QUICK NEWS, 5-25: SUN NEEDS POLICY NURTURING; WIND MANUFACTURER TO ARKANSAS; THE GHGS FROM NATURAL GAS; BEYOND GRASS
SUN NEEDS POLICY NURTURING
Tax policies could add jobs, MWs of new solar-SEIA; Industry group wants grant program, tax credits extended
Dana Ford (w/Gerald E. McCormick), May 19, 2010 (Reuters)
"Tax credits and a two-year extension to a federal grant program for U.S. solar projects would add roughly 200,000 jobs and almost 10,000 megawatts of new solar installations…[according to] research done by EuPD Research…[T]he Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) urged the U.S. government to extend [the] grant program, set to expire this year, through 2012.
"The program, established in 2009 under the U.S. Recovery Act, was meant to help fill the financing void left by shrinking tax equity markets…Historically, banks have used tax equity markets to fund solar projects by buying government tax credits from the project owners…[The bank capital covered] the costs of development…But as the credit crisis hit the financial markets, banks' appetite for those tax credits disappeared…"
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"SEIA is also calling on the government to allow solar manufacturing costs to be claimed as an investment tax credit…Combining a possible grant extension with the ability to apply for tax credits would create some 200,000 jobs and lead to nearly 10,000 MW of new installations in the United States by 2016…[O]ne megawatt is enough to power some 250 average U.S. homes.
"Installed solar capacity in the United States jumped 37 percent last year as state and federal incentive programs helped to prop up demand during a downturn…It was the fourth straight year of growth, but without changes to current policy…[SEIA] said the U.S. solar industry could grind to a halt."
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"Several of the big solar players, including industry heavyweight First Solar Inc, have plans to develop large-scale projects under the grant program, and have been working to meet the year-end 2010 deadline…Many projects are at risk of missing the cutoff because of permitting and other scheduling delays…"
[Rhone Resch, President, SEIA:] "Our policies are on again, off again. What we need is some stability…"
WIND MANUFACTURER TO ARKANSAS
Wind turbine parts maker to build Arkansas plant
Chuck Bartels, May 20, 2010 (AP )
"German manufacturer Beckmann Volmer…plans to build a $10 million plant in Osceola to produce steel components for wind turbines that will employ up to 500 people.
"The company said it will initially hire 300 people to work at the plant, and will later spend an additional $7.5 million more to expand and hire another 200 workers. The factory will pay an average wage of $18 per hour."
Put another dot in Arkansas - if there's room left on the map. (click to enlarge)
"…[The main component produced by Beckmann Volmer in Osceola will be turbine main frames, which support the turbine's structure. They] will be used about 60 miles away at a turbine manufacturing plant being built by Nordex USA Inc., a factory that is to have 100 workers by the end of 2010 and 240 workers when it reaches full production in 2012. Ultimately, the plant could have 700 workers.
"The state offered an incentive package to Beckmann Volmer that included $1.5 million from the Governor's Quick Action Closing Fund and $2.5 million from a community development block grant. The company will get a cash rebate equal to 5 percent of payroll for 10 years and an abatement of state corporate taxes for 14 1/2 years…The state also is to provide training assistance and a refund of some state and local sales and use taxes."
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"A consultant on the site selection, Florian A. Stamm at Smith Gambrell & Russell LLP of Atlanta, said Arkansas had the business elements Beckmann Volmer was seeking…[including a qualified] workforce, low transportation costs and a pro-business environment]…When Nordex, also a German company, broke ground in 2009, company Vice President Joe Brenner said the firm wanted to have local suppliers…
"Gov. Mike Beebe met with Beckmann Volmer executives during a 2009 trade mission to Europe…Beebe alluded to other companies that have picked Arkansas for wind energy-related factories. Japan-based Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas pledged to start construction in the fall in Fort Smith on a turbine plant that could employ up to 500 workers…Denmark-based LM Wind Power, formerly LM Glasfiber, has two plants in Little Rock churning out windmill blades…Polymarin Composites, a Netherlands-based blade maker, planned a 2009 opening of a Little Rock plant and expected to have 630 workers…[but] has put its plans on hold [due to the recession, credit crunch and resultant slowed production]."
THE GHGS FROM NATURAL GAS
Preliminary Assessment of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas obtained by Hydraulic Fracturing
Robert W. Howarth, 17 March 2010 (Cornell University)
"Natural gas is being widely advertised and promoted as a clean burning fuel that produces less greenhouse gas emissions [GhGs] than coal when burned. While it is true that less carbon dioxide is emitted from burning natural gas than from burning coal per unit of energy generated, the combustion emissions are only part of story and the comparison is quite misleading. A complete consideration of all emissions from using natural gas seems likely to make natural gas far less attractive…
"There is an urgent need for a comprehensive assessment of the full range of emission of greenhouse gases from using natural gas obtained by high-volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing (HVSWHF, or “hydrofracking”)…Some information suggests that one or more assessments may have been conducted by industry groups, but if so these are available only to industry…If such assessments exist, they have not been subjected to external, unbiased scientific review."
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"A first attempt at comparing the total emissions of greenhouse gas emissions from HVWWHF obtained natural gas suggests that they are 2.4-fold greater than are the emissions just from the combustion of the natural gas. This estimate is highly uncertain, but is likely conservative, with true emissions being even greater…[Based on total GhGs] HVSWHF-obtained natural gas and coal from mountain-top removal probably have similar releases, and in fact the natural gas may be worse…[GhGs] from HVSWHF-obtained natural gas are estimated to be 60% more than for diesel fuel and gasoline. These numbers should be treated with caution. Nonetheless, until better estimates are generated and rigorously reviewed, society should be wary of claims that natural gas is a [more] desirable fuel…Far better would be to rapidly move towards an economy based on renewable fuels…[A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030> and other] studies indicate the U.S. and the world could rely 100% on such green energy sources within 20 years if we dedicate ourselves to that course…
"Considering the release during combustion alone, greenhouse gas emissions from burning natural gas average 13.7 g C of CO2 per million joules of energy compared to 18.6 for gasoline, 18.9 for diesel fuel, and 24.0 for bituminous coal…Additional emissions…occur during the development, processing, and transport of natural gas…"
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"…[T]he greenhouse gas emissions obtaining, processing, and transporting diesel fuel and gasoline are in the range of 8% …or perhaps 1.5 g C of CO2 per million joules of energy…[A]s fossil fuel energy resources become more diffuse and difficult to obtain (as is gas in the Marcellus Shale), the energy needed to extract them and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with this effort go up substantially.
"The leakage of methane gas during production, transport, processing, and use of natural gas is probably a far more important consideration. Methane is by the far the major component of natural gas, and it is a powerful greenhouse gas: 72-times more powerful than is CO2 per molecule in the atmosphere…Since methane is such a powerful greenhouse gas, even small leakages of natural gas to the atmosphere have very large consequences…The most recent data…suggest a leakage rate from the oil and gas industry of an amount of methane equal to 1.5% of the natural gas consumed…Total greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas from hydraulic fracturing may, therefore, be equivalent to 33 g C of CO2 per million joules of energy…[T]otal emissions from coal [could] be equivalent to 31.9 g C of CO2 per million joules of energy, or very slightly less than the estimate for the natural gas."
Look ma, no lawn!
Rick Cole, May 11, 2010 (Ventura City Manager Blog)
"The grass lawn is a staple of the American Dream. But it's a water hog and a sink for herbicides and pesticides. It requires a high level of care and gives nothing back for the birds and bees…[There is a growing trend to replace lawns with] drought-tolerant landscaping… xeriscaping or dry landscaping…Sounds dreary, but can be gorgeous.
"Our family did it after we moved to our old Spanish bungalow…[New neighbors] turned out to be the entrepreneurs who run the local…landscape design and installation firm…[who enthusiastically endorsed] an interest in replacing the St. Augustine lawn with California natives…[M]aintenance [is] no more than for a lawn -- and more forgiving (you can neglect a native garden longer than a lawn…)"
From the Rick Cole blog (click to enlarge)
"…Like most projects [the design] evolved along the way. When the lawn was gone and the new plants were in the ground, I decided it looked bare and we needed a tree in front of our breakfast room window…I was keen for a mesquite tree…[but was talked into] an olive tree…We made the mistake almost every homeowner makes…[The plants] look so dinky in those little five gallon plastic pots. It's hard to resist adding too many varieties too close together. And… it [is] hard to resist bringing home a few more and looking for room to squeeze them in…
"As hummingbirds, butterflys and bees flocked to our little oasis…Sunset Magazine [came] out to write a little feature called Lawnless in Ventura. Several other neighbors in surrounding blocks have made the change, borrowing ideas and making their own distinctive statements in the sea of flat lawns."
From Sunset Magazine (click to enlarge)
"There are all sorts of resources for replacing some or all of your front [or back] lawn…[N]ative plants don't need herbicides and pesticides (which are washed into our nearby ocean.)…Surfrider has a great website on how to get started in converting to ocean-friendly landscaping…[and local] water agencies also boost…water wise gardening…
"Scrapping your lawn requires some up front thought, work and expense. But…The American Dream is not confined to green lawns. It comes in all sorts of sizes, colors and shapes -- and it can be a unique, delightful and sustainable statement about what we'd each like to see in our dreams of the good life."