March 10, 2008

Jamaicans for Obama

[ These are audio-only files. ]

Calypso legend The Mighty Sparrow:

Reggae from Cocoa Tea:

March 5, 2008

Spain hits wind power limit

Spain marked a new record Tuesday afternoon, with wind energy accounting for 28% of the country's electricity supply (click the title of this post for the story). But even before that figure was reached, the national grid ordered it cut.

Thy had to do that because there was insufficient excess capacity (backup) available to compensate for the expected subsequent drop in the wind, and the capacity of the connector with France for importing energy is too small. The Spanish national grid appears to consider 25% of the power demand being met by wind -- which was reached once before, on Jan. 16 -- to be the limit.

That level of production is rarely seen, of course, but as more turbines continue to be erected it will become an increasingly frequent problem. On average, wind produces less than 10% of the electricity used in Spain, but since Spain supplies a lot of Portugal's power as well that average is less when both countries are considered. (This is also a point to remember about Denmark, which has large interconnectors with Sweden, Norway, and Germany, on which larger grid Danish wind represents less than 1% of electricity use.)

Click here to see real-time and historical Spanish wind energy production graphs.

wind power, wind energy

March 4, 2008

Vestas wind turbines falling apart

A 10-year-old Vestas turbine near Århus, Denmark, was spinning out of control during a storm on Feb. 22, 2008. It effectively exploded when one of the blades hit the tower (see the dramatic videos below). According to a Feb. 25 report by Kent Kroyer in Ingeniøren, "large, sharp pieces of fiberglas from the blade rained down over the field east of the turbine, as far as 500 meters from the base of the turbine". Another collapse occurred in Sidinge [Vig?], Denmark, 2 days later: "one of the heavy blades flew 100 meters through the air and crashed to the ground with a boom". Kroyer continues: "It has not even been a month since a similar Vestas turbine at Nås in Gotland, Sweden, lost a blade in the same way as in Sidinge. In that case the blade flew 40 meters and hammered down in a field. A neighbor described the bang as 'a sonic boom or a car accident'. Before the New Year, a Vestas turbine in Northern England collapsed, and a month earlier a Vestas turbine collapsed in Scotland." Note that this is a 10-year-old model and much smaller than today's behemoths.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

March 2, 2008

Sorry, it's only 26 new coal plants in Germany

[Sources for claims made in response to Wendy Williams' defense of Cape Wind in Parade magazine, Mar. 2]

According to Der Spiegel, Mar. 21, 2007, Germany is planning 26 new coal-fired electricity plants. And according to the New York Times, June 20, 2006, 8 are on a fast track for completion by 2010 or so. I apologize for any confusion caused by my misremembering the figures as, respectively, 28 and 6. [The original post has been corrected on this blog.]

Several analysts have shown that most -- up to 84% in the west -- of Denmark's wind-generated electricity is exported: e.g., Hugh Sharman in the May 2005 Civil Engineering, and David White in the July 2004 Utilities Journal.

The data showing fossil fuel use for electricity going up instead of down as wind energy on the grid increased are in the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics 2007 from BERR.

It is according to the Danish Wind Industry Association that the last increase in wind energy capacity was between 2002 and 2003.

The near-unanimous (24 of 28 communities surveyed) rejection of more (and much larger) turbines in Denmark was reported by Politiken on Feb. 17 (click here for rough translation by National Wind Watch).

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

March 1, 2008

Notes from Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit, II

Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit, Feb. 7, 2008, San Diego, Calif.

Session: Strategic Wind Developers' Perspective on Wind Development

Tim Callahan, Partner, Mayer Brown LLP

Eric Blank, Executive Vice President, Development Division, Iberdrola USA
Sam Enfield, Wind Energy Development, PPM Energy
Declan Flanagan, CEO, Airtricity North America
Peter Duprey, CEO, Acciona Energy North America

Where in the United States is the growth [of the wind sector] expected to continue? The Midwest looks good, although nimbyism and lack of transmission are restraints there. Lack of transmission on the Great Plains is a drawback. The Northwest has issues with transmission as well, although deals are in the works to make it happen. There are premier sites in this region.

What regions of the United States are more difficult to develop and why? Landowners are understanding more about the industry. Upstate New York is "not a reality". 70% of construction in 2007 was on sites 100 MW or bigger. This trend will continue. A 30 MW project costs as much as a 100 MW project because of the mobilization costs, making these smaller projects less feasible.

Are there regions in the United States that are over-built? West Texas is reaching saturation but will continue to grow as new transmission is built.

What are the major constraints and challenges to expansion in the industry? Turbine manufacturers are sold out though 2009. Developers have to settle for second and third choices for equipment. The scarcity of turbines is hurting the smaller players and it will continue to get tighter for them. It is also putting more stress on marginal projects.

In 2001 there was one manufacturer in the U.S. Now there are seven. These new entrants are hampered by a lack of subcontractors and suppliers as well as a competent workforce. The industry is still competing with traditional generation, which is also slowing things down.

Is a Federal RPS necessary for the industry to continue growing? Absolutely. "If this doesn't happen in the next administration we can all start looking for other jobs."

Is the extension of the PTC necessary for the sector to continue growing? If it doesn't happen in 2008, and be retroactive to 1/1/08, it will set the industry back two years. "If we don't get at least a one year extension of the PTC in 2008, projects will shut down for lack of financing." "Tax credits are always taken from somewhere else that is getting them. We are getting a stronger 'pushback' from those who stand to lose them [oil and gas interests]." "We have bipartisan support but the extension has always been attached to legislation that fails for some other reason." "It is hard to spend money when there is doubt about the future of the industry."

Are all the best sites (Class II) developed or being developed? Are less desirable sites economically feasible? "The low hanging fruit from a siting perspective has already been picked."

Is off-shore a realistic possibility in the United States? These projects are quite expensive, especially the further from shore and deeper they are.

Is transmission becoming a significant constraint to development, and if so, how can this constraint be overcome? "Transmission is the biggest restraint to development. We need to go to larger projects to justify new transmission costs." This will be a problem for a while. The question of who will pay for new transmission is a tough political issue.

Are NIMBY issues becoming more prevalent? How does a developer overcome these challenges? "Nimbys are cropping up everywhere, especially in the
East. It is a cottage industry. Friends of this and friends of that are very effective at networking and putting out pseudo-science. They are still fighting on a project by project basis, however." "A new AWEA guidebook will be out soon that deals with how to fight nimbys." "National Wind Watch is very sophisticated and is helping local groups get organized."

Baby boomers seeking second homes and realtors are a huge threat to development, especially in New England. They have the resources to mount campaigns against projects. It's better in the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain regions where communities are dependent on local projects. Expansion is easier also.

Is the industry still grappling with environmental considerations, or have these become more manageable? Bat problems are turning out to be a serious issue. Fifty or sixty kills per turbine are significant numbers and are causing concern. "Fortunately, bats are not charismatic creatures so this doesn't carry any weight."

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

Notes from Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit, I

Wind Power Finance and Investment Summit, Feb. 7, 2008, San Diego, Calif.

Session: Independent Wind Developers' Perspectives on Wind Financing and Development

Lee Goodwin, Partner and Co-Chair, Energy, Utility and Infrastructure, Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP

John Calaway, Chief Development Officer, Wind North America, Babcock & Brown
Doug Carter, Vice President of Development, Invenergy
Craig Mataczynski, President, Renewable Energy Systems
Jan Paulin, President and CEO, Padoma Wind Power, LLC/an NRG Energy, Inc. company
Niels Rydder, Chairman and CEO, Oak Creek Energy Systems, Inc.
Florian Zerhusen, Managing Director, Windkraft Nord USA, Inc.

The U.S. has 200,000 MWs of potential wind energy. Within ten years we will reach 100,000 MW of development "as long as there are adequate policies in place". The industry is consolidating at light speed. Major capital risk is being spread out over large portfolios. It is all about the economies of scale. The dominant players will be the bigger guys. Transition to utility ownership is just starting.

As the technology advances and taller turbines become available sites in Ohio and Indiana will become more desirable. No breakthroughs in technology are anticipated, just incremental advances.

Up until now the industry has done everything by tax incentives. How do we think long term? We copy the Spanish model and price in external costs of burning coal to make wind look better. We need both an RPS and a PTC.

One panelist said that they have established minimum setbacks; they want to be a long-term owner on good terms with their communities. They will not 'flip' their projects (like some he could mention). They advocate responsible development. He advises not to try to put too many turbines in a project at the expense of neighbors.

More states are developing guidelines for wildlife protection.

Is the FAA another hump to overcome? "One guy out of Pennsylvania is now in charge of all the work with turbines at the FAA. He is reasonable and easy to work with." The Department of Defense is another story.

An audience member asked whether turbines built in waterfowl flyways were causing fatalities. A panelist answered saying that, "it was not a problem in Iowa because waterfowl are daytime flyers and they don't get into trouble." "A few nocturnal migrants will get clipped." As towers get higher this could become a problem.

Another question from the audience was if the oil industry felt threatened by the wind industry. There was a murmur of laughter and apparently the answer was "no". A panelist said that real estate agents and well heeled neighbors were a bigger problem.

Another question, "was the uncertainty of the PTC affecting business?" The answer, "It affects my sleep more than the business, we need some other value driver or we will be looking for work. We will start loosing qualified people if we don't see some change soon. People will move to other industries."

A panelist said that the PTC was "getting old" and another questioned "the prudence of continuing with a one trick pony". Cap and trade, carbon tax, federal RPS, being able to trade across state lines were all mentioned as ways to get away from the PTC. The problem is "all or nothing".

On the financial side, new players are now bound by the bottom line of quarterly reports not the long-term view. The risk is now on the balance sheet. Equity must now sponsor the risk not turbine manufacturers. Turbines for 2011 must be ordered now with a capital outlay, while projects may not be firmly set.

Florian Zerhusen said that his company has determined it isn't feasible to propose projects east of the Mississippi River. In reference to all the talk about getting beyond the PTC, he said that the industry must put their costs on consumers; they must pay to make wind projects work. He pointed to the fact that in Italy wind receives 12 cents per KW. He said that state RPSs are driving the market at the moment.

The cost of raw materials (copper, steel, transformers etc.) for turbines has increased substantially.

Transportation is now 10% to 15% of the total cost of a project.

Oklahoma is building a turbine manufacturing facility. No one wants to invest in manufacturing because of the uncertainty of the industry.

"Wind will never become competitive unless it is recognized that coal has other costs -- it's not possible."

Turbine warranties have been cut because it is a sellers' market. "We can only hope that there will not be massive failures as in the past." Machines are new and have not been tested in the field. Will they perform for twenty years? Most warranties are for two to five years.

Manufacturers are walking off site sooner and sooner. No one knows how much maintenance will cost over twenty years. Consumers must assume these risks.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

Lessons from Europe

Denmark produces 20% of its electric power from wind, but is able to use less than 20% of it, exporting most of it to larger neighbors that can absorb it. Plans to double that figure over the next few decades are already running into fierce opposition from potential host communities. Denmark hasn't added new wind capacity since 2004. Off-shore projects have proven to be prohibitively expensive and technically problematic.

In Germany, more than 22,000 MW of wind turbines cover the country, generating 5% of its electricity. Yet 26 new coal plants are still planned, and 8 are on a fast track. Emissions continue to grow, because the grid has to continue operating as if the wind turbines aren't there -- because more often than not, they aren't generating electricity when there is an actual need.

In Britain, the Dept. of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform reports that fossil fuel use for electricity increased -- not decreased -- 1.5 times more than the production from wind turbines from 2002 to 2006. (That's after accounting for reductions in nuclear, hydro, and imports during that period and for increased consumption.)

The modern wind industry was created by Enron in the 1990s, and it remains a harmful tax avoidance scheme, industrializing our few remaining open spaces and mountain forests and siphoning public funds away from real solutions.

[This was written in reply to Cape Wind propagandist Wendy Williams' article in the March 2 Parade magazine. See later post for references (click here).]

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism