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Energy and Global Warming News for August 2nd: MA lawmakers agree on wind energy permits; 10 reasons utilities want to use public networks for smart grid

Mass. lawmakers agree on wind energy permits bill

Massachusetts lawmakers have reached a compromise on a bill designed to streamline the permitting process for new wind energy facilities.

Legislative leaders announced late Thursday that a conference panel had forged an agreement on legislation supporters say will help the state meet its renewable energy goals by making it easier for wind projects to secure state permits.

The compromise bill calls on communities with significant wind areas to create a local board to approve wind projects. Following local approval, projects would need state approval from the Energy Facilities Siting Board.

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Opponents argue that the bill will take local control away from cities and towns.

Gov. Deval Patrick has said the bill is designed to reduce red tape, not local control.

10 Reasons Why Utilities Want to Use Public Networks for Smart Grid

It’s morning again in the utility industry. No longer hampered by historic economic models of “build, own, control and manage your own network,” utilities are waking up to the fact that public networks offer lower cost and greater coverage, bandwidth and security for smart grid deployments.

From rural to metropolitan areas, SmartSynch and other public wireless/cellular network companies have garnered utility customer testimonials and market research to prove that cellular networks supersede proprietary networks on several fronts. Here are 10 reasons that utilities want to use public networks for smart grid deployments.

1). Coverage: With a cellular network, utilities can effectively implement a multi”network solution in their service territory — so even if one carrier doesn’t work, another can be used. It has been proven that commercial network carriers combined (not any one carrier) cover more than 97 percent of America’s population — and that is with voice — not the data network that transmits at a higher wattage with a more powerful antenna.

The data sent by a meter actually uses a fraction of the bandwidth of a cellular phone call, and the antenna on a meter is almost four times as powerful as that of a cell phone. The cellular carrier model appeals not only to large, investor-owned utilities in mainstream areas, but also to city-owned utilities in more rural areas such as the Griffin, Geordia, where 16,000 meters using SmartSynch’s technology were recently deployed. Also, a trial deployment of 10,000 smart meters by TNMP in 2009 resulted in a 99.96 percent positive and accurate daily read rate.

Turbines Too Loud? Here, Take $5,000

Residents of the remote high-desert hills near here have had an unusual visitor recently, a fixer working out the kinks in clean energy.

Patricia Pilz of CaithnessEnergy, a big company from New York that is helping make this part of Eastern Oregon one of the fastest-growing wind power regions in the country, is making a tempting offer: sign a waiver saying you will not complain about excessive noise from the turning turbines “” the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the future, advocates say “” and she will cut you a check for $5,000.

“Shall we call it hush money?” said one longtime farmer, George Griffith, 84. “It was about as easy as easy money can get.”

Mr. Griffith happily accepted the check, but not everyone is taking the money. Even out here “” where the recession has steepened the steady decline of the rural economy, where people have long supported the massive dams that harness the Columbia River for hydroelectric power, where Oregon has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives to cultivate alternative energy “” pockets of resistance are rising with the windmills on the river banks.

Report: UK’s $7,800 ultra-low carbon vehicle incentive limited to first 8,600 takers

As more information about the UK’s £5,000 ultra-low carbon vehicle incentive ($7,800 U.S. at the current exchange rate) filters in, the grim truth is starting to seep out. The UK’s Labour party drafted the initial plans for the incentive and earmarked nearly $360 million to subsidize the purchase of ultra-low carbon vehicles. Earlier this year, a new coalition government took over and reworked the entire program. Now, it’s got less money and won’t help as many buyers.According to reports, the coalition maintained the $7,800 subsidy per vehicle, but it slashed total program funding by 80 percent, committing just slightly more than $67 million to the ultra-low carbon vehicle program. That amount will subsidize the purchase of only 8,600 vehicles, compared to nearly 50,000 originally promised under the Labour party’s plan. Labour transport secretary Sadiq Kahn questioned the impact of the incentive program brought forth by the coalition and claims that without proper funding, the UK’s ability to attract ultra-low carbon vehicle manufacturers is now in doubt. It certainly makes it worthwhile to be an early, early adopter in the UK.

More Charge for Grid Storage

While battery technology has been the subject of intensive focus for vehicular applications since the emergence of hybrid electric vehicles over the past few years, much less attention has been paid to batteries for the electric grid.

Although energy storage for the power grid offers great promise to augment the smart grid, facilitate more application of intermittent solar and wind generation and improve power quality, the costs of such technologies have generally been prohibitive relative to the economic benefits that they enable. Accordingly, grid storage has been relegated to a relatively small niche in the cleantech community.

That may be about to change.

In July’s issue of Intelligent Utility, Kate Rowland wrote an article entitled “No More Foot Dragging for Energy Storage?”, which begins with the following grabber: “Grid storage. You’re going to be hearing those words with increasing frequence in the weeks and months to come.”

In part, this is because Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in mid-July introduced the Storage Technology of Renewable and Green Energy Act of 2010 (S.3617), or more pithily known as the STORAGE Act.

The gist of the STORAGE Act is to make available $1.5 billion in tax credits to storage projects connected to the U.S. power grid, with each utility-based project eligible for a 20% investment tax credit (capped at $30 million) and each customer-sited project (with minimum 80% “round-trip” efficiency, “energy out” vs. “energy in”) eligible for a 30% ITC (capped at $1 million).