Monday, February 07, 2011

Renewable Energy News, February 7, 2011


From Sputnik to SunShot
The energy secretary, Steven Chu, was publicly using the phrase “Sputnik moment” two months before President Obama picked it up in the State of the Union speech to describe the need for a national effort to improve competitiveness in a technical field. Now he has moved on to a new space-challenge term: SunShot.

Just as President Kennedy pledged in 1961 that the United States would land an astronaut on the moon by the end of that decade — a moonshot — Dr. Chu said the United States should attempt a “sunshot” by aiming to cut the cost of solar power by about three-quarters by the end of this decade, to $1 a watt for utility-scale projects. That would translate to an end-user price of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, he said. “That would make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,’’ he said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.
Wisconsin wind farm bill meets stiff resistance
The state Legislature moved with remarkable speed during its special session to enact proposals advocated by Gov. Scott Walker.

The single great exception: a bill to restrict development of wind farms.

Of 10 bills considered by the Legislature in the special session that began Jan. 4, the wind siting bill is the only one that didn't clear the state Assembly.

Legislative leaders last week decided to stop consideration of the Walker bill, saying they would move to address wind siting in a different way. The move came one week after Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's largest business lobby, announced its opposition to the wind siting bill. It's the only plank of Walker's special session platform that WMC opposed.

The energy proposal runs counter to Walker's jobs agenda because it threatens to block several large wind power projects, with an investment valued at $500 million, this year and next, wind power advocates say. But Walker is concerned about the cost of wind power and says the state needs to have a better balance between wind development and property rights.
Wyoming House narrowly passes wind bill on second reading
Legislation that would dramatically change the way Wyoming’s wind energy industry is taxed — and the way the tax revenue is distributed — narrowly advanced in the state House on Friday.

The bill, which faces a final House vote on Monday, would combine the upcoming $1-per-megawatt-hour wind energy tax and the sales tax on wind energy equipment into a single $3-per-megawatt-hour excise tax.

It would also change the way that tax revenue would be distributed and create a $15 million impact assistance account to help local governments pay for infrastructure costs associated with wind energy projects.

Right now, existing wind farms would pay the $1-per-megawatt-hour excise tax when it takes effect in 2012. A sales tax exemption on renewable energy equipment is set to expire at the end of this year.
Arizona Solar Plant Picks Chinese Supplier
Suntech, the Chinese solar giant, has won a contract to supply photovoltaic panels for a 150-megawatt project in Arizona, marking China’s entry into a lucrative United States power-plant market dominated by American companies.

The project is the first phase of a planned 700-megawatt project called Mesquite Solar to be built about 40 miles west of Phoenix and operated by Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy. A California utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, will buy the electricity produced by the power plant’s first phase, called Mesquite Solar 1.
U.K. Signals It May Cut Prices Paid for Renewable Energy Sources
The U.K. government signaled it may cut the prices paid for electricity from renewable energy sources, saying it began a “comprehensive review” of feed-in tariffs introduced last year.

Evidence that larger-scale solar farms may “soak up” money meant for roof-top solar panels, small wind turbines and smaller hydropower facilities prompted the study, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said today in an statement. A review was originally planned to start next year.

The move will allow the government to change the above- market prices paid for wind and solar electricity by more than already planned when the new prices come into force in April 2012. The department said it will speed up an analysis of solar projects bigger than 50 kilowatts and that new tariffs may be mandated “as soon as practical.”

“This is going to put the jitters into some market segments,” Dave Sowden, chief executive officer of the Solihull, England-based trade group Micropower Council, said today in a phone interview. “It’s the fast-track threshold of 50 kilowatts that is of concern, because that’s going to catch a lot of rooftop installations. That’s come as a surprise.”
Study: Better turbine spacing for large wind farms
Large wind farms are being built around the world as a cleaner way to generate electricity, but operators are still searching for the most efficient way to arrange the massive turbines that turn moving air into power.

To help steer wind farm owners in the right direction, Charles Meneveau, a Johns Hopkins fluid mechanics and turbulence expert, working with a colleague in Belgium, has devised a new formula through which the optimal spacing for a large array of turbines can be obtained.

"I believe our results are quite robust," said Meneveau, who is the Louis Sardella Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the university's Whiting School of Engineering. "They indicate that large wind farm operators are going to have to space their turbines farther apart."

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