Posted: 09 Aug 2012 02:21 PM PDT
Nevada?s first commercial wind power farm ? Pattern Energy?s 151-MW Spring Valley Wind project ? is up and running, a milestone that is being marked by a public ceremony on the project site near the town of Ely.
Government officials, including long-time renewable energy boosters US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were on hand to dedicate the Spring Valley Wind farm?s commissioning. Salazar and Reid, who this past week hosted a national clean energy summit in Las Vegas, applauded the public-private partnership which brought the project to fruition while highlighting the beneficial economic, social, and environmental aspects of the project, adding that it?s just the first step in developing Nevada?s wind energy resources.
?I couldn?t be happier that Nevada?s first commercial wind facility is located in Spring Valley,? Sen. Reid stated in a press release. ?Pattern has done a tremendous job working with White Pine County, the State of Nevada and other Federal agencies to bring clean, affordable power to more than 45,000 Nevada homes.
Advancing Smart Renewable Energy Development, in Nevada and across the US
?We have just begun to tap into Nevada?s tremendous wind energy resources and more job-creating projects like this will be good for our economy and our environment. Renewable energy is the way of the future. There is no reason in the world, with all the renewable energy sources Nevada has, that we shouldn?t be energy independent.?
Salazar pointed out the project?s relevance as the Obama Administration seeks to accelerate US solar, wind and renewable energy development. The Obama Administration just this week announced its plan to significantly expand renewable energy projects on public lands, as well as an initiative to streamline and speed up the federal permitting and review process for renewable energy projects.
?Advancing smart renewable energy development on our nation?s public lands is a key component to President Obama?s all-of-the-above energy strategy,? added Interior Secretary Salazar. ?Starting today, Nevada?s first wind energy project on public lands will begin powering the grid. This is a great milestone in the collaborative public-private partnership on clean energy that is creating jobs, generating power, strengthening our economy and making us more competitive globally.?
Collaborative, Public-Private Process
Pattern Energy CEO Mike Garland emphasized the collaborative, public-private nature of project, as well as its long-term benefits. ?Building Nevada?s first wind energy facility was a collaborative process that would not have been possible without the strong support and hard work of numerous groups and individuals across the state and around the country. Spring Valley Wind had the benefit of receiving bi-partisan support from Senator Reid, Senator Heller, Secretary Salazar, and local government officials as well as the great people of Ely,? Garland said.
?We were also able to work constructively with many others, including the local Native American tribes and environmental groups. We thank them for their support and look forward to being a valued member of the community and providing significant benefits to the community and school system for decades to come.?
To date, Nevada has grown to become a center for geothermal power companies and projects. In addition to being rich in geothermal energy, it?s also home to substantial wind and solar energy resources, however.
Approximately 240 jobs were created during construction of the Spring Valley Wind Farm, along with 13 full-time permanent positions for ongoing operations and maintenance. In addition, the wind power project is expected to generate more than $20 million in tax revenue for White Pine County and the state of Nevada?s Renewable Energy Fund over the next 20 years.
Mortenson Construction managed construction of the project, which utilizes 66 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines and is connected to an existing 230 kilovolt transmission line for electricity distribution.
Pattern Energy?s entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy for the sale of the clean, renewable power produced by the Spring Valley Wind Farm. Spring Valley Wind will be the fourth wind farm Pattern has brought into commercial operation in North America. It?s one of a number of wind power projects that Pattern expects to bring into operation over the next 12 months in North America, Puerto Rico, and Latin America, the company says.
New Solar Power Design Inspired by Telescope Could Produce Twice the Energy
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 01:17 PM PDT
Researchers have designed a new solar power module that uses a curved mirror to focus sunlight onto a 5-inch glass ball that then spreads the light evenly across a solar panel, leading to twice the power output of traditional solar panels when combined with high-efficiency solar cells. The design was inspired by telescope technology and the high-efficiency solar cells used by space agencies.
The module also tracks the sun and rotates with it to increase its efficiency. The whole module is mounted on a steel 10-ft by 10-ft rotating frame that moves with the sun.
?The tracker is fully automated,? Blake Coughenour, a graduate student in the UA?s College of Optical Sciences, explained. ?The system wakes itself up in the morning and turns to the East. It knows where the sun will rise even while it?s still below the horizon. It tracks the sun?s path during the day all the way to sunset, then parks itself for the night.?
One of the most interesting parts of the system is the mirror. The researchers came up with a dish-shaped mirror design that works very well for concentrating sunlight specifically for photovoltaics, as opposed to a solar thermal system.
?Most mirrors used in solar power plants are used for thermal generation by focusing light onto a long pipe used to heat water into steam. This requires the mirrors to be shaped like a cylinder. What we have learned here at the Mirror Lab is how to bend the glass to high accuracy so as to focus to a point or a line.?
The panels are created out of solar cells that are usually only used in spacecraft. These cells capture a wider range of the solar spectrum than regular cells. The ball lens is coated to maximize transparency for the suns rays. When put together with the mirrors, this system works very well to concentrate light on the the solar cells, but it also concentrates a bunch of heat. So the researchers designed a cooling system consisting of fans and a radiator that keeps the array within 36 degrees of the outdoor temperature.
Since the heat generated is itself a valuable resource the researchers are also ?working on a way to use the mirrors to create an eco-friendly furnace that works like a toaster oven to burn a mold into a flat sheet of glass.?
From tests done by the researchers, a tracker featuring two mirrors generates enough energy to power two homes, but they hope to place eight mirrors on each module.
They say that ?an array of sun trackers on an area measuring about seven by seven miles (11 x 11 km) would generate 10 GW of power during sunshine hours ? as much as a big nuclear power plant. This technology has a lot going for it that makes it super promising.?
?Unlike conventional power plants that use steam to power turbines, Angel?s photovoltaic prototype uses no water, making it especially suitable for desert regions,? the University of Arizona reports. ?The materials are cheap to produce and by concentrating sunlight with mirrors the plant?s footprint is smaller than that of PV panel-based plants.?
Source: University of Arizona
Image Credits: Blake Coughenour
Sprott Power Invests Big to Add to its Canadian Wind Power Portfolio
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 01:11 PM PDT
Canada?s Sprott Power Corp. is looking to add significantly to its renewable energy investment portfolio, offering to buy Shear Wind Inc.?s outstanding shares for C$33 million in cash (C$0.22 per share), a roughly 20% premium to their 20-day volume-weighted trading price, and the assumption of some $51 million in debt. Shear Wind owns shares in two producing wind power farms in Nova Scotia with total generating capacity of 63.7 MW, including the largest in the province, the 62.1-MW Glen Dhu wind farm.
Along with interests in the two wind farms, Sprott Power?s bid includes strategic renewable energy project development partnerships with Wind Canada Investments and Genera Avante Holdings Canada Inc. (GAHC), both of which are subsidiaries of La Coruna, Spain?s Genera Avante S.L. The strategic partnership aims to develop an additional 860 MW of renewable power projects with Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI) power purchase agreements (PPAs).
?The acquisition will increase the assets of Sprott Power from a portfolio including 80 MW currently operating or under construction to 144 MW operating under management when the expected mid October closing occurs,? stated Sprott Power president and CEO Jeff Jenner in a press release. ?Shear Wind?s development pipeline is also attractive, given its size and location throughout Canada. We look forward to working together with Genera Avante, whose knowledge and expertise from their other projects around the world will make them valuable partners.?
Sprott Powers? Growing Canadian Wind Power Portfolio
Shear Wind owns a 51% share in Glen Dhu Wind Energy Limited Partnership, which operates the max-rated 62.1-MW Glen Dhu wind farm. The clean, renewable electricity it?s been producing since last year is purchased by NSPI under the terms of a 20-year PPA. Shear Wind also owns 100% of in Fitzpatrick Mountain Wind Energy Inc., which operates the 1.6-MW Fitzpatrick Mountain wind farm, which has been producing clean, renewable electrical power per the terms of a 15-year PPA with NSPI that began in 2007.
Sprott Power and GAHC have entered into working agreements that will lead to the formation of an operating joint venture for the operating wind farms upon completion of the Shear Wind acquisition. GAHC owns the other 49% of the Glen Dhu wind farm. Coincidentally, Sprott Power and Wind Canada Investments will establish a 50/50 joint venture partnership to develop the prospective 860 MW of renewable energy projects.
Shear Wind owns 100% of the 860-MW renewable energy project portfolio included as part of Sprott Power?s bid. It?s comprised of prospective wind power projects in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Upon completion of the acquisition, the prospective portfolio assets and a current loan payable to Wind Canada Investments is to be transferred into the new 50/50 Sprott Power-Wind Canada Investments development joint venture.
GAHC and Wind Canada are to make a payment of roughly C$1.8 million to Sprott Power upon completion of the acquisition to boost the former?s share in the Glen Dhu wind farm 51% and to purchase a 50% share of the Fitzpatrick Mountain wind farm, which would reduce Sprott Power?s equity stake to 50%.
Sprott Power is turning to a syndicate of Canadian securities underwriters to partially finance the Shear Wind acquisition. On a ?bought deal? basis, the underwriting syndicate is led by Canaccord Genuity Corp. and includes TD Securities Inc., National Bank Financial Inc., NCP Northland Capital Partners Inc., Stifel Nicolaus Weisel, and Macquarie Capital Markets Canada Ltd.
As per the terms of the agreement, Sprott will issue and purchase a C$30 million aggregate principal amount of extendible convertible unsecured subordinated debentures. That could be increased by as much as C$4.5 million at the underwriters? option at any time up to 30 days following closing the offering?s closing.
With a 6.75% coupon payable semi-annually in arrears, the debentures will have an initial maturity date of October 15, 2012 that is extendable at Sprott Power?s option to December 31, 2012 and will automatically be extended to December 31, 2017, their final maturity date upon completion of the acquisition. Each $1,000 principal amount of debentures will be convertible at the option of the owner into approximately 769.23 common shares of Sprott Power at any time following the acquisition, a conversion price of $1.30 per share.
Canada?s wind power capacity has been growing at double and triple-digit rates for more than a decade now. As of year-end 2011, total wind power production capacity in Canada amounted to 5,265-MW, a 31.4% year-over-year increase, according to Wind Power.
Formed in 2005, Sprott Power?s wind power portfolio already includes the Amherst wind farm in Nova Scotia. Located within a two-hour drive from the Glen Dhu and Fitzpatrick Mountain wind farms, it should enable management to realize greater operational efficiencies and cost savings, as well as increasing its wind power base capacity, according to the company. The Shear Wind wind farms? performance history leads Sprott Power management to declare that the acquisition will add to its expected free cash flow and distributable cash per share.
Dam Drawdown an Overlooked ?Global Warming Culprit?
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 01:04 PM PDT
While scientists have known for decades that tropical reservoirs are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, new research from Washington State University-Vancouver has revealed that temperate reservoirs can produce a significant surge in emissions during certain times in their operation. These periods are known as drawdown periods, when the water level in a reservoir drops rapidly, thereby exposing a ?drawdown zone? of decayed plants that can be a continuous source of methane.
Drawdown area in the Three Gorges reservoir
Marshes in the drawdown area of the Three Gorges Reservoir could be a significant source of methane. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Bridget Deemer, the researcher leading the study, measured dissolved gases in the water column of Lacamas Lake in Clark County and found methane emissions jumped 20-fold when the water level was drawn down. A fellow WSU-Vancouver student, Maria Glavin, sampled bubbles rising from the lake mud and measured a 36-fold increase in methane during a drawdown. Deemer and Glavin will present their findings at a poster session at the national meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Portland this week.
While emissions from drawdown regions have long been recognized by researchers and international research bodies like UNESCO (see UNESCO and International Hydropower Association?s Greenhouse Gas Measurement Guidelines), according to John Harrison, Deemer and Glavin?s advisor and an assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, this is the first study to actually demonstrate and quantify the relationship between water-level drawdowns and greenhouse gas releases.
Reservoir study area
Fallen tree at Lacamas Lake, Washington
Photo: Lonie Lougheed
This is also one of the few studies we?ve seen to actually examine drawdown zones in temperate reservoirs. Drawdown emissions have been studied and modeled in the tropical context (see Fearnside, 2009 and 2005) and to a limited extent at the Three Gorges Dam (see Chen, H. et al., 2009). In the case of Three Gorges, for instance, one-third of the reservoir is a drawdown region and given its massive size (its surface area is the size of Hong Kong) ? that is no insignificant source of methane. While dam reservoirs cover a small portion of the earth?s surface, as Harrison notes, they harbor biological activity that can produce large amounts of greenhouse gases. When you think of the number of large dams in the world ? more than 54,000 that are over 15 meters ? and the countless others that are being proposed or are under construction, continuing to overlook reservoirs as a carbon source and treating dams as a ?carbon neutral? energy source is no longer a viable option.
To fix this situation, an important first step is for governments and dam builders to recognize that dams have a carbon footprint (and a potentially significant one depending on where it?s located, its age, depth, and organic inputs). Next, countries must report their reservoir emissions in their national greenhouse gas inventories. However, since the requirement is that they follow IPCC guidelines, the IPCC must first adopt strong guidelines like those developed by UNESCO/IHA. Only then can we get a true accounting of a country?s overall carbon emissions.
On the project scale, this research could have important implications for how dam operators manage drawdowns, as emissions may be higher in summer months when warmer temperatures and low oxygen conditions in bottom waters stimulate the microbial activity that produces greenhouse gases. Managers can also consider the optimal time to take out a dam, according to Deemer. While a dam removal may lead to some greenhouse gas emissions initially, it will be a one-time occurrence, whereas emissions can recur with regular drawdowns. With this in mind, Deemer plans to look at three other reservoirs in Oregon and northern California?s Klamath basin, where a major dam decommissioning effort is underway.
The Story of Change (VIDEO)
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 12:51 PM PDT
The folks at The Story of Stuff are weighing in with their thoughts on how to move towards a more sustainable, healthier, and happier future for the world ? and it?s not through consumer power. The Story of Change says not much is going to improve until we get policies in place, and to do that, people have to unite around causes and take action on a large scale.
Take a look at the video above and tell us what you think: is ?The Story of Change? right? Is federal policy demanding that corporations adhere to environmental regulation the only or best path? Or are you of the other school of thought that effective change is best facilitated through consumers flexing their spending muscles? Throw in your two cents about consumer versus citizen might in the comments below.
Another Bad Week for Fracking
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 12:45 PM PDT
It?s been another bad week for fracking. On top of previous studies, a new report has linked this controversial natural gas drilling method to earthquakes in Texas, and another new study has exposed water pollution risks in New York. Nevertheless, a group of federal legislators chose this week to release a letter lobbying for more natural gas exports, which puts them in the unenviable position of advocating for increased risks to U.S. communities.
new gas fracking studies show risks
Earthquakes and Fracking
Fracking is a method for retrieving natural gas from shale formations by pumping a chemical brine underground. Among other issues, disposal of the brine is problematic. The U.S. EPA has estimated that about 2 billion gallons of brine daily are disposed of in 144,000 injection wells around the country.
The new study from the University of Texas study uncovered a strong link between seismic activity and a group of injection wells in the Barnett Shale region in the northern part of the state. The researchers found more earthquakes than a previous analysis of the Barnett Shale had identified, but all were too small to have an impact on the surface.
Though the Texas study concluded that this seismic activity did not pose a danger to the public in that region, it supports a finding reached last year by seismologists from Columbia University who studied earthquakes in Ohio and linked them to a nearby fracking brine injection well.
In that instance, the earthquakes were felt on the surface, raising concerns about impacts on buildings and infrastructure.
Water Contamination and Fracking
Undertaken by Stony Brook University, the New York study examined different pathways for contamination related to fracking operations in part of the Marcellus Shale region, which encompasses numerous high-population areas throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and other states.
The researchers concluded that ?the disposal of contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing ? commonly known as ?fracking? ? wells producing natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region poses substantial potential risks of river and other water pollution.?
The study found elements of risk throughout the operation, including the potential for spillage from trucks transporting brine, failure of storage lagoons on the surface, failure of well casings, and systematic leakage or migration of fracking brine from wells.
The study also linked higher levels of contamination in rivers to discharges from wastewater treatment facilities that handle spent fracking brine.
Fracking and Risk
Under the Bush administration, fracking was granted an exemption from federal clean water regulations and disclosure rules, making it virtually impossible to quantify risks and impacts beyond local, anecdotal evidence.
Nevertheless, a body of evidence is building on environmental and public health impacts, including the release of the potent greenhouse gas methane from drilling sites as well as earthquakes and drinking water contamination. The Obama Administration has also mounted an effort to identify the contents of fracking brine and establish a more protective regulatory framework.
Fracking and Natural Gas Exports
The legislators advocating for more natural gas exports represent Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. These states have long dominated the natural gas scene, but competition from the Marcellus region and elsewhere is eroding that position and driving them to find new markets.
If fracking was a benign or impact-neutral operation, there wouldn?t be much of an issue around stepping up exports of natural gas.
However, given the evidence at hand, expanding the export market for natural gas will help accelerate the pace of fracking operations and result in increased risk for more U.S. communities.
Aside from short-term or episodic impacts, the long-term consequences could be significant in terms of endemic regional public health issues and economic malaise.
A recent study of coal mining operations in Appalachia provides a glimpse into the future of communities dominated by fossil fuel extraction, and it doesn?t paint a pretty picture.
Image: AttributionSome rights reserved by williac.
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IBM Saved $43 Million in Electricity Expenses in 2011
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 12:39 PM PDT
IBM helps its bottom line by conserving energy, which saves it millions of dollars.
In 2011, the computer company reported that it saved $43 million in electricity expenses and conserved 378,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.
IBM also announced that, between 1990 to 2011, its sustainable policies have led the company to save a total of $442 million, conserve 5.8 billion kilowatt-hours, and avoid creating 3.8 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
IBM hopes to keep on keepin? on with conservation efforts: the company wants to do without 1.1 million megawatt-hours of energy by the end of 2012.
Source: PR Newswire
Image: Tomasz Bidermann via Shutterstock
Vestas Receives New Italian Wind Order
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 12:34 PM PDT
Vestas has received an Italian order for 19.8 megawatts (MW) of wind power.
As part of the deal, the wind turbine manufacturer will give Italy?s first set of 11 V-100 1.8 wind turbines for the Luce Wind Power Plant in Tuscany, Italy.
The deal will see Vestas oversee the delivery, transportation, and installation of the wind turbines. The contract will also provide a 15-year service & maintenance AOM 4000 (Active Output Management) Agreement, and VestasOnline Business SCADA system.
Santa Luce S.r.l., a special company within Fera S.r.l., placed the order. Fera S.r.l. has teamed up with Vestas before in helping to install a capacity of 45 MW of wind power in Italy.
The Santa Luce wind farm should receive the first set of wind turbines during the third quarter of 2012. The project is set to be operational by the end of this year.
?We are pleased to announce the signature of the very first V100-1.8 MW project in Italy,? Juan Araluce, Acting President, Vestas Mediterranean and Chief Sales Officer, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, said in a statement. ?With a proven and reliable technical platform and a high performance, the 2 MW platform has won the customers? recognition at a global level. Launched to the market in mid-2011, the V100-1.8 MW has already a track record of 369 units installed globally, representing close to 700 MW, as of 31 December 2011.?
Rainer Karan, General Manager of Vestas Italia, also said in the statement: ?This turbine has a very good fit to the Italian sites and respective wind conditions. Having been chosen by Santa Luce S.r.l. for the first V100-1.8 MW wind farm in Italy is a clear sign of the company?s trust in our proven and reliable 2 MW platform. We are proud of the on-going business relationship with Fera and we believe we can support them in broadening their installed wind power capacity. With this order, Vestas reinforces its presence in northern Italy and further contributes to the country?s own energy production.?
Santa Luce?s wind power plant is projected to create 53 gigawatt-hours (GWh) and provide electricity to more than 46,500 Italians. The wind farm will save 21,000 tons in carbon emissions every year, the statement said.
Image Credit: Italian wind turbine image via Shutterstock
LED Bulb Cost Will Drop by Half to $11 in 2020
Posted: 09 Aug 2012 09:53 AM PDT
LED bulb cost is projected to drop by half by 2020. Technological innovation is expected to shift the surrounding thermal management, drivers, and optics as the price of the main LED package falls, says Lux Research.
Innovation in thermal management, drivers, and optics is helping to lower prices, halving them to $11.06 in 2020, according to Lux Research.
?Costs of the central LED package will fall by more than 70% to $2.14 in the next decade, constituting 19% of the bulb costs in 2020. However, to drive overall costs lower ? and ensure adoption in a market still dominated by incandescent and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) ? other system costs need to keep pace.?
The analysts studied the key LED cost stack components of a 60W incandescent equivalent LED bulb as well as the technologies that may accelerate cost and lead to LED bulbs? market potential. Among their findings:
?Thermal management will yield modest cost gains. Thermal management is the biggest target for cost reduction past the package. Active thermal management technologies such Nuventix?s SynJet will lead to cost savings over aluminum-based solutions, but only from 2017.
?Dimmable drivers lead to energy savings. Dimmable drivers are priced at a premium to non-dimmable ones because they enable precise control of the light output and lead to energy savings. Innovation in this area will bring about a 1% cost saving in 2020, boosting the performance of the LEDs overall.?
LEDs look like the future of lighting. These innovations and cost improvements will just speed up the transition to that future.
Source: Lux Research
Image Credits: LED via Wikimedia Commons