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Energy, industry > Renewables
Wind power, Wave and tidal
as world's biggest offshore
of a 194MW windfarm
off the coast of Lincolnshire sees
the UK become the world
in generating electricity from offshore wind
October 21 2008
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
on Tuesday October 21 2008.
It was last updated at 15.36
on October 21 2008.
The UK now
leads the world in generating electricity from offshore wind farms, the
government said today as it completed the construction of a farm near the coast
off Skegness, Lincolnshire.
The new farm, built by the energy company Centrica, will produce enough power
for 130,000 homes, raising the total electricity generated from offshore wind in
the UK to 590 megawatts (MW), enough for 300,000 UK homes.
The completion of 194MW of turbines at Lynn and Inner Dowsing means that the UK
has overtaken Denmark, which has 423MW of offshore wind turbines.
"Offshore wind is hugely important to help realise the government's ambition to
dramatically increase the amount of energy from renewable sources. Overtaking
Denmark is just the start," said Mike O'Brien, a minister at the Department of
Energy and Climate Change. "There are already five more offshore windfarms under
construction that will add a further 938MW to our total by the end of next
But despite today's announcement, the UK is still near the bottom of the
European league table when it comes to harnessing renewable energy, campaigners
Nick Rau, Friends of the Earth's renewable energy campaigner, said: "The
government must stop trying to wriggle out of European green energy targets and
put a massive effort into making renewable power the number one source of energy
in the UK. The UK has one of the biggest renewable energy potentials in Europe -
this must be harnessed to make this country a world leader in tackling climate
Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, was
enthusiastic but also urged more government action. "We are now a global leader
in a renewable energy technology for the first time ever. Now is the time to
step up the effort even further and secure the huge potential for jobs,
investment and export revenues that offshore wind has for Britain."
Greenpeace chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the only downside was that many of
the turbines for the UK windfarms were being manufactured abroad. "We need a
green new deal for renewable energy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and
providing a shot in the arm to the British manufacturing sector. If the
government now diverts serious financial and political capital towards this
project it will put Britain in pole position to tackle the emerging challenges
of the 21st century."
The UK currently gets 3GW of electricity from wind power, but 80% of that is
from onshore farms. On Tuesday, the Carbon Trust detailed its plans to
accelerate the development of offshore wind in the UK. The trust plans to work
with major energy companies on a £30m initiative to cut the cost of offshore
wind energy by 10%.
"The UK has an amazing opportunity not just to lead the world but to be the
dominant global player," said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust.
"Our research shows that by 2020 the UK market could represent almost half of
the global market for offshore wind power. To make that happen it will be
critical to improve the current economics of offshore wind power."
UK overtakes Denmark as world's biggest offshore wind
a $4.93 Billion Wind-Power Project
July 19, 2008
The New York Times
By KATE GALBRAITH
Texas regulators have approved a $4.93 billion wind-power
transmission project, providing a major lift to the development of wind energy
in the state.
The planned web of transmission lines will carry electricity from remote western
parts of the state to major population centers like Dallas, Houston, Austin and
San Antonio. The lines can handle 18,500 megawatts of power, enough for 3.7
million homes on a hot day when air-conditioners are running.
The project will ease a bottleneck that has become a major obstacle to
development of the wind-rich Texas Panhandle and other areas suitable for wind
Texas is already the largest producer of wind power, with 5,300 installed
megawatts — more than double the installed capacity of California, the next
closest state. And Texas is fast expanding its capacity.
“This project will almost put Texas ahead of Germany in installed wind,” said
Greg Wortham, executive director of the West Texas Wind Energy Consortium.
Transmission companies will pay the upfront costs of the project. They will
recoup the money from power users, at a rate of about $4 a month for residential
Details of the plan will be completed by Aug. 15, according to Damon Withrow,
director of government relations at the Public Utility Commission, which voted 2
to 1 to go ahead with the transmission plan. The lines will not be fully
constructed until 2013.
Wind developers reacted favorably.
“The lack of transmission has been a fundamental issue in Texas, and it’s
becoming more and more of an issue elsewhere,” said Vanessa Kellogg, the
Southwest regional development director for Horizon Wind Energy, which operates
the Lone Star Wind Farm in West Texas and has more wind generation under
development. “This is a great step in the right direction.”
Ms. Kellogg said that the project would be a boon for Texas power customers,
whose electricity costs have risen in conjunction with soaring natural gas
prices across the state. “There’s nothing volatile about the wind in terms of
the price, because it’s free,” she said.
The Texas office of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen also
lauded the news.
“We think it’s going to lower costs, lower pollution and create jobs. We think
that for every $3 invested, we’ll probably see about an $8 reduction in electric
costs,” said Tom Smith, the state director.
The transmission problem is so acute in Texas that turbines are sometimes shut
off even when the wind is blowing.
“When the amount of generation exceeds the export capacity, you have to start
turning off wind generators” to keep things in balance, said Hunter Armistead,
head of the renewable energy division in North America at Babcock & Brown, a
large wind developer and transmission provider. “We’ve reached that point in
Jay Rosser, a spokesman for Boone Pickens, the legendary Texas oilman who plans
to build what has been called the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas
Panhandle, welcomed the announcement.
But because about a quarter of the Pickens project capacity will come online by
2011, two years before the Texas lines are fully ready, “we will move forward
with plans to build our own transmission,” he said.
Lack of transmission is a severe problem in a number of states that, like Texas,
want to develop their wind resources. Wind now accounts for 1 percent of the
nation’s electricity generation but could rise to 20 percent by 2030, according
to a recent Department of Energy report, if transmission lines are built and
other challenges met.
But other states may find the Texas model difficult to emulate. The state is
unique in having its own electricity grid. All other states fall under the
jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, adding an extra layer
of bureaucracy to any transmission proposals.
The exact route of the transmission lines has yet to be determined because the
state has not yet acquired right-of-way, according to Mr. Withrow of the utility
The project will almost certainly face concerns from landowners reluctant to
have wires cutting across their property. “I would anticipate that some of these
companies will have to use eminent domain,” he said, speaking of the companies
that will be building the transmission lines.
Texas Approves a
$4.93 Billion Wind-Power Project,
Closely Linked With Ethanol
June 23, 2008
The New York Times
By LARRY ROHTER
When VeraSun Energy inaugurated a new ethanol processing plant last summer in
Charles City, Iowa, some of that industry’s most prominent boosters showed up.
Leaders of the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels
Association, for instance, came to help cut the ribbon — and so did Senator
Then running far behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in name recognition and
in the polls, Mr. Obama was in the midst of a campaign swing through the state
where he would eventually register his first caucus victory. And as befits a
senator from Illinois, the country’s second largest corn-producing state, he
delivered a ringing endorsement of ethanol as an alternative fuel.
Mr. Obama is running as a reformer who is seeking to reduce the influence of
special interests. But like any other politician, he has powerful constituencies
that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of
which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with
close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp
contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates.
In the heart of the Corn Belt that August day, Mr. Obama argued that embracing
ethanol “ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending
billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth.” America’s oil
dependence, he added, “makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy
that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.”
Nowadays, when Mr. Obama travels in farm country, he is sometimes accompanied by
his friend Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota. Mr.
Daschle now serves on the boards of three ethanol companies and works at a
Washington law firm where, according to his online job description, “he spends a
substantial amount of time providing strategic and policy advice to clients in
Mr. Obama’s lead advisor on energy and environmental issues, Jason Grumet, came
to the campaign from the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan
initiative associated with Mr. Daschle and Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who
is also a former Senate majority leader and a big ethanol backer who had close
ties to the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.
Not long after arriving in the Senate, Mr. Obama himself briefly provoked a
controversy by flying at subsidized rates on corporate airplanes, including
twice on jets owned by Archer Daniels Midland, which is the nation’s largest
ethanol producer and is based in his home state.
Jason Furman, the Obama campaign’s economic policy director, said Mr. Obama’s
stance on ethanol was based on its merits. “That is what has always motivated
him on this issue, and will continue to determine his policy going forward,” Mr.
Asked if Mr. Obama brought any predisposition or bias to the ethanol debate
because he represents a corn-growing state that stands to benefit from a boom,
Mr. Furman said, “He wants to represent the United States of America, and his
policies are based on what’s best for the country.”
Mr. Daschle, a national co-chairman of the Obama campaign, said in a telephone
interview on Friday that his role advising the Obama campaign on energy matters
was limited. He said he was not a lobbyist for ethanol companies, but did speak
publicly about renewable energy options and worked “with a number of
associations and groups to orchestrate and coordinate their activities,”
including the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition.
Of Mr. Obama, Mr. Daschle said, “He has a terrific policy staff and relies
primarily on those key people to advise him on key issues, whether energy or
climate change or other things.”
Ethanol is one area in which Mr. Obama strongly disagrees with his Republican
opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona. While both presidential candidates
emphasize the need for the United States to achieve “energy security” while also
slowing down the carbon emissions that are believed to contribute to global
warming, they offer sharply different visions of the role that ethanol, which
can be made from a variety of organic materials, should play in those efforts.
Mr. McCain advocates eliminating the multibillion-dollar annual government
subsidies that domestic ethanol has long enjoyed. As a free trade advocate, he
also opposes the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff that the United States slaps on imports
of ethanol made from sugar cane, which packs more of an energy punch than
corn-based ethanol and is cheaper to produce.
“We made a series of mistakes by not adopting a sustainable energy policy, one
of which is the subsidies for corn ethanol, which I warned in Iowa were going to
destroy the market” and contribute to inflation, Mr. McCain said this month in
an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo. “Besides, it is
wrong,” he added, to tax Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol, “which is much more
efficient than corn ethanol.”
Mr. Obama, in contrast, favors the subsidies, some of which end up in the hands
of the same oil companies he says should be subjected to a windfall profits tax.
In the name of helping the United States build “energy independence,” he also
supports the tariff, which some economists say may well be illegal under the
World Trade Organization’s rules but which his advisers say is not.
Many economists, consumer advocates, environmental experts and tax groups have
been critical of corn ethanol programs as a boondoggle that benefits
agribusiness conglomerates more than small farmers. Those complaints have
intensified recently as corn prices have risen sharply in tandem with oil prices
and corn normally used for food stock has been diverted to ethanol production.
“If you want to take some of the pressure off this market, the obvious thing to
do is lower that tariff and let some Brazilian ethanol come in,” said C. Ford
Runge, an economist specializing in commodities and trade policy at the Center
for International Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“But one of the fundamental reasons biofuels policy is so out of whack with
markets and reality is that interest group politics have been so dominant in the
construction of the subsidies that support it.”
Corn ethanol generates less than two units of energy for every unit of energy
used to produce it, while the energy ratio for sugar cane is more than 8 to 1.
With lower production costs and cheaper land prices in the tropical countries
where it is grown, sugar cane is a more efficient source.
Mr. Furman said the campaign continued to examine the issue. “We want to
evaluate all our energy subsidies to make sure that taxpayers are getting their
money’s worth,” he said.
He added that Mr. Obama favored “a range of initiatives” that were aimed at
“diversification across countries and sources of energy,” including cellulosic
ethanol, and which, unlike Mr. McCain’s proposals, were specifically meant to
“reduce overall demand through conservation, new technology and improved
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama has not explained his opposition to imported
sugar cane ethanol. But in remarks last year, made as President Bush was about
to sign an ethanol cooperation agreement with his Brazilian counterpart, Mr.
Obama argued that “our country’s drive toward energy independence” could suffer
if Mr. Bush relaxed restrictions, as Mr. McCain now proposes.
“It does not serve our national and economic security to replace imported oil
with Brazilian ethanol,” he argued.
Mr. Obama does talk regularly about developing switchgrass, which flourishes in
the Midwest and Great Plains, as a source for ethanol. While the energy ratio
for switchgrass and other types of cellulosic ethanol is much greater than corn,
economists say that time-consuming investments in infrastructure would be
required to make it viable, and with corn nearing $8 a bushel, farmers have
little incentive to shift.
Ethanol industry executives and advocates have not made large donations to
either candidate for president, an examination of campaign contribution records
shows. But they have noted the difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain.
Brian Jennings, a vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said he
hoped that Mr. McCain, as a presidential candidate, “would take a broader view
of energy security and recognize the important role that ethanol plays.”
The candidates’ views were tested recently in the Farm Bill approved by Congress
that extended the subsidies for corn ethanol, though reducing them slightly, and
the tariffs on imported sugar cane ethanol. Because Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama
were campaigning, neither voted. But Mr. McCain said that as president he would
veto the bill, while Mr. Obama praised it.
Obama Camp Closely
Linked With Ethanol, NYT, 23.6.2008,
The Energy Challenge
Move Over, Oil,
There’s Money in Texas Wind
February 23, 2008
The New York Times
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
SWEETWATER, Tex. — The wind turbines that recently went up on Louis Brooks’s
ranch are twice as high as the Statue of Liberty, with blades that span as wide
as the wingspan of a jumbo jet. More important from his point of view, he is
paid $500 a month apiece to permit 78 of them on his land, with 76 more on the
“That’s just money you’re hearing,” he said as they hummed in a brisk breeze
Texas, once the oil capital of North America, is rapidly turning into the
capital of wind power. After breakneck growth the last three years, Texas has
reached the point that more than 3 percent of its electricity, enough to supply
power to one million homes, comes from wind turbines.
Texans are even turning tapped-out oil fields into wind farms, and no less an
oilman than Boone Pickens is getting into alternative energy.
“I have the same feelings about wind,” Mr. Pickens said in an interview, “as I
had about the best oil field I ever found.” He is planning to build the biggest
wind farm in the world, a $10 billion behemoth that could power a small city by
Wind turbines were once a marginal form of electrical generation. But amid
rising concern about greenhouse gases from coal-burning power plants, wind power
is booming. Installed wind capacity in the United States grew 45 percent last
year, albeit from a small base, and a comparable increase is expected this year.
At growth rates like that, experts said, wind power could eventually make an
important contribution to the nation’s electrical supply. It already supplies
about 1 percent of American electricity, powering the equivalent of 4.5 million
homes. Environmental advocates contend it could eventually hit 20 percent, as
has already happened in Denmark. Energy consultants say that 5 to 7 percent is a
more realistic goal in this country.
The United States recently overtook Spain as the world’s second-largest wind
power market, after Germany, with $9 billion invested last year. A recent study
by Emerging Energy Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., projected
$65 billion in investment from 2007 to 2015.
Despite the attraction of wind as a nearly pollution-free power source, it does
have limitations. Though the gap is closing, electricity from wind remains
costlier than that generated from fossil fuels. Moreover, wind power is
intermittent and unpredictable, and the hottest days, when electricity is needed
most, are usually not windy.
The turbines are getting bigger and their blades can kill birds and bats.
Aesthetic and wildlife issues have led to opposition emerging around the
country, particularly in coastal areas like Cape Cod. Some opposition in Texas
has cropped up as well, including lawsuits to halt wind farms that were thought
to be eyesores or harmful to wetlands.
But the opposition has been limited, and has done little to slow the rapid
growth of wind power in Texas. Some Texans see the sleek new turbines as a
welcome change in the landscape.
“Texas has been looking at oil and gas rigs for 100 years, and frankly, wind
turbines look a little nicer,” said Jerry Patterson, the Texas land
commissioner, whose responsibilities include leasing state lands for wind energy
development. “We’re No. 1 in wind in the United States, and that will never
Texas surpassed California as the top wind farm state in 2006. In January alone,
new wind farms representing $700 million of investment went into operation in
Texas, supplying power sufficient for 100,000 homes.
Supporters say Texas is ideal for wind-power development, not just because it is
windy. It also has sparsely populated land for wind farms, fast-growing cities
and a friendly regulatory environment for developers.
“Texas could be a model for the entire nation,” said Patrick Woodson, a senior
development executive with E.On, a German utility operating here.
The quaint windmills of old have been replaced by turbines that stand as high as
20-story buildings, with blades longer than a football field and each capable of
generating electricity for small communities. Powerful turbines are able to
capture power even when the wind is relatively weak, and they help to lower the
cost per kilowatt hour.
Much of the boom in the United States is being driven by foreign power companies
with experience developing wind projects, including Iberdrola of Spain, Energias
de Portugal and Windkraft Nord of Germany. Foreign companies own two-thirds of
the wind projects under construction in Texas.
A short-term threat to the growth of wind power is the looming expiration of
federal clean-energy tax credits, which Congress has allowed to lapse several
times over the years. Advocates have called for extending those credits and
eventually enacting a national renewable-power standard that would oblige states
to expand their use of clean power sources.
A longer-term problem is potential bottlenecks in getting wind power from the
places best equipped to produce it to the populous areas that need electricity.
The part of the United States with the highest wind potential is a corridor
stretching north from Texas through the middle of the country, including
sparsely populated states like Montana and the Dakotas. Power is needed most in
the dense cities of the coasts, but building new transmission lines over such
long distances is certain to be expensive and controversial.
“We need a national vision for transmission like we have with the national
highway system,” said Robert Gramlich, policy director for the American Wind
Energy Association. “We have to get over the hump of having a patchwork of
electric utility fiefdoms.”
Texas is better equipped to deal with the transmission problems that snarl wind
energy in other states because a single agency operates the electrical grid and
manages the deregulated utility market in most of the state.
Last July, the Texas Public Utility Commission approved transmission lines
across the state capable of delivering as much as 25,000 megawatts of wind
energy by 2012, presuming the boom continues. That would be five times the wind
power generated in the state today, and it would drive future national growth.
Shell and the TXU Corporation are planning to build a 3,000-megawatt wind farm
north of here in the Texas Panhandle, leapfrogging two FPL Energy Texas wind
farms to become the biggest in the world.
Not to be outdone, Mr. Pickens is planning his own 150,000-acre Panhandle wind
farm of 4,000 megawatts that would be even larger and cost him $10 billion.
“I like wind because it’s renewable and it’s clean and you know you are not
going to be dealing with a production decline curve,” Mr. Pickens said. “Decline
curves finally wore me out in the oil business.”
At the end of 2007, Texas ranked No. 1 in the nation with installed wind power
of 4,356 megawatts (and 1,238 under construction), far outdistancing
California’s 2,439 megawatts (and 165 under construction). Minnesota and Iowa
came in third and fourth with almost 1,300 megawatts each (and 46 and 116 under
Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado and Oregon, states with smaller populations than
Texas, all get 5 to 8 percent of their power from wind farms, according to
estimates by the American Wind Energy Association.
It has dawned on many Texans in recent years that wind power, whatever its other
pros and cons, represents a potent new strategy for rural economic development.
Since the wind boom began a few years ago, the total value of property here in
Nolan County has doubled, and the county judge, Tim Fambrough, estimated it
would increase an additional 25 percent this year. County property taxes are
going down, home values are going up and the county has extra funds to remodel
the courthouse and improve road maintenance.
“Wind reminds us of the old oil and gas booms,” Mr. Fambrough said.
Teenagers who used to flee small towns like Sweetwater after high school are
sticking around to take technical courses in local junior colleges and then work
on wind farms. Marginal ranches and cotton farms are worth more with wind
turbines on them.
“I mean, even the worst days for wind don’t compare to the busts in the oil
business,” said Bobby Clark, a General Electric wind technician who gave up
hauling chemicals in the oil fields southwest of here to live and work in
Sweetwater. “I saw my daddy go from rags to riches and back in the oil business,
and I sleep better.”
Wind companies are remodeling abandoned buildings, and new stores, hotels and
restaurants have opened around this old railroad town.
Dandy’s Western Wear, the local cowboy attire shop, cannot keep enough python
skin and cowhide boots in stock because of all the Danes and Germans who have
come to town to invest and work in the wind fields, then take home Texas
“Wind has invigorated our business like you wouldn’t believe,” said Marty Foust,
Dandy’s owner, who recently put in new carpeting and air-conditioning. “When you
watch the news you can get depressed about the economy, but we don’t get
depressed. We’re now in our own bubble.”
Because of an editing error,
an earlier version of an article Saturday
growing use of wind power in Texas
the amount of money
Brooks is paid for having 78 wind turbines
on his ranch on the outskirts of
It is $500 a month for each, not $500 for all of them.
Move Over, Oil, There’s
Money in Texas Wind, NYT, 23.2.2008,
Britain's wind power revolution
Hutton's dramatic policy shift
signals less reliance on nuclear energy
Offshore farms could provide all UK homes
with electricity within 13 years
Published: 09 December 2007
By Geoffrey Lean,
and Jonathan Owen
Britain is to embark on a wind power revolution that will produce enough
electricity to power every home in the country, ministers will reveal tomorrow.
The Independent on Sunday has learnt that, in an astonishing U-turn, the
Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton, will announce that he is opening
up the seas around Britain to wind farms in the biggest ever renewable energy
initiative. Only weeks ago he was resisting a major expansion of renewable
sources, on the grounds that it would interfere with plans to build new nuclear
The revelation rounds off an unprecedented week in the battle against global
warming in Britain and the United States. On Wednesday and Thursday measures to
boost US use of renewable energy for electricity and motor fuel and cut
greenhouse gas emissions were approved in Congress. The move comes as 190
nations meet in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate what is seen as the world's "last
chance" of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
Yesterday hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in 86
countries across the globe to demand urgent action from the Bali meeting.
Several thousand campaigners marched in torrential rain through London to rally
at the US embassy. Some posters carried a picture of President George Bush and
the words "Wanted for crimes against the planet".
Mr Hutton's announcement, which will be made at a conference in Berlin tomorrow,
will identify sites in British waters for enough wind farms to produce 25
gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2020, in addition to the 8GW already planned –
enough to meet the needs of all the country's homes.
It means that within only eight years, Britain's offshore wind industry will be
twice the size of that of any other nation in the world.
The move will put the country well on the way to achieving a tough EU target of
providing 20 per cent of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020.
But just six weeks ago, Mr Hutton's department, far from attempting to meet the
target was trying to kill it.
In a confidential memorandum, Gordon Brown was advised that the target was
expensive and faced "severe practical difficulties". It went on to warn how it
would reduce "the incentives to invest in other technologies like nuclear
But the Prime Minister overruled Mr Hutton and insisted in his first green
speech as PM last month that the target would be maintained and met. Now the
Business Secretary will also announce tomorrow that he is to set up a panel
under his chairmanship to work out how to hit it.
"By 2020 enough electricity could be generated off our shores to power the
equivalent of all of the UK's homes," Mr Hutton is expected to say in a speech
to the European energy industry in Berlin."The challenge for Government and for
industry is to turn this potential – for our energy and economy – into a
cost-effective reality. This will be a major challenge."
The announcement is the first step in implementing the offshore wind power
revolution, which is likely to run into far less environmental opposition than
proposals to build wind farms on land. Once sites have been identified,
companies will then draw their plans and submit them for approval to Mr Hutton's
department and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
So far two things have held them back: site identification and an assurance that
the resulting installations will be connected to the national grid. This move
removes the former.
Yesterday Maria McCaffery, chief executive of the British Wind Energy
Association, hailed the move as a "decisive step". She added: "We welcome the
Government's effort to place wind energy on a sound footing and promote Britain
into a leader in this sector."
Britain's wind power
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