QUICK NEWS, 2-22: THE BUDGET AND NEW ENERGY; CANADA POLITICS BLOCKS GREAT LAKES WIND; 1,000 MW OF SO DAKOTA WIND; GLASS, PLASTICS, METALS & BIG SUN
THE BUDGET AND NEW ENERGY
Budget Season Begins: Will Renewable Energy Get The Ax?
Jessica Lillian, 17 February 2011 (Solar Industry)
"President Obama's proposed fiscal-year 2012 budget reflects his administration's focus on promoting renewable energy, but these goals are at odds with those of the 112th U.S. Congress, which began work this year with intensive deficit-reduction weighing heavily on its collective mind.
"Obama has defended his [just released] budget…as capable of putting the U.S. on a fiscally sustainable path’ - while serving to advance solar energy and other forms of renewable energy. His proposal would increase the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) budget to $29.5 billion, an 11.8% increase over the level appropriated for fiscal-year 2010…[It includes] $5.9 billion to basic science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), $291 million to support ‘innovative and advanced’ energy technology credit programs, and $4.8 billion to energy supply and energy efficiency programs. A total of $300 million in credit subsidies would be made available to support approximately $3 billion to $4 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects."
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[President Obama:] "We are eliminating subsidies to fossil fuels and instead making a significant investment in clean energy technology - boosting our investment in this high-growth field by a third - because the country that leads in clean energy will lead in the global economy…"
"Although the clean energy goal may garner widespread bipartisan support, the increases in spending…[and] cuts to the Fossil Energy Office - to the tune of 45%, or $418 million, - to pay for clean energy investment have already been met with resistance…[Insiders say] the best-case scenario [is] DOE's funding and allocations for renewable energy would be kept at their current levels…[and more likely] the agency will see decreased levels of funding…[in] budget negotiations over the next few months."
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"Meanwhile, the continuing resolution (CR) announced by the House Appropriations Committee is the first in U.S. history to contain spending reductions…[The DOE] loan-guarantee program, widely considered a crucial slice of the project-finance pie, would see its funding significantly reduced…by $25,000,000,000…Citing the job-creation benefits of solar project installation and the unfortunate timing of the proposed cuts, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) characterized the funding reduction as ‘disastrous.’
"…[T]he CR may pass the Republican-majority House, but…[insiders expect] its chances of becoming law - in its current form - are low, given the Democratic-majority Senate, public denouncements of the legislation from Sens. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and Obama's veto power…"
CANADA POLITICS BLOCKS GREAT LAKES WIND
Ontario’s wind power ‘flip-flop’ draws ire
Richard Blackwell, February 16, 2011 (The Globe and Mail)
"Ontario’s decision to put the brakes on all offshore wind power is drawing criticism from businesses behind several major wind projects in the province…[who]say the province's dramatic reversal, which effectively killed offshore plans, is highly damaging to Ontario's reputation as a leader in renewable energy…[and] risks denting investment in an industry that was on the upswing as a result of the province’s green-energy policies.
"The McGuinty government announced late Friday that it will not allow any offshore wind projects to proceed until further scientific research is conducted into its environmental impact. The surprise decision drew praise from turbine opponents who are concerned over health effects and visual blight, but scorn from environmentalists and businesses that support renewable power."
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"…[T]he policy change does not affect onshore wind projects or other renewables such as solar power…[but the sudden policy reversal] on offshore wind is enough to scare off investors from green energy projects, said John Kourtouff, president of Trillium Power Wind Corp., which has been considering four large wind projects in the Great Lakes and has one in an advanced planning stage…
"The one company that had already signed a contract to supply power to the Ontario energy grid from an offshore project has said little…Windstream had a contract to sell the province 300 megawatts of power from a series of turbines offshore of Kingston, although it had not yet gained approvals from Ontario’s Natural Resources or Environment ministries. The contract is now dead…For Trillium, a company built entirely on the prospect of constructing wind projects in the Great Lakes, the province’s decision is nothing less than a disaster."
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[John Kourtouff, president, Trillium Power Wind Corp.] “This destroys Ontario’s credibility globally…Nobody will touch Ontario for many years in renewables…This isn’t a moratorium, this is a St. Valentine’s Day massacre of the offshore wind industry in Ontario [and the potential for thousands of new jobs]… If you are 28 kilometres out in the middle of the lake … and you’re on bedrock, there are no [problematic] environmental issues…”
"Mr. Kourtoff said he is considering legal action against the government if his company does not get some form of compensation from Ontario…[because] he thinks Ontario’s decision was purely political, designed to appease voters concerned about wind power ahead of a provincial election, and had nothing to do with environmental concerns…"
1,000 MW OF SO DAKOTA WIND
Massive wind farm proposed in area
Austin Kaus, February 20, 2011 (The Daily Republic)
"…Dakota Plains Energy…[is talking to South Dakota landowners about]… the construction of a 1,000-megawatt wind farm…[It would be the biggest in the U.S.]…[Company representatives] said it would require about $2 million for every megawatt. At 1,000 megawatts, that equates to $2 billion…[They] aim for ‘significant local ownership.’
"Rob Johnson, president of Dakota Plains Energy, said the farm’s size would not only stimulate the economies of the county and state but also lead to the creation of a means to transmit the energy produced…Johnson and his son, Dakota Plains Energy Vice President Heath Johnson, said the project would surpass an 845-megawatt wind project currently in the works in northeastern Oregon…"
WOW (click to enlarge)
"The Dakota Community Wind project needs area landowners to commit enough acres to support the concept, Johnson said…[ The Johnsons estimated that an operational 1,000-megawatt wind farm would bring in $3,000 per megawatt annually to Gregory County and provide $4.5 million annually to the state]…When major companies associated with transmission lines see the commitment to [such a large] project, he said, they’re more likely to build a transmission site in the area…[T]here are currently two planned networks of transmission lines in development…
"International Transmission Company of Novi, Mich., is hoping to construct the Green Power Express, a $12 billion network of extra-high-voltage, 765,000-kilovolt transmission lines…[It could be relocated to accommodate] a 1,000-megawatt wind farm…Electric Transmission America — a joint venture of American Electric Power and [Warren Buffet-owned] MidAmerican Energy Holdings — [also plans] to construct 765-kilovolt, extra-high-voltage transmission lines…Only one [is likely to] be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Neither has announced specific transmission line locations…"
SD has 135 times more wind than it needs and - with transmission - could grow rich selling it. (click to enlarge)
"…[Rod Hartog, president of the South Central Wind Association, said]… an earlier survey showed area landowners were willing to pledge 250,000 acres to the project…[He] hopes to see that support not only continue but help make the Dakota Community Wind project become a reality…
"…Of the three pre-construction phases planned for the project, the first two — which involve data collection and numerous studies — are expected to cost between $2.5 and $3.5 million. The third phase, involving permit acquisition and a power purchase agreement, could cost up to $4.5 million…"
GLASS, PLASTICS, METALS & BIG SUN
Why glass is feeling the heat in the CSP reflector space; Plastics and metals could soon dominate the market for utility-scale CSP reflectors if glass manufacturers do not figure out a way to bring down costs.
Jason Deign, 11 February 2011 (CSP Today)
"…The fact the mirrors at the Californian desert [Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS)] installation have lasted since the 1980s has led to glass being venerated as the reflector material of choice in the industry. SEGS has become a byword for glass’s durability and efficiency in CSP applications…But perhaps not for long.
"One reason is that in recent years safety and pollution concerns in Europe and America have led to an increasing clampdown on the use of the copper or lead-based paints traditionally used to make mirrors [such as those at SEGS]…Manufacturers such as Flabeg and RioGlass have got around this by using unleaded paints. But these were designed for indoor applications and their performance in outdoor settings is unproven…"
The SEGS parabolic trough glass mirrors (click to enlarge)
"A second issue with glass stems from manufacturing costs…The crystal-clear low-iron glass needed for CSP plants only accounts for about 2% of production worldwide and involves a special manufacturing process, using low-iron sand, ultra-high temperatures and an oven that can take the heat and has been cleared of all impurities…
"…[Third, the expense involved with ovens] results in a high unit cost…If a manufacturer could run one of these ovens continuously for around nine months a year then it is possible they could bring the unit cost down to the level of standard ‘green’ glass…But right now there is simply not enough demand…[F]inally there is the manpower cost associated with assembling glass mirror arrays…[E]very mirror needs to be attached at four points and then properly aligned…[This means almost] half the cost of a collector field is in labour…"
Marred glass and an aluminum replacement sample (click to enlarge)
"Those pushing alternative reflector materials are naturally not shy about noting these cost challenges…Patriot Solar Group…advocates low-cost acrylic mirrors for small systems and anodised aluminium…for bigger applications…There are two other advantages to glass alternatives…breakability and…design flexibility…
"Despite all that, however, glass’s supremacy in CSP is far from over…[N]ew plants are [still] being made with glass mirrors…[E]ngineering, procurement and construction companies [and banks and investors] favour glass because [it is proven]…[but as] second or third-generation plants start appearing… unless glassmakers pull something else out of the hat…[the] race is on."