Hefty U.S. Portfolio Scooped Up By Investor
London-headquartered Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, a global investment manager specializing in low-carbon and renewable energy infrastructure assets, has acquired Scout Clean Energy, a Colorado-based developer and operator of U.S. wind projects.
According to Quinbrook, Scout is developing a 1.6 GW pipeline of U.S. wind farms that in aggregate represent more than $1.7 billion in total capital investment. In addition, they would generate enough emissions-free power to serve the needs of nearly half a million American households, the firm says.
The Scout development portfolio is currently spread across nine U.S. states. Notably, the majority of the projects qualify for federal production tax credits, Quinbrook points out.
“Quinbrook’s investment in Scout aligns with our long-term strategy of building a larger-scale portfolio of onshore wind power projects in the United States,” notes David Scaysbrook, co-founder and managing partner of Quinbrook.
Since 2011, Scout has originated, developed and completed nine wind power projects comprising 649 MW of capacity across North America. The Scout team’s most recent development was the Mariah North project, a 230 MW West Texas wind farm comprising GE turbines. The project reached commercial operations at the end of last year.
“The opportunity to accelerate the expansion of wind power generation is immense now that businesses, consumers and policymakers are all seeing the benefits of low-cost renewable energy. Quinbrook’s investment in Scout enables us to seize that opportunity and grow our footprint of utility-scale wind projects,” comments Michael Rucker, who heads up Scout.
Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.
MAKE Acquired By Verisk Analytics
MAKE, a research and advisory business for renewable energy, has been acquired by Verisk Analytics, a Jersey City, N.J.-based data analytics provider.
MAKE, which specializes in wind power intelligence, will become part of Wood Mackenzie, a Verisk Analytics business focused on providing research and advisory services to the natural resources sector.
According to Verisk, MAKE’s knowledge of wind supply chains, costs and investment trends will strengthen Wood Mackenzie’s offerings.
“I look forward to all of our clients benefiting from the combined offering,” says Morten B. Keller, managing partner of MAKE. “The renewables sector continues to grow at an unprecedented pace and at a scale that impacts the entire energy landscape. In 2016, more than $200 billion was invested to build a record 116 GW of solar and wind capacity. This accounted for 41 percent of all new electricity capacity globally – more than any other source.”
“Decarbonization is the defining trend in the energy industry today,” adds Neal Anderson, president of Wood Mackenzie. “And Wood Mackenzie is building a preeminent position to offer our clients the latest thinking in the renewables sector.”
Minnesota Power Seeks Wind And Solar Growth
Under a proposed new step in its EnergyForward strategy, which aims to ensure a “safe, reliable and competitive energy supply,” Minnesota Power, a utility division of ALLETE, is seeking to grow its 620 MW wind portfolio and double its solar generation.
In an upcoming filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), Minnesota Power will request an additional 250 MW of wind capacity, 10 MW of solar capacity and 250 MW of combined-cycle natural gas generation in order to meet customer demand for power, which is projected to grow throughout the region, says the utility, which provides electricity within a 26,000-square-mile area in northeastern Minnesota.
With MPUC approval of the proposed resource package, renewable energy resources – including wind, Canadian hydro, solar and biomass – would account for 44% of the utility’s energy supply by 2025 and exceed its initial EnergyForward goal of one-third renewable power. Minnesota Power says its long-term goal is an energy mix of two-thirds renewable energy and renewable-enabling natural gas and one-third environmentally compliant baseload coal.
Al Hodnik, ALLETE’s chairman, president and CEO, states in a press release that the $350 million investment would “further balance Minnesota Power’s energy mix while contributing meaningful growth for ALLETE’s shareholders.”
Minnesota Power says it already is meeting or exceeding state standards for renewable power, energy conservation and carbon-emission reduction through a fleet transition of smaller coal units and the addition of renewable energy. The company has also already achieved a 25% renewable energy mix well ahead of Minnesota’s goal of 25% by 2025.
Minnesota Power plans to seek MPUC approval later this summer. State regulators will then open a formal review process to consider the request, and a final determination is expected in the latter half of 2018, the utility says.
KCP&L To Retire Coal, Looks Toward Wind
Kansas City Power & Light Co. (KCP&L) is planning to retire six generating units at the company’s Montrose, Lake Road and Sibley coal plants.
In 2015, KCP&L announced it was considering retiring the coal units or converting them to an alternative fuel source. One coal-fired unit at the Lake Road Station was converted to natural gas in 2016. Since that time, several emerging industry trends and changing circumstances led the company to announce its plans to retire the six generating units, according to KCP&L.
“When these power plants started operation more than 50 years ago, coal was the primary means of producing energy. Today, as part of our diverse portfolio, we have cleaner ways to generate the energy our customers need,” says Terry Bassham, president and CEO of Great Plains Energy and KCP&L. “After considering many options, it is clear that retiring units at Montrose, Lake Road and Sibley is the most cost-effective way to meet our customers’ energy needs as we continue to move to a more sustainable energy future.”
The company says a number of factors contributed to the decision to retire these units:
Reduction in wholesale electricity market prices. The value of energy produced by these plants has dropped in recent years, primarily driven by new wind generation and lower natural gas prices.
Near-term capacity needs. KCP&L does not anticipate needing new capacity for many years and expects relatively flat long-term peak load growth. In addition, the amount of reserve generating capacity the company is required to carry has been reduced.
Plant age. The impacted units are older; all began service between 1960-1969. Making costly investments in the units does not make financial sense when compared with other generation sources.
Expected environmental compliance costs. It is not economic to retrofit these plants with the controls necessary to meet expected environmental requirements.
Importantly, says KCP&L, wind energy sources have become a much more economic generation resource for the region. According to the Southwest Power Pool, of which KCP&L is a member, energy generation from wind increased 30% year over year in 2016.
Last year, KCP&L announced plans to purchase an additional 500 MW of power from two new wind facilities at Osborn and Rock Creek. This year, the company is set to increase its renewable portfolio to more than 1,450 MW, representing greater than 20% of KCP&L’s total generating capacity needs.
“In addition to our substantial renewable energy portfolio, KCP&L has the largest per capita energy-efficiency portfolio of any investor-owned utility in the region,” adds Bassham. “By retiring these plants, KCP&L is taking another step forward in our plan to provide cleaner, cost-effective energy to our customers.”
KCP&L intends to retire all of the Montrose and Sibley coal units by Dec. 31, 2018. The Lake Road natural gas unit will be retired by Dec. 31, 2019. Lake Road’s steam operations are not impacted by this announcement.
In a statement, Andy Knott, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, says, “KCP&L’s decision to phase out coal generation shows a commitment to looking forward despite a lack of federal leadership on clean energy. Even in Missouri, a heartland state that Trump won, utilities like KCP&L and mayors like Sly James and Lynda Krewson recognize that clean energy is not only the best investment for our climate, but also the best investment for our state’s families. Clean energy can create thousands of jobs, lower electricity bills, and ensure that the air Missourians breathe and the water we drink isn’t poisoning us with fossil fuel pollution.”
Turbine Blade Fails At NextEra Wind Farm
On May 31, a turbine blade failed at a NextEra Energy Resources wind farm in Oklahoma.
According to NextEra spokesperson Steven Stengel, one of the turbines at the 98 MW Breckinridge Wind Energy Center “went offline” at around 10 p.m.
Located in Garfield County and roughly 10 miles northeast of Enid, the project comprises 57 1.7 MW GE XLE wind turbines. Originally developed by Tradewind Energy, the wind farm was later sold to NextEra and has been operating since 2015.
Stengel says the company, when doing routine monitoring, noticed that one of the turbines “was not operating normally” before it broke.
Noting that nobody was injured, Stengel says the NextEra team then “followed all safety protocols in securing the blade and inspecting the affected turbine.”
“We believe this was an isolated equipment issue, but we are inspecting each of the turbines at the wind farm to ensure they are operating normally,” he adds. “We are working with the equipment manufacturer to provide a replacement blade.”
Key Wyo. Line Passes Milestone
After almost seven years of interagency and stakeholder collaboration and environmental analysis, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has released its final records of decision (ROD) for the multistate TransWest Express (TWE).
The ROD, authored in a letter by Chad E. Hudson, deputy forest supervisor, states that the decision green-lights “the construction of powerlines across portions of National Forest System lands in Utah.”
According to the USFS, TWE would carry enough power for almost 2 million homes. The project would connect renewable power with consumers in the Desert Southwest via a high-voltage, direct-current transmission system. The project, including alternatives, would cross parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.
According to the developer, TransWest Express LLC, the system would directly and efficiently access diverse renewable energy supplies while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. For example, Power Company of Wyoming’s massive, 3 GW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Project is planned to be built on 220,000 acres south of Rawlins, Wyo.
Specifically, the TWE project route extends from south-central Wyoming to the site of a potential interconnection near Delta, Utah, and then to the Marketplace Hub near the Hoover Dam in southern Nevada, which provides interconnections to the California, Nevada and Arizona grids, the developer explains.
TransWest notes it has committed to hundreds of project-specific mitigation measures; best-management practices; and conservation actions designed to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts of the project to the environment.
The developer says TWE would also strengthen the resiliency and reliability of the western U.S. electric grid by adding 3 GW of “backbone” transmission capacity connecting the Desert Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) were joint lead federal agencies for conducting and completing the environmental analysis for the TWE project, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The USFS participated as a cooperating agency for the NEPA process.
The BLM released a ROD on Dec. 13, 2016, to issue a right-of-way grant for TWE on BLM-managed land, representing about 60% of the 730-mile route. WAPA’s ROD was released Jan. 13, 2017.
The developer notes that the route identified in the USFS ROD follows and aligns with the BLM and WAPA decisions.
USFS says the project would be sited within existing transmission corridors across National Forest System lands – in turn, minimizing impact, says TransWest, which notes that roughly 19 miles of the TWE project is proposed on National Forest System land.
Wind Fully Powers Third SC Johnson Site
Furthering the company’s commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, SC Johnson, a manufacturer of household cleaning products, says its manufacturing site in Bay City, Mich., has begun operating on 100% wind energy, joining two other company-owned sites also powered by wind.
“With our third site powered entirely by wind energy, almost one-third of SC Johnson’s energy usage globally now comes from renewable sources,” says Kelly M. Semrau, senior vice president for global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson. “We are proud of our commitment and progress toward taking care of the environment for future generations.”
SC Johnson committed to wind energy usage in 2012 when it powered up two 415-foot wind turbines at its largest global manufacturing facility, Waxdale, located in Mount Pleasant, Wis. The two turbines generate about 8 million kWh of electricity each year – enough to power 770 homes. In addition, the turbines eliminate about 6,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually.
The company says manufacturing operations in Mijdrecht, Netherlands, and Gorzow, Poland, have been running solely on wind energy since 2009 and 2016, respectively. The Gorzow manufacturing plant also purchases its entire demand for wind energy. The company’s Mijdrecht site purchases approximately 50% of its demand and generates the remaining wind energy on-site.
Xcel Energy Banks On Southwestern U.S. Wind
Xcel Energy is highlighting its newest corporate sustainability report, which shows the company’s growth in renewable energy across its eight-state service area, stretching from the upper Midwest to the southwestern states of Texas and New Mexico.
In the Southwest – the Texas Panhandle, Texas South Plains and eastern New Mexico – renewable energy accounted for 23% of generated power, as of Dec. 31, 2016. Most of that number – 22% – was derived from wind energy, according to the company.
In March, Xcel announced plans to add 1.23 additional gigawatts of wind energy on the Southwest regional grid by 2020. Most of the new wind resources – 1 GW – will be built and owned by Xcel Energy at large wind facilities in New Mexico and Texas. The remaining 230 MW will be purchased through a 30-year power purchase contract. Pending regulatory approval of the new wind resources, Xcel Energy anticipates that wind energy will make up 43% of the region’s energy mix by 2021.
Moreover, over 30 years, the company expects the new wind facilities will save customers $2.8 billion by using federal production tax credits and displacing higher-cost power from older power plants.
“We know our success is tied to our communities’ success,” comments Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “Growing and vibrant communities support our business, while clean and affordable energy powers our communities. As a responsible community partner, we are committed to delivering on our shared goals and continually raise the bar on our performance.”
U.S. Renewables Decades Ahead Of Schedule
The share of domestic electrical production by renewable energy has now greatly eclipsed earlier projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the SUN DAY campaign has revealed.
According to the nonprofit organization, in the EIA’s 2012 Annual Energy Outlook, the agency forecast that renewable energy generation would increase by 77% from 2010 to 2025 (from 10% to 15%). In addition, the share of total electricity generation from non-hydro renewables would grow from roughly 4% in 2010 to 9% in 2035.
If one assumes growth were to continue at about the same annual pace as during the 25-year EIA forecast period (2010-2035), renewables would not be expected to reach 19.35% until roughly the year 2057 – 40 years from now, the organization says.
The EIA’s 2012 report further forecast that wind capacity would increase from 39 GW in 2010 to 70 GW in 2035 and that solar would reach 24 GW of capacity in 2035.
In reality, says SUN DAY, citing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest Energy Infrastructure Update, which includes data for the first three months of 2017, wind generating capacity already totals 84.59 GW, while utility-scale solar capacity has reached 25.84 GW (not including distributed small-scale systems, such as rooftop solar).
Moreover, the latest issue of the EIA’s Electric Power Monthly (with data through March 31) reveals that renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar [including small-scale PV] and wind) accounted for 19.35% of net U.S. electrical generation during the first quarter of 2017. Of this, conventional hydropower accounted for 8.67%, followed by wind (7.10%), biomass (1.64%), solar (1.47%) and geothermal (0.47%). Combined, non-hydro renewables accounted for 10.68% of total generation.
“Not only has renewable energy’s share of total domestic electrical generation nearly doubled in the past seven years – it has reached a level of output that EIA, just five years ago, did not anticipate happening for another four decades,” states Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “While one might conclude that EIA’s methodology is seriously flawed, it is also safe to say that renewables – especially solar and wind – by now providing almost one-fifth of the nation’s electrical production, are vastly exceeding expectations and breaking records at an astonishing pace.”
According to the group, this is clearly evidenced by comparing 2017 with 2016. During the first quarter of 2016, renewables provided 17.23% of total generation versus 19.35% in 2017, meaning actual generation by renewables is 9.70% greater than it was just a year ago.
In particular, solar (solar thermal, utility-scale PV and distributed PV) has ballooned by 34.1%, wind has expanded by 11.4%, conventional hydropower has grown by 7.7%, and geothermal has increased by 3.2%. Only utility-scale biomass has declined year on year (by 1.6%).