Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Giant wind turbine blade tours America’s heartland

Energy company GE has kicked off a 28-day tour of nine states to raise awareness of renewable energy and urge people to lobby their politicians to support clean energy.

The firm started off yesterday in Aberdeen, South Dakota, offering up one of its 131-foot wind turbine blades as a petition to be signed by the public (pictured right).

It will tour states including Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Texas before wrapping up in Dallas, Texas, at the American Wind Energy Association’s Windpower 2010 exhibition.

Offshore wind farm could have big impact

For the last decade, the backers of a huge wind power project off the coast of Cape Cod have navigated through stormy community meetings, hidden regulatory snags and verbal cannon blasts from the Kennedy family and a pair of Indian tribes.

Any day now, they will find out whether it was all for naught. The Obama administration, which last week signaled its intention to proceed with other offshore wind projects, is about to decide whether to deep-six the Cape Wind proposal or provide a friendly gale that could carry it to completion.
If approved, the project would most likely be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. And in either case, the ruling by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would have implications from Long Island to Lake Erie. At least half a dozen offshore wind projects that could provide electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers have already been proposed in the shallow waters off the East Coast and the Great Lakes.
A thumbs-down on Cape Wind, some developers say, could gut America’s offshore wind industry before it ever really gets started. “It is imperative that Cape Wind gets built — we need the momentum,” said Peter Giller, chief executive of OffshoreMW, an upstart developer with ambitions to build two 700-megawatt projects off the shores of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Although offshore wind farms are roughly twice as expensive as land-based ones, developers and advocates say offshore projects have several advantages. Sea and lake breezes are typically stronger, steadier and more reliable than wind on land. Offshore turbines can also be located close to the power-hungry populations along the coasts, eliminating the need for new overland transmission lines. And if the turbines are built far enough from shore, they do not significantly alter the view — a major objection from many local opponents.
Other nations have embraced offshore wind as a major source of renewable energy. In Europe alone, there are currently 830 offshore wind turbines connected to the power grid in nine countries, according to the European Wind Energy Association

In the United States, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that about 90,000 megawatts of electricity could be extracted from offshore winds in coastal waters less than 100 feet deep, the easiest and most cost-effective depths. Most of that potential lies in New England, the mid-Atlantic and the Great Lakes.
If the handful of American projects on the drawing board are built as planned, they would produce some 2,500 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association or about as much as two midsize nuclear power plants.

But despite years of efforts, not a single offshore turbine has been built in the United States. Experts say progress has been slowed by a variety of factors, including poor economics, an uncertain regulatory framework and local opposition.

Wind energy continues to flex its growing power around the world

New wind power installations in the EU last year, which increased 23% over 2008, brought the region’s total capacity to nearly 75 GW. Global wind turbines installations in 2009 were worth about €45 billion.
Wind energy continues to flex its growing power around the world
With its vast population and seemingly limitless thirst to acquire raw resources and additional energy sources for its emerging middle class, China was the world’s biggest wind power market last year, almost doubling its installed wind farm generation capacity to 25 GW.

China’s growth in wind power was so spectacular that it represented one-third of the world’s new wind energy installed capacity in 2009 of 37.5 GW, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

Regardless of the severe global economic downturn caused by the worst recession since the 1930s, China installed 13 GW of new capacity in 2009, GWEC reported, noting the Asian nation’s wind energy industry experienced another year of more than 100% growth.

GWEC also noted that cumulative world-wide wind power capacity installed by the end of 2009 totaled nearly 158 GW – a 31% increase from the year before.

“The continued rapid growth of wind power despite the financial crisis and economic downturn is testament to the inherent attractiveness of the technology, which is clean, reliable and quick to install,” said Steve Sawyer, GWEC’s Secretary General.

“Wind power has become the power technology of choice to a growing number of countries around the world,” Sawyer said, adding wind energy’s continued growth can be attributed to national energy policies and because many governments promoted renewable energy development in their economic recovery plans.

In addition to China, other Asian nations– India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – helped make Asia the world’s largest wind power market last year, with more than 14 GW of new capacity.

North America and Europe, each of which installed more than 10 GW of new wind capacity, also helped drive the global wind power success story in 2009.

The US wind energy industry experienced a 39% increase in new installed capacity last year, which brought its total capacity total to 35 GW.

New wind power installations in the EU last year, which increased 23% over 2008, brought the region’s total capacity to nearly 75 GW. Global wind turbines installations in 2009 were worth about €45 billion, GWEC noted, adding about 500,000 people are now employed by the wind industry around the world.

The wind industry will also save about 204 million tonnes of CO2 every year, GWEC reported.