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Renewable energy in the West on track to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels — without subsidies

Smart placement needed to match production with demand


An NREL map shows the potential for solar power production.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory tries a mix-and-match approach to help plan future solar, wind and geothermal power development in the West.

By 2025, renewable energy generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies — if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive areas, smartly located to meet the demand from regional population and industrial centers.

The report compares the cost of renewable electricity generation (without federal subsidies) with the cost of energy from a new natural gas-fired generator built near the customers it serves. Wind power produced in Wyoming and New Mexico could meet demand from California and the Southwest. Wyoming could probably produce the power at a lower cost, but New Mexico has the advantage of being closer to the areas with high demand, the report found. Continue reading

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Sen. Udall to host a renewable energy Twitter chat

Colorado lawmaker a longtime leader on energy policy

An offshore wind energy farm near Copenhagen, Denmark. Image courtesy Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — U.S. Senator Mark Udall has long been a passionate advocate for renewable energy. In recent months, he’s been one of the leaders in the fight to renew the wind energy production tax credit, which has been an effective mechanism to spur the growth of renewable power.

Next week, Udall will host a town hall Twitter chat to answer constituents’ questions about renewable energy and discuss the role it plays for our environmental, military and economic future.

Twitter uses can ask questions about renewable energy using the hashtag #AskUdall. On Oct. 16, @MarkUdall will answer the questions via Twitter. Continue reading

Colorado wind turbine makers cutting jobs

Wind power hits a political stumbling block, as Congress fails to pass a crucial tax credit for the fledgling industry. Photo courtesy NREL/ Dennis Schroeder.

Colorado’s U.S. senators fight for passage of critical tax credit for renewable energy

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado-based companies making parts for wind turbines say they’re starting to feel a negative trickle-down effect from congressional inaction on wind production tax credits.

The tax credits have been used in the U.S. and other countries to spur the growth of renewable energy production, but partisan posturing and the influence of the fossil fuel lobby have hindered political action.

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet Tuesday heard from local business leaders about the economic impact and potential layoffs due to recent cuts at Vestas.

Bennet discussed with local CEOs the need to extend the wind production tax credit during a tour of the Walker Component Group’s manufacturing facility, which supplies cables for wind turbines used by Vestas Wind Systems.  Continue reading

Energy: Congressional inaction on wind power production tax credits is already causing job losses in Colorado

Wind turbine. Photo courtesy Petr Kratochvil.

Colorado-based wind turbine company announces potential layoffs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Uncertainty surrounding tax credits for wind energy production is already having an impact, as Vestas Wind Systems announced that it will cut jobs at its factory in Pueblo, Colorado.

Congress has been dithering over an extension of the wind production tax credits for months, with renewable energy as a chip in the current ideological poker game in Washington, D.C.

Wind production tax credits have helped the industry gain a foothold in the past few years, and have been used successfully in other countries to spur renewable energy growth. But the influential fossil fuel lobby — not to mention partisan budget battles — in the U.S. have hampered efforts to renew the tax credit. Continue reading

Germany: Full speed ahead on renewables

Germany forges ahead with ambitious renewable energy plans

Germany’s rail corridors are lined with medium-size photovoltaic installations.

A cluster of wind turbines is barely visible in the lower righthand corner of the image.

By Bob Berwyn

MUNICH, GERMANY — It’s been a whirlwind week of travels here in the ‘old country’ where I grew up, but as I scan the news from back home in the USA and Colorado about the politics of renewable energy, I’m still thinking about what I saw as we flew into Frankfurt a little more than a week ago.

The U.S. Senate is playing politics with wind power, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he would do away with even the most harmless way to promote renewable power, the so-called wind energy production tax credits.

Meanwhile, even from 30,000 feet, the change in the German landscape is striking — hundreds, and even thousands, of power-generating wind turbines dot the countryside, in small clusters near villages, in lines along ridge tops, and in seemingly random clumps around some of the larger cities.

It all adds up to about 29,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 8 percent of the industrial country’s needs, and Germany has been adding new wind capacity at a healthy rate. Continue reading

$20 million in grants to boost offshore wind energy

U.S. lags behind Europe in critical renewable energy sector

Wind turbines in Denmark.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While the U.S. is still lagging well behind countries like Denmark and Holland in the production of offshore wind energy, that may soon change.

The U.S. Department of Energy this week announced a $180 million initiative aimed at spurring the development of innovative offshore projects that could help capture some of the country’s untapped renewable energy resources.

Top administration officials said the investments are critical to ensuring that the U.S. remains competitive in this growing global industry that can drive new manufacturing, construction, installation and operation jobs across the country. Continue reading

2011: ‘Swift and steady’ progress on renewable energy

Obama administration continues unprecedented push to shift energy paradigm away from fossil fuels

Wind power infrastructure growing along East Coast.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The Obama administration may have stumbled in a few areas in 2011, but stayed on a roll in the energy sector by approving several new large-scale renewable projects and laying the planning groundwork for many more.

The renewable energy developments are not without some detractors and controversy, but the administration — led by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar —  is making good on promises to drag the country, kicking and screaming if need be, into a renewable energy future.

Last week the Interior Department announced approval of two more utility scale projects — one wind and one solar — that, when built, will generate nearly 500 megawatts of power, or enough to power 150,000 homes, and create 700 jobs during peak construction. Continue reading

Energy: Feds approve first major offshore wind farm

Innovative Energy underwrites coverage of energy issues.

Construction could begin this fall in Nantucket Sound

Lillgrund Wind Farms wind turbines in the Sound near Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden. Photo by Mariusz Paździora via a creative commons attribution-share license.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Construction of the first offshore windfarm in the U.S. could begin as early as this fall, according to the U.S. Department of Interior, which announced this week that the the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has approved a Construction and Operations Plan for the Cape Wind Energy Project in Nantucket Sound.

The Cape Wind energy project calls for 130 3.6± megawatt wind turbine generators, each with a maximum blade height of 440 feet, to be arranged in a grid pattern on the OCS in Nantucket Sound, offshore Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island.

Despite an extraordinary potential for wind-generated electricity, the U.S. is lagging far behind when it comes to developing wind power. For example, Europe installed 9.3 gigawatts of windpower in 2010. Offshore wind power installations grew 51 percent, from 582 megawatts in 2009 to 883 megawatts in 2010. Wind power provides 4.2 percent of the EU’s energy needs, or enough to power 35 million households. Click here to see a running ticker of wind power stats in Europe. Continue reading

Powering the world with wind, water and solar

Innovative Energy underwrites coverage of energy stories.

High efficiency offshore wind farms are part of a plan to convert global energy use to renewable resources in the next few decades. Photo by Hans Hillewaert under a Creative Commons, share-alike license.

Detailed plan outlines total global conversion to renewable energy sources

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Most of the world’s energy demands could be met from renewable sources within the next 20 to 40 years — without waiting for a technological magic bullet, according to a pair of California researchers who said the only obstacle is the lack is the political and social will.

The study was co-authored by Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson and  Mark Delucchi, of the University of California-Davis. It outlines the costs, technology and material requirements of a complete conversion to renewable energy sources based on a plan they developed. The researchers approached the conversion with the goal that, by 2030, all new energy generation would come from wind, water and solar, and by 2050, all pre-existing energy production would be converted as well.

“Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will … We wanted to quantify what is necessary in order to replace all the current energy infrastructure – for all purposes – with a really clean and sustainable energy infrastructure within 20 to 40 years,” Jacobson continued Continue reading

Wind turbines could benefit crops under some conditions

Charles F. Brush's 60 foot, 80,000 pound turbine that supplied 12kW of power to 350 incandescent lights, 2 arc lights, and a number of motors at his home for 20 years. It today is believed to be the first automatically operating wind turbine for electricity generation and was built in the winter of 1887 - 1888 in his back yard. Its rotor was 17 meters in diameter. The large rectangular shape to the left of the rotor is the vane, used to move the blades into the wind. The dynamo turned 50 times for every revolution of the blades and charged a dozen batteries each with 34 cells. For scale, note gardener pushing lawnmower underneath and to right of the turbine.

New research shows a cooling effect that could help prevent fungal attacks

By Summit Voice

Wind turbines in Midwestern farm fields may be doing more than churning out electricity. The giant turbine blades that generate renewable energy might also help corn and soybean crops stay cooler and dryer, help them fend off fungal infestations and improve their ability to extract growth-enhancing carbon dioxide from the air and soil.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and  the University of Colorado recently said their studies show that turbines produce a measurable effect on nearby microclimates.

The slow-moving turbine blades  channel air downward, in effect bathing the crops below via the increased airflow they create.

“Our laser instrument could detect a beautiful plume of increased turbulence that persisted even a quarter-mile downwind of a turbine,” said, Julie Lundquist, an assistant professor with the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Continue reading


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