A Step in a Positive Direction: Wind Power Represented 40% of All New U.S. Electricitiy Generation for 2009

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The Department of Energy came out with facts on the achievements of wind power generation in 2009. A blog focusing on offshore wind news captured the important aspects. Some things don’t need paraphrasing:

“In 2009, the U.S. wind power industry installed 10,010 MW of generating capacity, increasing the country’s installed wind farm capacity by 39%; wind power represented 40% of all new U.S. electric generation capacity for the year. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the wind turbines added in 2009 generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 2.4 million homes—the generation capacity of three large nuclear power plants.

The entire wind turbine fleet’s generation capacity—more than 35,000 MW—is enough to power nearly 10 million homes. Each year, this wind power capacity will avoid an estimated 62 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road, and will conserve about 20 billion gallons of water that would otherwise be withdrawn for steam or cooling in conventional power plants.

Wind power now contributes nearly 2% of the total U.S. electricity supply, and wind contributes up to 14% of some individual states’ electrical generation. Renewable energy standards are credited with the rapid growth of wind power in Texas, including the world’s largest land-based wind farm, which was constructed in just over two years. The Roscoe Wind Farm’s 627 wind turbines, totaling 781.5 MW, can generate electricity for more than 230,000 U.S. homes.

The small wind market increased by 20 MW in 2009, a 15% increase over 2008, bringing the total capacity for this sector to more than 100 MW. AWEA estimates that 10,000 wind turbines with rated capacities of 100 kW or less were installed in 2009. More than 2,700 MW of utility-scale wind farm projects were under construction at the close of 2009. Nearly 270,000 MW of wind farm projects were in line for interconnection agreements, an early stage of project development.”


Maine is not one of the top ten states labeled as a leader for wind generation. However, the rank was based on currently generated amounts, which had states dominating in onshore wind development. Given the newly established regional task force for offshore wind development, it is not unlikely that in the near future, a new list of leaders for offshore wind will develop with Maine at the forefront.


To Read more click here.

To read the DOE Fact Sheet on it, click here.


Offshore Wind Costs Greatly Depend on Developer Financing Terms

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Going back to the September report by NREL mentioned in an October blog entry, the assessment published titled “Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the Untied States: assessment of opportunities and barriers” explains that LCOE estimates for offshore wind are highly sensitive to project specific economic factors. This is due to offshore wind energy’s infancy in development, as well as the diverse scenarios offshore wind could be deployed in. The key variables in any cost model for offshore wind are capital costs, discount rates and wind speeds which can greatly vary the final LCOE estimate. The table below shows two different scenarios with differing capital cost and discount rate parameters chosen as the base assumptions and the effect wind speed has on LCOE estimates given those base assumptions.


LCOE Sensitivity with Respect to Capital Cost, Discount Rate, and Wind Speed



A reduction in the cost of capital from 16% to 7% for a project with a capital cost of $4,259/kW and wind speed of 9 m/s will reduce LCOE from $0.23/kWh to $0.16/kWh ($0.07/kWh). For a project with the same characteristics but a 25% lower capital cost, LCOE is reduced from $0.23/kWh to $0.18/kWh ($0.05/kWh).


The findings suggest that although higher capital costs are expected to continue in the near future, financing terms greatly influence offshore wind energy production costs for developers.


Report on Feasibility of Atlantic States Offshore Wind Energy Puts Maine in the Limelight

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A study by the National Wildlife Federation and dozens of other organizations was just released explaining the potential for offshore wind power along the Atlantic coast. The report concluded findings of Atlantic states wind development potential from Florida to Maine.

According to the report Maine remains a leader in the effort to pursue offshore wind power. State of Maine estimates which are backed up by NREL claim 150GW of generation capacity is possible within 50 nautical miles of the state’s coastline. The $20 billion expenditure necessary to develop 5 GW of deep-water wind off of Maine’s coast would generate about 16,700 new or retained jobs per year for 20 years.

Other Factors Helping Advance Offshore Wind for Maine:

– Legislation has been put into effect that sets a target of producing 5GW of electricity from offshore wind turbines by 2030.

– The Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force is implemented into state law in addition to the creation of the joint state-federal task force implemented by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) as discussed in a previous blog entry.

– Creation of the Maine Wind Industry; a collaboration of businesses, academic institutions, and other non-profit institutions focused on developing the supply chain for all aspects of wind resource development in the state.

– Maine is already a leader in onshore wind development: 266 MW currently operating or being built with a goal of 2000 MW by 2015.

– A competitive bidding process began in September, 2010 with Maine Public Utilities Commission issuing Requests for Proposals for long-term contacting for deepwater offshore wind projects up to 25 MW or tidal energy up to 5MW. Requests for proposals are due May, 2011.

Overall there are many initiatives at the business, academic, state and federal level that is helping mobilize offshore wind energy in Maine as well as along the Atlantic Coast. You can find the full report just released on December 1st, here:

NWF-Offshore Wind in the Atlantic-Dec 2010

Regional Initiative to Speed Offshore Wind Energy Development

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Cape Wind’s approval off the coast of Massachusetts is certainly due its small celebratory moment in the world of offshore energy advocacy and the general push for a transition to renewable electricity. But concerns have been raised about the feasibility of a 7-10 year approval process timeline for future sites.

Earlier this year, a consortium was formed between Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and 10 states aimed at “promoting the efficient, orderly, and responsible development of wind resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.” A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Secretary Salazar and the governors of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. More information about this can be found here. As of June, a task force has yet to be formally established in Maine, although six states have formulated them, and three others are in the process. The goal of these task forces are to look at development of offshore wind from a regional standpoint.

A press release by the U.S. Department of the Interior on November 23, 2010 discussed “Smart from the Start” initiative, aimed at expediting the siting, leasing and construction of new wind projects by simplifying the regulatory process. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE proposed revisions to current regulations to simplify and speed up the leasing process.


Ways of Expediting the Wind Development Leasing Process:


1)Removing a second, redundant step in the non-competitive leasing process which could save 6-12 months in the planning stages.


2)Offering leases as early as end of 2011/early 2012.

Identifying “Wind Energy Areas” (WEA) that appear most suitable for wind energy development and relatively fewer potential environmental and use conflicts than other offshore sites. The idea behind this is to have environmental reviews done for better government and industry planning and assessment earlier than would be done if waiting for interested developers to take the initiative. Although site specific environmental review will need to be done, WEAs with no significant impacts would be offered leases by the end of 2011/early 2012. Six of the eleven state task forces established are identifying such WEA’s within the next 60 days. Other Atlantic coast states, including Maine, will identify WEAs in 2011.


3) Process applications aggressively to build offshore transmission lines.

WEAs should assist the siting and feasibility renews associated with potential offshore transmission lines.


Interestingly, this “smart from the start” idea is not brand new. Large-scale solar projects were launched on public lands in the West by conducting similar early environmental reviews and coordinating state and federal permitting processes. This process is a step in the right direction in speeding up the leasing process hurdle in wind energy development.


The articles referenced/for more information:

Smart from the Start Offshore Wind Initiative

“Smart from the Start” FAQ

Fact Sheet: Offshore Renewable Energy Regulation Revisions


Cell Phones, iPods and…Wind Turbines?

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

With the impressive surge in the production and consumption of hand-held technological devices in the last decade, we are vaguely familiar with the raw materials and rare metals used in manufacturing them. From iPods, to cell phones, to fluorescent light bulbs, rare metals are found in most of our technological devices.

Another product containing rare metals? Wind turbines.

Scott Malone wrote an article in Reuters on November 18, 2010 titled Analysis: Rare-earth surge is wake-up call for industrials where he cited a commercial wind turbine containing about a ton of rare earth.

Currently, China produces about 97% of the world supply of rare earth minerals, harnessing that title when low prices discouraged Western companies from developing mining projects on their own land. However, because of China’s increasing development, Chinese industries are beginning to manufacture more goods made from such elements rather than exporting the raw materials. Evidence for this can be found when Beijing slashed their rare earth exports by 40% this summer, citing China’s own economic development as first priority.

While the article did not mention the risk of reaching “peak metals” any time in the foreseeable future, losing a vendor of raw materials and gaining one of higher-valued manufactured products most certainly will raise the costs of production in all items, including wind turbines.

At a time where we have yet to set up a commonplace recycling system for rare-earth intense products such as cell phones, and iPods, we are only continuing to develop products more reliant on these natural minerals. In addition, those that have supplied the raw materials for past manufacturing, are moving on to manufacturing themselves. Although it is not often discussed, a serious potential hurdle for the development of wind energy as a dominant sector in our energy portfolio is evident when nearly 1 ton of rare-earth is required for turbine production.

On the bright side, General Electric Co. is working on a project partly funded by the DOE aimed at reducing the amount of rare earths in its electricity-generating wind turbines by up to 80%. In other words, saving 1,600 pounds of scarce metals from each turbine that can be used for other demanding technologies, while keeping costs at a more predictable estimate.

Categories: Developments

Google to Invest in $5 Billion Underwater Transmission Grid Off Atlantic Seaboard

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

On October 12, 2010, the New York Times published an article highlighting Google’s decision to invest in a 350 mile underwater transmission grid along the Atlantic seaboard from New Jersey to Norfolk, VA in an effort to spur investment and remove development obstacles. The transmission grid has a capacity equal to the output of five large nuclear reactors.

The potential problems still to face are administrative hurdles. A professor quoted in the article from the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware points out the federal subsidy program for wind is expected to expire in 2012, which is likely before the Interior Department issues permits for the proposed transmission line. Nonetheless energy experts, environmentalists and investors alike see this as a positive step in kick-starting the offshore wind industry.

The full article can be found here.

Categories: Developments

First Annual Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Conference Held October 19th, 2010

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

The University of Maine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the DeepCwind Consortium hosted the first annual Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Conference on October 19th in Northport, Maine.

Session topics included:

• Deepwater offshore wind and economic development
• Responsible siting of deepwater offshore wind turbines
• Environmental/ecological monitoring activities at the University of Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site
• Deepwater floating wind turbine technology development

The Free Press Online writer Christine Parrish documented the event, explaining in an article from October 21st, 2010, discussions between experts focused on all aspects of offshore wind technology, including “cost and benefit analysis, job creation, wind turbine technology, permitting and siting, environmental monitoring and deployment of wind turbines”.

Dr. Habib Dagher, director of AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine discussed the offshore wind future in Maine. The first ocean-based wind turbine will be installed off Monhegan in 2012, with additional extensive plans through 2030. The total electricity generated is estimated to equal that of 5 nuclear power plants.

The first offshore wind lab in the country is being built at the University of Maine, where wind blades and other components up to 230 feet long will be able to be designed, manufactured and tested with simulated extreme condition the structures would encounter in the field, including 50-60 foot high waves.

Dagher stressed the importance of the initial deployment of wind turbines, explaining “[they] will provide data on the durability of the materials, the designs, the environmental impact, and other factors that will fine-tune offshore wind development as it moves forward”.

Dagher discussed the overall viability of offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine as well as DeepCwind and University of Maine’s invitation for offshore wind turbine design proposals. The top three designs will be built at the University of Maine Offshore Wind Lab. According to Dagher, the Gulf of Maine winds are among the strongest in the nation and have the potential to supply 149 gigawatts of power. This estimate isn’t too out of line with the NREL study discussed in the October 20th blog entry.