13. US News
US Wind battles
There is as much
potential for offshore wind- 900 GW- off U.S. coasts, as the current
capacity of all power plants in the USA combined, according to a report
by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative,
and General Electric, ‘A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development
in the US’.
The USA’s largest wind power potential is located offshore of
the highly populated urban coastal areas of the Northeast- off Long
Island and Cape Cod in particular. There are some ambitious proposals
in both areas. A company called Winergys wants to install a total of
1,019 turbines in the seabed off the New Jersey coast. There is already
a 7.5 MW Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm operated by Pennsylvanian company
Community Energy, on land, with five wind turbines, built by GE Wind
Energy, a division of General Electric. But Winergy’s plan calls
for five wind farms offshore from Seaside Heights to Cape May with around
3.6 GW of generating capacity. According to the company’s Web
site (www.winergyllc.com), the New Jersey plans calls for five farms
set between 3.5 and 6.4 miles offshore, in 48 to 60 feet of water, spread
over an area of 234 square miles. The largest of the five farms, known
as Five Fathom Bank 1, would include 335 turbines spread over 88 square
miles and be situated 3.5 miles off Cape May Point. The northernmost
site, off the coast of Asbury Park, would have 98 turbines 3.5 miles
off the beach. In all, the five farms would have a generating capacity
of 3,648 MW, more than half the total generating capacity of all existing
windturbines in the entire US.
There are some local concerns over the impacts on tourism, but nowhere
near as much hostile publicity as has been generated further up the
coast in relation to the proposal by the Massachusetts company Cape
Wind Associates, which wants to erect 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound.
Some environmental and clean energy groups support the project, while
other environmental groups, fishing vessel operators, and some Cape
Cod property owners oppose it. The New York Times (25/12/05) reported
that ‘The project has been vigorously opposed by Senator Edward
M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior
counsel to the Environmental Defense Fund, who has said he supports
offshore wind power- particularly once deep-water technology is developed-
but that he opposes the Cape Wind project on the ground that it would
spoil a marine wilderness and recreation area, and because a study suggests
it would cost the local economy over a billion dollars a year and more
than 2,500 tourism jobs’.
On Dec 16th, Robert F. Kennedy wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New
York Times: ‘These turbines are less than six miles from shore
and would be seen from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines
will steal the stars and night-time views. The noise of the turbines
will be audible onshore.’ He added ‘The turbines will be
perilously close to the main navigation channels for cargo ships, ferries
and fishing boats. The risk of collisions with the towers would increase
during the fogs and storms for which the area is famous.’
Mark Rogers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, told the New York Times that
the project would be in view of the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport,
and he said that Mr. Kennedy was taking an all-too-common position on
offshore windmills: they sound like a good idea, but not in my backyard-
or in this case, not off my beach.
*The New York Times noted that although there was a lot of on-land wind
capacity in Europe (34,000MW compared to 6,740MW in the US), ‘offshore
wind power is still uncommon, accounting for only 600 MW in 2004’.
have approved CSI, the California Solar Initiative, the largest solar
energy policy enacted in the U.S. and second only to Germany. It offers
$3.2 bn for solar energy rebates over the next 11 years, which will
provide for the installation of around 3GW of PV. The California Public
Utilities Commission will provide $2.8bn in incentives for projects
on existing public & residential buildings, businesses and industrial
& farm facilities. And the California Energy Commission will provide
$400m in incentives for new homes via targeted collaboration with builders
& developers. However, the CSI does not include a mandate that new
homes include solar, nor does it require that installation work be done
as so-called ‘prevailing wages,’ i.e. union wages. That
was a sticking point for Republicans that had led to the demise of the
previous draft legislation (see Renew 160).
* BP is to build a $1bn, 500MWhydrogen-fuelled power plant in California,
refinery wastes and storing the CO2 produced in an oil well.
US Energy Initiative
In his State of
the Union Address in January, President Bush outlined an ‘Advanced
Energy Initiative’ designed to reduce dependence on oil imported
from the Middle East by 75% by 2025, and said that he will increase
Dept. of Energy clean-energy research by 22%, focussing on energy use
in homes and businesses and in automobiles. He said that the US was
addicted to oil and that ‘the best way to break this addiction
is through technology’. So he would ‘invest more in zero-emission
coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean,
safe nuclear energy’.
His proposed budget for 2007 would have $281m for clean coal technology,
including $54m for the Future Gen carbon capture and storage programme;
$148m for solar power, up from $65m from last year; $44m for wind, up
$5m; and on the transport side, $289m for hydrogen fuel technology,
up from $53m; $150m for ethanol from cellulose from agricultural waste
such as woodchips & switch grass, up $59m; and $30m for battery
research, up £6.7m from last year. A $250m Global Nuclear Energy
Partnership (GNEP) has also been launched, $170m of which is new money
via the Advanced Energy Initiative.
The renewable energy
community was generally pleased: the Solar Energy Industries Association
saw the commitment to solar as ‘historic’, but not everyone
was happy with the plan. The Democrats said that even after the 22%
rise, the Bush administration would only be spending as much on renewables
research as the Clinton administration in 2000. And some felt that the
renewables part was just as sop, with the main drive being for coal
and nuclear. The Environment California lobbying group told the San
Francisco Chronicle: ‘Going from Middle Eastern oil to coal and
nukes to solve our addiction is like going from one hard-core drug to
another’. Certainly GNEP looks very worrying: see p.14 and Forum.
In addition, the SunDay campaign warned of parallel cuts in some support
programmes for renewables, with RenewableEnergyAccess reporting that
RD&D/deployment programmes for concentrated solar power, geothermal,
hydro and weatherization were being closed down or sharply curtailed.
And the National Renewable Energy Labs at Golden, Colorado were facing
cuts, with up to 100 staff (11% of the total) at risk, and 32 had actually
been laid off- although an evidently embarrassed Bush has now rescinded
these cuts. Even so, the Environment and Energy Study Institute were
‘concerned about there being a robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario’.
More generally, the lack of commitment to energy efficiency, and the
absence of regulatory or tax measures to stimulate reductions in vehicle
emissions, was very striking- the fuel efficiency standard of 27.5 mpg
has been unchanged for 20 years. And, as the Guardian (2/2/06) noted,
only around 20% of US oil imports come from the Middle East, so reducing
them by 75% would amount to only a15% cut in overall oil imports. Not
quite so bold.
* In parallel came news of Exxon Mobils record profits- $36.13 bn for
the year- due to high oil and gas prices. New York Senator Hillary Clinton
called on Bush to back a ‘Strategic Energy Fund’, with ‘a
temporary fee’ which would be attached to ‘a portion of
the profits of oil companies who do not invest their profits in increasing
refinery capacity, renewable energy, and other energy infrastructure
investments needed to secure America’s energy future.’ No
one seems to dare to use the word tax!
* US use of renewables will have risen by 60% from 2004 levels by 2025-
and 3.9% in 2006-07, says the latest Dept of Energy ‘Annual Energy
Outlook’. It installed 2.4GW of wind last year.