Energy: Can wind farms be too large?

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Careful planning is needed to maximize the benefits of large wind farms. Photo via DOE.

New modeling study shows a “slowdown” effect if too many turbines are clumped together

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wind turbine installations could some day reach a point of diminishing returns if they get too big, according to a new study that evaluated the effects of large wind farms on atmospheric flow and its implications for how much renewable energy the turbines can generate.

The researchers at the University of Kansas did their study in the context of the renewable energy boom. Wind energy accounted for 3.3 percent of electricity generation in the United States in 2011. The study was aimed at learning what happens to the wind when a larger number of wind turbines removes more and more of the energy of atmospheric motion. Continue reading

EU wind power growing by leaps and bounds

Global capacity grew to 370 gigawatts in 2014

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Got wind?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Europe is now generating about 8 percent of its total energy usage from wind power, according to an annual report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, here’s another way to look at it: Windpower generated enough electricity to cover the combined annual consumption of Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland. Thanks to the ever-decreasing costs of building new windpower facilities, the EU could be producing at least 12 percent of its annual power needs with turbines by 2020.

The report confirms that wind power has been the most widely deployed form of renewable energy in the past two decades, with the global cumulative capacity growing to 370 gigawatts in 2014. Last year represented an annual record with 52.8 GW of wind turbines capacity installed worldwide, a 48% percent increase compared to 2013 and 17 percent over the 2012 record of 45.2GW. Continue reading

New study could cut bird deaths at wind farms

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More data, better planning and design could help reduce bird deaths at wind farms.

Research focused on golden eagles in Wyoming

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal scientists say a new modeling study will help more accurately predict bird deaths at wind energy sites before they’re built.

The findings could help planners design more bird-friendly wind power facilities — important because by the best available estimates, the spinning turbines kill between 160,000 and 330,000 birds each year, and that number is likely to grow as the number and size of wind turbines increases. Continue reading

Big fine levied for Wyoming wind turbine eagle deaths

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Big fined levied for wind turbine eagle deaths.

Company failed to avoid risks to protected birds

Staff Report

FRISCO — A Portland, Oregon-based wind energy company operating in Wyoming will pay fines, restitution and community service totaling $2.5 million for the death of protected birds at wind turbine facilities in Carbon and Converse Counties.  The two wind projects are comprised of 237 large wind turbines sited on private and company-owned land.

PacifiCorp Energy, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, Oregon, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The company is also on a five-year probation and must implement an environmental compliance plan aimed at preventing bird deaths at the company’s four commercial wind projects in the state. Continue reading

Report: Hybrid energy systems, smart grid planning needed to boost renewables

Going solar ...

Going solar …

Matched solar and wind systems could ensure steady supply of renewable energy

Staff Report

FRISCO — Smart grid planning and better energy storage could significantly boost the use of renewable energy in the U.S. according to a new report that calls for developing “hybrid” systems in which, on a broad geographic scale, one form of renewable energy is ramping up even while the other is declining.

Historically, a major drawback to the use and cost-effectiveness of alternative energy systems has been that they are too variable – if the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, a completely different energy system has to be available to pick up the slack. Continue reading

Native Americans eye huge South Dakota wind energy project

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

Sioux Nation wants to focus on renewable energy, not dirty tar sands oil

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few days after responding angrily to the U.S. House vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, Sioux Nation Native American leaders met with the Obama administration to explore renewable energy options.

The meeting included representatives from more than eight federal agencies and offices, including representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Treasury, and Tribal Relations. Continue reading

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

Smart placement needed to match production with demand

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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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