Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Renewable Energy News, March 8, 2011

Maine tidal power firm set to connect to region’s grid
A Maine tidal energy company says its prototype underwater power system has passed all of its tests, paving the way for a commercial unit to be connected to the region’s grid by year’s end.

Ocean Renewable Power Co. says the unit that finished testing in December produced grid-compatible electricity and appeared to cause no harm to marine life. The company plans to install a larger unit off eastern Maine that will deliver power to the Bangor Hydro Electric Co. grid.

The 150-kilowatt unit will power up to 60 homes, and the company intends to install more of the units in coming years, increasing capacity of 3.2 megawatts by the end of 2014.

“We think that within our next five years, we’re going to be competitive with any renewable power options, and possibly compete with fossil fuel sources,” company President Chris Sauer said.
Feed-in Tariff Program Could Come to Nevada Soon
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 184 (SB184) on Monday, March 7 at 1:00pm. The bill will create a Renewable Energy Systems Development Program—a first of its kind policy in Nevada. It will require the Public Utility Commission of Nevada to develop a program where any person or business with a renewable energy generation system will be paid a fair "rate" to generate and "feed" their energy into the electric grid. Programs of this kind are commonly known as a feed-in tariff (FIT) where the term "tariff" is not a tax, but a "rate" paid.

A FIT is the most cost effective way to accelerate the use of cleaner technologies to generate electricity in Nevada," said Dr. John Scire, UNR adjunct professor of political science who has taught energy policy and politics for the last ten years.
Deerfield Wind project comment period extended
The Green Mountain National Forest has extended the public comment period on a supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Deerfield Wind project, in Searsburg and Readsboro.

The deadline for comments is now March 18.

The Forest Service is evaluating options to the original proposal for a 17-turbine project, including a seven-turbine project on the ridge east of Vermont 8 and a 15-turbine project that matches a configuration approved by the state Board of Public Service.

Disclosure: SDRS represents Deerfield Wind in this matter.
ACORE Releases Updated State-by-State Report on Renewable Energy for 2011
The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) today released the 2011 update and redesign of its report, Renewable Energy in America: Markets, Economic Development and Policy in the 50 States, as an online resource and a product of ACORE’s mission to scale-up renewable energy in America. Compiling updated financial, market, resource potential, and policy information in a single easily-accessed resource, the report is intended to be an executive summary for all who are interested in the highlights of the renewable energy sector in every state.

“The U.S. is blessed with an abundance of domestic renewable energy resources, and the states through effective policies and industry through investment and development are leading the way in harnessing these resources for productive use, “ says Todd Foley, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations. “This report captures the highlights of an incredible scope of activity that is changing our energy future and paving the way for continued economic growth.”

The report shows that in 2010, the total installed base of new renewable electricity exceeded 50 GW in the United States. Texas, California, and Iowa led in renewable energy generation capacity, while Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois led in renewable fuels capacity.
Bill aims to speed up renewable energy approval in California
A bill aimed at spurring clean-energy development and jobs passed the state Assembly floor Monday.
Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, introduced the bill that he said streamlines the permitting process for renewable energy within the state’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. It expands the current program in place for large-scale solar projects by adding wind and geothermal energy projects.

The changes would include offering project developers the option of paying mitigation fees in-lieu of the traditional permitting process, according to a press release from Pérez’s office.

The in-lieu fees are then used by the state Department of Fish and Game to acquire and restore habitat lands for species impacted by the projects.

By expediting the approval process, renewable energy projects can be approved on a faster timeline while still upholding the protection of California’s ecosystems and wildlife, according to the press release.

Montana bill classifies hydro as renewable energy
Montana State Senator Debby Barrett (R-Dillon) wants to add hydro-power to the list of renewable energy resources.

Montana requires utility companies to purchase 15% of their energy from renewables by 2015. Currently wind and solar energy help utility companies meet the 15 by 15 initiative.

Barrett's Senate Bill 109 adds hydropower to the mix.

Northwestern Energy's John Fitzpatrick says the bill will create jobs.

"It improves the opportunity for the development of small scale hydro projects, particularly those that might be associated with irrigation systems, existing state dams and other kinds of impoundments that might be built off of the main stem rivers," Fitzpatrick adds.
South Dakota Legislature: Wind industry pays for task force
House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff was a real-life Don Quixote tilting at windmills Monday.

He tried to stop the wind energy industry from being allowed to finance a study by the Legislature of financial incentives for wind projects.

But the Yankton lawmaker’s amendment was shouted down in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on a voice vote.

Then House members went on to give final legislative approval 57-13 to the measure establishing the task force, whose members will look at how South Dakota can better compete with other states for wind development.

The Senate previously approved it 30-4. The bill now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his decision.
Wyoming Legislature fails to settle eminent domain issue
The state Legislature failed to settle the sensitive issue of whether wind farm developers can forcibly take land so they can stretch power lines to their turbines.

Instead, lawmakers who ended their 2011 session last week extended a moratorium banning private wind developers from using eminent domain for another two years, meaning the issue will be back again.

“I hope, in some form, somebody will come up with some idea that can satisfy all sides to the problem,” said Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Eminent domain is the forced acquisition of private property for public use and has been used to build railroads, pipelines and other projects deemed necessary for the public good.
Affordability of batteries key to harnessing wind and solar power
Future batteries used by the energy grid to store power from the wind and sun must be reliable, durable and safe, but affordability is really the key to widespread deployment, according to a new report published online March 4 in the journal Chemical Reviews. The report is one of the most comprehensive reviews of electrochemical energy storage to date.

In the report, researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory say that successful electrochemical energy storage, or EES, systems will need to evolve -- in some cases, considerably -- if they are going to compete financially with the cost of natural gas production. And besides technical improvements, the systems will need to be built to last, using materials that are safe and durable so that batteries could operate more than 15 years and require very little maintenance over their lifetime.

The report provides a comprehensive review of four stationary storage systems -- ones considered the most promising candidates for EES: vanadium redox flow, sodium-beta alumina membrane, lithium-ion and lead-carbon batteries. In their study, the PNNL researchers note the potential of each technology but, more importantly, explain what advances must occur with each if they're ultimately to be deployed.

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