Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More Wind Power For Michigan

Andrew Green Reporting:

This week, John Deere announced three new wind energy developments in Michigan. The company says that one of them will be in Lenawee County, and the other two in the Thumb region over by Lake Huron. MSU Extension's Doctor Lynn Hamilton tells us that she thinks Michigan has been doing a decent job of setting itself up for wind -- and other green -- energy projects, even if it did leave the gate a little later than some other states.

The Thumb has more turbines than any other part of the state, and Doctor Hamilton say that's partly just because plenty of wind is generated by the nearby lake. However, she also says that West Michigan hasn't heard much talk of such projects simply because developers don't think residents here would want 400-foot turbines dominating the attractive Lake Michigan shoreline:

Russ Lundberg, with the Huron County Building and Zoning office, tells us that another reason why the Thumb gets most of the wind farms is the size of land parcels there. He says that, out that way, you'll see larger plots of land owned by farmers, so it's easier for wind companies to negotiate leases. Rather than leasing land from several owners for their turbines, they only have to deal with a few. He also says that his county continues to hear of new wind energy developers who want to build in the area, and describes the county's relationship with them as cooperative, despite the concerns of some residents about noise issues.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Township adds wind energy turbines to zoning code

By Jeff Gorman
Akron Ohio News

The Richfield Township Board of Trustees voted June 17 to add a section to the zoning code for wind energy systems.

This will set up the framework for township residents to create their energy through wind turbines, but don’t expect windmills to start popping up all over the township.

“For the average homeowner, it’s not conducive to build one,” said Andrew Laudato, president of Wind Tech Solutions, a company that works with individuals and companies to install wind energy systems.

Laudato attended a public hearing before the trustees voted on the zoning addition.

Still, Richfield Township Zoning Inspector Laurie Pinney said it was a good idea to enact the wind energy regulations.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” she said. “We’ve had a number of inquiries. The reason we started talking about this is because the state government took away our control over wind turbines that generate over 5 megawatts (5 million watts).

A 5-megawatt turbine is quite large, considering the one at the Great Lakes Science Center only creates 225 kilowatts, according to the center’s website. Other Northern Ohio wind turbines include one at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea (60 feet tall) and one at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center in Peninsula (40 feet tall).

Laudato said an ideal wind turbine regularly sees winds of at least 13 mph and is 80 feet tall.

“The higher, the better,” he said. “Under those circumstances, you can get a return on your investment in less than four years.”

Laudato said federal and state grants are available through 2016 for the construction of wind energy turbines. He said those grants can sometimes cover up to 95 of the tower’s costs.

“I think the pros outweigh the negatives,” said Trustee David Wyatt. “There is the possibility of interference with TV and radar signals.”

Laudato said the federal government has a goal of using wind energy as part of its plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by 2025.

Pinney said in the future, a wind turbine could be used to power a subdivision of six to eight homes.

“Sometimes people see in the paper that the state legislature passed a tax exemption for wind energy systems, but those are for over 5 megawatts, so it’s easy to misinterpret,” she said.

After the trustees approved the zoning amendments, Trustee Chairwoman Laurie Peters Gilmore thanked Pinney and the Zoning Commission for their work.

Also during the meeting:
• The trustees approved a modified version of the one-year contract for police services with Richfield Village. The cost is $499,653.

Richfield Village Council approved the contract two days earlier. The trustees and attorney John Slagter made some changes, including new language to specify what would happen if there were no new deal after this contract expires. Village Council would have to ratify the changes before the new contract could go into effect.

The trustees also voted 2-1 to pay the village for police services for the first half of 2010. Gilmore, who voted “no,” said she did not want to make the payment in the absence of a finalized contract.

• The trustees also voted to spend $200 to send Pinney to Columbus for training on new accounting and payroll software.

• Wyatt said the organizers of the Sweet Corn Ride, which will take place July 25, will be able to use Rising Valley Park.

“We will have water and the gate will be open,” he said. “The park is in outstanding condition and it’s waiting for more users.”

• Township Administrator Linda Bowmer said the resurfacing of Whitethorn Circle is finished, with landscaping next on the schedule for completion.

• After an executive session with Slagter, the trustees voted to authorize him to take legal action against a resident who is allegedly violating the zoning code by running a business out of his home.

The next Richfield trustees’ meeting is scheduled for July 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the township offices, located behind the fire station on West Streetsboro Road.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

99MW wind farm dedicated in South Dakota

South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds joined local community leaders and energy industry organizations to dedicate a new 66-turbine wind farm near Groton yesterday.

The Day County Wind Energy Center has been developed by NextEra Energy Resources, the largest renewable energy producer in North America.

Built in five months and operational since April, the 99-megawatt facility is generating power for the Western Area Power Administration for the next three years, after which power will be provided to the Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

The windfarm is expected to produce enough power to supply 25,000 homes with renewable electricity.

Commenting on the “impressive” project, Governor Rounds said: “South Dakota has an abundance of wind, and we hope it will continue to be harnessed far and wide in the future to make clean energy, boost local economies, provide good jobs, and add to the already excellent quality of life enjoyed by South Dakota citizens.”

Wind-energy developers win break

Wind developers won a victory Tuesday when the operators of the Midwest's largest regional electrical grid abandoned a proposal to make them pay up to 20 percent of the cost of new high-voltage transmission projects to deliver renewable energy.

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator on Tuesday unveiled to a large group of utilities, developers, energy generators and transmission line owners its latest proposal to share the costs of expensive high-voltage lines that renewable energy advocates hope will be built to deliver wind-generated energy from the windy Plains to the eastern United States.

An initial proposal called on energy generators in the system's 13-state territory and Manitoba to shoulder up to 20 percent of the cost of such projects, with 80 percent paid by all utilities buying the power in the territory. The territory stretches from Ohio to the Dakotas and includes Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The 20 percent share would have been carried by all energy generators in the transmission system, whether they used wind, coal or natural gas to produce their power.

But wind developers complained the share would have made their projects uneconomical compared with projects outside of the Midwest system. Wind farm developers said they would give up working in states like Minnesota, the Dakotas and Iowa and move projects to states like Kansas with more favorable cost-sharing plans.

After hearing complaints from the generators, system officials hinted last week that they might steeply reduce the generators' share.

They did just that, cutting the generators' cost share to zero by spreading out the cost across all the utilities that pull power off the grid.

The earlier proposal was a way to target the charges for large transmission projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to generators that benefit from the system, said Jennifer Curran, executive director of transmission infrastructure strategy for the transmission system operator.

But the 20 percent charge would have put the system at a pricing disadvantage to neighboring grids that don't impose such a charge on their generators, according to Curran. That kind of inequity at the borders where power moves back and forth outweighed the benefit of charging the generators, she said.

The proposal announced Tuesday better aligns the Midwest system with other regional grids, agreed Beth Soholt, executive director of St. Paul-based Wind on the Wires, a regional wind industry association for Minnesota.

Wind developers still will have to pay 90 percent of the cost for smaller transmission lines needed to connect to the major lines, which has been true for years, she said.

Now the wind industry wants to see what specific projects qualify for the new cost-sharing arrangement. In particular, the industry is anxious to see if a $700 million to $725 million line proposed from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton — called the Brooking Line — qualifies.  That process may take up to a year.

In the meantime, system officials expects to submit the new cost-sharing proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 15 for approval. It could then take up to a year to approve the new rates.

Leslie Brooks Suzukamo can be reached at 651-228-5475.

All Rights Reserved to TwinCities.com

Industry says Wyoming wind taxes tops in Rockies

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Wyoming taxes on the wind energy industry would be the highest among Rocky Mountains states if all of Wyoming's pending taxes take effect, according to a new analysis by an industry group.

The Wyoming Power Producers Coalition is releasing its study in advance of wind tax discussions scheduled for next week by the Wyoming Legislature's Joint Revenue Interim Committee.
"Wyoming has a big policy discussion that needs to take place," said David Picard, a lobbyist for the coalition. "What amount of wind energy development do they want? Because clearly our analysis shows that Wyoming is much less competitive with our surrounding states."

The wind industry lost tax battles in the past two Wyoming legislative sessions. In 2009, lawmakers allowed a sales tax exemption for renewable energy projects to expire at the end of 2011. This year, lawmakers passed a $1 per megawatt hour wind energy generation tax that takes effect in 2012.

The industry calculations accounted for Wyoming's pending sales and generation taxes.

Post a CommentThe report says a 66-turbine wind farm producing 99 megawatts and costing $247.5 million to build would pay about $37.6 million in taxes in Wyoming over 20 years. The same wind farm would pay $8.4 million in taxes in Colorado, the state with the lowest tax burden for wind, according to the study.

The upfront sales tax burden is the most troublesome for wind developers, Picard said. The model project would pay about $11.8 million at a sales tax rate of 6 percent. Picard said developers must account for sales tax as part of their project financing, rather than pay it with operating revenues over time.

"It's that significant, steep initial investment that can make and break some of these projects," he said. The comparison did not include state corporate income tax, which Wyoming doesn't impose, because of the difficulty of accounting for different corporation's expenses and tax postures, coalition officials said.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal supported the sunset of the sales tax exemption and the imposition of a wind energy generation tax. The efficiency and strength of Wyoming's wind resource would make up for most tax consequences, said Ryan Lance, Freudenthal's deputy chief of staff.

The construction of electric transmission lines to export Wyoming wind power and the cost of delivering it to markets in California are much bigger obstructions to the industry in Wyoming, Lance said.

"There's still a significant gap - even with the tax being wholly dismissed from the equation - in terms of what we can sell it for into California and what they're willing to buy it for," Lance said.

During this year's legislative session, the Power Producers Coalition used the transmission argument when urging lawmakers to reject a wind generation tax and take more time to study the state's overall tax structure for wind. The transmission bottleneck and ongoing environmental regulatory issues related to sage grouse mean Wyoming has plenty of time to sort out its tax structure, developers argued.

Rep. Rodney "Pete" Anderson, chairman of the House Revenue Committee, said he found the industry study to be revealing, particularly the impact of sales taxes. The Pine Bluffs Republican said he views the Legislature's action earlier this year to be just the starting point for hashing out Wyoming's wind tax policy.

"We're going to take testimony from all interested parties," Anderson said. "We want to get that testimony and then we'll go from there. You know when you get that many legislators together it's hard to tell where it will go."

All rights reserved to Forbes, Associated Press

Friday, June 18, 2010

Here’s a fast way for you to find out how solar panels work

What is solar power ?
Solar energy is radiant energy which is produced by the sun. Daily the sun radiates, or sends out, an enormous volume of energy. The sun radiates more energy in a single second than people have used since the beginning of time!

The energy of the Sun derives from within the sun itself. Like other stars, the sun is known as a big ball of gases––mostly hydrogen and helium atoms.

The hydrogen atoms in the sun’s core combine to create helium and generate energy in a process called nuclear fusion.

During nuclear fusion, the sun’s extremely high pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to come apart and their nuclei (the central cores of the atoms) to fuse or combine. Four hydrogen nuclei fuse to become one helium atom. But the helium atom contains less mass compared to four hydrogen atoms that fused. Some matter is lost during nuclear fusion. The lost matter is emitted into space as radiant energy.

It takes countless years for the energy in the sun’s core to make its way to the solar surface, and then slightly over eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth. The solar energy travels to the earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, the velocity of sunshine.

Only a small portion of the power radiated from the sun into space strikes our planet, one part in two billion. Yet this quantity of energy is enormous. Each day enough energy strikes the united states to supply the nation’s energy needs for one and a half years!

Where does all this energy go?
About 15 percent of the sun’s energy that hits our planet is reflected back into space. Another 30 percent is used to evaporate water, which, lifted into the atmosphere, produces rainfall. Solar energy also is absorbed by plants, the land, and the oceans. The rest could be used to supply our energy needs.

Who invented solar power ?
Folks have harnessed solar power for years and years. Since the 7th century B.C., people used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they would cause wood to catch fire. Over 100 years ago in France, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to make steam to drive a steam engine. At first of this century, scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar power in earnest. One important development was a remarkably efficient solar boiler introduced by Charles Greeley Abbott, an american astrophysicist, in 1936.

The solar water heater gained popularity at this time in Florida, California, and the Southwest. The industry started in the early 1920s and was in full swing just before World War II. This growth lasted prior to the mid-1950s when low-cost propane became the primary fuel for heating American homes.

The public and world governments remained largely indifferent to the possibilities of solar technology before oil shortages of the1970s. Today, people use solar technology to heat buildings and water and also to generate electricity.

How we use solar energy today ?
Solar energy is employed in a number of different ways, of course. There are two very basic forms of solar power:

* Solar thermal energy collects the sun's warmth through one of two means: in water or in an anti-freeze (glycol) mixture.

* Solar photovoltaic energy converts the sun's radiation to usable electricity.

Let us discuss the five most practical and popular methods solar power can be used:
1. Small portable solar photovoltaic systems. We see these used everywhere, from calculators to solar garden products. Portable units can be used for everything from RV appliances while single panel systems are used for traffic signs and remote monitoring stations.

2. Solar pool heating. Running water in direct circulation systems via a solar collector is a very practical solution to heat water for your pool or spa.

3. Thermal glycol energy to heat water. In this method (indirect circulation), glycol is heated by natural sunlight and the heat is then transferred to water in a hot water tank. This process of collecting the sun's energy is much more practical now than ever before. In areas as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, solar thermal to heat water is economically sound. It can pay for itself in 3 years or less.

4. Integrating solar photovoltaic energy into your home or office power. In most parts of the world, solar photovoltaics is an economically feasible way to supplement the power of your property. In Japan, photovoltaics are competitive with other kinds of power. In america, new incentive programs make this form of solar energy ever more viable in many states. An increasingly popular and practical way of integrating solar energy into the power of your home or business is through the usage of building integrated solar photovoltaics.

5. Large independent photovoltaic systems. For those who have enough sun power at your site, you could possibly go off grid. You may also integrate or hybridize your solar power system with wind power or other forms of sustainable energy to stay 'off the grid.'

How do Photovoltaic panels work ?
Silicon is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to produce photovoltaic panels. These panels collect photons from the sun, converting them into DC electric power. The power created then flows into an inverter. The inverter transforms the energy into basic voltage and AC electricity.

Solar cells are prepared with particular materials called semiconductors such as silicon, which is presently the most generally used. When light hits the Photovoltaic cell, a certain share of it is absorbed inside the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is given to the semiconductor.

The power unfastens the electrons, permitting them to run freely. Pv cells also have one or more electric fields that act to compel electrons unfastened by light absorption to flow in a specific direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by introducing metal links on the top and bottom of the -Photovoltaic cell, the current can be drawn to use it externally.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of solar technology ?
Solar Pro Arguments :
- Heating our homes with oil or propane or using electricity from power plants running with oil and coal is a reason behind climate change and climate disruption. Solar power, on the contrary, is clean and environmentally-friendly.

- Solar hot-water heaters require little maintenance, and their initial investment could be recovered within a relatively limited time.

- Solar hot-water heaters can work in almost any climate, even just in very cold ones. You just need to choose the best system for your climate: drainback, thermosyphon, batch-ICS, etc.

- Maintenance costs of solar powered systems are minimal and the warranties large.

- Financial incentives (USA, Canada, European states…) can aid in eliminating the cost of the first investment in solar technologies. The U.S. government, as an example, offers tax credits for solar systems certified by by the SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation), which amount to 30 percent of the investment (2009-2016 period).

Solar Cons Arguments:
- The initial investment in Solar Water heaters or in Solar PV Electric Systems is greater than that required by conventional electric and gas heaters systems.

- The payback period of solar PV-electric systems is high, as well as those of solar space heating or solar cooling (only the solar warm water heating payback is short or relatively short).

- Solar water heating do not support a direct in conjunction with radiators (including baseboard ones).

- Some hvac (solar space heating and the solar cooling systems) are very pricey, and rather untested technologies: solar ac isn't, till now, a really economical option.

- The efficiency of solar powered systems is rather influenced by sunlight resources. It's in colder climates, where heating or electricity needs are higher, that the efficiency is smaller.

Written by Guest Writer Barbra Young

Wal-Mart Goes Green: The World’s First Quintuple Play

Watching baseball’s first quadruple play was strange. Seeing Wal-Mart go green is stranger still.

First the baseball: The scene was a game of T-Ball, where everyone bats every inning, regardless of the number of outs.

The bases were loaded when a line drive ended up in the glove of the pitcher. While he wondered how it got there, all the runners took off without tagging up. The pitcher ran to third, then second, then first.

We kept counting the number of outs and they did not add up. First in our heads: That doesn’t make sense. Then on our hand: That’s crazy. Then our other hand: It kept adding up to four outs. It took us a while to believe what we saw right in front of us.

And now Wal-Mart, the original Black Hat, is going green. Or better said, sustainable. Let that sink in because it is true. Big time.

So much so that Treehugger.com says It “could end up being one of the biggest motivators to make truly ‘green’ products ever.”

As in history of the world.
Wal-Mart has made believers out of not just the biggest environmental organizations in the world — like the Environmental Defense Fund and the World Wildlife Federation — but also Wal-Mart’s suppliers.

It started five years ago when Wal-Mart announced three goals: 1) 100 percent renewable energy; 2) Zero waste; 3) Sustainable products.

Wal-Mart stores have already gone sustainable on dozens of fronts from shipping to selling to storing to recycling. Last year, Wal-Mart saved 4.8 billion plastic shopping bags. That’s how they roll in Bentonville: Big.

Even the combined efforts of 8400 stores with two million associates doing $400 billion in sales every year was not enough: Wal-Mart figured out 90 percent of the carbon was coming from its supply chain. So it reached down to all its 100,000 vendors — and their vendors and their vendors — and told them that reducing carbon footprints — reducing energy — will save money.

Everyone knows that is what Wal-Mart is all about.

“And vendors are listening,” said Tom Rooney, CEO of SPG Solar in Novato, California, one of the largest solar installers in the country. “We are seeing renewed and intense interest in industrial- and commercial-scale solar because of Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble and other companies are showing their suppliers how to change their shipping, packaging, storing, selling, heating, cooling, disposing, recycling and other practices to squeeze energy out of the supply chain and save money. And solar is a big part of that.”

Not that many need much coaxing: Financial incentives for solar today are so strong that many companies are essentially getting free energy — and more — by buying a new solar array from the money they will save from lower energy bills. And having a big chunk left over.

Now on top of that, the largest companies in the world are saying solar and other renewables have to be a part of their supply chain. By some estimates, 1 in 3 dollars worldwide is associated with a company that does business with Walmart. So, if you shift Walmart and its suppliers, the global economy shifts with it, says R. Paul Herman at hipinvestor.com. Or as the New York Times puts it: “because of its size and power, Wal-Mart usually gets what it wants.” And Wal-Mart wants renewable energy.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart sent its vendors a 15 part questionnaire to determine what their companies were doing to become more sustainable. Also leading the effort is Wal-Mart’s “Sustainabilty Index.”

Scholars from around the world are gathering at the Universities of Arizona and Arkansas to create this new measure of the energy created — and wasted — during the life cycle of a product found at Wal-Mart. It won’t be ready for at least another year.

“But that doesn’t matter,” says Rooney. “No one is fighting Wal-Mart or complaining about the reporting that this new index requires. Just the opposite: They are racing to out do each other, and surpass Wal-Mart’s expectations. Right now. Not next year.”

And why not:
In May, the world’s largest consumer product company, Proctor and Gamble, announced its own, similar, sustainability program for its vendors. Joining IBM, GE, and other corporate giants on the sustainability train.

The results are already showing up on the bottom line:

“Perhaps more than any other company, Wal-Mart has pursued this approach” said the Harvard Business Review of Wal-Mart’s new vision of sustainability. “The payoffs are already showing up: One of the Sustainable Value Networks, tasked with fleet logistics, came up with a transportation strategy that improved efficiency by 38%, saving Wal-Mart more than $200 million annually and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 200,000 tons per year.”

Wal-Mart: Not just for beating up anymore. Or maybe we are just seeing the world’s first quintuple play.

Article by Jim Fitzpatrick, a retired civil engineer and solar enthusiast.