"April 20 News: Google bets big on wind, EV charging; Cape Wind wins U.S. construction approval"
Google is making big moves into clean tech, first by plunging $100 million into the world’s biggest wind farm and then announcing plans to work on electric vehicle infrastructure.
On Tuesday, the Energy Department said it was teaming up with the Internet giant and others to help drivers find charging stations around the country.
Google will partner with the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory to use Google Maps as a foundation to create an online database of all charging stations, to be used as a data source for GPS and mapping services.
The day before, Google said it had invested $100 million in the 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm under construction near Arlington, Ore.
The installation, developed by Caithness Energy with General Electric turbines, is set to finish in 2012. The power produced there will be sold to Southern California Edison.
So far, Google has invested more than $350 million in clean energy projects, including in a German photovoltaic plant as well as the BrightSource Ivanpah solar installation on the eastern edge of San Bernardino County.
The Cape Wind Energy Project won U.S. Interior Department approval of its construction plan in Massachusetts for the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
Cape Wind Associates said building the wind turbines in the water, a project in development for about a decade, may begin as early as the U.S. fall. Federal officials said approving the plan is a milestone in developing clean-energy sources that will help lower carbon emissions and create jobs.
“After a thorough review of environmental impacts, we are confident that this offshore commercial wind project — the first in the nation — can move forward,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Cape Wind plans to install 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound off the Massachusetts coast. The project has been opposed by homeowners whose ocean view would be affected by the windmill towers and by local lawmakers as a threat to a sensitive ecosystem.
The Interior Department is seeking to speed the process of building wind energy projects off the Atlantic Coast, Salazar said today. In February, Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu said development off New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia may advance when no environmental impediments are identified.
The head of the International Energy Agency called on China to more quickly reduce subsidies on gasoline, diesel and electricity.
In an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the industrialized world’s energy watchdog, said prices in China should reflect the fact that the age of cheap energy is over, a reality underlined by the Japanese nuclear crisis.
He said it is obvious that the nuclear industry’s expected expansion will
In the middle of the Spanish countryside 104 giant white windmills set against shrubs and haystacks sweep the sky day and night, providing electricity for 600,000 people.
A constant hum can be heard in the nearby town of Maranchon as the blades turn on the windmills, perched as high as a 23-storey tower block, casting shadows on the surrounding plain.
The windfarm located about 150 kilometres (90 miles) northeast of Madrid is the second largest in Spain, which has emerged as a world leader in renewable energy, especially wind power.
The country, whose best known novel “Don Quixote” tells the tale of a man who fights windmills he imagines to be giants, is now dotted with giant wind turbines as power firms — encouraged by government subsidies — take advantage of favourable weather conditions and an abundance of wide open areas.
Wind power has already overtaken nuclear energy. In March it became the country?s main source of electricity, accounting for 21 percent of demand and providing the equivalent of all Portugal’s power needs.
Spanish power firm Iberdrola, the world’s top wind energy company by installed capacity, opened the windfarm at Maranchon — which made its fortune last century in the mule trade — in 2006 after ruling that there would be no major risk for the environment.
“This park produces around 2,300 and 2,400 hours of electricity per year, which is a good average,” said Fernando Marchan, a local official with the company renewable energy branch, Iberdrola Renovables.
The states of California, New York and Minnesota, as well as about a dozen power companies and influential advocacy groups, have joined forces to persuade U.S. EPA to let states meet new federal climate change rules by crafting their own programs, such as the cap-and-trade plans that have been adopted by California and a handful of Northeastern states.
Under a settlement that staved off lawsuits from environmentalists, EPA must set new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector this year. The agency is planning to create New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) under the Clean Air Act, which would put a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases that a coal-fired power plant is allowed to release.
Rather than making states follow a single set of rules, EPA should let them experiment with their own ideas, the new coalition says in comments (pdf) to EPA that were obtained by Greenwire.
That could make the EPA rules equivalent to a cap-and-trade program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was created to make 10 Northeastern states cut their emissions by 10 percent from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2020, or California’s A.B. 32 plan, which is slated to start in January 2012. But the new coalition’s comments say that EPA could also let states comply by creating clean or renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain share of a state’s power to come from cleaner sources.
President Barack Obama acknowledged concerns about natural gas drilling and groundwater contamination as part of a wide-ranging monologue on energy production at a town hall meeting Tuesday.
Obama has said natural gas should be part of a “clean energy standard” going forward but noted concerns about pollution. Although he didn’t mention hydraulic fracturing by name, the practice that has allowed new gas plays in the U.S. is increasingly controversial because of alleged links to groundwater contamination.
“We have a lot of natural gas here in this country,” Obama said. “The problem is, is that extracting it from the ground “” the technologies aren’t as developed as we’d like and so there are some concerns that it might create pollution in our groundwater, for example.
“So we’ve got to make sure that if we’re going to do it, we do it in a way that doesn’t poison people,” he added.
Obama also called out oil speculators for the continuing increase in oil and gasoline prices.
“It is true that a lot of what’s driving oil prices up right now is not the lack of supply. There’s enough supply. There’s enough oil out there for world demand,” Obama said.
“The problem is,” he added, “is that oil is sold on these world markets, and speculators and people make various bets, and they say, you know what, we think that maybe there’s a 20 percent chance that something might happen in the Middle East that might disrupt oil supply, so we’re going to bet that oil is going to go up real high. And that spikes up prices significantly.”
A long-stalled Chicago ordinance that could force the city’s two aging coal-burning power plants to greatly reduce emissions or shut down now has enough backing to pass at the city council’s next meeting. But proponents aren’t declaring victory yet.
The ordinance must first pass a joint committee hearing Thursday. And if the full city council does vote it into law when it meets May 4, it would likely face a legal challenge which even its most important council backer says could render it “largely symbolic.”
It also remains to be seen whether the ordinance will force the plants to close down, convert to burning natural gas, or if negotiations will set aside climate provisions and allow Midwest Generation, which operates the plants, to comply by installing modern pollution control equipment.
Environmental and public health groups are calling on outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley to shepherd the ordinance through before he leaves office May 5. But if it doesn’t pass this time, they say they are still hopeful it will be passed by the new city council and Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.
President Obama is trying to ward off the inevitable political backlash that accompanies high gasoline prices by turning pain at the pump into an argument for clean-energy investment.
Speaking from Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale on Tuesday, Obama told an audience of students and faculty that continuing to spend money on developing and implementing clean-energy technology is the only way to bring down gas prices in the long run–something he presented as a feasible goal.
“Folks are out there dealing with gas that’s 4 bucks a gallon,” Obama said. “Now whenever this happens, just like clockwork, you see politicians going in front of the cameras, and they say they have a three-point plan for 2-buck-a-gallon gas. The truth is, the only real solution to helping families at the pump in the medium and long term is clean energy. That’s how we’ll save families money. That’s how we’ll reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Relatives of some of the 11 men who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are flying over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, back to the epicenter of the worst offshore oil spill in the nation’s history.
Meanwhile, on land, vigils were scheduled in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to mark the spill.
On the night of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, a rig owned by Transocean Ltd., burst into flames after drilling a well for BP PLC, killing 11 workers on or near the drilling floor. The rest of the crew evacuated, but two days later the rig toppled into the Gulf and sank to the sea floor. The bodies were never recovered.
Over the next 85 days, 206 million gallons of oil “” 19 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled “” spewed from the well. In response, the nation commandeered the largest offshore fleet of vessels since D-Day, and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up the mess, saving itself from collapse.
“I can’t believe tomorrow has been one year because it seems like everything just happened,” Courtney Kemp, whose husband Roy Wyatt Kemp was killed on the rig, wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. “I have learned a lot of things through all of this but the most important is to live each day as if it were your last … what matters is if you truly live.”
Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane Roshto also died on the rig, posted a message on Courtney Kemp’s Facebook page on Tuesday evening: “Can’t believe it’s been a year.. It has brought a lot of tears and a great friendship I’m Soooo thankful for.. We are a strong force together!! Love u sista.”
In a statement, President Barack Obama paid tribute to those killed in the blast and thanked the thousands of responders who “worked tirelessly to mitigate the worst impacts” of the oil spill.
Solar power development is facing new challenges as efforts to introduce more organic components in solar power generation technologies are hampered by poor performance results.
Organic photovoltaic modules using carbon instead of silicon or synthetic film are widely seen as an industry for future growth but so far have proven inefficient and costlier than conventional solar power generation units. This means that growth in the commercial uses of OPV modules will be slower than originally anticipated, said a new report.
The report from Lux Research came as U.S. company Emerson announced a deal with Sanmina-SCI of Ottawa to build innovative solar power inverters for Canada’s growing renewable energy program.
Emerson will build the inverters at Sanmina-SCI’s Ottawa manufacturing facility, meeting Ontario government requirement that technologies used in renewable energy projects be built in the province.
The inverters convert DC power from photovoltaic arrays into AC power that can be placed directly on the electric grid. The Emerson grid-tie inverters to be built by Sanmina-SCI are designed for utility and large-scale commercial uses. Production of the inverters will begin this year and may also serve solar energy projects throughout North and South America, Emerson said.
“Emerson is committed to providing high-quality technologies and services to the renewable energy market in Canada,” said Mark Bulanda, president of Emerson’s control techniques business and leader of the company’s solar and wind initiatives.