Two stories from the east coast about troubles or delays in wind energy projects in the face of cheap and abundant natural gas will put another cold breeze on future prospects for wind energy in the U.S.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Iberdola Renewables has shelved, at least temporarily, plans for a major wind farm in North Carolina because utilities are switching to cheaper and increasingly abundant natural gas rather than wind to meet environmental regulations.
The Observer story says Iberdola “has been unable to find a (utility) buyer for the power output of the Desert Wind project. The $600 million undertaking was to include 150 turbines, enough to supply power to as many as 70,000 homes.”
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/12/15/2850862/nc-wind-farm-cant-close-a-deal.html#ixzz1gbIDI1Pp
The story reports “companies such as Progress Energy of Raleigh are shutting down old coal-burning power plants and building ones fueled with natural gas, considered the cleanest fossil fuel.”
Iberdola spokesman Paul Copleman is quoted as saying “slack energy demand in the wake of the recession, coupled with historically low natural gas prices, are creating a competitive disadvantage for wind farms nationwide. Electric utilities in North Carolina and elsewhere pay a premium for wind power under state energy policies that require a certain commitment to clean energy.”
Meanwhile the website electricitypolicy.com reports that a touted offshore Atlantic Ocean wind project appears to be stalled in the face of high costs and low demand. Offshore Atlantic wind has been promoted as an alternative to clean electricity generated in Iowa and elsewhere in the wind-rich Midwestern plains.
The website reports that former Iowa governor Chet Culver, now an independent renewable energy consultant, spoke at a briefing at the National Press Club on behalf of wind energy;, touting Iowa’s wind energy growth while he was governor from 2007 to early this year.
Wind faces a surge in natural gas production not only from new fields in the traditional oil and gas belt of the southwest but from Ohio, Pennsylvania and most likely in the future, New York State, gives utility executives a cleaner fuel alternative to dirtier coal.
Because natural gas, unlike wind energy, can be shipped and stored for use as needed for baseload electricity generation, it has a competitive advantage over wind.
Slowdowns or delays such as in North Carolina come at a vulnerable time for wind energy, which is trying to persuade a reluctant congress to renew production tax credits for wind turbine construction after they expire at the end of next year.
The American Wind Energy Association, aided by environmentalists, has put on a full press this week on behalf of the PTC extension, framing the issue as a job-creator. The website Ecoseed has story of the wind energy industry’s efforts.
Iowa has a substantial stake in the future of wind energy, with more than 2,000 jobs at wind turbine or tower manufacturing facilities in Fort Madison, Cedar Rapids, West Branch and Newton.
Iowa also has the nation’s second-largest wind generating capacity, with more than 4,000 megawatts of capacity online and another 400 megawatts planned next year (before the PTC expires) by MidAmerican Energy of Des Moines.
MidAmerican and other utility and trasmission interests hope to eventually build a major transmission line that would ship Iowa’s surplus wind-generated electricity east of the Mississippi River.
A glut of surplus electricity has driven down wholesale electricity prices in Iowa and elsewhere on the Midwest Independent System Operators (MISO) transmission grid that extends from Ohio through Iowa to Canada.
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