February 9, 2006

market scams, dead bats, and big business

Here are a few abstracts from Windpower Monthly's February issue.

China changes tack on wind market structure and drops fixed purchase prices for competitive tenders:  Companies which a short time ago were rushing to develop wind projects in China are now having second thoughts after the government announced last month it would not be introducing a premium wind power tariff, as widely expected. Instead, the market structure will be a competitive bidding process controlled by government. "The zeal for wind development in China is likely to cool down," says Zhu Junsheng of China Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Plans for Scandinavian green certificates market hit icy patch:  Europe's first cross-border market for trade of green power certificates is looking unlikely to go ahead at the start of next year as planned. All eyes have otherwise been on Norway and Sweden to demonstrate that the environmental value of renewable energy is a commodity that can be sold separately from the physical electricity. Green certificate trade, increasingly common in America, allows a country with poor wind resources to buy cheaper wind power from a distant windy neighbour. [This echos the arrangement of powerful nations enriching themselves with the resources of weak nations. --KM] But Norway is still wrangling over the details, while a Swedish fear is that as long as Norway can produce wind power more efficiently than Sweden, Swedish subsidies to renewables will end up in Norwegian pockets. ... [W]ind industry views remain mixed on whether these are teething problems or a more fundamental flaw in the concept of green certificate trade.

GE Financial Services aiming to be world's biggest wind power investor:  With last year's purchase of seven small German wind farms and the commissioning of a 50 MW project in California, GE Energy Financial Services (EFS) has joined the list of institutional investors aiming to build substantial portfolios of wind plant assets. Right now wind is a "sweet spot" for new energy investment, says the company's Tim Howell. This year EFS is forming a dedicated team to focus exclusively on renewables, chasing deals in Europe and the US. We interview the men with the ambitions -- and the billions of dollars -- to make EFS the largest, most profitable owner of wind assets in the world.

Investigating mystery bat deaths in Canadian wind farm:  A leading Canadian power producer is launching two bat research programs after site monitoring at a southern Alberta wind farm revealed hundreds of bat mortalities. About 90% of the bodies were found during the fall migration in August and September. The mortalities were largely silver-haired and hoary bats, neither of which is a species at risk [small comfort if you or your mate is one of the individuals killed --KM]. The company is funding research to track bat behaviour and hopes the findings can be used to identify potential issues at other sites.

Merger of American power giants seen as benefit to wind industry:  A pending merger between US electricity majors FPL Group and Constellation Energy will create a giant among giants and has likely wide-reaching implications for the future of wind power development across the country. "Constellation has flirted with the wind industry and as a combination they'll be the leading players in the market," says Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association. "It's very, very interesting." FPL assures that its intention to add up to 1500 MW of wind power to its portfolio remains unchanged. "A market with larger players and larger control areas is more attractive to the wind industry," adds Swisher. [This, along with the GE story above, underscores that industrial wind power is not an alternative to but increasingly a symptom of the same big-energy control that got us into the mess we're in. --KM]

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