Energy and Global Warming News for October 19th: Wind is the new cash crop in rural Washington town; California raises renewable electricity standard to 33%

Wind is the new cash crop in rural Wash. town

On an 80-degree day in this tiny rural town, winds gust up to 30 miles per hour, tossing tree branches and whipping hair into faces. Resident Cheryl Davenport smiles. She knows she’s making money.

“It’s a T & E day,” said Davenport, 62, using jargon familiar to locals. “T & E,” means “turn and earn,” a mantra whispered to hundreds of windmills. Davenport sits on her porch on days like this, rocking in a chair and cheering spinning white blades, “Turn and earn, turn and earn.”

Like many in Goldendale, Davenport and her extended family leased their expansive agricultural land to a wind developer. Turning turbines sitting on their property bring in about $200,000 annually, money divided among a clan of six. In a place where the per capita income is $32,550 a year, that supplies a healthy boost. It is small town America in the age of clean energy promotion.

Windmills cover the town and the county it sits in, Klickitat, located near Washington’s southern border. More than 600 white towers shoot out of rolling hills and flat pastures, creating a giant, white picket fence marching in multiple directions. Another 300 windmills are planned, and that number is expected to grow.

The power capacity of those online in the county already exceeds the total available in Colorado. Klickitat’s windmills make enough electricity to power between 300,000 and 400,000 homes.

… “It’s helped us cover long-term debt, short-term debt,” said Bruce Davenport, 55, who farms beef cattle and alfalfa hay and along with his family opened land to windmills. He is brother to Cheryl Davenport. “It’s kind of a mortgage lifter and a nice shot in the arm with extra income.”

… Before wind, Goldendale was in economic shambles. Two of the largest industries had crumbled. Forestry jobs had been in sharp decline for several years. Then the local aluminum smelter shuttered its doors in 2001, eliminating about 600 jobs. The plant at its peak had employed more than 1,000.

When the plant closed, business dropped 40 to 50 percent at hunting and fishing equipment seller McCredy Co., said owner Dan McCredy, 50. He saw nine other businesses close within a month. McCredy laid off all five of his workers, he said, and ran the shop alone for two years.

Talk turned to wind as a possible savior….

Windmills have made one of the biggest differences to the property owners who lease their land to developers. For the most part they are farmers and ranchers, many of whom had struggled over the years to make enough money to keep their land, said Myers, with the Cannon Power Group and Davenport family. Farmers who could not earn enough have subdivided property and sold some of it off, anathema to many who have held homesteads for many generations.

“The ability to have backup income really gives them stability,” Myers said.

Land owners get paid a percentage of profits from the windmills on their land, or in some cases per windmill. Different developers offer different contract amounts, Myers said.

“The rent is a percentage of the revenue generated by each turbine every month,” said Hardke with Cannon Power Group. “So, it fluctuates from month to month based on how windy it was and how much electricity was produced during that month. But on average, it would equate to around $18,000 per year for each turbine.”

California Raises Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 33 Percent by 2020

The California Air Resources Board has unanimously decided to raise the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 33 percent by 2020. “The Renewable Electricity Standard means cleaner energy for California’s households and businesses,” said Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols. “It will help clean our air and bring new solar and wind energy facilities to California with thousands of jobs in construction, operation and spin off industries.” Using a “phased” approach, the new standard will ultimately require that one-third of the electricity sold in California be harvested from clean, renewable energy sources.

Nichols went on to say that the standard aims to “further diversify and secure our energy supply while also growing California’s leading green technology market” and will “lead to cost savings for consumers.” Among the many supporting the development, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said “With this long-term energy policy, California will continue to lead the transition to a clean-energy future and away from being so dependent on the volatile prices and harmful emissions of dirty oil and coal.” According to the governor,

“We are already seeing increased investment in renewable energy projects in California,” the governor said. “There are currently over 200 renewable energy projects looking to build and do business here.” The ARB regulation mandates a phased-in approach with interim targets for renewable energy of 20 percent for 2012 – 2014; 24 percent for 2015 – 2017; 28 percent for 2018 – 2019; and 33 percent for 2020 and beyond.

Giant utilities to merge

Pressure is already mounting on Northeast Utilities and Nstar to give ratepayers a break from the savings they expect to gain from their proposed mega-merger. The two utilities yesterday announced a $4.17 billion deal to combine the two companies into the largest utility in New England, with about 3.5 million electric and gas customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Though Northeast and Nstar were calling the all-stock transaction a “merger of equals,” Nstar shareholders will get 1.31 Northeast shares for each Nstar share they own. The companies said customers won’t see their rates change.

“I’d like to see the (state) Department of Public Utilities conduct a thorough review and make sure the ratepayers see some material savings,” said Ian Bowles, Gov. Deval Patrick‘s energy and environmental secretary. Bowles himself handpicked the three DPU commissioners who legally would get to review the merger.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley vowed yesterday to closely review the proposed merger. She said she will also “continue our strong opposition” to a previously proposed 7 percent rate hike by Western Massachusetts Electric, a unit of Northeast Utilities.

The utilities’ two chief executives said yesterday they expect to gain “efficiencies” as a result of the deal, including via staff attrition and retirements from their combined 9,300-employee payroll. They said they don’t see the need for layoffs at this point.

Conditions not met for climate deal in Cancun: Mexico

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said Monday that “conditions have not been met” for a new climate deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a worldwide summit in Cancun in December. “For Cancun, the conditions have not been met to adopt a new protocol” to replace the Kyoto accord which expires in 2012, Espinosa said.

The Cancun meeting, from November 29 to December 10, aims to firm up “a basic agenda” for the continuation of negotiations, Espinosa said.

The United States and China clashed at climate change talks earlier this month in China, accusing each other of blocking progress ahead of the Mexico summit. Delegates from more than 200 countries will take part in the next round of UN talks in Cancun.

World leaders failed to broker a new climate treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year, as developed and developing nations battled over who should carry more of the burden in curbing greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming.

European leaders now look set to push China, the United States and a host of emerging powers to extend the Kyoto deal at the crunch talks in Mexico. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has underlined the urgency for an agreement, saying that the poorest communities were already suffering the impact of climate change.

Diamonds Could Offer Power and Carbon Savings in Hybrid Cars

So far, diamonds had always been considered perfect for making jewelery or for cutting through the toughest materials on earth. Still, due to their perfect carbonic structure, diamonds prove themselves very good electric insulators and in some cases can act just like a semiconductor.

A team of Japanese researchers from the Diamond Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan, led by Shinichi Shikata, have developed a quicker method for making artificial diamonds so that they’re able to be used in electronic devices, mostly in electric and hybrid cars.

Usually, artificial diamonds are made by decomposing methane gas in a high-power microwave oven at temperatures of about 1,000 °C. The team found a way to accelerate the process and produced the one of the biggest artificial diamonds, measuring 2.3 centimeters and 0.4 millimeter thick.

Adding tiny amounts of boric acid and some other substances in the process of methane decomposition makes the resulted diamond act as a very good semiconductor with very good thermal conductivity as well. The resulted diamond also outweighs silicon by resisting at much higher voltages.

Mobile Wind Power Generator

Wind farms are extremely lucrative when strategically placed in areas with high wind, but output still depends on varying factors such as terrain, turbine size and time of day. However, if the turbine were able to track wherever the wind may blow in any particular hour of the day, it would be more cost-effective and energy efficient than the standard stationary turbine.

The Mobile Wind Turbine, created by Pope Design, offers just that. Mounted on top of a hybrid truck, the turbine can produce energy wherever the truck happens to be parked. To be fair, it would be impractical to assume that an entire wind farm could be arranged using this mobile carrier “” but for concerts, military bases, businesses, schools, disaster relief efforts, and anything of the sort, this novel creation could be the ideal way to produce clean, renewable energy without the high costs and uncertainty of fixed systems.

Who Will Control Energy Consumption?

Who will control buildings and homes in the future? It’s one of the biggest battles in green technology right now.

Multinational giants like Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens and Echelon argue that they will because they already have installed building control systems in large numbers of office buildings and industrial plants. To that end, Siemens acquired SureGrid and SiteControls to beef up its management portfolio.

IT behemoths like Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Intel and IBM say they will, or will participate with the Johnsons of the world, because they can marry building networks to IT networks. Right now, organizations manage to parallel networks–one for data systems and one for facilities–and the dream is to marry them. Utilities and power providers might too,even though it brings up conflict of interest issues. Constellation Energy just bought CPower.

Meanwhile, start-ups like and Redwood Systems and Adura Technologies say they will play an important role because they add lights to these networks. Most traditional building systems only focus on controlling the thermostat. (Redwood further adds that it will over time add things like motion and carbon dioxide sensors to its network and swap out copper wire with Ethernet cable for further savings.)

Congress Down but Not Out on Climate Debate Next Session

Congress will not sit out the climate change debate next year — even as regulatory battles play out at federal agencies, in the courts and at the state level. With Congress almost certain not to enact climate legislation this year, environmentalists and industry have shifted their attention to the courts and U.S. EPA as it prepares to implement a rule next year to limit greenhouse gas emissions on stationary sources under the Clean Air Act.

Opponents of EPA climate regulation will look to pre-empt any action by the courts or the agency through the legislative process, especially if the Republicans take the majority in the House after the November election. Annual spending bills will be prime targets for lawmakers looking to slash at EPA’s authority.

“Regardless of which party is the majority in the House or Senate, attacks on EPA authority to limit global warming will continue and intensify,” said Daniel Weiss, senior fellow and the director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said advocates of climate change policy “are going to be on the defensive and are redeploying to defend EPA authority.”

The lowered expectations for a climate and energy bill next year may also provide opportunities for industry to up its ante in negotiations. A successful bill to address climate change may include a deal on limits of “conventional air pollutants,” coal ash regulation and water intake rules.

Sub-Saharan Renewables Poised for ‘Exponential Growth’

Off-grid solar projects are likely to accelerate renewable energy’s expansion in southern Africa to compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 10% between 2009 and 2015, finds Frost & Sullivan.

Cape Town, South Africa But the research company’s Annual Renewable Energy Project Tracker highlights feed-in tariffs – already announced in South Africa and Kenya – as key to this surge in renewables.

The Sub-Saharan renewable energy market is set to triple from 2010 to 2015, said the global research firm Frost and Sullivan in a new report this week. Small-scale generation is likely to take the lead, while sluggish regulatory reform and enduring state monopolies hold back larger projects.

“Many developmental agencies consider small-scale RE [renewable energy] projects as the most feasible solution for accelerated rural electrification and therefore are increasingly investing in medium-sized projects, especially wind and solar projects,” said Cornelis van der Waal, Frost & Sullivan Energy and Power Systems programme manager.

But he called for a “revamp” to accelerate the search for energy diversification and security of supply, with incentives for the private sector to invest. South Africa is expected to approve a feed-in tariff for solar this year, a move also under consideration in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, he said.

Manchin: Obama is ‘dead wrong’ on cap and trade

President Obama may not be on the ballot in West Virginia, but he was a constant presence in the lone debate in the state’s Senate race, held Monday night. Republican John Raese, debate questioners, and Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin repeatedly brought up the president, as Raese sought to tie the governor to Obama and Manchin did his best to distance himself from Obama and find middle ground.

Manchin sought the most distance from Obama on the Democratic cap and trade bill, which has stalled in Congress and is unpopular in the coal-reliant state. “I respectfully disagree with President Obama. He is dead wrong on cap and trade,” Manchin said. “It would be the ruin not only of our state of West Virginia but of the entire economy of this country.”

Raese came out in the debate as a conservative’s conservative, calling for a repeal of the minimum wage and a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He said the Democratic-passed healthcare bill is the worst piece of legislation “that has ever come out of the United States Senate and House,” and called global warming a “myth.”

“I don’t believe in that myth,” Raese said. “I think that what we have to do is find more coal, more accessible coal, and have the permitwork in a much easier state and fashion so we can really start growing this country with its natural resources.”

12 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 19th: Wind is the new cash crop in rural Washington town; California raises renewable electricity standard to 33%

  1. BBHY says:

    Conservatives constantly say that clean energy will destroy the economy. When they say that on the television I sure wish they would be called out on it.

    How sweet it would be for the host to say “No, that’s wrong. People in many places are making good money with it. Poor rural areas are being transformed into healthy, vibrant economies with clean energy.”

    Sadly, instead the hosts always just nod in agreement.

  2. We need to paint those opposed to clean energy as thralls to big oil and big coal until the Teflon falls off.

  3. fj2 says:

    Are Pakistan Relief Efforts a Training Exercise for Climate Change Disasters?
    By Nathaniel Gronewold, Scientific American, Friday, October 15, 2010

  4. Bill W says:

    In nearly all elections for office, I’ve felt I was voting for the lesser of two evils, but the race for Byrd’s WV Senate seat looks like possibly the worst example of that that I’ve seen.

  5. fj2 says:

    earthinstitute Denmark strives to be fossil-free by 2050.

  6. MarkF says:

    if sanity prevails, there will be waiting lists of large property owners, wanting wind farms.

    talk about a no brainer.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Just say no to dirty coal.

  8. Peter M says:

    Future droughts will be shockers, study says

    Increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe — including the U.S. — are likely over the next 30 years, a new study predicts. Moreover, by the year 2100 drought in some regions could be unprecedented in modern times.

  9. cyclonebuster says:

    Tunnels are 24/7/365 for years!

  10. TomG says:

    Gotta love it.
    Something from nothing.
    The nothing, as in free, being the wind of course.
    This is what the fossil fuel industry and it’s minions have fighting against all these years.
    Something that can, will and is taking a big bite out of their profits.

    That old M C Hammer song comes to mind….”Can’t touch this”…

  11. Harrier says:

    While I like the idea of mobile wind turbines, I have to say I think Magenn Power’s airborne wind turbine does the job better.

    Admittedly, it floats with helium, which is not an easy thing to come by. But I don’t see why you couldn’t use hydrogen instead, which is much more plentiful.