Posts Tagged ‘wind turbines’

Germany Runs Half the Country on Solar Power

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

During a spell of extremely sunny weather, – on Saturday, May 26 — the solar-energy record by sourcing nearly 50 percent of its daytime electricity needs from sunshine.  According to Germany’s Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR), solar power plants produced an unprecedented 22 gigawatts of electricity, approximately the same amount generated by 20 nuclear power stations operating at full capacity.  Even on days when it’s not setting records, Germany has formidable solar numbers.  On Friday, May 25, while its citizens were at work and its power-hungry factories were running, one-third of Germany’s power was produced by solar plants.  The German government plans to move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2022.

Germany decided to abandon nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, closing eight plants immediately.  They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, solar and bio-mass.

“Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” said Norbert Allnoch, IWR director.  “Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks.  But this was the first time we made it over.”  Germany has nearly as much installed solar-power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets nearly four percent of its annual electricity needs from the sun alone.  Its goal is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

According to critics, renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations like Germany.  Chancellor Angela Merkel disagrees, noting that Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.  The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity and bright sunshine nationwide.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy.  The incentives provided through the state-mandated feed-in-tariff (Fit) are not without controversy, however. The tariff is the main support for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.

Utilities and consumer groups have complained the tariffs for solar power adds about two cents per kW/h on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world, with consumers paying about 23 cents kW/h, compared to New York, which pays 17.50 cents KW/h or Phoenix at 9.9 cents kW/h.  German consumers pay about €4 billion per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the country’s environment ministry.  Critics also complain that employing increasing levels of solar power makes the national grid less stable due to fluctuations in output since Germany is not renowned for its sunny climate.

Offshore Cape Wind Farm Gets the Go-Ahead

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The controversial Cape Wind Energy Project – to be constructed in Nantucket Sound between Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts – has been given the green light by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  “The Department has taken extraordinary steps to fully evaluate Cape Wind’s potential impacts on environmental and cultural resources of Nantucket Sound,” Salazar said.

The nation’s first offshore wind farm Cape Wind will see 130 wind turbine generators constructed; each will have a maximum blade height of 440 feet and will be arranged in a grid pattern several miles offshore.  When completed, Cape Wind will produce enough electricity to power about 400,000 homes on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the wind farm’s construction and operation.

Cape Wind – which was first proposed 10 years ago — has faced opposition from everyone from local Indian tribes to fishermen to the Kennedy family, whose six-acre compound in Hyannis Port overlooks Nantucket Sound.  “Taking 10 years to permit an offshore wind project like Cape Wind is completely unacceptable,” Salazar said.  Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) said “Let’s get this wind project built, and keep this American clean energy momentum pushing us ahead like a down east breeze.”

The opposition did not resonate on the national level and so the Interior Department used Cape Wind as a test case for offshore energy projects and green-lighted one major regulatory step after another.  Those who forcefully opposed the wind farm include The Cape Cod Times, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and the government of the Town of Barnstable.  Many older residents say resistance to Cape Wind was an exact copy of the opposition to the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park 50 years ago.

According to Salazar, the Cape Wind project could create as many as 600 to 1,000 jobs, and jump start a network of similar renewable wind farm projects up and down the Atlantic coast, which has the potential for tens of thousands of new jobs for Americans.  He criticized the process, which delayed the construction of America’s first offshore wind farm for 10 years, saying, that the Obama administration wants to streamline the permitting process in the future.  “After a thorough review of environmental impacts, we are confident that this offshore commercial wind project — the first in the nation — can move forward,” said Michael Bromwich, who directs Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.  “This will accelerate interest in the renewable energy sector generally and the offshore wind sector specifically, and spur innovation and investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure.”

While Cape Wind has found a buyer for 50 percent of its output, it has not for the other half.  Dennis Duffy, Vice President, said the company was “confident” it would find a customer for the other half.  The approval comes as the state proposed to redefine a different federal ocean area that also is under consideration for offshore wind.  The state wants the federal government to remove approximately half of a 3,000-square-mile area south of Massachusetts from potential wind development to protect vital fishing grounds.

“We submitted a proposal that would move the Commonwealth towards (making Massachusetts the nation’s offshore wind energy leader) while safeguarding waters important to our commercial fishing industry,” said Richard K. Sullivan Jr., state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

United States in Third Place in Developing Clean Energy Sources

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The United States has fallen to third place – behind China and Germany – in the development of clean energy sources, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Investment in global clean energy expanded significantly in 2010 to $243 billion, a 30 percent increase over 2009.  China, Germany, Italy and India were among the nations that were most successful at attracting private investments.  China solidified its position as the world’s clean energy leader.  Its 2010 investment record of $54.4 billion in 2010 represents a 39 percent increase over 2009.  Germany ranked second in the

G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100 percent increase in investment to $41.2 billion.  The United States’ 2010 investment totaled just $34 billion, a 51 percent increase over the previous year.

“The United States’ position as a leading destination for clean energy investment is declining because its policy framework is weak and uncertain,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.  She said that the U.S. could lag behind even more as competitors adopt renewable energy standards and incentives for investing in solar, wind and other forms of clean energy.  “We are at risk of losing even more financing to countries like China, Germany and India, which have adopted strong policies such as renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production,” Cuttino said.

“The United States remains the global leader in clean energy innovation, receiving 75 percent of all venture capital investment in the sector, a total of $6 billion in 2010, but the U.S. has not been creating demand for deployment of clean energy.  As a result it is losing out on opportunities to attract investment, create manufacturing capabilities and spur job growth.  For example, worldwide, China is now the leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels,” says Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

China’s goal is to install 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020; the European Union intends to generate 20 percent of its power from renewable sources over the same timeframe.  In the United States, 30 states have policies requiring utilities to buy more electricity from renewable sources.  Although the federal government has incentives in place to cut project costs, there’s no nationwide mandate for clean energy.

The website believes it doesn’t really matter who leads the world in alternative energy creation – as long as global effort continue.  According to Douglas McIntyre, “Most of the data does not matter much.  The fact that China invests such a large amount in clean energy does not mean it will not sell products based on that technology to U.S. firms.  China will export manufactured wind and solar infrastructure just as it does everything else.  Green technology is hardly a strategic asset.  The Chinese are as anxious to make money from their investment as U.S. companies.  If any proof is needed, many Chinese and US alternative energy firms are listed on stock exchanges.  Green is a business as much as it is a movement.”

Unfortunately, McIntyre says, solar and wind energy are not as powerful a source as many believe.  Solar energy doesn’t work at night unless the user has a storage device such as a battery; cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable.  Solar technologies are also quite costly and need significant land to collect the sun’s energy at useful rates.  Wind energy is intermittent in most areas.  Additionally, wind turbines typically are not connected to the American power grid, making the energy it produces difficult to deliver effectively to places where it could replace coal-powered electricity.

McIntyre notes that “America has a nearly inexhaustible supply of coal.  Nuclear energy projects may be delayed by the effects of the Japan earthquake, but its growth in the U.S. is inevitable because the country needs to produce more energy within its borders.  Investment in solar and wind energy may be up, particularly in China.  That does not matter much if the two sources do not work as well as others that are currently available.”

Click here to read a discussion about nuclear power by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

EPA Can Bypass Congress and Act on Climate Change

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

There may be only one way to enact climate-change legislation.Congress — wary of 2010 mid-term elections – appears to be unlikely to pass climate change legislation this year, writes Jeffrey D. Sachs in Scientific American.

According to Sachs, “The fracture lines are countless, but probably the most important one runs through public opinion.  A recent poll showed only 36 percent of Americans believing that the evidence of human-induced climate change is firm, down from 47 percent in early 2008.  The rise of unemployment has perhaps made people more reluctant to accept adverse news on living standards.  There is also considerable public confusion about climate science and possible remedies.”

The coal and oil lobbies are powerful; their opposition to climate-change legislation is well-financed and highly organized.  Environmental groups have difficulty reaching consensus, with many opposing nuclear power and coal use.  Conservationists have even fought renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines near farms and coastlines, solar thermal plants in desert states and high-voltage transmission lines close to homes.

Sachs believes that the Environmental Protection Agency – with the mandate provided by the Clean Air Act – could do an end run around Congressional inaction by imposing a schedule of emissions standards impacting electric companies and cars, trucks and buses.  Finally, a plan needs to be articulated because the public fears that climate-change legislation might impact jobs and living standards.  Although the Obama administration has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020, the public does not know how the government intends to meet that goal.

London’s Strata Tower Design Incorporates Wind Turbines

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Strata Tower in London incorporates wind turbines to generate some of the building’s own energy.  A 43-story residential tower in south London’s Elephant & Castle neighborhood will receive eight percent of its power from three wind turbines  installed at the top of the structure.  The Strata Tower – nicknamed the Electric Razor – is being developed by Brookfield Europe and eventually will be home to 1,000 residents.

The Strata is a £13 million milestone in the £1.5 billion project to revitalize the Elephant and Castle area.  The Strata’s 408 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments range from £230,000 to £2.5 million, with the first residents expected to move in this summer.  As well as generating an estimated 50MWh annually, the turbines will earn approximately £16,000-£17,000 per year through the British government’s new feed-in-tariff, a payment per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by a renewable resource.

Each turbine has 15 blades with a 9m-diameter rotor plane.  The wind turbines – which will meet energy demand for 33 two-bedroom apartments – were chosen because they had the best potential, given the building’s height and shape.  Although other buildings have wind turbines mounted on their roofs, the Strata Tower is the first to incorporate them into the original design.