not yet clear to what extent changes in airspace would affect Cielo’s plans, he said.

“Until we know more details, we can’t answer the question,” Brown said. “It’s all going to be a function of math.”

He said Corpus Christi’s airport is dealing with airspace issues arising from skystream located south and east of Sarita.

Hornaday said he hopes Cielo, if it does decide to move forward with a project at the port, can come to an arrangement with the airport amenable to all parties concerned.

“We’re trying to see what they will allow to be done,” he said. “It’s highly speculative at this point. It’s a great, windy area. The pieces are there. It’s a good wind resource and there’s a growing demand for electricity, but there are a lot of moving parts.”

We suspect those opposed to energy generated by wind turbines will be rubbing their hands together with a good deal of glee this morning, following revelations that the wind farm industry is being propped up by domestic energy bills.

New figures indicate that wind turbine owners received 1.2 billion in consumer subsidies last year. That is, unquestionably, a staggeringly large amount to draw from the public purse at any time, let alone in this period of austerity.

So it seems clear that this assessment of the balance sheet for wind power will be another blow for an industry already reeling from the Government’s recent announcement that new rules will give people greater powers to block turbine applications, when they are proposed near where they live.

We do not, however, subscribe to the view that all wind turbines must therefore be uprooted and dismantled. Far from it. wind energy is a new technology that should and does command significant investment. There is no doubt that wind energy is here to stay. It must surely be allowed to play a part in helping keep the lights on as traditional high-carbon energy sources diminish.

Wind farm rallies blow into town

Opposing sides of an increasingly bitter wind farm debate will rally in Canberra on Tuesday, with supporters gathering in the city and opponents at Parliament House.

Wind farms bring billions of dollars in new investment to regional areas according to their supporters, but households are being slugged with higher power bills, according to opponents.

Crookwell grazier Charlie Prell, who wants to wind generator, said opponents were wealthy, well-connected landholders who did not want to look at the turbines.

“To be honest, we need to stand up and fight for what we believe in,” Mr Prell said. He is a spokesman for NSW Regional Renewables Alliance, a group of 70 landholders and regional businesses, and said the rally in Garema Place at noon would be supported by various groups, including chief organisers Friends of the Earth and the online activist group GetUp! Action for Australia.

In a statement Mr Prell said the Renewable Energy Target had generated $18.5 billion over 12 years and reduced electricity prices by 8 per cent.

Alliance member, Goulburn earthmoving contractor Andy Divall said the RET was making a big difference in regional NSW.

“In the 25 years we have been in business we haven’t seen anything like the opportunities the renewables industry will bring to the region,” he said. Another alliance member, Tarago farmer Joan Limon said: “There are six turbines on my property. They take up very little land. The closest is 800 metres from my house and they don’t worry me, my sheep or my cattle.”

Rallying from 11am under a “Wind Power Fraud” banner, critics will say every turbine is issued between 8000 and 10,000 renewable energy certificates every year, which translates into a tax on power consumers.

Friends of Collector president Tony Hodgson said the rally at Parliament House would show growing opposition to industrial wind power because of rising costs to the community for no benefit.

Mr Hodgson said $52 billion in wind subsidies would ultimately be paid by electricity consumers and taxpayers over the next 18 years.

“The 63 turbines at the proposed wind farm at Collector alone could attract almost $1 billion in that time if the same system of RECs remains in place.”

Joining the anti-wind farm rally will be Boorowa and Yass “landscape guardians”. Mary Ann Robinson from the Yass group said their battle with wind farm proponent Epuron was in flux because Epuron had to re-submit planning documents for a large project west of the town.