Final EIS Completed At Wyoming’s Wind Giant
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Power Company of Wyoming LLC’s (PCW) voluntary applications for standard and programmatic eagle take permits, both of which are based upon PCW’s comprehensive conservation plans and coordination with the FWS.
The service’s final EIS analyzes avian conservation measures for the 500-turbine, 1.5 GW Phase I of PCW’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre (CCSM) Wind Energy Project, to be located in Carbon County, Wyo. The two phases are expected to total 3 GW of wind energy.
A notice of availability of the final EIS was included in the Dec. 9 Federal Register. A record of decision was supposed to have followed no sooner than 30 days afterward, says PCW.
PCW developed two main conservation plans addressing eagles, bats and other migratory birds: the Phase I Eagle Conservation Plan and the Phase I Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy.[adright zone=’190′]
PCW says both plans are built on a foundation of over five years of scientific data collection, over 5,000 hours of avian use surveys specific to the CCSM project site and ongoing coordination with the FWS since 2010.
According to the developer, the plans ensure that eagle conservation is a priority during both wind project construction (standard permit application) and operation (programmatic permit application). In addition, the plans provide for mitigation and compensation in case of incidental eagle take.
PCW officials say that using site-specific environmental data to finalize the CCSM project’s Phase I design was key to its work to meet the FWS’ strict regulatory criteria.
“PCW chose to commit to a significant scientific and engineering effort to proactively and responsibly minimize impacts to eagles and migratory birds,” states Garry Miller, PCW’s vice president of land and environmental affairs. “It was important to PCW to give our neighbors, regulators and customers further confidence that the CCSM project will be built and operated in a manner consistent with wildlife conservation.”
The CCSM wind farm is a 1,000-turbine project to be built in two phases on a working cattle ranch consisting of checkerboard private land, federal land and state land.
Report: States Go Big On Renewable Energy
The U.S. electric power industry has been going above and beyond in investing in renewable resources past states’ renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and targets, according to a new report from The Brattle Group.
The report says the majority of these “beyond-RPS” investments have occurred in regions that offer access to low-cost wind or solar potential and regions that have organized regional electricity markets.
According to Brattle, this facilitation of renewable generation development by regional markets should be considered by Western U.S. states as they contemplate the future of their electricity industry and its impact on the environment.[adleft zone=’190′]
The firm has reviewed a number of industry statistics and practices to show how regions with regional transmission operators and independent system operators (RTO/ISO markets) have been facilitating development of renewable generation.
Specifically, the group says RTO/ISO markets are leading the growth in U.S. renewable generation. They have achieved this growth through ready-made markets for real-time energy; lower-cost integration, balance and congestion management over large regions that provide diversity benefits; and improved regional transmission planning and generation interconnection processes.
In addition, about half of all U.S. renewable generation investments in the last five years have been in excess of state RPS requirements. The report says these beyond-RPS renewable generation investments are driven by voluntary purchases by utilities, public power entities, and commercial and industrial customers, as well as by merchant renewable developments with spot sales (or short-term contracts) and financial hedges.
However, according to the firm, very few arrangements take place in non-market regions – even if those non-market regions are endowed with locations suitable to constructing low-cost renewable generation.
Looking ahead, power purchase arrangements and green tariffs with commercial and industrial customers are expected to grow rapidly, the report says. In fact, many large corporate users of electricity have already committed to purchasing 600 GW of new renewable generation by 2025.
Brattle notes that RTO/ISO markets provide an effective platform to support this activity and facilitate the development of the resources that customers seek.
Additionally, according to the report, renewable generation investments beyond RPS are already reducing annual carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 100 million tons per year nationwide. This corresponds to about 5% of total U.S. electric sector CO2 emissions (or twice the entire electricity sector emissions of California).[adright zone=’190′]
“While the successful growth of renewable generation is well documented, we were surprised that half of all renewable generation development has moved beyond RPS mandates and that most of this beyond-RPS activity is contained to RTO/ISO markets,” notes Johannes Pfeifenberger, a Brattle principal and co-author of the firm’s presentation. “You may see very little of it in the adjoining non-market region, even if the quality of renewable resources is just as high.”
The authors note that the effectiveness of regional markets in facilitating renewable development beyond regulatory mandates will likely be a significant driver of additional emission reductions in the U.S. electric power industry.
“The opportunity for forming or joining regional RTO/ISO markets that facilitate renewable generation development beyond RPS mandates needs to be considered, particularly now that Western states actively contemplate how they can cost-effectively reduce the environmental footprint of the electricity industry and their economies,” Pfeifenberger adds.
Deepwater To Acquire Former NRG Lease Site
NRG Energy Inc. has confirmed a transfer of NRG Bluewater Wind project assets to an affiliate of offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind.
According to NRG, the project assets include an offshore lease from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for approximately 96,400 acres of an offshore Delaware area that was formerly known as the Mid-Atlantic Wind Park.
NRG expects the Deepwater Wind affiliate to take possession of the lease, provided that BOEM approves the transfer.
Deepwater Wind has also confirmed that the lease assignment is under review by BOEM regulators.
Deepwater Wind recently announced plans for the Skipjack Wind Farm, a 120 MW offshore project that would be situated off the coast of Ocean City, Md. The company has secured the rights to acquire the site’s federal lease.
Google To Reach Renewables Milestone
Google has announced a major milestone in its quest toward becoming powered entirely by renewable energy: It’s set to happen as soon as 2017.
According to a company blog from Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical infrastructure, Google, touting itself as “the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power,” says it currently purchases 2.6 GW of wind and solar power globally. In 2015 alone, the company says it contracted for a total of 842 MW of renewables.
Google says it has inked a total of 20 renewable energy purchase agreements to date. Now, in order to reach 100% renewables next year, the company plans to purchase even more wind and solar – enough to cover “every unit of electricity [its] operations consume globally.” This includes both corporate offices and data centers, the company notes.
In response to the announcement, Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, says in a statement that “leadership from major corporations like Google plays a critical role in the transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
“By transitioning global operations to run entirely on renewable energy, Google is charting a course for other corporations, institutions, cities and communities to take bold action that will create jobs, save money and protect families from dangerous fossil fuel pollution,” Van Horn adds.
Google signed its first renewable energy agreement back in 2010 for NextEra’s Story County II facility, a 114 MW wind project located in Iowa. Most recently, Google teamed with Dutch companies DSM, Philips and AkzoNobel for a long-term agreement to jointly source power from renewables projects in the Netherlands. The company is also a member of RE100, an initiative of corporations pledging commitments to 100% renewable energy.
Google notes in its blog that this new milestone is not the last step toward growing its clean energy initiatives.
“As we look to the immediate future, we’ll continue to pursue these direct contracts as we grow, with an even greater focus on regional renewable energy purchases in places where we have data centers and significant operations,” the blog says. “Since the wind doesn’t blow 24 hours a day, we’ll also broaden our purchases to a variety of energy sources that can enable renewable power, every hour of every day. Our ultimate goal is to create a world where everyone – not just Google – has access to clean energy.”
In a statement, Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, says, “Google’s achievement is further evidence of the continuing momentum of America’s clean energy transition. Companies like Google are investing billions of dollars in clean energy and efficiency because it makes sound business sense.”
Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy, which is applauding Google’s announcement, says in a statement that the “impressive early achievement” is a “definitive demonstration that renewable energy is cost-effective and readily available at scale today.”
Big Three Dominate EIA Energy Report
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that as of the end of 2015, just three manufacturers – General Electric (GE), Vestas and Siemens – accounted for 55 GW, or 76%, of installed wind generating capacity in the U.S.
Of the 8.2 GW of total wind capacity installed in 2015, these three companies’ combined share is even greater, representing more than 92% of new capacity in 2015.
Two other companies, Gamesa and Mitsubishi, also accounted for significant shares (6% and 5%, respectively) of U.S. wind turbine capacity that was operating at the end of 2015. However, these two companies did not have a significant amount of new capacity installed in the U.S. in 2015.
After GE, Vestas and Siemens, the next-
largest shares of installed wind capacity during 2015 were held by Acciona and Nordex, at 6% and 2%, respectively.
The report says GE has consistently been the dominant manufacturer of wind turbines installed in the U.S. since it purchased Enron’s wind business (formally Zond) in 2002. Between 2005 and 2015, GE’s average annual share of installed capacity was 44%, or 2.7 GW per year.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the Chinese company Goldwind led in global wind capacity commissioned in 2015, manufacturing 7.8 GW, largely for installations in China.
Vestas, GE and Siemens were the second-, third- and fourth-largest global suppliers of wind turbines, respectively, in 2015.
Texas Wind Sets Another Record
Wind generation officially set a new record on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, accounting for more than 15,000 MW of the electricity used in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region for the first time ever.
Specifically, the ERCOT system used a whopping 15,033 MW of electricity from wind at 12:35 p.m., representing about 45% of total demand for electric power at the time.
Of the total, more than 8,800 MW was produced from wind generation facilities in west and north Texas, while nearly 3,800 MW came from the south region, mostly the Gulf Coast area, and about 2,300 MW came from the Panhandle region.
“We saw high wind output throughout the day, ranging from just over 10,000 MW during the late-night hours to this peak output during the noon hour,” says Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations for ERCOT. “Over the years, ERCOT has taken a number of steps, such as improving renewable generation forecasts, to allow us to operate the grid reliably on days like this.”
ERCOT says the portion of load served by wind ranged from about 35% to more than 46%, averaging nearly 41% throughout the day.
For comparison, the group notes that 1 MW is enough electricity to serve about 200 homes during peak demand and 500 homes during milder conditions. There is more than 17,000 MW of installed wind generation capacity serving the ERCOT system, and that total was expected to top 19,000 MW by the end of 2016.
This total supersedes the previous wind generation output record of 14,122 MW that was set on Nov. 17. The current record for percentage of load served – 48.28% – was set on March 23, 2016, at 1:10 a.m.
In 2015, wind generation provided 11.7% of the energy used in the ERCOT region. As of the end of October, wind had served 14.7% of the region’s energy needs in 2016.
ERCOT, a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas legislature, manages the flow of electric power to nearly 24 million Texas customers, representing about 90% of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 550 generating units.
AWEA: Wind Jobs Help Veterans Find Work
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry with over 900 member companies, is putting out a call to its grassroots network, Power of Wind, asking for support communicating the economic success of wind power, while also aiding veterans transitioning back to the civilian workforce.
“Wind power is a job-creating engine that’s putting thousands of Americans to work, including many veterans. Our newly elected officials need to know the scope of this opportunity and how they can pass job-creating policies to keep business booming,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA.
“We’re asking Americans who support the growth of renewable wind energy to make a donation to the Power of Wind in the spirit of #GivingTuesday. In turn, AWEA will give back half of each donation to Hire Heroes USA, furthering their efforts placing American veterans in good jobs,” he says.
According to AWEA, the special skills and qualifications that veterans bring to the table are well-suited to wind power careers, enabling the wind industry to be a major employer of the American workforce.
In the spirit of giving and collaboration, AWEA says donations made to Power of Wind for #GivingTuesday will be split with Hire Heroes USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps U.S. military members, veterans and spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce.